Friday, December 15, 2006

DRM-Free Music Sells, Major Labels Keep Pretending The Jury Is Still Out

From Techdirt:
The idea that DRM-free music might just make good business sense smolders along, as eMusic is announcing they've managed to sell 100 million unprotected songs without the world coming to an end. As part of the promotion, the customer who purchased the milestone track will have a song written about him by the Barenaked Ladies, who'll include the song on as a bonus track for their upcoming album. The record labels have consistently claimed you can't be successful selling music that isn't copy-protected -- but eMusic's second place showing (behind iTunes) shows that's clearly not the case. They continue to sell more music than Rhapsody, Napster and MSN Music combined, all while catering to indie music fans by avoiding major label content. 2006 saw a growth in smaller content providers arguing that DRM-free content can be part of a sustainable business model, but there's still a shortage of major industry players acknowledging DRM's limitations. Meanwhile the major labels continue to pretend either that the idea has no legs -- or that they need to conduct further experiments to see if demand for DRM-free content actually exists. There simply can be no talk of a trend toward unprotected content en-masse as long as the music industry continues to pursue the idea in half-assed ways.
Here's an idea. Why don't new bands sign with distributors like iTunes and the Microsoft market place instead of with traditional labels. Then charge $.25 for a DRM free song and give 90% of that to the artist and 10% to the distributor. I think $.25 is cheap enough that people will just buy it and not pirate the music. Everyone wins in this case. The artist gets much more than the 10% of $.99 songs, and its cheaper for the consumer.

iTunes sales down 58%, iTunes sales up 84%, WTF?!

From Slashdot:
Earlier this month we had a report from Forrester, based on a random sampling of 2,000 credit card accounts, that purported to show that iTunes sales were crashing. Now comes another survey from Reston, VA-based ComScore which indicates the exact opposite. ComScore's report which is based on actual iTunes sales shows a 84% increase during the first nine months of this year compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile the author of the Forrester report, Josh Bernoff, noted in his blog yesterday that they shouldn't be pummeled just because everyone took what he wrote and ran with it.
From ArsTechnica:
A couple of days ago, Infinite Loop reported on a research note from Forrester Research which said that Apple's music sales were slowing and that sales of the company's venerable iPod were failing to drive downloads from the iTunes Store. Two days after Forrester's report, investment firm Piper Jaffray has released its own report saying that no, the iTunes Store is doing just fine in terms of growth.

Analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray says that through September, iTunes Store weekly sales are up 78 percent from 2005. Munster's report is based on Apple company data, according to Reuters, and shows that Apple sold 695 million tracks through September, a total of 18.5 million per week.

In contrast, Forrester's figures come from a analysis of credit and debit card purchases from the iTunes Store, made over a 26-month period ending in June 2006. From April 2004 through January 2006, Apple saw a seven-fold increase in transactions, according to Forrester, with the average transaction size growing to $6.69 from $3.55. Since the beginning of the year, the number of transactions has fallen by 58 percent, with the average transaction size dropping to $5.56. Only 3 percent of US Internet-using households made purchases at the iTunes Store during that period.
Food for thought:
From the testimony of Mr. Marc E. Kasowitz before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary:

One particularly effective illegal strategy involves the
following scenario: the short-selling hedge fund selects a
target company; the hedge fund then colludes with a so-called
independent stock analyst firm to prepare a false and negative
"research report" on the target; the analyst firm agrees not to
release the report to the public until the hedge fund
accumulates a significant short position in the target's stock;
once the hedge fund has accumulated that large short position,
the report is disseminated widely, causing the intended decline
in the price of the target company's stock. The report that is
disseminated contains no disclosure that the analyst was paid to
prepare the report, or that the hedge fund dictated its
contents, or that the hedge fund had a substantial short
position in the target's stock. Once the false and negative
research report -- misrepresented as "independent" -- has had
its intended effect, the hedge fund then closes its position and
makes an enormous profit, at the expense of the proper
functioning of the markets, harming innocent investors who were
unaware that the game was rigged, and damaging the target
company itself and its employees. wit_id=5486 []

Student exercise: Compare and contrast with the movement of AAPL stock shares before and after this report came out.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Video: Lockheed Martin swimming Cormorant submarine-launched UAV from Skunk Works

From Flight Global:
Lockheed Martin has released the first video sequence of the Cormorant submarine/sea launched multi-purpose unmanned air vehicle, showing the spyplane swimming in the ocean.

The amazing computer animation sequence shows the Cormorant firing from the Trident missile tubes of US Navy submarine before taking to the air. The lightly-armed stealth UAV will patrol the oceans in support of special missions forces.

The Cormorant is one of a package of UAVs unveiled by the Advanced Development Programs division of the Lockheed Martin known as Skunk Works at the Farnborough air show, breaking a previous silence on special missions UAVs.

Video: Gutted Teddy Bear Reincarnated Inside Robosapien Body

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fuel-Cell Powered R/C Car On Tap For 2007

A Horizon fuel-cell-powered R/C car
From Extremetech:
Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies is developing a drop-in, hydrogen-powered fuel-cell unit to replace a standard battery pack in a popular line of 1/10th-scale remote-control cars.

The Chinese fuel-cell supplier is developing a drop-in replacement for the popular Tamiya TT-01 remote-control car chassis as well as other "bathtub" 1/10th car chasses, the company disclosed on its Web site.

Hobbyists interested in replacing a conventional 7.2-volt battery with the "H-cell" 30-watt fuel-cell option can sign up on the company's waiting list, which allows a customer to be notified when the unit is ready to ship.
Horizon promises that the R/C cars will be able to reach speeds of 35 kilometers per hour, and run for between 30 to 45 minutes on a single tank of fuel.

According to a company spokesman, however, the unit won't come cheap; although final pricing has yet to be determined, the H-Cell will be priced at around $1,500 for the fuel-cell unit alone. It will ship sometime in early 2007, the spokesman said.

Horizon, which manufactures Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells for portable power supplies and peripherals, previously manufactured the $115 H-racer, a standalone car, that lacked steering and could only travel in a straight line for several hundred feet. The H-racer nevertheless was named as one of Time Magazine's top inventions of 2006, in part because refueling it was as simple as adding water to the refueling station, which in turn converted it into hydrogen gas that could be pumped into the H-racer's reservoir.

Fuel cells have been seen as a replacement for the internal combustion engine, as they provide a clean alternative to petroleum fuels. A PEM cell uses hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to create electricity, which powers the car. Water is the only byproduct.

While other types of fuel cells can use liquid hydrogen, methanol, or some other type of anode to create the same reaction, PEM cells have received presidential support as well as the formation of the H-Prize, a contest to sponsor work in hydrogen-based fuel cells. BMW, meanwhile, has said it will offer a fuel-cell powered car in 2007.

In the H-cell's case, Horizon will only provide the fuel-cell apparatus, which will include two integrated air cooling fans with LEDs for racing at night, a hydrogen storage system, and an electronic control unit, the spokesman said.

Hobbyists will need to provide their own car chassis. Although the popular TT-01 chassis was used as a testbed, any 1/10th "bathtub" chassis can be used, the spokesman said.

"In the first stage, refilling of hydrogen storage media will be provided via Horizon's specialist partners as a service to customers," the spokesman said in an email. "Later in 2007, Horizon will supply miniature canister filling units based on similar approach to its hydrogen station found in today's H-racer, a device that would need distilled water and an external power source that could include grid power or even renewable solar power for the purists."

The unit will be able to hold 20 to 40 liters of solid-state hydrogen, according to Horizon's Web site.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Behind the scenes of "Family Guy"

Video: Pauly Shore Gets Knocked Out on Stage

This is so fake. I'm sure Pauly saw what happened with Richards and how popular that video became. Now he's trying to get his career going.

Lockheed still working toward F-35 first flight

WASHINGTON, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp. said it was still working toward a first flight of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, possibly this week, but the maiden flight would not come on Monday.

Lockheed spokesman John Smith said the plane successfully completed a low speed taxi test last Thursday and received flight certification on Friday.

At a projected $276.5 billion, the planned family of radar-evading warplanes represents the Pentagon's priciest planned purchase, with more than 2,400 aircraft by 2027 for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Before its first flight, the F-35 still needs to pass medium and high speed taxi tests. Rainy weather, wind and other factors delayed those tests at Lockheed's Fort Worth, Texas test site this past week, company and program officials said.

The supersonic, multirole aircraft's development has been co-financed by eight international partners -- Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.

Smith said it was unclear exactly when those tests would now be conducted, making it difficult to predict the timing of the F-35's first flight. But he stressed that no unexpected problems had emerged.

"Everything's pretty much going along as predicted. When all the conditions line up, that's when they'll fly," he said.

Last week, Marine Brig. Gen. David Heinz, deputy director of the F-35 program, told Reuters the first flight of the next-generation fighter jet could come as early as Monday after a series of tests on the ground.

"We expect it to be this week," program spokeswoman Kathy Crawford said. "Technically there are no issues at this point."

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials have told the Navy and Air Force to fully fund the F-35 program in fiscal year 2008, according to defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute and a senior defense official.

If the White House agrees, the Pentagon will order six Air Force versions of the plane and six short-takeoff and vertical landing variants in fiscal 2008, said the official, who asked not to be named.

The Navy and Marine Corps had proposed cutting more than $1 billion of F-35 orders between 2008 and 2013, which would have delayed the airplane's initial operating capability.

"Now the program is back on track," said Thompson, who has close ties to Pentagon and Air force officials..

The single-engine F-35 is to replace aging F-16s, F/A-18 Hornets and a range of other fighter and strike aircraft for the United States and its allies over the next 30 years.