iTunes faces tough competition from Spotify

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iTunes killer?

Online music service Spotify is challenging Apple as it aims to create an alternative to iTunes.

The company is extending many of its premium services, including an iPhone and iPod app, to non-paying members and encouraging them to import their music collection into Spotify, rather than Apple's competitor.

From 4 May 2011, Spotify will attempt to be the sole music management platform used by its 10 million members. Currently, only those who pay a monthly fee are allowed to import tracks bought through iTunes into their Spotify library.

That option will now be made available to all Spotify customers and they could soon be syncing all their music onto their iPods without going near iTunes as well as the ability to sync over their home Wi-Fi, something Apple's software still doesn't allow.

Emperor's new clothes

The move might be viewed as a way to pacify fans who were angered by recent restrictions. The limits saw the amount of music that free users can listen to halved and limited the number of times an individual track can be played to five.

Spotify hopes the innovation will breathe new life into its download service, which it admits in a statement has "been a bad experience" for users in the past. Indeed, Spotify appears to be emulating other music services by offering ways of buying as well as listening to music and creating an alternative music management platform.

There have been suggestions that Spotify would always lack the clout of Apple as people use iTunes because it's tied to their devices. Moreover, Apple offers access to the cloud and unlike Spotify, it has a billing relationship with users. However, the true success of Spotify's new approach will not be known until after 4 May.