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Seven years ago, I wrote my first story about a burgeoning software application that allowed users from around the world to share digital music files with each other. I’d been on the Internet for years, swapping files through Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), and more archaic means, such as copying files to disks and physically exchanging them. When Napster came about, the world of digital media appeared ready to open up.

Then came the lawsuits. The recording and motion-picture industries set about suing hardware and software companies that facilitated the free exchange of digital files, which effectively brought the growth of this new media consumption style to a halt (despite the growth of file-sharing networks, legitimate businesses were loathe to move forward with innovative strategies for delivering digital files for fear of running into a multi-million dollar lawsuit).

The chilling effect is just now starting to warm up, even if it’s only thawing ever so slightly.

RealNetworks has released RealTime, a desktop toolbar that enables users to have news, weather, images, and other personalized information pushed to their desktop, similar to the Yahoo 360 application released several months back.

From the TechWeb article:

The application integrates with users’ Web browsers to allow single-click subscription to stocks, weather, personalized life-style information, news feeds and blogs, with information pushed back to the desktop. The screen saver rotates through favorite headlines along with accompanying photos or images.

While it’s not exactly music and movies, it’s yet another move by a major Web player to integrate the desktop experience with browsing. It’s easy to see how the company may also incorporate its Rhapsody music service–by embedding its player within a browser–making it possible for people to build their own personalized news and entertainment space in one place.

In much the same way CinemaNow, a movie downloading service, announced that Universal Pictures has decided to simultaneously release The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift as a DVD and a downloadable file that can be burned to a DVD. This marks the first time a major movie studio has made such a decision, and some executives have said they’re intrigued.

From the Business Week story:

Studio executives say they are watching the experiment closely. “The test is: are consumers going to find this an interesting thing?” says Thomas Lesinski, Paramount Pictures’ president of digital rights. “I think burning will get a lot of focus early next year.” To date, Hollywood has been slow to embrace download services.

There’s no promise that this will spur the shrinking of the “release window,” which typically gives DVD releases a six-week head start on download services; however, if it does well in both formats, expect to see more of these experiments.

Finally, MSNBC has an article on RingCube’s MojoPac software, which allows people to squish their PC environment onto a mobile device or USB drive, allowing them to travel without lugging around their laptops. While users would still need to connect to a PC to use their “virtual desktop” software, with the explosion of Internet cafés and other public computing, users would be freed up from carting around several pounds of hardware.

From the article:

The software works by creating a virtual operating system that runs the programs users load onto the storage device. RingCube says MojoPac supports any off-the-shelf applications, including PC video games and applications such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office.

The idea is to transform any computer found at Internet cafes, dorm rooms, libraries or business offices into your personal computer, said Appajodu, who started developing the product more than two years ago.

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