John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

We'll Call the Portable Music Player the 'aPod.' No? 'iJeff'? I got it … 'Bezoid'

bezos_spacemodulator.jpgIn his much discussed “Thoughts on Music” essay, Apple CEO Steve Jobs argued that by protecting music with Digital Rights Management restrictions, music companies were stifling the very innovations that might sustain them. “If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players,” Jobs wrote.

A few months later, Apple proved Jobs’s point by introducing DRM-free tracks from EMI to iTunes. And soon Amazon will prove it a second time. The retailer announced plans today to launch a new music-download store unencumbered by DRM protections. “Our MP3-only strategy means all the music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device,” said Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos in a release announcing the store.

For Amazon, which has said for ages that it wants to get into the digital music-download business, the move is a crucial one. Though Amazon peddles everything from video games to vibrators, the company makes a big chunk of its money on CDs and DVDs. To retain that revenue stream, it’s got to cater to consumers who will increasingly expect digital delivery of audio and video. Which means going head-to-head with Apple.

Amazon’s store will undoubtedly present a credible challenger to Apple’s iTunes hegemony, but can it beat it? Not likely, says Jupiter Research vice president Michael Gartenberg. “The fact that Amazon is offering DRM-free songs and offering them in MP3 format is important but won’t necessarily change the game for vendors offering music players that compete with iPod,” he writes. “If Amazon can offer a greater catalog than Apple at a lower price point or higher-quality bit rates, we might begin to see iPod users begin to use the Amazon offering over iTunes, but unless there’s a marked differentiation, it’s not likely that iPod users would go to Amazon over iTunes, especially given the iTunes ecosystem of music, TV shows, movies and games.”


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