In the final announcement of the MacWorld 2009 keynote, Phil Schiller listed off some of the changes coming to the iTunes ecosystem. First and foremost, in our mind, is that iTunes is going completely DRM-free. Starting today, 8 millions songs on the service will be DRM-free, and by the end of March, all 10 million will be without DRM. Consumers will be able to upgrade their entire purchased music library to iTunes Plus, which means no DRM and much higher quality at 256 kbps.
In a related note, Apple also announced that the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store is no more, and that instead, your iPhone can now download iTunes tracks no matter what connection you are on - that means no need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot in order to download the latest from Flo Rida. Of course, iPhone downloads are also DRM-free and sport the same quality.
Wow. The best deal in music just got a whole lot better, as Microsoft has announced that the $14.99 per month Zune Pass will now allow subscribers to download and keep 10 tracks per month, which is a $10 value. Those tracks are yours, permanently, even if your Zune Pass subscription comes to an end. Participating labels include EMI Music, Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music, and independents like INgrooves, Independent Online Distribution Alliance, and The Orchard. Tracks downloaded from Sony BMG and UMG will be DRM-free MP3s, which tracks from EMI and Warner also include MP3 files, there are also some WMAs still hanging around. The Zune guys say that soon, 90 percent of the music in the Zune Marketplace will be in the MP3 format.
So when you break this down, if you subscribe to the Zune Pass, and download 10 tracks a month, you are really just paying $5 for unlimited access to the huge catalog of music available in the Zune Marketplace. We can’t think of a better, legal deal in music than what Microsoft is offering with Zune right now. Can you? At this point, we see no reason to fire up iTunes to do our music purchasing.
What a kewl holiday gift for your fave music lover (or treat yourself.) Datz Music Lounge is offering a year’s subscription to its service for £99 (~$154.00.) Select an unlimited amount of DRM free tunes in MP3 format from their catalog. Choose from classics, current music, or new artists. Best of all, you can sync them to your PMP, cell phone or iPod and keep them forever. Check with their “Who’s Playing” page to check out their latest musical additions.
Read More | Datz
One of the main reasons we switch from Blockbuster Online to Netflix here at our home is the Netflix Watch Instantly functionality that is set to come to the Xbox 360 with the New Xbox Experience Fall dashboard update. However, if you don’t have a 360, or you just want more variety in your Watch Instantly lifestyle, you’ll be pleased to know that the functionality is finally gonna hit OS X by the end of this year, after being available only on Windows for almost two years. By our estimation, that means sometime in the next three months, and that excites us. Apparently, the holdup was based the fact that the DRM used on Windows boxes wasn’t compatible with OS X, and since Apple doesn’t license out their FairPlay DRM to third-parties, Netflix had to roll their own. From Netflix:
And, for all of you Mac users (of which I am one) we’ve been busy working getting a solution that will allow you to watch instantly on your Mac. So hang in there - we’ll have something for you by the end of the year.
Good news all around.
Read More | Netflix Blog
Looks like Microsoft has finally gotten around to attempting to fix the horribly, horribly broken Xbox 360 DRM model, which we have written about in the past here and here, with the release of the Xbox 360 Content License Transfer Tool. The video above, hosted by Major Nelson, shows off exactly how users go about consolidating all their licenses to a single Xbox 360 console. There are a couple of issues here though, and they need to be addressed - after all, if you are going to work on a tool to help your users, the help shouldn’t result in new problems.
Napster has decided to change their service to a web-based platform so users will no longer be required to download its software. Napster’s current subscription service is offered for $10.00 to $20.00 per month for unlimited usage, but they don’t seem to be able to keep up with the iTunes store which has a flat fee of 99 cents per tune. Christopher Allen of Napster feels that the move will be easier to integrate than their present method and foresees the end of DRM with major music companies by the end of 2008. If this idea becomes reality and other companies follow suit, we may soon see the end of small music shops the way that neighborhood video stores have gone now that downloading is easily and readily available.
Read More | Reuters
Our pals over at Samsung just alerted us to the fact that their BD-P1000 and BD-P1200 Blu-ray disc players will be receiving the firmware upgrade treatment tomorrow. This is good news, because some of the latest Blu-ray titles have had issues playing on the Samsung players due to the lack of BD+ support. This update fixes that. Here are all the details, straight from them:
Available on Friday, 10/12/07, the firmware update will be available on www.samsung.com for users to download, burn to disc, and load into the player. Owners of the BD-P1200 will have the option to do the update via the player’s Ethernet connection. This firmware update will resolve freezing issues experienced when viewing Fox titles and their BD+ features. Details are as follows:
BD-P1000 Firmware Update
This firmware update provides the following benefits:
- Enhanced Blu-ray movie title playability regarding BD+
BD-P1200 Firmware Update
The firmware update provides the following benefits:
- Improves playback compatibility in some movies
- Enhanced Blu-ray movie title playability regarding BD+
- Enhanced performance of in-movie games
- Fixing audio noise in some movies
Yesterday morning brought Apple‘s iPhone Update version 1.1.1 which included a bevy of new features including the slick new WiFi music store for the iPod Touch and the iPhone. The WiFi music store lets users purchase songs on-the-go using any WiFi hotspot which essentially puts the entire multi-million track library of iTunes in your pocket - perfect for a quick impulse buy from time to time.
Unfortunately not all users are able to get the shiny new storefront to work. Several of the iPhone owning editors at Gear Live were able to update their iPhone and use the WiFi music store successfully - I was not. Worse yet I don’t appear to be alone as other users have reported similar problems on the internet. Click through the jump for full details on why the iTunes WiFi music store isn’t working for us.
The e-commerce giant Amazon.com has launched their own music service: AmazonMP3. AmazonMP3 now offers DRM-free tracks in the MP3 format from a variety of artists on their website. Amazon has chosen the widely supported MP3 file format which ensures comparability with iPods, Zunes, most modern cell phones, and virtually any computer or digital audio player users wish to use.
The MP3 files weigh in at 256kbit so they won’t sound quite as good as iTunes 256kbit AAC files, but certainly will sound good enough for anyone but the most golden-eared audiophile. The fact that the MP3 files are DRM-free ensures not only broad compatibility, but also that users won’t ever have to worry about authentication or license revocation. It is currently unknown if Amazon will be adding audio fingerprints or other watermarks to the music to tie an individual file to the downloader to help cut into piracy.
Read More | AmazonMP3
BioShock has, in the days since it’s release, received a seemingly equal amount of praise and criticism. While reviewers are raving about the game’s polish and atmosphere, some gamers have been griping about the way the game handles widescreen displays and some of the DRM issues on the PC version. And as was perhaps inevitable, someone in the mainstream media started some stink about the game’s moral dilemma involving harvesting versus saving the Little Sisters.
Irrational/2K Boston’s Ken Levine spoke with Joystiq about these and other post-launch issues, essentially coming clean that there were some mistakes made on their end, but confirming that they were committed to making things right. He also confirms that there isn’t any PlayStation 3 version in the works despite the reference to the platform found in a configuration file. Regarding the Little Sister concern, Levine says:
This is a game about making your own choices and consequences. It doesn’t take things lightly. Somebody should just sit down and observe the sequence of harvesting a Little Sister. It is about the most thoughtful presentation and most carefully executed presentation of the subject. It is strictly about getting the emotional content across without unnecessary violent content. There are people on the flip side who want to chase down a Little Sister with the gun, if they want that, they’re playing the wrong game.
Read More | Joystiq