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article imageEXCLUSIVE: Inside SpiralFrog Beta

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By Sarawanan Ravindran     May 14, 2007 in Internet
A look at the new internet downloading service that is sure to cause a stir in the music/video marketplace.
Back in January 2007 I showed how SpiralFrog may take on Apple's iPod+iTunes package 'SpiralFrog will probably take some of Apple's marketshare'. At the time I had doubt about whether this would be a quality product or if it would even see the day of light. But gladly my doubt was uncalled for and service is looking very good.
SpiralFrog is a service that provides free downloads of music and videos in return for watching and looking at ads. The service is fully legal, has support of major music industries and excellent sound and video quality. The service was intended to launch late last year, however the company behind it has had some trouble with it and it got delayed.
Now the beta edition of the service is available for Canadians. However, the beta process appears to be very limited and invitations are only slowly being sent out. However, if you reside in Canada I urge you to register for the beta because it truly is an excellent service.
Software & Service
Software that SpiralFrog requires you to download
Software that SpiralFrog requires you to download
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The service itself is mostly browser-based, but requires you to download a 'download manager' which is about 1MB in size. The download managers' true purpose is likely to keep the DRMs intact. The DRM of the files prohibits music and videos from the service to be burned to CDs/DVDs, played on Zunes or iPods or anything besides Windows Media Player.
The service itself is very easy to navigate through and you are likely to find the top billboard artist on it. If the artist is signed to Universal or Sony BMG you will likely find most of their tracks available for download. I have noticed on several artists pages that some songs from their respective albums are not available.
Tracks unavailable for download from  Eminem Presents: The Re-Up
Tracks unavailable for download from 'Eminem Presents: The Re-Up'
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The situation regarding the block on some albums appears to be the same issue that had happened with the Zune Marketplace's ZunePass program. I am unsure what the motive of the industry is behind this. However, if popularity of this service increases then the record label will likely add all their tracks for a bigger piece of the pie.
Advertisements
The ads were suppose to play a huge role in the project. However, the project does not include any 90-second ad ahead of download as speculated earlier. It actually only has two ads by General Motors for the Pontiac Wave and Saturn line. The advertising situation is in my opinion better than that of MSN.com and Yahoo.com. I'm not sure how they can pay off the amount of downloads with just two ads, but they appear to be doing it. This may however change when the product leaves beta and goes for a commercial release date.
iPod Competitor from SpiralFrog?
There was a lot of speculation going on ahead of even the beta release that SpiralFrog would partner with Samsung to bring a new device that would squash the iPod+iTunes combo. So I decided to contact SpiralFrog regarding this and yesterday I was sent this email:
Untitled
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Thanks for the suggestion, we're in fact looking to partner with a music phone manufacturer to create a competitive package to the Apple offering. A multi-purpose device (cellphone + portable music player) combined with free music to go should be a key advantage to take on the iPod/iTunes.
So it appears that instead of making an iPod competitor they will just go straight ahead and make an iPhone competitor. I am sure that there are lots of manufacturers that want to be part of this. They could actually partner up with Meizu which has announced an iPhone clone, supports DRM and is lacking a download service. But as suggested before, Samsung may have a better chance of doing this since they are better known.
Videos
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The videos are an important part of SpiralFrog. However, they seem to have been ignored slightly. The catalog of videos available from SpiralFrog is decent and provides most music videos with downloads. The quality is superior to that of YouTube and comparable to iTunes Video downloads. The things that SpiralFrog has ignored is a search feature for the videos and video integration with their respective albums. Something that they did well is provide a full-length preview on the site and a quick download to your computer.
Future of the Service
The service should open up to U.S. beta testers soon and launch their public version in late 2007. The service certainly has an edge with their free, legal, yet popular songs. The inclusion of mainstream artists will likely be the push that this type of service needs. My personal opinion is that this will cut straight into Apple's market share and it may make the marketplace more competitive as it moves forward.
I, for one, will be downloading loads of songs and videos from SpiralFrog that I usually wouldn't have been able to afford buying. For those songs that are either unavailable or really like, I will buy them on iTunes for the purpose of putting it on my iPod. But if SpiralFrog releases a nice music player, then my iPod will hit eBay and I'll use SpiralFrog.
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