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The Pipeline: The press gets game, Mossberg ignites Apple frenzy

Marc Perton

Welcome back to The Pipeline, a weekly feature where we dig through the mainstream media and see what the pundits, prognosticators and and pencil pushers have been discussing over the past week.

This week, not surprisingly the scribes from the mainstream press joined us at E3, checking out the latest from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft -- though, from the looks of things, many of our ink-stained cohorts seemed more interested in seeing how the "booth babe" ban was going. The Los Angeles Times, E3's hometown paper, had excellent coverage overall, but that coverage was somewhat overshadowed by the booth babe reportage, which included text, a photo gallery and videos. A few miles up the coast, the San Francisco Chronicle didn't have the Times' wall-to-wall coverage, but still managed to pay homage to the girls of E3, pointing out that the highly publicized crackdown on the raciest attire has had results: "Where once cleavage, upper thighs and midriffs were almost impossible to avoid, they have been more or less hidden behind baby T-shirts and more-modest tank tops. And it seems like there are fewer booth babes overall." Of course, the biggest E3 scoop by the mainstream media came from Time Magazine, with its exclusive preview of the Wii, which appeared in the magazine a full two days before the conference started. For those of us who considered ourselves lucky to get a chance to try out the new console without having to wait in line for an hour, it was a stark reminder that the MSM still have a lot of clout when it comes to getting scoops from big companies.

Elsewhere in the media, The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg caused a stir with a column on Apple Computer's "device model" vs. Microsoft's "component model." And, although Mossberg's assertion was that Apple's model of end-to-end control over its product line had, in the "post-PC era,"  benefited consumers more than Microsoft's model of allowing PC makers to sort out the details, that's not what caused a new cycle of debate in the blogosphere. Instead, it was one line in the column, where Mossberg stated: "Now, Apple is working on other projects built on the same end-to-end model as the iPod: a media-playing cellphone and a home-media hub." If any other journalist had written this statement, it would likely have been dismissed as a mere assumption based on Apple's current direction and rumors that have been floating around for the past year. However, given Mossberg's stature, and the care he takes at presenting information, the comment was instantly hailed as conclusive evidence that Apple is indeed working on such products. And given word that leaked out later in the week that Apple may be working on an iPhone with Japan's Softbank, and that the company plans to host the media at its New York store next Thursday, Mossberg's assertion may turn out to have been quite accurate, quite soon.

Mossberg wasn't the only one making controversial statements about Apple this week. Reuters reporter Duncan Martell dared to point out that you don't really "own" music you download from the iTunes Music Store, since "owning implies control and if you bought the tracks on iTunes you don't have complete control." That, of course, is essential to Apple's razor-and-blades model of linking the iPod to iTunes, but it pokes a hole in a major defense of iTMS vs. the PlaysforSure-based subscription model. After all, fans of iTMS have long stated that it's better to own music than to "rent" it, via the subscription model. However, Martell rightly points out that you don't really own anything you download from iTunes. You're licensing it, as you do with software, and Apple can change the terms of that license at will.

USA Today - Videogame makers unveil the fun to come
LA Times - E3 2006
San Francisco Chronicle - Nintendo's hot controller, booth babes under control
Time - A game for all ages

The Wall Street Journal - In our post-PC era, Apple's device model beats the PC way
Reuters - Do you own songs bought online? Well, sort of

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