It would be fair to say I wasn't overly impressed with Vodafone Music, the network's belated entry into the crammed online music download market. Well, this is a (belated) step in the right direction...
Vodafone Music is going DRM free and selling tracks exclusively in the MP3 format (bit rate undisclosed) ditching WMA. EMI, Sony BMG and Universal are aboard and as a nice bonus customers who have already bought DRM infested content can upgrade their existing downloads for free.
What is more, Vodafone is rolling out its DRM free services around the globe with Germany, Italy, UK, Spain and New Zealand all targeted in the initial deployment with Australia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and South Africa next up.
Now that's the good stuff over. Time for some harsh realities:
- Warner Music is not part of the deal and tying up the 'Big Four' is fundamental if you want to compete in 2009
- It's not coming quickly enough. The first batch of countries won't be upgraded until 'the summer', the rest "will follow in due course"
- Visually the site still looks like it came from 2005, it hasn't changed since launch and pricing is hidden away
You currently do not meet the minimum requirements to use the Vodafone Music site. This web site is designed to work on Internet Explorer 6 or higher and with Windows Media Player 9 or higher
Now considering the current browser wars show IE has approximately a 69 per cent market share that's over 30 per cent of potential customers written off before they get started. In fact, given its tech focused nature I suspect the proportions of Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera users will be a lot higher than that. Sort it out!
In sum: DRM free is a step forward, but in comparison to the likes of iTunes, Amazon MP3 and 7Digital Vodafone Music one step isn't much when you remain many hundreds behind...