Apple's Music Store - The Future of Music

Apple just launched it's on-line music service this week, selling tunes at $0.99 a piece. Here's an article about the service from today's Globe and Mail, which is a Canadian national newspaper:

If major labels put more and more focus on these web-based services, will there come a day when CD's, SACD's, LP's, etc. will no longer be available? Since I question the quality of MP3 and PC-burned disks, how will the audiophile market be served?
Well, there are still LPs, and look how long vinyl's been dead.

I think, at least as far as pop music is concerned, we're headed back to the 50s, when singles (aka 45s) dominated. Jazz and classical will hold on to the prerecorded disk much longer, both because of the nature of the art and because their audience is older and less computer-centered. At some point, everything will be available for download, and everyone will see that as the normal way to acquire music. At that point, hi-rez disks (and that may include CDs) will become an audiophile fetish, offered at audiophile prices. But that day is still a long way off.
I don't that it is quite the "Future of Music", but for many people it is a convenient, guilt-free way of obtaining music online. The ability to purchase a couple of tracks from a disc is a great achievement of this service. That it is being done by Apple is icing on the cake for many.
Myself, I'm not interested. I work in the IT industry and spend plenty of time in front of (and behind) computers. I have no desire to spend any time listening to music on any of my computers.
I have but don't often use the mp3 capability of my handheld computer. Also, I rarely find myself in a place where I want to listen to my mp3 player.
I find that going through the effort of ripping cd's and then burning them to an mp3 player or another cd is just not worth it.
Of course, I also realize that my views do not reflect that of the majority of the target audience of the major record labels.
The question touches on a lot of important issues (OS platforms, formats/standards, the role of p2p clients,...) some of which were discussed in a similar thread. If something like Moore's Law applied to bandwidth and storage to a degree comparable to computing power, then we might expect future formats with less compression than ones ubiquitous today, assuming there is/will be widespread consumer demand for greater quality. Even given that (dubious) assumption, the economics of hardware dictate that (relatively) cheap storage/playback devices geared to compressed formats will always be pretty pervasive. All things considered, it does not look like the pressure on the high-end/audiophile market will abate in the forseeable future, especially since formats are in flux and predominantly determined by mass-market players. We have BoD (books-on-demand), FoD ([legal]files-on-demand), Fz-o-D (filez-on-demand[via p2p]). It's a pity we don't have VoD (vinyl-on-demand) - and I don't mean ebay.

(BTW, I thought the G&M was THE cdn nat'l paper.)
Dmcewan, I meant to put a question mark after "The Future of Music", to indicate my wondering what the future of music storage/reproduction holds for those of us who look for quality. I have very little interest in burning, ripping, MP3's and so on. I spend most of the working day in front of a PC and try to avoid computers at all cost the rest of the time.

Agonanon, I will have to take the time to read the thread you kindly linked in your post. Thanks. I agree that it's a dubious assumption that there will be widespread demand for high quality digital/on-line music formats. Although Bomarc makes a good point about the long-rumoured demise of LP's.

(G&M was THE national paper in Cda until the National Post was launched a few years ago, although I've personally more or less ignored the existence of the latter)
Maybe it's just me, but I genuinely doubt that Apple's service is the "future" of anything other that a boost to a slowly sinking company.
I was reading a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed Apple's new music service just before it was launched. While Steve Jobs and company have done a good job getting a number of the major music labels to make their recordings available, it might be pointed out that you need a Macintosh computer to access the service.
And Macintosh is a fading computer brand. In the past decade they've slid from something like 9 or 10% of the PC market to somewhere around 3-4%. Unless they make the service available to the Wintel crowd - the service is doomed. I won't even mention Apple's sliding sales in the past two years. Just recently they cut pricing across almost all of their line, because sales were few and far between.
I also fail to see the commercial media industry fading away. How many people on this board actually listen to MP3s on a regular basis? Probably almost noone. And how many people do you know over the age of 40 who actually "rip" their music from the internet?? Again - most likely very few if any. The down load music industry is mostly driven by young people in their teens and early 20s - who will put up with second rate sound quality. Many are too damn cheap to actually buy anything - hardly an audience to try and sell a "legitimate" music service to. Anyone other than Apple's marketing dept. that thinks this service will be the "future" of music should see me about a bridge I would like to sell.
CD's may not go away soon but they are obsolete, this really is the future. The service is very customer friendly and makes a lot of sense for an ailing music industry. Music can be purchased and downloaded in seconds without traditional manufacturing, shipping, and channel costs. Also the convenience and portability of current playback devices shouldn't be underestimated. New ipods store, organize, and create infinite playback options for 7500 songs or over 600 CD's in a player about the size of a deck of cards, Sony has small self contained headphones that hold 60 minutes of music. I've been on the road for almost a month and without my ipod I wouldn't have had access to my music.
I have a few problems with this model. First, at $0.99 for a song I can buy the CD with the uncompressed Redbook audio for about the same price and don't have to worry about burning or transfering it to anything. Second, why do I want compressed crap. Finally, transfering songs to a portable device is a pain in the butt.

While I agree that eventually all music will be in a digital solid state format, MP3 is not the answer. We need better compression, or more memory capacity, easier and faster methods of file transfer, and lower pricing (after all the end user is underwriting the cost of manufacturing - ei portable device, memory, storage space, blank CDR's, CD-R drive, cases, sleeves, cover art printing, etc).

As for Apple claiming that over 1 million songs were downloaded in the first few days of the service; was that downloads of 30 second samples or actual purchases of songs. I think that it was just people listening to the samples. THere are other services that offer the same thing as the Apple service and they are struggle to sell anything at the $0.99 price point.

IMO MP3's are equavilent to the FM radio/casssette recording fade of the 80's. As a young man I would record a lot of music off of the radio (WMMR Sunday night Six Pack) onto cheap cassettes(3/$1). Thank God I outgrew this! So now, young adults download music because it's cheap. Let them get a job and have more responsibilities (children, home upkeep, etc) in their life and they will not have the time to download, rip, burn music.

A few notes and corrections: While the iTunes store is currently Mac-only, Apple's intention is to expand into the Windows market by the end of the year. (Apparently, part of their thinking was to work out any glitches in a small market, which Mac is.)

Also, Apple is not selling MP3s. It uses a different codec which is generally regarded as superior. It's still compressed, but what you buy should sound a lot better than a 128kbps MP3.

Finally, while Apple may have only 3% of the personal computer market, I believe the iPod is the best-selling portable music player. I can't vouch for the company's long-term financial viability, but if all you look at is its PC market share, you're missing a lot of what Apple has going for it.
In fact Apple has made strong moves in the direction of the music market with their acquisition of Emagic and their development of 96khz/24b support in their OS. Apple has always been a favorite platform in professional audio, and the Emagic involvement is suggestive of future directions related to audio.

Regarding some of the other comments above, recall that Intel announced support not long ago for SACD and 96k/24b as part of their next generation chip standard, with some wording implying that all pc's should have high resolution capability. I wouldn't discount high resolution distribution, it is much too soon to see how things will unfold in the future, but as long as there are markets for high quality audio, there will be some means to serve that market.
The exhortation to get big quickly should apply even post dot com bust. If Apple wants to see their model grow and expand, they would do well to heed their own company story (great initial innovations, but lack of widespread licensing), or to look to players such as Adobe with regard to pdf (adobe reader is everywhere on all platforms). Even so a freely distributed device independent music player or box is no guarantee of success when OS platforms with majority share are constant moving targets as e.g. Sun has learned regarding Java (Java virtual machine: write once, debug everywhere). Given low OS market share, proprietary compression creates a quandry in which it is difficult to achieve customer lock-in while inducing mass format adoption.
Very true, Agon, but remember that Apple has two scaling problems here. Problem #1 is the Windows market. Problem #2 is getting the music industry to buy in fully and make their entire catalog available this way. I suspect part of the go-slow approach here is designed to relieve the concerns of the labels.

As for the "proprietary" codec, it belongs to Dolby, not Apple, and as far as I know there's nothing to stop Rio or Sony from producing an AAC player just like they produce MP3 players. Granted, Apple made a big mistake 18 years ago when it decided not to license the OS. They can't make that mistake this time, because they don't control the licensing--Dolby does.