iTunes, Amazon Mp3, and the Capitalist Free Market Help You and Me

Apple’s iPod LineSince the advent of the iPod in October 2001 an entire new industry has been created: the digital content download industry. This new market has been created, led, and dominated by iTunes. But now that some serious contenders have joined the fray, the future could be very bright for digital music consumers. The price-dropping powers of competition are beginning to kick in and do all of us music lovers a big favor.

Thankfully, up till now,the Apple gods have not allowed greed to take hold in their ranks and Jobs and company have fault hard to keep the $.99 price point for music. In an attempt to up the ante, Apple began to offer DRM-free tracks for just $.30 more earlier this year. And to sweeten the deal they increased the bitrate quality of these $1.29 tracks.

Now that Amazon has entered the music download game with Amazon MP3 things have gotten considerably more interesting. With the $.89 price of it’s DRM-free tracks, Amazon challenged iTunes head-on. Even many iPod/iTunes enthusiasts and Apple fanboys in general began to see the value in Amazon’s sales model. And now Apple has dropped even their available DRM-free tracks to the basic $.99. There are perhaps Apple product fans out there who are so loyal to the “all things ‘i’ maker” that they would resist the rising up of such competition as is offered by Amazon. Even in my own experience I was face with those who wanted to debate why iTunes is still better. But how can they argue with higher quality tracks for $.45 less than the iTunes DRM-free tracks? How can one say that Amazon MP3 did not have a leg up on the competition? But I send a message to all the Apple fanboys (and fan-gals) of the world: Let not your hearts be troubled! Capitalism and good ol’ fashioned competition will win the day. This is a chance for Apple to really shine. We all know that no company knows digital entertainment the way Apple knows digital entertainment. The problem is that sometimes you can not tell whether or not a dog makes a good watchdog until there is a threat present. And as you can see Apple has delivered by considerably lowering its prices on DRM-free, high bitrate music.

I contend that it is only a matter of time that some company somewhere comes out with a legitimate rival to the iPod. Yes, it has to be considerably better than the Microsoft Zune (and perhaps not come in brown). The Zen by Creative has potential but not enough to make Apple quake in its boots the way Amazon MP3 did. And even if the iPod is severely rivaled or even dethroned for a season, I am willing to let that happen if it means that Apple could come buckle down and come out with some of their best products (at the best prices) ever. I believe in capitalism and the free market and I believe that the collective tastes and preferences of consumers give companies the best product ideas, but the creative wheels do not turn as well or as rapidly without the competition nipping at each other’s heels.

Long live capitalism!

Josh H.

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