Apple Negotiating Unlimited Music Downloads

Apple is in talks with record companies to provide iTunes users with more flexible access to purchased music on multiple devices. Apple and the record labels are eager to strike a deal that will maintain demand for digital downloading in the midst of popular streaming services such as Pandora.

According to anonymous sources reportedly sitting in on the discussions, a deal would provide iTunes users with a permanent back-up of purchases and allow downloads to iPad, iPod, and iPhone devices from the same iTunes account (moving a step closer to access to Internet-stored content).

In addition to addressing stalled digital download sales, Apple is also weighing options for its MobileMe service for storing images, video, and other media online. Apple’s new $1 billion data center in North Carolina is expected to serve as a hub for iTunes and MobileMe services.

New Final Cut Pro Expected for Spring 2011

More than a year has passed since Final Cut Pro’s last release, but the word is out that Apple has plans for a Spring announcement. Apple recently invited a small group of professional video editors to the Cupertino campus for a test run.

According to TechCrunch, early reports from those who demonstrated the new version suggest that the changes are “dramatic and ambitious” and may address concerns that Apple has turned its focus regarding video editing from the professional to the consumer space.

The new version of Final Cut Pro is said to be a “major overhaul” reports 9to5Mac, including a new user interface, 64-bit compatibility, and architectural enhancements.

TechCrunch reports Apple has plans to release the new version of FCP in Spring 2011, in a launch possibly coinciding with April’s NAB conference.

 

Walt Mossberg on the New Apple iPad 2

In this video interview from San Francisco, Wall Street Journal “Personal Technology” columnist Walt Mossberg provides his first impressions of the new thinner and lighter Apple iPad 2, premiered by Steve Jobs at an invitation-only event on March 2.

New features worth noting include front and rear-view cameras, a thinner form factor than the iPhone, faster graphics, and dual core processors. It seems that Apple addressed the shortcomings recently targeted in advertising by its competitors. Mossberg comments that Apple did enough to stay ahead, but suggests they’re not going to claim 90 percent of the market share like they did last year due to the sheer volume of competing tablets this time around.

Mossberg comments on Apple’s focus on content creation, as opposed to content consumption, which the company hopes will change the way some consumers see the device. He also suggests it is a big deal that Apple has been able to maintain its $499 price tag for the new version. (The Wi-Fi versions start at $499 for a 16GB model and $699 for a 64GB configuration, while the 3G iPads are priced from $629 to $829.)

NCAA March Madness via Online, Tablets and Mobile Devices

According to a press release from Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA, this year’s 68-team NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament will feature newly enhanced March Madness on Demand (MMOD) live products. The services (produced by Turner Sports Interactive) will be available across multiple platforms, including online, and as an app for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and for the first time, the iPad. Features available over Wi-Fi and 3G include live viewing with larger format streams, a personalized channel lineup, live in-game stats, social companion views, and more.

Live streaming of every game broadcast by CBS Sports and Turner Sports will start with the First Four on March 15, and run through the Men’s Final Four semifinals and national championship game on April 2 and April 4.

Beginning March 10, free mobile apps will be available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad from the iTunes Apps store.

For a complete list of features, check out the press release included in the Engadget post.

Discovery Channel HD Offers Free iPad App

Fans of Discovery Channel HD programming may be interested in the free Discovery app for the iPad (released March 2, 2011). Three days after the app’s release, its developer Bottle Rocket Apps announced that Discovery Channel HD was “the top free iPad app on the entire iTunes App Store.”

Features of the new app include chat sessions with show hosts and fans, images (including production stills), daily video clips, scheduling information, tune-in reminder alerts, science news, social interaction via Facebook and Twitter, and more.

The app is available at iTunes: Discovery Channel HD by Discovery Communications

Portable, Glasses-Free 3D from Nintendo

The Nintendo 3DS has launched in Japan with plans to hit the U.S. and European markets next month. The portable device is the first of its kind to offer glasses-free 3D gaming.

Despite the sellout of pre-order stocks, gaming enthusiasts showed up in droves for the Japanese release.  However, it remains to be seen how the 3DS will compete worldwide with the new casual gaming capabilities of tablet PCs, the Apple iPhone, Android-powered smartphones, and the next generation portable from Sony (expected to launch in 10 months).

According to Reuters, Nintendo will initially run with the formula that has traditionally worked with its DS: “a dedicated portable games device with software available on cartridges that cost $30 or more.”

Walter Murch Addresses Why 3D Does Not Work

Film editor and sound designer Walter Murch wrote a letter to Roger Ebert in which he discusses the pitfalls of editing and viewing 3D movies.

Ebert notes that Murch is uniquely qualified to comment on 3D, considering he has received Academy Award nominations for films edited on four different systems, including: upright Moviola, KEM flatbed, Avid, and Final Cut Pro. He also edited the 3D “Captain Eo” in the 1980s and wrote “In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing” in 1995.

In his letter, Murch addresses a number of compelling points such as the inherent darkness of the 3D image, the strobe effect of horizontal movement in 3D, and what he sees as problematic issues involving how our eyes and brain interpret convergence, focus, and immersion. Murch sums up his take on 3D as, “dark, small, stroby, headache inducing, alienating. And expensive. The question is: how long will it take people to realize and get fed up?”

Free VUWER App Tracks Stolen Macs

VUWER (Vanderbilt University Web Enabled Recovery) is a free, open source, Mac OS X background app that assists in the tracking of stolen Macs. The app checks a web or remote computer account at regular intervals, in the background without disrupting use. If a computer is stolen, the owner can change the message that VUWER reads in order to track vital information.

VUWER can collect screen capture images of what the thief is viewing. It can also activate the iSight camera to capture images of who is in front of the Mac and capture geolocated IP address information. This information is forwarded to the owner silently, in the background, without the thief catching on.

Additionally, VUWER is written in Applescript, so it is simple to modify.

IntoNow App Takes Social TV to the Next Level

IntoNow is a new iOS app that identifies and tags live TV shows in realtime, creating something similar to Shazam, but for television rather than radio. Users press a button on the app interface while viewing a television program and, with the aid of a platform called SoundPrint, the app uses the program’s audio for identification within 4-12 seconds. The results appear on the iPhone or iPad screen and can be shared via social networking entities such as Facebook or Twitter, or can be added to a Netflix queue.

Engadget has a video demo where the user is watching CNN on a laptop (place-shifted via SlingBox), and uses the IntoNow app on an iPad to identify the TV stream. Based on the sharing features, users can also see what their friends are watching, check out program info for selected shows, and even leave comments. Social interaction is taken to the next level with push notifications in which the app lets users know when their friends are viewing the same content.

This is yet another step toward media content sharing that may significantly impact consumer viewing habits. Engadget reports that the initial launch is iOS only, but the company has plans to tackle other platforms such as Android.

Related Forbes article/review: “IntoNow Just Foursquared TV. Can It Groupon Its Commercials?” (3/25/11)

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