If you follow Apple for long enough, you’ll see a million toothless iTunes and iPod killers, overhyped services and products destined for obscurity or the remainder table. But though Amazon’s new mp3 downloading service seems like another in this chain, I firmly believe this time is different. Amazon can actually deliver a superior digital music experience. Apple has its first legitimate challenger since the iTunes Store first launched. To hear why, click through.
Why is AmazonMp3 different than the new Napster, Rhapsody, FUSE, MTV and Walmart’s forays into music downloads? Because its music will play on iPods. And Zunes. And BlackBerrys. And Zens. And even the original MP3Man. It’s as flexible and free as the CDs that I bought at the store on Saturday. And that’s better than iTunes.
AmazonMp3 could have broader appeal than eMusic, because they already have both EMI and Universal on-board to deliver DRM-free Mp3s, and eMusic only has the independent labels. It’s better than iTunes plus, because the downloads are cheaper and the tracks don’t include iTunes profile information. It’s just music.
Most importantly, the AmazonMp3 experience is nice and easy. Using a tiny application, the Amazon Mp3 Downloader, your music comes in and heads over to your favorite library application, be it iTunes or <sob> Windows Media Player. Once the music is in iTunes, the experience is as good as buying from iTunes, right down to the album artwork and the integration with the iPod.
And if you want to sync with a player other than an iPod? You can. Interestingly, this is both the biggest attack on the iPod’s dominance since the product first launched. But it could also deflate one of the biggest arguments Apple critics bring to bear whenever slamming the Cupertino company’s policies. If Amazon music really takes off and people are free to use whichever media player they choose and iPod marketshare goes up? Well, then it means people are just sticking with a product they like — not because they’re “trapped” into a form of DRM that burdens them.
I’ve already played with the Amazon store, and though it’s not perfect yet (EMI and Universal are quite far from owning every record label in the world), it’s incredibly mature this early in. Amazon came correct. Now it will be up to Apple to respond. This time, I hope they take the advice of Wil Shipley and make a decision that’s good for average people — not good for Apple and media conglomerates. This is really going to get good.