iTunes Downloads- 5 Billion Served

Apple announced today that iTunes downloads have now topped 5 billion. I posted back in January 2007 that iTunes had hit 2 billion purchases…

I note we’re now comparing downloads with purchases- which may or most likely may not- be the same thing, but the growth curve looks very impressive:

It’s worth highlighting that the number of weeks required for the second 2 billion downloads took less than half the time that it took to reach the first 2 billion…hence the exponential curve, not a straight line…the rate of change growth is accelerating… Ray Kurtzweil would be pleased to see exponential growth in action.

iPhone should learn from iPod Suffle

I posted this shuffle tip ages ago:

This one is straight from Apple’s eNews March 10, 2005 newsletter:

If you’re after the highest quality tunes and regularly import songs at bit rates higher than 128 Kbps, iTunes offers you the best of both worlds, letting you keep your high-quality songs in iTunes while exporting leaner versions of the songs, sized just right for iPod shuffle.

Here’s how: Connect iPod shuffle, open the iPod Preferences dialog, and click the iPod tab. Click the check box next to “Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC for this iPod.” Then click OK.

The next time you Autofill iPod shuffle, iTunes will automatically convert songs to 128 Kbps as it exports them to iPod shuffle. The original versions in your iTunes collection, meanwhile, will remain in your library at their higher encoding rate.

With everything the iPhone offers you- video, podcasts, audibooks, etc., WHY didn’t Apple offer this same option for saving space on the iPhone? If I’m out on the town listening to music, I’m probably not really going to notice the difference in quality, and would really like to more space for vodcasts, TV shows, etc… (that or simply more music!).

iPod Hi Fi Review

  iPod Hi Fi in situ 
  Originally uploaded by Jason Ball.

Well, I’m one year older today, and my wife bought me an iPod Hi-Fi for my birthday. I’m not an audiophile, but I am pretty picky about what I listen to music on. I threw out my iPod headphones on day one and bought some Sony’s, which I then replaced with my Shure’s.

I have to admit, the iPod Hi-Fi sounds great. In our bedroom, I keep it on the "Treble" setting. That provides the right amount of highs and plenty of Bass. The normal setting adds further bass- followed by the "Bass" setting, which really just thumps. YMMV, but I’m really pleased with the sound. If you keep the box at close to ear level, it sounds spectacular.

Perfect integration with the iPod makes it a winner as well. The only issue I’ve found is the "Menu" button doesn’t control the iPod in the same way as on Front Row. I’m sure this will be addressed in a future software update. If you’re in the market for speakers for your iPod, I would seriously consider the iPod Hi-Fi.

De facto standards and DRM

Red Herring reports

…”This text affirms a new principle—interoperability—which makes France a pioneer country in Europe,” Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, the French minister of culture, said in widely reported remarks to France’s National Assembly as it adopted the law on Friday. “Interoperability is fundamental for consumers and creators because it allows for a greater circulation of works while respecting copyrights.

Apple’s iTunes has been so successful to date because they control the entire value chain. By controlling the hardware as well, Apple can use DRM that is invisible to the end user (at least I’ve never had any issues) and provides comfort to the record labels. If Apple is forced to open it’s DRM to support other hardware, they lose that control mechanism, which will result in a loss of confidence from the music (and video) industry.

I’ve got issues with DRM like many others, but I can’t see this helping bring more content onto digital devices. Steve Jobs has single handedly opened this market and is bringing video to market as well.

However, in a report released Friday on digital content strategies, the OECD said the rise of proprietary and incompatible standards is slowing the development of digital content. The report states “there are considerable lock-in effects due to the development of de facto standards.”

Lock-in and de facto standards are music to a VCs ears, plus de facto standards = interoperability. Seems like both the OECD and France should support DRM.

Mobile Video Content

iTunes has released Star Wars "The Clone Wars" formatted for release on iTunes. The first series  consists of 20 three-minute episodes.

It’s a great example of the right content for portable devices. I’ve been discussing with different companies providing video to mobile networks here in the UK what impact the iPod video, PSP, etc they expect to see on video sales/downloads to mobile phones. There are mixed opinions, but most believe that video downloads on mobile phones will be a long time coming.

I’m convinced that unless the consumer experience can equal that of iTunes, mobile video on phones will never really take off. If you have $10 to burn, I recommend you grab the Star Wars series and Channel Frederator (free) on iTunes.