Pigeon Enabled Internet Faster Than ADSL

Pigeon Enabled Internet, Faster Than ADSLThis has Friday Story written all over it. A few Israeli geeks set up a test to compare the speed of delivering data via pigeon (PEI – Pigeon Enabled Internet, as they’ve labelled it) compared with ADSL.

They’re building on Wi-Fly research carried out in Bergen, Norway a few years ago, when paper was used as the data medium. The latest version uses memory cards, 20-22 distributed over three pigeons, enabling much more data to be carried.

In total, 4Gb of data was transferred over 100Km – which, as they point out, is far superior to WiFi. Despite one of the pigeons being delayed, initially appearing to get lost on his journey (packet loss as they refer to it), they achieved a transfer rate of 2.27 Mbps, exceeding the commercially available ADSL rates in Israel of 0.75 – 1.5 Mbps.

Pigeon Enabled Internet, Faster Than ADSLAs you know, the A in ADSL stands for Asynchronous, so the transferred rates listed equate to the speed that information is received. Upload rates are significantly lower. By their calculations, uploading 4Gb of data on ADSL would take around 96 hours – making the pigeon transfer significantly more efficient, equivalent to a T1 connection at 1.5Mbps.

As they point out, the pigeon gives pretty high latency (it takes quite a while for the first bit of data to arrive), but once it arrives, all of the 4Gb is delivered at once.

I’d often thought how price efficient the postal transfer of DVD’s was. 4.7Gb transferred overnight for around 50 pence – try buying bandwidth at that rate.

Pigeon Enabled Internet, Faster Than ADSLChat around the office lead us to wonder what the next in the endless list of variation on creatures being used to transfer information would be. Nicolas Nova has provided the answer – Snail power.

PEI (Pigeon Enabled Internet) is FASTER then ADSL (via Nicolas Nova, through engadget)

Credit for images: Gil Pry-dvash, Gilad Reshef, Shai Vardi and Ami Ben Bassat

Sony PSP Review: PlayStation Portable – Not Just Games

We’ve published another piece by Steve, where he covers How-To get your Sony PSP to access the Internet.

Review: Sony's Play Station Portable - Much More Than A Games ConsoleSony have produced a portable games console which on its own merit is going to sell a lot of units. However it has the possibility of becoming a portable media hub that will give even Microsoft a jolt by driving into their Portable Media Center market.

The unit isn’t small, but small enough so it could just about fit inside a large coat pocket. It’s got a fantastic wide screen that is extremely crisp and sharp, 4.3 inches across, supporting 480 x 272 pixels and 16.77 million colours.

Review: Sony's Play Station Portable - Much More Than A Games ConsoleThe system uses Sony’s 1.8″ UMD optical disk which comes in a protective sheath (like a minidisc). They’re small enough so you could easily carry a few around with you (though don’t eject them unless there’s something solid and accessible beneath you as they have a tendency to fly out and disappear somewhere awkward). There’s also a Memory Stick due (32MB supplied) to allow game saves and other features.

It’s also got WiFi (or to be pedantic IEEE 802.11b which is the 11Mb/s older version) built-in that can be set-up in AdHoc mode allowing game play with other PSPs, or in Infrastructure mode which goes through an access point. Though there doesn’t seem to be any Internet utilities on the device yet (apart from a network update section, which allows the unit to update its system software from Sony i.e. your WiFi connection must connect to the Internet). However it is rumoured that the Opera browser is being ported and there’ll be a firmware update for that, email and calendaring.

Review: Sony's Play Station Portable - Much More Than A Games ConsoleThe system looks like a USB memory device when attached to a PC (which basically gives access to the Memory Stick) and you can store audio and video on it. Sensibly, Sony support MP3 directly on the PSP, though it will also support ATRACplus encoded music. Interestingly, if someone decides to produce UMD music disks, they only support ATRACplus and linear PCM). Video is H.264/MPEG-4 AVC on the UMD and MPEG-4 SP, AAC on the memory stick.

The CPU runs up to 333MHz and seems to have the grunt when needed.

Multiple languages are supported (including system, video, subtitles, etc) but it seems that game menus are hardcoded by the manufacturer, so if it’s say, a Japanese game, it will have Japanese menus even though the system settings are in English.

Media Center
Review: Sony's Play Station Portable - Much More Than A Games ConsoleOnce the PSP has real Internet capability it will be a media powerhouse, the screen size is about right for watching movies on the go. You could do this now by converting a current MPEG-2 (DVD) to MPEG-4 and storing it on the memory stick (ignoring all legal ramifications), but in future it’s more than likely you’ll be able to stream movies (or audio) directly to the unit. Sony as a music publisher and movie house, is likely to want to sell its content to a market of portable viewers – it owns both ends of the stick.

Of course, Internet is the key, as stated previously the only utility Sony provide, is to update the firmware of the PSP itself, it’s completely automatic (once WiFi has been configured). The unit goes to Sony’s site, pulls down the new firmware to the memory stick and then loads it into the unit from there.

We’ve published another piece by Steve, where he covers How-To get your Sony PSP to access the Internet.

Look out for a further piece that we’ll be running over the next few weeks on the pros and cons of importing a PSP.

Toshiba Quantum Key Server To Secure Video

Toshiba Demos Quantum Secure VideoThe clever-clogs at Toshiba Research Europe have announced that they have been successful in applying quantum cryptography to the transmission of video and voice over IP.

This means that it will be next to impossible for hackers to “tap” into voice and video files streamed over the net.

White coated boffins at Toshiba’s Cambridge UK labs demonstrated their Quantum Key Server system, which involves encoding bits of encryption data onto particles of light (photons).

This ultra secure technology looks set to revolutionise digital security by replacing the current distribution methods for keys, which are needed to decrypt secure messages.

Toshiba Demos Quantum Secure VideoToshiba’s quantum video link increases the security of communication systems by encrypting every single video frame with a unique digital key – so cracking one frame of a video would be useless unless all the other frames were cracked too.

The secrecy of each of these keys is ensured by quantum cryptography, an ultra-secure key distribution method.

Dr Andrew Shields, head honcho of the Toshiba group developing the system, said, “Corporate networks are increasingly vulnerable to the theft of keys from the desktop, either by hacking, Trojans or fraudulent employees. The Toshiba Quantum Key Server mitigates this risk by allowing frequent key refresh.”

“The Toshiba Quantum Key Server can be used to enhance the security of not just video and speech, but also a wide range of other high bandwidth data communications, ranging from sensitive legal documents to medical and tax records.” he added.

Quantum cryptography also allows the key distribution link to be monitored for tapping and other skulduggery, and although we can’t pretend to understand half of what the good Doctor is on about, we liked this bit:

Toshiba Demos Quantum Secure Video“Imagine if you received a letter, you opened that letter and read it, there is no way of telling if someone has read that letter en route. When you encode the information on single particles, the letter self destructs whenever someone else reads it.”

“I sometimes say it is like the messages in Mission Impossible,” he added, “If anyone tries to read the messages, they self destruct.”

Toshiba has so far received “good feedback” from government and financial institutions shown the demonstrations, although commercial implementation looks to be some years away.

Toshiba Europe Research

Sony RDR-GXD500 Review: DVD Recorder With Freeview

Sony RDR-GXD500 DVD Recorder With Built In Freeview TunerAs the number of digital TV-enabled households continues to rise and the analogue switch off looms ever closer, it seems strange that Sony’s RDR-GXD500 is the first DVD recorder to come equipped with a built-in digital TV tuner.

Over 60% of UK households can now receive digital TV, but trying to record the content can involve nightmarish battles with endless cables and component boxes.

Sony’s RDR-GXD500 is a one-stop solution that’s easy to set up and use, with its all-in-one functionality letting users view Freeview digital channels, make digital recordings and play discs all from a single compact unit.

The included ‘learning’ multi-function remote control lets you jettison your TV remote too, leaving one less thing to have to find on a drunken Saturday night.

Setting up the recorder is a breeze: plug it into your telly, turn it on and then let it automatically scan for channels.

Sony RDR-GXD500 DVD Recorder With Built In Freeview TunerThe unit’s onscreen interface is simplicity itself, with the eight-day electronic programme guide (EPG) banishing those video timer nightmares forever – this puppy is so simple, even a granny overdosed on Christmas sherry would have no problem setting up a recording of Des and Mel.

Selecting programs to record is as simple as clicking on the programme you wish to record from the EPG and that’s it. Easy!

Things look pretty good under the hood too, with the unit sporting high quality components such as a 12-bit/108Mhz DAC and both digital and analogue tuners, allowing you to record one channel while you watch another.

Conveniently, the RDR-GXD500 offers simultaneous record/playback and chase play (this lets you begin watching a recorded programme before it’s finished) as well as a veritable armoury of advanced editing, archiving and organising functions.

In use, the Sony performed flawlessly. Memories of long hours endlessly fast forwarding and rewinding video tapes looking for a programme, were banished forever thanks to the recorder’s indexing and multi speed search facilities.

The digital reception was crisp and sharp and infinitely superior to the vintage On Digital box lurking downstairs. Images were rock solid, the black is Bible black, and the colours are vibrant and richly balanced.

Sony RDR-GXD500 DVD Recorder With Built In Freeview TunerA range of recording quality modes let you increase recording time at the expense of image quality.

The highest setting (HQ) produced copies that were indistinguishable from the original broadcast, although this brought the recording time down to a just over two hours.

With the lowest quality mode, SLP (super long play) time-rich viewers could squeeze in up to six hours of recording with that old school ‘snow storm’ dodgy video feel.

DVD playback was pretty damn good on the machine, with a stable image output providing very little in the way of ‘smearing’ and digital artifacts.

Overall, the Sony RDR-GXD500 gave a consistently good account of itself in all areas, and as such, this is a DVD recorder I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Sony RDR-GXD500 DVD Recorder With Built In Freeview TunerHighly recommended


Pros: Great all round performance, integrated digital tuner and simple Cons: The baffling lack of progressive scan video capability

Size (WxHxD): 49x9x38cm
Weight: 5.1kg
Recording formats: DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW
Playback formats: DVD, DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW, CD, CD-R/-RW, VCD
Video outputs: Component, SCART (RGB), S-Video, composite, RF
Audio outputs: Line out, optical digital, coaxial digital

Street price: Under £400 (~US$762 ~€591)

Sony RDR-GXD500

Yahoo’s My Web Upgrades Personal Search Tools

Yahoo's My Web Upgrades Personal Search ToolsThe battle between Google and Yahoo continues to heat up, with Yahoo ramping up the feature set of its ‘My Web’ suite of personal search tools.

My Web is a personal search engine that lets users save, recall and share resources with others using a selection of Yahoo tools, such as email and IM (instant messaging).

“Yahoo Search is focused on providing innovative, useful technologies that enable people to find, use, share, and expand knowledge,” boomed Salim Mitha, director, Yahoo Search, UK & Ireland.

“My Web is the next step in our vision of integrating search, personal search and community by providing users an easy way to have their own personal web search experience that incorporates the best of the Web and what matters most to them.”

Yahoo's My Web Upgrades Personal Search ToolsYahoo claim that their service is “better than bookmarks”, with users able to save an exact copy of a page along with the link, so that saved content will always be there when users return to the page.

Users can store thousands of pages, with tools allowing users to organise and search the content and access it from any computer.

Shared pages can be published using RSS (Rich Site Summary) with users given the option of creating public links pages.

My Web users will soon be able to share data with the Yahoo 360 social network, which allows users to share pictures, music and other data.

Yahoo's My Web Upgrades Personal Search ToolsYahoo’s search history tool bears more than a passing similarity to the one released by Google last week and reflects the fierce competition between the two companies.

Yahoo are hoping that these new features will send people flocking to their portal services and thus generate lots and lots of lovely advertising revenue.

UPDATE: Thanks to Steve Rioux for getting in touch, telling us of a very similar service he started almost a year ago called “Smart Note”. You can find it at Klogger.com

Yahoo My Web

BT Rich Media And Sportfive To Stream WorldCup Qualifiers

BT Rich Media And Sportfive To Stream WorldCup QualifiersBT Rich Media has cuddled up to Sportfive, a French sports marketing group, and announced a partnership to make 2006 Football World Cup qualifying and friendly games available to fans streamed over broadband on the Internet.

Under the terms of the agreement, Sportfive – owners of the largest portfolio of European qualifying games – will use the BT Rich Media platform for publishing and distributing the video content.

BT Rich Media And Sportfive To Stream WorldCup QualifiersFootball bonkers viewers will be able to choose between 250Kbps or 500Kbps quality streams for approximately £7 (~US$13 ~€10), or alternatively download the entire match to keep forever for around £5 (~US$9.50 ~€7). As a long suffering Wales fan, I have to admit that there’s several games which I never wish to see again!

Not every match will be available online though, with only untelevised games being available to stream/download.

BT Rich Media And Sportfive To Stream WorldCup QualifiersThe games will be served up on http://www.qualifiers2006.com and promoted to over 10 million users via a range of affiliate sites such as soccernet.com,.teamtalk.com, sportinglife.com and rivals.net .

BT Rich Media will also be using the same technology to stream the forthcoming Scottish BT Cup Final at ScottishRugby.org.

BT Rich Media

Treo 650 Smartphone: UK PalmOne Launch

Treo 650 Smartphone: UK LaunchPalmOne has formally launched its Treo 650 in the UK – more than six months after jammy Americans got their mitts on the keenly anticipated smartphone.

We’re not quite sure what ‘formally launched’ means, because there’s still no UK telecom networks offering them and you can’t officially buy them anywhere.

There was, however, a man from Orange at the press launch, wildly enthusing about the Treo’s capabilities. When pushed for an actual, real-life release date on the Orange network, the best we could get out of him was “Soon.”

It’s all rather frustrating because the presentation had thoroughly whetted our appetite for the Treo.

The updated version of the hugely successful Treo 600 offers a higher-resolution 320×320, 65,000-colour screen, a removable battery, 312MHz Intel XScale PXA270 processor, 32MB of Flash memory (21MB available to the user), Palm OS 5.4 ‘Garnet’, an enhanced VGA digicam and – finally – Bluetooth.

Treo 650 Smartphone: UK LaunchThe handset includes useful quad-band GSM/GPRS connectivity for voice and data, with the bundled VersaMail email application supporting a single Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 ActiveSync account and multiple IMAP and POP accounts.

Anyone who’s ever battled with the complexities of hooking up email services on a mobile will appreciate the mass of preloaded server settings for local ISPs and other email providers built into the Treo. So long as your ISP is listed, setting up a new account takes a matter of seconds.

One thing noticeable by its absence was WiFi. Although palmOne offers an optional WiFi SDIO card for some of its Tungsten PDAs, it currently doesn’t work with the Treo 650.

I asked François Bornibus, vice president for palmOne EMEA, about this oversight, and was told that “drivers were being written” for the Treo, although he couldn’t give me a definite release date.

He also said that a Treo with a fully integrated WiFi “was on the roadmap”, although he wasn’t mindful of giving me a peek at this map.

Treo 650 Smartphone: UK LaunchEven with WiFi, Treo users will still be missing out on the killer VoIP application, Skype, so I asked if there were any plans to introduce a version for the Palm platform.

With a Gallic shrug, Bornibus suggested that it would be up to Skype themselves.

(PalmOne’s Senior Systems Engineer, John Walker, later told me that the current WiFi SDIO Card doesn’t have VoIP functionality anyway, so Treo users can forget all about joining in with the VoIP revolution for a while.)

Finally, I told Bornibus about the countless rumours of a windows-based Treo (sometimes called the Treo 670) that had been circulating around the Internet and asked him if there was such a device in the pipeline.

With an enigmatic smile, he answered, “Anything is possible” – make what you will of that!

Treo 650 Smartphone: UK LaunchDespite attending an official product launch, I left none the wiser as to when the Treo will actually be available or what other network carriers (apart from Orange) will be offering the phone. Naturally, there wasn’t a peep about pricing plans either.

Despite the somewhat UK shambolic release timetable, reviews across the Atlantic have generally been very enthusiastic, and as soon as we finally get our grubby mitts on a Treo, we’ll be posting up a full review.

Treo 650

Nokia N91, N90, N70: Nseries Mobile Multimedia Handsets

Nokia Release Nseries Mobile Multimedia HandsetsNokia has launched three new Nseries mobile multimedia handsets, capable of taking print-quality pictures, playing MP3s, reading e-mail, browsing the Web sites and viewing mobile TV.

They might sound like a collection of night buses, but Nokia’s N90, N91 and N70 phones could represent a major step forward in multimedia mobile convergence.

“This next step in digital convergence brings together mobile devices, Internet content, still and video cameras, music, email and much more. Nokia Nseries devices share similar design traits as mobile phones, but they are actually powerful pocketable computers with a comprehensive set of multimedia features,” said Anssi Vanjoki, Executive Vice President, Multimedia, Nokia.

Nokia N91

The Nokia N91 multimedia handset looks to be facing up to Apple’s iPod, offering a two megapixel camera, Bluetooth and a 4-gigabyte hard disk, (capable of storing up to 3,000 CD-quality songs) inside its natty stainless steel case.

Serving up to 12.5 hours of sound via the included remote-control headset, the Nokia N91 supports a wide range of digital music formats including MP3, M4A, AAC and WMA.

Playback is made easy with dedicated music keys on the phone’s face, which slides down to reveal the phone keypad.

“The Nokia N91 delivers both a fantastic music experience and cutting-edge phone features,” purred Jonas Geust, Vice President, Music at Nokia. “What sets the Nokia N91 apart is the fact that it is always connected – you can download new music while on the move, add it to your favourite playlist and then share your playlist with friends. It’s truly the world’s best mobile connected jukebox.”

Nokia Release Nseries Mobile Multimedia HandsetsNokia N90

The N90 features a twister-tastic, rotating camera barrel which fires up the phone’s 2 megapixel camera (with Carl Zeiss lens), offering autofocus, an integrated flash and 20x digital zoom.

The tri-band phone’s main display has a 352 x 416 pixel screen (262,144 colours), with a secondary 128 x 128 pixels display on the front.

With its pioneering multi-hinge twist-and-shoot design, we have brought ease-of-use and high quality photography into mobile telephony,” enthused Juha Putkiranta, senior vice president of multimedia imaging at Nokia.

Using the main screen as a viewfinder, the N90 can capture high quality video in MP4 format, with a 8x digital zoom.

Nokia Release Nseries Mobile Multimedia HandsetsImages, videos and sound can be stored on the phone’s internal 31 MB memory or on the supplied 64 MB RS-MMC

The 3G-enabled N90 is expected to be the first to hit the market this summer, with a suggested retail price for the N90 is €700 (~US$909 ~£474),

Nokia N70

Finally, the 3G-enabled Nokia N70 once again features a 2 megapixel camera, flash and front camera for video calling, with a FM radio, a digital music player and new 3D games.

The camera is activated by a rear sliding cover, with a range of capture scene settings available, including Scenery, Portrait, Night, and Sports.

Nokia Release Nseries Mobile Multimedia HandsetsJoe Coles, Director of imaging product marketing at Nokia, stressed the consumer demand for camera-enabled mobiles: “The number one reason why people today purchase new handsets is the camera. Indeed, we foresee that by the end of 2005, over half a billion people worldwide will own a camera phone.”

Measuring a diminutive 108.8 x 53 x 17.5 mm, the Nokia N70 is the smallest ever 2 megapixel 3G smartphone based on the Series 60 Platform and is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2005.

This new range of innovative phones represent further evidence of the convergence of consumer devices, with mobile phone makers keen to get a lion size bite of the action.

Nokia already claims to the biggest camera vendor in the world, and anticipates that these new phones will help secure its position as the largest seller of portable MP3 players later this year.

Samsung’s Hard Drive Phone

Longhorn For Christmas 2006 Promises Microsoft

Microsoft Promises Longhorn For Christmas 2006After several years of delays, Microsoft has assured computer-makers that Longhorn, the next version of Windows, is on track for release by the end of next year.

The new operating system has taken so long to appear, even Bill Gates conceded that he was impatient to see the job finished: “Whenever I see those demos, I just think, ‘Gosh (steady on Bill!), let’s get Longhorn done'” the Microsoft overlord told the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle.

The software uber giants were at the conference to show off some of the underlying technologies and features planned for Longhorn, originally promised waaaaay back in 2003.

Ol’ Bill was on hand to demonstrate Longhorn’s new graphic interface, claiming that it offers better ways to visualise data, with users being able to see through windows that are stacked on top of each other.

His speech also enthused about Longhorn’s “more natural file organisation” offering faster searching and Microsoft’s big focus on security: “If you had to take one area where we put the most investment in, the security area would be the head of that list by a significant amount,” he said.

Microsoft Promises Longhorn For Christmas 2006Longhorn aims to boost security by placing cryptographic keys in special silicon chips built into PCs – a more secure solution than the current practice of storing encryption locks as data on a hard drive.

This chip would render sensitive files inaccessible, even if the dastardly hacker was trying to boot the machine from a portable hard drive or floppy disk.

Not everyone has welcomed this initiative – christened the Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) – with Microsoft cynics, critics and privacy advocates suggesting that it offers a back door for commercial interests to nefariously gain access to personal PCs.

There are also deep suspicions that the chip could be used to enforce highly restrictive DRM schemes for music, movies and software.

A less controversial new feature is Microsoft’s attempt to take on their Macromedia-guzzling rival, Adobe, with a new technology called ‘Metro’.

Microsoft Promises Longhorn For Christmas 2006This would offer a built-in method to let users view and print graphical documents, without the need to install the application that created the original file – in other words, a rival to Adobe Systems’ popular PDF technology and PostScript page description language.

“When I look at Metro, I see PDF and PostScript in the crosshairs,” ruminated Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox. “Adobe is a very successful company, and PDF is an entrenched technology, but Microsoft is doing what it always is trying to do, and that is woo the developers with an alternative.”

Microsoft’s hardware conference comes just a few days before Apple releases its operating system update, Mac OS X Tiger, which offers a fast file-searching feature similar to the one promised in Longhorn.

This similarity has set the two companies at each other throats as they argue about who copied who.

At Apple’s annual meeting last week, CEO Steve Jobs hissed that Microsoft was “shamelessly” copying OS X, cattily adding, “They can’t even copy fast.”

Microsoft group Vice President Jim Allchin was having none of it, claiming that it was Apple that “became fixated on Longhorn” after Microsoft showcased some early file-searching capabilities at a conference in October 2003.

“I think they saw something that we were doing that was pretty cool,” Allchin commented, huffily adding that “There is a question of how much we should show, so that they can try to copy again.”

Longhorn’s long-delayed release in 2006 will mark a full five years since the release of Windows XP – in computer terms, that makes XP almost Neolithic.

Microsoft Longhorn
Longhorn Development Centre

Real Rhapsody: To Go And Free Service Added

Real Rhapsody: To Go And Free Service AddedReal Networks is looking to up-end Apple’s iTunes store and nobble Napster To Go by launching a new music subscription services for portables music players.

The Seattle-based outfit, who are this month in their tenth year, is looking to extend its Rhapsody subscription music service, which currently lets home users and subscribers download as many tracks to their computers as they want for US$9.95 (£5.22/€7.66) a month.

The big shocker is that after years of scratching each other’s eyes out, Real has decided to license digital rights management (DRM) for their service from its once bitter rival, Microsoft.

The Microsoft software, code-named Janus, will disable songs from playing on devices once a customer stops paying the monthly fee.

The new music service comes in three flavours: Rhapsody 25, Rhapsody To Go, and Rhapsody Unlimited.

Real Rhapsody: To Go And Free Service AddedRhapsody 25 is the entry-level standard service which is completely free to use. It’s being supported by advertising, initially Chrysler and is designed to tempt people to subscribe. It allows anyone who downloads Rhapsody’s Windows-based jukebox software to listen to 25 songs for free each month from Rhapsody’s library, with the option to purchase and download songs a la carte. There will also be 25 ad-free radio stations available.

Users of this freebie will also be able to share their selected music with others, even non-subscribers. When the generated email arrives, access to the DRM-controlled content is made, downloading them the software if they don’t already have it. Real hope they will benefit from the network viral effect.

The Unlimited deal is pretty much what is currently offered, provides a subscription-based service that costs US$9.99 per month, giving users access to 100 pre-programmed Internet radio stations, 50,000 “artist-based” radio stations and more than 1,500 music videos online. A few bells and whistles have also been added.

Subscribers can download an unlimited number of songs to their computer’s hard drive and these remain playable for as long as they remain subscribers.

Rhapsody To Go offers a near-identical subscription-based deal as Napster To Go, letting users download a near-unlimited amount of music to compatible portable music players. The price is identical to Napster’s offering too at US$14.95 (£7.85/€11.52) per month.

That’s all fine and dandy while they’re shelling out the cash, but as soon as a subscription ends – whoosh! – there goes their music collection, as every song they’ve downloaded is automatically rendered unplayable.

Real Rhapsody: To Go And Free Service AddedIt’s been likened to having your CD collection on permanent hire purchase – once you lapse on your payments, you can kiss goodbye to your tunes. To old-school music fans, not owning your precious sounds is a bonkers proposition, but both Real and Napster believe there’s a market for subscription-based music downloads, with punters excited by the promise of filling an entire iPod for less than the price of two CDs.

The MS Janus DRM protection demands compatible portable music players, ones that turn the content off if the subscription lapses. Currently there are two favorites, the Zen Micro and iRiver H10. To further induce subscribers to the To Go service, Real are offering a US$100 (€77/£52) rebate on the H10 for a limited period.

According to recent estimates, the subscription market – comprised of Real’s Rhapsody, Napster and Yahoo’s MusicMatch service – is reckoned to generate about US$200 million in 2005 sales. Indeed Real announced they had passed one million subscribers last week.

By comparison, the digital music downloading business made popular by Apple’s iTunes service, is expected to rake in around US$350 million in 2005 revenue, according to Phil Leigh, an analyst at market research firm Inside Digital Media.

Real Rhapsody
Watch Real CEO, Rob Glaser introduce the new Rhapsody