According an article at the New York Times, Yahoo plans to launch an early version of a new flagship music service this week, in hopes of capturing some of the online music momentum now held by Apple Computer, sources familiar with the plans say.
The service, which sources say is expected to be released today, is built in large part around a monthly subscription plan similar to those now offered by Napster and RealNetworks, allowing customers to download music onto their portable devices.
Like other recent entries from Napster and RealNetworks, Yahoo's service will be based in part on Microsoft's Janus technology (the latest Microsoft DRM used in Windows Media 10 and 10 Mobile for Smartphones and Pocket PCs), which allows music from monthly subscription plans to be transferred onto some compatible MP3 players (called PlayForSure - which is support in parts by Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003SE and completely support by Windows Mobile 5.0). However, those songs will not work with Apple's iPod, which does not support Microsoft's technology (but its own DRM technology and media codec which is AAC instead of Microsoft's WMA).
Analysts say Yahoo has the potential to make a splash in the market, particularly if it uses the instant messaging link to full advantage. It will face the same hurdle as its predecessors in explaining monthly subscriptions to customers largely familiar with iTunes' 99-cent downloads, however.
Good to see more companies jumps onto the Janus wagon which supports Windows Mobile devices as long as they run Windows Media Player 10 Mobile. On the other hand, these initiatives gives carriers an even harder time to establish their music shops but to be honest - I prefer to have a carrier independent (and in best case device independent) music shop. If only all of them would use one single DRM and media codec standard to make purchased songs interoperable on all the music enabled devices.
UPDATE: According the Detroit Free Press, Yahoo is going to offer unlimited downloads from a library of 1 million songs for 6,99 US$ per month or 60 US$ for an annual subscription. That's a sharp discount from iTunes, Napster and Real Networks, where Napster and Real charge 14.95 US$ per month or just under 180 US$ annually, for similar services while iTunes isn't offering a subscription service yet.
Cheers ~ Arne