It looks like the local record companies and distributors have finally acknowledged that South Africans do download music (and that the Internet exists) as iTunes has finally officially launched in South Africa. From today, users can purchase music and music videos in iTunes in local currency (about R6.99 each). Mail & Guardian has more details. This must also mean that Xbox Music will come next. But does it mean movie streaming is almost here as well?
It seems that South Africa is finally on the map when it comes to music. In August of this year, Simfy launched, bringing South Africans a proper music streaming service in the vain of Spotify (Simfy is a successful German-based outfit). With that having happened and iTunes finally in South Africa, it seems that whatever it was that was blocking this sort of thing from happening locally (most probably the record companies) has been removed. Rumours around Xbox Music coming before the end of the year now seem more plausible than ever.
Xbox Music, which launched in October, is Microsoft's answer to services like iTunes, Spotify and so on – and also it's answer to its somewhat failed Zune service. With Microsoft's recent push to integrate its services on all devices with the launch of Windows 8, it may be that Microsoft's push into the music streaming and digital selling business was the big name needed to get South African record companies to make a move.
iTunes 11 was launched just a few days ago and sports a redesign
The service offers streaming and downloadable options. It works well with the Cloud so that across your Microsoft devices you can listen to your music. In select countries, streaming of music is free for the first six months of sign-up – but a disclaimer at the website says this is limited to ten hours a month . There's no news on whether this will be the case in South Africa as well.
Of course, the big key there is that it works over Microsoft devices – unlike Simfy which works on Android and Apple (with a Windows Phone app still to be supplied). Simfy, much like Xbox Music, also offers the same features with downloadable music, except that – unlike iTunes – tracks are not yours to keep. They must be played through the service's app. Xbox Music is the same.
Cost-wise, users will need an Xbox Live GOLD membership (you can get a 12-month membership for R299) and an Xbox Music Pass – $9.99 (about R82) a month – to take advantage of the whole service. Obviously South African pricing is not yet confirmed.
It's worth noting, however, that Simfy costs R60 a month and gives a more freedom if you're not tied into Windows. At R6.99 a song on iTunes, you can buy about eight or nine songs before you reach that budget – almost an album's worth. But then the songs are yours to keep, of course.
Xbox Music on Windows Phone 8
All this makes me ponder if next year we're going to most definately see movie streaming services move into South Africa. DSTV is moving quickly in this vain but if Xbox brings Netflix in as part of its service, the landscape will change completely.
Naspers' CEO Koos Bekker has stated in an interview with Moneyweb that DSTV's biggest threat will come from the Internet, not another satellite service.
“We don’t fear another conventional old style TV service,” he says. “What we fear is some sort of Netflix that sits out in the States and they offer what we offer on the Internet.”
He may be saying such things because Netflix is actually on its way. And with both broadband and even mobile offerings getting significantly cheaper next year – and Telkom's open communication around bringing in very fast lines next year, starting with 40Mbps lines, the landscape may look very different in 2013.
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