The next generation of LTE chips are all about the upload

This week Qualcomm unveiled its next generation LTE modem, which boasts another big theoretical boost in download speeds. But Qualcomm made special note of a feature that has long been ignored in 4G: upload speeds.

Today in Social

You’re not likely to have missed the hype surrounding Spotify‘s U.S. launch today. It finally signed the last of the big four record labels yesterday. Today Spotify starts selling its premium music services: unlimited on-demand streaming to a PC for $5/month, or a $10 version that supports mobile access and offline listening. Its ad-supported free service is invitation-only. I’m not as excited about Spotify as the hypesters. Rhapsody, Napster, Rdio and MOG offer similar services and may also get some special Facebook treatment that Spotify is promising but doesn’t have yet. There’s a limited market among serious music fans (perhaps 5-7 million) for premium celestial jukeboxes. And one of Spotify’s tickets to European success was upselling from its free offering, which has had its hours cut back and won’t be widely available in the U.S. initially. But Spotify’s certainly getting enough buzz and rave reviews that it won’t have to spend all of its recently raised $100 million on advertising.

Defining the next era of social music

From the early days of file sharing to the success of Myspace and, more recently, to the explosion of music playlist and recommendation sites and apps, music has proven itself to be the most social of all content on the web.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet. As Om suggests in his post on the alive web, the future of the web will increasingly be about immersive, communal experiences, and music itself is the type of content that will benefit most. This is because, well before the Internet, the experience of listening and enjoying music has always been as much about the people you listen with as those you listen to.

And now, with a more immersive web experience — the alive web — online music is taking more of the off-line elements of community — immediacy, intimacy, self-forming communities — and creating a new era in social music.

Social music will increasingly leverage not only the power of community, personalization and curation at a much deeper level but also the ability to create music content within a community context. In other words, by allowing immediate creation and sharing of tracks through online tools and providing the artist with immediate feedback, social music is now as much about creation as it is curation.

Below is a chart that breaks down the social music evolution path, illustrating how we’re moving beyond simple social playlisting into a world of immersive social curation and creation.

socialmusic

Source: GigaOM Pro

The Myspace era was largely defined by one large social network that gave music fans and musicians the ability to express their tastes within a single, confined network. The second era, the social playlist era, was driven by API integration with the large social networks, where social music apps became networks on top of more-popular networks, leveraging the scale of Facebook or Twitter.

So how is this third era of social music different? As exemplified by Turntable.fm (currently in beta), the new era of social music is not so much about scaling wider but going deeper. It’s about taking this world of API-driven integration into increasingly communal curation and creation and allowing communities to engage with one another online in ways previously only possible in the off-line world. While you could curate and share your playlist before, you can now get together and listen, comment in real time, vote and connect. Meanwhile, sites like SoundCloud and Audioboo allow you to create music and then share it immediately. Your community can connect and comment on the music, all the way down to the details in an individual track.

The exploding interest in sites like Turntable.fm comes at an interesting time, when online music is seeing increased validation through the success of sites like Spotify and Pandora (the latter of which just IPO’d this week; its market valuation was to the tune of over $3 billion). These sites, no doubt, are highly compelling and provide a fast-growing audience with a different way to access music.

With interest in new online music distribution offerings growing so quickly among mainstream audiences, it’s worth asking, Just how widely adopted will these newer, more social music offerings become? After all, immersive experiences require a bigger investment of attention and time, and not everyone wants to be a DJ.

The reality is that these sites will quite likely never see the same amount of adoption as lower-investment, less-immersive experiences like Pandora. But that said, passive consumption of a site like Turntable is both possible and probable, and in fact it may become the dominant consumption mode for many consumers of these other services in time.

Consume first, and engage if you so desire.

Question of the week

How will social affect the next era of music?

Near Field Communication: More Than Just a Mobile Wallet

NFC will arrive in handsets in a big way in the coming months, but other components of a viable “mobile wallet” scenario aren’t in place yet. Here are some possibilities for the technology beyond using it to pay for goods at the retail counter.

Can Carriers Finally Move the Needle in Mobile Music?

The hype surrounding mobile music continues despite the lack of evidence that the space will ever generate much in the way of revenues. But carriers still have a chance to use music to attract new consumers and keep the ones they have.

Today in Cleantech

It’s freaky Friday, so let’s talk about the idea that wireless smart meters cause brain tumors and massive headaches — if not in the heads of protesters and their elected representatives in California’s Marin County, then perhaps for the utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric. For years, a tiny but vocal group of people have claimed that radio frequencies (RF) from common wireless communications devices cause a host of health problems — and for years, groups like the Federal Communications Commission, the World Health Organization and other scientific studies have said it ain’t so. But that hasn’t stopped opponents from blockading smart meter installation trucks along California’s Highway 1, or pushing the Maine Public Utilities Commission to consider allowing some customers to opt out of having wireless smart meters installed at their homes. So far the protests haven’t really stopped meter installations, but given the other PR problems utilities are having with smart meters, it may be time for some good old-fashioned customer outreach. Or, as Pike Research analyst Peter Asmus notes, it may be an opportunity for powerline carrier-based smart meters from the likes of Echelon to step in as an alternative.

Today in Cleantech

The smart grid-smart home nexus needs standards for communications and interoperability to emerge before appliance makers, consumer electronics manufacturers and IT players can start rolling out energy-smart household gear en masse. One of those potential new standards, U-SNAP (Utility Smart Network Access Port), took another step towards commercialization on Friday with the release of its 2.0 specification (PDF). The U-SNAP Alliance membership roster includes Google, General Electric, Comverge, Trilliant, 4Home and smart meter maker Sensus, and wants to be a USB-like standard for switching different communications modules – such as ZigBee, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave and FM radio – in and out of mass-market gear like smart appliances and home energy dashboards. That would mean that new communications technologies could come into the home as a module, without having to replace all the hardware. As for real-world application of the U-SNAP model, some alliance members are moving faster than others — while Radio Thermostat plans to have U-SNAP modular thermostats on the market in 2011, GE plans to keep its smart appliances and Nucleus home energy management hubs in utility projects and “retail trials” through next year, and hasn’t made any specific commitment to using U-SNAP.

ZigBee vs. Wi-Fi — The Race is (Still) On

In the race between ZigBee and Wi-Fi to network energy-smart homes, ZigBee has so far taken the lead, but that doesn’t mean Wi-Fi is giving up. Here is how the two technologies place in the race for the home energy management market.

Today in Cleantech

There’s been some cool developments in the data center thermal modeling biz this week. First, SynapSense and Future Facilities have teamed to add a little of the former’s monitoring and computational fluid dynamics tech to Future’s virtual data center modeling tools. Optimum Path Systems, on the other hand, is changing the economics of 3D temperature monitoring and modeling by employing inexpensive RFID tags in place of pricey, hard-wired sensors. Neat, but what I want to know is, how long before virtual 3D walkthroughs become the norm in data center monitoring?