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Yahoo Unlimited … Well Almost

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I finally got a chance to play around with Yahoo Music, and after reflecting on this for a while, I have come to few conclusions. This clearly is bad news for others who are playing in the subscription space, and it is not going to have much impact on Apple’s iTunes, despite the slight negative reaction from the stock markets. I think this will be a service that will act as a deflationary force in the subscription music business.

Yahoo has set the floor, and anyone who wants to win is going to have to come below $60 a year price. Yahoo will see an initial spurt because of its network. It happened before when Yahoo messenger was launched, and despite being a free service, it has not been able to knock AIM and MSN from their respective perches. Same is going to happen in the music business as well. Its aggressive moves will result in desperate counter moves, just not from Apple. (I don’t think Apple is going to sit still – they will let these guys duke it out, establish the market and then launch a premium subscription package, just like it did with a hard disk player, and a flash MP3 player.)

I look at the service – which runs only on WindowsXP, relies on Internet Explorer, and supports just ten devices – that still doesn’t integrate Yahoo’s own Music Match service, was rushed to the market. Why? Is there a rival out there which is about to introduce its own package, prompting Yahoo to rush the service to the market. Now I admit, this is pure unadulterated speculation, but given that Yahoo most of the time released fully baked and nicely garnished products, this one is setting my spidey-senses tingling.

(Still the price is very attractive, no complaint there, and could find most of my favorite artists, and the songs I like. The subscription model is something I have a tough time grappling with – I like the idea and music availability, but hate the idea of yet another subscription bill. But that’s just me, and I am sure others have different opinions.)

Recommended reading: Playlist magazine’s review by Christopher Breen and Rags Gupta. ANother alternative opinion from Anders.

7 Responses to “Yahoo Unlimited … Well Almost”

  1. Beta = Limited, not Unlimited

    I’m glad Yahoo is getting into this and their service shows promise, but you hit it right on the head, Yahoo rushed this out. Thier “beta” is far from a Google “beta” – plus you’ll find that “Unlimited” is narrow.
    1) When you search for music you get many results, but you will often find many albums/songs you cannot download or even purchase. I guess they don’t yet have the rights to them yet. You’ll often find a few of an artists CD’s available and only ones that are 2-3+ year old.
    2) The bundled LaunchCast further increases your frustration in that it plays many current songs (randomly), but you cannot download/buy. (so they have them on the network, but can’t distribute for the same reason above?)

    If Yahoo get’s their licensing deals fixed, it will be a decent service, but right now it’s *very* frustrating.

    The software itself will need a lot of polishing, streamlining and more power and organization features.
    The plugin idea is novel, but several available are equally alpha/beta, and some look like hacks because of the limited nature of the plugin framework.
    Would be nice if Yahoo picked up the network plugin and supported/enhanced it. It will be key to support UPnP devices around your home to access/play music from your primary.

    One plus for smartphone users, integration is solid.

    In the end, the software is beta, and until licensing is resolved, the service is limited, not unlimited.

  2. Raghav, how long has it been since MTV still cared about music? All I ever see on that network are marathons of the Real World, Road Rules, and Pimp My Ride, with the occasional lame video game special thrown in for good measure. Even MTV2, which was supposed to be nothing but videos, has succumbed to this drivel.

  3. I downloaded the program and it works great. However, I don’t like how Yahoo! forces Messenger down your throat when you install the program with the option “Install Music Service only” set. You’d think that Messenger would be removed with this option, but it isn’t. Then when Yahoo! is finished it dumps an icon on your desktop and in the QuickLaunch toolbar, just like every other annoying, overbearing program out there. Finally Yahoo! hijacks your file type associations even when you tell it that you don’t want it to be your default music program. Luckily I have foobar2000, which nipped that in the bud right away.

    The service has a much cleaner interface than Napster and the quality of the files are better (192 kbps versus 128). So for right now I’m a happy customer. Yahoo! just needs to clean up their installer act a little bit; it’s reminding me of AOL at the moment.

  4. “but hate the idea of yet another subscription bill. But that’s just me, and I am sure others have different opinions.)”

    Well.. not quite. At the end of the day its all about price. Would you mind a subscription bill if it were a dollar a year? I didnt think so.

    But what you are really doing is admitting that even when the price dips below a point that it is irrational to dislike the subscription model that you still may not like it… just because.

    This is a healthy admission! Get it out of your system. Because at some point people who enjoy music “grazing” which isnt everybody, but is lots of people, will find the all you can eat model financially irrestistible.