Norway Pressures Apple to Remove iTunes Music DRM

30 09 2008

Norway’s top consumer advocate said Monday that he will ask a government court to force Apple to open the iTunes music store to users who own music players other than the iPod.

“It’s a consumer’s right to transfer and play digital content bought and downloaded from the Internet to the music device he himself chooses to use,” said Bjorn Erik Thon, Norway’s consumer ombudsman. “iTunes makes this impossible or at least difficult, and hence, they act in breach of Norwegian law.”

He has been pressing Apple for more than two years to drop its anti-copying digital rights management (DRM) technology from all iTunes tracks so that the music can be loaded onto rivals’ devices. “I’ve been quite happy with the progress [with Apple] on other issues, but not on the one regarding DRM, which is the most important to consumers,” Thon said.

He last met with Apple in February, when the company told him it shared his aim of interoperability. Since then, however, there has been no progress, said Thon.

“So we will ask for a prohibition of the practice that you’re only allowed to play music from iTunes on an iPod,” said.

By submitting the case to Norway’s Market Council—a governmental court that has the ability to issue binding rulings—Thon hopes to pressure Apple into opening iTunes. The Market Council would likely reach a decision by next summer after collecting written briefs from both parties in January and hearing oral arguments in March or April 2009.

The Market Council could fine Apple if it did not comply with its ruling.

Thon declined to specify the size of the fine he would request, but said it would probably set a Norwegian record. “Size matters when it comes to the amount of the fine, and Apple is by far the biggest company that has been involved in a case,” he said. “It should be a significant amount, but whether it’s 100,000, 200,000, 300,000, 400,000 Euros, I couldn’t say.”

The case could have an impact beyond Norway, Thon added, noting that consumer agencies in Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries are behind him. He said he would reach out to others, including colleagues in Italy and Sweden, to get their support as well.

“I’m quite optimistic that if we win this case, the European Union will have a look at this and make this EU policy,” said Thon. In July, he met with Meglena Kuneva, the EU’s consumer commissioner, who expressed interest in the Norwegian effort to get Apple to open iTunes. “I will follow up with her, and keep in close contact in the months to come,” he promised.

Apple has made some moves to free iTunes-purchased tracks from its iPod line of players, including selling some DRM-free music starting in May 2007, however, people are pushing for ALL DRM free files.





Google’s gPod?

21 09 2008

There might be all kinds of fascinating self-protective reasons why Google is launching the Android phone in conjunction with T-Mobile. However, at least as interesting a development this past week is the company’s entry into Interbrand’s list of the top 10 brands in the world.

Google’s sudden appearance at No. 10 represents a jump of 10 places and puts the company at a, for some, surprising 14 places above Apple. And a few thousand places above Bear Stearns.

Directly above Google is Disney and one rung below you’ll find Mercedes. Much further down you’ll find Nike, eBay, Starbucks and, something that shows a peculiar lack of taste among the judges, Prada.

It’s clear that the Google brand has enormous equity. And, now that the company is beginning to associate itself with tangible objects rather than just fungible words, a thought comes to mind: what objects would you buy from Google?

I ask because perhaps the last brand that carried with it as much young, positive emotional equity was Virgin.

Virgin represented an intuitive understanding of youth–not just young boys, but the positive emotions that come from being young, free, and just slightly different. It also enjoyed a product that was clearly better than its rivals and senior management that was as happy to express its uniqueness by flying around in balloons as Google’s bosses are to disclose their personal DNA.

Virgin thought it could use its brand equity to sell, amongst other things, cosmetics, clothes, financial services, flowers, and space flights. And, um, vodka. Oh, and health clubs, bridal wear, cell phones, cola, and video games. And stem cell storage. All with varying degrees of success.

But what if Google got together with some other incredibly talented (and young, naturally) folks and launched, dare one even suggest it, a gPod?

What about Google Health Farms, specifically created for those suffering laptop-induced repetitive strain syndrome and general brain freeze? What about Google Gear, specially engineered for the Cool-But-Not-Really look?

Given that Google’s management seems to be fairly proficient at making money, might you one day be inclined to trust a Google Bank (a bank with a heart? a Democratic Bank?)? Or what if they launched some Odwalla-style healthy drinks that were originally created to enhance the brainpower of the company’s staff?

If Philippe Starck is trusted enough to design a chair, an apartment, a toothbrush, and a house (oh, and a wind turbine), might the Google brand be successfully attached to anything that was clearly the product of an abnormal abundance of brains? Like an insanely green car, a revolutionary laptop, or an intelligent city council?

I know that brands are supposed to stay close to their core competence. But it would seem a shame if so much brainpower were merely concentrated on, well, selling advertising.

So I am secretly hoping that this Android experiment will merely be a taste of one of the world’s top 10 brands contributing to the deep, abundant, and sensual pleasure we all get from various inanimate objects.





Google’s gPod?

21 09 2008

There might be all kinds of fascinating self-protective reasons why Google is launching the Android phone in conjunction with T-Mobile. However, at least as interesting a development this past week is the company’s entry into Interbrand’s list of the top 10 brands in the world.

Google’s sudden appearance at No. 10 represents a jump of 10 places and puts the company at a, for some, surprising 14 places above Apple. And a few thousand places above Bear Stearns.

Directly above Google is Disney and one rung below you’ll find Mercedes. Much further down you’ll find Nike, eBay, Starbucks and, something that shows a peculiar lack of taste among the judges, Prada.

It’s clear that the Google brand has enormous equity. And, now that the company is beginning to associate itself with tangible objects rather than just fungible words, a thought comes to mind: what objects would you buy from Google?

I ask because perhaps the last brand that carried with it as much young, positive emotional equity was Virgin.

Virgin represented an intuitive understanding of youth–not just young boys, but the positive emotions that come from being young, free, and just slightly different. It also enjoyed a product that was clearly better than its rivals and senior management that was as happy to express its uniqueness by flying around in balloons as Google’s bosses are to disclose their personal DNA.

Virgin thought it could use its brand equity to sell, amongst other things, cosmetics, clothes, financial services, flowers, and space flights. And, um, vodka. Oh, and health clubs, bridal wear, cell phones, cola, and video games. And stem cell storage. All with varying degrees of success.

But what if Google got together with some other incredibly talented (and young, naturally) folks and launched, dare one even suggest it, a gPod?

What about Google Health Farms, specifically created for those suffering laptop-induced repetitive strain syndrome and general brain freeze? What about Google Gear, specially engineered for the Cool-But-Not-Really look?

Given that Google’s management seems to be fairly proficient at making money, might you one day be inclined to trust a Google Bank (a bank with a heart? a Democratic Bank?)? Or what if they launched some Odwalla-style healthy drinks that were originally created to enhance the brainpower of the company’s staff?

If Philippe Starck is trusted enough to design a chair, an apartment, a toothbrush, and a house (oh, and a wind turbine), might the Google brand be successfully attached to anything that was clearly the product of an abnormal abundance of brains? Like an insanely green car, a revolutionary laptop, or an intelligent city council?

I know that brands are supposed to stay close to their core competence. But it would seem a shame if so much brainpower were merely concentrated on, well, selling advertising.

So I am secretly hoping that this Android experiment will merely be a taste of one of the world’s top 10 brands contributing to the deep, abundant, and sensual pleasure we all get from various inanimate objects.





iPod Nano 4G-16Gb

18 09 2008

Apple is notifying some of its customers this week that it will be unable to meet quoted delivery times for its new 16GB iPod nanos, fueling rumors that the company was forced to make a last minute change to the product line, possibly at the hands of rival Microsoft.

In an email to customers Thursday, the Cupertino-based company informed online shoppers in the UK that delivery of 16GB iPod nanos originally slated to arrive between September 17th and 22nd won’t ship until the 25th. They’re now scheduled to land on customers’ doorsteps “on or before” September 29th.

“Please note that these dates are estimated lead-times only. Once your order has dispatched, you will receive a Dispatch Notification email, which will provide you with detailed delivery information,” Apple wrote. “Your business is very important to us, and we apologise for any inconvenience that this change may cause.”

In the same email, Apple contends that demand for the new iPod nano “has been higher than anticipated” and that it’s shipping units “as quickly as possible, but cannot meet the dispatch” dates originally quoted.

That said, there’s been an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that 16GB models remain unavailable simply because Apple’s original plans for the fourth-generation iPod nano leading up to last Tuesday’s event called for only 4GB and 8GB configurations.

As such, it’s likely manufacturing ramp of the 16GB models didn’t begin until just recently because Foxconn, Apple’s iPod manufacturing partner in the East, was busy pumping out 4GB and 8GB models instead. Though unannounced last Tuesday, those 4GB models mysteriously began cropping up at European retailers earlier this week.

On Wednesday, the German blog Cyberbloc quite confidently claimed that that it was told the 4GB models were the result of a production fault that stemmed from Apple’s initial intention of marketing only 4GB and 8GB models.

The official response from Apple was on the matter was that it decided to produce a “limited number of 4GB iPod nanos for some international markets.” The statement suggests the 4GB models were the afterthought as opposed to the 16GB model, but doesn’t explain a motive, why availability of the 4GB models will soon cease, or why they’re priced relatively close to the 8GB model.





New 4GB iPod Nanos: Limited

17 09 2008

Following the appearance of mysterious images this morning, Apple has apparently confirmed the existence of a new 4GB nano. Speaking with an Apple spokeswoman, Reg Hardware discovered that the company made a “limited number of 4GB iPod nanos for some international markets.” Just how many were shipped out and to what countries specifically remains a mystery. Whether this is some sort of test market for a wider launch is also unknown at this time.








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