More On the “iPod Monopoly”

I have written before about the bogus notion that the iPod/iTunes model for portable media is a monopoly. Recently Ken Ray, the host of one of my favorite podcasts, Mac OS Ken, recently reported on a story from Australia about the possible illegality of the iPhone and iTunes.  So I wrote him about it.  Who know I might get my letter read on the air.

Hola Ken,

You reported on a Sydney Morning Herald story Tuesday of a group of Australian law researchers who have concluded that the iPhone, in the way that it is currently being implemented, would be illegal in Australia. The piece stated that Apple “could not have the carrier exclusivity that it has in the U.S., U.K., and Germany.” Furthermore the Herald quoted a gentleman who stated that Apple’s iPhone “breaks new ground” in restricting consumers’ choices in technology markets via technology.

You then sardonically commented that “the iPod’s been doing that for years.” While your comment made me chuckle, it also brought up a sort of debate I have in mind for a while now. I simply do not get all of the hub-bub over the iPod being exclusively tied to iTunes. I guess I do not get the animosity against the idea. I have heard some commentators and read some bloggers who go so far as to call the iPod/iTunes model a monopoly. This simply is not true. A monopoly is a market condition in which one supplier controls all supply and access to a particular good or service and consumer choice is eliminated. Such was the case with Standard Oil, a monopoly which was broken up by the Sherman Act in the early 20th century. My question to those who would call the iPod/iTunes platform a monopoly would be “Are there no Zunes? Are there no Sansas? Is there no such thing as Amazon MP3? Can you not rip your own CD’s into any format you choose and put it on just about any player?” Consumers do have a choice. In fact they have at least three overarching choices: 1) they can use iPod/iTunes, 2) they can use a non-iPod/non-iTunes platform, 3) they can choose NOT to use portable music players at all. Of course these can be broken down into “sub-choices”, if you will. Furthermore it is Apple’s prerogative to tie their own products together in this way in order to increase revenue. Contrary to popular belief (and this may be a shock to many) Apple is not in business to make our lives happy. That is merely a by-product because they make (and we buy) products that make us happy. Apple Inc. is in business for money…moolah…dinero…greenbacks. Ain’t capitalism great!

But anyway, I do not need to belabor the point by going into how the same idea applies to the iPhone (are there no blackberrys, etc?). Consumers do have a choice where it concerns the iPod and the iPhone. It is a simple matter of supply and demand. I personally feel that the iPod’s ease-of-use, and cool factor are worth not only the monetary cost but also the cost of being all but restricted to using iTunes. If it were not so I would get a different player instead. But the iPod/iTunes platform is more than sufficient. So I choose it. We do have a choice.

As always, your show is thought-provoking and entertaining, not to mention a veritable smorgasboard of all the Apple news I could want.

Thanks a million,

Josh H.

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