The UpStream (Page 7)

Early iPhone app store, Cydia, sues Apple over monopolistic behavior

posted Friday Dec 11, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Early iPhone app store, Cydia, sues Apple over monopolistic behavior

Apple is often credited with creating the integrated app store for the iPhone, but it's not really an accurate remembrance of history. In reality, the iPhone launched without the ability to use 3rd party apps. All that was available were Apple's small number of built-in apps, and 3rd party developers were encouraged to build mobile web apps that would run in Safari. However, users looking to upgrade their iPhone from a media device (the initial categorization for the iPhone) to a smartphone quickly learned how to jailbreak their devices. This allowed for app stores, such as Cydia, to be installed onto the iPhone, bringing app installations to the platform.

Cydia was available long before the official App Store and made it possible to install additional apps onto the iPhone and iPod Touch. Once the App Store launched, Cydia continued to evolve, adding the ability for users to customize their lock screens and home screens in ways that Apple did not allow but the operating system did. Over the years, Apple has implemented some of the features from Cydia, like a quick launch for the camera, all while preventing users from using officially using Cydia.

Following the trend in the industry, Cydia has sued Apple, claiming that the practice of preventing the alternate app store from being installed on the company's devices, despite being fully functional and popular, is illegal anticompetitive behavior. The lawsuit states,

Were it not for Apple's anticompetitive acquisition and maintenance of an illegal monopoly over iOS app distribution, users today would actually be able to choose how and where to locate and obtain iOS apps, and developers would be able to use the iOS app distributor of their choice.

Cydia is not the first to make this claim. Epic Games has made this same argument, stating that Apple is free to prevent apps from entering its own App Store, but only if they make alternates available. Otherwise, blocking any apps, like Fortnite from the App Store can be seen as anticompetitive.

WarnerMedia to run all 2021 films on HBO Max the same day as theaters

posted Sunday Dec 6, 2020 by Scott Ertz

WarnerMedia to run all 2021 films on HBO Max the same day as theaters

Most industries have been hard hit by the global lockdowns, but those that involve being with other people you don't know have had a really rough go of it. Some of these industries have had some recovery, partially because there are no real alternatives. However, movie theaters have struggled because films have delayed their release dates, like Wonder Woman 1984 or moved to streaming services, like Mulan. Things are going to continue to get difficult for theaters, as WarnerMedia has announced that the entire spate of 2021 films will premiere on HBO Max, the company's own streaming service, the same day they land in theaters.

Some of the films that will be releasing this way will be Dune and The Matrix 4. Both of these films have been highly anticipated, despite the history of both franchises. Dune has never produced a good movie, and The Matrix lost its shine after the original. However, these releases, as well as WarnerMedia's other films, could have been a big part of the turnaround for theaters.

This policy came about because of the decision to use this strategy for Wonder Woman 1984, which will finally release in theaters and on HBO Max this Christmas. While the company worked this plan out with theaters ahead of time, they did not consult the theaters about future films. With this announcement, theater owners are not happy. AMC's CEO Adam Aron believes that the move has nothing to do with safety, but instead believes its a business move. He said,

Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max startup. As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business.

So, expect this move to be fought by AMC, who will have some control over the terms of the release agreement. While this may not be a win for AMC, it could be a win for some consumers. HBO Max costs $15 per month and will not charge extra for the new releases the way Disney+ has with theirs. However, if you were hoping to use a free trial to see Diana Prince, you're out of luck, as HBO Max no longer offers free trials. It is still not available on the Roku platform, meaning the top streaming platform is not able to play.

Salesforce agrees to pay $27.7 billion to acquire Slack platform

posted Sunday Dec 6, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Salesforce agrees to pay $27.7 billion to acquire Slack platform

Over the past few years, the number of chat apps has grown in a way that defies explanation. Part of that industry has been chat and communication platforms intended for groups, particularly in business. Several years ago, the nearly undisputed leader in that space was Slack, a service that mimicked the bulletin board systems of the 80s and 90s, without some of the more popular features. Move forward a few years, and the company has been valued at nearly $30 billion because of the company's sale to Salesforce.

Salesforce is likely hoping to improve its communication offerings. The company's existing product, Chatter, has not received a lot of positive attention. In the growing environment of work from home, the value of communication platforms has become even more important to companies. But Slack has struggled to keep up with demand, so perhaps under the Salesforce umbrella, the service will be able to add features that are wanted to compete with the emerging industry leader, Microsoft Teams.

The sale comes after the brand's lead has diminished, with the bulk of the focus moving to Microsoft's Teams platform. While Slack has struggled to implement simple features that businesses have wanted, Microsoft has been able to adapt to the needs of its customers. Plus, Microsoft's existing relationship with businesses, through Windows, Windows Server, Azure, Microsoft 360, and more, has made the integration easy.

The history of the relationship between the two brands is more complicated. Microsoft offered to purchase Slack several years ago, which the company was not interested in at the time. After the rejection, Microsoft took to retiring Skype for Business and replace it with the newly developed Teams.

Microsoft and Salesforce once had a very positive relationship, though it seems to have diminished over the years. It started to fall apart in 2012, when Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff insulted Microsoft and Windows 8. Now, the companies will be in even tighter competition, since Slack and Teams are going to be at the forefront of both companies' brands within businesses.

Fortnite created challenges for streamers with Nexus War event

posted Sunday Dec 6, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Fortnite created challenges for streamers with Nexus War event

The world of videogame streaming continues to get more challenging. While more people than ever are streaming their own gameplay, and more people are watching others play, the industry is going through industry growing pains. The most recent challenge against the norms in videogame streaming comes thanks to Fortnite, who accidentally created a new challenge for streamers on Twitch and YouTube with the latest event, Nexus War.

For those who do not know, Fortnite regularly runs specialized events. These often involve licensed characters, special music, and run for a limited amount of time. Nexus War, which ran last week, included all of these features. The event saw players battle against the Marvel character Galactus in a ten-minute fight. As part of this fight, players were treated to AC/DC's Demon Fire while on the Battle Bus. For standard players, having music that you recognize played while psyching yourself up for a battle is great, but for streamers, it could be a disaster.

The problem, of course, comes in through the DMCA strike system. While the name comes from YouTube, the concept is universal. The owner of the rights to media, whether it be audio, video, still images, etc., can strike user generated content on platforms like Twitch and YouTube if the use violates their rights. Twitch and its users have long ignored the law, using whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. It ended with users getting emails about deletion, for which Twitch has apologized.

However, this clump of emails signaled the beginning of changes to the way Twitch is looked at from Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). RIAA has begun issuing strikes against streamers for using music in their streams for which they do not have the rights. This will likely include AC/DC's Demon Fire, as Epic Games did not secure streaming rights to the song - only in-game rights. However, Epic Games will not be involved in any violation claims because of the songs - that will come down to the streamers themselves.

We are beginning to see game developers include a "royalty free" music option in their games to make things easier for streamers. Epic Games is not yet one of those studios, meaning that streamers either cannot play Fortnite, have to mute part of the game's load process, or risk strikes. None of these options are great for small streamers who may not know about the laws that restrict their ability to stream the first 60 seconds of a game.

All industries see growing pains, but in this case it's the customers that are in peril - not the providers. This is a problem that will need to be solved quickly if Twitch wants to maintain its growth and streamer interest.

Libra is now called Diem as cryptocurrency distances from Facebook

posted Friday Dec 4, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Libra is now called Diem as cryptocurrency distances from Facebook

Since the initial announcement of the Libra cryptocurrency, there has been nothing but trouble. Shortly after, members began jumping ship. There was also concern from governments around the world, including the US and EU. Without the partners, and with additional government scrutiny, getting Libra to market was becoming a challenge. As such, launch strategy changes were made.

But, the problem is that none of the real problems have been addressed. The biggest problem is that Libra is the brainchild of Facebook. Anything that Facebook touches is going to be heavily scrutinized by regulators and the public. Because the Libra brand is so associated with the company, the Libra Association has announced that it is rebranding to Diem Association, and the organization's stable coin will become Diem. The name change comes as the association has brought in a number of new and high-profile executives. The organization's CEO, Stuart Levey, said of the branding change,

We are excited to introduce Diem - a new name that signals the project's growing maturity and independence.

Levey also explains that the maturity growth has come from continued conversations with governments and regulators. The organization wants to ensure that it is working with and addressing the concerns of these countries, because as a stable coin, they hope to often work as a transfer mechanism between currencies, or between people in different countries. However, many countries have extremely strict rules over wire transfers, which some have claimed this system would fall under.

The rebranding also has a lot to do with separating the organization and currency from Facebook. The name Libra is well-known to be a Facebook brand, whether an independent association is in charge. However, with the changes within the organization and a more distinct delineation between Facebook and the association, a new name is a good idea. In fact, Facebook seems to agree, as the company's Libra wallet Calibri is becoming the Diem wallet Novi.

Google TV is no longer showing Netflix content in search and tools

posted Saturday Nov 28, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Google TV is no longer showing Netflix content in search and tools

Over the years, Google's inability to pick a business strategy, articulate it to its partners and customers, and execute it to perfection has caused the company problems. Take, for example, the company's messaging strategy with products like Allo coming and going, more than one text app for Android, and more. But messaging hasn't been the only place where the company's lack of focus has caused problems, with the latest being video, and particularly Google TV.

Google TV was a smart TV platform developed and provided by Google to TV manufacturers. It was a market failure and was replaced by Android TV in 2014. Recently, the Google TV name was brought out of retirement, but for something a little different. Now, it is an interface on top of Android TV and available on the newer Chromecast devices, which brings together a variety of streaming services into one place to allow you to search for and favorite content from all of the disparate platforms.

For a platform like this to be at all useful or popular, it has to support all of the major services. Until this week, that is how Google TV worked - until suddenly the ability to add content from Netflix to your watchlist. Initially, it seemed like perhaps a bug in the system. However, as the week went on, Netflix was removed from Google TV entirely. This includes adding Netflix as a service on the platform. The Netflix app and platform itself still works as expected - just not the integration with the Google TV interface. Google has responded to all requests about the change with the same statement, saying,

With Google TV, our goal is to bring the best of our search and discovery features across your subscriptions to your favorite devices. We work with each content partner to enable these entertainment experiences, and the level of integration will vary by partner.

Whatever is going on between Google and Netflix needs to be solved quickly if Google has any hopes of getting people to accept the newest incarnation of Google TV.

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