MS launches beta of its new music store

Greeting message:

The store:

The website is nice and clean. Basically an iTunes clone. However, the thing that makes me utterly uninterested is that their list of supported portable players, while lengthy, doesn’t include my iPod. Instead, they offer this workaround, which really amounts to NOT using their service in order to use an iPod:

How can I get MSN Music downloads to play on my iPod?

Although Apple computers and Apple iPods do not support the PC standard WindowsMedia format for music, it is still possible to transfer MSN Music downloads to an iPod, but it will require some extra effort. To transfer MSN-downloaded music to an iPod, you need to first create a CD with the music, and then you need to import that CD into iTunes. This process will convert the music into a format that can play on the iPod. We’re sorry that this isn’t easier - unfortunately Apple refuses to allow other companies to integrate with the iPod’s proprietary music format. If you are an iPod owner already and unhappy about this policy, you are welcome to send feedback to Apple requesting that they change their interoperability policy.

The FAQ about “What are the rights included with my music?” makes me snort, too:

Generous rights*: MSN Music allows you to play your music on up to five Windows PCs, burn playlists to CD up to seven times, and transfer to an unlimited number of portable audio devices.

*applies only with Windows Media Player 10.

Not really THAT generous, given that asterix.

If I didn’t have an iPod, I’d consider giving this service a whirl and dropping a few bucks on songs. But I do so I won’t.

I’m interested in DRM tech, but seems like I am never able to keep up with the latest. What does it mean to burn a playlist to CD? Does that just mean you are burning a CD of the songs themselves? If so why couldn’t you rip the CD you just made to get unlimited downloads? Am I missing something or is the inconvenience of ripping all that’s preventing people from unlimited file sharing?

Music Player
Apple: itunes only
Microsoft: windows media player only
score: tie

Hardware Compatibility
Apple: ipod only
Microsoft: everything but ipod, basically
score: MS wins by a mile, unless you own an ipod

Apple: up to 5 computers can be authorized per track
Microsoft: up to 5 computers can be authorized per track
score: tie

Apple: can burn a given playlist 7 times. Remake the playlist for unlimited burning.
Microsoft: can burn a given playlist 7 times. Remake the playlist for unlimited burning.
score: tie

I’m not hep to the playlist thing either.

Do they mean an actual playlist (such as a .PLS playlist file), or just a specific collection and track order of files?

For instance, I don’t use playlist files. Ever. I just open a dialogue, hit CTRL A (select all), and click Open. I’m kind of confused.

Yeah, but as I said, this service pretty much shuts out iPod owners. Or Apple shuts us out by not supporting the file format. Either way, same result.

What proportion of the portable player market owns iPods? What proportion of the people who buy music online own iPods? I’m not making a point or anything. I’m just curious.

Walmart just also just announced their plans to enter the fray.

Get it down to .25 a song, and I might buy into it.


Probably the same thing it means in iTunes: You burn the songs from that playlist onto a CD. I think it’s just to keep people from mass-producing custom CDs too easily. It’s easily circumvented by altering the playlists or copying the CD with a separate application, but I suspect it’s just there as a token measure. And like most such things, it really only succeeds in annoying people.

The Wal-Mart store has been around for several weeks, if I recall. They’re undercutting both iTunes and MSN by selling songs for 88 cents. But alas, their files won’t play on an iPod either.

Twenty-five cents per song is about right. After all, you’re buying DRM-restricted lossy audio files. They’re far inferior to buying a CD, so they should cost less.

If they want me to pay $1/song, the data needs to be CD-quality. That means no DRM and lossless encoding. And even then you’re missing out on the physical object, the liner notes, the collectability aspect, and so on.

I’m not a big fan of paying for music online.

Of course they don’t. You can have a billion new vendors distributing files, but none of them will work on an iPod because Apple doesn’t allow it. Until Apple changes their EULA or someone hacks the iPod, you just can’t do it.

Does anyone offer the files at 192k? Because frankly, 128 is not good enough for me and it turns a lot of music into mud.


MSN is at 160k I think.

I think that’s what’s really stopping me from buying music online.

I’ve gotten spoiled by VBR, or 192kb minimum CBR MP3 rips.

It definitely stops me. The quality just isn’t there at those lower bitrates. 192 is close enough to the CD that I can rarely hear the difference. 128… I’m always aware it’s not the original recording and sometimes it’s really awful.


This seems like a nice moment to mention, warp’s online music store. DRM free, high quality mp3’s. In their own words:

We are at present the only store to offer very high quality MP3 files. The tracks are encoded with LAME using the ‘–alt-preset standard’ VBR setting - widely acknowledged to currently give the best trade-off between transparency and file size, but with the emphasis more on sound quality than file size. Bleep MP3s have an average bit rate of around 205kbps VBR, while the majority of MP3s found on the internet are 128kbps.
Secondly, Bleep music has no DRM or copy protection built in. We believe that most people like to be treated as customers and not potential criminals - DRM is easily circumvented and just puts obstacles in the way of enjoying music. Apple has even privately stated that they decided to use a weak form of DRM solely to get major labels onboard.

Whoah! BUYING music? WTF? :lol:

This is not Microsoft shutting the iPod out of its service, this is Apple refusing to let Microsoft include support for the iPod. Microsoft asked, Apple said no thanks.

History will be the judge, I guess. Short term it’s not in Apple’s best interests to help Microsoft build a music store. In 10 years Apple may be selling a billion dollars’ worth of music via its store every year and iPod sales might pale in comparison. Or they may look back at this moment as the beginning of the end.

Apple would rather sell a billion dollars worth of iPods rather than musc on its online store. Remember, it barely makes anything off the music, cause the artists and record labels have to be paid. The entire point of the Apple music store was to provide content to sell more iPods, which Apple makes a fortune off of. If you looked at Apple’s recent quarterlies, it really has been the iPod that has masked poor sales of the iMac and other Apple products.

Still, Apple is being Apple. They don’t want MS gouging out their market, but like it or not, it’s coming. MS is also more open, as well, as it is licensing its tech to other hardware manufacturers and music stores. Has a good shot at becoming the standard.