A BusinessWeek article on MusicGiants: tackling one of the objections to current online music – lossy compression: Is This Digital Music’s Future? [pdf]
[A]nother question is going to become an important issue for an increasing percentage of consumers: Namely, what will the sound quality of this music be? Today, songs pulled off the Net are skimpy facsimiles of the ones you get on a CD. They’re highly compressed — stripped of millions of digital bits that leave them with about one-tenth of the data found on a CD track (that’s assuming the typical “bit rate” of 128 kilobits-per-second). You can transfer the files fast, but the sacrifice is sound quality.
That’s fine for now, since most people listen to digital music on their PCs or MP3 players — devices normally used with cheap speakers that mask any sound quality deficiencies. And compression has played a vital role in the development of the market so far. It’s the magic that makes iPod-mania possible, by enabling even tiny devices with limited storage to carry thousands of songs.
But if the digital music revolution is to reach its full potential — an all-digital future, perhaps, in which CDs racks are no longer needed — analysts say the industry will have to hit a far better-sounding note. Already, tech-savvy consumers are dabbling with ways to distribute their digital tunes more freely, to play them on their good living-room speakers, wall-rattling home theaters, or slick car audio systems.
[…] MusicGiants offers some interesting features that provide a glimpse into the future of digital music. The service is clearly designed to be used with a big-screen TV in the living room, not the PC in the den. The company has designed a wireless keyboard and handheld mouse to navigate the site, and three remote-control manufacturers are designing compatible models. And the uncluttered user interface was created with the technically challenged in mind. It’s devoid of geek-speak. Rather than “rip,” for example, there’s an icon simply labeled “Copy from CD.”
Related: Some frank talk from another BusinessWeek Q&A article — A Cacophony of Music Formats
Reader James Morse asks: I’m confused about which digital music player to buy, an iPod or an MP3 player? Why are there different formats? Can either play the other’s format?
[…] There are lots of technical arguments about the virtues and flaws of each of these formats and protection schemes, but it’s really all about locking users into certain services and devices. The net effect is to make things very confusing for consumers.