Joe Wilcox

Tidal isn't a tsunami (but it can be)

girl laptop headphones notebook music video

Lossless leader Tidal has a problem. Last month's splashy relaunch let critics control the narrative, defining the streaming service as a tool for pampering the bank accounts of already successful musicians. But Tidal is something else: Affordable HiFi streaming for the listening elite—those people who want to enjoy music the way it was engineered, produced. The streamer should be the coolest thing, but the Jay Z ownership team fraked up the marketing messaging. Problem is fixable, but correction requires aggressive advertising, promotional pricing, and extraordinary exclusives.

For more than three weeks, I have listened to nothing but Tidal, and the service should challenge everyone signing up for the 30-day trial to do likewise. There is no other way for the majority of people to appreciate the aural benefits. The majority of potential subscribers are too accustomed to the muddy, mushy, overly-bassy sound of compressed, low-fidelity AAC or MP3 files. The brain and ears need to be freed from the habitual crappy sound to which they're accustomed. iTunes is a prison. Spotify is another. Tidal will liberate you. But you must want freedom to attain it.

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Google Project Fi is calling -- will you answer?

Project Fi

The waiting begins. This afternoon I asked the great Google god to bless me with an invite. If my homage is accepted, someday soon I can pay for the privilege of using the company's new piggyback cellular phone service. The thing is so exclusive, only one smartphone is supported. It's Nexus 6, or nothing, baby. I own one, so happens.

Project Fi switches between Sprint and T-Mobile cellular networks for core connectivity alongside wireless hotspots. That's why I call it a piggyback service; Google is not building out its own infrastructure. Fi is contextually conceived and consumed. Nexus 6 switches networks based on location and availability. Your phone number traverses devices, providing access on laptops and tablets, too. Context is what differentiates this service from every other.

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My Two months with Moto 360 [Review]

Moto 360 Docked

A smartwatch by any other name is compromise. The question: How much are you willing to pay, if anything, for the privilege? No matter what any manufacturer promises, battery life will never be enough, particularly when daily recharging is the minimum requirement. If you use the wristwear as prescribed, no less is demanded, regardless of the device maker. None delivers daily use without sacrificing something.

Nearly all these mini-computers on the wrist aren't smart enough. You need a phone, too. Is two of one and half-dozen of the other worth the trouble? The answer depends much on your lifestyle. If you text and drive, and can't break the habit, a smartwatch could save your life or others. If your mobile handset feels like a ball and chain, adopting glance-and-go lifestyle can liberate you. But if your smartphone is practically surgically attached, for its frequent use, you shouldn't add another tech accessory. If your phone battery often runs out, because you forget to plug in, don't multiply your troubles. If you don't wear a watch now, and haven't for years, don't bother.

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Bing lobotomizes Yahoo Search, while Google stands by laughing

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Yahoo's search deal with Microsoft just gets worse by the day. Six years ago, when announced, I called the agreement "Christmas in July" for Google. My prediction then: The combined entity would cannibalize from Y while taking little from G. Bing would be the big beneficiary, and its painful gains have been punishing.

March 2015 U.S. search share figures are out from comScore, raising a milestone that is no cause for celebration. Bing reached 20.1 percent, or about where Yahoo was in the months before announcing its deal with Microsoft, which essentially came to power Y searches. Yahoo is 12.7 percent. Combined they're at 32.8 percent, which is up from 28.6 percent five years earlier. The dent to Google is minimal, with share falling to 64.4 percent last month from 65.1 percent in March 2010. Aggregated gains came from other providers, such as AOL. not from the market leader. In fact, if not for Mozilla swapping G for Y as Firefox's default search engine, there would be no meaningful gains from Google whatsoever.

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Milk Amazon snooping to bag a bargain?

Cafe Bustelo

I best be watchful, for my wife is smarter than she pretends to be. If not, she's the mother of all coincidence. Because by all appearances, the woman used the vendor online tracking everyone suspects to snake a great discount from Amazon. Maybe you can turn to advantage persistant invasion of your privacy.

Our story starts on Feb. 11, 2015, when following days of price comparisons she ordered a 12-pack of one pound Café Bustelo from the Internet retailer. Price: $52.90. As we consumed coffee, she returned to Amazon on March 17, when a shocker waited: Same item cost $69.31. Ah, yeah. That's a 31 percent increase. But by apparently gaming the system, she later purchased for 19 percent less than previously paid.

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Huh? Pay beaucoup bucks for .sucks?

what-huh

As someone whose name also is his brand (welcome to 21st-century journalism), I watch with interest the new .sucks top-level domain, which is available for select preregistration through May 29—the only time to surely secure your.sucks. Today, I looked to a reputable registrar to see what joewilcox.sucks would cost me. Cough, cough: $3,797.99 now, during the so-called Priority Access (e.g., Sunrise) period, or $407.98 when general pre-reg starts in June.

The new TLD is just one among hundreds of available or forthcoming domain extensions sanctioned by governing body ICANN. "I think the motivation behind the release of all these new domains is money", says Roger Kay, who describes the sellers as shady land speculators. "The .sucks domain is particularly nasty", the president of consultancy Endpoint Technologies Associates emphasizes. "It's pretty close to blackmail". But is it really? This analysis means to help you decide.

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Newest Apple reviews are rotten

broken heart disappoints sad unhappy

I typically don't pull together review roundups, but bloggers and journalists with early access to Apple Watch and 12-inch MacBook beat the products senseless. Not even Wall Street Journal gives glowing look at the laptop; the pummeling is among the most brutal. Meanwhile, The Verge repeatedly gut-punches the smartwatch. Two themes rise from the many reviews, even those trying to cover up pooh with perfume: The devices are beautiful, but performance is a lumbering beast.

Welcome to the Tim Cook and Jony Ive era of putting form before function, and to a fault. Apple's CEO and design chief may not be the dynamic duo shareholders hoped for. The first truly new products to emerge under Cook's stewardship receive a collective meh, which should scare any intelligent buyer witless. Because if the past means anything, the carefully chosen coven of early reviewers embrace newfangled Apple things like the Devil clings to sinners. But not this week.

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Apple Watch won't be 'wildly successful'

huh what

As the clock passes Midnight and takes us into April 10, Apple Watch preorders begin. Sales start two weeks later. The buzz is big, but will actual demand be? Argus Insights, an analyst firm that is new to me, doesn't see strong sales ahead. The metrics are interesting: 7.8 million social interactions and 65K online reviews about wearables.

"Though the Apple Watch will of course be successful, we don’t see the product to be wildly successful", John Feland, Argus founder, says in a statement. I reviewed the firm's report, which data is from September 2014 to end of March 2015, and it's interesting reading. The question, and Apple Watch sales likely will answer: Is online social buzz a means for predicting a product's success?

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Before our buying polls close, please answer: Will you buy Apple Watch or Chromebook Pixel?

Cast your vote in Linus Torvalds' Linux version numbering poll

If you haven't responded to either of our most-recent buying polls—Apple Watch and Chromebook Pixel—it's not too late. Preorders for the timepiece start April 10. The laptop is available now, but with long-wait ship times. I purchased the higher-end Pixel, which review is underway. Whether or not one of our writers will test the smartwatch is uncertain.

Polls of this nature are meant to gauge what a specific audience, BetaNews readers, plan to do. Often what respondents would like to buy isn't what they do. For lots of reasons: Budget; spousal or partner objections; availability; competitive pricing; early product reviews; and more. Results better reflect your intentions as the sample size increases. So, please, take a few seconds to answer each poll, if you haven't already.

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What is Tidal lossless 'HiFi' music worth? [first-impressions review]

emo girl music guy

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.

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Chromebook self-browsing is for REAL

Chromebook self-browsing console

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?

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Chromebook reaches a new low

Chromebit and Chromebook Flip

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?

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Will you buy Chromebook Pixel 2015?

Chromebook Pixel LS

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.

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Google responds to Wall Street Journal's FTC-report hatchet

boy kid crown scepter arrogant arrogance rasperberry

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".

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Apple Watch's potential profits are scary

scar scaried spook afraid cat

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.

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