Tag Archives | iTunes

Ping-Pong: Facebook, iTunes Still Talking

Kara Swisher reports that Facebook blocked Apple from accessing its API after the Cupertino company failed to reach an agreement with the social networking service over Ping, and then proceeded to attempt to use the APIs anyway. Facebook allows free access to its APIs unless its a potential drain on resources. iTunes has 160 million plus potential Pingers — obviously no small change. There is a chance Facebook integration could still happen: Kara’s sources say the two companies are still talking.

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FTC Closes Case Over Fake iTunes Reviews

The Federal Trade Commission has settled with Reverb Communications over fake positive reviews posted on behalf of its clients in the iTunes App Store. The company represents several developers who produce apps for iOS, and helped raise their ratings by posting the reviews.

FTC officials did not disclose which companies worked with Reverb to boost their ratings, nor did they say that those companies shared any fault. They ordered Reverb to have all comments removed within a period of seven days.

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Are iTunes Subscriptions Inevitable?

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said in the past that consumers are not interested in subscription music services. He may be wrong: NPD has conducted a survey and found that as many as 7 to 8 million iTunes customers could be willing to pay $10 or month or more for access to their music libraries or to stream music.

Add this one up and you see a potential $840 to 960 million (or more) annual business could be sitting right underneath Apple’s nose. “[This] is roughly two-thirds the revenue garnered by the current pay-per-download model,” NPD analyst Ross Crupnick said.

Such numbers could propel Apple even further ahead of Microsoft in market capitalization, and give it more cash to continue its stratospheric growth. How could Apple turn that down?

There are some indications that Apple’s position on subscription music may be changing a bit. Rumors swirled earlier this year that the company had approached the labels about some type of cloud-based music service, but apparently details have not yet been discussed. That would mean any service probably would not appear for quite awhile yet.

Increasing interest in subscriptions and streaming could have a lot to do with the changing technological capabilities of the consumer. With increasing smartphone usage and fairly widespread coverage now of 3G (and faster) wireless data, the consumer has the capability.

Services like Pandora are nice, however the user cannot control what plays: accessing their own libraries or songs on demand looks increasingly enticing.

Whatever Apple decides to do, it should act fast. Google is said to be working on its own music service to debut later this year. It also apparently will include some type of streaming component, using its strength in search to help it drive business.


Apple TV, iTunes Updated; World Remains Unchanged

Apple has dusted the cobwebs off of Apple TV with a new software upgrade that introduces a redesigned user interface, which is intended to make it easier to play favorites. iTunes 9.0.2 was released in conjunction with the update.

Apple TV 3.0 has a redesigned main menu that adds shortcuts to recently rented or purchased movies. TV shows, music, podcasts, photos and YouTube are also front and center.

In addition, iTunes extras and iTunes LP content can now be played on the Apple TV in full screen. Genius mixes and Internet radio can now be played through home theater systems. The iTunes upgrade adds HE-AAC playback and encoding.

I still wonder when Apple will start a subscription service. For the moment, my colleague Harry McCracken has largely forsaken his Apple TV for a Roku, because his Roku gives him unlimited content through Netflix.

Apple TV is a nice device, but it is not, as Harry has stated, “an iPod-like transcendent hit.” I’m sure it would work well paired with one of those snazzy new 27″ iMacs, but very little (other than iTunes synchronization) differentiates Apple TV from its competitors. How about it, Steve?

There has been rumors abound about Apple getting into the TV business, and selling an all-in-one unit. I would be happy to forsake a box for a TV that has Apple software built in. My tiny Manhattan living room doesn’t have much space for more stuff.

Apple TV 3.0 is a free download for existing customers; new 160GB units cost $229. Last month, Apple slashed the Apple TV’s price, and increased capacity.


iTunes Gets a Makeover, New Features

ituneslogoThe first announcement off of the pipeline is a new version of iTunes, which is available immediately. iTunes 9 contains a few significant enhancements, so lets run through them.

Improved Syncing: Definitely a useful feature. Many of us have iPods smaller than our music collections, so Apple’s enhancements here should help. You can sync via a certain type of music, such as artist or genre. Photos work in the same way too: here it could be a person or event. Movies even work — only syncing new movies. At the same time you may select media that you always want to sync.

In other words, much greater control over what media is on your iPod or iPhone.

Home Sharing: This feature allows a user to copy media on up to five computers on his or her home network. Users would be able to see what files are missing from their libraries that are on other computers and copy it over.

iTunes LP: This new offering is likely a result of the variable pricing that the record industry won from Apple a while back. Just like your old LPs, these packaged deals would include extras, including cover art, lyrics, videos and the like.

Social Media: As rumored, you can share “Wish Lists” to Facebook and Twitter.

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Palm Goes For the Throat in Apple Tiff

Pre Disguised as iPhoneApple locking you out of iTunes? Call on the USB Implementers Forum. That’s Palm’s tact as it looks to muscle its way back into the smartphone space. Its complaint to the group which manages the standards for USB alleges that Apple is misusing those standards by permitting only its own devices to use the application.

It’s unknown what may come out of it as this is basically the first time a company has taken this route in attempting to break into the walled garden that is iPod/iTunes. That is essentially what the Pre’s Media Sync does–it tricks iTunes into thinking the Pre is an Apple device.

That strategy has its pitfalls too: it very well could be against the policies of the USB governing board, but Palm is saying its the only available route because of the way iTunes is set up.

Palm has a lot riding on the Pre: many industry watchers see the device as the last hope for the company which has slowly been fading since its heyday when Palm Pilots were the rage, and its acquisition of Handspring’s Treo helped catapult it into the smartphone industry.

The company will likely again build a workaround, continuing a cat and mouse game between the two companies. Apple has shown a willingness to play for as long as is needed, so Palm better have developers on call to continue to break into iTunes when needed.

It’s a smart move for Palm to at least try. With iPods so ubiquitous, and many using it to organize their digital media, as the saying goes “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

But in the end, we all know Jobs and Co. want Apple to stay at the center of the iTunes universe, and will do what is necessary to keep it that way. Palm better be ready to be in this for the long haul.


Michael Jackson Takes Over Amazon and iTunes

Michael JacksonReasonable people can disagree about just what Michael Jackson’s legacy is, and whether or not he was the biggest pop star of all time. But this much seems pretty much undeniable: He’s the biggest pop star to have died in the Web age. And so the Web is reflecting things about the reaction to his passing that give us more knowledge than we had when Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, and John Lennon left us.

Amazon.com and Apple’s iTunes Store, for instance, both tell us their top sellers on a continuous basis, and as I write this, both are awash in Michael Jackson and Jackson Five items. More details after the jump.

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iTunes Price Hikes Treating the Industry Just Fine

ituneslogoIf you thought the recording industry would suffer for pushing higher prices on iTunes and other download services, you’d be wrong.

Billboard reports weaker sales for iTunes tracks whose price changed from 99 cents to $1.29 a week ago, but overall revenues for the Top 100 still rose by roughly 10 percent.

iTunes adopted a “variable pricing” structure on April 7 as part of a new agreement with record labels. While most tracks still cost 99 cents, some popular songs became 30 cents more expensive, while a selection of random classics were priced at 69 cents. Forget about storming off to another service; Amazon, Napster, Lala, Rhapsody and Wal-Mart. The deal also marked the end of Digital Rights Management on iTunes tracks.

Looking at some of the $1.29 tracks whose sales were holding steady in the weeks before variable pricing, you can get a pretty clear picture of the effects. Sales of “Beautiful” by Akon dropped from 57,941 last week to 52,760 this week. That means the song generated an additional $10,699 at the new price level. The less-popular “Stanky Legg” (what?) by GS Boyz slipped by 2,994 in sales but still earned an extra $2943.54.

Missing from Billboard’s report are statistics on the songs whose price decreased. Along with the costlier tracks, iTunes launched two compilations — Rock and Classic R&B — at 69 cents per song. I have a feeling revenue increased for those songs, simply because they were lifted from obscurity and offered on sale.

All of this makes me wonder whether the recording industry will try to push prices even higher in the future. Thus far, the “voting with your wallet” concept hasn’t worked, so what’s the threshold at which consumers will resist? $1.50 per song? How about $2?


So Much for Cheaper Music on Amazon

Well, it didn’t take very long for the other music stores to follow suit after iTunes’ price hike Tuesday. By late evening, both Amazon and Wal-Mart had simarily raised prices on some of their top tracks by 30 cents. Both had priced their tracks at 99 and 94 cents respectively.

Like iTunes, both stores have cheaper tracks too: Amazon will have tracks for 79 and 89 cents, and Wal-Mart will have selected tracks at a price of 64 cents. In either case, though, the number of more expensive tracks in the top 100 are much less than iTunes.

For Amazon, that number is only eight, and Wal-Mart has 17.

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Apple Goes to Variable Pricing, Amazon Now A Better Deal

ituneslogoWell, it happened. iTunes instituted variable pricing early Tuesday, and the effects are already rippling through the online music store. Five of the top 10, and eight of the top 25 songs now cost $1.29.

One thing we’ve still been unable to locate? Those 69-cent tracks. Nowhere to be found — maybe we’re missing them? But I guess if we’re looking at things overall, the price increase isn’t as widespread as some may have thought.

The price hike certainly opens up the door to Amazon MP3. All songs on that store are still 99 cents, but this could be more a function of a different expiration date on that store’s contract with the record labels. Then again, this could be a veiled trick to push all of us to music stores other than Apple in an attempt to break iTunes dominance.

Record labels have made it no secret that they aren’t happy that Apple is pretty much the only game in town when it comes to digital music.

In any case, Amazon MP3 is showing signs of life. While iTunes had a 87 percent share of the market in 2008, its competitor has managed a 16 percent share, the best showing so far for anybody according to NPD data.

Amazon’s music store is having a good deal of success with the older crowd, so the company may find it prudent to begin targeting this demographic a little heavier in an attempt to gain some more share.