A LITTLE START-UP called Mewbox has launched what could be a major boost for the Android platform, a DRM-free music download service.
The company first developed the Mewbox for the latest Archos 5 Internet tablet, which was launched in September and runs a customised version of Android.
The Mewbox interface was designed specifically for the Archos' large screen, but the company has since developed a more generic version called Mewbox Vanilla that is better suited to run on any Android based device.
"The Archos is an excellent launch platform for us, but we want to offer the service to the growing number of Android users out there," said Neil McManus, the founder of Mewbox.
Mewbox provides a user interface and secure, single sign on and taps music provider 7 Digital to offer a library of around four million tracks from over 23,000 labels, including the four big ones.
Although it stresses that 7 Digital is a key partner, Mewbox also likes to push up and coming bands and it foresees working with other providers as well offering as wide and varied a range as possible.
"Mewbox aims to reconnect the experience value to digital music," added McManus.
"The love that music fans feel towards vinyl, a CD or a live gig is missing in the digital space. By connecting with our users in the physical and digital worlds, offering free ticket to gigs and exclusive downloads via the app and our blog, and staging a series of top class live events, Mewbox will bridge the gap between listening to digital music and loving digital music."
Many consider Android to be a viable rival to the Iphone, thanks largely to its open design, customisable interface and the popular Market app store. However, to date no major Android based equivalent to the Itunes store exists - a gap that Mewbox hopes to exploit.
Mewbox is not available directly from the Android Market yet, but can be downloaded directly from the Mewbox site onto an Android phone, although you will have to ensure that the 'Unknown Sources' setting is switched on in order to install it.
According to McManus, Mewbox will be available on the Market at some point in the not too distant future, once the developers have had a chance to respond to feedback and work out all the kinks. µ