What would Apple do without any content?

Post ImageImagine for a moment that the record labels restricted or entirely removed Apple’s access to their catalog of content. What would Apple do? I’m not suggesting the record labels are going to do this anytime soon, but it seems Microsoft has gotten smart and come up with a way to attack iTunes, and it’s not related to the hardware:

Nobody partners like Microsoft. The company is one of the shrewdest deal makers on the planet, when it isn’t competing with partners…There has been buzz for sometime that labels were unhappy with Apple’s single pricing and were looking for a cut of iPod sales…Seems to me: Microsoft is looking to suave labels’ hurts as it seeks to get the deals that could make table stakes for taking on Apple. After all, Apple doesn’t control the content.

When you consider Microsoft’s deal with Universal Music, the possibility of similar deals with the other record labels, and it’s recent Xbox Live Video moves, it becomes clear that access to content is at the heart of Microsoft’s new strategy.

Apple’s strength is hardware, it’s what they do best. Without any content for that hardware however, it becomes a much tougher sell.

Read: Microsoft Monitor

Apple Podcasting Site Broken!

Post ImageThe new nanos are great, Apple still rules digitial music with the iPod and all that, but they’ve broken podcasting. Well, they’ve broken their own podcasting site anyway. I went to look at the iTunes Podcasting spec, and noticed that the page can no longer be found! Seems the redesign for the new stuff broke the website. Well done Apple!

And it’s a shame too, because http://www.apple.com/podcasting was such a nice URL, wouldn’t you say?

A search for podcasting on the support site only gives the Podcasting FAQ. And the link on that page to the podcasting page remains broken. Fortunately, Google comes to the rescue. You can see cached versions of the podcasting page and the tech specs.

Maybe they are going to be updating the spec?

Microsoft totally sucks at product names

Post ImageI’ve said it here before, and I’m sure you’ve read it elsewhere, but it needs to be said again: Microsoft completely and totally sucks at naming their products. Possibly the only names from the last year that are really good (IMHO) are Xbox 360 and Windows Vista. Let’s take a look at what I mean.

On Friday, Microsoft announced the official names for IE7:

For Windows XP: “Windows Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP”
For Windows Vista: “Windows Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Vista”

Now let’s compare that to a product (technically a feature I guess) that Apple announced yesterday:

You back up your system regularly, right? Well, you would. If you had a better way to do it. With Mac OS X Leopard and Time Machine, not only can you back up and preserve everything on your Mac — including priceless digital photos, music, movies, and documents — without lifting a finger, you can go back in time to recover anything you’ve ever backed up.

A backup product named “Time Machine”. You can bet if Microsoft had named the product, it would have been something like “Windows Data Backup Manager” and there would have been a “Premium Edition” and a “Home Edition”, at least. “Time Machine” is simple, inviting, and yet still makes sense as the name of a backup product!

This makes two things on my list of people Microsoft should hire: a professional demo person (like Steve Jobs) and a professional product namer.

Coming Zune from Microsoft

Post ImageTurns out the rumor is true! Microsoft is working on a new project to take on Apple and the iPod called Zune. Information is flying fast and furious around the web, but Engadget has come to the rescue with a pretty good status check of what is known thus far. They also posted a quote from Microsoft’s GM of Marketing, Chris Stephenson:

“Today we confirmed a new music and entertainment project called Zune. Under the Zune brand, we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year. We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow consumers to explore and discover music together.”

From the CNET News.com article on Zune, I found the teaser website which is pretty unimpressive, though it does give you the ability to sign up for news and updates.

As has been noted elsewhere, this marks a significant change in Microsoft’s media and entertainment strategy, which thus far has relied upon partners to build and sell devices. I don’t think it will be quite the problem that many believe though – Microsoft competes with partners all the time, in a wide range of different industries. In fact I hope Zune turns out to be great, so Microsoft’s partners can follow their lead and improve their own players.

With keyboards, mice, webcams, the Xbox 360, and probably other stuff I don’t know about, Microsoft’s hardware business is already somewhat substantial. Add media players to the mix, the rumored portable gaming device, and maybe Microsoft sees a future in hardware? I wonder how long it will be until they manufacture their own Media Center PC.

In any case, bring on the Zune!

Read: Engadget

The History of Apple

Post ImageAs you may or may not know, 2006 marks the 30th anniversary of Apple Computer, and yes I find it amusing that they still have “computer” in their name (seriously, the iPod is not being represented)! Anyway, via Derek Miller I came across this rather amusing history of the company, with entries starting 4-15 billion years ago. It really puts things in perspective:

With the celebration of Apple’s 30th anniversary wrapping up, it seems like the perfect time to take one last look back at the company’s storied history. Now, anyone can put together a timeline that tells you what year certain Macs were released or which kitty code-named version of OS X came out when. But Apple’s 30th anniversary demands a concerted effort from a reporter not afraid to dig deep to discover the untold story of Apple’s history. Sadly, none of those reporters were available, so Macworld turned the project over to the editor of Crazy Apple Rumors Site instead. Here are some key moments in the history of your favorite fruit-themed technology company as best he could remember them.

It’s definitely worth a read!

Read: Macworld

Windows on a Mac arrives!

Post ImageOn Sunday I referenced a post at Engadget that suggested the Mac would soon have the ability to run Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Well today Apple released software called “Boot Camp” that allows Mac owners to do just that:

The software, which will be included in Mac OS X 10.5, called Leopard, is available for download now on Apple’s Web site. Apple will also preview Boot Camp in August at its Worldwide Developer Conference, the company said.

“Apple has no desire or plan to sell or support Windows, but many customers have expressed their interest to run Windows on Apple’s superior hardware, now that we use Intel processors. We think Boot Camp makes the Mac even more appealing to Windows users considering making the switch,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement.

Apparently the software only works with Windows XP for now, and there are no plans to support Windows Vista (yet). First they switch to Intel processors, now this. Are OS X’s days numbered? Is Apple going to take my advice and become just a hardware company? The argument is becoming easier and easier to make!

Read: CNET News.com

Apple to run Windows?

Post ImageHow would you like to buy a Mac and run Windows on it instead of OS X? All the style of an Apple computer with the ubiquity of Windows – there are many people that would love to have the option. Looks like they may get it sooner or later:

Word is out now that Apple has joined BAPco, an industry group that does one thing and one thing only: create benchmarks for testing the performance of Windows-based PCs. The move comes on top of rumors that Apple will include VMWare-style virtualization capabilities in the next version of OS X, which could enable the Mac OS to run Windows apps without requiring a third-party emulator or a reboot.

Apple does hardware. Microsoft is a software company, Apple a hardware company. Now that they are using Intel chips anyway, why not run Windows? There have been many essays written arguing for and against such a decision, but I think it would be cool. Apple could concentrate on making sexy computers and leave the OS stuff to Microsoft.

I’d buy a Mac if it ran Windows Vista.

Read: Engadget

iTunes Challenged in France

Post ImageA very interesting law that attempts to prevent a digital music store monopoly was passed in France by the lower house of parliament today. I don’t know exactly how these things work, but I think the law still must be considered by the upper house too. In any case, it doesn’t look good for Apple:

French officials said the law is aimed at preventing any single media playing system–Apple’s iTunes or Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, for example–from building a grip on the digital online music retail market.

The new legislation will require that online music retailers such as iTunes provide the software codes that protect copyrighted material–known as digital rights management (DRM)–to allow the conversion from one format to another.

At first glance this might be bad news for Apple and good news for Microsoft. Think a little harder though, and you’ll realize this could potentially be very bad for everyone. I don’t know if opening up the DRM codes is very wise, because it wouild probably make them easier to crack. And if that happens, it won’t be the Napster utopia of years past. Instead, we could be stuck with physical media because the record labels are too afraid to sell content digitally. Bad news for everyone.

I found this comment in the article particularly interesting:

Consumers are prepared to pay twice as much for a song that can freely move between different devices, a recent study of the European Union project Indicare showed.

I find that hard to believe, given that something like 90% of the market is iPods. Do all of the iPod owners also own Windows Media devices? I don’t think so, which makes me wonder where this demand for freely moving songs comes from. It’s not like Apple is price gouging at iTunes (on the contrary, they are fighting against variable song prices).

Read: CNET News.com

Apple introduces leather iPod case

Post ImageI am continually amazed by Steve Jobs and co – its like they get away with murder! They somehow get OS X owners to pay for minor updates, their religious zealots still love them after switching to the enemy (read: Intel), and they announce “fun” products like a leather case for the iPod…for NINETY NINE DOLLARS!

Looks like Apple wants to make sure to own a piece of every sector of the iPod accessory market. In addition to the $349 iPod Hi-Fi, the company also announced its own $99 leather iPod case. Sure, it’s a pretty basic sleeve, and only fits the iPod with video or nano, but if you want an official Apple case with an Apple logo and “iPod” stamped on the front, this is the place to go (though we hear there are some pretty convincing knockoffs available on Canal Street for about $15).

When you can release a product like this for a hundred bucks and have it sell, you really do have power. There are thousands of cheaper options for protecting your beloved iPod (or Apple could make scratchless devices to begin with) yet there will still be people who will pay Apple the money for this over-priced official leather case. It blows my mind.

I guess I am getting ahead of myself, we don’t know how well the leather case is going to sell, but the fact that any sell at all is amazing enough. Jobs must have drugs or chemicals or radio wave emitting devices hidden in his products and packaging to get people so hooked.

Read: Engadget

iBuzz – music activated iPod sex toy!

Post ImageIt’s hard to think of a device that has spawned as many third party accessories as the iPod. And when you consider that Apple isn’t known for being open or willing to make things easier on partners, the huge pool of gear is even more amazing. The iBuzz from Love Labs is the most interesting accessory I have seen in a while though (hat tip: Podcasting News):

Steve Jobs, we salute you! iBuzz USA celebrates your birthday with the launch of the iBuzz music-activated vibrator in the US.

We love the iPod and we love it even more when an iBuzz is attached.

And Steve, don’t forget to check your mail on your birthday for a surprise from us!

iBuzz is the musical orgasm machine! The music-activated vibrating bullet stimulates you in time with your favourite music. Which song pushes your butttons?

I can’t be sure, but everything looks legit. Too bad they didn’t have this out for Valentine’s Day, I am sure they would have attracted quite a bit of traffic! Apparently the device has a “bullet” that vibrates in time with the music and gets stronger as the volume goes up. And now I am going to end this post, because just the thought of someone getting off to William Hung is too much for me.

Read: iBuzz