14 Nov

Ars Technica – Apple launches iTunes Match: music hoarders need not apply

Apple has quietly released iTunes 10.5.1 to the public, which enables support for its iTunes Match service. The service allows syncing your music library to iCloud for easy remote access from other computers or iOS devices. But don’t get too excited just yet, as iTunes Match’s hard 25,000 track limit means those with extensive collections simply cannot take advantage of the service.

iTunes Match is a subscription-based iTunes library syncing service that works with iCloud. Unlike Amazon Cloud Player or Google Music services, iTunes Match can identify tracks in your library that are already part of the iTunes Store’s extensive library of music. Those tracks are immediately added to a user’s iTunes Match account by connecting to the 256kbps, DRM-free version on Apple’s servers. This is true even if you ripped the album yourself at lower bitrates using older versions of iTunes or other software.

The remaining tracks, up to 25,000 total, are then uploaded to iCloud. Any songs purchased directly from iTunes don’t count toward this limit, but if you have more than 25,000 tracks not purchased from iTunes in your library, the service simply refuses to let you sign up. Apple has yet to make any allowance for users with massive libraries to choose a subset of their music to upload—an unfortunate limitation in our view, since such avid listeners are among the most likely to consider paying the yearly $24.99 fee.

via Ars Technica – Apple launches iTunes Match: music hoarders need not apply. Seems like a great deal if you either have a lot of music that is in cruddy versions or are away from wherever most of your music is a lot. Neither of those is true for me.

03 Oct

Ars Technica – Report: iTunes beta suggests app rentals may be in iOS’s future

A handful of code in iTunes 10.5 beta 9 suggests that Apple may soon start allowing customers to rent apps from the App store, according to The Tech Erra. If a rental system were put into place, it could cut down on money spent on apps that customers never use, which could reduce resentment customers feel toward developers when an app doesn’t work the way they thought it would.

A few strings in the iTunes beta code appear to be pop-up messages to notify customers about the state of rented apps: "Apps are automatically removed from your iTunes library at the end of the rental period" and "This app will be deleted from your computer" are a couple of the included statements.

A rental system through the App Store would be similar to the try-before-you-buy program that Amazon currently offers in its own Android Appstore. None of the language uncovered in the iTunes beta indicates whether rentals would carry a price or be free for their limited run.

via Ars Technica – Report: iTunes beta suggests app rentals may be in iOS’s future. A rental system would be nice, I hate buying apps that I try out and then get rid of. I wouldn’t mind paying say half or less of the normal price and then paying the remainder if I decided to outright buy the app.

26 Jul

Read Write Web – You Can Read, But You Can’t Buy: iOS E-Reader Apps Remove Links to Bookstores

New rules governing how iOS apps handle in-app purchases went into effect on June 30, and the date passed without much fanfare and seemingly without much compliance from many apps that continued to offer content for sale. These apps included e-reader apps with links to their associated online bookstores, as well as a variety of others that offered users the ability to subscribe or make purchases.

But over the weekend, updates were issued for many e-reader apps, removing links to their bookstores in order to comply with Apple’s new rules. These stipulate that Apple receive a 30% cut from in-app purchases and subscriptions, something that many publishers balked at, contending that that cut was too high.

When the new policy was announced back in February, one of the first apps to run into trouble was Sony’s e-reader, which was rejected as it contained a link to the Sony Reader Store. But for apps already in the iTunes App Store – the Kindle app, the Nook app and so on – the links and the ability to buy books remained. Until this weekend.

One by one, it appears that most of the major e-reader apps have now complied: Kobo, Borders, Nook Kids, and finally this morning, the Kindle apps have all been updated with links to their respective stores removed.

via Read Write Web – You Can Read, But You Can’t Buy: iOS E-Reader Apps Remove Links to Bookstores. The end of this battle between Apple and publishers.

19 May

Shawn Blanc – Cloudy With a Chance of Music

I have nothing but good things to say about the quality of Rdio’s service, its price, or its music collection. However, there is something about Rdio that just doesn’t settle for me. And I think it’s the fact that I’m listening to music I don’t own.

A lot of people have been championing for music the trend which began with movies so many years ago: that access is better than ownership. This is Netflix’s bag: rent all the movies you want, whenever you want, for one low monthly fee.

It’s the same idea with Rdio — you are, in a sense, “renting” an album. Though you never have to return it, so long as you keep paying your monthly dues.

However, I have a different attitude towards movies than I do towards music. I will maybe watch my favorite movies once or twice a year, at the most. A great album that I love I will listen to every day for months and months.

Movies are entertaining. Music is personal.

And so I don’t know if the paradigm that access is better than ownership has the same effect on our music library as it does for our DVD collection. The music we listen to, in many ways, is a definition and extension of who we are.

All this to say, that what excites me right now is the idea of access and ownership. I want to own my music, but I want to have it available anywhere and everywhere and on each of the music-playing devices that I own.

via Shawn Blanc – Cloudy With a Chance of Music. Totally agree, that’s exactly why I stopped using Pandora and Rdio for as much as people rave about both services. Ownership and total control over the experience is almost paramount for how I listen to music.

19 Feb

Subtraction.com – The Interactive TV You Already Use

All of this goes to making a point that I repeat often: every design solution must be native to its intended medium. Even though two media may look similar, may share many similar qualities, may even target the same users, in almost every case they will be different in fundamental ways, and users will expect interfaces to respect what makes each unique. It’s unrealistic to expect that the sort of interface you might find on a desktop application or even a mobile application will work on a television, and yet that was more or less Google TV’s approach. Similarly, it’s also unrealistic to expect a tablet computer to work like a print magazine, but then again everyone knows that.

via Subtraction.com – The Interactive TV You Already Use. One of the problems with Google’s products is they are built primarily by engineers as opposed to designers. Google builds a fantastic back end but invariably a less impressive front end in their less mature products. This invites this exact problem where a product almost entirely designed by engineers is marketed towards average people, leading to a failed product. It’s in a lot of ways the exact opposite approach of Apple’s and a reason why Apple may not have a fantastic backend product (Cloud Stored Media anybody), but man are the products a dream to use in most cases.

10 Jan

Subtraction.com – Blu-Ray Blues

To even casual technology observers, it’s always been obvious that Blu-Ray is a format designed more for content producers than for consumers, but it’s hard to understand how hostile the Blu-Ray ecosystem is to consumers until you actually own one and try to use it regularly. Turning on my Blu-Ray player is just not as fun as streaming movies via Netflix, or renting them from iTunes. And I say this as one of a dwindling number of consumers who would prefer, on the whole, to own my media on discs rather than as digital files.

What’s amazing about this situation is that the leap from DVD to Blu-Ray shouldn’t have been this complex. The newer format bundles in all sorts of features like bookmarking, inline menu availability and BD Live, which accesses supplemental content over the Internet, that frankly I couldn’t care less about. What I wanted, and what I would be willing to guess most consumers want out of Blu-Ray, is simply better looking home video. That shouldn’t have been hard to do at all, but the business agenda of the entertainment and technology industries stepped in and subverted that simple equation until it became a complex mess. If you haven’t yet made the switch to Blu-Ray, I would urge you to consider carefully before you do.

via Subtraction.com – Blu-Ray Blues. I’ve thought about purchasing a Blu-Ray player but I keep avoiding it due to crap like this. Though with Star Wars coming out on Blu-Ray that is a pretty strong incentive.

05 Dec

Wired – The Age of Music Piracy Is Officially Over

Mark down the date: The age of stealing music via the Internet is officially over. It’s time for everybody to go legit. The reason: We won. And all you audiophiles and copyfighters, you know who fixed our problems? The record labels and online stores we loved to hate.

via Wired – The Age of Music Piracy Is Officially Over. Totally agree, stealing music is only for the people who are being stupidly cheap.

03 Sep

Cthulhu and other crazies – Apple’s Ping is a big pile of steaming dung

A few days ago Apple released a social network. Gee, how bloody creative of them and they used to be so cool. There are enough social networks, too many actually. But I digress.

via Cthulhu and other crazies – Apple’s Ping is a big pile of steaming dung. A nice list of all the ways Ping fails as a usable and interesting social networking system or even a social music recommendation system.

03 Feb

With momentum in Europe, Spotify has Apple’s iTunes in its sights – Los Angeles Times

Spotify, the Swedish music streaming software that&s rocking Europe, has huge ambitions. Though still limited to six countries and yet to launch in the U.S., Spotify founder Daniel Ek is setting his sights on America&s top music retailer and digital jukebox — Apple&s iTunes.

Spotify used the same invitation concept to spread in Sweden. The hotly anticipated service will do the same when it launches in the U.S. before the middle of this year, Ek said after his speech in a private interview in the Henry Fonda Theater’s green room.

via With momentum in Europe, Spotify has Apple’s iTunes in its sights | Pop & Hiss | Los Angeles Times. I’m waiting on Spotify to launch in the US to have so much fun with it.