Archive for September, 2007

Weekly wrapup, 24 – 28 September 2007

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.

Enter your email address:

Top digital lifestyle news

The biggest news this week was Amazon’s entry into the digital music download space. Amazon MP3 finally launched, offering DRM-free downloads with a catalog of over 2 million tracks. Can it compete with iTunes? See our full review.

The other major announcement of the week came from the DigitalLife trade show held in New York, where Microsoft made a number of Windows Media Center-related announcements: New media extenders from its hardware partners Cisco, D-Link, Niveus and HP, along with the Beta launch of a new Internet TV service called — wait for it — “Internet TV”.

Continue reading »

Will mobile iTunes impact the carriers who sell over-the-air music?

itunes-and-wifi-store-sm.jpgNow that the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store is available on the iPhone, will it impact the wireless carriers who also sell music over-the-air? In the short term, probably not. In the long term, watch out.

At the moment, Apple’s iPhone has a relatively small install base — it was released at the end of June. Apple also delivered at the start of September its new high-end iPod, the Touch, which is essentially an iPhone without the phone. Like the iPhone the Touch uses Wi-Fi and can access the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store.

Mobile carriers, on the other hand, reach more consumers because their networks can handle many more phones from various manufacturers — Sony Ericsson, LG, Helio, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia.

But in the future, as Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch user base grows, the carriers could be in trouble if for two reasons — the shopping and playback experiences. Using the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store to purchase music is incredibly simple, playing it on the iPhone or iPod Touch is quite satisfying, whereas buying music from the carriers and playing it on small phones can be cumbersome and unpleasant, depending on the device.

Continue reading »

Jaman publishes "unsupported" AppleTV hack

Jaman publishes Back in July, Jaman, which sells high definition movie downloads, announced that it was on the verge of releasing the first commercial plug-in — or is that hack? — for the AppleTV. With the software installed, movies downloaded via Jaman’s desktop software, running on a Mac or PC, would also show up in a new menu option on a user’s AppleTV. If released, this would represent the first time a commercial entity had successfully plugged their service into Apple’s set-top-box, to create a level playing field with the company’s own content offerings.

That day has finally arrived, albeit with a pretty heavy caveat: While Jaman’s website points to where users can download the necessary software, along with instructions, the AppleTV plug-in isn’t officially supported by the company. That’s because Jaman’s solution still requires users to “hack” the device, since Apple is yet to sanction the AppleTV to run third-party applications.

Jaman AppleTV plug-in

One-third of American TV watching will be video-on-demand by 2012

girl with remoteSometimes it’s just easier to sit in your favorite chair or stretch out on the sofa and watch a TV show or movie “on demand.” No muss, no fuss.

A just-released report by Pike & Fischer notes that Americans are warming up to the idea of watching movies and TV shows on a whim. Video-on-demand, the report notes, will occupy well over a third of Americans’ TV-viewing time by 2012.

The Maryland-based market research firm says that a majority of U.S. households will watch some form of on-demand content from cable, satellite, or fiber-optic providers. It expects that the amount of time viewing video-on-demand will rise from 8.5 percent at the end of 2007 to about 38 percent by 2012, while the average monthly TV viewing per household will remain stable.

Continue reading »

Microsoft announces Internet TV for Windows Media Center; new lineup of media extenders

Windows Media CenterAt the opening day of the DigitalLife trade show held in New York, Microsoft made a number of Windows Media Center-related announcements, including new media extenders from its hardware partners Cisco, D-Link, Niveus and HP, as well as the Beta launch of a new Internet TV service called — wait for it — “Internet TV”.

Continue reading »

Review: Amazon MP3 offers compelling, promising alternative to iTunes

last100-amazon-mp3-itunes-sm.jpgI feel like I am cheating on my wife. I’m listening to music downloaded from the new Amazon MP3 store — in iTunes and on my iPod.

Years ago, before the iTunes Music Store, I dreamed of a time when I could download music from any online store and play it on any digital music player. Online music stores were rare then, but then Apple opened the iTMS in April 2003 and downloading legal music took off.

At the time, I was forced to deal with digital rights management (DRM) that said I could only listen to iTunes music on an iPod. Apple offered the best digital music players and a pleasant online music store experience, so I turned to Apple, the iPod, iTunes, the iTMS, and simply endured DRM.

Even so, I’ve always wanted my music DRM-free, so I could use it on different devices, and share it with my daughter and wife. Apple said no, I can’t do that, so the music in the family remains crippled, tied to different user accounts, and a pain to share.

amazon mp3 front

That all may change now that Amazon has opened its DRM-free music store, Amazon MP3, which offers a stout 1-2-3 combination for music downloads. Now I can purchase music and listen to it on any PC, Mac, or Linux computer using iTunes or almost any media player software. Better yet, I can listen to the songs on any digital audio player — an iPod, one of the Creative Zens, a Zune — and I can share them with the wife and kid.

My dream has come true.

Continue reading »

Is the Zune doomed?

Microsoft ZuneIn a little less than two months, the Zune will celebrate its first birthday. Things seem to be going well for the Zune — Microsoft reached its first sales target, they recently dropped the price of the Zune, and speculation is rampant that the company will expand the lineup of Zune devices in time for the holiday season. Yet with the recent iPod announcements from Apple, and the departure of an important product manager, one can’t help but wonder if the Zune is, well, doomed. Let’s find out by exploring some of the Zune’s strengths and weaknesses.

Continue reading »

Amazon's DRM-free music store launches

Update: see our full Amazon MP3 review.

amazon mp3

The iTunes Music Store has fended off all comers to remain the top digital music store in the world. Now Amazon, with its just-opened MP3 store, aims to knock iTunes off its lofty perch and in doing so may change the future of digital music downloads.

Amazon today opened Amazon MP3, its much anticipated storefront for selling music downloads free of digital rights management (DRM). As expected the service utilizes the ubiquitous mp3 format, meaning that music downloaded can be played on any — yes, any — device that supports mp3s, including Apple’s iPod and iPhone, Microsoft’s Zune, and the Creative Zen series of players, as well as most modern cell phones. Although Amazon MP3’s download manager is Mac and Windows-only, so Linux fans are out of luck (Update: Amazon says a Linux version is in the works).

Continue reading »

Sling Media sold to Echostar for $380 million

Sling MediaLate yesterday, Echostar, the third largest pay-TV provider in the United States, announced that it is to purchase Sling Media in a cash and options deal which values the company at $380 million.

Sling Media is best know for its SlingBox, a place-shifting device which connects to a home’s TV signal (cable box, digital tuner or PVR) and then ’slings’ that signal over a broadband connection to either a PC or cell phone, or in theory, any Internet connected device that can run the SlingPlayer software. More recently, however, the company formed its Sling Entertainment Group to develop a variety of software-based services including the controversial Clip+Sling. Last week, it was reported that Sling had partnered with DirectTV to provide the software behind its newly launched out-of-market NFL Internet streaming offering.

Continue reading »

Halo 3 is out! How Microsoft's strategy extends beyond gaming

“Halo 3″ is out! How Microsoft’s strategy extends beyond gaming By the time you read this, thousands of happy fans will have already picked up their pre-ordered copies of Halo 3, the most hotly anticipated video game release of the year. No doubt most of them will have started playing too. The third and final installment in the successful Halo franchise, Halo 3 is in a lot of ways more than just another video game. It has become a de facto entertainment brand, complete with books, comics, action figures, and more. Additionally, Halo 3 has become an important marketing vehicle for Microsoft and its partners. In this post we take a look at the relationship between Halo 3 and Microsoft’s overall digital media strategy.

Continue reading »