The FT is the one example of British journalism that invariably never fails. It's understanding of the issues around Norway's (and Europe's) seeming dislike of iTunes is absolutely spot on. Unfortunately this editorial piece requires a paid subscription, but here's some excerpts:
In Norway a total monopoly on selling alcohol is legal but now Apple’s 70 per cent market share in downloaded music – which is probably only temporary – is not. Norway’s consumer ombudsman and its counterparts in Sweden, Finland, France and Germany have really not got this monopoly malarkey quite worked out.
Apple’s success in digital music is due to design, innovation and a good business model: qualities to encourage, rather than punish via questionable competition rules. Perhaps Norway needs to sort out the alcohol before worrying about the rock ’n’ roll.
In case you think the FT is too kind on Apple this paragraph also shows a keen sense of some of the issues and possible outcomes:
This does not mean that Apple is right to maintain a proprietary model: there is ample evidence that consumers benefit from open, universal standards. If there is no further innovation, and iPod remains the state of the art for years to come, then Apple might maintain an unhealthy market dominance.
But technology moves quickly in electronics. Competitors like Sony Ericsson have not yet made much of a dent in Apple’s market share, but the trend for integrating music players with mobile phones will threaten the iPod’s dominance over the next few years.
Most commentators on this issue seem to think Apple needs to make concessions. But at this time, it should make none. Concessions will not benefit the consumer, but will benefit the unreformed labels, and most importantly will play into the hands of Microsoft. Without Apple, we would now have a complete dominance of Windows Media Player - and probably back several versions too. We would have a DRM that was forced on us by Microsoft and its cozy collusion with the entertainment industry. We would have dull, clunky WMA players, with poor synchronisation and seriously restrictive DRM. This was first and foremost a war about Apple's and Microsoft's vision of digital delivery. We are just part way into that war in which Apple has scored some important victories over the massive and resource-rich Microsoft. Ultimately, a long and hard war will be to the great benefit of the consumers (and hopefully lead to a permanent business model change in the music industry). Healthy competition can benefit the consumer far more than government action (witness EU action against Microsoft which was far too late, and failed to provide any benefit to the consumer). Action unilaterally at this time against Apple is actually anti-consumer, and plays into the hands of those with most to lose.
Good work FT!
Tags: Apple, iPod, EU, Norway, FT