Archive for October, 2006

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Nokia claims ground in digital music battle

October 31, 2006

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“Consumers are increasingly snapping up mobile phones with built-in music players, and sales far outstrip shipments of dedicated MP3 music players” the world’s top handset maker Nokia said in an interview.

“The technology is completely ready, and the change in consumers’ habits has started. The best evidence is our sales number. We are selling huge amounts,” Tommi Mustonen, director at Nokia’s multimedia unit told Reuters in an interview.

Mustonen said the company aimed to sell 80 million music devices this year, up from 46.5 million in 2005.

Nokia is not alone. The world’s fourth-largest handset maker Sony Ericsson has benefited in recent quarters from strong sales of a line-up of Walkman music-playing handsets, of which it sold 15 million in its first year.

By contrast, Apple sold 8.7 million iPods in the July to September quarter, making it the world’s most popular music player, but the volume still lagged far behind music phones.

Mustonen said two out of three consumers whose phones can play digital tracks already use it for that purpose.

Nokia does not see Apple, with its iPods and iTunes service, as a competitor, at least not before the U.S. firm’s expected iPhone hits the shelves, Mustonen said.

“The comparison with iPod is wrong; it is a single purpose device, and it is not connected,” Mustonen said, adding that Apple was moving in the same direction with the possible launch of an iPhone, according to media and financial analysts.

“Then you can compare us,” Mustonen said.

“I believe our rivals are companies which make multimedia computers,” he said, adding that music downloading sites bore a close relationship to the gadgets they connect to.

The music business is also seen surging, with Forrester Research forecasting the European mobile phone music download market growing to $857.5 million (674 million euros) in 2011 from nil in 2004.

Only last week, Nokia launched a sales campaign offering Mission Impossible videos on memory cards for its N93 models. Mustonen said various campaigns were also possible in music, but the company had no plans to start selling music on memory cards.

“The world is going the other way, not towards physical distribution, but to digital.”

Nokia finalised its $60 million acquisition of U.S.-based digital music distributor Loudeye Corp. earlier this month.

Loudeye aggregates rights and content from major labels and hundreds of independent labels and currently offers licensed catalogue and complete media for over 1.6 million tracks.

“This enables us to offer full service to consumers starting from the device to the content,” Mustonen said.

Nokia is widely expected to come out with its own music shop next year.

Nokia has stepped up a gear on the acquisition trail after its new Chief Executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo took over in June. It has agreed to spin off its mobile networks infrastructure unit and dropped a planned phone-making venture with Sanyo.

Kallasvuo has said Nokia is set to strengthen its multimedia and enterprise units through acquisitions.

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Keane’s new single on USB memory stick

October 30, 2006

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After their hit-single “Is It Any Wonder ?” , british rock band Keane released today their new single “Nothing In My Way” in a groundbreaking new format for single releases: a 1500 limited edition USB memory stick available only through HMV stores. It will be presented in standard-sized CD packaging, with the memory stick shrink-wrapped to the sleeve artwork, so it will be easy to merchandise in-store. The single will also be available in CD, vinyl and digital formats.

This unique innovative format bridges the gap between physical and digital channels of music distribution, and offers a truly multi-platform media package. The uniqueness of this new product also extends to the fact that it is re-usable, as this memory has a huge capacity of 512Mb and is the world’s thinnest flash drive.

The USB single release is chiefly targeted at technology enthusiasts, many of whom have turned to unofficial downloads in recent years. This single also comes without copy protection, meaning that it can be played on a wide variety of digital music players.

Gary Rolfe, HMV Head of Music comments:
“HMV has always helped to pioneer the development of new formats, so we’re delighted to support this groundbreaking initiative from Keane and Island Records by being the first retailer to stock such a release. It fits perfectly with our stated aim of giving fans the widest possible access to music and entertainment products across all platforms, however and whenever they wish to buy them – in-store, online and digitally. The beauty of this product is that it brings all these different elements together, further underlining our credentials as a multi-channel specialist.”

“We’re definitely testing the waters,” said Island Records general manager Jon Turner, adding he would “love to see” more releases in the format next year. “I’m delighted that Island Records are leading the way in embracing groundbreaking and innovative ways to deliver music to the consumer. The Kingmax SuperStick introduces a new dynamic to the format business and could well become a standard music carrier in the future.”

The content will include “Nothing In My Way” in mp3 format and video, X3 screensavers (Corin Hardy tube animations) and a link to special page on the website to view an alternative version of “Nothing In My Way” (including a competition to see the band in the U.S. next year).

But Keane are not pioneering the idea. Canadian band Barenaked Ladies started selling albums on USB drives last year.

Robbie Williams also released his Greatest Hits album on a memory card for mobile phones and hand-held computers in 2004.

Will these devices and attempts to sell digital music through physical formats be a step into the future or remain an attempt is something only time will tell. The fact that, unlike the CD single and digital versions of the song, it will not be eligible for the official UK singles chart certainly makes you wonder.

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As long as we get the rules straight…

October 26, 2006

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Very good music related comic strip at Bassist Wanted by American artist Porter Mason.

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“DVD Jon” plans to license iPod code

October 25, 2006

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You might know Jon Lech Johansen as a teenager who cracked the copy-protection technology in DVDs a few years ago.

Well, he is now 22 years old and he stunned the world again by claiming to have unlocked the playback restrictions on Apple’s very own iPod and iTunes music products. This new hacking by the young Norwegian living in Fan Francisco could free users the restrictions placed on digital music, enabling iTunes to be played on any device and other music downloads to be iPod compatible. Most songs that you buy online are copy-protected but the codes aren’t always compatible. In fact, music downloaded from iTunes can only be played in iPods… until now, that is.

By developing a way to go around these restrictions, “DVD Jon” and his company, Doubletwist, may have started a battle with Apple’s lawyers, although the company’s managing director, Monique Farantzos, has already said they believe to be on good legal ground. “Our attorneys have given us the green light on this” she assures. DoubleTwist has said that it plans to license the code to digital music player manufacturers. Apple, whose profits have soared in recent years on the strength of the iPod, declined to comment.

This technology could help Apple’s rivals sell competing products that play music from iTunes and offer songs for download that work on iPods as they seek to take a bite out of Apple’s dominance of digital music.

iTunes commands an 88% share of legal song downloads in the US, while the iPod dominates digital music player sales with more than 60% of the market.

Meanwhile, consumers can keep watching this battle ragging on while they wait for technologies to merge to the point where all digital entertainment will be available for whichever player they own.

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When it’s in the blood…

October 24, 2006

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“I’m a born entertainer, when I open the fridge and the light comes on, I burst into song.”
Robbie Williams

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iPod is 5 years old today

October 23, 2006

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When Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod, October 23rd, 2001, he said: “With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.” And 5 years later, we can see he was right.

The 4GB iPod debuted at $250 dollars a pop. That particular model, could hold about 1,000 tunes and was about the size of a deck of cards. By the time, “lame” was the final word of reaction to the player on Slashdot. Others griped that comparably priced players from rivals such as Creative Technology (CREAF) and Archos stored four times as much music or pointed to devices that stored the same amount for far less. Another drawback: The first iPod didn’t work with PCs running the Microsoft (MSFT) Windows operating system.

But the naysayers eventually changed their tune, and the iPod went on to conquer the open territory that was the digital music world in 2001. The iPod soon worked with Windows PCs, and by 2003 the iTunes Music Store debuted and revolutionized the way people buy and listen to music.

By then, it was a risk to rely upon a concept, that people would pay for music downloads. Most of us at the time, probably figured this little gadget to be just a toy for a niche market. But, if you were to pick one up at a store, in literally seconds, you were navigating the file structure of the device with it’s slick, tactile pleasing, ring button pad! And this eventualy lead to nearly 68 million iPods sold by Apple to date, generating about $14 billion in sales. And if previous holiday seasons are any indicator of future results, Apple could record the sale on its 100 millionth iPod before the end of the calendar year. In fiscal 2006 alone, the iPod business accounted for nearly 40% of Apple’s $19.3 billion in revenue.
It’s hard to remember now. But there was a time when man and woman roamed the planet without little white buds in their ears. Today, we may want a big screen in our living room, but we can be quite satisfied watching our favorite shows on a tiny LCD screen, as long as it rests in the palm of our hand. Not only that, we will pay a couple of bucks for the privilege, as long as it’s ad free. Even though that very program we just paid for, was on television the night before for free!

This revolution started 5 years ago today. Happy Birthday iPod!

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Is that an illegal file in your drive?

October 20, 2006

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The IFPI has announced a new wave of international law suits against file sharers. In press release the organization that represents a great number of major and independent labels warns against the negative effect piracy and illegal file sharing is having on the industry and pledges to fight for the artists rights in a field where intellectual property has almost no meaning. Over 8,000 new law suits have been launched in 17 countries outside the United Statesincluding for the first time Poland and Mexico. The report states that in most cases users end up settling off court paying amounts of around 3,000 dollars (2.400€) instead of letting the court case reach a more damaging conclusion.Although the professional digital music community welcomes these actions, it’s still not clear as to how effective they are. There is no consensus on how to fight piracy, file sharing and illegal music use and many think that legal actions have a limited effect while better digital services, better sales offers and a better consumer deal might just be the answer. Only future will tell.