In a surprising move, Apple has released the source for its ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) codec. ALAC is a popular codec that can be used for playback in iPods and iPhones. The ALAC codec appeared for the first time in early 2004 on the Mac OS X, and it was open sourced on 26 October this year.
ALAC is also known as ALE (Apple lossless encoder) and can store files with almost half the file-size of an uncompressed file. The advantage here is that the compression is lossless, so there is absolutely no loss of data during the compression. The decoding operation is not resource intensive as well, and can be carried out with ease by a limited-power device, such as the iPod. Also, the compression does not enforce any DRM scheme though; DRM can still be applied to files encoded with ALAC.
Even if the codec is open sourced finally, the devices that support this codec are still closed source in essence. They do not allow any freedom. An alternative firmware- Rockbox exists for most iPods except the iPod touch. Rockbox is released under the GNU GPL.
The announcement made by Apple appears on the ALAC page wiki at Mac OS Forge.
Welcome to the Apple Lossless Audio Codec Project
The Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) is an audio codec developed by Apple and supported on iPhone, iPad, most iPods, Mac and iTunes. ALAC is a data compression method which reduces the size of audio files with no loss of information. A decoded ALAC stream is bit-for-bit identical to the original uncompressed audio file.
The Apple Lossless Audio Codec project contains the sources for the ALAC encoder and decoder. Also included is an example command line utility, called alacconvert, to read and write audio data to/from Core Audio Format (CAF) and WAVE files. A description of a ‘magic cookie’ for use with files based on the ISO base media file format (e.g. MP4 and M4A) is included as well.
The Apple Lossless Audio Codec sources are available under the Apache license. Details can be found here http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0.