NHL coming to iTunes?

Post ImageEarlier I mentioned that Apple would be making SNL skits available via iTunes for customers to download to their video iPods – but that’s not the only iTunes news of the day! Apparently the NHL is close to reaching a deal to offer video via Apple as well:

According to Sports Business Journal The NHL is very close to reaching agreements with Apple Computer Inc. for video downloading. “It would be fair to say we are close,” said Doug Perlman, NHL executive vice president of media.

Considering the NHL lost many of its American viewers with last year’s strike, this can only be seen as good news for the league. I wonder if they would offer entire games, or just highlights or something?

Read: Kukla’s Korner

Apple to sell SNL skits

Post ImageMacworld took centre stage in the world of technology today, so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of Apple-related items as you scan the headlines. One announcement that I found quite interesting is that Apple intends to sell Saturday Night Live skits through iTunes:

Apple is set to announce today that it will sell a limited number of archived “Saturday Night” skits through its iTunes Music Store for $1.99 each, for viewing on video iPods or personal computers.

The offering is the latest expansion of Apple’s iTunes video library, which includes content from television networks including NBC and ABC.

Seems to me this is an excellent idea; it’s exactly the sort of content most people will want to have on a portable device. There’s a theory that the coming battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD for the successor to DVDs will be meaningless, because content will be downloaded instead of purchased on physical media by the time all is said and done. I tend to think the theory holds some merit, and announcements like this one from Apple only make it even more likely. Already consumers download a lot of stuff and not just on the computer – take for example movies on satellite or digital cable.

Imagine if we had wireless everywhere! You could be walking to work or school or wherever, and get a notification that a new SNL skit is available for download. You simply say yes (and your credit card is charged), and pretty soon you’ve got a new video to watch! It’s powerful stuff.

Read: NYTimes.com

Another Reason Why Apple Sucks

Post ImageThere are many reasons to love Apple, and yet many more to hate them too. An article I came across today falls into the latter category (and actually, I noticed this at the Portable Media Expo over the weekend):

iPodder Lemon was a free application distributed under the General Public License, or GPL, that allows users to manage their podcasts–audio and video programs downloaded from the Internet to an MP3 player.

The application’s developers say Apple’s legal team asked the open-source group to drop the name of the software because it suggested a connection to the company’s flagship iPod device. The developers have changed the name of the product to Juice.

What is happening here? Apple is not protecting their intellectual property. I don’t believe the average user would confuse the iPod with iPodder Lemon. I also think that iPodder Lemon probably contributed to some sales of the iPod, in fact helping Apple. What’s happening here is that Apple is using their big-company muscle to try and own the idea of “podcasting” in the minds of consumers. Anything related to the iPod, they seem to want to control.

There is a fine line between protecting your trademarks and brands, and bullying applications, devices and services that are part of your ecosystem. I think Apple crossed the line this time! In any case, Juice will continue to be a great application I’m sure, despite the name change setback.

Read: CNET News.com

Mark Cuban on Network TV

Post ImageThe recent product announcements by Apple are already having an impact. Mark Cuban thinks that Bob Iger, President and CEO of Disney, has saved Network TV by allowing the sale of TV shows on iTunes for the new video iPod, and I’m inclined to agree:

The future of network television got immediately brighter yesterday. All because Bob Iger had the brilliance to say yes to giving consumers his content, where, how and when they want to consume it.

At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what podcasting is all about. Giving consumers control over the time, place, and method of consumption. I just hope the television executives don’t screw this up by forcing advertising down our throats too. Proceed, but proceed smartly!

Read: Mark Cuban

Video iPod Released

Post ImageAt long last it has happened. The oft-rumored and much ballyhooed video iPod was unveiled by Apple’s Steve Jobs today along with a new iMac and an updated iTunes that includes music videos, movies and TV shows:

The iPod has “been a huge hit for us, so it’s time to replace it,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said as he showed off the new video-capable MP3 player at an event here. “Yes, it does video.”

The music players, which come in black or white with a 2.5-inch screen, will be available in a 30GB model for $299 and a 60GB version for $399. The new devices hold up to 15,000 songs, 25,000 photos or more than 150 hours of video, Apple said.

Pay attention to the media coverage this device will get in the coming weeks. What’s significant is not that Apple has released a video version of the iPod, but that no one seems to care about the Portable Media Centers that have been out for months from companies like Creative. Seems as though Apple can do no wrong!

Perhaps Microsoft and Real set aside their differences for the simple reason that they can’t beat Apple if they are trying to beat each other. It has been suggested that Apple and Google would make good partners in the fight against Microsoft (and now Real perhaps). I don’t think they would, for the simple reason that Steve Jobs never releases anything into beta!

Even though the video iPod has been a long time in the making, I have to admit I am still somewhat surprised. Given the recent bickering between Jobs and the record label executives, I expected it to be harder for Apple to add movies and music videos to their iTunes store. On the other hand, Jobs is much more powerful in Hollywood (Pixar, etc) than he is in the eyes of the RIAA.

The Apple domination of media continues…

Read: CNET News.com

Bronfman on Apple and Music

Post ImageWarner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. has publicly responded to the comments made by Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs last week. Jobs called the record labels “greedy” and pledged to keep iTunes prices at 99 cents. Mr. Bronfman made it clear he disagrees:

He called Apple’s across-the-board $0.99-per-song charge unfair.

“There’s no content that I know of that does not have variable pricing,” said Mr. Bronfman at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investor conference. “Not all songs are created equal—not all time periods are created equal. We want, and will insist upon having, variable pricing.”

I actually agree with Mr. Bronfman on that point; I think there should be variable pricing. What I don’t think he’d agree with is a maximum price, and no minimum price. Just as some songs are worth more than 99 cents, some are worth less and so consumers shouldn’t have to pay a premium for them. I also don’t think any song should cost more than $2.49 – if you have a CD with only one good song, that’s a fair price I’d say. Most consumers don’t want to buy an entire album, just the songs they like – a model that the record industry is clearly not used to. I like to have an entire album, and the record labels prefer me to purchase an entire album, so I think if variable pricing actually comes to pass, there should be big discounts for users who purchase an entire album.

I disagree with Mr. Bronfman on the following point though:

“We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don’t have a share of iPod’s revenue,” he said. “We want to share in those revenue streams. We have to get out of the mindset that our content has promotional value only.

“We have to keep thinking how we are going to monetize our product for our shareholders,” added Mr. Bronfman. “We are the arms supplier in the device wars between Samsung, Sony, Apple, and others.”

Um, no. The record labels sell their songs through iTunes, not through the iPod. There’s no way they should get a cut of iPod sales. And to say they are the arms supplier? Hardly! People don’t buy an iPod over a Sony player because of the music. Wake up and smell the coffee Edgar!

Read: Red Herring

iPod Nano Reviews

Post ImageOf course, one of the bigger announcements over the last week was the unveiling of the latest member of the iPod family, affectionately named “Nano”. Engadget today posted a “review roundup“, so that you can better make a decision on whether or not to buy one:

You probably already have a pretty good idea by now whether or not you’re going to break down and spring for an iPod nano, but on the off-chance that you haven’t made up your mind yet we figured we’d throw together a roundup of reviews. Most are, well, rather gushing, but if you dig around you’ll find a few valid criticisms, like that Apple was forced to put the headphone jack at the bottom of the player to make room for the display up top.

The device does look pretty damn cool, but a couple things bother me. One is that note about the headphone jack being at the bottom – it would be so much cooler if the Nano featured bluetooth and just connected wirelessly to a pair of headphones. Another thing is the battery life. iPod’s aren’t known for their impressive battery life, and the Nano claims to get only 14 hours. My 20 GB Zen Touch can run for days without getting charged, and it often does as I use it my car, granted it is quite a bit larger.

Read: Engadget

Apple launches iTunes 4.9

Post ImageApple today launched the new version of iTunes. Version 4.9 adds support for podcasting:

With iTunes 4.9 you can now browse, find, sample and subscribe to thousands of free radio shows – called podcasts – then sync them to your iPod and listen anytime, anywhere.

I installed the application tonight to see for myself what it’s like. There is now a “Podcasts” button on the left, that shows you all of the podcasts you’re subscribed to. You can change some basic settings, like whether or not to download just the newest episode for each podcast. In the top right is a big button that lets you update your subscriptions.

I think it’s great that Apple decided to add podcasting support into the program, because it will probably help increase adoption of the technology. On the other hand, I am pretty unimpressed by iTunes 4.9. It seems like a very half-hearted attempt by Apple.

Read: Apple iTunes

Everyone loves a good rumor!

Post ImageIn case you missed it earlier this week, Apple announced it was switching to Intel chips for it’s computers starting in 2006. That’s pretty big news for the computer industry, and as a result, it has been debated, questioned, and otherwise picked apart over the last few days. People have all sorts of questions and thus theories about what is going to happen, but one of the most extreme comes to us from Robert X. Cringely (I picked out the best quotes):

And this time, what’s behind the announcement is so baffling and staggering that it isn’t surprising that nobody has yet figured it out until now. Apple and Intel are merging.

Then what is the driving force? Microsoft.

His article is a pretty interesting read, and he does ask some great questions. Why did Apple choose Intel and not AMD? Why did they not say anything about their previous marking campaigns that said PowerPC was so much faster than Intel? I expect these questions, and many others, have good answers.

As for Apple and Intel merging to dethrone Microsoft? Not likely:

  • Microsoft has so much money, they could be a bank. Heck, they could be anything they wanted almost overnight. And keeping a lot of money has always been part of the plan – lots of cash on hand means you can weather most storms. It would take a lot, an act of epic proportions, to harm Microsoft. Apple and Intel merging is not that act.
  • Dell and HP are the companies that have the real say here. If Intel were to buy Apple, I think you’d see Dell and HP knocking on AMD’s door extremely fast. Intel would lose it’s largest customers almost immediately.
  • Even if they didn’t, what’s stopping Microsoft from buying AMD? They’ve been pretty cozy lately anyway. At the very least, Microsoft could help AMD meet production demands if current Intel customers jumped ship.
  • Intel and Apple are hardware companies. Good luck creating and supporting a mainstream operating system! Microsoft is a software company at heart, it’s what they do. They might be slow at getting things fixed, but I am willing to bet they know a lot more about it than Intel-Apple would.

Basically, I don’t see the incentive for Intel to buy Apple. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think there is a much better chance that Apple would split into two companies: one focused on computers, and one focused on media (think iPod).

Read: I, Cringely

Apple switches to Intel

Post ImageOne of the biggest rumors in the technology industry was confirmed as fact this morning at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Steve Jobs, in his keynote address to conference attendees, announced that Apple will begin a phased transition to Intel chips by 2007, with the first Apple-Intel machines appearing by June 6th, 2006.

The move to Intel marks a tectonic shift for Apple, which has used processors from IBM and Motorola (now Freescale Semiconductor) throughout the life of the Mac. However, the company has changed architectures before, shifting in the 1990s from Motorola’s 68000 family of chips to the PowerPC architecture jointly developed by IBM and Motorola.

In addition the previous hardware shift, Apple also underwent a major change with the release of OS X. The new operating system required many changes on the parts of developers. Jobs admitted that Apple has had OS X running on Intel processors for the last five years, so one would assume that the move to Intel has always been in the back of Steve’s head.

So what does the change mean? Not much to the average user, except that future Apple computers might (stressing that word might) be cheaper. Microsoft and Adobe both announced that they will support the switch by updating their software. Apple will make sure that OS X doesn’t run on any Intel machine except the ones they create, though they said that they will not prevent other operating systems from running on Apple hardware. The change probably won’t affect IBM either, as all three major game consoles now run on some form of the Power PC chip, and let’s face it, game consoles outsell Apple computers by a large margin.

I think the most visible change in the short term will be fewer sales of Apple computers. Who’s going to buy a new Apple machine now when they will be so different in a year? Hard to say what will happen long term. Unless Apple decides to sell just OS X or until someone figures how to make it run on other Intel machines, not much has changed.

If I were Apple, I’d sell Mac OS X as a standalone operating system that would run on any x86 based computer. Baby steps though right? Maybe this is the first step towards that happening.

Read: CNET News.com