Upgrade to Pro version adds video, ringtone editing, more
One of the few third-party add-ons to OS X that is considered by many as essential as the operating system itself, Telestream's free Flip4Mac WMV Player (also distributed by Microsoft as Windows Media Components for QuickTime) has for years given Mac users the ability to play WMV format video and audio in QuickTime and on the web without having to think about codecs. The company has now officially inaugurated version 3.0 of the utility, which still offers free translation of Windows media formats, but now also includes a free player and new abilities.
Sonos update stops Zune, Microsoft devices
Sonos has quietly put out an update for its Play and Bridge devices last week that unusually strips out features. The 3.6 update pulls support for copy-protected Windows Media files, leaving Zune Pass users and those still tied to mostly inactive PlaysForSure DRM stores without a way to stream their music to Sonos boxes. The company hasn't given an explanation for the switch but has been asked for a comment.
Microsoft said axing Zune players permanently
Microsoft will mark the end to a sidetrack in its history by phasing out its Zune hardware once and for all, according to a Bloomberg source said. Under the strategy, the company would keep selling the existing Zune HD but would phase it out entirely once considered obsolete. The Zune software would be left, as would the Zune Marketplace key to getting content for Windows Phone 7 and the Xbox 360.
RIM promises BB 6 updates to older phones
RIM as part of the BlackBerry Torch launch provided details of the upgrade plan for BlackBerry 6. The new OS will reach the Bold 9700, the Bold 9650 and the Pearl 3G as well as future devices. A timetable hasn't been set, but it should reach devices in the "months ahead."
Eos Converge wireless audio tested
Eos' Converge audio system is, in theory, the wireless audio system for everyone: it streams iTunes music and Internet radio directly to either an existing audio system or its own speakers, but it can also take music directly from an iPhone or iPod. It's billed as offering great sound quality and simplicity. Read on to our full Converge system review to see our take on whether it reaches those two goals.
MS considers Mac Zune app an option
Microsoft today acknowledged that it has debated porting the Zune software and its according services to the Mac or even to portable Apple devices like the iPhone and iPod. Director of Communications for TV, Video and Music Jose Pinero explained to Mary Jo Foley that it's one of "a lot of options" for platform expansion but also stressed that the Zune platform isn't tied to players like the Zune HD or even necessarily to Microsoft. Its own platforms take highest priority but aren't exclusive.
Hoping to compete against iTunes and other multi-device movie services, Samsung on Thursday opened a beta version of Samsung Movies. The store lets owners of supporting devices buy or rent movies as well as buy TV shows. Any title comes both in a full, DVD-resolution version for the desktop in Windows Media format as well as in a separate mobile format. About 500 titles are available immediately from major studios but should double by the end of March and top 2,000 by July.
Amazon MP3 for UK
Amazon today in a low-key rollout introduced Amazon MP3 for UK, its first non-US version of its online download store. The British version follows the same approach as the US store and lets users buy unprotected songs and albums that can be used with any device and, through a sync app, can automatically transfer to iTunes or Windows Media Player.
Dell Preloading Movies
Dell today took a new approach to selling PCs on Tuesday by announcing a movie pre-load service for some of its PCs. Starting with Iron Man, the Inspiron 1525 notebook and XPS 420/630 can optionally carry a strictly digital copy of a movie along with special features, such as the bonus mini-feature included with the inaugural title. The company doesn't provide specific technical details but explains that the movie can be shared primarily through Windows Media Extender devices such as the Xbox 360 and can't be burned to DVD.
Comes With Music UK
Nokia this morning provided some of the earliest launch details for its long-delayed Comes With Music service, its cooperative attempt at changing the business model for mobile music. The feature will first launch as an exclusive for UK cellphone retailer Carphone Warehouse and will first be available only through a Comes With Music edition of Nokia's 5310 XpressMusic; customers will pay extra for the phone itself but receive a year's worth of unlimited Windows Media-formatted music downloads that they can keep even if they choose not to renew.
Yahoo Music Compensation
Yahoo will compensate customers of its Yahoo Music online store once the company shuts down its servers and prevents customers from renewing their copy protection licenses, the company says. The firm now says that anyone who purchased tracks in addition to their monthly subscriptions to Yahoo Music will be refunded "for whatever [was] paid" for the songs so that they aren't forced to repurchase the tracks later. All active subscribers can also voluntarily transfer over to RealNetworks' Rhapsody subscription service and will have their lower $10 monthly rate carry over for a limited amount of time.
Representing the latest effort to compete with iTunes in the burgeoning movie download space, CinemaNow is now offering a variety of paid content services through Windows Media Center. These include download-to-own movies, priced from $10 to $20; TV shows and music videos are priced at $2. The company claims that download-to-own movies are available day-and-date of retail DVD release, but doesn't mention the breadth of the upcoming library (right now there are about 3,400 feature-length movies in CinemaNow's collection). The service will also offer 24 hour movie rentals priced between $3 and $4. Select Pay-Per-View titles are available day-and-date of retail DVD release.
Napster MP3 Store
Napster today launched what it says is the world's largest MP3-based music store. Effectively turning away from its reliance on protected Windows Media files, the company is offering about 6 million unguarded MP3 songs through a web-based store accessible from any computer and playable through virtually any device -- including the iPhone and iPod, Napster is keen to note. Users with iTunes can auto-sync their Napster downloads to the jukebox software. Prices for tracks remain unchanged at 99 cents each, with most full albums selling for $10.
Xbox in Alcatel Lawsuit
Alcatel-Lucent today began court proceedings for the next of its lawsuits against Microsoft. The plaintiff argues in its complaint that Microsoft's Xbox game systems violate a 1993 patent relating to the code for generating video frames. The US/French partnership says that it will use its jury trial to demand $1.50 for every alleged misuse of the patent but is not yet clear as to which uses apply to the suit. The suit could potentially apply to each Xbox sold before the conclusion of the trial.
HP MediaSmart Win Media
HP this morning extended the life of its MediaSmart TVs with a firmware update that adds a Windows Media Center Extender function. The LCD sets purportedly become the first TVs to add the Microsoft feature without an external hub and can now play music, videos, and other content from Windows Media PCs on a home Wi-Fi network. This includes the most recent Internet TV beta features and protected content from MovieLink and other services.
MS Zune Video Store Rumor
Microsoft is developing a unified media store for the Zune that would draw on lessons from the Xbox 360, according to information relayed to long-time Microsoft observer Mary-Jo Foley. A service so far codenamed Zune Video X (Experience) is said by a source to address a gap in the Zune's online purchasing options by offering movies, TV shows, and "more" content in addition to the music already available through the Zune Marketplace. The service would be more than just an expansion of the existing store, says the report.
NEC Lui Formal Launch
NEC this morning prepped the final launch of its Lui media streaming devices. Essentially more advanced versions of today's media extender devices, all four models provide a network connection to the music and video of a DLNA- or Windows Media Center-capable PC in a reportedly more elegant way than with traditional extender hubs. The Lui RP (pictured) is considered the standout with a UMPC-like handheld design; users are given enough control with a directional pad and QWERTY keyboard to find and play media from its four-inch LCD. The Lui RN offers the same formula in a 10.6-inch notebook that reaches a very thin size by depending on its media source for storage.
PS3 Version 2.2 Update
As promised, Sony today issued its version 2.2 update for the PlayStation 3. The firmware upgrade primarily adds Blu-ray Profile 2.0 support and allows HD movies to be released in April and onward to use Internet-based features, such as downloadable extras and live games. Viewers watching Blu-ray and DVD movies can also return to movies from where they left off after the movie is ejected. The software also sets up the framework for large downloaded or shared movies, and includes the PS3's first support for DivX and Windows Media videos larger than 2GB.
Best known for his DeCSS routine that bypassed DVD encryption, Jon Lech Johansen and his startup company doubleTwist today launched a new utility they hope will all but eliminate the restrictions that normally block transferring music and videos between devices. Just referred to as doubleTwist Desktop, the app is designed to share and sync media regardless of the format and uses intelligent converters to produce more universal formats out of sometimes proprietary files.
XPlay 3 released
Mediafour has released XPlay 3, the latest edition of its iPod management software for Windows. The program lets users manage both Mac- and Windows-formatted iPods on a PC, bypassing iTunes through a simple drag-and-drop interface. The new program can also sync content with Windows Media Player 11, and through new Windows Vista compatibility, the Vista Media Center. A right-click option in Windows Explorer lets users send files to either WMP or their iTunes library, the latter of which becomes Mac-compatible.
MS Study on Teen Piracy
Most teenagers pirate music, software, or videos only because they are unaware of the law, Microsoft claims through the results of a new study published today. The Zune maker observes that nearly half of younger teens, or 49 percent, are not aware of copyright laws online, while less than 10 percent feel they know the laws well. This knowledge has a major impact on whether or not they consider bootleg downloads worthy of punishment, Microsoft claims: while 57 percent said illegal downloading demanded punishment, this number climbed dramatically to 82 percent when they were more clearly aware of the laws.
MS Danger Deal Worth 500M
Microsoft's acquisition of Danger is worth approximately a half billion dollars, according to a source speaking with Om Malik about the deal. While Microsoft has remained secretive about the financial terms of the buyout, the company is now believed to have spent as much as $500 million to purchase the designer behind the Sidekick and its software. The tipster does not explain why Microsoft had been willing to make the high offer, which is unusual for acquiring a firm that does not manufacture its own hardware.
Yahoo Switches to Rhapsody
Yahoo today tilted the balance of digital music by announcing that Yahoo Music would switch to RealNetworks' Rhapsody for its on-demand music, replacing the Yahoo Music Unlimited service for subscription services. The move will see existing Yahoo subscribers transition over to Rhapsody accounts over the next several months, beginning mid-year, and will make Yahoo's music services accessible from devices which were previously limited to the Real service; devices such as Logitech's Squeezebox media streaming hub and TiVo recorders will now have access to Yahoo's services. Both companies also plan to collaborate on a la carte downloads in the future.
Qtrax in Doubt
Peer-to-peer service Qtrax is raising controversy by failing to make its intended Monday release date and offer what it claims would be some of the first free, legal peer-to-peer downloads from all four major music labels, says a report from Silicon Alley Insider. Although Qtrax has claimed that it would launch today with music from EMI, Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner, a challenge by the Bay Area publication reveals that most of the deals are either incomplete or unknown. Both EMI and Warner have denied authorizing music altogether; Universal is in talks with Qtrax while Sony BMG has not responded at all, according to the report.
Netflix Mac Streaming Hope
Netflix hopes that changes in two formats will prove to be catalysts for its business in 2008, the company said late yesterday in its quarterly results call. Following a year in which the company profited by 97 cents per share and added 1.2 million subscribers, the rental firm says it intends to offer a Mac version of its web-based Watch Instantly feature sometime this year. Though it did not say how it would reach this goal, the company explained that the move would reflect a larger trend towards web video in general by expanding the available audience.
Netflix Instant Viewing
Video rental service Netflix has begun testing a feature that would combine the strengths of physical movie rentals and online streaming, claim early users receiving access to the feature. The company has given some of its users access to an unlimited version of its Watch Instantly feature that allows these customers to watch movies and TV shows they have placed in their DVD rental queue. Once unlocked, titles can be seen as often as the customer likes, Netflix says. This gives subscribers access to each movie without paying extra or worrying about whether the physical disc has been returned.
Wal-Mart Axes Videos
Wal-Mart has shut down its fledgling movie service with virtually no announcement, according to user reports. Visitors to the official site are greeted with a message that the site has shut down as of December 21st and redirects users to information about the closure. Videos and other content remain playable but will still include the copy restrictions of before, which prevent the videos from transferring to non-purchasing computers but allow their use on as many as three portable media players that support guarded Windows Media content. No refunds are available and customers will have to visit a Wal-Mart store to buy more videos, the retailer warns.
Flip4Mac WMV 2.2 ships
MS No-Skip Video Ad Patent
Microsoft is attempting to secure a patent for technology that would prevent users from skipping ads in downloaded videos, according to a new filing with the US Patent Office. The technique would insert a digital rights management (DRM) token inside the file that would prevent users from playing the intended video until relevant ads are viewed. It would also allow a content producer to insert ads into a downloaded video at its own discretion.