By Robert Menta- 01/06/2000
In an interesting move that will benefit two growing players in the digital music arena, AOL and Liquid Audio have formed an alliance that will port Liquid Audio's competing compression scheme to the number one MP3 player on computers to date.
Hoping to strengthen their role as an online music provider, AOL acquired Winamp and is busy using their muscle to evolve the software from an MP3 player to a digital music player. There are over 50,000 singles - legal mind you - in the Liquid Audio format that Winamp will have access to. This includes those on Amazon's Free Download section which presently run half MP3, half Liquid Audio files. Additionally, Liquid Audio tunes have been added to Playlist-to-Go, a feature of another AOL aquisition, Spinner.com.
Liquid Audio stands to gain from this alliance on several fronts. First of all, MP3 users don't have to download yet another proprietary software to play Liquid Audio files. Liquid Audio files can be added to the same playlist as MP3 files, a convenience to users. Most important, it gives Liquid Audio a wider audience too, a very important point as more competing digital music compression schemes come to market.
On one side you have the mighty Bill Gates with his Windows WMA format, which just recently dislodged Real Audio as the sole streamed format on Yahoo's netcast site. On the other you have Sony whose new ATRAC3 format, while not yet a major player, will be the default format for tunes in Sony Music's very extensive library. Throw in Lucent's and AT&T's formats as well as Real Audio and you have the makings of one ugly cat fight.
No doubt there will be casualties. In fact, some industry wags feel that so many players will only succeed in canceling each other out, thereby strengthening rather than replacing the MP3 format.
Bottom line, we are in chapter two of what may become a VERY interesting soap opera.
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