Sure It’s Just One Idiot?

I had thought about this before when the NBC/Apple thing first came up, but I didn’t write anything then. Today, though, I saw a bunch of posts about News Corp. and Apple, and about how they don’t plan to pull their offerings. That news made me think about the NBC thing again. Specifically, everyone seems to be saying that NBC are a bunch of morons for getting their stuff off iTunes, and that they are going to wind up crawling back. While I don’t really disagree with that thought (I don’t think they’re the biggest idiots, but I also don’t think they really thought this through), I’m wondering why no one seems to be pointing out that this hurts Apple too, and not insignificantly. The reports I’ve see say that NBC’s offerings account for up to 40% of Apple’s video sales. When you consider that their video sales are in probably in the hundreds of millions (albeit just barely making the hundred plural), that accounts for a decent chunk of change. Is it actually enough to make Apple shed a tear? Hardly. The point, though, is that when Apple acted first, by pulling NBC’s content before the new season, they are showing that they aren’t even going to miss them. Like I said, the dollar amount is a drop in the bucket, but the message this sends is one that if I were a media company, I’d take in with great interest. Apple is the dominant player in this market, but unlike brick and mortar stores, I would think that it would be a lot more dangerous to be a bully in the digital world. Apple would be nothing without the content, just like the media companies would lose all that revenue were it not for Apple. In the world of online distribution, it’s a lot easier to put your wares into the hands of the consumers through other means.

I really don’t know, though. Maybe my views are just clouded by my disliking of Apple, and their monopoly on the market. Perhaps even more than that, my disliking of the market that put them there. Obviously, the larger potential damage is for NBC, but do you think that Apple is getting off risk free? There are a lot of fans of Heroes and The Office out there.

You Can’t Get Rid of Me That Easily

Hello again, boys and girls. First, some meta stuff. I’m aware I haven’t posted in a month, and I’m sorry about that. Things have been crazy in all parts of my life. Work has been really picking up lately, and I moved into a new apartment mid August. I’m finally getting some stuff settled, and will hopefully get myself back on track. There hasn’t been near as much news reading because of all of this, but I have been able to read a number or articles in the last couple days, so I’ll give some brief thoughts on those.

First, the one that has been making all sorts of news lately is the Apple event from the fifth. The big news includes completely redesigned Nanos, bigger HDDs in the “Classic,” and the release of the Touch. As anyone that knows me knows, I’m not really a fan of Apple, for a few reasons. That said, I can always appreciate cool stuff when I see it.
The Nanos, in my mind, are finally worth the money they cost. Up ’til now, I’m not so sure they were. A quick side note, why the heck do people act like Coverflow is so great? Does it do something magical that I just haven’t noticed? Isn’t it just a navigation method, that when you think about it is really not the most efficient one there is? Sorry, just curious.
The newly dubbed “Classics” are pretty much the same as they were before except for the space and UI, so not much to say about that.
The Touch is where all the cool stuff is. A lot of people had been begging for an iPhone sans the phone, and this is pretty much the answer. Personally, I think this thing looks spiffy, but still has too many shortcomings for my taste. First, the most obvious, is the lack of storage. Jobs has this stupid obsession with things being thin, but when it comes to a device that is supposed to become your primary portable media device, you need to stick more than 16 gigs in there. Especially when you charge that much for it. Aside from AT&T, everything else that’s bad about the iPhone is bad about this one too, so I won’t rehash it. It is pretty, though.
Speaking of the iPhone, it has now reached a price that resembles something reasonable. Steve’s closer of dropping the 4 gig model altogether, and bringing the 8 gig to $400 instead of $600 has generated the most coverage. The reason that so many people are talking about this, in case you’ve been out of it this week, is that those close to a million people that bought an iPhone in the first two months of its release are feeling pissed. Jobs’ answer to this is that technology moves fast and that early adopters pay more. I can tell you from my HDTV purchase that I’ve felt the early adopter cost first hand. However, it’s an entirely different thing when you’ve been able to experience the device for close to a year before seeing huge price drops happen. In this case, it was a first of its kind. Just two months after release, the price came down 33%. That’s just absurd. To me, this says that the people who bought early really got gouged. Now, there are all sorts of arguments that come in response to this and defend Apple. One of them is that the people obviously thought that it was worth $600, or else they wouldn’t have paid that. That is absolutely correct. However, does it look like Apple thinks it was worth $600 when they drop is so drastically so soon after launch? Has anything ever dropped that much that quickly before? That’s not rhetorical, I really am wondering. While Steve is right that tech prices come down quickly, I think that this is a bit of a stretch. I think that the reason they dropped this much is because Apple doesn’t value the device at $600 so it blatant, “We overcharged you,” to all of the people that bought one. If there was something you really wanted, and would gladly pay $1k for, would you still do it if you knew that the guy selling it would be charging less than $700 two months later? Most people, no probably not. That’s why I think so many people are pissed.

Lets see, what else has been going on…Oh, Facebook announced that they will start having profiles indexed and searchable by search engines. This means that when you type someone’s name in Google, that their Facebook profile might come up. This is something that I think is a neat idea, but I’m agreeing with everyone saying that it should be an opt-in, rather than opt-out service. Facebook was built around the principles of privacy, and keeping everyone out except those you let in. Now, though, the default is that everyone can see you, and you have to tell it otherwise if you don’t want that. Well, poo on them. I joined Facebook back in 2004, and have loved it ever since. That said, I’m not happy in the direction that they are heading. I feel like each new feature they release is bringing them one step closer to MySpace. I say that only half-jokingly. While I know that they will never (probably) fall into the pit of despair that contains the likes of the ugly as sin site that is MySpace, I do think that they are on the path to pissing a lot of people off. Even moreso than they did with that newsfeed fiasco (I actually defended them on that one, the info was all already available). This time, though, it’s not just opening you up to your friends, it’s opening you up to the world. Get with it, Facebook, make this an opt-in feature and don’t risk having the users complain. It’ll be really easy to do. Really.

Stone Beats Shuffle

Ars has a review of some alternatives to the iPod Shuffle. The two he looks at are the Sansa Express and the Creative Stone. I’m a fan of SanDisk’s MP3 players, and would probably recommend the Express, though I admit I’ve never used it. Based on his review, the Stone looks pretty good too, for what it is. I thought it was funny that he questions how it can be $40 less than the Shuffle. I don’t think there’s really any mystery there at all. Apple like to mark their prices up to way more than is justifiable. All of their products are like this, and the Shuffle is no exception. People make the case that the iPod costs more due to the UI and such. The Shuffle, though, lacks any of this. Push a button, play a song. That’s all it does. Somehow, to the idiots of the world, that is worth 80 bucks.

Dry As a Bone

Partly due to Zelda, and partly due to my mood, I haven’t been able to come up with much of anything to post lately. I’m reading the news, but nothing is just jumping out at me. I mean, Apple has made a fool out of themselves twice recently. I suppose that’s something. Apple really grinds my gears. They are so full of themselves it’s amazing that they are taken seriously. They are also treated so differently from other companies by the public, I’m always left wondering. Speaking of this, Apple announced that the iPhone is going to get up to 8 hours of talk time. I’m skeptical, at best. However, if this turns out to be true, then props to them. Maybe others will figure out how they did it and we can all start having incredible battery life on our electronic devices. Another thing about the iPhone: Jobs has said that it is the best iPod yet. I don’t see how a portable media device with as little as 4 gigs of storage can be the best yet. Part of me really wants to see the iPhone fail horribly, just to knock Apple down a few pegs. The problem is that that won’t happen. The over-hype about the phone will mean that it will be a success at launch, regardless. After that, even if it does start to fail, Apple will be forgiven and the masses will forget about it. Personally, I’ve got a few things I dislike about the iPhone, but only two that would keep me from buying one. The biggest is the price tag. People many places are saying that there hasn’t been any firm evidence on what price will actually be, but I beg to differ. The slide at MacWorld 2007 seems to show that the $499 and $599 price will be with a required two year contract. Which brings me to my second item. There is no way I’m becoming an AT&T customer. I’ve heard horrible things about their wireless business for many years, and their latest bit about spying on people means that I won’t be counting myself as any type of AT&T customer. I realize that the price is all but guaranteed to drop after a while, but I’m not talking about buying one later. Plus, I seem to remember seeing something about the AT&T exclusivity being five years. I could be wrong on that one, though.
Really, though, the iPhone does have some compelling features, but nothing that makes me think it deserves the price. They give their little comparison chart, but leave key features that many find important off of it. I also wonder how happy users of their onscreen keyboard will be. I think that the iPhone is a step in the right direction towards what people want, but I think it’s a far way from the best thing ever. I know that none of this is new, but that’s never stopped me before. I guess that only time will tell. Well, maybe. There just might be enough fanboys out there to keep it alive even if it does suck.

Another Confirmation of the Reality Distortion Field

There were a couple of announcements that came out of WWDC yesterday. One is that the Safari web browser is now available for Windows, and the other is that the iPhone has an “innovative” way of allowing third-party development. You would probably think that these two announcements should be more unrelated than they are, and you’d probably be right. This innovative solution is nothing more than running a web ap via Safari on the iPhone. This means that developers can make AJAX apps for the phone. I think this pretty much fails to even come close to a comparison of being able to properly develop applications. Jobs calls this solution “new” and “sweet.” I call it “stupid” and “lacking.” This is yet another example of why so many people bash on Apple. They keep such a closed system that it limits what anyone can do with their devices. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but don’t claim to allow outside delevopment via a web browser. Just come right out and say that you are not going to allow third-party apps and leave it at that. Telling people that this is a “sweet solution” is just insulting our intelligence. Worse, though, is that people are buying it! Alex Hung claims that making a proper SDK is “hard,” and that Nokia and Sony Ericcson are exaomples of this. I’m sorry, but last time I checked neither of those companies are in the business of software. Apple may say that they are a hardware company, but they are heavily involved in the software side of things. The reason they didn’t release an SDK is not because it is hard, it is because they don’t want to open up their device to the potential of being unstable. By allowing outside development, they allow the possibility of someone making an application that could cause problems on the phone. This would create the perception that there is something wrong with the phone, which Apple wants to avoid. Hey, I don’t blame them. Like I said, I just think they should be honest about it. A better take on this, in my opinion, comes from Ed Burnette at I think he sums it up nicely with this.

“You can write amazing Web 2.0 and Ajax apps!” Thanks Steve, we’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.

Yeah, allowing Web 2.0 apps on a web browser: Genius! Oh yeah, and don’t forget that any Flash app is out of the question. Maybe that “fully functional” web browser on a phone isn’t so full after all.

Careful, Your Stuff Might Have Your Name on It

In case for some reason you haven’t heard yet, Apple is now offering iTunes Plus, which has the EMI music catalog DRM-free. This is definitely a good thing. The DRM-free part, that is. Granted, you’ve been able to get unprotected tracks from a variety of other sources for quite a while now. The difference is that iTunes has the following of the masses. I don’t want to talk about the fact that there are DRM-free tracks now, though, it is the reaction that people are having to them. More specifically, the reaction to what these tracks contain. Embedded in the music files are the name and email address of the person that bought them. This makes people uneasy, and they are all upset that this information is in there. Now, two things. First, this is not something that is unique to the iTunes Plus tracks; it is in every track you buy on iTunes. Second, this information can only be seen if you have access to the file. Now, in theory, shouldn’t the only person that has access to your music on your computer supposed to be you? Are you worried that you aren’t going to be able to share these files with everyone because they have your info in them? I could be wrong, but isn’t distributing music out to a bunch of strangers still a no-no? Don’t get me wrong here, I’m a firm believer that the idea that illegal music sharing creates horrible things is complete BS. I’m just saying that I don’t see why you should be upset that these tracks contain your info. Is this really different than the file properties on a Word doc you make that have your name in the created by item (assuming you’ve registered with your name)? It is just pretty stupid to be upset about having your personal information in something that is, for all intents and purposes, private.

Ah, the Ol’ Fake Email to Short a Stock Trick

I was going to write about this earlier, but I had important business to attend to.

For those of you keeping up, Engadget reported today that there would be a delay on shipping the iPhone and Leopard. While it is too early to say anything definitive about the origins of this (my joking title aside), the affects are clear. TechCrunch has a post outlining the basics. Allegedly, what happened is that Engadget received what it perceived to be legitimate information, and proceeded to report that. After this initial report, their stock fell about 3%, or about $3.25 a share. This loss, however, was fairly shortlived as the stock bounced back up to $107.29 after a short time. At the end of the day, AAPL closed 18 cents lower, compared to a loss of $1.84 the day before. What might have happened is that the stock initially started to fall and then a lot of preset selling was triggered, which then just made it fall even further. After people realized what was happening, and that the email claiming the delays was a fake, the stock recovered and didn’t take a major hit for the day.
According to Engadget, the original email was verified as coming from the internal Apple email system. Apple was then the one sent out a legit email notifying everyone that the first email was a fake. It will be interesting to see what comes of this, if anything. I’m assuming that the original fake email was either done as a prank (albeit a fairly difficult one that would yield little compared to the risk) or as an attempt to manipulate things. We will have to wait and see. One thing is certain, though, and that is that the power of online media was reaffirmed by this incident, be it for good or bad.

Is This Guy Dumb or Just Stupid?

This commentary over at Wired is an absolute joke. The topic is why Apple won’t offer a subscription based model for their music on iTunes. While this author may be correct in that Apple won’t be offering a subscription service, the logic he uses is absurd. Let me give you an example from the article.

The music business isn’t built on long-term rentals; it’s built on one hit after another. It’s confectionary. Tunes are addictive for a while and then discarded. It’s like the drug business: Users are always looking for the next hit.

How exactly does this help his argument? He is correct, for the most part, that music is all about the current “thing.” However, how he interprets this is completely backwards. According to his logic, it makes sense to buy something forever even though you will only use it briefly. I fail to see how this connection is made. If you are interested in listening to a particular song, artist, or CD right now, but you know that something else is going to take its place next week, why are you buying it?

Lets look at it this way: You hear a song on the radio that you really like. You go onto iTunes and buy the song for $.99. While you are buying this, you check out some of the artist’s other music and find 3 more songs you like so you buy them too. That is four dollar spent just on a whim. What if you wind up liking the entire CD and not just a couple other songs? Now you are spending 10-15 dollars. This is in addition to any music you might be buying otherwise, such as the new album from one of your favorite artists. Even if all you did was allow yourself one CD worth of music a month, that is going to cost you about the same as a monthly subscription. With the subscription, though, you get 2 million songs, not just 15. If you are always buying the latest hit, only to stop listening to it once the next one comes along, you are spending a lot of money on music you rarely listen to. Sure, you may “own” that music, but does owning it matter if you don’t use it? There are a number of people that have spent hundreds of dollars on music on iTunes. Some people have spent as much as one thousand dollars and up. While that is not likely the norm, there are people that do it. It would take close to a decade to spend that amount on a subscription, and you would be getting a much larger catalog.

To say that there is no market for subscription services is naive at best. There are millions of users of subscription based models spread across the various offerings. Another thing is that these services also offer the option to buy tracks. If you find a song you just really feel the need to have forever, long after you stop the subscription, you can buy it. The two offerings are not mutually exclusive.

My personal opinion is that having both options is the best solution. I don’t know all of the details, but I have to wonder if the money in it for Apple is less with subscriptions. I despise the record labels, so I have a hard time advocating the same thing they are, but I really think that subscription models are a good thing. Offering both options of buying music, and subscribing allows you to keep the zealots happy as well as everyone else. Let me know what you think.