Apple publishes ‘Optimizing Web Applications and Content for iPhone’

Apple published Guidelines for developing web content for the iPhone over at http://developer.apple.com/iphone/. It’s good to see a focus on standards based development being encouraged there, it makes sense given that the Safari browser on the iPhone has great support for XHTML and CSS, particularly CSS 3 properties – of which the iPhone makes particular use of, more of that in a moment.

Quick overview of the Guidelines…

The guidelines are split into several sections:

  • Understand User-iPhone Interaction
  • Use Standards and Tried-and-True Design Practices
  • Integrate with Phone, Mail, and Maps
  • Optimize for Page Readability
  • Ensure a Great Audio and Video Experience
  • Know What Safari Supports on iPhone
  • Connect With Web Developers

Understand User-iPhone Interaction

This section introduces you to the whole concept of interacting with the iPhone, mainly that the input device is not a mouse but your hand so it’s not as precise as a mouse so web interfaces for the iPhone need larger click targets to interact with. As has been pointed out on various blogs there is no copy and paste, but there is also no drag and drop or text selection either so this is another factor to keep in mind.

Safari on iPhone doesn’t have windows that can be moved around or have scroll bars like a conventional browser, content is resized intelligently to fit the viewing area, it is recommended to avoid wide blocks of text. Double-tapping is used to zoom in to content.

Use Standards and Tried-and-True Design Practices

This section really reinforces the use of web standards for designing pages for the iPhone. Makes the point that Safari on iPhone uses a ‘real’ browser in that it doesn’t use stylesheets targeted towards handheld devices, it’s intended to give a rich browsing experience by supporting HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0, CSS 2.1, partial CSS 3.xx, JavaScript 1.4, DOM support, AJAX, XMLHTTPRequest.

It encourages the use of separate HTML, CSS and Javascript as well as using valid HTML, and also optimised images and script content to keep sites running smoothly.

Apple published Guidelines for developing web content for the iPhone over at http://developer.apple.com/iphone/. It’s good to see a focus on standards based development being encouraged there, it makes sense given that the Safari browser on the iPhone has great support for XHTML and CSS, particularly CSS 3 properties – of which the iPhone makes particular use of, more of that in a moment.

Quick overview of the Guidelines…

The guidelines are split into several sections:

  • Understand User-iPhone Interaction
  • Use Standards and Tried-and-True Design Practices
  • Integrate with Phone, Mail, and Maps
  • Optimize for Page Readability
  • Ensure a Great Audio and Video Experience
  • Know What Safari Supports on iPhone
  • Connect With Web Developers

Understand User-iPhone Interaction

This section introduces you to the whole concept of interacting with the iPhone, mainly that the input device is not a mouse but your hand so it’s not as precise as a mouse so web interfaces for the iPhone need larger click targets to interact with. As has been pointed out on various blogs there is no copy and paste, but there is also no drag and drop or text selection either so this is another factor to keep in mind.

Safari on iPhone doesn’t have windows that can be moved around or have scroll bars like a conventional browser, content is resized intelligently to fit the viewing area, it is recommended to avoid wide blocks of text. Double-tapping is used to zoom in to content.

Use Standards and Tried-and-True Design Practices

This section really reinforces the use of web standards for designing pages for the iPhone. Makes the point that Safari on iPhone uses a ‘real’ browser in that it doesn’t use stylesheets targeted towards handheld devices, it’s intended to give a rich browsing experience by supporting HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0, CSS 2.1, partial CSS 3.xx, JavaScript 1.4, DOM support, AJAX, XMLHTTPRequest.

It encourages the use of separate HTML, CSS and Javascript as well as using valid HTML, and also optimised images and script content to keep sites running smoothly.

Integrate with Phone, Mail, and Maps

This section starts to get to more of the iPhone specific code examples that hook into the dedicated apps on the iPhone. You can click on Telephone numbers in Safari and the number will be automatically dialled, Safari will automatically convert numbers that look like phone numbers into telephone links. However you can format a telephone link on purpose:

<a href="tel:1-408-555-5555">1-408-555-5555</a>

Email links are in the standard format and open up Mail in order to send an email., links to Google maps take the standard link format also but these are opened up into the dedicated Google Maps application on the phone. I believe that links to YouTube movies do something similar but there is no mention of this in this section.

Optimize for Page Readability

This section gets more interesting and links back to my initial mention of CSS 3 properties. If you want to provide a particular window size for a page to be viewed on the iPhone you can set an iPhone specific stylesheet by using a CSS 3 media query like so:

<link media="only screen and (max-device-width: 480px)"
href="iPhone.css" type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" />

There are more guidelines for laying content out for the iPhone viewport such as a recommended width of 320px so that the layout doesn’t change between portrait and landscape modes. It also details some webkit specific CSS properties to help control text sizing. Image formats supported are JPG, PNG, GIF and TIFF.

Ensure a Great Audio and Video Experience

Formats and bitrate advice is provided here to help optimise video for WIFI and EDGE network capacities. Maximum video dimensions of 480 x 360px are recommended. Formats supported are H.264, MPEG-4, AAC-LC, .mov, .mp4, .m4v, .3gp file format, video or audio that can play on an iPod.

There is advice for the server side of providing audio and video for use on the iPhone too, interestingly the RTSP protocol is not supported but apparently only video via HTTP streaming.

Know What Safari Supports on iPhone

This set of guidelines covers the resource capacity of Safari on the iPhone. Downloaded resources such as CSS, HTML, Javascript, images or other non-streamed media must be less than 10Mb. Javascript execution is limited to 5 seconds before it times out, this will really mean people having to review their use of the various javascript libraries available and make sure that only the bare essentials are present. Interesting to see how Adobe’s Spry library stands up on the iPhone.

Other information covers support for files including the various mime types, PDF is supported but not (as has been widely covered on various blogs!) Flash or Java. I think various browser testing scripts for detecting Flash will need to be updated to factor in the iPhone’s lack of flash support. I wonder how long it will be before we see Flash on the iPhone? It surely must be coming, seems like a missing piece of a puzzle to me? It also covers the Security support of Safari such as SSL and RSA.

Connect With Web Developers

It ends with some useful web development links including W3C, WHAT-WG and Web Kit project site.

There’s a real push throughout about the fact that web standards and associated best practices are an integral part of creating successful sites that work well on the iPhone safari browser.

When I’ve got a moment I’ll try out a the iPhone specific code, especially now that my friend Alyn seems to have successfully gotten his iPhone activated, more about that on his blog I’m sure.

~Rick

Update on the ‘Four Mysteries of the Universe…’

Back in April I wrote a post entitled "Four mysteries of the Universe…" where I pondered over a few unanswered questions:

  1. Adobe’s European pricing for the CS3 suite
  2. Availability of AVCHD capable video editing software
  3. When are Apple finally going to ditch the really old Mac OSX 10.2-ish looking aqua pin-stripe header / main navigation graphics from their website
  4. Will there ever be a new version of Director released by Adobe?

Well, interestingly 3 out of those 4 questions have been answered! The only one outstanding is #1 – Adobe’s European pricing for the CS3 suite. I’ve yet to hear a better answer than exchange rate differences or pricing structures in global locales. On the plus side though Adobe’s profits are up 24%! ;)

Strike 2: AVCHD editing software

#2 mystery was solved when Sony finally brought out a new version of their Sony Vegas video editing software to allow those who bought their HDR-SR1 six months to edit their HD video footage!

Strike 3: Updated Apple.com website

#3 mystery was partially solved last week when Apple updated their website and got rid of the aqua pin-stripe navigation graphics. Although I have to say partially solved as the UK site has yet to be updated. I don’t really understand why the UK lags behind on offerings by Apple, when new products are announced they never appear until a few hours later than the US site. Don’t get me started on the unavailability of TV shows and Movies in iTunes, or maybe the iPhone but I’m not so bothered about that as it’s only just coming out in the US, but TV shows and movies have been available in the US for about 2 years now!

Strike 4: A new version of Director from Adobe

#4 mystery was solved after I’d been pestering a few people at Adobe for an answer to whether there would be a new version of Director coming anytime soon. I got an email reply from someone who pointed me to the Director FAQ page which states, albeit slightly uncommittedly:

Adobe has not published an official time frame for the next release of Director and generally does not disclose details of new releases more than 30 days before a product is expected to ship. However, our current planning assumption is that the next major release of Director will be in the second half of 2007.

Unfortunately I was too late to get on the Beta testing programme for Director, I would have loved to have had an opportunity to help test the next version of Director.

I’m glad it’s an app that’s going to continue to be developed although I do feel there is a big challenge being presented by the whole AIR (formerly Apollo) project and advances in Flash like PaperVision3D.

I’m a bit concerned that the lack of real announcements about this has caused many to consider Director dead in the water, I look forward to there being a public beta on Adobe Labs!

Other news…

Apple just announced updated information about the iPhone, namely that it will have longer than expected battery life and an ‘optical quality glass screen’ rather than plastic. The iPhone’s battery will provide:

  • 8 hours of talk time
  • 6 hours of Internet use
  • 7 hours of video playback
  • 24 hours of audio playback
  • 250 hours – more than 10 days of standby time.

Oh, and the Olympics 2012 logo still sucks! Also Hi to students from New College, Pontefract, thanks for your ‘insightful’ comments on my ‘Historical overview of Olympic logos’ article ;)

~Rick

Thoughts on WWDC07 keynote announcements / rumours

Rumours of iTunes movie rentals

If this turns out to be true then it means the FairPlay DRM scheme must now have the ability to do time-limited control of playback capabilities. This will definitely make a good addition for those with an AppleTV. If this story is true then the BBC iPlayer team should go talk to Apple right now!

Safari for Windows

Wow, I hadn’t thought about this, but seeing as Adobe’s Apollo (now known as AIR) initiative uses WebKit and runs cross-platform then it makes sense that a native Windows version of Safari would be possible. This will be very handy for web developers ‘stuck’ on Windows! It’s available now as a beta for OSX and Windows.

OSX 10.5 Leopard preview

Great looking set of features in there, I’m really liking the changes to the look and feel of the user interface. The iTunes-esque Finder looks to be a good update, I’m wondering how well those who really hate the current finder will take to this, will it be an improvement or not? I’ve not seen any concrete evidence that the Finder has been substantially rewritten, will this be the end of spinning beachballs when network volumes disappear?

~Rick

Nokia Media Transfer beta for OSX

I just came across a link in my feeds giving a heads up about a new OSX beta download from Nokia, it’s for an application called Nokia Media Transfer. At first I thought it would just be some badly ported software for Mac, but it’s actually pretty good. It manages the setup and control of audio & video media files from your phone.

The cool part is that it sets up your phone’s camera to be a source camera for iPhoto, Image capture etc. So no need to manually transfer and import the files, it will just sync up over bluetooth when you start iPhoto. It will also do the same with iTunes, syncing playlists etc.

I don’t use my phone for music but I do take a fair amount of photos with it so the iPhoto integration is pretty cool. There is also an application called Nokia Device Browser which can be used to browse the files and folders on your phone, it works much better than the default OSX bluetooth file browser, there’s a screen shot of device browser in action below.

Here’s a few screenshots of some of the screens involved:

Nokia Media Transfer application icon

Nokia Media Transfer application icon

Menubar options

Picture of Menu bar options

Expanded Menubar options

Expanded menubar options

Device settings for my Nokia N80

Picture of Device settings

iPhoto source menu showing N80

Picture of iPhoto source menu

Device Browser

Picture of Nokia Device Browser

All in all Nokia Media Transfer looks pretty good, it definitely isn’t just a piece of badly ported software. If Nokia can manage to make the software experience better then they will be going a long way to getting out of the trap that many hardware device manufacturers find themselves in, that of having great hardware but absolutely terrible software. Sony, I’m looking in your direction!

To use Nokia Media Transfer you will need Mac OS X 10.4.9 or higher, iTunes 7 or higher, and iPhoto 6 or higher.

~Rick

Four Mysteries of the Universe…

Why the AppleTV isn’t such a new concept for Apple…

Although Apple have for some time had games available for the iPod many people have wondered if Apple would release games that would be playable on the Mac itself. Although not always considered the greatest gaming platform, due to the smaller amount of games available, the Mac has never the less had some great mainstream games available. But Apple has never developed any games itself for the Mac.

Picture of Apple's Pippin games consoleIf you’re new to the Mac platform you may not be aware that Apple has in fact dabbled in the gaming market before, just not for the Mac itself!

Apple actually developed a games console in the mid 1990s called ‘Pippin‘, it was intended to be a platform that they would license to third parties instead of releasing it themselves.

Unfortunately it wasn’t very successful due to the more powerful Playstation 1 and Nintendo 64 which were available at the time. Bandai were the only games company who licenced the Pippin and they only sold a few thousand units at the time.

It’s interesting that a licencing model was the goal for the Pippin as it was at this time that Apple also ran their first and only official Mac Clone program which allowed other companies to develop and sell their own hardware which was capable of running the Mac OS.

Another interesting thing about the Pippin is that it ran a cut down version of Mac OS as it’s operating system, if you’re familiar with the buzz around Apple’s latest release the AppleTV and the upcoming iPhone then you’ll know that they both1 run essentially a cut-down version of Mac OSX.

The AppleTV – Mk I?

Picture ofthe Apple Interactive Television BoxAnother perhaps little known fact is that Apple have also developed a prototype set-top box for delivering interactive TV once before. Simply known as the ‘Apple Interactive Television Box‘ this device preceded the Pippin by 1 or 2 years, it was never actually released for sale though and was cancelled at a very late stage of development.

Although far from having the capabilities of the AppleTV it does show that Apple have had a long standing interest in becoming part of the home entertainment ecosystem within people’s houses.

It was likely that this unit was intended to deliver content via the cable providers of the time such as standard TV shows but allowing play and pause functionality. The intention was also to provide interactive content in the form of quiz shows and educational content.

The seeds of an idea, but not time for harvest

Both of these concepts had some interesting ideas at the core, but due to bad timing they never amounted to anything. It’s interesting to note that both of these concepts were developed during the period in Apple’s history when Steve Jobs was not in the company, whether these concepts would have been developed under Steve Jobs’ leading is hard to say, but the previously mentioned Mac Clones program was swiftly closed down upon his return to the company in late 1997. I think it likely the Pippin and Interactive Television Box would not have seen the light of day.

Picture of AppleTVAppleTV: Game on

Since the announcement of the AppleTV there has been a lot of speculation as to its capabilities, did it have some hidden functions that hadn’t been announced at the time? The possibility of additional functionality seemed likely and it didn’t take long after the release of iTunes 7.1 before people had a snoop around in the resources of the software to look for clues to any hidden purposes for the AppleTV.

Inside the software there are strings of text used to display the various messages and alerts shown whilst using the software, interestingly amongst these strings are these:

“4309.161” = “Are you sure you want to sync games? All existing games on the Apple TV ?^1? will be replaced with games from this iTunes library.”;”
4309.162″ = “Are you sure you do not want to sync games? All existing games on the Apple TV ?^1? will be removed.”;

The presence of these strings clearly shows that at the very least some of the games available for the iPod will also be playable on the AppleTV. How much more sophisticated the games available will be remains to be seen, when you consider the possible input device(s) that could be used with the device then there’s no reason why these games have to be as simple as the iPod games. There’s a whole range of ports on the AppleTV including the USB port which so far Apple has said is purely there for ‘maintenance purposes’.

In an interview on Wired.com, Greg Canessa – the Vice-President of PopCap games – specifically mentioned the AppleTV as one of the target platforms for their development:

It will be about taking the stable of franchises and games out of PopCap’s studio and adapting, customizing it for different platforms — adding multiplayer, new play modes, HD, customizing the user interface and display for Zune, ipod, Apple TV, Nintendo DS, PSP.

Notably missing perhaps from that list is the Nintendo Wii console, whether this is intentional or not is hard to say but given the runaway success of the Wii despite it not being as powerful as it’s contemporaries the Playstation 3 and XBox 360 shows that gameplay is not all about raw power. The AppleTV may not have the raw power of the XBox or Playstation but it may offer something close to the capabilities of the Wii, or perhaps even more given the Wii’s lack of HD playback capabilities.

Ripening opportunity2

Great design and application is something that Nintendo and Apple both share, it may be that Apple are looking to take advantage of the increase in popularity of the casual gaming market that Nintendo have cornered so well and to take a slice of that for themselves. The old ideas of the Pippin and the Interactive Television Box look like they have re-emerged from the ashes to a far more opportune time.

~Rick

1: The iPhone definitely runs OSX, the AppleTV is rumoured to do so and it seems very likely that this is the case.

2: Sorry, this post was full of Apple related puns, not all of them intentional originally!

PureTracks.com to go DRM free – tipping the balance? [updated]

With all the recent hubbub about DRM and downloadable Music tracks it has perhaps comes across as purely rhetoric by a lot of the record labels.

Some people have called into question Steve Jobs’ motives over the whole ‘Thoughts on Music’ letter as being simply a smokescreen to deflect the grumblings within various European companies.

Whatever your opinion on the matter there is some positive movements happening within the Music download industry, money being put where their mouth is so to speak.

PureTracks.

iPodObserver.com reports that Puretracks.com has announced the removal of DRM from their music files, starting with the Independent labels and adding more DRM-free tracks as time goes on.

Interestingly PureTracks previously used Windows DRM for their files which means the tracks would have been in Windows Media Audio format files, this move indicates that it will make use of pure MP3 format files as PureTracks have indicated that the will work on iPods. It does appear there will be a mix of both DRM’ed and DRM-free tracks available depending on the Record Label’s preference.

If PureTracks can mix it up, why not iTunes?

I’m playing devils advocate here I guess but I’m wondering if there’s no way that the iTunes Store couldn’t offer a mix of track types? My original thought is that Apple would prefer to keep the user experience simple, so offering some tracks with DRM and some without would be a bit confusing for the user. However, John Gruber of DaringFireball.net wrote an interesting article “Would Apple Mix DRM and Non-DRM Music at the iTunes Store?” which has some interesting points. Maybe there’s scope for a mixture after all?

Update: A couple of interesting links…

Rick Moynihan left a comment pointing to an article by Cory Doctorow regarding Steve Job’s call for removal of DRM from music tracks. I also came across an interesting article on the LA Times website which gives another interesting perspective on the call for removal of DRM, both definitely worth reading.

~Rick

Open doors, not closed Windows?

This post is a bit of a follow-up to my last post ‘Dear BBC…‘ regarding the BBC’s new iPlayer proposal which is going to use Windows Media DRM to deliver the files. This is basically just a few thoughts / ponderings based on things I’ve been reading related to this whole issue.

Windows Media DRM, is it the only solution to the iPlayer requirements?

I’ve been looking around a little bit to see if there are any alternatives to using Windows Media DRM (I’m going to refer to this as WMDRM for short herein) for delivering the media that the BBC want to make available. The main reason that WMDRM has been chosen is that it is apparently the only form of DRM that will provide the means for the content to time out at the appropriate point. The BBC’s proposal suggests that programmes will be available to download for up to seven days after original broadcast but that the files will be valid for up to thirty days after downloading.

Now what I wondered is whether WMDRM really is the only option available for delivering this kind of time-sensitive protection, so far though I haven’t really found an alternative DRM. I have heard rumours that Apple’s FairPlay DRM has this kind of development in the pipeline though, the more I think about it I reckon Apple already has something like this working. However, given that Apple’s model of selling content on the iTunes Store is purely for outright purchase rather than ‘renting’ content coupled with the fact that Apple don’t currently licence their DRM to anyone else there is no need for Apple to implement this kind of model in practice. But I’m pretty sure they’ve got this kind of function written into FairPlay if / when they want to use it.

A couple of points of possible interest for alternative DRMs I found are:

  • Real Networks Helix – Real Helix platform (of note is that Real for a while managed to reverse engineer Apple’s FairPlay and offered the only online music store that could deliver Music using their own format as well as DRM’ed Windows Media and FairPlay’ed DRM tracks for use on iPods, however Apple put a stop to that functionality in various software updates, plus Real generally got slated for their accompanying PR campaign.)
  • OpenIPMP – Described as ‘Open source DRM for MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 adhering to ISO/MPEG IPMP open standards (MPEG IPMP Hooks and IPMP-X), ISMAcryp and OMA DRM 2 specs. Includes CA, PKI, DOI mgmt, ISMA streaming, license server, encoding/encryption, player, plugin architecture, etc‘.

The only good DRM is NO DRM?

Perhaps a better option is to not use DRM at all? A growing number of companies, organisations and people seem to think so. About a year ago the British Library expressed concern about the impact DRM has on their ability to ensure long-term access to copyrighted content, part of the British Library’s role is to catalogue everything published in the UK. DRM makes this difficult or impossible and getting round it, perhaps, illegal.

At the recent Midem music trade fair in Cannes the topic of selling music without DRM was discussed, perhaps this shows a turning of the tide by the Labels considering DRM-free distribution as the way forward. EMI has already experimented with DRM free music sales through Yahoo Music using raw MP3 format audio files.

There are perhaps several reasons why the Record Labels may be interested in selling tracks without DRM, one of which is the Labels’ desire to have better control over the music market, something that DRM stops them from doing. Another reason is that some Labels seem to perceive the iTunes Store market dominance as some kind of monopoly hold over the labels, this is true to the extent that Steve Jobs has resisted the Label’s demands for a different pricing structure based on popularity of tracks rather than the standard $0.99 / £0.79 per track model used by iTunes and many other online music stores. There are growing calls from European countries for Apple to open up their FairPlay DRM to licensing, Norway being the most recent country to rule that the FairPlay DRM terms and conditions violates local laws.

I’ve heard and read people say that Apple want to keep FairPlay DRM in place without licensing as it ensures their iPod hardware and iTunes Store sales continue to be successful. However, I’ve always felt that FairPlay DRM’s restrictions are about the least restrictive out there, couple this with Steve Jobs resistance to the Record Labels’ attempts to place further restrictions (albeit with some compromise regarding CD burning) and it’s never appeared to me that Apple would enforce DRM if they had a choice, they did promote the ‘Rip, Mix and Burn’ meme after all!

Joking aside though, my feeling on this seems to be confirmed by an article by Steve Jobs posted on Apple.com on 6th February entitled ‘Thoughts on Music’. The article contains a lot of interesting bits of information, it gives a background to how we got to the current state we are in regarding DRM and music. Steve also proposes three possible ways forward regading selling music online:

  1. Continue with the way things are with multiple competing DRM schemes.
  2. Apple to open up FairPlay DRM.
  3. Abolish DRM entirely.

Steve gives a good explanation of what is involved for options 1 & 2, however, the third option is the most interesting:

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

So, there it is, straight from the horses mouth so to speak. If there was ever any doubt about Apple’s thoughts / motives regarding DRM I think Steve Jobs just made it quite clear.

What’s this got to do with iPlayer? Is DRM a necessary evil in this instance?

I think it highlights the two different functions or types of DRM in use: One for outright purchased content and one for leased or time-sensitive content. It does appear potentially that there is no need for DRM on purchased content but that there is a need for protecting content that publishers want to make available for a limited period of time. Mmm, so, I’m not really any further forward at presenting an alternative solution for the BBC in regards to the iPlayer’s DRM am I? Here’s a few thoughts:

  • Apple could step up to the mark and make a version of FairPlay available to the BBC that allows time-sensitive content.
  • Adobe could step in here and make a DRM method for their Flash player format, especially ideal with the recent launch of the Flash player for Linux

Apart from those couple of thoughts I’m not sure of a way forward, so I’m still not very happy with the current BBC iPlayer proposal. Amongst the details of the BBC Trust’s proposal is discussion of other methods of delivery such as peer-to-peer file sharing, according to Wikipedia the BBC have done some tests using a peer-to-peer system called Kontiki. I’m not sure this really offers anything other than a different method of delivery rather than an alternative DRM method though. Of interest though is a new venture called Joost that was created by the original founders of Skype, their ‘About us’ page states:

Joost™ is a new way to watch TV, free of the schedules and restrictions that come with traditional television. Combining the best of TV with the best of the internet, Joost™ gives you more control and freedom than ever before – control over what you watch, and freedom to watch it whenever you like. We’re providing a platform for the best television content on the planet – a platform that will bring you the biggest and best shows from the TV studios, as well as the specialist programs created by professionals and enthusiasts. It’s all overlaid with a raft of nifty features that help you find the shows you love, watch and chat with friends, and even create your own TV channels.

So, an interesting delivery model but it doesn’t provide an answer to the challenge of finding an alternative DRM for use with the BBC iPlayer proposal.

Perhaps if Music becomes DRM-free, TV / Video will follow suit?

Steve Jobs’ article cites the fact that 90% of music sold is via CD format that contains no DRM whatsoever and this is the reason why DRM for music online makes no sense as it is so readily available in non-drm form. In contrast TV shows and Movies on DVD are primarily in a protected format so that argument doesn’t hold up there. Is it really feasible to expect the BBC and any other provider of TV / Video content to make it available without DRM? I can’t really see it happening, although anything that is distributed using those methods is sure to have it’s DRM circumvented and the content finding it’s way onto sites such as YouTube, Google video and other web sites. It’s still probably a losing battle for the Movie / TV industry but one that I don’t think they’ll yield too in a hurry.

Finishing up, any ideas?

Researching and writing this has made me have a little empathy with the BBC’s situation. They are facing, like Apple did with the big music labels when they proposed the iTunes Store, the requirement to provide a protected way to distribute digital files to satisfy the holders of the copyrighted material. I haven’t really found an obvious viable alternative, other than just dropping DRM altogether.

Anybody got any other ideas / suggestions? If you do then don’t forget you have an opportunity to give feedback on the BBC Trust’s proposals. I encourage you to check out the questionnaire on the BBC Trust website, paying particular attention to question #5:

"How important is it that the proposed seven-day catch-up service over the internet is available to consumers who are not using Microsoft software?"

Don’t forget that the Microsoft DRM the BBC iPlayer will use will also limit functionality for certain older Windows OS’s too, so it’s not just an issue for Mac OSX and Linux users!

I’m of course interested to hear people’s thoughts on this in the comments below too :)

Update: Interesting links

~Rick

What’s the future for ‘iTunes’?

Ever since Macworld San Francisco I’ve been wondering about the future strategy for the iTunes application in regards to it’s name. I mean I know that the Store is known just as the ‘iTunes Store’ and not the ‘iTunes Music Store now but ‘iTunes’ is still a pretty specific reference to Music really.

Not just music…

As the iTunes Store has for a while sold TV Shows and Movies (at least if you live in the US, not for me in the UK though) then it’s pretty obvious that there’s more to it than just music. However, what I’m really talking about is the actual iTunes application. For the last couple of major versions it has supported playback of video as well as audio, this hasn’t been hard to miss. However, the changes that have been slightly under the radar has been the fact that synchronisation of non-music features such as Contacts from the Mac OSX Address Book application, once something handled by the (increasingly redundant!) iSync application, is now handled inside iTunes.

The iPhone effect

With the announcement of the iPhone then it’s a no-brainer that this handling of Contact information is going to be even more important, perhaps even genuinely useful! (I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve looked up contacts on my iPod).

One of the innovative aspects of the iPhone is the visual voicemail feature which allows you to browse a list of all the voicemails you’ve received. It’s just a guess but I would imagine that this will be added to the list of things that may be synchronised to your computer via iTunes. Ok, so adding audio voicemail into iTunes is still just dealing with audio files, but I reckon it’s just just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the data that will be contained on the iPhone.

Name dropping?

So, with all these different data types in the mix it’s interesting to ponder how the name ‘iTunes’ fits in amongst all of this. Will we see a change of name? Perhaps there is a different iApp required? Maybe, but perhaps it’s a likely outcome that it’s just a further evolution of the iTunes app name to encompass the broader capabilities and functions it contains? Ok, doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with that theory I guess.

What’s in iName?

Anyway, let’s see the names in use amongst the iLife / iWork apps already:

  • iTunes
  • iMovie
  • iPhoto
  • iDVD
  • iWeb
  • GarageBand
  • Pages
  • Keynote

Ok, there’s not a completely consistent ‘iName‘ format here so it doesn’t mean that any new name would have to be in that format. However, I think it probably would be purely because of the core association of iPod and iPhone with iTunes as it is now.

GarageBand as a name is a bit of an odd one out really as it’s the only app in the iLife suite to to have the ‘iName’ format. Of course neither of the iWork apps are in that format either but they are part of the iWork package, I wonder if this is a possible scenario for iTunes as an app? Perhaps it could split off into two or more apps as part of a renamed ‘iTunes’ package? Maybe…

Educated guesses?

This is just my little bit of idle pondering, but I’m really not sure what the future of the iTunes application and/or name is. Any ideas?

~Rick