If we'd been asked to come up with a name for Google's upcoming music retail web store, we would have shrugged our shoulders and muttered something like 'Google Music'. Turns out Google is just as straight forward and uncreative as us. TechCrunch did some digging around on Google's servers and found what appears to be a logo indicating the service would be called Google Music. The file has since disappeared.
Google demoed the web-based music store at Google I/O last month. It was shown off with the ability to do over the air downloads to Android phones. Google didn't really give any detail about the service, which is expected to roll out with the new web-based Android Market. We were skeptical that Google would be doing the actual sale of the music themselves, but would rather be a storefront, but this new evidence makes us think they might go toe to toe with Apple after all.
Apple is expected to launch a cloud-based music service at WWDC next week. So if Google wants to get people interested, they should get Google music ready to rollout soon.
The irony here is so thick we could cut it with a chainsaw. What are we talking about? Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, the duo responsible for the former P2P app Kazaa that, let's face it, was never really used to download Linux distros and instead was the tool of choice for illicit downloaders, are stepping back on the digital music stage and launching a new startup called "Rdio."
Taking a page from Napster, Rdio is a legit service and will charge $5 to $10 a month for "unlimited access to music from your computer and mobile phone, even when you're offline." There will be apps for different smartphones, including iPhones, BlackBerry phones, and Android-based phones, and if you shell out the full $10, you'll be able to store and stream songs on these and perhaps other mobile devices.
According to The New York Times, Rdio will open this week as an invitation-only preview, and then become more widely available later this year, joining a sea of other subscription music services. Where Rdio will attempt to set itself apart is in its social element, giving users the ability to follow friends on the site, see what songs they're listening to, and view a list of the most popular music on your friends list.
Android smartphone owners can finally do something iPhone and BlackBerry users have already been able to do: listen to Sirius XM radio on the go from their mobile phone. You won't find the app in the Android Market, and will instead need to navigate here to grab the apk file. Once installed, Sirius issues the following warning:
"This product will use a large amount of data and you are responsible for all data charges. Please contact you carrier's customer service to confirm / add an unlimited data plan," the app discloses.
We tried installing the app on our slow-as-molasses HTC Dream/G1 smartphone and it worked without a hitch. Assuming you're on a good connection, the stations and songs download quickly and begin playing within a second or two. The best part about this is Android's ability to multi-task, so you can fire up Sirius XM in the background while you go about your other smartphone business. We can also see this being a hit on upcoming Android tablets.
According to new numbers from the NPD Group, Apple's iTunes extended its lead over Walmart and now dominates the online music scene with a 70 percent share of the digital music market, while sales accounted for 28 percent of all music purchased during the first quarter of 2010.
Walmart sits it in a distant second place, a position it now shares with Amazon, which was able to gain 4 percentage points to tie Walmart with 12 percent of the market.
"Amazon's growth reflects a stronger position in both the CD and digital formats," Russ Crupnick, vice president of industry analysis for the NPD Group, said in a statement. "This dual-pronged approach of selling both digital music and CDs helps attract the most valuable and committed music buyer who prefers access to both formats."
Walmart held the top spot in physical CD sales with 17 percent of the market, though CD sales in general are declining. Digital music, meanwhile, made up 40 percent of the market in the first quarter of 2010, up significantly from 5 percent during the same quarter one year ago.
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.
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.
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?
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.