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Read the fine print

So Apple launches an online music store. It looks very nice when put side by side with the competition. For starters, there doesn’t seem to be any monthly fee and all tracks are the same price. This seems like a good idea until you start reading the fine print… according to Apple, the tracks you download are high-quality AAC music files. AAC files? what are those?

A quick search on the Apple site reveals that AAC stands for Advanced Audio Coding and that’s a format that works on well, it works on the mac and on the iPod. If you want to carry that anywhere else, you can’t.

OK, well, I’m a programmer and that’s a new sound format, maybe I can write a decoder. So where’s the format. Oh, here it is. What, I have to pay to read the standard? What if I wanted to develop a free decoder? Oh, right, I would have to pay for that too!

Oh well, back to my regular MP3 collection then. At least I can use it either on my PC, mac, and existing MP3 player. I don’t have to be locked into a particular OS, use a particular player or a particular computer. Until someone offers that, there won’t be a viable music service out there and I’ll be forced to keep buying CDs, burn them to MP3 for easy travel and storage (a single disk filled with MP3s can contain several albums!)

Hello, music industry, here I am! I want to pay for tracks but I want them to be MP3 because I already have an investment in hardware and software around that. I a willing to pay (*waving credit card*) but please give me what I want. Apple has the right idea (99 cents a track, nothing else required) but the wrong format (I do NOT want to be locked in!)

Don’t tell me the new format is better. I don’t really care. I didn’t care when Microsoft made the same argument with Windows Media Player so why should I listen to the same argument when Apple makes it. What I want, plain and simple, is a service that will allow me to download, for 99 cents per track (hey, cheaper if possible), a real MP3 that can work on my mac, on my PC, on my MP3 player, on my DVD player… well, you get the idea. Once a format is ubiquitous, why try to change it?

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