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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Music site by Myspace and Record companies

In the latest effort by the ailing music industry to bolster its declining prospects, three of the four major music companies have struck a deal with MySpace to start an music Web site.
MySpace, the world’s biggest and most popular social network, and three of the world’s largest music companies, SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group (NYSE:WMG), today announced the formation of a landmark joint venture, MySpace Music. The new company marries the most popular music community in the world with the most comprehensive catalogue of music content available online, unveiling a host of new music services and monetization models. The financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed

As part of the deal, MySpace will spin out its popular MySpace Music service as an independent joint venture in partnership with Universal Music, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group. EMI, the fourth major label, is not a part of the deal at this time, but people involved in the negotiations said it would probably join soon. The music companies will own minority stakes in the venture and will make their entire music catalogs available.

Chris DeWolfe, chief executive of MySpace, a division of News Corporation, described the new service, which will be introduced later this year, as a one-stop source for all music, in all its various digital incarnations.

Visitors to the site will be able to listen to free streaming music, paid for with advertising, and share customized playlists with their friends. They will also be able to download tracks to play on their mobile devices, putting the new site in competition with similar services like Apple, Amazon and eMusic.

A subscription-based music component, where users pay a monthly amount for unlimited access to downloadable tracks, is also being considered, Mr. DeWolfe said.

“This is really a mega-music experience that is transformative in a lot of ways,” he said. “It’s the first service that offers a full catalog of music to be streamed for free, with full community features, to be shared with all of your friends.”

Additional products like tickets, T-shirts, ring tones and other music merchandise will also be available. “It’s the full 360-degree revenue stream,” Mr. DeWolfe said.

Exact terms of the deal and details about the new site, like prices for downloaded music tracks, were not disclosed. But MySpace did say the site would offer songs free of digital rights management software or D.R.M., which is used to prevent illicit copying but can create technical hurdles for buyers. The songs would be playable on any portable music device, including Apple’s iPod.

The new venture will be run by an executive team that will report to a board s made up of representatives from MySpace and the major music companies.

An analyst at Pali Capital, Rich Greenfield, said MySpace was offering a big opportunity to the music companies.

“They have a huge community that wants to talk, share and learn about music,” he said. “Nobody else has that. There is music discovery happening on MySpace that is far deeper and broader than what’s going on on iTunes.”

But first MySpace will have to prove that it can actually sell music. Though the company earns $70 million a month in advertising for the News Corporation, according to estimates by Pali Capital, it has never successfully sold products on a wide scale. A download service for independent music, began in 2006 with Snocap, a music start-up, was considered a disappointment.

For the music industry, the deal is partly born of desperation. In the face of widespread, escalating online piracy, music sales dropped to $11.5 billion in 2006 from a peak in 1999 of nearly $15 billion.

That has forced the industry into a new age of experimentation. Last year, all four major record labels backed Amazon’s nascent MP3 music store, partly in an effort to counterbalance Apple’s strength in the market for music downloads. The music companies say Apple now has too much control over the distribution and pricing of digital music.

The industry is seeking revenue that does not come directly from its customers — like the ad-supported element of the MySpace service. Along those same lines, music executives have recently raised more draconian ideas, like surcharges on the sales of iPods and Internet access to compensate for rampant file sharing. The moves have been met with widespread resistance.

Universal Music sued MySpace for copyright infringement in 2006. MySpace would not say whether that suit had been dropped before Thursday’s announcement.

Comcast Corp started offering a super-fast Internet service that allows customers to download a high-definition movie in 10 minutes.

Comcast offers super-fast Internet speeds
The largest U.S. cable television operator, said on Wednesday it has started offering a super-fast Internet service that allows customers to download a high-definition movie in 10 minutes.

The new premium service was launched in the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and marks a leap in connection speeds for Comcast. The new service offers speeds starting at 50 megabits per second, compared with the previous fastest connection speeds of 16 mb per second.

Comcast said the new service is aimed at residential and business customers. But at $149.95 a month, compared with about $50 a month for its usual service, it is likely to attract businesses or very heavy residential users, such as video game players or movie download fans.

Comcast Corp. the largest U.S. cable television operator, said on Wednesday it has started offering a super-fast Internet service that allows customers to download a high-definition movie in 10 minutes.

The new premium service was launched in the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and marks a leap in connection speeds for Comcast. The new service offers speeds starting at 50 megabits per second, compared with the previous fastest connection speeds of 16 mb per second.

Comcast said the new service is aimed at residential and business customers. But at $149.95 a month, compared with about $50 a month for its usual service, it is likely to attract businesses or very heavy residential users, such as video game players or movie download fans.

It shares the Twin Cities market with regional phone company Qwest Communications International Inc.

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts unveiled plans for the new super-fast service at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, describing it as "wideband," and the company said it plans to reach around 20 percent of its subscriber base with the service by the end of the year.

The company plans to increase speeds on the service, eventually offering speeds of 100 mb to 160 mb per second.

The technology that enables Comcast to increase download speeds is called 'channel bonding' and uses cable pipes more efficiently to deliver video, Internet and voice.

Comcast's plans came less than a week after the company said it would change the way it manages its network and cooperate to resolve critics' claims it interferes with Internet file-sharing services.
File-sharing services are normally used to distribute content more efficiently by people trying to move large files such as music and movies.

Cable operators are increasingly concerned with improving the efficiency of their cable plants to be able to push more content through their pipes at faster speeds to rival growing competition from telephone companies like Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

Verizon is rolling out a new high-tech fiber-optic service (FiOS) both for digital video and super-fast Internet connections up to 30 mb a second.

Comcast launches 50Mbps broadband... for $150 per month
Comcast has been promising that DOCSIS 3.0 goodness would be coming to its customers this year, and the cable giant is about to make good. Starting tomorrow, Comcast's new "extreme high-speed" Internet tier will be available to subscribers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area, including Hudson, Wisconsin. Download speeds will top out at 50Mbps while uploads will be capped at 5Mbps. But all of that speed comes at a price: $149.95 per month for consumers, and $199.95 per month for business class service.

Comcast spokesperson Charlie Douglas characterized the price as "competitive," saying that it's roughly the same as what Verizon charges for similar speeds on its FiOS network. That's more or less accurate, but there's a wide gap between the 50/5 tier and the next one down, 8/2, which costs $52.95 per month for video customers. Still, if you're willing to pay for it, the superfast Internet is there.

"This announcement marks the beginning of the evolution from broadband to wideband," said Comcast High-Speed Internet SVP Mitch Bowling. "We believe wideband will usher-in a new era of speed and Internet innovation for today’s digital consumers. Wideband is the future, and it's coming fast."

How fast? Douglas said that the company intends to have DOCSIS 3.0 and the accompanying 50Mbps tier available to 20 percent of its customers by the end of 2008. It should be available nationwide by the middle of 2010. And 50Mbps is only the beginning; Comcast plans to up the speeds to at least 100Mbps in the next couple of years. DOCSIS 3.0 is theoretically capable of 160Mbps speeds, which gives the company some headroom to increase speeds.

There's something for the rest of Comcast's Twin Cities' subscribers as well. Those on the lowest, 6Mbps/384Kbps tier will see their upload speeds jump to 1Mbps. 8Mbps Performance Plus customers will see 1Mbps upload speeds double to 2Mbps.

Since Comcast made its DOCSIS 3.0 intentions official at CES this year, there has been a lot of speculation about where the first deployment would show up. Some analysts believed that those with access to Verizon's FiOS or possibly AT&T's U-Verse networks would be first to see Comcast's "extreme high-speed" offerings. Instead, Comcast is rolling it out in the Twin Cities first, an area served by Qwest and with no superfast broadband competition. "We chose the Twin Cities because they have done an excellent job operationally on other rollouts we have done," Douglas told Ars.

When asked if Comcast would manage its DOCSIS 3.0 network any differently, Douglas reiterated the company's decision to alter its traffic management practices that are currently under investigation by the Federal Communications Commission. "We're committed to changing our network management process from what they are today by the end of the year, and we just need time to work that all out," Douglas said. "We're going to work not just with BitTorrent, but a lot of other P2P companies, the Internet Engineering Task Force, academics, and others to get together and come up with a better way to manage the network."

Geeks around the country have been salivating at the thought of 50Mbps downloads, and it's great to see such high speeds finally spreading beyond Verizon's FiOS network. The price is likely to be a deal-breaker for a lot of people—$149 is a lot to pay for broadband, even if it's blazing fast. It sounds as though Comcast is open to the possibility of dropping the price if the new offering is widely ignored. "It's too early to talk about future price drops," said Douglas. "A lot of this is going to be about consumer demand and the response that we see. We'll adjust based on consumer demand." The company may have to if it expects to get more than a small handful of subscribers to sign up for 50Mbps speeds.

Large hadron collider challenge

Scientists are conducting the largest physics experiment in the world and searching for “the God particle” — a mysterious bit of stuff that would prove the prevailing theory of particle physics. Since the Higgs boson particle should disintegrate and disappear almost as soon as it is created, actually detecting one is a long shot. But if an accelerator can do it, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can.

The LHC, a 17-mile circular tunnel, straddles the border of Switzerland and France. This July, it is scheduled to accelerate protons to collisions at 99.9999991% the speed of light. Scientists hope these collisions will produce fundamental particles that are the building blocks of all matter. The 14-year, $8 billion project has enough gigantic magnets, vacuum tubes, and high-tech detectors and gadgetry to satisfy the most fastidious physicist.

Okay, almost every physicist. As Harrison Scott Key notes at WMB, a couple scientists have filed a lawsuit (in a Hawaii court) against the LHC, worried that the high-energy collisions may accidentally spawn a black hole that swallows the Earth or create “strangelets” that will turnthe Earth into lifeless “strange matter.” While both creations are theoretically possible, LHC officials say it’s crazy that either would destroy Earth. (If you disagree, you can contribute to the lawsuit instigators here.)

Scientists hope the LHC will decide what occurred in those legendary moments after the big bang. In a Newsweek interview, theoretical physicist and atheist Steven Weinberg in a answered questions about how the LHC could impact religion if it results in a “final theory of how the universe was created:”

As science explains more and more, there is less and less need for religious explanations. Originally, in the history of human beings, everything was mysterious. Fire, rain, birth, death, all seemed to require the action of some kind of divine being. As time has passed, we have explained more and more in a purely naturalistic way. This doesn’t contradict religion, but it does [take] away one of the original motivations for religion.

Around 180 budding physicists will be competing to design a detector capable of finding invisible particles at a special physics masterclass being held at Bristol University this week

Sixth-form students and teachers from 14 schools in the region will be taking part in the event, giving them a chance to hear about some of the latest developments in particle physics, including the world’s largest scientific experiment, the Large Hadron Collider.

Hosted by the University’s Department of Physics, the day will consist of a mixture of talks and practical sessions, including an activity entitled ‘The Detector Game’ in which students will be asked to design a proposal to build a detector to look for new particles.

The students will also have the opportunity to quiz, via video-conference, Bristol University physicists who are currently working at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva, who are getting ready to switch on the Large Hadron Collider.

The practical sessions will also allow students to try their hand at identifying what is happening in particle collisions recorded at CERN. The day will end with a quiz and prize-giving event.

Dr Clare Lynch, Research Assistant in the University’s Department of Physics, said: “We shall be highlighting some of Bristol University’s research in particle physics, and hope to give our visitors a sense of the excitement of investigating matter at the most fundamental level. This is a particularly exciting time for particle physics, as the Large Hadron Collider will begin colliding particles in a few months.”

Iphone shortage:iPhone would be on the 3G network within months

There is a shortage of iPhones in Apple’s stores in the United States. And there is a surplus of frenzied speculation about what this means. Many wonder whether Apple is closing out of its existing stock in order to clear the way for new models, possibly with the ability to connect to faster 3G networks.
Gene Munster, the analyst at Piper Jaffray, said that of the possible explanations for the shortage there is an “80 percent chance that a new version of the iPhone is coming earlier than anticipated.”

The mystery of the missing iPhones has reach a fever pitch, and several pundits including Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster have interpreted the shortage to mean that a 3G model is on its way to stores soon, bolstered, it seems, by the comments of ATT Mobility president Ralph de la Vega at CTIA yesterday, where he hinted heavily?but did not outright confirm--that the iPhone would be on the 3G network within months. Others including Sanford C. Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr., believes Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is really just short of handsets. In an interesting response that surfaced on Saul Hansell's NYT BITS blog on the missing iPhones, an anonymous poster put forth the theory that the runaway gray market for iPhones in emerging countries was making it difficult for Apple to manage its supply chain projections?hence the shortage.

"Tantrum," as the poster signed him/herself noted that 100,000 gray market units was to be expected, but with upward of one million iPhones going gray? "That's a whole different ball game for component sourcing, quality control and production ramp-up and some things are starting to come unstuck, even for a finely managed company like Apple."

This is not a wild theory. Since its launch, iPhone has struggled with gray market sellers in Europe and Asia, where they've played a whack-a-mole game of sending out letters threatening legal action against them. In February, there were reports that 1.4 million iPhones were unaccounted for?that is they weren't registered on the respective networks they had been bought for. The post goes on to give a very detailed analysis of how American analysts can take a too US-Europe-centric view of the iPhone, all the while an organized gray market?with some sellers even offering support on the hacked iPhones?are catering to the wealthy elite in emerging countries. The upshot: a "conservative estimate" of 15,000-20,000 sucked out of the US on a weekly basis and ending up in China, India, Brazil, the Middle East among others just at a time when American iPhone adoption is ramping up even more.

Something about 3G
3G is the third generation of mobile phone standards and technology, superseding 2G. It is based on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) family of standards under the International Mobile Telecommunications programme, "IMT-2000".

MySpace reportedly got close to signing a deal with two major music labels,

Everyone Onboard For MySpace Music Store?
One week after MySpace reportedly got close to signing a deal with two major music labels, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group Corp, rumors have it that another big name prepares to get onboard the music boat: Universal Music. The rumors haven’t been confirmed, but sources familiar with the situation said such a deal is about to happen.

Rumors of a possible deal between MySpace and big names in the industry music have started circulating earlier this month, as several newspapers reported, although to this date, none of the assumptions has been confirmed. The New York Post reported that users could expect later this year to find anything from digital downloads (MP3) to ad-supported streaming video and ringtones.

Talks about a joint venture between MySpace and Sony BMG, Warner Music circulated last week, as part of a project that is said to rival Apple’s iTunes online store. So far, it seems that only three of the four major labels in the music industry have possibly agreed to shake hands, but there was still no clear sign from EMI Group, who just got a new president of its digital music business in the person of Douglas Merrill, former Google executive.

“It’s really creating a robust monetization component to MySpace and having a focused music effort that could be the MTV of a new generation,” a source that wished to remain anonymous told Reuters. So far, none of the representatives of the five names said to be involved in this transaction wished to make any comments.

This is a huge deal for MySpace, considering their joint venture would bring the first three largest music companies as business partners, possibly four, if EMI agrees to join the deal. Still a long way to go, but a MySpace music store could create quite a competition to Apple’s iTunes, which was recently declared the number 2 music retailer in the United States in 2007 after Wal-Mart, as NPD Group’s MusicWatch survey showed.


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The impact of retiring the Space Shuttle in 2010 could cost thousands of NASA contractors their jobs

NASA Reports Massive Job Cuts After Shuttle Retirement In 2010
The impact of retiring the Space Shuttle in 2010 could cost thousands of NASA contractors their jobs, the agency said in a report on Tuesday. As much as 8,000 contractor jobs could be lost by 2011, after the program ends, but the number of civil service workers should remain roughly the same.

The transition to the next program, called Constellation, will mean a significant job loss, but as numbers seem to get worse as reported by the media, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations William H. Gerstenmaier said, in a telephone conference, that these are merely preliminary assumptions and that job losses might not be as big as they appear now.

Indeed, there are multiple factors that need to be taken into consideration before making such somber estimations, and NASA will have to put a lot of work into this transition: “Through this period, NASA’s greatest asset will continue to be its people…At the same time, our greatest challenge over the next several years will be managing this extremely talented, experienced, and geographically dispersed workforce as we transition from operating the Space Shuttle to utilizing International Space Station and expanding our reach to the Moon, Mars and beyond.”

As part of its strategy, NASA said in its report that is committed to transitioning the Space Shuttle civil servant workforce to other Agency programs and at the same time, it will work on identifying job opportunities for the placement of skilled employees in other organizations.

As far as the contractors go, NASA said in its report: “NASA has provided the Space Shuttle prime contractors with a number of opportunities to help safely manage the Shuttle operations through FY 2010 and to prepare the contractor workforce for Shuttle retirement,” including opportunities for employees to work on other NASA programs. The report unveiled that the number of employees will be down 80 percent by 2011, and as much as 2,300 employees could still remain at Cape Canaveral.

Jules Verne and the International Space Station are ready for the encounter

Jules Verne Prepares For Demonstration Day 2 Before ISS Docking
Jules Verne and the International Space Station are ready for the encounter, the officials for the International Space Station announced at the end of the week. On Monday, ESA’s ATV will approach 11 meters of the International Space Station, on Demonstration Day 2.

After spending several days 2000 km from the ISS, Jules Verne ATV prepares for the docking that is scheduled for April 3rd at 15:30 CEST. After one successful first attempt, Jules Verne is considered capable of safely docking after using its GPS maneuvers.

“Having tested very successfully on Saturday the first part of the rendezvous, in particular using the relative GPS between that on Jules Verne and on the Russian Service Module of the ISS, we now have the go-ahead to test the second part of the rendezvous which uses the optical sensors,” said John Ellwood, ESA’s ATV Project Manager.

The two phases of the tests (Demonstration Day 1 and Demonstration Day 2) were intended to show that the Automated Transfer Vehicle is perfectly capable of safely executing the docking maneuvers without endangering the ISS and its crew.
At the end of Demonstration Day 1, the ATV was successfully sent away from the International Space Station through a command sent from the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse. On Monday March 31, the ATV will approach the ISS using its laser based optical system.

Twenty-four hours before the actual docking is set to take place on Thursday, the ISS Mission Management Team, together with its European partners, will decide whether the docking should take place as scheduled or should be postponed.

Both the European Space Agency and CNES (Centre National d’Etudes spatiales) in Toulouse will offer live images with mission updates and the docking from the ATV Control Centre at CNES in Toulouse, where they will also offer the latest information and data on the mission.

The market for mobile internet devices (MIDs) is set to explode over the coming years

The world's biggest computer chip maker Intel unveiled on Wednesday a set of tiny "Atom" processors it says will give mobile devices desktop computing power.

Energy-sipping Atom chips coupled with graphics technology will be built into sleek "smart phones" and other "mobile Internet devices" (MIDs) that fit in people's pockets, according to the US company.

Atom processing combined with innovation from device manufacturers and software makers "will change the way consumers will come to know and access" the Web," Intel promised.

"Today is a historic day for Intel and the high-tech industry," Intel senior vice president Anand Chandrasekher said in a written release.

"These forthcoming MIDs, and some incredible longer-term plans our customers are sharing with us, will show how small devices can deliver a big Internet experience."

Atom chips with speeds as fast as 1.86 GHz enable quick downloading of Internet pages and playing of rich video and audio files, according to Intel.

Mobile internet devices click with usersThe market for mobile internet devices (MIDs) is set to explode over the coming years, according to a panel of analysts at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai.

MIDs are a brand new platform that is expected to see rapid adoption as it fills the gap between laptops and smartphones.

Growth will be driven by the increasing mobility of users who currently lack a single device to accomplish all tasks. This is because notebooks are too cumbersome and mobile phones are too limited.

One analyst even predicted that the MID market would grow faster than the overall mobile sector.

This is because the necessary infrastructure is already in place, meaning that growth will not be hampered as it was for mobiles as networks were being established.

One analyst explained that "there are a lot of hungry vendors out there, which can only be good for the industry and customers".

Although the MID form factor is very similar to that of ultra mobile PCs (UMPCs), they differ in focus and features.

While UMPCs aim to provide a full PC experience in a handheld form factor, MIDs are more focused on connectivity and internet access.

Jim McGregor, research director and principal analyst at In-Stat, told that MIDs are essentially an evolution of UMPCs.

Although UMPCs have not been particularly successful to date, the timing now is much better for the launch of MIDs.

"This is more about timing than technology. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together," said McGregor.

"The hardware is now powerful enough, the ubiquitous connectivity is there and the demand for full mobile internet access from consumers is there as well. "

However, the panel pointed out that MIDs still have hurdles to overcome if they are to see mass adoption.

The biggest stumbling blocks seen by the analysts are the potential usage models of these devices, and the business models that operators and carriers will employ.

To overcome the first problem manufacturers need to make available a wide range of MIDs in a variety of form factors and at a range of price points, allowing customers to decide which device best suits their requirements and budget.

As the primary focus of the MIDs is connectivity and web services, the second issue of operator tariffs could make or break the platform in certain markets.

All the analysts stressed that in order for MIDs to see the best possible adoption rates mobile operators need to scrap usage-based payment plans and adopt flat-rate models and use other value-added services to boost revenues.

IDF - Intel has a Chip, but Where Are the MIDs?
For all the fanfare surrounding the launch of Intel's Centrino Atom chip package at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, there was a notable shortage of new products based on the chips, apart from a few concept designs rolled out for the occasion.

Centrino Atom, which includes an Atom processor and a chipset, was billed as the heart of a new class of computing devices, handheld computers that Intel calls Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). These new devices, which promise mobile Internet access and the ability to communicate or play multimedia files, are scheduled to arrive during the second or third quarter, but that seems unlikely to happen, at least in any significant volumes.

"As with most Jetsons-like products, they tend to suffer from too much hype and overly high expectations," said Bryan Ma, director of personal systems research at IDC Asia-Pacific, referring to the 1960s television cartoon about life in the distant future replete with flying cars, robots, and other gadgets.

IDC hasn't issued a forecast for the number of MIDs that will be shipped this year. There are "a lot of hesitations and concerns" about this product segment, Ma said, adding he doesn't expect to see widespread demand for MIDs for several years, at least.

The biggest concern is the lack of awareness among users. Many consumers don't yet understand how MIDs can be useful to them in their daily lives, Ma said, adding that other concerns include product design, usability issues, and pricing.

For Intel's part, the company says a range of MIDs are in the works and insists the designs showcased at IDF are soon headed to users. "We've got over 20 [manufacturers] planning products," said Gary Willihnganz, director of marketing at Intel's Ultra Mobility Group, during a conference call with reporters.

Several of the concept MID designs shown at IDF had been exhibited before. Others, such as Panasonic's ToughBook, seemed to stretch the MID concept by adding features and capabilities beyond what was originally envisioned by Intel, blurring the distinctions between MIDs and other types of portable computers.

For example, MIDs were originally envisioned running customized versions of Linux, but Intel now says they will also ship with Windows XP and Windows Vista. These versions of Microsoft's operating system are generally more at home in a laptop or desktop instead of a handheld device that's designed to fit in a pocket.

Creating demand for a new category of computing device is not an easy task. Looking ahead, the key for Intel is to build awareness about MIDs with users and focus on early adopters, IDC's Ma said, adding that a catalyst product is needed to spur wider demand. And that product may already exist, he said.
Both Apple's iPod Touch and Nokia's N800 series of Internet tablets fit Intel's definition of a MID, although they are not based on processors from the chip maker. Both devices use processors based on a core developed by Arm, a U.K. company that has long specialized in the design of low-power processor cores used in mobile devices and cellular phones.

They are also significantly cheaper than the US$500 starting price Intel envisions for MIDs, with the iPod Touch priced from $299 and the N800 priced at $240.

Copyright © 2008 IDG News Service. All rights reserved. IDG News Service is a trademark of International Data Group, Inc

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