February 9, 2007
Amazon Terms of Service for Movie Downloads Analyzed
Thrilled about Amazon's movie download service? Read an analysis of the terms of agreement here. Scary stuff. As the author basically states, who in their right mind would agree to this? Will they be much different when the Amazon/TiVo agreement takes effect?
February 8, 2007
GMail Available to All
Google's GMail service started off being invitation only. The company has opened it up to anyone who wants an account. Get one through the GMail sign in page.
More on Selling Music without DRM
There's a story in Forbes that suggests EMI is considering dropping DRM. One element of the story discusses the amount of money legal digital sales are generating, about $800 million. That's it? Read the whole thing here.
Hold Off on Vista Says Apple, iTunes Doesn't Work
So, certain Apple applications aren't compatible with Vista yet. Apps such as iTunes, Quicktime, and others won't work with real stability or consistency, so Apple is telling the Windows faithful to wait until patches are ready, oh, in a couple of weeks or so. Microsoft was pretty clear that they delivered the code to Apple and other developers months ago, so the inconvenience is due to Apple and not them. Gotta go with MS on this one. If this is another pointless dig at Vista by Apple, then the only people who are inconvenienced are the Apple software customers. Apple is the one coming off looking petty here.
Yahoo Pipes Pulls Data from Multiple Sites
It's an automated tool that uses RSS and Atom protocols to pull information together. The site is very popular as the message that's up as of this writing is that the "pipes are clogged" and a note saying that Yahoo plans to add more capacity. Catch it when you can.
The story is in CNET and other news sites.
February 7, 2007
Jobs Issues Open Letter Suggesting DRM Free Music Sales
Steve Jobs issued an open letter in the last day calling on a DRM free world for music sales. He says that Apple would embrace selling non-protected music. The New York Times calls this a "gamble" on the part of Jobs. The real gamble is that the labels would call Jobs' bluff and go with unrestricted music files, something Jobs knows is unlikely to happen. Certainly an unnamed senior executive from a label is quoted in the same article as saying there are no plans to lift DRM restrictions for online music sales.
Jobs indicated in his letter that he has no intentions of licensing the Apple FairPlay system to third parties. The problem for labels, consumers, and any interested parties in this is the plethora of DRM systems that not only restrict copying, but universal playback. While it is hard to resist the lure of free, as in pirated and illegal, pirated files offer consumers the one thing they really crave, which is thoughtless playability anywhere. Imagine DVD sales being successful if DVD players had to be branded against a Microsoft DRM scheme, or an Apple, or one from Sony (Heaven forbid based on their track record). There is one worldwide system that, with minor exceptions such as region codes, that make DVDs playable world wide. Technical problems such as NTSC and PAL playback are solved by most hardware manufacturers building in support for these standards in their players. If anything, the movie download market is hamstrung for the lack of universality of the consumer experience, other than it being limited by playback options for an excessive amount of money. Sound familiar?
The music companies are so paranoid about their product that they can't do what they've done in the past, which is create standards. Vinyl was standard, as were/are CDs. In the case of the labels, DRM is an all or nothing proposition: everything protected to the point of absurdity or no distribution. The labels were not able to coalesce around a digital download standard and left it to the online distributors for the model. Apple has theirs, and Microsoft has two, which are not even compatible with each other. The labels missed the boat on that one by not dictating a standard and opening up their own online stores. Hardware manufacturers would have followed because they love standards. It's a selling point. Now the market is tilted in favor of Apple dictating the terms as it sells more dowloadable content than anyone.
Some will argue that the labels didn't do this so as not to antagonize the brick and mortar stores that sold CDs. The answer to this would have been to let anyone set up online stores that linked back to their servers. Many places such as Best Buy and Circuit City sell physical product at varying prices. The labels could have done the same with online product. Let the stores fight it out as they do now, except online. There are legal marketing techniques such as online exclusives, value added content from the artists, and sales as a way of distinguishing online stores. Because the market is fragmented, so is the consumer base. Apple can only sell to iPod owners. Microsoft can only sell to Zune owners and the music is not transferable between the two without going through the hoops of burning tracks to CD, which effectively destroys the copy protection, and ripping the tracks again. This is not the way to sell music to consumers who never had to worry about players and formats before.
Don't expect the labels to take Jobs' bait, and don't expect the online market to develop to the extent that the labels prefer. It may be too late to fix this one. Lawsuits by the RIAA may provide moral victories, but they won't stop the majority of consumers from going with the least amount of hassle to get music on their portables.
Is Yahoo! After Your Browser?
Is Yahoo! trying to steal market share from Google by hijacking browser and IM settings in a Messenger update? Read it here.
February 5, 2007
Vista, Office Support to Cost More
Microsoft is raising prices on support for Vista and Office 2007. Unlimited support is available for 90 days but after that Vista support goes to $59 an incident and Office support goes to $49. Both had been $35. OEM customers are referred back to their computer vendor who will undoubtedly say it's Microsoft's fault or pass the customer back and forth between departments (are you listening Dell?). Blame the price rise on customer support outfits such as Geek Squad and others. They charge way more than Microsoft, and Microsoft noticed. Microsoft is not known to ignore a potential revenue stream.
Details on all of this are in Computer World.
Apples Settle Trademark Dispute
The Beatles and their legal representatives have settled their trademark dispute with Apple, Inc., formerly Apple Computer. The British courts last May ruled in favor of the consumer electronics company when challenged by the band's label and holding company over use of the marks. The dispute arose over a former agreement that forbade Apple Computer from entering the music business. The iTunes store selling tracks triggered the latest dispute. The settlement calls for Apple, Inc. to own all trademarks and to license them back to Apple Corps. for their use. The money details have not been disclosed.
The settlement now leads to speculation over the legal download of the band's back catalog. Steve Jobs is known to lust after the music for the iTunes store, and Neil Aspinal, Apple Corps manager announced last May that he was preparing new masters of the Beatles for CD and download release. That may have been a stick to get Apple, Inc. to come to some agreement.
So, who has more money, Apple or Microsoft, in order to get the Beatles exclusively on their store? Will Apple get stiffed by Apple?
The story is in the Washington Post.
Princeton Opens Libraries to Google
Princeton University is joining Google's digital book scanning project. Approximately 1 million public domain books will be scanned into Google over the next 6 years.
The story is in the San Jose Mercury News.
Turner to Pay $2,000,000 Over Aqua Teen Flap
One of the dumbest stories to come out of the news last week involved the city of Boston going crazy over potential terrorist activities that turned out to be guerrilla advertising for the Adult Swim cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The show - easier to watch than describe - is about the adventures of anthropomorphic fast food. There is Frylock, a floating box of french fries, Master Shake, a large obnoxious milk shake, and Meatwad, who is more than just the pattie he appears to be. He can change shape into an igloo, a hot dog, and more recently, a meat statue of Abraham Lincoln.
The devices that caused most of Boston to shut down consisted of circuit boards with LEDs in the shape of show characters. About 20 of these were placed in various parts of Boston and other cities such as Chicago and San Francisco. No one outside of Boston seemed to notice them, at least to the point where they seemed threatening.
Most disturbing to Boston were the images of the Mooninites (Ignignokt and Err) who are prone to obnoxious behavior and insulting hand gestures. One has to ask, in a College town, hasn't anyone seen this show? A little overreaction, perhaps, to shutting down roads over something such as this? Anyone who has seen the show has to wonder.
As it turns out, Turner Broadcasting, owner of Cartoon Network and home of Adult Swim is paying Boston and Massachusetts some $2,000,000 to compensate them for their trouble. Actually, this is cheap compared to bringing publicity to a show that runs on late night cable for about 12 minutes a pop. And come to think of it, there is an Aqua Teen movie coming out on March 23rd. $2,000,000 is cheap for that kind of publicity. Perhaps Turner can arrange for the movie to premier in Boston. That would be the ultimate joke.
Pediatrics Study Shows Unwanted Porn Reaching Almost Half of Online Kids
A study to be published in the February issue of Pediatrics shows that 4 in 10 children ages 10 to 17 encountered pornographic images and sometimes movies online in the year prior to the study. 80% of those encounters were not deliberate searches but the results of spam, downloading, and misspelled words in web addresses. The other 20% where porn was sought out found that kids were disturbed by the graphic nature of what they saw. Another statistic showed that 80% of those who sought pornography were boys.
The study took place via telephone surveys conducted between March and June 2005 in the U.S. The study authors speculate that the number for those seeking porn may be higher due to embarrassment over reporting their encounters.