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It's official. All iPod users are music thieves - according to Microsoft CEO Steve 'Monkey Boy' Ballmer.

"The most common format of music on an iPod is 'stolen'," he told reporters in London today, according to a Silicon.com report.

Ballmer conveniently ignores not only that there are many non-Apple music players out there, on which there are probably as many, if not more "stolen" songs.

He singles out the Mac maker for attention because - wait for it - "we've had DRM in Windows for years". The implication is that DRM hasn't been in the Mac OS for a similar duration, and that's what's allowed all those stolen tracks to seep through onto the web.

Windows has, of course, also had Napster, Grokster, Streamcast, Aimster, Kazaa full and lite, et al for years, but - again - none of that Windows-only music theft apparatus has registered on Mr Ballmer's radar screen, it seems.

No, there's no music piracy on Windows, and that's because Windows has had DRM for so long. People haven't been ripping CDs. They haven't been sharing the songs using Windows-based P2P software. And other folk haven't been downloading and transferring them to portable players. Clearly, all those shared tracks have just popped out of nowhere.

Actually, it's a wonder Ballmer didn't accuse Apple of offering them itself.

"Part of the reason people steal music is money, but some of it is that the DRM stuff out there has not been that easy to use," he said, pledging to reverse the trend with "easier, easier, easier, easier to use" code.

Until Apple's FairPlay came along, of course, which is one of the reasons why its iTunes Music Service has become popular - the DRM system is as unobtrusive as a DRM system can be.

Then again, Microsoft has been promising to offer easier to use DRM since at least 2002, as its then Windows Media Player wish list revealed. Yes, that's right WMP users want what MS wants, ie. DRM and more of it, please.

Alas, even Ballmer seems to accept the inevitable. "Most people still steal music," he said. "We can build the technology but there are still ways for people to steal music."

That should keep the iPod going for a little while longer then, eh, Steve? ®

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