it comes to the digital music sales market, services like Amazon or
Zune Pass have made a minor splash, but Apple has long dominated the
market. Over the last two decades, antitrust regulators in the
U.S. and Europe have imposed fines and restrictions on Microsoft and
Intel to try to prevent them from abusing their dominant position in
several markets. However, they have cast a largely blind eye on
Apple's iTunes -- until now.Antitrust investigators with the
U.S. Department of Justice are conducting an extensive
inquiry into Apple's online music business, interviewing Apple
employees, internet music company employees, and music label
employees according to the New
At the core of the investigation is the allegation that Apple applied
pressure to force music labels not to grant Amazon.com access to
exclusive tracks to help grow the online retailer's fledgling music
market.A previous investigation was conducted several years
back in the European Union, examining Apple's iTunes pricing
practices. The investigation's conclusions were highly
critical of Apple, but did not levy any fines -- unlike recent EU
investigations into Microsoft and Intel.In March, it
was reported in Billboard magazine
that Amazon.com would be getting certain songs a day before they were
widely released. It would put these songs in a special
promotional section dubbed "MP3 Daily Deal."
According to the article, Apple hated the idea and threatened music
labels that participated. Specifically, it vowed not to sell
the songs featured in the promotion on iTunes -- a much bigger
reportedly owns 69 percent of the online music market, according to
the NPD group. The next closest competitor in the online market is
Amazon, which holds an 8 percent share. The remaining 23 percent are
split up among smaller players.
2007 Apple had a mere 12 percent of the total music
market (both online and offline), but it recently became the largest
single seller of music in the world, with 26.7 percent of the overall
market.Daniel L. Brown, an antitrust lawyer at Sheppard
Mullin Richter & Hampton states, "Certainly if the Justice
Department is getting involved, it raises the possibility of
potential serious problems down the road for Apple. Without
knowing what acts or practices they are targeting, it’s difficult
to say exactly how big a problem this is, but it’s probably
something Apple is already concerned about."Apple now
has dominant positions in several markets -- tablet computing (iPad),
portable music players (iPod), smart phone applications (iTunes App
Store), and online music (iTunes Music Store). Thus it has
leverage to use its position to damage competitors, if it should so
choose.The new investigation is at least the fourth antitrust
inquiry into Apple. The U.S. government is also investigating
Apple, Palm and others to see whether the companies illegally agreed
not poach each others' employees (Apple's CEO Steven P. Jobs secretly
suggested such a truce, which appears to be illegal). The
government is also investigating Apple's
ban on Flash for the iPhone or iPad and its decision to
block out ports of Flash titles to native iPhone code. And
there's also a pending investigation about whether board
on both Apple's and Google's boards violated antitrust
laws.ITunes first launched in 2001 and has long been on the
forefront of the push for legal online music downloads. Apple
has sold over 10 billion tracks on iTunes to date, and has become one
of the biggest revenue sources for the struggling music industry.
Apple also has supported a number of smaller independent artists by
promoting them and giving them tools to expose their work to a
broader audience. Apple also has recently made some steps to
increase competition, such as allowing streaming music services such
as Pandora and Rhapsody onto Apple devices.Spokespeople for
Apple and Amazon would not comment on the inquiry. Gina
Talamona, a deputy director at the Justice Department, also had no
quote: It's about time. I've always wondered how Apple was able to get away with essentially forcing people to use iTunes when Microsoft was fined billions of dollars just for making IE the default browser in Windows. Apple's actions seem more detrimental than Microsoft's, both to the consumer (iTunes is an all-around crappy piece of software) and to its competitors (IE was trivial to replace, compared to iTunes).
quote: Apple doesn't have a monopoly in the music business
quote: anybody can put any content they want on their iPods as long as it is in an open format
quote: Users should not be forced to go through iTunes just to get music onto their iPod. Granted, some third-party utilities exist that make it easier to bypass iTunes, but technically Apple disallows their use. And besides, there shouldn't be a need for any sort of transfer utility in the first place. The iPod connects over USB, it stores its music files in a standard format file system, and every modern Operating System in existence supports USB file transfer natively. There's no reason for Apple to not allow simple drag and drop file management on the iPod, except that they want to force people to use their software, which is tied directly to their online music store.
quote: You do know that most if not all ipod users have no clue on how to do what you just mentioned, and that making folders and copying files over is very, very clumsy.
quote: It sorts music through the tag information. Which has the crap imbedded into it, when you purchase it online.
quote: If you rip it off your CD, those programs automatically connect to the CDDB to pull all that information to tag your music.
quote: Also, if users have no clue what they're doing, why are external hdds becoming so popular? You think every hdd comes with an iTunes like software? USB keys? Sorry, but ppl don't need iTunes to throw music on their mp3 players.
quote: Choice and freedom mean nothing to these people if they can't figure out how to use their music players.
quote: But it's not an either-or situation. Apple could continue to support syncing content to the iPod through iTunes, while AT THE SAME TIME supporting basic drag-and-drop file management for users who would rather not use iTunes.
quote: Yes, but the ipod requires itunes on the desktop to interpret and build the database so it can sort them in its own way. Cowon's D2 doesn't need this. It also took them 10 firmware updates to get it to not ruin the database.
quote: So does itunes. And instead of one program to rip, one to move over, it does both. Keeping it simple for simpletons.
quote: Maybe you don't need itunes, but they do. These are people who don't even understand the concepts of files and folders.I know it is hard for you to understand, but there are people out there who don't get computers, and for them, playing music meant putting a needle on a record or putting a cassette in the player and nothing else.For those people, time and time again, they will find it within their power to use itunes vs. drag and drop. We are talking here about people who, after me explaining to them 10 times where their podcasts are, still don't get it. They also finds the thumbwheel much easier to use than say, Cowon's D2's touchscreen interface.Choice and freedom mean nothing to these people if they can't figure out how to use their music players.