Cool Tech Reviews

Just Cool Tech

January 6, 2009

Apple iTunes to add DRM-free music from Warner, Sony, and Universal


The long and rancorous negotiations between Apple and the major music labels are apparently over and Apple’s iTunes will be able to offer their music DRM-free, but it came at the expense of Apple’s long standing "one price for all" policy:

Apple has cut deals that will finally enable iTunes to offer songs free of copy protection software from the three largest music labels, according to two sources close to the negotiations. In exchange, Apple has agreed to become more flexible on pricing, the sources said.

The three largest labels are Warner Music, Sony BMG and Universal Music Group.

Under the terms of the deal, song prices will be broken down into three categories–older songs from the catalog, midline songs (newer songs that aren’t big hits), and current hits–said one of the sources. Apple has offered songs free of digital rights management protections from EMI for more than a year. But EMI accounts for less than 10 percent of music sold in the U.S.

Apple and the music labels have also apparently come to terms on over-the-air downloads, according to a source. That would allow iPhone owners to download songs to their mobile devices via cell networks and without the aid of Wi-Fi. Apple, which closed the deals last week, could announce the agreements as early as Tuesday at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco.

There is some questioning of whether the availability of DRM-free music makes any difference to consumers. While I agree that the average consumer probably doesn’t pay attention to DRM in the normal course of events, they get really cranky when for whatever reason their subscription lapses and all their tunes are unplayable.

From the same source, the rumored pricing for the tiers is $0.79, $0.99 and $1.29 per track. Yes, it would have better if they had gone lower at the low end.

Update: Apple did announce it at MacWorld and the prices are: $0.69, $0.99 and $1.29 per track.


Posted at 12:27 pm. Filed under Apple, Brands, Companies, Internet, iTunes, MP3 Player, Music downloads, Portable Audio, Sony, Universal Music Group, Warner Bros.

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September 6, 2008

Unbox reborn as Amazon Video on Demand


Amazon Video on Demand logo Amazon has been testing a video on demand service since July and this week it became generally available as Amazon Video on Demand and absorbed the old Unbox video download service as well.

The finished Video On Demand service is now compatible with a wealth of device types: Windows PC’s, Macs, suitable TiVo models, Windows Media Center extender boxes (like the Xbox 360), the Sony Bravia Internet Video Link TVs used in the beta, and many portable media players. Amazon is offering a vast catalog of 40,000 movies and TV shows. Some are free, but for most of them the prices are:

All rentals expire 24 hrs after purchase and all offer a 2 minute preview.

If you aren’t interested in rental and streaming, you can still purchase and download movies as before using the Unbox application and they will always be available in your personal video library. Rentals will be there too (at least for 24 hours) in case you get interrupted while watching or want to watch on a different system than where you order.

Initial reviews indicate the Amazon Video on Demand service is quite usable albeit with some video glitches reported, so you might care to try some of the free videos before plunking down some cash. A bigger question if you are a TV fan is whether or not you might prefer the Hulu service which is free, but has commercials. (Hulu does offer some movies as well.)

Finally, my perpetual rant is that Internet video won’t take off until it is dead simple for the average consumer to use and use in the room where they have their TV set. Amazon Video on Demand goes quite a way towards solving the simplicity problem. As for getting that video into the room where the TV resides, Amazon does its best with the available technical options and is way ahead of most alternatives with the enhanced TiVo lashup which now supports streaming rentals.


Posted at 6:10 pm. Filed under Amazon, Brands, Companies, Hulu, Internet, Streaming video, Unbox, Video Downloads, Video on Demand

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August 5, 2008

YouTube grabs part of online Olympic pie


YouTube logo Considering that the 2008 Summer Olympics start on August 8th, there was a rather odd announcement by the International Olympic Committee yesterday that Google’s YouTube will provide "about three hours a day of exclusive content from the IOC’s Olympic Broadcasting Services on a dedicated channel during the Games." The content will include highlights and daily wrap-ups provided by the IOC, but not live coverage. No word on how many languages will be supported.

Hold on a sec – what about NBC which has partnered with Microsoft’s MSN to show the Games online in the USA? Not to worry – the IOC sells exclusive national online rights just like they sell national broadcast rights and YouTube will be geotargeting the Olympics channel so that only Internet users in "77 territories – South Korea, India and Nigeria among them – that aren’t officially covered by Olympic sponsors" can view it.

This likely isn’t a bonanza for YouTube since they will only be allowed to sell ads to Olympic sponsors and and if there was much online video viewing interest in the Olympics in these countries, someone would already have picked up the franchise. While all of this makes sense from a monetary view, doesn’t the national restriction of Internet rights seem a trifle wacky?

The national franchises do get around the language problem and provide enhanced coverage of contests of particular national interest, but I guess the bottom line is that there is no single online site that could (or wants to do) the whole worldwide job. On the other hand, bootleg Olympics videos have already started appearing on regular old garden variety YouTube.


Posted at 12:41 pm. Filed under Companies, Internet, Streaming video, Video Sharing, YouTube

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