CMX vs. Cocktail… Apple and the music labels square off to control the new ‘album’ file type

12th August, 2009


It has been reported recently that the major labels of the record industry are gearing up for yet another new format, CMX, intended to deliver not just the music, but all the ‘other stuff’ that MP3s traditionally ditched: album artwork, sleeve notes, videos, and so forth. The idea is to breathe new life into the idea of buying a music album as a complete work (which is what most musicians would prefer you to do) rather than just choosing the one or two tracks that you like (which is what consumers, understandably, tend to prefer).

And that’s okay, as long as we can still choose to buy individual tracks if we want to. The big problem is the perennial one of technology companies scrabbling to make their own implementation of a sound idea the only implementation. That’s good for the company’s balance sheet, but not always good for the consumer. For example…

I may be missing something obvious, but I have yet to identify anything particularly beneficial (from the consumer’s viewpoint) to arise out of the Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD squabbling that seemed to go on forever. Blu-Ray won; it may be the better technology, I don’t know. What is clear is that whilst the battle raged on between the technology companies, many people invested their hard-earned money in HD DVD, and their investment has essentially been wasted. Plenty of others, perhaps more sensibly, decided to hold off on any such purchases until the contest was decided. Anyway you look at it, the protracted battle delayed the introduction of the technology and cost plenty of people a lot of money simply because they believed the hype.

Now Apple are supposedly working on their own version of the CMX idea. If history is any kind of guide, then Apple are most likely going leverage iTune’s dominance of online music sales to make sure that their own ‘album format’, provisionally entitled Cocktail, becomes the de facto standard. The labels, having had a taste of what it’s like being in thrall to Apple’s power in that articular market, are unlikely to roll over without a fight.

Are we really going to have to go though the whole Battle Of The Formats all over again?


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