Amazon launches Spotify and Apple Music competitor
Amazon has an advantage over both Spotify and Apple, neither of which have standalone hardware which competes with the Echo. Photograph: Mark Lennihan/AP
Amazon has launched Amazon Music Unlimited, a competitor to Spotify and Apple Music, as part of the company’s push into music streaming.
Amazon Music Unlimited, which will initially only be available in the US, is a head-to-head competitor with Spotify, charging the same $9.99 (£8.15) monthly fee as that service. But Amazon is attempting to beat the streaming service on price when it comes to certain target markets. Amazon Prime customers, for instance, can pick up their subscription for $7.99, a $2 a month saving on competitors.
More interesting is the discounted version for owners of the Amazon Echo, the company’s smart speaker family. For $3.99 a month, they can get an Amazon Music Unlimited subscription which will only work through their Echo devices.
Amazon is hoping that some AI features in the new service will mean that customers will switch to Amazon Music Unlimited. Photograph: AP
That tier gives away why Amazon is making this new push into the space. While the first generation of music streaming was focused on the desktop, and the second on mobile devices, the company sees the home as the site of the third battle. On that turf, Amazon has an advantage over both Spotify and Apple, neither of which have standalone hardware which competes with the Echo.
Spotify does integrate with the Echo, while Apple Music works through some dedicated devices such as the Apple TV, but Amazon is hoping that some AI features in the new service will mean that customers will switch. Users can ask their Echo speakers — or their smartphones running the Music Unlimited app — to play songs by simply quoting lyrics (“play me that song that goes ‘scuse me while I kiss the sky’”), songs from a specific time in an artists’ career (“play me Oasis songs from before 1997”) or songs described by a particular adjective (“Play me happy songs”). It’s a world away from the simplistic integration that Spotify has with the Echo, and from the extent to which Siri can control Apple Music on iPhones or TVs.
Similar to Amazon Echo, Google Home ties into the search company’s Google Play All Access streaming service. Photograph: Google
The features are more squarely aimed at Google, which just released its own Echo competitor, the Google Home. That is capable of similar functionalities, and ties into the company’s Google Play All Access streaming service.
Of course, Amazon customers might be feeling slight deja vu at the idea of an Amazon music service. The company already has an unlimited streaming product, Amazon Prime Music, which is included for free with Amazon Prime. It advertises “a million songs”, and “hundreds of hand-built playlists”, and is already the default service for the Echo when it ships. Amazon Music Unlimited promises more songs.
It’s not the first time Amazon has competed with itself in this way. The company offers two unlimited reading services with a similar divide: the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, bundled free with Prime, lets Kindle owners borrow one book for free every month, while the Kindle Unlimited service is a $10 a month feature that lets users read as many books as they want.
There is as yet no date for a worldwide roll out of Amazon Music Unlimited.
Originally published at www.theguardian.com on October 12, 2016.