In any event, the interesting twist in this story (aside from the importance of more DRM-Free music on the net) is Google's involvment in all of this. People don't usually associate Google with music services, but in conjunction with a new startup called "gBox," Universal will start offering their music in a searchable format that somehow also incorperates Google's Adsense. I'm not completely sure how this is going to work, whether gBox will be a specific client for music downloading, or whether is will simply host the conjunction of Google's ads and Universal's services. In any event, this music will sell for 99 cents a song (iTunes DRM-Free tracks from EMI are 30 cents more expensive) and a number of services outside of gBox will also offer these tracks.
I assume that because of the extra capital provided by the Adsense, both Google and Universal have had an easier time partnering and the cost of the music has been reduced to boot. Now, details like the bit rate of the tracks and the exact delivery method have yet to be released, but the service will go life on August 21st of this year and will tenatively end on January 31st, 2008. This end date seems to be a failsafe in case the pilot program fails and certainly if they make a lot of money, one might expect the companies to extend the life of the program.
All in all, this is a step forward for digital download music, even if it is a little bit of a thorn in Apple's side. It seems unlikely that Apple will be excluded from this deal indefinitely, but Universal may be wanting to play the field a bit before it unlocks its content to the download giant.
Universal to sell DRM-free music with Google’s help
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