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Author Topic: The Walled Garden Closes In  (Read 917 times)

wraith808

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The Walled Garden Closes In
« on: September 08, 2016, 02:55:04 PM »
The End of Headphone Jacks, the Rise of DRM

I'm sure that everyone now has heard of the fact that the iPhone 7 will remove the ubiquitous 3.5mm jack.  They give a lot of reasons for it, but in the end, it's more about securing the walled garden than anything else in my opinion.

So what do you do?  The part that I have a problem with is that even among those that in the know on technology, the blame is placed on the user for buying it, rather than with the company where it firmly belongs.  "Just buy another phone" is a refrain that I've seen multiple times.  It's not just the phone- phones have stopped being just phones a long time ago if we're honest.  It's an ecosystem, and when you look at the investment, it's hard to just throw that away.

So in the end, is it the fault of the consumers?  Or are the companies doing measured things to inhibit choice, and being given a pass in the name of capitalism?

IainB

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2016, 05:36:48 PM »
Sorry, I'm a bit stumped on this one.
I vaguely recall reading something to that effect about the 3.5mm headphone jackplug being removed on future models of something, but I don't usually pay much attention to what is happening with iPad design or any other Apple products and so am fairly ignorant about them.
Does what you say mean that iPad users will no longer be able to listen to audio via headphones on newer iPads?

Stoic Joker

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2016, 06:48:35 PM »
Does what you say mean that iPad users will no longer be able to listen to audio via headphones on newer iPads?

Yes, they're dropping the venerable 3.5mm stereo jack in favor of forcing people to go with the newer-fangled Bluetooth device$.

...I guess that's why they worked so hard to get it renamed - in people's minds - to the "iPhone Jack" ... So nobody would think to miss it anymore when they killed it off.

Deozaan

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2016, 08:40:10 PM »
I dunno how I feel about it. On the one hand, it's "progress" and in a couple of months there will be plenty of earphones with the new connector. I can see this as being desirable if the new connector were something open and ubiquitous, like USB-C (which isn't quite ubiquitous yet, but will likely get there within a couple years).

On the other hand, it's Apple, and their connector is proprietary so they can charge you $75 for an adapter which costs them $0.35 to make. Either that or $125 for some Bluetooth earbuds.

Also, reading that article you linked has caused me to consider some other possibilities that I hadn't thought of before. :-\


IainB

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2016, 09:58:55 PM »
Well, presumably they are trying to force the upgrading of the LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) to something they have a proprietary and $ interest in - more profitable. Good luck to 'em. It's probably a valid marketing bid.
A bit like Aodobe and Acrobat/.PDF, I suppose, only more up-market.
Many of the people who make up the iPad buyers as a group might not realise that that could be an implication, and might not even care if they did. There's probably nothing rational about buying an iPad anyway - though people will always rationalise their buying decisions, post-fact.
I don't think I'd be a member of that group though, so I can't speak for them.
I'm not sure that this necessarily has something to do with DRM though. I mean, I can't see an explanation as to why it would.

Deozaan

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2016, 05:42:33 AM »
I'm not sure that this necessarily has something to do with DRM though. I mean, I can't see an explanation as to why it would.

Did you read the linked article?


mwb1100

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2016, 04:25:19 PM »
they're dropping the venerable 3.5mm stereo jack in favor of forcing people to go with the newer-fangled Bluetooth device$.

or a set of headphones that plug into the Apple-proprietary Lightning connector.

Josh

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2016, 07:01:09 PM »
My $30 pair of bluetooth headphones have never caused me any issues. I have a more expensive pair but that is because I wanted another set designed for running so they don't fall out. Both work fine and neither requires any further investment should I choose to move to the iPhone 7. I really don't see the issues here. The audio jack had a good run and it was always going to be met with resistance regardless of when they decided to remove it or what they decided to replace it with. This same thing can be said for any technology that is changed.

To me, this really is a non-issue as wireless is the way of the future. Bluetooth/<insert wireless tech here> will not receive due attention until a major player in the industry forces innovation to fix the shortcomings of the protocol. How long was it before we received the bluetooth 4.0 spec with low power mode?

I appear to be in the minority given the recent backlash against Apple, but something tells me this will wash over in 3-4 months as folks forget about it and move on.

IainB

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2016, 09:07:22 PM »
I'm not sure that this necessarily has something to do with DRM though. I mean, I can't see an explanation as to why it would.
_______________________
Did you read the linked article?
_______________________
Well, yes, but I only gave it a cursory skim. However I went back and reread it properly after you made the comment, thinking that I might have missed something, but, as I said, I don't see an explanation as to why this would necessarily have something to do with DRM. Whilst it might not be unreasonable to suppose that it might be turned into something to do with DRM - given the past machinations of the RIAA/MPAA/DMCA corporates - neither would it seem unreasonable to suppose that it may simply be the LCD thing, for example, or, as @mwb1100 puts it:
they're dropping the venerable 3.5mm stereo jack in favor of forcing people to go with the newer-fangled Bluetooth device$.
_______________________
...or a set of headphones that plug into the Apple-proprietary Lightning connector.
_______________________

I suppose it could work towards several objectives:
  • (a) Improve Apple's market-leadership position and market-share dominance, by setting their product as a new de facto proprietary standard as the new/raised LCD for audio output.
  • (b) Improve Apple's market dominance and increase sales/profitability by creating/forcing a new niche market and expanding it, forcing consumers to accept the proprietary "new-fangled Bluetooth device$".
  • (c) Position Apple as a new and possibly the new de facto DRM gatekeeper for the DMCA corporates (said position having apparently been taken previously, years ago, by a farsighted and opportunistic Micro$oft with their various embedded-DRM Windows Media Player software products).

From experience of marketing in IT companies, I would suggest that (a) and (b) could be highly likely and conventional corporate objectives, and that (c) could be a distinct possibility. Microsoft has ruled the roost for a long time in that regard.

Only time will tell whether Cory Doctorow's predictions (referred to in the article) were right, or (say) @Josh's predictions (above) were right. The history of the IT landscape is littered with predictions that were invariably well wide of the mark, for the simple reason that nobody can predict the future.

@Josh makes the valid argument about a change/improvement being overdue for the technology in devices for getting "A2E"  (Audio-to-Eardrum). In much the same way, HiFi audio became ubiquitous with the advent of the (Phillips?) digital sampling technology of audio CDs, transforming the ease and cost of delivering consistently high quality HiFi. It became a ubiquitous and affordable commodity, though the cost - to the audiophile - arguably included a loss of audio "ambiance".
However the LCD bar/standard had been inexorably raised, and yes, passive DRM control was able to be further embedded in audio CD products.

Similarly, low power, short range wireless A2E does make sense, but I discounted the Bluetooth technology some years back, at which time I gave it up as being full of potential, but pretty useless for my purposes as it was then poorly-developed, kludgy and unreliable wifi and it was too dependent on expensive and unreliable battery technology.
If those limitations have now been overcome with newer technology (as one suspected they probably inevitably would, given time) - by the likes of Apple and others - then one also suspects that this new Bluetooth A2E technology will not be a flash in the pan and the market will thus take up the technology with alacrity, and it will raise the bar and become ubiquitous and the new LCD, though the tinfoil hat brigade might persist in objecting (and they might be right to do so).

However, this (from the article) is pretty cogent, and I suspect that it is more than likely that Cory Doctorow, The EFF and techdirt will be proven right and the DMCA tax-gatherers and the NSA will be embedding their mandatory requirements into the Lightning connection, and they and the consumers/taxpayers will be paying Apple handsomely for it:
Quote
The Lightning port works differently. Manufacturers must apply and pay a licensing fee to create a Lightning-compatible device. When rumors were circulating about an iPhone 7 with no headphone jack, our colleague Cory Doctorow predicted that big content companies would try to take advantage of that control: “Right now, an insistence on DRM would simply invite the people who wanted to bypass it for legal reasons to use that 3.5mm headphone jack to get at it. Once that jack is gone, there's no legal way to get around the DRM.”

Greedy corporate and DMCA rent-seekers and tax-gatherers and the NSA are like rust- they never sleep.
"The Lightning connection" could be aptly-named in that it may well give the consumer quite a shock when/if they wake up to realise what has been done to them by these parasites whilst they were sleeping. We shall see, as we certainly have no control (QED) over what these mostly US-created parasites are up to - which, whatever it is, is certainly not going to be "looking after the consumers' best interests'', hah-hah.  Far from it. Maybe they should rename the technology to "the Tesla connection" to make it sound much cooler and more attractive. "Tesla" has gotta be good - right?
« Last Edit: September 10, 2016, 04:52:49 AM by IainB »

wraith808

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2016, 12:37:43 PM »
My $30 pair of bluetooth headphones have never caused me any issues. I have a more expensive pair but that is because I wanted another set designed for running so they don't fall out. Both work fine and neither requires any further investment should I choose to move to the iPhone 7. I really don't see the issues here. The audio jack had a good run and it was always going to be met with resistance regardless of when they decided to remove it or what they decided to replace it with. This same thing can be said for any technology that is changed.

To me, this really is a non-issue as wireless is the way of the future. Bluetooth/<insert wireless tech here> will not receive due attention until a major player in the industry forces innovation to fix the shortcomings of the protocol. How long was it before we received the bluetooth 4.0 spec with low power mode?

I appear to be in the minority given the recent backlash against Apple, but something tells me this will wash over in 3-4 months as folks forget about it and move on.

The 3.5 is analog.  All other manners that they are conveying your music is digital.  To break it down for those that don't know the difference:

Bluetooth audio protocol is lossy, meaning that some of the data is lost. However, it is digital, meaning that the audio reproduction in the headset is bit-exact the same data that was transmitted.
The data is encoded to a digital format that is compressed in a way that loses some of the source data (but hopefully not enough that you can perceive it); but the data stream is much more resilient to interruption, due to buffering, which means that you are unlikely to notice even if some other electromagnetic frequency transmission interferes with your bluetooth (temporarily).

Analog audio over a standard 3.5mm headphone jack (technically called a "TRS" connector) can be very high quality if the audio playback device has a good DAC. An amplifier (separate or built-in) can make the signal sound even better. A good pair headphones can sound amazing with this dated analog mode of transmitting audio down a cable. If you are using a very high quality DAC on the source audio device, chances are it's better than the DAC that has to be in the bluetooth headphones to convert the bluetooth digital data to analog, because the in-headphones DAC is limited by battery power and size constraints -- but a sound card in a computer is much less constrained. Even sound chips in smartphones are great these days.

All analog audio is subject to interference with the audio cable. Most audio cables are not shielded from external electromagnetic interference, and certain models of computers (especially Core 2 Duo era CPUs with on-board graphics) have been known to spew electromagnetic frequencies that are picked up as a "grinding" or "buzzing" noise on the analog headphone wire, if it is near enough to the computer. Some LCDs can do the same. Depending on your situation, this interference can be even worse than the loss of audio quality of bluetooth's lossy encoding.

So to people that care about quality, and download/want to have access to WAV, FLAC, and ALAC because they aren't lossy. 

IainB

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2016, 06:23:48 PM »
I thought this was rather amusing:
Listening to music and charging your iPhone 7 at the same time costs extra

Maybe the designers were operating in a state of commercially-enforced haste and overlooked a couple of design considerations here...    :-[
« Last Edit: September 10, 2016, 07:07:56 PM by IainB »

Josh

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2016, 08:46:21 AM »
Audio quality aside, how many of Apple's primary target demographic actually care that much about studio quality or better audio? How many are downloading FLAC files or FLAC-HD files and hoping for top quality playback while listening to audio on a mobile device? The technophiles of <insert technology here> will always take issue when a major shift takes place in the tech realm. However, unless you are talking about a tech-specific manufacturer (Monster audio, Bose, etc), most consumer-level products will adapt and provide "Good enough" quality.

When you walk around and see people listening to music or sitting somewhere listening to a book/watching a video with headphones on, what do you see? I see one of two things: I either see people with the "Factory standard" Apple earpods or I see some form of "Beats by Dre" design headphone. I rarely see top of the line headphones while people are out and about. Something tells me this is Apple's target market and is who they are really after. As I said above, the technophiles in ANY market will always cry foul when a technology is changed which hinders their investment. It happened with DVD (Yes, I remember a lot of VHS junkies complaining about the cost and transition) and then again with Blu-Ray. Heck, we still have folks who state that a turntable is far superior to any digital format.

As for the NSA and DRM groups, I am all for more control on the consumer end of what we can/can't do with property we purchase. We absolutely need groups looking out for the consumer and we need to maintain our rights. That said, I still don't see this as a major issue. Does digital audio create a chance occurrence of more integration of DRM? Absolutely. But, with the transition, led by Apple, away from DRM-based audio, will this likely occur? Apple pushed many manufacturers to eliminate DRM from audio and provide their audio files DRM-Free. I can still download any file from Amazon, Apple, and various other audio sources and use it anywhere I choose. I can transcode it, back it up, and even alter it in any way I see fit. Unless we get to a point where these DRM-free files are restricted to a certain device (as in you cannot transfer them off), then I fail to see where this will become an issue. I really doubt the NSA cares about controlling what you listen to or monitoring it, for that point. Many fail to understand exactly what the NSA's job is and how they operate. I am not an apologist for the NSA, Apple, or any other organization, but I do try and level the extreme views of any side, or in some cases paranoia, with a well-rounded logical balance.

Disclaimer: I own an iPhone and MBP. I only own the iPhone because the Nexus was sold out for 6 months as I waited to buy it from Google.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2016, 09:50:31 PM by Josh »

wraith808

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2016, 03:24:57 PM »
Audio quality aside, how many of Apple's primary target demographic actually care that much are studio quality or better audio? How many are downloading FLAC files or FLAC-HD files and hoping for top quality playback while listening to audio on a mobile device? The technophiles of <insert technology here> will always take issue when a major shift takes place in the tech realm. However, unless you are talking about a tech-specific manufacturer (Monster audio, Bose, etc), most consumer-level products will adapt and provide "Good enough" quality.

Actually, one of those formats, i.e. ALAC, is Lossless iTunes audio.  And there is a whole subset of audiophiles that do always want lossless quality, and most of them are in that same demographic.  That said, I'm not sure how many use their phone for this.  However, this seems to be a slippery slope that would affect them once it moves on to the iPad flavors, as many of them do use it for that.  This might not be the intent.  But it is downslope of this decision.

After further consideration, I missed an obvious connection.  Musicians.  All of my musical tools that I use connect via the 3.5mm jack.  And the one that I use that even gives the opportunity not to use the 3.5mm jack, doesn't do well over BT, at least in my experience.  And there area lot of musicians that use it in that way.

Check out http://www.ikmultimedia.com/ to see the types of tools to which I'm referring.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2016, 12:41:29 PM by wraith808 »

wraith808

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2016, 12:44:09 PM »
Interesting article:

http://arstechnica.c...ntendo-did-it-first/

I never got into the portable game systems (I tried the Playstation one back when they first came out), but apparently Nintendo did test these waters, in much the same way, for much the same reason, with the same response, though it didn't hurt sales.  But they figured out a way to get it back in with their next iteration, which says something IMO.

Deozaan

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Re: The Walled Garden Closes In
« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2016, 02:18:38 PM »
I never got into the portable game systems (I tried the Playstation one back when they first came out), but apparently Nintendo did test these waters, in much the same way, for much the same reason, with the same response, though it didn't hurt sales.  But they figured out a way to get it back in with their next iteration, which says something IMO.

I'd forgotten that the GBA SP didn't have a headphone jack. That didn't bother me as much as the fact that the GBA Link Cable connection was right next to it, and some games that connected to the GameCube, such as Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles or Zelda Four Swords, used a GBA Link Cable connector that covered the power port. So if your battery got low, you couldn't charge and play at the same time. This was made even more aggravating in a game like Zelda Four Swords where if the game lost a connection to the GBA for more than a couple of seconds, it would kick you out to the menu.

"Yeah, you know the last 45 minutes you've spent trying to finish this level with 3 of your friends? Well, all that time was wasted and the progress lost because one of you dared to let your battery die."