iTunes, Fairplay & The Long Game of Steve Jobs
February 9, 2007
In the wake of Steve Jobs’ Thoughts on Music, there has been a lot of speculation as to what it means that Jobs — who fathered the most extensively used Digital Rights Management system in the world (Fairplay) – is calling for the end of DRM.
Wired’s Cult of Mac sums up some of more intriguing thoughts here, speculating that just as the iTunes Music Store “One contract fits all” approach managed to build the world’s largest digital music store, with DRM on all music (whether requested by the owners or not), the same leverage could now be applied to force all of the participants to leave DRM behind, or lose access to their only growth market.
Is it really possible that this has been Jobs’ “Long Game” all this time? That Apple embraced DRM only to get it to hold still long enough to drive a stake through its heart?
It’s an intriguing thought. Apple just might be in a position to pull it off, too; sales of CDs are declining, while online music sales are accelerating — even with DRM.
Getting rid of Fairplay would undoubtedly bring more people into the market (it would certainly get me to shop at iTMS) — maybe even enough to save the rapidly sinking ship of the record labels.
Plus, after all (as Jobs points out) the majority of the music they sell (and indeed, before iTMS, all of the music they sold) is unprotected, on CDs that can easily be ripped and added to the digital music player of your choice.
Last but not least, it would sink the subscription services (which are utterly dependent on DRM) that compete with iTMS.
This just might work, and be a good deal for consumers, Apple and the record labels alike — if they can be shaken from their terminal lemming-like rush to their own irrelevance.
It still leaves open the question as to whether this was Jobs’ plan all along — or whether it was just an ideal confluence of events that Apple is of a mind to take advantage of, and in a position to do so.