Thursday, May 31, 2007
Google Inc. said on Wednesday it had created Web software that runs both online, and offline, marking a sea change for the Internet industry by letting users work on planes, trains, spotty connections and even in the most remote locations. The technology, called Google Gears, would allow users of computers, phones and other devices to manipulate Web services like e-mail, online calendars or news readers whether online, intermittently connected to the Web or completely offline.
Warner to put ad-supported video archive online
Warner Music, the world's fourth largest music group, is putting its archive of music video online and making it available for free to fans. Warner, home to Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, will work with digital services provider Premium TV to create online TV sites or "digital hubs" that will be organized by artist, genre or label and funded by advertising.
Revenue will be driven by advertising but music fans will be able to download the videos for an additional fee and Warner will also examine syndicating the content to a third party. The deal includes plans to develop subscription-based services and a version to be used on mobile platforms.
Amazon MP3 Download Store Rumor
We're hearing from multiple sources that Amazon wants to launch its mp3 download store in late June. Only technology glitches will delay the start.
Will music industry dance again to Apple's tune?
The move is important on many levels. For the first time, consumers can play music from Apple's iTunes on digital players other than the iPod. For Apple, offering DRM-free songs could hand the company some credibility in dealings with European regulators, who want the company to open up iTunes to third-party hardware makers.
For the record industry, it once again may find itself being herded into a direction of Apple's choosing. In this situation, the record companies can only benefit, said Greg Scholl, president and CEO of The Orchard, a New York-based music distribution and marketing company.
What Apple has succeeded in doing is to raise questions about how the music industry is pursing its digital music strategy, said Susan Kevorkian, an IDC analyst. Chief among the questions is why the record labels place copy protection on digital songs but not on CDs.
HP's Retail Store Assistant: a wallet's worst enemy
The clever gurus at HP Labs have developed a marketer's dream tool that enables customers to enter a retail store, swipe a card, and instantly receive a printout (shown after the jump) that includes "a personalized shopping list, relevant coupons, notice of associated store discounts or sales, and even a map to where the items can be found in the store." The inaccurately named Retail Store Assistant (we were thinking more along the lines of Wallet Depleter) is currently in the "experimental" stage, and would include an in-store kiosk which customers could access via a loyalty card or by inputting their phone number.
Borders Announces First Quarter Results, Music Sales Down
Borders announced its Q1 2007 results yesterday (read press release or 8-K). Losses deepened, music sales were down and gross margin dropped. The company reported a 2% increase in consolidated sales and a loss of $35.9 million (compared to a loss of $20.2 million last year).
There was no mention yesterday of the company's plans for the music segment, although CDs are generally expected to be playing a lesser role in the chain's plans. In March, Borders issued a press release about its strategy and said it will be incorporating digital centers that will emphasize digital content and hardware.
Listening Test Compares iTunes Plus to iTunes 128kbps
Comparing these two bitrates was tough, even when using a pair of state-of-the-art Ultrasone headphones. In our decidedly unscientific comparison, we listened to all the tunes at both bitrates in A/B comparisons with those phones, with iPod stock earbuds, on our kick-ass car stereo, and on our reference Dolby 5.1 home theater system.
The difference between the two types was subtle. Listening to a variety of songs, each encoded in 128kbps and then 256kbps, showed very little difference between the two, if any. Frankly, neither sounded as good as it could have to these trained musician's ears, but to discern the difference would take a professionally-trained
New RealPlayer allows YouTube video download
Real Networks has announced a new version of their RealPlayer today that will be available as a PC-only public Beta in June. The player allows users to download and organize nearly all embedded internet video content (Flash, WMV, QuickTime) including content from popular video sites like YouTube, Comedy Central, and of course, CNET.
GooTube strikes deal with EMI, after label shuns DRM with Apple
EMI Music, the world’s third largest music label company, said it has reached a deal with Google and its YouTube property to allow YouTube users to exploit EMI music while creating videos. EMI said it has “agreed to work” on models to allow access for user generated content featuring EMI-owned and copyrighted audio and video works, but didn’t provide many details. EMI did say it will use YouTube’s content identification technology to help it track and monetize its content, and to allow it to request the removal of copyrighted content (suggesting this is far from a straight-forward carte blanche for users to do anything they please).
AT&T to Offer Internet TV on Apple TV?
A well-connected source tells us that AT&T and Apple are working on adding IPTV capabilities to the Apple TV beginning sometime next year. (A launch window hasn't yet been determined, our source says that plans are still being worked out.)
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Apple on Wednesday launched iTunes U, a new section for the iTunes Store dedicated to free content related to all things college. Posted material is set to include media such as language lessons, lab demonstrations, campus tours and, yes, course lectures.
Microsoft to unveil coffee-table-shaped computer
Microsoft Corp. will unveil a coffee-table-shaped "surface computer" on Wednesday in a major step towards co-founder Bill Gates's view of a future where the mouse and keyboard are replaced by more natural interaction using voice, pen and touch.
Microsoft Surface, which has a 30-inch display under a hard-plastic tabletop, allows people to touch and move objects on screen for everything from digital finger painting and jigsaw puzzles to ordering off a virtual menu in a restaurant.
It also recognizes and interacts with devices placed on its surface, so cell phone users can easily buy ringtones or change payment plans by placing their handsets on in-store displays, or a group of people gathered round the table can check out the photos on a digital camera placed on top.
Apple launches DRM-free iTunes service
Apple Inc. said it launched iTunes Plus, a digital rights management-free music download service, for $1.29 per song. The new service, offering higher audio quality music downloads, will operate alongside the existing iTunes, which offers music tracks at 99 cents per song, Apple said in a statement.
iTunes Upgrade Paves Way For EMI's DRM Free Launch. Indies Left Wondering When They'll Be Invited.
iTunes is still silent, however, as to when DRM free tracks from hundreds of indie labels clamoring to offer them will become available. While Apple sent a letter weeks ago asking indies to deliver mp3 masters, no label or distributor that we surveyed had been offered a launch date or the contract addendum that would be required to allow DRM free sales.
CBS buys online music network Last.fm
CBS Corp said on Wednesday it had paid $280 million in cash for the popular music social network service Last.fm. CBS said in a statement the online service had more than 15 million active users in more than 200 countries and would fit well with its plans to attract younger viewers and transform it from a content company to an audience company.
Scoop: New Palm Device is “Foleo:” Don’t Call it a Laptop
Palm will call it the “Foleo”, according to a reliable source that owes us favors still. The Foleo isn’t a handheld, like a Tungsten or Lifedrive. Nor is it a smartphone, like a Treo. It’s a “smartphone companion”, a way to interface with your smartphone in more broad terms. It features a full sized QWERTY keyboard and large LCD screen, and pairs with your Treo (or, presumably, other smartphone) via Bluetooth. Edits on the Foleo are matched on the smartphone, and visa versa. While it sounds like just a way to interface with your mobile, it’s really a bit more.
It will have it’s own OS, running Palm’s homebrew Linux-based OS, the first device featuring the operating system. It also has the ability to run apps natively and independently from your smartphone, meaning it could quite literally replace many people’s laptops. It’ll launch this summer at $499 (AR) with applications from selected developers following shortly after.
The trouble with Apple TV
Take Apple TV, the $300 set-top box that Jobs unveiled last October and that finally started shipping in at the end of February, several weeks late. You don't see many ads for it on TV, even though Apple is blitzing the airwaves with iPod and iMac spots, and after living with one for the past few weeks, I think I see why. It's just not very good. It's about as uninspired as another prominent dud, the Zune, the MP3 player Microsoft (Charts, Fortune 500) launched last year. In fact, the Apple TV is so Zune-like, you'd think Jobs was so busy with the iPhone that he outsourced the Apple TV project to the folks up in Redmond.
One Little Indian Gets Digital
One Little Indian US, the label home to Björk and the Twilight Singers, have launched Digital First, a new online marketing division that will promote their artists to new media. Online radio stations, video broadcasts, web reviews, and MP3 promotions are all part of the new plan, as well as focusing on its wide range of online retailers (such as iTunes, eMusic, and Napster) via Caroline Distribution to further sales.
QiGO announces Internet Content Keys
QiGO's on the scene with its Internet Content Keys, which serve the purpose of foregoing logins and passwords for providing key-recipients access to premium internet content. (Example: get a branded Slate 1yr subscription QiGO key, pop it in your computer and you're off without logging in.) Sure, it's a sensible idea until you remember binding internet products and services to physical artifacts works fine the first time, but progressively suckier the second, third, and tenth time... or whenever you leave your home, want to use said service on another machine, etc. Hey, just saying, if you want to gift someone access to some premium internet content, it's probably best done with an email invite or (gasp) one-time-use code.
Apple hides account info in DRM-free music, too
Apple embeds your account information in all songs sold on the store, not just DRM-free songs. Previously it wasn't much of a big deal, since no one could imagine users sharing encrypted, DRMed content. But now that DRM-free music from Apple is on the loose, the hidden data is more significant since it could theoretically be used to trace shared tunes back to the original owner.
Maroon 5 album breaks iTunes sales record
A&M/Octone recording act Maroon 5's sophomore album, "It Won't Be Soon Before Long," has broken an iTunes Store sales record amidst predictions of a chart-topping debut week. The Grammy-winning band sold over 101,000 albums via iTunes in one week including more than 50,000 digital pre-orders that provided fans with two exclusive tracks and a Ticketmaster pre-sale offer. "Maroon 5 fans broke an iTunes record, making 'It Won't Be Soon Before Long' the no. 1 most popular album upon week of release," said James Diener, President of A&M/Octone Records.
YouTube Now Embedded Into AppleTV
Steve Jobs, speaking at D confernece, announced that YouTube is now embedded into the AppleTV interface and works off a live Internet connection, that is does not have to go through the PC. You can see all YouTube videos, most viewed, search and other normal site functions. Jobs: The biggest thing limiting the quality of video on YouTube is the source of the material. It is amazing how these fun these things are. Our model for Apple TV is like DVD player for the internet.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Apple is prepared to launch its DRM-free catalog of music from EMI this week, according to French sources familiar with negotiations for multiple online music stores. The seeming delay for introducing the new tier of content has been primarily attributed to a desire to offer the entire catalog at once in the unprotected format rather than a gradual rollout. The companies' technicians are simply in the later stages of encoding and hosting the files before they go live, the contact says.
Apple’s Lesson for Sony’s Stores: Just Connect
Customer response is told in the numbers. Last month, Apple released results for the quarter ended March 31. More than 21.5 million people visited its stores, which now number more than 180. Store sales were $855 million, up 34 percent from the quarter a year earlier, and they contributed more than $200 million in profits.
For perspective, look at the parallel story of Sony, which in 2004 began its attempt to create a branded retail chain. That was the same year Gateway closed the remnants of its 188-store chain. Today, Sony has 39 Sony Style stores, built out from the flagship stores in New York and San Francisco. The company’s breadth of product lines in consumer electronics and related accessories, as well as computers, would seem to give it a significant advantage over Apple. But because Sony does not release data on the stores’ sales or profits, it is hard to assess how its retail venture is doing.
Facebook users vote for iLike, but what happened to Audio?
iLike’s users on Facebook have reached around 180,000 early this evening, from a mere 1,000 on Friday morning — that’s orders of magnitude larger than any other of the new Facebook applications
So why iLike? There’s been a huge demand for music-focused socializing on Facebook (which isn’t surprising considering how central music is to MySpace users). iLike helps people find new music by learning what their friends are listening to; through Facebook’s platform, it allows users to add music to profiles and help them find their favorite concerts (and learn which friends are going to which concerts). iLike also offers free mp3’s that match users’ tastes.
Leading the charge on iPhone
think when people get their hands on it and really experience it — the touch screen is phenomenal, this touch screen is like nothing you've ever used — to experience that, the skepticism, I think, around some of those things will go away.
There are other things — you have the widgets, some of the Google applications that are coming — there are just so many things here that the price will not be an issue. It's a pretty incredible browsing environment. That's the first part that I think will blow people away. It's the first widescreen iPod they've ever done; it is very, very good, works extremely well.
Getting in the game at Microsoft; Robbie Bach's job is to make software giant's entertainment division profitable
For all the challenges Microsoft Corp. faces as it moves into the future, the Redmond, Wash., software giant remains a formidable money machine. Its last quarter saw record profit, largely thanks to new versions of its Windows operating system and Office software. In its push to the digital future, however, where Microsoft envisions a world of "connected computing," where devices like phones, music players and game consoles increasingly define how people interact with computers, the company often finds itself playing catch-up.
That's where Robbie Bach comes in. Bach, 45, is president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division, which includes the Xbox game console, the Zune music player, software that runs on mobile devices and new television projects. While the division has yet to turn a profit, Bach said in an interview that profitability is just around the corner, and Microsoft is relishing its competition with companies like Apple, Sony, Nintendo and Research In Motion.
Beatnik speeds mobile music downloads
U.S. software company Beatnik is approaching mobile phone operators with a new music download system that compresses songs up to 10 times more than the MP3 format, allowing for faster downloads on lower-end mobile phones equipped with the company's software.
Beatnik's software compresses songs by taking common elements or repeated sounds and only replicating them once in the compressed file. The music player, on the client handset, can recreate those sounds in the right place during playback, Copp said.
Free, Legal, On Demand Steaming Music? LaLa is Going to Give it a Shot
LaLa is making a very big bet on its business - it will offer users something they’ve never had (legally) before: free, legal, on demand streaming music. This is an extremely expensive business - unlike services like Pandora that have to pay only a fraction of a cent when they play a song (and it still hurts them), on demand streaming rates are more like $0.01 per song. That works out to an average of $0.17/user/hour, and there is no way to cover those costs with advertising alone.
So how will LaLa cover its costs? The company says they are going to sell CDs to users. Like a song? Click a button and get it sent to you. They say that if they can get each user to buy one CD per month on average they will break even. That may be true, but the average music buyer in the U.S. buys two CDs per year. So LaLa will have to get heavy music buyers to the site to move that average up.
The future of the music business...again
Our ability to consume music has gotten incredibly easy over the past 25 years. From the walkman to the CD Walkman to the IPod, we have ditched the album (to the chagrin of milk crate manufacturers everywhere) and evolved to the point where an 80gb IPod has the capacity to carry every song we might imagine listening to over the course of our lifetime. So easy that it revived Apple and catapulted the company from an innovative niche PC marketer to a technology leader. So easy that we consume more music than ever before, yet total sales are in a tailspin.Can the music industry be saved ? Yep. It would be so easy its scary. Make music available anywhere and everywhere.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Facebook Launches Video System
Facebook Inc. became the latest entrant into the online video battle Thursday, opening its Facebook f8 platform to outside developers and partners in an effort to gain ground on social networking rivals. The move allows third parties to develop functions for Facebook, including video, advertising, and retail capabilities. Part of the system will use the company's own markup language, creatively titled Facebook Markup.
HP Working On HDTVs With Direct Movie Buying
A new concept called HDTV 2.0 is on its way and the technology isn’t far off to support it. Essentially, the goal is for future HDTV sets to have an Ethernet or WiFi Internet link so that movies can be downloaded off the net and onto the TV’s internal storage device. Think of it like a media PC inside a TV. Consumers benefit from added comfort and usability, while corporations get to throw ads at you and directly market their products to you as a download for your TV. Companies like Netflix want this. The first sets should be out by years end, so keep an eye on HP.
Pandora, SanDisk Push Mobile Recommendation Play
Also in the mix is SanDisk, a well-established portable storage company that continues to make waves within the MP3 player arena. The Pandora partnership promises to produce a WiFi-enabled portable that features customized, user-crafted stations. The project also involves Mountain View, CA-based Zing Systems, Inc., a company that provides specialized WiFi know-how. Zing was also central to the release of the SanDisk Sansa Connect, a WiFi-enabled player that offers access to the Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription service and Launchcast streaming radio channels.
The deal-making moves Pandora off of the desktop and allows discovery in a number of new environments. Theoretically, that embraces a music consumer that wants music anywhere, anytime, though the efforts are mostly ahead of their time.
Ins and Outs: Is buyshifting the future of television? (part 2)
Last time on Ins and Outs we introduced the concept of buyshifting -- what it means, what it is, and where it's going. But now it's time to get down to the brass tacks. That's right, we're talking about whether it's viable for the average consumer -- more specifically, where it falls on the cost scale.
As is pretty clear, from a pure cost perspective, buyshifting is far and away the clear winner for the consumer. A cheap VOD service like Comcast's is handily the least expensive -- unfortunately, the above figures assumes VOD as your base cost, and do not factor in the cable service it's delivered on. (The "real" cost of VOD would be the most expensive by a large margin.) Still, second place (cheap DVDs) and even third place (buying seasons on iTunes) for cost-efficiency are very straightforward methods of buyshifting.
Vivendi to launch paid content portal – report
Vivendi is preparing to launch a paid content portal this autumn to broadcast music, video or games on computers, television and mobile phones, competing against online sites like YouTube and MySpace, daily Les Echos reports on Friday.
A new unit called Vivendi Mobile Entertainment has been created to launch the service, which would come five years after the failure of Vivendi's Vizzavi portal, designed as a gateway for PC and interactive TV content, the paper said.
64% Of Respondents Still Buy Music CD's Says Greenfield Online Survey, While 41% Like To Download Music From The Internet
According to a recent Greenfield Online Fact of the Week survey of approximately 1,000 Internet respondents, 64% of total respondents still get their music the old fashioned way: purchasing CD's from a store.Additionally, 41% of respondents download music from the Internet, with 53% of Internet downloaders ranging in age between 25 and 44 years old. Seniors, 55 and over, represented 11% of music downloaders. While iTunes was cited as a download site of choice by 32% of music downloaders, 44% of those who download their music from the Internet declined to name a specific site.No matter what source, the majority of respondents (58%) are spending between $0-$10.00 per month on music purchases. 24% said they are spending between $11-$20 per month on music purchases.
PayPlay.FM To Sell 1.3 Million Unprotected MP3s by End of May
PayPlay.FM, which currently sells a nearly-1.3 million-song indie music catalog in the secure WMA format, will start selling its entire catalog in the unprotected MP3 format by the end of May, according to an email received today from PayPlay co-founder Elliot Goykhman. These plans have been brewing since October of last year, or possibly earlier, but apparently all of the artists on the site have now signed off on the new policy: protected WMAs cost $0.77, while unprotected 192 Kbps MP3s versions of the same song cost $0.88.
McCartney iTunes Delay Due To ‘Exclusive’, DRM-Less Next Week
Earlier this week, observers noted that, while Apple is usually first to market with new-release additions to the iTunes Store, it has been beaten to the punch on the first ever digital reissues of Paul McCartney’s solo repertoire - Napster, Rhapsody, Urge and Zune Marketplace added the songwriter’s back catalog on Wednesday, while iTunes is blank. paidContent.org has learned the apparent delay is down to the preparation of “an exclusive” offering that will come along with the material.
New Movie Players Arrive To Feed Appetite For Content
With so many new media channels down which to push (or even pull) content, more and more private equity groups and others are gathering up content via what might have traditionally been regarded as the hard way - getting in to movies. Liberty Media Corporation’s John Malone funds ex-MGM chairman Chris McGurk’s Overture Films, investors including Merrill Lynch have given ex-Paramount vice-chairman Robert G. Friedman $1 billion to start Summit Entertainment, and CBS is looking to start a film operation, too.
Trans World Revenues Down, Loss Deepends, Continued Shift Away From Music
Entertainment retailer Trans World reported Q1 2007 earnings today (read press release). Total sales dropped 1% to $286.3 million and net loss increased to $9.1 million from $7.1 million last year. Comp store sales dropped 10%. Said chairman and CEO Robert J. Higgins, "Our first quarter sales remained difficult, while positive comparable store sales in DVD, electronics, accessories and boutique could not offset worsening music results."
Improved margins on music and movies resulted in improved gross margin (36.5% versus 34.8%), but sales of both were down. Music was way down and other segments are being given more emphasis to make up for the decline.
- Music sales were down 21% on a comp basis, and the company's top 50 experienced a 32% drop on a comp basis. Music represents 44% of sales, down from 52% last year.
- DVD sales dipped 6% on a comp basis and now represent 38% of total sales, up from 31% last year.
- Games dropped 12% on a comp basis and represent 7% of sales, the same as last year.
- The company has expanded space for DVDs, electronics, accessories, boutique and games. It has implemented measures aimed at improving customer service.
- The in-store, mix-and-burn digital kiosk testing has offered "promising, but still inconclusive results." Said president Jim Litwak, "...we want to have the stores increase where they are at right now by about 25 to 30% what they are burning currently."
- The re-branding of f.y.e. stores is on schedule and will be completed in Q2.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Essentially, Apple TV provides a drop-dead simple way to watch computer-based content from the comfort of the living room. It does what it promises as advertised: it unlocks content such as photos and home movies, and it makes it easy to watch podcasts and movie purchases from iTunes.
In its first version, Apple TV software works well, but its hardware suggests lots of potential room for improvement. Apple TV's open design means that third parties can address features Apple itself does not care to target. In fact, the wave of interest in Apple TV from the hacker and open source community should provide Apple with some useful feedback on the value of keeping its TV system open, and provide an encouraging example of the advantages of working with, rather than against, hacker enthusiast customers.
Ruckus Raises $10 Million In Second Round
College-only digital entertainment company Ruckus Network has closed a second round $10 million funding. The round was led by two new investors, the Anschutz Investment Company and Columbia Capital, which were joined by existing investors including Battery Ventures, Eastward Capital, Pinnacle Ventures and Shelter Capital. Herndon, VA.-based Ruckus is available at more than 900 college campuses and offers access to 2.75 million songs and full-length films, as well as social networking tools. The funds will be used to continue to scale the company’s ad-supported business and to develop other media services. The company hopes to strike strategic partnerships targeted at the 18-24 year-old college demo as well.
Apple and music labels accused of shortchanging artists
A fresh class action lawsuit charges Apple's iTunes, major online music shops, and top record labels with performing an end-run around a musician's permission and his royalty payments. Online stores are guilty by association, according to the complaint. The suit claims that in addition to Apple's iTunes, seven other outlets -- AOL Music Now, Buy.com, Microsoft's MSN.com, Napster, RealNetworks' Rhapsody, Wal-Mart.com, and Yahoo Music -- are also culpable by agreeing to host and sell the unsanctioned copies from their servers. While all eight pay royalties on the music in question, the failures by Universal and Warner to land specific online contracts have resulted in the direct-download services trading songs without genuine consent; money is sent to the intermediate labels, not the copyright holders.
No such thing as a free download
It is difficult to grasp how successful the mobile phone industry has become. People think of it as a sideshow compared to the internet, yet in terms of revenues generated from content, it is already far bigger. Revenues from the web are about $25bn (£12.5bn) but the content on mobile networks is reckoned by Informa to be worth $31bn - and that is before music and mobile TV take off in a big way. He reminds us that in 2005 one annoying ringtone, Crazy Frog, outsold all of iTunes.
Pink outsells brown, and other Zune tales
The Zune in all colors (expect to see red this summer) is holding on to its No. 2 spot in the U.S. retail market for hard drive-based music players. NPD numbers had the player at 9.1 percent market share for April, and it's still hanging steady.
Music Community Site Buzznet Raises $6 Million
Pop culture-focused social media site Buzznet, which claims more than 6 million users, has closed a $6 million round of financing led by Redpoint Ventures and previous investor Anthem Venture Partners. The site’s primary focus is on music and offers related blogs, videos, photo-sharing and band-related features. In particular, Buzznet has struck alliances with indie bands by promoting specific online community channels for them. The company has also been working with established popstars, like Avril Lavigne, who earlier this month set up a merchandising line and contest with Buzznet.
Breaking: Microsoft Preps Car Zune
Microsoft this week received a patent that could have a profound effect on the car audio landscape. The newly minted patent covers a portable audio device that can be docked and/or integrated into a car stereo. The union would allow the devices to transfer media and data back-and-forth.
A car stereo including a docking station into which an off-the-shelf handheld computer can be docked, and including an input/output (I/O) component allowing the car stereo to communicate with the handheld computer when the handheld computer is docked in the docking station, the car stereo indicating to the handheld computer, when the handheld computer is docked in the docking station, which one of a plurality of different appliance types the car stereo is.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
A new Web site is offering to send classic books in bite-size installments to your handheld device or e-mail every morning before you go to work, or whenever you want, for free. The e-mails from www.dailylit.com are designed to be read in under five minutes. Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days" comes in 82 parts while Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" could take nearly two years of working days to read at 430 parts.
Sprint to offer Pandora streaming radio
Sprint Nextel Corp. has teamed with Pandora Media Inc., a popular online music service, to deliver personalized streaming radio to its mobile phone users. Pandora is a free Internet-based radio service that lets people create stations based on their favorite artists and other songs it finds that match in style. The music service has attracted 6.9 million users since launching in November 2005 and was recently banned, along with a dozen other popular media Web sites, such as YouTube and MySpace, from the Defense Department's computer system because of network bandwidth concerns.
Pandora's Internet radio service now will be available beyond computers — on Sprint beginning Wednesday. It will be free for the first 30 days of use but will cost an additional $2.99 per month with a Sprint data plan. The service will work initially on five phone models but will expand to all high-speed data phones sold by Sprint by the end of June, the company said.
McCartney No-Show on iTunes
Apple Inc., which made a big deal earlier this month about offering Paul McCartney's 25-album catalog to its iTunes music store, was the odd man out Tuesday as most other online sellers and subscription services added the former Beatle to their portfolios.
On Tuesday, however, some or all of McCartney's backlist went live on Napster LLCs' Napster, RealNetworks Inc.'s Rhapsody, Viacom International Inc.'s Urge, and Microsoft Corp.'s Zune Marketplace. Rhapsody, a monthly subscription service, had all 25 McCartney albums on its site for real-time streaming, and was also selling tracks for its usual US$0.89 each.
Illegal downloading on downward track among US youth: survey
Illegal downloading of songs, software and other copyrighted materials from the Internet among US youth has dropped sharply in the past three years, a survey showed Tuesday. The Business Software Alliance said its survey showed the percentage of young people between the ages of eight and 18 who acknowledged illegal downloads of software, music, movies or games fell from 60 percent in 2004 to 36 percent in 2007. In 2006 the figure was 43 percent.
Hypebot Takes On eMusic
Hypebot, an online music blog, has taken on eMusic in a multipart series that attempts to uncover some of their strategies and pricing models. The 2nd largest online music retailer is clearly not amused by the investigative report, and has responded tersely to Bruce Houghton’s postings. According to various sources, this has usually meant per track net payouts ranging of from 19 to 29 cents with the higher payouts in recent months. This would make eMusic payments to labels 50% to 75% smaller than iTunes and other download stores who pay labels 60-65 cents per track.
One eMusic payment statement that I reviewed offered a base per track payout of 22 cents. Many artists and labels enter the eMusic system via a digital distributor who then also takes 10-30%. At 15% this would reduce the effective payments to a label to just under 18.7 cents per track. Most artist/label contracts** also require payments at a statutory rate of 9.1 cents per track to the songwriter leaving the effective amount for the label to split with the artist at between 9 and 10 cents.***
eMusic also shared the results of an internal customer survey:
84% say they discover music they would not have found with any other service
91% say the low cost encourages them to try music they had not heard of previously
74% say they are more likely to download complete albums on eMusic than on iTunes
78% say they typically add more than 20 songs to their collection EACH MONTH on average than they did before they signed up
RockYou! Rocks Out to New Partnerships With SNOCAP, Fliptrack, Nettwerk Records and Pump Audio
RockYou!, the leading provider of widgets on the web, today announced that the company has partnered with several of the most cutting edge music companies including SNOCAP, Fliptrack, Pump Audio and Nettwerk Records. RockYou! provides a unique way to showcase and experience online music. The company serves over 360M free music plays a month on existing widgets such as slideshows. These musical widgets can be added to most personal blogs and social networks. RockYou!’s partnerships will expand the music choices and artists that users can choose from to personalize their RockYou! widgets. It also gives RockYou! music partners an outlet to promote and expand their artist fan-base.
Pandora Shows Off Streaming Prototype, Someone Better Tell Sansa!
They also made a pre-announcement, however, of an upcoming Wifi music player to be built by SanDisk and powered by Zing . The working prototype that CTO Tom Conrad demo’d tonight was physically similar to the Sansa Connect device launched last month with Yahoo, although it was slightly longer and thinner. The Sansa Connect device is also powered by Zing.
Amazon acquires Brilliance Audio
Amazon.com announced Wednesday its acquisition of audio-book publisher Brilliance Audio, in a move to tighten its tie with book publishers and expand the number of audio-book titles. Amazon is seeking to expand beyond offering only best-sellers under an audio-book format. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In making its announcement, Amazon's CustomFix subsidiary also noted it now supports standard CD and MP3-CD audio-book formats through its Disc on Demand service. The Disc on Demand service aims to provide authors and publishers an inexpensive and simple method to introduce new titles without being required to maintain a physical inventory.
Blockbuster sells DVDs online
Blockbuster has added a sell-through area to its Web site and is in discussions with BrightSpot Media to offer visitors free and discounted entertainment in return for viewing targeted commercials. Meanwhile, Blockbuster.com has added an Outlet store that offers new movies for sale as well as previously viewed titles, with 5% discounts for Total Access subscribers.
Music Download Card Upstart Grabs $1.5 Million Infusion
Another model involves the sale of downloads through cards at shows and events, a concept being pushed by upstart DiscRevolt. The company, which caters to independent artists, recently rustled $1.5 million in funding, according a report by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. The company allows independent musicians to create customized download cards and offer download redemption through the DiscRevolt website. Musicians can purchase the cards from DiscRevolt at a wholesale cost and subsequently offer markups to fans. DiscRevolt, founded by Mike Shamus and Joe Kirk, is based in Alpharetta, Georgia. The financing came from angel investors, according to the report.
PassAlong Networks to Power MP3Car Music Download Store
Downloading music in your car is about to become a reality, thanks to a new service announced today. StoreBlocks™, the fourth generation digital media services engine offered by PassAlong Networks™, developer of digital media innovations, today launched a music download store for MP3Car.com, parent company of the in-dash StreetDeck™ all-in-one mobile electronics package for navigation and entertainment.
PassAlong is partnering with MP3Car/StreetDeck and Gracenote® to develop in-car music discovery and music downloading capabilities that would allow passengers to click-through an in-dash application to purchase songs. This new technology was recently showcased by BMW and Intel at the Geneva Auto Show.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The assumption was that if Warner got hold of EMI's huge back list -- which includes everyone from Norah Jones to the Beatles -- you could kiss those DRM-free downloads goodbye. But the sighs of relieve may have been premature.
First of all, the Terra Firma buyout is by no means assured. It has to be approved by the shareholders, who could still be swayed by a higher offer from Warner's Edgar Bronfman. EMI's shares rose yesterday to 271 pence, topping Terra Firma's offfer of 265 pence a share -- reflecting investor sentiment that the company is still in play. And today the Wall St. Journal reports on speculation that if Terra Firma's Guy Hands gets hold of EMI, he might very well break it up, holding on to the still-profitable music publishing division and selling the recorded-music division -- along with the Beatles and the rest -- to Bronfman's Warner Music.
Circuit City offers DVD-ROM gift card
Circuit City is offering a unique DVD-ROM gift card to consumers who purchase either of Buena Vista Home Entertainment’s Pirates of the Caribbean Blu-ray Disc releases. The card can be redeemed for $15 worth of products at Circuit City stores. In addition, it carries 15 minutes of content related to the Pirates films, The Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man’s Chest.
Viewers can download Pirates wallpaper, take an exclusive Pirates aptitude test and access Web links to purchase movie-related merchandise. The card, created by digital publisher Serious, is playable on DVD players, Windows and Mac drives and game consoles, including PlayStation 2, Xbox and Xbox 360. The item is designed to look and feel like a standard gift card, with a magnetic strip that can be swiped at cash registers. The card’s underside, however, is like a DVD and carries 180MB of content.
Military Grade DRM?
A company that has built a type of DRM technology for software used by the Defense Department is now trying to take that same technology and hit the commercial market as well. It's relatively expensive, so don't expect to see it on your next music CD or copy of Microsoft Word just yet. Of course, the company likes to claim that since its technology is useful in protecting Defense Department technology, it must be useful in protecting commercial software as well. However, they leave out a few things. First, while the article doesn't go into great detail on the technology itself, it sounds rather cumbersome to implement. That also likely means it's fairly cumbersome to use. That might be fine in some environments, but it limits how useful this product actually would be. Second, the DRM is quite expensive to license, meaning that for any software company worried about margin, it seems unlikely to be very interesting.
Digital music's ultimate player
John MacFarlane wants to fill every room in your house with tunes. Does that make Sonos a game changer -- or takeover bait?
MacFarlane knows that Apple, having conquered the portable media market, has its sights set on the home. Yet here he believes that Jobs's company is handicapped by the iTunes pay-per-download model. As broadband connectivity becomes ubiquitous, MacFarlane sees an inexorable shift to the music dial-tone model -- which is more conducive to a raft of innovations, such as social networking and recommendation engines, that are currently unfolding.
Music industry offers deal to small Webcasters
Facing an outcry over imminent royalty fee increases for Internet radio operators, the music industry body that lobbied for the changes has attempted a peace offering.
SoundExchange, the nonprofit group that collects the fees on behalf of hundreds of major and independent record companies, said on Tuesday that it would give "small" Webcasters the option of paying "below market" royalty rates on the songs they play--that is, by keeping the required royalty rates essentially the same as they are under a 2002 law called the Small Webcaster Settlement Act. "The net result of this proposal is that small Webcasters would be guaranteed no increase in royalty payments for 13 years, from 1998 to 2010," SoundExchange general counsel Michael Huppe said in a statement.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Music company EMI Group, home to the Beatles and Coldplay, said Monday it had agreed to a 2.4 billion pound ($4.7 billion) takeover by private equity group Terra Firma Capital Partners.
Analysts speculated that the offer could flush out a higher one from Warner. EMI's shares soared on the news, which was made just before the closing bell on the London Stock Exchange. The stock finished 8.5% higher at 269 pence ($5.30).
Music Licensing Online: YouLicense
An online music licensing marketplace, YouLicense enables artists and those seeking musical content to conduct business directly without the need to deal with music companies.
Content is indexed and easily searchable. YouLicense provides standardized contracts so that both buyer and seller immediately know the legalities of a deal, allowing for a quick and easy transaction.
Video-on-demand to be a `must have' for telcos
VIDEO-ON-DEMAND (VoD) revenues is expected to be worth US$2.7 billion (RM9.45 billion) worldwide this year, and will reach US$12.7 billion in 2011, making it one of the fastest-growing digital content services over the forecast period. According to analyst and consulting company Ovum, this is driven by the rise in the number of telcos across the globe that will launch their ondemand content propositions, moving themselves into content distribution. "VoD is not a revenue generator at the moment but a `must-have' vision of the future in terms of both cashflow and telcos' content business survival," said Ovum's content and media analyst Aleksandra Bosnjak.
How To Live an Open-Source Musical Life With Ogg Vorbis
In an effort to rally support for the underdog media format, the Free Software Foundation has launched PlayOgg.org, a website promoting awareness of the Ogg format. It's an educational primer for playing Ogg Vorbis audio files and Ogg Theora video files on Mac and Windows desktops.
Unlike the more popular MP3 and AAC audio formats, Ogg Vorbis is free of licensing and patent restrictions, so anyone can code up a software player or hack together an Ogg-enabled hardware device without paying a fee to patent owners.
Profit margins sway the mobile hit parade
Mobile operators have been crowned as the future kingmakers of digital music so many times, the coronet must be getting pretty greasy by now. But how do operators choose what goes on the coveted, and extremely limited promotion space on a mobile music site's home screen?
Mobile users will only get to see 10, or at most 20 picks because of limited screen size and bandwidth. So to that end, Orange was developing sophisticated recommendation engines based on pinpoint demographics, he said. Afew minutes later, he augmented this with an answer that might be somewhere nearer the truth. He admitted: "Yes, placement is based on the margin we get from the labels."
Friday, May 18, 2007
Cell phones sporting bigger screens, music, video and Web-surfing capabilities may try to steal some of the spotlight when Apple Inc.'s iPhone debuts next month. Although few have seen or used the gadget, it could draw consumer attention to other pricier, high-end handsets, executives at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit said this week.
"One of the great advantages of iPhone for us is that it will heat up the music (phone) market," said Denny Strigl, chief operating officer at Verizon Communications Inc.
Cinram says it plans to expand past traditional DVD business
Cinram International Income Fund the world's biggest manufacturer of CDs and DVDs, plans to expand beyond its traditional business as uncertainty plagues the future of packaged media. Chief executive Dave Rubenstein said yesterday the company will move into an industry separate from disc-making to counteract the increasingly seasonal sales of DVDs and CDs.
Cinram paid $50 million (U.S.) last month to acquire retailer distribution company Ditan Corp., which is involved in gift card technology. Cinram spokesperson Lyne Beauregard Fisher denied the coming announcement involves future gift card developments.
Verizon Updates Song ID Service
Verizon Wireless has updated its Song ID service to allow subscribers to immediately purchase products related to the track identified. Verizon is offering the Song ID service as a free download. Previously, subscribers had to pay for each Song ID use, and it did not offer any purchase options. Once the ID information is received to a user’s mobile, they can choose to buy the full-track, ringtone or ringback tone with just one click. Verizon claims the Song ID service can recognize more than 4 million songs, although your mileage may vary.
BitTorrent in Focus: TV-series are Hot
Music (25.9%) and Video (24.2%), followed by Applications (13.3%), are in the lead if we look at the number of available torrents. Games (7.8%), XXX (5.1%) and Anime (4.3%) are less popular.
Even though 50% of the people use BitTorrent to download TV-series, only 10% of the available .torrents on public trackers are TV related. This means that on average the swarms (seeds + peers) are greater for TV-torrents, not a big surprise because an average episode of a popular TV-show like Lost is downloaded by more than 500.000 people in a week.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Finding friends and meeting new ones could become even more important uses for global positioning chips than getting from A to B as the technology spreads to cellphones in coming years. Combined with mobile Internet access, GPS (global positioning system) is seen in the industry as adding a new dimension to social networking that could also have implications for the media business.
RealNetworks Incorporates Lyrics Into Rhapsody
RealNetworks has inked a deal with LyricFind, a Toronto-based concern, to incorporate Lyrics into the web-based version of Rhapsody. The announcement follows a recent announcement by Yahoo Music, who teamed with Gracenote to offer a similar feature. Rhapsody will offer authorized lyrics and other meta data such as albums covers, release dates, and additional credits. When lyrics are available for a particular song, Rhapsody will showcase the content with a Powered by LyricFind tag helping to brand the company for broader recognition.
What Sells In Consumer Electronics Today Is High-Definition – With One Exception
The music industry has yet to embrace significantly anything HD and it is the number one reason why they are sucking wind in the sales department. Downloads are a three-billion-dollar-per-year business and are likely to grow, but to call a 256 kHz download “high resolution,” as Apple has with their EMI, deal is beyond insulting to consumers. In my eyes, it’s borderline consumer abuse. Much like the 1/2 resolution (of a DVD) video downloads that Apple sells for $13 and calls “HD,” their new high-resolution music downloads are only a fraction as good as a 25-year-old compact disc. Imagine trying to sell a Honeymooner’s disc set or Casablanca with one-fourth of the resolution of the master.
Why couldn’t the music business jump into the HD format game (please pick one format for all four majors – please), release their titles in high-res stereo and then re-release the titles in surround sound as a version two offering? Add in HD video performances from the artists on the discs and watch schmucks like me line up to buy the same records all over again.
More Details Emerge on Paul McCartney Digital Plans
More details emerged Wednesday on an upcoming digitization play by Paul McCartney. As reported earlier, McCartney has already positioned digital pre-orders for his upcoming release, Memory Almost Full, on iTunes. Fans can grab the lead single and reserve a copy of the digital album, complete with bonus materials, a model that iTunes has spun with other releases. Memory is being carried by Hear Music, the stepped-up label initiative being driven by Starbucks.
For the rest of the catalog, a collection spanning roughly 25 releases, new information continues to bubble. The catalog, controlled by EMI-owned Capitol Records, will be released in the near-term, though specifics dates remain unclear. Meanwhile, iTunes will not carry the remaining catalog as an exclusive, despite information from Apple suggesting otherwise. Instead, iTunes and a number of other digital music stores will grab access simultaneously, according to competitors and EMI.
Live Nation Delivers Concert Video Footage, Mines Archives
Concert giant Live Nation is now offering a broad collection of performance footage online, part of a larger internet-based strategy. The launch, called Live Nation TV, features shows from a large number of venues, including the more intimate House of Blues. Hundreds of performance clips and artist interviews are part of the offering, a repository that will grow over time. "The Live Nation Studios division has already recorded hundreds of shows in our venues and with the acquisition of House of Blues last year, we gained access to thousands of additional hours of live concert footage and interviews, all of which we hope to bring to live music fans with the help of the artist," said Bryan Perez, president of Live Nation's Global Digital Division. The action will be housed on LiveNation.com, a destination that already offers concert listings, ticketing opportunities, and premium upgrade plays.
A look inside Spiralfrog's free major label download service
SpiralFrog's Canadian only beta just opened this week, after months of speculation as to what the service -- originally announced last August -- might look and act like. The long and short of it is; The service works as advertised, it doesn't include audio advertisements as many originally speculated and, they have a significant catalog on offer. There are some serious catches involved though so, read on for the full review and a screenshot tour of the first true "free and legal" music download service offering up major label tunes.
Sure, they might attract a cash strapped teeny-bopper market who are willing to spend free time downloading songs painstakingly one-by-one; entering the captcha for each tune and returning every 30 days to re-activate their libraries but, on the whole SpiralFrog offers very little in the way of convenience, community or value added enhancement to the music experience.
DRM's Demise Accelerates
One of the recording industry's core beliefs is disintegrating almost overnight. Not everybody in the business believed this idea in the first place, though. People at many independent labels and smaller music-download sites have long thought otherwise--as I was reminded in some interviews yesterday, most of which didn't make the column.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Amazon.com Inc. said on Wednesday the company will launch a digital music store later in 2007 with millions of songs, free of copy protection technology that limits where consumers can play their music. The Seattle-based company said music company EMI Group Plc, home to artists ranging from Coldplay to Norah Jones to Joss Stone to Pink Floyd, has licensed its digital catalog to Amazon, the second such deal in a month.
Warner Music Group Corp. has said it sees no logic to dropping DRM but is still testing music without it, while Vivendi's Universal Music has said it, too, is still testing tracks without DRM. In its announcement Wednesday, Amazon said it has made deals with "more than 12,000 record labels," though much of the digital music now being sold online without DRM is from lesser known artists.
Web offers backstage look at musicians
A number of acts have recently developed channels on YouTube to help promote album releases. The first notable forays by professional musicians into the video-sharing site were by P.Diddy and Paris Hilton — if you can indeed call Ms. Hilton a "professional" musician. Their entries drew some anger from YouTube's protective amateur community, but it's now commonplace for well-known acts to post videos.
On R. Kelly's Youtube channel, "R. Kelly TV", you can step into the R&B singer's closet to hear him talk about his new album while getting his hair braided, or see him sing an a cappella version of "Double Up." Most of Kelly's 37 videos are music videos, but these recent entries — which are titled "webisodes" — show the singer is embracing the intimate, raw nature of YouTube.
So has former "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks, who has posted videos of himself at rehearsal and signing T-shirts. Linkin Park has been perhaps the most revealing act on YouTube, where the rock band has posted 11 behind-the-scenes episodes since late March. Those clips were mostly taken from an iTunes "LPTV" series, which sells videos for $1.99 each.
RealNetworks Inks Deal with Vodafone
A day after Napster secured a deal to power the music services on Motorola's new ROKR handsets, RealNetworks has inked a similar agreement with European wireless carrier Vodafone. But Real had to buy into the partnership. Real says it will further expand the offering with technology it acquired from WiderThan, which provides music services on mobile phones and handles syncing between wireless devices and PCs. The Vodafone agreement is a multiyear deal, but terms were not disclosed.
Sling Media to let users boost net speed
Gadget maker Sling Media, whose device relays home television programs to laptops and cell phones, plans to resell fast Internet service and may start showing ads later this year. The company's Slingbox connects cable and satellite TV set-top boxes to the Internet. As a result, cell phones and other Web-connect devices can show what's on a customer's living room TV. But viewing quality depends on Internet connection strength, and so later this year Sling Media will add a virtual button to its PC and cell phone software that will boost home broadband service speed.
Coca-Cola to give away iTunes songs again this summer
Following on last summer's massive European iTunes giveaway, Coca Cola has announced they will once again be partnering with iTunes. Between May and August, promotional packs of Coca Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero will offer the chance to win free songs, free iPods, and free tickets to over 100 Coke+iTunes sponsored summer concerts across Europe. Presumably the free music codes will once again be limited to five per customer.
Earnings: Napster Grows Q1 Net Loss As Revenues Rise
Napster (Nasdaq: NAPS) saw its Q1 net loss double to $8.5 million from its net loss of $4.4 million last year, while revenue was up 9 percent to $29.1 million from $26.8 million. Looking ahead, Chris Gorog, chairman and CEO, said he expects the company to benefit from deals with wireless carriers, such as its deals with Motorola and AT&T, as mobile phone music capabilities become more widely accepted. The subscription music service also alluded to partnership with Circuit City as a deal that should bear fruit shortly. Napster’s total worldwide paid subscriber base was 830,000, including university subscribers, Napster Mobile subscribers, Napster Japan subscribers and the AOL Music Now subscribers who transitioned in March 2007.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Another lie (misleading statement) is the size of the buffet, many of these services tout millions of tracks. The reality is that the number of tracks they claim are the number of tracks licensed, not actually available for subscription, so the real number is much, much less. Death Cab For Cutie and Prince only allow half of their albums to be offered for subscription. Also, they count the edited(decaf) and PA version as two different tracks. Why anyone would want to listen to edited music is beyond me, but regardless, who would want two versions of Eminem’s “Curtain Call”? They also count the radio single and the same track on the album as two tracks. Is there a Karaoke version of the same exact album, guess what, they count that as an additional track.
All of the subscription services sans eMusic(they call it a subscription services but its just a bastardized al a carte business model) utilize Microsoft’s DRM. When I find music I like, I drag it to a playlist and then synchronize it to one of my portable players. A week or two will go buy and then I’ll decide to hit the gym, strap on my digital music player, only to find that I can’t play any of the music I paid for – every so often the licenses need to be renewed. Look, I’m not a complete buffoon, I understand that this is to prevent someone from subscribing for a month and using the music for life, however, instead of letting greedy lawyers devise the business rules, why not use some common sense – the licenses should last as long as the charge on my batteries. Low power! That’s what causes me to plug my MP3 device into my computer.
Unlike a buffet, if I try one dish, these services try to recommend another dish I might like – the problem is that I don’t find these services offer a good method for music discovery. Typically, I’ll hear a song on TV, a movie, and less and less frequently, the radio. Then I go to my subscription service to get the music.
Finally, my work pays for my account, if it didn’t I wouldn’t fork out $15/month as I don’t consume that much – maybe when I was in high school or college, but back then I didn’t have that kind of disposable income.
Popular Internet social network MySpace said it planned to launch online television channels from news and entertainment networks that include The New York Times Co., Reuters and National Geographic. The new channels will also include programming from "lifestyle" media companies that will offer animation, night life, video game shows and music.
Songwriter license firm backs music-tracking tool
Music publishing licensing organization the Harry Fox Agency will start using new copyright tracking tools to improve the process of identifying songwriters' and publishers' information for programming uploaded by regular users on the Internet. Harry Fox will be using Los Gatos, California-based Audible Magic's "fingerprinting" technology to identify digital versions of music and videos, used by media and technology companies to combat piracy of copyright-protected content uploaded by users without permission.
TiVo expands search capabilities to encompass Net
TiVo will narrow the gap between Internet video and conventional TV viewing today by introducing what it calls the first "TV-centric on-screen search tool" to find programming in both realms. The DVR pioneer's system, called Universal Swivel Search, will let its subscribers who like a TV show or movie search for other programs they might like based on elements in common, including the title, actors and subject matter - as well as suggestions from other fans.
Paul McCartney album exclusively on iTunes
Apple today announced that Paul McCartney's new album, "Memory Almost Full" is available for digital pre-order beginning Tuesday exclusively on the iTunes. iTunes customers pre-ordering the 13 track album in the US will receive the "Dance Tonight" music video when the album is delivered and the single "Ever Present Past", immediately upon pre-ordering the new album. Additionally, Paul McCartney's full catalog of 25 solo albums will be available for the first time digitally on iTunes later this month.
What is Amazon up to with Lab126?
I ran across a document a few months ago that referenced "Lab126, an Amazon company", which piqued my interest. To call the information posted on lab126.com 'sparse' is a bit of an understatement. From what I can gather, they are focusing on digitial media for consumer electronics devices. Judging from their logo, it appears that music will be a big part of their value proposition. It's not clear yet whether they will be delivering an application, platform, or service, but there are some interesting, fairly strong signals that seem to indicate that their solution may include more than just software, and may focus on mobile devices. And its president is Gregg Zehr who was VP of Hardware Engineering at PalmOne, VP Engineering at VA Linux and VP PowerBook Engineering at Apple.
Download services stuck between CSS and a hard place; no download-to-burn
One of the big problems with movie download services in their present incarnation is their lack of support for DVD burning, leaving subscribers with few options for watching downloaded content. Allowing consumers to burn DVDs from downloaded movies they have purchased has been a holy grail for the services, but efforts to tweak the CSS license to enable burning have run into problems.
According to Video Business, talks between the DVD Copy Control Association and the download services have hit a snag. The DVD CCA administers the CSS license and must sign off on any changes to it. Currently, use of CSS technology is limited to commercial manufacturers, but to assuage the piracy fears of the movie studios, the download services want their customers to be able to burn protected DVDs.
Napster music to be available on Motorola phones
Napster Inc. said on Tuesday it agreed to make its music subscription service available on Motorola Inc.'s mobile phones. Napster and Motorola will develop promotional efforts for North America, the United Kingdom and Germany designed to let consumers listen to Napster's music on many Motorola music-enabled handsets.
Archos roadmap reveals fifth generation plans
The folks at Archos Lounge have managed to get a peek into the future of their raison d'être, turning up Archos's roadmap for their fifth generation of products. As you can sorta see above (a bigger version's available at the link below), the company has quite a few things in store for its ever-expanding line of portable media players, including support for BitTorrent, Flickr, and YouTube, which would also seem to make Flash support all but confirmed. From the looks of it, the 5G devices will also boast some VoIP capabilities courtesy of Skype and, most importantly for some, they'll even let you get your MySpace fix on the go. If that's not enough to whet your appetite, you'll only have to hold out a bit longer to get the complete rundown on the new devices, as Archos has already pegged June 14th as the date for the official announcement.
Of interest, the picture indicates that users will be able to download music as well as audio books from Amazon.com.
Gates: 40 million Vista copies sold
Microsoft has sold more than 40 million copies of Windows Vista so far, Bill Gates told a crowd of hardware developers Tuesday. That's more than the total install base of Windows' largest competitors, Gates quipped as he began his keynote at the Windows Hardware and Engineering Conference (WinHEC) here. "As of last week, we've (sold) nearly 40 million copies," Gates said. "That's twice as fast as the adoption of Windows XP, the last major release we had."
CEA announces connection standard for portable media players
The Consumer Electronics Association's Mobile Electronics Committee looks set to shake up the portable media player industry a bit, today announcing a new connection standard for PMPs that'll extend to vehicles in addition to in-home use. While details are somewhat light, the standard (otherwise known as CEA-2017) describes a single connector that'll let you both play and charge a portable media player in conjunction with any in-home or in-vehicle audio/video device sporting the same common connector. From the looks of it, the newly-standardized connector would also seem to be well on its way to acceptance, with more than 100 companies having a hand in its development, which apparently includes a number of automakers and accessory-makers in addition to PMP manufacturers. Not so clear, however, is when we might actually start seeing devices with the connector, although we're guessing that it'll still quite a while before it truly becomes "standard."
The Rise of "Hybrid" Vinyl-MP3s
Khyber writes to let us know that First Word Records, a U.K.-based record label, is now selling vinyl records that come with codes that allow you to download a 320-kbit MP3 of that record's content. The article mentions another independent label, Saddle Creek, that also offers DRM-free downloads with some vinyl records. The co-founder of First Word is quoted on why they didn't DRM the download: "Making a legal, paid-for version of the file less useful than a copied or pirated one doesn't make sense."