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CNN talks to Steve Jobs about iTunes

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Apple is launching a service that provides music online while protecting artists and record companies from illegal downloads. CNN's Andy Serwer reports (April 29)
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SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Launching an online music service that charges 99 cents a song, Apple Computers hopes to provide an alternative to the song-swapping services that saturate the Internet. On Monday, the day of launch, CNN anchor Miles O'Brien talked via satellite with Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

O'BRIEN: The novel idea here: it's completely legal, and consumers would actually pay for the songs they download. It isn't the first such service, but Apple is the biggest player in the realm, and it may help legitimize the move away from CDs and LPs into bits and bytes.

The move comes amid a crackdown by the big music companies on music-loving scofflaws, and it comes as Apple's business plan seems to be running out of gas a little bit. Joining us with more on all this, the CEO himself, hot off the big demo, Steve Jobs. Steve, good to have you with us.

JOBS: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: All right. What makes you so certain that people are going to actually pay for music they see online?

JOBS: Well, we're going to find out. Napster and Kazaa certainly demonstrated that the Internet was built perfectly for delivering music. The problem is they're illegal. And the services that have sprung up that were legal are pretty anemic in terms of the rights they offer you, and they kind of treat you like a criminal. You can't burn a CD, or you can't put it on your MP3 player.

And so our idea was to try to come up with a music service where you don't have to subscribe to it. You can just buy music at 99 cents a song, and you have great digital -- you have great rights to use it. You can burn as many CDs as you want for personal use, you can put it on your iPods, you can use it in your other applications, you can have it on multiple computers.

And we were able to convince the big five music companies to go along with us on this. So it's a pretty landmark offering. Nobody has ever seen anything like this before.

O'BRIEN: Well, that seems to be the key point here. The big music companies, it seems, have been slow to buy into this whole concept. It's literally changed the way they're doing business, and they've been slow to adopt it. Now, you have well-known powers of persuasion. What did you do to win them over?

JOBS: Well, the most important thing we did was we created the iTunes Music Store, which is 100 miles ahead of anything that has been done before. So we write really good software, and we were able to create a really great store experience. So I think that's the most important thing we did.

O'BRIEN: So ease of use is a key thing here. As a matter of fact, we have here one of our folks here who is a Mac-head brought out her iBook, and there is the interface. It looks very clean, very user-friendly. That, of course, is the iPod. Now, do you have to have a Mac to avail yourself of this service?

JOBS: Today you do, but we did announce that by the end of the year, we'll be bringing it to Windows so that everyone can use it. The other thing, too, is as an example, we're giving people free, high-quality 30 second previews of every song on the store. You can't get that off the free download services. We are giving people pristine encoding, which you cannot get off the download services, and we are giving people fast, reliable downloads so they're not slow as molasses or crap out halfway through. So I think we're providing people with a far higher quality service than they've ever had before.

O'BRIEN: But a lot of things -- it's like a lot of things on the Net, Steve, in the sense that when people are accustomed to getting it for free, will they make the move and pay for it, or are you going after an entirely different market that is not out there already?

JOBS: Well, let me give you an observation that's really interesting. If you go to Kazaa and you try to find a song, you don't find a single song. You find 50 versions of that song, and you have to pick which one to try to download, and usually it's not a very good connection. You have to try another one, and by the time you finally get a clean version of the song you want, it takes about 15 minutes. If you do the math, that means that you're spending an hour to download four songs that you could buy for under $4 from Apple, which means you're working for under minimum wage.

O'BRIEN: That's a good point. Let's talk big picture here for just a moment. Your company has been moving into the digital entertainment realm in a lot of ways. Pixar is one, this is another example, the iPod. Lots of talk you might try to wrestle a music company out of Vivendi, Universal, specifically. Care to make any news on that account here, or at least tell us a little bit about your strategy?

JOBS: You know, Apple has a policy of not commenting on rumors, but this just got so out of hand that we did issue a statement that said we've never made any offer to invest in or buy a music company. And I think we're just focused on what we're doing, which is making the best music store in the world, and making the most popular and best MP3 player in the world, the iPod.

O'BRIEN: All right. So when will we see it -- deftly shrugged off there, by the way, Steve. When will we see this available? Is it online right now?

JOBS: It is online right now. You can go download it and start buying music.

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