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Ex-RIAA chief to Jobs: Open the iPod

How's this for a backhanded compliment: Former Recording Industry Association of America head Hilary Rosen says Steve Jobs is a god, indeed. But his iPod policy is nothing short of "cruel."

Not that she dislikes the iPod itself. In a blog posting, Rosen writes that she loves the device, and loves what Apple has done to jump-start the online music market, but hates the fact that she's locked into Apple's store to buy music online.

"Keeping the iTunes system a proprietary technology to prevent anyone from using multiple (read Microsoft) music systems is the most anti-consumer and user-unfriendly thing any god can do," Rosen writes. "Is this the same Jobs that railed for years about the Microsoft monopoly? Is taking a page out of their playbook the only way to have a successful business? If he isn’t careful Bill Gates might just Betamax him while the crowds cheer him on. Come on Steve-–open it up."

Sure, skeptics say, the original Napster was very open, and the RIAA didn't exactly like that, did they? But Rosen's point is well taken, and is one of the core reasons that many in the record industry are disillusioned with Jobs today. Apple's policy of allowing only Apple-purchased songs to be played directly on the iPod is fragmenting the digital music market into different, incompatible formats, and labels don't like that.

In the past, music formats have typically been standardized. A CD is a CD, and works on all CD players. What we're getting now is more like the video game market, where Xbox games aren't compatible with Sony's PlayStation. A digital song is a digital song, but you better not switch brands next time you buy an MP3 player, or your music collection won't come along with you.