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Alternatives to iTunes: how 5 rival music services match up | ZDNet May 19, 2010

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities, Mobile & Gadgets, Multimedia.
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How well do the current crop of online music services stack up against the iTunes Store?

When I did my inaugural round-up of iTunes alternative last year, I was looking for ways to avoid the high price of iTunes, and I succeeded. I found six rivals that offered significant savings—at least 10% and potentially much more. My criteria included services aimed at music lovers who want the option to buy music by the track or by the album. Several of the alternative services included interesting differentiating features, with the biggest being the all-you-can-listen-to subscription model.

I looked at three main factors: price, selection, and ease of use. To make price comparisons, I created a basket of 10 rock, folk, country, and classical albums, six recent releases and four back catalog choices from the previous century.

On price, iTunes was once again the most expensive, with the highest price for the collection. See the chart at right for details; the asterisk in the Cost column indicates that two of the five alternative services didn’t offer the entire selection of albums—Zune Marketplace was missing two and eMusic had only six of the ten albums on my list. To figure the total price tag for those two services. I calculated the cost of the missing albums using the prices from the iTunes store. Amazon MP3 and Lala offered significant savings over iTunes, with total savings of 11% and 20%, respectively. Rhapsody offered only trivial savings over Apple’s store, and the Zune prices were all over the map, with three albums costing more than their iTunes rivals.

Read the rest of this article via Alternatives to iTunes: how 5 rival music services match up | ZDNet.

P.S.: I’ll be back. China is behind me 😉


doubleTwist Partners With T-Mobile, Now Bundled On Some Android Phones January 25, 2010

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Big news for doubleTwist, the iTunes alternative that allows you to manage media for hundreds of devices, including Android phones, the Palm Pre, and BlackBerry. Tomorrow, the company will announce that it has forged a partnership with T-Mobile, which is now promoting it as the supported way to sync media to its line of Android phones. As part of the deal, T-Mobile will begin displaying doubleTwist banners in their retail stores and on T-Mobile.com. And perhaps most important, doubleTwist will come pre-installed on some Android devices, including the new Fender/Eric Clapton myTouch 3G handset. […]

via Who Needs iTunes? doubleTwist Partners With T-Mobile, Now Bundled On Some Android Phones

Songbird Takes On iTunes With Improved Device Syncing December 29, 2009

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Music fans looking looking for an alternative to the iTunes/iPod ecosystem are getting a new option this week with the release of Songbird 1.4, which introduces support for CD ripping and syncing Mass Storage Class (MSC) Devices. The first feature is fairly self explanatory (and frankly I can’t believe it took this long to include), but it’s the latter that’s the most compelling: Songbird now features improved sync for a number of popular MSC devices, including the HTC Hero, Motorola Droid, Nokia N900, and the Palm Pre. The new features are available on Windows only for now, with Mac support planned for release early next year.

To be clear, Songbird has actually offered some MSC support before now, but CEO Jerrell Jimerson says that oftentimes devices don’t work as well as they should using generic support. Songbird has been working with manufacturers to try to make the syncing process as seamless as possible. They’ve inked a deal with Nokia, and are also engaged in less formal partnerships with a number of other manufacturers. […]

Jimerson says that Songbird’s core functionality, which serves as a media player for both content saved locally to your computer and music that’s streamed from the web, remains fully intact. But the company is also looking to make the product more appealing to a broader userbase. And that includes forming more partnerships.

We’ve previously heard that Songbird has a deal with Phillips to install the software in 5 million music players, which would be a big win for the company. Jimerson wouldn’t comment on that, but it seems like it would fit with Songbird’s new strategy.

Songbird’s increasing support for media sync makes it a more direct competitor to DoubleTwist, another powerful iTunes alternative that supports many devices and that also has a brilliant marketing team.

via Songbird Still Airborne, Takes On iTunes With Improved Device Syncing.

Will YouTube Begin Charging for TV Shows? December 1, 2009

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YouTube is in talks with content providers to add a pay-per view element to its business, which would allow partners to charge end users to view some premium content on the online video site, according to MediaMemo’s “multiple sources.”

The talks center around YouTube creating a new micro-payment model for streaming videos that would rival similar offerings from Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s video-on-demand service. According to the report, YouTube would offer first-run shows a day after airing on broadcast and cable networks for about $1.99 each.

The news comes not long after earlier reports that YouTube was in talks with major film studios to introduce a movie rental service. In that report, YouTube was expected to charge about $3.99 for movie streams, putting it in general parity with movie rentals from iTunes and Amazon.

The key stumbling block seems to be whether consumers would pay for video streams at the same price that they pay for downloads from iTunes. But networks and studios don’t want to charge less for streaming service, fearing they might then have to renegotiate existing deals.

While Youtube already has some full-length programming from premium content partners, most notably CBS, most of that content is older, long-tail videos from shows long gone by, like Start Trek: The Original Series or Beverly Hills: 90210. But if it were able to launch a micropayments system, it could potentially open up a new realm of premium videos available to users.

YouTube isn’t the only ad-supported video site pondering a pay model; Hulu has long been rumored to be interested launching a subscription service that would add to its revenue stream, for instance. In both cases, the pay models aren’t meant to supplant the ad model, but to add additional revenue for value-added services on top of the existing business model.

via Will YouTube Begin Charging for TV Shows?.

Sky Songs service ‘will rival iTunes’ – Telegraph October 12, 2009

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Sky Songs is the first Internet Service Provider to sign deals with the four major music labels, in a bid to lure music fans away from iTunes and Spotify.

After lengthy delays, the satellite broadcaster has signed deals with music suppliers EMI, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music, as well as a number of independents including The Beggars Group and PIAS Entertainment Group, which represents more than 100 independent labels and digital distributor The Orchard.

Sky Songs, which will be a subscription-based model, will charge users a fee each month to get access to song downloads. Sky hopes that this will attract customers away from Apple’s iTunes, which is based on track-by-track purchasing.

However, there will be no advertiser-funded element such as that used by Spotify, the website that provides free access to music but plays advertisements too. Although Spotify has been praised for discouraging consumers from illegal downloading, there has been concern over whether the website can generate enough advertising revenue to pay for its music.

The launch of another legitimate music service will be welcomed by artists and managers who are struggling to combat piracy.

Eric Daugan, of Warner Music Europe, said: “[Sky Songs] will offer access to unlimited music as well as premium fan-oriented content, whilst ensuring our roster of artists are appropriately rewarded for their creativity.”

The Government has promised measures to combat illegal file-sharing. Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, recently proposed powers that could suspend the internet accounts of repeat offenders. Each year, about 7.5m computer users in Britain and Ireland download tracks illegally. In recent weeks, many artists including Lily Allen and managers such as Paul Loasby, who manages David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, have spoken out in favour of the proposals.

However, the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), which represents acts such as Radiohead and Blur, said last month that it “vehemently opposes” plans to switch off file sharers’ internet connections. The FAC claimed that that despite the damage that file-sharing does to sales of their records, it can also encourage people to buy concert tickets and merchandise.

via Sky Songs service ‘will rival iTunes’ – Telegraph.

Motorola Taps Nero For Android Syncing September 30, 2009

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The Motorola Cliq is going to be a highly-sought device when it’s released later this year, but we haven’t heard about how users will manage and sync their multimedia files. Motorola said Friday it has tapped Nero to craft its desktop media software, and, from what I’ve seen, it looks pretty good.

A lot of the appeal of the Android operating system is being able to do much of the syncing and management over the air, as the G1 and myTouch 3G simply have you punch in your Google account information and all your contacts and calendars are auto-magically brought to the phone. Nero said OTA has its role, which will grow significantly over the next few year, but it’s not the right setting for transferring music or videos. Motorola will be using Nero’s software for its Media Link software, which will enable users to manage their multimedia files with the Cliq and other Moto phones.

The user interface is about what you’d expect from this type of software, and it was easy to import, find, mange, and make playlists from your files. There was a cool little ringtone maker that was simple to use, and you can purchase songs from Amazon’s MP3 store within the software. Media Link also makes it simple to get photos off your phone, and there are also basic photo-editing tools for cropping, rotating, red-eye reduction, and more. There’s some social networking integration as well, but I thought the latest Real Player software was a bit stronger on this front.

Videos can be transferred with the Media Link software as well, but if you want the really good stuff like automatic transcoding for the best resolution and screen size, you’ll have to pony up $39.99 for the premium version. The premium version also includes calendar and contact synching, but Android is pretty adept already at that over the air.

Of course, the major problem for companies like Research In Motion, Palm, and Motorola is that the iTunes ecosystem is so strong, and many smartphone users already have much of their media tied into Apple’s software. Media Link does enable users to import playlists from iTunes, as well as Windows Media Player, so that’s a step in the right direction. RIM has essentially ceded the heavy lifting of multimedia syncing to iTunes with the Media Sync Software and Palm has also been fighting hard to enable its webOS customers to use Apple’s software, but there should be a growing market for alternative mobile media management programs. I think iTunes is pretty bloated and a chore to use on Windows, so here’s hoping something like Media Link can take off.

via Motorola Taps Nero For Android Syncing – Mobile Blog – InformationWeek

Blu-ray support coming with iTunes 9? August 10, 2009

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Take this rumor with a fairly large grain of salt and please hold your “bag of hurt” comments until the end. Boy Genius claims he’s got it on word from a “pretty reliable source” that the next big iTunes revision will include better organization options for your iPhone / iPod touch apps, something vague concerning integration with Twitter, Facebook, and Last.fm, and… Blu-ray support. To be fair, the HD disc format wars are all but over at this point, and the most recent Final Cut Pro actually lets you burn video directly to a third-party BD drive, only to have to play the discs on another, non-Mac device. This is all pretty sketch at the moment, and we doubt the boys in Cupertino will be showing their hands until just after the eleventh hour — let’s not forget, also, that iTunes is also available for Windows which does have other third-party Blu-ray playback software. In possibly related whispers, AppleInsider has offered some none-too-descriptive hints at possible iMac refresh with some improvements catering to the “semi-professional audio / video crowd.” Between this and talk about a tablet, we can’t wait for the next Apple press conference, if only to subside all the rumors for a few months. […]

via Blu-ray support coming with iTunes 9? | Engadget

Android Likely Better Without Apple August 5, 2009

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Hesitant is not a word often used to describe Google. But industry insiders say the Internet giant has been holding back its might in at least one area–mobile–due to its close relationship with fellow tech titan, Apple.

Many in the wireless industry believe Google’s friendship with Apple – until Monday, Google Chief Eric Schmidt sat on Apple’s board – is the main reason the company has yet to implement multi-touch gesture support into its mobile operating system, Android. Adding multi-touch would allow people to navigate Android handsets using finger swoops, pinches and flicks instead of more precise single finger taps and swipes. Due to its ease of use, efficiency and fun factor, multi-touch support is one of the most requested features among Android users.

Unfortunately for Google, Apple essentially owns multi-touch. The technology is based on intellectual property from a company called FingerWorks that Apple acquired in 2005. […]

One Android partner suggests that Google has been watching smart phone maker Palm for guidance. Palm butted heads with Apple several times during the development of its new operating system, WebOS, and flagship handset, the Pre. Palm made the Pre multi-touch capable from the beginning–a move that led Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook to threaten legal action during a call with analysts in January. Palm also devised a way to sync the Pre with Apple’s iTunes software and updated the software last month when Apple blocked it.

“Palm has been breaking some ground,” says the Android partner. “Google is waiting to see if Apple is going to protect their IP.”

via Android Likely Better Without Apple – Forbes.com

Want to make money online? Go for iTunes not ads. March 19, 2009

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The top digital media companies increased their revenues by more than 20 percent in 2008. How? Well it wasn’t online ads. Instead, it was largely thanks to a pay-for-media approach, according to new research from Strategy Analytics.

Leading the way in this field was Apple, with the “Other Music Related Products and Services” area of its business, which includes iTunes. Apple saw its revenue grow 32.7 percent last year in this category, according to the data. That’s impressive, and it’s no doubt thanks in large part to its App Store, which launched last July.

That model is leading analysts to suggest that the pay-for-media model will become an area of focus for a lot of these companies in the years ahead while the world battles economic troubles. The thought is that this model is a much more attractive one than advertising, which continues to slow down. That seems pretty obvious but is perhaps worth saying again for those of your out there who may have missed it the last hundred times. […]

via Want to make money online? Go for iTunes not ads. » VentureBeat