Video of Green Day on the iPad: Everything worthwhile has already been invented

for a guy like Steve Jobs, when is enough, enough.

They sum up at the end by saying “In short, the iPad is stupid”.

I don’t care if they like the device, and their concerns on what Apple has “done” to the music industry are shared by many “old style” artists (i.e., those that started when physical media still ruled). I disagree, and think things would be much worse had Apple and others not provided a legal alternative for what was going to happen anyway, but I respect their opinion on it.

I also disagree that people are buying an iPad to figure out WTF it is. On the contrary, I believe people are buying an iPad because, once they actually use one, it’s immediately obvious what it is.

What I most take exception to is the “when is enough, enough” question. To me, there’s a massive shortsightedness in your views on technology when the crux of your argument is that somehow we’ve gone far enough with it, and apparently we can just stop now. Do these guys feel the same way about music?

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TAB – Spiral Frog: RIP

And so ends the life of another would-be iTunes competitor.

Spiral Frog, a Universal-backed subscription music catastrophe, has apparently called it quits. Though the service was “free” (using an ad-supported model), it still suffered from the five things that pretty much all subscription-based music models share…

Read the rest of this article on theAppleBlog >>

Nokia’s ‘Comes With Music’ Goes With Their Contract.

When Nokia and Universal announced their “Comes With Music” initiative last December, this is what I wrote

This music is heavily DRM’ed — no subscription model can function without it. I suspect the idea that you still “own” it after the year is dependent upon one’s definition of the word “own”. I don’t think I’ll like Nokia/Universal’s definition.

When the full details come out, I bet we’ll discover that unless you continue a Nokia “Comes With Music” contract on a phone (in which case you’re still paying for the subscription), or never change the PC you’re using when the phone terms expire, you will lose the music.

Today we now have details on the thing. The relevant points: 

The user is only able to change registered mobile device or PC every three months for a further two years post termination.

After two years post termination (after three years from beginning of the subscription) users will be able to keep the content on their current device/PC but will no longer be able to re-download it from the service.

In short, as I suspected, I don’t like Nokia’s definition of the word “own”.

You “own” it as long as you stay with one of their devices and keep extending your contract. Once the contract is over, however, the music is stuck on the mobile device/PC you have at the time, and cannot be moved. Own it, my ass.

Amazon, eMusic, iTunes, and Other Digital Download Thoughts.

Much has been made of the “news” that Amazon’s MP3 store is now the #2 online retailer in digital music. You can absorb some various thoughts on this in these articles:

And then of course there are the myriad re-hashes of the USA Today article syndicated in papers everywhere, as well as other articles parroting the story as if iTunes is somehow being threatened.

First, there has always been a #2 in online music sales. Always. I mean, unless there’s only one store doing the selling, then someone is #2. Did we ever care about who it was before? Did it ever matter? No.

In fact, iTunes is so far in the lead that even referring to the next one as a ‘distant second’ is still an understatement. Like being the tallest midget, it’s a dubious distinction.

Second, I tend to agree with eMusic on their being #2. The big labels sure as hell don’t want to discuss Indie labels. They never have. So naturally they don’t bother considering eMusic, but who said the labels get to set the agenda (well, except for USA Today, who wrote the article for the labels’ benefit)?

Bottom line for me is that until some hard numbers on the Amazon store are published, eMusic’s claim, backed up with legitimate sales figures, will hold sway. Though, again, who is truly #2 ultimately doesn’t matter.

Third, I’ve written about this before, but the “collusion” the labels are showing against iTunes is pretty clear. I used to be concerned about it, but now I think it’s self-defeating, and will backfire on them.

Consider this:

  • They don’t want Apple to sell DRM-free music.
  • They don’t like Apple’s low prices.
  • They want bundling, which Apple is against.

And yet, in their deals with Amazon:

  • They’re allowing DRM-free music (at high quality, too).
  • The prices are less.
  • There’s no bundling to speak of.

As I stated at the time, I believed the labels’ plan was for Amazon to get a foothold, and then the labels would slowly start to make changes in pricing, etc.

However, given that six months later the labels have resorted to planting stories to make it appear Amazon is becoming a force in the market, it would seem it hasn’t taken off as fast as they’d hoped (it also shows their lack of patience).

So, in another six months, or a year, or whatever, if Amazon is deemed “big enough”, and the labels try to pull the trigger on pricing and bundling changes, I believe they’ll be unable to do it. The minute the (small) price advantage Amazon has over iTunes goes away, so will their customers.

In short, having offered something “better”, the labels will not be able to pull it away as they had hoped.

Finally, I think Amazon’s inability to truly kick ass is because of a fundamental issue I have with most of the online stores: Price.

How many people paid the $18 list price for a CD? Most used Wal-Mart, Target, used CD stores, etc. and paid $13 or less. Since digital music has no packaging, liner notes, physical media, duplication costs, and are lower quality, the idea that an album should cost $10 is ridiculous. In the digital world, $6 ought to be about right. Heck, if Sony/BMG can sell their physical CDs for $5.99, then there’s no excuse for digital versions to not be the same or less.

Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” offering should have made one thing clear. While many took the album for free, the average price was $6. Seems to me this was the consumers’ way of saying what the true price of a popular digital album should be. Too bad the labels paid no attention.

Music In the Air: My New Apple Airport Express.

Picked up an Airport Express today. This thing has intrigued me ever since it was introduced. Not because it’s a super small and convenient device for creating a high-speed WiFi network — complete with Internet and print sharing. And not because it can also serve as an inexpensive bridge for extending an existing wireless network.

No, what appealed to me about it was AirTunes: The ability to stream music. In other words, to plug into a powered stereo and make those speakers appear “remote” to a copy of iTunes on any Mac or PC on the same network.

Today I finally made good on my desire to get one. My iMac is in a second-floor corner of the house, and the living room stereo is in the opposite corner on the first floor. I wanted to stream my tunes to the living room.

Pretty simple setup:

  1. Plug in the cables you’ll use. (In my case a 3.5 mm jack audio cable terminating in standard RCA plugs.)
  2. Plug the device into the outlet.
  3. Use Airport Utility to set it up.

At step two, the unit ended up flashing yellow, which means something is “wrong”. You’re supposed to use the Airport Utility to find out what, but it would not find my device.

Well, duh! The iMac connects to my Time Capsule via Ethernet, and I had shut off its Airport. Of course, without Airport it can’t see the Airport Express. Anyway, I turned it on, it found the device, and the two “yellow” errors were A) I had nothing in the Ethernet plug (this was intentional, so I ignored the error), and B) letting me know it had nothing but defaults — didn’t I want to set it up?

I did indeed. Unlike the Time Capsule, which I setup manually, for the Express I used the automated approach. First, name the device and give it a password. Then specify that I’ll connect to an existing network — select the network and login. That’s all there is to it; the light is green.

I launched iTunes, and on the Advanced panel in Preferences turned on the option to have it look for remote speakers:

itunespref.png

A new drop down appears at the bottom of the iTunes window that list ‘Computer’ and any Airport Express’ names:

speakerlist.png

I select the Express, then turn my stereo system source to ‘CD’ and the music plays smoothly, beautifully. I can even control the volume via iTunes from upstairs (you can disable this feature).

The ‘Multiple Speakers’ option lets you select from among all the devices in the menu. In my case it means I can play the same music on the iMac and downstairs stereo simultaneously. You could have a house full of these things and play the same music throughout the house. Pretty cool.

To take my setup a step further, I’d like to control this from the MacBook as well. However, the MacBook has only a tenth of the music the iMac has. No problem. I use the Sharing panel in iTunes Preferences on the iMac to share my entire library:

itunesshare.png

On the MacBook I use the same panel to have it look for shared libraries. Now I just select whatever tunes I want from the shared library, select the Express, and I’m in business.

This is really sweet. The MacBook is serving as the “middle man” to receive music from the iMac and then stream it to the Express. All over WiFi. Perfect!

I’m going on vacation in a couple weeks and plan on taking the Express to use as my own WiFi hot spot at the hotel. I’ll report back on how it serves that purpose, but right now it’s doing exactly what I bought it for.

Apple iPod, iTunes, and Music Subscriptions.

According to the Financial Times this is in the works.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of this model, though assuming it’s optional it finally has a shot to succeed now that the largest and most popular online music store (and second-largest music store) would be offering it for those who want it.

My problems with this model are the same as I’ve always had; the fact that Apple may offer it isn’t likely to change any of it:

  • Renting music makes little sense to me. People listen to their favorite songs over and over (heck, AM and FM radio were built on that principle), not so with most movies or TV shows.
  • DRM, DRM, and more DRM. Heavy DRM is the only way this can be legitimately pulled off (certainly the only way the labels would agree to it, unless they’ve had a change of heart). Don’t expect the same “FairPlay” you have now. Move your tunes anywhere? Just burn a CD and re-rip tunes to remove DRM? I don’t think so.
  • Exploding media. Part of the above DRM requires a way to shut it off when the terms are not followed or expire. We don’t have details on this yet, but without the threat of such explosion the subscription model can’t really work.

So what can Apple do with this model that others can’t? How can they make it successful where others have failed? I can think of some reasons:

  • The Ecosystem. One reason for potential success is the same reason for which they’ve had success with the current model. The iPod/iTunes system just works. Phenomenally well. Hundreds of million of people are already familiar with it and trust it.
  • The Process. Likely Apple would implement it so that getting your tunes under this model is about as easy as downloading their free track of the week now. Just select and download. No new process to learn. No new software or hardware to use, etc. People might make the move from owning to renting just because it’s so easy to try it.
  • The Price. Nokia’s similar model costs them $80 per headset. If Nokia and the labels figure the headset will be swapped after two years (the average) that’s $3.33 a month for all you can rent. Apple’s allegedly offering only $20, so even if you swap iPods every two years that’s only 83 cents a month for all you can rent. Less than the price of one one single right now!

Would I sign up for the subscription model? I’d need a lot more details first. How long does it last, what are the limitations, what’s the cost, etc. If my guess that Apple could pull it off nearly seamlessly for any iPod/iTunes users is correct, then I’d certainly consider trying it.

I like owning my music, and have never even considered renting ever since I got burned by Music Match back in ’00 or whenever when a track I paid 99 cents for wouldn’t even play when not connected to the Internet.

My guess is that if I the rental model was cheap enough, then I’d use it as a “preview”, and still buy the albums I really like. I almost use eMusic in that capacity right now. At only around $2.50 an album (with no DRM) I’m less worried about “wasting” money on a bad album. For something even less than that I would broaden my range, continuing to buy the music I really love.

Finally, one thing occurs to me. In these negotiations, I wonder if Apple is telling the labels something like this: “Look, you’ve claimed iPods are full of pirated music anyway, and you’ve claimed you want a piece of that action. We’re offering you $20 per iPod (we sell over 10 MILLION of these things each QUARTER) and simply legitimizing what you say all our owners are doing anyway. Don’t quibble with us about it; put up or shut up!” If Apple is not telling the labels this, they should be.

What do you think? Is Apple considering this? Would you join a subscription service?

[UPDATE:] There are still no real details available yet (heck, the whole thing is unconfirmed rumor at this point), but some rumored details are floating in. Ah, yes, streaming only. Maybe you can keep 50 tracks a year. That would hardly be the transparent model I alluded to above. And, no, I personally wouldn’t be interested in such a model.