Late last year, rumors emerged that Amazon was in talks to launch a DRM-free music site to compete with iTunes. There had been talk that the company would launch some sort of music site for a long time, but the idea that it would be a DRM-free service was interesting because it offered a possible way for the company to differentiate itself from iTunes. However, iTunes ended up taking the play away from Amazon by starting down DRM-free path itself. So today's announcement from Amazon that it's launching a new music service with unprotected tracks from EMI and other smaller labels comes a little late. If the company had offered it sooner, it'd have been a genuine alternative to iTunes, but as it is, the offering doesn't look to be particularly interesting. The question, now, is whether the company will apply the lesson to its unsuccessful movie download service, which has been hampered by onerous copy protection and the attendant lack of usability. If the company wants to avoid being an also-ran, it needs to get out in front of Apple and be the first to explain to Hollywood why it would be better off if it dropped its useless insistence on DRM.
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