Behind the Motorola ROKR iTunes Phone

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Wired offers an detailed history behind the create of the ROKR iTunes phone and the dynamics between Apple, Motorola and the cellular phone companies.

When Jobs and Ed Zander, CEO of Motorola, announced 15 months ago that the two companies were going to partner on a new phone, people imagined a hybrid of two of the coolest products in existence: Apple's iPod and Moto's RAZR. For months the new gizmo glimmered mirage-like on gadget sites - ever promised, never delivered. When it finally did show up, it bore the unmistakable hump of a committee camel.
The article describes the creation of the ROKR being at odds between the interests of Motorola, Apple and the cellular phone companies... all struggling for the larger piece of the pie.

While this was happening in the U.S., Wired reports that a new wave of music phones and services have already been in place internationally, and these services will start making their way into the U.S. Also mentioned is Apple's refusal to broadly license their copy-protection format ("Fairplay") to all comers. Motorola is the only 3rd party company that has had access to Fairplay, thus allowing their product to play purchased iTunes music.
 

bretm

macrumors 68000
Apr 12, 2002
1,951
27
fowler. said:
who's the second company?
You're kidding, right? 3rd party company means other company. As in "3rd party." In other words, they're the ONLY company other than Apple that has the right to play iTunes music.
 

Lynxpro

macrumors 6502
Feb 22, 2005
382
0
I'd like to see Apple license FairPlay. In the longterm, it is in the Company's best interest to do so.

*License FairPlay to TiVo. Anything that's bad for Windows Media Center is ultimately good for Apple.

*Take J. Allard up on his public offer and license FairPlay for use on the Xbox360. Porting iTunes to the Xbox360 probably wouldn't be too difficult. And doing this would drive Sony into a tissy and back to the negotiation table on that co-ownership deal Jobs originally offered to Sony two years ago.

*License FairPlay to Palm. Gives a leg up to the Palm platform to spite PocketPC (statement not meant to convey keeping it off the Windows powered Treos).

*License FairPlay to the RIAA companies for inclusion on their copy protected CDs. Do this in exchange for more leeway in terms of the iTunes Music Store. The arrangement requires Edgar Bronfman to shut his mouth publically on pricing.

*Choose one or two other MP3 player companies to license FairPlay to in order to defeat any "monopoly" charges and destroy the "Plays for Sure" marketing campaign. There might be some form of trade-off that could be negotiated on with Toshiba and Samsung that might be beneficial to Apple in some other way.
 

mainstreetmark

macrumors 68020
May 7, 2003
2,229
293
Saint Augustine, FL
Yeah. Not Me(apple), not You(consumer) but Them(Motorolla).

I don't think Apple EVER needs to license Fairplay. It's their creation. If they choose to make a vertically integrated product and it becomes successful, no one says they HAVE to give away their stuff.

Of course, it would ultimately be better for consumers if they could use iTMS on non-iPods, but they have no innate obligation to do so (that I know of). If the iPod is truly better than all others, then it should hold up well to an open MP3 market.
 

swingerofbirch

macrumors 68040
In theory combining the two is not a bad idea. I was walking around my campus today and most students either have a cell phone glued to their head or are listening to an iPod.

I think the direction was wrong though. They should put cell phone capabilities into an iPod...not the other way around.
 

fowler.

macrumors 6502a
Apr 18, 2004
585
0
Pasadena
bretm said:
You're kidding, right? 3rd party company means other company. As in "3rd party." In other words, they're the ONLY company other than Apple that has the right to play iTunes music.
ha ha, maybe if I read it correctly I wouldn't have looked like an ass.

switch "only" and "the", and my question makes a little more sense.
 

bigandy

macrumors G3
Apr 30, 2004
8,856
0
Murka
we all know it was a bad thing. we all know it was completely upstaged by the nano. and we probably all think that it's going to be introduced in the 3G razr that's being developed right now (shown to me by a friend in Vodafone, who're working closely with them)...

can't we just forget this as it's a crap subject really. who wants an iTunes phone until it's done right? let's just ignore it until someone brings up a rumour of a kick ass phone.
 

sishaw

macrumors 65816
Jan 12, 2005
1,147
19
mainstreetmark said:
Yeah. Not Me(apple), not You(consumer) but Them(Motorolla).

I don't think Apple EVER needs to license Fairplay. It's their creation. If they choose to make a vertically integrated product and it becomes successful, no one says they HAVE to give away their stuff.
I don't think anyone is suggesting they give it away. They could license it for a fee and subject to compliance with certain design parameters. And no, they don't "have to," of course. However, closed proprietary systems don't seem to fare well in the marketplace. I wouldn't want to see Apple AAC become the next ATRAC.
 

ryanw

macrumors 6502
Oct 21, 2003
307
0
I regretfully got the ROKR. The phone has been super buggy and lacks normal features I used all the time on my two year old cell phone. I used to record converstations while driving so I wouldn't have talk on the phone, drive, and write down phone numbers. Can't happen on this phone.

The other issues with it seem small, but have caused me a lot of problems.

1. Can't record conversations while talking on the phone
2. Can't see WHAT TIME IT IS while talking on the phone or in any other menu other than the main screen.
3. To this day I still can't find where to see today's 'date' on the phone. I have to look it up on my computer if I forget what today's date is.
4. The phone has crashed on me several times where I have to take the battery out (which is hard to do) to reboot it.
5. At one point the phone was screwing up where it would drop my call after 30 or so seconds of talking, and then start ringing as if someone was calling UNABLE To stop it until the guy called me back, to then get dropped 30 seconds later again ringing again... I had to take the battery out to fix it ..
6. THe ROKR can only hold 100 songs no matter how much memory is in it. Apple pisses me off with this one. It's just the straw that says F-YOU!! Seriously, why do they have to lock you out... what happened to 'think different'. Apple's slogan these days is 'Think like Apple.'.
Apple's lack of ability to theme apps or change the look/feel is very 'Think like Apple' instead of 'think different'. At least microsoft puts in the bells and wistles and lets you change them around.
 

Lertie32

macrumors member
Jul 26, 2005
47
0
CA
ROKR ruse

Eh... I haven't been impressed with any aspect of the ROKR. It's just a fad fluff piece of technology.
:rolleyes:

I do miss Motorola phones. I'd still have my trusty StarTac if they'd kept updating the darn thing. The Vader phone never hit the mass market in any practical sense. Motorola completely left the SprintPCS marketshare.
Also - why is the ROKR only available on Singular? (if that's still the case) It seems like Verizon or Sprint would have been a better choice there.
 

MacFan782040

macrumors 6502a
Dec 1, 2003
791
110
Scranton, PA
fowler. said:
ha ha, maybe if I read it correctly I wouldn't have looked like an ass.

switch "only" and "the", and my question makes a little more sense.
haha i read it the exact way you did.. I was liek hmm maybe the 2nd is HP?
 

morespce54

macrumors 65816
Apr 30, 2004
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mainstreetmark said:
I don't think Apple EVER needs to license Fairplay. It's their creation. If they choose to make a vertically integrated product and it becomes successful, no one says they HAVE to give away their stuff.
I don't agree on this one... because:

mainstreetmark said:
If the iPod is truly better than all others, then it should hold up well to an open MP3 market.
...in this world, it just can't be this way forever.
 

Stella

macrumors G3
Apr 21, 2003
8,273
4,636
Canada
I look forward to the day when Apple license out Fairplay.

If they were looking to dominate the music arena more, this is a way to go:

Not everyone likes iPods, license out to other mp3 player manufacturers - and give them access to iTunes.

Give access to other cell phone manufacturers.. Apple could increase their iTunes coverage - upping the 80% they already have.

Fairplay could take over microsoft's DRM... also of course, allow music CDs to have DRM that is compatible with Apple ( ok, this may not be such a good idea, for some people!).

Apple have tried the "controlling" method before... now they have the 4% computer market share... eventually this will happen with iPod / iTunes.. unless they are proactive. Up till now their strategy has worked, but for how much longer?

iTMS / iPod won't be always dominant.
 

aswitcher

macrumors 603
Oct 8, 2003
5,351
14
Canberra OZ
The ROKR is so cheap here I was tempted to get it, but now I am very glad I didn't. Wonder if the next iTunes phone will be out by Christmas...
 

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,551
1,186
I think Apple might be VERY smart to widely license Fairplay. Someday.

But WHEN and IF that day comes is up to Apple to decide. They know their strategy, and opening up Fairplay too soon would also be a mistake.
 

oskar

macrumors 6502
Jan 12, 2005
368
0
I think Apple shouldn't license Fairplay to other companies. The whole music experience already has had one major change to allow more people to buy music from Apple. They made iPod and iTunes PC-compatible, but without licensing their music protection to third parties.

Mac + iPod + iTunes + iTMS at first was enough. And then Apple changed "Mac" to "Mac + PC".
Licensing fairplay would mean removing iPod for the chain and adding dozens of different players. I don't think Apple would want to exclude the iPod from the music experience they created.
 

ijimk

macrumors 6502a
Jun 17, 2004
802
6
Here
i want to see apple design their own cell phone and go with verizon, then i will be there... that rokr is sorta odd looking...
 

ioinc

macrumors regular
Jan 7, 2004
151
0
Clearwater, Florida
hmmm

mainstreetmark said:
Yeah. Not Me(apple), not You(consumer) but Them(Motorolla).

I don't think Apple EVER needs to license Fairplay. It's their creation. If they choose to make a vertically integrated product and it becomes successful, no one says they HAVE to give away their stuff.

Of course, it would ultimately be better for consumers if they could use iTMS on non-iPods, but they have no innate obligation to do so (that I know of). If the iPod is truly better than all others, then it should hold up well to an open MP3 market.
Yeah... not licensing their OS in the early days really worked for them.
That windows thing is a fad. :rolleyes:
 

hayesk

macrumors 65816
May 20, 2003
1,422
46
ryanw said:
6. THe ROKR can only hold 100 songs no matter how much memory is in it. Apple pisses me off with this one. It's just the straw that says F-YOU!! Seriously, why do they have to lock you out... what happened to 'think different'. Apple's slogan these days is 'Think like Apple.'.
Are you sure this was Apple's decision? What reason would they have for this? It's not like this would canibalize iPod sales.
 

maxterpiece

macrumors 6502a
Mar 5, 2003
729
0
licensing fairplay brings up issues for apple because they lose control of perfect integration between iTunes and the iPod. I don't see it happening.

The whole cell phone thing is a big mess. What kind of cut does apple get, if any, from sales of the ROKR? I agree with the fact that eventually people aren't going to carry around both and ipod and a cell phone, but that's a little ways down the road. There needs to be both the technology and the innovation to put out a phone that does EVERYTHING an iPod can do, and still makes phone calls. The two need to be elegant integrated so that making a phone call on this phone is as easy as making a phone call on a regular cell phone, and playing music is as easy as playing music on an iPod.

Don't forget that there have been lots of alternatives to the iPod that offer similar or better features/price, but the iPod remained dominant because it's easy to use. Technology is fine, but until an average consumer feels that they can use a technology without tearing their hair out in frustration, the tech is not gonna sell.
 

VanNess

macrumors 6502a
Mar 31, 2005
868
118
California
Apple won't license it's "fairplay" until someone comes along with an idea that adds value to the iTunes music store and doesn't compete with iPods. Until that happens, Apple has no incentive whatsoever to license it. Every other so-called music store on the net has been a miserable failure compared to iTunes, and none offer anything much different song-wise than what iTunes has. So there's no reason to essentially give fairplay away to your competitors that basically amounts to a charitable gesture.

CD DRM is another area I suspect Apple would just assume steer clear of. First of all, Apple's vision is that CDs will go the way of the dodo and the internet will become the central distribution channel for music, something that iTunes is perfectly positioned for, so far. Second, there's little to zero added value for Apple for CD sales (record companies will scorch that earth long before anyone else gets a meaningful cut) and it deviates from the central goal of iTunes, where Apple would rather you purchase your music. Obviously, iTunes isn't the lion's share of music sales today, but, say five years from now? At the rate things are going with the record companies these days, who knows...

The Wired article was interesting on two points: One was the "barbarians at the gate" description of the wireless carriers, cell-phone manufacturers and the record companies all trying to jam their hands into the consumer's pocket like it's open season on their wallet. Sure, consumer's will be absolutely delighted, lol.

Second, and somewhat more ominous, is the sad shape this country is in regarding it's internet infrastructure. With the ISP's doing nothing except trying to milk more money over existing access technologies for years, we're beginning to look more and more like the third world of the internet. That's a major reason why movie downloads aren't ready for primetime, at least not in this country. That should have sunk in with Apple's iPod video introduction, which is just pretty much a tepid, meek entry into the video business. Largely because it has to be. The infrastructure just isn't there to support anything much beyond what Apple is presently doing with video, and barely that. The way some pundits put it, to download movies all you have to do is get the studios to go along, then someone presses a magic button, and it's done. Those folks are in for a rude awakening, but they got a preview of it from Apple if they kept their eyes open.
 

~Shard~

macrumors P6
Jun 4, 2003
18,388
42
1123.6536.5321
I think the ROKR is simply a starting point, and although I'm not that impressed with it, I think it is the beginning and will pave the way for future devices which will improve on it.
 

hayesk

macrumors 65816
May 20, 2003
1,422
46
ioinc said:
Yeah... not licensing their OS in the early days really worked for them.
That windows thing is a fad. :rolleyes:
It'd be rather simplistic to believe that not licensing is what made windows popular. Platform bigotry and Apple's previous pricing models contributed a great deal more to Windows' success than a lack of Mac clones.

Besides, had Apple licensed MacOS early on and went for lowest common denominator design, you probably wouldn't want to use a Mac today.