After nearly two years off the air, Mad Men starts up again on Sunday. Can’t wait.

Obviously, I’ve been bitching a lot about the new season of Game of Thrones because I can’t watch it (legally) for a year since I don’t have cable. But the same isn’t true of Mad Men — I already bought the season pass through iTunes. I have to wait a day longer than those with cable (well, technically until midnight most of the time), but I’m fine with that.

Amazon also emailed this morning to say they have a season pass option for the new season of Mad Men through Amazon Instant Video. Also cool. One problem: I can’t for the life of me find a price anywhere. And there are about 17 possible buttons to click. This entire design really needs to be re-thought. 

Anyway, good on AMC for giving me options to give them money for their great content.

Google’s Musical Chairs

I kid, I kid. Google’s Music Store is interesting for a few reasons. 

While the prices will apparently be between $0.99 and $1.29 — the same as iTunes — Google may discount tracks to entice buyers. Of course, Amazon has done this for years to little effect. 

As Brian Womack and Andy Fixmer report for Bloomberg, only three of the four big labels are said to be on board: Sony, Universal, and EMI. The fourth, Warner, is holding out apparently due to pricing and piracy concerns.

It has been about 18 months since Google first indicated their iTunes competitor was coming “soon” (and soundedawesome”). If they really still don’t have all four labels on board, that’s just sad. And I don’t understand why they’d launch without everyone on board. Spotify waited. Apple waited. Everyone waits. It’s weird to have a huge chunk of popular music unavailable. 

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This is a pretty clear sign that it will launch soon. Of course, there have been signs before.

The weirdest thing about this launch timetable miss is how it impacts other products. There’s a switch in iOS that currently does nothing. And the latest Apple TV update features a major music menu that is worthless. It’s totally dependent on iTunes Match.

This type of misalignment is very un-Apple-like. 

While NFC has been the talk of the town in terms of mobile payments, Square has quietly worked around it one way, and Apple just did it another way.

The most interesting thing about this test though is the real big picture. It’s a reminder that Apple has hundreds of millions our credit cards in their iTunes system which is now connected to every iPhone. When you add these two things together in the real world, guess what it equals?

Apple making a shit ton of money. 

Way too much smoke gathering for there not to be some kind of fire. The real question: just how far along is this project?

Steve Jobs telling Walter Isaacson, “I finally cracked it" sure sounds promising. But in the 60 Minutes episode about the biography, Isaacson notes that the one area Jobs would have liked to transform was television — indicating that it may not happen. Of course, Isaacson could have just phrased it that way since Jobs unfortunately will not be around when the transformation happens.

Hardware and software are one thing. Apple will eventually get to where they need to be on those, no question. The true question is the content. An Apple television is great. An Apple television that transforms the television landscape in the same way that Apple transformed the mobile phone landscape is what we really need.

If Apple can’t get there, this may be just another project being worked on at Apple that doesn’t see the light of day. But Jobs’ comment and all this smoke sure seem to suggest otherwise