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.
Unless you have some super-fancy configuration set up, odds are good that you--like most--default to Windows Media Player as your multimedia software of choice for playing just about anything that comes across your system. There's no shame in that. While a number of freeware tools support more codecs and/or file formats, and come bundled with other fun features and extensive customizations, it's alright to admit that you use Windows' built-in tool for the job.
In fact, you might very well have found yourself quite fond of your operating system's default media player. That's alright too. I'm not about to show or suggest third-party tools that might add confusion to your routine. Instead, you might want to check out a little chunk of software called Windows Media Player Plus! This app--really, a series of plugins--isn't a replacement for Windows Media Player. It simply builds free enhancements into Windows Media Player to give you even more options to tinker with and features to enjoy.
Sometimes, a particular application comes along that is just so groundbreaking, so interesting, so... kick ass... that it deserves its own special mention in a separate, "you must download this app right now" kind of article. While I write a number of these such stories-weekly updates of interesting little programs you might want to check out if you have a spare moment-rarely do I so vehemently demand that you grab an application and download it. Immediately.\
Instant Elevator Music is that kind of an application.
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.
We don’t consider ourselves dyed-in-the-wool audiophiles, but we do tend to look askance at audio hardware that adds to, subtracts from, or otherwise monkeys with what a recording artist intended for us to hear. We’ve made the occasional exception—praising Creative’s X-Fi Crystalizer technology, for instance—but we welcome “features” like active noise cancellation about as warmly as an oncoming bout of jock itch.
Apple has done everything in its power to convince the public that when it comes to music hardware and software there’s only a single choice: the iPod, and iTunes, respectively. And while we do admit that the iPod is an excellent MP3 player, we’re not so enamored with iTunes. That’s why we’re going to show you how you can use Foobar, a popular open source program with a powerful, modular design, to manage your music files, rip CDs, and even manage your iPod.
In this guide we’ll show you how to get started organizing your music with Foobar, as well as how to customize the program, burn CDs, and manage an MP3 player. Read on to find out more!
Thanks to an inadvertent leak on Microsoft's Zune site, we had a pretty good idea that a 64GB model was coming, we just didn't when or for how much. With the cat out of the bag, Microsoft has gone ahead and issued a press release answering those questions, and more.
"We're excited to share that Zune fans will be able to purchase a new 64GB capacity of the popular Zune HD device for $349.99 starting April 12th through ZuneOriginals.com," Microsoft said. "By increasing the capacity to 64GB, users will be able to take up to 16,000 songs, or 20 hours of high definition video from Zune Marketplace, or 25,000 pictures on the go!"
The upcoming release isn't just good news for Zune fans interested in higher capacities, but Zune fans in general. That's because Microsoft has dropped the prices of the 16GB and 32GB models by $20 each to $200 (16GB) and $270 (32GB).
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?
With Easter a little less than a week away, it looks like Microsoft is prepping a new Zune HD player just in time for the holiday, even if you weren't supposed to know about it.
On the Zune's homepage, Microsoft's web monkeys have added a listing for a Zune HD 64. Click on the link, however, and you won't get very far - it brings up a "page not found" error rather than a new product page for a Zune HD sporting twice the amount of storage as the current flagship model.
If we had to guess, we'd say the link will go live fairly soon, though don't expect any hardware changes beyond the bump in capacity. That's not a bad thing, as the Zune HD comes comprised of an Nvidia Tegra chipset, 3.3-inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, and a pretty slick UI.
Since there hasn't been an official announcement yet, there's obviously no word on pricing. As a point of reference, however, the 32GB Zune HD runs $240.