Will Google MP3 Store Compete with Apple and Amazon?

  • Google is expected to roll out its own music store in the next few weeks.
  • It will reportedly tie into the company’s Music Beta service that allows users to upload and store their music collections.
  • Music Beta was announced after launch of Amazon’s unlicensed service, Cloud Drive. Also worth noting: “Apple got licenses for iTunes Match, which will instantly link a user’s songs to Apple’s master collection.”
  • “Its earlier negotiations with music companies, for a so-called smart locker service — a Web storage system that lets people link their digital music collections to a vast central database — broke down over financial terms and the music companies’ complaints that Google was not doing enough to curb piracy,” reports The New York Times.

New iOS 5 Requires that Users Upgrade to iTunes 10.5

  • Apple’s much anticipated iOS 5 launches this week and will require an upgrade to iTunes 10.5 in order to download.
  • According to TechCrunch, the new version of iTunes includes integration with iTunes Match: “For $25 a year, iTunes Match will give you legal digital access to any songs you own (be it through legal means or not). Match won’t actually launch until late October, but support is built into 10.5.”
  • The updated iTunes also “patches a number of Windows-specific security issues,” offers “Wi-Fi syncing support (when paired with iOS 5)” and provides “purchase history (for books, apps, etc.) through iCloud.”
  • For those planning to install the new version, visit the iTunes download page.

Cloud Battle Begins: Should Amazon take Lessons from Apple iCloud?

  • In order for Amazon to stay competitive in the cloud computing market, its S3 (Simple Storage Service) and EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing) could take some notes from Apple’s iCloud (launching October 12).
  • Seamless integration “provides iCloud with huge scale advantages over Amazon,” suggests Forbes, by wirelessly storing content from iPhones, iPads, the iPod touch, Macs or PCs and automatically pushing content to all devices.
  • “Consumer-centricity” makes cloud-computing user-friendly with targeted features like iTunes Match. “This feature prevents the need to painstakingly upload music into the cloud as iTunes Match itself creates a library matching the user’s existing playlist.”
  • And pricing. “While the iCloud provides free 5GB-worth of storage for documents, mail, and back-up for iOS 5 users, Amazon’s S3 service charges users for even the first gigabyte of storage space.”
  • The article points that little is yet known about Amazon’s other competitor, Google’s GDrive.

Facebook Shares Designs: Will Cloud Hardware Get Cheaper and More Efficient?

  • Facebook launched its Open Compute Project as an effort to open-source the technology of its 147,000-square-foot data center that opened in Oregon in April.
  • “It published blueprints for everything from the power supplies of its computers to the super-efficient cooling system of the building,” reports MIT’s Technology Review. “Other companies are now cherry-picking ideas from those designs to cut the costs of building similar facilities for cloud computing.”
  • Although the concept of sharing designs and allowing other companies to build similar cloud-computing facilities at a lower cost may seem altruistic, it also serves as “an attempt to manipulate the market for large-scale computing infrastructure in Facebook’s favor,” suggests the article.
  • “The company hopes to encourage hardware suppliers to adopt its designs widely, which could in turn drive down the cost of the server computers that deal with the growing mountain of photos and messages posted by its 750 million users,” explains Technology Review. “Just six months after the project’s debut, there are signs that the strategy is working and that it will lower the costs of building — and hence using — cloud computing infrastructure for other businesses, too.”
  • Frank Frankovsky, Facebook’s technical operations director and a founding member of the Open Compute Project, notes that the project opens the flow of ideas necessary to improve cloud technology. He is encouraging others to contribute new ideas and improvements to the current designs.

Miramax CEO Believes Hollywood Needs Effective Strategy for UltraViolet

  • According to Miramax CEO Mike Lang, the future of the home entertainment industry and movie production rests in cloud-based digital locker UltraViolet.
  • Warner Home Video and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment are among the studios rolling out sellthrough titles this fall, which are capable of being stored on UltraViolet and then played on various compatible devices.
  • “As an industry, we really have to believe it,” Lang said in a Q&A session at MIPCOM in Cannes. “We really don’t have choice. If the home entertainment business as we know today, in terms of the transaction business, goes away, that’s not good for anyone in this room.”
  • “Lang said failure to reinvigorate the sellthrough model could adversely affect studios’ ability to finance movies going forward,” explains The Hollywood Reporter. “Sales of DVD/Blu-ray Disc/electronic sellthrough movies have historically affected whether a title was profitable or not.”
  • Lang suggests the digital transaction model has not always been clear to consumers, especially in terms of compatibility with all the available devices and different ecosystems. He points out that Netflix has been so successful due to its ease of streaming on multiple devices such as Blu-ray players and game consoles.
  • The Miramax exec believes the studios need to partner with tech companies and retailers moving forward to develop a cohesive strategy. “I don’t know how many people use photo sharing software, but that is 90 percent cloud-based,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of the software industry in the world is now through cloud-based transactions. I’m hopeful that the movie business gets there.”

UltraViolet Announces Global Roll-Out: Studios Get Ready for the Cloud

  • UltraViolet (UV), the digital locker system that allows viewing of content across multiple devices, will roll out on October 11th in the U.S. with an expanded global rollout expected in the months to follow.
  • “All of the major studios are supporting the new cloud-based product, although Disney is not one of the more than 70 official members of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, which oversees UV,” reports Variety.
  • Warner Bros. exec Justin Herz said this week that his studio will provide half of its movie and TV catalog available on UltraViolet by the end of 2012. The first UV release, Warners’ “Horrible Bosses,” will reportedly be released Tuesday, to be followed by the availability of “Green Lantern.”
  • Fox suggested that “a significant” amount of its content would soon be UV-enabled, while Sony plans to launch with “The Smurfs” and “Friends With Benefits.”
  • “Studios that have signed up for UV hope the new technology will re-ignite the home entertainment market and boost revenues following the collapse of DVD sales and the failure of Blu-ray to generate excitement among consumers,” adds Variety. “UV-enabled discs allow buyers to watch the same content on 12 different devices with an Internet connection, including connected TVs, laptops, tablets or mobiles, once they open a streaming account.”

Movie Studios Turn to the Internet: Are We Ready to Bid Farewell to the DVD?

  • Hollywood studios are responding to the 40 percent drop in home entertainment sales by recognizing that the future may heavily rely upon ramping up Internet delivery businesses.
  • According to the Los Angeles Times: “Across Hollywood, a quiet revolution is brewing that’s about to transform living rooms around the world… In the next few years, the growing number of consumers with Internet-connected televisions, tablets and smartphones will face a dizzying array of options designed to make digital movie consumption a lot more convenient and to entice users to spend more money.”
  • “It’s now critical that we experiment as much as possible and determine how to build a vibrant market for collecting digital movies,” says David Bishop, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment division.
  • Studios may be eager to change, but have yet to determine how it can be effectively accomplished with a uniform approach. As a result, the immediate future will most likely see an expanded but confusing selection of options for consumers.
  • The article looks at some of these potential options including premium VOD, cloud computing, UltraViolet’s “virtual locker,” new offerings from Apple’s iTunes and sharing movies via Facebook.

Amazon Elastic Cloud Tech: Stretching the Boundaries of Cloud Computing

  • Cycle Computing demonstrated the potential power of cloud computing by building a 30,000-core cluster running CentOS Linux for molecular modeling using Amazon’s Elastic Cloud 2 (EC2).
  • The cluster, created for an unnamed “Top 5 Pharma” customer, ran about seven hours at a peak cost of $1,279 per hour (including fees to Amazon and Cycle Computing) and performed approximately 10.9 “compute years of work.”
  • “Amazon EC2 and other cloud services are expanding the market for high-performance computing,” reports Ars Technica. “Without access to a national lab or a supercomputer in your own data center, cloud computing lets businesses spin up temporary clusters at will and stop paying for them as soon as the computing needs are met.”
  • The statistics are rather impressive; highlights include 30,472 cores, 26.7TB of RAM and 2PB (petabytes) of disk space. The cluster — dubbed “Nekomata” — ran across data centers in three Amazon regions in the United States and Europe.
  • It is unknown whether or not Nekomata is the largest cluster run on EC2 to date. “I can’t share specific customer details, but can tell you that we do have businesses of all sizes running large-scale, high-performance computing workloads on AWS [Amazon Web Services], including distributed clusters like the Cycle Computing 30,000 core cluster to tightly-coupled clusters often used for science and engineering applications such as computational fluid dynamics and molecular dynamics simulation,” indicated an Amazon spokesperson.

Evos Concept Car Unveiled: Cloud-Connected Ford Goes the Extra Mile

  • Technology is now “an experience” on the Ford Evos Concept car, unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show last week.
  • This cloud-connected vehicle knows all about your preferences, health, work schedule and much more. As a plug-in hybrid it can also “run as a full electric for at least part of its 500 mile total range,” reports Engadget.
  • The car polls your work schedule, traffic and weather information to determine when your alarm at home should wake you to get you on the road in time. It continues your cloud music from your home seamlessly. It suggests alternate routes based on last minute changes to your schedule. It alters the energy consumption, braking, suspension and steering based on the requirements of the road ahead.
  • Moreover, it adjusts the music to suit your preferences for a particular stretch of road. You can also share driving routes with your friends. The Ford Evos monitors your heart rate and pollution conditions and responds accordingly.

Rovi Provides Security and New Features for DivX Streams

  • Rovi has announced DivX Plus Streaming that allows cloud-based movie services, such as Best Buy’s CinemaNow and other sites integrated with the Rovi Entertainment Store, to stream movies securely to DivX-compatible devices.
  • New features include being able to pause on one device and seamlessly resume on another, improved video quality, and support for multiple language tracks and subtitles.
  • “Other content-protection companies, such as Google’s Widevine subsidiary, offer some similar capabilities to service providers, so Rovi is playing catch-up to a degree. And not every Hollywood studio allows its movies to be distributed in the DivX format,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Rovi executives insist, however, that they’ve leapfrogged the competition with some features, including the near-Blu-ray-quality images and the ability to support multiple alternate-language soundtracks and subtitles in the same stream.”
  • Although integration into specific products has yet to be announced, Rovi explained the technology will be available to many existing devices through a firmware update.

The Rumors are True: First Look at the Amazon Kindle Tablet

  • Amazon is reportedly close to production on its long-rumored tablet device. TechCrunch provides a fascinating first-person report on the Android-based Kindle (but sorry, no pictures yet).
  • The device will initially feature a 7-inch color touchscreen with a 10-inch model coming next year. The interface is Amazon’s and the main screen resembles iTunes Cover Flow with a carousel of books, apps, movies. It is built on top of pre 2.2 Android. It will NOT be getting Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich.
  • It will be integrated with Amazon’s content store, which is one-click away. Apps will be available though Amazon’s Android App Store (and not Google’s Android Market). Additionally, the book reader is the Kindle app, the music player is Amazon’s Cloud Player and the movie player is Amazon’s Instant Video player. There is no camera.
  • The device is expected to include a free subscription to Amazon Prime, which will provide access to Amazon Instant Video.
  • TechCrunch anticipates an end of November launch at a cost of $250. There are many more details in the article…

iTunes Match: Supports Downloading AND Streaming from the Cloud

  • Apple’s iTunes Match went live to developers for testing this week and music “streaming” from the cloud is reportedly already up and running.
  • If the hype is accurate, the TechCrunch article header from Dennis Kuba’s story submission may prove telling: “With iTunes In The Cloud, Apple Under-Promises And Over-Delivers.”
  • Apple enthusiasts are excited to see what shakes out this fall with iOS 5 and iCloud. Yesterday, TechCrunch reported: “Tonight brought perhaps the biggest surprise revelation yet: iTunes in the Cloud will support streaming as well as downloading of music.”
  • There is also speculation that this announcement may lead to a possible “cloud iPhone.” Rumors are making the rounds that Apple might unveil a low-cost iPhone 4 (with minimal on-board storage) alongside its new iPhone 5 release. If iTunes has streaming functionality, the low-cost version of the iPhone could rely on the cloud for content.
  • Be sure to check out the iTunes Match videos included in the post.
  • TechCrunch recently added an update: “There’s some debate going on right now about whether or not this is technically streaming. Even Apple is avoiding the term, as Peter Kafka points out. There are two reasons for this — reasons Google follows as well with their service.”

New Direction: Apple Pulls The Plug on TV Rentals from iTunes

  • There has been a fair amount of recent press regarding changes to Apple’s TV rental offerings. Peter Kafka, reporting for The Wall Street Journal, writes: “Apple has completely removed customers’ ability to rent shows from iTunes; the remaining options are to buy individual episodes or in some cases a ‘Season Pass’ for a year’s worth of shows.”
  • Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr says people prefer buying TV shows instead of renting, which not surprisingly may be more in line with the needs of customers interested in Apple’s cloud initiatives. “iTunes in the Cloud lets customers download and watch their past TV purchases from their iOS devices, Apple TV, Mac or PC allowing them to enjoy their programming whenever and however they choose,” Neumayr said.
  • According to a Fox statement: “After carefully considering the results of the rental trial, it became clear that content ownership is a more attractive long-term value proposition both for iTunes customers and for our business. To further enhance the value of ownership, we are working with Apple to make content available within their new cloud-based service.”

Broadcasters Beginning to Adopt Cloud-Based Services

  • Some TV broadcasters are beginning to embrace cloud-based tools and services for graphics, asset management, back-office functions and document and video storage.
  • While these broadcasters are attracted by cost savings and increased efficiency, others reportedly remain skeptical, citing security concerns when services are tapped via the public Web.
  • Among the early adopters, according to TVNewsCheck: “Gannett Broadcasting and Scripps Television. Both use Chyron’s AXIS cloud-based system for all their news-producing stations and both report that the service works reliably, saves money and has helped speed production and distribution of graphics among the stations.”
  • John King, Bitcentral’s VP of engineering, predicts broadcasters’ reluctance to use the cloud for all applications will dissipate. “Eighteen months ago I’d hear the term cloud every two months. Today, I hear the term multiple times a day,” says King. “I predict it will be accepted in three years … and we’ll see widespread deployment in less than five years.”

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Federal Ruling on Cloud Music: Happy Days for Apple, Google and Amazon

  • A federal judge has ruled that online music services that host tracks in the cloud are not liable if that music has been acquired illegally by customers. ETCentric reported earlier this week that this may seem like a hollow victory for the record labels. However, a green light for online music locker services also provides some legal certainty for the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon.
  • “The judgement, by U.S. District Judge William Pauley, came in a case involving EMI and fourteen other record companies and music publishers, who had sued the service MP3tunes,” reports MacUser. “Judge Pauley explained that MP3tunes and its chief executive, Michael Robertson, had not breached the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in allowing downloads.”
  • “This is a huge victory. Users can still download songs from publicly available websites, and store them without a separate license fee, so long as MP3tunes complies with takedown notices,” says Greg Gulia, representing MP3tunes and Robertson.
  • This ruling should also come as good news to those companies investing in cloud-based music services. For example, Apple’s iTunes Match is due in the U.S. later this year. According to MacUser: “It will scan users’ iTunes libraries and allow them to access versions of tracks in their library, but not purchased from iTunes, online in iCloud. Tracks purchased in iTunes are automatically available to computers and mobile devices associated with an iTunes account. If no match is found, users will be able to upload the track themselves.”

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