Douglas Crockford

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August 2006

Norwegian Wouldn't

Norway is rasslin with Apple over the proprietary lock that exists between the iPod and the iTunes store. The DRM system which is supposed to prevent unauthorized copying is illegal under Norwegian law. Apple is dialoguing the Norwegian Consumer Council, hoping to avoid both of the undesirable alternatives: Abandoning their DRM system or abandoning Norway. Norway is not a big market, but France, Britain, Sweden, and Denmark are all thinking along the same lines. And you don't have to be FDR to know what happens if Europe falls.

Why is everybody picking on Apple? Of all of the DRM technologies, Apple's is the most successful, and ultimately it isn't that important to Apple. Apple is a hardware company. They benefit from selling powerful machines that do useful things. Jobs himself said in 2002 that "if you legally acquire music, you need to have the right to manage it on all other devices that you own". But he made a deal with the devil that required him to install a DRM system which betrays his own intentions. If Europe can flip Apple back from the dark side, then it is likely that all draconian DRM schemes will be politically defeated.

The ultra-ironic name of Apple's DRM is FairPlay. The DRM in HD-DVD and Blu-Ray is called AACS. It is pronounced as Axis of Evil.

DVD v (HD-DVD v Blu-Ray)

As expected, both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray are performing much worse than expected. Neither format appears to be in danger of immediately displacing the other. Both formats are waiting for a miracle.

Meanwhile, as expected, consumers are avoiding both formats. But now there is a taint on DVD. HD-DVD v Blu-Ray reminds people of VHS v Betamax, but they are also reminded of VHS v DVD. If you know that DVD will displace VHS, then you stop buying cassettes and you stop buying VCRs. Video collectors who are aware that a new HD format is coming have stopped buying DVD, but they are not buying the next generation yet because it isn't clear what the next generation will be.

So the Format War isn't just delaying the next phase of expansion of the video business, it is depressing the current phase.

Follow the Money

Deep Throat said to "follow the money". Woodward and Bernstein followed it from illegal donations to the Committee to Re-elect. But where does it go after that?

Most of it goes to buy television ads, particularly those high emotion, low intelligence negative ads. This has produced a corrupt political system which is heavily biased for the incumbents, provided that the incumbents spend a significant fraction of their time selling influence. The news media does not like to report on it because the news media benefits from it.

But now it turns out that TiVo owners don't watch the political attack ads. They skip them just like they skip all the other ads. As the number of DVR users go up, the effectiveness of political ad spending goes down.

Commercial skipping is good for democracy.