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A look at potential iTunes Killers

iTunes must be developing a bit of a complex, because every time you turn around someone else is calling something new the latest iTunes killer. The obvious target of that moniker these days is Microsoft’s infrastructure around the Zune. We’ll have to wait to see how that battle plays out over the coming months, but Microsoft is far from the only company to try to kill iTunes. Here is a look at five other efforts that can be turned up by a simple search for ‘iTunes killer’. There are plenty more where these ones come from.

This open source software launched to much hoopla back in February, but that frenzy of excitement doesn’t seem to have kept up since then. Songbird is a media player built on the Firefox platform, and it is dubbed the first Web player. Some have even called it iTunes without the music store. Some would argue that the music store is a pretty good part of iTunes. Make your own opinion of Songbird, but check out the cute t-shirt models on their home page.

This site is promising a revolution, but we’ve been waiting so long for this revolution to get underway that I can’t be sure that it’s a fight worth fighting anymore. The idea is simple and attractive – in exchange for looking at a few ads you can download free music. The site has signed up with Universal and EMI, so a wide variety of music will be available. The free music will be protected with a DRM and won’t support iPods. Once the service launches it should take about an hour and a half for someone to post a way to get around that protection.

The folks who have brought us the embarrassingly addictive Laguna Beach have also entered into the music business. MTV Urge is embedded into Windows Media Player, and it lets you buy music by the song or as a monthly subscription. It includes blogs from music insiders telling you what is cool like only MTV can. They even have a section in the FAQ which suggests how you might subvert the Apple DRM to get content onto your iPod.

The Korean giant is looking to take on Apple. They have partnered with MusicNet to develop a music service of their own. They are doing the smart thing, though, and seemingly staying out of North America. They will initially launch in Britain, Germany and for the iTunes haters in France, then move across the rest of Europe and into Asia. They reportedly have 2 million songs in their library, so those who can access it will have choice. Later this year, the service and stores will offer tunes to compatible Samsung MP3 and portable media players, including the K5.

Nokia partnered with Loudeye, a company that sets up PlaysForSure music stores for partners, back in 2004 to launch their own service, but it didn’t take off. When they decided to get serious about things they did what big companies do – they bought Loudeye. Loudeye has 1.6 million songs in its catalogue, so we can expect Nokia to use this in-house resource to create their attempt to dislodge iTunes from its lofty perch.

About T.O. Whenham

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