As a long time Apple-geek it’s rad to see so many old Apple devices and their sounds used to make this music track that they used to open their recent October event.
Apple have added a new "Reading List" feature to the next version of Mac OSX which is currently under development, 10.7 Lion. Reading List allows you to collect web pages and links for later reading, as such obvious but slightly inaccurate comparisons have been made to services like Instapaper and Readability, however, Reading List is different from those services as it doesn’t seem to actually cache, modify or strip back the content of the pages added to it. I was a bit surprised by this seeing as Apple added the ‘Reader’ function to Safari a while ago which basically adds the same kind of stripping back of content for easy reading that these other services offer. It seems like an obvious marriage of the two features.
Reading List + Reader = A step too far?
In light of this disconnect between these two features in Safari I’ve been wondering if there is a deeper motivation for not blending the two together. If users had the capability to use a version of Reading List which automatically used the Reader function to strip content back then I wonder if publishers would complain that Apple was robbing them of page views / ad revenue or manipulating their content without consent?
These are accusations that some have thrown at Instapaper and Readability, interestingly Readability does actually give 70% of the monthly fees that users pay to the publishers of sites that their users visit so there is obviously merit to this kind of service but also a conscience about the impact that it may have on websites which depend on visitors and advertising revenue.
I wonder if Apple are aware of this and feel that merging these two features in Safari would be a step too far? From an end user perspective the ability to strip out adverts from web pages and store website content for offline reading is a great user experience compared to browsing many of the advert-filled, cluttered websites out there. From a web publisher perspective the potential impact on revenue a service like this, albeit with the goal to provide an enhanced reading / user experience for web content, could be huge if a company like Apple integrates it directly into Safari.
Digital Locker / Cloud Streaming
Another couple of items of tech news recently were the launch of Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Google’s Music beta both of which offer what is known as Digital Locker or Cloud Streaming services for music.
Both of these services allow you to upload your own music to the cloud so that you can play it back via various net connected devices.
Now where this gets interesting is that both Amazon and Google have launched these services without any specific permission from the record labels, specifically they claim that there is no need for any special licensing terms as the service is intended for music that people own already or in Amazon’s case music which is purchased via the Amazon MP3 store.
In contrast to both Google and Amazon’s approach there is a lot of speculation about an upcoming cloud streaming offering by Apple, rumoured to be called iCloud it is thought that the service will offer cloud storage and streaming of music and movies that can be accessed via iTunes on Mac or via any iOS device. The difference between Google / Amazon and Apple is that Apple are apparently actively seeking licensing agreements with the Music companies in regard to providing this cloud based digital locker / streaming storage service and as such have the backing of the music industry.1
It’s obviously a hot topic – and which is the legitimate approach? Should Apple have to negotiate and pay money to the music companies to allow users (us!) the ability to stream content that we have already purchased? Or are Amazon and Google right that no licences are required or money due to the music companies? It’s a tricky one, but the music labels are adamant that licences are required and so it seems likely Amazon and Google will have to come to some kind of agreement or otherwise face some long drawn out legal challenges.
Reading List will not be a digital locker for web content
Apple’s stance in regard to the whole situation of digital locker / cloud streaming shows that Apple wants to keep things straight between themselves and the rights-holders of the content that will be stored in their rumoured ‘iCloud’ service. If you apply this same respect for rights-holders and publishers content to a feature like Reading List then it’s not too big a jump to surmise that Apple may not want to do the same thing to web publishers content.
It’s hard to know if there’s anything of substance to this theory, it’s just something I’ve been wondering about. The fact that even the Reader feature itself exists in Safari could be viewed as being a sign that Apple doesn’t think there’s a problem offering features that manipulate web publishers content without their consent. But given that there is / has been debate about services like Instapaper2 and that services like Readability do give money back to the publishers whose content is being accessed and read via their services, it is obviously not a clear cut situation either way. As such it would be entirely responsible for Apple to consider the implications of such a feature.
1. I also suspect that another difference with Apple’s service may be that it only supports content purchased directly via iTunes rather than letting you upload any music or video content. Two things back this up, 1: the music labels do not like the idea of users being able to upload their own content due to piracy fears, and 2: the Ping social network within iTunes only lets you like and share music that is in the iTunes Store.
2. I should point out that Instapaper does offer integration with Readability and as such allows Instapaper users to give back to the web publishers whose content they consume via the service. I definitely don’t intend to give the idea that the creator of Instapaper or similar services don’t respect the rights of web publishers! In fact it is possible for publishers to request that content be excluded for parsing by both Instapaper and Readability’s services – something that doesn’t seem to be possible for the Reader function built into Safari! I am myself a user of Instapaper and use the bookmarklet and RSS feed as a simple way to manage a list of articles to read at a later date.
iPod shuffles – shiny rainbows
Now in multiple colours as well as a special edition stainless steel model. There were rumours that this tiny little iPod was going to be ditched but that didn’t happen. They also announced a new 2GB model along with shuffle-compatible third party headphones and controller peripherals. I’m not sure how much smaller you could make an iPod shuffle really. (iPod shuffle ?)
iPod nano – complete with camera
At first I didn’t think an iPod nano with a camera was that big a deal but after watching one of the video clips demoing the video features I found myself wanting one to carry around so that I could film things again. I’ve missed being able to film stuff since getting my iPhone 3G, however, there’s no way I’m buying yet another iPod so I’ll just have to look into getting an iPhone 3GS at christmas time instead! The nano’s video format is 640×480 pixel h.264 video and looks to be pretty good quality, it almost makes me wish Apple would just make a dedicated camera but I don’t think that will happen. (iPod nano ?)
iPod classic – memory bump
There’s nothing that different in store for the iPod classic, just a simple storage bump from 120GB to 160GB instead. I still like the classic iPod and the scroll wheel, it’s a great interface for accessing files. The iPhone / iPod touch’s touch screen is great but the scroll wheel is still very efficient I think. I wonder though how much time is left for these iPods? Probably still a fair bit, but once flash memory gets into at least 128GB sizes I think the iPod classic will be assigned to the history books. (iPod classic ?)
iPod touch – 64GB model and price drop
There was no rumoured iPod touch-with-camera announced, just a price drop on the existing model as well as a 64GB model announced. I think a new version with a camera is in the works, it just doesn’t make sense for the nano to have it and not the touch. Also the lineup is now 8GB, 32GB and 64GB, I’d expect to see it become 16GB, 32GB and 64GB when the new model is announced. That’s just my speculation though. Update: This press release from Apple about the new iPod touch updates paints a slightly different picture though, it indicates that the 32GB and 64GB iPod touches have the same internals as the iPhone 3GS, “The 32GB and 64GB models also include up to 50 percent faster performance and support for even better graphics with Open GL ES 2.0“. Interesting. (iPod touch ?)
An expected announcement and one that took up the majority of the media event. iTunes 9 introduced a revamped interface (with it’s usual introduction of unusual / new interface aesthetics!) and a few other new features. One thing that’s disappeared though is the shopping cart feature, now you have to either add it to the also newly added Wish List feature or you have to use 1-Click purchasing! That’s a little bit scary.
There’s now also the option to share items on the store to either Facebook or Twitter, I was hoping for more integration with social networks, particularly last.fm but alas it’s not to be. One other thing I noticed is that iTunes now finally behaves like all other good Mac apps and will actually maximise when you click the maximise button! Previously this would toggle iTunes into it’s Mini Player mode, I’m really glad they’ve changed this.
Here’s a rundown of some of the new features of iTunes 9:
- iTunes LP – Intended to introduce the digital equivalent of album covers complete with liner notes, lyric, videos etc. This is something that is long overdue, I look forward to checking out some of these. Another question though is how are these made? I’m pretty sure they won’t involve Flash but I’ll be keen to find out how they’re produced.
- Home sharing – This basically allows you to easily share tracks between up-to five machines that you can authorise to play back songs. This seems really handy for households with more than one computer, drag and drop songs between shared libraries.
- Redesigned iTunes Store – Improved navigation is one of the main tweaks, it now seems more like a web page with consistent navigation along the top of the window. You can also set an option in the preferences to use the full window when browsing the store, this basically gets rid of the list of options on the left hand side. It’s quite handy to get a bit more space when browsing the store.
- iTunes Extras – Another long overdue feature! I’m not that impressed with the iTunes store’s video offerings, many movies are not available to rent until long after many other rental stores have had them. So these movies are only available to purchase, what’s more they’re a bit expensive too compared to picking them up in DVD format from somewhere like play.com or even at your local Tesco supermarket. Ok, rant over. iTunes Extras basically adds a bit more value by including the special features that you’d get on your regular (and cheaper!) DVD purchase. I’m a tiny little bit more likely to buy one now (I still probably won’t though).
- Genius mixes – An interesting new feature, it finds songs that go well together and automatically makes mixes out of them. One thing to point out though is at first I couldn’t see where this feature was, you need to choose ‘Update Genius’ from the Store menu in iTunes in order to update and activate the feature.
- Improved syncing – Undoubtedly one of the most sought after features by anyone who owns an iPhone or iPod touch and has a lot of applications on it, you can now organise the layout of all of your apps inside iTunes itself. It’s not quite how I’d proposed it but close ;)
iPhone OS 3.1
iPhone OS 3.1 for iPhone (and 3.1.1 for iPod touch) were announced too. It introduces a few new features that tie in with iTunes 9’s new features, nothing massively new but then again it is a point update. Amongst the various features shown on the iPhone OS software update page a couple of little tweaks caught my eye:
- Remotely lock iPhone with a passcode via MobileMe
- Warn when visiting fraudulent websites in Safari (anti-phishing)
Being able to lock an iPhone remotely enhances the already brilliant MobileMe feature of locating your iPhone via GPS and also remotely wiping a lost iPhone. Anti-phishing support in Mobile Safari is a great feature too, something all browsers need these days.
Anyway, enough writing about it all, I’m going to go and re-organise my iPhone apps :)
Well, it’s that time of year again when people across the UK (and in europe I guess) say “Oh no, not flippin Eurovision!”.
As bad and cheesy as it is *every* year, it certainly makes for hilarious viewing due to the painfully cheesy bands / singers / music!
I saw a definite theme / formula whilst watching it, you need:
- One Female singer (preferably attractive, with long hair)
- At least 3 backing dancers / singers
- One wind machine
- One unwanted Shakira song, merged with local dance format (such as cossack dancing)
or if you can’t find anything to fit that format just get a bunch of extras from an episode of Buffy and enter them instead!
As I write this Lordi from Finland look set to win, when asked how the band felt about being in Eurovision they said:
?We are meat eaters in a vegetarian café.?
I tried restoring it, reformatting it, etc etc yadayadayada… but nothing worked. It’s now going off to take a visit to UKiPodRepairs.com to see if they can do anything else with it. I reckon the hard drive is toast which is at least £150 to fix, I’d sooner buy a new iPod I reckon. Ah well.