Print 30 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on Oct 18 at 6:27 PM is setting its sites on iTunes with the release of its new DRM-free music download service is expanding its digital offerings with a new music store, Amazon MP3.  The store is considered highly anticipated, due to Amazon's high profile, despite the cluttered nature of the online music market.

The early version of the store launched this week, with an initial catalog of over 2 million songs.  The store is expected to directly compete with iTunes for online music dominance.

Singles on the new service are cheaper than iTunes -- sometimes.  Songs run from 89 cents to 99 cents, an Amazon claims in a statement that more than half of the 2 million songs priced at 89 cents.  The company guarantees that its top 100 best sellers will remain at 89 cents.

Amazon signed deals with Vivendi owned Universal Music Group, the largest record company in the world, and EMI, another major record label.  Altogether, Amazon claims it secured more than 20,000 record labels.

Users can download tracks from the new service in 256 kilobit per second VBR MP3 format without any copy protection: all music can be readily played on just about any MP3 player, including Apple's iPod family.  This move marks a departure from DRM-protected iTunes and recently launched ad-supported download service SpiralFrog. 

Universal Music Group is not happy in its relationship with Apple and voice its anger today in the headlines.  With its new deals with Amazon and SpiralFrog, UMG appears ready to jump ship from iTunes.  There may be no time like the present; NBC Universal pulled all of its iTunes offerings earlier this month specifically to move to Amazon.

Apple recently announced its three-billionth download since its debut four years ago; Amazon is the fifth largest audio CD vendor even without digital music downloads.

However, Amazon might not be the only DRM-free service in town for long.  Earlier this year Steve Jobs pledged to reduce DRM on its high-quality audio tracks.  These tracks cost more than Amazon's offerings ($1.29 versus $0.89), but if Apple is any indicator, eventual winner of this arms-race will be the merchant with the best labels, not the one with the least DRM.

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By michael2k on 9/25/2007 12:57:15 PM , Rating: 2
Now we shall see if the iPod's sales "stand on their own" or if they are propped by iTunes sales, as many people submit.

Or if Amazon flops, I suppose.

RE: Good
By randomlinh on 9/25/2007 1:01:52 PM , Rating: 2
wasn't it the other way around? iPod sales didn't/don't need iTS.

RE: Good
By SilthDraeth on 9/25/2007 1:39:40 PM , Rating: 2
Amazon can't possibly flop. They are very successful already. Adding an additional product to their portfolio will not make them flop.

That is like saying Wal Mart might flop if they decide to start selling automotive parts in excess if what they already carry.

RE: Good
By Oregonian2 on 9/25/2007 1:45:02 PM , Rating: 2
Now we shall see if the iPod's sales "stand on their own" or if they are propped by iTunes sales, as many people submit

Of course it is. Even Apple themselves say the purpose of iTunes is to support the sales of iPods. What good is an iPod with massive gigabytes of storage space if there isn't an easy way to fill it with songs? If ripping CD's and transferring them manually were the only way they'd sell diddly-squat numbers of players. It's like "how many TV's would XXX sell if there was no progamming to watch other than home made movies?". Not much.

Now then, there's "iTunes" the PC/Mac software, and there's iTunes' online store. Two different but related things. Wife an I have had a iPod each (and I've had another brand's MP3 player previously) and iTunes the software has been quite good as an organizer and an easy way to transfer my CD's to the iPod. As to the online store, I've only used iTunes the store to get free podcasts, something it does very well as well. Are there alternatives? Yes there are, but iTunes the software seems to work pretty well for me, although I'll admit podcasts is what I had used it for most of the time (it "disappeared" so I'm watching the Touch and one of the Sansa's).

But in any case, having an easy source of music or podcasts that can be organized on one's PC and transferred to one's MP3 player is a near essential thing to have. Any service, including Amazon's, will promote sales of those players that it integrates "neatly" with. The integration works positively for both the service and the player.

RE: Good
By h0kiez on 9/25/2007 2:22:16 PM , Rating: 2
What good is an iPod with massive gigabytes of storage space if there isn't an easy way to fill it with songs?

I'm not sure the ITMS is an easy to way "fill it". Say you've got a 30GB iPod...and a song is 5MB (round numbers)...$6,000 to fill your iPod sucks. And that's why, as Jobs has said and numbers back up that a tiny fracion of what is on iPods was actually purchased there.

RE: Good
By Oregonian2 on 9/27/2007 2:23:06 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, a lot of music is spendy, but you don't have to fill it all at once. I don't know the count of my CD collection but it's probably something over 400. But I didn't buy them all yesterday to fill an iPod, I've been buying them since I got my Sony CDP-101 CD player back when CD's first started (what's that been, 25 years?). True, not every track is a winner, but even still. Also when one has a "big" iPod one has room to spend, and can convert CD's with a very high bitrates and not worry about it. In any case I use iTunes to download massive quantities of free podcasts. Easy, automatic, and nicely organized. :-)

Note I'm not an Apple'ite. I'm pure Microsoft back to DOS 3.3 or so. I do like the iPods though.

RE: Good
By RjBass on 9/25/2007 2:25:24 PM , Rating: 2
And that right there is one of the many reasons why I wont purchase an iPod. I bought a 4 gig video mp3 player from Creative that cost me much less then a comparable iPod and I don't need some stupid iTunes to fill the catalog. I just plug it in via the USB cable and my computer treats it like a simple flash memory stick.

Now I don't even use the MP3 player as my cell phone does all of that now. And with the Blue Tooth stereo headset I now have one less thing in my pocket. My 2 gig micro sd card is more then enough for what I normally need as well.

RE: Good
By kelmon on 9/26/2007 3:06:54 AM , Rating: 2
Not to be an iPod apologist or anything but iPods work like that as well. I bought an 80GB iPod last year and use it as an emergency back-up drive since it appears to the computer as an external USB 2.0 hard drive. I can't ever see myself filling the space with music (seriously, who's going to have 80GB of good music?) but video takes up a lot of space along with my documents.

RE: Good
By mindless1 on 10/18/2007 6:27:47 PM , Rating: 2
iPod sales couldn't possibly continue to stand on their own, not because of iTunes or lack thereof, but because the iPod was just a momentary trend like parachute pants. Apple made a lot of money and popularized the personal digital audio player market but their feature-set:price ratio was terrible. I mean features universally held as important, lots of us don't play videos on our MP3 players and wouldn't want to carry around a device large enough to make that reasonable.

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