Unlocking is About to Become Illegal in the United States

A new batch of exemptions made to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act are about to go into effect. As you may remember, the exemptions made three years ago included allowing jailbreaking, and also allowed customers to unlock their devices if they decided they wanted to use them on a different carrier. In revised exemptions going into effect October 28th, the Librarian of Congress has reconsidered the decision to allow unlocking and has now decided that smartphone unlocking without carrier permission will no longer be allowed.

There is some good news, however. Those of you that already own any kind of smartphone as well as anyone that purchases one within 90 days of October 28th will still be in legal standing if they unlock their phone without carrier permission. Basically, any phones you already have and any phone purchased before January 2013 will still be in the clear. Also worth noting is that these exemptions — which are in effect until this time in the year 2015 — will continue to allow jailbreaking as they always have. iPod touch owners have nothing to worry about.

iPad owners may need be concerned, however, because although the exemptions retained the ability to jailbreak our smartphones, the Librarian of Congress decided that this will not apply to tablets. The Librarian ”found significant merit to the opposition’s concerns that this aspect of the proposed class was broad and ill-defined, as a wide range of devices might be considered ‘tablets,’ notwithstanding the significant distinctions among them in terms of the way they operate, their intended purposes, and the nature of the applications they can accommodate.” Simply, the Librarian thinks the term “tablet” is too broad and to allow jailbreaking of tablets wouldn’t be well defined.

[Ars Technica]

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iPad Now Available at NEX

The Navy Exchange has begun to stock the the iPad at retail outlets across the US, for a whopping $5 off—$10 if you’re interested in the 3G version. (Of course, the lack of sale tax at the Navy Exchanges really does make it a considerable money-saver, if your lucky enough to have one in your area.) As noted by 9 to 5 Mac, it’s unknown if NEX is an authorized reseller, or pulling the same antics as TJ Maxx, though a measly $5 off is nothing compared to $100.

The following locations will carry the iPad:

JEB Little Creek, Norfolk NS, Oceana NAS, Pearl Harbor NB, San Diego NS, Naval Base Guam Orote, Jacksonville NAS, Mayport NS, North Island NAS,  Pensacola NAS, Port Hueneme NCBC, Whidbey Island NAS, Yokosuka FA, Lemoore NAS, Great Lakes NS, Kitsap-Bangor NB, Everett NS, New London NSB, Sigonella NAS, Naples NSA, Bahrain NSA, Rota NS, Atsugi NAF, Sasebo FA and Charleston NWS

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Google Makes Headway in European E-book Market

Google has reached an agreement with Hachette Livre to scan and sell out-of-print books. The publisher will control the content and pricing of books, points of contention that led Hachette to withdraw some its e-books from Amazon earlier this year, and take a hard stance with Apple and their iBooks releases.

29 countries claim French as its official language, with 250 million persons speaking French as their first or second language.  An additional 500 million are estimated to parles les mots. Hachette also distributes a variety of Spanish titles.

The agreement represents another step forward by Google in its attempt to create a universal library, a project started in 2004, and is a major toehold for Google in the European market.  In the U.S., Google is close to finalizing a settlement with the Authors’ Guild over copyright issues.

Publishers are scrambling to defend their content and pricing from Internet sales, as e-books’ market share grows rapidly.  The deal lays the foundation for future releases and the control publishers are desparate to maintain.

[Reuters]

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Hulu Plus Now $7.99

Hulu Plus, the not-very-popular premium video service from Hulu, has just reduced the monthly subscription price from $9.99 to $7.99 as a part of its official public launch. This price change may allow it to keep up with alternatives such as Netflix, which recently announced a streaming-only plan for the same $7.99 price.. If you are already a paying member, the price change will be reflected in your next bill, and if you are a new user who would like to test out the service, there is a one-week free trial period available.

There is a Hulu Plus client application available in the App Store for newer devices running 4.0 and higher. (And please note that the iPad version does work over 3g.)

[Engadget]

Read on for the full press release.

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Official Google Voice App Now Available

The long-awaited official Google Voice application has finally made its way to the App Store, just two months after the first batch of unofficial Voice apps were approved. Google has been working on getting this app approved for over a year, and after its initial rejection, decided to remake it as an HTML5 web app to bypass Apple’s strict rules.

In September, Apple decided to relax their guidelines in effort to please the EU, who had begun an antitrust investigation into Apple’s policies. These changes have since allowed a number of previously reject-able apps into the App Store, such as Opera Mini, Skyfire, VLC, and more.

Google Voice is free, and uses data for SMS and calls, which makes it a great choice for budget-conscious users. The email-esque voicemail feature is especially handy (and doesn’t require you to change numbers).

  • Access your Google Voice account right from your iPhone.
  • Receive push notifications for new text or voicemail messages.
  • Send free text messages to U.S. numbers and make international calls at cheap rates.
  • Listen to your voicemail, read transcripts and manage your Google Voice inbox.
  • Display your Google Voice number as caller ID when making calls.
  • Call contacts from your iPhone Address Book or enter new numbers on the dialpad.
  • A Google Voice account is required to use this app. To sign up go to www.google.com/voice
  • Google Voice is only available in the United States.

[iTunes]

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Apple Increasing Song Previews to 90 Seconds

Two months ago, there were rumors that Apple would be doubling the length of song previews in iTunes, which would benefit users and potentially lead to more sales. Today, Apple announced that they would be tripling the length of the previews to 90 seconds, which is more than enough time to get a good feel for a song, and aid in your purchasing decision.

We are pleased to let you know that we are preparing to increase the length of music previews from 30 seconds to 90 seconds on the iTunes Store in the United States. We believe that giving potential customers more time to listen to your music will lead to more purchases.

The change should be happening “very soon”, and may coincide with iOS 4.2′s release. (You know Apple, they like to keep things tidy!) There’s no word on when (or if) the change will be made in other countries, but hopefully Apple is working on it.

[Symphonic Distribution]

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Future iPhone to use Universal SIM?

According to GigaOM, Apple is developing an integrated SIM card that can work across many different networks. Presently, SIM cards are issued individually through carriers, but a phone with this new type of SIM would be carrier-agnostic when purchased, so users would be able to activate it using desktop software or a special application on the App Store. This would allow Apple to sell the device directly to customers, and completely cut out the middleman.

However, if Apple is doing an end run around the carrier by putting its own SIM inside the iPhone, it could do what Google with its Nexus One could not, which is create an easy way to sell a handset via the web without carrier involvement. Much like it helped cut operators out of the app store game, Apple could be taking them out of the device retail game.

As noted by GigaOM, this system would work extremely well in Europe, where many different carriers are able to sell the iPhone. (Though, Apple would probably implement the technology in US phones as well, to keep the hardware unified.)

This would also effectively stop users from using phones on unsupported carriers – like T-Mobile – and could be a hinderance for users who frequently swap SIM cards between devices. Since a system like this has never been tried, it’s unknown how it will affect the end-user.

[MacRumors]

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Apple Pushing for iTunes Subscription Service

According to the New York Post, Apple is gearing up to start a subscription-based music service which would run users $10-15 per month – an alternative to the current $.99 per song option. With a subscription service, users would only get to keep the content for as long as they pay the monthly fee, so it’s definitely not for everyone.

One source said the service could have tiered pricing ranging from $10 to $15, although there are issues to be ironed out, including how much music would be included in each tier and how long consumers would be able to access that content.

There have also been rumors that Microsoft will integrate Spotify, a European-only (at the moment) streaming-music service that has been a huge success, into Windows Phone 7. Spotify has been trying to get US approval for months, but is being held up by record labels who don’t agree with the terms. Apparently, Apple has also been leveraging it’s weight with the music industry to block Spotify in the states. If Spotify is successfully barred from the US, it would give iTunes a leading edge in the streaming media space.

This would coincide with the reports of Apple building a datacenter in North Carolina, and considering that Apple has already moved from local to streaming video content, a cloud-based iTunes service is very likely.

[New York Post]

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The Mobile Patent War

There are approximately one zillion lawsuits going on between cell phone manufacturers at the moment, mostly in attempt to cause the opposing party grief and exploit the system for a few million dollars. Today, Motorola filed a massive lawsuit against Apple, “alleging that Apple’s iPhone, iPad, iTouch and certain Mac computers infringe Motorola patents“. They claim that Apple is infringing on their 3G, 802.11 and antenna design, (they might want to think about that one…) and key smartphone technologies – including wireless email, proximity sensing, software application management, location-based services and multi-device synchronization.

Motorola is asking the ITC to do the following:

Issue an Exclusion Order barring Apple’s importation of infringing products, prohibiting further sales of infringing products that have already been imported, and halting the marketing, advertising, demonstration and warehousing of inventory for distribution and use of such imported products in the United States”

This is unlikely to happen, and Apple will probably just countersue with a complaint of their own. These lawsuits will continue on for the next few years until they find something else to fight about.

The software patent system is completely botched, and lawsuits like this do absolutely nothing to advance technology. It’s just a cat-and-mouse game between the companies, each trying to cripple the other for personal gain.

Funnily enough, Nokia is suing just about everyone, probably as a hail mary attempt to save the Finnish economy.

[Ars Technica]

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iPad the Fastest Adopted Consumer Electronic Device

A report by CNBC shows that the iPad is quickly becoming one of the most popular gadgets to have ever existed, crushing entire electronic markets single-handedly. When reading, remember that the numbers don’t compare every tablet computer to large groups of devices in other categories, but solely Apple’s iPad. Mind blowing. (That’s like a single car model outselling every other car in production combined.)

iPad sold three million units in the first 80 days after its April release and its current sales rate is about 4.5 million units per quarter, according to Bernstein Research. This sales rate is blowing past the one million units the iPhone sold in its first quarter and the 350,000 units sold in the first year by the DVD player, the most quickly adopted non-phone electronic product.

It’s incredible to think that one product, created by one company, is selling more units alone than the combined efforts of every other manufacturer. Comparing the sales of the iPad to the other tablets on the market would be equally embarrassing, considering there isn’t any real competition yet on the market.

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