Monday, April 02, 2007

Hell freezeth over!

The last time that hell froze over was when Apple announced that they would be using Intel chips instead of PowerPC ones. For years, they had been championing RISC over CISC and quite suddenly, they changed their tune. The same thing is happening again, now over DRM.

For years, Apple has been the example of DRM done right. They had proven to the music industry that it was possible to sell music online, without being too adversely affected by piracy. Apple trumpted FairPlay(tm) wherever they went and now, quite suddenly, they are singing a different song again.

A while ago, Steve "Reality Distortion" Jobs wrote an open letter to the music industry, telling them that they should sell music online without DRM. The reason was probably because consumers had woken up to the evils of DRM. The amount of bad PR that they were getting didn't help matters. DRM is evil enough without having to resort to suing grandmothers and dead people.

The industry must've been severely frustrated to find out that the millions, which they spend researching DRM each year, is being easily circumvented with technology that costs just a few cents. So, it really doesn't make sense to sell DRM encumbered technology. It merely raises the cost of production without having any significant affect on curtailing piracy.

Today, we get this very public announcement that EMI and Apple are working together to sell DRM-less music. I didn't blog about this earlier until I verified it with official press releases from both Apple *and* EMI. I was afraid that it might have been a late April Fool joke. But here it is, it's real. So, what's the catch?

The only hitch is that the DRM-less media costs 30 cents extra than the normal DRM encumbered one. Personally, I would be willing to pay a little extra for DRM-less media as the cost is easily offset by more freedom in using the media. Now, I can play the music on everything in this world. [Also, the cost can be offset by friends being able to freely share music purchases now - Ed].

A friend of mine ventured the reason that they have come to realise that they're doomed either way. So, they should just make as much money as possible while they still have the opportunity to. I don't think that this is true though. Apple must've convinced EMI to try this out as a pilot/beta to see if they can make more money this way.

For certain, this will hopefully open the floodgates to more DRM-less media. The sale of DRM-less media doesn't even need to equal the sale of DRM media in order for the companies to make more profits (by reducing R&D cost). So, other companies will be convinced and start to ship more DRM-less media. This is a win-win situation for all. It's just surprising that it took them this long to come to realise it.

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