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Free iTunes for life? Believe it or not, it makes sense...

The rumor mill is abuzz today with reports Apple might be considering a premium service, that would allow you to pay a premium, $100 perhaps, over the normal iPod price for the privilege of lifetime downloads from the iTunes Music Store.

And believe it or not, this actually makes economic sense for everyone involved.

First a look at the numbers. As of January, Apple had sold 150 million iPods according to analysts. And from Apple's press releases, the music store has sold roughly 3.5 billion songs. Some quick division shows that's a mere 24 songs per iPod sold. Let's say the $100 premium is split evenly between Apple and the labels. That still means more than double the revenue from iTunes than now, for everyone involved. Well, of course except for the artists. (Quick tip: don't go into music for the money.)

Additionally, Apple would be an ally of all the big labels. After all, which player will they push if they're getting such a fine cut? Sure, other players will inevitably get the same deal, but it will be too late.

This would also eliminate the headache of users losing music in a hard drive crash: simply create a restore library option to bring all those songs to your new hard drive.

But what about TV shows and movies you ask... Well, they would most likely not be included. However, Apple could partner with the new industry site to make TV shows available for free with advertising. TV show sales and movie sales, by all accounts, haven't quite caught on fire on iTunes. Imagine the possibilities to stoke AppleTV sales. And if the content's free anyhow, there wouldn't be nearly as much resistance to adding dvr functionality.

Overall, it's a sensible, though probably unlikely scenario. After all, this is the same company that still makes users pay $99 a year for .mac email...



Hey True Believers,

If you have seen recent episodes of Root Access, you may know that we are planning to cover and discuss more gaming related topics in the upcoming weeks and months. This will include not only iPhone games, but also Xbox360, Wii, PlayStation and retro gaming. Hopefully TDL will offer a slant on gaming that breaks the recycled story pattern of many gaming blogs today. So if there are any topics you want us to touch upon, give me a shout.

And if you want to come kick my ass on COD4 or Rainbow Six Vegas 2 send me a friend request over Live.


Is the iPhone SDK bigger than the PC?

When John Doerr speaks, Silicon Valley listens. As part of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the Valley's premier venture capital firm, Doerr has seen his share of huge, game-changing technology. From Google, to Amazon, Sun and others, Doerr has had the vision to see the future just ahead of others. At Apple's iPhone SDK roadmap event, Doerr, took the stage to announce the establishment of the iFund: a $100 million dollar pot of venture capital money for applications intended for the iPhone. Lost in the coverage of the fund's establishment was something else Doerr said.

"Today we're witnessing history... In your pocket you have something that's broadband and connected all the time. It's personal. It knows who you are and where you are. That's a big deal. A really big deal. It's bigger than the personal computer," Doerr said at the launch.

Let's digest that for a moment. The iPhone as a bigger development in technology than the personal computer. Is there a bigger statement that could be made about the SDK release?

Well in fact, it could very well turn out to be true. While the iPhone has proven itself has a worthy phone/ipod/portable internet device, this SDK does indeed take things to a whole new level. Suddenly everyone from an 11 year-old girl to a Wall Street executive need/want the same device. The business app integration becomes a must-have for some, while a slew of cool, independently produced games become the hip item on every playground. John Doerr is seldom wrong, and he's not wrong this time either. This is bigger than the personal computer. Period.


March Fantasy Apple Merger: Comcast

(Each month we weigh the pros and cons of a particular potential merger for Apple. Please note the "fantasy" part of this speculation: Many times the mergers mentioned couldn't or wouldn't be realistically possible. But put all that aside and enjoy this month's edition of Fantasy Merger.)

With Apple's revamped Apple TV, or more specifically, the "Take Two" software enhancements, critics seem to universally agree that Apple TV is better than it was. Many though, lament that there's still no way to record shows to the box, and that it cannot serve as a cable box replacement. Another box to have to hook up, and one without a dvd player is a barrier for many people.

It has also become clear in the past few weeks that Apple does not offer nearly the movie selection for rent as other outlets. Take Comcast's OnDemand movie offerings, for example.

Apple's plans seems set on a world in which the concept of networks disappear, and people are free to watch whatever they want to, whenever they like. Tivo has been but a small taste of Apple's ultimate network-free model.

Of course, there are a few problems with that future. For one, the cable companies have been doing just fine providing traditional network television. And, for those who enjoy live programming like sports and news, the cable connection is key to getting those programs as they happen. 

But now, go down the rabbit hole.. to a world in which Comcast and Apple are one. For the sake of this discussion, we'll assume Apple was able to outright purchase Comcast (not financially possible, but that's why we call it fantasy merger!). Now imagine that all those Comcast boxes in the universe are replaced by Apple TVs, or given Apple TV features. The resulting service would create a seamless experience: whether you want to watch podcasts, rent movies, or buy TV shows, it would all be handled by one device. And with Apple as an internet provider to millions, the possibilities to enhance/fix .mac become incredible. Personal photo albums from iPhoto/.mac could be made easily available to family members all over the country. And because Apple would control "the pipe" to the home, they would have tremendous leverage in dealing with the major networks, maybe dismantling the whole concept of networks, for better or worse, in the process.

What do you think? What other pros and cons would come from this merger?


HD-DVD and the case for unlocking your media

The HD format war is over.HD-DVD has lost, and lost big. Lost in all the buzz about Blu-Ray's victory is the question of what becomes of those who purchased HD-DVDs. Short term, those people's lives haven't really changed. What happens though, a year from now when their HD-DVD player stops working? Some people have collected fairly large collections of HD-DVD movies. This is content that they have paid for, and content that is, unfortunately, locked to the disc.

In the audio world, it's easy to rip a CD, and have those files in a digital format. The same cannot be said for HD DVD, or Blu Ray. Here's a situation in which honest, law-abiding consumers have a legitimate reason to want to move the content from the original delivery medium. Let's not lose sight that that's what we're talking about here: media tied to a delivery medium, rather than a purchase. 

This is the first significant digital format to go belly-up. And while Blu Ray supporters are high- fiving each other victoriously, don't forget your format could be next.

But then again, maybe this is much ado about nothing. Perhaps this discussion will look quaint in five years. One would think once movies are delivered primarily online, the ability to play them would last as long as there are computers. What do you think? Should HD DVD movie buyers be able to convert those films to another format? Is this a problem that will go away in time? Should the studios be able to lock content to a particular delivery method?