Apple allegedly deleted iPod content from rival services

It was a subtle tactic to give users the worst experience should they make the mistake of purchasing music from elsewhere other than iTunes, in effect driving them and locking them into Apple's walled garden. This was the accusation against Apple that attorneys told the US District Court in Oakland, California. Said lawyers are representing consumers in a class-action antitrust lawsuit against the Cupertino-based company that is already a decade in the making. If found guilty, Apple could pay damages close to $350 million at the very least.

At the heart of the matter are the error messages that would greet users back in 2007 to 2009 whenever they try to sync an iPod that contained music from rival music services. The error message would tell users to reset the factory settings which, once it's done, wipes out the music from those rival services as well. Attorney Patrick Coughlin contends that the error message was intentionally vague so as not to clue in users on what's really going to happen, a devious tactic on Apple's part to drive out content other than its own from its own devices.

Apple contended that this "feature" was put in place for the sake of security. Increasingly paranoid about malware that comes through pirated content, Apple saw it fit to simply delete files and content that it wasn't sure was safe, which in this case is anything not purchased from iTunes. Of course, that was back then, when there was very little in terms of competition to iTunes.

The company also claims that it was not required to give users a too detailed information about errors which could confuse them and frighten them, an experience that Windows users might be well familiar with. Perhaps Apple was content to just inform the user that there was an error, without telling him or her what the error actually was. The plaintiffs contend, however, that it was merely smoke and mirrors to hide anti-competitive practices.

There is no end yet in sight for this case that has almost spanned a decade and Apple has yet to give its rebuttal to those claims. It is almost ironic that a case surrounding the iPod would take this long to resolve, when the very survival of the iPod itself is now being called into question.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal