Being a small player struggling in a market dominated by a single juggernaut is something you’d expect Apple to have sympathy for, but apparently this is not so. The slap on the wrist Microsoft received from the EU Competition Commission for abusing it’s monopoly to stifle competition has just been upheld in court and you’d expect Apple, as one of their competitors in the market concerned, to be pleased. Then again, Apple seem to be getting pretty good at this abuse of monopoly thing themselves, and there are already calls that the EU Competition Commissioner should move on to Apple.
I’m talking, of course, about Apple’s abuse of it’s dominant position in the digtital music market with it’s iPod/iTunes combination. Apple are trying very hard to make sure you can’t use anything but iTunes to manage your iPod, but more on that later, for there are other activities that annoy me more. For example, when I received my iPod I went looking for a mains adaptor to charge it from a standard outlet socket. Apple seemed to think I’d be content to pay Â£25 for this, but luckily I managed to get a third party plug for a fiver or so off the internet (you’ll not find too many in Curry’s though), probably because the manufacturers haven’t paid a whack of money to be “Apple Authorised”.
How many companies do you know that actually strip features out of their latest and greatest product versions or try to hide them from their customers? Well when I eventually realised I could play videos from my iPod through my TV using a standard camcorder-to-RCA cable (you know, with the red, yellow and white connectors for your TV), although Apple employ a dirty trick designed to make you believe you can’t (as I’ve mentioned previously). You can get round this with a cheap iPod specific AV cable (a fiver from Amazon or eBay), but with the new iPods, this won’t work. The new iPods are designed in such a way that they will only work with Apple authorised cables incorporating an authentication chip. Since Apple charges a whack for this authorisation, you can bet your ass this will drive up the price of cables, with the only winners being Apple.
Unfortunately this isn’t the only area where Apple try to shaft their customers with the new generation of iPods. The new range have also had extra measures added to ensure they only work with iTunes. This means that if you have a third party client (which you need if you’re running Linux because there is no iTunes for that OS). Apple have introduced a new feature to the iTunes database that calculates a number using data about the songs in your library, but only Apple knows how this number is calculated and without it the libarary appears empty. Obviously this poses problems for other clients which won’t be able to see your music. This is not only a problem for Linux users, but for anyone who doesn’t want Apple trying to sell them DRMd music when all they want to do is transfer songs they already own from their computer to a portable MP3 player.
“There seems to be no reason for this change except to break the functionality of alternative jukebox software. It will not limit copying or restrict attempts to strip digital rights management code from tracks. It will not stop people adding non-DRM files they have downloaded from the internet to their library. All it will do is stop the third party players working and force anyone with an iPod to use iTunes.”
I’m sure this will be overcome sooner or later (which only makes it worse) but it’s the principal which is rotten, and it’s not just playing video files and charging from the mains that Apple don’t want you to do; good luck if you want to share or stream music from iTunes to a non-Apple device. So the next time you have an Apple fanboy bashing Microsoft (something I’m not averse to doing myself), tell him to look a bit closer to home while he’s at it.