The UpStream

Nintendo Releases NES Classic Edition, Discontinues Wii U

posted Saturday Nov 12, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Releases NES Classic Edition, Discontinues Wii U

This has been an interesting month for Nintendo. It was just a few weeks ago that the company let the lid off of the Nintendo Switch, the production name of their next console. The console has added a new twist to their current hardware, combining the Wii U and 3DS into a unique single device. This week, however, Nintendo both added and removed a product from their lineup.

The New

Earlier in the year, Nintendo announced a revival of their original home console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. The new device, the NES Classic Edition, looks a lot like the original console with similar controllers. It comes pre-loaded with a number of classic games and is perfect for gamers who do not own the original hardware itself.

This week, the retro console was released to much success. In fact, the device, which retails for $60, has sold so well that Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop and more are completely sold out. Because of the demand, consoles purchased early have been selling on eBay for as much as $300 each. For that price, you could go to a used game store and purchase an actual NES with most of the games included and get the real NES experience.

The Old

In preparation of the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo has confirmed that the Wii U generation is coming to a close. While we all expected that production of the Wii U would be coming to a close, we did not know what timeline the company might be planning. According to the company's Japanese website, the two remaining hardware bundles are both ending production. A Nintendo rep confirmed to Ars Technica,

As recently posted by Nintendo on the Wii U website in Japan, Wii U production will end in the near future for the Japanese domestic market.

We can confirm that as of today, all Wii U hardware that will be made available in the North American market for this fiscal year has already been shipped to our retail partners. We encourage anyone who wants Wii U to communicate with their preferred retail outlet to monitor availability.

While the wording of this quote does suggest that new hardware could be made available next year, it is certainly not encouraging. The only chance of new manufacturing, in all reality, is if sales pick up for the holidays, which is not terribly likely. So, with that, the Wii U generation has come to a close, leaving the world with the same whimper in which it entered.

Google in Trouble in EU Over Android Requirements, Google Disagrees

posted Saturday Nov 12, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Google in Trouble in EU Over Android Requirements, Google Disagrees

Over the past few years, Google has changed their policies on how OEMs can interact with Android. The most notable policy change came in 2014, when they limited access to the Play Store for OEMs that don't give preferential treatment to Google services.

This requirement, among a few others, has raised concern among governments the world over. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission has investigated the move. In Europe, the EU itself has investigated, and continues to investigate the policy. The EU considers it to be anti-competitive, and has done a lot of work to prove their beliefs.

The European Commission conducted a market survey which they cite often in their complaints, despite seemingly not understanding the results of the survey. For example, in their Statement of Objections, released in April, the primary basis for their complaint is that Android is alone in the marketplace. Obviously, that is nonsense, as Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows 10 mobile both compete in that market, as well. According to Google's public response, published this week,

In fact, 89% of respondents to the Commission's own market survey confirmed that Android and Apple compete. To ignore competition with Apple is to miss the defining feature of today's competitive smartphone landscape.

These are the same types of complaints that were once made against Microsoft. While the EU is today complaining about Google Search and Chrome are being bundled with Android, they once complained about Internet Explorer being bundled with Windows. The argument is primitive and uneducated, indicating a complete misunderstanding of software, operating systems and how companies work with OEMs.

For example, in Windows' case, OEMs have always been allowed to preinstall competing software, including Google's Chrome browser. In fact, those OEMs are allowed to override the default browser without penalty (except in the case of Windows 8 with Bing). Android has many of those same capabilities. In addition to Chrome, OEMs are welcome to install additional browsers into Android. In addition to Google Search, OEMs are welcome to install Bing as well. The only difference is that these services cannot be set as default out of the box.

Google points out the similar behavior between Android, iOS and Windows. On a Lumia 550, 39 of the 47 included apps are made by Microsoft. Almost every included app is removable and replaceable by the manufacturer or users. On iOS 10, 39 out of 39 apps are made by Apple, and few of the apps can be removed, and carriers and users cannot replace many of them. With Android, however, only about 10 of the apps come from Google, and most of them are replaceable by the user later.

While it is unusual for me to take the side of Google in an argument, I can say that, as a developer, it is nice to know that certain things will be available to me. If Android was to continue to fragment, like it was in the beginning, software would have to be built for every device individually, completely killing the environment. For example, look at Android's Fire tablets, built on Android, but not being able to access Play Store, requiring developers to rebuild their apps if they want them available on the platform.

All in, the idea of a government trying to regulate an industry which they do not understand is never a great idea.

Alphabet Pauses Google Fiber Rollout, Mulls Future of Brand

posted Sunday Oct 30, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Alphabet Pauses Google Fiber Rollout, Mulls Future of Brand

In August, Google Fiber began the process of scaling back their operations. The brand has failed to meet their goals, or even come close to hitting their goals: only 200,000 subscribers instead of 1 million. This came shortly after purchasing Webpass, a company that provides a similar service, but entirely wirelessly, in high-capacity areas.

This week, the company publicly announced their plans to scale back and make a decision on the future of the brand. Access, the company within Alphabet that is responsible for Google Fiber, will not be taking applications for new cities for installation, and any cities that have been announced for future expansion, but whose rollout has not begun, will be put on hold.

As part of the exploration pause, Access will also be removing their offices and personnel. Current Access CEO Craig Barratt has stated that he hopes that these cities will understand this technological imperative and will still be open to discussions once all decisions have been made for future deployments.

In addition to pausing the installation, Barratt has announced that this transitional time for Access is the perfect opportunity for him to step aside as CEO. There is no telling who will replace him in the role, but it is likely that Alphabet leadership will replace him sooner rather than later. A turnaround plan like this can only be successful if there is a talented leader running the show. As for Barratt, he will be staying on in an advisor role, so he is not going anywhere just yet.

The Most Essential Partner for Apple's TV App is Missing: Netflix

posted Sunday Oct 30, 2016 by Scott Ertz

The Most Essential Partner for Apple's TV App is Missing: Netflix

Apple may have focused their Thursday presentation on a MacBook Pro refresh, they also discussed a new app for video consumption, helpfully titled TV. The app accesses your video streaming services and presents information based on your current streaming habits, as well as recommendations from Apple itself.

Obviously, for TV to be successful, or even useful, it will require participation from the big content providers. Heavily featured in the presentation were services like Hulu and HBO Now, but some services were conspicuously missing. Namely, Netflix was nowhere to be found anywhere in the presentation, either in demo or even in screenshots. This could have been a mistake, but it wasn't. A Netflix spokesperson told Wired,

I can confirm we are not participating and evaluating the opportunity.

So, while Food Network content will be listed, nothing on Netflix will be. The majority of video streaming takes place through Netflix. In fact, the amount of video watched is so large that Netflix gets its own line item in bandwidth usage studies. As I write this article, I am streaming a television show on Netflix. The lack of Netflix participation in TV will make its usefulness almost non-existent.

Unfortunately for Apple, Netflix isn't the only high-profile service missing. Amazon Instant Video is also conspicuously missing, though not surprisingly. Amazon Instant Video has never been available on Apple TV, so their lack of participation in the TV app is no surprise. It will, however, make the app a lot less effective, but it will drive potential sales to iTunes.

Amazon is a longshot, but if Apple hopes to make TV the place people actually want to go, they will absolutely need Netflix participation.

A Hard Week for Twitter: Earnings, Layoffs and Shutdowns

posted Sunday Oct 30, 2016 by Scott Ertz

A Hard Week for Twitter: Earnings, Layoffs and Shutdowns

2016 has not been Twitter's year. The company is seeing almost zero user growth and has shown continual profit loss. This has led to a recent round of conversations with potential buyers for the service, which ended in disappointment, after all potential buyers backed out.

This week, the company's financial report was released and the numbers were not positive. In the most recent quarter, the company lost $103 million on only $616 million in revenue. If their intentions are to find a serious bidder, these are problems that will need to be solved, as their current state was not enough to attract potential buyers.

The first move that the company has made to try and recover some profitability is to cut up to 350 jobs. That represents about 10 percent of the company's workforce, which is currently 3,600 people, down from 3,900 last year. Unfortunately for Twitter, cutting workforce is only a temporary fix. It can bail some water out of the ship, but it won't patch the hole.

In an attempt to patch that hole, the company has also announced that it will shutter one of its services: Vine. Twitter's take on a video service, relying on forced brevity, similar to Twitter itself, was popular in its early days, but has lost a lot of its allure. Twitter's second take on video, Periscope, has become the defacto consumer live video service. While services like Livestream and Facebook Live are the services of choice for professionals, Periscope is incredibly popular among consumers.

The popularity of live services, without the short format, have cut away at Vine's marketshare and, more importantly, the validity of the service. Ending this service is a natural progression for the company, both because of the waning usage and the waning revenue. Alone, these changes will likely not be enough to fix the problems, but it could help push the company closer to profitability and a potential buyout.

No Man's Sky Developer, Hello Games, Didn't Admit Game Was a Mistake

posted Sunday Oct 30, 2016 by Scott Ertz

No Man's Sky Developer, Hello Games, Didn't Admit Game Was a Mistake

The developer behind game No Man's Sky, Hello Games, is certainly having more than their fair share of trouble. After seeing sales of the game tank, the company is now facing a false advertising suit in the UK. Following all of these issues, this week, the company's Twitter account announced,

No Man's Sky was a mistake.

While most of the gaming community would agree with this sentiment, it was certainly a surprise to see the developer admit it publicly. What made it even more surprising was the fact that the company's Twitter account had not been used since its troubles began in August. Clearly, anyone whose eyes are connected to their brain knew immediately that the account had been hacked and that this tweet was a fraud. That, however, was not the end of the story. In fact, it was just the beginning.

When several news agencies reached out to the company looking for comment, the email they received was as surprising, if not more so than the original tweet. It was sent from founder Sean Murray's email account, and stated in part,

I have contacted you because the silence from Hello Games has been unwarranted and unprofessional. The community has asked me to speak up, and I have a confession to make. The game was simply unfinished upon arrival. Our hand was forced by not only Sony, but the community as well. The constant harassment and absolute gross misconduct on the community's part has made it hard to fulfill our artistic vision, while the pressure from Sony to release the game as soon as possible forced us to cut key features. I want to apologize for what we did not deliver on, as the game does not meet up to what our artistic vision was.

Following these emails, Sean Murray's Twitter account became active again, harassing the company's official account. The two seemingly went back-and-forth a little bit, making a bad situation also awkward. The company, after retrieving their accounts, removed the tweet, as well as the Twitter sidebar on their website, which continued to show the tweet after the deletion. Another tweet was sent out, stating that the hacks were 100% solved, followed by the customary silence we have come to expect from the company.

This was not a dignified scenario for a company that is already disliked by the gaming community. The tone of the tweet and emails were certainly indicative of the way players have been feeling, but do not give a positive light to the company itself. Perhaps, in the future, the company will take better care to protect their corporate accounts and identity.

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