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MP3Tunes.com Offers 'Oboe' Online Music Locker

Posted by iNext - 2005-12-05

MP3Tunes.com LLC, a self-described Music Service Provider, has launched a new online music service dubbed "Oboe" that boasts unlimited storage capacity for digital music collections, the company announced Thursday.
Oboe is a virtual music "locker" that enables customers to store and access their entire personal music collections online.

With Oboe, users can sync their stored songs to any computer they have, and can also stream audio files from almost any Internet-enabled device, according to company officials.

"The Oboe service is good for backing up your music files, but it goes further than just [being] a storage facility," Michael Robertson, CEO of MP3Tunes.com told Ziff Davis Internet. "Once your music is stored in the online locker you can do some other interesting things too."

Each registered Oboe user gets a personal account, including a Web page, with accompanying Oboe Software Suite. The Oboe Suite installs tools that enable users to load their online music lockers via Macintosh OS X, Microsoft Windows or Linux computers.

Oboe Sync software works by scanning the user's computer for supported music files (including MP3, WMA, AAC and OGG formats) and then automatically loads those files to the Oboe locker.

"You can run the same software that moves the files to your online locker and it will sync those online tracks to a second or third PC so you can have all of your music on all of your different computers," Robertson said.

Once users sync their music to the Oboe locker, the service provides a Web page for access to the collection. The site interface displays artist, album and track information and has streaming capability, enabling the user to listen online at up to 192K bps.

"Let's say you're at your friend's house and think 'I want to listen to music,'" Robertson said. "It doesn't matter whether or not they have music software on their computer, you can still interact with your music through the Web page, with Ajax technology."

MP3Tunes collaborated with Ajax Technologies to offer users an Ajax music manager, accessible through the Oboe Web page. The music manager allows users to pause, skip or repeat tracks, create playlists, label music and control volume, without any additional software.

"In an orchestra, the oboe is the instrument that all other instruments are tuned off of, which is the idea behind what we're doing," Robertson said. "We're saying put your music online and whatever device you want to play it on, we'll make sure the music gets to that location."

The Oboe service features a Firefox plug-in. After installing the software, any time the user visits a Web site with embedded music links (for supported file formats), an icon pops up. The user can then opt to sync or sideload the track of interest, via pure volume servers, to the Oboe locker, according to company officials.

Oboe also offers iTunes access. A plug-in enables Mac and Windows users to get to their Oboe lockers by way of the iTunes software, by adding "Oboe" to the stored music section.

Users can click on the "Oboe" option to enter their iTunes account information. From there, they can sync their iTunes to the e-locker, to stream or view, but only within the iTunes application.

If a user attempts to access iTunes directly through Oboe, all of the iTunes-purchased files will be displayed in the locker, but won't play, according to Robertson.

"They'll be skipped over when the user picks a playlist in which iTunes are listed," he said.

The Oboe service offers both paid and free accounts. For $39.95 per year, users have unlimited storage capacity, unlimited use of the Oboe Software Suite beta, no bandwidth charges and 192K-bps streaming capability.

The free account is conceived of as a way for customers to see how the service works. It allows users to sideload music through the Firefox plug-in and play music from the Web interface. It doesn't, however, allow users to sync tracks from their PCs to their lockers.

Robertson, who sold his MP3.com digital music company four years back, helped to create a service similar to Oboe in 2000. A user of My.MP3 would insert a purchased CD into the computer and the service would transfer the tracks into the user's e-locker, via an online database in which the tracks were stored.

The company also purchased a number of CDs with which to stock the database, Robertson said.

The music industry sued MP3.com for copyright infringement, alleging that the customers weren't using their own tracks, but rather, the tracks the company had provided. The case went to court and the verdict went the way of the industry.

"The difference here is that the user is actually uploading their own file," Robertson said. "This time I didn't go out and buy a million dollars' worth of CDs to digitize. Our customers are using their broadband connections to access their own personal music collection."

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