The Norwegian consumer ombudsman has upped the ante against Apple, now ruling that it must open up its iTunes Music Store by October 1st or face legal action. Will Apple open up? Unlikely. Norway represents just two percent of European Digital Music revenues and it wouldn’t be a massively difficult decision for Apple to make if it opted to withdraw from the market rather than face the consequences. However there may well be ripple effects: if any of the bigger markets begin to follow similar paths then Apple will have harder decisions to make. In Jupiter’s forthcoming European Music Executive Survey report we’ll be revealing that there is a growing belief that interoperability will be forced through by legislation. But if Apple found itself backed into a corner where it was being forced to make changes that could potentially damage iPod sales then it might well start questioning just how important it was to be in the digital music business. So, well meaning though much of this action is, it could end up blowing the largest single force in the European digital music market out of the game.
There is of course a ‘Third Way’: Naked MP3, though the odds are most major labels wouldn’t want it forcing on them by consumer ombudsmen. A mischievous way of interpreting recent positive noises from labels on dropping DRM is that it’s seen in some quarters as a way of firing a shot across the bows of an increasingly confident and powerful Apple.