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New code added to iTunes database file prevents iPods from being used with any program other than iTunes.

Less than two weeks ago Apple revamped its entire iPod lineup along with introducing a new iPod model, the iPod touch. The product line update consisted of new features and designs for Apple’s iPod brand. The update, though, shouldn’t be taken entirely at face value; Apple also managed to sneak in some code that locks the new iPods to only work with iTunes.

Apple has locked out other digital content management software by adding “SHA1 hashes” to the beginning of the iTunesDB file, the database file which keeps track of digital content stored on the iPods. The enhanced code locks the iTunes database to one specific iPod and also prevents any modifications to it. If an attempt is made to either change the database file to a different iPod or to modify the file, the iPod reports “0 songs” are stored on the device. What this means is that essentially only iTunes can add or delete content from the iPod.  

The most plausible reason for locking then new iPods to iTunes is that Apple is becoming conscious of the growing threat that other music services are offering. Since many music labels are dumping DRM, it is now easier than ever for music services like Rhapsody to load non-DRM music directly to iPods through its own player; meaning iTunes is taken out of the picture as the digital content handler for iPods.

Locking iPods to iTunes effectively inhibits other media players from handling content for iPods. This move also prevents other music services from truly competing with the iTunes store and maintains Apple’s dominance.  

Apple has been very aggressive in the past to ensure that nothing changes the relationship between iPods and iTunes. Three years ago RealNetworks attempted to create an alliance between Apple and RealNetwork that would allow Real to license Apple’s Fairplay DRM technology so that it could sell files compatible with iPods.

Real’s ambitions turned out to be a failure when its talks with Apple failed, and so the company decided to simply reverse engineer Apple's FairPlay to create Harmony technology, which allowed music sold via RealNetworks to work on Apple’s iPods along with a plethora of other portable devices.

Apple nearly immediately issued a scathing response, and stated that Real’s move violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Apple also issued a firmware update to its iPods which blocked iPod access to Harmony files. At the time Apple said it was “stunned” by RealNetwork’s moves and accused it of using "tactics and ethics of a hacker."

Do you have an iPod but run Linux?  Tough luck says Apple.  Windows users who prefer to use other management tools, such as Winamp, will also need to use iTunes exclusively for now as well.

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RE: To iPod or Not to iPod...
By hrah20 on 9/16/2007 8:07:28 PM , Rating: 2
me too , I was going to buy one of those new ipods but I HATE BEING FORCED to use only their software just because apple feels they don't get enough money, bye,bye apple,you're not going to get my money !!!.

RE: To iPod or Not to iPod...
By tdawg on 9/16/2007 11:04:15 PM , Rating: 3
iTunes is free and you don't have to buy tracks from the iTunes music store to enjoy an iPod. There are many other ways to get music into non-DRM .mp3 for use on any portable music player.

For the vast majority of users, especially those that own iPods, they have no interest in 3rd party software solutions for the iPod. iPod and iTunes play very nicely together; I can't see a reason to use anything else.

RE: To iPod or Not to iPod...
By ghost101 on 9/17/2007 3:55:34 AM , Rating: 2
Its not free. Apple still have to develop the product and the money for that does not come from trees. The cost of itunes is almost definitely subsidised by sales of OS X and the Ipod. Similar to the fact that the cost of windows media player is embedded into each of Microsft's OSs.

RE: To iPod or Not to iPod...
By viperpa on 9/19/2007 8:25:25 PM , Rating: 2
If Apple made it to where you could only use there music format on the IPod, then I would have a issue with it since I already own a IPod. As long as the IPod can play mp3's, then I have no problem with what Apple is doing.

People have a choice whether they want to buy an IPod or not. If you don't like what Apple is doing, buy another make music player. The only way Apple is going to change is when people stop buying there products.

RE: To iPod or Not to iPod...
By hrah20 on 9/20/2007 5:40:09 AM , Rating: 2
(The only way Apple is going to change is when people stop buying there products.)

Very true !!!.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith
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