Of these contenders, SONY was clearly ruled out because they are a content owner and there’s no way the rest of the industry would pay a technology tax to a competitor (much as Nokia’s Symbian never gained much traction with the other biggies, because it was too tied to Nokia). Microsoft was a non-starter, because they are too obviously powerful and the music industry could see a hostile takeover coming a mile away. But cute, cuddly Apple wouldn’t harm anyone! So iTunes and AAC were roundly and widely embraced, and Apple succeeded in turning the distribution and playing of legal digital music into a virtual monopoly. Apple played a masterful game, and took full advantage of the music industry’s fear.
The joyful irony in this of course is Steve Jobs recent call for the music industry to adopt DRM-free distribution, giving Apple the moral high ground. Very, very nicely played indeed!