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The real reason Apple’s mad about Harmony hack

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By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Thursday, August 5, 2004
News Categories: Apple

John C. Dvorak for CBS MarketWatch explains that RealNetwork’s recent iPod song compatibility hack for its Harmony jukebox software is screwing up Apple’s plan to put iPod technology into Motorola cell phones.

“This grand scheme only works if the platform is secure. You can’t sell an iPod phone and lock in all this easy money if people can buy from just anyone or just use bootleg music, can you? So along comes the RealNetworks hack, which screws up this scheme. Suddenly the iPod looks a lot like any other MP3 player except for its good looks, and those go away when it’s in the phone.

This explains why Steve Jobs and Apple wouldn’t let RealNetworks license any of its technology when asked last April. You can be certain that the Apple-Motorola scheme hatched before that and probably right after Ed Zander, Jobs’ friend, took over Motorola in January. With this scheme they had to keep the iPod locked down and that meant no licenses for interlopers and potential competitors.”

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Comments

1

ugh, when will mac/ipod sites stop acknowledging Dvorak’s existence. Once again he totally misses it. Its got nothing to do with JUST motorola, it has to do with the fact that Apple has created this awesome phenomenon and has put itself in a position to brand its fairplay as a product set for licensing that will result in a new revenue stream. REAL comes along and just hacks it instead of respecting the wishes of a much more respected company. Its rediculous. Who even likes REAL?

I for one don’t want Apple telling me what i can and can’t do with my iPod, but on the other hand, this is a chance for apple to really explode, and i’d love to see that happen.

Posted by Jon Maddox on August 5, 2004 at 8:03 AM (PDT)

2

Many people have been quick to judge Apple for their attempts to squash this software. I’m sure Apple has more than just the Motorola campaign in the works that could be affected by Real’s shady business practices. If Apple can prove how Harmony is having a negative effect on its business and others’ (like Motorola), that gives them an advantage in court.

I say, “Go get ‘em Steve!”

Posted by starflyer in Madison, WI on August 5, 2004 at 8:29 AM (PDT)

3

Dumb.  A Motorola cell phone, or any other cell phone, that plays music downloaded from the iTMS doesn’t constitute an “iPod phone”.  It’s a phone that plays iTMS songs.  He calls it “iPod technology” but it’s actually iTMS technology.  The iPod itself is a combination of aesthethics and industrial design, interface, functionality and technology which includes iTMS.  Also, the iPod hasn’t been hacked.  Part of the iTMS technology called Fairplay has been hacked.

What a visionary to predict that there will be other commercial efforts to sell music for cellphones, and that Apple will be one player among many.  Imagine that. Just like the MP3 player market.

Posted by robcj on August 5, 2004 at 9:00 AM (PDT)

4

Dvorak MUST the TOTALLY wrong.  He’s not a Apple lover and doesn’t bow to Steve’s every wish and motion.  Just because you don’t like what Dvorak has to say sure doesn’t make him wrong.  I for one am all about freedom of my music and not about stringent standards.  I guess that means I am an Apple hater?

Posted by RSM in Tupelo, MS on August 5, 2004 at 9:02 AM (PDT)

5

No it doesn’t make you an Apple hater.  Nobody is insinuating that you absolutely must agree with Apple’s business decisions.  And I’m sure Mr. Dvorak is capable of writing interesting and important editorial.  I have just pointed out what I believe to be incorrect or obvious statements in the article.  “Freedom of my music” isn’t really the focus of the article.

Posted by robcj on August 5, 2004 at 9:38 AM (PDT)

6

In short:

Apple doesn’t like Real because Real has technology which prevents Apple from getting away with restraint of trade.

Poor Apple.

Posted by m.s on August 5, 2004 at 12:48 PM (PDT)

7

Apple has to give the record labels some reason to remain with the iTunes Music Store, selling the number one music player and having the number one online store is currently that reason.  If they license out the technology to other vendors, the music labels might jump ship in favor of a better contract.  The other possibility is that licensing out the DRM would allow other music players access iTMS’s music selection, cutting into the iPod’s profits.  Keep in mind that the store was created to help sell iPod’s, Apple actually does not turn that big of a profit from selling music, the real money is in the iPod.  Plus I am sure that Apple is working on a ‘cheaper’ music player to go along with the Motorola phones.  When you have the best store and the best music player in the market it makes no sense to license out your technology to the competing market, you want to milk it for eveything its worth.

Posted by jlb on August 5, 2004 at 1:27 PM (PDT)

8

“When you have the best store and the best music player in the market it makes no sense to license out your technology to the competing market, you want to milk it for eveything its worth.”

Because if you look at history, Microsoft widely licensed MS-DOS and Windows, while Apple kept MacOS to themselves; the result was, uh, uh, uh, what was your point?

Posted by m.s on August 5, 2004 at 1:46 PM (PDT)

9

“You can’t sell an iPod phone and lock in all this easy money if people can buy from just anyone or just use bootleg music, can you?”

Why do Dvorak and other authors always have to include a reference to bootleg music? It’s got nothing to do with what Real’s software does and is just included to stir up emotions. I guess I answered my own question.

To address someone else’s comment; just because Harmony may have a negative effect on Apple’s business doesn’t make it wrong or illegal. No one seems to mind too much that Apple has a negative effect on Microsoft’s business. It’s called competition, and it usually benefits us as consumers.

Posted by gf on August 5, 2004 at 2:56 PM (PDT)

10

True, Microsoft did end up dominating the computer market with their os but their is one important difference between the two.  Microsoft is a ‘software’ company while Apple is a ‘computer’ company.  Apple has to have some reason for consumers to buy their product over the competition.  Microsoft does not have to worry about selling computers and managing the high costs associated with making them when they can charge a huge amount for software that, it terms of manufactoring, only costs a few cents to press onto a cd.  Besides is not like Apple is the only one that has adopted this strategy.  Take the XBox for example (made by Microsoft), the system has some of the best graphics and games on the market with tremendous potential to due more, yet Microsoft discourages people from modifying their systems into anything other than what Microsoft wants the system to due.  Plus I don’t see Microsoft mass producing their games, like Halo for instance,  for systems other than their XBox or a personal computer.  The point is you don’t want to give the competion a hit product when it is helping to sell your company’s hardware or software whichever the case may be.

Posted by jlb on August 5, 2004 at 3:29 PM (PDT)

11

The “hardware company” thing doesn’t hold much water.

JVC created the VHS standard, and made quite a bit of cash licensing out the technology. I’m certain Apple could negotiate amazing contracts for the iPod’s tech.

Posted by Kenshin on August 5, 2004 at 3:35 PM (PDT)

12

Good for business?  I’m sorry, but much as I’d like to see Apple do well, for me ‘good for the consumer’ trumps ‘good for business’.  Just as ‘legal’ trumps ‘bad for business’.  While I may not love Real, if what they’re doing is legal, and if it increases choice for us users, then I’m all for it.

Similarly, if Apple’s business strategy involves trying to lock everyone into their own proprietary DRM scheme, then I don’t see that as any better than MS trying to do the same.  One great thing about the iPod is that it’ll play MP3 or unencrypted AAC files that I can rip myself, or buy (e.g. from certain Russian sites).  I don’t want to be forced to get my music from any one supplier, whether that’s Apple, MS, or whoever.  And if that’s Apple’s big business plan, then they’ve just gone way down in my estimation.

By all means promote the format.  But don’t try to lock me in, or I’ll lock you out.  You’d think someone would have learned that lesson by now.

Posted by Gidds in UK on August 5, 2004 at 4:51 PM (PDT)

13

I’m concerned about Apple’s combative response to Real’s Harmony technology.  I am an Apple fan and would like to see the company have continued and sustained growth in the digital media market.  (iLife on PC/set-top box for the livingroom) However, although Apple owns the digital music market “now” they need to learn to play nice. 

This looks like history repeating itself from 1984.  Apple was the market leader, but they wouldn’t license and open up and they lost the market.  Even if Apple is ahead right now, if they don’t license out their technology their competitors will come up with a common format and their combined strength will bring Apple down, just like it did before.

If Apple plays nice and licenses, they could make a small fraction of money off of most legal music download sales, even if they are not through iTMS.  Plus, if AAC or even Fairplay became the market standard for legal music downloads Apple would have a strong sustained influence in the music industry for years to come.

Perhaps Apple has some great plan, I hope they do… but it looks bad to me because with their reaction to Real they have essentially said to consumers, “you are with us or with them”.  The last time they gave consumers that ultimatum, most of the market choose “them”.

Posted by feakbeak in Plymouth, MI, USA on August 5, 2004 at 6:35 PM (PDT)

14

Apple could be on the brink of something wonderful at this point in history. They could also disappear into obscurity again if they’re not careful. There are a lot of good things happening to Apple at the moment. What with various government department switching to the mac and the various education deals, and of course the iPods dominance. People are becoming more ‘aware’ of Apple again instead of just slagging them. (A lot of PC users I know havn’t even used a mac, so they wouldn’t know what there on abouyt anyway. At least being a mac user in a PC dominated world we know a little bit at least about how PCs and windows works, but that’s another story. All I’m saying here is tread softly Apple, you’re on thin ice. You won’t get a shot at the big time for another 10 years. Don’t blow it.

Posted by Ralph on August 5, 2004 at 7:49 PM (PDT)

15

Apple i Hope ur Reading these posts and taking it in consideration for the better of ur company.

Posted by ProdeeK on August 6, 2004 at 3:35 AM (PDT)

16

If it’s “only going to work” if the scheme is “secure” in some Platonic sense, then it’s “never going to work”.

Of course, with the DMCA law that Apple supports it’s possible that Apple could maintain the “security” of the system through legal terrorism by bringing any American reverse engineers, hackers or probers to court for their “crime”.  But as the PlayFair hot-potato has clearly demonstrated, that only works in America, and the Internet is global.

Posted by Another Ralph on August 6, 2004 at 4:58 AM (PDT)

17

here is the point of customers views

1.dose real music store better than iturns?
answer: no
2.dose real sell music cheaper?
answer: no
3.dose real music store use better sound quallity?
answer: no
4.dose real music store have any promotion like free song?
answer: no
5.dose real music store have friendly interface?
answer: no
6.dose real music store have more music than iturns?
answer: no

so what is the point to install Harmony software on your iPod then?

Posted by k28 on August 6, 2004 at 5:10 AM (PDT)

18

Dvorak missed one point. ” You can’t sell an iPod phone and lock in all this easy money if people can buy from just anyone or just use bootleg music, can you?”

The iPod (and the motorola phone?) already does play mp3’s, including “bootleg music.” Besides the analysis is all wrong. More choices for the consumer would actually mean that Apple and Moto actually “can” sell an iPod phone, if that’s what it will be.

Apple’s problem is that not being able to control the technology of its products, it can’t guarantee good user’s experience. Apple can’t be sure that Harmony won’t introduce bugs into the iPod systems. Third party softwares have been known to crash and even corrupt operating systems.

Posted by Starboard on August 6, 2004 at 7:46 AM (PDT)

19

In response to k28 - You should really explore the product before you make such comments.  There are albums at Real that are cheaper than iTMS and they do have higher bit rates for their songs.  I do agree tho that iTMS has more artists and more songs.

Posted by Dale on August 6, 2004 at 8:34 AM (PDT)

20

Has anyone else noticed that you can play songs downloaded from the iTMS on the Real Player.  If you scan the tracks into the program, they play just like they would on iTunes, they even say that they are protected content.  I think this harmony thing goes deeper than just being able to play music from their store on the iPod.  It looks more like Real is trying to replace iTunes as the standard Jukebox for the iPod.  I mean if you can play their music on the iPod and import the music that you already bought on the iTMS, there is really not that much incentive to keep iTunes.  I am sure that is one of Apple’s complaints since they spent all that time and money to develop and distribute iTunes for free.  The only income that Apple generates from iTunes is from sales on its Music Store, Real on the other had sells music, subscriptions, enhanced features for its player, and annoying advertisements that pop up on the player when you least suspect.  Don’t get me wrong, I am all for Apple licensing out their technology, I am just not sure that doing so right now is the best move for Apple.  Maybe when Microsoft releases their version of a store is the time when Apple will start opening up so as to draw the publics attention away from the competition.  But right now, the competition is just not that big of a threat to Apple.  Besides, if you really wanted Apple to license out their technology the easiest thing to do is to stop buying iPods, that would get their attention no problem.

Posted by j2003 on August 6, 2004 at 9:22 AM (PDT)

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