Apple today confirmed its long-rumored acquisition of Beats Music and Beats Electronics for a total of $3 billion, according to a Beats press release.
It’s a three-pronged acquisition including the acqui-hire of Beats co-founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine; Beats subscription streaming service; and the Beats hardware.
“Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple,” said Apple’s Tim Cook in the Beats Press Release. “That’s why we have kept investing in music and are bringing together these extraordinary teams so we can continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world.”
“I’ve always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple,” said Jimmy Iovine. “The idea when we started the company was inspired by Apple’s unmatched ability to marry culture and technology. Apple’s deep commitment to music fans, artists, songwriters and the music industry is something special.”
Beats Music is a subscription streaming service that generates customized playlists based on a user’s musical tastes — similar to Pandora’s Music Genome Project, as well as other recommendation platforms.
Beats Photo by Flickr user briansolis / In-column photo from Twitter.com/tim_cook
All media must evolve to stay relevant in our lives. We’re seeing it now on four levels: news, communication, commerce and entertainment.
The way we get our news is changing, from print to web and apps. We communicate and interact daily on Facebook and text messages. We shop online more than ever before. We’re entertained not by video-rental stores but by Netflix and Hulu. The radio dial we used to turn is now a digital dial.
Shifts in consumer behavior force media to evolve. Today that shift is toward personalization.
Pandora, the leading Internet radio service, is the evolution of FM radio. Its customized radio plays songs it knows we’ll like – it learns our tastes – using Pandora’s Music Genome Project.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on StateCollege.com in Tech Talk, a biweekly column by Eric Zimmett. Click here to view the original column.
Pandora announced Tuesday at the International CTIA Wireless 2012 conference in New Orleans that it has surpassed 150 million registered users, nearly 52 million of which are active listeners. It is now one of the most-used online services in the United States.
In April, Pandora users clocked 1.06 billion listening hours, an 87 percent increase over the same time last year.
Audience measurement and consumer research company The Media Audit revealed last week that Pandora is the No. 1 listened to station in Los Angeles, beating out KIIS-FM.
The Media Audit found that Internet radio has reached 20 percent saturation; which means there’s still plenty of room to grow. Among 18 to 34 year olds, the saturation – or market presence – hits 36.6 percent.
Ways to Tune In: some of today’s popular destinations for music
- Pandora: Personalized Internet radio service that creates stations based on your favorite artists and songs. Pandora offers free and premium Pandora One, which features ad-free listening for about $3 per month.
- Sirius XM: Subscription satellite radio service starting at $14.49 per month featuring more than 140 channels including 71 commercial-free music channels plus news, talk, sports and more. You’ll need a Sirius or XM radio to use the service, unless you opt for an online-only subscription for about $13 per month. Sirius XM is also available in select vehicle models.
- Spotify: On-demand music. Enter an artist and play the tracks you want to hear. Spotify also features genre-specific stations and the new Playlist Radio. Free on desktop or laptop computers – but to play on mobile devices or tablets Spotify Premium ($9.99 per month) is required.
- Slacker: Slacker plays songs based on your favorite artists or tracks, in addition to genre-specific stations. Slacker has a free level and two premium options: Slacker Plus ($3.99 per month) and Slacker Premium ($9.99 per month), with Slacker Premium featuring on-demand music like Spotify.
- Songza: Songza sets itself apart with its Music Concierge featuring situation-based music, from Waking Up, to Unwinding After a Long Day, or even A Sweaty Dance Party.
- Others: Grooveshark, Rdio, MOG, Rhapsody
According to the annual Infinite Dial study released last month by Arbitron and Edison Research, weekly Internet radio listening jumped more than 30 percent in the past year. The study includes streaming AM and FM stations.
Pandora listeners hit 22 percent of people 12 years and older who’ve listened in the past month, up from 16 percent last year, according to the same study.
New car tech is catching up, too. Including “Infotainment” systems that connect to Internet radio services like Pandora and satellite radio service Sirius XM. Pandora is available in 48 vehicle models across 18 brands and an array of aftermarket multimedia systems.
Cars with built-in iPod sync and audio jacks enable a driver to either wirelessly sync a device or plug it in, playing the audio through the car’s stereo system.
More than 70 percent of Pandora’s listening hours were from a device other than the computer, the company announced Tuesday. This correlates with the growing number of mobile devices and users accessing the Internet – and Internet radio – away from the computer.
In the past two years, smartphone ownership has tripled. The percentage of people who’ve listened to Internet radio by connecting a mobile device to the car stereo has experienced a 50 percent increase in the past 12 months, reaching 17 percent, according to Arbitron and Edison Research.
More than half of users between 18 and 24 years old have listened to an iPod or mp3 player in the car as their main source of music. One in five is streaming Pandora, according to a separate study by Arbitron and Edison Research.
In-car listening is the biggest area of potential growth for Internet radio services. In the next five years, Internet radio will gain more ground in the car. It’s only a matter of time before the technology hits the streets and moves along the adoption curve.
Turning the dial
Like television and newspapers, radio is evolving by adapting to shifts in the way we live – and listen.
The consumer’s desire for personalized media is driving the shift. We’re responsible for the changes that are occurring. It’s happening because we asked for it. Companies like Pandora and Spotify exist because they noticed it before the others, maybe even before we noticed it.
Consumers told them what they wanted; and they were listening. They responded with services that are transforming the radio landscape.
“Mobile connectivity has allowed us to deliver on our mission of providing people with music they love…” said Pandora President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Kennedy.
“The continued growth of Pandora shows that personalized radio is fundamentally changing the way people listen to music.”
Introducing FIVE TECH PREDICTION FOR 2012.
5. Content producers skipping the middle man
Zimedium called it on May 8, 2011. In a post titled My predictions for Internet TV and the future of Cable.
“I’d watch for more studios and content owners to explore options for skipping the middle man and becoming the means of distribution for their content.” (See story May 8, 2011)
Louis CK did it seven months later — this December — for his special Live at the Beacon Theatre. Instead of distributing the video through Netflix or HBO, Louis CK put it exclusively on his website. All fans had to do was visit his site, pay the $5 price and download the special. So how’d it turn out? Well, in 12 days, Lois CK’s DRM-free video download made a cool $1 million. And it’s still going…
Louis CK’s special is only the beginning. In 2012, more will follow his model. Entertainers, content providers, even premium cable channels.
4. Customized Ads… Tailored to your purchases, browsing habits, check-ins and interests
Ads customized to your interests. Google does it best. Hulu’s already doing it with in-show ads and its Ad Swap feature. You can select what you like instead of watching what Hulu thinks you’ll like. Facebook does it. Facebook displays ads based on what fan pages you like. Foursquare does it too, by offering suggestions based on where you check in. Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley discussed the company’s Explore/Recommendation engine at LeWeb 2011 in early December 2011.
“We went through about two years of Foursquare where people thought that they were checking in for mayorships and points and badges. The check-ins weren’t just for the badges,” Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley said on stage at LeWeb 2011. Every time you tell us that you like to go to this sushi place, we get better about recommending you another place to go to. Every time you tell us that…you know a lot about this area of Paris or this are of New York, we know that you’re really familiar with that neighborhood. And we can suggest other things that you may not know about. Or we know when you’re in areas that you’re not so familiar about we can start offering things that help you out.”
Ads based on what you “like,” tweet, check-in, watch. Information you provide both voluntarily and data acquired based on your actions. Get ready to not hate the ads that interrupt your programming…at least not quite as much.
In 2012, Customized Advertising will be king. Whether you’re aware of it or not.
3. Video-game consoles becoming complete entertainment hubs
We called it an entire year ago, on Dec. 27, 2010. In a post titled When will PS3, Xbox, Wii incorporate Internet TV.
“…When will Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo enter the [streaming content] game themselves? Doing so would offer another bit of differentiation, another perk for owners of each console.
“Who will be the first to fully embrace streaming content or Internet apps?
“Because it’s going to happen, and whichever is the first to act will only begin the next trend in video games and possibly home entertainment as we know it.” (See story Dec. 27, 2010)
Xbox 360 introduced its revamped dashboard one year later, in early December of 2011. The new dashboard featured Internet apps including Netflix, Epix, SyFy, ESPN, Daily Motion, NBC News, Zune, YouTube and Live TV integration if you have the accompanying cable subscription.
In 2012, Xbox will roll out more apps and the rest will follow. It’s only the beginning. The future video-game console will be a complete media hub with dozens, possibly hundreds of channels and apps.
2. Entertainment on the Cloud
I hate the term “cloud storage.” Makes me think the cloud is only for backing up files. In 2012, the Cloud will become more than a backup service. Cloud for movies…music…pictures… and our movie libraries.
(I’m looking at my collection of DVDs and Blu-rays right now.) In 2012, our movie collection will extend to the cloud. Blu-rays already come with digital copies. How about a specially formatted “cloud copy”?
1. A BIG Netflix competitor
Through a few missteps in 2011, Netflix has enjoyed practically zero competition (or at least serious competition). Its maintained the largest number of video subscribers anywhere and built up its library of streaming content. Plus exclusive content on the way.
Zimedia predicts in 2012, one new company (or a service from a partnership of companies) will emerge as the biggest competitor Netflix has seen to date.
But it won’t be the death of Netlfix. In fact, few industries survive without competition. It’s good for business. It fosters growth, sometimes re-invention, and an improved user experience.
Mobile is looking like Web 3.0 with the emergence of mobile devices like the iPad, Kindle and Nook; the rise in smartphone usage; and the explosion of mobile apps. It’s not just for work. Mobile is taking over our lives. Work and play.
We’ve compiled the Top Five tools for Mobile Productivity, from the workplace to strictly entertainment.
Top Five tools for Mobile Productivity
1. Cloud Drives
Storage & Music
Standalone Cloud storage services like Dropbox receive most of the press. But Amazon’s variety comes with a music store.
Amazon is also a great place to store your music. Music purchases from the Amazon mp3 store can be saved directly to your cloud. And thus can be accessed anywhere and with a growing number of devices including smartphones and tablets. Start off with 5 GB of free storage. Just sign in, sign up for your free 5 GB and start uploading files for backup, storage or to listen to your tunes without taking up space on your mobile device.
Hundreds of companies trust Amazon Web Services for their storage and hosting needs, including Netflix — which accounts for 25% of US Internet traffic — Yelp, Foursquare, PBS, Washington Post, Razorfish, SEGA, Urbanspoon, Tweet Deck, Airbnb, Harvard Medical School, NASA, Virgin Atlantic and more.
2. Google Apps
Calendar & Google Docs
It’s time to move on from Outlook, people. Google is the place to be. When I use Outlook for email or the calendar, it feels like I’m navigating a rotary phone…plus it’s tied to a machine. Google Calendar and Docs, as well as gmail, is tied to nothing; it’s all on the cloud. Access all of it on any computer, any smartphone, tablet or mobile device. Get calendar reminders on your smartphone.
With Google Apps (formerly Google Docs) user can save Documents, open Office products like Word and Excel — with or without Microsoft Office. When you save documents in the cloud — like resumes, presentations, pictures — they’re always with you.
Google’s smartphone apps — and native integration with most mobile devices — make all of your documents, calendar appointments and messages accessible anywhere with an Internet connection. Save documents, presentations or pictures as a backup or for instant access on any of your devices.
To get started, just sign up for gmail and click “Documents” at the top. [Note: if by the time of this post, Google has changed its navigation bar to a drop-down menu, just click the drop-down and find Documents.] Then start uploading files or Create a new document.
3. Smartphone Apps
There’s an app for that. It’s not just a saying. There really is an app for everything. News, Shopping, Books, Movies, TV, Social Networking, Checking in and just about anything else you can think of. Some of Tech Weekly’s favorites free apps for productivity and entertainment on the go:
- Pulse News Reader – News from all around the web in one place
- QwickMark QR Code Reader – Scan QR codes with this free app
- ShopSavvy – Scan product bar codes to compare prices online and stores near you
- Netflix* – all of Netflix instant streaming on your smartphone
- Crackle by Sony – Free movies and TV on your smartphone
- NFL Mobile – NFL News, Highlights and Live Streaming video
- Amazon – Browse and buy everything Amazon on your smartphone
- Amazon Kindle – Kindle’s library at your fingertips
- Amazon mp3 – Listen to your library of songs from Amazon’s cloud drive
- Slacker – Slacker Personal Radio on your smartphone
- Foursquare – Check in to earn points, become mayor and unlock specials
- Twitter – Follow your interests or tweet on the go with Twitter’s mobile app
- Facebook – Update your status, check the newsfeed, check in or chat with friends
- Shazam – Can’t name that song on the radio, just click Shazam and it’ll tell you
- Flickr – Take photos and upload them to Yahoo’s Flickr
- Yelp – Check reviews or find a new place to eat with Yelp’s smartphone app
MyFax makes having a fax machine unnecessary. In fact, MyFax improves upon the old-school fax and then some.
No download necessary, just sign up for a MyFax account and you’ll be assigned a MyFax number. (You can pick the area code.) Once you’ve signed in, just click “Send a Fax.” Then enter the recipient’s fax number and attach the document you’d like to fax. Either scan the page to your computer and attach to the MyFax interface OR if the file is already on your computer, just attach. MyFax comes with some cool features including Cover Page Style; Status Flag for Urgent, Review, Comment, etc; and a Message Box. The recipient receives the fax in his/her fax machine, just like a normal fax.
Receive faxes right in your MyFax inbox as PDF or JPEG files. MyFax alerts you immediately via email. In fact, you can view the fax in your email inbox. If you’ve got email on your smartphone, you can view the fax right there. MyFax is a must for mobile work.
Send 100 faxes per month and receive 200 for only $10. Other options include Send 200, Receive 200 for $20. Or Send 400, Receive 400 for $40. Or an unlisted option of Send 50, Receive 50 for $5 per month. The plans can be changed at any time, though you’ll have to call MyFax to do it. Ironically, for an online fax service, you can’t change plans online. Though email is taking over, many businesses still fax documents. So ditch the fax machine and extra phone line and give MyFax a look.
Netflix is the best thing to come to TV since color. It’s move to mobile only strengthens its hold on streaming movies and television content. And once you’ve got a Netflix subscription, it’s free on an unlimited number of devices. Use your one Netflix subscription on TVs, tablets, smartphones, etc. At home and on the road.
Until you’ve streamed Netflix content on a mobile device, it’s difficult to understand. A library of more than 20,000 titles available instantly with the tap of your finger. It’s as close to a dream as you’ll get.
To get started, just sign up for Netflix (streaming subscription starts at $7.99 per month after 1-month free trial) and download the Netflix app for your smartphone or mobile device. You’ll only have to sign in the first time after you download the app. From there on out it’s blue skies and smooth streaming.
Netflix is available on more than 700 devices including PCs; Macs; Internet-connected TVs; video-game consoles; Blu-ray players; Internet video players like Roku and Boxee; iPhone; iPad; Apple TV as well as Android and Windows devices…and more.
This is a great time to be a consumer. Companies are battling to release the next greatest advancement in technology — whether it’s NFC, Cloud Storage, Streaming Video or even Social Networking — and the consumers are ready and waiting. The instant a company releases a new product or service, the competition follows suit.
And that makes today’s consumer more connected than ever.
Brand extensions are to blame for much of the competition in technology today. Foursquare brings about Facebook Places. Skype leads to Google Hangouts. Square brings mobile payment to the forefront, with PayPal and Google following closely behind. Facebook (and MySpace before that) brought the rise of the social network; Google is now employing a brand extension with Google+.
A Brand Extension is when a company known for a particular good/service attempts to extend its services to another business category beyond its initial range.
Now, the current landscape:
Facebook vs. Google+
Facebook has been king of the social networking world since it overtook MySpace in 2008. MySpace was recently sold to Specific Media and entertainment artist Justin Timberlake. It’s future is still uncertain.
In the limited beta release of Google+, Google goes head to head with Facebook. A similar scenario to its battle with MySpace, only Google+ seems better equipped.
Google+ invites are on the streets as the company seems to be opening up its social network to more users. It’s limited beta at first offered only short windows for invites from current users. The service already is reported to have users in the millions, after a little more than one week on the market. Facebook, meanwhile, recently confirmed it has acquired 750 million users.
Square vs. Google vs. Paypal
Mobile payments are a hot topic, and the most popular service is likely Square, which hit $1 million in processed payments after less than a year in business. Square was launched by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey in May of 2010.
Square allows users — whether it’s for personal or businesses use — to accept credit card payments using a smartphone and Square’s free mobile payment device, through which users swipe their actual plastic cards. (Square does not use NFC technology.)
Google unveiled its Google Wallet offering, a partnership with Citi, MasterCard, First Data, and Sprint. Google Wallet is an Android app that makes your phone your wallet. It accomplishes this by storing virtual versions of your plastic cards on your smartphone.
Using Near-Field Technology (NFC), users will be able to pay via their Google-Wallet equipped smartphones simply by tapping the phone on a checkout reader, available at many merchant locations.
And most recently, PayPal bolstered its mobile offering on July 7 with the $240 million acquisition of mobile-payment service Zong.
Zong partners with hundreds of mobile phone carriers around the world and allows users to enter their mobile phone number to make purchases. The charges are then applied to the user’s monthly mobile-phone bill.
Zong was eBay’s second mobile acquisition. The first was Fig Card, a Square-like device that allows users to accept payments with credit cards by swiping them through Fig’s USB-powered reader.
Foursquare vs. Facebook
Location-based applications allow users to ‘check-in’ via smartphone and share their location with other users of the service or other social networks. Users are able to see who else is checked in at a given location (from all users) or friends in nearby locations. By checking in, users receive points and/or badges and can unlock certain specials determined by the retailer.
The most publicized of these location-based apps is Foursquare. Today, there are a reported 8 million Foursquare users, up from just one million a year ago.
With the introduction of Facebook Places and other location-based services like Whrrl, which was acquired by daily deals service Groupon in mid-April, companies are copying Foursquare’s model. And vice versa, as evidenced by Foursquare’s recent inclusion and emphasis on its Yelp-like service directory Explore. Brand extensions are on display everywhere we look.
In June, Fast Company took a closer look at Foursquare vs. Facebook Places.
Video Inside Social Networking
Google vs. Facebook
Facebook Video Calling will feature one-on-one video calls to your friends, a stripped-down version of Skype from what I understand. (Note: that’s not me in the screenshot; it’s a Facebook promo screen.)
The biggest advantage with Facebook Video Calling has when compared to Skype is that users don’t have to sign-up and login to Skype to chat; they simply do so through Facebook.
Google+ Hangouts allows group video chats with up to 10 participants, a sort of live chat room among your friends.
When Google+ Hangouts feature is launched, you can choose whom to invite in the video chat or simply alert all friends (or any other Circle) that you’re hanging out. And then wait for someone, among the Circle you’ve selected, to respond. (Note: that is me in the screenshot below, chatting with no one.)
As you can see at the bottom of the chat window (above), YouTube is also accessible via Hangouts.
I haven’t really discovered how YouTube can be used inside Hangouts. But I did watch Cake’s The Distance. I guess if my friends were on there we could have all watched it together…and then checked all of our reactions?
Google+ Hangouts and YouTube might be useful for work-related presentations. This service encroaches on GoToMeeting‘s territory. Now I’ve just got to find some people who want to have a meeting about Cake.
Amazon vs. Apple
On the Cloud, users can store music, videos, photos, and documents, which are then accessible from any computer or device with an internet connection and access to the cloud.
Amazon starts users off with a free 5GB of storage space. The 5GB of free space is about enough space, Amazon says, to store 1,000 songs. This first tier is free and you’ll never be charged for it. If a user purchases a digital album from Amazon’s mp3 store (amazon.com), it’ll upgrade your 5GB of free storage to 20GB. Other pricing/storage options for the Amazon Cloud range from 20GB to 1,000GB of space.
Apple iCloud operates in the same way as the Amazon Cloud Player, with iTunes integrated into iCloud. Everything purchased on iTunes is automatically accessible on the iCloud, in addition to other apps, photos, books and documents.
Some companies like Amazon and Apple have tied their digital music services directly to Cloud Storage. Others like Slacker and Pandora are offering a more entertainment-centered approach.
Pandora makes things easy for listeners: subscription free and on nearly every device you own.
Pandora got its start on the computer. But the company is making even bigger leaps away from its traditional home on the PC; Pandora is now available on smartphones, tablets, televisions and a select number of automobiles.
According to a published report from Advertising Age, more than 50 percent of Pandora listening accomplished on devices other than the PC.
Slacker, however, is beginning to outshine Pandora in both integration and subscription options. Slacker offers three ways to listen. The first tier, like Pandora, is free of charge (but with ads) and allows users to create a custom station based on a particular band or song. The second is a paid subscription plan that provides unlimited song skips and is ad-free; Slacker Radio Plus is $3.99 per month.
Slacker also has a partnership with ABC News, with news breaks at the top of each hour for subscribers of either Slacker Plus or Slacker Premium Radio.
Slacker’s newest subscription is called Slacker Premium Radio. At $9.99 per month, this service includes everything available in Slacker Radio Plus as well as on-demand music, allowing listeners to search for and play songs on-demand, or songs from a particular artist. Slacker Premium Radio encroaches on MOG’s and Rdio’s territory — a brand-extension of sorts — by offering on-demand music.
It’s an exciting time for both consumers and businesses. Each service is experiencing tremendous competition — which only fuels innovation — as companies vie for the consumers’ time, interest and money.
The customers ultimately decide which products succeed and which ones flop. Therefore the success of these businesses relies much on us, the consumers, and in our experiences with these products and brands and how seamlessly we can integrate them into our lives.
The best technology becomes second-nature, like a brand extension of ourselves.
Source: PC Magazine, cbsradio.com, siriusxm.com, pandora.com, slacker.com, usatoday.com, cnet.com, radioink.com, Ando Media, Mashable.com, Mediapost.com, TechCrunch, Tech Crunch TVFast Company, Mashable, Techmeme, CNet, ReadWriteWeb, GigaOm, Engadget, CNN Money, MacWorld, AdAge, All Things Digital, The Next Web, Foursquare, Google, Facebook, Pandora, Slacker, Square, Paypal, Amazon.