“Apple Computer’s iTunes may dominate the legitimate market for digital music, but that doesn’t mean the company’s competitors are sitting still,” Troy Wolverton reports for TheStreet.com.

“On Tuesday, Time Warner’s AOL division relaunched its Music Now download service, adding streaming Internet radio and thousands of music videos. Separately, start-up company SpiralFrog announced a new advertising-supported music download service that will feature music from Vivendi Universal’s Universal Music Group,” Wolverton reports.

“One thing that could hurt both services is their choice of encoding technology. Music Now relies on Microsoft’s (MSFT – commentary – Cramer’s Take) Windows Media software. Although SpiralFrog has not given out many details about its service, a source close to the company’s deal with Universal said that SpiralFrog also will likely rely on Windows Media,” Wolverton reports.

Wolverton reports, “The problem for both companies is that Microsoft is coming out with its own music service and portable player — dubbed Zune — later this year. Zune will be incompatible with the Windows Media players and download services. While Microsoft has said that it will support both the Zune and Windows Media formats, some observers have questioned its commitment to the latter, given the Zune effort.”

“Perhaps more critically, it’s likely that neither Music Now nor SpiralFrog will be compatible with Apple’s iPod digital music players. iPods account for more than 75% of the digital music players sold in the U.S., meaning that any service incompatible with them will have a very limited market,” Wolverton reports. “Although analysts have long touted subscription services, they’ve largely struggled against iTunes, not to mention the illicit file sites.”

Full article here.
Puleeze. What’s next, more Tommy Lee billboards in Times Square? These aren’t “iTunes wannabes” or, Jobs forbid, “iTunes killers.” These are lead balloons. These outfits, like all the others are just trying to grab for Apple’s paltry leftovers. And good luck to them. Competition is good, but – call us crazy – we’d like to see Mac users included before we jump onboard with any of these outfits.

After all, Apple’s iTunes serves both Mac and Windows customers, as does Apple’s iPod. Obviously, all of these services feel they need to use Microsoft’s DRM (now cracked wide open, BTW). Why they make this decision is another question, as using Microsoft’s DRM has proven to be a death sentence for many services for years now.

Boil it all down and the basic question still remains: why can’t Microsoft make a DRM that’s Mac compatible? What exactly is the problem, Redmond?

Related articles:
Universal Music and SpiralFrog to launch free ad-supported music service – August 29, 2006
AOL revamps online music outfit; still iPod- and Mac-incompatible – August 29, 2006
Microsoft’s PlaysForSure cracked: FairUse4WM strips Windows Media DRM – August 25, 2006
NPD: Apple retains huge lead with 75.6% share of U.S. music player market – August 17, 2006
More blood on Apple iPod’s Click Wheel: Dell’s ‘DJ Ditty’ flash-based MP3 player is dead – August 22, 2006
More blood on Apple iTunes Music Store’s play button: MyCokeMusic is dead – June 20, 2006
More blood on Apple iPod’s Click Wheel: iRiver gives up on digital media player market – May 23, 2006
More blood on Apple iPod’s Click Wheel: Sony’s Walkman Bean is cooked – February 13, 2006
More blood on Apple iPod’s Click Wheel: Dell dumps ‘DJ’ hard-drive MP3 player line – February 04, 2006
More blood on Apple iPod’s Click Wheel: iRiver pulling out of Europe? – February 01, 2006
More blood on Apple iPod’s Click Wheel: Thomson gives up on MP3 player, CE markets – December 12, 2005
More blood on Apple iPod’s Click Wheel: BenQ withdraws from MP3 player markets – November 28, 2005
More blood on Apple iPod’s Click Wheel: Olympus halts production of portable digital music players – November 09, 2005
More blood on Apple iPod’s Click Wheel: Rio is dead – August 26, 2005
Apple’s iPod has blood on its Click Wheel: Virgin Electronics is dead – March 08, 2005
Apple’s iTunes Music Store has blood on its play button: BuyMusic.com is dead – March 28, 2004