In Development: Would an HTC Facebook Phone Prove to be the Next Zune?

  • Microsoft lost trust from its hardware partners with the Zune MP3 player which ultimately caused the product to fail. The new Facebook phone could be equally disastrous by pinning HTC against its current software partners.
  • HTC has strong relationships with Google for Android OS and Microsoft for Windows Phone 7, relationships that could be jeopardized in moving forward with a Facebook phone.
  • “One of the key standout features for Windows Phone 7 is social networking and in particular, Facebook integration (Facebook and Microsoft are partnered),” reports Digital Trends. “Google, on the other hand, is at war with Facebook with Google+, and monetizes Android after-the-fact with services like Google+.”
  • “Right now Apple, Microsoft and others spend lots of time on Facebook, but they aren’t likely to continue if they view Facebook as a potential competitor,” suggests the post. “Facebook should be focused on building the best Facebook app for every major platform.”
  • In a related survey conducted by AllThingsD, results suggest an overwhelming number of readers had little to no desire for a Facebook phone (81 percent indicated no interest and 12 percent said they would consider it).

Google to Link New Music Download Store with its Social Network

  • Google’s music download store is expected to link with Google+ within the next two weeks. However, the service may prove disappointing if the company cannot secure deals with the four major music labels.
  • Tentatively named Google Music, the service would follow in the footsteps of Spotify, which earlier this fall linked with Facebook to promote its music service.
  • The Google+ integration would allow users to recommend songs to Google+ contacts, who could then listen to those songs once for free. MP3 downloads would then be available, most likely for 99 cents each.
  • Music labels have shown hesitation about the service’s propensity to allow piracy, in addition to the lack of revenue for record companies, as the music locker is free.

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.

Yahoo Launches Beta of New Online Media WebPlayer

  • Yahoo has introduced the beta version of its new “flexible and universal” online media player named WebPlayer.
  • The app (written in HTML and JavaScript) can play YouTube videos and other content, and is available for use on blogs and websites for posting an array of content.
  • The Web-based media player supports a variety of media formats, including MP3 and WMA.
  • ZDNet reports: “The idea here is that it should be much easier for bloggers, publishers, or whoever that wants to publish digital media on their websites on a regular basis as all they really need a line of code and a link rather than copying over a giant embed code from YouTube.”

Exclusive Look Inside RIM: Rise and Fall of the BlackBerry?

  • In the wake of recent negative press and pleas to management made public, BGR interviewed “multiple” ex-RIM executives and learned stories about the company’s overall “lack of vision and leadership.”
  • The two CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, are described as brilliant “irreplaceable leaders” who unfortunately did not listen to the marketplace over time. (For example: “There will never be a BlackBerry with an MP3 player or camera.”)
  • One significant problem involved the three-year roadmap that focused on refining technologies on existing phones, not on identifying or shaping future trends.
  • For example, one executive claimed RIM was proud of how LITTLE data a user would use so there was no R&D done on browsers.
  • Another claim suggests RIM views carriers, rather than the end users, as the customers.
  • In the tablet realm, execs claim the PlayBook was sold to carriers below margin and is not making RIM any money. Moreover, RIM did not reveal that the PlayBook would not have native email until the last minute. “RIM is notorious for dropping these bombshells at the 11th hour on the carriers, and the PlayBook not having native email was a shock to the carriers.”

Amazon Announces Cloud Drive and Cloud Player Updates

  • Amazon announced several notable enhancements to its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player service this week.
  • The Cloud Player is finally available for the iPad and has been optimized for Safari (joining existing apps for the Android phone, Android tablet, Mac, and PC).
  • New customers who register for the annual $20/20GB plan will receive unlimited space for music tracks.
  • Cloud Drive users can also store all of their previously Amazon-purchased MP3s for free.

3D Printing Technology Opens Potentially Thorny Legal Issues

  • Paramount Pictures recently issued a cease and desist order to a 3D replicator of “Super 8” cubes.
  • Todd Blatt, an engineer from Baltimore, replicates interesting devices and props he sees in movies (such as the cubes from Paramount’s “Super 8”), sends the digital models to 3D printer Shapeways, and then sometimes sells the resulting metal or plastic models to fans online.
  • New fronts in copyright law are developing as digital tools increasingly encroach on the physical world. Emergence of low-cost 3D printers and software will continue to push these issues.
  • From a copyright viewpoint, this case illustrates how 3D printers will possibly impact product licensing the way the MP3 codec impacted the music industry.
  • This may raise some interesting near future questions regarding how film props will need to be legally classified (especially in terms of patent, copyright and fair use laws).

DAR.fm is a Free (for now) Digital Audio Recorder for Radio

There’s been a lot of music news reported in recent weeks, from a collaboration between Spotify and Facebook to compelling new discovery apps including Radio Spotter from mSpot Music to emerging cloud-based services from the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple. We’ve also been watching the direction of services such as Pandora, Slacker, Rhapsody and Napster as digital music distribution continues to evolve. However, a new online service created by MP3.com founder Michael Robertson may change the way we consume radio.

Robertson’s DAR.fm (currently in beta) is a digital audio recorder for radio content, what David Pogue describes in his New York Times column as “free TiVo for radio.” According to the site’s FAQ page: “DAR.fm is a personal recorder which records radio stations and shows to be played back at the convenience of the listener. Similar to how a DVR (digital video recorder) works with television DAR is a DVR for your radio.”

Currently, there is no charge for the basic service, but that may change in the future based on potential restrictions or data storage space (advertising on the site is also reportedly in the works). Pogue explains that each user starts with 2GB, and completing an application at MP3Tunes.com provides a free upgrade to 10GB. According to the site: “DAR.fm gives you 2 GBs of storage to record your content. This is enough to store approximately 100 hours of material. However, it depends on whether the material you’re recording is talk or music — you may be able to store more or less. If you need more space you can purchase a Premium account with 20, 50, 100, or 200 GB of additional storage.”

What makes this service compelling, however, is that users can listen to an unlimited range of radio content anywhere, anytime: via computer, phone apps, Wi-Fi-connected radios, even the Roku set-top TV box. Listening to recordings from a phone is made possible by free apps based on the open music API (Airband for the iPhone, MP3tunes for Android, Locker Player for Windows Phone 7, and Music in Your Palm for WebOS). Users can even download individual songs that have been captured.

“It’s crazy cool, like a hybrid of iTunes and satellite radio,” writes Pogue.

If DAR.fm catches on, will it compete with cloud-based and subscription music services? If it works as flawlessly as Pogue describes, it may have a strong chance, although MP3Tunes has yet to share the limelight with other more notable cloud services. Pogue writes: “The person who created DAR.fm also runs a company called MP3Tunes.com. It’s an online storage locker for your music files, so that you can play them from any computer or phone, anywhere you go. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because Amazon introduced a nearly identical service last month, called Amazon Cloud Player. Google just opened a ‘cloud music locker’ service, too. Needless to say, the headlines about this ‘new’ kind of music service drives the MP3Tunes guy crazy; his site has been in operation for four years.)”

Related Grace Digital Audio press release: “Grace Digital DAR.fm Audio Recorder for Internet Radio Debuts” (5/19/11)

Related Radio World article: “DAR.fm Hopes to Shift the Paradigm” (4/15/11)

Related Radio World article (with video): “DAR.fm, Grace Radio Aim at a ‘Talk TiVo'” (5/18/11)

Related PC Mag article: “MSpot Adds ‘Radio’ Music Discovery to Online Music Locker: Hands On” (5/26/11)

Related TechCrunch article (from Disrupt conference): “Rexly’s Social Music Discovery App Is What Ping Should Have Been” (5/23/11)

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