More App Store Rejection Fun

Apparently, Apple has heard the public complaints about their recent rejections from the App Store. Their solution? Cover the rejection letters under NDA:

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS MESSAGE IS UNDER NON-DISCLOSURE

Nice. It’s no secret that I can be considered an Apple fan boy and all, but this is getting ridiculous. I wonder how many rejected developers will break the NDA?

SanDisk misses the point of digital music

SanDisk has unveiled a “new” music format for retail purchase, slotMusic. It has the backing of Universal Music Group, Sony BMG , Warner Music Group, and EMI on the label side; Wal-mart and Best Buy on the retail side. I say “new” because it is simply a collection of MP3 files on a microSD card.

The reason for introducing the new format:

[slotMedia] is meant to address two intertwined trends. Most albums are still sold in a physical format – 449 million were sold on CDs in 2007, while 50 million were sold digitally, according to Nielsen SoundScan – yet CDs are decreasingly popular. Albums sold on CD dropped almost 19 percent last year.

Reduced to: CD sales down (though still dominant), downloads up. I don’t think CD sales are dropping off simply because the music isn’t already in MP3 format. They are dropping off because of the ease and instant gratification of digital downloads. I still have to go to a brick & mortar store for slotMedia, and there-in lies the problem. Though, they see the release of the music on a physical medium, particularly microSD, as a plus:

“Particularly in this kind of economic climate, the idea of being able to use an electronic device you already own to enjoy music rather than going out and buying a dedicated player is pretty compelling,” said Daniel Schreiber, who heads the audio-video business unit at SanDisk, which created the microSD card format and is working on the technology behind slotMusic.

First of all, I, and many people, already own one or more devices that can play digital media without having to buy several microSD cards, or even step within a store. Secondly, the emphasized passage explains the real reasons for the “new” music format. SanDisk wants a new channel to sell their microSD cards.  But I have to ask, “technology behind slotMusic?” It’s a microSD card with unencrypted MP3 files. I have this technology with me right now: a cardreader.

Now, in all honesty, I think music distribution on flash memory is a good thing. I also think it’s good that they’re using an established format and not something new and proprietary. The timing is just off. If prices were right, the ideal time would’ve been 3-5 years ago. But given the use of a microSD card, the packaging should be smaller, reducing waste, and prices should come down, right?

The cards and dongles will come in boxes similar to current CD packaging, and Schreiber expects the cost of slotMusic releases to be “in the ballpark” of current CD prices.

Damn. It was just a thought.

New Sony 4k Projectors

While not ready for the home yet, Sony’s new 4k projectors look impressive. Each projects touts a 4,096×2,160 resolution with the T105 at 5,500 lumens and the T110 at 11,000. But at roughly $78,000 for the former and $120,000 for the latter, these are aimed squarely at large cinemas and museums (not to mention the fact that they’re being released in Japan in November). I’d still love to see some RED projects projected on one of these. I just might have to wait a bit.

Apple and Code Signing

By this point, most of us are familiar with the App Store and the controversy: why do apps have to be vetted by Apple before being deemed acceptable to install on our own devices? This is not a post specifically about that, but rather the extension of that practice.

Several months ago, I ran across a post on Rogue Amoeba’s Under the Microscope blog about code signing in Leopard. At the heart of the discussion was the following quote in an Apple mailing list:

In order to achieve the nirvana of only running valid code, the system must completely refuse to run unsigned code. Since that would really have ruined third party developers’ Leopard experience, we don’t do that in Leopard (except for the Parental Controls and firewall cases, where we surreptitiously sign unsigned programs when they are “enabled” to run).
Eventually you will all have signed your recent releases, and we’ll have fixed all the (important) bugs and closed all the (important) holes, and a switch will materialize to this effect – to refuse (at the kernel level) to run any code that isn’t valid.

Posted to apple-cdsa on March 3, 2008 ((It should be noted that I commented on that post as to who, exactly, “Perry the Cynic” was. He is an employee of Apple as past posts of his in the mailing lists will clearly indicate.))

At that time, I said that no one would accept such measures. How could people possibly use a system where all the code is signed in such a manor? The iPhone App store is certainly such a system, but it’s a closed device with the expectations of a closed device. ((Except, perhaps, for the Jailbreak community.))

However, with the apparent success of the App Store, Apple’s history of using smaller projects as test-beds for OS X, the inclusion of the Trusted Platform Module on Intel chip sets when Apple made the x86 transition ((Even though the TPM is not enabled on Intel Macs, its presence just adds fuel to the fire.)), and the support for signed code in Leopard, I have to wonder.

If Apple does indeed move to a closed system with all applications requiring signing in order to run, it will be a troubling time for those who run on Macs. Take, for example, the recent rejection of a podcasting application from the App Store:

Today I finally got a reply from Apple about the status of Podcaster.

Apple Rep says: Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.

This bears repeating: an application was rejected because it duplicates the functionality of iTunes, an Apple app.

Now, I’m usually an advocate for Apple when it comes to “the whole solution.” I believe that by having control of the hardware and the OS which runs on that hardware enables them to provide a solid experience. That, however, is as far as my advocacy for a controlled system will go.

Yes, I use iCal, Mail, Final Cut Pro, and many other Apple apps, but I do so as a choice. The minute I lose that choice is when I jump ship. No user experience, regardless of polish and ease, can justify that. Imagine if I was forced to use iChat instead of Adium, Safari instead of Firefox… Motion instead of After Effects.

This single tweet from Steven Frank illustrates the worst-case-scenario:

Scenario: Apple makes code-signing mandatory for desktop Mac applications. You can now only buy them through iTunes. Think it can’t happen?

I think it can, I just hope against hope that it doesn’t. If it does? I’ll stick with Leopard (or in some cases Tiger) until I can no longer install those systems on new hardware. Once that happens? Well, I just hope Linux will have matured enough to get the support from the software I need to use on a daily basis.

[thanks to Daring Fireball for inspiring the conversation]

Indie Film Distribution Through iTunes

According to Ars Technica, TuneCore, a service which has made it possible for pretty much anyone to sell songs on iTunes is now doing the same for indie film makers. Apparently, all it takes is a flat, upfront fee, you get to keep all the profit from the stores which you choose to sell your film through. Albums range from $20-30, while film fees depend on the length; $550 for a 60-minute, $770 for a 90-minute feature.

This sounds like a great option. I know many people who have a difficult time getting distribution in the physical arena. This would allow their films to reach audiences around the world for a small fraction of the overall budget. I’m looking forward to finding new indie films up on iTunes.

Wired: Red Digital Cinema

Red Digital Cinema, creators of the Red One 4k camera, is profiled in Wired magazine this month. The Red One is an amazing piece of tech (though the post workflow is still continually evolving), and this piece by Michael Behar goes a long way in explaining why. Though John Gruber puts it more succinctly:

[The] Red One movie camera is, dollar-for-dollar, the best and most amazing camera in the world. It sells for $17,500 — but if you think that sounds expensive, consider that the equivalent film camera rents for $25,000 per month…