MANHASSET, N.Y. Digital audio device manufacturers and analysts welcomed Apple Computer Inc's iTunes Music Store online music service as a positive move for what's mostly been a stalled online music industry.
"It's about time someone succeeded at trying to sell music" online, said Talal Shamoon, president and chief executive of Intertrust Technologies Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.) which develops and licenses digital rights management intellectual property for digital media.
On Monday (April 28) Apple launched its iTunes Music Store service for its iPod portable devices and Macintosh computers. The service allows consumers to locate, purchase and download music for 99 cents per song, without subscription fees.
The service carries over 200,000 songs from all five major record labels. An unlimited number songs can be burned on CDs for personal use. Users can also listen on an unlimited number of iPods, Apple's portable hard drive-based digital audio players. They may also play songs on up to three Macintosh computers and use content on any Mac application.
Apple also introduced a smaller version of the iPod with up to 30-Gbyte capacity.
The company said a version of the service for Windows is expected by the end of the year.
Consumers have shown little interest in existing subscription-based online music services such as Musicnet.com and Pressplay.com. The Apple service "will be the first one to take hold because it's not onerous to the consumer," said Mike Maia of PortalPlayer Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.), a supplier of portable digital media device platforms.
The broader usage rights offered by the service will compete favorably with more limited rights offered by Microsoft's Windows Media Audio digital rights management technology, a key DRM format for digital content.
Microsoft Corp. recently inked a deal with Macrovision Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.) to deploy the company's technology in its Windows Media Data Session Toolkit, a component of the Windows Media 9 Series. The technology would allow content providers to embed DRM licenses on the compact disc.
Later this year Microsoft is expected to introduce software for MP3 players that would support a wider variety of options such as time-out files and DRM usage rules. If a file is transferred to an MP3 player, under the service it could only be used for a certain number of days.
Getting consumers to buy digital music files online may still be an up hill climb. Less than 10 percent of the $2.2 billion worth of music expected to be sold online this year will be digital downloads, according to researchers InStat/MDR (Scottsdale, Ariz.).