Fish Nation Information Station

News from the world of music, entertainment, communications, and technology.

NEWS ARCHIVE 2008 JULY TO DECEMBER

RIAA Abandons Song-Swap Suits

In five years, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has become synonymous with commercial lawsuits against consumers. It has filed an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 lawsuits against Internet users it suspected of sharing song files online. Everyone probably knows someone who had a family member or friend sued in the campaign. A Weird Al Yankovic single famously satirized the ethical difficulties of the RIAA’s war on music listeners. The RIAA might have spent a quarter of a billion dollars on legal fees. Yet it never won a case.

Now the RIAA says the lawsuits are over. But the move away from lawsuits does not mean song-swappers are safe. Instead of taking people to court, the RIAA will try to persuade Internet service providers (ISPs) to cut off access to active online song-swappers.

The RIAA hopes to target millions of file-sharers with its new scheme, which it says will be more “productive” than litigation. If so, the move is not likely to make the RIAA any more popular. Cutting off millions of people’s Internet access — or threatening to — doesn’t look any more friendly than dragging thousands of people into court.

The RIAA was already shrinking year after year along with the major record labels it represents, and recession-related budget cuts may have forced its hand. This thought has led some observers to speculate that the RIAA’s talk of cutting off music fans’ Internet access is more bluster than substance, a face-saving posture for an organization not wanting to admit defeat. And since all the same administrative burdens are involved — the RIAA could be dragged into court if it targets anyone incorrectly, something that is bound to happen with some frequency — it is not clear that the new program will be any less expensive than the old one. So this move might just be, as some observers suggest, the next step in the decline of the big music marketing organizations.

2008-12-20

Microsoft Releases Urgent Browser Fix

A flaw in the Internet Explorer 7 browser, and “potentially” in other versions, has allowed malicious web pages to install key logging software and other malicious software on about 2 million computers, Microsoft said today as it released a critical security patch.

The exploit, known as the AZN Trojan, became publicly known last week, but had been around for a week before that. It was a particular concern for Microsoft because the number of infected computers was increasing at 50 percent per day. Microsoft prepared the security fix in just six days, which it says is the fastest it has ever developed any software for release.

2008-12-18

Sun Relaunches Java as JavaFX

When Sun originally announced Java 13 years ago, it said the new programming language would be good for rich web applications. But a series of software incompatibilities and security holes have led most web developers and Internet users to steer clear of Java. Sun, meanwhile, spent a decade turning Java into a server-based development environment while Flash took over nearly all client-side web applications.

And the truth is, Java was not originally designed for use in a web browser. It was created for embedded applications, such as thermostats, and was only awkwardly shoehorned into the web environment.

But Sun hopes to correct all that with the release of JavaFX. This new version of Java adds components, such as a web media library and a scripting language apparently modeled on Flash, to make it ready for the web. JavaFX promises to be more compatible with web platforms on computers and telephones and to make it simpler for developers to create applications.

The JavaFX launch is off to a rocky start, with multiple glitches on the web site, but Sun says it is confident that JavaFX will be a profitable product by next year.

Sun: http://www.sun.com; JavaFX: http://www.javafx.com.

2008-12-04

Notes

Guns N’ Roses really did it. Their new album Chinese Democracy was released last week. And it lives up to the hype. BBC called it “an uncompromising, fully-focused, hard rock monster.” The album is said to have taken 15 years and $13,000,000 to record.

Rick Aster’s first entry in the crowded self-improvement field went to press last month. The book Fear of Nothing highlights the costs of clutter and a busy schedule and argues that a more spontaneous approach to life and work is more productive. Fear of Nothing is scheduled for a January 1 hardcover release.

The next version of web browser Firefox adds tab tearing, allowing users to move web pages between windows.

RemoteSpy and its web site were pulled after the FTC got a temporary restraining order against the spyware maker. The program is designed to remotely install from an e-mail message and log the keystrokes of an unsuspecting user’s computer in order to capture secret information such as passwords and credit cards.

Melissa Etheridge has recorded a Christmas album that emphasizes the ideas of peace and spiritual awareness. A New Thought for Christmas includes Christmas standards along with a few new songs.

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has become a talk show host on Fox News. The show, which is not heavily news-oriented, might signal the cable channel’s move away from news toward more general entertainment programming.

2008-12-01

Sun Cuts Back 18%

Sun Microsystems is cutting 6,000 jobs, 18 percent of its work force, after economic conditions have slowed sales of its most expensive hardware. Sun hopes to show that it can make a profit on its well-known low-end and industry-standard products.

Sun plans to make the cuts in 2009. The job cuts could save the company $1 billion a year, which could make it profitable again if it can figure out a way to boost the market presence of some of its high-volume products.

2008-11-14

Budokan, 30 Years Later

The new edition of the Cheap Trick Live at Budokan album released today goes far beyond any of the previous ones. It includes the “complete concert” (pulled together, as before, from shows on two nights) on two CDs, along with a DVD with a one-hour film of the concert (the April 30, 1978, show), previously seen only in 1978 on Japanese television, plus the soundtrack of the film on CD.

Bonuses on the DVD include two songs filmed at Cheap Trick’s more recent concert at Budokan in April 2008.

For vinyl collectors, a limited-edition 10-song LP of the concert, along the lines of the original album from 1978, was released two weeks ago.

Cheap Trick: http://www.cheaptrick.com.

2008-11-11

Circuit City to Close 155 Stores

U.S. electronics giant Circuit City today announced it was closing 155 stores, or 21 percent of its stores in the United States. Circuit City has been hurt by an aggressive upsell strategy in its stores, in contrast to the more customer-friendly atmosphere at competitor Best Buy. It is also facing a liquidity crisis because of a delay in receiving an $80 million income tax refund. All electronics retailers have been carrying thinner inventories in recent months because of the loss of lending liquidity in the banking system.

Circuit City will also delay or cancel some planned store openings and attempt to negotiate lower rent on a few of its existing stores.

A list of the stores to be closed was not immediately available.

Circuit City: http://www.circuitcity.com.

2008-11-03

Notes

Google says it has settled its book copyright lawsuit with the Authors Guild and several large book publishers. Google will pay just $125 million to settle billions of dollars in copyright violations.

When Eminem said he was retiring, most fans wondered why. Now he’s back with a new album titled, appropriately enough, Relapse. The album could be released before the year is over.

Ulteo is now offering OpenOffice.org applications online at http://www.ulteo.com/home/ooo. The service is similar to what users may be familiar with in other online office services such as Google Docs, but is based on open source software and uses standard office document file formats.

The new Burton Cummings album Above the Ground includes a one-hour documentary showing the making of the album. It is his first new studio album since 1990, and the first album on which Cummings wrote all the songs himself. The Carpet Frogs are the backing band on most of the album.

Ten years after it started, MTV’s TRL is winding down this month. The larger-than-life finale will air Sunday, November 16, 8 p.m. ET. TRL is the most-watched live show in the history of MTV, which otherwise has been relatively reluctant to broadcast anything live.

2008-11-01

MTVMusic.com

It seems like just three years ago that MTV thought online music videos were a good way to use its brand influence to force music fans to buy certain kinds of computers. Now that MTV no longer has any brand influence to speak of, it has finally launched a serious music video site. Online today, MTVMusic.com is a streamlined, fully functional site for searching and viewing music videos.

The presentation is cleaner than YouTube, and so is the sound quality. In recognition of MTV’s more distant history, maybe you could start by watching “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

2008-10-27

Lala Tries Again

Lala’s original CD-swapping scheme was killed off by postal rate increases. Its attempt to build a kind of online music community never quite caught on. So now the site is trying again, this time as a music download site with 89¢ songs and some extras.

Once you buy a song on Lala, you can play it as many times as you like on the web site. In theory, this saves you from having to carry your music collection with you.

Lala says it has 6 million songs. It’s easy to search, so you can easily find out which songs and albums they have, and in many cases, they are aware of the albums and artists that are missing. In some cases, they have the CDs available for sale. The web site may not be pretty, but it’s quicker than Amazon or iTunes.

2008-10-21

TV Guide Rescued

TV Guide magazine has been losing money recently, but with 3 million subscribers, it’s not ready to shut down yet. So its publisher Macrovision has sold the magazine to a private equity fund.

The terms of the sale may actually cost Macrovision about $1 million in the end, but apparently that’s not too much to pay to have the new investors take over the debts and obligations of the print magazine.

Macrovision got TV Guide in its January acquisition of Gemstar-TV Guide International. Macrovision is happy to keep the web sites it acquired in that deal while getting the magazine off its hands. The magazine had revenue over $140 million in 2007, and with additional investment, it ought to be profitable, according to its new owners at OpenGate Capital.

2008-10-16

Chinese Democracy — No, Really, We’re Pretty Sure This Time

The Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy, originally announced back when Bill Clinton was president, will finally be released on November 23. The unusual Sunday release is designed for the convenience of Best Buy, which will sell the album exclusively for an initial period of time.

A blogger was arrested in August and charged with releasing tracks from the album without permission. At the time, the band issued this statement: “Presently, though we don’t support this guy’s actions at that level, our interest is in the original source.”

One song from the album, “Shackler’s Revenge,” will be made available in Rock Band 2 format.

The album release is not yet confirmed by Guns N’ Roses, and no touring plans have been announced. Guns N’ Roses’ last tour took them to Pacific countries in June–July 2007.

2008-10-14

Oasis Sound Like Themselves in Dig Out Your Soul

Oasis fans will be glad to discover that the new Oasis album Dig Out Your Soul sounds just like the band’s prior work. The band’s occasional duds have occurred when they have strayed too far from their basis premise of post-Beatles thunder and jangle. Noel Gallagher wrote only six of the eleven songs, with the other five written by the other band members. The result, critics say, is a pretty good balance between cliché and innovation, but without straying far from the band’s musical comfort zone.

Dig Out Your Soul was an exclusive MySpace release last week. Today it is out in the rest of the world.

Oasis: http://www.oasisinet.com.

2008-10-07

Copyright Royalty Board: Download Royalties Unchanged

The U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decided late yesterday not to increase the song royalty for music downloads. The royalty continues at 9.1 cents, equal to the rate for tangible products that contain music recordings.

There had been some concern that the CRB would raise the rate to 15 cents and record labels would be forced to withdraw most of their catalogs from online music stores, particularly iTunes Store, which uses a fixed 99 cent retail price for individual music tracks.

The rate for ringtones was set at 24 cents. This rate is higher to reflect the expectation that ringtones, which are widely used on mobile telephones, are played so many times.

The CRB adopted for the first time a ruling on royalties for music subscription services.

The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) called the decision a positive step for music creators. NMPA president David Israelite said in a press release, “These events will bring clarity and order to an environment that for the past decade has been hampered by litigation and uncertainty on all sides. In the end, songwriters and music publishers will have incentive to create and market music, and music fans will reap the rewards.”

Copyright Royalty Board: http://www.loc.gov/crb/.

2008-10-01

Congress Goes Offline

The U.S. Congress’s Internet servers are not keeping up with demand as millions of citizens seek to register their complaints about the proposed “Wall Street bailout” legislation. Some legislators say they are receiving the most messages that they have ever received opposing a specific piece of legislation.

Congressional web servers, such as house.gov and senate.gov, were responding only intermittently to requests.

The Senate web server was restored quickly, but the House web server remained effectively unavailable for most of the afternoon.

Elsewhere, the servers delivering free downloads of the Michael Moore film Slacker Uprising are only now beginning to match the demand for the movie. The movie was released two days ago, but because of the demand, it was very difficult to download for the first 48 hours. “We’re being slammed” with demand for the download, Moore explains on the movie’s download page.

2008-09-25

Slacker Uprising: Download Delayed

The new Michael Moore movie Slacker Uprising was released for download at midnight in the United States and Canada, but after 12 hours, servers are still unable to keep up with the demand.

The movie about the 2004 election and the importance of voter involvement is meant to reach voters in time for the 2008 election. Michael Moore says he wants to “help get out the vote,” and perhaps by tonight the first wave of downloads will be complete and the rest of us can start to download the movie.

Michael Moore: http://www.michaelmoore.com.

2008-09-23

Warner Foils Hari Puttar, But Only For Two Weeks

Warner Brothers filed suit to stop the Hari Puttar movie release, but ended up delaying it by only two weeks.

Hari Puttar is a comedy about a boy who moves from India to England and uses sci-fi gadgets to foil a plot to take over the world. Warner Brothers objected to the similarity of the title to its Harry Potter series, but no one would mistake Hari Puttar, a character that somewhat recalls Kevin McCallister from Home Alone, with boy wizard Harry Potter.

In dismissing the case, the court noted that Warner Brothers had known of the Hari Puttar film for three years and could have filed its suit more than two weeks before the scheduled release, assuming it had a case to make.

The court also considered the intellectual nature of the Harry Potter stories and concluded that Harry Potter readers would be unlikely to confuse a slapstick sci-fi story with the deadly serious wizardry of Harry Potter.

In India, the distinction between Potter and Puttar is bigger than it might seem from Hollywood.

Puttar is a familiar word meaning boy or son in two languages in India, and people have to stop and think about the sounds to relate potter and puttar, much as an American reader might not connect cotton with captain until the similarity between the two words is pointed out.

Hari Puttar will be released across India on Friday.

2008-09-22

EA Overreaches with Spore Copy Protection

The most hotly anticipated new video game of the year, Spore from EA has alienated fans with a copy protection scheme described as “draconian” by industry observers.

Spore allows installation only three times. After that, the user must buy a new copy.

Hardware failures and system upgrades are not uncommon occurrences in video games, but after just three of these, your copy of Spore will no longer function. For a typical video game enthusiast, this would theoretically mean buying a new copy of Spore about once every year or two. An unlucky few might see their copies expire in just a week or two.

Observers say the huge number of illegal downloads of Spore indicates that even customers who buy a legitimate copy of the game are downloading unauthorized copies so that they will be able to keep playing the game after system failures occur.

The response echoes the response of music fans after a troubling form of copy protection was added to Shakira’s Laundry Service album. In that case, the copy protection prevented playback in many devices, including car stereos and DVD players. Many music fans who bought the doctored Laundry Service CD ended up downloading a copy of that album in order to be able to listen to it, and in many cases, they never went back to buying CDs. If Spore is a similar catalyst in the video game world, it could mark the beginning of the end for the video game business.

2008-09-15

White, Howe, Squire on Tour

This summer, Yes’s Close to the Edge and Back tour had to be postponed when singer Jon Anderson was physically unable to perform. Now, the other members of that tour are planning a short fall tour, as a sort of a warm-up for a Yes tour that could come as early as next summer.

The In the Present tour will start in Hamilton, Ontario, November 4, followed by dates across the United States. The U.S. dates have not yet been announced.

The band includes Yes members Alan White, Steve Howe, and Chris Squire, along with keyboardist Oliver Wakeman, who had been set to play on the Yes summer tour, and Canadian singer Benoit David, who has a history of singing Yes music.

Meanwhile, Yes singer Jon Anderson continues to recuperate from a severe asthma attack he suffered in June. He released a statement yesterday, “Just to let everyone know I’m getting so much better . . . I look forward to 2009 for the ‘Great Work’ to come.”

Yes: http://www.yesworld.com.

2008-09-13

Metallica Fans: Thank God It’s Friday

Are Metallica rebels or what? The heavy metal band are eschewing the usual Tuesday album release date to get their album in the stores tomorrow, Friday, September 12. Some may see the Friday release date as another sign of the decline of the old-time record business. Others may see the album release, simultaneous with the release of tracks for the video game Guitar Hero III as a sign of the growing importance of video games in music, while others will say Metallica is just a band that never could fall into line.

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Whatever the explanation for the Friday release, Metallica is certainly due for a new studio album, and based on the advance snippets, fans may be rushing out to buy Death Magnetic tomorrow. Songs like “The Day That Never Comes” are perfect examples of the foreboding attitude of Metallica at their best, and if the sound is a little more punchy than before, that just means the band is more in your face when you’re listening.

The Guitar Hero III tracks will cost $17.99 (for the PS3 edition), about the same as the price of the album. As far as we know, it is the first time an album and its video game tracks have been released simultaneously.

A world tour starts next week with two shows in Europe, followed by four months of U.S. shows.

2008-09-11

Conventions Draw TV Audiences

The half-canceled Republican National Convention struggled to draw a television audience — until the candidates spoke. Dark-horse vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin drew a record RNC audience for her acceptance speech. This was topped ever so slightly by John McCain’s speech the next night.

If anyone thought the partial cancellation of the Republican convention was out of respect for the suffering and loss of people evacuating New Orleans and lower Louisiana in Hurricane Gustav, the Republicans dispelled that notion by playing an extended violent movie, borderline between PG-13 and R, exploiting the suffering of 9/11, prior to McCain’s acceptance speech, and by Palin identifying herself as “Hurricane Sarah.”

Instead, insiders say the partial cancellation of the convention was a scheduling trick to prevent the current president and vice president from attending the convention, as the nominees seek to distance themselves from their party’s record.

McCain and Palin drew television audiences nearly as large as that of Obama’s record-breaking acceptance speech a week before. Obama’s total U.S. audience was much larger, though, as the television viewing audience for the conventions was largely over 55 years old. Many viewers under 55 watched on the Internet instead, and watched Obama’s speech in much larger numbers.

After the convention, Palin has disappeared from public view, apparently intending to avoid talking to the press. She has reportedly scheduled an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, but will not be available to tape that show until after the election.

2008-09-07

Notes

The Republican National Convention was going to have trouble drawing a television audience today anyway because of the Labor Day holiday. With a major hurricane striking the Louisiana coast, the party has all but canceled its nominating convention. It cannot risk the image of partying it up during a disaster, and hundreds of delegates cannot get to the convention or have already begun to leave. The convention will conduct its official business in a low-key manner, and may adjourn early, according to party officials. At this point, it appears even the nominees will not be attending. There was some thought of postponing the convention, but there was little to be gained; the Republicans would lose much of their target television audience to football if they delayed by more than a day.

The summer tour has lifted Journey’s new album Revelation to #1 on the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart. The album is #29 on the Billboard 200. It’s true what the band said about new singer Arnel Pineda — he has to be seen to be believed.

The new David Gilmour album Live in Gdansk will be accompanied by a one-day U.S.-only theatrical showing of the movie, on Monday, September 22. The concert includes the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra.

Until about three years ago, nearly all Internet data flowed through the United States. Geographically, this never made much sense — the United States is not located between Morocco and Spain, for example — and in recent years it has been seen as something of a political risk — do you really want your sensitive business transactions flowing through the National Security Agency’s filters? So in the last three years, countries have been building more nearby connections, and by the end of this year, most Internet traffic will be completely outside the United States. U.S. spy officials see this as a loss, but for countries like Egypt and Japan, the result will be a more stable, less expensive Internet.

2008-09-01

Obama’s Challenge: Too Fast for the Book Industry

Publisher Chelsea Green is promoting its new book Obama’s Challenge as a pro-Obama book, even though it takes a very skeptical look at what Barack Obama could accomplish as President. So what better way to get it off to a fast start than by handing out discount coupons at the Democratic National Convention where Obama is expected to be nominated next week?

Well, not so fast, say bookstores, who are very unhappy that the publisher’s coupons are good exclusively through Amazon in advance of the book’s mass release.

Many bookstores, including Barnes & Noble, have canceled their orders for the book, complaining that it will no longer be a new release by the time they get it.

The publisher defends its distribution approach, saying it is doing everything it can to get the book in readers’ hands quickly. But that is not the way the book industry traditionally works. Most book releases are planned more than a year in advance, and bookstores would rather see a carefully coordinated release of a book, even if it means the book has lost its relevance by the time it comes out.

However, the controversy may have little effect on the book’s sales. Independent bookstores now sell an estimated 6 percent of all books in the United States, so they do not have much weight to throw around. And the publisher can gain publicity by claiming the book is too controversial for most bookstores.

The bookstore boycott of Obama’s Challenge recalls similar moves by record stores in the late 1990s when record labels tried similar gimmicks to launch new records. Record stores rarely boycotted a release outright, but often took only token copies, just one or two copies of a major release, as a way to protest. Bookstores might want to take note of what happened to the record stores. Most closed between 2002 and 2006.

2008-08-20

Sony Buys Out BMG

Sony is set to buy out Bertelsmann’s share of their joint venture in music, Sony BMG. Sony will pay nearly $1 billion for Bertelsmann’s 50 percent share to become the sole owner of the record label group.

Sony BMG will drop the BMG from its name but continue its operations with no specific changes planned. The new Sony Music Entertainment will include the Columbia, Epic, Legacy, Arista, and Jive labels, among many others.

Sony and Bertelsmann formed Sony BMG in 2004.

Sony BMG: http://www.sonybmg.com.

2008-08-05

Notes

Rick Springfield’s biggest hits came after his original stint on General Hospital. He’s hoping history repeats itself to make his new album Venus in Overdrive a hit.

Alice Cooper’s new album Along Came a Spider is a concept album that enthusiastic fans have been comparing to his first concept album, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell.

John Fogerty’s June 24 Revival Tour concert at Royal Albert Hall was recorded for a holiday-season CD release.

Lindsey Buckingham’s new single is “Did You Miss Me.” A 10-song album, Gift of Screws, will follow in September.

Billy Joel played the last concert at Shea Stadium July 18. It was the same stadium where the Beatles invented the stadium rock concert in 1965, shortly after the stadium opened in 1964, and Paul McCartney flew in at the last minute to add a few late-night songs to the concert. Shea Stadium is being torn down as a new baseball stadium is being built.

Two days later Paul was in Quebec with his band to celebrate that city’s 400th birthday with a huge free concert. Organizers had planned for 50,000 people and had to set up video screens around town when over 250,000 showed up.

OpenOffice.org 3.0 is a small step forward for most users, but a whole new world for Mac users. The industry-leading office suite is now Mac-native, no longer relying on the Unix-like X11 interface. And it’s still free.

Paul McCartney: http://www.paulmccartney.com; Billy Joel: http://www.billyjoel.com; Lindsey Buckingham: http://www.lindseybuckingham.com; Alice Cooper: http://www.alicecooper.com; Rick Springfield: http://www.rickspringfield.com; OpenOffice.org: http://www.openoffice.org.

2008-08-01

Cuil: the Cool New Search Engine Game

Cuil is today’s new search engine. It is pronounced “kool” and looks cool but is not quite ready for the public.

Cuil shows magazine-style results, with columns and embedded picture thumbnails, and it claims to have a more complete database of web pages than Google. Unfortunately, common search terms are missing from its database, and the photos displayed are often irrelevant.

Cuil suggested, for example, that “Run-D.M.C.” is “a very rare” term or perhaps misspelled.

Cuil’s glitches are no more serious than those found in other popular search engines when they first launched, so we expect Cuil to turn into something useful in a matter of months. In the meantime, Cuil can be used as a cool new game, as you try to find the most comically irrelevant photo in a Cuil search result. For example, next to the entry for the official web site of the rock band Rush, Cuil showed a photo of the “Welcome to Palisades Interstate Parkway” sign. Can you top that?

Cuil: http://www.cuil.com.

2008-07-28

Mamma Mia! Raises the Bar for Movie Musicals

Mamma Mia! set a new record for the opening of a movie musical, grossing $27.6 million in its U.S. opening weekend.

The soundtrack album, featuring 17 Abba songs (a few more appear in the movie), made a splash, hitting #1 in the U.K. charts and #7 in the U.S. in its release week. This is a better debut than any Abba album.

At the same time, the Abba Gold compilation reached its highest chart position ever. Gold contains the Abba recordings of all but four of the songs in the movie soundtrack, along with a few others. Gold is #6 in the Billboard Pop Catalog chart and #5 on the U.K. album chart.

At least three other Abba-related albums are hot again this week: the similar Abba compilation, Number Ones, the longer compilation The Definitive Collection, and the 1999 London cast recording of Mamma Mia!

2008-07-22

Starbucks to Close Hear Music

As part of the cutbacks that see Starbucks closing 600 U.S. stores, the coffee giant will also be shuttering its record company, Hear Music.

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The record label was an impressive success for Starbucks, with well-targeted marketing for albums by big names such as Sergio Mendes, Carly Simon, Paul McCartney, and most recently John Mellencamp. In all, Starbucks has been selling more than 4 million music CDs a year.

But Starbucks is in a cutting mood, with hundreds of failed initiatives of recent years to cut away, so Hear Music has to go too. According to Starbucks, they are cutting back on display space for music to create a more focused customer experience — basically, they don’t want their customers to forget to buy coffee. One report says that each Starbucks store will display only 4 CDs.

Instead of CDs, Starbucks’ new emphasis in selling music will be its deal with iTunes Store to sell music over in-store networks provided by AT&T.

The new John Mellencamp album Life Death Love and Freedom may be the last Hear Music release. The fate of a dozen or more pending releases is uncertain at this point.

2008-07-19

Apple Releases iPhone 3G

IPhone 3G is out today at Apple stores and AT&T stores in the United States and in dozens of countries around the world.

The cellular phone is available only in stores. Apple did away with online sales for the 3G model after discovering that many people were buying their phones to resell or were reprogramming them to work on networks other than the one or two cellular networks that it officially supports (depending on the country). This time, you cannot buy an iPhone without taking the 15 minutes to sign up for the two-year service agreement ($1,680 in the United States, more in Canada, less in most other countries).

Lines were said to be shorter in New York City than at the original iPhone release a year ago but longer in Pennsylvania and other places we checked. There were long lines in Tokyo and Singapore, some of the earliest places to open. Rumors of shortages caused lines to form overnight in Australia.

The lines in the United Kingdom were not so long, but the launch was slowed by delays in cellular provider O2’s back-end system, which crashed this morning because of the high demand. It took O2’s IT staff over two hours to get the servers running normally. In the meantime, thousands of customers who had hoped to pick up a phone before work went away disappointed.

Lines are moving slowly at various places in the world because of difficulty in the new activation process for the phones. At U.S. stores, many customers were sent away with inactive phones. Customers can hope to activate the phones at home after the iTunes server farm recovers somewhat.

The iPhone 3G launch in Canada has been marred by cellular provider Rogers’s vague statements about pricing. A consumer petition has been circulating to protest reports of high prices for very limited cellular service. Last week there were reports that Apple was allocating just 10 iPhones per store in Canada, but so far there are no reports of shortages at Rogers stores. To deflect criticism, Rogers lowered the price of one low-end plan for a promotional period that runs through August. Rogers is the only Canadian network with the capacity to support the iPhone 3G, and it required a three-year contract typically at C$70 monthly. Despite the controversy over the pricing, there were lines overnight for the selected Rogers stores that opened two hours early this morning for the launch.

A new version of iTunes shipped yesterday to support iTunes Store’s new iPhone application category. Many iPhone applications associated with specific web services are free; most others sell for $9.99, a bargain compared to the traditional price of a computer application.

With the new iTunes came new iPhone software which allows the new iPhone applications to run on the original iPhone and iPod Touch.

2008-07-11

Pioneer Claims 400 GB Optical Disk

Pioneer says it is making a 16-layer optical disk with a capacity of 400 gigabytes (GB).

The announcement came in a press release this morning.

The new disk looks just like a DVD or Blu-ray (BD), and like a Blu-ray, packs 25 GB in each layer, an innovation made possible by the use of blue lasers. The difference in the new Pioneer disk is the number of layers. With 16 blue-laser layers, the new disk can hold 16 times as much data.

Pioneer says its new device can read so many layers because of signal-processing enhancements that allow it to more accurately separate the layers.

The new Pioneer disk is otherwise the same as Blu-ray, so Pioneer hopes to be able to make players that can play both its new disk format and Blu-ray.

The biggest challenge for the new high-capacity format could be finding digital products big enough to need the extra capacity. If one Blu-ray holds three seasons of a television series, will one 400 GB disk hold 48 seasons? One way or another, expanding the capacity of the familiar 12-centimeter optical disk should help keep the idea of a physical digital product relevant.

Pioneer says it will present more details of its new technology next week.

2008-07-07

Notes

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It’s about time for a new Night Ranger album, and Hole in the Sun is in stores today. Bassist Jack Blades promises fans will “recognize our dual blazing guitars and vocals, and big choruses and melodic verses” on the new record, which comes 25 years after the band formed. Night Ranger is touring the central United States all summer.

The Yes summer tour is canceled after singer Jon Anderson’s recent hospitalization for asthma.

Relatively few loopholes remain for those who want to buy a fully functional computer running Microsoft Windows after Microsoft yesterday officially dropped Microsoft Windows XP. Still no word on a replacement. The move comes just after the retirement of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Four months after surprising the world with functional Mac-compatible computers, Psystar is selling a range of bare-bones Mac-compatible systems priced from $300 to $2000.

The second-generation Apple iPhone, shipping in quantity in mid-July, costs more than the original because it requires a more expensive 2-year plan from AT&T. But the big plus is that it can run add-on applications. Competing cell phone makers who initially dismissed Apple’s pricey entrant in the cell phone market have sounded more worried in recent months despite Apple’s modest sales numbers to date.

There are now more than 1 billion computers in use worldwide according to the industry analysts at Gartner.

Yahoo apparently decided it can’t compete with Google — on domain names, that is. New higher fees ($35 a year and up), starting today, will likely deter most customers from registering or renewing domains at Yahoo.

Madonna’s new higher ticket prices ensure that everyone who really wants to see the new tour can get in. Only about half the shows sold out instantly when tickets went on sale.

Fjordstone’s 21st-century rebranding got a kick-start last week with a redesigned web site.

Night Ranger: http://www.nightranger.com; Fjordstone: http://www.fjordstone.com; Yes: http://www.yesworld.com.

2008-07-01
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