Apple may be chilling iTunes competition: critics

Wed Dec 3, 2008 2:21pm EST
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By David Lawsky

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc might be unfairly blocking rival software makers who want to sell music for its iPhone, according to some rivals and a technology rights group.

The iTunes store accounts for four out of five songs sold on the Internet in the United States and is becoming more important as CDs fade. A milestone was reached last month when Atlantic Records announced digital sales had surpassed CD sales.

Everyone agrees Apple achieved its dominance in music downloads and players with good products and marketing, which makes it entirely legal. Apple is not a monopoly because there are hardware competitors such as Microsoft Corp's Zune.

Nonetheless, rivals and a technology rights group are concerned Apple is overly aggressive.

Apple declined to comment, but its lawyer wrote a competitor and said the company is defending its rights under copyright law.

Apple's music business operates in three parts. First there is the hardware, an iPod or iPhone. Second, iTunes software on computers manages music on the hardware. Finally, there is the iTunes store, which sells music. The whole process is easy but importing music from competitors is more difficult, the critics say.

But Susan Kevorkian of IDC reports more vigorous competition, saying Inc has ramped up usage of its service in a scant 10 months and Wal-Mart Stores Inc has also captured some market share.

Apple has a few small rivals for iTunes. They include WinAmp, gtkpod for the alternate operating system Linux and Songbird.   Continued...