In the final announcement of the MacWorld 2009 keynote, Phil Schiller listed off some of the changes coming to the iTunes ecosystem. First and foremost, in our mind, is that iTunes is going completely DRM-free. Starting today, 8 millions songs on the service will be DRM-free, and by the end of March, all 10 million will be without DRM. Consumers will be able to upgrade their entire purchased music library to iTunes Plus, which means no DRM and much higher quality at 256 kbps.
In a related note, Apple also announced that the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store is no more, and that instead, your iPhone can now download iTunes tracks no matter what connection you are on - that means no need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot in order to download the latest from Flo Rida. Of course, iPhone downloads are also DRM-free and sport the same quality.
The e-commerce giant Amazon.com has launched their own music service: AmazonMP3. AmazonMP3 now offers DRM-free tracks in the MP3 format from a variety of artists on their website. Amazon has chosen the widely supported MP3 file format which ensures comparability with iPods, Zunes, most modern cell phones, and virtually any computer or digital audio player users wish to use.
The MP3 files weigh in at 256kbit so they won’t sound quite as good as iTunes 256kbit AAC files, but certainly will sound good enough for anyone but the most golden-eared audiophile. The fact that the MP3 files are DRM-free ensures not only broad compatibility, but also that users won’t ever have to worry about authentication or license revocation. It is currently unknown if Amazon will be adding audio fingerprints or other watermarks to the music to tie an individual file to the downloader to help cut into piracy.
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