Having finally launched the iPhone, Steve Jobs has had some spare time on his hands, and spent some of it having thoughts about music. He's blogged them, or rather, commandeered a page of the apple website to share what he's thought.
And you know what he's thought? That it's about time the labels dropped DRM.
Yes, yes, of course the iTunes music store uses DRM, but, apparently, he'd rather not have to bother:
Jobs mulls three options for the future - carrying on with Zune stores working for all the Zune players in the world (there are now several, we understand), iTunes selling for iPods, and so on. Clearly, though, Jobs wouldn't be launching a flashy "look at me" initiative if he was merely trying to keep things as they are. He's not from Microsoft.
Option two is for Apple to license the FairPlay DRM to other companies, allowing iPod enabled music to be sold by other stores. Jobs points out that to share the code would be to make the secret DRM somewhat less secret, and probably even less secure.
Option three - what we must now see to be the Apple party line - is surprising and refreshing:
Which is quite a pledge.
So, what's Jobs up to? Obviously, he's trying to head off calls for Apple to share FairPlay - indeed, he encourages us to go and badger the record labels to dump DRM instead of badgering Apple to open up the AAC code:
But isn't this insanity, Jobs calling for an action which would take away the competitive advantage of the iTunes Music Store?
Maybe not. After all, he's in the business of selling players, not music, as his own message makes clear when he sets out to prove iPod owners aren't "locked" into iTMS:
Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. Its hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.
In other words, Jobs isn't afraid it'll make too much of a dent in the Apple bottom line for there to be competing stores selling interoperable tunes.
But of course, this isn't about DRM free music at all, is it? It's no coincidence this has coincided with WalMart's move into movie downloads. This is using "music labels" as a shorthand for "movie studios".