March 19 2008

Unlimited Music Coming For iPods?

iTunesThe Financial Times is reporting that Steve Jobs , my future husband, is in talks with the major music labels over a premium fee attached to Apple’s iPod/iPhone line that would allow customers access to an unlimited amount of music via the iTunes store.

No details of how exactly the deal would work are available yet as the negotiations are ongoing, but it is believed for iPhone users it would be a subscription based system, and for iPod owners it would be a flat fee on top of the cost of the iPod.  There is also no word if this will be an optional system for future iPod purchases since some people may have no interest in accessing mass quantities of music on the Apple-owned store.  Since the pricing model is being put into effect to fight against a similar one from Nokia, it is believed the premium could be as high as $80, but supposedly Mr. Jobs wants it to be more in the $20 range.

BandI have mixed feelings on the idea.  On the one hand it may very well make music piracy a moot point for most people.  Why go through the hassle of looking for just the right song on a pirate network when you can fire up iTunes and download a legal, high quality, correctly tagged file much easier?  You’ve already paid for it when you purchased the iPod, might as well use it.

On the flip side you’ll have to probably be saddled with Digital Rights Management (DRM), but that’s to be expected in a situation such as this.  If you paid the fee to Apple, then it makes sense the music would be locked to their device.  I still wouldn’t be thrilled by the idea, but it is a bit more understandable than doing it just to do it.

What would this do to the portable music player market though?  True, Apple already owns the lion’s share of the market, but this will lock people to their products even harder.  Why buy a Zune when an iPod gives you so much more?  And you would also then be locked to that product for life so that you could continue to play the music you just downloaded.  I am sure this would thrill Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, to no end since he would no longer be able to say that “the most common format of music on an iPod is ’stolen’.”

This is an extremely exciting idea on the surface, but some of the details worry me until we hear more about it: How long will your access be good for?  Will you have to renew your license?  Do you actually get to keep the music, or is it “on loan” to you?  What will be the DRM limitations?  Yes, this very well could stem piracy, but knowing the music industry, and their love of screwing over the consumer, they’re going to have to go a long way to make me trust this deal, if it even happens.

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