July 6, 2007
Sony To Church: We're Sorry, Go Away
Sony issued an apology over a shoot-out sequence in the game Resistance: Fall of Man. The battle between man and alien takes place in what looks to be Manchester Cathedral in England. The Church of England was mighty miffed over violent acts being depicted at the Cathedral. It wanted the game withdrawn. While happy to issue an apology (which costs the company nothing) it will not withdraw the game from circulation or change it (which would cost it money). Sony, as called on, will not make a donation to the Cathedral with an effort of curbing gun violence in Manchester. The company did say, however, that it will not use the Cathedral in any future games. Sorry, our bad. On the plus side, anyone familiar with the layout of Manchester Cathedral should have an easy time getting through that level.
Read it in the BBC.
No Gmail for Google in Germany
Google lost a court battle in Germany over the Gmail trademark. The name is registered to Daniel Giersch and has been since 2000. Google has been trying to get it since the mail service started in 2004. Google was also told not to take the case further. The company used googlemail.com as the mail domain. Gmail may be shorter, but the German language is filled with so many compound words that hardly anyone should notice the extra letters.
July 5, 2007
EU To Look At Hi-Def DVD Format Competition
The European Union has decided to take a look at the competition between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD high definition video formats. The Commission has sent letters to studios inquiring about their decision to support a format. Sony, Walt Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Lion's Gate Entertainment, and MGM support Blu-Ray Exclusively. Universal supports HD-DVD exclusively, and Warner and Paramount support both. Warner plans to introduce a hybrid disc with content in each format on one side of a dual sided disc. Those releases are currently delayed.
The EU is interested in whether there was any improper tactics in how the studios decided to select their format of choice. Surely the Commission can't believe that a small number of powerful media executives got together to promote a format that works best for their interests irrespective of consumers? That sounds like the Dick Cheney school of business practices.
Belgian Court Orders ISP to Block File-Sharing
A Belgian ISP has to install software blocking illegal file-sharing on it's network or face daily fines according to a Belgian court. The court ruling interprets the European Union's Information Society Directive.
The story is in PC World.
3rd Party iPhone Activation Bypasses AT&T
DVD Jon, the person who gave us 15 lines of code that cracked the CSS DVD protection system, has published a crack to bypass activation for the iPhone. The program is not for the squeamish, however, requiring hex editing of the iTunes software and other manual changes to Windows. The result is an iPod and Wi-Fi network access. The phone part doesn't work after the crack, but that may not matter for some people. But at $499 and $599, maybe it does. Wait for more efforts as enterprising individuals make this device their own, literally.
July 2, 2007
Universal Music Group Stiff-Arms Apple
Universal Music has declined to sign another one year agreement to sell it's music via the iTunes Store. The company opted instead for a month to month deal while it looks at options to sell music on other services. Universal and other labels complain they have no leverage with Apple, who holds approximately 70% of the online music sales market. Steve Jobs always insisted that the sweet spot with consumers was at 99 cents. He only broke with that view when he agreed with EMI to sell higher quality tracks with no DRM for 30 cents more. Even then consumers only paid the difference for the track upgrade.
That was not a road Universal wanted to travel, not with getting a dollar from every Zune unit sale from Microsoft and nothing from Apple for the iPod. Royalties from the iPod would be real money as Zune sales are minuscule in comparison. Moreover, Apple insisted on selling single songs rather than emphasizing albums. Artists lamented that fact over creative issues while the labels lamented the money they weren't making from song collections. The seller couldn't always repackage old songs with one or two new ones to force a greatest hits resale as they could with CDs.
Universal is looking to create an alternative to the iTunes store. It wants competition, which is probably a good thing. Everyone says that competition spurs innovation. The problem with Universal's vision of competition is that it's an online version of the CD distribution model with copy protection. Apple promotes the concept that consumers are willing to buy music if they get a good deal. There must be some merit to this given their market share.
Universal will have to put some thought into how they will offer a better deal than Apple. Price isn't everything. if it were, Wal-Mart would be king of the heap. The iTunes store is the easiest place to buy music and the iTunes software is very good at managing music files. The included DRM even gives consumers options to share music between computers. The only place with better terms for consumers is through illegal file sharing. Universal is going to have to come up with something better than free. Will it have the marketing imagination to do that?
iPhone Launch Aftermath
The crush to buy them was large, as many predicted. Lots of them wound up on eBay, as predicted. AT&T customers had mixed reviews on phone activation. Those with existing AT&T numbers or taking a new phone number generally had few problems activating the phone. Those trying to port numbers from other carriers had delays of up to two days in getting their phone activated. The Apple experience was praised, but AT&T came in for heavy criticism for not preparing better.
One thing came up in the Chicago Tribune review of the phone: the only headphones available for the iPhone are those that come with it. Apple wants to keep the user experience consistent, using the headphone/microphone arrangement for all listening and phone calls. Assuming one is listening to a tune, the music is paused when placing or receiving a call. OEMs are creating aftermarket replacements, but they are not out yet. From other reviews, it seems that Apple did something it normally doesn't do with a new product, it made enough for demand. Some stores reported selling out, but reports indicate that in spite of the massive demand, there was still product available after the first day,
It will be a while before there is a general idea of the public reaction to the iPhone beyond the activation issue. The reviews are good so far.