Fraking fantastic is my reaction to Tidal's high-definition audio. I spent much of April Fools' Day testing, and quite enjoying, the music service, although I am skeptical that most streaming subsctibers will care—not for $19.95 per month. Still, I see hope for the 10-buck standard quality other option if Tidal delivers enough artist exclusives and superior curation. The iTunes hegemony, and Apple's rapidly evolving Beats Music acquisition, is all about content, much of it available nowhere else, better presented, and more easily discovered. With musicians' support, and unique content with it, maybe, just maybe, a Tidal wave approaches.
The service essentially relaunched on March 31, 2015, with a gala event hosted by Jay-Z and other music superstars. He acquired Tidal, for $56 million two months earlier, but the lossless streaming service launched in October 2014. Architecture, audio quality, two-tier pricing, and streaming are essentially unchanged. New owners' commitment, that of other artists, big marketing push, and 30-day trial distinguish Tidal today.
Google got me. Not because I didn't get the joke but for how far it actually goes. Perhaps you saw the April 1st post, "Re-rethinking computing", which introduces the project from a "rogue team of engineers...Today, we’re excited to announce a way to make your Chromebook self-browsing". Of course, it's an April Fools gag.
I first saw the post on my Nexus 9 tablet while exercising on the stationary bike. Later, thinking to post a quickie to Google+, I pulled up the URL from synced History on Chromebook Pixel LS. On the N9, I had clicked the post's last link, which did nothing special but when opened on the Pixel took me to the Chrome Web Store with option to install the self-browsing extension. Now that was unexpected. What to do, what to do?
If my calendar showed April Fools' Day instead of March 31st, I would think the big Google announcement was a joke: $149 Chromebooks, with one model available from Walmart? I know some of these laptops sell for $199. But $50 less and models from Haier and Hisense?
Meanwhile, ASUS will, in summer, start selling something for even less: Chromebit, a $100 candy-bar size carry-all computer. Plug it into a HDMI-compatible display (like your TV), and your Chromie lifestyle is even-more mobile. The company also will release Chromebook Flip, a tablet-convertible wannabe, sooner. Someone tell me: This isn't a Foolie prank?
Because some BetaNews readers think Chromebook is a joke, I realized the necessity of getting out our Pixel buying poll before April Fools' Day. So here we are. Google released the second-generation Chromebook Pixel on March 11. The high-end laptop costs less than its predecessor (one model for under $1,000), but many potential buyers will question—and they should—the wisdom spending so much on a computer with browser user interface meant to be mostly Internet-connected.
Chromebook Pixel isn't for everyone—probably not most people. But our readers aren't most people. Many of you live on technology's cutting edge, and some bleed because of it. The laptop could be for you, and it most certainly is for me. I bought the high-end LS model on launch day and took delivery on Friday the 13th. I will have much good to report in my forthcoming review. But what works for me may not for you. So let's look more closely at the computer.
Today, Rachel Whetstone, Google's senior vice president of communications and policy, asks what has been on my mind since a stunning scoop set the Wall Street Journal against the Federal Trade Commission and the search and information giant. As I explained in an analysis of the news reporting, the story is flush with insinuation and veiled accusation, bereft of context.
Among my more serious concerns: Journal-parent News Corp's ongoing tug-a-war with Google's business model and its impact on paid content. Both entities likely would benefit by any means that trustbusters could crimp Google. The scoop's timing and tone look like they intend to influence European Union public policy. Ms. Whetstone's response is brilliant, because it gets to the point: Conflict of interest taints the Journal's credibility and impartiality. She rightly observes: "We understand you have a new found love of the regulatory process, especially in Europe".
Behind buying polls there are as many questions as answers, like: "How many people saying they will buy X, really will?" Oftentimes the number wanting something and actually getting it are usually much less than tallied results indicate. Considering those caveats, our Apple Watch buying poll nevertheless illuminates how the device could be hugely successful even from a small number of sales. I do mean big.
Among the more than 1,100 respondents, as I write, 19 say they will buy Apple Watch Edition, which price ranges from $10,000 to $17,000. Assuming they all purchase and do so on the cheap, the math is easy: $190,000. Another 482 people want either of the other two models (Sport and standard Apple Watch). for $216,618 calculated at base prices of $349 and $549, respectively. The closeness of these two total dollar figures, possible profit margins behind them, and differences per-customer profits are ghastly.
As Apple Watch hype increases and the preorder date (April 10) approaches, a question gnaws me: Why would anyone spend so much money on the device? Our BetaNews buying poll now exceeds 1,000 responses, which is large enough sample-size to get some sense of the readership's intentions. Fourteen (2 percent) of you plan to buy the Edition model, which price ranges from $10,000 to $17,000. No disrespect, but talk about money to burn! Forty-five percent of respondents plan to purchase any Apple Watch, while another 5 percent of you are undecided.
So I wonder: What could you buy instead of Apple Watch? I intentionally single out the big spenders, settling on $13,000 as mean between $10K and $17K, being it's such a lucky number and Apple looks to make lots of luck—eh, money—from the smartwatch. Before continuing, an important reminder: Functionally, there is no difference between the cheapo timepiece ($349) and its massively-expensive sibling. The price difference is all bling.
When isn't a cell phone too big? The Motorola-made, Google-branded phablet answers that question for me, and may very well for you. From Samsung's introduction of the original Note, I scoffed at large-screen smartphones—and, honestly, the seemingly stereotypical gadget geeks using them. But big is better, and my arrogant attitude about phablets and the people buying them was unwarranted.
Simply stated: Nexus 6 is the best handset I have ever used. The experience is so fresh and delightful, the emotional reaction reminds of using the original iPhone that I purchased on launch day in June 2007. N6 shatters my negative preconception about phablets, particularly unwieldiness when used daily. That said, I made some lifestyle changes, including choice of clothing, to accommodate the mobile's massive size.
The first day of Spring is upon us, and Google celebrates with free offers to anyone buying Chromecast from today through April 19. The freebies arrive as Apple tries to whip up sales of its streaming set-top box by exclusively offering HBO NOW starting April 10. Apple TV sells for $69, but Chromecast for $35—and Google's goody box is valued at $80.
To 3 free months of Play Music and DramaFever add: One free Play Movies rental, 1 month free Qello Concerts, and 3 months free Sesame Street GO. You can find the offers here. These are for the U.S. market, and the goodies may not be the same in each of the 16 countries where Google offers any.
My family plays musical computers today, as mom receives my wife's Toshiba Chromebook 2—to replace the end-of-life original Microsoft Surface RT. Last week, my beloved took possession of my Google Pixel after I received the newer model, released on March 11.
While writing the above paragraph, my mother phoned to let me know the laptop arrived. "Oh do I like this Toshiba! This can't be a 13-inch screen. It seems so much bigger". The reaction is more than just because of the move from the RTs 11.6-inch panel. Among the Chrome OS category, the Toshiba's screen is exceptionally bright, and crisp, setting it apart from every model other than Google's own.
Meet the new Microsoft. Maybe the company really charts a new course under CEO Satya Nadella's leadership. Colleague Mark Wilson reports that even software pirates can upgrade free to Windows 10. Seriously? Reward the thieves who rob revenue from the platform's cradle? Hand robbers sacred possessions at the door? Give them the house keys and ask them to lock up after they take the tellie, silver, and jewelry?
Outstanding! I really am not being sarcastic, just pretending to be. The strategy is simply brilliant and too long coming, assuming nothing changes before Windows 10's summer release or Microsoft clarifies licensing rules to mean something different. Without even stressing a single synapse I can conjure up more good reasons for the upgrade plan than the fingers on my hands. But I'll keep the list a bit shorter for this post.
There is still time, and we need more responses to get a representative sample of BetaNews readers. The question is easy: Will you buy Apple Watch? Preorders begin April 10 and sales start on April 24. Prices range from $349—please excuse my spitting out coffee—to $17,000.
As I post, the majority of respondents, 46 percent, don't plan to buy any smartwatch. About that finding, I am not the least surprised, given limitations like battery life, smartphone tethering, and functional overlap. Twenty-four percent plan to buy another smartwatch, while 14 percent say no for other reasons. That works out to 84 percent in the No category. The remaining 16 percent is no smaller number, assuming intentions materialize into purchases, particularly considering how costly is Apple Watch.
The second of three Friday 13ths was definitely a lucky day. Near Noon, FedEx delivered the Chromebox Pixel 2015, which I set up late afternoon. Nearly 24 hours later, time is right for some immediate reactions before my eventual full review. My perspective presented here is two-fold: General first impressions for anyone combined with what are the benefits for existing Pixel owners. For many of the latter group, I say this: Consider your budget and needs wisely. What you've got may be more than good enough.
For everyone else, I will contradict the majority of reviewers, and even Google. Pixel is not a computer for developers or limited number of laptop users. Anyone shopping for a quality notebook that will last years should consider the new Chromebook, most certainly if looking at any MacBook model or Windows PC, such as Surface Pro 3. Everyone living the Google lifestyle who can afford a laptop in this price range should consider nothing else. Now let's get to the drill down, point by point. There are 13, for no other reason than my receiving the laptop on the unluckiest day.
As the dust settles from this week's big Apple reveal, one question lingers: Who gains more from exclusive distribution of new streaming service HBO NOW? I don't know what the device maker paid for the privilege, but big benefits belong to it. I wonder: What were HBO executives thinking by tying the service's early destiny to a single platform during telecast of the popular Game of Thrones series?
Particularly for cord-cutters who don't have Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, or iPod and want GoT Season 5 the choice is simple: Buy ATV for 69 bucks or spend more on another device capable of running HBO's iOS app—or steal! Three days ago my colleague Alan Buckingham, who owns no fruit-logo products and cord-cuts, wrote that he might get the streaming box. Today I asked if he really plans to buy Aople TV. "I haven't yet, but I likely will", he says.
Bias in the media is inevitable, and any news gatherer who denies this fact is a liar. Companies seek favor or to influence in countless ways. It's the nature of the beast, which cannot be tamed. So I wonder how Chromebook Pixel embargoes impacted reporting about Apple's newest laptop. If so, Google pulled off one hell of a marketing coup.
The search and information giant provided many tech blogs and news sites with the new Pixel about a week before the laptop launched yesterday and the first reviews posted—that was also days before Apple's well-publicized media event where a new MacBook was rumored. Both computers share something in common: USB Type-C, which is bleeding-edge tech. The connector received much media attention on Monday and Tuesday two ways: Buzz about it being the next great thing, and MacBook having but one port (Pixel has two, and others).