Have you ever purchased music from iTunes and tried to save it to a non-Apple MP3 player? Trust me, it’s no fun. The iTunes software won’t let you do that, presumably because Apple wants you to play your music on an iPod. But once I buy a song, shouldn’t I be able to listen to it on any player I like?
Have you ever tried to play an iTunes file on another computer? That won’t work either. The reason is that the music in iTunes is encoded with something called DRM (Digital Rights Management), which is designed to prevent unauthorized copying of purchased music. It is possible to get unprotected music, but only in a format called AAC, which is much less widely supported than the industry standard MP3 format. Again, once I’ve purchased a song, shouldn’t I be able to listen to it on any computer?
I spend a non-trivial amount of my time and money on music and I don’t like the fact that Apple tries to limit what I can do with my music. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: Amazon.com’s MP3 store is the best way to buy digital music. When you download a track from Amazon it comes to your computer in pure, unadulterated MP3 format. You can copy it freely, in open MP3 format, to a memory stick, another computer or any other device you like. And you can listen to it on any MP3 player on the planet. Amazon’s catalog and prices are competitive with iTunes so there’s really no reason not to use Amazon. Here’s an excellent comparison of the two music stores, courtesy of the venerable tech review site cnet.com.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of Apple products. I have an iMac, an iPhone and an iPad and I love them all, however, until Apple does a better job giving me my music the way I want it, I’m sticking with Amazon’s music store.
By the way, today Apple surpassed Microsoft as the world’s most valuable technology company. For most of my life Apple has been a perennial underdog in the computer business. Their recent rise to the top of the heap is an amazing success story. Coincidentally, just yesterday the US Department of Justice announced an investigation into Apple’s potential anti-competitive practices in their iTunes music store. Ironically, after nipping at Microsoft’s heels for decades, in certain ways Apple is beginning to resemble it’s long-time rival.