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Amazon gets into the online music business with unprotected MP3s

In yet another blow to the foundations of DRM protected music, Amazon.com today announced it will launch a digital music store later this year offering millions of songs in MP3 format from more than 12,000 record labels.

Amazon’s DRM-free MP3s will free customers to play their music on virtually any of their personal devices — including PCs, Macs, iPods, Zunes, Zens — and to burn songs to CDs for personal use.

“Our MP3-only strategy means all the music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO. “We’re excited to have EMI joining us in this effort and look forward to offering our customers MP3s from amazing artists like Coldplay, Norah Jones and Joss Stone.”

EMI also announced that it has reached an agreement with Amazon.com to put its entire digital catalogue in the new digital music store. The agreement follows EMI's launch last month of its new premium download offering, in which the company began offering retailers DRM-free music to sell in the audio format of their choice.

“Amazon.com is known around the world for the unique experience it offers music customers through features such as customer reviews and personalized recommendations,” said Eric Nicoli, EMI CEO. “They have been an important retail partner of ours, and we are delighted they will be offering consumers EMI’s new premium DRM-free downloads in their new digital music store. We think having a trusted destination like Amazon.com offer a high-quality digital music product that will play across a number of devices gives consumers more options and will be a significant boost for the overall digital music market.”

Amazon may be the biggest challenger yet to Apple’s iTunes and iPod combo. Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research, points out that Amazon understands the online space and how to sell a lot of music. The iPod is still the most popular music player on the market, which could present Amazon with the challenge of how to pry those users away from iTunes. “If all they're doing is providing the same stuff at the same price point, that's going to be a challenge for getting to iPod owners,” said Gartenberg. “This can work on an iPod, but they still have to differentiate it from Apple.”

Apple’s iTunes has recently been shedding its DRM chains, perhaps because of the views of Steve Jobs, who wrote in February a manifesto of sorts seeking to abolish the restrictions of digital rights management.





"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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