Yahoo has taken aim at the grand-daddy of the online music distribution business, Apple and its iTunes music store. So what? They’re hardly the first to try. But if the Yahoo! Music Engine (hereafter known as YME, why can’t companies come up with good names?) is a success you may never buy music again.
DISCLAIMER – This is a first look at a decidedly beta product, many of the issues I am about to grumble about will no doubt be fixed between now and the final release, but since they unleashed it on the general public as is, it is only fair to point out the bugs.
YME is a reasonable capable iTunes clone from an interface standpoint. If you are used to iTunes than you’re transition will be smooth, everything is in pretty much the exact same spot, just a little more purple. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I like both Apple’s take on the music jukebox and The Color Purple.
YME will manage and play back most major formats (minus Apple’s protected AAC) including Ogg Vorbis, which is nice to see. It will also keep an eye on directories for new music, something that iTunes lacks. This can be handy if you have music files mysteriously appearing on your system. In a strange quirk, it will ripe music into several formats, including mp3, Ogg and AAC but not into the wmp format.
The YME has a Now Playing list much like Windows Media Player or WinAMP. This is a feature I’ve missed in iTunes, it lets you easily build a temporary playlist which I appreciate.
The playlist functionality of YME is pretty pathetic though. Whereas Apple gives you powerful tools to automatically fill your playlists, Yahoo thinks you should manually fill them all.
YME does include visualizations, though they seem to be mostly the same lame ones that come with Windows Media Player. Can you say, “Looks like a bad plug-in for WinAMP 3?” Not even a tenth as slick as Apple’s visualizations, it also lacks a full screen mode. The one pictured below is a little trippy though, started out with a slightly twisted collection of smiley faces and only got worse. Much worse.
Ok, that’s it for the ho-hum stuff.