Google cancels free Netflix with Chromecast stick-top box
By Adam TURNER
Even without three months worth of free Netflix, Google's $35 media player-on-a-stick still looks like a good deal.
If you're still in any doubt that the entertainment landscape is changing, news of Google's Netflix-on-a-stick should settle it once and for all. Once you allowed for the free three-month Netflix subscription, you were paying a mere US$11 for an ChromeOS-powered, HDMI-enabled entertainment device offering access to Netflix, the Google Play store and the Chrome browser. At those prices it's little wonder that the Chromecast sold out in a few hours. I've got one on order, even though I don't need it, just to see what all the fuss is about.
The cancellation of the free Netflix offer obviously changes the Chromecast's value proposition slightly, although it's hard to believe that Google and Netflix could underestimate the popularity of such a deal. I doubt anyone will decide not to buy one just because the Netflix deal has ended, but offering one month free might have been a better idea to help the deal last more than 24 hours.
Between internet-enabled televisions, Blu-ray players, Personal Video Recorders and set-top boxes like the Apple TV and Roku, Netflix must be approaching saturation point in tech-savvy US lounge rooms. It's hard to believe that anyone who wants a Netflix-enabled device still doesn't have one. If Google can meet demand then you'd think the Chromecast should pick up the stragglers.
It would be interesting to know how many of those Chromecast sticks are actually headed outside the US to meet pent-up demand in countries like Australia which are still waiting for official access to Netflix. It's not hard to watch Netflix on Australian home entertainment gear using DNS trickery, and it will be interesting to see how easy it is to get the Chromecast running in Australia compared to something like the Roku 3 (which is a pain in the arse, but I'll talk about that next week).
Australian internet video services like Quickflix are already worried about Netflix, but if the US streaming giant times its entry into Australia to coincide with the local release of the Chromecast then it could be the perfect storm. Winter is coming, so Australia's local video providers need to win over customers while they can.
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Mac sales slip
By Stephen WITHERS
Apple's latest results show Mac sales slipped to 3.8 million units in the second calendar quarter, down from 4 million in the year-ago quarter.
This follows a smaller drop in the previous quarter from 4 million to "just under four million".
What's different this time is that the reduction hasn't been offset by increased iPad sales. The 2Q13 figure of 14.6 million iPads compares unfavourably with 17 million in 2Q12 and 19.5 million in 1Q13.
The bright spot was record June-quarter iPhone sales of 31.2 million units.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said "We are really excited about the upcoming releases of iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks, and we are laser-focused and working hard on some amazing new products that we will introduce in the fall and across 2014", but as usual there was no indication of what they might be. Apart from the redesigned Mac Pro, but that's already been introduced but not released.
I don't know about you, but I'm ready to be amazed by a new iMac or MacBook - something as radical as the white iMac G5 or the first MacBook Air were in their time.
While the Mac Pro is impressive, it's not something I'm likely to buy and it doesn't seem to be resonating with traditional Mac Pro buyers, who seem to want the ability to add internal storage and special-purpose cards. German site Giga seemed to sum it up nicely.
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Wasn't it Gary Wright who wrote "Dreamweaver"? Soon to be a reality ...
By David HAGUE
Over the last few days, I have been having some particularly vivid and bizarre dreams. (Stop sniggering and settle down at the back!)
They start out mundane enough but soon collapse into a weird unreality that at the time, seems perfectly normal. What’s also interesting is that I can remember them even two or three days later with extreme clarity, and are definitely in colour.
The first one involved getting on a 747 for a flight to the US – from Perth airport. Nothing odd there, I’ve boarded 747s a number of times to the US, Japan and Europe.
Why that flight would head north towards Singapore, where we were told we’d have a fuel stop, and why it landed on the ocean and cruised up to a petrol bowser and even more perversely, why the ocean was a peppermint green colour, I have no idea.
Also in the realms of the ridiculous was then it didn’t actually take off, instead barreling along the ocean’s surface at cruising speed and throwing up a HUGE wake – I know it was as I looked out the back windows – of a 747?
There was no cabin crew either, and we could see down the aisle to the two pilots. Which also meant I could see the bridges we were going under; on the ocean miles from anywhere. And despite the arches of these bridges being very small, the wings never touched the sides.
A lot more happened, but you get the idea …
So I got to thinking. I wonder if any research has actually gone into “photographing” or “videoing” a person’s dreams. And you know, there has!
An article in the journal Nature, as far back as 2008, described a technique that had been discovered whereby a 90% accuracy of what a picture a person was looking at (out of a random sample of a possible 1750 pictures) was developed and Professor Jack Gallard says that within 30 years or so, decoding brain images would be possible – but could and would cause serious privacy implications.
With the speed at which science works these days, I would envisage having a DVD or Blu-ray made of your dream may be possible faster than that, but it does invoke a little bit of spookiness as well.
Minority Report anyone? But then again, I’d prefer Tom Cruise keep HIS dreams to himself thank you.
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Beware the ad-blockers
By Ian GRAYSON
I recently had a conversation with a young gent who was espousing ad-blocking software and how it greatly improved his on-line life. But what else do these software tools do?
The gent in question told me how he'd become sick and tired of advertisements on websites. Happily, he had found a way to remove them and get just the online content he was seeking.
As someone who has worked in the content creation business since graduating from university, it troubles me that growing numbers of people feel the same way. They're unwilling to pay for content online, but are also looking for ways to avoid advertising.
You can't have it both ways. Content creation companies - big and small - need to generate revenue some how. If this doesn't come via a subscription or pay-per-view model, it has to come from advertising.
To be fair, advertisers have to be smart about what they do. Large web page ads that take over an entire page or play annoying sounds are not the way to go. Well-designed, context-relevant advertising is what's needed.
If those rules are followed, there is no reason why advertising shouldn't be part of a good online experience. That content you enjoy depends on it.
Before you install ad-blocking software, think about what it does for content creators.
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Foxtel Go comes to Android, Galaxy S4 owners still miss out
By Adam TURNER
Owners of Samsung's flagship phone are still waiting for Samsung's flagship apps.
Almost a month ago I wrote about the fact that Samsung's exclusive Android deals with Quickflix and Foxtel weren't paying off for Galaxy S4 owners, who were still waiting for them to appear in the Samsung app store. Quickflix came through with the goods but it's taken Foxtel until this week to finally deliver the slick Foxtel Go app for Android -- offering free live channels and Catch Up TV to Foxtel subscribers.
The release of the Android app might be exciting news for Foxtel subscribers, but don't get too excited if you're a Galaxy S4 owner. It's only available for the Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II and Galaxy Note 10.1. There's no indication from Samsung as to when it might be available on the Galaxy S4, but Samsung's exclusive Android rights to the Foxtel Go app expire in November so it's running out of time to tout Foxtel as a reason to favour the GS4 over the Android competition.
This week Foxtel also unveiled Foxtel Go for Windows and Mac, which is a welcome addition but unfortunately it's missing the Footy Play channel because of the nature of the AFL broadcast rights. Meanwhile you can watch Footy Play on flagship Samsung Smart TVs like the F8000 series, but you'll still miss out on some games. The TV is also still missing Foxtel Go for Catch Up TV. Back to Android phones and you find Foxtel Go but not Internet TV subscriptions, although these are coming in August with Foxtel Play -- offering online subscriptions via smartphones, tablets and computers. Going on Foxtel's other offerings, you're also likely to miss out on some AFL games depending on which device you're staring at.
Samsung's focus on content deals is helping cement its place in Australia as the go-to brand for both handheld and home entertainment, but it's a real shame that it's still a patchwork offering and you can't simply turn to any Samsung device and access any content. Enforcing artificial restrictions simply depending on the end device I'm using is exactly the kind of annoying behaviour that drives people away (often into the arms of less-legit alternatives).
I understand that rights deals are complicated things, especially when you're dealing with the likes of Foxtel and the AFL. I'm sure Samsung would love to offer everything from every device. Between Samsung, Foxtel and the AFL they need to sort these issues out, sooner rather than later, because it's getting easier than ever for people to source their content elsewhere. Even content that's supposedly locked away.
All parties involved need to work harder if they want to come out on top in the new media landscape. Foxtel Play certainly looks like a step in the right direction, but it's going to struggle to win over pay TV skeptics if they're arbitrarily denied content based solely on the screen they're using.
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