Apple rolls out Web-based iTunes Preview
The iTunes outlet has one of the biggest record collections of any store, real or digital, but you wouldn't know it if you weren't on a computer that didn't have the software installed.
The preview feature lets users browse the music catalog by genre and artist. Albums are ranked by sales, as they are in the iTunes program, and pages contain track listings, pricing, reviews, biographies and other info.
Yet in order to listen to 30-second song previews or buy tracks, you still need to fire up the iTunes application.
But this finally provides an accessible way to browse for music to buy -- just in time for the holidays -- while at work or at the library, where administrators often frown upon installing third-party software like iTunes.
You can search for music using Apple.com's sitewide search engine. But strangely, iTunes Preview is having trouble executing searches from its pages. It's a new product, so we'll excuse the bugs.
Search, we suspect, is a big reason Apple rolled out the feature. As Google partners with music sites like Lala, Pandora, Rhapsody, MySpace and Imeem for its Discover Music search feature, Apple perhaps doesn't want to be left out.
With a Web page for every artist and album it sells, Google can now index those pages. With the might of the iTunes brand (and Apple.com domain), one would expect those pages to show up in search listings for major pop artists. That's SEO (or search engine optimization) at its best.
But in terms of utility, Apple is still a major step behind the other guys. A big focus of Discovery Music is the ability to listen to an on-demand streaming version of an entire song one click from the Google listing. With iTunes Preview, you need to fire up the software just to get a 30-second snippet.
-- Mark Milian