Steve Jobs on DRM: The Business Strategy Behind the Manifesto

JobsdrmMost of the out­side world did­n’t care. They did­n’t even know what Steve Jobs was talk­ing about. But with­in tech cir­cles it was a big deal, a land­mark moment. Jobs’ s anti-DRM man­i­festo, Thoughts on Music, moved us all clos­er to the day when music would be set free. (DRM = Dig­i­tal Rights Man­age­ment. Get more info here.) The reac­tion in the tech press was, of course, jubi­lant. Here’s a quick sam­ple reac­tion from the major tech blog, Giz­mo­do:

“Steve Jobs dropped a big one on us today, and no it was­n’t a new Mac­Book. Instead it was his anti-DRM Man­i­festo, a state of the union for the music indus­try so to speak. In a nut­shell, he advised the music indus­try to give up on DRM. It won’t work. There are smart peo­ple cir­cum­vent­ing this stuff, and with all the CDs being ripped in the world, just give up on it.

Amaz­ing to hear the man speak with­out the PR mouth­piece, with­out regards to any­thing but what he feels is right for the world. He even throws the iPod/iTunes monop­oly to the wind with these notions.”

Now before we start a peti­tion to can­on­ize Jobs, it seems worth reflect­ing for a moment on whether St. Steve found reli­gion, or whether Jobs was just being a bril­liant CEO … yet again. And that’s why its worth giv­ing a lis­ten to Robert X. Cringe­ly’s recent pod­cast arti­cle DRM Catch­er (iTunesFeed). (You can also read the text ver­sion here.) Cringe­ly is a par­tic­u­lar­ly astute observ­er of how tech­nol­o­gy trends dove­tail with busi­ness strate­gies, and he’s right to see Jobs’ man­i­festo as dri­ven less by ideals than by what makes the most busi­ness sense for Apple at this par­tic­u­lar moment. DRM helped put Apple into its mar­ket lead­er­ship posi­tion. Now, hav­ing a lock on 75% of the mar­ket, the best way to sell more iPods is to drop DRM. It’s smart busi­ness think­ing that you see at work here, not altru­ism. You can bet on that.

Give the pod­cast some of your time, and be sure to lis­ten to the part about Google’s ambi­tious web strat­e­gy, which ties into his recent think­ing (see this piece) about the big plans that Google has on the hori­zon.


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