Joe Wilcox

What did you buy for Prime Day?

amazon_boxes

Well, July 15th is behind us and Amazon's promise of deals bigger than Black Friday. If you were looking for Christmas in July, did you get it? I wasn't that impressed with the selection of Lightning Deals and exclusives, but perhaps you were. Or not. My purchase, and call me crazy (some commenter usually does): I plunked down $143.86 for two years of Kindle Unlimited, saving 40 percent off the $9.99 for each of 24 months. The bookstore will become my personal library of sorts. There are many books I would read and reference for my professional writing but not necessarily buy.

Briefly, Amazon offered the 32GB Nexus 6 for $399 and Echo for $129—that's $50 off. The smartphone sold out quick at that price but still remained available for $499 the rest of the day. The other device built up a waitlist before finally being closed out. The 6-inch Kindle sold for $49, discounted from $79, and was still available as Midnight approached here on the West Coast (where I live; BetaNews offices are Eastern Time).

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What is San Diego Comic-Con really about?

Superheroes

Tomorrow night begins my seventh sojourn to the greatest geekfest and pop-culture event on the planet. Imitator shows are everywhere this Century, but none commands character and class like the original. San Diego Comic-Con is an amazing amalgamation of hopes and aspirations—and the grandest storytelling—where, for four days and a Preview Night, tens of thousands of people can be themselves—fit in, rather than feel oddball—or be whom they would want to be by dressing up as beloved superheroes or villains and by adoring the storytellers and actors behind them.

The first, full three-day event took place from Aug. 1-3, 1970, at the U.S. Grand Hotel, with about 300 attendees and sci-fi luminaries, including Ray Bradbury and A.E. van Vogt. This week, 130,000 attendees will storm San Diego Convention Center to enter an alternate reality, where the social rules binding them everyday no longer apply.

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Could 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Display with Force Touch trackpad be right for you? [Review]

MacBook Pro 2015

Reviewing most any MacBook Pro is a pointless exercise, because this year's model isn't much different from the previous—or the one before. That's why I typically buy refurbished rather than new. But I broke with that practice last month, after a sudden electrical calamity laid my wife's laptop to rest. Fried and died it is. With Apple releasing new versions of iOS and OS X and launching a streaming music service, a summer sojourn seemed opportune.

I considered going Windows 10, which arrives later this month. But most of my BetaNews colleagues are headed that way, so I set out down the Apple reviews track. Again, I probably wouldn't have done so if not for my wife's computer catastrophe. I lent her my Chromebook Pixel LS and purchased a new MBP. She will never give up the Google laptop, BTW.

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iPhone is iconic

iPhone Marketing Banner 2007

Happy Birthday! iPhone is 8 years-old today. Oh my, it seems so much longer ago because so much has changed. Think back. Eight years ago, there was no Android. YouTube was but 18 months available to the public, and Facebook or Twitter only about a year. There was no market for tablets, or smartwatches.

The iPhone marks everything right about the Steve Jobs era of risk-taking design. More changes: He is gone from this world and some of that other-worldly innovation with him. In 2007, the smartphone was a decade-old slow seller that few people owned. Now it's everywhere! Apple deserves credit for the transformation, whether or not anyone wants to give it.

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Here's what you REALLY THINK about Windows 10

nerd tablet geek surprise shock disbelief

Let the countdown begin. One month from today, July 29th, Microsoft releases Windows 10. Three weeks ago we asked what you like about the operating system. Many of you are testers, and keeping with the spirit of the "beta" in our site's name, we just had to inquire.

Microsoft hasn't made this transition easy enough, even before the code's release. For starters, there is, or was, or may still be, or may never stop being, confusion over who is eligible  for the free upgrade. Microsoft kind of, sort of, clarified who gets and who doesn't -- and those of you who are Windows Insiders, and remain so, can continue on the forever free track, albeit running betas. Based on our poll posted last week, 10 percent of you without valid licenses will stay with the Windows Insider program to keep the free software coming. More than half of you plan to stick with the testing track.

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The difference between Apple Watch (stainless steel) and Sport (aluminum)

Apple Watch and Sport

After spending 7 days with Apple Watch Sport -- and largely enjoying it -- time comes to test the next pricier model. When trying to compare the two, I find very little useful from Internet searches. So a primer is in order for other folks also wondering: Which one is right for me? Ultimately, the best answer will come from going into an Apple Store (if there is one nearby) and putting the timepieces on your wrist.

Last week, I compared Android Wear and Apple Watch platforms, starting from the different design ethics behind them. Obviously, timepieces from the bitten-fruit logo company are more alike, with the main differences being materials, pricing, and target customers. Interestingly, the combinations offer subtle changes in benefits that will matter much to some shoppers. Henceforth, I will refer to the devices as Sport, for the aluminum model, and Apple Watch for the stainless steel sibling.

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Now that Apple Music pays, will Taylor Swift and independents play?

Taylor Swift

As my colleague Manish Singh reports overnight, Apple reversed course and now plans to compensate artists for the first three months of music streaming. It's time to ask: Were the whiners grandstanding or sincere? The question mainly is meant for Taylor Swift, whose Father's Day Tumblr post seems to have brought, eh, swift response to the—what I call—"play for no-pay" plan.

The company unveiled Apple Music during the World Wide Developer Conference on June 8. The streaming service will be free to subscribers for the first three months, with Apple initially choosing not to make royalty payments to artists. I condemned the ridiculous strategy last week. The company sits on a nearly $200 billion cash horde, and content creators are among its most loyal customers. Stiffing them makes no sense from several different perspectives, with good public relations being one and expressing thanks to artist customers being another.

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The difference between Apple Watch and Android Wear

Apple Watch and Moto 360

This week, I had opportunity to use Apple Watch, making it third of the modern smart variety that I have experienced (the others being LG Urbane and Moto 360). The differences between the platforms are quite startling and worth highlighting. They begin with diverging design ethics derived from the fruit-logo company's app-centric heritage and Google's place in the cloud.

For people who use either Android handset or iPhone, existing device really determines what watch platform you choose, if any—that is for now. Down the path you go. But where it leads is somewhere else, not the same destination. One platform is more responsive to you in varying contextual situations. The other requires more direct interaction, but gives other benefits.

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Apple Music shouldn't steal artist royalties

Music

For a company that generates more profits than any other ($18 billion during fiscal first quarter 2015), sits on a cash horde of nearly $200 billion, and has the gall to charge $150 for a watchband, stinginess is an unbecoming trait. Scratch that. Greediness. Putting profits before people, particularly devoted customers, when corporate advertising is all about how they matter more, is simply stupid public relations. In business, perception is everything.

So Apple's reported decision to give away music for three months, without compensating artists, is cheapskates behavior that demands criticism -- particularly about a company claiming that music means so much. Speaking to developers last week, CEO Tim Cook: "We love music, and music is such an important part of our lives and our culture". Oh yeah? If it's so important, why diminish its value? To zero. "We've had a long relationship with music at Apple". For how much longer without artists' cooperation? You don't own the content, Mr. Cook.

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Apple Music is the Tim Cook 'One More Thing' we waited for

Apple Music iPhone 6

Seven days ago, CEO of the most valuable, publicly-traded technology company on the planet unveiled a potentially category-changing online streaming service. In 15 more, you will be able to subscribe -- three months for free. Pundits wave the Spotify flag and spit out diatribes of disgust, much as they did when Apple launched iPhone eight years ago or iPad in 2010. Wrong again is their destiny. Will they ever learn?

Many of the doomsayers forget, or maybe just ignore, the fruit-logo company's success disrupting category after category. They also start out from a misguided premise: That Apple is a latecomer who cannot catch up with competitors like Spotify. How ridiculous. iTunes debuted in January 2001, iPod nine months later, and iTunes Music Store in April 2003. By longevity and reach, which includes exclusives (like The Beatles) and large catalog, Apple is the status quo. On June 30, the giant awakes, and the smidgens shake as it walks.

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Apple hits Google where it hurts

fight fist

I have some advice for the European Union Competition Commission: Lay off. You don't need to reign in the Google monopoly. Apple will correct the market around search and mobile. That's one of two related takeaways from Monday's WWDC 2015 keynote. iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan up Apple's push into search and proactively-delivered information in big ways. That is if delivery is as good as the company promises.

The other takeaway harkens back to what I told you last week about Tim Cook's piracy rant against unnamed Facebook and Google alongside the friggin U.S. government -- plural if thinking beyond the Feds: It's BS marketing. Apple prepares a major competitive assault against Big G, hitting where damage can be severe: Perception and profits. I cannot overstate Google's vulnerability, which ironically is where the search and information giant exploited Microsoft during this Century.

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Microsoft can only blame itself

OS X 10.11

Apple has a long history of competitive marketing one-upmanship. Major tactic is the artful leak timed around someone else's major product announcement or event. How many times has the company stolen CES participants' thunder without ever attending the event, for example? Occasionally, the showstopper is accidental, as is the case with OS X El Capitan.

I wonder: What were the Microsoft development and marketing teams thinking when they chose July 29th as Windows 10's release date? It's like stepping off the curb in front of a fast-moving, energy-efficient, gas-powered bus. Apple almost certainly will release the OS X 10.11 Public Preview before Windows 10 drops. The company promises July and has every reason to rub Microsoft's nose in the stink.

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Tidal makes good

Tidal Rolling Stones Nexus 6

On June 3rd, music streaming service Tidal updated its Android app, which in my extensive testing over the weekend resolves a catastrophic bug that skips songs. The previous version jumped tracks before they finished playing on my Nexus 6 or 9. Last week, the lossless listening provider acknowledged the problem. The fix is in, and I am satisfied.

Tidal delivers HiFi streaming—1411kbps Free Lossless Audio Codec—at the premium price of $19.99 per month. For a music streamer charging more, about double other paid service competitors, the glitch was inexcusable. I first reported the erratic behavior nearly a month ago.

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The end of Apple's 'i' era is nigh

Apple store logo

If Apple's streaming music service launches tomorrow at WWDC and is branded with the company's name/logo, look for broad naming changes ahead. My guess, and it's only that: the lower-case letter before products like iMac or iPhone will disappear; over time. Under CEO Tim Cook, the branding strategy differs from Steve Jobs. That's sensible considering where the company is today compared to 1998 when the cofounder introduced iMac.

Apple Watch foreshadows the new nomenclature. Contrary to months of iWatch rumors before launch, the device is identified by sound as Apple Watch, but what you see is the company's logo, which is one of the most recognizable brand icons ever created. If Apple Music turns out to be more than just streaming, but the replacement for or displacement of iTunes, consider that as sign of future naming conventions to come. If I am mistaken -- well, Apple should do what I predict.

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What do you like about Windows 10?

cat in a box

Wow. What a wicked week it is for Microsoft platforms. As May closed, Insider Preview Build 10130 dropped, followed by a preorder page for OEM versions. Then came the big reveal just five days ago: Windows 10 will be available on July 29th. System requirements are out now, though. On June 3rd, the company showed off devices designed for the operating system. A day later, Office 2016 Preview updated with new features, many tapping cloud services. Yesterday, Build 10135 release notes leaked.

Fitting with the "beta" in BetaNews, it's time to pose the big question for those of you daring enough to grab Windows 10 now ahead of next's month's big release. Most of the BN writing team runs the operating system. I'm late to the upgrade party but will join the gang later today or tomorrow. Meanwhile, I ask: What do you like about Windows 10? If you must: What don't you like -- and, related, what do you still want?

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