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Apple's Move May Make AAC Music Industry Standard 428

stivi writes "BusinessWeek has up an article about a war: a standards war in the online music business. Apple's recent deal with EMI to sell DRM-free songs from the publisher's catalog on iTunes may clinch the iPod's AAC format as the industry standard. The article talks about possible reasons why AAC might marginalize WMA, as well as deals with some of the implications of drm-free aac-standardized industry. 'Online music stores, like Napster, Yahoo Music, URGE, and all the others that sell WMA songs will be forced to consider jumping into the DRM-free AAC camp, and thus become iPod compatible, and in so doing become competitors of iTunes. Apple will be fine with this, because in its range of priorities, anything that sells more iPods can only be a good thing. With time, practically all music stores will be selling iPod-compatible songs. This will be considered a Richter 10 event at Microsoft.'"
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Apple's Move May Make AAC Music Industry Standard

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  • MP3 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hokiejimbo ( 751496 ) <jacarte8@[ ]edu ['vt.' in gap]> on Thursday April 05, 2007 @03:56PM (#18625617) Homepage
    What exactly makes this different than .mp3? Other online music stores have had the option to sell unrestricted .mp3 files for plenty of time and still haven't decided to do that. Yes, AAC is arguably better than MP3, but both are quite "iPod compatible".
    • Re:MP3 (Score:5, Informative)

      by i_should_be_working ( 720372 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:02PM (#18625731)
      Exactly. In addition, if one reads EMI's announcement about them selling DRM-free music, it's clear that it's neither AAC nor iTunes exclusive. Other music stores will be selling EMI's songs in mp3 format soon, and nothing will have changed with respect to the popularity of mp3 vs AAC.
      • Re:MP3 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:21PM (#18626095)

        In addition, if one reads EMI's announcement about them selling DRM-free music, it's clear that it's neither AAC nor iTunes exclusive. Other music stores will be selling EMI's songs in mp3 format soon, and nothing will have changed with respect to the popularity of mp3 vs AAC.

        I disagree. This is likely to change the relative popularity of MP3 and AAC. There are several reasons for this. First, the iTunes store is currently the most popular of the online music services and likely will be the first one taking advantage of this offer. As a result, a lot of MP3 manufacturers are going to be looking to add AAC support to their player to capitalize upon Apple's work and to make transition easy for existing iPod users. This will expand the potential market for AAC files from iPods and Zune, to almost all portable players. With that change, a lot more music services will consider using the AAC format either instead of or in addition to MP3.

        Second, right now almost all commercial services require DRM. That means such a service must choose to either use WMA, RealMedia, or roll their own solution. Support for Real is nonexistent among hardware vendors, so they target WMA as the easiest solution. Very few commercial services offer MP3. So how does this event change things? All those WMA offerings are now going to be looking for format for non-DRM'd files that targets the iPod. That rules out WMA. So they are probably going to be choosing AAC or MP3 or both. MP3 is probably a little cheaper for licensing and has wider support, but AAC allows for smaller files for the same level of audio quality, saving bandwidth costs and speeding up downloads. Further, record companies will have already converted masters to sampled AAC for Apple, possibly making that a preference from them.

        I don't see that MP3 or AAC will immediately dominate for DRM free music sales, but I bet Apple is not the only major store selling AAC downloads by then end of 2008.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Have Blue ( 616 )
          The ITMS is large enough that even a relatively small percentage of their sales changing from DRMed to non-DRMed AACs may be enough to outweigh the rest of the non-DRM market selling MP3s.
        • AAC is royalty-free (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 05, 2007 @05:05PM (#18626993)
          [i]MP3 is probably a little cheaper for licensing and has wider support.[/i]

          Actually, AAC is an open standard and is royalty-free - it would cost other manufacturers to add AAC support to their players (as Sony already has - they have added AAC support to some of ther Walkman devices through firmware updates).
          • by rtechie ( 244489 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @09:51PM (#18630067)
            Actually, AAC is an open standard and is royalty-free

            AAC is NOT a open standard, unless you consider MP4 to be an "open standard", and it is NOT royalty-free. In fact, I'm pretty sure the licensing for hardware players is slightly more than MP3. This is why most portable audio players don't support AAC, because then they would have to pay double licensing fees (one of MP3, one for AAC) and MP3 is vastly more popular than AAC especially overseas.

            Why do they include WMA? Because WMA really doesn't have any licensing fees, and it's as much of an "open standard" as AAC. Microsoft will even write code for your player. Hell, if you're big enough they'll even pay you to include WMA (I know they did for Rio). Nowadays they might be entrenched enough that they've stopped doing this but you can see how they got such momentum.

            Apple has no serious interest in promoting AAC as an independent codec. AAC/FairPlay is an important "feature" of iPods and licensing it (Jobs has said outright that they will never license Fairplay) would only cut into their lucrative iPod business. It's the same reason they'll never license MacOS.

            Ogg and FLAC aren't widely supported, despite being royalty-free, because of lack of popularity. It just isn't worth it to support these formats. I own one of the very few players that does, the Rio Karma. And yeah, I use FLAC a lot.

            • by ecki ( 115356 ) on Friday April 06, 2007 @04:55AM (#18632025)
              Because WMA really doesn't have any licensing fees

              Wrong [].

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              AAC is NOT a open standard, unless you consider MP4 to be an "open standard", and it is NOT royalty-free.

              AAC/Mpeg-4 is an open standard. You can go download it yourself. You're correct, however in that it is not a free standard and you have to pay royalties on hardware that encodes it, but not on each encoding, like MP3 or WMA.

              This is why most portable audio players don't support AAC, because then they would have to pay double licensing fees (one of MP3, one for AAC) and MP3 is vastly more popular than AAC especially overseas.

              Most portable audio players do support AAC. Heck Apple by themselves make most portable music players. Add to that Sony and MS and a few others and you're really looking at a large chunk of the hardware market.

              Why do they include WMA? Because WMA really doesn't have any licensing fees, and it's as much of an "open standard" as AAC.

              Umm, WMA does have license fees. Most players pay them because they ar

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Really the whole AAC thing getting added to players has been going strong for a while already. Oddly enough it's happening in many new cellphones now that are supporting AAC (look at any cellphone Samsung makes now or really any that come out of Japan). Which makes you wonder how lazy audio player manufacturers are getting when the cellphone industry is doing something very uncharacteristically open that they have yet to do.
        • Re:MP3 (Score:5, Informative)

          by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi AT evcircuits DOT com> on Thursday April 05, 2007 @05:43PM (#18627569) Homepage
          Euhm, MP3 cheaper? No way, if you want it legal in the US, you'll have to pay our best friends with the patents and royalties and since multiple organizations claim to have patents on MP3, different countries have different enforcers, I think in the US it's Thomson and in Europe it's Fraunhofer. The same is valid for WMA

          AAC is an 'open' industry standard, not requiring licensing or royalties to be paid for streaming or distribution. It's also better in that it requires less space for the same quality, or allows for more quality in the same space, something music sellers really like.
      • by OECD ( 639690 )

        Other music stores will be selling EMI's songs in mp3 format soon...

        Which ones? AFAIK, iTunes is the only one selling the songs outright (vs. subscription services.)

    • Re:MP3 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:45PM (#18626577)
      AAC is MP4.

      So an overall better codec. at 128kbs it sounds roughly the same as an 196kbs mp3. Or roughly the same as an OGG at the same bit rate.

      the 256kbs mp4 that EMI wants to sell drm free is only good news.

      MP3's staying power is odd. one can add support for both easily, yet most players seem to think WMA is the only way to go. They could support MP4, MP3, and WMA.
      • Re:MP3 (Score:5, Informative)

        by nutshell42 ( 557890 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @09:39PM (#18629973) Journal
        AAC is MP4.

        That's very misleading. mp3 is MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3, AAC is part of the MPEG-4 specification, .mp4 refers to the container format of the MPEG-4 specification that's based on .mov and can contain a large number of different video, audio and other streams in a number of different codecs.

        So an overall better codec. at 128kbs it sounds roughly the same as an 196kbs mp3. Or roughly the same as an OGG at the same bit rate.

        This is also misleading, although AAC *is* better. With codecs like these, the only thing that is fixed is the actual bitstream, leaving a lot of leeway to the different encoders. An mp3 encoded with an excellent encoder will be superior to an AAC by a mediocre encoder (e.g. I don't know about Quicktime's aac encodes but its AVC is complete and utter shit, even though AVC is an excellent spec). Also cpu-time constraints can have a serious impact on encoding quality, although that's normally not an issue if you do the encoding on a PC.

        One big advantage of AAC are advanced features like 5.1 channels and such. There are hacks to tack on lots of features to mp3 but it lacks the (relatively) clean specs of MPEG-4 and it often lead to all kinds of problems.

        the 256kbs mp4 that EMI wants to sell drm free is only good news.

        yes, it is. (Good Apple; good EMI too btw, even though it took too long until they saw the light)

        MP3's staying power is odd. one can add support for both easily, yet most players seem to think WMA is the only way to go. They could support MP4, MP3, and WMA.

        It's not odd. Mp3 is the 800 pound gorilla of music formats and noone can do without it. Apple refused to share its DRM system with anyone (bad Apple), so for most competitors WMA was the easiest way to provide customers the capability to buy music (well, Big-4 music) online, thanks to MS's Played-for-Sure(TM) (until they got the URGE(TM) to squirt(TM) stuff all over the place =) and iirc it's the default spit out by WMP if you tell it to encode something for you. Few non-iPod owners use AAC, so there was no real reason to implement it (similar problem as Vorbis).

    • Re:MP3 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:49PM (#18626645)
      The only advantage I can see is that you can bookmark within an AAC file. For me that's a pretty major point.
  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @03:57PM (#18625639)
    and so it will never capture the market share that mp3 based hardware (chip) players have.

    I have so many mp3-only players - why on earth would I convert to a diff format when mp3 meets ALL my needs?

    now, if all players were firmware upgradable, fine. but the fact is, most are chip based and if there is no
    AAC support in the chip, you are SOL.

    AAC is a nice idea, but its not 'everywhere'. mp3 IS everywhere. that's all that matters, in the end.
    • by e4g4 ( 533831 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:03PM (#18625771)
      AAC isn't everywhere yet, I'll agree. However, if Apple actually moves it's entire catalog to unprotected AAC files, it seems to me quite reasonable that the vast majority of players released from that point forward will support AAC, considering Apple's dominance in the online music sales market. If one sells music player hardware, wouldn't you want it to support the most popular format (for sale) on the market? Especially considering AAC doesn't require royalty payments.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Especially considering AAC doesn't require royalty payments.

        Yes it does. Like MP3 it's patent infested []:

        Licensing and patents

        In contrast with the MP3 format, which requires royalty payments on distributed content, no licenses or payments are required to be able to stream or distribute content in AAC format. This reason alone makes AAC a much more attractive format for distributing content, particularly streaming content (such as Internet radio).

        However, a patent license is required for all manufacturers or developers of AAC codecs. It is for this reason FOSS implementations such as FAAC and FAAD are distributed in source form only, in order to avoid patent infringement.

        AAC requires a patent license, and thus uses proprietary technology. But contrary to popular belief, it is not the property of a single company, having been developed in a standards-making organization.

        • by e4g4 ( 533831 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @06:18PM (#18627987)

          Especially considering AAC doesn't require royalty payments.
          Yes it does. Like MP3 it's patent infested:
          Well, yes and no - semantically, I was considering royalties and patent licensing fees as separate entities. AAC decoder licensing fees run as low as $0.12 per unit [], whereas MP3 licensing fees appear to be independent of volume of devices sold and cost ~$0.75 per unit []. Additionally, the sale of mp3 files costs the seller 2-3% of their gross revenue from the sales in royalties - the sale of AAC files does not require royalty payments. So yes, while AAC is not free per se, it is in fact cheaper than mp3 for both hardware manufacturers and content distributors.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jason1729 ( 561790 )
      You're right, but it's perception that makes the format, and now everyone perceives mp3 as the format that's everywhere. The point of this article is to be propaganda to make people think AAC is more pervasive than it is.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      You're right about the chip support, and about the state of affairs now, but the article refers to what may happen. The fact is, Apple is making an extremely good argument for adopting AAC (DRM free music). This is A BIG DEAL!

      I personally never even thought of purchasing music from iTunes until the deal with EMI was announced. Now, I'm looking forward to it. This is what a lot of people have asked for, and now we have started on the road to get there.

      Also worth mentioning:
      • AAC achieves much higher s
      • by Luscious868 ( 679143 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:45PM (#18626569)

        TW, I'm not an apple fanboy. My entire music collection is now in MP3 and I'm not looking forward to re-ripping my music.

        Why would you have to? Any portable music player that matters already supports MP3's and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It's not a one or the other proposition. Most people have ripped their music to MP3, therefore hardware players will support MP3's for the foreseeable future. If the majority of online sales happen in AAC format, which is sure to happen if Apple can convince more labels to drop the DRM since it's already the market leader, then hardware manufacturers will simply add support for AAC in addition to what's already available.

    • Look, people had LPs, and willingly went to 8 track. People had 8 track and willingly went to cassette. People had cassette and willingly went to CDs. People had CDs and willingly went to iPod/m3-players. It's not that great a stretch to see people go to AAC or some other format that has better sound quality at a given bitrate, especially if it ushers in a DRM-less age at the same time. The hardware manufacturers such as Apple/Creative/etc will *certainly* not have a problem with this -- they'll make it as
    • by adisakp ( 705706 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:19PM (#18626045) Journal
      True... but iPods do currently make up something like 75%-80% of the market all by themselves. Thus AAC is one of the predominant portable digital music player formats even if relatively few other players support AAC.

      Not to mention quite a few players support AAC without really going out of their way to bullet point it as a feature.... for example Zune players.
    • by BKX ( 5066 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:21PM (#18626099) Journal
      You're forgetting two things.

      First, mp3s cost the online music stores money per song download, whereas AAC does not.

      Second, most new players support AAC out of box. Nobody cares about your Rio.

      Third, since 80% of mp3 players out there today are iPods (which all support AAC), and most of the rest either support AAC and can be firmware upgraded to support it. Why would the music stores give a crap about supporting the less than 10% of music players that don't do AAC?

      Forth, you're not thinking about this from the music stores' points of view. To them, selling DRM'd music costs a certain DRM'd-format-royalty on a per song downloaded basis. Right now, they mostly pay that royalty to Microsoft since they all use WMV, since Microsoft is the only company licensing a DRM'd format. Selling non-DRM'd music makes them free to choose among non-DRM'd formats, and there are a shit ton of them:
      WMV: costs money per song, and is only supported by a small number of clients.
      MP3: costs money per song as well but is supported by nearly 100% of clients.
      AAC: is free and is supported by 90% of current clients and soon to be 100% of future clients. (Even the Zune supports non-DRM'd AAC, and that's saying something.)
      Other formats: no format has wide enough support and small enough bandwidth requirements to even be considered.

      Which format would you choose?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gig ( 78408 )
      > and so [AAC] will never capture the market share that mp3 based hardware (chip) players have.

      That is what I said about the 5G iPod. The 4G iPods were everywhere, how will the 5G iPods ever capture the market share that 4G iPods have? Turns out the 5G iPod is a NEWER VERSION of the 4G iPod ... people stopped buying the 4G ones entirely and the 5G really took off.

      So it was when MP1 gave way to MP2, gave way to MP3 (delightfully unofficially), gave way to MP4 (AAC). The decoding chips in the hardware you
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @03:58PM (#18625661) Homepage Journal
    Spock, arm the lawyers, set chairs to stun.
  • Why not MP3? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @03:58PM (#18625665)
    Every digital music device can play it, and it's already a more well-known and common standard than AAC.

    I know AAC is technically superior to MP3, but so was Betamax. Popularity beats technology a lot of the time, especially when the technical advantage is not exactly glaringly obvious.

    Either way WMA is going down thought. As it should.
    • Either way WMA is going down though.

    • Re:Why not MP3? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Llywelyn ( 531070 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:14PM (#18625971) Homepage
      First, MP3 is embroiled in multiple licensing and patent issues that make it legally more murky than AAC. Second, as you point out, AAC is superior technically to mp3 while still being an open standard. It has a standardized tagging system, is better at lower bitrates, more channels, etc. All of which make it significantly more desirable than mp3 from the standpoint of a content provider, as well as from our standpoint as consumers.

      Oh, and stop using betamax as a comparison point. Please, just stop it. Betamax lost the format war more because of bad marketing, licensing, and format confusion than because of lockin. Even to the degree that it could be path dependency, such is not a relevant comparison point here since AAC is already a widely adopted standard (not as widely as mp3, I'll grant, but I'll ask one simple question: what percentage of players in the hands of consumers can play AAC? Considering that it includes the iPod, the Zune, the PSP, and a great many phones its probably quite high).
    • Re:Why not MP3? (Score:5, Informative)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:27PM (#18626213) Homepage

      Believe it or not, MP3 actually has more patent issues than AAC at this point. Supposedly, if you run an online store, you have to pay royalties on every song sold to MP3-related patent holders. AFAIK, AACs don't require royalties to be paid per-song. There are also outstanding lawsuits regarding MP3.

      So even though it may make sense to you, as a consumer, to stick with mp3, it may not make sense to a business. So if you imagine that MP3 is disqualified, what else is likely to become the defacto standard for online music stores? To answer that, you might want to ask yourself, "Besides MP3, what other formats play on the most popular portable music player?"

      Yeah, that pretty much means AAC. It's not that I wouldn't like it to be something that's completely unencumbered by patents, but either way, it's better than dealing with Windows Media files.

  • by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @03:59PM (#18625671) Homepage
    Apple's Move May Make AAC Music Industry Standard

    So selling DRM-free AAC files will dethrone DRM-free MP3 files as the industry standard?

    How, exactly?
    • by kjart ( 941720 )

      So selling DRM-free AAC files will dethrone DRM-free MP3 files as the industry standard?

      Exactly. The only thing this might "force" other stores to do is sell DRM-free music (which is a good thing). I don't really think there is much else you can assume about this change, except for an increase of iTunes sales for Apple (though that might not even happen).

    • Re:check the boxes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Thrudheim ( 910314 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:23PM (#18626127)
      No, the original article is talking about winning a standards war with Microsoft. If all the music stores turn to selling AAC, or even MP3 and AAC, Microsoft's effort to make WMA the standard media format will have failed. That's the point.

      Don't get me wrong. I think the author takes the point too far when he leaps to conclusions of AAC dominance, but I do think that he may have a point about Microsoft. The interesting thing to me is that would be a victory *against* Microsoft but not one *for* any other company in particular. Apple uses AAC, but AAC is open to anybody despite what a lot of people think. For Apple, it is a victory in that they do not have to be beholden to Microsoft in this area. The same is true for nearly every other company but Microsoft.
  • Vorbis? FLAC? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by XanC ( 644172 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @03:59PM (#18625681)
    There are plenty of free codecs out there that do a fine job. Why would a music store gravitate towards a non-free codec?
    • Re:Vorbis? FLAC? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sandor at the Zoo ( 98013 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:11PM (#18625923)
      So that people could play the music on an iPod, the #1 DAP on the market? Yeah, that might be a reason.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Movi ( 1005625 )
      #1 Because its backed by the largest Online Music Store #2 Its backed by the MPEG working group (and its a subset of MPEG-4) #3 If you don't know why #3 is important try to remember why MP3 is called MP3, and where did it (partially) come from All in all it always seems that MPEG-group made formats always get the prime. So yeah, im willing to believe that AAC will superseed MP3. Besides, ive been using it for about 1 year now (yes, i re-ripped my music), and whilst i had to have MP3s at about 192kbs VBR, i
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Because...AAC is OPEN & ya know, FREE? You can put a proprietary DRM wrapper on ANY audio format which is what Apple did.
    • Why are so many people so stupid when it comes to AAC? Everyone jumps on it as a proprietary format owned be Apple with license fees and can only be played on iPods.


      It's an open standard, not owned by Apple, it's free to distribute content in AAC (not sure about fees for putting AAC support in a player), and there are plenty of AAC compatible players out there. The only thing nefarious about it was Apple's DRM, and hopefully that is on the way out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timster ( 32400 )
      As I understand it, large companies are worried about Vorbis specifically because it's free. Remember now that patents don't work like copyrights -- even though Vorbis is an original work, it could still come under patent issues if it makes use of ANY technique which had previously been patented. And I assure you that, like all software, it does.

      I'm sure someone could turn up later with patent claims against AAC, too. But by using a patented codec and making the royalty payments, the large corporations g
  • Ok, tell me why they wouldn't simply use low-compression .mp3, or the often "underlooked (and therefore lamented)" .ogg format? The only news here is that non-drm files are being offered through I-Tunes, and that it might harm DRM-WMAs, which is a Good Thing (tm) for consumers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Llywelyn ( 531070 )
      1) Because the licensing of mp3s is a mess compared to AAC, which is an open standard with much cleaner and easier to understand licensing.

      2) AAC offers technical advantages to MP3s that are not insignificant (not to mention a saner tagging scheme).

      3) Most players currently in the hands of the market (which is dominated by the iPod) play AACs and not ogg.
  • oh well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:02PM (#18625751)
    Who really uses .wma for anything anymore?
  • neither one play AAC... how will this become the standard?
    • by e4g4 ( 533831 )
      Because the next one you buy very likely will, for the same reason that many, many players currently support WMA. DAP manufacturers have been trying to get Apple to license fairplay to them for quite some time, simply so they can produce a player that is compatible with the worlds most popular online music store. Once (if?) Apple begins selling it's entire catalog drm free, these companies won't need Apple's permission to produce an iTMS compatible DAP.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I have two mp3 players neither one play AAC... how will this become the standard?

      Statistically speaking, for each of your players, there are 7-8 players out there that do support AAC. You're in a minority. Since selling AAC files will make retailers more money (30% decreased bandwidth fees) I'm guessing a lot of retailers will start offering them as an option, if not as the only format for sale. Since most retailers will be offering them most hardware manufacturers will most likely soon start supporting AAC, thus your next player probably will support it. Even if hardware vendors don'

  • by Cr0w T. Trollbot ( 848674 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:05PM (#18625821)
    1. It doesn't suck.
    2. It sounds better per data byte than MP3 or WMA.
    3. It's cross-platform (or at least (minus Fairplay) more cross-platform that WMA).
    4. No Microsoft. Apple may not be a company of saints, but they're at least an order of magnitude less evil than Microsoft.
    5. And speaking of which, AAC will win because Microsoft knifed their "Plays for Sure" partners in the back with Zune. ("Hey lets piss over major consumer electronics manufacturers to bring out a DOA product that loses us money!")
    Crow T. Trollbot
  • Perfect Timing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ObligatoryUserName ( 126027 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:10PM (#18625901) Journal
    Lucent's recent assertion to MP3 patent rights ( ent.html?ex=1329973200&en=6a3c7d2b220acec5&ei=5124 &partner=digg&exprod=digg [] ) combined with this move by Apple and EMI probably have doomed MP3 to an also-ran status.

    If you're not familiar, everyone who licensed the MP3 patents is now being threatened with a lawsuit by Alcatel-Lucent because they co-own the patent rights, but weren't party to all the licensing that was going on before.
  • Transcode

    And now some more words: Yes, it'll dick all over the audio quality, but the reality of it is most people don't care about high fidelity audio. Those that do would rather now download losslessly encoded audio anyway.

    My point is it doesn't matter if AAC becomes the de-facto standard, because transcoding it isn't that much of a chore if you need to put said files onto an incompatible player.

    DRM was the real barrier, not the file format.
    • by unts ( 754160 )
      And of course that should have said "rather not"... only three whole keyspaces out.
    • Good, someone started this thread.

      I'm classically in the middle of the market that doesn't care about quality for 75% of my collection. You're right that with the DRM stripped, it won't be long before we should be able to just convert an entire folder's worth of AAC into mp3 that legacy mp3 players can use. I made quite a study of Ultra Low End 3rd party players, one as cheap as $10! Plus, my watch doesn't play AAC files.

  • ... If all music players play AAC which not all do. Those "el-chepo" ones from your local flea market don't. Neither do the ones from Cowon, Creative, Philips, Sandisk (everything but the e200s), or Toshiba. If you have one of those, then this announcement means nothing to you. But if you're player is made by Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, Sony, or Sandisk (just the e200s), then you're safe because these players will let the sounds of your favorite artists issue forth from their AAC-encoded files.

    Until they all d
  • I honestly expect better from well known sources like Business Week.

    EMI clearly said that music stores could made their own choice as to which digital format to make their catalog available in. WMA, AAC, MP3... It is up to the music store who licenses EMI's catalog to decide what format to make the music available in. Apple has chosen AAC. Frankly, I wish they had gone with MP3 since every music player under the sun supports MP3 playback. But with the way people who license the MP3 codec have been b
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:57PM (#18626831)
    might marginalize WMA

    What is marginalizing WMA is new releases of WMP that break backwards compatability with older files. See here for a music publisher [] where Microsoft WMP 11 broke their sales model.

  • unless... (Score:4, Funny)

    by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @05:02PM (#18626913) Journal
    Unless, of course, Microsoft also offers DRM free WMA files in its Zune Marketplace.

    But of course, that could never happen [], right?
  • Bullshit. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SEE ( 7681 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @05:59PM (#18627789) Homepage
    Apple will be fine with this, because in its range of priorities, anything that sells more iPods can only be a good thing

    Really? So when is Apple going to stop dicking around with Harmony [] compatibility?
  • Jobs's statement (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hxnwix ( 652290 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @06:09PM (#18627889) Journal
    So, you know all those people who said that Jobs's "we only use DRM because the labels make us" statement was a self-serving lie?

    Yeah, they're looking pretty fucking stupid right now.
  • by gig ( 78408 ) on Friday April 06, 2007 @12:55AM (#18631215)
    MPEG-4 AAC audio is already the professional standard for perceptually encoded audio. It replaced MP3 audio not only in the MPEG-4 spec, but AAC has even been "backported" to the MPEG-2 standard to replace MP3 there as well. Every device that supports MPEG-4 H.264 video playback supports AAC audio. HD-DVD video: AAC audio. Blu-Ray Disc video: AAC audio. iTunes+iPod: AAC audio. PlayStation3, PSP: AAC audio. Zune: AAC audio (yes).

    It isn't just that AAC has much better audio quality than MP3, which is true. It isn't just that the technology involved is 10 years newer than MP3, which is also true. The main reason that AAC is the standard is that MP3 has a so-called "content tax" and MPEG-4 does not. With MP3 you pay for the encoder, and then you pay again for every file you sell, whether on disc or over the Internet. It is the audio track from a DVD and it is not indie or Internet friendly. It may be a good way to store your CD's on your computer in 1999 but it is not good for replacing the CD for the audio industry. MPEG-4 follows the QuickTime model where you pay only for the encoder and the AAC files you create are your own to do with as you please, similar to CD. This is important not only because the music industry doesn't want to start paying a vig where none existed, but also because there is no system in place to track the vigs, it is not going to happen.

    So if you are a content producer and you use AAC instead of MP3, not only does your audio quality improve, but it costs you less money also. It is very, very, very hard to beat an argument that pleases both the music people (higher quality audio) and the business people (keep the vig for yourself).

    As for Windows Media ... it is fucking hilarious to suggest Windows Media is even relevant. NOBODY USED WINDOWS MEDIA FIVE YEARS AGO WHEN IT WAS HIP AND THERE WAS NO iPOD. NOBODY IS USING IT NOW. NOBODY WILL USE IT IN THE FUTURE. (Yes, you made some with your 'puter. Good for you. Means nothing. You gained NOTHING.) It is ridiculous to suggest that professional audio people are going to take the extra step of converting their audio to WMA using Microsoft's ridiculously immature My First Audio Studio tools in order to pay MS a vig on every file they sell.

    In the music industry, if it doesn't play on an iPod it is not an audio file. PERIOD. The iPod plays all of the standard files plus Microsoft's WAV which is just raw audio, a clone of AIFF. If you take an audio file that plays on the iPod and convert it to something that does not play on the iPod, then you have converted an audio file into a non-audio file. PERIOD. Just because you can burn 10 WMA or Ogg files to a CD-R does not mean you have made an audio CD. Maybe that is impressive in some geek circles but not to music and audio geeks and has no bearing on the music and audio market.

    There is nothing at all out there to compete with MPEG-4. The argument that is being made here in this article happened around 2000 or so and it is long over. The fact that it is becoming apparent to people outside the audio industry is the end not the beginning of the process.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken