Steve Jobs blesses DRM, and nothing happens

Sugared water

Apple expanded its retail presence yesterday, right into the guts of your computer, in a move variously hailed as "revolutionary" (Wininformant), "unique" (The New York Times) and "we're impressed" (Forbes).

Only the FT seemed to strike a more realistic note: "Apple music service plays by industry rules," and only today do the bugnotes begin to appear.

Alongside 'Rip, Mix and Burn' are the following warnings:

For example, Purchased Music Does Not Play [Apple KnowledgeBase article 93035] and About Authorization and Deauthorization [KB article 93014]... "You should deauthorize your computer before you sell or give it away"... and How to Backup Purchased Songs [KB article 93033], which warns us:

"If your hard disk becomes damaged or you lose any of the music you've purchased, you'll have to reimport all your songs and buy any purchased music again to rebuild your library."

And remember:

"Initializing the drive will not deauthorize the computer. If you will be initializing the drive, deauthorize the computer first, then initialize the drive."

Huh? Well, it's not like we didn't... warn you.

So DRM has happened, and no one seems to mind very much. Effigies of Hilary Rosen (Al Gore's friend) are not being burned in the streets, an angry mob is not besieging Apple HQ in Cupertino and the world looks very much like it did on Sunday. Only we now have an extra way to obtain a small selection of music we have already heard.

As we reported yesterday, Apple's music service allows for some very limited free use - while your computer is alive.

It wouldn't be so bad if Steve's New Store didn't resemble - in the words of one reader and Mac user - "the bookstand at an airport. As shops go it's not very good. A real airport bookstand would have gum and cigarettes too".

For as we also reported, large chunks of the major label back catalogs are missing, leaving a fat-free selection of popular tunes.

The record labels are not run by music lovers - you've probably noticed this already - and often sit upon vaults of great artistic treasures. Which are not represented here. And some labels are conspicuous by their absence (or only a token presence). EMI, for example: owner of the Blue Note, Parlophone, Chrysalis and Virgin catalogs.

The store's 'Staff Picks' also draw from a very limited commercial catalog. We suspect if Apple Staff were really allowed to give us their Picks they would be much more interesting. Apple Staff we know thrill and amaze in this respect.

The Fleetwood Mac offerings (greets, Mick) give you the gentler 70s and 80s elpees but not the ballsy blues incarnation, and certainly nothing by Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green, who wrote Black Magic Woman and whose The End of the Game is one of the most astonishing and beautiful records ever made. That's quite an omission.

When in 1984 Steve Jobs lured Pepsi CEO John Sculley with the words "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want to change the world?", who would have thought that Steve Jobs would end up selling sugared water himself? ®

Related Story

Linus Torvalds blesses DRM, and nothing happens

Sponsored: Driving business with continuous operational intelligence