updated 05:50 pm EDT, Mon May 22, 2006
Navio may unlock iPod
A new startup company based in Apple's home town of Cupertino, California has developed a new system that could open the iPod/iTunes ecosystem which currently dominates the digital music industry. Apple's competition has repeatedly tried and failed to take a significant share of the market, but the seamless iTunes experience coupled with an easy-to-use and intuitive iPod digital media player has kept competitors at bay. Further, Apple's has thus far refused to license its FairPlay DRM (Digital Rights Management) to other companies, which would allow them to release tracks that will play on iPods. Navio Systems is hoping to finally open the iPod to other formats with a system that stores the rights associated with a musical piece, game, or movie in the file itself, according to Business Magazine.
Navio-driven websites will offer songs and videos to consumers, which when purchased will store information about the sale in a "digital locker" that tracks user rights. The primary difference from iTunes is that Navio places no restrictions or requirements on where consumers get the content.
Early adopters currently experimenting with the Navio system include Fox, Sony BMG, Walt Disney Internet, Cingular, and Verizon Wireless. Disney, in particular, will be using Navio to drive content sales on its website promoting the Pixar/Disney animated flick "Cars," according to the report.
Navio plans to provide software that will enable its customers to offer copy-protected video content that will play on Apple's iPods by the end of June. The move will create opportunities for movie studios and music labels to reach potential customers via a large number of outlets, effectively allowing them to bypass Apple's closed iPod/iTunes ecosystem which has maintained a tight hold on digital pricing despite numerous complaints from record labels.
"Navio is an important alternative to the systems that are out there now," Mike McGuire said, vice president for research at Gartner. "The key for its success is to develop the technology and experience so that it is as good or better than what is out there right now. If not, it's back to the services that already exist."
While some users claim they have already managed to reverse-engineer the iPod's copy-protection system, licensing issues continue to form the real difficulty for those who would see Apple's iPod playing songs not purchased from the company's own iTunes Music Store.
"A lot of it is already technically possible," McGuire said. "The limitations are almost all related to mundane issues like licensing and rights agreements."