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Unfinished Business - Oboe

Four years ago I sold the profitable MP3.com to the largest music company in the world. A company I started in my living room had become the global digital music leader, helped establish MP3 as a worldwide standard, and made me financially independent. But I didn't accomplish all of my goals. I wanted to build the system that would move the music business into the 21st century.
Syncing in itunes

While at MP3.com I coined the term "music service provider" (MSP) to represent this future direction. It seemed clear to me that eventually your entire personal music collection, like all data, would be stored online. Once online, you simply request your music files be loaded onto any device you want to use. Or anywhere there's net connections you can play your music directly from servers. It's safe from theft or hardware catastrophes and infinitely expandable with features to help you organize, playback and find new music.

In 2000, MP3.com built such a system - a password-protected locker system called my.mp3 - and was immediately bombarded with an avalanche of lawsuits from the music industry. To load a locker, consumers had to insert an actual CD and then MP3.com would zap the tracks to their locker from a database of more than a million dollars worth of CDs MP3.com had purchased. It was a brilliant system because music fans got instant digital gratification and labels sold more CDs, since that was the only way to load your account. It did not obsolete the CD like other digital music initiatives but made CDs more valuable.

Not wishing to break their string of suing every new technology for 7 decades, the music industry sued us on a legal technicality. They claimed we infringed their copyright when we digitized the CDs initially. (Remember, we paid for the CDs and users had to have their own copy to gain access.) The music companies convinced one judge of their claims and the damages were so massive that, in spite of our undisputed evidence that the my.mp3 service actually sold more CDs, MP3.com could not even post a bond to appeal. So my.mp3 went away and a terrific opportunity for phenomenal and balanced technology was lost.
Take a look at the locker's interface


Since that time, data lockers have become increasingly popular. There are generic lockers that give you space for any type of files. There are specialized lockers for email (like Gmail), photo hosting and even video lockers like vmix (started by ex-MP3.com employees). But there have been no music lockers - until now.

I would like to introduce Oboe, a personal music locker to store all your music and make it accessible from anywhere on any device. Unlike my.mp3, users are required to upload all their own files. That was impractical in 1999, but doable today given broadband's widespread popularity. Oboe makes it a snap to sync all your files by providing easy to use software for Mac/Win/Lin. One click and all your music is in your online locker. From there you can sync them to other computers for offline playback or play them directly from the web interface. It even keeps track of all your playlists and moves them to the web or to another computer.

For iTunes users, we're providing a fantastic plug-in that makes iTunes even better. You can now sync your music directly from within iTunes. Click on "Oboe," enter in your account name and password and all your iTunes music and playlists are moved to your online account. Then you can move the music to another computer or stream it directly from your online locker in iTunes format. Oboe works with all types of music files including MP3, OGG, WMA, and AAC. It will sync files you buy from iTunes or Napster, but these digitally restricted (DRM) files won't play in the web locker interface.

Oboe is $39.95 per year and immediately available to users worldwide. It includes unlimited storage, unlimited syncing bandwidth and unlimited streaming at 192kbps. We are going to limit the number of Oboe sign-ups initially so we can ensure ample storage space and the best service we can provide for early adopters. A free account will be available for those who just want a taste of the technology. You won't be able to sync, but you will be able to start building your personal library by collecting any online track via our unique webload and sideload features and then stream those tunes.



The fundamental goal of Oboe is to make all your music available to you on all devices. Rather than lock you into a Microsoft "Plays for Sure" or an iPod monopoly, I want a world where you can play your music on products from any vendor and even across vendors. The first version of Oboe makes it possible to have your music on any PC - Macintosh, Microsoft Windows or Linux - and works with any music software. Before the end of the year, we're going to publish the Oboe APIs making it possible for your music to be zapped to any phone, PDA, tablet, game console or any other device with speakers.

In five years, carrying around an iPod and having to plug it in various places will be as quaint as carrying around a wallet of cash in our credit card society. It will be replaced by a smart net-based system which seamlessly moves any music you acquire or play-lists you create to everywhere you listen to music. That's the world I want. That's what Oboe will bring. I hope you'll give it a try and sign up today!

-- Michael
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