Saturday, January 05, 2008

Victory for Digital Music

A belated 'Happy New Year' is in order! I would've posted sooner except that I've had a fever since Wednesday evening and I'm only now starting to recover from it. It did give me a chance to pop open my Veronica Mars Season 2 DVDs though. I think my recent posts have been on the attacking or cynical side, but I think it's amazing news that Sony has caved and so now all the major music labels have switched to DRM-free music downloads. I cannot emphasize how big of a deal this is. After years of issues with mp3 players only playing certain mp3s and rootkits and breaking DRM schemes and all that jazz, the big guys have finally admitted that DRM-free is the way to go. Why? It's not altruism. Rather, they're scared of Apple. Amazon made a bold move when they decided that they only digital music they'd offer would be DRM-free. Some probably thought it was stupid for a nascent service to be so greedy. Funny how in less than half a year they brought around every major record label, huh? I don't know how many of the labels (besides EMI) is selling DRM-free through iTunes, but some have been selling to others as well (e.g. Rhapsody and Wal-mart, whose pompous site insists you use IE). Somehow, Amazon mp3 has been the common denominator. I really want to meet that team when I get back to Seattle to find out how this all came to be.

The point is, this was a huge risk for these labels. They're making a huge statement in saying that they'd rather risk feeding piracy with DRM-free music offerings than let iTunes remain the #1 digital music source with no close competitors. Think about that for a second. It seems a little paranoid, doesn't it? There's probably more to it than that, but I'm really curious as to what was going on behind closed doors for Apple to piss these guys off so much. It may very well be true that the labels saw the error in their ways in sticking with DRM for so long (especially the bad PR that geeks like me spared no time in propagating). It may even be true that they crunched numbers and thought that selling DRM-free may make them more money. Or maybe they did surveys or something. It's tough to say. There's no doubt in my mind that at least one factor in their decisions was to diversify who receives their content, and the fact that Amazon Mp3 now has claim over a library formidable to Apple means that my prediction from way back when may be true: Amazon can give iTunes a run for its money. They're finally proving that Apple is not invincible, something that companies like RealNetworks and Napster never accomplished. We just have to wait and see what the numbers say at time progresses. Amazon can still blow it, no doubt (though I've only seen the UI get better). But the fact that they've made it this far is a pretty big deal, in my opinion. One more thing: if this DRM-free thing works out for music than we can hope to see it spread to movies and television shows as we see mirroring trends in putting content online.

Of course, not all is well in online music. Napster has raised its monthly rate by $3 to $12.95. Mashable likes to be melo-dramatic and claim that this signals their downfall, but I think that's a premature statement. I think they still have a chance, but I do think it'll be hard for them to attract more subscribers with a higher rate. Also, Apple is being sued, again, for having a monopoly in digital music and mp3 players. Given that there are some sizable competitors though that are doing decently well (not gangbusters, but not bad either), I can't see this lawsuit going far.

Warner Brothers has decided that it will not sell HD-DVD discs, only for Blu-ray. Why? Well, Blu-ray sales were apparently strong in Q4 last year and they claim that the numbers are not in HD-DVD's favor. Could this be the start of a Blu-ray victory? Over the past year there was never really a clear winner, as there isn't still, but rather one would just inch in front of the other. If what Warner claims is true though, then maybe HD-DVD won't exist this time next year. We'll have to wait and see.

I have some bad news: Intel has decided to put an end to their involvement with the One Laptop Per Child program. Sounds kind of weird, right? I don't know if Intel is fully to blame here as the OLPC project asked them to not work on any other platforms but OLPC. Anyway, they've had issues working together for a while and Intel has its own low-cost laptop platform called the Classmate PC. It's not a total loss, but the impasse is still mildly tragic.

Seth MacFarlane made a speech at one of the WGA rallies and I thought it was interesting enough to share with you all:

It just gives a very real viewpoint from their side as to why the strike makes sense and why it's not about being greedy. Plus, he does his Stewie voice at the end.

I have a couple of quick things. There's a new torrent site called YouTorrent that searches the torrent search engines for the good stuff. It's pretty good and worth giving a shot. The other thing is that Google has had a couple of high-profile defections including their UI designer for Gmail. These probably don't mean anything because it's not unusual for young talent in the tech industry to move around, but it just shows that Google isn't a paradise for everyone, despite popular belief.

To compensate for not posting in a while I figure that I'd share a video I took on New Year's Eve after we finished setting up my brother's house for the New Year's party. The featured drinks aren't out yet (mojitos and pomegranate martinis), but it still looks nice:

Shawn and Selina's New Year's Eve Tour from Eptiger on Vimeo.

Lastly, I haven't played in a meme in a while, which is kind of a shame. I thought I'd give newcomer Saturday 9 a try:

1. Do you have a dishwasher?
I do, but I never use it.

2. What noise do you hear?
The TV behind me. I swear cable is the devil.

3. Next concert you hope to go to?
I don't have one in mind, but I still need to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

4. When was the last time you said I love you and meant it?
To be honest, I'm not sure. Maybe a week ago? I used to say daily, and I usually say it to my mom on the phone, but since I'm here in Houston I don't talk to her on the phone.

5. If all of your friends were going on a road trip, who would be most likely to over pack?
Me, I'm sure.

6. Who is the youngest in your family?
I guess my cousin Sherylann's son, who is not even two months old now.

7. Do you know anyone with the same name as you?
Kind of. I know this guy is out there. ;) If you just mean by first name: I know there's Elton John, but I don't know anyone personally.

8. How many shoes do you own?
Probably 6 pairs.

9. Do you mind flat soda?
I don't drink soda period, except with alcohol. Even then, I don't think I'd mind terribly.


SabineM said...

Red Hot Chili Peppers are great in Concert! Saw them once!
Tv is not SOO bad! I am listening now to the New Hampshire Debates

Angelika said...

I wonder how many pairs of shoes the average man owns?

Mine's up here.

Christie said...

The RFS Blog Awards are back! Go nominate!