DRM not really that bad for consumers?

David Robinson has an interesting tidbit of information. Supposedly, the new Microsoft music store (Zune) will scan user's iTunes library, and buy all the iTunes-purchased music from the MS store at Microsoft's expense. Simply speaking this means that the DRM lock-in value has vanished for Apple, since it will be trivial to start using MS's store instead. You lose no music.

But now it seems that it may actually be easy as pie for any iTunes user to leave the Apple platform. The cost of the Zune player, which will presumably be exclusive to the Zune music service just as the iPod is to iTunes, is a significant factor, but given that reliability issues require users to replace iPods frequently, buying a new player doesn’t actually change the cost equation for a typical user over the long run.

What are the lessons here? Personally, I feel like I underestimated the power of the market to solve the possible problems raised by DRM. It appears that the “lock in” phenomenon creates a powerful incentive for competitors to invest heavily in acquiring new users, even to the point of buying them out.

And, of course, since it does not delete the original, you will end up with two copies of the same music (except with different DRM). This makes the life of the consumer easier, since they don't have to be reliant on a single music provider any more. I would not be surprised if a similar deal became suddenly available from Apple.




Comments

Life gets easier, except for the added overhead of managing same files in different formats, and buying twice as much hard drive space. ;)

--Niko, 27-Jul-2006


Well, wouldn't that be something that would be pretty trivial to support in software?

--JanneJalkanen, 27-Jul-2006


Hey Janne, I saw your picture of picking "Cloudberries." It is very interesting to me because, being originally from Alaska, we call the Salmonberries and as I'm sure you know they are an arctic berry so hardly anybody knows of them here in California. It really brought back some memories. Thanks for the photo.

Now, to comment on your post. One thing that I would be concerned about is whether MS ends up with ownership of the music it buys or if signing up for their service gives you ownership. If they own the rights, but allow you to use the music, then they are back in the same model as licensing software. Then theoretically, they could request that you quit using the music any time they deem appropriate.

--ScottHurlbert, 28-Jul-2006


Of course they could. But with multiple providers, you would not lose the music - you could keep on listening some other version of it.

--JanneJalkanen, 28-Jul-2006


Not every service provider has the pockets of Microsoft. This is not a cheap solution. Or are record labels coming half way across..?

--Henrikki, 01-Aug-2006


I have no idea. But my guess is that they would also like to see a multi-provider structure, since that way they can ask for more money. If iTunes is the only game in town, then Unca Steve has the ball and can say what game to play...

--JanneJalkanen, 01-Aug-2006


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