Online Music Action

WSJ surveys the online music space, following HP’s decision to manufacture and sell Apple’s iPods:

Apple: Has sold more than 30 million 99-cent songs through its iTunes Music Store, and more than two million iPods

Hewlett-Packard: Plans to distribute Apple’s iTunes software and music store on its computers, and to sell a version of Apple’s iPod

Microsoft: Has said its MSN online service will introduce a music download site sometime this year

Musicmatch: Popular music software for Windows, distributed on PCs from Dell, offers subscription radio and song downloads

MusicNet: Subscription music service with 215,000 members, available through America Online

RealNetworks: Has more than 350,000 members to its subscription music services, and introduced a 99-cent song download site this week

Roxio: Software maker that last year resurrected the outlaw Napster name with a song download and subscription service.

Sony: Will make its Connect music site, which sells 99-cent song downloads, available later this year

Wa-mart has its own music store – with songs selling for 88 cents. Quite amazing to see the competition…I wonder how companies expect to make money. Or maybe this is the first salvo in the digital home and convergence themes, and no one wants to be left out of the action.

Interview with Craig Newmark

[via Anil Dash] Excerpts from an IT Conversations interview with the creator Craig’s List, the original social networking site (sort of):

In a sense, we’re a classified site along with discussion boards, on the ‘Net, and people can advertise what they are used to advertising. There are some positive differences. People can write as much as they want. They can include photos and so on. What’s really different is the atmosphere, the context around what people do on our site because weoh, we think we’ve earned and created a culture of trust which means that people generally do trust each other on the site. When something wrong happens, we do what we can to deal with it although more importantly, we’ve turned over to the public the means of dealing with stuff which shouldn’t be there.

We want to make enough money to pay the bills and feel comfortable about our future to prepare for problems and expansion. That’s to say that right now we charge only job posters, employers and recruiters who are posting in the Bay Area site. A couple of years ago, we asked our community what was appropriate to charge for, they told us, “Charging for job postings is okay, charging for apartment postings is okay,” and not much else. There was very little consensus, and we stick with that.

I’d like to see an equivalent for India. Something on the lines of IndiaMirror or PIN-News – more on this in a little while.

Emerging Wireless Business Applications

[via Smart Mobs] Japan Media Review has an article on three stages of mobile Intranet usage: email, groupware and to access corporate databases. “Instead of firms using mobile phones to access existing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, there is a different set of users, many of whom are doing their own systems integration and are the sources of the key innovations. The early applications include delivery, construction, maintenance, and sales and the key technological trends include larger displays, increased processing power and network speeds, Java, and the effect of these on improving the phone’s user interface.”

Bill Gates on Convergence

Excerpts from a interview:

Convergence doesn’t happen until you have everything in a digital form that the consumer can easily use on all the different devices. So, if we look at the three types of media of greatest importance–we look at photos, we look at music and we look at video–the move toward giving people digital flexibility on them is pretty incredible on every one of them. It’s been discussed for a long, long time. And now, it’s really happening.

Some of the building blocks have surprised me on how quickly they’ve come along. Certainly, the pervasiveness of broadband and Wi-Fi, along with the improvement of screens and disks, have helped us a great deal. So, the Media Center concept–we got the timing on that one really right–that’s gone super well.

[The future will] be a personal computer that’s connected to the TV. When you think about the TV, you think about the big screen from which many people can sit at a distance and watch movies and shows–it’s perfect for that. And yet behind that, in order to navigate your guide or record things on to your hard disk so you can get them when you want or so that you can choose different photos that you want to see from different trips or other things, you want to have the full power of the PC.

Even as convergence is happening in the US, there are some interesting possibilities that will open up in India as always-on connections start becoming available at reasonable price points. The need is for affordable access devices along with innovative applications and content.

WOZ’s Tracking System

WSJ writes about the new venture of Steve Wozniak (who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs) – Wheels of Zeus (WOZ), which will “help build an unusual wireless network to help people keep track of things.”

WOZ — is developing a system that uses low-cost radio tags that could be attached to objects, people or animals. By combining satellite location-finding technology with radio base stations, the tags could help consumers or companies protect goods against theft and ensure the safety of children and pets, Mr. Wozniak said.

Motorola’s broadband-communications unit, which makes products such as modems and television set-top boxes, will be a “prime partner,” Mr. Wozniak said, licensing WOZ’s technology and developing components of the system. He said he expects the collaboration to bring initial products to market this year.

Many other companies plan to deploy another kind of electronic tagging system known as radio-frequency identification, or RFID, for uses such as tracking goods in warehouses and stores. But those tags have an estimated range of only about 30 feet, Mr. Wozniak said, and in practice have much shorter range.

By contrast, Mr. Wozniak said WOZ’s base stations will have coverage zones as large as 10 square miles. The company’s technology is designed to send data at relatively slow rates, which helps to conserve battery life.

If the tags are inexpensive enough, Mr. Wozniak said, companies could attach them to all kinds of assets, such as vehicles or computers. So could consumers, and parents who want to track their children’s whereabouts.

Each tag receives GPS signals to help track its location, Mr. Izzo said, and also sends signals to the base station. A consumer might buy a tag and a portable base-station device, with a display, that would alert them if a pet or child exceeded a designated area, he said.

WOZ has discussed with groups of parents or homeowners setting up networks of base stations on a voluntary, collaborative basis, to extend their coverage area. But Mr. Wozniak said he now also expects partner companies will help set up such devices, similar to the way wireless “hot spots” have sprung up in many businesses using a technology called Wi-Fi.

I’d love to track lots of things: my books which I lend and forget (and at times so do the borrowers), the TV remote (keeps getting lost), my baggage when I am travelling…

Browsers Beyond IE

Walter Mossberg recommends Safari (mac) and NetCaptor (Windows), as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has stagnated in recent times. One of the reasons: Tabbed Browsing.

With tabbed browsing, you can keep multiple Web pages open at the same time, on the same screen. Only one page is visible at a time, but the others are identified by a row of tabs, usually at the top of the screen. To switch screens, you just click on one of the tabs. The new page appears instantly, because it has already been downloaded.

Tabbed browsing is the biggest fundamental improvement in the Web browser in years. It’s like quickly navigating among paper folders in a packed file drawer by reading the staggered tabs that protrude from their top edges.

With tabbed browsing, you can open all your most-visited bookmarks or favorites with one click. They could remain open all day, updating in the background. You can view them at any time, and in any order, by just clicking. You can also open any new Web page or link in a fresh tab of its own. Or, if you have groups of related favorites or bookmarks arranged in folders — say, a folder labeled “Red Sox” that contains a dozen favorite sites about the fabled team — you can open them all with a click.

Tabbed browsing is especially great with slow dial-up connections, where waiting for a new page to load can be irritating. But I even love using it with broadband connections.

Mozilla and its variants like Galeon (which is what I use) also allow tabbed browsing.

TECH TALK: Good Books: The Scientists

Tracy Kidders Mountains Beyond Mountains traces the story of one persons quest to cure the world. John Gribbins The Scientists sheds light on the lives of the greatest inventors over the past 500 years. From the books description: John Gribbin tells the stories of the people who have made science, and of the times in which they lived and worked. He begins with Copernicus, during the Renaissance, when science replaced mysticism as a means of explaining the workings of the world, and he continues through the centuries, creating an unbroken genealogy of not only the greatest but also the more obscure names of Western science, a dot-to-dot line linking amateur to genius, and accidental discovery to brilliant deduction.

I havent been much of a reader of profiles or biographies or history. But as I seek out my own goals and objectives, I am finding it helpful to read about our rich heritage especially in the sciences. Even as we see a lot of change in the world around us, the foundations were laid centuries ago and one could go back right to the contributions Indians made to the world of science, mathematics and philosophy. If there is one thing reading about the lives of people and the stories of their inventions highlights, it is the sheer conviction that they had in their beliefs. They were entrepreneurs in their own right.

Writes John Gribbin: The importance of the people and their lives is that they reflect the society in which they lived, and by discussing, for example, the way the work of one specific scientist followed from that of the other, I mean to indicate the way in which one generation of scientists influenced the nextScience is one of the greatest achievements (arguably the greatest achievement) of the human mind, and the fact that progress has actually been made, in the most part, by ordinarily clever people building step by step from the work of their predecessors makes the story more remarkable, not less. Almost any of the readers of this book, had they been in the right place at the right time, could have made the scientific discoveries described here. And since the progress of science has by no means come to a half, some of you may be yet involved in the next step in the story.

The story does indeed continue in every sphere of science. In our world where we evaluate success or failure of tasks in days and months, it can sometimes become hard to see the progress that is being made across all areas of science. What the book does is show how today and tomorrow would not have been possible had it not been for the efforts of the scientists of yesterday.


An interesting, and very different book, is Neal Stephensons QuickSilver. It is the first of a trilogy. Writes The novel, divided into three books, opens in 1713 with the ageless Enoch Root seeking Daniel Waterhouse on the campus of what passes for MIT in eighteenth-century Massachusetts. Daniel, Enoch’s message conveys, is key to resolving an explosive scientific battle of preeminence between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz over the development of calculus. As Daniel returns to London aboard the Minerva, readers are catapulted back half a century to recall his years at Cambridge with young Isaac. Daniel is a perfect historical witness. Privy to Robert Hooke’s early drawings of microscope images and with associates among the English nobility, religious radicals, and the Royal Society, he also befriends Samuel Pepys, risks a cup of coffee, and enjoys a lecture on Belgian waffles and cleavage-all before the year 1700.

Next Week: More Good Books

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