It’s been over four years since the iTunes Music Store launched. They’ve racked up over two billion purchases as of January of this year. And they still haven’t released an iTunes client for gnu/linux. They’ve routinely blocked attempts for people that use free operating systems from accessing music they rightfully purchased using their iTunes client on a supported platform.
On the whole they’ve been spoiled jerks about the whole thing. And now they’ve bent to consumer pressure against their Digital Rights Management and are adding the option of a higher-priced DRM-free track selection. They’ve just released a new version of the iTunes client to support the change.
And yet they won’t give linux users access to their market. They are effectively blocking those users from participating in the online purchase of media. I understand it’s not a huge market, but it’s roughly an extra 5-10 million songs a year in all probability. There’s a lot of linux users and they would reasonably buy 5-10 tracks each. And it’s a growth market.
Dell has recently announced and followed through with offering new computers pre-installed with Ubuntu. Numerous other firms including graphics vendors feel the linux market is worth their time to provide support. Even Microsoft feels linux is important enough to spew idle, vitriolic threats about their patent holdings and strong arm their own “open” document standards in lieu of the OpenOffice.org standards.
But Apple continues to completely ignore linux. They are making a sucker’s bet and missing out on that revenue. They’ll probably cave in another year or two, or else they will risk that sector of the market finding an alternative. The inherent risk there is that the alternative would become adopted by existing iTMS users costing Apple billions of dollars in future revenues.
If I were the CEO of a company faced with the choice between ignoring a viable market sector or spending relatively little developer effort to support them and keep a secure hold on the market as a whole there is no reasonable choice but the latter. It is a disservice to their stockholders and to the music industry that they so readily deny access to people who would love to use their service.
Update: Slashdot is running a story about the new DRM-free offering from Apple. Apparently each DRM-free track gets tagged with the account’s registered full name and e-mail address.
This might be okay if it was publicly disclosed, but it wasn’t. The exact purpose behind the move isn’t clear. Speculation focuses on the possibility that this would be used to track the tracks within iTunes or otherwise.
Of course, anyone with minor technical savvy could easily modify the tags (possibly to reflect the fact they were purchased by Steve Jobs). Moreover tracks not originating from iTunes could easily be tagged.
So why tag them at all? It seems like a very weak attempt at tracking and an underhanded one at that. Most of all it’s just a dumb idea.