Engadget: Here’s an interesting tidbit. Denon’s admittedly pricey AVR-4311CI — which was introduced in late April — may very well end up being the first major product to gain iTunes AirPlay compatibility retroactively. Yeah, retroactively. According to an updated product listing, the AVR will see a “planned upgrade” in the fall of 2010 that will “provide Apple iTunes AirPlay compatibility [that will let you] stream your favorite music to the AVR-4311CI.” Now, we already knew that Denon was a partner of both Apple and BridgeCo (the enabling company behind AirPlay), but this is first mention of any existing product receiving a simple upgrade (firmware, we’re guessing) that would add support for Apple’s newly touted streaming feature. In other words, this may mean that hundreds, if not thousands, of AirPlay compatible devices are already on the market, and just as soon as Apple and / or BridgeCo green-lights the respective firmware updates, home entertainment systems everywhere may gain support for a protocol that wasn’t even public before last week. Here’s hoping, right?
Pioneer.eu: Pioneer introduces MusicSphere, a new software plug-in for iTunes which allows you to breathe new life into all of the music you have collected over the years. With digital music libraries rapidly expanding, lots of songs are lost in the masses. As a result, many people have loads of tracks that they forgot they had and never listen to. (more…)
iPodNN: Some Ford cars shipping next year will support iTunes Tagging, the automaker has announced.
In vehicles equipped with HD Radio receivers, people will be able to push “Tag” buttons on their displays, automatically saving the track data from on-air music.
Once an iPod is docked with a car via Ford Sync, up to 100 tags will be transferable for later display in iTunes. Tagged songs are generally meant to be bought through the iTunes Store.
HD Radio remains a relatively niche technology, but is now said to be an option for just under 2,000 radio stations in the US. Ford has not revealed which car lines will support the tagging technology.
Electronista: The European Commission today reached a roundtable agreement with several music stores and labels to ensure more widely distributed music for the continent.
Apple, Amazon, BEUC, EMI, Nokia, PRS for Music, SACEM, STIM, and Universal now say they will work with the Commission to desegregate music licensing in European Union countries and have labels produce licenses that work across multiple if not all member states.
They will also more freely exchange information so that companies can get rights outside of a musician’s home country.
The group promises a roadmap but hasn’t provide specific timelines for the changes. A deal follows legal pressure from the Commission on the music industry to provide fairer competition.
Online stores and labels have been accused of unfair catalog availability as the lack of widespread distribution often leaves smaller countries with poor selections in iTunes; Amazon has yet to offer its MP3 store outside of the US.
Apple has routinely shifted the blame to labels as many of these don’t or can’t license music in certain areas. Many licensing firms, like SACEM in France, often have a majority or exclusive right to license music and are sometimes unable or unwilling to license music from other nation
EngadgetHD: Take this rumor with a fairly large grain of salt and please hold your “bag of hurt” comments until the end. Boy Genius claims he’s got it on word from a “pretty reliable source” that the next big iTunes revision will include better organization options for your iPhone / iPod touch apps, something vague concerning integration with Twitter, Facebook, and Last.fm, and… Blu-ray support.
To be fair, the HD disc format wars are all but over at this point, and the most recent Final Cut Pro actually lets you burn video directly to a third-party BD drive, only to have to play the discs on another, non-Mac device.
This is all pretty sketch at the moment, and we doubt the boys in Cupertino will be showing their hands until just after the eleventh hour — let’s not forget, also, that iTunes is also available for Windows which does have other third-party Blu-ray players. In possibly related whispers, AppleInsider has offered some none-too-descriptive hints at possible iMac refresh with some improvements catering to the “semi-professional audio / video crowd.”
Between this and talk about a tablet, we can’t wait for the next Apple press conference, if only to subside all the rumors for a few months. Update: Our resident HD expert Ben Drawbaugh has chimed in on the matter, hypothesizing that this might be referring to support for Managed Copy, a digitized (and DRM restricted) copy of the film that you would save onto your local hard drive.
But in that scenario, it still doesn’t behoove Apple to add that to iTunes unless it was looking to put Blu-ray drives on its own machines, which makes this (still very faint) rumor all the more interesting.
CNet: In the yet-to-be-released iTunes 8.2, Blu-ray gets a mention on the ‘About iTunes’ splash screen.
For those not well-versed in the world of Apple computers, Mac machines currently don’t support Blu-ray discs. Although you can install a third-party optical drive in the Mac Pro, you’ll still need to boot into Windows to read Blu-ray media. But, if iTunes is going to allow ripping from these discs, we might finally see Macs and MacBooks with fully integrated Blu-ray support and drives.
Back in October, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs famously called Blu-Ray and its licensing process “a bag of hurt”, implying that it was too expensive and too complicated for Apple to add Blu-ray drives to Macs. Jobs, however, is notorious for downplaying certain technologies right up until the day Apple includes them in a product, as was the case for years with video-playing iPods.
All this is just speculation for now. But, if there is going to be any announcement of Blu-ray support, it’ll probably be at Apple’s upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, held in San Francisco from 8 to 12 June
CNet: The NPD Group just sent out some interesting statistics, based on a study conducted by its music-tracking service.
“In 2008, 87 percent of digital-music buyers in the U.S. used iTunes to download music, versus just 16 percent who used Amazon MP3,” according to a spokesman for the research group. (Those surveyed could list more than one store.)
On the face of it, the study’s numbers don’t sound so bad. Russ Crupnick, an NPD analyst agreed that they should encourage Amazon. For one, the online retailer’s music store is in second place only 18 months after opening. Amazon’s digital-music store is also faring better than most of Apple’s previous challengers, Crupnick said.
“It used to be that iTunes was first, and second was practically nobody,” Crupnick said.
Amazon MP3 has begun to catch on with an audience that is a little older than the average iTunes shopper, and that’s good, Crupnick said.
“I suspect a lot of consumers, some of them a little older, are still buying CDs,” he said. “That’s going to help Amazon because they aren’t battling over every crumb with iTunes. They’ll share some customers and have some of their own, and that will help the company with growth.”
The other major point the research shows is just how strong the iTunes franchise is, according to Crupnick. Apple’s music store is home to almost 90 percent of the music buyers.
For people wary of the price changes set to hit iTunes on Tuesday, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Crupnick said the NPD Group will be tracking sales very closely, but he’s very skeptical that the variable pricing structure Apple is adopting (ranging from 69 cents for catalog songs to $1.29 for newer hit songs) won’t harm sales.
CNet: Apple has pressed play on iTunes 8.1, the latest update to its music player and store. The biggest change is that the old party shuffle feature, which creates a random playlist from your music, is now called iTunes DJ.
The basic concept is still the same, but now double-clicking a track in the list jumps it to the top without affecting the rest of the order. Party shuffle used to jump to that point in the list, which meant it you saw a duff patch of songs coming up you could skip the whole selection.
Apple has also added support for the Remote app on the iPhone and iPod touch. Enable the feature, and anyone with the free app installed can request songs to be added to the playlist, as well as voting for which choon to play next, all via their handsets.
So that not every passing Tom, Dick and Harriet with an iPhone can monkey with your music, you can require a password as well as setting a welcome message.
Other new stuff includes Genius sidebar for films and telly, support for the happy-talkin’ new iPod shuffle, AutoFill for manually managed iPods, and parental controls for the iTunes Store.
Parents can stop their kids from caning the credit card by blocking the Store, but still leave access to iTunes U, the educational section packed full of free lectures, language lessons, audiobooks and other stuff that we probably should have paid attention to back in skool.
Stuff.tv: Time to forget all that talk of a slick new iPhone for a minute. Because Apple lovers are now turning their attention to plans for an iTunes integrated HDTV, putting the current Apple TV box right into your gogglebox.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard about such a device, but now the rumour has gained more credibility, with analyst Gene Munster suggesting a DVR–packing telly, with similar styling to Apple’s LED monitor, could be heading our way in 2011.
According to NetworkWorld.com, the device would allow you to sync TV shows wirelessly with your Mac, iPhone or iPod, taking whatever you’d recorded either off regular TV or downloaded from the iTunes store.
Telegraph.co.uk: Film buyers in the UK will be able to download films to their computers and iPods in a new breakthrough deal between Twentieth Century Fox and Apple, it has been announced.
‘Digital Copy’ for iTunes will provide customers who buy a DVD with an additional disk – or Digital Copy of the film – allowing them to download the film straight on to their iPod, iPhone, PC, Mac or any other portable video player.
The technology, which has been available in the US for almost a year, is now being launched for British movie buyers. Fans who buy the special edition sets of DVDs will be given the free extra disc allowing them to download the film files straight on to their machine.
Purchasers will not have unrestricted use of the files – the number of times they can copy the film is strictly limited as each DVD will only transfer its iTunes Digital Copy to one iTunes library.
The Register: Apple is rumoured to be on the cusp of launching a movie downloads service through iTunes right here in the UK.
According to a report by The Times newspaper, “studio sources” have said that Apple will start selling films from four major Hollywood studios: Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox and Time Warner. Some smaller studios, including Lions Gate and MGM, are also thought to be behind Apple.
A specific online launch date isn’t yet known, but the sources apparently revealed that Apple’s not looking to undercut current physical DVD prices. It’s also rumoured that films will be available for both permanent download or rental.
Apple’s been testing the water for online movie downloads since 2006, when it posted a Disney TV movie, High School Musical, on the iTunes Music Store. The 487.1MB film was available to download for £5/€7.