Do you remember the interview of a Microsoft executive that Big Redmond published to warn Windows users of the dangers of the iTunes Music Store (iTMS)? The interview was published in October in Microsoftis PressPass Web site, which is billed as being "information for journalists."
The nature of the warning came from Dave Fester who felt that the closed nature of the iPod and the iTMS (iTMS downloads play on only one MP3 player, the iPod, and the iPod will play downloads from only one music download service, the iTMS) is bad for Windows users. Windows users, says Dave Fester, General Manager - Windows Digital Media Division, "expect choice in music services." Microsoftis solution for that choice is the proprietary Windows Media format and the host of download services chasing after the iTMS, as well as the host of digital media devices chasing after the iPod, that support Windows Media 9.
Paul Andrews of the Seattle Times has published a very interesting editorial that questions whether or not this is an issue for the people that count, consumers. As part of that editorial, Mr. Andrews quotes Mr. Fester who is sticking to his guns on the limitations of the iTMS/iPod duo. The columnist also points out the plusses and minuses of being "open," including the problems inherent in the Windows world. From the article:
In follow-up queries from me, Fester refused to budge. "Apple has done a fine job building a solution, but it is a closed solution -- their service, their device, their player and no one else can play in that island."
His point seemed reinforced by news last week that the iPod disables MusicMatchis Jukebox now that MusicMatch is offering a download service competing with iTunes.
What interests me about this case is not whois right -- both sides make legitimate points -- but whether openness really matters.
But openness in a technology platform has an Achillesi heel as well. Offering compatibility means accepting all comers, no matter what their expertise or the quality of their products. Windows indeed supports far more developers and devices than Apple but suffers attendant reliability and security woes partly as a result.
Where does that leave Apple? I frankly donit think it matters to 99 percent of consumers whether a player or service or format is open or closed. What matters is whether it works.
Thereis a lot more in the full article, and we recommend it as an interesting read.