Tag Archives | Apple iTunes

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

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

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

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…


In Sign of Ping Flop, Apple Pleas for Users

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?

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

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?


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

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


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

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…


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

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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