Did Apple Give This a Good Thinking Over?

The iPad, Apple’s long-awaited tablet debuted the other day, and while it does contain some great features, a sticking point for many is the name.  Apple undoubtedly saw it as a cute play on iPod, giving the new product the link to the enormously popular older one.  But the jokes started almost immediately, with one Tweeter wondering if they bothered to Google (probably not!) the name.  If they had, they would have stumbled across a Mad TV skit from 2005 that featured none other than the Apple iPad.  And they weren’t talking about a tablet.

But Mad TV isn’t the only issue with the name.  As name consultant Michael Cronan (whose firm helped develop the names TiVo and Kindle) says, “I think we’re going to get over this fairly quickly and we’ll get on with enjoying the experience.”  Fujitsu, though, probably won’t.  Three other tech companies have products on the market with the name iPad, according to the New York Times, and Fujitsu is one of them.  They have applied for the iPad trademark in the US, and they have a product by that name.  It is a $2000 device for checking inventory in stores.

Apple ran into a similar problem with the iPhone.  Before it came out, there was an internet headset by Cisco with the name.  Why let that stop you?  Apple, in the form of Steve Jobs, pursued the name relentlessly.  Former Cisco exec Charles Giancarlo was on the receiving end of Mr. Jobs’ tough negotiation skills.  He says, “I feel sorry for the poor guy at Fujitsu who is going to be negotiating with Steve directly.”

Fujitsu has been trying to get the rights to the iPad name for years, and the process has stalled time and time again.  Most recently, they re-filed in June, and Apple has blocked their bid with three separate petitions.  It seems they just don’t care if somebody already has the name.  And in fact, more than one somebody.  There is a Canadian bra maker who has an iPad, there are engines and motors with the name, and an encrypted credit card swiper.

Matthew Humphries writes in Geek.com’s blog, “Ultimately, it all comes down to marketing and in that regard Apple wins hands down. If you say iPad to the majority of people they will think Apple product, and that is what matters in the end.”  Who would have thought there would be a huge fight over this name…but maybe not such a fight if Apple stays true to form.

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The iPad

It’s finally here.  What we were calling the Apple Tablet or iSlate has hit town, and it likes to be called the iPad.  Cute, huh?  So is this an overgrown Touch or does it have something new to offer users?  The product launched today, and one reaction many reviewers had in common was surprise.  Michael J. Miller sums it up nicely in PC World:

 

Given all the hype surrounding the Apple tablet, perhaps the most surprising thing is that Apple was still able to have some pretty big surprises at the iPad launch this morning.

The first, and most pleasant if you have wine taste on a beer budget, surprise is the price.  For months, we were hearing about this tablet, and most everyone thought the price would top $1000.  Instead, the iPad will start at $499.  Still pricey, but not much more than iPod’s higher-end models.  A 32 gig Touch was about the same price when it debuted two years ago.  While the current Touch is about $300, the iPad has a larger screen, more features, and more advanced hardware.  PC World points out that the iPad is just a touch more expensive the Amazon’s Kindle DX, which has nowhere near the same features and functionality.  Other great iPad features:

  • The iPad will allow you to choose from two AT&T plans for 3G, each of are prepaid and require no contracts.  For $15 a month, you can get 250MB of data, and for $30 you get unlimited data.  You can activate and cancel any time you want.
  • The iPad will arrive to you unlocked so you can pop in a SIM card from a GSM 3G network and bypass AT&T.
  • The iPad has a full-size Apple aluminum keyboard and will work with standard Bluetooth keyboards.
  • Apple also introduced iWork for iPad.  This feature allows you to create, edit, and present presentations, work on spreadsheets, word processing documents, and create newsletters, and other basics.  You can import from Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  This could make it a possible replacement for a laptop – but we’ll wait and see about that one.
  • The iPad supports ePub, which allows publishers to create books for distribution to e-book sellers.  They can then be read on any device which supports ePub.

Not all the responses were positive.  Tweeters, especially, reveled in making fun of the choice of name.  One person said, “About the iPad.  Is it just for my light flow days?”  Another, “Come, on. iPad…clearly no woman was in the room when the naming decision was made.”

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No One Happy with New Ruling for Rasset

In a very well-publicized case, Jammie Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay the Recording Industry Association of America a whopping $1.92 million dollars for the illegal downloading and distribution of 24 songs (Rasset downloaded the songs and then shared them on a peer-to-peer site).  Rasset and Joel Tenenbaum are the only two defendants who opted for trials against RIAA for illegal use, and both vigorously appealed their fines (Tenenbaum received a $675,000 fine in a recent trial).  Yesterday, Rasset received a bit of good news – relatively – from Judge Michael Davis.  Her fine had been reduced to a mere $54,000.

Judge Davis called the $1.92 million fine (which was received following a second trial after Rasset appealed the first fine of $222,000) “monstrous and shocking.”  He chided the RIAA, saying, “the need for deterrence does not justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs.”

But, counters Rasset’s outspoken and theatrical lawyer, Joe Sibley, “It’s the difference between Joseph Stalin and the Khmer Rogue.”  The $54,000 fine is just as penalizing and ridiculously punitive as the $1.92 million fine for the Minnesota mother of four, contend her attorney and supporters.

It is unknown at this time whether the RIAA will ask for a new trial, and in many ways, it behooves them to forgo one.  The association no longer sues individuals, and the two cases in which defendants have gone to trial have been public relations messes for the RIAA.  They are seen as Goliath to Rasset’s and Tenenbaum’s David, except that many people feel Goliath stole the slingshot and beat David up with it in this case.  The judgments were far too punitive to escape the notice of the public.  The new ruling by Judge Davis may also make it unlikely that another jury would return with a higher fine for Ms. Rasset.

On the other hand, the RIAA may want to contest whether Judge Davis had the legal right to issue the ruling, which is referred to as a remittur, in legal parlance, at all.

Rasset asked the judge to reduce her fine to $18,000, which is the legal minimum.  While, Judge Davis refused, he did slash it by 97 percent – and managed to please neither Rasset nor the RIAA.  Big surprise there.  The saga continues.

Among the songs that Rasset was found liable for are:  Aerosmith’s “Cryin,” Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” Destiny Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills,” Goo Goo Dolls “Iris,” and Green Day’s “Basket Case,” (about which Rasset could write her own song now), as well as others by Bryan Adams, Guns N Roses, Janet Jackson, Journey, No Doubt, Lincoln Park, Reba McIntyre, Richard Marx, Sarah MacLachlan, Sheryl Crow, and Vanessa Williams.  What do you think?  Worth $54,000?

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Android OS Growing

A few months ago, many of us may have said, “Android?  Who?”  iPhone was the undisputed king of the smartphones.  While Blackberry has its devotees, iPhone is generally seen as the best, the coolest, and the one with the most apps, usability, and versatility.  You can do anything from play an Albanian lute or read a novel to learn first aid or access satellite data.  But maybe this king’s reign is coming to an end?

The International Data Group (IDC) conducted a study that indicates Android will continue to gain ground and will eventually overtake both iPhone and Blackberry by 2013.  What is Android doing now, and what is it likely to do in the future?

New Android devices are continually coming to market, the most publicized and anticipated was Google’s Nexus One.  The OS boomed in popularity at the tail end of 2009, and 2010 looks equally good.  Dell, LG, Acer, Samsung, Motorola, and Sony have all issued Android devices.  Many companies have replaced Windows Mobile and Linux devices with Android.

While the hyped Nexus One had lackluster sales earlier this month, other Android devices have been selling very well.  IDC projects that by 2013, Android will grow about 100 times larger than it was in 2008 – and there will be about 68 million phones with the OS.  Adding to the count will be netbooks, tablets, and PMPs that will feature Android.

Electronista posits another reason Android is likely to overtake iPhone:

The upset would come about as a virtue of the Android ecosystem. As more companies start making Android phones, the platform should become the default choice for those who aren’t making their own operating systems and will replace both Linux and Windows Mobile in these areas. Apple and RIM are the only manufacturers for their platforms and limit their exposure as a result.

As an interesting side note, a study by Facebook app store, Mplayit, found that the top apps among iPhone, Android, and Blackberry are more similar than not.  Apple’s claim to fame is that there is an app for everything but the study found that there is “a great deal of similarity in the most popular apps in the most active categories, demonstrating that despite the big differences in the number of apps available by device, for the majority of consumers, there is less and less to choose between them.”

So maybe the biggest app store is not going to be as big of a selling point in the future for Apple as it has been, helping Android compete with only 20,000 apps.  Compete and win, if IDC is correct.

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iPhone Saves Earthquake Victim

There are apps that help you shop, apps that help you quit smoking, and apps that help you lose weight:  and apps to help you save your own life.  The recent earthquake in Haiti, which killed over 200,000 people, has spawned outpourings of compassion, and more importantly, donations for the Haitian people.  The destruction is devastating, and that makes survival stories all the more amazing.  An 84 year old woman spent hours trapped up to her neck in debris, a 5 year old boy spent an incredible 8 days in the rubble before being rescued – with a big smile on his face.  And Dan Woolley was trapped for over 2 days, using his iPhone to stay alive.

Dan Woolley was in Haiti working on a documentary about the impact of poverty on the people of the country.  He works for Compassion International, a charitable organization through which one can sponsor a child in an impoverished area.  Woolley’s leg had a compound fracture, and he had a cut on his head as a result of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake.  Injuries that are not typically life-threatening in normal circumstances can become deadly in conditions like the ones Woolley was exposed to.

His trusty iPhone had a first-aid app so he was able to learn how to treat his lead and his cut by making a tourniquet and bandages.  He set an alarm for every 20 minutes so he wouldn’t fall asleep, succumbing to injuries or missing the opportunity to alert rescuers.  Possibly the iPhone  also played an important role because he was able to distract himself and keep busy instead of turning to panic or despair.

Woolley says, “I was not going to let, you know, a mistake I might make trying to treat my wounds. I have basic first aid knowledge but not advanced and I did want to in my disoriented state just make a mistake. So, I know I had my iPhone. I opened it up, and I had an app that had pre-downloaded all this information treating wounds. So, I looked up excessive bleeding and I looked up compound fracture.”

And 65 hours later, he was rescued.  MacWorld recently reviewed several first-aid apps so minor injuries don’t turn into major ones – and major ones don’t turn into fatal ones.  You can find:

  • CPR Buddy for 99 cents, which can help you time the rates of your CPR compressions (if you choose this one, make sure to check it out thoroughly before you’re ever called on to use it)
  • American Medical Aid is a first-aid manual and emergency contact sheet (again, look it over to familiarize yourself with the layout).  This costs just $3.
  • Another option is Pocket First-Aid and CPR, which helps you with just that for $4.
  • ResQr First Aid & CPR Coach was the highest rated by the MacWorld article.  This app has first-aid info, nearest ER info, CRP instructions, and convenient graphic icons.  It costs $6.

A few bucks is a small price to pay.  Pick yourself up a first-aid app at the App Store – and learn how to use it.

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Recorded Music Sales Fall: Is Anyone Surprised by This?

The New York Times reported yesterday that global music sales decreased by 10 percent in 2009.  According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, in fact, sales have fallen 30 percent from 2004 to 2009.  The problem – besides continuing to make the all but obsolete compact disc – is, you guessed it, pirates.  John Kennedy, IFPI chief exec, says, “We’re all fed up with talking about piracy.  It’s boring to talk about piracy, but it is the problem and we can’t avoid it.”  So we’re going to bore with some pirate talk.

A few facts for you:  compact disc sales fell by 16 percent globally.  This translates into a few billion in lost revenue for the music industry.  In 2008, the industry generated revenue of $17.5 billion.  Last year, $15.8 billion.  The problem is that revenue from digital sales weren’t big enough to close that gap and make up the loss, even though internet, phone, and other digital sales rose by 12 percent to $4.2 billion.  These sales are 27 percent of the total industry revenue.  Revenue from iTunes and other downloading services is down, while the popularity of free, ad-paid streaming sites like Spotify is up.

When you’re talking about all these billions, it’s hard to feel sorry for the music industry.  But you do feel for the artists.  According to Kennedy, labels haven’t been willing to take the risk and invest in new talent and local artists.  A few more facts to digest:  domestic artist album releases declined by 60 percent; Spain’s music sales have been terrible and there was not a single native artist in the top 50 sellers of the year; and the biggie, according to the IFPI, 95 percent of music downloads are illegal.

Some countries have taken action to stem the tide of piracy.  France, Taiwan, and South Korea all passed laws that will result in internet connection loss for repeat offenders.  The UK’s Digital Economy Bill has provisions for that consequence as well.  Other countries, though, are slow to act.  Spain, for instance, says Mr. Kennedy, has a “a culture of state-tolerated apathy towards illegal file-sharing.”

Some say the solution is to offer consumers music in the way they want it, not in the way the music industry wants to give it to them.  People are clearly moving away from CDs and are gravitating towards free ad-based or even subscription based streaming sites.  Why not give them what they want and find a way to profit from that?

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TiVo Suing AT&T, Microsoft Suing TiVo: Let the Lawsuits Commence!

What would we do without TiVo?  With this handy DVR, you can watch your favorite shows and pause, fast-forward, go slo-mo, or do a replay on live television.  For those of us who grew up with plain old TV with commercials, this is like a kid being set loose in a toy store.  You can also search by title, actor, keyword, or category, schedule your recordings on your computer or phone, record your favorite shows and put them on your phone or portable device so you can enjoy them anytime, anywhere.  TiVo also has the largest on-demand selection.  Their slogan:  “Your life simplified.”

But TiVo’s life has been far from simple.  The world’s best DVR company has filed suit against AT&T, alleging the phone giant of violating three of its patents.  TiVo is suing AT&T, iPhone’s sole carrier, of violating their patented technology which allows you to control live TV, as well as two other patents in their television services.  Microsoft has backed AT&T by suing TiVo.

What does this have to do with Microsoft?  According to the Wall Street Journal:

AT&T is Microsoft’s largest and most influential customer of its Internet video platform. When AT&T chose to go with an Internet-based TV service, it opted to work with Microsoft, which powers the video delivery platform, as well as the digital video recording technology.

So, they are now suing TiVo, saying that the DVR maker infringed on their patents, specifically ones that allow users to order and view shows and use an on-screen TV guide.

TiVo is standing strong; a company statement read, “We remain confident in our position that AT&T will be found to infringe on the TiVo patents asserted.”  So there, AT&T.   Microsoft has indicated a willingness to settle with TiVo, but will TiVo go for it?  If they will, they will collect money for every single subscription-TV operates that violated its patents.  This is a boat load of money.  They won more than $400 million from Dish Network recently in the same type of case.  ($305 million of that is under appeal.)

If TiVo wins their argument against AT&T, it will put them in a stronger position in cases with Dish, Echostar, and Verizon.  From what sources say, TiVo could use the money.  Sales of its subscription services and video recorders have decreased.  Stay tuned.

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Bye Google?

Google is the default search engine on the immensely popular iPhone.  The popular search engine conducts about 2 billion searches each day – hundreds of millions use it to find everything from product information to directions to entertainment.  Google recently put out their own smartphone, Nexus One, and there has been an intense rivalry between the search giant and Apple.  Now, it appears that Apple is going to replace Google with another search engine, Bing.  What will this mean for users, iPhone, and Google?

Business Week broke the news that Apple is in talks with another of their rivals, Microsoft, to bring Bing to iPhones, saying, “In 2003, when Apple said its iTunes music software would work on PCs using the Windows software of its age-old rival, Microsoft, Apple made up posters that read “Hell Froze Over.” Hell may be getting frosty again.”

Users could, of course, navigate to Google even if they had Bing.  They may have to change their settings in order to do so, but it is possible they could use the engine.  However, being the default search engine carries a lot of financial benefits.  Google has been raking in money from ads that are in the paid section of the search results pages.  Bing could now be getting that revenue – and what’s more, Microsoft may be more amenable to sharing a higher percentage of the take with Apple than Google was.

Now for Google.  Will this hit their deep pocketbooks with any force?  iPhones and iPods are two of the leading devices for mobile searches in the country, so Google would lose financial strength there.  However, most of Google’s searches run through desktops and laptops.  They are also moving towards new areas of focus, such as their Android platform and Nexus One.  Google will still be a force to be reckoned with.

And users?  They may just use Bing, or they may jump through a hoop or two to get back to Google.  They may see Adobe Flash going out the window.  You can also just use the Google iPhone app, which uses voice technology.  So not a huge difference for Touch and iPhone users.

So what is Apple’s plan?  Some experts believe that Apple is just biding their time until they release their own search engine, heating up the rivalry with Google and its Android OS Nexus One even more.  Until then, it is likely that Bing is in – but you can still turn to Google or Yahoo for your search needs.

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The Platinum Collection – 20,000 New Production Music Tracks!

Photobucket

Exciting news! We have just added over 20,000 new production music tracks in a new offering called “The Platinum Collection”, a hand picked selection of award winning music.  Historically, these new 20,000 tracks have only been available to major television networks and feature film producers in a rights managed licensing format.  We are pleased to offer this material under a new, simplified licensing agreement.

All Platinum Collection tracks have a special icon that appears in search and browse results to let you know that you are listening to platinum collection material. Please note that with this great new collection carries a more limited license. The main restrictions are that the tracks are for single use only and they cannot be used on television or in feature films.  For full license details, please be sure to check out the Platinum Content License Agreement.  As always, our standard collection is still available with over 27,000 tracks and suitable for nearly any production imaginable.  We hope that you will enjoy these great new tracks.

Lastly, to simplify our licensing packages, we have renamed “The Premium Collection” to the “The Gold Collection” and set up a Content License Details Page that compares our 3 collections – Platinum, Gold, and Standard.  Be sure to check out the Content License Details page if you have questions about the projects for which each collection is pre-approved for.

–The AudioMicro Team (Ryan, Carolyn, Noah, Zach, Yuri, Aleksey, Dmitri, Pavel, Yaroslav, & Elena)

The Defriender Revealed?

Don’t you hate it when you wander over to Facebook and discover you’re light one friend?  You have a hundred, maybe two or three or four hundred friends.  It can be hard to figure out who dumped your status-updating butt from their list if it’s not one of your best friends and if you haven’t recently participated in a screaming match with anyone on your list.  Even if it isn’t someone you speak with on a regular basis, doesn’t it gnaw at you?  Don’t you want to know who defriended you?

With Facebook, you can be alerted when your friends have birthdays, when they update their status, when they play Mafia Wars or Farmville.  You can follow the minutia of their days, but you can’t find out if they defriend you.  The iPhone app, Defriended, offered a very simple solution, yet one that had been unavailable.  The idea is very basic:  you run Defriended, and then the app tracks your friends list.  Defriended can then compare your current list with the list from the last time you used the app.  And if someone is not on the list, that is your mystery defriender.

All of this for 99 cents.  Rarely do your burning questions get answered so cheaply.  But alas, Facebook has blocked this app and Apple has removed it from their store.  A Facebook rep said, “While we cannot remove an application running on another website or platform, we will ensure that applications that access Facebook user data adhere to Facebook Platform policies.”

Apparently, Defriended’s developer, iDoodz, violated Facebook’s Platform developer agreement (section 2, if you want to get specific).  Developers “must not notify a user that someone has removed the user as a friend.”  Thus violating their privacy.  The application was released on January 15 and almost immediately disabled.  Some people even bought the app and found that they could not detect defrienders.

There are ways for people who really want to know who has defriended them (or “unfriended,” we should say, as that word has been adopted by the Oxford English Dictionary) to discover the culprit but they’re rather clunky.  And so far, Facebook hasn’t let an app slip in that will do the job.  So we’re left with either combing through our friend list manually each time we log in to Facebook or letting it go.  Who needs ‘em, right?  Instead, treat yourself to something nice from the dollar menu and poke a few of your remaining friends to cheer yourself up.

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Pirates at the App Store

We hear a lot about music piracy in the news:  this week, the founder of a huge music piracy website was acquitted of fraud and Bono has been speaking out against this form of thievery to mixed reviews.  This is not an uncommon topic in the news, but we don’t often hear the words music piracy and Apple in the same sentence.  The UK’s Telegraph put them together and threw in the figure $450 million – as in how much Apple has lost to piracy in its 18 month old App Store.

A recent report generated by analysts at 24/7 Wall Street found that for every one app that is bought, three are pirated.  Since iPhone users have downloaded about 3 billion apps legitimately, this is a huge chuck of missing revenue.  But Apple doesn’t appear to be too wound up about piracy at the App Store, though the company certainly took issue with piracy at iTunes, its iPod shopping stop.  So what’s the difference?  Maybe Apple doesn’t want to bother chasing down pocket change.

While Apple has no comment, the analysts at 24/7 theorize that since Apple is making so much money from iPhone and iPod Touch sales, they don’t want to rock the boat.  They are willing to take the loss at the App Store if they are still seeing healthy sales for their devices.  Most of the pirated apps, not surprisingly, are the paid ones.  An iPhone user can hack his way past firewalls and run pirated programs.  They can also run apps that Apple has no control over.

It’s a safe bet that the missing money is not so cavalierly regarded by the developers, who depend on sales of their legitimate apps.  The creators of TapFu, Smells Like Donkey, Inc., say that the piracy rate for their games is almost 90 percent.  A pirated version of TapFu was available minutes after the real one went on sale.

Sarah Schoenfelder of digiday: Daily writes:

It would be tough to track down the pirate developers, or crack down on users, so for now, [Apple is] overlooking the problem. It’s legitimate app developers who feel the real pain of this dirty little secret. Survival in the app business is all about sales volume for developers, and piracy affects their bottom line in a very real way. Apple’s lack of action in this arena hurts the innovators who help the company hawk its high priced, shiny devices: without apps, the iPhone would be just another expensive handset in a sea of web-ready smartphones. It’s time Apple stood up for the little guys.

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Reinventing Ford

America’s car industry saw one of its most devastating years in 2009 – sales were the worst they had been in thirty years.  While most everyone was hard hit, the Big Three took it very hard.  But maybe 2010 is turning things around for these companies, especially Ford.  Their sales rose 33 percent in December, mostly on the strength of small and midsize cars, like the Fusion and Focus.  In fact, Ford saw its first full-year gain in the US market share in 14 years, and they’re selling wildly in China.  Ford is hoping to further regain its footing by offering an improved MyFord touch interface, which it should off at this year’s CES.  What does this little gadget do?

According to ConsumerReports.org, the MyFord touch, which puts three LCD screens in the instrument panel, will be a system for navigation and entertainment.  With a minimum of distraction.  The optional on-board TeleNav GPS system and the touch screen will provide an improved turn-by-turn spoken direction system via Sync.  Sync is already offered, but users had to get directions by placing a hands-free phone call, and then using their own Bluetooth-enabled phone to receive them.  They were downloaded, and drivers could then listen to them on the car’s speakers.

MyFord will make this process easier and more streamlined by making it fully compatible with Sync.  Another perk is that users can access directions and see their location on a map even if they do not have signal for their iPhone or other cells..  Along with all this, Sync will update points of interest along your route, such as gas stations, restaurants, shopping centers, and provide traffic updates.

Jim Buczkowski, director of Global Electrical and Electronics Systems Engineering at Ford, said they designed Sync with interconnectivity foremost in mind.  Ford wanted to allow drivers to use devices, such as smartphones and mp3 players, in the car in a more convenient and safer way.  They offer voice controls and other options to minimize distractions.  They also wanted to allow better connectivity between the car and the driver – simpler, more intuitive interface.

MyFord will  also allow you to get WiFi and download podcasts and other data.  Distraction is a concern because despite hands-free products, people’s brain can also get distracted from driving.  Ford has researched this exhaustively; they found that using Sync took five seconds with eyes never off the road to make a phone call.  Using your phone took about 30 seconds and involved eyes to be off the road for a considerable amount of time to make that same call.  That, they found, was the biggest factor in accidents.

An interviewer from CNET asked Buczkowski about the mental distraction of having too many things going on at once, making it very easy to miss exit ramps and the like. Buczkowski replied that daydreaming did the same thing.  How many of us get lost in thought and miss an exit?  Guilty.

With these and other innovations, Ford is hoping to make 2010 a much better year in the States. MyFord, which may be offered in some models this year, could be a big help.

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iTunes and Dazzboard

Back in December, Apple acquired Lala, an online site that allowed users to listen to a song once for free.  If you liked any of their huge selection, you could buy it from a partner store for 89 cents; a lifetime license allowed you to listen to a song as many times as you’d like on the web for 10 cents.  So, what’s happened to old Lala?  Did it change iTunes at all?

One change iTunes users may have noticed is that you can now listen to your 30 second previews on the web without having to download the software. You do have to have QuickTime, but you don’t have to have iTunes itself.  The idea is to make it more browser-based and less application base, increasing the convenience for users.  If, after the preview, you want to buy, you have to have the software. Hopefully that might change in the future as well.  And, even more exciting is the prospect that music will be less expensive than iTunes current prices.

This is good, especially as Dazzboard is taking a completely web-based approach.  PC Worlds’ Michael Muchmore writes about Android’s 2.0, “[I]t’s really overstaging the case to say that Dazzboard 2.0…is the iTunes for the Nexus One and other Android app phones.  But it’s a start.”  You will be able to manage apps, videos, and photos, sync content from social networks, and share media to sites like Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube.  And why not get your iTunes library over to your Android device?  That’s fine too.

Dazzboard is stirring up interest because you can back up all sorts of content and apps to PCs (no MAC support at this time, but it’s coming, according to the Dazzboard site), and share videos and pictures on social networking sites.

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Backlash against Bono

A few months ago, Time magazine named Bono as one of the most influential people in the world, ranking right up there with President and Mrs. Obama.  Bono has been involved with numerous charitable organizations and has been vocal about everything from AIDS to climate change.  He’s lately taken on online music piracy, and it’s earning him a bit of flack.

Bono published a top ten wish list for the new decade as a guest columnist to the New York Times:  among them the wish that ISPs would police piracy vigorously.  He writes:

A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us — and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.

Okay, sure.  The response has been interesting, to say the least.  One blogger writes, “He’s using the soap box that he’s rightfully earnt [sic] through very good behaviour to attack music piracy.  What an ape…Just go back to cranking out the repetitive, anthemic ‘rock,’ granddad.”

Another writes, “Bono’s wish is a little out of touch with reality. By mimicking the words of the record label bosses high up the food chain of the music industry, he fails to see where the real problem lies.”

The comments on these blogs really sum up the general reaction.  “Isn’t this the same guy who poses as a humanitarian and stuff?  It’s amazing.”  Another writes, “well bono you have just made it on to the list of w*nkers along with Lars Ulrich & lilly allen [sic].”

But more than his position on music piracy, people are attacking what they perceive as hypocrisy.  Not only with this issue, but with a 2006 business move.  That is when Bono and U2 moved their business to the Netherlands to avoid paying as much in taxes on their songwriting royalties.  Fergal O’Brien of Bloomberg, wrote, “Bono, the rock star and campaigner against Third World debt, is asking the Irish government to contribute more to Africa. At the same time, he’s reducing tax payments that could help fund that aid.”

While not much was heard about this in the States, it causes quite a furor in Ireland.  This was not helped when David Evans, U2’s lead guitarist, said, “Of course we’re trying to be tax-efficient.  Who doesn’t want to be tax-efficient?”  It went well beyond tax-efficient for most Irish, who saw the group as abandoning the country to save a few bucks (ok, a lot of bucks.  Moving to the Netherlands would save millions, and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars for the band).

Again, David Evans may not have helped matters.  He said that he and Bono had planned to redevelop their Clarence Hotel in Dublin and the band was to build a U2 Tower in the city’s docklands.  Those plans, supposedly due to the recession, are “on hold,” and “being looked at with a much colder eye.”  Sounds more like peevishness more than humanitarianism though, doesn’t it?

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Are You an E-Reader?

According to Amazon, its Kindle reading device is its most popular product.  This $259 slim, lightweight e-reader has 3G wireless so you can download books; it reads like paper, no glare even outside (you know how hard it is to see your laptop outside); it allows you to carry as many as 1500 books; it has free book samples so you can decide if you want to buy the book; there is a built-in PDF reader; and there is a new Read-to-Me feature.  Pretty good. Almost as good as a book.

At this year’s CES in Las Vegas, e-readers were present in full force.  Barnes & Noble has one, Skiff has one, so does Logic.  Sony has three or so.  The original e-readers had nothing more than text.  Literally just an e-reader.  Then they added limited connectivity and some color.  This generation has added 3G, interactive graphics, color LCD screens, and magazine-type layouts.  Skiff’s e-reader, for instance, is thin and flexible.  You’re supposed to be able to drop it without it breaking, and in the picture ad, it is bent.

But despite improvements, some analysts think e-readers have seen their day.  The novelty of reading a novel on a screen has largely worn off; it’s not the new and next thing.  Gartner analyst Allen Weiner says, “Just being able to read a book on a device has become totally commoditized.”  And yet, there is a constant flow of new products that do just that.  The e-reader section of the annual CES was packed with vendors; but will these vendors be packed with customers?

Certainly e-readers are interesting, and they can be fun and useful, but people also don’t want to add one more thing to their bags or have one more thing to forget on the way to work.  You have your phone, computer, e-reader, mp3 player – most people want them all  on one device, which is what has made the iPhone so successful.  You can do most anything on it.  Including reading – books are the App Store’s biggest seller.  And because you can do much more than read on an iPhone, analysts see e-readers as rather on their way out.

Ray Kurzweil, who, among other achievements, helped pioneer modern text recognition software and was instrumental in the digital reading field, says, “People want to do everything – they want to watch their movies, they want to do all their computer, their e-mail on one platform.  They don’t want to take another device.”  Kurzweil is skipping the next generation of e-reader in favor of a new approach:  his site, Bilo, will allow people to download full-color digital books with added web content, video, and professionally narrated audiobooks.  You can read your content on up to 5 different devices.

For their part, Skiff is also hoping to build a platform that could someday be used for other devices.  Chief Marketing Officer Kaliaen Van Rensselaer, says, “We want to lead by example with some cool devices and then get the hell out as fast as possible.”

That’s as good a sales pitch as you’ve ever heard, isn’t it?

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