Friday, January 4, 2008

Antitrust lawsuit against Apple?

Well, when one company occupies such a large percentage of the online audio/video market and hardware market, it's bound to come up eventually...

Information Week is reporting on Plaintiff Stacie Somers who filed suit on Dec 31 (Happy New Year?), claiming Apple maintains an illegal monopoly on the digital music market.

Apparently the major point of contention is Apple's unwillingness to support protected media from sources other than iTunes.
The complaint takes issue with Apple's refusal to support the Windows Media Audio format. "Apple's iPod is alone among mass-market Digital Music Players in not supporting the WMA format," it states, noting that America Online, Wal-Mart, Napster, MusicMatch, Best Buy, Yahoo Music, FYE Download Zone, and Virgin Digital all support protected WMA files.
The suit goes on to claim that even though the iPod is physically capable of playing protected media from sources other than iTunes, this feature is deliberately crippled in the player's software.

What I'm unclear on, and what the article doesn't really elaborate on, is the injury to the consumer.
As for the injury to consumers, the complaint says that Apple's pricing is "monopolistic, excessive, and arbitrary," citing how a wholesale $5.52 price difference between 1-Gbyte ($4.15) and 4-Gbyte ($9.67) NAND flash memory modules results in a $100 retail price difference between 1-Gbyte iPod Nano and a 4-Gbyte Nano.
If the complaint is with the software, I don't understand what the price inflation of the hardware has to do with that, other than the obvious claim of collusion with memory makers.
Another interesting point (briefly touched on) is the recent popularity of DRM free music (Sony recently caving for example), and it's unclear what impact that might have on the suit.

Apple of course has no comment.

Read the whole article here @ Information Week

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