Apple's decision to finally open source its Apple Lossless (ALAC) format is welcome news.
For one thing, people who use iTunes to store and archive their CD collection, and take care to change the audio quality to Apple Lossless, will be able to stream their collection to a wider range of products.
For Linn, where we've been advocating FLAC, yet supporting an unofficial version of ALAC, it means we no longer risk the wrath of Apple HQ for letting people listen to their music collections through our systems.
Apples opens core
But what has prompted this sudden outbreak of sanity from Apple?
Without meaning to sound uncharitable, I reckon there's a pure, commercial motive. And that is...24-bit.
As I reported from my visit with Neil Young, the momentum around 24-bit is growing. Artists want it. The music-loving public wants it. The majors see it as one last chance to re-monetise their back catalogues from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Problem is, Apple owns the main route to the customer with iTunes.
So here's the deal. The majors offer Apple the 24-bit catalogue. Apple wants the format to be ALAC for the sake of iTunes compatibility. The majors demand ALAC be open source, so that the good stuff can be enjoyed beyond the Apple World to the widest possible audience.
In other words, I believe this is an essential piece of the jigsaw that will see iTunes offering 24-bit music downloads in 2012.