Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Wired News: TunA Lets Users Fish for Music

Wired News: TunA Lets Users Fish for Music: "Media Lab Europe, research partner to MIT Media Lab, is testing tunA, a software application that employs Wi-Fi to locate nearby users, peek at their music playlist and wirelessly jack into their audio stream."

Very cool... social/music networking developments continuing to progress very quickly in both the IP and physical worlds. Sign me up.

Why MySpace Is the Hot Place

Why MySpace Is the Hot Place: "Thanks to its addictive appeal, MySpace has become one of the hottest properties on the Web. Only 20 months old, it already has 14 million unique visitors a month, according to market researcher comScore Media Metrix in Chicago. That makes MySpace, more than 50%-owned by InterMix Media (MIX ), far and away the most popular of a new breed of social-networking site, where people use home pages laden with blogs and message boards to create extended networks of friends and acquaintances."

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

XM planning online subscription music service and an XM Digital Music Player? It appears that XM is worried impact of portable music subscription services (as they should be since there is very little reason I need a "live" feed of pre-recorded music content). Just give me a better way to connect my portable player to my car stereo (FM transmitters just don't quite cut it... I'd settle for a simple 5 cent Line In jack on the front of the head unit) and my $15/month is FAR better spent on one of the all-you-can eat music services. I can then listen in my car, at work on my PC, and in my living room on my Media Center Extender. Let the record labels continue to piss off CD consumers with convoluted DRM schemes, I for one no longer have a need for CDs....

Friday, May 27, 2005

USATODAY.com - Music-subscription services can be a good deal

USATODAY.com - Music-subscription services can be a good deal: "I remain an unabashed iTunes junkie. But an alternative model - the 'portable' music subscription - is growing on me."

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

Yahoo MusicMatch on Media Center

Yahoo MusicMatch on Media Center

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

Online Music: Rewriting the Score

Online Music: Rewriting the Score: "And BusinessWeek has learned that mighty Microsoft (MSFT ) is waiting for the right moment to strike with its own low-cost introductory offer. 'When you see us move into the space,' says Rob Bennett, senior director of MSN Entertainment, 'you'll see us try very similar things.' "

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).

Chicago Tribune | MusicNow is future-driven

Chicago Tribune MusicNow is future-driven: "MusicNow retooled its Web site last month, making it more personalized and easier to use."

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

Parsons: would consider AOL spinoff -- Fortune - May. 17, 2005

Parsons: would consider AOL spinoff -- Fortune - May. 17, 2005: "'If (the portal strategy) works, this business looks like our publishing business, it looks like our TV business, it looks like our local cable advertising business,' Parsons told Fortune. 'If this doesn't work, then you start to think about AOL much differently. You start to think about AOL in somewhat the same way I think about the cable company...it would have its own currency to go out and do acquisitions or other deals.' "

Let the rumor mill begin....

Monday, May 16, 2005

USATODAY.com - What's ahead for Net, digital entertainment

USATODAY.com - What's ahead for Net, digital entertainment - I haven't read this yet, but it looks like it could be an interesting panel dicussion between a diverse range of people involved in the industry.

BetaNews | iPod to Connect with Xbox 360

BetaNews iPod to Connect with Xbox 360: "The Xbox 360 will enable users to connect a portable music player, including an iPod, to the system and browse or play back music through the console's interface while watching 50 visualizations."

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?

iTunes/iPod integration with the PS3?

iTunes/iPod integration with the PS3? - Engadget - www.engadget.com: "File this under "rumour mill," but there's talk of Apple and Sony getting buddy buddy enough to work together on support for iTunes and iPod integration with the Sony PS3."

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.

AirTunes Remote?

AirTunes Remote?

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

Mossberg on Yahoo Music, Rhapsody & iTunes...

Personal Technology -- Personal Technology from The Wall Street Journal.:

"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."

Intel 10' UI Prototype

Intel UI Prototype

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

Yahoo YME Developer Speaks - Why You Should (or Should Not) Use the Yahoo! Music Engine

Yahoo! 360 - ian c rogers's Y! blog - Why You Should (or Should Not) Use the Yahoo! Music Engine - Straight from the Horse's mouth.... what Ian Rogers (ex-Nullsoft, now Yahooie) has to say abou the YME. It includes this shot across the AOL bow...

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.

Yahoo Music - First Look (UPDATED)

Yahoo Music - First Look

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

Yahoo strikes at Apple's core / Internet giant will offer bargain online music subscriptions, 79-cent downloads - Also, this is THE front page story of the San Francisco Chronicle today. While Rhapsody reintroduction seemed to get a collective yawn, all of the editorial I've seen today say that Yahoo is now instantly the biggest threat to Apple. Interestingly enough the Chronicle article seems to carefully state Yahoo's "introductory" subscription fee of $60/year. Perhaps Yahoo feels that once you've downloaded a year's worth of songs, you are essentially locked in to their service. To churn off to a competitor would require the users to re-download all of their content. At $200 million profit/quarter they can probably afford to take a short term hit in order to secure their position long term. As an added bonus, they can use this to get more (formerly) free service users to pony up their credit card info and subsquently lower the hurdle for Yahoo to upsell them on other premium services in the future.

More on Yahoo Music Unlimited

More on Yahoo Music Unlimited

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.

eHomeUpgrade | Yahoo! Premieres Yahoo! Music Unlimited

eHomeUpgrade | Yahoo! Premieres Yahoo! Music Unlimited - There it is, the other shoe drops. I'm just now digging into this and it appears to be a skinned Windows Media Player with a MusicNet backend handling the subscription, downloads, licensing, etc. More to come as I get further into it...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

::: Mercora ::: IM Radio Mobile

::: Mercora ::: I have to admit, I haven't really played around with Mercora but I applaud them for introducing a mobile solution.

iTunes Now Supporting Video

Play in main window
Originally uploaded by Wysz.
Looks like the new iTunes client now supports video... starting with music videos as a bonus when consumers purchase certain albums. Certainly this appears to be them dipping there toes into the water but could this be the forebearer to a video iPod and downloadable movie service?

Monday, May 09, 2005

BetaNews | Interview: Napster CTO Bill Pence, Part 2

BetaNews | Interview: Napster CTO Bill Pence, Part 2 - Nothing earth-shattering here, but it is always good to see what the player's in the Digital Music space are thinking.

The Green Button™ | Community

The Green Button™ | Community - A great comprehensive list of 3rd party MediaCenter plug-ins. I haven't used many of them yet, but as I do I will post what I think of them. The first may be the Outlook plug-in so that I don't have to run upstairs to look up phone numbers (if it supports Extender). I'll let you know...

AOL offers free blog services to general public | CNET News.com

AOL offers free blog services to general public | CNET News.com - As Montgomery Burns would say.... "excellent".

Thursday, May 05, 2005

PCWorld.com - First Look: New Rhapsody Hits a Sour Note

PCWorld.com - First Look: New Rhapsody Hits a Sour Note: This may be the most complimentary review of a service that simply doesn't work that I've ever seen. How does a review that starts out with:

"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.

Business 2.0 :: Online Article :: Converge Sense :: The Internet Is the Deejay

Business 2.0 :: Online Article :: Converge Sense :: The Internet Is the Deejay: A nice piece by Om Malik in Business 2.0 on the power of social networks with respect to music recommendations. As I think I've babbled on about before, as users are exposed to 1.5+ million songs on-demand, the ability to surface compelling content to a consumer is the key to creating a differenatiatable music service.

"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

The Engadget Interview: Bill Gates, Part 2 - Engadget - www.engadget.com /

The Engadget Interview: Bill Gates, Part 2 - Engadget - www.engadget.com / - More from Engadget's interview with Bill Gates as he sheds some more light on his vision of the device ecosystem found within the home...

"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."

The Engadget Interview: Bill Gates, Pt. 1 - Engadget - www.engadget.com /

The Engadget Interview: Bill Gates, Pt. 1 - Engadget - www.engadget.com / - Some good pre-unveiling insight into the sort of Media Center Extender-like capabilities the Xbox 360 (aka Xenon) will have. Below is an excerpt of the Q&A with Bill Gates...

"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."

New York Post Online Edition: AOL Music & Chevy

New York Post Online Edition:: "May 2, 2005 -- AOL Music has inked a multimillion dollar sponsorship deal with Chevrolet, its largest ad deal and a further sign of the growing profile of America Online in the record industry.
The wide-ranging deal includes Chevy sponsoring the popular AOL Music Sessions its live, in-studio..."

Monday, May 02, 2005

PCWorld.com - Yahoo Blogging Service Boosts Content

PCWorld.com - Yahoo Blogging Service Boosts Content: "Yahoo plans to add the capability to import content, such as photos and music, from non-Yahoo applications to its new Yahoo 360 social networking and blogging service, according to an executive of the company."

Tech-Recipes.com - Using Musicmatch Jukebox to Bypass DRM in Napster, Virgin, etc.

Tech-Recipes.com - Using Musicmatch Jukebox to Bypass DRM in Napster, Virgin, etc. - More DRM hacks arrive by the minute. But, I hold out hope that the Record Labels will realize that there will always be ways to steal music but there has to be a point where they balance the (honest) consumer experience with security measures. I certainly don't want to be strip-searched every time I leave Best Buy, and I don't want so many ridiculous DRM restrictions put on my music that it actually incentivizes me to buy the CD and rip it.

Cha...Cha...Cha...Changes (please?)

How would you change Windows Media Center? - Engadget - www.engadget.com / - Hey, Microsoft... are you listening? An ongoing list from Engadget readers of what changes they want to see Media Center.

Audio Fingerprintings & Recommendations Engines

Sun unveils all-knowing music library - vnunet.com - This sounds very similar to the type of thing that Predixis and MoodLogic do, but I'm glad to know that everyone is beginning to realize that in an on-demand world, recommendations are going to be one of the key methodologies for surfacing relevant informaiton to consumers.