One Bad Apple

Steve Jobs is many things: master showman, spinmeister, cheerleader, visionary, God of Silicon Valley, and icon not simply of the computer industry, but of the media and entertainment arena as well. He’s also a master manipulator and his DRM Manifesto “Thoughts on Music” issued today on the Apple site was vintage Jobs: it was eloquent, convincing and just slightly salesy. Curiously timed, the underpinnings of his open letter posting are pretty simple — the best defense is a strong offense. Jobs takes a jab at the Norwegian Consumer Council and the Dutch Consumer Ombudsman, last week the latter joined the June 2006 complaint filed by the former against Apple, alleging that Apple is violating Norwegian consumer law through its exclusive link between Apple’s iPod and iTunes music store because Norwegian iPod owners are prevented from playing songs bought from competing online services or listening to iTunes songs on rival MP3 players.

In his Tuesday posting, Jobs said Apple can’t risk opening up the iTunes store to other portable players as long as DRM technology remains in place. This does not sound like a man who is concerned that wannabe rival players like Microsoft’s Zune or those from SanDisk (whose stock was pummeled last week due to thinning of its flash memory margins). But, let’s be real – this is the posting of a man with a silver tongue (keyboard?) who is trying to deflect the heat of Apple’s proprietary position in online music. Many of his critics fully believe that DRM could work just fine if Jobs and Apple would cooperate. Teflon Steve got nicked a few weeks back when the options backdating flu bit a few folks in Cupertino. Let’s see if the Goodship Apple starts to take on some more water after this latest issue heats up.

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