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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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How doe sthis differ from MS Antitrust
By TheOtherBubka on 9/16/2007 9:46:00 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe someone could do a quick explanation but this seems awfully similar to the situation with Microsoft effectively 'forcing' Firefox/Mozilla from working well with Windows.

In both situations, Apple with iTunes and MS with IE, the corporation is leveraging their dominant market position to prevent similar technology from working with theirs. Furthermore, in Apple's case, they are also preventing their technology from working with other applications.

If Apple is claiming the iPod and iTunes is a 'closed' system similar to Xbox/PS3/etc., then the application (iTunes) should only be available when an iPod is purchased and iTunes should not be 'cross platform' as there can only be 1 platform.

FWIW, don't own an iPod, Zune, Zen, or whatever. I guess it is not that important to me to be able to listen to 'my music' while grocery shopping (as I have seen)...

By twdm on 9/17/2007 3:35:53 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly what I was thinking. The ipod plays mainstream music formats and not their own specific ".ipod" format music files so I don't see how it is a closed system like the xbox/ps where you can't simply put the game from one system into another.

Someone with legal knowledge should definitely look into this.

RE: How doe sthis differ from MS Antitrust
By ghost101 on 9/17/2007 3:39:50 AM , Rating: 2
It doesnt. Apple will almost definitely be considered a monopoly in the mp3 player market since they are above the legal requirement in terms of market share.

This is clearly bundling of products and should be and most probably will be investigated.

In the EU at least there are such moves

The Microsoft case will be a landmark case which will set precedent for all such future cases.

By ghost101 on 9/17/2007 3:46:06 AM , Rating: 2
Should clarify that the article actually refers to apple's monopoly in music downloads and the tying of that to the ipod rather than the other way round.

By DOCDAT1 on 9/17/2007 10:55:03 AM , Rating: 2
Norway, Denmark and Sweden has already stated that the Itunes-ipod locking is a violation of their consumer rights laws and are considering which measures to take. Germany and France are close behind. If Apple doesn't change this, they'll probably either have to pay a large fine and/or stop selling to these markets.

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