iTunes Challenged in France

Post ImageA very interesting law that attempts to prevent a digital music store monopoly was passed in France by the lower house of parliament today. I don’t know exactly how these things work, but I think the law still must be considered by the upper house too. In any case, it doesn’t look good for Apple:

French officials said the law is aimed at preventing any single media playing system–Apple’s iTunes or Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, for example–from building a grip on the digital online music retail market.

The new legislation will require that online music retailers such as iTunes provide the software codes that protect copyrighted material–known as digital rights management (DRM)–to allow the conversion from one format to another.

At first glance this might be bad news for Apple and good news for Microsoft. Think a little harder though, and you’ll realize this could potentially be very bad for everyone. I don’t know if opening up the DRM codes is very wise, because it wouild probably make them easier to crack. And if that happens, it won’t be the Napster utopia of years past. Instead, we could be stuck with physical media because the record labels are too afraid to sell content digitally. Bad news for everyone.

I found this comment in the article particularly interesting:

Consumers are prepared to pay twice as much for a song that can freely move between different devices, a recent study of the European Union project Indicare showed.

I find that hard to believe, given that something like 90% of the market is iPods. Do all of the iPod owners also own Windows Media devices? I don’t think so, which makes me wonder where this demand for freely moving songs comes from. It’s not like Apple is price gouging at iTunes (on the contrary, they are fighting against variable song prices).

Read: CNET


Post ImageI had my first “PlaysForSure” experience last night with Windows Media Player 10 and my Creative Zen Touch. I was browsing the downloads available for the Zen Touch the other day and came across a firmware update that added support for Microsoft’s PlaysForSure. What exactly is it? Here is the marketing fluff from Microsoft:

Choose your music. Choose your device. Know it’s going to work.

When your device and music service are compatible with each other, all you have to do is choose the music that’s compatible with you. Look for the PlaysForSure logo on a wide selection of devices and music stores.

Essentially for me it means I can plug the Zen Touch into any Windows XP machine and not have to install any drivers. Additionally I can use Windows Media Player 10 for transferring music and playlists, meaning I no longer need extra software. Considering I only use WMP10, this is great!

Everything worked perfectly for me. The only complaint I have is about transferring playlists – it is not immediately clear that you need to setup a sync for playlists. When WMP10 opens up, your media is on the left and your device on the right. Choosing a playlist and clicking Sync does not create a playlist on the device, it only copies the music! You need to setup the sync in order to have playlists transfer as well – minor step, but not immediately intuitive.

Seems to me that Microsoft has made excellent progress on the software side of things. Now if only they (and their partners) could produce a device as desirable as the iPod!

Read: PlaysForSure