Entire Star Wars saga headed to iTunes

 

Entire Star Wars saga headed to iTunes this Friday with tons of new bonus material, pre-orders now available | 9to5Mac

Disney announced today that the entire Star Wars saga will finally be available for digital HD download later this week, marking the first time ever that the films have been offered in this format.

As confirmed in the TV spot above and the iTunes tweet below, the entire collection will be available to purchase from the iTunes Store this Friday. Pre-orders are already up and running, with each movie coming in at $19.99 for both SD and HD versions.

They are the ‘Special Editions’ apparently but still great to see Disney bringing the Star Wars universe to iTunes – finally.

iTunes vs Streaming Services

Using iTunes has always evolved with us to make sure that if we had legacy music on compact discs but we were entering the iPod era, we could still keep our music collection whilst embracing new technologies that the iTunes Store brought – namely digital music.

As the pace of technology increases ever still, digital music has now evolved to the extent where there are competitions for Apple and their dominant iTunes Store who firmly believe people should own their music. Competitors like Spotify, Rdio to name but two believe that the future of music available to the consumer should be subscription.

iTunes

With iTunes, your music is yours, it’s purchased whether that is digital songs and albums you have purchased via the iTunes Store or whether it’s CD’s that you have ripped to your computer and made available to merge with your iTunes purchases in the service they call iTunes Match. The advantage to owning your music means that is will always be available to you. You can have your music backed up and stored on cloud and local drives – no music company can, in theory, ever take away your music where as if you subscribe to a music subscription company like Spotify, there is a risk – a small risk that in future a music company can remove the rights for their artists with Spotify and therefore you wouldn’t be able to have access to that music as Jason Snell alludes to recently when talking about the video streaming industry;

Streaming-music service libraries are, for the time being, stable. Chances are good that I won’t ever turn on Beats and discover that every Death Cab for Cutie album has vanished from the service’s library.

The same, however, is not true with online video-streaming services. I was reminded of this when I discovered today that the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” series expires from Netflix on Tuesday. Someone, somewhere, will be in the middle of watching or re-watching that series next week, only to see it disappear. And it’s just one of dozens of items that will drop off of Netflix at the end of the month.

It’s not as if “Battlestar Galactica” is going out of print; you’ll be able to buy it at Amazon in digital and physical varieties, and download it from iTunes, too. Its disappearance from Netflix may coincide closely with its appearance on another streaming service. Who knows?

The point is, if you’re a Netflix subscriber—or an Amazon Prime customer, for that matter—you are binge-watching in a Barcalounger in a rumpus room built on shifting sands. If your service and the owner of the content can’t come to an agreement, if some competitor swoops in offering more money for exclusive rights, you’re out of luck. The rug can, and will, be pulled out from under you.

I love video streaming services. I subscribe to more of them than I probably should, considering that I am now technically a gentleman of leisure. But the constant disappearing of content sours the entire experience.

Subscription Music

If the stability of the subscription model continues to work, then there certainly is scope for switching to the subscription model and moving away from iTunes. Spotify for example offers a paid subscription of around £9.99 per month but this gives you access to the majority of music available in digital format including access to the latest albums and tracks when they are released. This is a very clean way to enjoy your music – apart from the option of downloading your music offline, you don’t need local or cloud storage to keep all this music. This means you can perhaps lean on the streaming way of listening to music therefore requiring smaller storage devices such as 16mb versions of your favourite device instead of the more expensive alternatives.

A subscription company like Spotify is also cross-platform meaning you can access your music on most any computer or mobile device with all your playlists synced across for convenience. If you are the type who likes to purchase music on a regular basis, then the subscription model might be the smart choice. Instead of paying the full price of an album each time, you would just be paying the monthly fee of £9.99 but you can listen to as much music as you like. This would also be beneficial due to the listen-before-you-buy-way that iTunes can’t really offer. If you bought a whole album of iTunes, listened to it and didn’t like it, you might feel aggrieved that you purchased an album you didn’t like. A subscription service like Spotify – this wouldn’t be a problem, you could you delete the album and listen to another with no added expense.

My own use case

I have a large iTunes library of music built up over the years, mostly from ripping my entire CD collection into iTunes then enabling iTunes Match to give me a merged digital library. I also like to purchase the occasional music video from iTunes where I feel sometimes a music video can add even more to a track. This enables me to build up a sort of jukebox of my favourite music videos over the years which I can enjoy on my Apple TV at home.

Although I love music, I am not one of these people who likes to listen to 2-3 albums per week/month – the music that I do buy off iTunes is normally where I have heard a track being played on TV or a friends house or at the mall – it could be anywhere and I obviously utilise Shazam to tag now with iOS 8 buy the songs I hear straight from Siri. The point is, there is maybe only ever around half a dozen tracks per month that I hear and want to own to put in my carefully crafted playlists. I don’t buy albums anymore – I buy singles and make my own playlists to replace listening to an album.

If you utilise podcasts properly, you can also do what I do and collate and listen to great new music, whatever your genre of choice for free that way. The way I looked at it was that for the majority of the year, I pay less than £9.99 per month for new music. I own it, it’s curated by me and there is no realistic chance of it going away.

Owning your music or subscribing to music is down to how much music you actually buy. If you spend more than say £9.99 per month on music, then a subscription service might be the smarter choice. For the generation like me who is from the CD and iPod era, owning your music was the only viable choice. For the new generation, buying music will seem alien to them and subscription is definitely the way of the future.

I am of the CD and iPod era in that I invested a lot of time and money in it back then to readily leave it behind. Maybe I’ll switch in the future. Maybe Beats new owners will have a say on that but for now it’s personal choice – there’s not a lot in it. For me, for the moment – I’ll stick to owning my music.

[Link] U2’s sad show was a swan song for iTunes

 

U2’s sad show was a swan song for iTunes | Cult of Mac

By giving the album away, Apple hammers another metaphysical nail in the coffin of music sales. Digital music sales declined last year for the first time since the advent of iTunes, which hastened the demise of the compact disc a decade ago.

In the face of competition from streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and the Apple-owned Beats Music, there’s simply no compelling reason to own music anymore, aside from picking up a CD when your favorite indie band rolls through town so you can get an autograph (and they can get some gas money).

Plenty of people — digital hoarders, mostly — will undoubtedly grab their free copies of the new U2 album during the iTunes-exclusive window, but how many will actually play the files they download? If you’ve got the Internet, why would you need them clogging up your smartphone or your Apple Watch?

Don’t get me wrong: Music isn’t dead. Nobody will ever stop human beings (or elephants, for that matter) from making music.

But selling records or even downloads? That’s basically a thing of the past.

I wholeheartedly agree with this. Streaming and subscription is the future but don’t write Apple off just yet – they didn’t buy Beats for their headphones (that was a bonus) iTunes will evolve…

Streaming & Subscription is the Way to Go

 

Bradley Chambers:

We’ve actually been doing it with music for years. How’s that tape collection working out for you? What about that CD collection? Can you play that in your new Mac that doesn’t have a CD player? Even digital media has a shelf life. We’ve moved from 128k songs from iTunes with DRM to 256 AAC iTunes songs. Do you think this is the end for digital music quality? As time goes along, formats will change and devices will change. You might own a lower quality version, but what about the new HD format that goes along with those fancy new bluetooth headphones that someone is probably working on? You’ll want to upgrade to new copies of your favorite albums.

Content as a Service (CaaS) is the future. I think Netflix really primed the pump for people being willing to pay for a monthly content access fee. At $9/mo, you get a decent back catalog of movies, a really nice TV show inventory, and a really nice selection of kids shows. Why do I care about owning a movie that I’ll watch one time? Why do I need to own season 3 of Breaking Bad? I’ll probably watch it 1 time. CaaS is also key for discoverability. In my testing of the Beats Music service, I’ve discovered some new artists based on some of the recommendations. I probably would not drop $10 on an album that Beats recommends to me, but I’ll certainly add it to my library and listen to it later. I know that if I hate it, I am only out a little time. With Netflix, if a movie stinks, I can turn it off. If I rent it from iTunes, I’ll be out the $5. A-la-cart pricing for media basically kills discoverability. People will go with what is safe when they are having to make a conscious decision about what to buy.

Bradley makes some interesting points. I have always embraced digital content – i.e. stop buying CD’s, DVD’s, Blu-ray’s etc but now that we have switched to digital, maybe it’s smart to stop buying digital content for when digital is no longer compatible in it’s current form soon. For music, stop buying music off iTunes – get it from Spotify or the soon-to-be-bought-by-Apple Beats Music. Get your movies & TV shows from services like Netflix or Amazon Instant. You pay a regular monthly fee but if you think about it, it’s cheaper than buying/renting 2/3 movies/albums per month and you are future proofing yourself continuously.

The Diminishing Relevance of Blu-ray

 

Yoni Heisler:

Just last week, Sony warned shareholders that revenue from the company’s 2013 fiscal year would be much lower than previously anticipated. This was, of course, in large part due to Sony’s decision to exit the PC business. But also playing a role in the company’s bleak financial picture was the diminishing relevance of Blu-ray.

Anybody in their right frame of mind could see back then that Blu-ray was never going to last. Yes, it had great quality with arguably better quality resolutions compared to its streaming and physical rivals like Netflix, iTunes etc, but the physical disc format will follow the floppy disk, CD-ROM, HD-DVD etc.,and will gradually become irrelevant going forward. Digital is the future.

A Much Faster Way To Search The App Store

A Much Faster Way To Search The App Store

Alex Heath:

Let’s be honest, searching in the iTunes Store sucks, especially on the desktop. It’s often slow, and the results are difficult to navigate. Apple has tried to simplify things by displaying one result at a time in the App Store on iOS, but that approach also means that it can take longer to find the specific app you want in a sea of knockoffs.

A new web tool called “fnd” makes it easier to quickly search and navigate not just the App Store, but the iTunes Store in general.

A much quicker and more universal search across all of Apple’s digital stores. Super useful.

iTunes Content May Actually Cost Less After U.K. Tax Change

iTunes Content May Actually Cost Less After U.K. Tax Change

Instead, Apple is serving its digital content to U.K. customers from Ireland, where the VAT rate is 23%.

The Cupertino company confirms this in the “Payment & VAT” help section on its website, which reads: “The VAT rate for Apple customers who purchase Electronic Software Downloads or other Apple products which are classified as services under EU VAT law will be 23% Irish VAT.”

“This is because the place of supply of these products under EU VAT law is Ireland as the country from where Apple Distribution International makes these supplies.”

With that being the case, customers in the U.K. will actually pay less VAT under the new rules, meaning iTunes and App Store prices should fall a little.

In reality, Apple is likely to leave them as they are and pocket the difference — but at least prices won’t be going up like you may have been led to believe.

Potentially good news! Nothing can happen until 2015 anyway but it does sound like the early reports may have jumped the gun.