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Archive for July, 2009

Apple and the Big Labels

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Apple is hobnobbing with some of the biggest record companies around—Sony, EMI, Warner Music, and Universal Music Group. The tune of the closed-door discussions seems to be a new iTunes and music provider brainchild: beefing up the offering of music albums, as a steer-away from single-track sales. iTunes logo

As it stands right now, digital music players (of which iTunes is the king) have no problem offering the sale of single tunes—one song at a time—rather than entire albums. Across the fence from the digital music providers sit the music producers, for whom selling albums—collections of songs—is their bread and butter. The paradigm shift to one-by-one sales has been a hammer-blow to the music providers who rely on the bigger-ticket sales of albums. People would rather spend a buck and get a great song than spend seventeen bucks and get a bundle of songs—some of which they may like, and some they won’t. In a that-settles-it-tone, David Ring, an executive for Universal Music Group said: one-by-one downloads [is] not a business that can grow.”

So…something needs to change, right?

The new approach currently in discussion, may be Apple giving a boost to the record companies by adding a flourish to album sales. The idea already has a codename: “Cocktail.” It would offer album sales, but amp up the offering by giving purchasers pictures, lyrics, videos, artwork, liner notes—other cool stuff like that. In addition, the new format will give listeners the option of playing music straight from the album (in a new virtual format) rather than utilizing the iTunes software to do so.

The million (or more) dollar question is: “will it work?” Uh…not sure about that. If we judge it by a lookalike venture from Sony BMG just over a year ago, it won’t work out so well. But maybe Apple has the chutzpah to stuff this in the faces of consumers—just like they did with the controversial ninety-nine cent track sale. And maybe, just maybe, consumers will like it.

Maybe. The whole idea is to make more money. The plus for the purchaser is the acquisition of extras to an album purchase. Right now, few reviewers are raving over Cocktail’s proposal. Consumers are used to being picky, and they may not be thrilled about giving more of their money to watch a video or check out the liner notes. After all, the music will go straight to the iPod, which goes straight to the pocket, which goes along for the jog, or commute, or whatever.

Ten Hours of Battery Life?

Just in case you weren’t happy with the MacBook’s generous battery life, QuickerTek has a solution. Quickertek, an Apple accessory developer, has developed the MacBook Battery and Charger Lite for MacBooks and MacBook Pro computers. The device, looking somewhat like an external hard drive, plugs directly into the Mac’s power port, supplying an additional five hours of operation. Juicz

The device is smaller than one might expect for such a long-lasting power source. It is 7” x 3.5” and only one inch thick. At only 1.2 pounds, it travels well with the MacBook, even matching its coloring and surface texture. The durability of the battery is evidenced by its recharging capability. It is tested to recharge 1,000, which is three times as much as most Li-ion batteries. For the international traveler, fear not. The charger is compatible with power supply outlets internationally as well. At $249.95, it’s not a cheap five hours of power, but it could very well be worth it.

Apple Kicks Palm Pre off iTunes

Apple just released a new version of iTunes. No big deal, right? Point releases happen all the time. The Apple discussion blogs reveal a tame “FYI: iTunes 8.2.1 released” followed by the bland description of what kind of update it is: “iTunes 8.2 now supports iPhone or iPod touch with the iPhone 3.0 Software Update. iTunes 8.2 also includes many accessibility improvements and bug fixes. iTunes 8.2.1 provides a number of important bug fixes and addresses an issue with verification of Apple devices.”

However, the little nod, “verification of Apple devices,” has banished the Palm Pre from syncing with iTunes. iTunes

Apple has a right to do what it wants to do with its software. After all, it wasn’t Apple who started the fight. Palm, in an effort to expand its user base in every direction possible, designed its devices to seamlessly integrate with iTunes, making itself into an iPod look-alike for syncing purposes.

The Palm Pre is not an iPod.

What’s more, Apple takes phonies very seriously. In an aphoristic territory-marking statement, Apple explained: “Apple does not provide support for, or test for compatibility with, non-Apple digital media players and, because software changes over time, newer versions of Apple’s iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with non-Apple digital media players.” So there.

What about the iTunes lover with her shiny new Palm Pre. Well, it’s back to prehistoric versions of iTunes. The Pre will function fine, as long as you don’t update to the grim and narrow iTunes 8.2.1. It is still possible to do the laborious manual upload of tunes, with the Pre plugged in as a USB device.

No one knows what Apple’s finger-in-the-eye will do for Palm Pre, long hailed as the deliverer of Palm’s sinking ship, but Apple is pretty sure that it has claimed a few extra iPod customers.

The Sellout MacBook Pro

For the first time in MacBook Pro history, there aren’t enough MacBooks to satisfy customers. Since Apple unleashed the newly redesigned MacBook pro on the market recently, consumers have been pulling them off the shelves faster than Cupertino is sending them out. Now, Apple’s online store reports a week-plus delay for the shipping date of their MacBook Pro. Not only is it selling out from Cupertino; it’s selling out of Apple’s brick-and-mortar stores, too.

The sales spike seems odd as consumer trends depict the netbook being the new in for computer purchasing. While the MacBook Pro is slim and trendy, it’s no netbook, especially with its wallet-punching price tag. The basic 13-inch version starts at $1,199. While it’s still a bargain for the amount of muscle the MacBook Pro brings to the game, that’s a sharp increase from the $200-or-so cost of a decent netbook. Macbook Pro Sells

So why is the MacBook Pro selling so well? There are several reasons. For one, ‘tis the reason for back to school computer buying. Apparently, students aren’t as keen on starting school with a dumbed-down netbook. Apple, which is king on college campuses, lured in young users with its iPod, and now has them hooked when the time has come to buy a machine for college.

The other reason has to do with consumer optimism. “Recession” and “current economy” are boring news by now. With a decent-sized bank account and a hope for the future, consumers are more willing to spend a bit more to get a bit more.

And in the case of the MacBook Pro, they are getting a bit more. Which leads me to the primary reason why MacBook Pros are selling so well: it’s simply a good computer.

Apple added features to the MacBook pro that many users find irresistible. Ratings demonstrate the appeal over several key features of the new MacBook Pro, some of the same features that made me smile as I began to use the new machine recently. The handy SD slot makes it ten times easier to load or unload data to and from cameras and mobile devices. The eye-catching aluminum unibody is not only eye-candy; it’s also very sturdy. With touchpad advances, the new Macs outstrip any other laptop tracking devices. As far as speed is concerned, the MacBook Pro continues to exceed expectations. Battery life is, perhaps, one of the most glorious aspects of the MacBook Pro. Even running multiple applications full-steam ahead, the MacBook Pro keeps battery runtime close to an astonishing seven hours.

Thus, the sellout is no big surprise. Although speculation is still rampant concerning a smaller device from Apple, it seems the MacBook Pro is doing just fine without it.