Technologizer posts about Apple iTunes

Apple, Don’t Build a Social Network. Work With the Social Networks I Already Use

By  |  Posted at 9:52 am on Monday, September 26, 2011

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Over at Cult of Mac, Mike Elgan is warning Apple that Facebook is a threat to its dominance of digital entertainment:

Facebook will enable the discovery, sharing, buying and renting of movies and TV shows via Netflix, Hulu, Blockbuster, IMDB, Dailymotion and Flixter.

And just as the iPad is gaining traction as the electronic newspaper of choice, Facebook announces partnerships with the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Slate, the Associated Press, Reuters, Yahoo News and others to make Facebook the default online newspaper site.

Facebook is now more directly threatening to Apple’s business model than Microsoft, Google and Sony combined.

Mike is right that if Facebook’s new media-consumption and -sharing features could start to steal customers away from Apple. And he has a solution in mind: Apple needs to build its own social network. Something way better than Ping, which doesn’t seem to have changed iTunes that much, let alone the world.

If Apple were to come up with a cool social network, it would be…cool! But I fret that it’s not in the company’s nature to wade too deeply into the messy, unruly pool of user-generated content. Apple likes things perfect, not social. And an Apple that was great at social networking might not be so hot at all the things Apple is already so good at.

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Okay, Everybody Calm Down About Sony and iTunes

By  |  Posted at 1:33 pm on Friday, February 11, 2011

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I’m seeing a lot of frantic stories in the tech blogosphere today over some comments a Sony executive made about iTunes.

Speaking to The Age, Sony Computer Entertainment Australia Chief Executive Michal Ephraim said his company would like to get away from iTunes, if only it could move to a credible alternative, such as the Sony Music subscription service that’s rolling out now.

But thanks to some eye-catching headlines (including The Age’s own), Ephraim’s remarks got twisted into a threat to abandon the most popular music download service in the world. You need only look at the quotes to see that’s not the case.

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Can’t Buy Me So Many Other Things

By  |  Posted at 4:44 pm on Monday, November 15, 2010

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Apple’s home page is saying that the company is going to make an announcement that we’ll never forget. It involves iTunes and will occur at 7am Technologizer time. I hate to make Apple predictions, but I’m not above agreeing with ones made by others, and the idea that this might involve the release at long last, of the Beatles in digital form sounds plausible. In fact, the Wall Street Journal says the deal is done.

Assuming that the news does involve the Fab Four, it’s going to be a relief to never, ever have to write about their absence from the the iTunes Store and legal digital music in general again. (Here’s a ten-year-old PC World column that makes reference to me being ticked off about the subject.) As every rational person who’s ever written about the topic has said, this was a non-problem: Digital Beatles is already on untold computers, music players, phones, and other devices, in ripped form.

So with all the time we’ll save not seething about this, can we devote some energy to being upset about content that isn’t currently available in legal recorded form, period? The Rutles’ wonderful album Archaeology springs to mind. So do three of my favorite movie comedies of the 1960s and 1970s: The Wrong Box, Movie Movie, and Cold Turkey. It’s never been the least bit difficult to listen to the Beatles here, there, and everywhere, but much of our culture is still locked up in studio vaults…



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In Sign of Ping Flop, Apple Pleas for Users

By  |  Posted at 11:31 am on Friday, November 5, 2010

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Apple’s trying to get the word out about Ping, the iTunes-based social network that launched in September.

The outreach, according to Boy Genius Report, entails an e-mail blast to Apple customers. “Ping already has millions of users — including 2,000 artists — and is growing fast,” the note says. “Fast” is relative, of course, and the “millions” could include people like myself, who tried Ping once and promptly forgot about it. BGR notes that Apple doesn’t often send e-mails to remind users about successful products.

There are a lot of reasons I don’t use Ping, but the e-mail points to the social network’s biggest problem: It’s isolated from the rest of the world.

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Apple TV to Become the App-Filled iTV?

By  |  Posted at 2:52 pm on Wednesday, August 11, 2010

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It looks like Apple’s trying to put down the legacy of Apple TV as the company tries a new push into the living room.

Engadget’s got some more rumors on the project, which will reportedly be dubbed iTV when it’s revealed this fall. We previously heard that Apple was slimming down the television set-top with iPhone-like specs, including an A4 processor and 16 GB of flash memory. Now, Josh Topolsky’s unnamed tipster says iTV will definitely support apps. Whether they’ll be iTV originals or iPhone/iPad converts is unknown.

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Beatles on iTunes? Yoko Says No Go

By  |  Posted at 10:24 am on Friday, August 6, 2010

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Reuters’ Dean Goodman snagged an interview with Yoko Ono in which she says that the Beatles aren’t likely to show up on iTunes any time soon:

“(Apple CEO) Steve Jobs has his own idea and he’s a brilliant guy,” Ono, the 77-year-old widow of John Lennon, told Reuters. “There’s just an element that we’re not very happy about, as people. We are holding out.

“Don’t hold your breath … for anything,” she said with a laugh.

If the main issue is Steve Jobs being stubborn about some unspecified negotiating points, shouldn’t Jeff Bezos rush in, buckle under, and give Paul, Ringo, Yoko, and George Harrison’s widow Olivia basically anything they want to get the Beatles catalog on Amazon MP3? Wouldn’t that be the best publicity Amazon ever got? Wouldn’t it sidestep having to do things Steve Jobs’ way? Wouldn’t there be a chance that Apple would respond by figuring out a way to make the Beatles folks happy?

And isn’t it increasingly bizarre that we’re this far into the digital music revolution and there’s no way to legally acquire the music of the greatest rock group of them all?

Back in November, I predicted that the Beatles would be available for download within 18 months. I thought that Sir Paul’s declaration at the time that it might not happen was canny hype for a release that was already in the works. Now I’m not so sure. The big question now: Will the Beatles be downloadable before the last CD store in the world closes, or after?



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The Beatles and (an) Apple: Together at Last!

By  |  Posted at 7:57 am on Wednesday, November 4, 2009

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Beatles iPodThis is…odd. The Beatles are finally releasing their remastered catalog in digital form–both high-quality FLAC files and 320-Kbps MP3s. But they’re not selling it on iTunes or any other online music merchant. They’re releasing it as a limited edition of 30,000 16GB USB drives that fit into an “exquisitely crafted” commemorative apple.

The box set includes fourteen albums, fourteen short documentaries, cover art, and expanded liner notes, and will go for $280. That’s more than the recent CD release, and more than you’ll pay when this stuff does become available for online purchase. (Most of the Rolling Stones’ albums go for eight bucks a piece as downloads.)

The ordering page for the apple doesn’t  say anything about whether it’s easy to get the music onto an iPod or other device. I hope it at least doesn’t do anything to make it difficult

Why the unorthodox means of going digital? I can think of a few reasons.

The lads are used to commanding a premium price for their music, which is tough online. (Sticking it on a USB drive lets them hawk it as a limited edition, but every digital download is, by definition, an unlimited edition.)

Their business model as a corporate entity essentially consists of selling their fans the same music over and over–for more than forty years now! The limited-edition apple gives ‘em the ability to do it at least one more time before it goes online. I’m already suspicious that some sort of non-limited edition USB version is on its way.

Not being available for download has become a Beatles trademark. The apple lets them go digital while keeping the tradition alive. And the longer they string out the saga, the bigger a deal it’ll be when they do go online.

A couple of predictions:

The Beatles’ music will be available from the major download stores within eighteen months–and maybe a lot sooner than that.

Tragically, the fabled Apple press event in which Steve Jobs’ ‘one more thing” is the Beatles and Paul McCartney and/or Ringo Starr take the stage to make music won’t ever happen. One day, the music will just be there, and we’ll eventually forget it hadn’t been all along.

So would you spend $280 for USBeatles?

USB Beatles



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Here’s the iTunes TV Subscription I’d Pay For

By  |  Posted at 3:51 pm on Monday, November 2, 2009

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Apple TVOver at All Things Digital, Peter Kafka is reporting that he’s hearing that Apple wants to offer a $30 TV subscription service through iTunes, and is trying to stir up interest among content providers. He has very few details, but the basic idea of a technology company taking on cable with an Internet-based service appeals to me. (I’ve written in the past of my flirtations with ditching Comcast, although I remain a subscriber as I write this.)

Sooner or later, we’re all going to get all of our entertainment and information over the Internet, whether it’s from Apple or Comcast or someone else or a combination of multiple options. I’m not sure how it’ll all pan out, or how long it’ll take. But I do know what I’d like to see in such a service. Stuff like this:

A la carte options. I don’t watch 98 percent of the channels included in my cable package, and never will–and the only reason I’m paying for the tier of service I’m getting is to get one or two stations that interest me. I’d much rather be able to select from a handful of stations I know I’ll watch. Better yet, why can’t I pay for individual programs?

Diversity even cable can’t offer. I want niche programming on topics I’m interested in. I want every movie that’s extant, and every episode of every TV show–including ones that never came out on DVD.

One subscription I can watch anywhere and everywhere. I’d like to pay one flat fee for programming I can watch on my TV, my PC, and my phone. (That’s one reason why the idea of an iTunes-based subscription service is intriguing–I’ve already got iTunes on my computers, on my iPhone, and–courtesy of Apple TV–on my TV.)

Both live streams and a great DVR in the cloud. One of the reasons I still pay Comcast each month is because it’s still the best way to get news and other real-time programming. I wouldn’t pay an additional $30 a month for Subscription iTunes unless it brought me MSNBC and CNN and FOX and CSPAN. (Or, alternatively, unless they all become available online for free through some other means.) But I also want to be able to get anything my subscription qualifies me to watch at any time.

Is any of this too much to ask for? I’d cheerfully pay a lot more than $30 a month to the first company who offers it.  And until it comes along, I’ll muddle along with a combination of Comcast, iTunes, Roku, Amazon on Demand, Slingbox, Netflix Watch Instantly, podcasts, various network-specific sites, and old VHS tapes. Between them, I figure they get me about two-thirds of the way to where I’d like to go…



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Pre iTunes Sync: Is Palm Getting Ready to Cry Uncle?

By  |  Posted at 8:50 am on Friday, October 30, 2009

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Palm Jousts

I’m shocked. Shocked. Once again, Apple has updated iTunes, and once again, the update disables the ability of Palm’s Pre to sync directly with iTunes via the Pre’s Media Sync feature. If I’m keeping track correctly, this is the third time Apple has blocked the Pre.

I would have guessed that Palm would have given up by now. And I think it should give up–even if you’re okay with the Pre piggybacking on Apple’s software by using USB in a way that the people in charge of USB apparently object to, a feature that’s destined to break over and over isn’t really a feature. It’s an unreliable kludge. And Palm could implement non-kludgy iTunes sync if it chose to. The way some of its competitors have.

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Palm’s Quixotic Quest Continues

By  |  Posted at 10:54 pm on Sunday, October 4, 2009

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Palm Jousts

What is Palm up to? With its new WebOS 1.21 update, it’s once again re-enabled the Palm Pre’s ability to sync unprotected music and videos, photos, and now photo albums with iTunes, no extra software required. The move comes after the USB Implements Forum took Apple’s side in the tiff over Palm’s spoofing of iTunes into thinking that the Pre is an iPod. If I recall correctly, Apple has released two iTunes updates that blocked earlier versions of WebOS from syncing, and chances are presumably sky-high that it’ll block this one the next time that it pushes out a new version of iTunes.

I keep declaring this clash of wills between the two smartphone companies to be over, but I’m officially giving up on making any guesses. Whatever will happen will happen, and Palm, at least, isn’t behaving in the nice, predictable way that you expect of large companies. I dunno how the USB-IF will respond to Palm ignoring its stance that the Pre shouldn’t masquerade as an Apple product via USB connection, but it seems to be clear that Palm is willing to burn bridges behind it.

The company is unquestionably bursting at the seams with smart, talented folks; the Pre remains the iPhone’s most formidable competitor by far from the standpoint of user-interface sophistication. But I’m mystified by what it’s up to here. Palm continues to tout iTunes compatibility as a major feature of the phone. But the convenience that the feature offers when it’s working is completely negated by the periods when it’s in limbo, not to mention the general uncertainty of the whole idea. Whether you take Apple’s side or Palm’s or (like me) aren’t completely thrilled with either company’s behavior, it would be silly to think of the WebOS’s Media Sync feature as an argument in favor of buying a Pre.

Mac and iPhone developer Craig Hunter has a cogent post up on all this that beats up Palm pretty good. He wonders the same thing that I’ve been curious about for months: Why doesn’t Palm, like numerous other companies, write a standalone app to do the syncing? It would work well, and there’s no evidence that Apple would try to foil it.  Just how many Pre owners would vote for continuing to play chicken with Apple when there’s a boring but effective alternative route to nearly the same end result?



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1984 All Over Again

By  |  Posted at 3:07 pm on Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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As TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid has reported, DoubleTwist–a media manager application that, among other things, serves as a bridge between iTunes and non-Apple devices–is promoting a new version that debuts on October 6th with an ad that looks…eerily familiar:

Yup, the ad is an animated remake of Apple’s legendary “1984″ commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, which introduced the Mac–except this time the scary overlord (who seemed to represent IBM the first time around) bears a striking resemblance to Steve Jobs:

DoubleTwist isn’t saying what the new feature is, but in general, the company’s product is on the side of the angels–it lets people who don’t own Apple devices participate in the iTunes ecology in a way that makes way more sense than Palm’s USB spoofing. DoubleTwist founder Jon “DVD Jon” Lech Johansen is a kind of a genius, and I’m curious what the company has up its sleeve.

That said, I don’t think much of the ad. It doesn’t take much creativity to remake somebody else’s commercial, and this particular remake is less than artful. Then again, I also think that of Apple’s version. It may be universally regarded as one of the greatest TV ads of all time, but the Orwellian overtones were as hyperbolic in 1984 as they are in 2009. And what potential customer wants to watch a commercial that depicts him or her as a compliant zombie? (I’d like to see Apple open up iTunes myself, but I don’t feel like I’m part of an army of lobotomized drones when I use it–nor do I think that Steve Jobs is any more of a terrifying Big Brother than whoever was running IBM in 1984.)

On the other hand, DoubleTwist’s first anti-Apple prank–getting a huge ad seemingly displayed on the outside wall of one of Apple’s flagship stores–is one of the greatest practical jokes ever played by anyone on anyone. May whatever DoubleTwist releases next week live up to the imagination it showed with that bit of guerilla marketing…



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Unwantedware from Apple

By  |  Posted at 3:03 am on Monday, September 28, 2009

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Over at ZDNet, Ed Bott writes about discovering that Apple’s “Software Update” utility recommended he install a piece of software that wasn’t an update, for a product (the iPhone) which he doesn’t own:

So why do I have Apple Software Update running in the first place? Because, when I installed Boot Camp, Apple recommended it to me. Indeed, if there’s an important update to the Apple-provided software I actually chose to install – the Boot Camp services and assorted drivers for Apple’s hardware – I would like to know about it. But there is no scenario under which any of these programs could be considered updates to software I installed, and Apple never asked my permission to offer additional software to me.

I’m willing to accept the possibility that sloppiness rather than sneakiness is at fault here–unlike Apple’s earlier overzealous distribution of Safari to iTunes users, I can’t imagine what benefit the company is deriving from getting a geeky iPhone update onto the machines of folks who don’t own iPhones. But the end result sounds like it’s the same: It’s way too easy to end up with Apple software you don’t want.

If Apple intends to use Apple Software Update as a distribution channel for all-new software, it would behoove it to give the app a new name. And even then, it should be darn careful about pre-selecting checkboxes during the install routine.



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iTune Sync for PalmPre: Once Again, It’s Over

By  |  Posted at 8:07 am on Wednesday, September 23, 2009

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Pre Disguised as iPhoneNew development in the ongoing saga of the Palm Pre’s Media Sync feature, which has let Pre owners sync directly with iTunes by tricking iTunes into thinking the Pre is an iPod: Palm’s attempt to get the USB Implementers’ Forum to intervene has failed. All Things Digital’s John Paczkowski is reporting that the USB-IF has told Palm that the Pre’s masquerade seems to violate the organization’s policy, which is that a manufacturer can only use the USB IDs it’s been assigned. (Palm has been using one assigned to Apple.)

This is not a startling development: I woulda put ten-to-one odds on it happening all along. The Pre has pretty much been using somebody else’s driver’s license to get into a bar–or, if you prefer, somebody else’s invitation to get into a party.

What’s Palm’s next move? I keep thinking that it’s got no options left but to surrender, but who knows? I do notice that the Palm site still touts Media Sync:

Palm Pre Media Sync

Here’s the footnote:

Palm Pre

No matter how you slice it, this is misleading and out of date: We already know that iTunes 9 breaks Media Sync, so whether or not Palm “guarantees” compatibility is irrelevant. And iTunes 9 isn’t a future version, it’s the current one. I guess “Plus, use the Palm media sync feature to transfer your DRM-free iTunes music, video, and photos to your Pre…as long as you’re using an old cersion of iTunes” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I wanted Palm to win this fight, and I think everyone, including Apple, would win if iTunes had some level of built-in support for non-Apple devices. But it’s surely time for Palm to either eliminate references to media sync as a selling point or introduce a Media Sync 2.0 that uses a bit of middleware to do the syncing, a technique which works just fine. If I’d bought a Pre in part because Palm told me I’d be able to sync with iTunes, I know I’d vote for the latter option…

[UPDATE: PreCentral is reporting that an upcoming WebOS update will re-re-enable Media Sync, and that Palm wants the cat-and-mouse game to continue indefinitely. Doesn’t sound like much fun for anyone involved if it involves Media Sync breaking then working then breaking then working ad infinitum…)



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Not Quite Sold on iTunes Home Sharing

By  |  Posted at 3:25 pm on Friday, September 11, 2009

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There were really only two items out of Apple’s “It’s Only Rock & Roll” event earlier this week that managed to capture my attention. First off, where the heck was the iPod Touch camera? Several credible leaks, including compelling imagery, suggested photographic and video functionality was an inevitability. File this one under don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

Next up is Home Sharing, introduced within the refreshed iTunes 9. (See Engadget’s brief video overview above.) This feature allows you to copy purchased iTunes content amongst five authorized devices in your home. It’s surely a simpler method of interaction than sneakernet-ing files around. However, Home Sharing does nothing to overcome the single iTunes Store account limitation. And, in fact, now that Apple’s tracks are DRM-free, Home Sharing is actually more restrictive than simply copying music via a USB stick. Perhaps Home Sharing 1.1 will allow Melissa and I to link our iTunes accounts in a ‘family unit’ sort of way.

Another perceived limitation was the implication that other computers must be powered up to access all home media. However, folks with Macs running Snow Leopard and an Airport Extreme or Time Capsule now have Wake on Demand capabilities. In our household, that should allow Melissa to grab tunes from my laptop (when it’s home). But I still wouldn’t be able to access her iTunes library when her Windows 7 machine is shut down.

Ideally, Apple would bring true iTunes server functionality/support to NAS devices. Even if limited to Time Capsule, that’s the sort of hub & spoke model many of us seek: A central home repository of media files, with family members creating their own individual, custom playlists to stream or mirror on demand – not just to computers, but to iPods/iPhones and AppleTV as well. I’ve gone down this path on my own, with limited success. What we really need to succeed are Apple’s philosophical and technological blessings.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)



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Palm Pre vs. iTunes: It’s Checkmate, or Should Be

By  |  Posted at 8:43 am on Thursday, September 10, 2009

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Pre Disguised as iPhoneWhen Steve Jobs was detailing the wonders of iTunes 9 at yesterday’s Apple music event, there was a One More Thing he didn’t mention: The new version of the software once again blocks Palm’s Pre from making like an iPod and syncing music and video directly with iTunes. This is the second time that an iTunes update has foiled the Pre. (Palm responded to the first attempt by using a workaround to regain access to iTunes.) And even if Palm has another kludge up its sleeve, it should bring this saga to an end.

I say that with regret, because I was rooting for Palm: iTunes sync is a nifty feature, and I wish that Apple looked at non-Apple phones syncing with iTunes not as an intrusion, but as an opportunity to sell more music. (If it did, it might actively court other phone manufacturers such as Palm.) But we now know that Apple won’t even take a laissez-faire approach here–it’ll boot the Pre out again and again.

Which means that it’s silly for Palm to promote the Pre’s Media Sync feature as it stands as a reason to buy the phone–even in a best-case scenario, the feature is doomed to an unhappy, tentative future.

The solution seems simple to me: Rather than hacking iTunes to provide direct syncing, Palm should use a bit of PC/OS X middleware to do the job. Lots of products do this without controversy, and Palm can probably license the technology if it needs to. In theory, it’s not as elegant a solution as direct syncing, but it works. And there’s absolutely nothing elegant about the cat-and-mouse game that Media Sync has been playing with Apple to date.



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