On Wednesday Apple's iTunes will get their most severe challenger as MTV launches Urge, their online music service designed to compete with iTunes, in partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft will this week also launch the latest version of Media Player.
With the marketing muscle and brand awarenes that MTV has in the music market, plus the TV and media clout of MTV owner Viacom, and the new features in Media Player, Apple should be nervous, for this is their first truly serious threat in the non-iPod music player market.
And the makers of non-iPod players, including heavyweights such as Samsung, will also have a direct vested interest in making Urge a success, which could add even more marketing muscle. And they may well discount their players to gain traction against Apple's iPod.
At launch Urge users will able able to choose buying songs at 99c like with iTunes, but uniquely their users will also be able to buy all you can eat subscriptions that will cost $9.95 a month or $14.95 if subscribers want to load the music onto a portable player. iTunes does not offer a subscription service, although this launch may change that.
At launch, Urge will have more than 2M music tracks from 110,000 artists, 500 playlists, 130 streaming radio stations and more than 20 specialist ‘blogs’. Which is one heck of a start.
Mind you Apple has a massive head start and a larger playlist, with 3M music tracks. Apple has sold over 50M iPods and has created a popular brand name and a highly desirable product. They also have nearly 70% of all legal music sales, with the next competitor, Napster taking just over 4%!
But Apple must now take extreme care that they do not throw the digital music market away as they did with the PC. To defend their position they should lower iPod prices, launch an iTunes subscription service, offer more video content, particularly films and chuck a boatload more money at marketing.
If not, they may regret Urge's launch this week even more than they have already been made to regret the launch of Microsoft's Windows back in the eighties.