Given that the U.S. will spend today venting its national spleen in the voting booth, I thought I’d devote today’s entry to another issue that boils the blood of a select few. And by that I mean, of course, the death of iPod Download.
If you visit the rantier corners of the Web, you’ve heard all about it. If not, allow me to describe the situation in as non-partisan a way as possible.
1. iPod Download, an iTunes plug-in, made it possible to copy tunes from an iPod to a Macintosh via the iTunes interface.
2. Apple released iTunes 4.7. Among other things, this update breaks iPod Download.
3. This upsets some people.
Given that this is election day — a day on which one must make a stand — allow me to offer a little something to those angered by this action.
Stop whining you damned babies!
Wow, that felt good. Maybe there’s a spot for me on Crossfire after all.
Yeah, I’ve heard the complaints:
Apple deliberately broke iTunes!
Apple is devoting valuable time and resources to stamp out innovation!
Apple is kowtowing to the music industry at the expense of its customers!
Before those of you who swallow this drivel fire off the “Apple shill!” email, let’s examine the facts.
iPod Download was written as an iTunes plug-in. Apple controls the SDK for these plug-ins and has some say about what they can and cannot be used for. Anyone writing such a plug-in would be well served to carefully scrutinize the SDK’s licensing agreement. Failure to do so could result in Apple laying on The Heavy Hand. Apple is fairly touchy about people screwing with its software and when you do so using Apple’s own tools, its legal department gets particularly het up.
Need proof? Browse
MacUpdate and enter the search term “iPod.” You will be greeted with just under a jillion results. Of those results, the lion’s share are tools for copying music from an iPod to your computer. If you follow the reader reports and post dates, you’ll observe that some of these tools have been around for nearly as long as the iPod. If Apple’s primary concern was the eradication of technology for moving music off an iPod, these tools would be gone.
And if Apple was really serious about protecting the iPod’s music, it would come up with a draconian encryption scheme a la Sony’s ATRAC rather than simply making the iPod’s music folder invisible.
I’ll grant you that Apple has muscled aside a small developer or two in pursuit of its goals, but this isn’t one of those cases. If the subject of iPod Download even came up among the iTunes group it was likely treated as an example of an exploit — a way of digging into iTunes’ chewy center that the iTunes team hadn’t anticipated. Once the exploit was revealed, a patch was applied to close the hole.
As for kowtowing to the music industry, can we, on this “take no prisoners” day, possibly conceive of a little something called compromise? The music industry would like to be compensated for its property and not see that property freely given away. Consumers would like the music they purchase online to be as free of restrictions as the music they buy from a bricks-and-mortar music store. Apple would like to make some cash brokering the transfer of that music from one entity to the other while addressing the desires and fears of each.
It seems to me that it’s come up with a pretty reasonable compromise. Unlike with subscription services of old, you own the music you buy from the iTunes Music Store. Yes, it’s protected, but if you have legitimate uses for it — burning up to 7 copies of a playlist to CD, listening to it on up to 5 computers and as many iPods as you like, and streaming it from one computer to another on a local network — you’re welcome to do so. My guess is that if the music companies had their way, you’d be far more restricted in how you could use your music. Apple’s scheme may not be perfect, but I’m hard pressed to think of something that would work better for all parties.
Look, I can whine with the best of them, but please, let’s find something worthwhile to whine about shall we? Like the state of the nation, for example, and how failing to participate in the electoral process does nothing to improve it.
Now go vote like the salvation of the world depended on it.
It just might.