First came the "I've been thinking..." memo from Steve Jobs which showed his desire to pursue a DRM-free future for iTunes music. Now he's signed a deal with record label EMI to feature music at higher quality (256Kbps compared to 128), for US30c more per track and WITH NO DRM. That means, when it comes to EMI at least, iTunes finally gives those willing to stump up extra, good quality listening and the flexibility for them to shuffle music between devices as they wish.

It's a significant development given the dominance of iTunes. But what's behind it? Like Microsoft which got caught up in seriously expensive legal action in the European Community over its anti-competitive behaviour, Steve Jobs is also attracting the ire of the Europeans over the closed nature of its iTunes-iPod ecosystem. This and the memo preceding it seem to be exercises in appeasement. How significant the shedding of DRM will end up being, will be determined by how many other labels follow the same course as EMI. It could also turn out to be a clever revenue spinning move for Apple. Faced with the choice of buying 128 kilobit music laced with DRM or paying an extra 30c per track for DRM free, better quality songs, I think most people will choose the latter. Apple has also decided to maintain the exisitng price for albums which should act to encourage people to stump up US$10 for an entire album of DRM-free music, rather than individual tracks. The most progressive thing Apple has done since it launched iTunes...

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