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October 21, 2003 9:12 AM


iTunes IconDave Fester, General Manager of the Windows Digital Media Division has a few things to say about the iPod and iTunes on the PC (and what a coincidence, the article was posted the day before Apple announced iTunes for PC). Even though he looks sprightly and offers you a high rez portrait of himself (oh joy!), he is less than enthusiastic about one more digital media application being written for his platform. Here's a quick look at the FUD...
iTunes will still remain a closed system, where iPod owners cannot access content from other services.
Nice FUD buddy. The last time I checked (which is every day for the last several months) I was able to put music on my iPod from non-iTunes based music services (eg, eMusic, MP3.com). Don't take my word for it though, just look at Apple's tech specs page for the device...
Audio formats supported:
  • Mac: AAC (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR), WAV, AIFF, Audible
  • Windows: MP3 (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR), WAV, Audible
WMA is of course missing. <sarcasm>WMA, that really open file format that lets you do whatever you want with the music you bought.</sarcasm> What he really meant was that iTunes and the iPod do not work with BuyMusic.com, Napster or the other WMA specific music services currently being offered in the marketplace. IMHO, that's a good thing.
Additionally, users of iTunes are limited to music from Apple's Music Store.
Now, that's true, but only if you limit the scope of that statement to "in terms of buying music and putting it on your iPod without leaving one application" then it is indeed true that users of "iTunes are limited to music from Apple's Music Store." But, again, the last time I checked, music that I bought at eMusic.com, and downloaded off of MP3.com can be placed on my iPod using iTunes.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a drawback for Windows users, who expect choice in music services, choice in devices, and choice in music from a wide-variety of music services to burn to a CD or put on a portable device.
The last time I checked the flexibility offered by paid music download services that use WMA for the format, none of them match the iTunes service (10 burns per playlist, files can be on multiple machines, etc). Some only let you stream the music. And others only allow one CD to be burned. If you take a look at BuyMusic.com which uses WMA you'll notice that "BuyMusic's terms of sale also shut out several major digital music players from receiving downloads." More precisely...
The company specifies that devices are allowed to store digital music files and play them back in analog form but must not be able to transfer them on to other electronic devices. For example, consumers with an Archos device, an iPod competitor, would not be able download music, because that system allows them to transfer music to other devices. -C|net
Why isn't Mr. Fester complaining about BuyMusic.com's obvious lack of 'wide-variety' of support for portable devices? Oh yeah, they are WMA based. Ok, more on iTunes and music devices...
Lastly, if you use Apple's music store along with iTunes, you don't have the ability of using the over 40 different Windows Media-compatible portable music devices.
Is he trying to say that the iTunes application breaks all other music players? I'm guessing he meant to say something like 'syncing to a Rio doesn't work in iTunes' but the actual statement is kind of odd and FUD-like. I'll assume he's not being smarmy and meant the more benign interpretation, and I'll simply say, 'so what?' I own an iPod for a few good reasons, and one of them is the integration with iTunes and my Mac. 750,000 PC users have bought iPods for their own reasons. iTunes integration can now be added to that list.

The bottom line is that Apple brought iTunes to the PC to sell more iPods. God forbid they make iTunes work with the iPod and any MP3, ACC, VBR MP3, WAV or Audible file that you might have, regardless of where you got it (and if you are like me, you don't care that WMA and other DRM based music file formats aren't supported).

[I've been on a real tear with the Apple/Mac postings recently, and MacSurfer has been linking to those posts. Thanks for the links and thanks for visiting.]