Archive for the ‘Audio’ Category

With iPad out of the way, AppleTV to get some love?

Remember Steve Jobs’ hobby?

Yes, I’m talking about the AppleTV, Cupertino’s long neglected set-top box. Well, apparently, it’s been getting some love after all, reports Engadget.

A completely revamped version is in the works that ditches the current AppleTV OS in favour of something more akin to the iPhone/iPad with, presumably, a similar third-party developer model so that apps can be supported. If so, this is something we’ve been asking for since the original AppleTV launched.

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Spotify introduces new tiers, but reserves mobile as a premium perk

Spotify has announced two new packages, named “Spotify Unlimited” and “Spotify Open”, the latter of which makes a free version of the music steaming service available again without the need for an invite.

Until recently, there were only two options: “Spotify Free”, available as a desktop application only and ad-supported. And “Spotify Premium”, which offers higher bit-rate streams, no adverts, and the ability to access the service – including caching tracks for offline playback – on both the desktop and mobile client, all for £9.99 per month.

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I is back (from the Gadget Show Live 2010)

As is becoming a tradition at last100, I was away for the best part of last week at The Gadget Show Live (2010) in Birmingham, UK and generally taking a bit of time out to recharge my batteries, or at least that was the idea.

Aside from clocking up multiple Foursquare check-ins and quite a bit of mileage, I got to check out some of the latest consumer tech, which compared to last year’s show, was a little underwhelming. It just seemed that there wasn’t much new – and a lot of products were noticeably missing in action (Apple iPad anyone?)

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iPad reviews are in – PC Mag sums up Apple's device in 4,000 words [video]

It was just the other day that I was mocking a recent claim by PC Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff that what made the publication different from competing tech sites and blogs was its testing ‘labs’ used to conduct product reviews.

“Who needs a lab?”, I scoffed.

I get to review plenty of gear where my lounge, bedroom or local coffee shop is my ‘lab’. A mobile phone or netbook, for example, can be reviewed almost anywhere. It’s not the environment that counts but how knowledgeable and thorough the reviewer is and what products he/she has used for comparison. Or at least, that’s what I’d hope.

Putting all of that aside, however, PC Mag has put out today the best iPad review so far. It’s easily the most thorough – at 4,000 words – and, as Dave Zatz points out, hasn’t suffered from the print-length restrictions that plague the coverage of the Pogues, Walt Mossbergs of this world, never mind their perceived closeness to Cupertino. PC Mag gives the iPad a lab score of 4.5/5 ;-)

PC Mag have also produced a nice video review, which I’ve embedded right after the jump.

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Ubuntu One Music Store goes into public beta, Canonical calls for more testers

RhythmboxU1MusicStoreLast week, we reported on Canonical’s moves to incorporate a music store into Ubuntu. Ahead of Ubuntu’s April release of “Lucid Lynx”, Canonical have officially announced the public beta of their desktop music store.

The key to the music store’s infrastructure is Canonical’s cloud storage solution, “Ubuntu One”. Purchased MP3′s are initially sent from 7digital to the user’s Ubuntu One storage account, which are then synchronised to the user’s PC. Purchased tracks are only permitted to be re-downloaded three times from 7digital. Although, having the tracks stored within the Ubuntu cloud makes this limitation practically irrelevant.

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Ubuntu One Music Store – The new iTunes?

Ubuntu enters the music market

Canonical enters the music market

Canonical are making some interesting moves with respect to making their desktop Linux distribution, Ubuntu, more friendly to mainstream users. They now have a Dropbox like service called Ubuntu One. Of which, the short term goal is to sync users’ files and application settings, via the cloud, across all of their Ubuntu computers.

Further to this, it seems that Canonical clearly has aspirations to deliver DRM free music to desktop users. They have already given a vague outline of incorporating an ‘Ubuntu One Music Store’ into their default music player, RhythmBox. An alpha tester, “Popey”, of Ubuntu’s next desktop release, 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”, has already blogged that Canonical are likely to use 7digital as the back-end for this service (link). He has also blogged that RhythmBox has been prepared to both: feature the music store, and look for MP3 tracks stored on users’ UbuntuOne drive (link). The latter means that when a user buys music from the Ubuntu One Music Store, the MP3 files will be available to the user on any of his/her Ubuntu computers.

The final tantalising piece of the Puzzle is that another Ubuntu 10.04 alpha tester has reported that it is now possible to view tracks and playlists stored on his non-jailbroken iPhone.

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People keep asking… what do I make of Apple's iPad?

iPadNow that the dust has settled and I’ve had time to gather my thoughts, here’s what I make of the iPad, Apple’s own take on the tablet computer.

It’s an Internet appliance not a computer

While the tablet computer is nothing new, the iPad is, arguably, a completely new product category, which appears to occupy the middle ground between a smartphone and a laptop. If, of course, such a middle ground exists.

Unlike the raft of Windows Tablet PCs, which Bill Gates once claimed would be the future of personal computing, replacing the desktop and laptop, the iPad doesn’t appear to replace anything. It’s certainly too big to replace a smartphone. And it’s not capable of undertaking many tasks for which a laptop or desktop computer – read: fully-fledged desktop OS/applications and mouse/hardware keyboard – is required. But in many situations – web browsing and consuming content – the iPad is arguably better.

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The Guardian newspaper's iPhone app offers off-line mode – mobile Internet's killer feature?

guardian-iphoneThe Guardian has released a paid-for iPhone (and iPod touch) app that makes reading the UK newspaper on Apple’s device a truly smartphone experience.

Along with features such as the ability to customize the newspaper’s ‘front page’, support for audio, finger-friendly navigation, including ‘swiping’ through photo galleries, the feature that really stands out is off-line browsing.

As I write over at TechCrunch Europe, the functionality…

… works in a similar way to music streaming service Spotify’s own iPhone app. Sections of the newspaper can be ‘cached’ in advance to enable access when outside of a WiFi network or mobile signal. As with listening to music, this is particularly appropriate for reading a newspaper on-the-go, such as when commuting on London’s Underground or any other subway for that matter. The app also offers access to the various Guardian podcasts, which can be downloaded in advance or streamed.

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3 and Spotify point to the future of music purchasing

hero-spotify-3UK carrier 3 has teamed up with Spotify to offer a mobile tariff that includes a premium subscription, no ads and mobile usage, for the popular European (US launch pending) music streaming service. While the offer in itself is news worthy – it’s quite an attractive deal (more below) – perhaps more interesting is that the model may well point to the future of paid-for music.

Prior to 3′s offering, those wanting to utilize Spotify’s service on their handset were required to take out a premium subscription costing £10 per month in the UK. That’s quite high when competing against “free”, such as ad-supported offerings (including Spotify’s own, which prohibits mobile access) or illegal file downloads and the like.

However, by burying the premium subscription within a user’s monthly mobile tariff the service begins to enter the needed “feels like free” territory that self-proclaimed media futurist Gerd Leonhard has been talking about for years.

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7digital launches in the US, BlackBerry music download store provides the splash

Like many British acts, UK-based music download service 7digital is hoping to conquer America. Today the company announced that its 6 million plus strong MP3 music store has opened its doors in the US, with tracked offered from Universal Music Group, Warner, EMI, Sony and an array independent labels.

To coincide and spearhead 7digital’s US launch, the company has also released the BlackBerry MP3 Music Store application for RIM’s latest range of smartphones (BlackBerry Bold, BlackBerry Curve 8900, BlackBerry Tour, BlackBerry Curve 8520 and BlackBerry Storm).

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