Monday, November 20, 2006

The Evil of iTunes and Zune...

Last week, Microsoft introduced Zune - an online marketplace to buy and download music, just like iTunes. Just as Apple does with iTunes and iPods, Microsoft plans to link the Zune service to its portable music player (also named Zune).

For a while now, I've been railing against Apple for this bundling of its music store with its media player. Most people are still unaware that if you buy music off iTunes then you will only be able to play it on iPods. Now Microsoft is following the same "business model" (or what some of us refer to as "illegal anti-competitive trust practices") by making any music you buy off Zune to only be playable on the new Zune device.

As Sean Captain points out in this New York Times article, "Zune calls attention to the conundrum that consumers don’t like, which is being locked in to a retailer by virtue of what hardware you buy". As Apple and Microsoft insist on using closed formats rather than the more open Mp3 standard, consumers are unknowingly having their rights stripped away from them which they've had for decades.

That's right, iTunes and Zune users, you are being intentionally misled. So to clear it up once and for all: If you buy music on iTunes, you can only play them on iPods. You also no longer have a choice of which online store to buy your music from - you can't buy from Zune or other similar sites; it's either iTunes or nothing, even if the same song is cheaper somewhere else. Plus, even though with some hacking tricks it's possible, Apple makes it so hard to backup your music from your iPod to your hard drive, and so hard to copy your music from one iPod to another, that many people don't realize until its too late that if, say, they leave their iPod on a bus, they'll have to replace their whole collection and buy those songs again.

Of course there's an easy solution: buy your music from online stores that sell songs in the open Mp3 format, such as eMusic, or even - gasp! - download them for free. Plenty of sites like Etree and actually offer totally free and legal music downloads.

As consumers, if we purchase music then we have the right to play it however we want. The closed formats of Apple and Microsoft, who forcefully bundle their online stores with their music players, take away our choices of where we're able to buy our music, and where we get to play it.

So where is the outrage?


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