Apple vs. Hollywood

The day that the iTunes Store launched, I remember saying to a friend that "This is a license to print money." It's still not clear to me whether Apple is taking a loss on the media to push hardware, or vice-versa, or neither, but the company has certainly gained immense power in the entertainment world by creating a content store that nobody else has really been able to match for scope or reach.

Power breeds resentment, of course, and one of the biggest fits of public pique that the iTunes Store saw was NBC's decision last year to withdraw its content from the marketplace. One of the most exciting things about last week's event for me was the announcement that the Apple-NBC split had ended, and that I wouldn't have to use NBC's terrible free but ad-driven download service on my Windows laptop every time I missed 30 Rock when what I really wanted to do was give Apple and NBC $2 or $3 to watch it on my big monitor without interruption. Of course, as is all too typical of big ego- and power-driven spats, there are disputes about who exactly has come crawling back to whom in this relationship.

But this fight is only a sign of the wounds and anger simmering below the surface. From BusinessWeek comes the story of a sinister consortium planning an entirely alternative media ecosystem, called DECE, to challenge Apple. The rhetoric is one of "openness" -- which sure seems to have taken in a blogger at Wired, who seems to believe that the consortium intends to sell essentially DRM-free media -- but the BW article makes it clear that the content will still need to be authorized, and will only play on devices capable of reading the DRM. In other words, it's like Microsoft's PlaysForSure, just another competitor to Apple's FairPlay -- but perhaps hardware and media companies now are scared enough of Apple to actually work together to make sure it isn't stillborn.

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