Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Apple cuts prices and eliminates DRM from ITunes

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Apple Inc. closed its final appearance at the Macworld trade show Tuesday by cutting the price of some songs in its market-leading iTunes online store to as little as 69 cents and disclosing that soon every track will be available without copy protection.

Apple's top marketing executive, Philip Schiller, said iTunes songs would come in three pricing tiers: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. Record companies will choose the prices, which marks a significant change, since Apple previously made all songs sell for 99 cents.

Apple offered the record labels that flexibility on pricing as it got them to agree to sell all songs free of ''digital rights management'' (DRM) technology that limits people's ability to copy songs or move them to multiple computers. By the end of this quarter, Apple said, all 10 million songs in its library will be available without DRM.

Excellent news. That's one thing that has always frustrated me about ITunes - you have to authorize a new computer to play files that you bought from ITunes on another computer, and you can only have a limited number of computers authorized. I'm assuming this announcement marks the end of that mess. I hope it also marks the end of having to have your IPod synced with a particular computer's library, thus making it impossible to download new stuff on the go from any computer.

Eliminating those two annoyances will make me a little happier with Apple, a company whose "hipster" image hides the fact that most of its products are overpriced, underpowered, and completely impossible to customize or upgrade.