Closed Is Open

Reading Between the Lines as Dave Fester, General Manager of the Windows Digital Media Division, Lays Out Microsoft’s Shamelessly Orwellian Party Line Regarding Digital Music

First, it’s an exciting time for digital music fans where, finally, a broad choice of innovative and appealing legitimate music services has arrived.

Where by “legitimate”, we mean “under Microsoft’s control”, which is also why we think it’s so “exciting”.

In at least one respect, you can look at the online music services in a similar way to how you look at traditional CD stores: consumers want and expect to be able to choose where they buy their music. One store might have a particular CD or single that you’re looking for; while you might discover that another store has it at a lower price. Additionally some stores may carry more music than others, or they may run different promotions.

It’s fun to run all over town looking for a decent price on a CD, and we’re hoping Windows users are looking for that same experience when they pay for music online.

What I think is great about most of the new services available on Windows is that being built on Windows Media enables such amazing choice. […] That is what Windows users love — being able to shop around and pick and choose the products and services that work best for them.

Where by “products and services”, we of course mean “Microsoft products and services”. I.e., this very fun and exciting “choice” is choosing where to buy music in WMA format, not choosing some format other than WMA. And where by “love”, we mean “have grown to accept”.

We are now at a point that consumers can buy a device that meets their needs and budget and works great with the new Windows Media-based music services. Over 40 devices from a variety of manufacturers are available today that support Windows Media Audio (WMA) that work with the music stores. With WMA playback support virtually everywhere, it means that consumers are now able to hop from store to store, download tracks, integrate them into playlists and move to their choice portable music devices. With WMA’s advanced compression it means that the music sounds great and you can pack more songs on your device. Even more, these music players come in all shapes, sizes, colors and prices — one to fit your lifestyle.

We’re hoping that WMA is to portable music players as Windows is to PCs — dozens of manufacturers fighting each other for commodity hardware sales, all of them paying licensing fees to Microsoft.

iTunes captured some early media interest with their store on the Mac, but I think the Windows platform will be a significant challenge for them. Unless Apple decides to make radical changes to their service model, a Windows-based version of iTunes will still remain a closed system, where iPod owners cannot access content from other services.

We’re bad-mouthing Apple because they’re not using WMA, and our goal is to establish a monopoly on digital media formats and rights management. You might think that the iPod and iTunes are in fact open, given that they work swimmingly well with MP3 files, but you would be wrong, because what we mean by “open” is “based on Microsoft’s proprietary formats”. (In fact, we don’t even mention “MP3” in this entire “Q&A”.)

Additionally, users of iTunes are limited to music from Apple’s Music Store.

Except for MP3s, which don’t count.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a drawback for Windows users […]

Where by “Windows users”, we mean “Microsoft”.

Lastly, if you use Apple’s music store along with iTunes, you don’t have the ability of using the over 40 different Windows Media-compatible portable music devices. When I’m paying for music, I want to know that I have choices today and in the future.

Antitrust, schmantitrust — this discussion wouldn’t be happening if we had put Apple out of business when we had the chance.

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