Columnist Attacks iTunes As "Bad," Extols WMA As "Good"

Jason Cross is cross, if youill pardon the rather obvious joke, at Appleis iTunes/iPod business model. Mr. Cross is a writer for ExtremeTech, a technology magazine, and he has penned a condemnation of iTunes/iPod based on Appleis business model for the platform.

Mr. Crossis basic premise is that though iTunes is very good software, and the iPod is a very good player, and though both are very easy to use and best in class (with some minor caveats), they limit Mr. Crossis choices. He says that some company will eventually out iPod the iPod, that technology will change, and that he wishes to play his music on other software on his Windows box, say WinAMP. Accordingly, and for other reasons, he says "iTunes Bad, WMA Good." From his article:

I have to admit I do like the way iTunes looks and feels. I like that the radio stuff is free, whereas the new Napster wants you to pay $10 a month for theirs (thanks but no thanks, Roxio). Iive used both the old-style and new-style iPod players quite extensively, and I still say Apple is crushing everyone else in the portable player market when it comes to industrial design and user interface. I want to make that clear from the start. Both iTunes and the iPod do what they do very well -- probably better than any other product out there. But I refuse to buy songs through iTunes or purchase an iPod. Why? Itis what they donit do.

AAC is a perfectly fine audio format. It sounds good. I donit really want the music I pay money for to be encoded at 128k, but none of iTunesi competitors are offering a higher bitrate, so I donit have much choice there. The problem with AAC is that it doesnit really have digital rights management, so songs you buy through the iTunes Music Store have an Apple-specific proprietary digital rights management scheme called FairPlay attached to them. AAC may be a format that many desktop applications (like Winamp) can understand, and itis certainly possible for non-iPod portable players to build in support for it, but iTunes and iPods understand FairPlay. If I buy music through the iTunes store, it will only play on iTunes or an iPod. Thatis it, until the end of time. Iim sorry, but that doesnit cut it for me. How do I know what music player Iim going to want to buy in four years? How do I know my next car wonit have a built-in digital music player? I certainly donit expect Apple to make a CarPod. All those iTunes songs I pay for today are going to be useless tomorrow. I generally donit want to play back my music through iTunes -- I want to use a smaller, faster, less obtrusive playback client like Winamp. With music purchased through iTunes, thatis not an option.


Whatis So Great About WMA?
So Iive done some research and it turns out that WMA is actually really cool -- for a lot of different reasons. The most important to me is that its rights management tech is built into the format and not locked in to any particular brand. I can pay for and download protected WMA files on Napster and play them back on dozens of different players, or even other software on my PC. I can buy a different player from a different brand in a few years, or a new car stereo or DVD player or home media server and, if it can handle WMA, itill understand the rights management. But there are other benefits to WMA.

Mr. Cross goes on to lay out the many reasons he thinks WMA is superior to iTunes/iPod, including the fact that it is cheaper (to licensees), has more bitrate control, sounds better, and has more options. He also says that he thinks Apple will be "Netscaped" by Microsoft, which is further reason not to lock oneself into Appleis platform. You can find the full article at ExtremeTech. We recommend it as a very interesting and thought-provoking read.