Spotify Makes Its US Debut

The hottest music venue in Europe opened its doors last Thursday morning to a select group of users in the United States.

Spotify, which makes Internet music-streaming software, launched the much-hyped U.S. version of its service after delays and years of negotiation.

Initially, Spotify will only be accepting new members to its free service who receive invitations from the company, one of its sponsors or a current user.

“The US is the largest market in the world,” Kenneth Parks, Spotify’s content chief, said in an interview. “We neber done a launch this large.”

Google+, the new social network, also launched recently using an invite-only scheme. Spotify plans to welcome everyone for free after several weeks.

Spotify will let people choose from any of 15 million songs to hear for free — up to 10 hours per month, with each track listenable up to five times. For the first six months, however, people who enter during the invitation period are exempt from the monthly limit.

After that, users can lift the restrictions by paying $4.99 a month or buying songs individually, like iTunes. The smartphone apps can be accessed for $9.99 a month, which includes unlimited streaming and the ability to save copy-protected music for listening offline.

Spotify differs from iTunes in the way you listen to music. iTunes is a store from which you purchase, download and then play the music. Spotify doesn’t require any downloading – you just stream the music to/through your device.

The ability to create and share playlists with Facebook friends has created a beehive mix-tape culture of more than 10 million users in Europe.

Operating from a small office in Stockholm, Sweden, Spotify quickly spread its tentacles across Europe. But during the past couple of years, the company has been caught in a web of bureaucracy. Record-label executives have expressed concern that Spotify’s free offering devalues music and doesn’t drum up significant revenue.

“They (the record companies) wanted to be careful,” Parks said. “Spotify has always had a view that the free experience was core to what Spotify was all about and key to get users to invest in the service.” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek echoed that belief at a technology conference in December, as he has in several public appearances before that and likely will again at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference this week.

The four major labels and Spotify have finally settled their disputes and in the time since, the record companies have given the go-ahead to competing digital music initiatives such as Rdio, MOG and, most recently, Apple’s iTunes.

Sign up to request an invitation for a FREE account here:

If you’re ready to spend a few bucks a month you can sign up here right now:

Spotify’s Facebook Page

ICANN To Add New Top Level Domains

On Monday June 20th, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to allow a whole new array of TLD’s (Top Level Domains).

So, what does that mean?
The change means that the familiar “.com,” “.org” and “.net” will be getting a lot more company in the next year or so.  Here’s a breakdown of the vote that ICANN chairman Peter Dengate said “will usher in a new Internet age.”

What did they change?
Right now, there are a limited number — 22, to be precise — of what’s called “generic top-level domains.” The most familiar ones are “com,” “org,” “info,” “edu” and “net.” Under the new rule, people will be able to apply to ICANN to register most any word, in any language, as their domain ending.

So, I can set up my own domain?
That depends. Are you rich? Are you an established corporation or government? If the answer to any of the above is “no,” then probably not. ICANN will be charging at least $185,000 per domain application (more in the case of buyers who want one all to themselves). So it seems pretty clear that this will largely be for corporations, and maybe some governments.  It also will cost money to set up and maintain the domain, so something like .google,  .ibm  or ,coke will be a lot more likely to happen than, say, .davidsnell.

 What are the benefits?
For retailers and others, the advantage is branding. Having your own domain could lend a sense of legitimacy on the web. Because of the difficulty of getting an application through ICANN’s process, a personalized domain ending will be an authenticity watermark of sorts.

For the common Web user like you and me, the answer is a little more hazy. One early thought is that it could cut down on phishing and other online scam attempts. If you knew that only domains with your banks’ names in the suffix were legitimate, it would make it harder for scammers to trick you by steering you to a fake site.

What’s the potential downside?
For those planning to apply, there are almost sure to be some legal battles. Remember the dispute between Apple, the computer company, and Apple, the record label that was home to The Beatles? We’ll probably see more of that when more than one bidder wants exclusive use of a name.

 Some industry observers also believe the domain names could usher in a new era of cybersquatting, although companies seeking custom domain suffixes must undergo a screening process designed to weed out unscrupulous applicants.

Who’s interested?
A lot of companies, governments and the like aren’t saying for competition reasons. But there are several organizations that have announced plans to file for particular domain endings. Among them: .unicef, .paris, .nyc, .canon and .hitachi.

When will this happen?
ICANN is scheduled to begin reviewing applications early next year and says we should start seeing new domains in July 2012.

What the heck is ICANN?
It’s the nonprofit group that assigns addresses to Internet service providers. The organization was founded in 1998, has members from all over the world and is dedicated to “keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable,” according to ICANN’s website.

One of the organization’s main jobs has become assigning and overseeing domain names on the Internet. They’ve been gradually expanding the options for years, a process which has added such top-level domain names as “.biz” and “.xxx.”

Windows 8: Are You Ready to Dump 7 for it?

Microsoft’s Windows chief, Steven Sinofsky, demos the upcoming Windows 8 operating system at the All Things Digital conference. Microsoft has a habit of introducing new technologies at the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital Conference, which ran from May 31 to June 2 this year. Bill Gates introduced Microsoft’s Surface computer in 2007 and the company demonstrated Windows 7 multitouch in 2008. Microsoft showed a “technology preview” of its Windows 8 Tablet experience at the conference last week.

Microsoft has so far been extremely quiet on the Windows 8 front. Windows Chief, Steven Sinofsky, took to the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January to introduce a technology preview of Microsoft’s Windows ARM support and show off an early build of Windows 8. Microsoft is partnering with ARM-based manufactures NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments to produce new tablet devices. Rumors suggest that Microsoft will create a dual-UI for Windows 8. A tile-based user interface codenamed “Mosh” will reportedly be included.

Microsoft may introduce Windows 8 ARM based tablets ahead of a full desktop release according to reports. Microsoft’s competitive tablet strategy is believed to be further along than expected. Dell’s recently leaked Tablet Roadmap revealed that the OEM has marked Q1 2012 as its date for a Windows 8 based slate. Microsoft has been working on an ARM based version of Windows for nearly a year and that it is laboring hard to bring this to the market as soon as possible. Microsoft has previously promised a “major revamp” of Windows for slate applications that will come in the next version, Windows 8.

Microsoft head Steve Ballmer has described the next release of Windows as the company’s “riskiest product bet”. It is understood that Microsoft will feature deep cloud integration into the future OS to realize its vision of “three screens and a cloud”. One Microsoft employee recently said he believes Windows 8 will be the “most important Windows ever shipped.”

You can watch the video demo video:

In the video you’ll see the new Windows 8 user interface and other few features in a variety of computers, laptops and tablets. In the conference they also talked about how the next version of Windows is not just going to be capable of running classics apps, but also the new HTML5 apps.

If you want to learn more about Windows 8, check this article: Microsoft has announced Windows 8, get a first look of what is to come

Microsofts deep pockets, not innovation, spur technology.

Microsoft can be called many things but almost never an innovator of new technologies. Rather than innovate, they dip into their substantial cash coffers and simply buy the next greatest thing in technology, then make it their own.

In its largest acquisition ever and the tech world’s most massive deal in years, Microsoft Corp. is buying Internet communications company Skype Global for a staggering $8.5 billion in cash.

“The combination will extend Skype’s world-class brand and the reach of its networked platform, while enhancing Microsoft’s existing portfolio of real-time communications products and services,” the companies said in a statement.

Previously, Microsoft’s biggest buy was $6 billion for online advertising firm aQuantive in 2007.

Don’t know what Skype is? Skype’s software allows users to talk for free online using messaging, voice and video and can also connect them to a land line or mobile phone for a fee. Users will now be able to connect to Microsoft offerings such as Lync, Outlook and Xbox Live, while Skype will support devices such as Xbox and Kinect, the companies said. 

Skype is owned by an investment group led by Silver Lake, which bought the real-time voice and video company from its previous owner, eBay, in 2009 for slightly more than $2 billion. It was founded in 2003 and now has 170 million connected users who chatted for 207 billion minutes last year. 

The company will become a new division of Microsoft and will be led by its current chief executive, Tony Bates. The combination, he said, will give Skype and Microsoft the competitive heft to combat Google and the Facetime video chat function from the Apple iPhone.

In review – here a list of 10 technologies Microsoft has “made its own”

Windows Azure
First, let’s be clear. There are good things being reported about Windows Azure from third parties who have their choice of cloud providers. But let’s face it — Google and have been in this space so long it makes the entire Microsoft cloud concept seem old.

Search has been around for years. Before Yahoo! and Google took over, there was Alta Vista and others. Once Google turned simple search into a massively intertwined business, Microsoft wanted in — badly. And thus was born a Microsoft ad network, enterprise search and now Bing, a fresh stab at the browser wars. 

Windows GUI
This one is almost too obvious. Bill Gates, looking for the next innovation in OSes, used Mac fundamentals as the basis of Windows 1.0. On the flip side, Gates had multitasking long before Steve Jobs!

 Internet Explorer
Netscape wowed the world with its internet browser, then branched out into other areas such as mail and collaboration. Microsoft feared the browser was to some extent a platform, and that it could disrupt the Windows franchise. Microsoft bought a browser, tweaked and bundled it with Windows 95. Despite anti-trust losses, Microsoft still won this game.

 SQL Server
Sybase in the late ’80s was a rising database star, and Sybase SQL Server ran on larger systems. Microsoft wanted to bring this kind of solid relational product to a PC-based platform, so Microsoft, Sybase and Ashton-Tate formed an alliance. The code would be ported to PC servers, and Ashton-Tate would rejigger dBase to front-end SQL Server. But dBase was so fundamentally different it couldn’t work with SQL, leaving only Sybase and Microsoft. When Windows NT arrived, Microsoft split from Sybase, but kept components that remain the basis of SQL Server today.

Stac Electronics built a utility that doubled the capacity of your hard drive through compression. Microsoft tried to strike a deal to embed a version of Stacker within Windows, but Stac said no, so Microsoft went ahead and wrote its own data-compression tool called DoubleSpace. Unfortunately, the Microsoft version violated Stac’s patents. Can you say lawsuit? Microsoft lost, but instead of just paying Stac off the $120 million it was ordered to pay, Redmond invested in the company and paid royalties to Stac, which ultimately folded.

Virtualization is the hottest thing to happen to computing since Dell laptop batteries started catching fire. Microsoft was late to the market with Hyper-V and crafted a strategy very similar to VMware, with PC- and server-virtualization tools. However, through its partnership with Citrix, and Microsoft’s own Windows Server Terminal Services, Redmond is also arguably a virtualization pioneer. 
Novell became a powerhouse through network OSes that mostly supported print and file services. Microsoft saw this huge market and made a move with Windows NT. IT pros loved NetWare, but Microsoft had advantages: deep relationships with CEOs and CTOs, and the fact that NT was a true partner of the Windows client, sharing an interface and many core functions. 

Windows Sever

Microsoft Word
The WordPerfect word processor came out around 1980, and as the decade progressed it became as dominant as Lotus 1-2-3 and Ashton-Tate dBase were back in their day. Microsoft wanted an application and OS, and WordPerfect was an obvious target. Microsoft Word came in 1983, and subsequent versions promoted compatibility — even keystroke compatibility — with WordPerfect. We all know who ultimately won this war.

The Xbox may be the hippest game console out there, but Microsoft was way late getting into the video game business. Fortunately, Microsoft has yet to be hacked like Sony and now the Wii platform

Microsoft, unfairly or not, has a reputation for taking over areas invented by others and then dedicating massive corporate resources to owning those markets. Like it or not – I don’t see this process changing anytime in the future. The good thing is that we, as consumers, are usually the winners in these battles.

Clippy’s Second Chance

He’s back! If you remember “Clippy” — that googly-eyed, annoying little paper clip that once hopped out of the corner of your computer screen to “help” with Microsoft Office tasks, occasionally tapping on your computer screen to get your attention — chances are you don’t remember him (it?) fondly. Smithsonian Magazine called Clippy one of the worst software design blunders in the annals of computing history. Many Office users cringed when the cartoon paper clip Continue reading

XXX address puts porn sites on the spot

It had to happen! Pornography finally has an official home on the Internet, and how governments treat this newly formed piece of digital real estate could have significant implications for everything else on the Web.

With “.xxx” finally joining the ranks of top-level domains including “.com,” “.net,” and “.edu,” years of speculation about the impact of this new Web destination will finally be put Continue reading

Has Spyware Finally Met Its Match?

If you use a computer that’s connected to the internet, you probably know just how annoying spyware can be. Not only does it slow down your computer and interrupt you with annoying popups, it can also transmit your private data to hackers and identity thief’s.

Over the years, we’ve tried and tested 100’s of programs in our efforts to rid systems of these computer parasites Continue reading

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