Happy New Year !
Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 88, the first one of 2013
The new year has started, and with CES next week, the web is starting to flood with new product announcements and rumors. A bit further down, I'm including some of my own thoughts on what to expect for 2013, but first, let me start with
* Tech News.
* Linux is moving towards the smart phones.
Earlier this week, Ubuntu announced a mobile version of its desktop OS. Shown running on the Galaxy Nexus at this time, they are expecting to get the first actual Ubuntu phones out somewhere next year.
* Sony is at it again.
Earlier this week, Sony applied for a patent to tie physical game purchases to a specific user account.
ELECTRONIC CONTENT PROCESSING SYSTEM, ELECTRONIC CONTENT PROCESSING METHOD, PACKAGE OF ELECTRONIC CONTENT, AND USE PERMISSION APPARATUS
The patent application describes how they intent to place some form of strip on a game disc, and when first used, this tag will be locked to the user account.
While I'm not pleased with how the current gaming (and app) model works, there is an argument to be made that digital download content such as games, game DLC, apps, eBooks and movies and such are locked to a certain user account.
With movies it's usually only a buck or 2 cheaper to buy the restricted digital download vs the same content on disc, for other content, it usually is a bit more of a price difference.
But, if you do pay the extra for the item in a physical form, such as a real book, a real DVD or Bluray, you have the ability to sell/trade it when in need, or when you have no longer a purpose for owning it.
For me, Sony already did enough throughout the years to make me avoid them as much as possible.
Under the name of fighting piracy, Sony has given us proprietary formats with UMD, Memorystick, PS Vita Memory cards, BetaMax, computer crashes due to malicious rootkit software on music CD's, DVDs that don't work in some of Sony's own DVD players, an expiration date on Bluray players by forcing firmware updates about twice a year, removing core-system-functionality from its devices etc, but it seems that they haven't driven away their loyal customers enough just yet, and are now attempting to milk those out even more.
With this patent, Sony will attempt to prevent people from selling and buying used games.
No more trading in of PS4 games you are bored with, and of course no more lower-price purchases for used games either.
But, it will not just be killing the used/rental market, it will go further than that. This will also prevent people from borrowing a game from a buddy, and might even result in the game not being playable by a different user account on the same system.
With this patent, if put in use, I'm sure even the most dedicated Playstation fan will think twice about upgrading to the PS4.
Many of them have put up with these antics in the hope of some return. They signed off their right to participate in a class-action-lawsuit by signing up for PSN, but this attempt to milk out more money from its loyal customers will be the last drop.
Of course services like GameFly will not be able to let you rent Playstation 4 games. Stores like GameStop, where a big part of their revenue involves used games, will not be able to sell or buy used PS4 games, and as a result they might even refuse to sell anything PS4 related.
And, as a result, the XBOX 720 and the WiiU will gain a large new user-base.
The sad thing is, if this patent is put into place, the next thing that will happen is that the tag will be incorporated in disc-based movies.
Of course this will make things even worse, because if that happens, not only will Sony have eliminated the used market, but they would actually push people towards piracy.
One of the reasons I have an (very) extensive DVD/Bluray collection is that it is a collection. Just like with collections of Fenton Glass, Cabbage Patch dolls, or stamps, if ever needed, I am able to actually use it as some form of emergency money. For a company like Sony to prevent me from selling something I legitimately bought is just plain wrong.
If (or when?) this happens, what will be next? Car companies like Ford embedding a fingerprint reader in their cars to prevent you from selling your car used? Microsoft locking their computer operating system licenses to a user, rather than a computer, furniture gps-locked to a physical location, so if you move, you need to buy new?
There are already concerns with what happens with the digital purchases after someone dies. MP3's are now DRM-free, so you can just copy them over and divide them, but the purchase license from stores like iTunes prevents this. Apps, eBooks, TV episodes, movies, data in the cloud, how can this content be divided or transferred. Will it just sit there, inaccessible, even though the content was legitimately purchased?
Now with this new "technology", it seems Sony intends to add an additional layer of DRM, but this time not to prevent piracy, but only to try to milk their customers even more. What do these customers get in return? Lower prices for the game-purchase, I really doubt that.
* MovieGallery News:
Earlier this week, I released MovieGallery 2.2. A small update that mainly addresses some complications people were experiencing in regards of screen rotation and startup times. I also added settings (as requested by a few users) to disable the volume and brightness adjustment settings during video playback.
But in addition to the above, I added a new, completely unique, feature in MovieGallery that is so simple, but one I find myself using more and more.
A clock !
I know, it sounds a bit silly, but just give it some thought. I watch my shows and movies on tablets in the evening, and more often than not, I need to keep track of the time for something. A favorite show that I am waiting for on TV to start (Arrow for example), a certain time I have to call someone, a snack in the oven or on the stove, or maybe just to make sure I don't stay up too late.
Either way, I have to glance over to the clock hanging on the wall on the side of me. By itself, not that big of a deal, but with a small clock in the corner of the screen, it enables me to keep track of time a lot easier.
The clock is tiny, so it doesn't interfere with your video watching experience, and it can be turned off in MovieGallery's settings, but for me, it makes my own MovieGallery usage so much better.
* B&N Appstore.
Over on the official NOOK boards is a thread going on that started with a usual complaint about eBook pricing and of course the state of the B&N Appstore.
Help! I Hate My NOOK!!!!! - Barnes & Noble Book Clubs
While threads like this are quite common, this one moved towards questioning the need for an approval process in an Appstore.
As a developer with an app in a few of these Appstores, I'd like to share my thoughts on this.
From the 4 major Appstores (Apple, Amazon, B&N and Google), 3 of them use a submission process that make sure that apps are tested and at least offer some sense of functionality. Google Play is the only one that enables anyone to upload any type of app without any form of verification.
As a result, it is quite easy for people to upload apps with a bad intention, or just copies/clones of other apps. With the testing-process done by the other Appstores, a first line of defense prevents the inclusion of malicious apps.
In addition, the approval process, to some extent, also keeps a developer on his/her toes. If it wasn't for a few rejections by B&N, MovieGallery would likely have a few more glitches. Of course over time they would be addressed, but it would take a while before they came to light.
Unfortunately, it seems that there is no real testing system in place to test these apps. Depending on the person testing, they could be using a maxed out older smart phone (with performance issues by itself), or they could use a brand new high-end tablet. Or, one tester might find certain content an issue, while another tester would accept it.
My first Amazon submission for MovieGallery was similar. With the intention of just releasing it for the Kindle Fire, Amazon decided to test MovieGallery on an old phone with the latest available Android version available for it. This by itself has memory issues, and to run an image-based application such as MovieGallery on it is basically asking for complications.
As a result of the rejection from Amazon, I ended up rewriting the entire image-loading part, and in turn MovieGallery worked better than before.
But on the other side of the spectrum, there are inconsistencies.
For about a year or so, I have been using some movie trailers in MovieGallery for the people who don't read the product description and don't have any movies on their device.
A few weeks ago, a MovieGallery update was rejected because these trailers had a competitors logo in the corner. The trailers were there for months, and MovieGallery has received numerous updates that were approved just fine, with the same trailers, but one tester decided that that logo was an issue, and rejected the update because of it.
These differences between testers are making things tricky for developers. At one time an application gets approved, you make a few changes and submit a new update, and then for a reason not even remotely related to the changes you did, the application gets rejected.
I don't disagree with the rejections of app submissions, but I do wish that each tester would use the same approval routine
* What to expect for 2013.
All over the web, sites posted up "best of 2012" articles, but what I find more interesting is to think about what we are looking at for the next 12 months.
Please understand that the information below is not factual, and is based on my own observations and my own opinion.
Based on previous years, it is pretty much a given that we will be looking at a new big Android OS and iOS version. Apple will likely release a new version of its desktop operating system, according to its yearly schedule. Microsoft has mentioned something similar for Windows, so who knows if Windows 9 will make it. Of course we will see a new slew of tablets from everyone as well, and it is also likely that the XBOX 720 and the PS4 will be getting a lot of exposure, and might even see a release near the end of the year.
* Let me start with Apple.
Around March, Apple will be holding one of its popular keynote addresses again, and like the previous years, it will likely include new iPad announcements. With the iPad 4 being released only a few months ago, I don't think they will be doing much with that, but if we look at the time between the iPad 3 and the iPad 4, I would expect that the iPad Mini will be boosted up to iPad 3 specs in terms of processing power. Then, during the autumn keynote, the iPad Mini will get the retina treatment, and of course the iPad 5 will be announced, and aside from a processor upgrade, it will probably result in double the memory for the same price as the current models.
For iOS7 and OS X , I'm not sure what they would include as new features. Lately, I haven't seen any real innovation from Apple, aside from turning the desktop OS more into a mobile OS, and with a yearly update schedule for both, I think the reason for the updates is to force people to upgrade the hardware. iOS7 will probably drop support for the iPad2, even though the hardware itself is the same as that of the iPad Mini, and with OS X 10.9, support for some of the older Mac systems will also likely be dropped.
With what they did last year, Apple has shown it's true colors though. If they follow their business model from last year, we will see an iPad 5 to be released in March, and an iPad 6 around September. Then, following the 1 1/2 year schedule for updates as they did with the iPad 1, we can expect that the iPad 3 will no longer receive updates when the iPad 6 is released, and of course, March of 2014, the iPad 4 will be dropped as well.
The thing is, how are developers going to keep up with this. I'm sure the bigger companies will release a new Infinity Blade to push sales for the newest iPad, but for the smaller developers, supporting the older models will still remain.
* Then there is Microsoft.
Microsoft made some bold moves in 2012. We all knew Windows 8 was coming, and with it, Microsoft made a big change to the way we experience Windows. While I'm not too pleased with it as an actual desktop operating system, it does offer interesting new ways of how people experience and use their computers.
But, I don't see it last in the way it is now. For many, including myself, it feels like a step back, rather than an advancement. As a "power user", I find myself using Windows 8 in the classic desktop-mode 99.9% of the time, and even then, it is a struggle to keep the actual OS itself from interfering with what you are doing. On top of that, the one thing that all these companies seem to forget is ergonomics. Using a touch screen on a daily basis for work purposes result in a major increase in people experiencing medical issues with their wrists (RSI, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome etc).
Microsoft did mention it was trying to follow suit with releasing a new OS on a yearly basis. If they do, I hope with Windows 9 that they will find a better combination of how to incorporate touch screens into a desktop environment.
Then the entry into the tablet market with the Surface RT. Somewhat unexpected, and with it, Microsoft stepped on the toes of some of its corporate friends, but while it hasn't received the sales yet, the actual design and the idea behind it actually works.
Unfortunately, it is yet another mobile operating system. While there are plenty of bigger development companies working on apps and games for it, for smaller ones such as myself, it is hard to pick and choose what to develop for what. There is Apple, but unless you have something else with a lot of exposure to boost interest, your app will get lost in the millions of apps out there. On Android, this is a little less, and it is possible for a smaller app to get a bit higher up the ladder, but again, it is also easy to get lost. With an near-empty market such as the one for Windows RT or for the Blackberry Playbook/Blackberry 10 devices, it is possible to gain more exposure due to a lack of competition, but is it worth investing a considerable amount of time on learning a new development system and translating/porting an app over to it for a small percentage of users?
Thankfully, Microsoft is releasing the Surface Pro soon. Similar in design as the Surface RT, but rather than running a mobile OS, this one runs the full desktop OS. No forced use of an App Store, but just like a desktop system, you can pluck files and apps from the web and use them. Your existing apps and games will (likely) work with them, and there is no compromise in functionality.
Unfortunately, the pricing is wrong. A real tablet running the apps that you are used to will make the perfect tablet, but with a price that exceeds that of a high-end desktop system (or a mid-range, higher-specced laptop), they are making it more of a niche product rather than a true competitor for the rest of the tablets out there. A few years ago, the Netbook (eeePC etc) was a smash-hit. Super-portable mini laptops, at a mini price. Not that great in performance, but at least they ran all the apps that you were used to. Then, when Apple launched the Macbook Air, companies figured that Ultra Books were going to be the next best thing, but thanks to prices of about 4x as much as a netbook, they wondered why sales didn't take of as expected.
Of course we will be seeing a lot of Apple vs Samsung lawsuit stuff going on again. It reminds me of the SCO battle against Linux and IBM a few years ago., and that got old too. I can understand the reasoning for both parties involved, but does it really have to be all over the web all the time?
Anyway, Samsung already has an extensive line up of different phones, tablets and phablets, and of course, these will be upgraded this year as well. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is only a few months away, and of course we will see a few new 7" versions in different variants, new 10" ones with and without a pen, and of course a Galaxy Note 3.
Samsung has been working on the split-screen functionality on Android for quite some time, and I am hoping that this will reach a point where it would be possible to run non-optimized apps in split/screen functionality as well.
Amazon took the tablet world by surprise with the original Kindle Fire 1 1/2 years ago, and continued to do well thanks to its new HD and HD 8.9 models this year.
This year, I'm expecting the original Kindle Fire to fade out and to be replaced with the current Kindle Fire HD. The Kindle Fire HD and the HD 8.9 will receive a performance boost (by means of a Tegra 3 chip for example), but aside from that, Amazon will likely be focusing more on content again.
It is no secret that Amazon is using the Kindle Fire devices as a way to learn more about your interests so it can provide you with more stuff that matches your interests, and by incorporating an easy way to have its customers share this information with other people would result in new customers and thus more sales.
With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and just about any other social networking site being a gold-mine for people to gather more knowledge about a person before they are considered for a job position (be careful with what you post in public), as well as providing a lot of information to advertising agencies, and numerous other occupations, it seems likely something more sales-related will be entering the social world this year.
Considering the route Amazon is going, I'm guessing they will be releasing some form of social platform that integrates fully with their core business. Salesbook or Salesterest for example. An easy way to share your experiences of purchased content with your friends and family. Share Kindle notes, share video notes, post reviews/star ratings for content you rented/bought etc.
* Barnes & Noble.
B&N came out with a big surprise when they released the NOOK color 2 years ago, and continued to build on their tablets with the NOOK tablet and recently the HD and HD+. All great devices, great specs, affordable, but lacking one thing. Content other than books.
With the HD and the HD+, they released their own video service, and while functional, it is yet another video service, and of course content purchased in one store doesn't transfer over to another.
This year, B&N will likely drop the NOOK tablet in Autumn, and move the HD to a lower price point. They might release an updated HD and HD+, but hardware-wise, these tablets are already great for what is available for them. I'm hoping that B&N will be doing a bit more in regards of content. Some form of advertising-option for developers to use would result in an increase of popularity for the NOOK's by means of free apps. Maybe in-freemium apps, with in-app purchases, while I'm not too fond of these, would be another option to work on for them.
Blackberry is having hard times. While, even after almost 2 years, the Playbook is still one of my favorite tablets, it didn't do as good as RIM hoped, and it has been struggling ever since.
Even for today's standards, the Playbook is holding up quite well, and includes features and functionality that Apple and Google still haven't even attempted to implement, border-touch (off-screen) and true multi-tasking by its ability to keep apps running (and active) in the background, but it never really got the chance to compete with the other tablets.
Since the Playbook, RIM has been working on Blackberry 10. Similar in functionality as the Playbook (same OS) but then optimized for phones. Near the end of the month, it will finally see it release. I'm hoping that it is not too late for RIM, but with both Apple and Google, and even Microsoft gaining more ground in the corporate and enterprise world, it will not be easy to gain back that of what they lost.
This year, we will likely see the developer release of Google Glass, the eyePhone. Quite revolutionair in design and of course it seems like a good idea, but I still have no idea what to think of it. A few videos on Youtube express some of the mishaps that people might run into with such a device, and for myself, I'd hate to be driving while wearing the thing and have my vision affected by popups of twitter, text and facebook updates.
Aside from Google Glass, the success of the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 will result in an update during the second half of the year as well. Of course, just like the current line-up, the specs will be determined after more information about Apple's iPad 5 will be made available. Higher resolution, faster processor, etc.
Aside from Google Glass, this year will likely be quite similar to last year. We might see a few new sizes, maybe a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.0 or a Google Nexus 6, but overall, it seems that manufacturers are reliving the Intel vs AMD battle from the late 90's. A specification-race, higher resolution, faster processor, but in the end, just more of the same. Outside of the specification war, it seems innovation itself has slowed down to the bare minimum, and, considering that most developers are unable to max out the capabilities of current or even previous generation devices, "minor" spec upgrades don't really justify replacing what you have now with what is coming out.
A few newsletters ago, I mentioned that the Xoom, 2 years old, is still holding up. Maybe it is not capable of running the latest and greatest anymore (but this seems to be more an issue with the manufacturor, rather than the device's own capabilities), but it's functionality now is considerably more as what it was when it was originally released. It still does web, music, video, and tablet-optimized apps have grown in numbers considerably in the last year. The same goes for the original iPad. Even though Apple dropped support for it almost a year ago, the amount of iPad 1's sold still warrant developers to include iPad 1 compatibility for their apps. Just because a company decides a device is no longer worth it, that doesn't mean that it is worthless.
There are still plenty of people who use big tube TV's and computer screens, just because they still work. I know of people still using VHS tapes, audio cassette and even records, because they don't have a need for the new fancy stuff, or computers running the 11 year old Windows XP, just because they are used to it.
And that is it for this week's newsletter.
Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend,
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