Apple Describes Harmony as a Crude Hack, Hits Back with DMCA

Apple have described RealNetworks’ new Harmony program, designed to play Real content on an iPod, as a crude hack, and even described RealNetworks themselves as hackers.

“We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions,” said Apple in a statement.

As predicted, Apple are turning to the DMCA to see if they have a case against RealNetworks. Many in the industry view this as a negative action by Apple, and could be regarded as anti-consumer. Headlines such as “Apple: The Microsoft of Music?” have started appearing, and accusations of maintaining a monopoly are now being levelled at Apple.

Harmony allows users to play Real content by wrapping the media in a FairPlay DRM layer – it doesn’t interfere with iPod’s FairPlay systems, or the iPod.

As RealNetworks said in a statement: “Harmony follows in a well-established tradition of fully legal, independently developed paths to achieve compatibility. There is ample and clear precedent for this activity, for instance the first IBM compatible PCs from Compaq. Harmony creates a way to lock content from Real’s music store in a way that is compatible with the iPod, Windows Media DRM devices, and Helix DRM devices. Harmony technology does not remove or disable any digital rights management system. Apple has suggested that new laws such as the DMCA are relevant to this dispute. In fact, the DMCA is not designed to prevent the creation of new methods of locking content and explicitly allows the creation of interoperable software.”

Apple are looking to change the iPod’s software so that Harmony does not work in the future: “We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our iPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real’s Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods.”

RealNetworks’ Statement

Manhunt Pulled from Stores After Murder

Dixons has pulled Rockstar’s Manhunt game from shelves after parents claimed that it inspired the murder of their 14 year old boy.

Rockstar are no strangers to controversy, and have had previous titles, mainly from the Grand Theft Auto series, banned or pulled from shops before.

Warren LeBlanc, 17 years old, pleaded guilty to the murder of 14 year old Stefan Pakeerah after luring him into a park in the Midlands and murdering him with a claw hammer and a knife.

An unpaid drug debt was given as the reason for the murder.

Manhunt is clearly marked as an 18 certificate game, and should not be sold or played by minors like LeBlanc. Those ratings are on the box for a reason, you know.

Giselle Pakeerah, Stefan’s mother said “I think that I heard some of Warren’s friends say that he was obsessed by this game. If he was obsessed by it, it could well be that boundaries for him became quite hazy. I can’t believe that this sort of material is allowed in a society where anarchy is not that far removed. It should not be available and it should not be available to young people.”

“I think that I heard”? Curiously, no-one has blamed the drugs involved for the murder as yet.

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers’ Association, who provide age ratings on video games, issues a statement: “We reject any suggestion or association between the tragic events in the Midlands and the sale of the video game Manhunt.”

The continued: “The game in question is classified 18 by the British Board of Film Classification and therefore it should not be in the possession of a juvenile. We would also add that simply being in someone’s possession does not and should not lead to the conclusion that a game is responsible for these tragic events.”

In response to the claims, and to avoid possible copycat actions, Dixons will be removing the game from all 1,000 stores throughout their group.


Rockstar Games

BT Offer a VoIP Service With Some Savings

After last week’s launch of Communicator, a voice over IP service that offered calls that bafflingly cost the same as fixed-line calls, BT have announced another VoIP service for broadband users. This time, calls are cheaper.

Broadband Voice allows subscribers to make voice calls via a handset, but using their broadband line. Now you know what those two little splitters they sent you in the post are really for.

Calls are cheaper, but still of good quality. The price structure is like reasonably simple. Rental is UK£14 (€21) per month, and allows subscribers to make free calls to other Broadband Voice subscribers.

Daytime calls to UK numbers are UK£0.03 per minute, and international calls are considerably cheaper. Rather like Skype’s new service, you can ring any phone.

For an extra UK£6.50 (€9.78) a month, calls under an hour to UK landlines at evening and weekends are free.

Good to see that BT are finally passing some of the benefits to VoIP over to consumers, but to be honest the service could be a bit cheaper.

BT Broadband Voice

RIAA Wins Over ISPs

Judge Denny Chin of Manhattan has ruled that Cablevision and other ISPs must hand over details of file swappers to the RIAA to assist in their pursuit through the courts.

This contradicts a previous decision by the Washington DC appeals court, and only applies in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Specifically, it states that Cablevision has to provide personal details of a subscriber even before the RIAA has decided to sue him or her. The decision has surprised many in the industry.

It was the previous Washington decision that forced RIAA to prosecute downloaders as John Does, with decidedly mixed results – the RIAA only found out targets’ identities when it got to court.

It is staggering that a commercial body now has the power to extract personal information about members of the public from another company. Although the recent ruling does contain a provision that the RIAA must have a firm case against a user before demanding personal information – though of course, “a firm case” is always open to interpretation.



Ken Rutkowski – the IBC Digital Lifestyles Interviews

The second in a series of eight articles with some of the people involved with the Digital Lifestyles conference day at IBC2004.

We interviewed Ken Rutkowski, the force behind Ken Radio, on the media platforms available to today’s consumers, and what’s exciting him.

Fraser Lovatt: It is possible that some of the visitors to Digital Lifestyles might not know about Ken Radio. Do you want to tell me a bit about yourself and what you are up to at the moment?
Ken Rutkowski: Well, Ken Radio is the largest piece of listened to content on the web with over 186,000 listeners every single day. What we do is we look at technology on a global level. Where most shows on TV or on Radio are generally very localised, we try to do away the whole US-centric concept and say “Hey, technology is global” and see how it impacts people. So we are trying to really see what is happening – like we say: other sites might break the news – we’re here to fix it.

By really bringing together a team of global observers that can dissect what is happening and then interpret it properly. So we are probably the only place where people can go to really find out what is going on at a global level. We are pretty proud of that.

What are you up to at the moment? What is your current project?
My broadcast business is radically different to what my personal business is. My personal business is a company called What we do is we help technology companies have better interface with media companies. So we basically bring technology to Hollywood and Hollywood to technology. We allow companies like Microsoft to have better relationships with the Studios. We help companies like Nokia have better relationship with media companies.

Microsoft have recently set up their own internal group for this, haven’t?
Absolutely and that’s kind of a contradiction. Think about this – I don’t know – when you go to war you generally have to be on the ground where war is waged. For example World War II was waged in Europe initially – you went to Europe to fight the war. Well the war right now is in Hollywood and when you set up a shop in Redmond you are mixing with words.

The contradiction is they are playing war but they are not playing in the right place. We are here to help them actually understand the strategy and place their troops in the right place.

Recent social and technological developments are creating the concept of a digital lifestyle and we’ve seen an explosion in the number of media platforms that are out in the wild. How many media platforms do you think that people have space for in their lives? The reason I ask this question is because I was looking in my bag earlier on and I had more media platforms in that bag than my entire household had up until about 1995.
Let’s be realistic – what is the dream? The dream is to have one. That’s really the goal.

You know, I picked a brand new Nokia 7610, I think, and I’m finally seeing a convergence happening. Where I have my standard phone, it holds 18,000 of my contacts, shows me video, it’s a 1 mega pixel camera, it will have software to allow me to play MP3s – and now with some of the technology coming up, like Nokia’s visual radio, it can allow me to actually get some data from radio that’s fine.

Obviously it is not a high-quality camera, it is not a high-end MP3 player, it is a good phone and it’s got some decent video – and it’s moving in the right direction.

One device is sufficient and if the phone can be it – and I think it is going to move in that direction dominate that market.

I would like to see one device. Now you are asking the question – how many devices can people tolerate? Well I think that toleration is something that is based upon the actual time parameter. What do I mean by that? We uses to tolerate in XT or AT computer which weighed about 65 pounds with a monochrome screen that would go out every once in a while that had a fan that sounded like an aircraft carrier and it processed real slow. We tolerated it because that was accepted during that time.

Now we have flat screen monitors, we have three gigahertz processors. Right now people can’t accept having a wallet, a phone and a third device – being an MP3 player or a digital camera. The minute we start going over four, to a PDA or going to a GPS, I think we have gone too far.

We use the tolerance limit anything over – you are overboard. Now again let’s talk about that Utopian world that I want to be living in and have one – and I’m happy.

We have seen that today’s platforms mean that there is some exciting content appearing. For example the quiz came called “Come and Have a Go”. It’s live broadcast and it uses the Java mobile phone application tool for the people at home so they can get involved. What other content are you excited about?
Well I think the location based technology stuff that we see proliferating right now throughout Japan is so damned exciting, you know we are able to locate my children and we see this even coming in the States and I know the UK has is too.

Using RFIDS? WiFi child tracking at Lego Billund?
No – let’s take it in another direction. What I find is heinous is that with cheating spouses, their husbands or wives can go out and buy a cheap phone and they put it in their spouses car. They put it in the car and turn it on and they are able to track to see where their spouse is. You know it is getting to a point where it is so inexpensive to do forms of surveillance.

Swatch, the watch making company has a watch that uses location-based GPS, so the parents can easily identify where their children are on a computer screen. You know technology is coming up right now where there is location based technology for cattle. In Montana they are using this – even in Mongolia they are using it for horses right now, where they can track where horses are. That’s cool stuff. It is so inexpensive.

We have RFIDS – sure the technology has been around for 20 years – giant retailers are starting to see how these ideas make sense. We are not going to have to go around and take everything out of our carts have it scanned, put it into a bag and walk out – we can just drag the cart out and be told exactly what we owe and we are done.

That is cool. Now a Java application at a phone – that is mundane.

But we have a Java application which ties together a broadcast programme and provides a new type of content.
Let’s take it this way. My TV is my TV.

My television might have more additions to it being for interactivity – polling, voting, e-commerce and all that – that’s my TV – don’t give me television on my phone. My radio is my radio. Now if I want to use my phone as a radio – I can tolerate that because it is a device that I need to have portable with me because I am conditioned to have a portable with me. If I can get information like Nokia’s Visual Radio is doing, that’s cool, because I’m conditioned to take radio on the go. I’m not conditioned to take television on the go. I don’t want people to be watching TV on the go. We have a society that is suffering from the inability to collaborate right now. Add another one?

What about creating types of content that could never exist before?
I had the opportunity to see this really cool web cam technology that allows me to use my GPS – GSM phone and my camera on my phone to be a live streaming web cam. I could call my son and I could say “Look what daddy’s looking at right now? I’m looking at the Statue of Liberty”. He is able to go to a web page and see what his Dad is looking at right now. That’s cool.

Also, I think Microsoft’s Media Centre really is going to be exciting. It finally takes your pictures, your CDs, your DVDs, your music, your television and aggregates it into one platform and you finally get to use the TV as a true collaborative tool.

What is exciting is taking existing models like television. I hate to use these 1990 terms but time shifting is becoming to reality. The word “TiVo” is becoming part of the English language – you don’t tape TV shows any more you “TiVo”.

It is coming out to where even in Movies “I TiVo’d that”. We have seen it in Sex in the City. There was whole episode around her TiVo was better than her boyfriend because it was consistent and reliable. It is so amazing to start seeing this technology become part of our lives. We are becoming dependent upon it.

For example – I’m in Washington DC, I live in Los Angeles, and I am able to go to my own special web page to make sure I have taped my favourite shows because when I get back to Los Angeles I get excited to watch my shows on my time without commercials. That is so damned exciting. I get home – technology has transformed my life.

So we have TV – we have location based technology devices that are coming out. I actually think where portable media players are going is really hot.

We can take all of our media with us in any environment – I am sitting in a hotel room right now and I am able to link to my server at home which is actually quite easy. I call it KIDMA. If it’s kidma, meaning my kids or my grandmother can do it, that right there just passed the test. These new devices are kidma – they are easy and simple – so I could sit down and listen to all my music sitting in Los Angeles right now right here in Washington DC. I don’t feel like I am away from home now.

The last thing which I get really excited about is the unified messaging technology that is coming out. Are you familiar with this?

Email, SMS etc together in one place?
Let’s take it a little further than that. I now can have the universal phone number – one phone number – and I can travel throughout the world and I can always be reached by that phone number in multiple ways.

There was a company about ten years ago called Wildfire, and there are better ones that allow me to have my own number and it follows me. So right now if somebody calls my number and I’m in Sydney, Australia it will find me and ring me on whatever mobile device I’m on or hotel phone in Sydney. If I’m not there, I am sleeping or I’m taking a shower when someone leaves that voicemail it will be emailed to me.

Unified messaging is so hot and we are starting to see some of the voice over IP companies bring services out.

So tell a little bit about your IBC session that’s coming up.
We’re going to really explore the idea of the platforms that are going to enable these devices.

This is important because anyone can paint a great picture – but tell me about the paint, the canvas and even the talent to make the picture. We are going to show how everything is put together so the technology on the consumer end will work. Interactive television is extremely dynamic and powerful, it is worth billions of dollars in the ad market. An interesting report came out recently from Jupiter Media Metric showing that the stereo-typical 18 – 34 male who everyone thought was playing video games would rather watch Survivor or rather watch television than play video games.

This is exciting – this is what the networks have been saying is true – well the numbers came out yesterday proving it. So that means television has the opportunity not just to become compelling but even generate more revenue. We are going to talk about how television, mobile devices and whatever the next generation media platform is, portable music player, or how they are going to empower the consumer to spend more money and be utilised even more.

How are established content businesses going to make money out of all these platforms then? Where is the business model? We have got lots of media companies out there like the BBC with huge media libraries and lots of resources to be able to create compelling media, but it can be argued that but there is no proven way to get the cash out of the consumer at the other end.
Well I would disagree with that – let’s look at a couple of ways.

One, we know that companies like Apple’s iTunes, Rhapsody or Harmony by real networks – even Microsoft MSN music – they’re generating money. iTunes is reporting some really decent sales not just on the music side that works.
Now let’s take music to the next level and look at fan based sites. Sites that you subscribe to you’re like David Bowie you now are part of David Bowie’s community which will include music, video, emails, chat – people will pay money for that.

Those advanced services that we were talking about earlier like location based technology and phones that might cost two or three dollars a month extra. People are not just willing, they are paying it. We don’t want to use Japan as a good example because their culture is radically different than in the West, but they prove that advanced technology services are worth paying for.

The next is the simple idea of advanced tools for television. Premium channels like HBO and Showtime. HBO has more Emmys than any one single Network right now. We are seeing people paying for premium content on television, which means that the trickle down concept always applies. If they pay for it on television once true broadband – we are not talking about a megabit, we are talking about 5/10 megabits – people will pay for premium content because it will feel like it’s television, coming through a TV.

So when you say it’s not there, it is there, it is in unique situations, but it is going to build and I see the money opportunities.

I think this is probably one of the most exciting times – and I didn’t even say that through the dot com times – one of the most exciting times to be part of this brand new industry.

What about the little media start-ups who are going to be faster moving, more technologically savvy – how are they going to capitalise on convergence?
Think about this idea – News Corporation’s Lucy Hood, who is running it on the technology side, creating content in one minute. Mini series for mobile phones – you are creating content with a cast, with screen writers to create one minute episodics on the phone. They’re going in a direction saying “Let’s look at the money and seize this opportunity”.

Again, you know my position regarding taking television to a phone, I don’t think it is going to work but we are seeing News Corp trying it out, we are seeing companies playing an HD. HD is going to be explosive.

HD is a brand new environment for consumers once HD televisions drops down in price, which they will soon.

So these studios can use tools like Final Cut Pro, even some of the cheap Avid systems to produce HD at a fraction of the cost of two years ago. That’s compelling.

What do you think of iTunes/Motorola deal?
They’re making a slimmed down version of its iTunes jukebox software that cell phone makers like Motorola will install in its wireless devices, to be rolled out in 2005.

That is the right direction. You know, again, back to your second question – how many devices will people be able to tolerate – if you could make my phone do everything – including being a functional music player, because I am conditioned to take music on the go, cool. It sounds like a good start. It’s a good catalyst. I don’t think it is going to be the win-all but it is the tweak to allow it to happen.

We have got content running on different hardware and software platforms and quite often consumers can’t move content from one platform to another because of incompatible DRM systems. How long do you think that is going to last?
Well you know the irony is most consumers don’t know about the limitations of that content.

They are going to find out pretty soon.
They are absolutely going to find out and once they find out they are going to start questioning the ideas – a 99 cent track that I could only have at 128k, only on four different devices, and not at the same time but individually? They are going to say “Well, wait a second a CD is a better value. I got the content at 320k, I can rip it and I can move it to any device”.

I have a feeling the labels will start questioning the value or the cost for certain DRM content. For example, if you want a 328k piece of content with unlimited DRM it is going to cost you three bucks, or maybe making it 99 cents with DRM. The labels have talked about this. I think the labels are going to have to change once the consumers are more educated.

I relish that day because what is going on is horrible, especially when you know the true value of that piece of media that you downloaded. It is extremely limited in its mobility because of its DRM. It pisses me off.

Ken Radio

Ken is chairing ‘Understanding the Range of Platforms – A Multitude of Destinations’ session between 14:00 and 15:30 at the IBC conference on Sunday, 12th September in Amsterdam. Register for IBC here

Microsoft’s Anti-virus Service – New Details

New details have come to light about Microsoft’s new anti-virus service. The details came from an executive at MS’s French headquarters, and feature information unconfirmed by US sources.

The anti-virus product will be a stand-alone package based on tools acquired from Microsoft’s recent acquisitions of GeCad and Pelican Software. The software will work in two ways: the first component will use a regularly updated virus definitions database to identify viruses by a unique signature.

This method is used by almost all anti-virus packages in the market today – each virus and its variants have a unique sequence of bytes that can be spotted by scanning memory and hard-drives. This method is only effective against new viruses if the database is updated regularly to feature newly discovered “fingerprints”, otherwise infection can still take place.

The second ant-virus measure scans for previous infections and provides a risk assessment for users. It’s not yet clear if the package will provide system scanning to halt suspicious behaviour, such as bypassing the operating system to write to disk or accessing email address books, which will prevent unknown viruses wreaking havoc.

Given that Microsoft estimates that two out of three computer users do not have up-to-date anti-virus software, this could be a very lucrative move. According to anti-virus specialists Sophos, 4,677 new virus were reported in the first six months of 2004.

AVG free anti-virus tool

UK Digital Switch-over to Cost UK£1 billion

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five have had a series of meetings to discuss the UK’s switch-over to digital broadcasting. High on the agenda has been the total cost of the operation, from promoting the switch-over to public to popping round to old peoples’ houses to install a free set top box.

So far the estimate is about UK£1 billion (€1.5 billion), but like a hen party in a Indian restaurant, there’s still quite a lot of squabbling left over who needs to pay for what.

The three commercial broadcasters are quite keen on the government and BBC picking up the majority of the bill. Indeed, ITV hopes that most of its expenses will be offset by a reduction in the cost of the broadcast license that it pays for currently.

New broadcast licenses will be issued by Ofcom in September, and switch-over will feature prominently in them.

Many of the forthcoming costs are likely to go down – digital receivers are becoming more popular and are falling in price, so the installed base will rise rapidly on its own. By 2012 many of the households currently refusing to switch to digital may well have adopted digital television themselves as they become more accustomed to it.

Ofcom’s Digital Switch Over Report

EPG News

Ofcom has told the BSkyB and other electronic programme guide publishers that they must publish the criteria used to place channels on their guides.

EPGs are proprietary and closed systems, and this move from Ofcom means that public service channels such as the BBC must receive appropriate prominence on the guide, and not be buried at the bottom of listings.

Ofcom does not specify how EPG publishers must do this, but has suggested alphabetical or audience share as appropriate methods.

In other EPG news, an Australian inventor has unveiled ICE – the Intelligent Content Engine. The service is comprised of a number of useful features. Aside from a parental control system called Ice Nanny and an EPG, the service also includes a number of features designed to make advertising less obtrusive.

First up is Ice Skip, which simply allows PVRs to skip past adverts when playing back a recorded programme. Watch TV programmes by recording them on your PVR and starting playback ten minutes later and you need never see an advert again.

Secondly, Ice Hush controls the volume level of adverts when they come one – we’ve all been blasted into our seats by the sudden increase in volume because advertisers feel they need to shout for us to want to buy their washing powder.

The third line of defence is Ice Surf will change to another channel or radio broadcast when an advert is detected.

The inventor of this suite of tools is Peter Vogel – he wouldn’t give details away on how they actually work, but given that he is the inventor of the Fairlight Synthesiser, he probably knows what he’s doing.

The technology will be subscription-based and will cost about AUS$2 – AUS$3 (€1.15 to €1.74) per service required.

ATI’s New Mobile Graphics Chip

ATI have unveiled their latest mobile graphics chip – the Radeon Mobility 9800. The DirectX 9 card is actually based on the new Radeon X800 core, and will first appear in Dells Inspiron XPS and Inspiron 9100.

Graphics capabilities have become far more important in recent years due to three factors: screens have become far better, good TFT screens are cheaper, and many people are buying laptops not just for business, but because they don’t have enough space at home for a full sized PC. And many of those people want to play games.

“Thanks to the new Mobility RADEON 9800, the Dell Inspiron XPS is the first laptop in the world with the power to run the Splinter Cell 3 E3 Weather demo at above 30 fps.” said Dany Lepage, Splinter Cell 3 lead programmer at Ubisoft’s Montreal studio. “The strong performance of the Mobility RADEON 9800, with antialiasing and the widescreen display of the Inspiron XPS, should allow players to experience Splinter Cell 3 in the best possible conditions.”

“ATI continues its outstanding graphics performance with the MOBILITY RADEON 9800 and enables us to be more creative with the visual effects in our games,” says Peter Molyneux, founder of Lionhead Studios. “Gamers can now experience the advanced 3D graphics in applications like Black and White 2 previously available only to desktop users.”

The Mobility 9800 has eight pixel pipelines and uses ATI’s Smartshader technology. A powerful graphics processor will basically eat your laptop battery in one gulp, but ATI have developed Powerplay to make sure you can actually play Splinter Cell past the loading screen.

Paradoxically, the chip runs at 100MHz less than its predecessor the 9700, but it has a staggering 110 million transistors – more than twice that of the previous offering.

Mobility Radeon

Microsoft’s Newsbot

Microsoft are testing their Newsbot service outside Europe, as a competitor to Google’s News offering.

Google News is still in beta, but has proved an invaluable service to many. It works by scraping submitted sites for news headlines and emailing out alerts. MSN Newsbot has a much busier user interface than the typically sparse Google offering.

Newsbot is powered by the new MSN Search engine and scrapes 4,800 sources for stories, but does not as yet have an email alert function. Microsoft that the site is for delivering targeted news to visitors, rather than emailing headlines. To customise content, MS use Passport and keep track of items clicked on.

The site claims: “By gathering together news from around the world and tracking the interests of users of the site, we determine which stories are most popular and suggest stories that you may want to follow based on the patterns of other users.”

Microsoft are working with Moreover on this trial and claim that the site can build up a profile of a user’s interests after only ten minutes of surfing.

MSN Newsbot