Writer, Analyst: Microsoft's Janus Will Level Online Music Battlefield

In more coverage Tuesday on Apple, Technology Review published an article by Eric Hellweg that said that the battlefield for online music downloads is about to change considerably. That change is Microsoftis Janus technology that allows users to take subscription (rented) music on their digital media devices, something heretofore impossible. Mr. Hellweg believes that Janus will allow iTunes Music Store competitors to take away Appleis market share.

The issue here lies between Appleis market dominating iTunes Music Store, which holds some 90% of the market for songs purchased online. That leaves 10% to be split amongst Appleis various competitors, a small slice of the pie for any one of them.

The one area that Appleis competitors have had some success with, however, is with subscription services. A music subscription through Napster or one of the other services allows users to have access to hundreds of thousands of songs, but only as long as the subscription is current. If a user downloaded 10,000 songs, enough, say, to fill a 40 gigabyte digital media player, those downloads would no longer work should the subscription lapse.

For those who enjoy the kind of variety that offers them, the fact that they donit own the music isnit an issue. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, on the other hand, has gone on record as saying that the vast majority of people do want to own their music, and that Apple would not be offering a subscription service.

So far, that has been borne out, but Mr. Hellweg said that a major stumbling block for subscription services is that users couldnit take their music with them on their non-iPod music players. Janus promises to change this by making it possible for rented music using Microsoftis Windows Media digital rights management can be taken with users on their players.

"When the subscription services become portable," wrote Mr. Hellweg, "the effect should be nothing short of revolutionary -- immediately leveling, if not reversing, the current iTunes-dominated digital music market."

You can read Eric Hellwegis full arguments at Technology Reviewis Web site.

Mr. Hellwegis arguments are being echoed by Yankee Group analyst Mike Goodman, though in substantially less detail. In coverage of Appleis announcement that 250 million songs have been downloaded from the iTunes Music Store, CIO Today quoted Mr. Goodman as saying Apple will lose market share by not offering a subscription service.

"Tethered downloads include the best of both worlds," Goodman told CIO Today. "The two different models have existed simultaneously because of technology limitations. But that barrier has fallen by the wayside."

You can find that article at CIO Today.