The debut of Microsoft and Sanity’s digital music store – announced at the end of January and one of the centrepieces of the Australian Windows Vista launch event – has been inexplicably delayed until at least mid-June.
The service was originally scheduled to go live in April; a monthly subscription costing “less than a couple of CDs” would give users access to a catalogue of over a million songs and “up to 300 new tracks per month”.
A spokeswoman for Sanity said: “we’re probably launching mid-June now.” She declined to comment on what caused the delay.
Microsoft, despite being a partner in developing the store, refused to comment on the delay, claiming it was “a Sanity announcement”.
Microsoft has spoken freely about its intent to launch an Apple iTunes Music Store rival since September last year, claiming it would be ready upon Vista’s Australian debut.
The fact that the store has evidently been in development for some time suggests the delay may be intentional, possibly so the launch coincides with the Australian debut of Microsoft’s Zune music player.
The Zune was launched in the United States late last year but has yet to make its way to Australia. David McLean, the regional director of Microsoft Australia’s entertainment and devices division, has confirmed the Zune will come to Australia but a specific date has not been revealed.
A Microsoft-backed online store, coupled with the Zune, would help break Apple’s iPod-iTunes market stranglehold. The iTunes Music Store has sold over two billion songs and the iPod owns 75 per cent of the digital music player market.
In a statement distributed at the Windows Vista launch event on January 30, Microsoft said: “The Sanity service will give Australian Windows Vista customers access to more than 1 million tracks to download via Windows Media Player 11 and will offer both subscription and purchase options when it goes live in April 2007.”
Tracks purchased from the store could be played on music players using Microsoft’s digital rights management technology – such as those produced by Toshiba, Samsung, Creative, iRiver and SanDisk – but they would not be compatible with the iPod.
Similarly, songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store can only be played on iPods unless they are manually converted to an open format using third-party software.
But unlike iTunes where users pay per song or album, the Sanity/Microsoft store’s subscription model means you will only be able to play a song as long as your subscription is current.
A pay-per-song model could also be offered, but further details are not yet available and specific pricing has not been announced.