Can Amazon take a bite out of Apple?

by Mathew on May 16, 2007 · 5 comments

snipshot_e4jnh5om74s1.jpgAfter months (possibly more than a year) of rumours, Amazon has finally said that it is getting into the online-music-store business, and will be offering more than a million digital music files in mp3 format, free of digital rights management. So far there have been no details about pricing, or when the store will go live, and the only label that anyone would probably know that is taking part is EMI. As Techdirt notes, Amazon’s news would have been substantially more interesting if it had come out before EMI agreed to do the same thing with Apple, but more competition for music is still better than nothing.

Without any information on prices, it’s difficult to know whether Amazon’s store will be competitive with Apple’s or not. Even if the price per song is somewhat lower — David Card of Jupiter says there could be some flexibility in pricing and Hypebot has some rumours — there could still be a substantial incentive to keep using iTunes, if only because the company has managed to get people hooked on its software, to the point where it has effectively become their music ecosystem.

The other element of the launch, of course, is that it is yet another example of a major online retailer selling content without digital rights restrictions (and Coolfer notes that EMI is doing this with other music stores as well). Will it help to bring down the defences of the other major labels, or are they happy to have EMI be the guinea pig for a little longer?

  • http://scrawledinwax.blogspot.com Nav

    I think the choice of MP3s over AACs could be significant, as all MP3 players – including anything that plays MP3 CDs – could utilise these files, from your cheapest knock-off to your top of the line iPod or Archos.

    But the question of the ecosystem is an important one – iTunes is the centre of a lot of folks’ media universe. One question is how Amazon will deliver these files, whether through a web-based solution, a Windows Media Player add-on or a new, dedicated jukebox software. Looking at Sony’s disastrous experiments with Sonicstage and Connect and the effect it had on their business, if Amazon goes the software route, they best beta test it until it’s near perfect.

    Also – any word yet on whether this will be another US only thing? Or is amazon.ca going to join in the fun?

  • http://techfold.com rod

    I think the notion of ecosystem de-emphasizes the most compelling part of the Apple-iTunes-iPod user experience: Simplicity. One interface to manage your purchases, you music at home, your music on the go, access the store, etc. With Amazon, there’s going to be different interfaces for shopping, managing your collection, managing your “to-go” player, etc. – multiple apps, files here and there, etc.

    Unless I see something compelling from Amazon, I’ll stay with iTunes, and I’m willing to bet most other people will too: it saves me time, and makes what used to be a logistical PITA simple.

  • http://scrawledinwax.blogspot.com Nav

    Rod, when I spoke of the ecosystem, I did mean the simplicity entailed in having a centralised approach to content on a PC, from playback, to purchasing, to transferring to a device. Indeed, I think that sort of ‘one stop’ simplicity is precisely why iTunes-iPod is so successful.

  • http://techfold.com rod

    Fair enough; when I hear ecosystem, I think of the iPod industry that has sprung up around the brand – accessories, etc. that extend the “iPod-ness” beyond the core user-experience. – hence my comment :)

  • Mathew

    The confusion may have started with me, Rod. I know that the term “ecosystem” has been used to mean the accessories and other add-ons that have developed around the iPod, but I meant it much more the way Nav describes it — as a way of getting across how closely a person’s experience of music and all aspects of it are tied to the iPod and iTunes (in a good way, of course :-))

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