Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Amazon MP3 Store: great news for Apple customers

Amazon's MP3 store is a smash hit among OS X gurus like Gruber:
Daring Fireball: The Amazon MP3 Store and Amazon MP3 Downloader

...The songs sound great and come with high-resolution album art. Singles cost $.89 or $.99, and album prices start as low as $4.99 — i.e. they’ve introduced variable pricing to sell music for less, not more, than the iTunes Store. When you search for songs from an artist whose entire catalog is not available through their MP3 store, Amazon provides a direct link to the artist’s catalog in their CD store. Two million total songs is far less than the six million Apple offers at the iTunes Store, but it’s a pretty good start, and all of Amazon MP3’s songs are DRM-free. I’m not sure how many DRM-free iTunes Plus tracks Apple offers, but it certainly seems like far fewer than one-in-three, and thus far fewer than two million. So while Amazon can’t claim to offer the most songs, they might be able to claim the most DRM-free songs. In just a few minutes of shopping, I found plenty of songs at Amazon that are only available from the iTunes Store with DRM. Given the Amazon MP3 Store’s audio quality, prices, and user experience, I can’t see why anyone would buy DRM-restricted music from iTunes that’s available from Amazon. And given that Amazon is quite a bit cheaper than iTunes Plus, you might as well check Amazon first. I plan to...
Hallelujah. Amazon's not messing about, they launched this for OS X and Windows simultaneously. At last, Apple has very serious competition.

Of course since Amazon's tunes work perfectly with iPods, it's not going to hurt Apple's revenue stream all that much. I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple's share price fall a bit then recover as investors realize Amazon's play is poison for Microsoft's strategy.

The joy of it is that it will make Apple work harder to keep its customers happy, and it will strengthen the anti-DRM solution.

Now, just wait until Gruber realizes that Amazon has embedded a unique identifier in each song that they can connect back to his credit card* ....

* How do I know this? I don't. I'd bet on it though. I'm sure Apple does the same sort of thing with their non-DRMd tunes, I even expect that an AAC you burn from a CD using iTunes contains some sort of embedded identifier.

Update 9/26/07: I'm 99% sure John Gruber doesn't read this obscure blog, but shortly after I worte of the "Amazon unique identifier" he told us that while Apple embeds an identifier (which happens to resemble an email address but is tied to credit card identification) in their DRM-free downloads Amazon, in the NYT, says they don't (!). Well, gee, I was wrong. That's never happened before :-). Gruber has an essay on the broader implications too.

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