Steve Jobs has pulled off something truly phenomenal. Honestly, this is the biggest tech story so far this year as far as I’m concerned, but feel free to argue with me in the comments.
Several weeks ago, Jobs wrote an open letter, which effectively called on the record labels to forget about their inane Digital Rights Management (aka DRM) systems and allow Apple and iTunes (as well as others) to sell DRM-free music tracks. Doing so allows the people who PAID MONEY for the tracks to do whatever they want with the music that they PURCHASED. Well, it worked. EMI will be the first record label to step into these waters and for that, I give them major kudos. To most of you, this may seem irrelevant, but for folks like myself who have multiple computers, use multiple operating systems, it’s truly ground-breaking. I’ll now be able to carry my audio files with me no matter what computer or OS I happen to be using and I don’t have to worry about losing my access to those files if the computer went belly-up. Also, these tracks will be playable on any hardware or software audio player which supports the AAC codec. If it doesn’t, since the files have no DRM attached, you’ll be able to convert them to MP3 or whatever other format you choose. Apple said it pretty clearly in their press release though:
With DRM-free music from the EMI catalog, iTunes customers will have the ability to download tracks from their favorite EMI artists without any usage restrictions that limit the types of devices or number of computers that purchased songs can be played on. DRM-free songs purchased from the iTunes Store will be encoded in AAC at 256 kbps, twice the current bit rate of 128 kbps, and will play on all iPods, Mac® or Windows computers, Apple TVs and soon iPhones, as well as many other digital music players.
I honestly can’t wait to purchase my first DRM-free track from iTunes. Offering the 30-cent upgrade on previously purchased tracks is a really nice touch too. Apple already has a huge share of the online music market, and this will probably be the final nail in the coffins of some other online music stores (*cough* Zune Marketplace *cough*). This announcement along with Complete My Album which was announced last week will likely cause me to purchase more tracks (and albums) online than I have in the past.
It’s truly awesome to see Apple answering customer demand. I know that it’s lining their pockets more and more, and maybe that makes them evil, but the consumers are receiving what we’ve asked for, and it’s extremely cool from where I’m sitting to see that happening.