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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

If you didn’t see the 90 minute MacWorld keynote here is a quick summary of the product launches yesterday.  Jobs photo courtesy of Apple.  

  • Ad:  Hi I’m a Mac and I’m a PC — New Years ad ran which poked fun at Vista…what are you going to do in ’08…  Then Jobs enters stage.
  • Time Capsule:  backup hardware device the same size as the Apple TV product.  Two models both include Airport 802.11N in a 500MB and 1TB configuration.  Priced at $299 and $499 works in conjunction with Time Machine (back up system) which is included in OS X Leopard.
  • iPhone: 4M sold in the first 200 days (averaged ~20K/day); currently has 19.5% MSS (more than combining the bottom three companies – Palm (9.8%); Motorola (7.4%); Nokia (1.3%).  Enhancement announced:
    1. Maps w/ locations (joint effort by Google and Skyhook Wireless (drove the US & Canada mapping 23M wi-fi hot spots and allows triangulation on the hot spots.  Google triangulates off cell towers and Apple uses both systems in iPhone for identifying location)
    2. Webclips (clipping links to favorite web sites or sub-site
    3. Custom home screen (up to 9)
    4. SMS multiple people at the same time was only one prior
    5. Chapter search for videos and song lyric’s displayed if available
    6. Free software update for all current owners which include the above enhancements
  • iTunes: 4Billion songs sold through iTunes; Christmas day sold 20M songs in one day – highest ever; 125M TV shows sold (more than any other service); 7M movies sold (more than anyone, but didn’t meet expectations).  Enhancements announced:
    1. iTunes Movie Rental (music users have not wanted music rental); Studio’s on board at launch (20th Century Fox, TouchStone, Miramax, MGM, Lions Gate, New Line Cinema, WB, Disney, Sony, Paramount, Universal – essentially all of the studios; More than 1000 films by February
    2. Films available for rental in the 30 days after DVD release
    3. Watch anywhere (PC, iPod or TV)
    4. iPod Touch added 5 new apps including maps, email, SMS, web clips and chapter search
    5. Didn’t state, but looks like progressive download as the movie starts within seconds of the rental purchase
    6. 30 days to watch the movie and 24 hours watch it once started
    7. Can transfer the movie watching to another device in the middle (start on a PC then xfer to iPod for a flight)
    8. DVD quality, but also providing Hi-Def (100 titles today growing fast) with 5.1 Dolby surround sound
    9. Pricing is DVD library release – $2.99; DVD New Release – $3.99; HD library – $3.99 and HD new release – $4.99
    10. Service started today in the U.S. and goes International later this year
  • Apple TV: stated that we’ve all missed (Microsoft, Netflix, Nubu and other logos on screen) how to get the movies to the flat panel in the living room.  Apple TV was designed as an accessory for iTunes & computer, but it’s about Movies, Movies, Movies.  Enhancements announce:
    1. Price dropped from $299 to $229
    2. All new user interface
    3. Leverages the new iTune movie rental service
    4. Rent directly from the Apple TV box – no computer needed now
    5. Photo from Flickr can be streamed or from your dot mac accounts
    6. Will auto sync with your computer if you want
    7. Free software upgrade to all existing users and get the functionality
  • 20th Century Fox: Jim Gianopolos (Chairman & CEO) on stage to discuss movie rental deal.  Talked about biz models being super important, gushed about how great it is to work with Jobs and put a major plug in for Blu-ray winning the format war as the crowd applauded.
  • MacBook Air: launched a new ultra-thin MacBook to compliment the notebook line up. Standard model priced at $1799.  Model with the 64GB SSD flash over $3K,.  Compared the “Air” to the Sony TZ series which had previously set the benchmark in this category.  The thickest part of the Air is thinner than the thinnest part of the Sony for comparisons.  Features:
    1. .76 to .16 thin (no optical device, can get one external if you need)
    2. 13.3 inch LCD back light display
    3. Full size and backlight keyboard
    4. Multi-touch (similar to the iPhone – swipe, pinch etc.) capability on the trackpad
    5. 80GB HDD and optional 64GB SSD (pricey however)
    6. 2GB memory and 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo (C2D) standard or optional 1.8GHz
    7. 802.11N and Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR
    8. Usage model changing and driving wireless even for software download – now leverage a PC optical drive across the network
    9. Talked about environment: mercury free, arsenic free glass, Bromide Fire Retardant (BFR) and PVC free
    10. 56% less packaging waste
    11. Jobs applauded the joint effort and working with Intel
  • Intel: Paul Otellini was invited on stage to evangelize the 30% reduced form factor of the C2D.  Gave Jobs a souvenir of one and gushed about how great it was to work with Apple.  For those of you into little known factual tidbits, it was interesting to note that the video graphic overlay while Paul walked on stage used the old Intel dropped “e” logo.  The graphic/name/title on the projected stage TV was correct.
  • Summation: In the first 2 weeks of the New Year Apple launched:
    1. Fastest ever Mac Pro desktop system
    2. Time Capsule
    3. Software updates for iPhone, iPod Touch along with new apps for Touch
    4. iTunes Movie Rental
    5. Apple TV (software upgrade) along with HD video content
    6. MacBook Air – Ultra thin laptop
    7. Last slide stated…And there’s still 50 weeks left….
  • Randy Newman: Music artist extraordinaire played a couple songs for the audience.  Newman photo courtesy of YouTube. He starts by telling us about his trip to Europe, where he noticed that “they don’t like us so much.”   And he sang a song he wrote about it…”A Few Words in Defense of Our Country.”

 A couple of parting thoughts about Randy Newman.  The song choice was odd.  If Apple signed off on the first song he sang they have some guts.  A little piano ditty that compares the U.S. to Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Europe during the time of the Inquisition.  Now that’s an interesting mix of art meeting commerce.  Highly political and bashed a number of things which will only add to the blog fodder I’m sure.

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itunes_roundJust days before the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where legendary musicians and the buzz of new product introductions will showcase how consumers manage and enjoy their digital media “everywhere”, the Washington Post is reporting that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has a federal case against Jeffrey Howell, an AZ, man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer.  RIAA maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.  

Huh?  It’s illegal to transfer CDs to a computer?  I thought court rulings over the last 20 years have found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording?

Who is RIAA?  It’s an organization that represents the major recording labels in the USA. These labels pay multi-millions of dollars for this representation and since RIAA is based in Washington, DC., they act as an industry lobbyist, literally.  They often urge, cajole or otherwise influence Congress to take their side in the “battle” against “music piracy.”  I’m not sure who would visit, but the RIAA even ran a Holiday Anti-Piracy Campaign message streaming across its web site offering tips on “avoiding pirate products.”

And northwest news the Oregon State Attorney General and the University of Oregon are being assaulted by RIAA’s tactics.  RIAA subpoenaed the University asking it to turn over the names of students that it suspected of making copyrighted material available to file sharers.  Note the keyword here is suspected.  While no one would disagree that it’s appropriate for victims of copyright infringement to pursue statutory remedies, shouldn’t that pursuit be tempered by basic rights of privacy and due process?

Typically RIAA harassment comes in the form of a pre-litigation letter to “suspects” they believe are guilty file sharers. There is even a credit card payment link – p2plawsuits.com where these so called “suspects” that receive the pre-litigation letters can drop off a quick $3000 to stop the RIAA from suing them.  Maybe next up is payroll deduction options?!  Good grief!

But that’s not good enough.  RIAA is now running around with deep- pocket teams of lawyers saying that even making a personal copy on your computer is a violation.  This hard-line position is clear. RIAA wants to roll back time to pre-internet days of vinyl albums.  If you make copies of copyrighted music recordings – even on cassette tape – you’re stealing.  You’re breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages.

The RIAA’s legal crusade against consumers (its customers) is a text-book example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed.

UPDATE: The Washington Post left out a couple of facts that are now being reported for the people who need to read all the details.  Turns out the article was misleading in that the RIAA was not only going after Howell for ripping his CD’s, but for also putting those ripped files into a shared Kazaa folder.  I disagree that because he put them in a shared folder its infringement, but its a different claim than the original one of just ripping them to his PC.  It will be interesting to watch…

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Apple will sale EMI music without anti-piracy (DRM – digital rights management) technology — Steve Jobs proclaimed in February that music companies should sell their music DRM-free. Evangelizing that DRM-free music would create a truly interoperable music marketplace.

About a month later (4/2/07), in agreement with music label EMI, Apple is making EMI songs available without DRM through its iTunes music store. The music will be higher quality (encoded at 256kbps AAC), and tracks will cost $1.29, or 30 cents more than the standard 99 cents.

This means you can take those songs (EMIs entire catalog (DRM free) – globally in May) and put them on any device you want too. I think this helps address how I only want to buy a song or album ONCE and be able to play it in my car CD, my iPod, computer, on my PS3 or my TV. I don’t want to buy it 10 times from 10 different sources to play it on 10 different electronic components.

Is this the next big step forward for music interoperability, a significant development for the industry or a move by EMI to garner headlines? Maybe it’s all three, but at the joint press announcement EMI stated they were confident this will grow their sales and put a stake in the groud stating that 1/4 of all sales would be digital by 2010.

Hard to predict music sales let alone the digital elements, but I like the interoperability and hope other label’s follow.

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Steve Jobs provided a good read on his view and thoughts of the music industry yesterday and basically asks for DRM free music, something the entire world has been asking for. Jobs can be a catalyst, but towards what? What should the music industry do?

He makes excellent points in his post:

Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. It’s hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.

Unfortunately, Jobs asking the music industry for DRM free music is nothing but a pipe dream. It would take cooperation of an ego driven industry (remember the SonyBMG root malware crisis?) and they don’t care about understanding the user interdependencies. They care only about optimizing revenue across the entire scope of options.

We’re kidding ourselves thinking it’s an industry driven by art.

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Hardly a day streams by that someone in the music industry doesn’t pontificate that “billions” have been ripped off by music users…as example:

Universal Music CEO, Doug Morris “These devices (reference to iPod) are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it”… from a press gather on why they charge a royalty of $1 for every Zune hardware device sold and distributing half of those profits equally to it artists.

Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer “Most people still steal music,”…”we can build the technology, but there are still ways for people to steal music”…at a London press gathering on a number of issues Ballmer takes a swipe and bills Microsoft as the good guys and Apple the villains. [I wonder if this includes Ballmer’s 12 year old son?!]

I’m not sure how you feel, but I don’t appreciate being called a thief. I own every CD that I’ve ripped on my computer/iPod and have saved the e-receipts of songs/videos purchased from iTunes.

Clearly Steve is mimicking those TV ads while proving the doofus image! We all know they have a vested interest in making the Zune device/service successful. But, Steve let’s call it like it is. The larger battle here is to indoctrinate consumers into Apples or Microsoft’s universe so, bashing is their call to action given the luke warm Zune reviews.

Hey, if an ol duffer like me bought an iPod (and I did) and if I not only loved the product, but the ease of use and terrific design (and I did), then I might buy more for family and friends (and I did), then I might start thinking about buying other, larger Apple products, like a desktop computer now that my old PC balks at security patches (and I did).

I’m starting to think I know this computer stuff. For Christmas I want to send the Steve/Doug “duo” copies of Steal This File Sharing Book. The book is a clever turn of title phrasing nodding to the old Abbie Hoffman book from the 1960’s. The book highlights legal grey areas, identifies popular methods of sharing files, and then digs into the meat of the subject, which is the collection of tips on legal file sharing, outlining a clear path to avoid legal question marks and lawsuits.

To be fair and I was quick to believe the Zune would tank, it’s now ranked no. 2 according to NPD stats released on November 30th. The Zune supplanted SanDisk’s Sansa no.2 spot with 9% unit sales and 13% of total dollar share during the first week of sales. The iPod continues as no. 1 with 63% unit and 72.5% of the dollar share.

Excuse me while I put my black t-shirt on as I’m feeling the pull of the white façade of the Apple store and a need to talk with a friendly sales clerk who doesn’t know how to post on GooTube either.

UPDATE:
Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman made a startling admission when he sat down for a Second Life interview with Reuters: his kids have pirated music. Well, they’ve probably pirated music—Bronfman doesn’t sound too sure.

I’m fairly certain that they have, and I’m fairly certain that they’ve suffered the consequences,” he said, though he later confirmed that he had caught at least one Bronfman child using P2P software.

I’m sure his kids were forced to cough up thousands of dollars to the RIAA to keep from getting sued. Yeah, right!

This just proves the point that “normal” young people consider file-swapping to be…well, uhmmm it’s a NORMAL way of checking out digital media. When your dad runs one of the largest music labels on the planet and you still turn to P2P networks to discover new tunes, it’s clear that the issue isn’t just lack of access to music. Or money.

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I recieved the below teaser email from Microsoft today on the new bundled personal media player/service which goes on sale November 14th. The Zune site is LIVE today as well as the animated shorts on the arts.net site. Interesting site, but as appealing as the device and service look…I’ll stay the course with my video iPod.

*********************************************************************
music is in the air

*********************************************************************
Zune is almost here. So, thanks for registering to learn more.
Hope you enjoyed what we have shown so far. We have a lot more
going on.

Zune.net went live today. Check it out to learn more.
http://www.zune.net

Plus, Coming Zune is evolving into Zune Arts. Go see it at
http://www.zune-arts.net
It’s a place for creative expression around the idea of sharing
from some of today’s most progressive artists, animators and
designers. Play around. The gallery is constantly growing.
http://www.zune-arts.net

And because you signed up early we want to give you an exclusive
heads-up. Make sure you come back to Zune.net on November 10 for
some exciting information about our launch plans.

Pass it on. 11.14.06

zune

*********************************************************************
Legal: You are receiving this email because you signed up for the
Zune newsletter. To cancel your subscription click here.

Note unsubscribing to our newsletter does not change your email
preferences with Microsoft.com. To manage Microsoft.com preferences
click below.

Zune Privacy
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, Washington, United States 98052

*********************************************************************

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The Microsoft Zune™ digital media player and online service will be available to consumers in the U.S. on Nov. 14, 2006.

Microsoft (MSFT) claims to be putting the social back into digital music. Translated: they hope it’s an iPod killer and iTunes replacement for Christmas ’06. The device retails for $249.99 U.S. and the marketing hype states it will create new ways for entertainment fans to connect and share media experiences device-to-device through use of wireless technology. The device requires a Zune Pass subscription at $14.99/month to open up that new market of “social” music connectivity as well as access “millions” of songs. It’s that wireless element that has caused debate.

Why is Microsoft interested? Apple (AAPL)has sold ~65 million iPod’s and according to Sam Bhavnani, iTunes has ~100 million users — mainstream users who use, are educated, and accustom to the Apple music/video download model and user interface. And, they recently announced their one-billionth download on iTunes. Yep, the iPod is in Microsoft’s sights.

Microsoft’s creative strategy to include a social community with the device is very cool. I’ve blogged on social communities and how online social networking has become an incredible phenomenon. A typical social networking site, say like Facebook or MySpace, you create an individual profile detailing your age, location, whether you are in a relationship, plus your general interests, favorite music, movies and books etc.,. You might upload photographs of yourself and write daily journal entries. You build up a set of online friends, each of whom will have their own set of friends, and so on.

It’s not clear what set of features/functions the Zune device will incorporate at launch in it’s social network, but in a recent interview with Apple CEO, Jobs was ask if the iPod competitor has him worried?

In a word, no. I’ve seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of headphone cable.

Besides being a clever sound bite, the point is spot on in that technology can often lose sight of the simple and/or obvious. “Social” is just that. It’s about interaction and conversations between people and not an exercise in “mental calisthenics” to waste time working with technology. It’s about getting what you want done. Time will tell if the Zune social community will evolve to an integral part of everyone’s daily life. Microsoft surely hopes it will. People participate in social networks and often prefer networks set up for other people they can relate too.

Sharing your music library while connected by two feet of headphone cable is a simple social network.

For certain youth demographics, it’s the ear-bud stupid! This just makes sense.

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