is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired in 2013), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “How They Got There: Interviews with Digital Designers About Their Careers”and “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children.
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How can you even say “proprietary” and “MP3 player” in the same sentence?
What about the iPod is proprietary? It plays MP3s. That’s about as unproprietary as you can get when it comes to mainstream music formats. Real format is proprietary, WMA is proprietary. The AAC format available on iTMS isn’t even a proprietary format.
Real Networks didn’t “break Apple’s hold on the iPod,” they’ve eliminated any the need for Apple to license the use of their proprietary format. Good for them!
I think we essentially agree that this is a good thing, but you’re right that I misused my terms. What I mean is that the iTunes Music Store is a proprietary strategy — that you can only play your iTMS purchases on an iPod, and your iPod can only play song downloads from the iTMS. Not all of the parts of this strategy are proprietary, of course, but the business intentions definitely are.
Okay, it’s not a true monopoly, you’re right. (Jeez, I sure did play fast and loose with the words in this post!) But it’s a market that Apple clearly dominates, as some analysts have very recently postulated.
The Real deal looks good on the surface, but think about it. Real is offering to set iPod users free from Apple’s grip as long as they abandon iTunes and use RealPlayer.
I would be less cynical about Real’s intentions if Harmony was just a plug-in for iTunes, or if the RealPlayer software provided easy access to many different music stores, including the iTunes store.
As things stand, Real appears to be offering iPod users freedom from iTunes and the Apple store in exchange for loyalty to RealPlayer and its music store. No thanks.
I’ve though about this since first posting this, and I’ve reconsidered my position. There’s no tangible, strategic advantage for Apple to get in bed with Real; the latter party’s share of the music download market will probably just dwindle away soon. So anyway, yeah, I stand corrected.
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