The Wall Street Journal’s Walter S. Mossberg talks about online music services in his latest Personal Technology column entitled Walt Rocks: Rating the New Music Sites. Mossberg compares Apple’s new iTunes for Windows offering to Musicmatch and Napster. He’s been using all three — including a pre-release beta version of Roxio’s Napster 2.0, due for general release next week.
Mossberg’s comparisons of cost, previews and format support come out pretty evenly, until he compares digital rights management — specifically on burning CDs using the music you’ve purchased online. “On this last restriction, Apple has an edge. Its Windows service, like the Mac service, allows any one playlist to be burned 10 times. On Musicmatch and Napster, the limit is five burns of any playlist,” he explained.
“Overall, I believe Apple’s iTunes is the best combination of a music store and jukebox program for Windows users,” Mossberg said. He called iTunes’ design “elegant” and “easy to use” and said that the iTunes Music Store had a large catalog. Mossberg also noted that iTunes is “the only Windows downloading service that works with the best, and most popular, portable music player, Apple’s own iPod.”
Mossberg also indicated that Apple has more exclusive music than its competitors, is the only one so far to offer audio books, and has other features to set it apart like the recently introduced Allowances and Gift Certificate features. Mossberg also said that Apple’s search engine is better than the competition, and features “the best interface for browsing by genre, artist and album.”
Mossberg does offer a few criticisms, such as iTunes’ lack of support for transferring purchased music to digital players beside the iPod, and notes the lack of subscription-based streaming services, which some competitors offer.
Mossberg’s criticisms of Musicmatch and Napster are more harsh. He said that Musicmatch’s combination of a new download store and old jukebox “doesn’t seem tight or very well done,” and complained about performance and user interface issues. He also indicated that his pre-release version of Napster failed to install properly, crashed and failed to import some music. He also called the software’s jukebox features “lousy.”
“I’m sure all three services will evolve and get better, and others will enter the fray. But, for now, iTunes is the best choice on Windows,” he concluded.