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Rhapsody Departs Stone Age, Supports MP3
June 30, 2008
Thomas Mennecke
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Out with the old, and in with the new, Rhapsody has introduced an alternative to its WMA and RAX file formats. Starting today, Rhapsody will sell its entire catalog of 5 million tracks in the MP3 format - something that music stores should have done from the beginning. However, there's a mighty presence to overcome, the Apple iPod.

With an iron clad grip that has yet to be shaken, Apple's iTunes has dominated the online music store market. It has overtaken Wal-Mart as the primary music retailer in the United States, and the remaining digital stores such as Napster and Rhapsody have struggled to retain their relevance.

The major problem of the smaller digital retailers is interoperability. Rhapsody, until today's announcement, only supported the RAX and WMA formats. Do you know someone with a portable RAX player? What about a WMA player? You could purchase a Zune with WMA support, but in an Apple dominated world, the Zune is lonely player with few friends.

The portable music market is dominated by the iPod and its kin, the iPhone and the iTouch. Unfortunately for the rest of the digital music store market, the iPod doesn't support RAX or WMA - but it gladly accepts MP3s. In fact, the end user can store hundreds, if not thousands of MP3s. But not RAX files and certainly not those dirty WMA files from Microsoft. With a near iPod domination of the MP3 player market, smaller retailers have found it next to impossible to compete with iTunes - let alone P2P.

This situation has pushed the smaller retailers into a corner, leaving them with little choice but to acquiesce. Starting today, Rhapsody is taking a big gamble by supporting DRM-free MP3s. Their entire catalog, according to Rhapsody's press release, will be DRM-free and available in the MP3 format.

"Beginning today, consumers can purchase MP3 music from Rhapsody and its partners that is free of the digital rights management (DRM) software that restricts how and where people can play their music. Any song or album purchased at can be played on any MP3 player, even an Apple iPod."

Rhapsody's position leaves it with little other choice than to accommodate the iPod populace. By supporting only RAX and WMA, Rhapsody found itself in a position impossible to overcome. The limitations to its growth weren't necessarily their own fault, but the fault of the MP3 device industry to standardize and take the consumer's needs into deeper consideration. Now that Rhapsody is open to the iPod community, it remains to be seen whether it’s DRM-free MP3 collection can make any headway into the iTunes fray.

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Authorized Music Store :: Rhapsody

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