Spoutin' Off: A look at technology to come
By Michael Rau
January 1 2007
End-of-the-year columns have always been a mixed bag for me. Some columnists like to reflect back on the previous year. Some like to prognosticate on the year ahead. Me, I like to use it as an opportunity to revisit some of my favorite topics and forward them into the new year.
So away we go.
Our last column was an effort to prepare you for this month's mass rollout of Windows Vista, Microsoft's next-generation operating system. Nothing will have a larger impact on the wired world in 2007 than this occurrence.
And as I mentioned, I'm rooting for a successful rollout because, even though it impacts me less than those of you who use Windows as your primary operating system, the success or failure of Vista will affect every single user.
Alas - a smooth rollout is not to be. A Russian programmer has found and posted a major security flaw, plus five minor flaws in the software, bringing into question just how much additional security would be achieved by upgrading from XP.
Businesses who have been given early access to the OS have demonstrated an initial lack of interest in upgrading and consumers have already indicated in polls that they're not exactly chomping at the bit to get their hands on it, either. I can't imagine why.
And speaking of Microsoft, their effort to produce a product to compete with Apple's iPod has had mixed results. When the Zune was introduced at the end of November, it debuted in the No. 2 spot, right behind the iPod. Within two weeks in had fallen to No. 4. You can draw your own conclusions.
Which brings us to Apple. The most recent headline regarding the company, as reported here, was about investigations into their accounting practices. About that, all I can say is that if Steve Jobs tried pulling a Kenny Lay, lock him up!
But that's not my focus today. Nor is the fact that Amazon reports that the iPod was the biggest seller on its Web site this holiday season. I want to talk about the iTunes store.
As I've mentioned from time to time, I'm no fan. As long as Apple insists on applying it's FairPlay DRM to it's music downloads, they won't get a penny from me.
Two recent reports about the iTunes store caught my eye. The more recent reported on the failure of the iTunes Store Web site immediately following Christmas morning because, as we mentioned above, iPods sold very well, and according to Apple, they underestimated the amount of traffic the iTunes Store Web site would encounter post-Christmas.
Is it me, or is this really bad planning by a company that should know better? This question becomes even more imperative when considered along with the second report. A research firm, after conducting a survey, determined that sales of downloads from the iTunes store had fallen 65 percent during the year. Now while acknowledging that the sampling in this survey is not as airtight as I'd prefer, it still raises the question: Are iTunes consumers reaching the same conclusion as I have?
If for any reason you find the iTunes experience less than satisfying, check out eMusic (www.emusic.com). They sell their downloads with no DRM detritus attached, and their downloads are much cheaper.
Speaking of DRMs, the column that elicited the most passionate responses was the one about the Sony/BMG Rootkit software, ostensibly included on some of their music CDs for the purpose of protecting their intellectual property. As it turned out, if you played the CD on your computer, the software flagrantly invaded the users' privacy by installing itself and sending personal information about the user back to Sony/BMG., not to mention screwing up the users' computers.
I'm pleased to report that Sony/BMG was recently fined millions of dollars and ordered to pay damages to consumers whose systems were damaged by their software. If you're one of the people affected, you can go to Sony's Web site at http://sonybmg.com/ copy_protection_settlement. html to make your claim.
I also want to touch on the subject of my arch-nemesis; spam and malware.
Spam now accounts for 90 percent of all emails! And yet, no politician in Washington has had the guts to take on the slimy sub-human purveyors of this trash. The topic never came up in our recent election cycle.
As predicted, the so-called CAN-SPAM act proved to be toothless. The Department of Justice can't cite a single spam or malware purveyor they've successfully put out of business (spammer Jeremy Jaynes was prosecuted by the Commonwealth of Virginia, not the feds).
Is there no one out there in a position of influence who cares about this? Just how bad does this have to get before our lawmakers consider it worthy of their attention? I'm not holding my breath.
Finally, I want to mention a phrase you'll be hearing a lot about in 2007: It's "Net Neutrality." This one's gonna take a whole column to explain, so stay tuned.
Happy New Year!
Michael Rau is a mass-communications consultant in Virginia Beach. To send feedback or view past columns, go to http://dailypress.asoundidea.com.
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