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Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

Harmony from Apple’s perspective:

1. Apple’s iTMS sales reduced.
Probably not by much, as Real is not available for Macs, and both iTunes/iTMS generally have a better interface than Real’s jukebox/music store software. Apple will likely add other iPod-iTunes/iTMS linkages and other iTunes/iTMS features to keep iTunes/iTMS at forefront.

2. Apple’s leverage/power vs. music labels is diminished/ (balanced?).
View depends on who you believe to be more aligned with the user – Apple or the labels. If iTMS sales decline, labels will feel freer to impose more restrictions or raise prices.

3. Apple’s ability to alter its Fairplay DRM (for better or worse) is hampered.
Apple will likely state they do not guarantee that Real songs will always work on the iPod. Depending on how identical Real songs are to Apple Fairplay songs, changing iPod firmware or iTunes software could cause PR issues for Apple.

4. Apple’s iPod support becomes more complicated (for Helix-Fairplay; Real/Harmony-iPod issues).
Again, Apple will likely state that they do not provide support to ensure Real songs play on the iPod. Again, PR issues.

5. Apple’s iPod sales reduced if people buy WMA- or Helix- player as additional or replacement player.
Probably not by much, if Apple continues to innovate and lower the price of the iPod, due to “cool factor” and usability reviews. Also, a few people may buy the iPod knowing that other than MP3s and CDs, they are not locked into the iTMS.

Question: If all these things happen to Apple, as an iPod user, are you better off or worse off?

Besides licensing Fairplay to other music stores (with guarantees that songs will work on iPod), and/or suing Real, Apple can also do the following to blunt Harmony:
1. Have iTunes convert iTMS songs to protected WMA for WMA players (completely ignore Helix and ATRAC).
2. Have iTMS sell lossless encoded FairPlay songs for $1.49?/song or average $14.99?/album using a different Fairplay algorithm.

However, each of these has further market consequences.

Posted by Kevin on July 28, 2004 at 12:19 PM (PDT)

Backstage: Leander on iSkin v. Lajo

Both companies make good, and now different products. iSkin’s line is easy-to-understand, but limited in choices. ####’s line is more comprehensive, but far more difficult to understand for the average person, and certain items (screen protectors for the mini, certain belt clips, etc) were or are difficult to actually obtain once “released.”

The skins I personally use on my own iPods right now are ####’s, for two main reasons: Click Wheel protection and entirely soft screen protection. I also like the exoflp line, and would like to see #### go for a exoflp plus thin top version compatible with the 4G.

That said, I think iSkin’s new screen protectors are awesome, and they’ve been steadily improving the look and grip of their cases, plus they have the thin tops, and “the complete package” when you order.

Any product I review will receive fair treatment, regardless of who it comes from (big company, small company, etc) and many other “political” factors that aren’t relevant to the review. I may choose not to review certain products on occasion, and may not always make everyone (or the product’s maker) happy with the review, but fairness and honesty are and will remain my top goals.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on July 28, 2004 at 12:18 PM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

Harmony from a user’s perspective:
1. We can acquire 192k encoded songs for 99 cents.
2. We can access additional songs (does anyone know how many songs on Real that are not on iTMS?)
3. We have an alternative to iTMS, the threat of which will keep Apple in-line (pricing, songs, quality, etc) and innovative.
4. We can use same DRM-protected songs on Helix or WMA players.

Posted by Kevin on July 28, 2004 at 12:08 PM (PDT)

Backstage: Leander on iSkin v. Lajo

#### makes good products and 10 times more than iSkin. They have like 4 ipod products. #### has over 20 and over 35 different colors.

Posted by Coolpepper43 on July 28, 2004 at 11:40 AM (PDT)

Backstage: Leander on iSkin v. Lajo

Ah, interesting in deed.  This is a nice little post.  I have to agree though.  I was happy to see when ####’s products were being reviewed shortly after the huge incident(s) that they were given fair treatment, etc.  smile

Posted by JBF on July 28, 2004 at 10:32 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

Let us not forget the fact that “Harmony” and Real’s music store are not available for Macintosh users at all. Kind of interesting considering Real’s attitude towards Apple complaining about the inaccessibility of other services (ie: Real networks) to work with I-tunes. After all, Apple had the lions share of legal music downloads before i-tunes was even available for Windows. So for Real to exclude Mac users from their service is akin to them shooting themselves in the foot!

Posted by not real on July 28, 2004 at 7:48 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

I can’t remember where on the forums/this site I read this, but someone reported that it was a pain in the @(*&$ to get the songs on your iPod:  you have to disable autosync, and have to conitnually update the Real songs every time you sync. 

Usability issues alone may kill this for Real.

Posted by Cameron on July 28, 2004 at 7:42 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

Basically I missed first sentence of the “BIG TIME PARTNERS” section.  So that’s what threw me off.

Posted by JBF on July 28, 2004 at 7:34 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

Ah, ok.  Thanks for pointing that out.  Sorry about that.  smile

Posted by JBF on July 28, 2004 at 7:32 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

JBF: There was nothing even slightly misrepresentative of BusinessWeek’s quotes in my original post. Here, taken from the original article, are the following original quotes (not shortened for brevity’s sake):

Subtitle: “RealNetworks’ attempt to make its music downloads work on iPods does Jobs & Co. and consumers a disservice—and should be thwarted”

Mid-story: “If Jobs’s lawyers tell him it’s legally justified, the CEO might even consider an even more radical way of making his point: loudly inform iPod owners that Apple will no longer honor their warranty if they buy songs from Real or other rival online music stores. BIG-TIME PARTNERS.  Such a move might temporarily cast Jobs as the Darth Vader of interoperability to industry watchers. But in the long run, it’s in Apple’s best interest.”

There was nothing inaccurate or misleading about the way it was quoted from the original story. The subsequent references to “such a move” and “it’s” are clearly referring to the “more radical way” proposed a sentence or two earlier. On the next page of the article, the writer specificially suggests that “the market for legal digital music may be an exception” to the concept of free and open markets, and explains why.

The points in my original posting were to state that it was bizarre to see a business magazine arguing against free markets, and that it was especially odd for a magazine to propose such a consumer-unfriendly tactic. Both of which they did. The whole purpose of abbreviated quoting is to distill the essence of large paragraphs into fewer words, which the summary quotes above accomplished.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on July 28, 2004 at 7:13 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

Hmmm…perhaps not a good thing afterall. What do we know about iPod/iTunes music so far?

1) Recorded not from CDs but original material - higher-quality from the get-go…

2) Audio quality on tests proved that 128K-bit was quite sufficient under Apple’s AAC-based codec. Higher-bitrates were generally unnecessary…

3) iPods are designed to work best with 128-bit AAC files - higher bitrates degrade the battery life even faster (and they’re larger also, so buffering might become a problem). This happens with all players, but I distinctly remember reading this on Apple’s site…

So - the quality may not be as good, the files are larger and take up more space, degrade the battery life - and for the most part, needlessly.

iTunes now not just looks better, but smarter too.

Posted by JimInHolland_30gbG3 on July 28, 2004 at 6:23 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

I’d like to add one more thing…

Granted, Business week does say that it is Apple’s right to defend this act by Real Networks (Which I actually think was a good move by Real to release Harmony), but they did not say, “it’s in Apple’s best interest” to “loudly inform iPod owners that Apple will no longer honor their warranty if they buy songs from Real or other rival online music stores.”

I just feel that you mis-represented Business Week.  That’s all.

I do have to agree that what Real is doing is a great thing.  It can only mean good things for apple (if they don’t press charges) as it allows consumers to get a wider variety of music, and also help stop another horrible “betamax” incident with the iPod, etc.  (And none of us want that to happen again)

Posted by JBF on July 28, 2004 at 6:16 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

Way to take Business Week’s “quote” out of context.  In fact, it’s not even their opinion.  They did not say “it’s in Apple’s best interest” to “loudly inform iPod owners that Apple will no longer honor their warranty if they buy songs from Real or other rival online music stores.”

Business week _actually_ stated:

“If Jobs’s lawyers tell him it’s legally justified, the CEO might even consider an even more radical way of making his point: loudly inform iPod owners that Apple will no longer honor their warranty if they buy songs from Real or other rival online music stores.”

I would have expected a much better post from you Jeremy. 

(This isn’t an attack at you, as I highly respect you.  I just can’t believe that you are trying to make business week the “bad guy” when they never said what you claim they said.)

Posted by JBF on July 28, 2004 at 6:12 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

Correct.  Apple does generate a small profit on the iTMS.

The reason that Apple wouldn’t want this to impact iTMS sales isn’t lost “small” profits, though… It’s lost status, online sales market share, and power.  These three things are not items that Apple has had prior to the iTMS, and it’s done wonders for their public image.

Posted by Jerrod H. in TX on July 28, 2004 at 5:15 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

I read somewhere that they took a loss during the first 2 years, and now they make a small profit.

The smartest thing for apple to do would be to offer higher bitrates, 192 or 256 kpbs even. Then allow the end user adjust the bitrate through itunes, before uploading to the ipod.

Posted by nothinglower on July 28, 2004 at 4:41 AM (PDT)

Backstage: Early iPod 4G review comments

I’ve been interested in knowing the mount of RAM in these puppies…but I can’t find those specs.

Posted by robfromjersey on July 28, 2004 at 4:05 AM (PDT)

Backstage: On RealNetworks and the iPod

I don’t understand why this wouldn’t be beneficial to Apple. I mean they claim that ITMS makes a loss and is just there to sell iPods, so if someone else takes some of that hit for them, they should be happy.

Of course they could be lying about making a loss…

Posted by Dave on July 28, 2004 at 12:16 AM (PDT)

Backstage: Early iPod 4G review comments

The iTalk does indeed work with the new fourth generation iPod.

Posted by Wes Priest on July 27, 2004 at 3:56 PM (PDT)

Backstage: iLounge on new servers

New server response times for me are very variable. At best it is scertainly an improvement over the old server. But I also get some very slow loads, and an occasional connection refused.

It seems slowest when loading the home page. Subsequent clicks on links seem to load faster.

While waiting for a page load, a “ping” responds in about 40-60msec., so I believe the bottleneck is the server, not the Internet.

Can you guys get any performance stats from theplanet.com that show what is really happening?

Posted by Dave Lasker on July 27, 2004 at 2:02 PM (PDT)

Backstage: Apple drops Remote and Case pack-ins

Does anyone have the original screen shot from the Apple website that showed the the included remote and case??  I am having trouble with customer service….

Could you please post a higher-resolution screen shot if you have it???

Posted by Phil on July 27, 2004 at 1:46 PM (PDT)

Backstage: iLounge on new servers

Aww… C’mon, Dennis…

XServe Rack!
XServe Rack!
XServe Rack! 

wink

j/k Nice job, and thanks… it’s much better now.

Posted by Jerrod H. in TX on July 27, 2004 at 10:44 AM (PDT)

Backstage: Apple drops Remote and Case pack-ins

FWIW, I tried to see if they would supply the remote/case to me since I thought (based on the apple press releases) that they would be in there (“same as 3G but cheaper and better bat mgmt, etc.”).  My purchase was for a 4G 40GB on 24 Jul at a reseller.

I called and after being bounced around, eventually “Sean” said no, I would need to take it up with the reseller (Best Buy in Wilmington, DE).

I never used the remote/case that much in my 3G; prob. not worth the fight.

Posted by cydnub on July 27, 2004 at 8:58 AM (PDT)

Backstage: iLounge on new servers

Care to post any pictures of the server set-up?  Are they pretty?  Do they sound fast?  Us techies love our computer ‘porn’

Posted by Dave the techie on July 27, 2004 at 8:13 AM (PDT)

Backstage: iLounge on new servers

The new servers are 3 dedicated machines hosted by theplanet.com.

Posted by Dennis Lloyd in Irvine, CA on July 27, 2004 at 8:06 AM (PDT)

Backstage: iLounge on new servers

Congrats on the new servers.  Nothin’ but warp drive here, when loading pages now!

Love the site.

Are they your own servers, or are you sharing them with other clients?  (Being hosted)

Posted by bikepodmini on July 27, 2004 at 7:30 AM (PDT)

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