Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Very cool... social/music networking developments continuing to progress very quickly in both the IP and physical worlds. Sign me up.
A potential acquistion target for one of the major content aggregators? If not, it probably should be....
Monday, May 30, 2005
XM planning online subscription music service and an XM Digital Music Player? - Engadget - www.engadget.com
Friday, May 27, 2005
It seems that subscription music models are suffering the same fate as TiVo - you can't really appreciate the value of it UNTIL YOU TRY IT. Because of my music subscription (tied in with some social networking features), I found 3 new bands that I like... TODAY. I believe that this scenario is just not feasible in the current iTunes model. In fact, you can argue that the audiences are totally different... I (and a wide range of others like me) employ a music service to discover new artists. iTunes users generally discover their music outside the context of the service and then proactively go there to purchase something that is "on their list".
I think the onus is on the marketing departments of these subscription music services to communicate the value of discovery. You are not "renting" music you would otherwise buy... you are discovering new music that you would have otherwise never noticed. For me, that is certainly worth the equivalent price of a few sodas a week.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Just when I was thinking that Yahoo was moving everyone away from their MusicMatch products (which they paid upwards of $160 million for), they go and launch a Radio and Music service branded with the old moniker within Media Center's "Online Spotlight". In addition to the fact that it requires you to install yet another media player (MusicMatch) on top of all the others, it had the nerve to crash my machine while doing it.
While a solid radio offering is a welcome addition to MCE, this seems to be a little bit of a contrivance.. Yahoo is pushing you to their new Yahoo Music Unlimited / Yahoo Radio (aka Launch) on your 2' PC UI, but a separate UI and infrastructure when you want to manage your music from the comfort of your sofa. That's just odd.
I work in this industry, and the current state of the market and messaging is confusing enough to me. How is the average Joe Schmo supposed to make heads or tails of which service to use on which device?!
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Good overview and insight into the typical pricing model of online music distribution and why Yahoo's current prices aren't sustainable (unless they use it as a loss-leader to generate other revenue streams).
I can attest to that. The networking feature is extremely compelling and puts the "pick and play" usage models of the past to shame. By being able to listen to what my friends inherently recommend (through their usage patterns), I've discovered more new music and artists in the past month that I have in probably the 5 years prior. Check them out... Mando Diao, The Honorary Title, 22-20's, Mike Doughty. All great stuff that I would have never heard of before without investing the time and effort to seek new stuff out.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Let the rumor mill begin....
Monday, May 16, 2005
Perhaps the story I just posted below (Sony/iPod relationship) is just a bunch of marketing swirl inflicted upon us consumers in retaliation to this Xbox 360 feature as reported last week by BetaNews?
Whoa, this sounds completely crazy on one hand, but a Sony and Apple joining forces to battle Microsoft may make sense to some. It's no secret that Sony's efforts in portable players, proprietary formats and abandoned DRM schemes have left them desperately trying to figure out how to best get into the digital media game. Some have speculated that Apple may exit the hardware game completely and license their hardware designs to 3rd parties. Personally I don't buy it (yet) since the hardware is where they make the bulk of their money... BUT a PSP that syncs to iTunes and/or a Sony-branded iPod could certainly throw a new wrinkle into the quickly chaning landscape. I would assume we will here more this week at E3. I'll let you all know once I get out there.
It looks like the latest iTunes build (4.8) had tipped Apple's hand. It appears that the next Airport Express will actually include a remote so that you can can navigate and control your iTunes library directly from your stereo. I'm not sure whether they will do an LCD remote a la Creative's SoundBlaster Wireless device or whether it will have some notion of using a
TV as the UI's display. Of course if they more actively pursed the TV UI, then when/if they launch a movie service as rumored, they have all the pieces to do so.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
"In the quest to break Apple Computer's grip on the legal online music market, the best approach has seemed to be to try an entirely different model. Instead of selling individual songs outright for 99 cents each, as Apple does, some other companies are renting songs to users who pay a monthly subscription fee.
But the subscription services have had trouble gaining any real traction. So two big players, Yahoo and RealNetworks, are taking interesting steps to change the game. Yahoo has introduced a new service that's priced at just a third of what competing rental services charge, and Real is offering some music free to entice new customers.
I've been testing these two new services, and of the two, I strongly prefer the new Yahoo Music Unlimited to Real's revamped Rhapsody service. Yahoo's offering is bolder, and it works much better. In fact, even though it is still in a beta, or test, phase, I regard Yahoo Music as the new champ among subscription services. Whether it can dislodge Apple is another matter."
Granted, this image is not that useful, but I am simply excited by the fact that I took and posted this image directly from my phone. So, I'm at the "Connections" conference and just heard Kevin Corbet (Intel CTO) talk about their vision of the digital home. The 10' UI they showed was actually very slick (not that you can tell from the image).
- At the very top is the notion of presence (and buddy lists). Based on the user/users that are "logged in", the content and UI that is surfaced is personalized for that consumer
- Below the buddy icon/list is an ad banner
- Front and center is a viewport in which the video content is displayed
- To the left of the viewport is the consumer's "my stuff" menu
- To the right of the viewport is the on-demand media navigation
- As a user drills down into a menu's heirarchy, each level of navigation UI fades and moves back along the z-axis (with about 3 levels of heirarchy viewable at any given time)
- Below the viewport is a horizontal user playlist in which programs and/or ads can be queued up for consumption
Intel suggested that premium content would be available for full-screen view while free (ad supported) content would/should only be available within the viewport with surrounding clickable ads. While a user is watching content and see a banner ad for something that interests them, the click it and is appears down in the user's playlist at the bottom of the screen. When the content is complete the user can go back to the playlist and launch a 10' (remote control-navigated) flash advertisements.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Community! AOL has the most popular instant message program and not one of their 500 media apps takes advantage of it! LAMERS! Ours allows you to LISTEN TO MUSIC FROM YOUR FRIENDS via Yahoo! Messenger! LEGALLY! YOU HEARD ME! Also, you can find users with tastes similar to you, view their collections, instant message them, whateva. Rad.
UPDATED: Yahoo and/or MusicNet obviously realized their false start this morning and have subsequently fixed many of the issues that I reported.
Conceptually, I like where they are *trying* to go. I've made no secret of my belief that community, IM integration and passive recommendations/playlisting as being the key to creating a compelling and differentiated music service. Yahoo seems to have all the pieces to make it work, particularly with the pending Yahoo! 360 service (see previous posts). But as of now, my list of issues with the service is that it simply doesn't work (yet):
* Requires a 30+MB client download that seems to effectively be just a skinned version of Windows Media Player.
* Requires a reboot after installation... I hate that.
* While I like that fact that it will import (and play) content downloaded from other subscription services (e.g. Napster to Go), there is no visual indication to help identify which content was downloaded from which service. This will be a user migration issue for those coming from Napster or Rhapsody since I don't believe the licenses for those files will get renewed once they stop the competitive subscription. Update: I take it back, they do have a field that identifies "subscription" versus "imported" music.
* Syncing doesn't work with my Audiovox SMT5600 ("Plays for Sure" smartphone) with any content that I downloaded from Yahoo. Interestingly, the YME (Yahoo Music Engine) software will transfer content that I downloaded with the Napster to Go service. Update: Fixed.
* Streaming (either from Yahoo or from my buddies' playlists) does not work. Update: Streaming seems to be working now.
* Playlist creation doesn't seem to be supported yet. Update: Now seems to be working.
* Downloading/playing content worked fine for me although others I know have reported license acquisition errors when trying to do so.
* I did have the application freeze on me a couple of times that required a forced application close to escape from.
The funny (or sad) thing is that most of these issues seem to be with their Musicnet backend system. As I dig further into it I will post again...
Yahoo strikes at Apple's core / Internet giant will offer bargain online music subscriptions, 79-cent downloads
An excerpt from Marketwatch on their seemingly unsustainable pricing model...
However, one analyst questioned how Yahoo's new service could be profitable with such low prices. Mr Goldberg said the service would make money, although he did not rule out raising prices in the future.
PaidContent has an interesting audio interview with David Goldberg (SVP @ Yahoo). The audio quality is sketchy, but it is interesting. Their product focus is all about community, sharing and recommendations (with later reference to their plans to support numerous devices and documented APIs). With respect to pricing, he says that they are like Starbucks in that "they are not competing with other coffee shops, they are competing with people making coffee at home". Their target market is the (currently) non-paying digital music user, not necessarily iTunes or Napster consumers.
About the subscription model, his analogy is... "you don't own your television programming either but you still consume it". MusicNet is handling the backend with internally developed front-end.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Monday, May 09, 2005
Thursday, May 05, 2005
"But despite trying with two IRiver H10 MP3 players, two Rhapsody accounts, and two PCs, and getting suggestions from Real engineers, I was never able to transfer any Rhapsody track I hadn't bought outright onto a portable player. For me, at any rate, Rhapsody To Go just didn't work."
End with this?
I'm still prepared to love the new Rhapsody--if Real can get the portable subscription service to work. In the meantime, it's a fine service for people who don't mind being tied to a PC to listen to their music. If you really can't wait to take your subscription music with you, though, I'd suggest trying the imperfect but functional Napster to Go service for now.
"The most impressive thing about these 'social networks' is that the recommendations are rarely wrong. The huge number of users who have signed up for these services ensures that recommendations are spot-on most of the time. Having tried most of these services, I have a feeling that we have not yet seen the true potential of online recommendation engines. How about marrying one of these recommendation services with a subscription music service like Napster? That would guarantee that all the music on my Creative Zen suits my tastes, even if I'm not familiar with the artists or songs. "
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
"That actually leads to my next question about home entertainment and the PC. Microsoft has a lot of behind the scenes initiatives right now, but what do you think the relationship is between the Media Center PC and then something like Foundation, Microsoft's software for set-top boxes?
Let me try to be succinct about this. In the home you're going to have a variety of devices. So you'll have a set-top box which you can think of as kind of the simplest device. It will clearly be able to handle digital rights management and deal with high definition digital video. And then you'll have something like a video game that will be a superset of that. And so, for example, Xenon is more powerful than any next-generation set-top box and it can be used as a set-top box, but obviously it can do a lot more than that; you can run the entertainment and other software there.
Then you have a Media Center PC that's even beyond that in terms of storage and the kind of ecosystem that exists in the PC world. And so in the case of the set-top box you typically would store the video back on the server, either the Media Center server in the home, or the your video provider server back at the head-end. And that does have an advantage over sticking a hard disk on everything because you don't even have to think about recording something [ahead of time]. The old shows are just there. There are various rights issues to work out on this, but we've got the user interface and IPTV gives you the ability to watch a show anytime you want without having planned that before the show's aired or having this hard disk in your living room. You shouldn't have to have that."
"But what if someone doesn't have a Media Center PC, will the Xbox have some of that same functionality?
It won't be a Media Center PC, so there's some things you won't be able to do. You'll be able to do a lot of media things including storing music, playing music, connect up your player. There's an overall media vision, and we certainly see households that just have Xenons in them, and we see households that have normal PCs and Xenons, and we see households that have media center PCs and Xenons. We're going to make all those do what you'd expect."
The wide-ranging deal includes Chevy sponsoring the popular AOL Music Sessions its live, in-studio..."