updated 03:30 pm EDT, Wed March 28, 2007
EMI on iPhone at CTIA
The cellphone business needs to take a cue from Apple if it hopes to survive, EMI's chief Eric Nicoli urged at a CTIA phone expo keynote on Wednesday. The record label head pointed to the iPhone as a prime example of where the cellphone music industry should be headed, noting that Apple and its future handset put their emphasis on an affordable, simple, and desirable product above all else.
"Apple makes stuff that people love to own," Nicoli observed. "They love the simplicity and user-friendliness of the iPod and iTunes. Apple doesn't employ any sorcery or dark magic to achieve this. They listen to what consumers want. And that shouldn't be Apple's unique privilege."
The exectutive indirectly criticized much of the existing industry in the process, pointing out that current musicphone strategies often result in a three-way conflict between device makers, cellular providers, and content creators that often act primarily in their own best interests. This could potentially be self-destructive, Nicoli warned.
"We will not reach our goals if we carry on as we have been doing," he told the gathering. "We have in our grasp an incredible opportunity to create a colossal business through mobile. But we only have a chance to achieve this if we work together in a more thoughtful way."
Apple's creation of the iPod/iTunes ecosystem has often been cited as a key ingredient to its success over rivals, many of which aren't explicitly designed to interoperate with particular online music stores. Cellphone music stores are often locked to individual carriers but are seldom created with the functionality of a given cellphone in mind.
Nicoli's discussion also briefly dovetailed with Apple's on the question of digital rights management for music, commenting that EMI's trials with selling DRM-free music were "promising" but refrained going into details on the company's future plans. His stance appeared to support Steve Jobs' open letter calling for an end to DRM restrictions and directly challenged the claims of Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman, who has simultaneously attacked Jobs for suggesting the removal of DRM but also praised the iPhone as a more elegant proposition for cellphone music.
Despite its being the center of activity, however, the iPhone itself was almost entirely absent from the CTIA show's proceedings. Apple's presence at the event amounted only to a brief apearance of its future handset during an opening keynote on Tuesday.