Apple may have plans to include the online storage and streaming of both films and TV shows in its iCloud offering, according to a new report. Citing two sources close to the negotiations, Cnet reports that Apple has increased its efforts to convince major Hollywood film studios to issue licenses that would enable such a service; the report notes that Apple began discussing such a service with the studios over a year ago. The report also claims that part of the challenge in signing all six major studios is the so-called HBO blackout, part of the contract between the cable network and three of the six studios—Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, and NBC Universal—that prohibits other electronic distribution outlets from selling the title while it’s airing on HBO. Whether or not a deal concerning the HBO contract is ready in time, the report states that Apple could still launch such a service with the support of the other three major studios—Disney, Paramount, and Sony—when it officially unveils its iCloud service June 6.
A new report has emerged offering details on Apple’s cloud music offering. Citing people briefed on the talks between Apple and the major music labels, Bloomberg reports that Apple will be able to scan customers’ digital music libraries in iTunes and quickly mirror their collections on its own servers, replacing low-quality songs with higher quality versions, after which users will be able to stream their songs and albums directly to their devices. According to the report, users will be able to store their entire music collections in the cloud—including songs that may have been obtained illegally, giving the music labels a way to earn money on pirated music through whatever fee Apple plans to charge. The report claims that the labels are negotiating aggressively to ensure they make a profit from the shift to the cloud, as it may be the last opportunity to stem piracy and dropping sales. Apple has already signed deals with three of the four major labels for the service, and is said to be close to reaching a deal with the final holdout, Universal Music. Apple could announce its cloud music service as early as its Worldwide Developers Conference, which begins with a keynote address on June 6.
Apple, along with AT&T and US Cellular, has been hit with a patent infringement lawsuit by Visual Interactive Phone Concepts (VIPC). In its case against Apple, VIPC is asserting two patents, both of which are entitled “videophone interactive mailbox facility system and method of processing information,” according to a FOSS Patents report. The complaint states that Apple infringes on the patents due to its sales of “mobile communication devices that are videophones,” and also names the App Store—“an application service for users to view, download and use applications on their videophones”—the iTunes Store, and the iBookstore as infringing entities, because they include “a central data center that facilitates the order and delivery of [apps, entertainment content, books, PDF documents, etc.].” Apple is accused of “intentional and willful infringement,” which, as the report notes, would result in treble damages should the court agree.
Apple is closing in on deals which would give it the music publishing rights necessary to launch its anticipated cloud music service, according to a new report. Citing two sources with knowledge of the talks, Cnet reports that negotiations between Apple and music publishers began in earnest recently, but that the amount of money separating the two sides is relatively small. Despite the seemingly small monetary gap between the two, the report notes that cloud services are new, and thus there is no precedent for how to license them. On the label side, Apple has reportedly signed license agreements with EMI Music, Warner Music, and Sony Music; a deal with Universal Music, the final holdout of the largest four labels, could come as soon as this week, according to the report.
Apple has now reached a cloud-based music licensing agreement with Sony Music Group, giving it deals with three of the four largest labels, according to a Bloomberg report. Citing people with knowledge of the deals, the report reiterates that the service will allow users to store content on Apple’s servers and access it via the Internet rather than storing it locally on a device. An Apple patent application discovered yesterday shows one implementation of how such a service could work. The report goes on to state that Apple is close to a deal with Universal Music Group, and that separate agreements with music publishers would also be necessary, as they control different rights than the labels.
A newly published Apple patent application suggests that the company may be planning to use small, locally-stored clips of media items stored in the cloud as an on-device buffer. Such a setup would allow for reduced media footprints on devices such as the iPod and iPhone, as only a short portion of each song or video—think an iTunes preview clip—would be stored locally, in order to give the device an opportunity to grab the rest of the item while reducing the possibility of playback pauses as media is retrieved from a server.
Entitled “Local Storage of a Portion of Streamed Media Items,” the patent describes “locally storing one or more clips corresponding to a media item such that the clips can be immediately played back in response to a user request to play back the media item. While the clips are played back, the electronic device can retrieve the remaining segments of the media item from the user’s media library as a media stream over a communications network. Once the playback of the clip is complete, the electronic device can seamlessly switch playback to the media stream received from the user’s library.” Notably, one of the images included with the patent shows an iTunes synchronization settings screen, in which an iPhone is set to “Sync partial music,” with a “Minimum Connection Speed” of 3G. As with all Apple patents, this application does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via AppleInsider]
Apple has signed a cloud-based music licensing agreement with EMI music and is close to securing deals with the remaining “big four” labels, according to a new report. Citing multiple music industry sources, Cnet reports that EMI, along with Warner Music Group, have signed agreements with Apple, while similar deals with Sony Music Group and Universal Music Group are nearing completion. The report states that negotiations with the latter two labels could be wrapped up as early as next week, giving Apple contracts with all four of the top labels heading into WWDC, where many expect the company to announce its cloud-based offering. Apple’s approach differs from that of rivals Amazon and Google, both of which have launched cloud-based music services without the support of the labels; the report claims that the labels’ agreements with Apple may allow it to offer features that Amazon and Google lack.
Amazon MP3 has dropped the price on a number of its top-selling songs to $0.69 each, nearly half the price of the majority of best-selling tracks on iTunes. The Los Angeles Times reports that it is unclear whether Amazon or the music labels themselves are eating the cost of the price reduction; currently discounted tracks include “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, “On the Floor” by Jennifer Lopez, and “E.T.” by Katy Perry. As of this writing, 13 of the top 20 best-selling songs on Amazon MP3 are selling for the reduced $0.69 price, where as only one song in iTunes’ top 50—“Barbra Steisand” by Duck Sauce—is priced below $1.29, selling for $0.99. Curiously, Amazon’s move comes exactly a month after its rollout of a new Cloud Player online music service, which it launched without the consent of the major music labels.
- April 26, 2011
Apple will eventually charge a fee for its cloud-based iTunes service, according to a new report. Citing music industry insiders, Cnet reports that while Apple has indicated that it could initially offer the service free of charge, it will eventually require a fee. A pair of reports from last week indicated that work on Apple’s cloud-based music service has been “completed,” and that the company has already secured deals with two of the four major music labels for the service, while company executives push to finalize the remaining deals. The service will reportedly allow iTunes customers to store their songs on a remote server, and access them from anywhere they have an Internet connection. Cnet notes that while an earlier report pegged Apple’s pricing for the service at $20 annually, none of its sources were sure what the company plans to charge.
- April 26, 2011
Apple has blocked access to the iTunes Store for users running iTunes version 8.2.1 and earlier, according to a 9 to 5 Mac report. Citing a reader tip, the report claims that a user running iTunes 8.2.1 on a G3-powered Mac attempted to access the store, only to see a prompt to upgrade to iTunes 10. According to the reader, the store worked fine previously on 8.2.1, indicating that this is a recent change. Notably, iTunes 8.2.1 was the last version of the software to support G3-based Macs, leaving these legacy devices with no way to access the store. iLounge has confirmed that the iTunes Store is still accessible by users running iTunes 9, which ushered in a redesign of the iTunes Store.
Apple has already secured deals with two of the four big music labels for its upcoming cloud-based music service, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources, AllThingsD reports that the first two deals were signed within the last two months, and that Apple’s Vice President of iTunes Eddy Cue will be in New York today to try and finalize the remaining deals. “They’ve been very aggressive and thoughtful about it,” said one industry executive. “It feels like they want to go pretty soon.” The report also states that the general idea of the service is for Apple to let customers store songs they’ve purchased from the iTunes Store, as well as other songs stored on their hard drives, for listening across multiple devices; it adds that the deals Apple is signing will let it store a single master copy of a song on its servers for sharing with multiple users, while Amazon’s service works much more like an external hard drive. The report gave no clues as to when Apple might launch the service, although prior reports have stated it could launch as early as June.
Apple has “completed work” on its cloud-based music storage service and is set to launch it ahead of a competing service from Google, according to a new report. Citing two people familiar with both companies’ plans, Reuters reports that the new service will allow iTunes customers to store their songs on a remote server, and access them from anywhere they have an Internet connection. The report adds that Apple has yet to sign any new licenses for the service and that the major music labels are hoping to secure deals ahead of the service’s launch, although they have not yet been told when that will be. Apple has reportedly been working on the music service for some time, which may or may not be tied into a revamp of MobileMe.
Apple has asked a federal judge to dismiss a consumer antitrust lawsuit related to the pairing of the iPod to the iTunes Music Store. Apple attorney Robert Mittelstaedt told U.S. District Judge James Ware that blocking iPod music downloads that used competitors’ software was intended to protect iTunes and iPod customers’ quality of experience. “Apple’s view is that iPods work better when consumers use the iTunes jukebox rather than third party software that can cause corruption or other problems,” Mittelstaedt said at a hearing. The request comes just days after Apple CEO Steve Jobs, still on medical leave from the company, met with plaintiff attorneys for a court-ordered deposition. The case, which dates back to 2005, revolves around RealNetworks’ Harmony technology, which promised to allow copy-protected music sold on its online store to be played on iPods. The technology was introduced in July 2004, and Apple took just five days to announce software updates to render the technology inoperable, saying its was “stunned” that Real had “adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod.” Judge Ware is expected to rule on Apple’s dismissal request by May.
Apple has released iTunes 10.2.2, the latest version of its media management software. According to Apple’s release notes, 10.2.2 includes a number of “important” bug fixes; it addresses an issue where iTunes may become unresponsive when syncing an iPad, resolves an issue which could cause syncing photos to an iOS device to take longer than necessary, fixes a problem where video previews on the iTunes Store could skip while playing, and addresses “other issues that improve stability and performance. iTunes 10.2.2 is available now via Apple’s Software Update utility or as a direct download from apple.com/itunes and is a 24.5MB download for Mac users.
Paul Messias, developer for Park Bench Software, has informed iLounge that the company’s iOS app DiagnosticPADD will soon be removed from the App Store due to copyright and trademark infringement claims from CBS Interactive. The $1 universal app mimics the LCARS fictional computer operating system from Star Trek: The Next Generation; it offers functions such as viewing and emailing device information, battery status, network settings like IP address and host name, GPS coordinates, accelerometer data, microphone levels, and file system information. Messias says that the company received an email from Apple stating, “we received a notice from CBS Interactive that CBS Interactive believes your application named ‘DiagnosticPADD’ infringes CBS Interactive’s intellectual property rights. In particular, CBS Interactive states that your application is ‘...using our branded Star Trek elements’. ”
In a follow up email to CBS Interactive, the network claimed ownership of the acronym “PADD,” as well as the look and feel of the interface. “In response to your questions, the Application uses the ‘PADD’ trademark and the interface is substantially similar to CBSS’ copyrighted LCARS interface. Your use of the Series’ Properties improperly trades on the goodwill and reputation of CBSS and the Series and is likely to cause confusion among consumers that the Application is affiliated with or licensed by CBSS and/or the Series. CBSS has concluded that such use constitutes trademark infringement, dilution, passing off and misappropriation under the Lanham Act and applicable state laws, as well as copyright infringement under applicable U.S. copyright law and counterpart laws around the world.”
Park Bench Software notes that as a small developer, “[w]e certainly don’t have the legal backing or the ability to fund a defensive lawsuit,” but says that he couldn’t find evidence of a trademark for PADD, and doesn’t think that a Star Trek-inspired “look and feel” could be copyrighted. Regardless, the developer is pulling the app, and “is sad to see something we spent our time and energy on disappear.” As of this writing, the app is still available on the App Store.
Developer James Laird has reverse engineered Apple’s private AirPlay key, opening the door to third-party AirPlay-enabled AirPort Express emulators. In a blog post announcing the release of ShairPort, an open-source AirPort Express emulator, Laird explains that Apple used a public-key crypto scheme in the AirPort Express, hiding a private key inside. Laird ended up opening the AirPort Express, dumping the ROM, and reverse engineering the keys out of it to achieve his goal. As noted by Mac Rumors, third-party apps allowing users to stream audio to an AirPort Express or other AirPlay devices have previously been available, but none were able to accept incoming audio streams. In addition, it seems unlikely that hardware manufacturers would want to use the key, as it is possible to become an officially licensed AirPlay partner instead.
Apple has ordered a staggering 12 petabytes of storage for iTunes video content, according to a new report. Citing an source inside Isilon Systems, the company from which Apple purchased the storage, Storage Newsletter reports that the storage will be used to “manage the video download of its customers using iTunes,” and that Apple’s order probably makes it the largest of the company’s 1,500 customers. Apple has reportedly been working on an online digital locker service for personal data such as photos, music, and videos, although the report makes no mention of this being a possible use for the storage. [via AppleInsider]
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been ordered by a federal magistrate judge to answer questions in an antitrust dispute dating back to 2005. Bloomberg reports that the case revolves around RealNetworks’ Harmony technology, which promised to allow copy-protected music sold on its online store to be played on iPods. The technology was introduced in July 2004, and Apple took just five days to announce software updates to render the technology inoperable, saying its was “stunned” that Real had “adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod.” According to U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd in San Jose, California, Jobs has been ordered to speak because “The court finds that Jobs has unique, non-repetitive, firsthand knowledge about the issues at the center of the dispute over RealNetworks software.”
Apple has sued Amazon over its use of the “App Store” trademark, according to a Bloomberg report. In the complaint, filed March 18 in federal court in northern California, Apple accuses Amazon of trademark infringement and unfair competition, and asks for a court order to stop Amazon from using the App Store name, as well as for unspecified damages. Amazon officially opened its Amazon Appstore for Android today, offering many of the same apps as Apple’s App Store, such as the new Angry Brids Rio, but actually began using the term earlier this year. “Amazon has unlawfully used the App Store mark to solicit software developers throughout the United States,” Apple states in its suit. Notably, Apple is currently involved in a dispute with Microsoft over the “App Store” trademark, over which Microsoft has filed an objection with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- March 16, 2011
According to the latest data from The NPD Group, Netflix dominated the digital movie market between January and February 2011, grabbing a 61 percent share of all films downloaded or streamed during that time period. Comcast held the second place position in the market with an eight percent share, followed by Apple, DirecTV, and Time Warner Cable, each of which grabbed four percent of the market. Based on information from the company’s VideoWatch Digital tracking service digital video now accounts for 25 percent of all home video volume. The company also collected consumer satisfaction numbers for four digital video models—electronic sell-through (EST), Internet video-on-demand, cable video-on-demand, and subscription streaming—and found that while consumers feel EST services such as iTunes have the most current releases available, Netflix was credited with providing the best overall shopping experience and value.