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March 17, 2006

An iPod-less France?

Peter Burrows

I'm no xenophobe. But for all of France's concerns about the corroding influence of US culture over the years, it strikes me as ironic that French lawmakers have gone after Apple. Today, they voted to okay a bill (that must still be okayed by the Senate) that would break Apple's proprietary business model by forcing Apple to make iTunes work with other music players, and the iPod to work with other music services. Fretting about the ascension of Walmart and the Burger Royale I can understand. But the iPod is all about elegant design, personal expression, and music of whatever sophistication you choose, from Brittany to Bartok.

Sure, there's an idyllic, if unrealistic, logic behind the proposed law. Personally, I don't think any hardware rival would give the iPod any serious competition, even if they could work with iTunes. But unshackling the iPod from iTunes would give other service providers a chance at success. We might finally get to find out whether there are any other economically viable ways to sell music to digital music player owners, other than Apple's a la carte approach.

I doubt the situation will ever get to that point, however. For starters, there's the inevitable legal challenge should the law be okayed. But even putting aside questions of government interference, Apple holds the most important card: Unless I'm missing something, it could simply stop selling iPods in France, at least until the situation is worked out. Fact is, Apple can afford to take a temporary hit to sales, given the huge growth the company is experiencing in the other places where it does business. And I'd bet France's consumers would send their lawmakers a very different message if they were suddenly left iPod-less.

04:13 PM

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Like I said over on /., this could cost Apple maybe 2% of their iTMS revenues. Meanwhile, French people will just turn to the P2P networks, and they'll still play their music on an iPod, just like the people in all the other countries where the iTMS isn't available.

Who loses? Nobody but the recording companies and the musicians.

-jcr

Posted by: John C. Randolph at March 17, 2006 09:18 PM

Boy, you sure are obsessed with trying to get Apple to change it's a-la-carte pricing. "get to find whether there are any other economically viable approaches"? How many blog posts are you going to put that into?

I think you're late to the game and way off base. Before iTMS, that's all anybody was selling: subscription models. And no one was buying.

But now you seem to want to pretend that what's holding back other music services is that they can't be used with iPods. Isn't as likely that iTMS drove the success of iPods as vice-versa (e.g. what people want is iTMS).

This is starting to remind me of the Microsoft debate around the time of the antitrust trial: everybody whining that Microsoft is eating their lunch. Tough cookies. You do work for a BUSINESS magazine, don't you?

"Give other service providers a chance for sucess?" Why in the world would a business ever want to do that? Why in the world should it ever be asked to do that? Check that, why in the world should any business every allow that unless their CEO was held at gunpoint (and maybe not even then).

What I find most amusing is that when iPod first launched the nearly universal reaction of analysts (including BW, I might add) was: too expensive, doesn't have enough features, doomed to be a niche product. iTMS was met with a less of a yawn, but was still predicted to be marginalized once the "real" media companies got into the game.

And now we find a BW columnist arguing that Apple is too dominant? The irony is rich...

Posted by: Mark at March 19, 2006 12:20 AM

Government should just stay out of it. Let the laws of supply and demand work things out. If you don't like how Apple or Microsoft structure their buisness, then don't buy their products. Believe it or not, there are great alternitives to both Apple and Microsoft. Personally I like Apple's products, but I do not like their DRM or how they don't let you run OSX on non-Apple computers. But I'm not forced to buy their products either. When I do buy their products, I know the limitations. If I don't like it I could

A) Pettition Apple to change.

or

B) Don't buy their products

I should NOT pettition the government to get involved and try to force Apple to change.

Posted by: Dan at March 30, 2006 05:23 PM


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