Hulu at Apple, score 2-0

Two related bits of Apple TV news –

On July 26, the new version of OS X was announced with a smallish new feature:

When iOS 4.2 debuted, Apple changed the name of AirTunes—the feature that let you stream music from iTunes to an AirPort Express—to AirPlay, and in the process upgraded it considerably. In addition to streaming audio from iTunes on your computer, you could now stream from any AirPlay-enabled iOS app—you could even stream video to Apple TV. In fact, as of iOS 5, you could actually mirror the screen of an iPhone 4S or later, or an iPad 2 or later—whatever that screen displayed, you could view on your TV through your Apple TV. AirPlay mirroring was such a great feature that people wanted it for their Macs. And in Mountain Lion, Apple has delivered: You can now send your Mac’s screen to any second- or third-generation Apple TV on the same local network and mirror it on any connected TV.

So the ability to throw content from your device to your TV used to be limited to iOS devices, and now you can do it on PC-class devices.

It happens that a lot of video on the web comes with more generous licensing terms than when it is accessed via a smartphone or tablet. The ability to throw content from PC to TV makes this somewhat moot.

Hulu is free on PC, but charges a monthly fee on connected TVs. In reducing the barrier between PC and TV, it became harder for Hulu to exert enough pressure on customers to pay the fee.

The second bit of news came today: Hulu became available on Apple TV, with payment made through iTunes.

Hulu Plus subscribers can finally start using the service on Apple’s Web TV peripheral, via a software update Apple pushed out overnight. So if you’re paying the service’s $8-a-month fee, you can now stream TV shows, movies — along with ads — directly to your flat screen.
This bring’s Apple’s hardware to parity with other devices like the Roku devices and Microsoft’s Xbox 360

The important thing is between the lines: Hulu Plus is now tithing part of the subscription fees to Apple.

Like Apple’s deal with Netflix, Hulu Plus is integrated directly into Apple’s iTunes store, which means that if you aren’t a Hulu Plus subscriber, you can sign up using your iTunes account, and Hulu will bill you via Apple. Presumably this means that just like it does with Netflix, Apple will keep a portion of Hulu’s monthly fee.

Paying Apple in perpetuity is a bummer for Hulu. But they had to do it, because PC mirroring put them in a lose-lose situation. Either all usage of Hulu on Apple TV would be unpaid, because it was mirrored from the PC, or it would be paid via the iTunes store and Apple would get a cut:

Hulu and its owner/content partners (Disney, Comcast, and News Corp. , which also owns this Web site) had little choice but to get Hulu Plus onto Apple TV. Because with the new Airplay feature in Apple’s new Mountain Lion update, anyone with an Apple TV can already “mirror” the free Hulu Web service onto their TVs. Not being able to offer the paid service – which offers features like a deeper content library and HD streaming — would have been quite vexing for Jason Kilar and company.

That’s a smart bit of hardball strategy on Apple’s part. I don’t _like_ it, but I admire it.

Which is better, push or pull?

Jay Frank:

I’ve heard numerous complaints from women that they dislike music thru subscription services because it’s too much work to hear their favorites over and over. … The overwhelming variety of musical choices is desired more by males than females. On average, women have 25% less music in their collection than males. At the same time, they remember 28% more lyrics by heart than men. Internet radio is generally proud of the fact that they have more variety and don’t repeat songs every hour. The numbers seem to show that this may be a liability to a strong segment of listeners.

My wife uses a mix of push with pull. She’ll search for a specific artist or song, then play radio based on that. She splits her searches about 50/50 between artists and tracks, and never looks for specific albums.

Radio needs the internet to surface the hits. The internet needs radio to establish hits that bring traffic. Maybe it turns out that what we needed all along wasn’t a war between two mediums, but a solid peace treaty


Leaked Report Reveals Music Industry’s Global Anti-Piracy Strategy:

IFPI is clear on their requirements for cyberlockers to operate to their liking. Their number one desire is that they “proactively filter for infringing content” but if they don’t they must “operate an effective and efficient notice and take down system.” Failure to implement either means sites will be required to “shut down”.

Effective means to implement the spirit of the law via details like terminating the accounts of repeat infringers. Efficient means that submitting notices shouldn’t be a burdonsome process.

transparency in programming language design

The Go language at Soundcloud:

Go has been described by several engineers here as a WYSIWYG language. That is, the code does exactly what it says on the page. It’s difficult to overemphasize how helpful this property is toward the unambiguous understanding and maintenance of software. Go explicitly rejects “helper” idioms and features like the Uniform Access Principle, operator overloading, default parameters, and even exceptions, on the basis that they create more problems through ambiguity than they solve in expressivity. There’s no question that these decisions carry a cost of keystrokes—especially, as most new engineers on Go projects lament, during error handling—but the payoff is that those same new engineers can easily and immediately build a complete mental model of the application. I feel confident in saying that time from zero to productive commits is faster in Go than any other language we use; sometimes, dramatically so.

The business of music is not music. It is using music to sell other types of products, such as jeans and cars. That’s why the new Echo Nest APIs for non-music apps are brilliant.

With the Taste Profile Similarity feature, services can “group like-minded users together by finding the most similar Taste Profiles to any single seed Taste Profile for many interesting reasons.” Additionally, the “affinity prediction” system “uses music preferences as predictive of other media preferences and psychographic attributes.” For instance, Echo Nest experimented with affinity prediction and “demonstrated the correlation between music and political affiliation.”

Notice and takedown as disruptive innovation

Is the DMCA-based notice and takedown a disruptive innovation for web sites to license content from copyright owners?

From Wikipedia:

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.
In contrast to disruptive innovation, a sustaining innovation does not create new markets or value networks but rather only evolves existing ones with better value, allowing the firms within to compete against each other’s sustaining improvements. Sustaining innovations may be either “discontinuous”[1] (i.e. “transformational” or “revolutionary”) or “continuous” (i.e. “evolutionary”).

The incumbent technology is manual negotiation between licensor and licensee, copyright owner and content distributor, media company and web site. The new one is for the web site to carry anything that crosses its path and remove anything the media company doesn’t want to be there.

This leads to lower quality content catalogs because the catalog of a DMCA-based distributor is full of holes. While a traditional distributor like HMV music stores could get copies of pretty much all the CDs that a purchaser might want, a disruptive distributor like the Gorilla vs Bear music blog lacks far more than it contains.

At the same time the web site is able to compete and win on its own terms. Using Gorilla vs Bear comes with far less friction than using Spotify.

Spotify is a sustaining innovation in that it doesn’t change the market for music recordings.

intellectual property tax

If you own real estate, you pay property tax.

Everything you say, write, sing, gesture or code that has expressive content is instantly copyrighted.

You don’t pay property tax on copyrights. If you did, your bill would go up every time you opened your mouth, from birth to death.

If copyright should be considered a natural right with the same authority and control as owning a home, shouldn’t we tax it?