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WiMP Challenges iTunes, Beats and Spotify

Stocks in this article: AAPL

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Congratulations seem to be in order to Dr. Dre and his partners at Beats Electronics. If the rumors are correct, Dre (real name Andre Young) is about to be a very rich man should Apple (AAPL) buy his music streaming/headphone making empire.

While not confirming the actual selling price a friend's Facebook posting, last night, confirmed Dr. Dre may be coming into a large sum of money very soon:



All postings and mentions of the deal were removed from Facebook early this morning.

The deal could help revive and extend Apple's hold over the global recording industry, when it incorporates Beats' brand new streaming music service. Streaming services instead of downloading and storing music files are set to become the next big thing. Just ask the people at Spotify.

Spotify was launched in Sweden five years ago, and has become a powerhouse in the field. According to its website, Spotify currently has 24 million active users - one quarter who pay for advertising-free, higher quality music streams (320K vs. 128K). The company claims to have 20 million songs in its lending library and adds 20,000 songs each day.

I've been using Spotify since irs very early days and can vouch for the quality (very good sound). And, it's music library is quite large although I have found gaps. Spotify doesn't always offer everything I'd like to hear.

As good as Spotify sounds the streaming service to watch is called WiMP. It offers an option for full CD-quality streams. After living with it for the past month I can report those "HiFi" streams sound better than any others Internet-based services I've heard.

WiMP originates in Norway and is only available in its home country, Denmark, Germany, Poland and Sweden. There are a large number of branded apps available for computer and game console platforms. And like the others it offers a low (96K) and a better (320K) quality feed as well as the new lossless "HiFi" product which streams music at full CD-quality 16/44.1.

WiMP's music library is still growing but is nowhere near as comprehensive at Spotify's. But there are instances where I've found WiMP has a number of albums I wanted to hear that were not available on Spotify. WiMP says there are 22 million songs in their libraries.

Another difference is that WiMP allows you to buy and download the music you stream. Currently album downloads cost 56 Norwegian Krone (NOK) or $9.48 USD.

What is not widely discussed is how much HiFi streaming will cost. That could be a huge sticking point. WiMP offers a free trial period for the highest-quality service but makes it very difficult to find any mention of the exact monthly charge on its Website. After searching elsewhere I came up with the price of 199 NOK or $33.75 USD. That's $33.75 every month.

HiFi bandwidth streams require high-speed connections on both ends. More so on the WiMP end - and that kind of fiber connectivity costs a lot. I'm told by experts that WiMP's pricing is actually line with current super-speed bandwidth charges.

But, that price is too high for the majority of listeners. It will take a lot of convincing to get people to spend more than $5-$10 of so each month to listen to their music however it sounds.

Higher-resolution downloads from other providers may actually help the situation. Services such as the online super-store HDtracks currently offer incredibly high quality, great sounding album downloads. The much publicized Pono music player (TheStreet's Jim Cramer is an investor in Pono) and download service should also serve to boost the idea that listening to high-definition music is "cool". These high quality downloads cost more (in some cases $20+ per album) than the lower-fi downloads from iTunes and others. From my experience they're worth it.

WiMP hasn't given an exact date for offering its services here in the United States. But, with interest in music streaming growing in leaps and bounds - as well as an increasing interest in high-quality music delivery - WiMP HiFi could become a big player in a suddenly very hot industry.

>>Read More: Tim Cook Is a Stinking Genius If Apple Buys Beats

>>Read More: Why Apple's Beats Deal Is a Sound Strategy

>>Read More: Beats Doesn't Make Sense for Apple


-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

To submit a news tip, send an email to tips@thestreet.com.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's Senior Technology Correspondent.

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