J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
M U S I C M E D I A W A T C H
Commentary on the week's music technology news
Issue No. 13
Wednesday, April 9, 2002
++ FEATURE: Music Software for the Cellphone, Part 2
++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS:
- Kazaa Spyware Problem Worsens
- New Celine Dion CD Can Freeze PC
- New York Times Review of Mobile Jukeboxes
++ FEATURE: Music Software for the Cellphone, Part 2
Last week, in the first part of this feature, we reviewed
some of the early music-related Java applications to appear
last year for Japanese cellphones. Despite the fact that
ringtone-related content was (and still is) the biggest
money-maker in terms of mobile content, very few of the
first Java applications had much to do with music. Toward
the end of last year, however, we began to see more
music-related programs on the ringtone download sites.
This week, we'll examine the newer music-related software
for cellphones in Japan and speculate on the kinds of
programs to appear later in the year for the most recent
models, including the upcoming 504i series of i-mode phones.
Several changes took place in the second half of last year
that paved the way for an increase in music-related cellphone
apps. For starters, J-Phone released its first Java-enabled
handsets in June, all of which featured Yamaha's 16-voice MA-2
sound generation chip. With a more versatile programming API
(especially for music playback) and a 30KB limit on application
size (as opposed to DoCoMo's 10KB), the possibilities for music
software were greatly expanded. At the same time, ringtone
sites were beginning to look for ways to differentiate
themselves from their competitors. Larger providers such as
XING's Joysound and Yamaha's Melo-cha began transforming their
sites into ringtone 'portals' which broke their huge sites into
a collection of genre-related services. These companies now had
the resources and the motivation to invest in development of
software to strengthen the individual services.
Meanwhile, programmers were starting to come to grips with
i-appli programming for the DoCoMo platform. Though still
difficult to develop for (especially in comparison with
J-Phone's platform), the greater availability of
information, the six-month head start, and the sheer number
of users all combined to give DoCoMo a strong network of
developers who had overcome many of the technical challenges.
Even the show-stopper bug with the N503i (by far the
highest-selling i-mode phone) was dealt with. Recall from
last week that on this model it is possible to illegally
save a song onto the phone that is downloaded from within a
Java program. One company now develops and sells the source
code for a 'fix' that prevents this by forcing the user to
hold down two buttons while a song is playing. While far
from ideal, the patch has nonetheless allowed several
companies to develop music applications without fear of
copyright violation complaints from JASRAC.
So after all these changes, what kind of music applications
are available now? By far, the most common are simple
'ringtone trial listening' applications. These programs
simply allow the user to listen to all or part of a ringtone
without being able to download it. Jukebox-type ringtone
players are also widespread. These allow you to easily switch
among the ringtones in your sound library. Some also feature
animations, games and quizzes whereby users can gain points
that can then be used to obtain free songs for downloading.
Musical game software offerings have also expanded. While
most of these are variations on the Dance Dance Revolution
theme where the user must hit certain buttons at key points
in the song, there are some new ideas appearing as well. The
Theta team here at Layer-8 Technologies has recently developed
a 'song puzzle' appli for i-mode (soon to appear on XING's
Joysound site) where the object is to take 'pieces' of the
melody that are out of order and put them back in their proper
places to complete the song.
Many more music applications are now in the development stage
and expected for release in the coming months. These should
further widen the range of mobile music software to include
equalizers and mixers that allow users to 'remix' their
favorite ringtones. Also look for 'instrument-specific'
educational mobile phone applications. Since the large
ringtone portal sites have begun to create smaller 'sub-sites'
for fans of certain musical instruments and genres, it is
likely that they will include small programs to support their
ringtones. For example, a ringtone site for guitarists is
likely to have a tuner application, a chord-finder, even an
'animated tablature' program that shows guitar fretboard
fingering while the ringtone is playing.
Sometime around May, we should start to see the first 504i i-mode
models from DoCoMo. Most likely, NEC will debut the first model,
which like the newest J-Phone models, will feature Yamaha's new
40-voice MA-3 FM sound generation chip. The DoCoMo Java API for
the 504i is also greatly expanded from last year, and JAR files
will have an upper limit of 30KB. At the same time, J-Phone and
KDDI are also releasing new models that allow higher size limits
and expanded Java API functionality. Although many current models
include proprietary embedded composer and sequencer software that
differs greatly from model to model, the new handsets and API
extensions should finally make it possible for developers to create
sequencer software that can be delivered as a Java application which
runs the same across all models. In addition to these 'micro-composer'
applications, look for greatly enhanced 504i (i-mode) and 2.5G
(J-Phone) versions of all the software described above.
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++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS
**Kazaa Spyware Problem Worsens
Extract: Several articles appeared in the news last week detailing
the situation faced by unsuspecting Kazaa users whereby spyware,
adware and other parasite programs are loaded onto the user's
machine without their authorization. At the heart of these reports
was the revelation that Brilliant Digital Entertainment has been
using the machines of Kazaa users for computations in their
distributed computing service. This in turn has apparently prompted
Download.com to drop Kazaa from its site. Check out MP3 Newswire's
commentary on this issue.
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** New Celine Dion CD Can Freeze PC
Extract: Sony Music Entertainment, owner of the label that released
the recent copy-protected version of Celine Dion's new album
"A New Day Has Come," reported that users who play the new CDs in a
PC or Mac may find that it crashes their computers. The discs are
protected against digital copying using Key2Audio technology
developed by the Sony DADC unit and come with a label warning
users against trying to play the discs in a PC.
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** New York Times Review of Mobile Jukeboxes
Extract: In this New York Times article, Wilson Rothman reviews
eight portable jukebox players and gives a pretty thorough description
of the benefits these players can offer, as well as the effort required
to put a large CD collection onto an MP3 jukebox.
SUBSCRIBERS: 555 as of April 9, 2002
Written by Steve Myers (email@example.com)
Steve Myers heads the Theta Group at Layer-8 Technologies, which
specializes in the development of music-related software
Edited by J@pan Inc editors (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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