Creative Labs eases music downloads

Digital entertainment products distributor Creative Labs has announced the first integration between an online music store and digital music player in Australia.The company claims the result is a service "equivalent" to that of Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Digital entertainment products distributor Creative Labs has announced the first integration between an online music store and digital music player in Australia.

The company claims the result is a service "equivalent" to that of Apple's iTunes Music Store.

The Creative Music Store is a partnership between Creative Labs and digital music provider Soundbuzz to create a so-called "digital music ecosystem". This, the companies said, would allow customers to install music management software on their players. Customers who have the software can then directly download music purchased from the online store onto their Creative digital music players rather than undertaking a laborious, multi-step process.

Soundbuzz Australia general manager, Paul Buchanan told ZDNet Australia  the service represented an "alternative" for non-iPod users. With the predicted entry of iTunes Music Store in Australia, Creative Music Store is targeting a niche market for consumers who download songs in WMA format and not the Apple AAC format.

Buchanan clarified that purchasing music through Soundbuzz is not exclusive to Creative users. However, those with Creative players can download software from the Creative Web site to enable the direct download of their purchased music without having to go through a browser.

The technology is similar to the iTunes Music Store, whereby iPod users can purchase songs and drop them onto their players using an integrated application.

"We can't really prepare for the entry of iTunes in Australia but it is necessary to enhance the digital music experience. This is an alternative for consumers when deciding what device to buy," Buchanan said.

Creative Labs Australia marketing manager, Nick Angelucci, said plans to team up with other online music stores such as BigPond, Optus or Destra will be "discussed later on".

"We know where our strength is," Angelucci said. "We actually do look at our competition, Apple, with great interest. They have grown their market in another direction from us. A lot of people compare the products and they come to Creative. We will see growth, Apple will see competition," he said.

Angelucci said the Creative software is the choice in-between the "simple features" of iTunes Music store and the more complicated Windows Media Player. Certain features are also exclusively available for other Creative products such as the SoundBlaster hardware audio range.

"If you use WMA music format but don't like Windows Media Player, then this is an alternative," he said.

According to Buchanan, Soundbuzz has worked closely with record labels and other music industry players over the past five years to "commercialise and grow the Australian digital music industry".

"This has involved negotiating licences and building a database of content from major and independent music labels worldwide. That commitment now enables us to offer a single source of more than 250,000 music tracks -- with many more to come -- directly to owners of Creative devices," he said.

Soundbuzz is expecting to get Universal Music Australia on board later on this year.