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Yahoo Music Unlimited

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We've been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since Yahoo, one of the leading Internet portals, bought Musicmatch. In May, the shoe dropped big-time with the launch of Yahoo Music Unlimited.

First, there's the free music-management program, Yahoo Music Engine, which lets you rip, mix, and burn CDs, import and manage music, and transfer music to portables. Then there's the music library of more than a million tunes encoded as 192-kbps WMA-DRM files. Users of the free Music Engine can purchase songs for 99¢ each. But subscribers to Yahoo Music Unlimited - at a ground-breaking $6.99 a month or $59.88 a year (which comes out to $4.99 a month) - can download them for 79¢ each. You can stuff as many subscription-based tunes as you can into an unlimited number of portables. Players that are compatible out of the box are the Audiovox SMT 5600 Smartphone; the iriver H10, H320, and H340; and Portable Media Centers from Creative Labs, iriver, and Samsung. Dell DJs and Creative's Zen Micro require a free firmware upgrade.

When I typed in the titles of a few favorite tunes, I was pleasantly surprised to hear full-length versions from dozens of artists playing one after the other. After "Wading in the Water" and "Grazing in the Grass" for hours, I ended up buying Raven Synom's version of the latter. Music Unlimited also offers Launchcast - 200 radio stations that can be customized to suit your tastes. While listening to the Show Tunes station, I was captivated by "One Short Day" from the musical Wicked, so I bought that, too, and used the Song Lyrics button to search for a site showing the words. That's integration! Yahoo.com

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