EMI Group PLC, (LON: EMI) the world's third-largest music company by sales, announced today that it will sell songs without the digital rights management software or DRM. Steve Jobs was on hand to make the announcement, which is a major reversal of the music industry's longstanding anti-piracy strategy.
EMI's decision comes after months of debate over DRM and numerous discussions aimed at encouraging the music industry to change its approach to licensing music for sale online. In February, Mr. Jobs posted an essay
on the Apple website titled "Thoughts on Music" where he makes the point that he would open the digital rights management system on iTunes to allow other digital devices to play iTunes music and to allow other music store media to play on the iPod in a "heartbeat."
EMI's decision could be a good move for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) as it would certainly lessen political pressure by several European countries that want to see Apple make its digital music products and the iPod, work with songs and hardware from other companies.
One caveat: Still no word on sales of Beatles tunes.
A survey from Barron's magazine describes Apple Inc.'s (NASDAQ:AAPL) co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs as the "ultimate CEO who matters." This survey identified the upper echelon of CEOs across the globe who have "top notch reputations" in the financial community and who likely would be missed by investors if they unexpectedly left their jobs.
To qualify, CEOs need to have been on the job for at least three years, but Barron's tended to prefer those who had at least five years of experience because it takes time to influence a large company and develop a reputation in the investment world. This survey is not entirely scientific considering Barron's drew on the subjective opinions of its own staff and many prominent investors.
Many of the CEOs who made the list have either founded their companies or have been with them for a decade or longer. Founders include Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. (NYSE:NWS), Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK), and Fred Smith of FedEx Corp. (NYSE:FDX). It is noted in the article that, "a founder often has intimate business knowledge, commands strong employee loyalty and can resist periodic entreaties from Wall Street for quick fixes to tough problems."
A common theme for all CEOs is that they have all delivered for the shareholders. Nearly all of the companies have stocks that have bested the Standard & Poor's 500 index during the CEOs tenure. One CEO in particular, Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple Inc.), is so valuable to his company that the report notes that "Jobs' departure probably would result in a greater loss of stock-market value than the loss of any other CEO in the world. Jobs might be worth 20 or so points to Apple shares, roughly $16 billion." No wonder Apple is so eager to minimize its CEOs association with the company's option-backdating woes.
Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine just published its ranking of the "best values" in private colleges. The rankings featured two lists: one for the top liberal arts colleges, which offer mostly undergraduate programs, and the other for universities, which also offer graduate degrees.
As a sophomore of Amherst College, I was not surprised to see Swarthmore, Williams, and Amherst round out the top three colleges. Cal Tech, Yale, and Harvard topped the list for the top three universities.
Like many private institutions across the nation, Swarthmore uses its own calculation, in addition to the federal government's formula, to determine who qualifies for need-based aid. "We really want to know your situation and give a fair assessment," says James Bock, the financial aid director at Swarthmore college. The result can be surprising. "People can qualify for aid with incomes of $140,000 and above."
Not only does Swarthmore and these highly competitive liberal arts colleges offer a great education and financial aid packages, but they seem also to come with a degree of social conscience, e.g., the capacity to "change the world energy." Scott Storm, chose Swarthmore because he "wanted a place that was going to be very aware of social and civic responsibilities. One example that was noted was that Swarthmore sent "Swatties" to New Orleans to gut houses and to China to work in Aids clinics.
For the first time, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was named to Fortune magazine's most admired companies. The annual Fortune survey asked businesspeople to vote for the companies they admired most, from any industry. Apple ranked 7th overall and 2nd within the computer company segment, behind International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM).
This survey ranked companies based on eight key attributes of reputation: innovation, people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long term investment and quality of products/services. Apple's industry rank was all 1's and 2's for everything, but social responsibility. Maybe its red iPod Nano Aids effort with Bono and U2 didn't cut muster with the voters?
Don't expect to see Apple leaving this list in years to come as Apple's competitors have watched it upend industries from computers to music, and now it has one of the most anticipated products in years -- the iPhone.
Don't trash your DVD players just yet. The box that is destined to take over living rooms everywhere by the end of February is now being pushed back a couple weeks into March. "Wrapping up Apple TV is taking a few weeks longer than we projected, and we now expect to begin shipments mid-March," an Apple spokesperson told Macworld.
One possible explanation for the delay is that Apple has not received approval for the device from the Federal Communications Commission. "A pushout of two to three weeks suggests to me more of an issue with the FCC than with anything else," says analyst Dave Carey of Portelligent.
Tim Beyers from the Motley Fool added that "for as long as Microsoft has been setting -- and missing -- schedules, Apple has been announcing and simultaneously shipping its biggest breakthroughs. Until recently, that is." Mr. Beyeres can't be serious. Apple's two-week delay on a single product pales in comparison to Microsoft's history of delayed product intros.
Arik Hesseldahl of BusinessWeek reports, "Whatever the cause, if it does meet its mid-March deadline and Apple TV is a success, Apple will still be well ahead of the pack."
Some called the commercial pretentious, others seemed to love it. My friends texted me every time it aired during last night's Oscar telecast. One friend, a film buff, was taken completely by surprise when Apple's new iPhone made its sudden appearance following a montage of clips showing all those classic movie stars answering the phone.
This didn't surprise me since I've learned that Steve Jobs is fond of the element of surprise.
However, with each successive "hello" from these most memorable movies, Apple seemed to be emphasizing that the revolution is here -- with its new smartphone. Judging from the feedback here on campus, I would say that last night's iPhone sneak peek commercial hit all the right ringtones. What's your take?
MacDaily News reports today that Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Chairmen Bill Gates will share the stage at The Wall Street Journal's "D: All Things Digital" conference this year. These two titans will jointly discuss the history and future of the digital revolution in a supposed, unrehearsed and unscripted conversation, on May 30 with The Journal's ace tech reporters (and "D" co-producers) Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.
Both Jobs and Gates have made numerous individual appearances at this conference, but the two have never previously shared the stage and limelight. The question is which one will outsmart the other as many will be watching as they discreetly sell their distinct and competitive companies in this friendly format. (Just consider Apple's "PC versus Mac guy" series of TV commercials, which Gates says "bugs him.")
It seems that Apple has been one step ahead of Microsoft in the consumer product sector as it has bested Microsoft in the digital music market, the phone market, and is gaining rapidly in the personal computer market. But Gates has a leg up with the X-Box and still-dominant computer operating system, let alone software.
This unscripted tete-a-tete may even be better than the Apple TV spots.
As cell phones become more sophisticated in the functions they offer, it wasn't too long before big business followed the entertainment industry in jumping on the wireless broadband technology bandwagon.
Case in point: Bank of America recently announced that its online customers will soon be able to use their cell phones and smart phones to check account balances, pay bills and transfer funds. Yesterday, the bank formally launched the secure mobile banking initiative for its 21 million online banking customers. The service will kick off in March in Tennessee and will roll out across the country by mid-2007.
"We're taking convenience and control to a new level by providing customers with the ability to stay connected with their finances even when they're on the go," said Sanjay Gupta, e-commerce executive for Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC), in the statement. Customers who have mobile Internet access through Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, Cingular Wireless or T-Mobile will be able to access the new service.
As a Bank of America customer (in Massachusetts), I look forward to remotely checking my (usually small) balance anywhere or anytime. I'm sure Citibank and others have similar plans in the works. (Now when will I be able to withdraw cash from my cell phone???)
Following an upgrade of the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock this morning, Citigroup (NYSE:C) analyst Michael Rollins says that the exclusive U.S. carrier deal with Apple could include payouts of up to $300 per new subscriber. According to AppleInsider, Apple Inc., could receive between $250 and $300 for each new subscriber it helps lure to Cingular's network.
Apple could see extra commissions from its iPhone partner AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T)/Cingular, if the company is able to attract "switchers" from other mobile networks. The payouts would likely come over the life of the service contracts and represent very high-margin revenue for Apple, the analyst wrote in a research report. Though the deal is not yet in place, if it were to come about look for Apple's esteemed brand to drive hoards of people to the change.
Some still seem skeptical. "The recent launch of Apple's iPhone does not pose a threat to Research In Motion Ltd.(NASDAQ:RIMM) 's consumer-geared BlackBerry Pearl and simply marks the entry of yet another competitor into the smartphone market," RIM's co-chief executive, Jim Balsillie, said in an interview.
Recently I have been interviewing for summer jobs on Wall Street. As an Apple enthusiast, I always ask the interviewer whether he or she would consider purchasing the iPhone. Thus far I have received only responses of "no way" or "the screen could break too easily," so maybe Mr. Balsillie has a point. On the other hand, those conducting the interviews may fall outside the generation expected to drive sales of the iPod; i.e., my college friends and me.
The latest rumor churning throughout the web is that Apple's iTV, yes iTV, will now incorporate some sort of gaming experience. It seems as if Greg Canessa, the Vice President of video game platforms at PopCap games, had a slip up in a recent interview with Wired where he indicated that his role at PopCap will be to help "customiz(e) the user interface and display for Zune, iPod, Apple TV, Nintendo DS, PSP."
Recently, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stated that games specifically designed for the iPod will not play on the iTV. However, this faux pas, among others, could indicate that Apple is creating a game interface to compete with Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo in the family living room. (Then again, the Internet is rife with Apple rumors.)
If true, the question becomes: is Apple spreading itself too thin? Desktops, laptops, a music store, multiple music players, the iPhone, and now a gaming console? We'll see how far Apple's iconic brand (and the esteem it generates) can carry them.
Since Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has come under increasing scrutiny from many European consumer groups regarding Fairplay, this afternoon Steve Jobs posted an article on the Apple website titled "Thoughts on Music." In the article, Apple's CEO makes the point that he would open the digital rights management system on iTunes to allow other digital devices to play iTunes music and to allow other music store media to play on the iPod in a "heartbeat."
"Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats," said Jobs. "In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat," Jobs adds.
Jobs says if the big four music companies would license his company their music without requiring that it be copy-protected, Apple would switch to selling only DRM-free music on its iTunes store. "Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace," said Jobs. "Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly."
It seems that Apple is taking the right approach, as DRM-free will clearly boost their iTunes store music purchases, and undoubtedly make Apple products more favorable in those disgruntled European countries. Now let's see how the big four react to this piece.
In my first posting for bloggingstocks back in June, I took note of the product collaboration between two of the world's most iconic brands -- Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Nike, Inc. (NYSE:NKE) -- to produce and market the Nike+iPod sports kit. In its first three months on the market, the sports kit sold over 450,000 units.
I am sure that this number has increased drastically since September given the number of music-oriented exercise fanatics out there. However, in a development that seems increasingly common in the personal tech space, a company called PhatRat Technology has dragged Apple and Nike into a Denver court claiming patent infringement.
PhatRat Technology, which makes its own range of wireless performance monitoring devices, claims the Nike+Apple sports kit uses patented biometric technologies for sports kit's data-collecting shoes for iPods.
The plaintiff is asking the courts to block the sales of the sports kit and demanding cash compensation. This doesn't bode well especially with the spring season fast approaching. Just when Apple ended its legal woes with the Beatles! Can the Cisco iPhone legal debacle be far behind?
If Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) keeps growing as fast as it is, it may just overtake its nemesis in Washington State in the next five years. An analyst points out that the iPod, iPhone, iTV and MAC maker has the chance to generate more revenue than Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) given its current growth patterns.
In 2002 Apple grossed just under $6 billion, while in 2006 its revenue was recorded at just under $ 21 billion. Apple's dramatic increase is an "impressive" 250% revenue growth from 2002 to 2006.
Some analysts predict Apple's growth to slow in the next couple months due to cooling iPod sales. However, as everyone knows, the company has many new and exciting products on the near horizon, not the least of which are the iPhone and iTV that should continue to fuel substantial growth. According to Apple Recon, Apple now expects to sell over a million Apple TV devices leading up to the 2007 holiday season, and at least that many again during the Thanksgiving - Christmas period.
The folks in Washington State, who have their own massive launch happening as I write this, better think about bolstering Zune and Vista just to keep up.
In mid-December, the firm ChangeWave Alliance (via SeekingAlpha.com) surveyed 228 consumer electronics industry professionals on trends for the digital living room. The survey focused on the future of "media centers," which they defined as "high powered devices capable of managing a variety of digital content in the living room or around the home."
No surprise that Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) dominated responses from industry professionals, receiving 43% of total responses. Other manufacturers in the study included Sony (with 14%), Microsoft (totaling 11%), TiVo (8%), and HP (7%). And this was BEFORE Apple's iTV made its debut at the Macworld Conference earlier this month.
Not only should these living room-based electronics-makers be wary, but Blockbuster, Netflix and other video software providers should keep their guard up, as more and more consumers seem to be betting their future on the iTunes movie store.
The survey also revealed that 16% of the industry pros think that it's "very likely" that iTv will be a "huge success" while 48% believed the success of Apple's iTV to be "somewhat" likely. While only 9% rated the device's success as very unlikely. I think I'll put it higher on my list of cool electronics to purchase for my college dorm room... if all goes accordingly.
If I told you that Gartner Research predicts that global spending this year on mobile music (e.g., ringtones, digital music files, etc.) will end up around $13.7 billion worldwide, would you believe me? Compare that to Gartner's prediction for 2010 when it says the figure will jump to $32.2 billion.
All told, the online music industry has sold over $2 billion (as of last week), Gartner is making some pretty bold predictions about the music industry and where it is heading (P2P piracy notwithstanding). Gartner attributes much of its rosy projections to increasing consumption in the Asia-Pacific and specifically, Japan.
Many analysts and consumers expect that online music-only devices will be completely displaced by mobile phones in the coming years. Why carry two devices? The mulitfunctional music-enabled phones caught fire with Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ)' Chocolate and others, and will soon be followed by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)'s already legendary iPhone. Analysts expect the iPhone, with a June release, to be the tipping point for this change.
Ringtones, and more recently ring-back tones, have been the primary drivers of growth in the mobile music sector thus far. When my mother's phone rang last week to the tune of Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," you knew people were catching onto the technology. Now if I can only get her to text!
In terms of the global market, consumers in the Asia-Pacific region -- especially Japan -- are expected to remain the biggest spenders on mobile music through 2010, followed by those in Western Europe and North America.