During a hearing Wednesday to discuss enforcement of digital music compatibility standards, a House panel said it does not want to force interoperability on the industry, but may have to consider actions in the future.
Lawmakers met in part because of “concerns that had been mounting about Apple’s overwhelming hold on the digital music market after the company altered its iPod and iTunes technology to prevent the playing of files downloaded from competitor RealNetworks’ Harmony system,” according to Elana Schor of the Medill News Service.
“Government intervention can probably prohibit innovation,” said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. “Consumers will choose interoperability over closed platforms” like the iPod.
Digital music subcommittee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, was reportedly vocal in his skepticism of Apple’s closely guarded system, and was not happy that the company turned down an invitation to appear before his panel. “Generally speaking, companies with 75 percent market share of any business… need to step up to the plate when it comes to testifying on policy issues that impact their industry,” he said. “Failure to do so is a mistake.”
Only a day after Apple blocked the original version of PyMusique, Jon Lech Johansen says that he has posted an updated version of his software that allows users to once again tap into the iTunes Music Store and buy songs without digital rights management (DRM) protection.
In a post on his blog entitled “So sue me,” Johansen writes: “The iTunes Music Store recently stopped supporting iTunes versions below 4.7 in an attempt to shut out 3rd party clients. I have reverse engineered the iTMS 4.7 crypto which will once again enable 3rd party clients to communicate with the iTMS.”
Apple today confirmed that it has closed a security hole that allowed users to connect to the iTunes Music Store and purchase songs without digital rights management (DRM) restrictions. The company said that iTunes users will need to upgrade to version 4.7 or higher in order to buy songs. While not specifically stating so, Apple apparently updated the store to block access with PyMusique, recently released software created by three programmers including “DVD Jon” Johansen that enabled users to tap into iTunes to buy DRM-free tracks.
“The security hole in the iTunes Music Store which was recently exploited has been closed, and as a consequence the iTunes Music Store will now sell music only to customers using iTunes version 4.7,” Apple said in a statement provided to iPodounge. The company went on to note that approximately only 15 percent of iTunes users will be affected by this forced upgrade.
At the South by Southwest music festival last week in Austin, Apple debuted a new series of prepaid iTunes cards that feature song download codes specific to more than 200 artists. Unlike Apple’s current prepaid cards, which are available in retail stores such as Target, the custom iTunes cards can only be used to download predetermined songs or albums by a certain artist.
“The cards can be used to obtain a specific single from iTunes and are being distributed at shows, press conferences and other events throughout the festival,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. “As one example of what is possible from the promotional and marketing perspectives, Virgin/EMI recording artist the Gorillaz distributed a limited-edition iTunes card good for the premiere of their unreleased new song, ‘Dirty Harry,’ to everyone who attended its world premiere listening party in Austin.”
Update: More information on iTunes Custom Cards can now be found on Apple’s site.
To coincide with the launch of iPod connectivity in its 2005 model line, Volvo announced today that it will showcase music from Scandinavian artists on the iTunes Music Store. The car company will present a live music event in Times Square to launch “nu: the sounds of new Scandinavia” on March 23, with music available on the iTunes Music Store to help promote developing Scandinavian artists. Volvo’s “nu” will feature a monthly 12-song compilation, and select tracks will be available for free.
The Volvo iPod Adapter will be available for S60, S80 and V70/XC70 models and will connect by plugging an iPod into a cable located in the car’s armrest compartment. The Volvo S40, V50 and XC90 feature a dashboard mounted FM transmitter. The Volvo iPod Adapter allows users to listen and control their music through their Volvo sound system and steering wheel controls.
Motorola did not debut its mobile phone with support for Apple’s iTunes earlier this month because of the companies differing approach to launching new products. Motorola said it tends to show its phones weeks and sometimes months before they’re ready to ship, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs does not.
“The first thing you’re seeing here is a merger of two different industries with different ideas of launching products,” Ron Garriques, president of Motorola’s mobile phone division, said at a news conference at the CTIA wireless show in New Orleans. “Steve’s perspective is that you launch a product on Sunday and sell it on Monday.”
Garriques made it clear that the delay was not due to a disagreement with mobile phone carriers. “I’ve got lots of carriers fighting to be the first one we go with,” Garriques said.
At last month’s Grammy Awards, Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone performed a medley of Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” and “Piece of My Heart.” The live track is now available exclusively on the iTunes Music Store, with all proceeds benefiting two premier cancer research organizations - City of Hope and Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.
“I’ll never forget those two-and-a-half minutes on stage,” says Etheridge, who recently completed a course of chemotherapy to battle breast cancer. “It was the best get well present a girl could have.” Stone added, “Singing with Melissa was a dream come true. She’s an amazing singer, songwriter and without a doubt an amazing person, definitely a woman to look up to.”
Today at the CeBIT conference in Germany, Motorola said it is working on several iTunes-compatible moble phones and that some will be able to store up to eight hours of music. The Motorola ROKR, which has yet to be shown, will be the flagship phone. The ROKR is expected to be unveiled later this month at the M3 music event in Miami, Florida.
“Over the course of the year, you’ll see more (iTunes) devices,” said Alberto Moriondo, Motorola’s global director of entertainment for mobile devices. “The Walkman for the 21st century is the Apple brand.”
Update: The Chicago Tribune reports that Motorola was set to publicly unveil an iTunes phone today at CeBIT, but that “a last-minute message from a wireless carrier or carriers indefinitely postponed the announcement—a highly unusual occurrence.” The company had previewed the iTunes phone to the media earlier this week. It was said to have “a display screen akin to the iPod” and could hold up to 100 songs.
Apple’s iTunes Music Store is facing its strongest challenger in subscription services from Napster and others. At least one analyst says that subscriptions will outpace downloads within the next five years.
“Subscriptions are a great thing for real fans because you get access to a lot of music. The appeal is it’s on-demand. As long as you keep paying, its all there,” Jupiter Research analyst David Card says.
Many believe Apple CEO Steve Jobs will change his stance on subscriptions (he says they won’t succeed because consumers want to own, not rent) if iTunes and the iPod are challenged.
“The only reason they have iTunes is to sell iPods. If it turns out subscription services are important to sell iPods, they’ll probably get into that business,” Card says.
Update: Today at the iHollywood Forum Digital Living Room conference taking place in San Mateo, California, RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser said that one day Apple CEO Steve Jobs will have to move iTunes to subscriptions. “The day that they introduce subscriptions is the day that Steve Jobs has the brilliant revelation that subscriptions are a good thing,” Glaser said.
Motorola is expected to announce its first handset with iTunes integration on Thursday, March 10, according to a Newsweek article. While not noted by the publication, CeBIT 2005, an electronics event considered to be the largest in the world, will kick off in Hannover, Germany, on Thursday. Previous reports have said the flagship iTunes phone will be called “ROKR.”
“The music phones to be launched this month will allow customers to play their existing iTunes songs, and presumably buy new ones, on their Motorola phones,” writes Newsweek’s Brad Stone. “The problem for Motorola and Apple is that wireless operators like Sprint are interested in setting up those stores themselves.” Motorola CEO Ed Zander argues that consumers will “demand brands like iTunes but concedes that the carriers will ultimately get the first shot at selling songs on phones.”
Apple today announced that more than 300 million songs have been purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Music Store since it launched. The company also said that the benefit single “Across the Universe,” available exclusively on the iTMS, debuted at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, making it the most successful exclusive digital track ever in its first week of release.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs contacted top record industry executives Tuesday, alerting them to a security flaw in the Napster To Go service, the Los Angeles Times reports. “Thought you should know if you haven’t heard about this,” Jobs reportedly wrote in an e-mail that directed recipients to a website detailing how to convert Napster’s copy-protected downloads into unprotected files.
Napster CEO Chris Gorog countered with his own e-mail to the labels later Tuesday, saying that such copying schemes were neither new nor a Napster exclusive problem. He said such programs are time-consuming because they “essentially work like a tape recorder,” converting files as they play. Gorog said it is “trivial” to download a free utility to circumvent Apple’s digital rights management to unlock “a large collection of iTunes music in seconds.”
As first reported by MobileTracker, Motorola’s E1060 mobile phone is not the long-awaited iTunes phone as widely thought. Motorola said Wednesday that the E1060, shown earlier this week at the 3GSM conference in France, was only used to demonstrate iTunes and is not the iTunes phone despite a widely cited Reuters report that said the opposite.
“The E1060 was used to demonstrate the iTunes client; however, it is not our iTunes product,” Motorola said in a statement acquired by iLounge. “As you would expect, for competitive reasons, we are holding information (including specs and design) very closely until the appropriate time and venue for a product launch.”
MobileTracker said the iTunes phone could be officially introduced at CTIA Wireless 2005, which takes place next month in New Orleans, LA.
At the 3GSM trade event in France today, Motorola unveiled a slew of new mobile phones, including the first music handset to support Apple’s iTunes. The Motoroal E1060 features a 1.3 megapixel camera for still photos or video, a VGA camera for 2-way video conferencing, Bluetooth wireless technology, and audio and video streaming with playback support for MPEG4 (AAC), WMV/WMA and MP3 files. The phone will ship with 32MB of internal memory and is expandable up to 512MB with removable memory.
Motorola said iTunes will become the default music player on Motorola handsets, but that it won’t be an exclusive deal. “We’re committed to have iTunes as the default music client, but we’ll also continue to support other music players such as RealPlayer (from RealNetworks),” said Amer Husaini, vice president for Motorola’s mobile devices group in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
The Motorola E1060 is expected to be available in the fourth-quarter of 2005. Pricing was not announced.
Apple announced today that it is offering special pricing on all albums that include a Grammy award-winning track on the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) in the US. Starting today, all qualifying albums can be downloaded for $2 off its original cost, which brings the price of most albums down to $7.99.
The special version of “Across the Universe” performed live during the CBS Grammy telecast by leading artists including Bono, Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, Velvet Revolver, and Tim McGraw is also available as a 99 cent download exclusively on the iTMS in the US and Canada, with all proceeds going to the Southeast Asia tsunami relief efforts.
Both of Pepsi’s Super Bowl commercials for this year’s iTunes promotion were ranked poorly by consumers in USA Today’s Ad Meter survey released Monday. The 45-second spot, which features various tunes coming out of Pepsi bottles when the caps are lifted, placed 27th out of the 55 most popular ads with a score of 6.01. Pepsi’s 30-second spot, which features Gwen Stefani and Eve and their hit song “Rich Girl,” ranked 45th with a score of 5.31.
Unfortunately for Napster, its anti-Apple commercial came in dead last of all the Super Bowl commercials in 55th place. The Napster ad, which received a score of 4.37, featured the company’s cat icon at a football game holding up a sign comparing the price of the new Napster To Go service with Apple’s iTunes Music Store.
For a record seventh year in a row, Anheuser-Busch won USA Today’s Ad Meter consumer ranking. This year’s winner featured a skydiver who refuses to jump. An instructor tosses out a six-pack of Bud Light to try and get him to. The guy still doesn’t jump, but the pilot does.
All of this year’s Super Bowl ads can be viewed at iFlim in QuickTime format.
“Apple and Universal Music are expanding their range to online music consumers by selling Chinese-language pop music for the first time in North America and Europe,” reports the Financial Times.
“More than 1,000 tracks by top Chinese artists on the books of Universal, the world’s biggest record company, including Jacky Cheung, Kelly Chen, Hacken Lee and Alan Tam, will be available from Apple’s iTunes stores in 15 countries, including the US, UK and Canada.
Universal says it is the first time this range of Chinese music will be legally available online outside its region of origin.”
The second Pepsi-iTunes commercial—which will air alongside the ad released earlier this week at the Super Bowl on Sunday—has been leaked onto the Web. It features the song “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani featuring Eve, who both make a brief appearance at the end of the ad. The track comes from the Gwen Stefani album Love, Angel, Music, Baby. The new commercial can be viewed here. The first Pepsi-iTunes spot, called “Bottle Songs,” can be seen here.
Pepsi today announced details of the four commercials it will be running during this Sunday’s Super Bowl. As previously reported, the company will air an ad for this year’s Pepsi-iTunes promotion, which kicked off on Monday. Pepsi said the iTunes ad is called “Bottle Songs” and features “a number of popular tracks from a series of music genres” and “illustrates how winning a free song from the Pepsi iTunes promotion is as easy as opening a bottle of Pepsi.” It will be shown in 30 and 45-second spots.
As part of the Pepsi-iTunes music giveaway, Pepsi is giving away 200 million free songs from the iTunes Music Store. Those who redeem a free song download will also be automatically entered in a sweepstakes to win one of 1,700 iPod minis.
The Boston Herald reports that Apple’s iTunes Music Store now has over 150 celebrity playlists, and that more and more stars are offering up their favorite songs every week.
“Celebrities usually approach iTunes, wanting to participate,” said Alex Luke, Apple’s director of music programming and label relations. “We work with them to schedule the playlists when it makes sense for everyone as their movie premieres or as their new album is released.’‘
Luke said Apple does not provide free products or music downloads to the celebrities. “No, everyone loves music and participates simply to share their favorites,” he said. “We’ve seen that everyone, celebrities included, love to play the role of DJ.”