Opening a new round in its battle with Apple's popular iTunes service, Amazon this week revealed that it will soon expand its Amazon MP3 service, which offers digital music in a non-protected format, worldwide. Currently, Amazon MP3 is available only to customers in the US.
While Amazon MP3 is just the latest in a long list of purported iTunes contenders--most of which have been relegated to distant memories by Apple's dominance--it offers a number of advantages that neither Apple nor the remaining competition can match. First, unlike iTunes, Amazon MP3 offers unprotected songs in the popular MP3 format, which is far more compatible than the AAC-formatted songs Apple offers. As important, perhaps, Amazon MP3 offers these unprotected songs from all major music labels, whereas Apple only offers unprotected songs from Universal Music.
That last bit has little to do with Amazon, and lots to do with Apple: The music industry is tired of Apple's dominance and public posturing and is actively working to prop up the competition. Amazon, it turns out, launched its MP3 service at exactly the right time to take advantage of this movement.
Unlike iTunes, the Amazon MP3 service is available via the Web. And unlike with most iTunes songs, all of the service's tracks will work equally well with iPods as well as devices created by Apple's competitors, including the Microsoft Zune. In the end, this compatibility benefits Apple as well: While the iTunes service is hugely popular, Apple barely breaks even on the business. Instead, the company makes most of its digital media-related revenues on iPod and iPod accessory sales.
Amazon MP3 opened its virtual doors to US consumers in September 2007 and currently includes over 3.3 million unprotected tracks by over 270,000 artists. Amazon says it will roll out the service internationally throughout 2008.