Is transcoding a crime?

I was reading my RSS feed and of course this news item from TechCrunch caught my eye, Transcoding Is Not A Crime, Says Court In Veoh Porn Case (includes longer excerpt from the ruling and a video).

I was initially surprised that TechCrunch spoke about transcoders for mobile sites (remember Novarra, InfoGin, Openweb, etc?) and in fact they are talking about video and flash. The ruling is interesting and here is how it starts:

Here, Veoh has simply established a system whereby software automatically processes user-submitted content and recasts it in a format that is readily accessible to its users. Veoh preselects the software parameters for the process from a range of default values set by the thirdparty software.

The topic is very different, but if you read this text and applied it word-by-word to what proxy transcoders do, it would still make sense. So I wonder (and I’m not a lawyer by far), will this ruling also apply to mobile proxies?

DISCLAIMER: I agree this is extreme, but not entirely impossible.

Nokia N-Gage?

In the last few days the N-Gage has come back into the news.

Surely the N-Gage is an interesting platform, if only because it allows for multiplayer gaming while on the move. What better transport if not GSM and UMTS? PSP and the DS are no where near that, so Nokia should be ahead of the competition, unfortunately the platform is not as good and the games are lacking. Not a small problem if Nokia wants the N-Gage to be successful.

According to M:Metrics, in February:
+ 48.4 million people played a mobile game
+ 20.2 million played a game they previously downloaded
+ 7.6 million downloaded a new game

These numbers are all up from the same period last year (February 2007), when:
+ 45.2 million played a mobile game
+ 18.5 million played a game they had previously downloaded
+ 6.8 million downloaded a new game.

Among Nokia owners, in February, 20.1 percent (5.9 million people) played a mobile game, against a market average of 21.4 percent. Other Nokia stats:

+6.2 percent of Nokia owners played a game they had previously downloaded (versus 8.9 percent market average)
+2.7 percent downloaded a new game (versus 3.4 percent market average)

“Nokia is currently underperforming in the games market today primarily due to the fact that the US market is flooded with low-end, free Nokia phones that came with carrier contracts,” said Mark Donovan, senior analyst, M:Metrics. “Today, N-Series devices are still quite expensive and are not widely distributed in carrier channels, resulting in low market adoption. However, among those toting high-end Nokia devices on the Symbian operating system, 30.8 percent played a mobile game, indicating that mobile gaming is a popular activity on these phones.”

Is Apple too rigid once again?

Apple’s iTunes has been massively successful for two reasons, I think. First of all it got popular thanks to the iPod, of course, but also it did sell well because of a very simple pricing model that Apple could enforce on the content providers. I think most customers loved this (except for linux users that did not like the idea of being locked into a proprietary solution, of course).

On the other hand, according to rumors, the TV shows and movie side of iTunes never took off and I believe the reason was that Apple wanted to enforce a certain pricing model and most likely studios were not so happy. The result of this is the NBC is out of the game, the Apple TV never took off and while I enjoy from time to time to watch video podcasts, having shows would be better. Also, did I mention that in countries other than the US most movies and shows are not available?

Now Amazon’s music download service (Amazon MP3)is not yet selling as good as iTunes, but they have been able to sign all the major labels to provide un-protected music and they are using MP3 that while less efficient than AAC it’s still a good format and is supported by all portable music players. Looks like Amazon is suddendly a few steps ahead of Apple and I can’t think why the next step should not be to sell movies and shows.
Apple still has one advantage, the iPod and the Apple TV, but they need the content. The iPod was successful prior to the iTunes store because people could load their own music, the store was a subsequence.

If Apple wants to keep up with Amazon, they need to become less rigid and think about the business they can build around iTunes and not only on selling the hardware. If they can make iPods and Apple TV’s and iTunes store complementary, they can probably stay ahead of the competition.

Apple to use a pan-European approach to songs in iTunes

I was reading this article that does not seem to be huge news in itself as it mentions Apple will lower the prices in the UK in iTunes to match the price applied in the other European countries where the service is available.

What is interesting, though, is that Apple is saying that it wants to have a pan-European view for the content it provides and the pricing that is applied.

I live in Italy and most films and shows are dubbed, nevertheless sometimes I’d love to watch them in English, but unfortunately so far this hasn’t been possible in most cases, unless someone made the distribution in Italy. It is annoying when you read about online movie rentals or sales and then discover they are only available in the US. NBC lets you watch their shows online and for free, but only if you’re in the US.
I think that everyone who knows technology a bit and is an internet addict as I am, is waiting not-so-patiently for the day content will be available worldwide and for the same price.

I actually think this would also be a great solution against piracy. Think of being home, bored, you want to watch a movie, these are the options you have available:

  • walk to BlockBuster and rent a movie (in the hope they still have the one you want)
  • buy something on your satellite TV (if you have it and if they are showing anything good)
  • rent it on netflix (if you have the service in your country and if you thought of renting it ahead of time)
  • download it with bittorrent or eMule (if you thought about it ahead of time and now have the files ready and waiting on your hard disk)

Honestly for 4USD I would rent PLENTY. I often discover there’s nothing on SKY Movies when it’s too late to rent a movie (and this also makes me wonder why I pay a subscription to SKY).

See here the article: Apple to standardize iTunes music prices across Europe

iPhysics for the iPhone

Christmas holidays were long enough to spend some reasonable time with the family, short traveling (Tuscany is always beautiful) and even resting and playing with the iPhone.

I tried quite a few iPhone “native” applications, many seem to me to be mostly useless, but some are quite nice. iSMS is the extension to the Apple SMS client that we all wanted (the UI is OK and takes advantage of the UIKit, of course you don’t get the iChat-like layout). iPhysics is a great game, inspired by Crayon Physics, it takes advantage of the touch screen perfectly, it uses the accelerometer when needed and is also a fun game. Reminds me a lot of The Incredible Machine, but with a spin. If you have an iPhone, I strongly suggest it, there are already plenty of custom levels.

Video in Flashlite

YouTube was a massive success, I guess it doesn’t take a genius to think that there are many companies trying to get the same success on the mobile and I actually think that on the mobile it would be an even bigger success, especially once every mobile will be able to upload video files.

Well, while we wait for all the mobile browsers to reach that point (and some are already capable of this!), it’s probably good to get started with Flashlite. Here’s a free seminar that will be available online, only on 18 September 2007.

Embedding Video and Sound in Flash Lite

Get yourself a present

I have purchased a new game in the last few days. It is right for me because it does not require that you play it two hours a day, you can play 10 minutes or an hour and you will still make progress.
I bought its first incarnation about one year ago and now here I am with the second version. If you want to buy something that can entertain you and also make all those little gears in your brain to start rolling, I think that you should buy More Brain Training.

It is easy to pick up, but very entertaining. It is fun. You can play it with friends, brothers, sisters, wives and so on. I think the competition between two or more individuals makes the game much more fun (my girlfriend and I play it every day, of course!).
Last but not least, you get to remember how to count using your mind and not the calculator.

iPhone users buying AT&T services through iTunes?

At Appleinsider they have a new article entitled Apple says iPhone can be activated by users at home that says:

“Activating iPhone takes only minutes as iTunes guides the user through simple steps to choose their service plan, authorize their credit and activate their iPhone, Apple said. Once iPhone is activated, users can then easily sync all of their phone numbers and other contact information, calendars, email accounts, web browser bookmarks, music, photos, podcasts, TV shows and movies just like they do when they sync their iPods with iTunes.”

Wait a minute! I buy the phone in an Apple store, I walk home, plug the phone in the USB port, start up iTunes and… subscribe to AT&T? Select my preferred plan? You know what? This sounds a lot like I’m buying a mobile phone plan from iTunes. Sounds like I’m giving some money to Apple for this. Sounds like I will be able to buy more content and services from AT&T (or another operator) from the familiar interface of iTunes. Sounds like iTunes is turning into the centerpiece for buying media and services. Well THIS is an interesting new approach from Apple. This sounds innovative. This sounds like building more and more services around their iTunes platform.