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Yesterday, Amazon launched their new MP3 store. This is big news and I am very excited about the possibilities.
The interesting thing about the Amazon MP3 store is that all the tracks are stored in unprotected MP3 files! This means NO DRM! This is a VERY good thing. But what is even better is that their songs are cheaper than the iTunes DRM-free tracks. iTunes charges $1.29 for a DRM-free track, but Amazon charges $0.89-0.99 for their DRM-free tracks. Plus, Amazon has 2 million DRM-free tracks available. This means they have more DRM-free tracks available than iTunes does. The songs downloaded from the Amazon MP3 store are also automatically added to iTunes, so they can be easily added to your iPod. They also offer sales on certain CDs as prices much cheaper than iTunes.
While I generally like iTunes and the iTunes Plus section of the iTunes store, it's always good to see iTunes get some viable competition. You could make a very good argument that the iTunes Store is a monopoly in the purchasing of music online. The iPod is the only device that can play DRM protected songs, bought on iTunes. It also will NOT play DRM protected songs, bought on other online music stores. The only way to play songs on the iPod is to use a non-DRM file format. This means MP3, or in the case of iTunes Plus, this would mean unprotected AAC. In order for a company to sell songs that work on the iPod, they can't use DRM. This, no doubt is the only reason Amazon is selling unprotected MP3s and not highly protected WMA files, like everyone else has before. Amazon is at least smart enough to know that to complete with the iTunes Store, you need to work with the iPod. The only way to do this is to sell unprotected music.
This little bit of 'monopolistic' practices by Apple is actually forcing the industry in the right direction - away from DRM on music. People do not like that they don't own the song. With DRM, you could have the music you paid for taken away at any time. Without DRM, the song is yours and no company controls when or if you play it. This is a move in the consumers favor and I'm all for it.
I will definately be keeping an eye on how Amazon's MP3 store develops. I very much hope it is successful. If it is, it will likely force Apple to lower prices on the iTunes Store and also educate all the music labels that removing DRM from their songs is a good thing for everyone involved.