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eWeak gets it wrong on Amazon, Wal-Mart and iTunes

While I certainly prefer to Wal-Mart, it's a bit unclear to me why eWeak's Daniel Drew Turner doesn't get that Wal-Mart was doing DRM-free MP3s first. That is, this week launched its new Amazon MP3 Store, which, some analysts say, may become the first serious digital music challenger to Apple's dominant iTunes Music Store.

Ah, right. I forget that other tech reporters must rely on analysts instead of offering up their own opinions. Must be constrictive around the hips. :)

Like the iTMS, Amazon's online store offers digital music tracks and albums from major-label artists. However, all tracks offered by Amazon are free of DRM (Digital Rights Management) constraints, unlike the majority on iTMS. All $0.99 tracks on iTMS are encoded with Apple's FairPlay, which restricts the number of computers on which the music can be copied. Though some iTunes Plus downloads on iTMS are DRM-free and encoded at a 256K bps rate, these are priced at $1.29, whereas all tracks on Amazon's store are also 256K bps and come at a lower cost: $0.89 or $0.99.

In addition, Amazon's products are in the open MP3 format, which makes them playable not only on Apple's iPods but also on a wide variety of digital music players—even Microsoft's slow-selling "iPod killer," Zune.

This is in stark contrast to many other attempts at online digital music stores, such as Wal-Mart's endeavor, which sell only DRM-encrypted files that play only in Microsoft's Windows Media Player. In fact, Wal-Mart's digital music site is accessible only on Windows-based PCs.

Huh. Actually, Wal-Mart does sell DRM-free MP3 files too. In fact, they've been doing so longer than Amazon. One might thus describe Wal-Mart, and not Amazon, as "the first serious digital music challenger to Apple's dominant iTunes Music Store." You know, if one had, say, read my story about this service a month and a half ago.

It is true that the Wal-Mart MP3 download site only works with Windows. Or more specifically with IE. Amazon's service works fine with Firefox, and it will even push downloaded songs into iTunes so you can use them with your iPod.

BTW: The one major feature Amazon does have over Wal-Mart (well, aside from the whole "not destroying America one small town at a time" thing) is that they also have a suddenly decent movie and TV download service. Wal-Mart does offer a "beta" download movie service but the Unbox stuff on Amazon is getting quite good. This week's update was a big deal.

Also, it's worth noting that none of these services are as seamless as iTunes. Say what you will, but Apple gets the experience right. Amazon does what it can in the confines of a Web site. Wal-Mart ... I don't know. They have no idea what they're doing, to be honest. 

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