Apple’s iconic co-founder Steve Jobs will depose in a trial starting on Tuesday to ascertain if the company forced iPod and iTunes on customers through restrictive technology. It was on his watch that Apple used a software called FairPlay to prevent copying of purchased music, which, however, was not compatible with rivals of iPod and iTunes.
Jobs, who died in 2011, will depose through a video recording.
Jobs was a tough competitor and was not known to hold back in emails and other internal communications about rivals, for instance, on Microsoft and Bill Gates.
Plaintiffs have claimed in court papers that Apple sold millions of iPods at inflated prices by technologically disadvantaging rival devices — between 2006 and 2009.
If jurors at the California court trying the case — a class-action suit brought by customers and retailers in 2005 — find the company guilty it could be fined up to $1 billion.
FairPlay is not in use any longer.
It was developed by Apple to prevent illicit copying of music, a major worry for the music industry at the time with Napster and Kazaa allowing free downloading and copying.
Songs sold at iTunes came encoded with this technology, which was also installed in iPods. But these songs couldn’t be played on rival devices such as Microsoft’s Zune.
And music bought from rival online music stores — such as RealPlayer — couldn’t be played on iPod. Therefore, the competition was effectively blocked out.
In fact, every time RealPlayer tried to make its songs compatible to iPod — introducing a code called Harmony — Apple reinforced the wall through updates.
Apple sold an estimated 150 million iPods over the period of the suit — then priced at $79 to $349, depending on storage capacity. They cost much less now, starting at $49.