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More on Oboe

Last week we launched Oboe, an ambitious effort to get your music everywhere. I've spent the last week talking to press and users about it. Here are some of the interesting feedback, facts and questions.


"Seems handy."

- 8-year-old Sam Robertson's reply after his Dad explains Oboe to him

"...a very successful  implementation of a potentially profoundly new way of interacting  with one's music collection. ...Overall, MP3tunes/Oboe is a brand-new idea with huge potential, implemented in an elegant and user-friendly way. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months.  If the service is smart and responsive to user feedback, I could imagine it  actually becoming the 'hub of my digital lifestyle'."
- Blake Leyh, one of the first reviewers of Oboe

"I don't think Oboe is that significant because it's really just a digital version of what I can do in the physical world by carrying around my CDs."
- Reporter for major national newspaper who covers record labels

Biggest current Oboe locker: 40.28 GB
Average file size: 4.15 MB

Common press and user questions

Q: How can Oboe afford to offer unlimited storage for $39.95 per year? Won't big users cost you money?
A: Oboe's flat-fee pricing model is similar to a restaurant offering a buffet price. There will certainly be "buffet beaters" - people that  eat more food then they pay for, but on average the music locker should be small enough where we are able to offer a good service for $39.95 per year.

Q: Is Oboe the first music locker service?
A: In 2000, MP3.com launched my.mp3 and David Pakman launched Myplay. Both were music locker services that acquired millions of users, but were eventually shut down. Today a locker makes even more sense with the widespread proliferation of broadband enabling users stream their music from more places and sync their music to multiple machines quickly.

Q: Wasn't MP3.com sued for its my.mp3locker system? Why is Oboe different?
A: Yes, MP3.com was sued for my.mp3, but Oboe is different because consumers are requesting that we store their files which are uploaded one by one rather than from a master database of CDs the user and company had previously purchased.

Q: How does Oboe compare with some of the other locker services?
A:  Besides the music locker, Oboe also has a great list of music specific features not found elsewhere, like a full-featured web page playback so you can access your entire music collection from any browser, a sophisticated "Tune up" technology to make sure your tracks all have complete artist, album, track name and even track number info, side-loading from Firefox, and much more!

There are many types of online locker services: photo, video, email and even all-purpose sites that will store any type of file. But music requires a tailored interface because it is a unique type of content that you want to use repeatedly from multiple locations. Plus, you want the music to not just be in a folder on a computer, but to be on every device you want. Oboe makes it easy to sync your entire music library and playlists to any PC, and only Oboe does it effectively.

Q: Did DVD Jon build Oboe?
A: The Oboe project was well underway before Jon Lech moved to San Diego to work at MP3tunes. Jon pulled a few all-nighters like almost all the employees at MP3tunes to get Oboe launched.
Create a free locker

Q: Is there a free account so I can try it Oboe out to see how it works?
A: You can sign up for a free account at MP3tunes.com. You will be able to sideload and webload tracks using the nifty Firefox plug-in. So you can collect your favorite music files from around the net and load them into your locker. Then you can access your music from any web browser. You will not be able to sync your music with the free account - that functionality is limited to premium users.

Q: Does Oboe work with DRM files?
A: Digitally restricted files can be synced into Oboe and then synced to other computers. But they'll have the restrictions they had when they were purchased. Oboe doesn't alter any restricted files. Restricted files will be displayed in the web interface in italics but will not be playable.

Q: Does Oboe allow music sharing?
A: There is no sharing of music files, only the owner has access to their locker and that requires a password.

Q: Couldn't a user give out their password to multiple people?
A: The same question could be asked today with Apple's .mac accounts,
Google's Gmail account, Microsoft's Hotmail accounts or every ISP, cable
company and DSL company who all typically provide storage as part of
their service. All of those places provide areas that users can load up
with music files to redistribute if they choose to do so. And, in fact, most have ongoing file sharing happening - check out G2G Exchange.

This is much less likely with Oboe because we don't allow anonymous sign-ups like some of these other services. We don't allow "read-only" access - a password is ALWAYS required. We charge $39.95 per year for accounts while some of those others are free. And we have access controls built into our service. Additionally, account sharing would violate our terms of use and not make economic sense for us because we would lose money paying for bandwidth. So we're very economically motivated to make sure that doesn't happen. We need everyone to pay for their own account for our business to work.

Q: Have you heard from the labels or RIAA yet?
A: No, we have not.

Q: Do you think that Oboe is a good development for the labels?
A: Yes because it opens enormous economic opportunities to break out of the "every song for a dollar" iTunes strategy. By giving consumers more value such as files with less restrictions, higher quality and online storage, they can charge substantially more. A good example of this are cable companies who rarely raise their rates, but often charge more and give consumers more value in the process.
Take a look at the 105th largest music locker

Q: What is your locker envy ranking?
A: I'm a "Back-stager" with the 105th-largest music locker.

Q: Where did the Oboe name originate?
A: Oboe is a musical instrument which plays the A note from which all other instruments in an orchestra tune. We thought this was an appropriate analogy since we hope Oboe will be the music source from which all your music devices access your music.

-- Michael 
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