Apple's recent success is continuing to attract attention from federal antitrust authorities. Sources familiar with the matter are saying the justice Department is starting a preliminary inquiry into anti-competitive practices in Apple's iTunes music store. The investigation will reportedly focus on Apple's ability to influence marketing decisions in the recording industry.
The event that may have precipitated this preliminary action occurred in March, when Billboard Magazine claimed Apple was pressuring music labels to stop taking part in Amazon's promotional deals. Apple was allegedly threatening to withdraw marketing support from labels that worked with Amazon. Another contributing factor is that Apple actually hold more of the music sales market than most people realize. Of all sales (digital and physical), Apple controls 28% of them. In just digital downloads, Apple has a 70% market share.
With this, and the recent investigation of Apple's new iPhone developer agreement, it's clear federal authorities are watching the Cupertino company more closely than ever. Do you think Apple's behavior is ant-competitive?
Apple is known in the tech industry for being a bit of a patent bully, but it turns out what goes around really does come around. This week a number of infringement cases were filed in a Texas federal court which allege that iTunes, Safari, and even OSX infringe on a number of patents held by a company named Sharing Sound. The most interesting of the suits filed was against the iTunes store, which as far as we can tell, insinuates that Apple should not be allowed to sell music through the iTunes interface. The patent being contested would prevent Apple from using any type of online store environment which allows them to provide song previews, a shopping cart, or even an application to play any purchased content. The absence of these features would make iTunes decidedly less useful than it already is, so I imagine Apple is taking this one rather seriously.
Most people wouldn't recognize Sharing Sound on its own, but codefendants include Rhapsody, Napster, Brilliant Digital Entertainment, and Microsoft. Apple is the big player named in the suit, but similar actions were filed against Amazon, Netflix, Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, and even GameStop. It is somewhat unclear why Sharing Sound would wait so long to test out the validity of its patent holding, but were pretty sure a lawyer was carefully consulted at each step. A verdict in their favor could radically alter the online music distribution landscape, but is also the key reason why it is likely to die off. The better question here is not if Sharing Sound will be able to lock out the big players in the online music industry, but rather why the patent office would grant such a broad and ridiculous patent at all.
Sifting through the mountains of Apple patent filings is about as much fun as watching paint dry, but a new service dubbed "iTunes Live" actually managed to catch our attention. The iTunes store has just about any pre-recorded song you can think of, but one area where it lacks is in the live concert department. Sure you can find the odd professionally mastered concert recordings in the archive, but the truly unique b-sides just never seem to find their way into the store. Well, if the details of the patent filing and the catchy trademark hold true, this might just be about to change.
The "iTunes Live" patent pertains to two separate classes.
1.) Online retail store services in the field of entertainment featuring prerecorded music, audio and audiovisual content. 2.) Entertainment services, namely, arranging and conducting of concerts and musical performances.
Presumably this could mean Apple is planning on hosting more live performances, and producing content that is unique to the iTunes store. This could be a response to the growing success of other online mp3 marketplaces including the Amazon Music Store. Now that everyone is DRM free, the best way to win over consumers in the long run is with exclusive content.
Would your favorite band in a live concert convince you to go hang out at an Apple store?
Music streaming service Lala faced some pretty stiff competition prior to its acquisition by Apple, but all things considered, it was a fairly innovative service compared to most cut and dry music stores. Lala gave users the ability to stream an entire song for free once, and then gave you permanent online access for an additional 10 cents. Users could later elect to purchase the track DRM free for 79 cents if they wanted to load it on an MP3 player, but the real draw was the low cost and free samples which made music discovery far less expensive when compared to iTunes.
Many were hoping Apple's acquisition of Lala would be a prelude to a subscription service similar to the Zune Pass, but instead they have simply decided to shut it down, with the last day of business being May 31st. It is unknown at this point if Apple is abandoning the whole streaming music concept altogether, or if the shut down is part of a larger plan to roll its features into iTunes in the coming months. It would make sense that an announcement along these lines would probably happen in June along with new hardware, but we'll have to wait and see.
People who bought songs through Lala won't be impacted since they are DRM free, but those who purchased streaming rights to tracks will either need to take an iTunes credit or jump through a few hoops to get a full refund. It's sad to see Lala go, but at least Apple is being fair to former customers.
Apple is expected to release an update to the popular iTunes software this Saturday in conjunction with the launch of the much anticipated iPad. Many of the software enhancements are meant to support features of the Apple tablet. Some updates that users can look forward to are improved Genius mixes, redesign of iTunes store categories, and an improved device management interface.
For Genius mixes, users will be able to play them via iTunes DJ, and rearrange them simply by dragging them. As far as iPad related enhancements, we can expect the “audiobooks” category to be absorbed into the new iBook store. Newspaper and magazines may also end up under this heading. Apple may also beging using some sort of shorthand to indicate is content is designed to work best with the iPad or iPod/iPhone.
One new feature will be the ability to convert audio on the fly to 128kbps AAC when syncing to a device. This was previously only available with the iPod Shuffle. The conversion saves space on the device, but leaves the computer files unchanged. How do the iTunes users out there feel about these changes? Anything to write home about?
There's a ton of great freeware and open-source software in the online world today. That statement should be a no-brainer, especially if you're been reading these application roundups over the past year and a half or thereabouts.
However, that's not to say that every single application that you install on your PC--including your operating system itself--is immediately minted in gold just because it passed your personal, "do I need this?" test. That's no fault of your own; In fact, it's half the point of the open-source movement to begin with. Industrious users think of new ways to use a piece of software or, rather, new add-ons that they can build into a particular application. This transforms the common application into a forked project, which itself can become the source of inspiration for future spin-offs from an even wider range of users.
Seriously, it's open-source 101.
However, you don‘t have to be a coder, or even a visionary, to reap the benefits of new transformations that run on top of the applications you use day-in and day-out. That's why I'm profiling add-ons in this week's Freeware Files: By now, you should have a pretty healthy laundry-list of common apps that you're always fiddling around in. I'm going to show you how to make them just that much better.
Apple on Thursday announced that more than 10 billion songs have been purchased and downloaded from the company's iTunes Store.
"We're grateful to all of our customers for helping us reach this amazing milestone," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of Internet Services. "We're proud that iTunes has become the number one music retailer in the world, and selling 10 billion songs is truly staggering."
Louie Sulcer, a 71-year-old from Woodstock, Georgia, made the 10 billionth purchase when he bought Johnny Cash's "Guess Things Happen That Way." As a result for his good timing (and good taste in music), Sulcer will receive a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card.
Problem: You have a ton of awesome jams on your iTunes / Zune / Windows Media Player / multimedia organizer of choice, but you don't always use the PC that contains your ultimate rock collection. What do you do? There are a few answers, but all require some software setup in order for you to be able to access your music from afar. You could use Hamachi-based networks to access a shared iTunes library; You could also set up your primary machine as a radio server, which you can then use to stream your files via an easy-to-operate, Web-based interface!
Still, that's a lot of work. There has to be an easier solution, right? There is. It's called TunesBag, and it offers the same functionality you'd otherwise get by building your own Internet radio station the hard way. Although the service is limited to one GB of music for free accounts, that's still a hefty amount of rocking out for your average listener. And uploading, playing, and categorizing music using TunesBag's Web-based interface couldn't be easier--or faster!
Put on your headphones, click the jump, and get ready to turn the dial up to 11!
Apple looks at the digital marketplace and it sees great potential. There are more digital consumers than ever, more options for consumption than ever, and more content than ever. But, the digital marketplace is underperforming. Going back to Econ 101, Apple suspects the lack of demand is related to price--specifically, prices are too high--especially for video. To open the floodgates of demand, Apple is asking TV networks and studios to half the price of their content on the iTunes Store: from $1.99 to $0.99 per episode.
For TV networks it’s not that simple. They draw revenue from over-the-air broadcasts, cable, DVD releases, and other pay-for-content providers. While revenues overall may be down, they don’t see how Apple’s proposal works for them. Sure, they may see additional revenue if digital demand picks-up in response to lower prices. But, they also risk taking a hit if there’s a concomitant drop in demand elsewhere. That’s a risk they don’t appear eager to take.
Apple’s request, which would definitely help its bottom line, is compatible with the preferences of an emergent class of digital consumers. They want their content. They want it now. And they want it cheap. These preferences, however, aren’t compatible with today’s content providers, who generate revenue from a variety of sources, and have interests that directly conflict with the emergent digital marketplace. For example, Comcast is about to swallow NBC, which makes it a content provider and a conduit for content. Comcast can’t let digital consumption threaten either. As long as this remains true, realization of the potential of the digital marketplace will be a long time coming.
An iTunes upgrade in the near future may deliver the cloud-enabled functionality that LaLa is known for. The upgrade will let users access their personal music library from anywhere through a web browser. It might not even require that a user's entire music collection be uploaded to the cloud. Instead, it will only be necessary to upload those tracks not already available on iTunes – quite a rare possibility.
“The Lala setup process provides software to store a personal music library online and then play it from any web browser alongside web songs they vend. This technology plus the engineering and management team is the true value of Lala to Apple,” Robertson wrote.