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Alternatives to iTunes: how 5 rival music services match up | ZDNet May 19, 2010

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities, Mobile & Gadgets, Multimedia.
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How well do the current crop of online music services stack up against the iTunes Store?

When I did my inaugural round-up of iTunes alternative last year, I was looking for ways to avoid the high price of iTunes, and I succeeded. I found six rivals that offered significant savings—at least 10% and potentially much more. My criteria included services aimed at music lovers who want the option to buy music by the track or by the album. Several of the alternative services included interesting differentiating features, with the biggest being the all-you-can-listen-to subscription model.

I looked at three main factors: price, selection, and ease of use. To make price comparisons, I created a basket of 10 rock, folk, country, and classical albums, six recent releases and four back catalog choices from the previous century.

On price, iTunes was once again the most expensive, with the highest price for the collection. See the chart at right for details; the asterisk in the Cost column indicates that two of the five alternative services didn’t offer the entire selection of albums—Zune Marketplace was missing two and eMusic had only six of the ten albums on my list. To figure the total price tag for those two services. I calculated the cost of the missing albums using the prices from the iTunes store. Amazon MP3 and Lala offered significant savings over iTunes, with total savings of 11% and 20%, respectively. Rhapsody offered only trivial savings over Apple’s store, and the Zune prices were all over the map, with three albums costing more than their iTunes rivals.

Read the rest of this article via Alternatives to iTunes: how 5 rival music services match up | ZDNet.

P.S.: I’ll be back. China is behind me 😉


John Nack on Adobe: Video: Sneak peek of Content-Aware Fill in Photoshop March 24, 2010

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Bryan O’Neil Hughes shows off some rather eye-popping (if we may say so) technology for synthesizing texture inside a future version of Photoshop:

The demo starts with some small pieces, so if you’re short on time, jump to about the 2:50 mark (halfway point) for the more impressive stuff. I’ve been getting great results filling in missing areas around a panorama, as Bryan shows at the 4-minute mark. Full-screen viewing makes it easier to see the details.

via John Nack on Adobe: Video: Sneak peek of Content-Aware Fill in Photoshop.

TiVo returning to the UK thanks to partnership with Virgin Media — Engadget March 11, 2010

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It looks like TiVo’s freshly minted Premiere hardware will soon be setting sail eastwards as The Daily Telegraph is reporting Virgin Media’s next generation set-top box will be built around it. Loyal readers of Engadget HD will already be aware that TiVo and Virgin hooked up last November and this latest news relates to the first hardware to be spawned from that relationship. According to TiVo CEO Tom Rogers, the Premiere will “heavily inspire the development work” going into Virgin’s next TV appendage, which may or may not mean that the cable company will simply rebadge the well-received new boxes. What’s assured though is much greater integration with online content, with search linking you out to Amazon, BBC’s iPlayer, YouTube or good old standard broadcast channels. The whole thing’s about unlimited choice, apparently, and should be showing up on the Queen’s isles by the end of this year. We can wait, but we’d rather we didn’t have to.

via TiVo returning to the UK thanks to partnership with Virgin Media — Engadget.

AppleInsider | Flash, HTML5 comparison finds neither has performance advantage March 11, 2010

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A comparison of streaming video via the Adobe Flash and HTML5 formats with numerous different browsers on both Mac and Windows produced wildly different results based on the operating system and browser, making neither a clear winner.

The test, from Streaming Learning Center, was conducted in response to recent comments alleged to have been said by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, in which he reportedly called Flash a “CPU hog.” While the test found that HTML5 is significantly more efficient than Flash on the Mac when running the Safari Web browser, those same advantages do not exist on other Mac browsers, or in Windows.

“It’s inaccurate to conclude that Flash is inherently inefficient,” author Jan Ozer wrote. “Rather, Flash is efficient on platforms where it can access hardware acceleration and less efficient where it can’t. With Flash Player 10.1, Flash has the opportunity for a true leap in video playback performance on all platforms that enable hardware acceleration.”

The report noted that Apple has not enabled the hooks to allow GPU-based acceleration for H.264 video decoding. Anand Lai Shimpi, founder of AnandTech, asserted “it’s up to Apple to expose the appropriate hooks to allow Adobe to (eventually) enable that functionality.”

Adobe’s update to Flash 10.1 on the Mac improved CPU efficiency within Safari by 5 percent, but the Web format still trails far behind HTML5 due to hardware acceleration. With Google Chrome, neither were particularly efficient, and Firefox saw slightly better performance than Chrome.

Flash test 1

On Windows, Apple’s Safari browser doesn’t play HTML 5 content. But the Google Chrome browser in Windows played Flash 10.1 content with 58 percent more efficiency than HTML5.

HTML5 is not natively supported in Firefox or Internet Explorer, but the update from Flash 10 to Flash 10.1 improved CPU performance for the browsers by 73 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Flash 10.1 in Windows offers added hardware acceleration.

“When it comes to efficient video playback, the ability to access hardware acceleration is the single most important factor in the overall CPU load,” Streaming Learning Center noted. “On Windows, where Flash can access hardware acceleration, the CPU requirements drop to negligible levels.

“It seems reasonable to assume that if the Flash Player could access GPU-based hardware acceleration on the Mac (or iPod/iPhone/iPad), the difference between the CPU required for HTML5 playback and Flash playback would be very much narrowed, if not eliminated.”

Flash test 2

Google added support for the most popular video destination on the Internet, YouTube, in January. The beta opt-in program is available only for browsers that support both HTML5 and H.264 video encoding.

Scrutiny over Flash has grown in recent months since Apple introduced its multimedia iPad device, which does not support the Web format from Adobe. Apple, instead, has placed its support behind HTML5.

For more on why Apple isn’t likely to add support for Flash in the iPhone OS, read AppleInsider’s three-part Flash Wars series.

via AppleInsider | Flash, HTML5 comparison finds neither has performance advantage.

Half of Netflix ‘Watch Instantly’ Users Are Streaming to the TV February 28, 2010

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According to a newly published study from TDG – the nation’s leading new media research consultancy – almost two-thirds of Netflix users that subscribe to a home broadband service are now viewing the ‘Watch Instantly’ streaming video service. One-third of broadband-enabled Netflix subscribers view this streaming video exclusively only on their PCs, 8% view the content exclusively on their TVs, and 24% use both their PCs and TVs.

“Netflix is now the archetype for over-the-top (OTT) streaming video services,” notes Michael Greeson, TDG founding partner and director of research. “Not only has Netflix eclipsed its immediate competitors in terms of online DVD rental, but it has quickly become the ‘gold standard’ for new OTT streaming services.”

The implication of TDG’s research is significant: one-half of broadband-enabled ‘Watch Instantly’ users now view streaming video on their TVs, a phenomenon unimaginable just a few years ago. As Greeson points out, this speaks volumes about the maturation of streaming video technologies that, until recently, had delivered an inconsistent experience that left regular TV viewers wanting.

via Half of Netflix ‘Watch Instantly’ Users Are Streaming to the TV – Press Releases.

doubleTwist Partners With T-Mobile, Now Bundled On Some Android Phones January 25, 2010

Posted by andre in Mobile & Gadgets, Multimedia.
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Big news for doubleTwist, the iTunes alternative that allows you to manage media for hundreds of devices, including Android phones, the Palm Pre, and BlackBerry. Tomorrow, the company will announce that it has forged a partnership with T-Mobile, which is now promoting it as the supported way to sync media to its line of Android phones. As part of the deal, T-Mobile will begin displaying doubleTwist banners in their retail stores and on T-Mobile.com. And perhaps most important, doubleTwist will come pre-installed on some Android devices, including the new Fender/Eric Clapton myTouch 3G handset. […]

via Who Needs iTunes? doubleTwist Partners With T-Mobile, Now Bundled On Some Android Phones

Windows 7 Media Center gets Mediaroom support — Engadget January 7, 2010

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During the Microsoft keynote, Ballmer mentioned that customers of IPTV providers like AT&T U-Verse will be able to watch TV on Windows 7 PCs, but he glazed over the how. The how is Windows 7 Media Center — according to the press release that is available after the jump — and there’s no special hardware like a tuner required. The when wasn’t mentioned because it is dependent on the provider, but when they do upgrade to Mediaroom 2.0, Media Center fans will have access to all the same content as a set-top like HD and on-demand, which is something pretty cool.

via Windows 7 Media Center gets Mediaroom support — Engadget.

2 Million Downloads and Counting: Why Such Loyalty for Microsoft Office? – ReadWriteEnterprise January 7, 2010

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Logo_MSFTOffice2010_187x54.jpgIn the past seven weeks, more than 2 million people have downloaded the beta for Microsoft Office 2010. That’s a whopping 40,000 downloads per day. It’s a record breaking pace, surpassing the beta release for Microsoft Office 2007.

It begs the question: In the face of so many free options, why are people so loyal to Microsoft Office?

There are a few possible reasons:

Microsoft has a locked in user base. It is an enterprise standard. As the story goes, no one has ever been fired for buying Microsoft.

As one person replied to the question on Aardvark: “A lot of the free options simply aren’t suitable for corporate use. You are basically out of luck if your free-no-guarantees Google Docs spreadsheet disappears. The free products do not have the complex formulas, interconnecting tables and client data that comes with Microsoft Office.”

Another person stated on Aardvark: “That is because it is the most accepted office package. Try doing business without the capability. I had to purchase it just to be able to work at home instead of extended office hours. Now I am loading Open Office on all computers I repair and send out. I also think Google is going to do a large bite into Microsoft business.”

How long will the loyalty last?

This is where we wonder about how the events over the past few days may affect the future of Microsoft Office. Google is coming on strong with it’s Nexus One. Couple that with its big push into the enterprise and you have to wonder what Microsoft is going to do to counter Google’s undeniable momentum.

We are still waiting Windows Mobile 7. LG did let it slip at CES yesterday that Windows Mobile 7 will be available later this year. The Microsoft Office Web Apps are in beta with limited usability. The full-featured version will be available in the Spring. It will require a Sharepoint server. The free version will not require Sharepoint.

Enterprise 2.0 applications are a whole other issue. Its user interfaces are web-oriented and mobile-friendly. This new breed of applications will be increasingly enticing to Office customers.

Two million downloads is impressive but loyalty is a fickle thing. The real test is still to come.

via 2 Million Downloads and Counting: Why Such Loyalty for Microsoft Office? – ReadWriteEnterprise.

LiLi: Skype Wants to Make Your TV More Social January 6, 2010

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Skype will soon be available on your TV set, thanks to TVs from LG and Panasonic with an integrated Skype client that will be coming out later this year. While users will still have to purchase a separate video camera designed to work with the service (priced at around $100-$200), doing so will open up a whole new way for users to connect with friends and family from the comfort of their living room.

The plan to move video conferencing to the big screen makes sense, as anyone who’s ever used Skype for teleconferencing knows. While the ability to make free video calls is nice and convenient, speaking into a laptop or desktop web cam isn’t the greatest user experience, a fact that has been borne out in Skype’s own experience research.

As David Dinka, head of Skype’s experience research division, said in a video that accompanies the announcement, “For many people, if they want to make a video call, they want to speak to their friends and family from somewhere comfortable, and preferably on the big screen. Now, as we know, the TV is the center of many people’s homes, so Skype on the TV is the natural next step for us and our users.”

The move isn’t totally unexpected. Skype CEO Josh Silverman told Om last November that he saw “a future where Skype would be embedded in connected game consoles, televisions and video phones.” But the pace with which Skype, and services like it, are making their way onto broadband-connected TVs is pretty impressive.

It also points to the fact that TVs are no longer one-way content distribution devices, but two-way communication portals. We’ve long been saying that video wants to be social, but very few applications have harnessed a full feature set that will enable viewers to interact with each other while also viewing video content. This point was underlined in a NY Times article yesterday about cross-country friends that used Skype to talk about TV episodes while watching them.

Unfortunately, from that standpoint the upcoming Skype TV integration will have some limitations. Apparently the TVs don’t have enough processing power for users to video chat while also watching TV, according to the NY Times. So while Skype could make TV set a little more social, it won’t do anything to improve the actual experience of viewing television programming.

While not enabling “true social TV” (yet), the move by Skype could have severe consequences for the telecom industry, which has already seen voice revenues decline over the last several years. By cutting out the middle man and giving users a richer experience with which to interact with their friends and family, some could do away with landline voice services altogether.

via Skype Wants to Make Your TV More Social.

SiliconDust to Announce CableCARD HDHomeRun January 6, 2010

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We’ve been hearing of something exciting coming from SiliconDust, the company that brought us the popular HDHomeRun network dual tuner product (a favorite of mine), and it looks like this is the week we’ll be getting the details on it. Over on the SiliconDust forums, the company revealed (screenshot above) they’ll be announcing a new CableCARD HDHomeRun product! The official announcement with all of the details (timing, pricing, number of tuners) will come at CES later this week. The recent elimination of the CableLabs certification requirement for the PC makes CableCard more accessible to all Windows 7 Media Center users. Add to that the ongoing development of a plugin to bring CableCard to SageTV users and it’s exciting to even more HTPC enthusiasts.

via SiliconDust to Announce CableCARD HDHomeRun.