Oboe is your iPod everywhere

Moving in while Apple dozed

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Analysis Now we know why MP3.com founder Michael Robertson hired 'DVD Jon' Lech Johansen.

As we reported earlier today, the serial entrepreneur's company MP3Tunes has launched Oboe, a limitless online locker for the iPod that lets you play your digital music collection from anywhere, with a web browser and an internet connection. And not just iTunes - it supports WMA and Ogg files too.

Oboe preserves your iTunes playlists and drops into iTunes as a simple plug-in: and it uses Bonjour (formerly Rendezvous) system services.

Oboe isn't a file sharing service, but it opens up lots of intriguing platform possibilities - Robertson pledged to open up the APIs to third party developers and device manufacturers.

And rather more obviously, Apple could well have introduced such a service as a premium extension of its .Mac subscription offering, but didn't. Robertson told us he wants to put some innovation back into a market that has stagnated since Apple launched its iTunes Music Store two years ago.

First things first. though, how is Oboe legal? You'll recall that at MP3.com, Robertson offered a service that allowed people to listen to their music collections anywhere too, but this was thwarted in the courts by the Recording Industry Ass. of America.

"At MP3.com we failed in the courts because we were using music that we'd previously digitized ourselves, and the RIAA said that you copied our music, so you violated our license," he told us today.

"This time consumers are uploading their own music to our store. With Oboe it's like a photo service, and customers are responsible for uploading their content."

Because Oboe isn't anonymous - it's a pay-for service that requires credit cards as authentication - Robertson doesn't see copyright abuse as being a big problem. Sharing isn't permitted and the company has an incentive to go after login abuse because a shared login is a potential user lost.

It's similar in some ways to Orb, which allows you to stream music to any device - including phones - as well as share pictures. But Orb doesn't maintain a copy on its servers.

What about the unlimited storage commitment?

Next page: DRM sore exposed