DRM-free AAC gives Apple boost against WMA | iLounge News

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DRM-free AAC gives Apple boost against WMA

The announcement of DRM-free AAC tracks from the iTunes Store is the latest blow to Microsoft’s WMA format, Arik Hesseldahl writes for BusinessWeek. The move allows players other than the iPod, including devices from SanDisk, Creative, and Sharp, as well as the PSP and Zune, to play tracks purchased from the iTunes Store. Hesseldahl believes this chance for iTunes compatibility, along with bruised relationships from the PlaysForSure/Zune debacle, could lead to competing players adding AAC support while possibly dropping costly support for WMA.

In response to this possible market change, Hesseldahl suggests that many of the other online music stores, such as Napster, Yahoo! Music, and URGE, may follow suit and begin selling DRM-free AAC content as well, giving iTunes more direct competition — but also expanding the catalog of iPod-compatible music available online. This would lead to more iPod sales for Apple, and force Microsoft into a decision on whether or not to abandon WMA-based efforts entirely, Hesseldahl believes.

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Comments

1

Yeah, let’s get rid of that silly WMA.

Posted by urbanslaughter on April 5, 2007 at 11:16 AM (CDT)

2

As far as I can tell, WMA is of no use to anyone.

Posted by melvin toffler on April 5, 2007 at 11:29 AM (CDT)

3

next : wmv !!

Posted by Sebas on April 5, 2007 at 11:49 AM (CDT)

4

AAC has long been considered the successor to MP3.  With Apple and EMI offering unprotected AAC files (and other surely soon to follow), it will quickly become the dominant audio format on the market.  Just a few years ago the iPod was virtually the only device that supported AAC, but now everything from PDAs, car stereos and cellphones support it.  I would hate to be a digital audio player manufacturer that didn’t support it.
Rhapsody switched to its own version of AAC, (RealAudio 10) recently because of Microsoft’s decision to abandon PlaysForSure support.

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on April 5, 2007 at 11:49 AM (CDT)

5

I’m not so sure.  In CD-type devices (e.g. car stereos, boom boxes, DVD-players, etc.) if the device supports 2 digital audio formats, those formats are almost always MP3 and WMA.  WMA is everywhere seems like.  AAC still has a lot of catching up to do.

Posted by dodo on April 5, 2007 at 1:53 PM (CDT)

6

then : wmd’s

Posted by miketcool on April 5, 2007 at 2:41 PM (CDT)

7

...because of Microsoft’s decision to abandon PlaysForSure support

They didn’t abandon it, at least not entirely. They just mucked things up royally for their ‘partners’ by introducing yet another worthless DRM scheme for their own internal (infernal), self-serving purposes, in the vain hope of being a mere shadow of Apple.

Posted by flatline response on April 5, 2007 at 3:07 PM (CDT)

8

If you read the EMI press release from Monday they will find that they intend to offer the same deal to online retailers of MP3 and WMA files as they offered Apple for AAC.  There is actually nothing that will prevent any of the WMA stores from selling unprotected, higher bitrate content for the same 30 cent premium.

Posted by doog on April 5, 2007 at 4:37 PM (CDT)

9

Doog—The thing that prevents other online stores from selling unprotected WMA files is that they won’t play on iPods.

The whole point of DRM-free is interoperability, and the music stores know this. What’s the point of interoperability if it won’t play on 70% of the music players?

WMA is in big trouble.

Posted by BJ Nemeth on April 5, 2007 at 6:36 PM (CDT)

10

I suspect the other on-line stores will offer EMI offerings in MP3, AAC and WMA.  There is little cost for doing so and, this would allow almost any player to have access. I’m not sure why some consider WMA DRM any worse than AAC DRM?  Similar sound qualtiy with the same limitations.

Posted by tbsteph in Maylene, AL on April 5, 2007 at 10:06 PM (CDT)

11

tbsteph—Again, the same problem is the iPod. I’m sure that some of the online stores will release in MP3, because that is the most universally compatible format. (Some players don’t play AAC, and iPods don’t play WMA. But nearly everything supports MP3.)

But Apple rules this market in terms of music and hardware, and *that’s* why WMA is in trouble.

Apple sells more online music than all the other online stores combined—in AAC format. It’s also the default choice for ripping user’s own CDs. So device manufacturers will want to make sure their players are compatible with AAC files. In time, every device will support AAC for the same reason that every device supports MP3—that’s where the content is.

On the flip side, there are more iPods out there than all other players combined. So if you’re an online music store, you’ll want to offer your DRM-free tracks in MP3 or AAC.

Why offer DRM-free songs in WMA format? Are there people out there who really think 256K WMA is better than 256K AAC? And while some people don’t own iPods, many mainstream consumers would like to own an iPod someday. (Particularly if an iPhone-style iPod is released.)

DRM-free WMA offers no compelling advantages, and it offers one *huge* disadvantage—it won’t play on 70% of the world’s music players.

It makes the most sense for non-iTunes stores to offer their DRM-free tracks in MP3. That actually gives them an advantage over iTunes, and it will likely get them a few additional sales in the process. (Like I said, MP3 is more universally compatible.)

Meanwhile, Apple is smart to continue pushing AAC. It’s still an open standard, so anyone is free to license it. And it’s completely out of the control of Microsoft.

It’s like the classic format wars of Beta v. VHS. If most of the content isn’t in WMA, and most players aren’t compatible with WMA—it’s dead.

With DRM’d music, Microsoft had a chance to keep WMA alive. But the biggest selling point of DRM-free music is interoperability—and WMA is *not* interoperable compared to other formats.

Posted by BJ Nemeth on April 5, 2007 at 11:17 PM (CDT)

12

Correct me if I’m wrong but doesnt all MP3 products need a license from some company, like WMA?

This blow is good for the world. I hate MS.

Posted by Doc Evils on April 6, 2007 at 2:33 PM (CDT)

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