Mossberg: RealPlayer Music Store ‘not as good as Apple’s iTunes, but better than Wal-Mart’s entry’

“Legal music downloading is slowly gaining traction. More and more companies are offering online music stores, and the number of songs available at most of them has now crossed 500,000. Apple Computer, the first to offer a good legal download service, is still the leader, by far. Its iTunes music store has sold more than 50 million tracks since last April. Nobody else is even close,” Walt Mossberg reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“But recently, two other big names have launched their own music download stores to challenge Apple and to stake a claim before Microsoft jumps into the business later this year. One is RealNetworks, long a leader in digital audio. The other is Wal-Mart, the giant retailer. I’ve been testing the new RealPlayer Music Store and the Wal-Mart music download service, and comparing them to the iTunes store. My verdict: thumbs up to Real, but thumbs down to Wal-Mart,” Mossberg reports. “There are some drawbacks to the RealPlayer store. It sells songs in its own proprietary format, which only one portable music player, the Creative Nomad Zen Xtra, can play back. Apple’s downloads also play on just one portable device, but it happens to be the iPod, which is by far the most popular player. Wal-Mart’s downloads can be played on numerous devices.”

Mossberg reports, “The process of setting up play lists or searching for music is clumsier in RealPlayer than in iTunes. And, unlike Apple and Napster, Real doesn’t include historical Billboard charts, a very handy tool for finding music. Also, in the new RealPlayer software, album art doesn’t always show up, and when it does, it’s displayed as a tiny, blurry image. But, all in all, the RealPlayer Music Store is a winner. It’s not as good as Apple’s iTunes store, but it’s a worthy competitor.”

Full article here.

8 Comments

  1. The staff at Apple understands the music industry, from the artists to the listeners, and they know what music lovers want and need. Other companies are trying to jump on the bandwagon without a clue or interest in anything else but trying to shore up their own dwindling profits.

    Music, like other forms of art, is a personal love and the environment is not reproducible by programmers and CEOs whose only motivation is making their shareholders happy. Cheap web sites, cheap (small) selection/libraries, cheap encryption (WMA), and cheap players are not the stuff of music lovers.

    What these companies don’t seem to understand is that the iPod and iTMS are merely small parts in a much larger personal digital environment created by Apple. Trying to profit from just one part is pointless and destined to failure.

    Perhaps one day, international relations won’t be made by diplomats or the UN, but via one-to-one; an art student in Moscow will be sharing his music library with a retired pilot in Peoria and a soldier near Yangzhou… thanks to Apple.

    People will learn that hate is something drummed up by politicians in an effort to make some personal gain. Cheap, easy, global one-to-one communications is a government’s worst nightmare.

    Share your music; share your heart.

  2. I’m sure that cheap people like music, too. I’m just not convinced cheap people will BUY music online when Kazaa still exists. That little Rollback dude can’t rollback prices enough for people who buy into the Wal-Mart mystique.

  3. And I, for one, can’t wait until K-Tel launches their new music service – you’ll only be able to download music that will play on your 8-Track!

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