Apple Unveils Online Music Service
Product mentioned in this article
SAN FRANCISCO -- Stealing music is bad Karma, so Apple wants to sell you high-quality song downloads through its new ITunes Music Store for 99 cents each, no strings attached.
That means you can burn a song as many times as you want, transfer it to as many IPods as you want, and store it on up to three Mac computers--no questions asked. And best of all, "It's not stealing, which is good Karma," said Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive officer, at a launch event here Monday.
Mac owners can start using the music service immediately (after downloading the free ITunes software). PC users will have to wait until the end of the year for access.
In addition to launching the online music store, Jobs also announced version 4 of Apple's ITunes Jukebox, and three redesigned IPods--including a 30GB version.
There are two types of music download services available today: Free services like Kazaa, and
The other online option, subscription-based services
"People want to buy downloads like they buy CDs," Jobs said. That's why Apple went to the five major music labels (BMG, Sony, EMI, Warner, and Universal) and cut deals to offer their songs online.
At launch, the service has more than 200,000 tracks, which you can download directly to the Apple ITunes jukebox. Each song includes a free 30-second preview and is encoded using the AAC codec at 128 bits, which Jobs said offers higher-quality audio at the same bit rate as the popular MP3 format.
There are a few restrictions: You can store the music on only three Macs at a time, and if you burn a playlist more than 10 times you have to alter the order for the 11th burn. That's to prevent mass duplication, Jobs said.
Apple's new service has a good chance of winning over skeptics on both sides of the aisle, says one analyst.
"This is as close as you can get to a service that may be priced low enough for the consumers to accept and high enough for the record companies to accept," said Rob Enderle, research fellow at Forester Research. "This is as close to middle ground as we've come."
How did Apple convince the record companies to try this system when they've resisted so many other online music ideas in the past? There are likely two reasons, Enderle said.
One, because the service is available first to Mac owners only, it's a manageable number of users, he said. "This is a very limited group--if they [the music companies] don't like it they can pull back," he said.
"Also, it's backed by Jobs and he has strong connections into the industry."
To accompany the music service, Apple also announced a new version of its ITunes jukebox. Version 4 includes direct access to the ITunes store, support for both MP3 and AAC encoding, and Apple's Rendezvous technology.
This technology, built into the most recent version of the company's operating system, allows computers to find each other on a wired or wireless network without the need for configuration changes.
Integrated into ITunes, Rendezvous lets you instantly access music stored on other computers on the network. The program streams the music from one computer to the other; files are never transferred. "This is not copyinga?|that would be verboten," Jobs said.
Finally, Apple unveiled the third-generation of IPods. The three new units offer 10GB, 15GB, and 30GB capacities, and each will be compatible with Macs and PCs.
The new IPods include new features requested by current IPod owners, Jobs said, including a thinner size of 0.62-inches, a lighter weight of 5.6 ounces, and a better display. The new units use touch controls with no moving parts. Also new is USB 2.0 support (with an optional cable), for PC users without FireWire connectivity.
Other improvements include customizable menus, on-the-go playlist creation, an alarm clock, and new games.
The 10GB IPod sells for $299 ($100 less than the previous 10GB unit). The 15GB unit is $399 and the 30GB version is $499. Both the 15GB and 30GB IPods include a new docking station and case.
The new IPods will appear in stores at the end of this week, and each unit will be Mac- and PC-ready. PC users will have to wait until June for a software download to link their IPods to the new ITunes software.