The first interesting development today was the release of iTunes 7.2. What's so special about this new version of iTunes? Two words - iTunes Plus.
iTunes Plus is a new section on the iTunes store that contains the DRM Free music tracks from EMI. Today's release is the culmination of a promise Apple and EMI made back when they jointly announced that EMI would be offering higher quality music tracks for sale on iTunes without copy protection! They had promised to do this in May of 2007. Today is May 30th. Talk about cutting it close there folks!
This is a very daring move by Apple. For the longest time, sellers of online music have been pushing DRM down our throats in the irrational fear that everyone will steal their music if they don't. This irrational fear has caused us to have to put up with low quality music and inconvenient copy protection. The new iTunes Plus opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for both consumers and for Apple. This new section, despite it's 'unsafe' lack of DRM, should greatly increase music sales at the iTunes store.
Yes, I said increased music sales. The removal of copy protection, even at a slightly increased price ($1.29 per song versus $0.99 per song) will cause Apple to sell a lot more music. Why?
- People want higher quality music. The new music files are encoded at essentially double the encoding rate of the old files. This means better sounding music.
- No more 'iPod lock-in'. Many of Apple's competitors, such as Microsoft, have complained that if you buy music on the iTunes Store, you are locked-in to only playing it on the iPod. That is no longer true. With this new DRM Free music, you could effectively buy a song on iTunes and play it on a Zune, or any other player that supports AAC.
I've done some browsing over their selection of iTunes Plus songs. There seems to be some inconsistencies in how they list things. Some albums by the same artist are Plus songs, some aren't. Some albums only have certain songs listed for sale separately, and some songs are only available if you buy the whole album. I imagine this is just 'growing pains' for this new section. Everything will straighten out over time.
There is a lot of good music there. I'm definitely going to buy some of this new Plus music. I want to support them in this DRM Free attempt in order to encourage them to push this with more music labels.
I predict that 6-12 months from now, we'll see a BIG increase in sales of these Plus songs over the standard DRM'd songs.