Recently there has been some buzz about Apple, iPods, and DRM (Digital Rights Management). Specifically, people are buzzing about the fact that downloads cannot be used on devices other than iPods, or software other than iTunes (note: the software iTunes is free to download for both Macs and PCs).
France is suing Apple and Sony on anti-trust issues (See BoingBoing for a nice short post). And some librarians do not like the fact the idea of having audio books (in libraries) for iPods only (See Free Range Librarian).
Sure, it would be great if we could all just get along. I long for the day all my techie needs are met by one device, and even better the day when all my telecommunication needs are solved (to my satisfaction) by one company with one device - but that just is not the way things work when dealing with new technologies. More than that, I would be worried if things did work that way from the start. A bigger desire of mine is for explosive innovation. I want a lot of different groups working on different projects to meet my needs. Multiple groups + one end goal = faster results. And if history is any indication, eventually things will settle; look at VCR vs Beta, CD vs cassettes and mini-discs, and recently USB emerging from a variety of competing technologies (Apple is even backing away from FireWire on its iPods). [okay, I must admit that with these examples, we might not have settled on the best technology - but we settled on one thing!]
And I respect the desire of these companies to get, and keep, the largest marketshare - these companies are not in this just for the fun of it, I get the feeling that profit might have something to do with the motivation to invest buckets of time and money into R&D. Letting a capitalist economy sort out the rest (who wins, and if we will allow a single proprietary format) can be dangerous - especially when dealing with heavily legislated areas like copyrighted material and DRM - but I have hope that if we watch carefully (with care of wholly misguided legislation and tort law) that things wil settle. We librarians often have the luxury to retain the conviction of our lofty ideals, while the corporate world is forced to balance those ideals (we really hope they keep them!) with profit and the bottom line.
This is the very beginning of a shift towards a new method of communication. That first group of savvy, intelligent, and thoughtful users just might have to put up with some unfortunate developments while the industry figures it out.
What do you think?