Apple’s Year? Or Napster’s?

2004 looks set to be a busy year for online music both sides of the Atlantic and Apple are cropping up out of every nook and cranny.

Firstly rumour has it that Apple are set to launch a new ‘mini-I-Pod’ which will retail at a comparable price to entry level music players. This would be a welcome addition to the market and certainly spur more widespread adoption outside of the more affluent segments of the population. (It would be great to see Apple also start to introduce extra feature sets to iPod, such as radio tuners, digital recording functionality (both from audio outputs and via ambient mics) and colour screens. Just to name a few!)

Apple appear to have found something of an unexpected ally in Real Networks who are to launch their own digital music service that will use the AAC codec. However iPods will only play the files back if Apple license Real’s DRM so this is perhaps more of an attempt to strengthen the anti-WMA camp rather than to support Apple per se.

Still on the subject of Apple (they’re everywhere at the moment) they are reported to be in a race with Napster to be the first entrant to the European market with an online music service. I had said that I expected them both to be here by Q2 next year. I think that is still the more likely but they seem keen to get here this quarter. If that happens then I can’t see them having licenses in place for more than a few markets. Either way, both will be welcome additions to the European market.

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