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February 26th, 2010

iTunes scores 10 billionth download as the man behind the 'Apple' turns 55

iTunes scores 10 billionth download as the man behind the 'Apple' turns 55

In history, January 9th has played host to quite a few notable events.

For example, it was on this date in 1861 that Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union before the outbreak of the American Civil War. In 1947, it was the last day that Elizabeth “Betty” Short, the (legendary) Black Dahlia, was last seen alive, and was the birthday for the 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon. Well known Jamaican ragga-hip hop musician Sean Paul celebrates his birthday on January 9th each year, along with one of the Backstreet Boys (bet you can’t guess which one). Not only that, it was the date of the first eclipse of the third millennium in 2001 and would eventually become the date in 2007 that Steve Jobs would introduce the iPhone.

Even more importantly, however, January 9, 2001 was the date that the world was introduced to and began its obsession with Apple’s iTunes.

Further to iTunes’ success from 2001 on, Apple launched the iTunes store in April 2003. Five years later, it had become the number one music vendor in the United States and now boasts over 11 million songs available for download accounting for 70% of online digital music sales worldwide.

Beyond music, the iTunes store currently has 150,000 podcasts available for download, 20,000 audio books, countless hours of video content and over over 75,000 educational audio and video content files available to download through iTunes U.

Now just over nine years old, iTunes really is ‘the world’s most popular way to organize music and download songs online‘ – just how Apple puts it. On Wednesday this week, the iTunes store celebrated its 10 billionth music download coincidentally on Steve Jobs’ 55th birthday.

The iTunes store was launched on April 28, 2003, making it just under seven years (or 2,494 days) old. Given its age,the iTunes store has averaged a staggering 4,009,623.1 downloads for each day that it’s been in existence.

The lucky downloader of the milestone track was a 71 year old man from Georgia who was downloading Johnny Cash’s “Guess Things Happen That Way.” Once the download finished he received a phone call from Steve Jobs himself to let him know he had just won a $10,000 (£6,500) iTunes gift card redeemable against song, movie, TV show, and application purchases on the iTunes Store.

Jealous? I know I am.

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February 26th, 2010

Getting the coppers out of copper: Britain's 'regressive' broadband tax

Getting the coppers out of copper: Britain's 'regressive' broadband tax

Poor Gordon Brown, he’s had a rough week. UK newspapers telling him to stop his ‘bullying behaviour’; a meeting of 250 global business leaders pointing out Britain really needs to improve tax regime and infrastructure; and then his broadband tax gets damning reviews from a new report by a House of Commons committee.

The monthly tax of 50 pence, known as the ‘Next Generation Levy’ would be applied to every landline telephone account in Britain. It’s meant to drum up £175m each year to help the Government roll out Next Generation Access to more rural areas, particularly those where BT hasn’t rolled out fibre connections as, well, it wouldn’t be profitable to do that.

This week the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) committee published some rather hefty protests, both against the proposed tax itself, as well as the basic idea. It feels the government should see how the market copes with deploying high-speed networks before it ‘intervenes’. BIS chairman Peter Luff said: “In times of great stringency in public expenditure, digital inclusion, not Next Generation Access, should be the priority for expenditure.”

Ahh yes, digital inclusion. Part of the government’s ‘Digital Britain’ initiative launched last year which was meant to ensure that everyone in Britain would have 2Mbps broadband.

Now the government faces calls for it to stop being distracted from Next Generation networks until digital inclusion has been conquered. As the BIS report states: “greater attention and resources should be given to digital inclusion which delivers proven social and economic benefits to the individual.”

Which is most important to you, 2Mbps broadband for all or super-fast next generation networks? Have your say on what the government should do by leaving your comment below.

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February 19th, 2010

Are we ready to pay for content? Maybe.

Are we ready to pay for content? Maybe.


Since consumers first began logging on to the web with their Mosaic browsers back in the early 90s, one train of thought has dominated more than other: “What can I get for free? Why would I pay for some content when so much other stuff is free? Will it always be free? What does ‘free’ really mean anyway?”

Relatively recent developments in social networking, collaborative content, smartphone adoption, micropayment systems and premium content business models have all contributed to adjust our natural tendencies to freeload. But it remains a rather subtle change in attitudes that could best be summed up in this way: “If I really have to pay for stuff I used to get for free, and they make it really easy for me to get a quality product at negligible cost, then I might not be too upset about paying for it. But frankly I’d rather not.”

In its survey ‘Changing Models: A Global Perspective on Paying for Content Online’, published earlier this week, analyst Nielsen asked 27,000 consumers across 52 countries if they would pay for news and entertainment they currently get for free. As you might expect 85 percent said they’d rather it just stayed free, 79 percent said they’d simply stop using free sites that suddenly started charging, and less than 30 percent said they would even think about paying for social networks, podcasts or consumer-generated content.

If there’s an upside to the survey, then surprisingly it is for media companies and publishing houses. Half of respondents said they’d at least consider paying for professionally developed films, games and music, while more than 40 percent said they *might* even pay something for digital newspapers and magazines. Still of some concern, though, is that that just 34 percent of consumers said that they believed entertainment companies’ arguments that online content is damaging their ability to produce professional services and products.

Nielsen’s report concludes that there is a shock in store for the majority of online consumers weaned on free content: “At this point, no one can say for sure how deeply embedded the free-information ideology is among consumers. So it is unclear how, even if they accept the inevitability of having to pay for online content, consumers will deal with a flood of new charges.”

What do you think? What are you happy to pay for online? What should stay free?

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February 12th, 2010

All roads (off of the red line) lead to innovation: Going stop to stop to see where innovation starts

All roads (off of the red line) lead to innovation: Going stop to stop to see where innovation starts

Prompt’s Boston office is part of the fantastic Cambridge Innovation Center. In addition to the fully-stocked kitchens and the free bike share program, the CIC hosts over 175 start-ups and emerging companies, the largest collection of start-ups on the East Coast. We know we’re surrounded by innovation within our building, a Silicon Valley in miniature, but the same is true outside the CIC walls.

The Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner recently posted his Red Line Tour of Innovation in Boston, mapping out all the places that make this subway line an epicenter of innovation. Kirsner lays out all of the places where innovators work, meet, and inspire, and more importantly, where visitors can see and experience it.

Near (or rather, on top of) the Harvard Square stop is the Out of Town News, where Paul Allen read the Popular Electronics article that inspired him to invest his future in computers (and convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard).

A stop over at Central Square, you can find the Novartis research lab, where the Swiss company develops cancer treatments (as well as the always delightful Toscanini’s).

Our Kendall Square backyard plays host to the MIT Media Lab, the Broad Institute DNAtrium, and the Akamai Network Operations Command Center.

Check out Kirsner’s annotated map and the accompanying article and start exploring.

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