Blog Archives

Could Apple Upend Streaming Media by Competing with Spotify and Netflix?

For awhile now, there has been talk of Apple creating a Pandora or Spotify competitor.  Pandora is the online radio service that allows users to create automated music stations based on particular artists, songs, or styles of music.  Spotify is another similar service that not only allows you to make automatically generated stations, but also create custom playlists of particular songs you like.  Google recently announced at their developers’ conference, Google I/O, that they were bringing such a service called “Google Play Music All Access“.  For $9.99 a month users will be able to stream music from the entire Google Music library, as well as their own songs, in genre specific station formats, as well as adding specific songs they like to their own stations.

Speculation has been rampant that Apple will do something similar with iTunes.  Not long ago they introduced iTunes Match as a competitor to Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player.  Both Amazon’s and Google’s solutions allow you to upload your audio library to their servers with your account and listen to it anywhere you want through the web for free, before hitting the song limit that is.  Apple solution, however, costs $25 a year, and will instead scan your iTunes library and add high quality versions of the songs in your library from their servers, and only upload those files which it does not recognize or which iTunes does not have in its store.  However, these are not the same as they use music you have already purchased, rather than the entire library of the iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play Music stores.

If Apple is planning on offering a streaming subscription service, they are most likely negotiating royalty fees and licensing rights with the record companies.  And if they do announce this at their upcoming WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference), then iTunesFlixsome might call this a “me-too” move, even if speculation has gone on longer with Apple than Google on this move.

Admittedly this move makes sense, as Apple has probably the largest digital media library of all the online stores.  And we know that people are more than happy to stream music and pay for it, as indicated by Spotify’s 6 million paying subscribers out of the 24 million active users (in other words, 1 out of every 4 Spotify users pay for the service).  But what if Apple decided to do something more?  What if they not only offered a streaming music service, but also a Netflix competitor.

As mentioned before, Apple’s media library is by far the largest and most valued of the digital media stores, generating $4.1 billion in revenue for the company.  If Apple were to offer customers a streaming music and video service for $9.99 or so, then Apple could potentially 1-up Google and now compete more directly with Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.  Not only would they have the brand recognition of iTunes, but they would already have a potentially large user base and network already in place.  Anyone who has a copy of iTunes, which already runs on every Mac and iOS device, as well as on Windows, could already have access to the iTunes Streaming network, which one could call iTunes Now or iTunes Streaming.

Big media, meaning the TV, movie, and music industries, could also benefit from this.  Apple proved that if you give people access to buy digital media at a fair price, piracy could be reduced.  Netflix has also shown this to be true as places with Netflix have decreased rates of online piracy.  Furthermore, they would be more likely to already have licensing deals ready with the movie and TV industry, as well as the music industry, and potentially be more friendly than competing services like Netflix.  Finally, there is the potential for continued consumption of the same series.  Apple could immediately offer the viewer not only the option to stream another episode or view content of similar type, as other online streaming services do, but could also to offer the user the ability to directly buy the content or a season of content straight from iTunes.  This means the content companies would not only get a royalty fee from viewing, but from direct purchasing of the content as well.

Realistically, Apple would not likely be able to stream all of it the content because some companies would want to maintain control of certain programs.  Case in point, HBO’s “Game of Thrones,”  which is only streamable through HBO’s own HBO Go, but on no other competing services.  People can only purchase and download episodes from iTunes.  Certainly HBO would not be the only service limiting this kind of access.  This brings up the point that Apple already has its renting service, but has been limited to movies since 2011, usually about $4.99 for an HD movie and $3.99 for a standard definition movie.  Apple stated previously that people preffered purchasing shows through iTunes rather than rent individual episodes for 99 cents.  This only helps the point though that it will be successful by offering a flat monthly or yearly rate for streaming movies, shows, and music from the iTunes Store directly.

So far, there has not been much indication to this idea, besides the streaming music option.  But it does not mean that it cannot happen.  Apple has pulled surprises before; this could just be another one.

(Posted on my other site easyosx.net)

5 Ways iOS is Better than Android:

Note: This is a point-counterpoint article style.  If you want to see 5 ways Android beats iOS, click the link at the bottom of the article.

If you want to start a flame war on the Internet, there are a few topics to try bringing up.  One of these is iOS versus Android.  Even just a news article about a minor update or rumor about one OS or another is likely to summon anger and hate.  That being said, there are a few ways iOS is better than Android.  Here are 5 of them.  These reasons do not revolve around downloadable apps except where it applies to the debate.  Also, the arguments are not listed in order of importance or effectiveness.  Jailbreaking and/or rooting is also not being taken into consideration unless explicitly stated otherwise.

     SECURITY:  McAfee certainly finds iOS more secure than Android.  For better or worse, Apple tightly controls the experience of iOS, including the flow of apps into the App Store.  Apple’s examination process means increased security against malicious apps making it onto your iDevice.  We have seen proof of concepts where the App Store has some security bugs or apps have gotten through Apple’s screening process, but overall nothing like the malicious attempts against Android.

This goes deeper than just apps though.  Apple has the Find My iPhone app available for all of its iDevices in case yours gets lost or stolen.  I can’t tell you how many times in my job I have used or have seen this used to track a student’s stolen iPhone.  Of course you can get free or paid third-party options in the App Store and some of them offer more features.  But Apple’s own offering provides a very simple experience that you can access from any computer or iDevice that allows you to track your phone, send messages, or erase your entire phone.  Android has no solution of its own for this.

Both stores have apps that sometimes grab things that they probably shouldn’t be meddling with (why do some games need access to my contact list?), but with the recent iOS 6 update, Apple has allowed finer controls.  Now apps that want to access your Address Book, Location, Facebook or Twitter account, among other things, have to actually ask permission to do so.  Admittedly this whole thing started after a few scandals, but better late then never.

     MULTITASKING:  iOS multitasking was implemented before Android got their own solution and has done it better since day one.  Just a double tap on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch’s home button brings up the multitasking bar.  You can slide through all of your open apps, or slide to the left and get access to your music controls.  Pause, play, fast-forward, and rewind, or jump straight into the app playing the audio be it Pandora, your Music app, or whatever.  You also can control your iDevice’s AirPlay streaming controls and whether to lock the screen’s rotation.  iOS users also got the ability to kill apps from that multitasking bar, even if they didn’t actually need to.

Android users get most of the same multitasking features like background audio or voice calls, but application switching didn’t get any native solution until Android 3.0 “Honeycomb”.  Android users had been using app-killing solutions from the Android Marketplace, but it took Google until Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” to actually implement that feature natively.  Admittedly the way Android 4.0 does it looks pretty slick, but it seems like something that could have been included so much earlier.  And speaking of apps…

     APPS, APPS, AND APPS!:  If there was one thing any smartphone or tablet has to have these days, its apps. While Steve Jobs may not have initially liked the idea of iOS apps, it’s pretty safe to say that he was wrong.  Today, Apple’s iOS has the largest marketplace for apps of any mobile OS (and maybe even some desktop operating systems).  iOS has over 600,000 apps with almost half of them for the iPad.  If you’re looking for an app, chances are you’ll find it there.  Apple does place some restrictions on how apps may function, some of this for security while others seem downright controlling, but as a whole, the Apple experience works fluidly, and many developers have figured out how to use the rules of iOS to their needs, especially with the lack of a file manager like Mac’s Finder.  On the user end, many people are leaving the standard computer for the iPad, including the elderly, students, young children, and more.

Some of the limits also factor in to quality control.  Apps on iOS seem better built, more stable, and less resource intensive than their Android counterparts.  This certainly seems like a factor in why iOS users are more willing to retain apps than Android users.  To be fair, some apps are great across platforms, while others are coded badly no matter the platform (I’m looking at you Facebook), so Android and iOS are not completely responsible for apps or their entire quality experience.  It’s also fair to note that the amount of free apps on Android is greater than iOS.

This also affect developers too.  Many developers publish an app hoping to make some money for the time they put into it.  This varies from developer to developer and the reason the developer makes an app may not be solely for profit.  It’s not uncommon for popular apps to come out on the iPhone or iPad first before making the leap to Android.  Why?  Android developers don’t make the same amount of cash as iPhone users do.  Macworld reports about how developers make less on Android than iOS.

     RESPONSIVENESS:  This is where we get a little technical.  Hardcore Android users love to talk about the hardware specs of their devices.  These can include 2 gigs of RAM, quad-core CPU and graphics, NVidia chipsets, etc.  For any tech geek, those are fairly impressive mobile stats.  Here’s something Android users never seem to talk about though: why does iOS run just as smooth, if not smoother, then the majority of Android devices while having generally lower stats (save for the graphics processor and the resolution of the screen on the latest models)?  Android and iOS users can play the same games, like ShadowGun, but iOS tends to play it so much more cleanly than Android.

Let’s look also at touch response.  The response time of an iPhone or iPad is consistently faster, more fluid, and better tracks your finger’s motion than Android.  This is what it breaks down to: iOS was created from the very beginning to be a touchscreen system, meaning that responsiveness to your touch needed to be a top priority.  So iOS sets a user’s touch command as a “real time priority”.  When you touch your iPad or iPhone’s screen, the device puts your touch and the corresponding commands at the highest priority.  It focuses all its attention on you like a puppy on a new toy.

When Android was first developed, it was competing against BlackBerry, so Android originally used a physical keyboard and mouse like BlackBerry.  Then the iPhone came out, and Android had to adapt.  But they implemented touch as a “normal priority”, treating it the same way as all the device’s other processes rather than the most important.  Google could fix this, if they wanted to have almost every app in the Google Play store rewritten to support the change.  Chances of this happening in the near future are pretty slim, so Google and manufacturers will likely keep sticking with more powerful hardware.  You can read more about this at Redmond Pie’s article.

FRAGMENTATION:  OK, I saved this section for last because it’s a very sensitive point in the debate and is probably the most detailed.  This argument also tends to be the go-to argument when people comment on the negatives of Android and I wanted to show there were other legitimate reasons before coming to this one.

With that out of the way, Android has a huge fragmentation problem, partially as a result of its openness and partially because of Google.  Android is available on many different devices running different hardware specs, screen sizes, and versions of Android.  It’s only recently that Google has tried to reign in on Android’s fragmentation problems.

Let’s start with the user interfaces.  You get a different user interface per manufacturer: Motorola has Blur, there’s HTC’s Sense, the stock Android experience, etc.  If you switch manufacturers, say to the Samsung Galaxy series from a Motorola phone, you have a little bit of a learning curve.  Some of these interfaces are downright ugly, though that’s a comment directed at the manufacturers rather than Android.  Different user interfaces aren’t a problem if a user chooses it because that’s their choice, but it’s a different story when you can’t customize that (which has always been a strong point for Android).

While we’re on the subject of manufacturer differences, let’s talk about stock apps.  Every OS comes with stock apps, such as the browser, calendar, etc.  But Android, like Windows on the desktop, generally has extra apps that the manufacturers put on the devices to make extra money and they have the right to do so.  However you don’t hear Windows users cry out in the same way that Android users do over third-party stock apps.  Why is that?  On Windows, you can always uninstall these apps, but not on Android.  If you want to uninstall the third party stock apps like security services, office software, etc., you have to root your device.  Plus, mobile phones don’t have the hard drive space that a full computer does.  You can eventually uninstall these apps, but you have to wait until there is a way to root your device (basically putting you in complete control over your device), and these aren’t always stable activities and can end up breaking your phone if you use the wrong one.  It’s one thing for Google to have their stock apps, but it’s different from those apps that a manufacturer puts on there.

Apps are also a problem on Android.  I’m not talking about the quality or range of apps on Android, I’m talking about not being able to install apps.  Let me explain: there are apps on every operating system, desktop or mobile, that won’t install on certain versions or devices or lack of requirements.  Some apps don’t update and require older operating systems, while some are new and don’t support older versions.  Likewise apps aren’t capable of running on some systems because of the lack of hardware requirements (this is especially true for media intensive apps like games).  No use using a camera app if your device has no camera.  So why am I picking on Android?  It’s the way Android handles this issue.  If I run into an app that I can’t run on my iPhone or iPad (which is rare indeed), the App Store will tell me that this app isn’t compatible with my device.  On Android, I don’t get this pop-up for incompatible apps.  In fact, I don’t get anything.  If an app isn’t compatible with my device, looking it up on my device won’t tell me that.  It just acts like the app doesn’t exist.  I have to go to the Android Marketplace website to see this for certain.  I want to be clear here:  I’m not talking about screen size limitations.  There are apps that are only available on my iPad that aren’t available on my iPhone and vice versa, and this isn’t something I hold against Android.  This is specifically when I’m look for an app on two different Android devices the app will show up on one device but not others.

But by far the worst thing about Android fragmentation is updating the OS.  In the iOS world, so long as your device is at least 2 years old or younger, you’re guaranteed to get the latest version of iOS.  You may be lacking some features due to hardware or Apple limitations, but you still get the majority of the patches, features, and fixes for your device. The latest version iOS (6.x.x) already is on a majority of iOS devices.  If you’re waiting for an Android update, join the club.  The current version of Android (Jelly Bean, 4.1-4.2) is still only about 10% of the market.  The hardware manufacturers are doing a pretty lousy job at upgrading their devices, even their latest devices.  They aren’t making the grade.  The only devices that consistently get the latest and greatest Android updates are the Nexus devices running the stock version of Android.  Those are released yearly and are run almost entirely by Google, who also controls the design of the Nexus devices, though they outsource the actual manufacturing to one of their hardware partners.  Funny, does this sound a little like Apple?

CONCLUSION:  I’m not an Apple fanboy, despite what you might think.  There are things I sincerely like about Android, and some things I wish would change in iOS.  All that aside, I know that my iDevices will always have the latest software for at least a few years, have a wider and better selection of apps, and will work when I need them too.  Apple and iOS aren’t perfect, but this is a case where the vertical integration style of Apple just works, and that’s what I really need.   If you care to hear 5 ways Android is better than iOS, another post will come out soon detailing 5 ways Android is better than iOS.  I encourage you to read both sides of the debate.

In the comments below, we want to hear what you think.  Was there something I missed, something I got wrong, or just have your own take to add to the debate?  Tell us in the comments.  You can check out more on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  And check out our Google Plus.  Thanks!

To the Google Plus!

In case you haven’t heard the news, Google Plus, Google’s social network, has recently opened up Pages. Google Plus Pages are basically the same thing like Facebook Pages; social pages for brands, companies, etc. And guess what, now I have one too. If you’re on Google Plus, follow the page and check out the link here:

https://plus.google.com/107817518299218190319

Thanks!

App of the Week: SRWare Iron

Whether or not you like them, Google makes a lot of great and influential products.  Among them, Chrome has really moved the browser market forward with its minimalist design, fast update cycle, and rapid growth.  However, for all of Chrome’s goodness, some people are concerned about Google’s hand in it.  They worry about Google keeping records of their visits, if their personal information is going to be sold to advertisers, etc. (I mean, the other big browsers don’t put a user agreement for you to agree to first).  Many still want to test the power and speed of Chrome.  Simple put, they want Chrome minus Google.  The solution comes from Germany (don’t worry, it’s in English too).

SRWare is a German company that takes Google Chrome’s code and strips Google out of the code and puts it out as the browser called Iron.  Iron still has all the speed of Chrome, you can still sync Iron across computers with Google’s sync feature in the browser, and still install Chrome extensions and apps (or you can use Iron’s own little repository).  While I still use Rockmelt as my primary browser, Iron is a great Chrome substitute, especially for people who are very privacy conscious.  I actually used Iron before Rockmelt as my primary browser and I loved it.

SRWare Iron Logo

That being said, there are a few things in Iron that just don’t seem right.  First of all, every major browser has either an auto-update feature, or at least has a way of notifying you of updates.  Iron doesn’t, at all.  If you want to see if there is an update, you need to check their downloads page occasionally, or follow them on Twitter.  At least some easier way of notifying us of updates would be nice.

Another downside is specifically for Mac.  When Google updates Chrome, it usually takes other Chrome-based browsers a few weeks to update, no surprise there, and Iron updates for Linux, Mac, and Windows regularly.  It’s that schedule that bugs me; Windows gets updated in the first couple of weeks, Linux a little after that, but not the Mac version.  The Mac version doesn’t get updated for 2 whole versions of Chrome.  So whereas Windows/Linux Iron updated from Chrome version 9, then to 10, ad then 11, the Mac version updated from 9 to 11.  UPDATE on 8-21-2011: With the release of Iron version 13 for Mac, SRWare announced they are going to update the Mac version of Iron more frequently, and release updates alongside its Windows’ counterpart.

Otherwise Iron is a great browser for people who want Chrome, without the privacy worries that you may have about Google.  Iron works for OSX 10.4, 10.5, 10.6, and 10.7, as well as Windows XP, Vista, and 7, & most major Linux distributions.  You can download it from http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron_download.php

Securing Chrome Browsers

In this video, I look at how to keep Chromium based browsers secure on your Mac. These include Google Chrome, Chromium, Rockmelt, SRWare Iron, and more. Check it out. And if you’re watching these videos and you know someone who uses a Chromium browser, share this with them.

Thanks!

%d bloggers like this: