July 28, 2006
Play Windows Media Files on a Mac in QuickTime
Microsoft has released Windows Media Components for QuickTime. Mac owners with OS X version 10.3.9 or later and QuickTime version 6.5 or later can use this download to play .wma and .wmv files in QuickTime.
The Microsoft download page is here.
July 27, 2006
Kazaa Settles Copyright Action
Kazaa settles its copyright infringement action brought against it by various music and video trade entities for over $100 million dollars in penalties. Kazaa had been found liable by Australian courts for copyright infringement through its file sharing arrangement. Kazaa says they will block members from sharing infringing files and will seek to become a partner in legitimate digital file distribution.
Kazaa said that once the transition is complete, it looks forward to being marginalized as an exciting new legal distribution service since it is neither Apple nor Microsoft as a content provider or market leader. Sorry, made that last one up. One question, however. Will Kazaa legal downloads still come with spyware? If so, they can potentially partner with Sony BMG.
The House Passes DOPA
The House passed DOPA today by a vote of 410-15. DOPA, or Deleting Online Predators Act, is the response by Congress to sexual predators using the Internet and social-networking sites to prey on children. Protecting children is a worthy goal, although critics view the act as poorly written and overly broad to accomplish the task. The act gives the FCC power to define social networking sites and chat rooms which then would be rendered inaccessible to minors at schools and libraries that receive federal money. This, of course, does nothing to stop predators from gaining access to social networking sites other than to bring more attention to the fact they are present on the sites. It will also annoy students who will look for ways using their laptops to gain access anyway while at school, and do nothing to stop them while they are not at school.
Social networking sites such as MySpace, FaceBook, and others are magnets for teens and pre-teens as a way to connect with others like them. NewsCorp, the owner of MySpace, was taken by surprise at the popularity of the site which has now become one of the most heavily visited sites on the net. Critics charge that the bill is so broad that it could encompass most any web site that allows people to set up public profiles. This includes sites such as Amazon, Yahoo, and others. The FCC will have to decide how broadly or narrowly the characteristics of offending web sites, assuming the bill passes the Senate. As this is an election year and focus groups show that this resonates with suburban voters, there will be pressure. The text in this bill, in fact, made it to the House floor without even the benefit of a committee hearing. It would have likely been a different story sans voter accountability. Congress claims that it doesn't want to see regulations on the net, hence the negative votes on net neutrality. If there was a way to combine net neutrality concepts with a save the children theme, maybe by claiming that without net neutrality AT&T will speed vile programming from FOX and Comedy Central on demand and at faster online speeds to children....
More Zune News
Microsoft gave out a bit more information on their Zune music player today. The company said that it didn't see the mass marketing of a music supply chain as a six month strategy. It would take an effort of several years and a multi-million dollar long term investment to successfully challenge Apple's supremacy in online music sales. Microsoft is one of the few companies with sufficient resources to compete with the iPod and iTunes. It's nice to see some realistic comments about what it means to compete with Apple for this market compared with the initial comments on the Zune Insider Blog. The latest info from that source: Zune will come with pre-loaded content. Not exactly earth shattering. Microsoft Media Player has a few songs loaded into it as well with a new Windows install. All speculation aside, there's not enough here to get excited about until more details arrive.
July 25, 2006
Congress Passes Bill Targeting Misleading Web Sites
The House passed a measure today that will target web sites that use innocent words to attract children to inappropriate web sites. The penalty for intentionally using misleading words to confuse a minor is a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. As the Senate has already approved the bill, it has gone to the president who will sign it into law on Thursday. The bill is the Child Protection and Safety Act, HR 4472.
More on this at CNET.
July 24, 2006
Zune is Coming, Will Anyone Care
Microsoft confirmed rumors last week that the company was indeed developing an iPod rival device and music service called Zune. Details are sketchy as to what this means in terms of a consumer experience in general and as an alternative to iTunes. Microsoft is trying to create a buzz here, both with a blog and a web site. The blog features enthusiastic reader comments about Zune, as if the world has never seen anything quite like this before. It is honest, however, in that someone did post a comment about how they must all be fakes as the responses were not just positive, but really POSITIVE in an unnatural way.
The web site is another matter. Once past the musical interlude opening ("Us" by Regina Spektor) there is a place to enter one's email address. Below that is a check box supplying an option to receive a Zune newsletter. One can't proceed (assuming there is anything to proceed to) without supplying an email address and checking the box.
The few details that have come out include Zune being hard drive based and with Wi-Fi access. Microsoft envisions the device as computer independent, although no word on whether it will be platform independent. There have been suggestions that the track pricing will vary, something the music labels have lusted after since they joined up with (and frustrated by) Apple. Zune owners should be able to use the Wi-Fi feature to share tracks to some degree, share playlists and buy music directly to the machine. There are also rumors that it will have some game playing ability, as a portable xBox. It might play video as well.
The murky (read unknown) details include will it work on Apple as iTunes works on Windows; will consumers be able to burn tracks to CD; will file formats be limited; will it play native and wildly popular MP3 format, whether consumers can transfer existing CD tracks to Zune. Then there's the question of unit pricing. Will Microsoft hopelessly load the unit with features no one needs just to appeal to every possible market segment? Can Microsoft develop a cool factor for Zune that can seriously challenge the iPod and iTunes. Will we see DJs in clubs using dual Zunes to mix? Or will the DRM just get in the way. Microsoft does have problems with the vision thing When cultural aspects are involved. Apple set their system up to work with consumers as they would. Microsoft created its DRM system to cater to music labels and movie studios assuming the sheer force of distribution would change consumer habits. Market shares show that it doesn't always work that way.
What this development means to the new Urge service Microsoft started with MTV and the host of partners Microsoft has in the Plays For Sure (maybe) program is anyone's guess. Initial comments suggest that these Windows-based players will see market share loss before Apple does. Consider that Zune is now officially coming, would you buy a Creative or iRiver product while waiting to see what this puppy can do? Let the fear, uncertainty, and disinformation (FUD) flow. It won't affect Apple, at least in the short run. Their sales model has proved to work.