Archive for February, 2008

Apple patent hints at a future of podcasting mash-ups

itunes podcastsA new patent filed recently by Apple may give podcasting a significant and much needed boost.

The patent, known by the incredibly dull title of “Creation, Management, and Delivery of Personalized Media Items”, hints at the future of podcasting and provides insight into how Apple thinks podcasting can be improved.

You may recall only a few years ago podcasting was a grass-roots new media movement practiced and enjoyed by techies and early adopters. But when Apple decided in mid-2005 to include podcasts, both audio and video, in an iTunes directory, it skyrocketed in popularity, although many would argue that it falls short of mainstream acceptance.

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EFF critical of Flash Video DRM

EFF critical of Flash Video DRMIn a recent blog post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Seth Schoen lays out a number of criticisms of Adobe’s push to introduce Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology into its Flash Video and accompanying Flash Media Server products.

If DRM was to become commonplace for Flash Video (the dominant format for streaming video on the Web e.g. YouTube) then it would stifle competition and dramatically hinder the burgeoning “remix” culture that the Internet has spawned, argues Schoen.

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Microsoft opens up Xbox 360 to casual gaming even more with new online service

game developers conferenceMicrosoft’s announcement today that it is starting a new online service for the Xbox 360 to showcase games made by independent developers was met with three cheers for the developers, ho-hum for everybody else.

I’m not so sure about that.

The so-called experts believe that Microsoft opening up the Xbox 360 to more casual gaming will have a greater impact on game development and distribution than to mass-market consumers, who are not inclined to buy expensive, powerful consoles like the Xbox 360 or Sony’s PlayStation 3 just to play Taxi Gone Wild, Dress Shop Hop, and Speed Racer.

“This would appeal to the more independent developers, people who want to break into the market, and get them started on the Xbox,” Colin Sebastian, an analyst for Lazard Capital Markets, told the Associated Press. “It makes the development and distribution of video games more accessible.”

Sebastian doesn’t think the Xbox download service, announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, will appeal to mass-market consumers.

Why is that?

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Gerd Leonhard: Flat Rate or Flat Line – further thoughts on the Music Flat Rate

Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution Licensed (3.0 US).

This is a guest post by Gerd Leonhard: Music & Media Futurist, author of “Music2.0“, co-author of “The Future of Music”, CEO of Sonific.com, speaker and advisor.

Gerd Leonhard: Flat Rate or Flat Line - further thoughts on the Music Flat RateLast week I wrote a response to the now (in)famous Paul McGuinness speech at MIDEM in Cannes. In his otherwise quite misdirected talk, Paul briefly referred to the so-called ‘digital music flat rate’ (Ed. something we’ve been calling a “music tax”) and so I wanted to make sure I specifically address this topic in a separate guest post here at last100.

Paul’s MIDEM speech sadly reflects the current situation: a music industry still run by yesterday’s managers, executives and (mis)leaders that are still obsessed with control, more than with anything else. Many of them (with some notable exceptions) still can’t seem to face the fact that despite a long, hard struggle to desperately (re)gain some kind of control over what people do with their music, the industry has in a most spectacular fashion in fact totally lost control over the distribution of its product. And good riddance: this development is neither new nor does it need to be the cause of doom and gloom. Rather, the bizarre part is that the most popular and widespread uses of music are still not blessed with permission i.e. a LICENSE. 10 years after Napster and still no real progress – this amazing ineptitude of the music industry to actually adapt has now led to a ‘music is free, period’ attitude among the Digital Natives and the Net Generation.

The longer the likes of Paul McGuinness wait to accept the basic fact of control-loss, the less likely they are to survive this shift to a new ecosystem or maybe even prosper in a Music 2.0 world – and the less likely the artists and writers are to get paid anytime soon.

So why would the flat rate for digital music solve the rampant music sharing ‘problem’?

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BBC iPlayer for iPod Touch, iPhone within weeks

BBC iPlayer for iPod Touch, iPhone A version of the BBC’s UK-only TV catch-up service, iPlayer, will be available to iPod Touch and iPhone users within “the next few weeks”, reports The Register.

Optimized for streaming over Wi-Fi rather than O2′s slower EDGE network, the new version of iPlayer will employ the iPod-friendly H.264 video codec, according to the report. While this would limit iPlayer use on the go, the BBC has a partnership with UK-wide hotspot provider The Cloud to deliver free Wi-Fi access to the BBC’s website.

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DoubleTwist liberates your media, makes it easier to share iTunes content

doubletwist logoDVD Jon and his company, doubleTwist, released beta software today that’s designed to allow users to share digital media files — music, video, pictures — across devices regardless of type or copy protection.

In other words, if you have a copy-protected song in your iTunes library and want to play it on a PlayStation Portable or Nokia phone instead of an iPod — or you want to send it to friends to play on the devices they own — you can do it with the doubleTwist desktop application.

The software automatically plays song files, regardless of copy protection, in the background. doubleTwist re-records the songs as MP3 files, which can then be sync’d to any device attached to a Windows computer using the doubleTwist application. (It’s not available for Apple computers yet, although a Mac version is in the works.)

doubleTwist is essentially doing the same process as when a user “rips” a CD onto a computer. doubleTwist allows only music already purchased and authorized (like iTunes) to be processed. It says 100 songs can be converted in about half an hour, with about a 5 percent degradation in sound quality.

Says doubleTwist’s Jon Lech Johansen, aka DVD Jon, “We’ve built a format agnostic solution that handles the complexity of file and device compatibility so consumers don’t have to.” (Reuters.)

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Blu-ray wins format war – much longer HD download battle lies ahead

Blu-ray wins format war; much longer HD download battle lies aheadIt’s official: Toshiba, the leading partner in the HD DVD camp, has waved the white flag. The next generation DVD format war is over. Blu-ray wins.

The move to stop production of HD DVD players and recorders was an “agonising decision”, according to Toshiba president Atsutoshi Nishida, but one that the company had to take after “judging that there is no way of winning the competition.”

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BBC Worldwide to offer programs through iTunes, but only in UK for now

bbc on itunesUnfortunately, the juiciest detail to us in the U.S. is not known.

The Register reports that BBC Worldwide will soon offer its content on iTunes, presumably through the iTunes UK store only.

The Register’s “TV industry” source says that BBC Worldwide digital media director Simon Danker has contacted the BBC’s third-party production partners to inform them of the new distribution channel.

However, The Register provided no additional details.

Rats.

At the same time, Ashley Highfield, the director of BBC Future Media and Technology, indicated on the BBC Internet Blog that the iPlayer may become available via the AppleTV set-top box. The iPlayer is the BBC’s on-demand television service that allows UK residents to watch programs broadcast in the last seven days online for free.

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Weekly wrapup, 11-15 Feb 2008

Here’s a summary of the week’s digital lifestyle action on last100. Note that you can subscribe to the weekly wrapups, either via the special weekly wrapup RSS feed or by email.

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Top digital lifestyle news

Mobile World CongressThis week saw the Mobile World Congress (MWC) take place in Barcelona, and as a result there was lots of news and announcements related to mobile. The biggest of which is that Microsoft is purchasing Danger Inc., makers of the consumer smart phone known as Sidekick. The move is a clear signal by Microsoft that, perhaps following the success of the iPhone, the company is to enter the consumer smart phone market. Whether this will be through rolling out a software platform for existing hardware partners or involve Microsoft building a device of their own is yet to be seen (Zune phone anyone?).

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iPhone steals the show at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

iphone on saleShame on you Nokia.

Shame on you Samsung.

Shame on you Motorola.

Shame on you Sony Ericsson.

Shame on all you mobile handset manufacturers.

You let Apple, a computer turned consumer electronics company, steal your show at the Mobile World Congress this week in Barcelona. Except for the curiosity factor of Google’s open-source mobile operating system Android, does anybody but mobile techies and the media (Macworld roundup) even remember what new models, services, or strategies were introduced by the world’s leading handset makers?

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