Michael Robertson will announced details of his new music company, MP3tunes, at an upcoming Open Source conference next week. Robertson intends to launch a service that offers music which is free of any rights management, or DRM. He emphasised that MP3tunes would give consumers interoperability and choice. Currently, there are very few services online that offer users music free of DRM; AllofMp3.com, a service based in Russia, offer Mp3 downloads alongside other formats.
Robertson said "When I started MP3.com, the term 'MP3' was an obscure acronym recognizable only by geeks. Back then, we had to battle for the legality of MP3 players. But because of those early efforts, consumers now have a spectacular array of portable players to choose from. Today, certain market forces are trying to drive consumers away from MP3 towards proprietary systems, which lock out some consumers and force everyone to buy a particular company's player or software program. I wanted consumers to have more options, so I felt compelled to re enter the music space to bring the limelight back to MP3."
The service will undoubtedly fill gap for consumers who want similar rights with their music online as offline. Exactly how favourably recording companies will look on the service is unknown; indeed, what content the service will have when launched is also unknown; recent history would suggest that these companies won't be especially enamoured at the idea. Apple faced a tough battle with the recording industry when they started their iTunes service. The music industry allowed Apple to offer its content on the basis that Apple ensured there was a rights management system in place ot prevent piracy.
In other news, music bad boy "gone good" Napster is offering a new service geared up for mobile music players. Called Napster To Go, Napster will offer unlimited downloads for a monthly fee. The service will be launched with a blitz of publicity, including a $30m ad at the Super Bowl this Sunday. The Napster To Go service will offer a strikingly different option for users who want more freedom (and better value) than the current industry model offered by Apple.