How the Zune will save the Music Industry (or why I want one)

I must say, upfront, that i think the Zune HD is an excellent device. While admitantly below par when compared to the iPod Touch or the iPhone.

There are still weak points, like the mobile browser being IE6 based ( IE6 has more holes than Swiss cheese).

But the Zune is not simply pure hardware. The Zune Pass you can purchase ($15??) gives you essentially unlimited music (plus 10 free tracks a month that are yours to keep forever).

That is the key to the Zune succeeding big in the world. Think of the implications for your music listening habits.

The Zune will scan your music library and download tracks that complement it. Automatically. No human input required. No Passwords, nothing. Nada. This is great for music discovery, not to mention indie bands and labels whose work may not be as well known.

Andy Ihnatko  made the point on last weeks episode of Macbreak Weekly that instead of simply being restricted to 30 second previews per track of an album, Zune Pass allows you to just download and buy the whole album. I had that situation just the other day. I was trying to figure out if I should get the soundtrack to 500 Days of Summer (great movie BTW, but I digress) from iTunes. If I had Zune Pass, I could get the whole thing and only then decide if I like it. I could then make that my 10 free tracks for the month.

Talking of which, that episode is a must listen since it centres on the Zune HD.

Also available on the Zune are TV programs and movies, although the catalogue is far smaller than the one on iTunes. I’m not totally sure whether this is included in the Zune Pass, but lets assume for a minute, that it is. Since it should be.

See at the moment I’ve bought 3 seasons of The West Wing on iTunes. All of which were a perfectly reasonable £19.99 each. Now season 4 is £34.99. I’d like to buy Season 4, really. But that is too darn expensive. I can rent a few movies every weekend for a month for that price. If I had a Zune Pass, this would be a different story completely. You see i really DON’T want 60 West Wing episodes taking up space on my Hard Drives. Apple can have them back. But I do want to continue watching the series. A Zune Pass would let me do both of those things.

I’m sure that both Apple and the Record Labels and the Studios would love for me to continue spending money. But as long as prices are that high, my money isn’t going anywhere. What would you rather have, a burst of income once in a blue moon, or a steady, albeit lower than usual, income stream??? Multiply that by  millions of millions of subscribers and you’re sitting on a friggin’ fortune.

As I said on Twitter earlier, make it easier for customer to spend their hard-earned cash on things they actually want to buy. I want to buy music and that 4th season of the West Wing, really, but i want a Zune Pass. Or an iTunes Pass. Something.

It goes without saying that this will deter many MANY (illegal) casual file sharers. The benefits of a Zune pass are extraordinarily compelling.

I suspect that the music industry  and the studios are dragging its heels on this. Let the Zune go global, and let iTunes do something similar.

Fans every will thank you.

PS. Apple. I want wireless syncing with my iPhone. Now.

iPods, Touch Screens and the Future

With the release of the 2.0 software update for the Touch, Apple has made a mockery of every smartphone on the market as well as the DS and the PSP.

Short of an iPhone, it is quite simply the indispensable gadget to have on you at all times.

I have no Exchange servers to connect to and haven’t tried MobileMe. But I have been in the App Store. And boy, have been buying.

I’m a Crash Bandicoot fan from the dark old days of the PS1, so the first game I got was Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart Racing 3D. And it does not disappoint. The tilt controllers make it a compelling game, as well as a challenging one. And one you will strive to master. Just play it standing still as the tilt sensors are sensitive. 

iPint is hilarious. For a free app its brilliant. I’ve been generating laughs with it all weekend.

I installed DutchTab as well. Thought I’d get a chance to use it over the weekend, but it didn’t present itself. Calculating how to split the tab is difficult so I usually don’t bother, just leave an unusually large tip. This should change that.

However, not all the applications in App Store are iTouch compatible. GPS and Camera apps naturally will only work on an iPhone.

This makes the iPhone 3G a really compelling device to get.

There has been lots of discussion over on FriendFeed about how this changes the nature of personal computing ( see here, here and here for a selection). The basic idea is that it changes personal computing in a big way.

I’d also say that the idea of ubiquitous computing comes closer as well. With a device like the iPod Touch and the iPhone, we take computing power where ever we need it – it seamlessly integrates with our lives. We take the web with us as well, fulfilling the dream of constantly connected devices. Push email is not  a new idea – Blackberry owners have had it for years. But Apple had taken it to a whole new level. Using the touch screen, ur interactions with our devices become so much more natural and compelling. A keyboard and mouse reminds you of what you are using, a touch screen uses the human mediums of touch, feel and gestures to communicate.

This is where computing is going in the next few years. I prefer using my Touch for web browsing because of the touch screen – its feels more natural. Windows & will have touch screen built in, and Microsoft Surface is already capitalising on the naturalness of the touch screen to re-definite the way we interact with computers – and redefine computers themselves.

As science fiction writer William Gibson said:

The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet

iTunes is Acting Up

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Only a fraction of my music shows up as being music?????

I didn’t have any photos ( though 2 video podcasts from TWIP) on there at all.

Same on my iPod Touch.

I belive this happened on holiday when I downloaded a few podcasts and synced them. My music library is stored at home so I didn’t have the full library with me when I synced on holiday.

Is this some sort of bug???

I’ve no idea what has happened?? Syncing it does not work!!!

Should I try a restore??

MacWorld Fallout

iPod Touch update downloaded and installed. Add-on purchased.

I’ve only had a cursory look at the features. And boy do they rock. I was going to say that I really needed a Notes app and his Steveness has gone ahead and stole my thunder. Not that I’m complaining 🙂 .

The Add-on was cheap when I think of the iPod classic owners that I know – they are going to really  be envious.

I’m currently looking at my new Dell Inspiron and wondering who I might sell to get an Air (yes, who).

While I think that one over here’s a Youtube clip making fun of the OTHER software company in action:

DRM: Someone Check My Logic

Scoble has a post up suggesting that the RIAA is right and that we shouldn’t rip Cd’s.

1. Cause no one should copy Britney Spears, not to mention listen to her. The RIAA is doing us a service by making sure we don’t listen to her. Oh, and the RIAA is so brilliant that they brought us Britney in the first place (and now Hannah Montana) and that’s evidence enough that they are right and we should listen to them.
2. Because no one should be allowed to use music how they want. For instance, I hate using a CD player. Why? That requires me to get off the couch, find the darn CD and hope I put it away properly after that fun party, and then find the song I want instead of just opening iTunes from my couch and clicking on the right song. The RIAA is doing us a service by forcing us to get off the couch and get some exercise.
3. Bits have feelings too. Turning them from 0 to 1 hurts them.
4. They’ll force the kids to buy non-DRM music from the get go and not buy any CDs. Good for the environment! (My son, Patrick, says he only buys MP3’s or AAC’s without DRM now off of his online music stores).
5. This behavior will make sure people buy (or steal) music directly from bands. See how Radiohead did it. By doing that the price for music will go down thanks to fewer intermediaries. RIAA is just helping us get rid of them, which is good for everyone who loves music. See, they are on our side! I’m looking for a site that lets us do Vendor Relationship Management with bands. Doc Searls taught me about VRM. What is that? When we can get the company to do what WE want. Radiohead put the power of setting the price in OUR hands. Brilliant.
6. My son says that since they are making stealing music so dangerous (the kids are hearing the stories about parents getting sued for hundreds of thosuands of dollars) that they are getting paranoid about stealing music. So, what do they do instead? Have you heard of iPod trading? You will. Ahh, and we thought “sneaker net” was dead? Yeah, right. The RIAA brought it back.

On the plus side of this, I agree that music should NOT be copied to distribute. In other words, ripping music to a publicly accessible file sharing service or server is a no-no.

I mean it. We gotta remember that artist and records labels have to be compensated for all the work they do. And to ensure that they do, they have distribution networks set up – wether that is digital, CD, radio, etc.

So far so good.

I only buy CD’s. And I rip them for Personal Use. Let me emphasise that again- personal use.

And let be clear I have nothing against buying digital music off iTunes et al. The only problem is the DRM. Pure and simple.

DRM is the Black Death of the digital commodities industry today. When I buy a CD, I expect to be able to use the music across my home network, put it on my iPod and listen to it however I choose. The intrusion of DRM is nothing more than a source of frustration. So I buy CD’s to avoid the intrusion of DRM by iTunes and the like.

The limits of personal use are clearly defined. The barrier between personal use and piracy is just as clear.

So I propose the following: that the RIAA and the equivalent bodies in other countries trust the consumer.

Sounds radical. But think of this. Shouldn’t music and software companies be working together to find easier ways of identifying those who overstep the bounds of personal use? Instead of frustrating every Tom, Dick and Harry out there that want to enjoy the music, the pointy end of the stick should be firmly on those who overstep those clear bounds.

Amazon, eMusic – and to a lesser extent Apple- are trusting the consumer.

The RIAA just has to play catch up and face the music.

iPod Touch Week One

I’ve been listening to music too much and posting too little 🙂 .

The iPod Touch ( I prefer calling it the iTouch) is really good. Some songs come out sounding  better than they do on my speakers on the PC (Ok, not the best available speakers – JBL Creature).

The web browser is really really good. The whole JavaScript thing doesn’t work ( which you would expect since it is a full version of Safari, I belive). I mean what on earth were Apple thinking??? How many websites do  you  know of that don’t have Javascript???? I use it all the time in developing websites. Even if it’s not for visual stuff, java script can be doing a lot of heavy lifting in the background ( take, dare I say it, Facebook Beacon).

Looking at Google Reader in Classic mode is an experience somewhere between being eaten alive and having an out-of-body-experience of the event – can’t decide which is worse.  Trying to type and send an email in GoogleMail ( I tried), I found a strong urge to became a Chinese Citizen ( even the Great Firewall of China doesn’t stop Javascript) 🙂 . And by the way, I did finish the email and used by PC to find the addresses to send it to.

Though the Mobile mode is much, much better. I think its specially formatted for the iPhone/iTouch.

Viewing websites that don’t run on JavaScript or gracefully handled the fact that Javascript was off was pretty good. I think the lack of Javascript was one of the main reasons that Youtube is a separate application on the iTouch.

Don’t even get me started on Flash support

The integration with iTunes direct from the iTouch is a gift from heaven itself, from His Steveness to his faithful Apple flock 🙂

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Change that to an iTouch Comic and it would be perfect.

Youtube works seamlessly as well.

Now, the Syncing experience is something else. If I plug my iPod into my laptop instead of my PC ( keeping in mind I originally used my PC to Sync the iTouch), I get asked if I want to erase my iTouch and sync new music to it. Now my library is exclusively ripped CD’s that I’ve bought myself. Shouldn’t iTunes recognize that I already have music from the library ( both my laptop and PC use the same iTunes library out of a shared network location on my server) and shouldn’t it allow me to add, change or delete the playlists/music on my iTouch???

Now if there was a way to sync shared  library music (i.e from iTunes running over the server and sharing its library) to my iPod, there wouldn’t be this problem ( if there is, please post a comment. Thanks). 

Podcast subscriptions work great. Already subscribed to Scott Hanselmann.

Can’t complain about anything else. the design is great. the interface is supurb. Take how the screen gently coasts to a stop when you’ve finished scrolling. The whole flipping thing is really great. I’m getting used to it and its quite responsive when you know what to do.

My mother was using it quite well with out even being told what to do. She still asks me about emails.

Can’t wait for the SDK to come out. I’m assuming that the iPhone SDK is also for the iTouch. Can’t wait till I can say: “Pimp my iTouch”.

Dear Steve:

We hold these truths to be self-evidently pie in the sky, that all bloggers are created equal, that they are endowed by their Computers and iPhones with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are lots and lots of Links, [JavaScript, Flash] and the pursuit of AdSense Dollars

Ken Newsome

PS added in the bit about Javascript and Flash myself.