After several foregone-conclusion warm-up bouts against stiffs and glass-jawed losers, iTunes finally faces a contender. iTunes has the advantages of a vast established user base, integration with the music-playing application, integration with iPods, and various Apple intangibles. Amazon brings its own user base, higher-quality music files, lower prices, and no DRM.
I haven’t bought anything from the Amazon store yet, but I’ve browsed, and was impressed by the variety of selections they offer (right now, iTunes selections in stock outnumber Amazon something like 4-to-1, but a great many of the iTunes offerings are very obscure; that’s an advantage to iTunes if you’re looking for a little-known piece, but many users won’t notice the difference.
The big advantage is Amazon’s DRM-free file format. Living away from home, in a family with four other music-listeners, and having owned several different computers since the digital music revolution started, I often encounter the “Sorry, this computer is not authorized to play this track” roadblock when I want to play a selection. Amazon seems to offer a profound advantage — without DRM overhead, with superior encoding, and at a lower price, it looks to me as though they’re well-positioned to put a dent in the iTunes Wall of Imperviousness. I’ll bet Apple responds pretty quickly. That’ll be healthy for everyone involved — it tears away the illusory “necessities” to which the music industry and Apple have alluded in rationalizing their practices during the heyday of the digital-music monopoly. These should be exciting days in digital media!