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BusinessWeek is reporting that RIM is close to opening an online application store for its BlackBerry smartphones that will provide its customers with an experience similar to Apple’s App Store. Microsoft, Nokia, and Palm application stores are expected to follow.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but for Apple’s competitors, it’s a matter of necessity. Apple offers iPhone users a seamless experience for discovering, purchasing, and upgrading their applications. The competition lags far behind, but is preparing to counter punch.
The first punch comes from RIM. It will launch its application store in Las Vegas at the CTIA wireless conference, according to the BusinessWeek report. RIM has a fair number of applications available for its platform, but the selection is still limited in comparison to other mobile platforms. That shortcoming was something that I did not like about my BlackBerry, as well as having to reboot my phone every time I installed a new application.
Microsoft’s upcoming store, which it calls Marketplace, has a lot of potential. If Microsoft knows anything, it’s how to keep developers that use its platforms and tools happy. There are already a good number of applications available for Windows Mobile, and I think that Marketplace stands a good chance of being be a decent offering.
The same goes for Nokia. The Symbian operating system is still the most widely used mobile operating system in the world, and there is no shortage of applications available for its devices. The problem has been finding and installing them.
If other phone OS companies open decent storefronts, the iPhone will be less differentiated from the crowd. But Apple may have already gained brand loyalty during the iPhone’s period of App-Store uniqueness. I’m not what you would call a fanboy, but there would have to be a really compelling offering for me to switch to another device from my iPhone. Regardless of what I buy next, I’m just happy that I will have better products to pick from as a consequence of Apple’s leadership and the rest of the industry’s tendency to follow its lead.
Get ready for it. If you like any current music, it would probably be a really good idea to buy it right now. This is because Apple appears to be set to institute variable pricing beginning on April 7. The price of most popular music would go up to $1.29, including some classic tracks.
In all fairness to Apple, we should also state that some tracks will actually become cheaper at 69 cents apiece, but it is not clear how and what the record industry plans to charge. Package deals of music would also be offered.
I think raising the prices for digital music is a big mistake. 99 cents is a good price (and a fair one too) considering the overhead is much less. I do support however making older tracks cheaper: that just makes good sense.
We’ll know pretty much right away if this price hike will work. A good thing to watch will be P2P traffic: if it spikes, we know consumers are turning back to piracy rather than pay more money. iTunes has a big enough userbase to cause such a shift.
Hopefully like Apple says, most tracks will stay at 99 cents. But I’m not holding my breath as the record industry has proven to be a greedy bunch.
Not that much happening, apparently….
I guess Steve has “one more thing” trademarked. Phil wrapped up this years keynote with a little news on iTunes, which involves three things: price, which would now be in three tiers: 69 cents, 99 cents, and $1.29; the ability to purchase music over AT&T 3G; and what we’ve been waiting for, 8 million DRM-free tracks on iTunes from the four major labels, with the entire store DRM-free by the end of the quarter.
More details as we get them..
It might or might be announced this morning at Macworld Expo, but it seems inevitable: CNET is reporting that Apple has hammered out a deal to sell DRM-free music from Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner, joining EMI’s iTunes Plus DRM-less music in the iTunes Store. The agreement would finally give Apple DRM-free music from all the major labels–something it really needs given that Amazon.com and most other major purveyors of music downloads have lost the copy protection.
Amazon.com also undercuts Apple’s pricing on many tracks; CNET reports that Apple’s deal with the labels will force it to drop its flat 99-cent fee in favor of variable pricing, with hot new stuff sometimes costing more, and back-catalog songs going for 79 cents. Seems like a reasonable concession to me (and complete albums already go for varying prices at the iTunes Store).
I don’t recommend buying DRM-hobbled music, which means that don’t recommend buying the protected songs that still comprise the majority of Apple’s offerings. It’ll feel good if I can stop warning folks about the iTunes Store–and I’ll bet Apple is looking forward to losing the DRM as much as anybody at this point.
Some iPhone users are finding that iTunes is no longer displaying whether it can make a purchased song a ringtone for the device within the application itself. This forces the user to search for the track within the iTunes Music Store to see if it is eligible, or just taking a chance and seeing if the track will work through attempting to use the “Create Ringtone” menu bar option.
I myself am a victim of this problem. I stumbled upon it after attempting to make a Christmas ringtone for my phone. I have about 400 purchased songs, and not a single one shows the little bell that signifies you can purchase a ringtone of that song.
At first, I thought it may have been some license dispute, so I checked to see if ringtones were still available on the iTMS. They are. Then I tried to make a ringtone. After finally finding a track that was eligible, I was able to purchase, transfer, and use it without a hitch.
A search of the Apple support forums finds a thread where this problem has been discussed, And here’s another. And yet another (there are more, but I’m not posting them all here). Users are reporting the same problems I’m seeing. It looks from the responses that Apple is not even sure why users have suddenly lost this functionality within iTunes.
I haven’t been able to find another person in my network of friends with iPhones that is seeing this problem, so whatever it is, its pretty localized. Yes, its not a showstopper, but its pretty darn annoying.
We’ve got a request out to Apple for comment on the problem.
The latest rumor-du-jour being served up by AppleInsider cites a French technology website claiming iTunes long love affair with DRM will come to an end tomorrow (Tuesday). Here’s how its put via a translation of the story that’s found here:
“Comme toujours avec Apple, nous avançons avec prudence. Toutefois, les signaux sont clairs aujourd’hui. iTunes devrait proposer les catalogues des trois majors Universal Music, SonyBMG et Waner Music débarrassés des mesures techniques de protection mardi prochain, le 9 décembre. La mutation vers le DRM Free devrait se faire à un niveau mondial (voir Les DRM objets de toutes les négocations).”
Translated (merci, my french-speaking friends):
“Apple always proceeds with prudence. However, the signals are clear today. iTunes should offer the catalogs of the three major labels — Universal Music, Sony BMG, and Warner Music — without DRM next Tuesday December 9. The switch to DRM-free should be worldwide.”
Way back in February of 2006, I wrote about an early version of Songbird, a music-playing app that aspired to be an open-source rival to iTunes. I was guardedly positive. It took way longer than I would have guessed, but the Songbird folks finally unveiled an official version 1.0 of the application today. This final release bears surprisingly little resemblance to that first version. And while I’m still digging into it, I’m impressed.
Songbird’s interface still has some iTunes-like aspects, but it’s no longer the iTunes doppelganger that it seemed to be shaping up to be when I first looked at it. For one thing, it’s both a music player and a full-blown, Mozilla-based, tabbed browser–you can be listening to music in one tab and browsing the Web in another. A feature called mashTape automatically shows info, photos, and videos relating to the musicians whose stuff you listen to; it can also find local concerts by performers in your library. (I just discovered that Freda Payne will be here next April–maybe I’ll go see her.) It’s also got an add-in architecture so folks can extend its capabilities; several add-ons are already available.
In my 2006 post, I fretted about the fact that so much digital music was locked up with DRM that Songbird might not be able to deal with. Turns out I didn’t need to worry so much. For one thing, there’s far more DRM-free stuff out there today, thanks to no-DRM music stores from Amazon, Rhapsody, Lala, and others, as well as the iTunes Plus songs from Apple’s store. For another, Songbird can play songs protected with Apple’s FairPlay–something which I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know a non-Apple music player could do. (I think this feature only works on Macs, though.)
Songbird also imports iTunes libraries automatically. (It went reasonably well in my test, although Songbird imported videos which it then couldn’t play–and now it keeps telling me that it doesn’t know what to do with them.) It can also connect to iPods, but not, apparently, to iPhones as of yet.
This application isn’t perfect, but it’s inventive, fast, and surprisingly polished in most respects. It’s obvious that the Songbird folks have been busy over the past two years and nine months. If you love music and/or interesting free software, it’s very much worth checking out.
Ed Bott’s take on Microsoft’s new Zune Pass update over at ZDNet is glowing. But there’s no part of it that I agree with. Where do we start?
Essentially, the price of the subscription service stays the same at $15, but now you are given 10 free “credits” to keep some of the tracks you have downloaded.
This means the subscription portion of the service costs an extra $5 per month. Nothing really new here: Yahoo was offering a $5 a month subscription service years ago, so its not like this price is some novel idea. Zune was overpriced to begin with.