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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Nine years ago, a NPR interviewer asked me about Google and other U.S. companies censoring search results in China. The question was one of morality -- to which I gave answer she didn't expect. That response, or my recollection of it, is appropriate for rather ridiculous and self-serving statements that Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly made two days ago.
"We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy", Cook said, Matthew Panzarino reports for TechCrunch. "The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it". Oh? What is moral? The answer I gave NPR in 2006 applies: There is no moral high ground in business. The high ground is quagmire, because all public companies -- Apple surely among them -- share a single, moral objective: Make profits for stockholders. Plain, pure, and simple.
My third month as a Tidal subscriber started today, but nearly not at all. Last week I prepared to cancel the pricey, streaming service after encountering a disastrous functional flaw listening on either Nexus 6 or 9. Songs skip to the next track part way through playing, which is unacceptable behavior—made more so because of expectations that higher audio fidelity and loftier monthly subscription fee set.
I would have stopped subscribing yesterday, at the billing cycle's end, if not for Tidal offering a free month of service. Whether or not our paying relationship continues depends much on the music streamer resolving an app problem. "There is a bug with Nexus and Sony phones with Android 5 unfortunately", according to a tech support specialist, "We are working on fixing this. Mostly after 26 megabytes have been streamed, it skips. So for now we do not have a solution yet",
Google Photos is more than an exciting -- and hugely transforming -- new product. The app/cloud service is a metaphor for an escalating mobile business model that, with perhaps the exception of Facebook, no competitor has the capacity to match.
Users gain tremendous time-saving utility, such as the ability to meaningfully search using innocuous terms like "dog" or "Washington", all without the need to manually add metadata tags by way of applications like Photoshop. Meanwhile, Google gets access to quantifiable information, in the image and accompanying metadata, around which to sell advertising and related contextual content or services.
Mobile apps do matter, otherwise my tech-savvy sister wouldn't be giving up one of the best smartphones on the market: Nokia Lumia Icon (which is the 930 internationally). She bought the handset from me last summer and from Day 1 praised the utility and usability of the user interface, attractive but sturdy design, and amazing hardware capabilities, which include the quality of images produced by the camera.
Nanette rang Thursday afternoon, explaining that she had reached the inflection point of frustration finding apps she wanted or absolutely needed. She wanted my advice about a replacement. Should she return to iPhone (Nan used the 4 before Icon) or get an Android? Her user story illuminates what can happen when someone entrenched in the Microsoft ecosystem raises his or her head above ground and sniffs the Android and Apple air.
It's a reminder: You're even dumber than you think.
Tireless commentaries and speculation about when will Microsoft release a smartwatch are ill-informed -- as are other speculations about when will watchmakers release their own devices. (I refer not to our readers but writers here, there, and everywhere.) Perhaps you were sucking your thumb or mommy cleaned your poopy diapers when both were trendsetting market realities.
I want to love Google-branded, HTC-manufactured Nexus 9. But ours is a contentious relationship. N9 is not a bad tablet; others offer better value and performance for the price (or less), with Apple iPad mini being high among them. That said, if pure (aka stock) Android is your thing, there is no worthy alternative. Just prepare for a few compromises, particularly if moving up from Nexus 7.
In his November 2014 review, my colleague Brian Fagioli calls Nexus 9 "magical". I can't agree. During my four months using the tablet, response occasionally hesitates and WiFi too often disconnects. Last week, my N9 received the newest Android update, which somewhat resolves both problems. I purposely delayed this review, waiting for v5.1.1.
I love my Nexus 6. This morning, while waking to the rush of caffeine from steaming coffee, I read headlines on the device. "I’m Phed Up With Phablets: They're too big to prevail" caught my attention. The short commentary, by Brian Rubin for ReadWrite, rails against the bigger-is-better-smartphone trend. Screen on my cellular is massive: 6 inches, and I forever promised myself to never use a phone so large -- until I did and converted. Much as I enjoy using the N6, for which I can still manage many operations one-handed, smaller would be my preference. Perhaps yours, too.
Here at BetaNews, we first raised doubts about ever-expanding screens four years ago. I still remember the discussion about the story, and more importantly the headline, before Ed Oswald wrote "Is that the Samsung Galaxy S II in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" In 2015, what seemed large then -- a 4.3-inch screen -- is puny. Even iPhones are bigger. Rubin rightly raises alarm about choice: "The real problem isn’t so much that there are too many phablets, but that there aren’t enough non-phablets these days -- at least none that are truly interesting".
Fujifilm's line of cameras increasingly looks like choices among toothpastes. Do you want fluoride or gingivitis protection? Oh, this one whitens teeth, cures bad breath, and eliminates body odor. Decisions, decisions. That's kind of my reaction to today's debut of the X-T10 digital camera, which shouldn't be confused with Fujifilm's X10, X100T, or X-T1. Dyslectics and the visually impaired, beware!
As a X100T owner, I'm a Fuji fan. So, please, don't take my criticism wrongly. It's just this lineup is quite crowded. The company's product website lists -- count `em -- 18 different X-Series models. Sure, some aren't current and not all can be confused. But many of them are close enough in actual benefits to perplex potential buyers.
On May 1st, Tidal billed my credit card for the first month of music streaming. Yesterday, my subscription to Google Music ended. I should be satisfied with the switch, given how much more I enjoy 1411kbps lossless listening over the more typical 320kbps compressed streaming music. But recent, recurring service problems put my customer continuation into question.
Quality of content, or available selection of it, isn't the problem. I find plenty of music to enjoy, and the default playlists are smartly curated. The high-fidelity is just that. But slow starts, drop-offs, and song skips disrupt the listening experience -- and for a service costing twice as much as major competitors, like Beats, Rdio, or Spotify, I expect more but get less. There is no customer support option that I can find, either.