The UpStream

Is Apple About to Embrace Multi-Platform Development?

posted Thursday Sep 3, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Is Apple About to Embrace Multi-Platform Development?

The differences between the way Apple does business and how everyone else in the industry do business are well documented. For most of the Mac's existence, the largest software developers for the platform were Microsoft and Adobe, with Apple barely making the list. Microsoft has produced Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even a version of Internet Explorer for a period of time. Adobe has produced what is currently called the Creative Cloud, which includes products like Photoshop and Premiere. Even Google produces Chrome for the Mac.

What does Apple produce for Windows? iTunes and QuickTime. For a while they produced Safari, but that was short lived. That leaves their software products, like Photos, Pages, Numbers and Keynote, available only on their own platform. Considering the overall adoption rate of Mac, which is higher than in previous years, but only around 10% of active computers, this represents a lot of development cost for very little reward.

The company's focus on hardware has been successful for them for many years, but has certainly slowed in recent years. While Microsoft's foray into hardware, the Surface, has continued to see sales growth, the iPad has retreated over the past few quarters, despite new hardware. The iPhone has similarly seen sales declines, but not of dangerous amounts. So, while hardware in general becomes less attractive to consumers, how is Apple to compete in an industry that they have never participated in? We might find out on September 9th at the next Apple event.

Apple may not have teased or leaked any information about Windows software coming our way, but the event page does give a little hint to a change within the company. To watch the livestream of their event, they have always required an Apple product - Mac, iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. On this event page, however, is this text:

Requirements: Live streaming uses Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) technology. HLS requires an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with Safari on iOS 7.0 or later, a Mac with Safari 6.0.5 or later on OS X v10.8.5 or later, or a PC with Microsoft Edge on Windows 10. Streaming via Apple TV requires a second- or third-generation Apple TV with software 6.2 or later.

Supporting Edge is a very big deal, because it represents a shift in mentality for the company. It could also indicate an announcement for the event of Apple software coming to Windows, likely Windows 10. The most logical product for them to bring over to Windows would be their iWork suite, which would attempt to compete with Microsoft's own Office suite. While the prices might be less for the product, the capabilities are also far less - an issue that has helped drive adoption of Office on iOS and Mac. Another good choice could be Photos, which would give Windows users easier and direct access to the iCloud photos takes with an iPhone.

The problem here will be whether Apple can get adoption on these products off their own devices. To accomplish it, they will need to increase the capabilities of their products. For example, expanding the iCloud storage available to customers paying $10 per month: Apple currently gives 500GB for that price, while Microsoft gives 1TB of OneDrive plus Office for Windows and Mac and Skype Phone for $7 per month. It will take a big move to get people consider the change.

So, is this the beginning of a change in culture for Apple, or did Microsoft simply implement HLS in the new browser? We only need to wait a few more days to find out. Would you consider using a product like iWork or Photos on Windows? Let us know in the comments.

Popcorn Time is the Newest Platform Whose Users are Under Legal Fire

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Popcorn Time is the Newest Platform Whose Users are Under Legal Fire

When RIAA took offense to BitTorrent, while they obviously didn't understand what the company does, they did have something right: it can be misused. One of the products that is misusing the protocol is a site called Popcorn Time. If you have not encountered the site you're in luck. Using the BitTorrent protocol, Popcorn Time allows you to stream television and movies with or without legal access.

Clearly, it was not going to take long before the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) took action. That action came this week in the form of a lawsuit, whose defendants are named as "Anonymous Users of Popcorn Time: Does 1 - 11." Obviously this is a suit focusing on copyright infringement, as the defendants are being sued for accessing torrented, protected content.

Cobbler Nevada, LLC, the plaintiff, is looking for a jury trial, but needs one thing before they can do that: to know who the defendants are. They are seeking a subpoena for Comcast, demanding they turn over the names attached to the IP addresses currently named "Does 1 - 11." Comcast has refused information requests like this until a federal judge required it, so it is possible they could put up a fight, but not under the circumstances.

As the owner of NBC Universal, Comcast actually has a dog in this race. Helping to make it less desirable to use a service like this could directly affect their bottom line, encouraging people to, instead, use a service like Hulu, in which they are also partial owners.

The plaintiff is using a warning on the Popcorn Time website as proof that the defendants knew ahead of time what they were doing was illegal. Given that RIAA never had any success with suits like this one, it will be interesting to see if the MPAA can change that statistic. The moral of the story is, don't use Popcorn Time, as users are being watched.

Google's "Right to be Forgotten" Articles Asked to be Forgotten

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2015 by Scott Ertz


Google is in the middle of an Inception-style moment. When the European Union ordered Google, Bing and Yahoo to offer the ability to request content removal from the search index, a lot of places wrote about the order. It was, after all, a strange requirement of a company whose whole business model revolves around knowning everything people want to know. Since then, many articles have been written about requests that have been made through the system

Now, the company is being ordered to forget about the order to forget. The U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office has ordered Google to remove links to articles about the "right to be forgotten" requests in Europe. They have been given 35 days to comply with this odd meta request, though it is not clear what the punishment might be for non-compliance.

The order comes in response to a previous request from someone who had what they called a "relatively minor offense" nearly 10 years ago. Google complied with the request, removing links to articles about the incident. However, sites wrote about the removal, because they were relevant to current events - namely the right to be forgotten law. Google refused to continue sensoring new content under the request, because of the fact that the content was in the public interest.

If Google complies with the order, it will essentially be accepting that the EU has the right to censor the content on the web on a very wide scale. This is not the first time that a government has ordered Google to highly censor their search results. In 2010, Google was ordered to censor a tremendous amount of content in China, which resulted in the company abandoning the country entirely, making way for Baidu to take the reigns in the country. UK Deputy Information Commission David Smith said,

The commission does not dispute that journalistic content relating to decisions to delist search results may be newsworthy and in the public interest. However, that interest can be adequately and properly met without a search made on the basis of the complainant's name providing links to articles which reveal information about the complainant's spent conviction.

So, the order wants to censor journalistic content because it contains someone's name in regards to a modern and lawful activity, required by the government. Censoring access to the free press is a major step in the direction of a totalitarian government, and Google has proven over the past few years that they do not want to be a part of that process. It will be interesting to see how Google responds to this order.

Nintendo to Drop Price of 2DS

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo to Drop Price of 2DS

Almost exactly 1 year ago, Nintendo announced the 2DS, a handheld designed to be less expensive than its larger 3DS and 3DS XL siblings. It removed the 3D capabilities, as well as the hinge, making it a dual-screen tablet design, rather than the better-known clamshell design.

The device was launched to coincide with the release of several new games for the mobile environment: particularly the new Pokémon games, which launched the same day. To play these games, you needed a device within the family. The company's fear was that not enough people would be willing to pay the retail price for a 3DS, hence the less expensive alternative.

This week, coinciding with the anniversary of the launch, the company announced yet another reason to consider getting a 2DS - a price cut. The company is cutting the price almost 25%, or $30, from $130 to $100. The handheld also comes with Mario Kart 7, making it a truly great deal. It is no wonder the company sold over 2 million devices in its first few months.

Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America's Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, said of the price cut,

At a suggested retail price of $99.99, Nintendo 2DS is an even more attractive introductory option for first-time gamers. The new lower-priced hardware combined with the strong lineup of new games launching this year and arguably the best library of games in this generation makes it a great time to be a Nintendo fan.

If you are in the market for a new handheld gaming device, the 2DS might just be the device to check out.

Samsung Follows HTC, Begins Pushing Ads to New Phones

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Samsung Follows HTC, Begins Pushing Ads to New Phones

Advertising has always existed in electronics as a way to overcome the large costs of product development. Obviously, the most common place we see them are on websites and in free apps, though we are beginning to see them in other places. Earlier this year, HTC introduced advertising into the notification system in Android, bringing a lot of negative attention to the already struggling company.

Proving that insanity known no bounds, Samsung has apparently begun experimenting with the same concept. Examples published online include an ad for Million Dollar Listing on Bravo (sponsored by Land Rover), Galaxy S6+ and Peel Smart Remote, a part of Samsung's included application suite. According to the initial report, the Bravo ad simply opens the Peel app, where you can set a reminder for the show.

This means that, for now, Samsung is technically only advertising their own products through their own products and/or services. That does not mean that it will stay that way. One of the recent HTC ads pushed to phones was for Fantastic Four, this year's entry into the disastrous movie franchise. It is always possible that HTC has a financial interest in the success of the film, which would play nicely into their last couple years of losing money, but it is more likely that they were paid to advertise the film.

We support responsible digital advertising, as it does make services like ours available to the public for free. The difference here is that you are not receiving a product or service for free - you have paid a lot of money to Samsung and HTC for your device. You have the reasonable expectation that the price you paid, likely through your carrier, would have paid for the cost of the device, therefore receiving advertising from the manufacturer, for their products or not, is an unexpected development.

Obviously this is not a legal issue, though it is definitely a customer service and expectations issue. If this continues, will it affect your future smartphone buying decisions? Let us know in the comments.

Google Becomes Alphabet, Confuses Everyone

posted Sunday Aug 16, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google Becomes Alphabet, Confuses Everyone

Corporations change their names all the time. Usually, the change comes about when a company is in trouble and restructuring its operations. Research in Motion became BlackBerry during a restructuring that was intended to minimize other divisions. Tandy Corporation became RadioShack Corporation when they shed their other businesses, like Tandy Leather, to focus on their retail business, which was at an all-time high. What almost never happens is a company changing their name when the old name is highly recognizable.

I say almost never because this week, Google announced a corporate name change. Instead of Google, the company will now be known as Alphabet. Despite the name change, the company will continue to trade on the NASDAQ as GOOG, indicating, at least in some part, a lack of confidence in the move. The "new company" will become more of a holding company rather than an operational entity, with wholly-owned subsidiaries underneath.

A new company, called Google, will emerge below Alphabet, which will be responsible for several of the existing Google brands, such as Search, YouTube, Android, etc. Other, unrelated brands, such as Nest, Fiber and Ventures, will be spun out to their own divisions, with 8 in total (as of today). Alphabet will have CEO Larry Page, President Sergey Brin, Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, CFO Ruth Porat and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond. The new Google will be headed by new CEO Sundar Pichai, who was previously the guy who was actually running the Google operations.

In addition to confusing everyone on the Internet, this change has the potential to cause some real problems for the company. For example, the name Alphabet is a registered trademark in many countries, some of which are existing software companies. Also, it turns out BMW already owns the trademark and domain name, and have taken issue with the announcement. Of course, the name is also bad for SEO, but Google has never been afraid to adjust their search results to emphasize their own brand.

The real problem they face is the potential loss of their trademark. It has been many years since the word Google became google, transitioning from a noun to a verb. As it becomes a common word in the vernacular, it becomes harder and harder to retain a trademark. Aspirin, Cellophane and Thermos are well-known brands who lost their protected status because of the commonality of their names in the popular vernacular. Google is headed in the same direction, accelerated by the demotion of the word even within its own corporate structure.

A potentially hidden, or at least unannounced result of the new structure is the siloing of the company. Google has long been known for having a happy, yet toxic corporate culture, one which can affect business decisions. Google product managers are paid partially based on the size of their teams, and team members can be easily poached. Add to that Google's long-term focus on information collection and advertising revenue, and companies like Nest can become a frightening brand to avoid at all costs, if affected by the corporate culture. Splitting Nest away from Google could help the company come up with its own business models without pressure from "above."

Will the new name work? Possibly, but it is clearly not going to be an easy transition for the company.

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