Samsung’s iTunes competitor: Not new, but improving

Perhaps you’re read the news on Tuesday that Samsung has launched Music Hub on its new Galaxy S III in five countries. The service is touted as the “first completely integrated, all-in-one mobile music service” as it offers a 19 million track library from 7digital for purchases and unlimited streaming plus cloud music storage for €9.99 per month. Interesting, yes; new, not quite.
To be frank, Samsung had its Music Hub software on some of its devices back in 2010. I know because I used the software on my Galaxy Tab, purchased in Dec. 2010. And guess what? It, too, was powered by 7digital. Samsung also had a hub for videos and e-books back then. Essentially, Samsung is tweaking its old service, which is good, but this tells me that Samsung is still struggling to compete in the digital media space; it hasn’t yet found the right mix of services to boast a top-tier ecosystem for its mobile devices.
The key difference in the “new” Music Hub is that the premium service is powered by mSpot, which Samsung acquired just this month. The company is a strong addition to Samsung’s mobile ecosystem as it challenges not only Apple’s iTunes(s aapl), but also similar offerings from Google(s goog) and Amazon(s amzn). My first look at mSpot in 2010 showed the service had promise but was marred by low-quality music playback. Since then, mSpot has improved its product immensely.
Today’s news shows that Samsung continues to tweak its digital content strategy and for that, I’m grateful. After all, I still own the Galaxy Tab, have a newer Galaxy Tab 7.7 and a Galaxy Nexus — all Samsung devices. Without a strong Samsung ecosystem, I’ve turned to Amazon’s MP3 store for music purchases and storage, Rdio for unlimited music streaming and Google Play for the occasional video. This works, but entails three accounts on a trio of discrete services. Compared to iTunes and its one-stop shopping, it’s more complicated than it needs to be.
Since Samsung’s revised Media Hub isn’t yet available in the U.S., I’ll have to wait and see how the new service compares to iTunes. And I’ll also be keeping an eye on the company’s video offerings; when I last compared Samsung’s ecosystem to that of Amazon and Apple, I found it to be lacking in many areas. Many of the top 10 movies as well as television shows from some networks were missing.

If Samsung can keep improving its digital content stores — something its been trying to do for nearly two years — it could boost already high smartphone sales for the company. Why? An integrated experience is often more appealing than a piecemeal effort. The company already has hot hardware and solid software to power through Android 4.0. The final pieces of the puzzle may not fit just yet, but it’s getting closer.