Hewlett Packard, one of the biggest desktop manufacturers, has announced its plans to operate a music download and streaming supscription service called MusicStation, operated in conjunction with a company called Omnifone and installed by default on all of their new PC’s, desktops and laptops alike. This service looks set to enter the market and compete directly with services like Emusic and Spotify, charging a monthly subscription, variable by territory, but coming in at around $14.50 USD. The service will allow subscribers to stream and listen to as many songs as they like, and keep 10 DRM free downloads forever, even after they cancel their subscription.
The User Interface will have to be good to justify the premuim over Spotify’s sub price, although the ability to keep downloads is an incentive. The service seems a sort of halfway house between the bigger success stories of the nascent digital music market, iTunes, Emusic, Spotify… Even though it’s not a particularly innovative product, HP have a similar advantage in that they can build hardware that interfaces smoothly with their software, and get their product in the hands of anyone who buys their machines, just as Apple do with their desktops. That said, Microsoft’s Zune failed to make the impact they’d hoped, despite the fact that it had some nice functional advantages over the iPod and their software runs on the vast majority of PC’s worldwide. Given the facility with which software can be obtained, I think HP’s project will live or die by the quality of its interface, and keeping up with Spotify on that front will be a hard task.