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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Two iPhone pieces from Variety

I was hoping to avoid contributing to the orgy of iPhone hype this week, and in fact have summarily been deleting PR pitches that begin, "If you're planning to write about the iPhone..." I got at least a half-dozen of those.

But I failed.

I spent this afternoon working on a piece for Variety about what the iPhone means for media companies and content creators, which is here. I hope it's sufficiently skeptical...since I try to hold Apple's feet to the fire for operating a closed-loop system with the iTunes Store and the iPhone/iPod.

From the piece:

    If the phone is a hot seller, that could nudge more media companies to do deals with Steve Jobs' company -- or find a way to circumvent the tight link Apple has forged between its devices and iTunes, its online media marketplace.

    Apple's newest product will play a selection of 10,000 free videos from YouTube, as well as video podcasts offered for free on iTunes from outlets like CNN and HBO, plus movies and TV shows sold on iTunes by suppliers such as Disney, Lionsgate, NBC and ABC.

    But like the video iPod before it, the device won't play content sold by sites including Amazon Unbox, Movielink or CinemaNow, which offer movies in a Windows Media format that Apple doesn't support. Apple also doesn't allow content marketplaces other than the iTunes Store to sell content "wrapped" in Apple's FairPlay digital rights management (DRM) technology. That restrictive policy guarantees Apple a high degree of loyalty among iPod and iPhone users but has recently brought scrutiny from European Union regulators.

There's another piece, by Michael Schneider, about how everyone in LA is coveting an iPhone as the new status symbol.

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  • Interesting how the closed loop system is based on software for delivering content to the device.

    I challenge you find anyone company's delivery software that plays nicely with another company's hardware. That runs on Mac and PC.

    Let's face it, the business is about selling hardware. The software is a part of how you interface that hardware with content.

    We should be focussing on opening channels between the many content creators and the many distribution systems.

    On a more technical note, Apple does not support Windows Media format because that is a proprietary system developed by microsoft.

    Too often, Apple has been scrutinised for using .m4a or .aac files, which are an industry standard. Read this and this. AAC is used by mobile phones and digital radio broadcasts. Microsoft Windows Media format is not.

    By Blogger Matt Connolly, at 6:28 PM  

  • Matt-

    As I see it, the problem is that anyone can license Windows Media format -- if you wanted to build your own phone or movie player tomorrow, or create an online movie marketplace, you could adopt that format.

    Apple's FairPlay format is not licensable. So only Apple can build devices, as of now, that play that format....or operate marketplaces that sell media in that format.

    By Blogger Scott Kirsner, at 12:19 PM  

  • Scott,

    It was great to speak to you the other day about the iPhone and's support of the device.

    I'm sorry to see we were not mentioned in your article but I see the reasons why we were excluded.

    I just ask that you be careful when you call Apple's FairPlay a "format". This is the type of language that muddies the waters for regular consumers.

    I understand that some in the industry are still holding on to the belief that DRM can work. But as we've seen in the music world, it just doesn't. Padlocks keep honest neighbors honest.

    Your article left me with the impression that a regular consumer would feel there is no way to put video on an iPhone except to purchase from iTunes. As both you and I know, this is not the case.

    The iPhone supports the open standard video format of MPEG4. is providing great independent content for the iPhone, today.

    Once others move away from their flawed reliance on flawed DRM schemes, and learn to trust their customers, they too can provide content for the iPhone.

    Brian Andrews

    By Blogger HungryFlix, at 12:11 PM  

  • By Blogger Lorraine, at 4:57 AM  

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