The Viiv Push Is On

Lots of stuff from CES, but I thought this was a notable news item: Intel Enlists Channel for Home Automation Bid

Home automation is a growing market segment that has caught the interest of channel companies in the last couple of years. Many VARs and integrators formerly focused on businesses have been breaking into the emerging market, installing and servicing everything from flat-panel TVs and audio systems to computerized heating and alarm systems.

Intel is working with manufacturers such as MovieLink, Adobe Systems Inc., Napster and TiVo, to develop Viiv-verified applications and services compatible with the system. Channel partners will be integral in delivering custom configured packages of services and components, Intel executives said.

The technology presents a new opportunity for VARs now doing integration work in the corporate and government space. Intel is calling on its VARs and integrators to drive adoption of the technology, the company said.

[…] The technology has applications in both home entertainment centers and corporate media centers and conference rooms, and [Ace Digital Home’s John] Samborski expects many VARs to be enticed by the potential crossover.

“A lot of people may get into this at first for the business aspect and then figure they’ll do a couple of homes to pick up some extra business,” he said.

“I’d like to see businesses adopt it for their use. There is a tremendous demand out there for all of these functions in an office setting. Businesses want more than just a conference room, they want corporate media centers.”

BW on Juniper’s Libel Suit

A Case Juniper Can’t Win? [pdf]

Still, Juniper is already seeing some benefits from its filing. While Light Reading wouldn’t comment on the steps it has taken to regulate its message board, as of Dec. 30 the site appeared to have stripped out most user comments made about Juniper in 2005. And, chances are, Internet users will be more careful about what they say about the company for fear of getting sued.

Civil rights experts caution that that’s dangerous in itself. “Companies will often use the legal system to scare people away from attacking them,” says Lawrence Lessig, professor of law at Stanford Law School and a popular blogger on the topic of cyberlaw. “But we all should be free to make critical statements about anybody, unless those statements are malicious.”

As discussions about the case heat up, it’s already clear that Juniper’s attempt to quiet message board discourse — it is asking for an injunction — has failed.

BW on Verizon’s VCast

What’s That Ringing in iPod’s Ears? [pdf]

Still, no one is sure whether Americans will be willing to pay twice what it costs to buy an iTunes download for the novelty of getting a song over the air. Yes, such services are thriving in South Korea and Japan. But those nations are more cell-phone-centric than the U.S., which has tended to put the PC at the center of the online experience.

This may explain why Verizon has adopted a two-track model for its music service. In a first for a wireless carrier, the company will allow consumers to go online and buy songs for 99¢, the same as at iTunes. Subscribers will be able to transfer those downloads and songs on CDs from their PCs to their phones through a USB cable.

To further hedge its bets, Verizon is mulling a subscription-based music service that could be launched later this year. Many analysts believe the subscription model fits better with the phone because handsets cannot hold as many songs as a single-use device. Subscriptions also have proven popular with wireless callers in South Korea and elsewhere.

Missed This: From Sunday’s WaPo

A vision of the implications of music tech for racial divides — interestingly, arguing that DRM will become a race issue: Breaking Racial Sound Barriers [pdf]

Music is eternal, but the form it takes is temporary, and the way we listen to it is affected not only by technology, but by who we are and how we live. Recorded music has been around for only about 100 years, and it revolutionized the experience because it allowed people to listen as individuals, away from concert halls and other public places. Every metamorphosis since then, from records to digital downloading, has come more quickly. The way in which music is produced, transmitted and enjoyed will make another radical shift in the next 25 years as our population grows, spreads and diversifies.

[…] Racism will continue to be a problem in American society for the foreseeable future. It will manifest itself in many ways — including through technology. In the next few years, digital rights management will become more Orwellian. The line between digital rights and civil rights will blur. Entertainment companies already spike their products with codes that prevent them from being used in unauthorized ways. In the near future, corporate interests will insert even more restrictive programs into their wares — ones that shut down computers, spy on users, erase files, and even automatically siphon off private bank accounts when corporate music interests are infringed. Lower-income groups — mostly made up of people of color — will be the least able to resist these attacks on their virtual civil rights. Digital revolutionaries will have more fighting to do.

Enraged by restrictive digital rights management, music fans will increasingly clamor for live concert experiences, in person and on the Net. Touring will emerge as a way for truly talented artists to stand out — and profit from their talent.

In the glory days of rock, great artists proved their worth by putting out double albums. In the future, instead of the album form dying out and being replaced by singles, ambitious artists will use new technology (discs that hold more data, high-speed connections that allow users to download many tracks quickly) to put out mega-albums — releases that feature 100 songs or more.

New technologies may kill the music industry as we know it. But in our mixed-up new America of 2030, music will do just fine.

OT: Glad To See This Parallel Made

Even though I know that neither of them are trying to speak to me anyway: Iranian Leader, Evangelist Call Prime Minister’s Illness Deserved [pdf]

The television evangelist Pat Robertson and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not agree on much, but both suggested yesterday that the severe illness of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was deserved. Both men’s comments were immediately condemned by religious leaders.

See also Pat Robertson: God is punishing Ariel Sharon

A Tinfoil Hat Story Here

Just weird enough to enjoy on a Friday — even though the privacy question is probably moot, given that he’s buying with a credit card: Miffed man pays bank bill a penny at a time [pdf]

Unhappy when his Canadian bank began outsourcing some of its credit card processing to the United States, the man lodged his protest via the bank’s online payment system, jamming its computers by making dozens of tiny payments a day.

Don Rogers said he was worried that anti-terrorism laws in the United States could allow the U.S. government to access his data without his consent.

“I don’t want the CIA or George Bush to know how many cases of Viagra I bought last week, or what church or charities I donate to,” he told Reuters.

[…] Roger’s initial attempt at paying in pennies produced a statement over 32 feet long, according to media reports.

Music Retail Dynamics

Indie record stores doing slow fade out [pdf]

The causes of death for Rhino and Aron’s are numerous and unsurprising. Album sales are in decline, music consumers continue to migrate to music downloading and CD-burning. The loss-leader approach to CD sales at giant chains such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy have smothered mom-and-pop outfits. And when prerecorded CDs are sold, more and more often it’s through new-approach merchants that are as varied as and Starbucks. Closer to home and to the heart, a new competitor arose from within the indie ranks with the 2001 arrival in Hollywood of Amoeba Records, the Bay Area brand-name that opened a colossal indie store on Sunset Boulevard that siphons offbusiness from stores far and wide.

[…] “There will be more casualties, I’m sure,” [National Association of Recording Mechandisers Jim] Donio said. “There’s a conspiracy of market factors right now. It’s not just one thing … there were only two albums in 2005 that sold more than 4 million copies and there needs to be many, many more than that. In 2004 there was a small but encouraging growth in music sales after three years of decline. Then in 2005 the numbers were down again.”

Donio said the loss of singular shops such as Rhino are emotionally hard to take in an industry that puts a premium on free spirits and maverick successes.