Putting the Fun into legal Music Downloads
With the release of the new version of their own free audioplayer, Itunes, Apple successfully achieved something that none of the big entertainment conglomerates managed in the last couple of years: to create an easy, convenient way of downloading music from a huge library of popular content that one is able legally share and burn.
An XML frontend to Itunes, this service requires an internet connection and (at 5/2003) a credit card billing adress in the U.S.. You can browse by artist, album and style, and get a 30 second full quality preview of the song you're interested in. One song costs typically 99 cent (ca 0.85 Euro) with an album costing about 8 US$ (ca 6.85 Euro). Download format is the proprietary AAC (at 128 kbps), the build in DRM is rather liberal, as you can share the song with 2 further users and burn it onto a audio CD.
As the store uses your .mac account, payment is being processed via your creditcard Apple has on file.
So far the store has been a success, as millions of songs have been acquired over the first two weeks. This does bode well for Apple, who recently had to grapple with an ever-decreasing market share. The content is licensed from the big 5 (EMI, Universal, BMG, Warner and Sony), but apparently independent labels are being added.
For this initiative to become the success it deserves, the content has to be broadened, as some rare stuff (i.e. Matt Bianco) still is only available over the virus ridden illegal p2p services.
So far so good. It will now be interesting to see whether Jobs and his merry men/women will be able to capitalise on this inventive little scheme.
Good luck to them!