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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 😉


Amazon.com’s 1-Click patent confirmed following re-exam March 11, 2010

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is confirming Amazon.com’s controversial 1-Click patent following a re-examination that lasted more than four years.

Amazon’s 1-Click has come under a lot of fire over the years from critics who question whether such a broad technology should be patented at all. It refers to the process by which online shoppers make purchases with a single click, having previously entered their payment and shipping information.

The re-examination of Amazon’s 1-Click patent was triggered back in 2006 when a New Zealand actor raised questions about it. At one point in the re-examination process, the U.S. Patent Office rejected many of Amazon’s claims in the patent.

But according to a “notice of intent to issue a reexamination certificate” dated March 2 (pdf, 8 pages), the patent office is now satisfied with amendments that Amazon made back in 2007 that base many of the patent’s claims on a “shopping cart model.”

“The modified patent is still quite broad — especially since the leading retail ecommerce model still uses shopping carts,” said Dennis Crouch, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri Law School and editor of the patent law blog Patently-O.

Crouch said the 1-Click patent, after Amazon’s amendments, is “a slightly narrower version but essentially the same version.” He added: “This case may be a public relations boon for supporters of patent reform that have been calling for an overhaul of the reexamination system.”

The 1-Click patent, which lists Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos as one of its inventors, was filed in 1997 and refers to a “Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network.” Amazon in the past has used 1-Click to sue rival bookseller Barnes & Noble and licensed the technology to Apple.

The patent is scheduled to expire in 2017.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in April on the Bilski case, which some believe could have implications for 1-Click.

The case revolves around two men who seek to patent a way of hedging risk in commodities trading. The Supreme Court could use the case to weigh in on “business method patents” — a category that includes 1-Click — that patent ways of doing business rather than specific inventions.

via Amazon.com’s 1-Click patent confirmed following re-exam.

Best Buy embraces digital delivery of home video: Yahoo! Tech November 4, 2009

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Best Buy Co. is trying to nudge consumers away from its stores’ DVD aisles by making it easier for them to rent and buy movies over high-speed Internet connections.

The largest U.S. retailer of consumer electronics is setting up its digital delivery service in partnership with CinemaNow, which has deals with the major movie studios.

The software making it possible to shop CinemaNow’s video library will be included on all the Web-connected devices sold in Best Buy’s more than 1,000 U.S. stores. That means consumers who buy flat-panel TVs, Blu-ray players, personal computers and mobile phones from Best Buy would be able to get downloads of videos the same day they are released on DVDs.

The alliance marks the latest step away from the DVD format. Consumers are getting more ways of finding home entertainment with just a few clicks instead of traveling to a video rental store or waiting for a disc to be delivered through the mail.

Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and DVD-by-mail pioneer Netflix Inc. all have been winning over consumers with their own digital delivery systems. Blockbuster Inc. also has a deal with CinemaNow that lets people rent movies over the Internet.

Netflix gave an indication of the growing popularity of new video-delivery methods in its earnings report last month. It said that 42 percent of its subscribers streamed at least 15 minutes of video through its Internet-viewing service during the last quarter, up from 22 percent at the same time last year.

via Best Buy embraces digital delivery of home video by AP: Yahoo! Tech.

Amazon debuts payment system for mobile phones | VentureBeat October 5, 2009

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Amazon Mobile Payments Service, or Amazon MPS as they’d prefer you call it, brings the comforting yellow Amazon button to mobile phone screens.

The key selling point of the Amazon MPS is familiarity to mobile shoppers. Instead of chasing them off with yet another system they need to sign up for, MPS lets Amazon fans sign up to pay via phone. Shoppers can even enable Amazon’s 1-Click function. I worry about what I might accidentally buy from my pocket, but it’s good to have the option.

Amazon selected game and app seller Handmark as its first customer for reporters to pounce on. To be clear, Handmark is offering Amazon Payments to mobile customers as just one of several payment options. They can still pay through credit cards, PayPal and carrier billing.

Handmark VP of marketing Evan Conway told mocoNews that carrier billing is often presumed to be the most convenient method of payment, since the shopper doesn’t need to enter any info to make a purchase. Amazon’s 1-Click, though, has a brand allegiance and level of trust that American mobile carriers still haven’t built among their customers.

When AT&T calls me from two different 800 numbers during my workday trying to get me to pay my bill, I can’t help thinking that if they put an Amazon button on my iPhone’s screen instead, I could tap it and be done.

via Amazon debuts payment system for mobile phones | VentureBeat.

Digital Music Sales: Amazon Gains a Few Points, Apple Dominates | Peter Kafka | MediaMemo | AllThingsD August 20, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities, Multimedia.
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One other correction/addendum to my earlier piece about music sales and Apple’s market share: Earlier I said that Amazon’s share of the digital download market was unchanged at about eight percent. That’s actually a significant jump, says consumer tracking service NPD Group. A year ago, it pegged Amazon’s share at 5.1 percent.

That’s still a million miles away from Apple’s (AAPL) commanding grip on the digital music market–it has held steady at around the 70 percent mark for years–but it’s better than nothing. And given that it was at zero less than two years ago, not terrible.

via Digital Music Sales: Amazon Gains a Few Points, Apple Dominates | Peter Kafka | MediaMemo | AllThingsD.

The Amazon Kindle: More revolutionary for the mobile telecoms industry than the iPhone ever was June 11, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities, Mobile & Gadgets.
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[The iPhone has ushered in a new era of user experience on mobile hardware. But the business model Amazon negotiated with Sprint set a precedent that could radically reshape the future of the industry, writes guest blogger Stefan Constantinescu] […]

Why is it then that the Kindle is more important to the mobile telecommunications industry than the iPhone?

The Kindle is the first device to be sold with lifetime cellular connectivity included in the purchase price and therefore it is the first device to carve out a path towards a new business model for operators.[…]

Apple launched a revolutionary device and to buy it you had to go through the traditional channels.

Amazon’s Kindle however, once you purchase the device and turn it on, it connects to Sprint’s network automatically without any user configuration. Unlike buying a subsidized netbook from an operator today, where you still have to pay a monthly fee, the Kindle is connected for life after you make that initial purchase.

Intel has already admitted that the speed-wars are over and now their future will be focused on high volume shipments of their Atom processor, they even licensed their Atom intellectualy property to TSMC; the goal being to connect more and more devices to the internet. With all of these new devices connecting to the network, be it our cars, our refrigerators, our power meters, our televisions, anything and everything, how exactly does one enter their WPA2 security key on a toilet which has a single button, flush?

This little convenience, connectivity out of the box, has huge ramifications for the mobile industry if operators choose to play their cards right. We’re entering an era defined by people’s expectations of being able to browse the internet and access their favorite services on most, if not all, of the new devices they purchase.[…]

The Kindle was the first step in a new direction. Sprint effectively became a pipe for Amazon’s customers to purchase books and read Wikipedia on an electronic ink display. These new devices that will soon connect to the network, the cars, the televisions, the toilets, can either depend on users being knowledgeable and willing to configure the correct settings for access, or the device manufactures themselves can negotiate with operators beforehand to allow said devices to have connectivity out of the box.[…]

The revenues operators can expect to receive from device manufactures will start small. Roger Entner, SVP, Nielsen’s Head of Research and Insights for Telecom, estimates that Sprint is receiving only $2 per Kindle subscriber per month, but just as data traffic, and in turn data revenue, leapt passed voice on landlines, the same will happen sooner rather than later with mobile operators.

The question is: are operators ready to experiment with new business models, billing methods and dealing with new customers that are device makers versus the individual?

The modus operandi we’re used to today is operators buying hardware, attempting to create a unique software experience, and then selling the final product to the consumer. In a brave new world why can’t it be the device makers who go to the operator, buy network access in advance, and then sell their devices directly to the consumer?

People would not have to buy network access and therefore churn, meaning customers leaving your network to join a competitor’s network, would be reduced. People would not have to care about paying a monthly bill, since it is the device manufacture covering the expense. People would no longer be tied to 1 or 2 year contracts and be stuck with a device they dislike; they would simply use a gadget until they no longer fancy it and buy another.

The benefits for the operators are clear. One customer, paying one sum of money, for one month of access, for one device, one customer you have to compete for every 1 to 2 years due to their contract expiring, is a profitable business to be in, but it isn’t forward thinking since the size of that market is limited to the population of a city, state or country. Having device manufactures purchase network access, with the amount of devices a consumer has today and will probably own tomorrow, has the potential to push penetration numbers past 200%, even 300%. Less money will be spent on advertising the operator brand since it becomes irrelevant. Less money will be spent on hiring software engineers to create those unique software experiences on devices. Less risk of ending up with excess stock somewhere in a warehouse because the devices an operator purchased for the Christmas season were not as popular as predicted.

The benefits for device manufactures and the consumer are even more clear. A greater number of devices connecting to the network, more services being used, zero headache configuration, unlimited access. Additional revenue can be extracted by charging more for a device to maintain a small margin on the network access or by partnering with service providers to make their service the default option.

The Amazon Kindle carved out a new business model, time will tell whether or not it becomes the de facto revenue generator for operators. They are pipes after all, but why is that such a bad thing again?

via VisionMobile :: blog :: The Amazon Kindle: More revolutionary for the mobile telecoms industry than the iPhone ever was.

300,000 Kindle 2s Sold To Date April 17, 2009

Posted by hruf in Mobile & Gadgets.
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Amazon’s Kindle 2, which first shipped in late February, is selling at roughly double the rate of the first generation device, says a source close to Amazon. Approximately 300,000 of the Kindle 2s have been shipped to date, suggesting Amazon has made over $100 million in revenue from sales of the $359 device alone this year.

via 300,000 Kindle 2s Sold To Date.