Apple revitalized the idea of app stores with the release of the iPhone, but Google revitalized the almost dead idea of browser extensions with Chrome. The company made the ability to add custom capabilities to the browser the next frontier in web technologies. Developers released features, both public and private, expanding upon the abilities of the browser. The most common extensions have been ad blockers, but the range is huge. You can get Amazon price comparisons, spelling corrections, and even content automation.
In the recent past, Google has been locking down the capabilities of Chrome. First, we saw the loss of Chrome Apps, an extreme version of extensions, which allowed for full applications built into the browser. A lot of this original move likely had to do with moving that development out of the browser directly and into the Chrome OS platform instead. Then, the focus of Chrome OS moved to Android apps, and the concept of Chrome Apps had little remaining value.
Then came an increase in "security" in the store, with Google harasssing developers over the permissions that their extensions need. For the most part, this is a positive move, but in some circumstances, it is simply a hassle. The next move was the loss of the process of private listings. Originally, a private Chrome extension could be uploaded without issue. Today, even these apps require approval from Google, making the process a pain when it should not be. When paired with the lockdown on permissions, this could be nearly impossible to maintain a private listing.
Now, Google is eliminating the in-store payment system. This has nothing to do with the concerns over in-app purchases we've seen through Apple and Android, but simply because of a lack of interest from Google. Without the payment system, there can no longer be paid apps in the store. Instead, developers will have to offer the extensions for free and lock features behind their own, internal paywall. There are existing products that do this, like Grammarly, but it could pose a problem for smaller developers.
In general, most extensions are offered for free, but this is definitely going to be a change in process for those who use paid features.
One of the largest and best-known game studios, Bethesda, just became a part of the Xbox Game Studios after the purchase of parent company ZeniMax Media by Microsoft for $7.5 billion. This purchase brings some heavy hitter AAA franchises under the Microsoft umbrella, including
Fallout, Elder Scrolls, DOOM, Quake, and Wolfenstein.
All of these titles are currently cross-platform, but now officially owned by one of the platforms. The purchase has clearly brought up the question about the future of game access on PlayStation and Switch now that they are owned by Microsoft, but it is important to note that Microsoft also owns Mojang, the developer of
Minecraft and, under Microsoft's ownership, the cross-platform capabilities have expanded, not shrunken. With the current Microsoft philosophy of being wherever customers are, it is likely that we will see this same behavior continue, with some benefits on Microsoft platforms. Phil Spencer has confirmed that the company is open to this continuity, with decisions being made on an individual game basis.
This means that some future games might be Xbox and PC exclusives, while others might have a timed-release on Xbox first, with PlayStation and Switch coming later. One thing is for sure, though - as Microsoft studios, games will be considered first-party titles. That means that Xbox Game Pass will be a big part of these games' existence. Bethesda has confirmed that future titles will be available on Xbox Game Pass on launch day, just like other Microsoft titles. This will be a huge benefit for subscribers, and a selling point for the company.
The first title to join the catalog following the acquisition will be
Doom Eternal, coming on October 1, 2020. Subscribers will gain access to this already popular game, and its follow-up Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods - Part One comes to Xbox a few weeks later. And this is just the beginning. Bethesda has confirmed that all of their games will be appearing on the service in the near future.
This week, pre-orders for the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S opened up, and things did not go well for the company. Similarly to the
PlayStation 5 pre-orders, websites crashed as people tried to get their pre-orders in. A lot of traffic online, like with the PS5, came from a pre-order bot designed originally to snipe sneakers. This bot is the backbone of a subscription service that allows people, for a monthly fee, to snag pre-orders without being bound by unit count restrictions and other rules.
One of the differences here, as opposed to the PS5, is that many of the people who attempted to pre-order had access to the models they wanted. Not everyone got their units, but it seemed as if there wasn't a large, forced limitation on the less expensive Xbox Series S, as we saw with the PlayStation 5 All Digital.
However, as we predicted when the names were announced, confusion was absolutely involved in the pre-order process. The Xbox One X versus Xbox Series X and the Xbox One S versus the Xbox Series S pose a lot of confusion for people less involved in the gaming world. As proof of the confusion, Amazon sales reports show that sales of the Xbox One X and Xbox One S shot up significantly during the pre-order process. In fact, at one point, sales increased by almost 750%. The most likely situation is that people were accidentally ordering the wrong product, but most gamers would look closely at the price to ensure they were pre-ordering the right product.
Another possibility, and one that we all hope is the reality, is that the pre-order bot actually got confused, and subscribers to the service are about to get shipped the current generation of Xbox hardware. While it would certainly be a disappointment for those trying to steal pre-orders, it would be true justice for these people to have older consoles show up on their doorsteps this week instead of pre-orders show up when the new consoles launch into the wild.
It's that time of year where tech companies are making their announcements for the next generation of their products - just in time for holiday shopping. While these announcements may look different this year from past events thanks to the lockdown, most of the products are what we expect - incremental updates to existing prodicts. Amazon decided to take a different approach from the likes of Apple and announced some legitimately new prodicts, or big new features to existing lines.
Sure, the Echo speakers are generally unchanged, save for the design. Instead of a Pringles can, they now look like a ball. But, that's mostly just aesthetics. Sure, Alexa is getting upgrades, but that's not a device feature, that is a network-level feature. The Eero line also got a modest upgrade, with a pair of new mesh routers sporting Wi-Fi 6. This is a welcome upgrade, but fairly pedestrian, as most other brands have already released Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers.
The real shock for Amazon comes in a pair of devices: the upgraded Echo Show 10 and the Ring Always Home Cam. The new Echo Show 10 adds an interesting feature - the ability for the camera to follow you. But, if you have seen an Echo Show, you know the camera is built in to the frame of the screen. So, to accomplish this new feature, the entire screen follows you. It's an interesting concept, but a problem for anyone who is worried about privacy, because it means the camera is always looking for people, can identify them, and then follow them around a room.
While that's odd, the Ring Always Home Cam is even odder, and stranger. It is a camera drone that sits in a mouht in your home and can fly around and follow intruders. No part of Amazon, a company that has had
privacy violation issues in the past, having moving access to view inside of your home makes this an uncomplicated issue. While Amazon assures people that the flying spy camera makes enough noise that no one would be surprised by it, it's less about Amazon and more about hacking that has me worried. If someone can gain remote access to the devices, like they did with the Ring cameras a while back, hackers might be able to scout the inside of your home using your own spy drone. They could even land it in a different location and keep an eye of your activities. Not a great possible outcome for a product that is really just a novelty looking for attention.
Last month, it was revealed that
DC Universe was moving its content off of the service and onto HBO Max. The company promised that DC Universe would still exist, but the lack of original content did not bode well for the future of the service as a streaming platform. This week, DC Comics confirmed that DC Universe would no longer be a streaming service, but that it would live on in the form of a comic subscription service.
The newly minted DC Universe Infinite will change its focus from video to comics, resulting in a similar service to the Marvel Unlimited subscription service. This new subscription will allow people to access a large catalog of DC comics, both new and old. It will offer over 24,000 books at launch and will also include digital-first content, meaning that these books will be available to Infinite subscribers before they are printed to paper. Brand new content from the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more, will launch on the service 6 months after hitting comic shop shelves.
DC's Chief Creative Officer, Jim Lee, said of the service,
Our fans love the platform's robust library of comic books and, with the transformation, we will not disappoint. I'm excited to share that not only will DC Universe Infinite members still be able to read all of the great comics that they've enjoyed but new issues are debuting on the platform quicker than before, digital first exclusives are being created, and the members-only events will begin as soon as possible.
DC Universe Infinite will launch January 21, 2021, for $7.99 per month. You can also get an entire year's subscription for only $74.99. The company will offer a pre-order period, which will give a $10 voucher to the DC Store to monthly subscribers, and a $25 voucher to those who commit to a full year's subscription.