I’m finding the iTunes Genius feature to be pretty disappointing … The sidebar function is simply a re-branded mini-store from previous versions offering a mix of things I own and offers the usual :30 sec sample limitation. The Genius playlist function could be a whole lot more interesting than it is, but only shows me music I have in my collection … why? This seems like a massively missed opportunity enable rich discovery yet only looks to your collection to create a genre-based playlist. I can already do that, though perhaps instead of taking one click on an active track might take a few more clicks and random shuffle.
If I were Zune or Nokia, I’d be all over this as discovery and the subsequent purchases could really differentiate. Zune has announced their plans to offer Channels which are genre “stations” that sync to your portable player just like the Zune cards of your friends. These are features that can really start to show the power of the subscription model. Add to this the ability to sync over the air and you’ve got a very dynamic portable experience. It’s unclear what Nokia’s intentions are around discovery, but Comes With Music should reveal itself shortly and offer a large catalog of opportunity to subscribers. The current music store offers over the air purchase and download and the CWM package will do the same. Too bad there’s been no announcement (or discussion) around the US market yet.
It’s impossible to know whether Apple’s move here is an intentional decision or something that’s really just a limit of per track DRM. Subscription music (rental or own) is infinitely more flexible and lets you easily experiment with new music while per track, only lets you sample in small bites paying as you go.