(1) With the aesthetics of its web-based interface aside—and I suspect even they’ll be fixed—Amazon’s new AmazonMP3 music download service is almost exactly what I’ve been waiting for, for years.
(2) Rather than offering something equivalent to or worse than standard iTunes downloads, Amazon’s default is a decidedly superior 256kbps, device-agnostic, no strings attached MP3 file for 89 or 99 cents, versus Apple’s 128kbps AAC for 99 cents.
(3) Amazon’s 256k MP3 format accomplishes precisely what people need, namely, a way to quickly and legally obtain high-quality music that’s ready for playback without going to a store, waiting for a delivery, or ripping a CD.
(4-5) The store’s 2-million-track library is also pretty impressive, and amusing mostly in that so many of the current top tracks and albums are ones Apple’s been promoting: Corinne Bailey Rae, KT Tunstall, and Feist are just a few of the familiar names, alongside $9 (!) albums from Kanye West, 50 Cent, and other top artists.
(6) Amazon also got a turnkey alternative part of its system right, letting you conveniently order an aggressively-priced CD if you can’t find the download you’re looking for, which you can’t do on iTunes.
(7-8) There’s no doubt that the breadth, depth, and ease-of-use of iTunes’ varied digital media catalogs is impressive. And let’s not kid ourselves here, if you’ve used Amazon’s Unbox video download service with a TiVo, you know that its downloads can be slow as molasses, and otherwise not as convenient as Apple’s.
(9) But—and this is a big “but”—iTunes has been in a weird holding pattern for the last year, waiting for the other shoe to drop on major studios’ video downloads, rentals, and high-definition support, as competitors have succeeded in making strides, perhaps through friendlier negotiating tactics.
(10) As an Amazon CD and DVD customer, I’m about to become an AmazonMP3 customer too, and given where Apple’s been going with video recently, who knows what other digital content I’ll be buying from Amazon in the future.
And now, two sentences on how iTunes can eat Amazon alive: true internationalization, with deals so customers anywhere in the world can buy content from anywhere in the world, sans hassles. Someone’s gotta do it, and it should be Apple.