August 30, 2005

Gambling That Monopoly & Inertia Win Out [12:00 pm]

Will the customer swallow DRM and easy access to Hollywood in exchange for being under the thumb of the OS? Is Microsoft really guessing that the era of the personal, general-purpose computer is already over? Or is this a trial balloon to get the backlash that MS needs to get Hollywood to back off? Hollywood, Microsoft align on new Windows

For the first time, the Windows operating system will wall off some audio and video processes almost completely from users and outside programmers, in hopes of making them harder for hackers to reach. The company is establishing digital security checks that could even shut off a computer’s connections to some monitors or televisions if antipiracy procedures that stop high-quality video copying aren’t in place.

In short, the company is bending over backward–and investing considerable technological resources–to make sure Hollywood studios are happy with the next version of Windows, which is expected to ship on new PCs by late 2006. Microsoft believes it has to make nice with the entertainment industry if the PC is going to form the center of new digital home networks, which could allow such new features as streaming high-definition movies around the home.

[...] “There is a concern that there is a tendency to lock down parts of the design to protect the flanks of the copy-protection system,” said Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten, who has been an outspoken critic of rigid copy-protection rules. “That makes it harder for everyone, including Microsoft, to adapt to new uses.”

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OT: It’s Not Friday, But…. [7:34 am]

Who can resist this bit: PowerPoint: Killer App? [pdf]

Did PowerPoint make the space shuttle crash? Could it doom another mission? Preposterous as this may sound, the ubiquitous Microsoft “presentation software” has twice been singled out for special criticism by task forces reviewing the space shuttle disaster.

Perhaps I’ve sat through too many PowerPoint presentations lately, but I think the trouble with these critics is that they don’t go far enough: The software may be as much of a mind-numbing menace to those of us who intend to remain earthbound as it is to astronauts.

[...] The deeper problem with the PowerPointing of America — the PowerPointing of the planet, actually — is that the program tends to flatten the most complex, subtle, even beautiful, ideas into tedious, bullet-pointed bureaucratese.

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The Pending Apple Announcement [7:29 am]

One speculation, albeit with a little more about the industry in general: An IPod Cellphone Said to Be Imminent

Apple Computer and Motorola plan to unveil a long-awaited mobile phone and music player next week that will incorporate Apple’s iTunes software, a telecommunications industry analyst who has been briefed on the announcement said on Monday.

[...] Apple, Motorola and Cingular declined to confirm or deny the report. But Apple did announce on Monday that it would hold a major news event on Sept. 7 in San Francisco that it indicated was music-related. Apple is routinely tight-lipped about pending product announcements, preferring to make a splash on the day of the event.

[...] It was not clear whether the iTunes phone would allow users to download songs directly from the Internet onto the phone, though music industry analysts said they doubted that such a capability would be immediately available. Mike McGuire, an online-music analyst with Gartner Inc., a research firm, said that so-called over-the-air downloads would first require ironing out technological and music-licensing issues.

But the day of wireless downloads of full songs is not far off, according to major wireless carriers. Sprint said on Monday that by the end of the year it planned to offer phones that allowed users to download full songs wirelessly. Mr. Nelson of Verizon Wireless said his company was also in the final stages of developing such a capability.

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The Evolving Music Market [6:55 am]

A couple of stories:

  • From the Boston Globe, a look at the latest Starbucks exclusive release from Bob Dylan: The times they are a-changin’ [pdf]

    For local record stores, this kind of exclusive arrangement — the Dylan deal is for 18 months — is more than annoying. Witness the repeated complaints from, among others, Newbury Comics boss Mike Dreese. Why do Dylan and Alanis Morissette want to sell out to Starbucks? But record industry wonks, desperately fighting for survival, can smell the sumatra.

    ”What they’re doing is moving aggressively into music retailing and utilizing their remarkable power and leveraging their unique relationship with their customers to sell music,” says Jason Flom, president of Lava Records, who struck a deal with Starbucks to sell discs from a new band, Antigone Rising. More than 60,000 CDs were sold at Starbucks the first six weeks. ”I’m delighted. There’s a limited amount of space in the stores and tens of millions of people who go through there every week. You’d be hard pressed to say you’re not thrilled they’ve chosen music.”

    And choose, they do. Not only are the barristas stocking the shelves. Through the Starbucks stereo, they’re able to play you music that’s not for sale.

  • The BBC’s expected foray: BBC targets music downloads in Internet strategy [pdf]

    The BBC wants to be a major player in the digital media world and is considering partnerships with private businesses to sell music downloads, Director-General Mark Thompson said on Saturday.

    [...] “Everything we know about the online world suggests that it’s the big brands — the eBays (Nasdaq:EBAY - news), the Amazons (Nasdaq:AMZN - news), the Microsofts (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) — that punch through, and the BBC is one of the big brands,” Thompson said in a speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

    [...] The prospect of the BBC using its massive heft is likely to upset UK media and Internet companies, which have often complained that the corporation — funded by a mandatory tax on UK television households totaling nearly 3 billion pounds — has encroached on activities in the private sector.

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