Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sound of silver talk to me / makes you want to feel like a teenager

So, in one quick bump of a mouse button, taking it live, the new AmazonMP3 store has relegated the iTunes store to the antiquated, to the clunky, to the potentially almost irrelevant class, although clearly that has got a long way to go with Americans who are far more subservient to Apple than the rest of the world (it’s the US, increasingly out of step, where iPod rules, whereas in much of the rest of the world it plays a distant second fiddle to the simple MP3 enabled phone)..if you want evidence of that read this head-in-the-sandism from US PC World.

I have to be honest, I’ve never been an iTunes store fan. Its interface is ridiculously slow, unresponsive, difficult to navigate, and less than intuitive. I click on a title and wait, and wait, for the obviously clogged dedicated servers to load my page.

And it never seems to offer me anything that I might want to buy. Even the tracks I know I’d probably like, look somehow less enticing than they should. It’s like one of those grim, dank record shops in small town New Zealand, full of records you don’t want which having faded full price stickers even when you know the label dropped it to mid price some time back.

Amazon, on the other hand, provides a clean, much faster, cheaper, DRM free, and visually enticing user front-end that, like my other favourite, eMusic, takes me off in a direction that I might not know I want to go it, but am often pleased I’m heading (although I’m not sure if Pink Floyd’s The Wall really sits that well in the Techno listings). It mightn't have al the bells and whistles yet but I believe the granddaddy of net commerce has much on the can bet your Bezos on that.

And there is no need to download a fairly large slab of software which often needs updating. Instead, you work directly from the place you likely are already at: your browser. Even if you do have iTunes, Amazon provides a free, tiny, bit of software, that links Amazon’s shop to that device rather seamlessly.

Yep, it’s a whizz and indicative of the way the future actually lies. In the same way the Mp3 player is converging with the phone (and not the iPhone, which is a blip, albeit a pretty one, but the vasty more widely held Nokias and Motorolas and the like, which sell more units daily than the iPhone has in it’s whole retail history), the purchasing device has to operate from the browser. Retail is about removing barriers, not adding to them and the whole idea that you need a program designated purely for music purchase and playback is increasingly ludicrous. AmazonMP3 (smart name too) simply nails that.

And ain’t it funny how quickly the parameters of the ballpark have changed in the past few months, from the iPhone buzz where the Jobs’ disciples went completely ga-ga, hailing the future as cometh, angrily slapping doen any who dared to question the oracle, to this, some five months later, where that device now smells so very yesterday, no matter how cutsie the things might be. The iPhone was as much of a threat to Nokia as the iMac is to Microsoft...actually that's not's much much less. It's like Fiji declaring war on China.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love my iPod and I think many will do so for a long time, but I know a) how I’m going to fill it (and it ain’t from Mr. Job’s store), and b) what direction I’m going to go in when it’s time to replace it.

As an update: as of this morning Amazon have blocked any non-US purchases..prior to that, putting 90210 down as one's code did the trick. Royalty stuff, easily offended majors and the like of course, but for virtually every other transaction in the world, its now a global market. I do wonder when the record companies will wake up to that. Technology could take care of royalty issues in a snip, but I guess there needs to be a will.


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