Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spotify: Finally, A Real iTune's Killer?

Could it be possible that iTune's seemingly unstoppable music dominance is about to come to an end? Well, according to Mark Hattersley, writing for MacWorld UK, that could finally now be a very real possibility, and all thanks to a new Swedish service called Spotify.

So exactly what is Spotify, and how does it work? For starters, Spotify is sort of a cross between the Napster of old and the iTune's of the present, and thus it could potentially represent the future of most, if not all, digital music delivery. Spotify doesn't require you to pay or download any songs to your hard disk at all - the entire service is paid for by featuring a section of streaming advertisements in a side panel. In other words, it's a cloud base service, and even though it looks and works much like iTune does, what it basically does differently is to allow you only to listen to songs, not buy them! I liken it to a kind of 24-hour all request radio station, a station that allows you to request any song, by any artist, any old time that you feel like!

As low as iTune's prices are, well, I have to admit that it's going to be hard for Apple to compete with FREE! Spotify, is sort of like Linux for music, and one very important thing to note, is that Spotify has managed to sign on all of the major music labels! This gives Spotify one of the fastest growing music libraries in history. This growing and vast library offers Spotify's user's a great choice and style of music to choose from, including those from the past and, as well, many recently released titles!

Of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch and this applies equally to Spotify. On the negative side, the biggest two complaints with Spotify is that you have to listen to an audio ad every 30 minutes or so, in addition to seeing a stream of ads popping up in a side panel. However, if you want to avoid having your music interrupted by those annoying audio ads altogether, well, than your going to have to pony up approximately $20 per month! Ouch! Either way, remember, the music is not yours to own, just listen to.

On the positive side, as Mark also stated, you don't have to worry about taking up any hard disk space, or worry about managing any play lists either. As he states, if you wish to permanently add a song to your phone or iPod, you could always, however, use a program such as Wire Tap Studio to record any songs that you listen to and like. However, if you ask me, that all sounds somewhat legally questionable, but still doable if your so inclined!

There have been other services in the past, like Spotify, who's names I can't even remember, and names that I'm too lazy to look up, and they have all failed! Some of these even included the right to download and keep your music and yet they still failed! Will Spotify do the same and fade into the sunset? Well, apparently, now that Spotify is opened to anyone in the U.K, and after trying it out for himself, Mark certainly thinks that the experience is more than good enough to pose a real threat to iTunes and it shouldn't go the way that the others have!

Unfortunately, here in Canada, the United States and mostly everywhere else, Spotify is not currently licensed to work, but I'm sure that those crafty Swedes are working hard to correct that. Spotify is so good that Mark also feels that if Apple wants to prevent Spotify from hacking away at it's now universal dominance, well, they had better start taking notice of these Swedish upstarts before it's all over for iTune's! I'm not sure, not having had the opportunity to test Spotify personally, but based on Mark's opinion and the facts of the case, well, sadly for iTune's this new service may, in deed, be a very big and credible threat to iTune's, at least in the future.

However, if there's any company that won't stand still and let others and steal it's thunder, well, it's got to be Apple. I'm also sure that Apple already knows about and is studying Spotify, and will hit back hard, if and when, Apple ever feels that it might pose a credible threat to it's dominance. Then again, just as Spotify could be a major threat to iTune's, it could also, one the other hand, be a huge opportunity for iTune itself!

How so, you ask? Well, since iTune's already gives it users access to unlimited free music through it's free radio station section, then, if necessary, Apple could easily add a similar service to Spotify's to iTune itself! If a small company like Spotify can do it, why couldn't and shouldn't a big company, like Apple, also not be allow to do it as well? I see no reason why that couldn't be the case. If anything, a large company should, by extension, not only be able to do it, but should be able to do it bigger and better! Such an iTune addition would be complimentary to existing t iTune features, where Spotify, on the other hand, is more of an iTune's replacement and a direct threat, and as Marks said, Apple can't afford to ignore.

So, could Apple already be considering such a Spotify type addition to iTune? I don't know, but I would bet that it's thinking of it, but, in the meantime, more-or-less, it's just holding back first to see how Spotify develops. However, if and when, in the future, Spotify does get major traction in the market place, I'm pretty sure that Apple will to jump in the game as well.

Personally, as stated, I have yet to try Spotify, but after reading Mr. Hattersley's post, I'm now convinced, more than ever, that the whole concept behind Spotify sounds and looks very interesting indeed, and if Apple doesn't, or it is too slow to react, then it could be a major threat to iTune's indeed. As far as the free subscription model went, in the past the problems were due more to it's execution rather than it's underlining concept, and if Spotify gets it right, well it could be very bad news for iTune's, Amazon, Napster, etc, but, also, at the same time, could be great news for all us music lovers. Hopefully, Spotify has ironed out any such problems, but whether it will actually succeed and kill off iTune's will yet remain to be seen?

In conclusion, I think that services like Spotify could be one of the best things to ever hit music lovers in a long time, and even though it's not available yet for the vast majority of music lovers quite yet, you can, in the meantime, if your still interested in hearing any song that you like, any old time that you like, well then there's a new site that will allow you to do just that. It's called, Like Spotify, it too will allow you to 'just listen' to just about any song that you can care to think of, but not anywhere near the quality that would be comparable to a service such as Spotify, Amazon or iTune's, but it's certainly good enough for casual listening. I know, because I've tried it and me likes it, me likes it a lot! Yes, it's new and at least for now, somewhat a wee bit little slow, but that should improve the more people discover and use it, at least I hope so.

And that's my 2 cents 4 this Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spotify images via: Spotify and MacWorld

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