I've been listening to the podcast of Steve Job's Macworld keynote. What a phenomenon that iPod has become. 14 million sold in Q4. It's fun to see a website go viral but their just bits. When products do it, it's a bit staggering. I blogged recently about Walled Gardens and how they trap their users in closed, proprietary places. Certainly iPod and iTunes are somewhat closed and proprietary with Apple DRM songs only able to play on the iPod and other DRM songs unable to play on iPods. For me this closed format means that Apple, while enjoying the momentary success of their successful Walled Garden, is squarely in the crosshairs of many entrepreneurs seeking to open up that Garden and take some of the fruit. It might not happen, but if history is any teacher, it's inevitable. VC blogger Peter Rip of Leapfrog Ventures blogs here about the "Great Unbundler" the web is and how it's forces cannot be ignored. I agree. Eventually the web, and the great entrepreneurs who ply it's depths, are going to force Apple out of it's Walled Garden ways.
One example is iTunes recent move into video. While it certainly is easy to get good quality video, an entire season of a show, etc. for a fairly low price - I don't think paying $1.99/show is a model that will last. People argue that we'll pay for this content without commercials, and that's true for now, but I suspect that this model won't last. Take movie theaters - we all pay 10 bucks plus to endure 20 minutes of commercials. Nothing stays ad-free for long. As this begins to happen for iTunes video content, it will ratchet up the motives for users to find this content in other ways, for less, and without ads.
BitTorrent is a good example. Lots of interesting discussion about content wanting to be free too. After all, the current free TV content in exchange for ads was established and stayed stable for many decades. Certainly an interesting space to watch and that I suspect will be constantly morphing for quite a few more years.