November 28, 2020

Old Steve Jobs emails resurface as part of iPod antitrust lawsuit

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It’s hard to believe that in 2014, we’re still talking about the iPod as a monopoly. Hell, it’s strange that we’re even talking about the iPod at all. But thanks to a slow winding judicial process, a class action suit against Apple stemming from its business practices in the mid-2000s is getting underway today in California.

The suit alleges that Apple took pro-active measures to prevent songs from competing music stores from being playable on the iPod. And as one might expect, some of the key evidence in the case comes from Steve Jobs himself, both in the form of old emails and a video deposition the Apple co-founder sat for back in 2011.

With the trial getting underway today, a number of statements from Jobs have already emerged. Some point to Apple doing all it can to keep the iPod free from competing music stores while others are simply vintage Jobs.

Here are a few of the Jobsian highlights we’ve seen so far.

In 2003, upon learning of a music store called Music Match, Jobs emailed Apple executives to ensure that songs from that store would not be playable on the iPod.

We need to make sure that when Music Match launches their download music store they cannot use iPod. Is this going to be an issue?

In 2005, plaintiffs point to yet another email from Jobs, this one in response to a start-up working on a product which would have made music not purchased on the iTunes Store playable on the iPod.

In an email to Jeff Robbin — of SoundJam MP fame — Jobs wrote that Apple “may need to change things here.” The New York Times, which has seen many of the documents in question, adds that Robbin and the iTunes team were quick to “develop a stronger security system to prevent unauthorized third parties from injecting content into iPods.”

Apple, of course, contends that the reason they were so vigilant about keeping an eye on files from other music stores is security. Whether you buy that argument or not, that’s what Apple is selling.

But back to Jobs because, well, he wasn’t your typical CEO. The Times further relays that during Jobs’ 2011 video deposition, the Apple co-founder was asked about RealNetworks and their involvement in the music download market.

A transcript of the deposition included Ms. Sweeney questioning him about RealNetworks, a company that had come up with a way to allow songs sold in its store to play on iPods and other media players.

Mr. Jobs responded “I don’t remember” to many of the questions. But when asked whether he was familiar with RealNetworks, he replied bluntly, “Do they still exist?”

As the trial progresses, we can likely expect to see quite a few more entertaining quips from Jobs emerge.

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