May 26 2010

Apple Controls 70% of US Music Downloads

Apple’s iTunes music store controls a very large share of the US music market, according to NPD group, a market research firm. The iTunes store now has a 70 percent share share of music downloads, up one percentage point from 2009. The market share of Amazon’s download service, AmazonMP3, grew 4 percentage points and is currently at 12 percent.

This data will probably be of interest to antitrust regulators who are rumored to be in the early stages of an investigation against Apple. Apple allegedly pressured music companies to pull support for an Amazon promotion called “MP3 Daily Deal.” According to unnamed sources, a complaint from Amazon has sparked the inquiry.

According to an NPD analyst, however, Apple deserves its dominance in music downloads. “Apple came [into the digital download business] and did it right,” he said.

Overall, Apple’s iTunes counts for 28 percent of all music purchases, including both CDs and digital files.

Via Computerworld.

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Apr 30 2010

Rumor: Apple May Offer Cloud Music Service

Apple has just announced that it is shutting down Lala, the streaming music service it bought last December. This comes a little over a month before the developers conference in San Francisco at which Apple often announces major news. There is a lot of speculation among analysts that Apple may intend to offer a cloud-based music service soon.

Currently, iTunes users pay to download songs to their computers, then sync these new songs to mobile devices. But an Internet-based service would eliminate both the need to download songs and the need to have them on a computer first—users could stream them directly to their phones.

Some people believe that a cloud-based music service offered by Apple is nothing more than a rumor because Apple has not spoken with music executives about its plan, and a streaming service would require new licenses to be set up.

If Apple does eventually offer a streaming music service, it could have huge implications for the industry. Users would not need to download songs anymore, which could spell the end of the MP3. Storage space would no longer be an issue either, since the songs would be stored on a remote server. Though I would be willing to try out a streaming music service, I would like to have the option of downloading MP3 files of songs that I really like.

Via The Associated Press, image via Apple.

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Mar 31 2010

Apple Updates iTunes for iPad Release

As expected, Apple released an update for iTunes this week to make the popular music application compatible with the next major product, the iPad. The new version of iTunes, 9.1, supports the iPad, has new Genius features, and has seven security issues fixed. QuickTime 7.6.6 was also released with iTunes 9.1.

According to Apple, the new version of iTunes adds a mere three features:

  • Sync with iPad to enjoy your favorite music, movies, TV shows, books and more on the go
  • Organize and sync books you’ve downloaded from iBooks on iPad or added to your iTunes library
  • Rename, rearrange, or remove Genius Mixes

The update is 93 megabytes, which is not bad to download if you are on a really fast Internet connection (but it will take forever if your connection is of less than optimal speed).

The update also offers a setting that enables automatic conversion to 128 kbit/s AAC when songs are transferred to iPods or iPhones. The Genius feature, which offered little user control before the update, now offers the ability to rearrange a playlist and use next and previous buttons.

Via PC World, image via Apple.

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Feb 25 2010

Apple Sells 10 Billionth iTunes Song

On Wednesday, Apple sold its 10 billionth iTunes song at 9:43 pm GMT, about 6 years and 10 months after the iTunes Store’s opening. The store has come a long way since then: it used to be called the iTunes Music Store and sold just music, but now it sells video, TV shows, and podcasts in addition to music. Apple said that the lucky customer who bought the 10 billionth song received a $10,000 gift card to the iTunes Store, as promised.

$10,000 is roughly enough money to fill an entire iPod Touch with music. It’s quite a generous gift, but pales in comparison to what Apple did in 2006 when it sold the billionth song. Back then, the winner received a gift card, a 20-inch iMac, 10 60 GB iPods, and music scholarship in his or her name.

The most downloaded song of all time is The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” according to rankings on Apple’s website. The rankings do not show the number of downloads per song.

Via PC World, image via Apple.

Feb 12 2010

Apple Celebrates 10 Billion iTunes Songs

Apple’s iTunes store is about to have a huge milestone. Soon, the store will have sold a grand total of 10 billion songs. To celebrate, Apple is holding a contest. The person who buys the 10 billionth song from iTunes will receive a $10,000 gift card from Apple. Alternatively, customers can fill out this form on the Apple website.

Apple has this to say about its contest: “iTunes changed the way you buy music, making songs and albums available for download, day or night. Seven years later, we’re about to celebrate our biggest milestone for music, yet — 10 billion songs downloaded. Buy a song, and if it’s the 10 billionth download, you could win a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card. It’s our way of saying thanks.”

As a marketing ploy, the contest is brilliant. Most people would love to win the gift card, so they will go buy songs on iTunes, thus making more money for Apple.

Via PC Magazine, image via Apple.

Feb 5 2010

iTunes Becomes More Web-Based

Apple has slowly been moving its popular application iTunes to the web. After Apple’s acquisition of Lala, a streaming music service, some analysts expected this would happen.

On February 4, Apple introduced a new feature that allows users to preview App Store applications in web browser. Instead of launching iTunes every time to see application details, now a preview page is shown, though the dialogue window asking whether to launch iTunes or not still appears.

Apple’s slow conversion of iTunes to a more web-based service will be good for users with large iTunes libraries. iTunes is a good application, but it can be quite cumbersome to launch for users with lots of media.

Apple first started making iTunes more web-based in November 2009, when it launched iTunes Preview, a way for users to view music in their browsers. Then, in the beginning of this year, Apple added the ability to preview music within a browser.

There has been speculation that Apple will eventually have a completely web-based iTunes—an iTunes.com—which will add to iTunes’ appeal.

Via The Independent, image via Apple.

Jan 27 2010

Apple Needs to Revamp iTunes

We are still awaiting the announcement of Apple’s tablet (Apple is on Pacific Time, keeping the rest of the United States eagerly awaiting this morning) which, according to McGraw-Hill, will run off of an iPhone-based operating system. This probably means that the tablet will integrate with iTunes.

Which brings us to an important point: Apple needs to rebuild iTunes. Yes, it is a good application, but it could be better. It uses a lot of processing power and takes forever to load on Windows (and even sometimes on Macs, or at least my Mac). It’s time for a complete revamp of iTunes. It’s slow and bloated and apparently isn’t even making any money—Apple is breaking even on the iTunes store.

Apple needs to introduce a streaming music service. It has the capability because of its acquisition of Lala, a streaming music service Apple acquired in late 2009. An Apple streaming music service could help combat illegal music downloads. Right now, an astounding 95 percent of all music downloads are illegal, according to the head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

The Apple event today should focus on more than just introducing the tablet. Hopefully an iTunes revamp will be mentioned as well.

Via Wired, image via Apple.

Jan 8 2010

Inspired by Lala, Apple Makes Changes to iTunes

When Apple bought Lala back in December of last year, many analysts speculated that the acquisition of the streaming music platform would bring changes to iTunes. It appears that such speculation was accurate, as Apple is slowly but surely adding changes to iTunes, making it less application-based and more browser-based.

Apple now allows thirty-second song previews in web-based iTunes Charts, which was launched in November 2009. At first, you had to open up iTunes itself to hear song previews. Now you can listen to song previews right from your web browser (though QuickTime must be installed, as they are encoded in QuickTime format).

To buy the song, you still have to open up iTunes itself. I wonder how long it will be until we can buy iTunes music right from our browsers–it seems like this feature may eventually be available, especially since many people have speculated that Apple will use Lala to fully integrate iTunes into web browsers. Cheaper music and streaming options are also new features that analysts have speculated might show up in iTunes in the near future.

Via PC World, image via Apple.

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Dec 22 2009

Apple May Offer TV Subscription Service

Apple revolutionized the music industry with its iPod and iTunes. Now it is seeking to the same to the cable TV industry. The company is reportedly in talks with big TV networks to create a paid subscription service that would offer a package of TV shows in smaller bundles than are currently offered on cable TV.

This fits with the speculation that iTunes is going to be broadened from offering purely downloads to streaming, rumors which stemmed with Apple’s acquisition of the streaming service Lala. Apple could theoretically stream television through an Apple TV.

This seems like an ambitious and unlikely development; after all, Apple might need to begin competing with big TV networks in order to offer the new service. But if we’re to expect anyone to bring about that kind of radical change, Apple certainly seems like a good candidate.

Via the San Francisco Chronicle.

Dec 19 2009

iTunes U Has More Than 100 Million Downloads

iTunes U, the education-specific section of Apple’s iTunes store, has had more than 100 million downloads as of this Friday, according to Apple.

One of the most popular areas of iTunes U, according to Apple, is the UK-based Open University. It offers courses in diverse areas such as Arts and Humanities, Business and Management, Health and Social Care, and more. It caters to at least 150,000 undergraduates and 30,000 postgraduates.

More than 175 universities all over the world offer content on iTunes U, including Princeton University, Oxford University, and Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

I personally discovered iTunes U just this fall when I saw they had some recordings to help me with my Russian. They do certainly offer quite a variety of courses, which are quite useful for the self-motivated student.

Via CNET.

Dec 12 2009

How Apple’s Acquisition of Lala Could Change iTunes

Apple recently organized its upcoming purchase of Lala, a music streaming and download website. Lala currently gives users the option to download music for 89 cents, or buy a streamed-only version of a song for only ten cents.

This could carry a number of interesting implications for Apple’s extremely popular music application, iTunes. Nothing is definite yet, but here are some things iTunes users could be seeing in the near future:

1. Cheaper songs, streaming options. Hey, we can hope. It’s not like iTunes songs are expensive now, but it certainly wouldn’t bother any of us customers if Apple lowered their prices. And streaming would be great, too–I know there are certain songs that I like to listen to occasionally, so I’d be willing to pay a cheaper price to stream them every so often.

2. Full song previews. Apparently Lala allows users to hear full song previews before buying, in contrast to Apple, which only gives us 30-second previews. Sometimes 30 seconds simply isn’t enough time to hear a song. I’d certainly be happy with longer song previews.

3. Genius radio. Apple’s Genius feature in iTunes (which I personally have not used very much) recommends new songs based on your iTunes library. But if Apple added streaming to Genius, Genius would suddenly turn into a formidable challenge to Pandora. And Pandora has recently put a limit on how many free hours of music users can listen to. If Genius were more generous than Pandora, then Pandora had better watch out.

Of course, this is all pure speculation. But I do think it’s safe to say that Apple’s acquisition of Lala will change something regarding iTunes and the way Apple handles music.

Via PC World.

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Jan 16 2009

Windows 7 On A Netbook

CNet recently published a test of the now-available Windows 7 beta on a netbook.

Windows 7 has been rumored to work very well with computer systems using the Intel Atom, to contrast with Vista which as seemed sluggish. The one exception to this is the Sony Vaio P, which uses an Atom but bumps RAM up to 2 GB.

Windows 7

They installed the beta on “a typical netbook,” which according to the pictures was an MSI Wind, but we wish they’d specified the model. The only initial problem with booting the OS was that it didn’t detect the wireless card, but that was resolved.

CNet’s iTunes benchmark test found, in fact, similar scores to the same test evaluating Windows XP. XP was actually a bit faster, completing the test in 743 seconds as compared with Windows 7’s 760.

Windows 7

According to “anecdotal use,” however, CNet reports that the Windows 7 interface “responded quicker and hung less frequently than Vista.”

The question remains: is Windows 7 really a legitimate option for netbooks? Microsoft is rumored to be working on a netbook-specific version of Windows 7, an interesting prospect, so XP may be retired in the near future.

Windows 7

Via CNet.

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