This past week, Sony Canada unveiled three new Walkman series (B, E and S) MP3 players. These new Walkman devices are designed to cater to the specific needs of different kinds of users.
The Walkman S-series provides users with more options for storing MP3 from multiple sources, including many download stores and personal music collections. The S-series Walkman is also the MP3 players with Sony’s unique SensMe Channels function, which automatically creates channels to match the user’s mood. The SensMe Channels function allows the MP3 player to analyze a user’s music collection and suggest channels based on each song’s speed, mood and rhythm.
The E-series Walkman combines high-quality video and audio capabilities to create a device designed for viewing photos and video clips. The B-series Walkman devices connect directly into your PC’s USB port for easy drag and drop file transfers, and features a light that pulses in time with the music when the new bass button is pressed. The B-series also has an FM radio and a voice recorder.
All of Sony’s new Walkman devices will retail between $60 to $200 depending on the model series of the MP3 player.
Simply Audiobooks is a company that specializes in the modern version of books-on-tape – audio books on CD, MP3, or WMA format, all of which are downloadable from the company’s website. Simply Audiobooks boasts that the guiding principle of their company is that ‘both time and money are precious’, and these audio books do save you both, but also delivered quality story-telling that was presently surprising.
There are two options of ‘book clubs’ that you can join on www.simplyaudiobooks.com: the Unlimited Rental Club and the Monthly Download Club. The Rental Club allows you to rent audio books for a particular period of time – you don’t download the books, but instead have them sent to you via mail by the company.
Once you are finished with the audio book (on a CD), you send it back to the company and they send you the next book on your rental list, which you create online. Simply Audiobooks pays for the shipping both ways. The rates for the rental plans vary between $15/month for an Annual Plan to $37.98 for a monthly option. The rates increase with the number of books a user wants to rent at once (up to three books). As standard practice with most Internet purchases, all of the subscriptions must be paid by credit card.
The other option, the Monthly Download Club, is the one I used. The rates for the download club are substantially cheaper than its counterpart. For example, a 1 Book/Month monthly plan comes in at $14.95, while a Monthly Plan for the rental option costs $17.98. The download club allows users to download Audiobooks to a computer, and is yours to keep once it’s saved to your hard drive.
I chose to download The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, a novel about a boy growing up and returning to Afghanistan after the invasion of the USSR in the late 1970s. I saw the movie last year and have wanted to read the book for a while. It did, however, take some time to come across this title. There is an American, UK and Canadian option for this website, and it seems that Americans have a much wider selection of non-fiction books to choose from. I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction when it comes to pleasure reading (I read enough textbooks for school), so I found this a bit disappointing.
After a quick and painless download process, The Kite Runner opened automatically in Window’s Media Player. The author of the novel narrates the book, which I thought was amazing. The narration was very clear, entertaining and engaging. The book, written in English, has numerous Farsi words throughout it and the narrator pronounced every word perfectly, which was very refreshing (although expected, as it was the author himself reading!) The narrator had a slightly Afghani accent, but not strong enough to make listening difficult.
The best aspect about The Kite Runner audio book was that it sounded like the narrator was telling a story – not just reading from a text. I have always steered away from audio books because I didn’t want to feel like I was being read to. The Kite Runner, however, sounded like someone had recorded their memoir and I was just lucky enough to listen.
But, before downloading anything from Simply Audiobooks, you must keep in mind the size of the files. They’re huge – for audio files, anyways. The Kite Runner came in at 131 MB and took up at least 60 tracks on my Media Player. The entire book runs over 4 hours (keep in mind the book is almost 400 pages long) and it’s not easy to ‘bookmark’ where you left off if you want to listen to the book in multiple sessions.
Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the Simply Audiobooks product, and would suggest the website to anyone who is looking for audio books. I still, however, prefer to read my novels, but I will be syncing The Kite Runner to my iPod when I go on two long train rides this summer to Quebec City and Nova Scotia. Simply Audiobooks have offices in Toronto, Canada, Buffalo, NY and Las Vegas, NV., where audio books in CD format can be purchased.
A US Supreme Court has ruled file sharing networks are liable for copyright infringement performed by those using their services.
Monday’s court decision in the MGM vs. Grokster case states file sharing software encourages users to illegally distribute copyrighted material on the internet.
“We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties,” said Justice David Souter.
As a result, services such as Grokster and Limewire can be sued for copyright infringement.
In earlier cases, programs such as Grokster were compared to VCRs, something that provides a medium of exchange.
The entertainment industry sees this announcement as a major win in its fight against illegal music and movie downloaders.
However, the ruling comes as a blow to groups who support peer-to-peer file sharing.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Parliament is working on its own law to address digital copyright issues – Bill C-60. If passed, the law calls for users, not service providers, to be liable for copyright infringement.
Look for more news on Bill C-60 after the Parliament’s summer recess in the fall.
Apple will cut prices and add colour screens to all full-size iPods, the company announced today.
Both 20 GB and 60 GB models will feature a 65,536 colour 220×176 pixel display, letting users see photos and album art on their iPod.
The special edition U2 iPod will also feature a colour screen.
Apple’s announcement comes days after the launch of Gigabeat – Toshiba’s portabable media pleyer. Featuring a large 2.2-inch colour screen for displaying pictures and text. Gigabeat players are slightly pricier than iPods.
Toshiba currently supplies Apple with hard disks for the iPod.
Apple announced earlier this week its iTunes store in Europe has sold over 50 million songs since its opening back in June of last year.
“We’re thrilled to have sold and delivered over 50 million songs in our first year,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Applications in a statement. “We’d like to thank European music fans for making iTunes such a success.”
iTunes Europe has a catalog of more than 1 million songs from major labels and independent labels. The store is available to users in France, Germany and the UK.
In total, the iTunes Music Store has sold over 430 million songs. The Canadian version opened earlier this year, however, no statistics have been released yet.
Software giant Microsoft is said to be investigating its foray into the subscription MP3 download market after announcing its MSN Music service last year that competes with Apple’s iTunes.
The new service would offer users a subscription model, similar to how Real’s service and Napster’s service work.
“We are actively investigating the subscription model, but we don’t have anything to share today,” Christine Andrews, lead product manager of Microsoft’s MSN Internet division told Reuters, “Once we are ready to talk more, we’ll let you know.”
The latest player to enter this market was Yahoo, who introduced their own subscription service at prices much less than that of their competitors.
The subscription model allows users to listen to unlimited songs each month, however, a fee must be paid if they want to burn the track to a CD.
Apple today announced it is opening four new iTunes stores in the following countries: Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. This brings the total number of countries to 19.
The stores feature 1.5 million songs from the four major record labels and over 1000 independent labels.
“The iTunes Music Store has revolutionized the way we discover and enjoy music, and is now selling more than half a billion songs per year,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Applications. “With iTunes Music Stores now in 19 countries, music fans around the world can enjoy the number one online music service in the world.”
Alongside the announcement, Apple and UBS are giving away a free song to every Swiss citizen over the age of 13 as part of their “UBS Generation” and “UBS Campus” packages. UBS will be selling song cards to be used at the store instead of credit cards.
The new European stores include featured songs from Kent, Stereophonics and The Cardigans. In addition, the iTunes Music Stores today added downloadable music videos to play on your Mac or PC with the purchase of albums or tracks from Dave Matthews Band, Gorillaz, Morcheeba and The Shins. iTunes 4.8 may be required for certain features.
The most popular mp3 player is about to get even better as Apple prepares to launch the next generation iPod MP3 player early this week.
The July 26th Newsweek cover includes a picture of what looks to be Apple’s next generation iPod player, featuring a similar look to the iPod Mini. The new unit is said to be slightly smaller than its current form.
More information, including available sizes and price will be posted upon official release of the product.
The company everyone loves to hate has done it again, this time posting a third quarter net profit of $61 million dollars, more than triple their profit at the same time last year. Apple Computer’s stock soared as much as 13% Thursday as the company announced increased demand for both its iPod and Computer products. Revenue for the quarter was $2.014 billion, up 30% from last year.
3rd quarter Macintosh shipments jumped 19% based on strong growth in Europe, while iPod sales soared more than 160% over the same quarter last year.
“It was an outstanding quarter-our highest third quarter revenue in eight years,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Our Mac-based revenue grew a healthy 19 percent, and our music-based revenue grew an incredible 162 percent. We’ve got a strong product portfolio, with some amazing new additions coming later this year.”
“We were very pleased with our 30 percent year-over-year revenue growth and our operating margin expansion,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the fourth quarter of fiscal 2004, we expect revenue of about $2.1 billion and earnings per diluted share of $0.16 to $0.17, including $0.01 per diluted share in restructuring charges.”
When Apple launched its European music store last month it launched without some of Europe’s most popular artists. Indie labels were upset with the deal Apple had proposed to them and refused to put their music on the iTunes Music Store.
However, it appears that this has now changed and the revised terms proposed to the indie labels are acceptable. This would bring such artists as The White Stripes, The Strokes and Travis to the store.
“Apple is in talks with the indie labels and it looks like they are hoping to sign a deal within days,” said an Association of Independent Music (AIM) spokesman.
“But a deal will not be signed unless it addresses the concerns that arose a month ago. Also the prices offered were lower than those some of the major labels were receiving.
“But we are quite close and hope that a standard indie deal will emerge from this which will help all indie artists.”
Europe’s independent labels hold a 22% share of the music market.
Apple Computer yesterday introduced the Airport Express with AirTunes, a device that lets you wirelessly transmit music from an iTunes compatible computer to a stereo system.
Airport Express includes 802.11g wireless capabilities as well as an Ethernet connection for non-wireless networks. Once setup properly, any user using the new iTunes 4.6 software, can stream their music throughout their home or office.
In addition to streaming your music, Airport Express also lets you wirelessly share your USB printers with any computer on the network.
Airport Express will be available in July for US$129 for both Mac and PC.
Last year we reviewed the SliMP3, which provides a similar product to Airport Express.
Once famous for its ability to find you any song for free, Napster has officially launched itself in Canada. Boasting more than 300,000 tracks from both the 5 major labels and independent labels, Napster brings that much needed competition to the Canadian market. To celebrate its launch, Napster is offering a free 7 day trial.
In addition, Napster and Molson have announced a marketing partnership over the next several years.
“We are thrilled to offer Canadian music fans the most inclusive, exciting, and diverse music experience available,” said Brad Duea, president of Napster, “and we have focused on making the first on-demand subscription service in Canada reflect the unique and discerning nature of Canadian music tastes. The Cat has skated up north and is officially ready to rock.”
Songs are available for $1 with a monthly fee of $9.95 or with no monthly fee at $1.19 each. You can download Napster by visiting Napster.ca.
*All prices in Canadian dollars
Lookout iTunes, MTV Networks, who currently holds one of the strongest brand names with teenagers, is gearing up for a digital music downloading service in 2004.
Tom Freston, CEO of MTV, addressed investors on Monday.
“It will compete with iTunes and everyone else,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Details were sparce, but back in 2000, Viacom Inc, the company which owns MTV, was already preparing a service where users could download legitimate music. However, plans were scraped due to the collapse of the dot com era.
Apple cleared various rumours today by announcing iTunes and the iTunes Music Store will be available for Windows based PCs today. Windows users in the USA can purchase songs for $0.99 each or albums for $9.99 each.
In addition, Apple also announced a partnership with AOL, to distribute music to their 25 million subscribers, and a deal with PepsiCo, where consumers will have a 1 in 3 chance of winning a free song from the iTMS by purchasing Pepsi Drinks.
Apple’s goal is to reach 100 million downloads by April 2004.
Mac and Windows users can download iTunes by visiting http://www.itunes.com.
Apple also announced two new peripherals for the 3G ipods. The Belkin iPod Voice Recorder will store voice recordings on your ipod that are easily transferred to your computer. It is available for USD$49.95.
Belkin also released the iPod Media Reader, a really neat device that transfers your digital photos to your ipod, which can be easily transfered to iPhoto on your Mac. It is available for USD$99.
Moontaxi Media Inc., today launched Puretracks, Canada’s first digital music download service, with songs starting at CAD$0.99 each.
“Puretracks is what a download service is supposed to be – the pure enjoyment of music straight from the source”, Alistair Mitchell, co-CEO, Moontaxi Media. “Canadian consumers have told us what they want, and what they would pay for, in a download service, and we have listened.”
Puretracks, available from www.puretracks.com, features music from the 5 major record labels as well as both international and Canadian independent labels.
Puretracks launched with 175 000 songs, and expects to hit 300 000 by the end of the year. The service also features exclusive content from such artists as Coldplay, Bryan Adams, Fifty Cent, Shania Twain, Eminem, Frank Sinatra and KISS.
“Following extensive market research, we’re proud to offer a music downloading service with the international selection, unique Canadian content, high quality and great price Canadian consumers have asked for,” said Derek van der Plaat, co-CEO, Moontaxi Media. “We believe the launch of Puretracks represents a watershed moment in how Canadians purchase the music they love.”
Puretracks features Windows Media Files at 192kbps, the highest quality of any available service, and you can start purchasing music today with any major credit card.
Canada’s first legal music downloading service will be launched on Tuesday, October 14th. Dubbed Puretracks, it will feature content from all 5 major record labels and various tracks from both Canadian and International Independant labels.
Puretracks will be a Windows only service, using Microsoft’s Windows Media format to transfer digital music from the Internet to your computer. In Addition, iPod users will be left out as the iPod does not support Windows Media format at this time.
Expect tracks to sell for around $1CAD per track.
It seemed like this day would never come, but Apple, who said iTunes for Windows would originally ship by the end of the year, is bringing us an early Christmas present.
On October 16th, Apple Computer will unveal the long awaited Windows version of the iTunes Music Store. As a Mac only product, iTMS has sold over 10 million songs in the United States. With its lenient copy protection, iTMS has been very successful, deterring users from using illegal services such as Kazaa.
Earlier this week MusicMatch launched a downloading service for Windows and today, Roxio launched Napster 2.0
Napster, once the largest online community for illegal music, will debut on Thursday as a legal alternative to obtaining music via the Internet.
Purchased by Roxio for $5 million last year, Napster will launch with 500 000 songs, more than double what iTunes launched with earlier this year. In addition, Roxio’s subscription based service, Pressplay, will shut down on Tuesday.
Users will have a choice between an a la carte service or a monthly fee. If you choose the monthly fee option, there will be a fee to burn the tracks to CD, but you will be able to download an unlimited amount of songs.
“Within the Napster environment, it’s yours,” says Roxio CEO Chris Gorog. “But if you elect to move it, you can click and buy it.”
MusicMatch, makers of the JukeBox player, have launched their online music downloading service.
MusicMatch will offer more than 200 000 songs at US$0.99 each, with very few restrictions, matching Apple Computer’s iTunes Music Store. This makes MusicMatch the first company to launch a service on the Windows platform whose restrictions are on par with the iTunes Music Store.
MusicMatch currently has an installed user base of 40 million.
They join an already crowded market that includes: RealNetwork’s Rhapsody, Apple’s iTunes Music Store and Buy.com’s BuyMusic.com service. Later this year, Roxio plans to relaunch Napster.
Dell Computer announced their digital music player today, the Digital Jukebox (DJ).
The unit, which hopes to compete directly with Apples iPod, will also ship with ‘The Dell Media Experience’, an application that will make your PC a digital entertainment center.
Dell also announced plans for an online music service.
Both products are set to ship by the holiday season this year. It is unknown whether Dell will be able to create the experience that Apple has with its iTunes and iPod products.