The race for the perfect music cloud UX
In recent months we've seen Spotify, Amazon, Apple and newcomers Rdio all ramp up thier offerings to take advantage of cloud based systems and streaming subscriptions. Each of them appear to be in a service design race to get all platforms and levels of distribution just right, so they are the first to unlock the world's desire to discover and manage their music, in a way that fits seemlessly around their lifestyle.
Spotify obviously have the streaming library sewn up, but seem to be angering devoted users by changing their free services. Apple obviously has its devices and the iTunes music store (which I maintain is a terrible UX) with all major labels signed up, but no streaming capabilities to speak of. Amazon has the access and infrastructure to deliver cloud based services, as well as distribution of music, but no devices or music management tools. At this time only the US and Canada can access Rdio - so it's unknown brand in Europe.
I'm excited to see which one solves all the service issues first and delivers a UX that allows versatility, access with a pricing structure that isn't prohibitive. I'm also excited where the UI design goes in these developments. To date everyone has followed the creaky format laid down by iTunes. Even Spotify, with all of it's fine detailing and simplistic interaction design, is based largely on the list and column approach.
Perhaps it will be an in-browser function like ex.fm or perhaps Last.fm will come back to life? I don't know which way it will fall, but I am sure that this is a defining time for digital music and UX design will play a major part in it.
#### Update 10/05/2011 ####
Google appears to be entering the fray with the launch of its own music service, creatively named Google Music.