Category: iTunes

The Apple TV – totally valueless?

Sorry, this guy is a moron.

Oh great, another Apple TV.

The little black box has had a rough ride in recent times.

It’s morphed from one thing to another, Apple seemingly flailing around trying to find something that sticks.

Not much has.

I own an entry level version 4, and I’m not really that happy with it.

I’m from the UK, so a lot of what is printed in the press about the Apple TV in the US doesn’t really apply to me, but the UK version doesn’t fair that much better.

The device is really buggy.

I have to routinely restart it to play iTunes content (I get the “ready to play in 2 hours 24 minutes bug).

Also home sharing is fubar’d. Turning it on destroys my entire home network, both wireless and wired, mandating a router and modem restart.

The aerial screensaver thinks I’m an American vampire – and live in a permanent night state in San Francisco.

The selection of apps is woefully sparse and is infrequently updated.

The BBC had to be shown the way to create an app for it and the other commercial channels, whilst they are on the iPhone, don’t seem interested in the Apple TV.

The main reason for this is AirPlay.

Apple have made such a good job of this that it discourages developers from doing more work to create a TV version.

Hence there’s no Amazon, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 apps.

Gaming would be fun, if Apple would allow the 5-10 iOS devices in my household, TO BE CONTROLLERS.

Then there’s the remote.

I didn’t really understand the problem, until I tried to use one.

In a previous article I ranted about how Apple’s designers aren’t as good as they say they are because they are more concerned about how something looks rather than how it works.

This remote not only looks awful, it’s a nightmare to actually use.

Siri? I’ll admit it’s well done, and certainly the most successful implementation of it.

But in comparison with other verbal assistants it still falls short.

So what can be done?

For me personally, if they could get the UK channels to sign up, I’d be pretty happy.

However you can run these channel’s iOS apps on a jailbroken ATV, so why doesn’t Apple just do that and let the apps flood in?

It seems like an easy win to me.

The buggieness I hope is sorted with an update, but this is The New Apple, so you never know.

Apple’s design issues run much deeper than the Apple TV, a fundamental shake up is required here.

Apple’s problem with the Apple TV is its scale. It’s simply trying to do too much, too soon.

The consumers problem with the Apple TV is that it has to do different things in different regions.

I want Channel 4, somebody else might want pro-games, somebody else might want DVR capabilities.

The point is you can’t please everyone, it needs to do a small number of things and do them really well.

There is one thing they can do that would help enormously though:

Sack Eddy Cue – he’s is Totally Valueless.

Consumers want what we don’t have…

whatsgoingon

via Apple Acknowledges Consumers Want Larger and Cheaper Phones – Mac Rumors.

Very interesting post from MacRumors.com, on the perceived evolution of Apple’s customer base, to-wit,”consumers want what we don’t have”.

As new players enter the market, the customer’s needs change, this is inevitable in any free-market and it’s something that Apple used to be very good at despite all the dogma that, “Apple abhors focus groups, and doesn’t listen to it’s customers.”

Take the iPod for instance.

The iPod started of in as much the same way as the iPhone, a very expensive, albeit limited answer to a market that already existed.

Over time, new models were introduced, the hardware got a lot cheaper, and every single market niche was eventually filled, from the music-mad (100g+ iPod classic for all your songs), to the teen with limited cash, (the iPod mini/nano), onto the bargain-basement little iPod shuffle.

The iTunes store gained traction and ALL the hardware from the high end to the low-end was serviced by the iTunes store.

To the point we are now at where the competition to the iPod doesn’t exist, it’s been destroyed, other than extremely cheap devices that are little more than USB sticks with a few extras.

Game, set and match.

You can argue that the bottom has fallen out of the iPod market, now that the iPod touch fills most of what remains, however all the iPod line is still on sale.

So why hasn’t this happened with the iPhone?

Where is our iPhone mini or nano?

Where is our iPhone shuffle, or the candy-bar phone equivalent?

While we’re at it, why can’t developers write apps for the AppleTV?

Why doesn’t Apple view the iPhone market, in the same way the viewed the iPod market?

It would certainly work, the AppStore is perfectly capable of servicing every model of iPhone, with apps that can only run on certain hardware, (you can’t view videos on an iPod shuffle like you can on an iPod classic for instance).

Lot’s of why’s, very little answers.

Looking at some of the internal memos that have come out from the Apple / Samsung trial, it’s clear that there’s a struggle going on at the top of Apple, in what they stand for, what markets they should service, and what their profit-margins should be.

It’s clear that Apple needs to get focused and act like a start-up, like they used to.

The iPad – changing the game…

iPad’s Killer App: It Looks A Bit Like A Magazine.

Via Moconews.net.

Really good insight into what lies beneath Apple sleek, minmalist iPad, straight from the horse’s mouth – Colin McCaffery, product director at 2ergo (emphasis theirs).

“I believe the iPad will be about sitting in front of the TV whilst watching TV, browsing a ‘magazine’,” McCaffery – whose 2ergo made the apps for The Guardian, Fox NewsArsenal FC andothers – told me in an interview. “It will switch on in a second, you’ll be straight in to your content – it will be almost exactly like a magazine that you pick up from the coffee table.”

The jury is still out on whether people will naturally see the iPad as a coffee table companion, but it’s clear that important people in the media, already see the iPad as a way of realising the dream of digitized, subscription based content.

iPhone developers are currently getting to grips with the new software developers kit that includes iPad features, and 2ergo is already working on firm iPad app projects for four clients.

So the desire by the content creators is there, it seems now the ball is firmly in our court, that’s you and me, the content consumers –  are we willing to pay for content anymore?

Last year I bought the excellent zombie-killer game on the iPhone, “Call Of Duty – Zombies”

This game is totally ‘up my street’, and last week they released a new map, which could be purchased through the app. The app cost £5.99, and the new map cost £2.99.

I purchased it straight after viewing the demo, but what worried me, and what should worry all content creators, are the comments on the app store from users who balked at the price.

Many thought that they has paid quite enough and expected all future maps to be either free, or under a pound.

Is this the current attitude of your average computer user?

It seemed that a lot of these comments came from kids, who obviously have very little money to spend, and they won’t necessarily be the same market that the clients of 2ergo are after, but no-one can doubt that these are their future customers.

And it’s this that seems to be at the heart of the iPad’s approach – it’s not a computer.

It’s not a device that ‘does it all’ and therefore doesn’t have all the shortcomings (from a content creator’s point of view), of that device – in this case, run illegal software and media.

It’s a perfect device to redefine what consuming media means as a concept, it’s the perfect device for content creators to take back their industry from the computer users, who have, let’s face it, damaged their careers, by arrogantly assuming that they can have everything for free.

A future where content is tied to a device and must be paid for might sound a nightmare to some people, but that’s also a future where content-creators can finally make a living online, allowing them to create even better content going forward, and in the long run, that’s good for everyone.

iTunes Extra (& LP) answered, but keep it to yourself…

itunesextra

The ever-excellent Roughly Drafted goes into great detail here, about how iTunes Extra & LP work.

From what I can tell, the whole iTunes Extra experience is done inside iTunes 9, using Javascript, CSS & HTML. The media file, is actually a bundle, a mini website if you will, all under a framework called “TuneKit”.

So that’s my question answered, however Roughly Drafted also goes on to postulate that the real benefactor for this approach is Apple TV, or whatever it’s successor is to be called.

The real kicker though is the fact that all this is done using open standards – no proprietary Flash or Silverlight required.

It would be really nice if certain people, who have lambasted Apple in the past for their horrible, closed proprietary systems, to maybe just admit, just for once, that Apple just might have the user’s interests at heart.

And of course, as RD points out, their own hardware sales. Once Apple’s users have enough iTunes LP & Extra content on their Mac/PC, Apple will release Apple TV 3.0 and all that content now plays on that device, effectively replacing DVD players in one fell swoop.

As always, there’s far more info in Roughly Drafted’s article, it’s highly recommended, but sometimes I wish RD would keep these plans to himself – we don’t want the enemy knowing all our plans do we?

iTunes Extra: How?

itunesextra

On a slightly more serious note, it’s interesting to see iTunes Extra with interactive content, basically like the content you get on a DVD.

I’m interested to know how they’re doing that – is this embedded in the downloaded file, or is it hosted remotely on iTunes?

I’m no techie-expert but I remember that Quicktime supports hyperlinks, but this is more than that.

I wonder whether you can buy iTunes Extra movies, or just rent?

Apple – iTunes – Explore the new iTunes.

Posted using ShareThis

Safari 4 beta

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Apple surprised everyone recently by announcing Safari 4.0. It’s released as a beta, put don’t let that put you off, it’s every bit as stable as the previous version.

Opinion is divided on some of the new features, with some people hating the fact that the tabs have moved to the top (as Chrome), the ‘Top Sites’ feature not being particularly useful, and the intrusion of ‘Cover Flow’ into bookmark & history browsing.

Other people love these features, but I think it’s a mixed bag. The feature that wowed me first was the ‘Top Sites’ feature, however this enthusiasm has faded as I realised I cannot seem to find it useful. Time will tell.

The feature that I hated at first was the ‘Cover Flow’ intrusion. I don’t like Cover Flow, I don’t use it in the OS, or iTunes, however it seemed to make more sense in Safari, because it’s better than what it replaces, and I’m warming to it.

The traditional way, by earching your history by looking at hundreds of similar named bits of text, is not user-friendly at all, however quickly skimming through thumbnails of those pages is much more intuitive.

Thurrott is having a bad time in finding anything to like in Safari 4 beta. This isn’t surprising, but he seems to blow lukewarm to cold on Apple, depending on whether he needs to up his site visits. I’m purposefully not linking to his article.

Everyone seems not to mention the speed. The stats seem incredible, and although they seem to be true and not exaggerated, (they have been independently tested and confirmed), the average surfer won’t see much difference.

The question for me remains, is why are Apple introducing more (albeit useful) eye-candy into Safari? It’s a browser, and shouldn’t it be lean, fast & mean?

It comes down to pushing the hardware. I do most of my personal surfing on a little iBook G4 and it’s beginning to show the strain. Apple need to keep selling their hardware, so they keep pushing the specs, to make you upgrade.

I’ve held off, because, like most I can’t afford to upgrade my hardware every time Apple releases new Mac’s.

I put it off for as long as possible, and I’m planning to purchase a MacBook when Snow Leopard is released.

It seems that Apple are heading towards Snow Leopard as the pinnacle of what they can achieve, after they threw away OS9 all those years ago.

Snow Leopard seems to be everything that Steve Jobs has been aiming for – a lean, mean OS, with no legacy code. A good foundation to build upon.

I predict that after Snow Leopard has been released, together with the hardware that’s designed to take full advantage of it, Steve Jobs will announce his retirement, with the knowledge that his job is done.

However it will be sad when SJ retires. To most new Mac users he has significant, but not irreplaceable influence.

When he does go, I’m sure that Apple will carry on, and be better off in the long run, but the Apple that I have grown up with (since System 6) – my Apple – will never be the same again.

Safari is all part of this, and it’s apparent that Apple are slowly putting the pieces together to make the Mac best tech-experience, bar none.

Thank you all for listening…

ituneslock

I know that this lowly blog isn’t totally responsible for this news:

Amazon fails to dent iTunes

but it’s nice to know that the record companies plan to cripple Apple’s dominance in the downloadable music industry, isn’t working.

Amazon’s entry into the market has nothing to do with consumer choice. They have allowed Amazon to have DRM-free music, because they want to stop Steve Jobs from keeping prices of music low.

If Apple is reduced to an also-ran, then they can safely ignore them when they increase prices across the board, and believe me they would.

Amazon, being the faceless corporate behemoth they are, will simply roll-over and take it up the ass, but Apple? Steve will probably pull out of the industry all together.

Which is what the music industry wants.

Anyway, I’ve always wondered why people have such a problem with Apple’s Fairplay DRM. 

It is the fairest out there (obviously), and I’ve never come up against it’s restrictions. But then again, I don’t pirate music.

So, if you are fair with the music industry’s property, you don’t come up against the DRM. It’s perfect.

If you never come up against a DRM mechanism, can you really say that DRM exists?

Anyway, it now seems that Apple is finally winning the battle, with the rumours that they will have DRM-free music shortly. But, I spoke too soon:

Labels making specific demands in iTunes talks

It seems that they are still holding out. Time will tell whether they make the right choice for consumers.

iPod software development…

appstore

I love my iPod. Well actually I love my iPods, because I have 4 of them, but there’s one thing that’s been troubling me.

The hardware changes, the design changes, but the underlying software features don’t seem to change.

Things have moved on from version 1, and I know that Apple like to keep things simple, but there’s one thing I wish they would add, or I could add myself.

More often than not, I’m listening to my music on shuffle, and I come across a song by an artist I really like, and by extension I like other songs by this artist.

Why can I not simply skip to a list that says:

1) Shuffle to other songs by this artist

2) Shuffle to other songs in this genre

3) Shuffle to other songs in this year

Maybe this could be a special section that you could programme from iTunes, so you would have an Applescript that does this, but it executes also on the iPod.

I know that the ‘KISS’ principle (Keep It Simple Stupid), is behind a lot of reasoning at Apple, but time and time again I come across a situation like this in the car.

The only way around it is to navigate back to the top level,  select ‘Artist’ and shuffle from their entry – it’s not very easy and probably quite dangerous and distracting if you’re driving.

Maybe now that the AppStore is open we’ll see this, but what with Apple restricting certain apps when they duplicate in-built features, it’s not likely.

Still they don’t get it…

I’ve recently subscribed to a new podcast, ‘MacNotables‘ hosted by Chuck Joiner (a great name and a great podcast).

Episode #824 caught my attention, because it discussed in the main, the new Napster music store, and then the topic of the Amazon music store and why the music labels have given more favourable terms to other music stores at the expense of giving them to Apple.

Now I’ve discussed this before here, and I feel I make a valid arguement that the reason why this is happening is nothing to do with consumer choice, but is mainly about the music companies getting their industry back from Apple, so that they can control it again, and raise prices, re-introduce DRM, and make even more money for themselves.

But after listening to this podcast, I can see that even the most intelligent and insightful Mac-pundits simply cannot see the wood for the trees (or the music for the albums as it were).

Andy Inakto Innhakto Ihnatko, (who joking aside, have enormous respect for), is totally wrong here.

In listening to the quite heated discussion amongst the protagonists in MacNotables #824 episode, the conclusion I can draw from Andy is that he feels that Amazon’s music store is a good thing, and iTunes could do with the competition.

He uses iTunes to search for music and listen to the samples, but then goes to Amazon to buy it.

To save what amounts to a few bucks.

Every buck he saves erodes Apple’s dominance, and further entrenches Amazon’s.

Now I’ve nothing against Amazon, I use it all the time to buy stuff, it’s the way in which Andy, and others like him have been totally suckered by the recording industry to effectively allow them to, sooner or later, completely ignore Apple when they argue with them over pricing.

And when that happens, all those little bucks that Andy has been saving, will be won back when the recording industry is allowed to raise prices, because they can safely ignore Apple again.

Well done Andy.

Microsoft PlaysforSure, doesn’t play for sure anymore (for sure)…

Plays for sure

Here’s the bad news.

It’s amazing that this has not been reported more widely in the press. After countless arguements that Microsoft’s DRM was the future, and you’d be mad to go with iTunes, now comes the news that puts Microsoft’s take on the user/provider firmly into sharp relief.

Put simply; you know all that music that you spent your hard earned cash on from any one of a number of ‘PlaysForSure’ partner of Microsoft’s?

Well, they want it back please and no, you don’t get your money back.

Can someone please explain to me again, why Apple isn’t at 95% market share and companies like Microsoft at 5%?

Why do Windows users put up with being slapped in the face constantly – do you think they actually like it?

Can anyone really trust Microsoft again?

I’m glad that all my online music purchases are from iTunes, because at least I know that Apple will still be around in 10 years time.

It’s strange that back in the 90’s the ‘still being around in 10 years time’ was the reason given by a lot of IT Managers when giving a reason for choosing Windows over the Mac.

How times have changed, it’s a pity a lot of IT managers haven’t.

Are you complicit in iTunes downfall?

 

iTunes

 

Recent developments in the market place for digital downloads of music have resulted in iTunes being seen as the black sheep in the family.

Although Apple have made a lot of money for the record companies, (Apple sees iTunes as a break-even arrangement, taking very little from each song sold, making money from sales of hardware instead), the record companies are not happy.

iTunes success, has resulted in Apple having a great deal of power in terms of the prices they are willing to sell music at (regardless of what the record companies want), to-wit – we see prices on iTunes remaining pretty consistent across the range.

This benefits the consumer, (who are Apple’s main focus here), for other online retailers who have allowed the music companies to dictate pricing terms, have not been as successful as Apple, hence their almost complete demise.

This has irked those record companies greatly, for they are used to having almost total control of their industry.

So we have seen a change of direction; they have now started offering competing online music providers, different, and much better terms and arrangements to sell their music, while Apple is left out in the cold.

We’re seeing no DRM, better choice of music and lower prices in competing services.

Most, if not all the media see this as a benefit to the consumer, and a sign that the record companies are finally giving in and embracing the future, and hey, iTunes having competition is a good thing, right?

They’re wrong. Why? let me explain.

Apple have remained steadfast in their demands that pricing on iTunes is consistent. The record companies wanted tiered pricing, and Apple correctly stated that one of the reasons why iTunes was successful, was the ‘across-the-board’ pricing.

The record companies then realised that this was a battle they could not win, unless they sacrificed a couple of things in the short term, to win back something in the future.

These 2 things are DRM, and pricing.

They sacrificed DRM because a) of a change in customer demand and media momentum which they couldn’t control, and b) to give them leverage against Apple, hence the offering of DRM-free music to the linkes of Amazon.

They sacrificed pricing to again, give them leverage against Apple, but only temporarily.

Why do they want leverage against Apple? They want this so they can bring competitors to iTunes dominance.

Is that not a good thing though? NO IT ISN’T.

Why isn’t it? Because 5 years from now, if they are successful and iTunes dominance is eroded to the point where the record companies don’t have to listen to it’s demands, what will be left?

You will have the record companies on one side, and on the other side a number of partners who will not be powerful enough to dictate pricing terms, as Apple has in the past.

What will then happen?

PRICES OF ONLINE MUSIC WILL RISE. GUARANTEED.

They will then be able to do what they like, kill online music stone dead if they want to and return to the more profitable and controllable model of CD’s, or worse.

Do I have any proof of this? No, of course not. But answer me this, if this isn’t true, and the only reason why the record companies are doing this is to bring competition, cheaper prices and no DRM to the industry, then why don’t they let Apple join in now?

By not letting Apple join in now, they seek to erode its dominance, and they want to topple iTunes, so they can get the pricing back under they’re control.

So the next time you buy music online from Amazon, just remember that you giving more power to the record industry with every purchase, and taking power away from Apple.

Apple want to keep music prices cheap and consistent, the record companies want you to pay more. Just remember that.

 

An open letter to ‘the big four’…

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DRM. Three little letters that seem to mean so much to you.

You pretend that you created DRM to protect those people in your care, your recording artists, film makers & authors.

However, what you fail to understand is that your firm, unrelenting grasp of your media, is squeezing the very life out of it, drop by drop, and if you do not change, it will be mortally wounded, if not stone cold dead within a decade.

Let’s put our cards on the table here, DRM was created by you, not to protect your recording artists’ sales, but to protect an old and outdated distribution model, (physical CD distribution), from the digital download age.

You see digital downloads as a danger, a danger to your current cash-cow, CD’s.

The ease in which CD’s can be ripped to a PC and therefore be easily, and illegally shareable on peer-to-peer sites is something that you grudgingly accept – you failed to see it coming.

There’s very little you can do about it now (short of installing root kits), so your current approach is to keep the status quo as long as possible. CD’s can be ripped to MP3 and distributed with ease, but it still isn’t an easy process in comparison to taking an non-DRM’ed MP3 file and giving it to someone else.

You know however that this is a temporary situation, the future is almost here – complete digital downloads of media, in all its forms are inevitable, once the pipe is big enough.

Every new step forward, (in the past from LP’s to CD, at present from CD’s to digital downloads) you now take with the utmost care, nothing is left to chance. You failed to see the ripping of CD’s to MP3 coming, you won’t let that happen again.

So you enforce draconian DRM on iTunes purchases. It was only the forceful personality, and resourcefulness of Steve Jobs that gave us the option of getting around this DRM easily (by ripping to a CD).

And you enforce even more draconian DRM onto Windows Media Files, and even manage to get kickbacks from every Zune purchased. This was a lot easier because of the willingness of Microsoft to cooperate. Microsoft do not care about the ordinary consumer, just like you. To them they are the lowest of the low, to be controlled like sheep, under the watchful eye of an IT Administrator, or in this case, a faceless corporation.

So here we are at the present. A time of conflict, confusion & struggle – and it doesn’t have to be like this.

Instead of staring at our feet, at where we are today, let’s look to the future, at where we’d all like to be, and plot a course on how to get there.

Seeing as this is all about protecting your current business model, let’s look at what your actual current business model is.

You have a recording artist you wish to sell records on behalf of. You do this by displaying their currently released track in various advertising mediums – on the radio, TV, billboard posters, adverts etc. The mix of these mediums is dependent on your target audience, but the path this audience takes to purchase (and therefore fulfilling the marketing exercise, i.e. making money), is always the same.

The target audience is exposed to the medium, say through the radio and likes the sound of it. But what happens then? Can they purchase that medium? No, they cannot. The medium has to (hopefully) have made such an impact so as to have stayed in their memory (billboard & press reinforce this), so that when they just happen to pass an outlet where they can buy they physical media that they heard, they can finally complete the purchase which started out with the time they heard the song play on the radio, sometimes weeks previously.

It’s not very efficient is it?

The period between the exposure to the medium and the purchase is too long. A lot can go wrong in this period of time, including the target audience forgetting all about your product. This is why the song must be played again and again on the radio, why you must spend huge sums of money on billboard & press campaigns – your marketing plan is too complex.

There’s a famous acronym in marketing and it’s K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid!

In contrast, look at the iTunes Store. You launch the application. You may have many reasons to do this but it’s mainly because you want to play one of your songs. You look at the mini store, or click on a store link next to one of your favourite artists. You go straight to the store, play the song, like it, purchase it. 30 seconds later it’s on your iPod and you are listening to it.

Simple.