“What today’s news does make clear is that our future may soon be free from the onerous rules that treated digital music as if it were the industry’s thieving stepchild. In my view, that’s even better that being able to download Sgt. Pepper on demand.”—Steven Levy, Newsweek
“Only Jobs has the power and the cojones to make such a move. Only Jobs could so boldly rip down the system he had previously built—the iTunes music store, which is the most-successful online store (perhaps the only one), which was built on copy-protected music, and force the music industry to follow suit.”—Leander Kahney, Wired
“Consumers have indicated [having DRM-free music] is important to them so Zune has been working with a variety of partners to head in this direction. This is a time of transition for the music industry and Microsoft is committed to striking a balance between delivering the best consumer experience while still protecting the rights of the content owners.”—Microsoft spokesperson
“So much for accusations that Jobs was full of sh*t with his ‘Thoughts on Music’ essay. Clearly, Apple is willing to embrace DRM-free music sales, and they’re not going to wait for all of the major labels to agree before going forward with it.”—John Gruber, Daring Fireball
“This is a great PR win for Apple and Steve Jobs. Apple was seen as the company delivering DRM free music to consumers, a move that will only increase their overall mindshare and of course, mindshare has a funny way of becoming more marketshare. It also goes a long way to address regulators in Europe complaining about the iPod’s lack of interoperability.”—Michael Gartenberg, Jupiter Research
“F*cking brilliant.”—Damon Albarn, frontman of Blur, Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad, and The Queen
“If you’re a major that doesn’t have DRM-free music, you look pretty challenged. This will put pressure on the other majors. Hopefully many other [online] retailers, including ourselves, will get licensed over time.”—David Pakman, CEO of eMusic
“This appears to be the final acknowledgment on the record companies’ part that the guiding principles of their digital distribution strategies have been fundamentally flawed.”—Ken Hertz, music industry lawyer
“So we say go out there and buy DRM-free music from iTunes. Is it perfect? No. It could be Lossless and it could be the same price as DRM’d tunes, and we sure would like to see those lawsuits stop. But this is a monumental step, and if it’s successful we’ll certainly see other major labels following suit by releasing their catalogs without DRM. If the demand is there, the supply will arrive in due time.”—Adam Frucci, Gizmodo
“This moves us closer than ever to the day when consumers will be able to buy their favorite music via Rhapsody and enjoy it on their iPod or any other music-playing device. We look forward to working with EMI and the rest of the music industry to bring DRM-free, interoperable music to consumers in the months ahead.”—Rob Glaser, CEO of RealNetworks
“Since you’re not lifting your DRM on everything, you’ll have a mixed library, which will also be a challenge. It’s a first step in a very long process.”—Shannon Cross, Soleil Cross Research
“I could not be happier right now. I really hope Apple decides to make a web-based version of the iTunes store so that I can buy iTunes tracks in the future using Ubuntu Linux.”—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
“Short term, there will be a perception that this may also have a negative impact on iPod sales, as consumers can now play EMI’s iTunes downloads on any digital music player. It is important to note that non-iPod MP3 players will not sync with iTunes the same way iPods do. Our belief is the success of the iPod is not because consumers are locked on the iTunes platform, but its success has been because of the total device and iTunes experience.”—Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray
“It’s problematic. EMI haven’t tested it enough, so they don’t know what the market reaction is going to be. The issues are will (unprotected) MP3s help expand the market, and how will it affect piracy? We just don’t know.”—Unnamed music executive
“This is a true earthquake. I can imagine that some executives at other record labels have had to change their underwear today. As Jobs said, there are leaders and there are followers, and EMI has clearly staked out first place in this new market. And Apple, as often, has been the prime mover in this change.”—Kirk McElhearn, Kirkville
“I think it’s very clever for EMI to bundle copyability with higher quality: the latter may hold far more appeal for consumers. And let’s face it, selling upgraded versions of media products to old customers is a well-established part of the entertainment business.”—Brian Chin, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Microsoft is a master deal maker. No company partners like Microsoft. It’s disturbing to see those ‘edgy thinkers’ doing so much thinking and not taking enough action. Microsoft should have been one step ahead of Apple, with a DRM-free catalog of EMI music in Windows Media Audio. More music players, devices and PC software support WMA than AAC.”— Joe Wilcox, Microsoft Watch
“The Consumer Electronics Association applauds Apple and EMI Music for recognizing what consumers really want out of their digital music experience—high resolution recordings worthy of both home and on-the-go listening, along with the freedom to move music among devices. This is the future of digital entertainment.”—Gary Shapiro, CEA President and CEO
“DRM is an embedded feature of the subscription services and they can’t run their business without it. Now they are stuck with it for the bulk of their services and the disadvantages of DRM are going to plague them.”—Phil Leigh, Inside Digital Media
“Is Apple simply fashioning its own hangman’s noose? If the other major record companies follow suit, the one big advantage of the entire Apple “digital ecosystem”—iTunes, the iPod, and Apple TV—essentially becomes null and void. Jobs says Apple’s superior design will keep the company’s software and hardware at the top of the must-have list for digital media. For the iPod, maybe—but for the just-launched Apple TV, the answer isn’t as straightforward.”—John Falcone, Crave
“This is a very big victory. We wanted the businesses [Apple and music companies] to take this seriously, and they have.—Torgeir Waterhouse, Consumer Council of Norway
The European Commission is investigating Apple and the major record companies, alleging that they are restricting music sales in Europe. A spokesman for the commission said agreements between Apple’s iTunes Store and the record companies—Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music, Warner Music and EMI Group—violate the European Union’s competition rules.
“Consumers can only buy music from the iTunes online stores in their country of residence and are therefore restricted in their choice of where to buy music, and consequently what music is available and at what price,” said Jonathan Todd, European Commission spokesman.
Apple said it has wanted to offer a pan-European store, but blames the record companies for not letting it happen. “Apple has always tried to operate a single pan-European iTunes stores accessible by anyone from any member state. But we were advised by the music labels and publishers that there were certain legal limits to the rights they could grant us,” Apple said in a statement.
Cambridge Soundworks has announced the SoundWorks Radio CD 745i, a new iPod-compatible sound system. The CD 745i comes bundled with a Universal Dock for iPod, and features an auxiliary input for connecting other audio sources. The system also features a built-in AM/FM radio, a CD player that handles both audio CDs and MP3/WMA on CD-ROM, dual alarms, and 2.1 sound with a powered subwoofer. All radio and iPod functions can be controlled via a single included remote. The SoundWorks Radio CD 745i is available now and sells for $400.
Belkin recently introduced a new $40 iPod dock designed specifically to fit into the grommet-holes found in many office desks. The In-Desk Dock for iPod, which requires a 3-inch circular hole, fits flush in a desk and offers a stereo-output jack as well as charging ability. “The Dock saves your valuable desk space with an easy install right into it, through a 3-inch circular hole,” says Belkin. “You can now seamlessly charge and play your iPod as you sync it to your computer.” Belkin is also offering USB hubs in the same in-desk form factor.
Advanced Technology Office has introduced an updated version of its iSee 360i add-on video recorder/player for iPods that will sell for $50 less than the original while receiving minor enhancements. The second-generation iSee includes adapters for first- and second-generation iPod nanos and the 30GB fifth-generation iPod, and also adds the ability to set a timer for video recordings. “We want our customers to enjoy a seamless and effortless experience from the moment they get their iSee 360i, which means getting absolutely everything they need in the box, including adapters for every iPod model we support,” said ATO. The second-generation iSee 360i is available now for $199.
Despite initial speculation that today’s joint announcement by EMI and Apple would be the availability of the Beatles music catalog on iTunes, no such announcement was made by the two companies. While today’s media event focused on DRM-free music, a reporter was quick to ask in the ending Q&A session whether a Beatles deal was on the way, Apple CEO Steve Jobs replied, “I want to know that, too.” EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli stressed that “we’re working on it” and said he hopes the Beatles songs will be available online soon. The last report on the subject claimed that the Beatles’ music catalog would soon be offered online, but that it would not be available exclusively from the iTunes Store.
As anticipated, EMI Music today announced that it plans to make all of its digital music offerings free of anti-piracy restrictions and that iTunes would be the first online store to sell the DRM-free music. EMI also said its downloads will be available in a higher quality format than previously offered.
The new DRM-free premium EMI music will be sold on Apple’s iTunes Store in higher quality 256 kbps AAC format (twice the current bit rate) for a higher price—individual tracks will sell for $1.29. Apple said iTunes will continue to offer 99-cent standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Full albums will only be offered in the premium version. In addition, iTunes customers will be able to “upgrade” their previously purchased EMI tracks to the higher quality DRM-free format for 30 cents a song.
The DRM-free EMI music will be available on iTunes worldwide in May. During a Q&A at EMI’s press conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said he expects other major record labels to follow EMI’s lead and sees the iTunes Store offering half of its 5 million song catalog in DRM-free format by the end of the year. Jobs said Apple will “reach out to all the major and independent labels to give them the same opportunity” as EMI.
EMI will reportedly hold a press event in London on Monday with Apple CEO Steve Jobs as a special guest. In an invite sent to select media today, EMI, which has released the Beatles records since 1962, said it was announcing an “exciting new digital offering” and that there will be a “special live performance” at the event by an unnamed artist or band. The event follows months of speculation that Apple’s iTunes Store would be the first to offer music from the Beatles online following an agreement between Apple and the Beatles’ Apple Corps record label.
Update: An EMI spokesman said this was not an April Fool’s joke.
Update #2: A Reuters source “familiar with the situation” said a Beatles deal would not be announced at the event. “There is no Beatles’ announcement,” the source said.
Update #3: The Wall Street Journal now reports: “In a major reversal of the music industry’s longstanding antipiracy strategy, EMI Group PLC is set to announce Monday that it plans to sell significant amounts of its catalog without anticopying software, according to people familiar with the matter. The London-based music company is to make its announcement in a press conference that will feature Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs. EMI is to sell songs without the software—known as digital rights management, or DRM—through Apple’s iTunes Store and possibly through other online outlets, too.”