“Napster phenomena” became huge, with millions
of users worldwide swapping billions of music files, making
record industry executives very nervous. Compact disks sales
plunged, taking a big bite off their earnings. In the long
run, it could have brought revenues down to a point where the
profitability of the whole industry would be jeopardized.
So the music industry did away with free music downloads altogether
and waged a legal war against Napster and its users. Today,
several years later, the corporate powers of the recording
industry seem to have won the battle. Napster was convicted
of copyrights infringement.
Some users of Napster and other similar software programs were
also prosecuted and convicted of copyright infringement. In
most cases, they were young people, ages 13 to 21, and their
The future of the Internet as a source of music distribution
seemed uncertain, but recently the possibility of Internet
music downloads grew brighter, thanks to people like Steve
Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple Computers.
Jobs wants his company to become a major player in the music
industry in order to extend the market share Apple had gained
with its popular Ipod. The Ipod is a device similar to a Walkman,
but smaller (like a deck of cards). It can store up to 10,000
songs. The Walkman was introduced in 1979 by Sony Corporation,
and became very popular. Ipod has had similar success, the
difference being that Ipod customers can go to Apple’s
music site, Itunes, to download music directly into their Ipods
at a cost of about 80 cents per song. Apple buys the music
from the record industry, so it’s happy. Consumers can
get their music inexpensively from Apple, so they are happy.
Ipods become a constant income source for Apple, so Jobs and
his stockholders are happy.
Jobs is planning to use Apple’s Itunes Web site to market
and sell music of all genres, thus creating a new kind of music
store online where you can shop from the comfort of you own
home. The industry is still young, and there are still as many
formats for downloading music as there are devices to download
into, but Apple is moving away from its usual proprietary practices--that
is, to protect their hardware from competition by including
software that can only be used with their hardware. Instead,
Apple now seems more open to the possibility of making Ipods
that can run with Microsoft software, and create Apple software
that can run their competitors’ devices. This would allow
a more people to download music from Itunes regardless of the
brand of their MP3player, as Ipod-like devices have come to
One major step in this direction is a joint venture between
Apple and Hewlett Packard (HP) that would allow HP to sell
Ipods under a different name with the HP brand, and incentives
that would lure HP PC owners to buy and download music from
Itunes into their PCs.
If Jobs has his way and captures a large segment of the music
industry through the Itunes Web site, he could change the face
of the music industry forever, and change the way we buy and
enjoy music. With the storage capacity of devices such as the
Ipod--about 15 gigabytes of memory--people could keep their
entire music collections in a very small device they can carry
in their pocket, eliminating the bulk of CDs, allowing us to
save space and keep things organized.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. If we start buying
music through the Internet and storing it in small devices,
there is also a possibility that we could start buying and
storing movies the same way. In fact, rumors are already circulating
about a device much like the Ipod that could be used for movies
instead of music.
Jobs’ company, Pixar Studios, has done five major movies,
all blockbusters. Its movies, Toy Story, which marked the beginning
of a new digital animation era, and Finding Nemo, was last
year’s No. 1 movie.