Amazon’s intrusion into all civilized areas of commerce continues apace with the launch today of its on-demand streaming service, Amazon Music Unlimited, even as the Wall Street Journal reports that it is preparing to build small grocery stores that would stock perishable items as well as, possibly, convenience stores modeled on discounters such as Aldi.
“The Seattle company aims to build small brick-and-mortar stores that would sell produce, milk, meats and other perishable items that customers can take home,” sources tell the WSJ’s Greg Bensinger and Laura Stevens. “Primarily using their mobile phones or, possibly, touch screens around the store, customers could also order peanut butter, cereal and other goods with longer shelf lives for same-day delivery.”
Amazon declined to comment on the effort, which is reportedly known internally as Project Como.
“For customers seeking a quicker checkout, Amazon will soon begin rolling out designated drive-in locations where online grocery orders will be brought to the car,” Bensinger and Stevens continue. “The company is developing license-plate reading technology to speed wait times.”
While they are waiting for curbside pickup of goji berries and lacinato kale in their Zipcars, they presumably will be streaming their favorite tunes on Amazon’s answer to Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play Music.
Like those streaming services, “and virtually every other option out there, any consumer can pay $10 a month for an ad-free, on-demand catalog of tens of millions of tracks. And people who are already paying for Amazon's Prime membership program get a discounted rate of $8 a month, or $79 a year, to unlock the new full service on top of their $99 annual cost for Prime,” points outCNET’s Joan E. Solsman.
“But if you're willing to make Amazon's Echo speakers your only source for listening, you can get the service for $4 a month, the cheapest option out there for commercial-free, fully on-demand tunes.”
The “long-rumored” service is a “relaunch” of the currently free — to Prime members — Prime Music service (which has a limited play list), The Verge’s Dan Seifert informs us.
“It has a catalog of ‘tens of millions’ of songs (Amazon’s Steve Boom tells me it has deals with all three major labels, in addition to ‘thousands’ of indies); a recommendations engine to surface new music; both algorithmic and hand-made playlists; and apps for Android, iOS, Sonos, and desktop (plus Amazon’s Fire tablets and set-top boxes),” Seifert writes.
But the basic Prime Music, “featuring a growing selection of two million songs, always ad-free and on-demand,” is still available as a free membership benefit.
“What makes Amazon Prime Unlimited most interesting is its ‘Echo-only’ plan,” writes Sarah Perez for TechCrunch, pointing out that it's available on all models of Echo speakers. “If you’re hesitant to leave your preferred on-demand service, the Echo-only price is just affordable enough that you don’t really have to. And, at this price, it may even appeal to those who weren’t in the market for an on-demand music subscription.”
And, as it gets to know you, the less likely you’ll have to endure Justin Bieber en route to Leonard Cohen.
“Not only does it allow you to cue up songs via simple voice commands, Alexa’s machine learning makes the experience ‘more conversational and personalized’ over time, Amazon claims. For instance, you’ll be able to ask it to ‘play music’ and it will start playing songs that are already personalized to your tastes,” Perez reports.
Also, “instead of fiddling with a phone, a customer can simply give the speaker commands like, ‘Alexa, play the new Bruno Mars song,’ and the track starts immediately,” reports Ben Sisario in the New York Times. “Echo speakers can also be used to get access to other streaming services, including Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio, but its more advanced features, like combing through lyrics, will work only with Amazon’s service.”
Combing through lyrics? “Alexa, play that song about a telephone call I can’t get out of my head” will presumably launch Adele’s “Hello.”
“We think the next phase of growth for streaming is really going to come in the home,” Steve Boom, Amazon’s vice president of digital music, tells Sisario.
And who would have guessed that it intends to be right there with us as we put away the fresh produce we picked up curbside from an Amazon bricks-and-mortar on the way home from work?