NixonMcInnes: What are Microformats?

NixonMcInnes, Rant Comments Off on NixonMcInnes: What are Microformats?

My first NixonMcInnes blog post since joining in February ’08 is What are Microformats?. A suitably front-endy subject, I hope you’ll agree.

This post was originally started in April (!), but adding hCard to the NM site prompted me to rewrite and publish it.

I found writing a technical post quite tricky, as there are so many facts and descriptions that have to be checked for accuracy. It’s funny, but something you feel like a bit of an expert in suddenly feels complicated and nuanced when you want to put your knowledge out there for all to pick at. :)

Hopefully the next one won’t take quite so long.

Blu-ray vs. Playstation 3

Games, Rant Comments Off on Blu-ray vs. Playstation 3

Sony is curently going all out in pushing its new Blu-ray disc (BD) format, which is capable of holding several times the data of existing DVDs. One tactic that it is using to get Blu-ray in to people’s living rooms is by employing BD as the format of choice for its forthcoming Playstation 3 (PS3) console. If a PS3 owner already has a Blu-ray player in their home, it becomes an obvious choice over rival format HD DVD. However good an idea this might seem, Sony appears to have a bit of a conflict of interest on its hands.

Sony announced today that the release of the PS3 will be delayed until November (although the simultaneous worldwide release means that European gamers will be able to get the PS3 earlier than expected!). The reason for the delay? The copy-prevention technology in Sony’s Blu-ray disc (BD) format still needs to be finalised. This extra waiting time (for Japanese and American markets, at least) gives console rivals Microsoft and Nintendo a bit more time to build market share, all for the sake of incorporating Blu-ray.

While this does put Sony at a slight disadvantage, I don’t think it’s the main issue that will bother consumers, as PS3 will still be out in time for the all-important Christmas period. The main issue will most likely be the cost of the PS3 as a result of incorporating BD technology. If a stand-alone Blu-ray player costs, say 500, then presumably a Blu-ray player with a powerful games console on top will cost even more, surely putting the cost of a PS3 above what most people will pay for a games console.

Otherwise, Sony will have to take a loss on each PS3 sold, which is what Microsoft did to get their Xbox console established, and they have repeated this loss-making tactic with their follow-up console, Xbox 360, which launched last Autumn. The last I heard, Microsoft’s home entertainment division (I can’t remember its offical name) was still at a significant loss of several million US dollars.

In their previous generation console, the Playstation 2 (PS2), Sony made a real success of including a DVD drive. As well as providing a superior format for holding lots of game data, the fact that the 300 console was also a DVD movie player was a big selling point (at the time, DVD players were still relatively expensive). The PS2 is acknowledged as helping the uptake of DVD as a common video format.

This is presumably why they believe they can pull off the inclusion of Blu-ray in the PS3. However, there are some significant differences. Firstly, DVD was four years old when the PS2 launched, so had already established a degree of acceptance in the movie market. It was also the de facto standard for digital movie distribution, as it had no competition.

Blu-ray is only launching this year, around 6 months before the PS3, and this time there is a competing format with HD DVD entering the market at virtually the same time. The issue of cost also comes up again — a DVD player surely cost far less to include in 2001 than a brand new Blu-ray player will this year. Discs will also be more expensive so early in the format’s life cycle.

Depending whether Sony launch a very pricey console (surely 400+?), decide to take a loss on each console, or a bit of both, there’s a very good chance that they will see either their home console market share (currently around 70%), their profits, or both, eroded for the sake of sneaking Blu-ray players in to people’s homes.

The Music Industry Really Is Full of It

Music, Rant Comments Off on The Music Industry Really Is Full of It

As reported recently on the excellent ArsTechnica, the BBC asked members of the public for questions to put to a small panel from various sections of the music industry. I don’t often flag up stuff on other sites, but this brought up some issues concerning Internet distribution that, being both a musician and web-type-person, I feel are really important.

The panel consists of high-ups from the IFPI, BPI, HMV stores, and Napster (the latter of which seems to be intent on explaining why Napster is way better than iTunes Music Store). Some excellent questions were raised, but the answers were less than convincing. Quite frankly, the responses of the panel were full of spin, twisted truths, and outright lies.

They seem convinced that DRM is essential to having music distributed by ‘digital’ means – what they mean is that if services distributed music without DRM, they wouldn’t be licensing their content.

One of the most ridiculous claims is that the high price of downloadable music is due to the costs involved, but the cost of producing a track for download must be negligable in addition to the cost of producing the CD.

It’s a common misconception that the costs involved in making a record equates to the cost of the packaging. The majority of costs incurred by our record companies are for making and marketing the music itself – and these remain the same regardless of how it’s delivered. Artists, composers and all those involved in recording and marketing a track all still need to get paid. Same as when you pay 8 for a cinema ticket, you’re not paying the price of the paper the cinema ticket is printed on.

They seem to think that the album/track must be re-recorded, marketed etc. for each format that it it released on. Digitally distributed music is a rip-off. I personally refuse to pay 8/9 for an album that I can purchase a physical copy of in a music outlet for 5. Labels receive almost two-thirds of takings from a download (can’t remember the source, sorry), and all they have effectively done is give iTunes Music Store, Napster et al the nod to rip their CD as audio files.

The music industry’s attitude to both its customers and its artists (another issue altogether) is disgusting. Hopefully it will bring about the death of major labels as we know them, leaving the way clear for indie labels who actually care about music, and are not afraid to look to the future.

Sources:

Further to this, a Canadian record label has decided to defend an accused file-swapper against the RIAA! Even the labels are getting pissed off with the situation… (source: ArsTechnica)

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