Apple has announced it would offer DRM-free music through iTunes. The offer is limited to the music catalog of one of the Major Labels, EMI.
Customers still can get the DRM-protected songs at the old price. The DRM-free songs are available for an extra price of 30%. In exchange, the consumer (also) gets better file quality.
One might speculate about the reasons for this step. It just seemed to be the right timing. The announcement came just a few hours before an announcement of the European Commission that it would investigate against Apple and the Major Record Labels. Also, it seems that Apple doesn't fear to lose market leadership, given its own sales numbers (100 million ipods have been sold, corresponding to a market share of over 70%), and despite the launch of competing products. Other possible reasons have been mentioned here and here.
Later last week, Microsoft followed suit and announced it also had a deal with EMI and will sell DRM-free music, soon.
And now? Consumers look like the winners. The step will also benefit competing music-platforms and device manufacturers although they will need some time to catch up with Apple's market leadership. If this is a step towards less DRM overall and a general expectation of DRM-free content becomes rampant, this could affect the other Record Labels, and similarly other publishers in other media. Things get interesting.