Microsoft doesn't "need" to be the gatekeeper

USA Today has an article today on the front page of the Life section about Microsoft's bid to sink its tentacles into every kind of digital entertainment. There is a quote in the article from an analyst at at Morgan Wedbush Securities, and he said:

"Microsoft...recognize[s] their software needs to be the gatekeeper to that kind of commerce."

Huh? This is complete rubbish. Microsoft may WANT to be the gatekeeper, but there is certainly no NEED for Microsoft to be the gatekeeper. Why should Microsoft get some of my money every time I buy some music or a video over the Internet?

And to be fair, Apple is trying to position itself the same way, and whether you are talking about Apple or Microsoft or some other company, it is never good for consumers when you have a single company with monopoly or near monopoly marketshare. I hate Digital Rights Management (DRM), and I still buy most of my music the old fashioned way, on CDs. I'll have to give that up eventually, since CDs are going the way of the dodo, but in the meantime, I'm going to try to avoid DRM schemes.

Apple actually is mostly on the side of consumers. It recently won a battle with record companies, who wanted to introduce variable pricing in the iTunes music store. What this meant was that record companies wanted to charge more for new music ($2 to $3 a song), and less for old music (perhaps fifty or seventy-five cents).

While the music companies touted the benefits of "cheaper" music (the older songs), what it really meant was massive profits for the record companies if they were able to double or triple the cost of new releases. Apple barely breaks even on the iTunes store; the record companies get most of the price of a song, and the artists get no more than they do when a CD is sold.

The entertainment industry is desperately trying to prop up prices for things like music and videos even while their distribution costs have essentially dropped to zero. It's crazy. And the idea that Micrsoft "needs" to get their hands into our wallets is even more goofy. Don't fall for it.

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