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More Clouds of Music - Why Use MP3tunes?

More Clouds of Music - Why Use MP3tunes?

Several net giants have launched personal cloud music services this year. This week we saw Apple unveil iMatch and Google trumpet the official release of Google Music. It's flattering to see others imitate our pioneering MP3tunes service. Here's my brief assessment of the various services and how they compare with MP3tunes.

- Storage becomes cheaper
Google is putting its massive file data center to use and offering 20,000 files of storage for free. Apple charges $25/year for 25,000 songs. Amazon does unlimited storage for a "limited time" for $20/year. It's not clear what happens after the limited time. MP3tunes charges $40/year for 50GBs. Google's move definitely puts pressure on competitors, but read below about why this isn't nearly as good as you might first think.

- Formats and bitrates matter and they're not all the same
Google Music only accepts MP3 files. Any files not in MP3 are converted before uploading. This is why it takes much longer to upload songs to Google than other comparable services. Converting from one format may lower the audio quality. For any matched song Apple provides a 256K version. MP3tunes and Amazon always upload the native bit rate and format.

- Combining stores with lockers
Google joins Apple and Amazon by combining a store with their music locker. However because Warner Music Group views Google as a piracy enabler they're refusing to allow Google to sell their library which means that Google's selection will be smaller than the other stores.

- Putting the Lock in Locker
Google Music allows downloading of tracks purchased through their store (2 times max), however anything you upload you can't download to your PC. Amazon's cloud lets you download individual tracks by selecting each one which is fine for handfuls but not if you want to copy all your music to a new location. Apple and MP3tunes do the best by supporting down-syncing which compares files in different locations and syncs to any location (or you can download individual files). Note: Google Music can cache files to Android devices which is a form of downloading.

- Streaming vs Caching vs Syncing Missing Tracks
There are 3 primary uses for personal cloud music service: streaming, caching and syncing. Google Music is focused on providing a streaming experience and since it's not possible to download tracks you've uploaded it's not useful as a syncing tool. Since it doesn't always store the original file, it will never be useful as a backup. Apple's approach is focused more on syncing making it useful to move music around and as a backup repository. MP3tunes allows streaming, downloading and syncing since it stores all files at their native resolution. Amazon does streaming with limited downloading.

- Americans have lots of choices, but outside the US it's MP3tunes only.
Google Music, Apple and Amazon are available only to US users. MP3tunes is available to all users worldwide.

- Limited devices to listen or unlimited
Google Music is designed for Android. Apple's iMatch for iPads and iPhones. Amazon's service works on Kindles. See a pattern? Naturally each provider shows a huge preference for their own devices. Best for consumers is being able to listen on ANY device from any manufacturer. Only MP3tunes has this because we believe in openness. We publish the technical specs for our service and invite anyone to build support for MP3tunes into their device. This makes MP3tunes work in the most places including all the smart phones but also other devices like net radios like those from Logitech and Grace Digital as well as video devices like the Roku. (Watch for some big name audio device companies debuting more devices which support MP3tunes at upcoming CES show in January.)

- More than music, radio too
One of the epiphanies we had at MP3tunes is that people listen to radio 5 times more than their personal music collection. Any cloud audio service needs to support radio as well. So MP3tunes works with - a service which records radio for listening anytime on any device. If you've ever used a DVR like Tivo then you'll appreciate DAR. More than 16,000 AM/FM radio shows can be recorded and deposited into a personal locker for later listening.

All these music clouds are making the forecast overcast. Generally that's bad, but in this instance it's all good for audio lovers.

-- MR

CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Google converts all files to 128k MP3. This was incorrect. They do convert everything to MP3 but not to 128k. Read more here.

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