Monday, September 14, 2009

iTunesLP: The "first" (MPEG-21) Digital Item?

Apple recently released iTunesLP with which "the visual experience of the record album returns". Today, I've purchased the first iTunesLP (btw. 1st iTunes music thing ever!) to see what's behind this 'new format' and whether it can be considered as a digital item (as defined by MPEG-21). The album in question is "The Doors: 40th Anniversary Mixes" and comes with the regular media files which are placed in the regular iTunes directory structure. However, it also comes with a .itlp 'file' - at least this is what Mac OS X finder shows (cf. figure below).
However, what's behind is a simple directory structure comprising an index.html linking to a set of CSS files (css) and JavaScript files (controllers and src). Furthermore, the directory structure includes links to fonts, images, and videos required for the presentation of the LP and an Apple .plist file. The views directory provides something like the sub-pages from an album's booklet.
That is, the iTunesLP is basically a Web site (i.e., HTML+CSS+JavaScript) and iTunes becomes a ordinary Web browser? Hmm, finally I tried to transfer the iTunesLP to the iPhone but it seems that the iPhone cannot play the album in the same way iTunes does.

On the other hand, is it possible to realize the functionality provided by iTunesLP with MPEG-21 tools? I would say "Yes, it can"! In particular, the relationship between the various assets (text, images, videos, etc.) can be described using Digital Item Declaration and Digital Item Identification is used to identify the whole album and individual tracks. The interaction can be achieved by Digital Item Processing which enables the inclusion of ECMAScript (JavaScript) within a Digital Item. Finally, the File Format provides means to package the digital item into a single file - based on the ISO base media file format and compatible to .mp4 - enabling easy transaction among users within the whole value network.

So, is the iTunesLP a digital item? - Yes! Is the iTunesLP compatible with an MPEG-21 Digital Item - No (it is not compliant to MPEG-21) / Yes (it can be realized using MPEG-21). Additionally, MPEG-21 provides means to package a Digital Item into a single file and it is interoperable.
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