Irresponsible Reporter of NYT

Today I read the article “My Songs, My Format” by New York Times’ Sean Captain (Late Edition – Final, Section C, Page 9, Column 1) and it erupted me to write the following letter to the Editor at New York Times (NYT).

Dear Editor,I was appalled to read such an article from New York Times.

Mr. Captain’s article is truly bias and had not explained clearly the facts about the topics he touched on. It would be very misleading to a layman reader of the article.

For example, Mr. Captain never explain the “AAC” codec (Encoder/Decoder), but instead referring it to “Apple’s format”. Implying that it is a proprietary format created by Apple. That is not the case.

The “AAC” format is part of the industry standard for MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, the version that Apple promotes is AAC MPEG-4, which commonly agreed by industry expert as having a better compression and sound quality than the MP3 format.

Aside from that Mr. Captain also fail to explain the concept of “bps” (Bits per Seconds), which is also very important when talking about compression formats and particularly important when comparing different codecs. One can not compare bit rates of different codecs directly. That like comparing apples and oranges.

Mr. Captain also fail to point out that there are many other MP3 players our there which also supports the AAC format.

As Mr. Captain correctly points out that Apple is a trend setter. Like when Apple removed the floppy disk player from their computers, “Macintosh” 5 years ago, everyone was up in arms calling it a stupid move that will destroy Apple’s market share. Now we see that other major manufactures are also following Apple’s directions and removed the floppy drive as standard equipment from the computers they manufacture.

Going back even further about 13 years ago, when Apple send out all their developers resources in CD-ROM format, the critics were all calling this a bad move, which is designed to force Apple’s developers to purchase the more expensive (at the time) CD ROM player option in their Macintosh. This took another 5 years for the rest of the world to realize that CD-ROM is a much better and preferred medium by the consumers.

Apple in the past had always try their best to stick with industry accepted Standards. Some times these Standards are well established in other times they may be recently approved as Standards, and lastly Apple’s own technology is adapted as Standards (ie. QuickTime, IEEE-1394 aka Firewire aka i-Link).

For a publication like New York Times, I believe it has much better integrity that to publish something that is so misleading to the average reader that cause them to draw an incorrect conclusion about the subject. As for Mr. Captain, he should be much more responsible to verify and clarify his facts and terminologies in his article, rather than to allow the readers to do the verifications themselves before coming to a conclusion about his article.

I am sure that Mr. Captain does not intentionally want to mislead the New York Times readers. I urge you to insist on a retractile or a following clarification article to this one by Mr. Captain.

Unfortunately, due to the commercialization of New York Times online I am not able to provide the link (URL) to the actual article on NYT’s web site.

iTunes Music Store – Japan

Again the news of a possible Apple’s, industry leading, iTunes Music Store for the Japanese market is in the news.

This rumor had been around for over a year now, each came with possible launch dates. The difference this time, is that the news is from the Asian recording company Avex (Chinese only site), which announced an agreement with Apple to distribute its holdings through Apple’s iTunes Music Store starting August of this year. Of course, true to Apple’s tradition, they have no comments on any unannounced product.

Given that Avex has one of the largest collection of works from Asian artists. The possibility of iTunes Music Stores exploding in the major Avex countries (Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Taiwan) is inevitable. I truly hope I am correct, since I have been waiting for iTMS to arrive in Hong Kong ever since iTMS was launched by Apple.

This is good news for all those music lovers (like myself) in Asia who want to and willing to purchase our music via the online medium.

It is not that there are not already legal downloads in Asia (for example EOLAsia), but the entry of the market leader into the area is definitely a significant indicator for all those record labels that are still on the fence.

While Asia is one of the most challenging market for companies like Apple to push legal downloads of content. I am sure all of Apple’s competitors are watching to see how well Apple can pull this off. Since everyone knows that IP pirating is a major problem for most Asian countries.

When I used to work for SPSS, the Sales & Marketing team used to joke about the fact that they “sell a million copies of SPSS worldwide, but one to Asia”.

Let’s hope that the theory of “most people are honest and good” prevail and Apple can make these new Asian versions of the iTMS as successful as they did in the US and Europe.

Battle of the Online Music Stores

Yesterday Apple launched 4 more “localized” version of its ever popular iTunes Music Store in the nordic countries: Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the neutral country Switzerland.

Today Yahoo officially “soft” launch; since it still have the “Beta” lable, its music subscription service, ” Yahoo Music Unlimited”.

Unlike Apple’s offering, Yahoo’s new sevice is subscription based like those from its competitors: Napster’s “NapsterToGo” service and RealNetworks’s “RealRhapsody” service. Also like its competitors, it requires Microsoft Windows’ proprietary technology to play these tracks from the service, and the Windows OS platform to use its client software.

Where as Apple’s offering is open (some what), at least its client application is available on both Windows OS and Macintosh OS platforms. Tracks purchased from iTunes Music Store are playable on the dominant portable music player, iPod. This is due to the embedded DRM (Digital Rights Management) system.

It looks like Micrsoft may be doing it again. Getting content providers: Napster, RealNetworks, AOL and now Yahoo, plus the numerous hardware manufactures: Creative Labs, Dell, iRiver, to use its Windows DRM system.

Not that Apple is giving away its DRM software but Microsoft’s approach is try to force its technology onto everyone else. Instead of Apple’s approach of adopting or convicing the Standards bodies to adopt its technology as the official standard.

There’s really no need to say which way I think is the right way. Although, Apple had done this before with Macintosh OS and now it owns only 3% of the personal computer market.

Therefore, it is worrysome to me; and should be to all consumers, that manufactures and software developers are continuing to focus on revenue and profit rather than devloping Standards to move technologies forward. The ones that will lose in the end are us, consumers of technology and the services they deliver.

Someone please do the right thing.

Switch Or Not To Switch

About 3 years ago Apple Computers began an advertising campaign and section of their web site; “Switch” dedicated to the Windows users who recently switched to the Macintosh platform, or as Apple puts it “seen the light”. The just of the campaign was just to share the stories and experience of prior Windows users who recently switched to the Macintosh platform.

With PDAs there had been a similar migration, but from Palm OS to Windows Pocket PC, but the stories and experience is not as favorable for Microsoft.

I recently was speaking to one such PDA user who switched from a Palm device to a HP iPaq. One important thing is that this individual had been a happy Palm user for many years and the only reason she is using an iPaq is because her previous Palm died on her, and her (non-technical) boyfriend decided to buy her a replacement, but bought her in stead a HP iPaq.

For a layman average PDA user, the iPaq and more specifically the Windows Pocket PC is not as easy to use and more complex compared to the Palm OS. After a few months use of the iPaq she is now fallen back to use Post-It Notes. It got to a point where she has Post-It Notes stuck to the back of the iPaq. Now that is ironic. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me otherwise I would have a picture of it here.

This individual has decided that she will purchase a new Palm device very soon.

So as you can see forcing people to switch is not the right approach. Apple and Steve Jobs had the right idea. Steve always thought that his company has good products and they will just speak for itself. So he and his company just concentrate on developing amazing revolutionary products.