More shots at Apple

So the Zune / iPod battle commences. Zune’s first punch is securing a deal with EMI to provide pre-loaded music videos on the player. What’s particularly interesting is EMI’s Jeff Kempler’s quote

“Apple has been an important partner in building the digital music market but any well-funded serious entrant has got to be good news for the artists and industry.”

Reading between the lines that means

a) Microsoft are willing to spend liberally on content license fees
b) Apple are being made to pay the price for their uncompromising position on flexible pricing
c) The industry doesn’t want Apple to retain its dominant market position

Another wild card that could upset the Apple cart is EMI (again) and Warner’s negotiations with YouTube over potentially having free music video content available funded by ad revenues. Apart from this being another indication that premium paid content models are still failing to make up meaningful ground on free models (both legal and otherwise) it could also be a threat to Apple should portability be incorporated (which given Apple’s closed ecosystem would not be compatible with iPods).

Would that happen? Well you never know. It partly depends on just how much the labels want top make Apple smart. A possible evolution would be for portability to be the differentiator between paid and free video online. Either way, what is clear is that video has evolved from a pure promotional tool to a distribution format in its own right.