Posts Tagged ‘itunes’

Region restrictions in a globalised world

I think we can all agree that globalisation has won, and we live in a flat world.

However when it comes to consuming media, we still live in a world of regional restrictions. Rights are not issued globally, and rights owners see this as milking every last penny by ensuring that regional restrictions apply. This is not just true for the movie world, but also the music world, and generally the book world. Apparently the entertainment industry is one of the last holdouts in realising that we live in a truly globalised world.

Yesterday I read an interview in the FT with Kate Tempest, a writer/rapper whom I’ve not heard of. I immediately hopped onto iTunes, searched Apple Music and started playing her tunes from her album Let Them Eat Chaos – Kate Tempest. This was a success and I’d discovered a new artist.

A few months back I was in a bar (the recently shuttered La Conserverie) in Paris, speaking to a Japanese friend, and I was telling her that I did know some J-Pop; growing up it wasn’t too far fetched you would listen to some songs that made the mainstream English radio stations. One example was Utada Hikaru’s First Love. The French friend who was there said he’d love to hear it, so I fired up iTunes on my phone, and tried in vain to find the song, and realised its not in the catalogue (don’t worry, YouTube saved the day). This was a failure, and I didn’t get to reminisce properly.

Just last week, I fired up Netflix (now blocking all VPN traffic, an almost impossible thought two years ago, with VPN providers giving up the fight nowadays) and started streaming The Mirror Has Two Faces. I stopped around the half way mark and switched countries only to realise that now I’ll have to wait to be in the same geographical location again to continue watching the movie! I’d mark this as a failure because it hurts the user experience; it isn’t Netflix’s fault, it is the entertainment industry.

I still listen to an old song that I like, that resides on my drive and not in the cloud — Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page – Come With Me from the Godzilla soundtrack. It’s not on Apple Music, but it is available with Amazon Prime Music, that comes for free with an Amazon Prime subscription! I’d mark this as a failure since I’d expect my music collection to be available in one place, not scattered across various services.

We’re living in an increasingly globalised world. We have friends from all over the world. We’re travelling more frequently. This is all supposed to be a good thing – exposure to the world. Why hasn’t the entertainment industry caught up yet? Would they prefer everyone just focused on content piracy? Region restrictions do not work in a globalised world.

iTunes ate my podcasts

iTunes is fixed now (11.1.3) but somewhere in-between it broke and deleted all of my podcast downloads as well as the subscriptions. It has been over four months that I’ve gone without listening to podcasts and I can’t say that I miss it hugely. Audiobooks (on phone, in gym particularly), Spotify and Rdio have taken its place. 

This means a lot to me – I always thought that podcasting could be big business. Maybe its just niche business?

Apple engineering needs to QA this stuff. It’s not hard. There should be test harnesses. Heck, just testing the damn upgrade. 

In other news, the up arrow key seems dodgy again on my Macbook Air. It is still only 11 months old and this is the second time its happening. I will have to find time to walk into an Apple Store to get an immediate replacement (something we can’t do in Malaysia/Singapore obviously).

Overall feeling on the Apple experience in these terms: relatively negative. Am I going to give up their stuff? No. There’s a more positive post on Apple coming soon.

Apple launches iTunes store… finally!

I’ve wanted the iTunes store for over four years. Today Apple finally brings the iTunes store to Asia. All hail all of us sitting in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and more. Indonesia which is big in mobile however, is missing from the list.

For music, I’m not particularly excited. I’m using Spotify (first experience) and Rdio and don’t plan to buy music again. This means that iTunes Match doesn’t particularly excite me either (don’t forget that many Malaysian telcos are now charging you for your data — free 3GB with a plan, and the rest is either slow or you pay).

What looks interesting for me though? Movies. This is something I still have not solved yet, and using torrents always makes me feel dead guilty (which is why I always end up buying DVDs later, and never watching them – see my tv/movie consumption in 2011). The ability to buy or rent shows seems really interesting to me.

This probably means that I’ll end up getting an Apple TV in the near future. They don’t seem to be available in the Malaysia or Singapore stores yet… Metered bandwidth for DSL soon? I sincerely hope not…

Prices in the Malaysian store still suggest things in US dollars. Then again, everything including apps are in USD.

I have two iTunes accounts (one Malaysian, one US). With this announcement, I can finally think about merging everything into one account. Totally stoked at the upcoming simplicity :)

Unexcited by Apple Music event announcements

Today I installed iTunes 10. Apple has stopped requiring you to reboot your computer the moment you get an iTunes upgrade – I consider this a plus point. Its now sporting a new logo, and things look a little more polished in the application.

iTunes PingNoticing no Ping, which seemed to be all the rage in the morning, I wondered what the cause might be. Quite clearly, you don’t get in on Ping, Apple’s new social network, if they don’t run an iTunes Music Store in your country! The moment I made the change to my US-based iTunes account, all seemed to be OK, and I could start playing around with Ping.

Then it became clearer why they didn’t want me to use Ping. “Each time you purchase, review, rate or like music on the iTunes Store, it will appear here” (so it said on my profile). At the moment, Ping does not fit my use case – I rip audio CDs that I purchase, and they have information within iTunes thanks to the CDDB database it syncs with. I have never purchased music from the iTunes Music Store, because I cannot be bothered with using a foreign credit card or looking for iTunes gift certificates.

Does this in any way hamper Probably a little, considering Ping is built-into iTunes. Plus you can follow your favourite artistes ;-) Does this mean people will quit for Ping? I find it highly unlikely. But is probably on their toes now, since there’s some overlap – concert recommendations, etc. Ping also is run within iTunes, you can’t use a web browser. There does not seem to be any API either.

Then, people got excited with Apple’s new Apple TV. I didn’t. Its not international. OK, not international enough. I can still buy the old Apple TV from the Malaysian or Singaporean Apple Store. The new ones seem to be available for sale in Australia, UK, the US, and probably a few other countries where you can rent/buy movies from the store.

The iPod Touch? Some good changes, but the camera isn’t all that hip. Good enough for FaceTime. Speaking of FaceTime, it is apparently based on open standards. Steve Jobs said something like it will be open. When will Apple release some information about how others can independently implement FaceTime? Or inter-operate with FaceTime?

Game Center looks interesting. Social gaming is going to be big (also, big in iOS4.1). The new iPhone 4’s don’t have iOS4.1 yet, but when the update comes (next week?), you will get Game Center too. And the iPod touch should be fast – sporting an A4 chip. Apple has successfully made devices do multiple things (iPod touch: music player, game machine, video conferencing tool, etc.). Would I buy one? I’m still too smitten with my iPad, so much so I haven’t used my 1st generation iPod Touch since April 2010!

The new iPod Nano looks cool. Its a pity they’ve removed the camera. And the shuffle, well, its a shuffle – I’ve never owned one.

So the Apple Music event turned out to mostly be a bummer, unless you live in a country where the iTunes Music Store is available.

Apple opens up Podcasts, iTunes U in Malaysia

I just noticed this: Apple now not only sells you apps in the AppStore in Malaysia, but you can also download podcasts and iTunes U content, using your Malaysian iTunes Store account. This is a big change, considering the directory was not available, this time last year. I believe this change is mostly international, across all iTunes stores.

Incidentally, you can now also buy iPad apps in the AppStore (yet, you cannot get an iPad from Apple or any of their authorised resellers; people are generally price gouging you now with their parallel imports). So what do you get in the Malaysian AppStore today?

  1. Apps: iPhone, iPad
  2. Podcasts
  3. iTunes U podcasts

So what’s missing? Music, Movies, TV Shows, and Audiobooks. I guess that’s stuff we should look forward to, in the future.

This could be big for podcasters in Malaysia/Singapore. Audio, video content can go into the directories. We’re getting faster Internet. And there are a lot of iOS-devices out there, which now may have yet another reason to use iTunes (and maybe purchase apps at the same time). Kudos Apple, we’ve waited long enough.

What do American digital content sellers have against the rest of the world?

I live in the “rest of the world”. I do not reside in the USA. Why is it I cannot get content that I’m willing to pay for?

As a preamble to this, you might want to read an article in The Economist: Cupertino’s cold warriors: What has Apple got against eastern Europe?.

The iTunes store is a major pain point. I can buy Apple hardware in Malaysia, be it iPhone’s, iPod’s, Macs, and more. But when I visit the iTunes store, I can only purchase apps for the iPhone (the iPad store opened recently). Why can’t I purchase music/movies, legally? So you’ll say why not visit Amazon’s MP3 store. Bam, I can’t make a purchase there either.

The iPad’s come with iBooks. Its a fabulous book reading application. I cannot purchase books from the iBook store, but I can purchase ePub formatted books, say, from O’Reilly’s Safari bookstore. What about the Kindle – its available in quite many locations, but only where AT&T is present – so some rather “odd” countries show up in the availability lists. Why can’t I purchase books, legally?

I’ve been a long-time subscriber to audible. Audiobooks mean I don’t have to take a trip out to the bookstore. Chances are, I might get audiobooks cheaper than the dead-tree versions available in Malaysia. Today I got an email from Audible, telling me there’s a book I might be interested in. True enough, I was interested in The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World. Who couldn’t be, after listening to the most amazing The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal?

Of course, I get greeted with the magical message:

Download The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World | David Kirkpatrick | The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World Audio Book unabridged | Audible Audiobooks |

That basically reads:

We’re sorry. Due to publishing rights restrictions, we are not authorized to sell this item in the country where you live.

Sorry David Kirkpatrick, I tried to give you some money, but apparently, you’ve decided to shaft the rest of the world.

Sadly, this situation is not much different in a first world country like Australia. Sure you get the iTunes Music Store (you are paying a premium, in comparison to exchange rates), and eventually the iPad becomes available for sale, but its always behind the US. So its not an isolated third-world 1Malaysia problem. Of course not – Singaporeans still suffer from the lack of the iTunes Music Store, and they’ve been a first world, industrialised nation, since 1996.

When will American content sellers realise that the Internet lacks boundaries?

When will they realise that limiting based on geolocation (Android marketplace) or credit cards (iTunes store) is so 20th century? Incidentally, there’s a petition out there for Google: Enable paid apps for all countries on the Android Market!. Its okay Google, you’re not the only retarded one here – the BlackBerry AppWorld is no better; PayPal is available in Malaysia, but you can’t buy apps either.

You push globalisation to the core, yet you refuse to embrace it.

Give us the content that we want to pay for. It doesn’t matter where we are located. Really.