I’m going to do my first multi-part post here at Apple Mac HQ. Leading off this first, is a review of the various alternatives to iTunes. I’ll be focusing on what I consider the “major players”. Those services are Amie Street, eMusic, and Amazon MP3. While there are other music services such as Napster and Rhapsody, their business model is subscription based which is outside the scope of this music service comparison.
Over the next week or so I’ll do an in-depth review of each service and then make some final recommendations. Stay tuned for my first review early next week!
Amazon has recently released an iPhone and iPod Touch optimized beta version of their website. To visit the optimized version, just visit Amazon on Mobile Safari and you’ll be automatically sent to the optimized website. From there you can do a product search, view category top sellers, access your account, view shipping details, and more. There is even a nice optimized product slider that shows you the “most loved products at Amazon.com.” If you hit the right slider arrow twice you’ll notice some Apple goodies are “most loved”. Unlike some other websites (I’m looking at you MLB.com), accessing the PC version of the website is a simple finger tap away. I’m thankful there is an easy way to shop Amazon from my iPhone, but I’m not sure my wife will think the same!
It seems like nearly every day you hear someone say the words “iPod Killer” or “iTunes Killer” in reference to the newest portable digital music player or content deliver mechanism. As time goes by, those claims are swept out of the consumers minds and the next “big thing” gives it a go too. Recently however, one “iTunes Killer” has actually managed to stay at the forefront of consumers thoughts and wallets. Despite being web only, the Amazon MP3 store has received good reviews and with the combination of cheap songs has kept consumers happy.
In an effort to bring more consumers to Amazon MP3, Amazon is teaming with Pepsi to give away 1 Billion songs according to Billboard. The Motley Fool has the scoop here. If you remember a few years ago, Pepsi teamed with Apple to give away 100 million iTunes songs.
Personally, I’m really excited about this promotion for a few reasons.
1) I’m likely to get some free music since I have a moderate Mountain Dew habit.
2) Competition for iTunes and Apple IS a good thing. Just remember about a month ago when Apple dropped the price of iTunes Plus tracks to compete more directly with the DRM free tracks from Amazon.
3) The more people that buy digital music, the larger the market is for digital music players. Since the iPod controls the majority of the digital music player market, a larger market means more iPod sales.
What’s interesting in this whole promotion is that for the first time, consumers are being targeted with a large scale promotion of DRM free music. Could this be the beginning of the end for DRM? I sure hope so.
If you want to watch TV on your Mac, Amazon has an amazing deal going on right now. It looks like it’s one of the Black Friday special deals so take advantage of it while you can. For just $75 USD (after $30 rebate), you can pick up the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950 from Amazon. The regular price is nearly $150 so you’re saving close to 50%.
The Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950 looks amazingly similar to the Elgato EyeTV Hybrid which I own and love (a review is coming soon). In fact, the WinTV-HVR-950 even comes with the EyeTV Lite software package. Included is software that will work with PC’s too. The Hauppaugge will receive HD ATSC (over the air) and analog cable TV signals. The WinTV-HVR-950 even comes with a portable TV antenna capable of receiving HD signals, the Elgato EyeTV Hybrid does not include a antenna. You’ll need a fairly recent Mac to use the WinTV-HVR-950, but if you want to watch TV cheaply on your Mac this is one of the best deals I’ve seen.
Amazon recently launched their newest online service, Amazon MP3. Amazon MP3, currently in Beta, is a digital music service that will compete with iTunes, eMusic, Amie Street, and others. I decided to kick the tires today and test out Amazon’s newest product.
Browsing the site is pretty much like using Amazon to purchase any of their other products. You can perform a search or use the navigation bar on the left side of the page. I purchased a song on the Top Songs list so didn’t venture too much into the interface but it seems very easy to use from my limited experience.
Once you find a track you want, click the Buy MP3 button and you’ll be prompted to download the Amazon MP3 Downloader. The downloader is necessary for album purchases but not for song purchases. I went ahead and downloaded it anyways.
I went through the checkout process and a .amz file was downloaded to my laptop. Double clicking the file begins the song download in the Amazon Downloader application. About 5 seconds later, the song was downloaded and it was automatically added to my iTunes library. If you want to manually manage your music, you can turn off the auto add to iTunes feature in the preferences of the downloader application.
Be careful about clicking the Buy MP3 button. Once you are logged into Amazon, clicking the button will automatically purchase the song much like the 1 click buying. I clicked the button by accident and purchased a song i didn’t really want to buy. Good thing the track was only $.89.
iTunes may finally have some competition with Amazon MP3. Most tracks are only $.89 and most albums $8.99. The songs are all DRM free and encoded at 256kbps in mp3 format. Right now the selection is a little limited, but I expect that to improve over time.
Competition is good for consumers, but we’ll have to wait and see if Apple changes the iTunes store in response. If you purchase from iTunes, Amazon MP3 is worth your time to check out. The reviews are out, and so far they are positive.