US firm Apple has unveiled a music-oriented social network that is bundled in with iTunes, further blurring the boundaries between the communications and internet worlds.
With the launch of iTunes 10 comes Ping, a social network catering to more than 160 million iTunes users in 23 countries and putting artists in touch with their fans with all the typical tools such as photos and videos, tour dates and comments and shared playlists. Naturally, ping is incorporated into the iPhone and iPod Touch as well as iTunes on the desktop.
Meanwhile, almost simultaneously, Japanese electronics firm Sony lifted the curtain on its own music and movies store dubbed Qriocity. Details are scant but Sony will be pushing a similar model to Apple, catering to its customers base of network-enabled Bravia TV, Blu-ray player, PlayStation and Vaio computer users and potentially, Sony Ericsson devices too.
The platform will hit the US and Europe later this year and will seek to merge TV viewing and the internet by allowing viewers to simultaneously search and access all TV channels as well as web-based applications from the same device.
During the Apple keynote on Wednesday, chief executive Steve Jobs also unveiled an update to the Apple TV product line, which has been available since 2007 but has not been a big hit for the firm.
The revamp was disappointing. According to Giles Cottle, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, “What we ended up with was merely a smaller, less expensive version of the same box, with broadly the same content as was available on the first Apple TV.“
Cottle acknowledges that including TV episode rentals is a step forward, but will be a small market in the short term at least, as equivalent physical products are priced more aggressively. “Consumers will be paying $100 for a box that does little but allow them to rent video content from Apple; a hard sell to anyone that is not a die-hard Apple fan,” he said. Apple will be competing against devices like TVs and games consoles that consumers see as a primary component of their connected homes, rather than a secondary equivalent and while Apple is already the market leader in the online movies and TV space, and the new Apple TV will only increase this stranglehold, this is still only a very small part of the future TV picture.
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