Is iTunes Planning to Support Full Interoperability?

Recently, a significant announcement was made by Apple and EMI, revealing their plan to offer DRM-free music from EMI’s entire catalog, starting with the iTunes Store. During the announcement, Steve Jobs highlighted the importance of interoperability, noting the current limitations that restrict iTunes Store downloads to Apple devices only. EMI has taken a bold step to address these restrictions.

The move has sparked a wide range of responses, from criticism by Cory Doctorow to widespread curiosity about the potential industry changes, following Jobs’ Thoughts on Music essay. This marks EMI’s initial step towards offering legitimate, DRM-free digital music through the iTunes Store, raising questions about the true extent of interoperability that will be supported.

The iTunes Store utilizes the AAC file format for its songs, not MP3. This format, while sometimes viewed as proprietary to Apple, is actually supported by a variety of software and digital audio players (DAPs), including Microsoft’s Zune as noted by John Gruber in his commentary.

Devices not currently supporting AAC could potentially add support through software plugins or firmware updates.

Despite these advancements, the iTunes Store remains the leading legitimate digital download service globally. Its popularity is expected to increase even further with the introduction of higher quality, DRM-free downloads. However, Apple’s promise of enhanced interoperability could face challenges if iTunes does not incorporate support for non-Apple devices.


Barbara is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing readers the latest insights and updates on all things Apple. With a keen eye for detail and a love for technology, Barbara covers everything from the newest iPhone releases to the latest macOS updates. Her articles are known for their clarity and depth, making complex topics accessible to all. When she’s not writing, Barbara enjoys exploring new features on her Apple Watch and testing out the latest iPad apps.