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Comparing Apples to Apples (umm, no pun intended)

You will notice that when you start to work with the URGE music store that it has similarities to Apple's iTunes Music Store. Both are part of the music library software, both feature exclusives, both are very easy to navigate and both have powerful search features. So what separates both of these services?

First, let's look at the exclusives. URGE appears, from the current beta release to be focused on pop music. For example, the exclusives are from big names such as Ashlee Simpson. In contrast, Apple has a much broader range of exclusive content. This may be due, in part, to iTunes Music Store having 2+ years time in the market.

The second difference is in the way you buy your music. Apple has always kept to the 99 cents for every track, because Steve Jobs maintains that customers want to tangibly own their content.

URGE, too, has a single price, but in addition, URGE supports Microsoft's Plays For Sure subscription service. This means, for a fixed monthly fee, you can download as much music as your heart desires. You can then also move the music to your Plays for Sure music player. You can't burn CDs, but isn't that soooo 2001? What's to talk about? I mean, why burn a CD for 12 tracks when you can have up to 2,000 in your MP3 player?

A third difference is support for podcasts. Podcasts are free music and video subscription services that have re-energized radio over the Internet. Anyone and everyone is doing podcasts these days and iTunes has supported podcasts for a year. Strangely, neither URGE nor Windows Media Player 11 support podcasts.

Finally, a big win for URGE is the simple, but effective way you can bounce around the store. iTunes, while revolutionary two years ago, has not changed a whole lot. URGE allows you to easily find an artist you like then find similar artists by type, genre, or by many other means. URGE is really easy to use. For me, this made up for the missing podcast support.

Figure 2 shows you how easy it is to jump to main sections of URGE from anywhere in the store:

The big question you have to ask when developing these new types of customer experience is this: what is our core competency? For Microsoft it is technology. You see this with the Windows Media Player—it's easy to use, integrates tightly with your current music library, and gives you choices. For MTV their core competency is marketing music. There is no doubt that the king of music marketing is MTV. Through the power of the many MTV cable channels they should have no problem marketing iTunes Music Store to death.

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