If I had to put a bet on which company will put on the most pressure on iTunes this year it has to be Amazon...
Having run a highly successful DRM-free only online download store since launching in September (technically it's still in beta), there are now plans to finally launch 'Amazon MP3' worldwide.
Sadly however Amazon hasn't been too specific about the date(s) or whether it will be an incremental or simultaneous launch. In fact all we know is it will be during 2008... ho hum.
That said, Amazon has to be given credit for choosing to disregard the established DRM market completely and its approach has arguably done more to energise the development of DRM-free music than anything Apple has come up with to date.
"We have received thousands of e-mails from Amazon customers around the world asking us when we will make Amazon MP3 available outside of the US. They can't wait to choose from the biggest selection of high-quality, low-priced DRM-free MP3 music downloads which play on virtually any music device they own today or will own in the future," said a slightly smug sounding Bill Carr, Amazon VP of Digital Music. "We are excited to tell those customers today that Amazon MP3 is going international this year."
If I had to make a call on this I'd expect to see Amazon MP3 going live country-by-country, given the complexity of the various licensing laws around the world. Should this be the case, the UK, France and Germany are likely to benefit first with everyone else getting a look in around late Q3 / early Q4.
iTunes may not be running scared just yet, but with a brand as huge as Amazon it better be careful not to get too lackadaisical...