[Post edited last 1st of May 2008 to insert comment below the article about Shazam as an alternative to Gracenote]
Our line-of-reasoning behind that:
1) January 7th 2008:
Listen.app for hacked iPhones is released http://ericasadun.com/?p=126.
The developer Erica Sadun released beginning of January 2008 the Phone application “Listen” that makes use of the Gracenote sound recognition service to identify title, artist and album for any music that the application would “hear” (nice overview here). Users could click on a link to go to iTunes to buy the song directly online (not fully functional in the beta). User feedback to Listen.app is extremely positive:
“Listen. Motivated two of them to go buy iPhones, a smart move since 1.3 has hit. But the BEST sign that Listen is powerful came when I showed it t my wife. She could care less about gadgets and basically has pretended to be interested in whatever I show her on my iPhone. But when I showed her Listen, she suddenly became VERY interested. If it caught HER attention, that means there’s a huge market for Listen.”
The expected release of the iPhone 2.0 SDK in June 2008 would allow every iPhone owner to run Listen.app as an application on his phone.
2) January 14th 2008:
Listen.app has to be stopped because Gracenote wants to get it license fees for the usage of its service http://ericasadun.com/?p=143. A person that claims to be Stephen White, the VP of Product and Content Management at Gracenote, commented Erica’s post:
“Our Partner Sony Ericsson has been at the forefront of integrating this type of functionality and has integrated the results into their store, and into recommendations. Their implementation provides many of the functions you have asked for in your comments here and I urge you all to check out their handsets.
Apple is also a Gracenote partner and has the opportunity to integrate this feature into their iPhone platform. We cannot comment on their plans but we urge you to let them know that you would like this feature.”
3) April 22nd 2008:
Sony bought Gracenote for $260M: News on Forbes
While there are alternatives to Gracenote services (example: http://musicbrainz.org/ ) there is the possibility that Gracenotes acoustic recognition service (originally invented by Philips: details here- http://ismir2002.ismir.net/proceedings/02-FP04-2.pdf ) especially in situations with background noise (the typical scenario for an application on a mobile device that is trying to identify a song that is played maybe in the radio of the taxi driver) is better than what Apple could get from another service.
It looks to us like Sony is with the acquisition of Gracenote in the position to either:
- prevent or delay a Listen.app like solution on the iPhone and get for Sony Ericsson mobile phones a competitive advantage or
- charge a premium for using Gracenote acoustic recognition on iPhone 2.0 or
- participate on every iTunes sale generated through a Listen.app like solution on the iPhone 2.0 platform
This is a theoretical line-of-reasoning, we put it together because all of us are enjoying good rumors around Apple. We have no further insights than the information provided here.
Update (edited last 1st May 2008):
Shazam has been mentioned as a viable alternative to Gracenote. There is from an Apple/iTunes perspective a potential issue with Shazam’s business model : Shazam is with its new music/video download service directly competing with Apple/iTunes. This is in our view likely to be a show-stopper for Apple to use Shazam’s meta data service for audio recognition. On the other side you can obviously argue that the competition between Apple and Gracenote/Sony is even hotter.
“Vodafone, Shazam launch mobile music video downloads
By Nick Wood , Total Telecom, in Barcelona 13 February 2008
Mobile music software company Shazam announced this week it has signed an agreement with Vodafone UK to allow consumers to download full-length music videos and songs to their handsets.
… once customers have identified the song they’re hearing, they now have the option to download the full-length audio track for £1.50, or the music video for £1.99.”
The number of songs in the recognition database is one of the important factors that will drive the user experience of applications like Listen.app and the user experience is all what iPhone is about. Shazam is mentioning on its website “over 4 million tracks”, Gracenote claims to have “over 7 million audio waveform fingerprints” (all figures as of 1st of May, 2008).