Going nuTsie: Melodeo Looks to Beat Apple to the Punch with New Cloud-Based Music Service

1/14/10Follow @gthuang

Things have been crazy busy over at Melodeo for the past month. I don’t think any of those guys took time off during the holidays this year. As I detailed in a story earlier this week, the Seattle-based company has been ramping up its long-standing efforts in cloud-based music delivery ever since Apple acquired its closest competitor, Palo Alto, CA-based Lala, last month.

Yesterday, Melodeo upped the ante on the whole field of streaming music, which, besides Apple, includes players like Pandora and Rhapsody (from RealNetworks). The company officially unveiled the details of its next version of nuTsie (3.0), its flagship software application that works with Apple’s iTunes. It sounds like the company’s most ambitious offering to date, and the service is supposed to launch on Google Android—and presumably other platforms—sometime this quarter.

As Melodeo executives explained it to me, nuTsie 3.0 gives any smartphone or Web-connected device the full capabilities of an iPod music player. So what? First of all, there is a big market for people who use iTunes but don’t have an iPod or iPhone—more than 200 million consumers, according to Melodeo. So nuTsie can give these people access to their music wherever they are, for far cheaper than an iPod, and on their existing device.

Second, nuTsie 3.0 is supposedly better than an iPod, for three reasons: it wirelessly syncs with consumers’ iTunes libraries (add a new song and it shows up on all devices—“nobody has really cracked that,” says Melodeo vice president Dave Dederer); it does “smart caching” of songs, meaning it accounts for limited storage space on devices and makes a consumer’s top songs available for plane rides and other off-the-grid times; and it lets users discover new music in an unlimited, full-track way.

nuTsie song list on Nexus One

“We’ve taken recommendations, top 100 radio, and your friends, and brought them together,” Melodeo CEO Jim Billmaier told me recently. He also mentioned that the new service will extend to video, podcasts, e-books, and other digital media.

In terms of the technology, the new version of nuTsie is different from the previous version in that it takes consumers’ actual music files and puts them in a “private cloud,” Dederer says. So people will have full control over their iTunes, instead of having their playlists streamed to them in “shuffle” mode.

With its new product announcement, Melodeo is looking to beat Apple to the punch in offering a full-service Web-based platform for music and other entertainment. We’ll be watching closely to see what happens between these two companies, and others, in the months ahead.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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