Music downloaders face player vs. music store codec issues

Just when we thought the Betamax vs. VHS tape standard decision was long gone, we are encountering the same problem again, but with digital music services.  MP3 was the first main standard and this was fine even when hardware based MP3 players came along.  However with its lack of DRM support, this is why legal download services began using their own formats.  First it was AAC for iTunes and then WMA for several other services such as Napster, OD2 and MSN Music club.


Now Sony are following Apple’s move by using its own ATRAC codec and using their store to promote its ATRAC compatible devices.  Before a consumer decides on a download music store to get music for on the move, they must ensure their portable player is compatible with it or get a suitable player.  Despite the wide range codecs, they all claim CD transparency at around 128kbps and use some sort of restrictive Digital Rights Management (excluding MP3) to satisfy the music labels.


One problem the consumer faces once they own a portable player is that they are locked to their current provider or what ever limited choice they have that is compatible with their player. 

In the age of instantaneous Internet downloads, music fans have more to consider than just the name of the artist when they buy a recording.

They must also familiarize themselves with a new lingo of geek-speak–an alphabet soup of compression technologies, codecs and DRM–if they want to play a song at all.

A format war has broken out among online music vendors, with competing compression and antipiracy software determining what songs play on what devices.

The latest to enter the fray is Sony. On Monday, the Japanese consumer electronics giant prepared to launch its Connect online music store in France, Germany and Britain.

Read the full story here.


I could not see many consumers happy if they purchased a DVD player only to find out it would only play DVD’s purchased from the store the player came from.  Now this seems to be just the case with online music stores, thus killing off competition.  For example if someone buys Sony’s latest HDD based Walkman, it will only work with Sony’s Connect service; much like Sony’s obsolete Betamax VCR which only worked with Betamax tapes. 


Feel free to discuss and find out more about music services on our Music Downloads, P2P & Legal Issues Forum.  For discussions on audio hardware, software and codecs, see our Audio Forum.

Source: CNET News – Music