The other day I published a poll which asked for your opinion on whether the iPod/iTunes link is monopolistic. Your opinions are split almost 50/50 (the poll currently stands at 56% of you thinking that the iPod/iTunes link is nothing more than good business practice while 44% of you believe that it is monopolistic). My take on the situation is that the iPod/iTunes ecosystem that Apple has fostered is monopolistic and Apple needs to be careful because pretty soon governments are going to start to sit up and pay attention to the fact.
There no doubt in my mind that the iPod/iTunes link is monopolistic, it's just that people don't seem to careSo, why do I believe that the iPod/iTunes bundle is monopolistic? Let's begin by looking at the iTunes software and dispelling the idea that this is some sort of stand-alone media player. It isn't. In fact, in my opinion iTunes is a train wreck of an application that actually manages to make Windows Media Player seem at least adequate. I'm not sure what kind of person would go out of their way to use iTunes on Windows if they didn't have an iPod. It litters a Windows system with all sorts of junk processes relating to the iPod, which, if you don't have an iPod is a real slap in the face. Even when you do have an iPod, iTunes is slow and kludgy on a good day and darn right annoying when it's having a bad day.
OK, so you've bought an iPod. Congratulations, you're now married to iTunes. Unless you've going to venture way off the beaten track and do some research, you're going to be living with iTunes for as long as your iPod lives. Some alternatives (in case you're interested) include YamiPod for Windows, Senuti for the Mac, and Amarok for Linux. If then you decide to buy from the iTunes store, you're making the hope of a divorce from iTunes all the more remote. Sure, you can burn music to a CD and then re-import that into another format, but once you bought a specific amount of music and you've attained a specific critical mass of audio (and CDs to burn), you're just not going to do it because it's too much of a hassle and you lose important information such as track name, album name and so on.
iTunes is also very picky about which formats it'll play. If you're existing music library is in WMA format then you have many pleasant evenings ahead managing the mind-numbingly slow import process. About half an hour of this will send you into a trance-like state where time no longer has meaning. Is it any coincidence that the iPod doesn't support WMA and that iTunes has one of the slowest WMA convertors going? If you still want to keep your WMA library (maybe because you have another media player) then it's time to invest in another hard drive, because from that point on you're going to be doubling up on everything.
Remember too that one iTunes library supports more than one iPod, but that's another catch. Each device has to be an iPod. Also, each iPod can hold music from five different iTunes accounts. It's all designed to keep you buying more iPods.
And what happens if you've got a load of music in iTunes and your iPod dies? Why, buy another one of course!
Then there's the iPod side of the equation. Apple tried to lock the latest generation iPods to iTunes even if this meant upsetting iPod-owning Linux users. Formats that the iPod can play are also locked down tight. Want it to play WMAs? Forget about it. Want new firmware for the iPod? Guess what, you need iTunes installed!
There no doubt in my mind that the iPod/iTunes link is monopolistic, it's just that people don't seem to care.