Sky to Challenge Market Leader iTunes

Broadband, Music 1 Comment »

In previous posts on The Shelf we have followed the plans of several companies who have recently entered the digital music download market, including 7digital, (7digital to offer DRM free music from Warner), and PlayDigital, (PlayDigital Offers DRM Free Downloads)

Sky is now the latest player to enter the digital download market, with plans to launch a subscription based music streaming and downloading service.

A Sky representative said of the plans to launch the service that it is “Providing a simple new way for fans to consume music, both streamed tracks and downloads to keep are available through just one monthly subscription, a world first.”

It is expected that a range of subscription options will be available to customers that offer differing download packages which can be tailored to the individual needs of users.

With contracts already signed to offer the complete back catalogue of Universal Music users are sure to get access to some of the biggest names in the music industry, and with negotiations ongoing with major and independent record labels, Sky’s catalogue of digital music offering is likely to expand significantly.

Currently Apple’s iTunes dominates the music download industry in the US and UK and Universal has long been unhappy with the company’s reluctance to offer a subscription based service, instead opting to sell tracks individually.

The digital download market it one of the few areas of growth in the music industry and Universal also believe Apple’s dominance is strangling its development.

Recently Universal, the world’s biggest record label, has stopped providing Apple with exclusive annual rights to sell its catalogue and is instead looking to retain greater flexibility as to where it can sell its tracks.

The new service from Sky will be launched independent of Sky, with the satellite provider acting as majority stake holder providing “expertise in the delivery of subscription services… content aggregation, packaging and marketing”

As yet the plans are unclear as to what format music tracks will be available in and whether there will be any form of digital rights management, but the tracks will be playable “on any mp3-compatible fixed or portable device”. Some reposrts have gone as far to say that it will be offering a DRM free format

Both services from 7igtal and PlayDigital are offering DRM free music to customers.

As yet the name and date of launch is undecided, however it is thought to go live at the end of the year.

Universal said of the deal that – “The new Sky service will provide a compelling digital music experience, built for the ever growing digital appetite of music fans. In a world where a majority of UK homes have high speed broadband access, consumers will welcome a safe, state-of-the-art service and legal alternative to those services which exploit musicians without compensation.”

Facebook Gets A Makeover

Social Networking 3 Comments »

The long awaited update to social networking site Facebook, aimed at making it easier to receive update on the activities of friends that was first announced on The Shelf in ‘Facebook Plans A Facelift‘ back in May, was unveiled today.

As part of the redesign Facebook users will be able to see the activity of users they are networked with through a central interface, which is intended to give the site a tidier look.

At the end of 2007 Facebook was reported to have recorded its first ever drop in users figures, with an additional 5% also recorded in the UK through the first three month of 2008. The loss was estimated to account for up to 400,000 users, and many suggested that users were growing tired of the increasing number of third party applications that resulted in congested profile pages with longer loading times.

By tidying up the site and combining several different menus into a single navigation bar, and adding together features such as adding photos and videos to one single tab called ‘publisher’, Facebook aims to have a cleaner and less cluttered look, and essentially win back the users it started to loose in early 2008.

Social networking rival MySpace also launched a new cleaner look last month after it had experienced similar drops in user activity.

As part of the new look Facebook has launched, users will still be able to add a range of third party applications, however these will now reside under a new tab away form the user main profile.

If you would like a sneak peak at the new Facebook site then visit new.facebook.com

For some detailed user statistics on Facebook and other Social Networking sites read Social Network Stats: Facebook, MySpace, Reunion

Redten Offer Free PC and Broadband For £19.99

Broadband 2 Comments »

Today The Shelf has learned that broadband provider Redten is pushing the boundaries of the highly competitive broadband market by offering new customers a free PC worth £500.

Already taking orders for the promotion, Redten have also promised to reward the first 10,000 customers with an upgrade to a 19” monitor instead of 17”.

The spec of the PC being offered is pretty good too:

- Intel Pentium 4 3GHz processor
- 512MB DDR2 Ram
- 160GB hard disk drive
- DVD player/rewriter
- 17”/19” LG LCD monitor
- Microsoft Windows Vista
- 3-year warranty
- 365-day support

The free PC is available to all customers who enter into three years of 8Mb broadband which will cost £19.99 a month. The company has also stated that it will upgrade customers to a 24Mb line, when the BT exchanges are upgraded.

As part of the broadband package you get:

* Up to 8Mb broadband (powered by BT)
* Unlimited * internet downloads
* FREE LG Redten PC and 19” LG LCD monitor
* FREE ADSL2+ modem
* FREE upgrade to Microsoft Windows Vista
* 365-day telephone support
* Anti-virus/anti-spyware software
* Parental control software
* Three-year hardware warranty
* Free software worth up to £20 each month
* Optional home-installation and static IP
* Costs as little as £19.99 per month

The only catch with the promotion is that as a customer you don’t actually own the PC until your three year contract has been completed, and if for some reason you cancel the contract the PC must be returned as the customer’s expense in decent working order. There is also a £49.99 connation fee making the broadband £7.50 a month for the term of the contract minus the price of the PC, as well as the telephone line rental which has to be BT.

Concerns were raised on consumer forum moneysavingexpert that the service may contain a range of unwanted adverts. Others stated that by the time the contract was up the PC would be out of date, or that the internet connection could be poor leaving customers stuck for three years in a contract they are unhappy with.

Additionally one clause in the terms and conditions stated that “we (Redten) cannot guarantee that the equipment will work with our Broadband Service”.

Nick Mounfield, marketing manager at Redten said - “There will be a web portal which will have revenue streams – we’ll be selling advertising space on the portal, and also emailing offers to people from selected companies and partners,” and that “customers won’t be forced to watch adverts and that they can change their internet homepage from the Redten portal, should they choose to.”

It seems that the company also said it will cross-sell IT products from its Savastore.com brand and other electronics retailers. It claims to be partnering with BT, Intel and Microsoft on the deal.

The company claims on its site to be the first broadband and PC package provider, and uses BT wholesale, Cable&Wireless and Tiscali networks to deliver its broadband service claiming 99% coverage.

For those without a home computer or those in need of an upgrade but simply don’t have the money, it seems that this PC and Broadband solution could be the answer. Additionally it puts pressure on other providers to deliver more which cannot be a bad thing for consumers.

Pioneer Develop 400GB Optical Disc

Technology 2 Comments »

Electronics firm Pioneer have developed a new 16 layer read only optical disc that has the capacity to store 400 gigabytes of data.

Each layer of the disc is capable of individually storing 25 gigabytes which is the same as that of a Blu-ray disc. The multilayer recording technology will also be applicable to recordable discs, boosting confidence that optical disc storage will remain a viable option in the future as increased storage capacities are required.

By using optical disc production technology that the firm has already has in place in the DVD field, pioneer has overcome problems of crosstalk from adjacent layers by using a new disc structure. This results in a 16 layer optical disc capable of playing back high-quality signals from every layer.

Pioneer achieved stability in the playback of recorded signals by employing a wide-range spherical aberration compensator and light-receiving element that can read out weak signals at a high signal-to-noise ratio in the optical pick-up mechanism.

Since the optical specifications of the objective lens, such as NA (Numerical Aperture), are the same as those for the existing BD discs, it is possible to maintain compatibility between the new 16-layer optical disc and the BD discs.

Wii Show Off MotionPlus At E3

Gaming, Technology 2 Comments »

In our second post from this year’s E3 games conference in Los Angeles we look at what leading games manufacturer Nintendo is planning next for its market leading console the Wii.

Nintendo it seems have responded after Sony made claims earlier this week that the Wii console was an expensive novelty, and that Sony did not see it as future competition to its own console.

The response came in the form of a demonstration of the consoles latest add on called MotionPlus, an addition to the Wii controller that is intended to add more realism and depth to the games on offer.

“It renders every light shift of the wrist or arm into the gameplay.” - Nintendo America boss Reggie Fils-Aime

With the demonstration the firm also said that even the first Wii sports title took advantage of the new add-on.

The company also unveiled a Grand Theft Auto game in development for the DS console and a new Wii title, called Music, which sees gamers play more than 50 musical instruments by using the Wiimote motion-sensitive controller.

Selling more than 10 million consoles since its launch, the Nintendo Wii is currently the market leader. The company have also sol 70 million DS machines worldwide.

Nintendo stated that it was selling 200,000 units a week in Europe alone.

Earlier this week we wrote about how Sony have plans to release a larger version of the PS3 and push online gaming with the planned launch of Little Big Planet’, a social-networking game that can be played online through the two-year-old console.

Sony also intends to push the Blu-ray capability of its system with a series of movie download services due to launch.

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