DRM's Dead! Long Live... Dell?
As we've noted before, the move to DRM-free tracks won't be enough to help the labels break the iTunes hammerlock on the digital music market. But it does open things up a bit for new entrants, whether they're distributors or hardware makers. While Apple is still a closed system -- only iTunes players can play iTunes tracks -- going DRM-free means that music purchased from stores like Amazon, or loaded onto players (presumably) like Dell's new gadgets can also be moved onto iTunes players. That is: the new services and players are at least partly compatible with Apple, which is something you couldn't say before.
Dell would offer a subscription service for their music catalog instead of a per-track purchase model, so in a way that's still a form of DRM. But you could still load music that you already own onto the device in addition to the subscription offerings, and you can purchase music from all sorts of vendors these days. It just might work. We hope they're smart enough not to make the player chocolate brown.