Needless to say, (but said anyway; Windows users might be reading this…) both comments stirred up the dust among iPod users and Mac users. Ballmer’s comments came to a group of reporters at a London, England conference.
Ballmer is described as saying, “The most common format of music on an iPod is ‘stolen.’” While many reporters and observers viewed Ballmer’s comments as self serving with an obvious vested interest, it became apparent to many that Microsoft finds itself playing “catch up” in a number of areas.
For example, Ballmer told reporters that Microsoft has had DRM (digital rights management) for years but failed to acknowledge that it has yet to be adopted by Windows users who are flocking to Apple’s popular iPod by the millions.
TheMacObserver pointed out that Microsoft wants to paint itself “as the good guys and Apple the villains” in the battle for standards of DRM.
Ballmer said, “Part of the reason people steal music is money, but some of it is that the DRM stuff out there has not been that easy to use.”
Reporters noted that Apple’s digital rights management embedded with the popular iPod and iTunes Music Store (called “FairPlay”) has worked very well. Apple owns approximately 60-percent of the portable music player market with the iPod and nearly 70-percent of the legal download marketshare with the iTunes Music Store.
Microsoft’s proprietary music format, WMA, is found on many portable music players, but not Apple’s iPod. Ballmer is also quoted as saying, “We are going to continue to improve our DRM, to make it harder to crack, and easier, easier, easier, easier, to use.”
Ballmer failed to compare Microsoft’s MSN Music Store with Apple’s iTMS, although Microsoft product managers have been quoted as saying Apple’s is the standard. Interestingly, Ballmer’s comments about most iPod users stealing music contrasts sharply with a recent poll regarding music on the iPod. Click Here to view the poll results.
He also described the home market for media technology at a “tipping point” which would lead to a dramatic explosion of sales for devices to integrate computers with video and audio technology.
He declined to provide details but pointed out that “There is no way you can get there with Apple… the critical mass has to come from the PC, or a next-generation video device.”
In summary, Microsoft’s chief executive officer says the future of digital technology rests with Microsoft and not Apple Computer.
What do you think of Microsoft’s efforts to manage digital rights? How has Apple Computer fared with digital rights management on the iPod? Should Apple venture into video media with a larger, wireless, “video pod?” What effect will Apple’s nearly 100 stores have on the marketplace should Apple decide to introduce a new component to the Macintosh “digital hub”?
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Obviously, there are more questions than answers. If you’d like to know more about Microsoft’s embattled CEO, Steve Ballmer, check out the book Bad Boy Ballmer: The Man Who Rules Microsoft by Fredric Alan Maxwell at Amazon.com.
My take is that Ballmer’s comments were nothing more than another version of Microsoft crying “wolf”. The company’s new operating system, Longhorn, is years behind schedule. Security of even the newest Windows XP Service Pack lags behind industry requirements, and the company is also years behind the portable music and legal music download rage.
The company is also losing market share in many areas to a resurgent Apple, and the growth of Linux and Open Source applications.
Beleaguered on all fronts, Microsoft has no other methodology but to act like a cornered animal and lash out at competitors and promote fear, uncertainty, and doubt to customers.