Archive for September, 2008

Another crisis looming? Report: Apple threatens to shut down iTunes over royalty rates

The headlines were pretty jarring . . .

“Apple threatens to shut down the iTunes Store over royalty rate increases”

“Apple threatens to shut down iTunes Store (really!) if forced to pay higher rates”

“Apple’s digital music showdown” … “an Apple threat to close iTunes looms”

Huh? What gives?

Seems that the Copyright Royalty Board, a three-judge panel that oversees statutory licenses granted under federal copyright law, is expected to rule Thursday on a request by the National Publishers’ Association to increase royalty rates paid to its members on songs purchased from online stores like iTunes.

The publishers’ association wants rates increased from 9 cents to 15 cents a track. At the same time, the Digital Media Association, which represents digital music stores, wants rates lowered to 4.8 cents per track.

Apple, the No. 1 music seller in the world, accounts for 85 percent of digital songs sold. It pays an estimated 70 percent of digital music revenue to record companies, who pass on a percentage to artists.

Eddy Cue, an Apple vice president, filed a statement with the board around April 2007 — why it’s coming to light now is anybody’s guess — said, “If the [iTunes Store] was forced to absorb any increase in the . . . royalty rate, the result would be to significantly increase the likelihood of the store operating at a financial loss — which is no alternative at all.

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Rumor: New Nintendo DS to encroach on iPod territory

With Apple recently re-positioning its iPod touch, and to a lesser extent iPhone, as a portable gaming device, in addition to media playback and Internet functionality, it would make some sense for Nintendo to move the other way with its DS handheld games console. And that’s exactly what might be about to happen.

According to Japanese newspaper Nikkei, an upgraded version of the device sporting a built-in camera, larger screen, improved WiFi, and perhaps most significantly, music playback features, could be unveiled as early as Thursday.

It’s suggested that the inclusion of a camera would be utilized in new gaming experiences – think Sony’s EyeToy – while improved WiFi access could pave the way for a much better out-of-the-box web browsing experience. However, its an emphasis on music – and possibly video – playback that would raise the most eyebrows (including those in Cupertino) since it would mark a significant departure from Nintendo’s single-minded focus on gaming, and gaming alone, compared to competitors Microsoft, Sony and Apple.

(via The Register)

Review: MySpace Music is perfect for those who like MySpace

The new MySpace Music is exactly what you’d expect from MySpace: organized clutter, lots of Flash movement, overwhelming advertising, banner ads, and everything screaming for your attention at once.

For some of us (read: older folks and those with no interest in MySpace), MySpace Music holds little interest. But to the tens of millions of kids and young adults who cruise through MySpace daily, MySpace Music might be just what they want.

Developing MySpace Music is an excellent strategic move by MySpace, but how successful it will be in the long run depends on its execution and relationship with Amazon’s MP3 store.

I spent the day playing around with MySpace Music, and this is what I found — besides a wonderful R&B album by Raphael Saadiq.

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Roku to open its Netflix set-top box

Roku is once again talking up plans to open its Netflix-only set-top box to other online video providers. Talking at the Streaming Media West conference, Roku CEO Anthony Wood was quoted as saying:

“We’re going to release the software developer kit [SDK], so anyone can publish any channel, and users can access web content on their TVs.”

Of course, just releasing an official SDK won’t lead to the Internet TV set-top box nirvana that we, and Roku, are seeking. For that to happen, Netflix’s competitors will need to be persuaded that it’s worth their while to actually build something using Roku’s SDK, otherwise poular services such as Hulu, BBC iPlayer or YouTube, for example, may never make it onto the set-top box.

As Dave Zatz advises: Roku needs to “continue working the phones” in order to build the kind of partnerships that will lead to more quality content. Because its content that will ultimately lead to more hardware sales, which is of course where Roku makes its money. “There’s a much larger audience of potential Hulu and YouTube viewers than there are Netflix subscribers”, notes Zatz.

One potential sticking point: Earlier this year Netflix made a small investment in Roku, which could make things awkward as Roku attempts to woo competing content partners.

The real power of Google's phone: connecting us to people, places, and things

The real power of a Google phone and the Android mobile operating system isn’t just computing power, or search, or advertising, or maps. It’s the ability to connect people, places, and things like never before.

With the introduction Tuesday of the Google phone — dubbed G1 by wireless carrier T-Mobile — we’re  starting to see the potential disruption that Google and Android will bring in the coming year or two. It’s even greater than what Apple and the iPhone have already accomplished.

Together, the so-called Google phone and the iPhone are disrupting the mobile industry with innovative, powerful, handy devices, applications, and services.  Side by side, the Gphone and the iPhone have their differences but overall compliment one another, not compete with each other.

The iPhone is not unlike Apple, which is known for exquisitely designed hardware, user-friendly software, and a user experience like no other. The iPhone has a consumer, digital lifestyle feel to it, just like Apple products.

The Google phone, on the other hand, is not unlike “PC” in the famed “Mac” vs. “PC” television ads. This is not to say, however, that Google is Microsoft. Far from it.

The G1 — at least from what we’ve seen so far — has a “productivity” air to it, which is expected due to the nature of Google. The Android operating system, and the phone’s hardware, was developed first and foremost to showcase what Google does best — search along with Web applications like Maps, YouTube, Google Reader, Gmail, Calendar.

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The roundup of roundups: Everything you want to know about the Google phone (with links!)

In case you haven’t heard, T-Mobile announced the world’s first — and for the time being, only — cell phone powered by Google’s open-source, mobile operating system today amid much pomp and circumstance.

Cue the band.

You can spend hours thumbing through your bookmarks or RSS feeds looking for and reading about the new T-Mobile/Google phone, dubbed the G1. Most everybody is writing about the same thing — the specs, the looks, the apps, the Android operating system.

But there are a few posts out there looking at the G1 from various other perspectives — advertising, search, what’s missing, and so on. To save you a few minutes, we’ve combed through the basics, looked under the hood just a bit, hit on the basic apps, and compiled other posts of interest for your reading pleasure.

So off we go.

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Time for the big reveal: T-Mobile to introduce first Google Android phone

In the language of reality TV, it’s time for the big reveal. Ladies and gentlemen — drum roll please — T-Mobile presents the first cell phone powered by Google’s much-ballyhooed mobile operating system, Android.

Formal introductions will be made at 10 a.m. EST in New York. But, unlike the super-secret debut of Apple’s iPhone in June 2007, lots is known about the so-called Google phone even before its reveal.

It will be known as the G1, but popular culture is sure to call it the first Google phone, gPhone, or Gphone. So, without further delay, here’s the Gphone brought to you by the carrier T-Mobile and hardware manufacturer HTC.

G1 Specs

No surprise here: The G1 will sell for $199 (the same as the iPhone) with a low-cost data plan (which remains to be detailed).

According to TmoNews, the phone is 4.6 x 2.16 x 0.63 inches, weighs 5.6 ounces, an features a 480 x 320 HVGA display. Of course it uses the 3G network, has built-in GPS, has a 3.1-megapixel camera, has 8 GB of memory, has five hours of talktime and 130  hours of standby (we’ll see about that).

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iTunes, financial woes, and Tina Fey/Sarah Palin give NBC super-successful week

If anybody has any lingering doubts about iTunes’ value to NBC, and NBC’s value to iTunes, doubt no more.

Since returning to iTunes Sept. 9 after nearly a year’s separation, NBC racked up more than one million downloads for NBC Universal shows, according to the Hollywood Reporter and Apple.

The spike most likely is a result of a free-offering agreement between NBC and Apple as part of the network’s return to iTunes. NBC pledged to offer one free standard or high-definition download for its top series for two weeks.

It’s worth noting, however, that these numbers were achieved without NBC’s popular programs, which have yet to premiere. It’s expected that NBC Universal will account for about 40 percent of iTunes video sales, the level it was at when the network left  late last year over a pricing disagreement.

The Reporter also noted that NBC benefited in two other ways this week — the U.S. financial crisis and Tina Fey’s parody of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live.” exceeded one million unique visitors for the first time after Monday’s stock market meltdown. The Website tallied 14.6 million page views that day, a 26 percent increase over the site’s previous best.

Fey’s dead-on depiction of Palin racked up 5.7 million views on and Hulu as of Wednesday, according to NBC data. It is the network’s most popular video of all-time — and if you’ve seen it, you know why.

NBC continues experiment by putting TV shows online before their network premiers

If you just can’t wait to see what the new “Knight Rider” or “Chuck” TV shows are all about, you’re in luck. For the third consecutive year, NBC is making new series available online a week before their network premiers.

You can also find “Kath & Kim,” “Crusoe,” “My Own Worst Enemy,” “Life,” Lipstick Jungle,” and “30 Rock” everywhere you look — NBC’s Website, iTunes, Amazon’s Unbox, Microsoft Xbox and Zune, Hulu, and through TV providers such as Comcast, Cox, Charter, Dish, and Verizon FIOS.

Did NBC leave anybody out?

“We want to make (programs) available in as many ways as we can so we can get fans,” NBC’s marketing boss John Miller told USA Today. “If you don’t embrace people’s behavior, you can be lost by it.”

NBC’s early-release strategy is at odds with most other networks.

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The Google phone is on its way: a checklist for success

The long-awaited Google phone will be announced next Tuesday, so says the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and the rest of the Web. The phone, which features the first release of the Android operating system, will be available near the end of October.

Coincidentally, Google today showed off a fairly polished version of Android and its HTC-manufactured hardware at Google’s Developer Day conference in London. Check out the YouTube demo video for details.

The upcoming news conference and the nearing release date got me thinking about what I’d like to see in the first Google phone. What I want isn’t a wish list, per se, but more of a checklist.

Here goes.

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