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MacWorld Disappoints Fans. Has Apple Gone As Far As It Can Go With Music?


At yesterday's MacWorld keynote, Steve Jobs unveiled no new major music initiatives at iTunes or with the iPod line. Jobs said that iTunes had passed the 4 billionth track download, but that represents a slight slow down of growth. No iPod numbers were shared, but again analysts suspect that sales growth is slowing.

Those same analysts were less than impressed by the announcements that Jobs did make yesterday including movie rentals at iTunes and an amazingly thin new MacBook Air. The stock market reacted sending Apple's stock down $5.45 by the end of trading on Tuesday.

Music industry observors had hoped for an Apple subscription music service or expansion of its wirelesss download platform, but Apple hinted at no such initiatives. And after claiming to be the original DRM-free warrior, Jobs' puzzlingly slow roll-out unrestricted tracks on from indies on iTunes coupled with a failure thus far to match Amazon's DRM free deals with WMG and Sony BMG is causing some to question his sincerity.

The industry wide roll out of DRM free music has punched huge holes in Jobs' closed iPod/iTunes ecosystem that may never be repaired. For the moment at least, Amazon has assumed the roles of both innovator and music industry darling; and others are poised to compete as well. There's a deep pocketed and highly competitive Microsoft plotting their next moves. Rhapsody has a freshly minted MTV alliance and promises innovation. Napster and Yahoo Music both still seem determined to find a business model that works. And then there are dozens of startups with plans to meet some barely recognized consumer desire and grab a piece of the Apple pie.