But DRM aside, there is more good news in Apple's recent announcement of upcoming changes to their iTunes store.
First, in addition to being stripped of DRM, all songs on iTunes will now be AAC encoded at 256kps. Previously, some songs were available without DRM and at 256kps (designated as iTunes+), but until now the only major label that had agreed to sell their music in this format was EMI. By the end of March, everything on iTunes will be available exclusively in this higher bit rate format and much of their catalog has already been upgraded.
Many audiophiles would probably argue this point, but in my experience, digital files ripped using AAC encoding at 256kps sound very good (nearly indistinguishable from uncompressed CD-resolution files). Files that have been encoded using lossy compression algorithms like AAC or MP3 are not the same as uncompressed files (information has been lost) but they do have the potential to sound very good if the sampling rate is sufficiently high. In my experience with AAC encoding, 256kps is high enough to sound excellent in most cases, while 128kps (the previous iTunes standard) is generally not.
iTunes users will be able to upgrade their library of previously purchased music at the cost of 30 cents per song or 30% of the original purchase price. Many will (justifiably) complain about having to pay for this upgrade. It is particularly irksome that you cannot choose which songs you want to upgrade individually (it's all or nothing). If you've downloaded a lot of music from iTunes, this could end up being a costly upgrade and not worth the expense. Welcome to the real world where it rarely pays to be an early adopter.
The second change at first glance also appears to be a mixed bag for the consumer. Apple plans to introduce variable pricing, something the music industry has been
These changes make purchasing music from iTunes a much more compelling option moving forward. The iTunes store remains the gold-standard in terms of ease of use, but it had been losing ground to the competition in terms of sound quality and pricing. These changes reverse that trend and will force other music download providers to improve their services or go the way of DRM.