September 28, 2006
Microsoft Announces Zune Pricing, Availability, Other Details
Zune will be available November 14th and will be priced at $249.99 for a 30 Gigabyte model. That's just 99 cents more than a comparable Apple iPod. Zune tunes (you heard it here first) will cost 99 cents each. Microsoft has said that it expects to lose money on the player as it has to compete with Apple on prices. What the company hopes will distinguish Zune from the iPod is the additional subscription service priced at $14.95 a month and the wireless connection that lets Zune users share music on a limited basis. The limit here is the receiver will be able to play a song three times, or for only three days, which ever comes first. Users should be able to share photos on an unlimited basis. Apple doesn't have a subscription option in iTunes though it does quite well without one.
Analysts at Jupiter Research note that music subscription models have yet to catch on with the general public. The legal Napster isn't exactly setting the world on fire and Real Network's Rhapsody service has a lot of criticism leveled against it if the comments in the service's user forum are any gauge. Sample them here.
Microsoft says it's in this market for the long haul and plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over years to build up the Zune brand and customer loyalty. We'll good luck with that. By the time Microsoft gets everyone hopped up on wireless features, Steve Jobs will have figured a way to stream iPod based music to the home entertainment center via the same iTV set top box that will send movies downloaded from the iTunes store. This time, however, he will let Microsoft do all the heavy lifting on selling the concept. Quite the revenge for all the "borrowing" Microsoft seems to have made from the Apple OS for Windows.
Stories are in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Register, and this one in ComputerWorld with predictions as to how and why Zune will ultimately best the iPod, as if Apple won't know how to compete. We still have no idea how smothering Microsoft's DRM will be, or, if (dis-)similar to Rhapsody, whether Zune will be a seamless and smooth experience for end users.
September 27, 2006
Lawsuits, We've Got Lawsuits: Microsoft, AMD, Intel
Microsoft sues the unknown hacker who keeps breaking its DRM. The company is miffed over successive variations of a program called FairUse4VM that pops up on the Internet every time a patch is issued to defeat it. Microsoft designed their DRM so patches could be applied to the system rather than individual files. That functionality keeps the system in step with the hacker, if not a step ahead of him or her, who uses the name Viodentia online. Microsoft's suit states that Viodentia, who remains anonymously at large, has somehow gained access to copyrighted source code for the hacks. Not so says Viodentia in response. He or she used the same materials in the DRM software development kit available to media developers.
That's one way to make sure that PlaysForSure works.
And Intel has managed to get some of the claims lodged against it by AMD dismissed. AMD is seeking redress from allegedly anti-competitive business practices by Intel in a number of jurisdictions. The judge agreed with Intel that foreign forums are a better place to resolve foreign claims.
Microsoft Issues Patch Prior to the Next Batch Release
Perhaps it was the severity of the problem to be addressed, or perhaps it was the potential lack of control over the management of the operating system, but Microsoft issued a patch today covering the Vector Markup Language Flaw. It was critical enough for a third party group to issue their own patch. A hacker could exploit the the flaw through HTML emails and specially constructed emails that trick a user into executing code which allows the hacker to take control of the machine. The exploit is documented as existing in the wild.
Google is Celebrating its 8th Birthday
The Google history is on their web site. Happy 8th birthday. I'm sure Microsoft and Yahoo are saying the same thing through clenched teeth.
September 26, 2006
The U.S. Lobbied the E.U Over Microsoft
The United States government apparently lobbied the European Commission over fines against Microsoft last summer. The EU resisted and did not look favorably on the efforts.
The story is in CNET.
AOL Sued Over Data Breach
The AOL semi-accidental data release has finally resulted in a lawsuit against the company by aggrieved AOL users. The suit was filed in federal court in Oakland over breach of privacy. Attorneys have three plaintiffs named and are seeking class action status.
AOL did remove the data from the web once it realized its mistake. Aside from the fact that AOL released the data, the suit faults AOL for not trying to stop mirror sites from distributing copies of the data.
September 25, 2006
More Exploding Batteries and Virgin Eases Up
The exploding battery story takes a cue from the Energizer bunny and just keeps going. A Dell laptop caught fire at Yahoo last week and shut down some of the Santa Clara offices for a time.
A Lenovo laptop caught fire at Los Angeles International airport, although it is unconfirmed that the battery in question was manufactured by Sony. The company is investigating.
In the meantime, Virgin Atlantic has modified the rules that originally prohibited laptops under battery recall from being operated on planes. The original ban did allow use if the battery was removed and a plane's power socket was the source of power. That didn't fly, so to speak, as there are very few power outlets on Virgin planes. Now the airline is only banning laptop use if the batteries are from the affected manufacturing lots. That makes more sense, although the latest mishaps must still make security officials and passengers nervous.
Of all the laptop brands so far that have suffered exploding batteries, Sony, oddly, is not one of them.
British Library Calls for Copyright Laws to Recognize Preservation Efforts
The British Library has issued a manifesto that calls for copyright law to be revised in that it take into account preservation efforts. The Library notes that DRM measures go beyond copyright laws and can limit use to less than legal standards otherwise. Copyright may expire at some point, but DRM measures may cause content to be locked up indefinitely.
Current copyright provisions also hamper analog preservation. The Library is hampered in its efforts to preserve data and warned that significant parts of the U.K. music archive could decay before copyright runs out. There are more than a million records and 185,000 tapes that could decay before the 50 years of copyright on sound recordings runs out. Musician Cliff Richards is leading an effort to extend to life of the artist plus 70 years. His records will start to enter the public domain in two more years ending his royalties for them.
What is ironic is that the Library is one of the better institutions with resources that can take up the preservation effort and it is prevented from doing just that. On the other hand, music and video pirates who have no respect for copyright laws or preservation issues are actually creating unprotected copies of media that could conceivable be available for future generations. Of course, pirates don't have the collection development skills or follow preservation standards to create a significant archive. Even content creators aren't always aware of the value of an artistic work so that it would be preserved. Note the missing early Dr. Who episodes that the BBC wiped as the "children's show" was not worth keeping. Now the network scours the world and occasionally comes across a lost episode in an obscure warehouse.