Spotify, streaming and dying discs

Spotify's Daniel Ek
Can Spotify make a success out of apps?

It's amazing how quickly technology changes: when Week in Tech first wrote about DVDs the hardware cost thousands; now, DVD has been superseded by Blu-Ray and you can get a decent player for as little as £65.

Our round-up of the best Blu-Ray players will help you find the right kit for under the TV - but chances are it's the last disc-based movie or music player you'll ever buy.

We've mentioned the death of the disc before, and the nails in its coffin keep on coming.

Microsoft's boosting its cloud-based SkyDrive service to encourage us to store stuff on its servers rather than on our hard disks - something that'll come in handy when we're using Office on iPads - and streaming music service Spotify aims to render the CD even more rendundant than it already is.

According to Spotify boss Daniel Ek, "Spotify's mission was simple: give people access to all the music all of the time. And make it legal."

Rather than owning music, Spotify thinks you should just stream it - and to make that easier and more entertaining, it's announced an API (Application Programming Interface) that enables developers to create Spotify apps to help you find music, discover lyrics or anything else music-related.

Our columnist Gary Marshall thinks it's "an enormously clever idea", but the idea of Spotify "getting third parties to plug the holes in its product and provide it with content for free... [is] quite breathtakingly cynical."

Spotify Apps: bothered?

Marshall points out that not everybody loves Spotify - artists such as Coldplay, Adele and Tom Waits didn't put their recent albums on the service, fearing lost sales - and warns that "instead of being destinations in their own right [app developers' sites] are becoming spokes in Spotify's wheel."

So are those spokes any good? Kate Solomon has been kicking Spotify's virtual tyres and found them to be something of a mixed bunch.

"While some of the apps are simply album reviews with a one-click process to get you listening to the album in question, others are much more ingenious and go some way to solving the music discovery problem that Spotify has always had," she says. While The Guardian's app is pretty hopeless, others are much better and the app is "the shining jewel in Spotify's app-laden crown".

It's not perfect. Some services are US-only, others aren't much cop and Solomon wonders if Spotify's got its priorities straight: as she points out:

"We published an article on 8 things we'd like to see from Spotify in August 2010 and thus far only folders for playlists have come to fruition." Nevertheless it's an interesting way for Spotify to broaden its appeal "and we can't fault Spotify for not just resting on its laurels".

Spotify isn't the only streaming service we've been playing with this week: we've had our hands on OnLive and Gaikai too. Can cloud-based gaming really deliver the goods given our crappy, congested broadband connections? Phil Iwaniuk found out.

It's definitely cost-effective: "Think about how many big-budget single player blockbusters you've played recently that were over in a matter of hours. If you could have bought a three-day pass for them, how many hundreds of shinies would you have saved?" Iwaniuk writes.

But it won't tempt the hardcore just yet, not least because while lag has largely been addressed some of the visuals are akin to YouTube clips rather than crisp, clear HD:

"Hardware manufacturers are unlikely to go bust at the expense of cloud gaming. PC traditionalists will always want to own and play their content locally, enthusiasts will gladly pay £500 for a graphics card and twitch gamers will always look to gain a technological advantage over the competition."


Liked this? Then check out Hands on: Spotify Apps review

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