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Music and video: the iTunes challenge has begun

Armies are deployed on the hills. The baggage carriers, the last latecomers, arrive. The first rifle fires are beginning to be heard. The umpteenth final attack against Apple and its iTunes Music Store began.

What is scary in Cupertino, if someone fears, not so much the single blow, as the myriad of big and small shots that are coming. From Japan, for example, where Sony BMG experiments with Playlouder MSP a peer-to-peer network on a closed network owned by the same Playlouder for the exchange of music files between users. How do you pay? Forfait, with a subscription and above all with a metric guaranteed by the same network that allows to know how many copies are propagated in the fenced network. The advantage is all in the infrastructure: with the P2P system the servers are those of the customers and those who sell save on the datacenter.

But the others are not watching: even Warner enters the battle with his new eLabel, the all-digital music label that allows artists to keep control of their work and distribute through the network. No cd, no printing and distribution costs, only a little problem of visibility. But the initiative strongly desired by the managers of the American company (which in the past had already made some ruinous attempts) have come to say that the role of the record companies is to "give customers the product in the form they want". One step closer.

Finally, the British try it with, an initiative of BiBC, British Internet Broadcsting Company (which sounds like the best-known BBC, but in reality semi-unknown), presenting a small catalog of Vhs-quality films to be downloaded at prices higher than those of a rental but lower than the sale. They start with some B-movies and some music videos, promising blockbusters for the fall. Obviously, compatible only with Internet Explorer for Windows.

If the assault on iTunes tries to get the best of the mass and not the quality of the offer, certainly a signal that Apple will have to deal with a more mature market full of competitors this winter. It remains to be seen how Steve Jobs and his people will want to re-establish an innovation gap that is slowly filling up. Perhaps with new services, perhaps with new products. And, perhaps, with some announcements also in Paris, at the end of September, during the AppleExpo …