wtfudge is a lovely weblog that uses blogger to track my thoughts, etc. it is an offshoot of where mathew hoy does code, content, and creative for all things lovely.

My Photo
Location: London, Canada

a buddhist, vegetarian, and beta-geek, i build web sites, am an iconographer, write, doodle, and noodle. i like cookies and candy and fruit juice. do you?

Monday, October 25, 2004

the apple monopoly

last night i was listening to this radio show (history of music by allan cross i think?) and they were talking about digital music. when i tuned in, they were talking about all of the formats that existed. they cut to commercial and just before they did, they said that they would talk about a few more things and then close up.

i was going to blockbuster to return megaman anniversary collection for gamecube, in case you were wondering.

anyways, when they came back, the radio announcer started talking about media formats again and got to "apple's aac format. it's the only format they care about because it lets them have a monopoly...". i've heard people talking about apple's strongarm bits before, but never their monopoly. it got me thinking (after i was done rationally talking to the radio and saying that you can play mp3 and audiobooks on an ipod so you don't need to use apple's aac format media on your ipod or with itunes) about this whole monopoly thing.

what exactly is a monopoly? does microsoft have one? does apple have one? does parker brothers have one? does a monopoly exist if opposing companies are selling the same products?

a monopoly is this: "exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service." according to i suppose that apple's control of its itunes service is a monopoly because they own the format, the storefront (itunes), and the container (ipod).

i suppose i don't get this, however: there are tonnes of other kinds of digital media players on the market. rio, creative labs, dell, pocket pc, sony, you name it. if you go into your local tech-bigbox, you'll be deluged with 1 metric tonne of digital music players. some, like product x by rca, even play videos and pictures.

there are other online media sellers, including microsoft, real (you remember them - the people who hacked aac and sold the resulting files like they did nothing illegal - we should all hack realplayer and sell the product and see what happens), hundreds of music labels with content online for buy and download, and more.

and players. oh, the players! winamp, itunes, microsoft media player, realplayer, & all.

the alternative choices are endless. it's funny because where i live there are few people with $400 to spend on a digital music player. i got mine for free as part of a freelance contract. i can't buy itunes music in canada. i'm forced to use (a download service if you're so bold and brazen) puretracks, or another service. itunes isn't a monopoly in canada. i know many more people who are using alternate players, and alternate computer-based players. from where i stand, there is no dominance.

people here are just as closed-minded towards apple as they've always been. our local bigboxes sell apple products in their flyers, but there are no apple items in the stores. there is an ipod display, but it's tiny and wedged between the irivers and sony car stereos. asking people about ipods in stores gets you the same blank stares you get if you ask about the new imac g5s.

friends of mine in australia cannot buy music via itunes there either. does any other online service sell aac? if not, i'm not sure how apple's monopoly extends north of the usa border.

now granted, when i rip my music from my cds i do it in aac format. but the option to do so in mp3 format is in itunes as well. by having the ipod able to play mp3s and having itunes allow people to import files in non-aac format, i think they're giving people a choice as to what media they listen to. and if you don't want to buy aac, don't (if you're in canada, you've no choice...). buy puretracks or real (shudder). or import your own music as mp3 and put them on your ipod (if you even have one).

by the definition, apple does seem to have a monopoly on the aac digital media format execept, funnily enough, this article on apple's site says "AAC was developed by the MPEG group that includes Dolby, Fraunhofer (FhG), AT&T, Sony, and Nokia—companies that have also been involved in the development of audio codecs such as MP3 and AC3 (also known as Dolby Digital)."

it's funny that the companies who are bitching about apple's evil aac format actually helped develop it in the first place (sony).

and the megaman game was pretty good. i played each of the games, killed 2x guys in each and moved on. as in traditional megaman terms, the game(s) were terribly frustrating to figure out the patterns of the enemeies and full of flicker. it's good for a rental unless you love megaman to pieces, particularly if you're playing with someone else with whom you can share the controller. give it a try!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there Mat! Nice post. My sediments exactly...

As far as I understood, Apple doesn't actually own the codec of the AAC format. I believe the codec itself is similar to the MPEG4 audio codec used for DVDs, except that AAC adds the FairPlay CRM to the while thing.

That's pretty much the explination Steve gave when they introduced iTunes a few years ago...

Christopher at

October 27, 2004 at 3:33 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home