The UpStream (Page 10)

Buying a video on Amazon does not mean you can keep it forever

posted Friday Oct 30, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Buying a video on Amazon does not mean you can keep it forever

When it comes to digital video content, there is nearly an unlimited number of ways to watch. From services like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix to iTunes, there are different methods and ownership types. These days almost people seem to prefer the idea of an overall content subscription to individual ownership, which explains the rise of services like Hulu and Disney+. However, some people prefer to purchase their digital content, but that isn't as easy as some people believed. A legal case against Amazon made that all the more clear this week.

Amanda Caudel, who is an Amazon Prime Video user, purchased content on the service. After finding out the hard way that this purchase did not actually grant her ownership over the content and can be revoked at any time, she sued the company. The company argued that every time you make a purchase, you are reminded that it can be revoked by presenting the Prime Video Terms of Use.

The most relevant agreement here - the Prime Video Terms of Use - is presented to consumers every time they buy digital content on Amazon Prime Video. {The terms} expressly state that purchasers obtain only a limited license to view video content and that purchased content may become unavailable due to provider license restriction or other reasons.

The court agreed with the argument, finding in favor of Amazon. The problem, of course, comes in the business model for Amazon Prime Video. Purchasing for the right to stream a video should certainly have been a clue that, if Amazon loses the right to stream the video, you'll lose access to it. It's why many people who purchase digital video content use Apple's service because you get the ability to download the video rather than just stream it.

We live in an age of digital access versus ownership. Paying for a game does not mean you'll get to play it forever. Paying for software doesn't mean it will work forever. Nearly everything is a subscription service and few services are downloadable for future use.

Internet Explorer to push users of hundreds of sites to Edge

posted Friday Oct 30, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Internet Explorer to push users of hundreds of sites to Edge

Over the past few months, Microsoft has put all of its energy into the new Microsoft Edge. The browser is available on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. It has nearly completely replaced the legacy Microsoft Edge on Windows 10, installing itself over top of the legacy browser. However, there has been one major hurdle to the company's total focus on the future - Internet Explorer. No matter how hard they try, they cannot get some people to abandon the almost officially unsupported browser. Somehow, the browser whose last major version was released in 2013 still holds about 5 percent of the browser market.

The company has a new idea to retire IE, and they have put it into place in Windows. When you try to open one of over a thousand websites in Internet Explorer, it will automatically switch to the production version of Edge and show a dialog (pictured below) explaining what has happened.

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It is perfectly reasonable that Microsoft is trying to get rid of the Internet Explorer browser (not the Trident rendering engine that powers it). The browser has not been updated to support more modern security technologies potentially making connections less secure. Pushing websites, especially ones that use more secure technologies, into the more modern browser will protect users' data. This will also, hopefully, encourage users to switch to Edge full time, allowing Microsoft to finally retire the browser entirely.

One of the biggest concerns with the switch happens within large corporate environments. This is because a lot of internal web software was built years ago, and designed for IE. Switching to Edge, without IE's rendering quirks, can cause these applications to render incorrectly. Because of this, Microsoft has made the Trident rendering engine available within the Edge browser. This means that an enterprise can retire IE, but users can still render websites using Trident for legacy applications. To enable this, you can go to the settings for Edge and, under Default Browser, turn on "Allow sites to be reloaded in Internet Explorer." After that, users can reload a site in Trident using the "Reload in Internet Explorer Mode" option under "More Tools."

The death of Internet Explorer is just around the corner and will be a benefit for everyone - better security for users and less mess for developers. A win-win scenario.

Todd Howard says Elder Scrolls 6 is unlikely to be Microsoft exclusive

posted Friday Oct 30, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Todd Howard says Elder Scrolls 6 is unlikely to be Microsoft exclusive

When Microsoft purchased Zenimax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, the biggest question that was asked was, "Will future Bethesda games in existing franchises be Xbox exclusives?" We discussed this possibility a few weeks ago on the show, agreeing that Microsoft's ownership would not limit the release of future entries, especially for The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. This week, Todd Howard hinted that our theory was correct.

In an interview, the Bethesda director and producer on both of the company's high profile series said that it would be hard to imagine Microsoft locking future entries in either franchise behind the Xbox or PC brands. However, he did also state that Microsoft and Bethesda have not fully discussed future plans in detail. On the decision-making process, Howard said,

We do view it, and always have by ourselves, on a case-by-case basis. We'll do that as part of Microsoft as well. They've been pretty open on other platforms and not just within Xbox. This is an outside perspective, but if you go back 10 years at Microsoft, you wouldn't expect them to have a full Office suite on an iPhone either.

The beginning of the response is similar to what Xbox's Phil Spencer said during the announcement of the purchase, stating that they would evaluate each future title individually to determine its availability. But, that is what all studios do with every release. If they didn't, the Final Fantasy games would still be Nintendo exclusives, which would not have been good for the brand. He also discussed the company's business model, saying,

We felt very strongly about their view of access; games for everybody that we can bring to anybody regardless of where they are, what devices they're playing on. We're very, very passionate about that, and at the end of the day we're convinced we'll make better products and get them to more people easily by being part of Xbox as opposed to being just a third party.

Microsoft's business model under CEO Satya Nadella has been to offer the company's products everywhere people already are. It's why Microsoft Office offers some features for iPad Pro that take advantage of the device's unique hardware capabilities, despite having its own Surface tablet line. Plus, after purchasing Mojang, Microsoft expanded the number of platforms Minecraft was available for and fought to make the PlayStation version crossplay capable.

With this business model, it seems incredibly unlikely that they would behave differently on these titles than other game franchises they have acquired.

Yahoo Phone is a strange but affordable trip back to the 90s

posted Friday Oct 30, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Yahoo Phone is a strange but affordable trip back to the 90s

When Verizon bought Yahoo, we assumed that would be the strangest thing to happen with the aging brand. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of a very strange usage for Yahoo. Earlier this year, the company created Yahoo Mobile - an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) running on their own network. The idea is to compete with AT&T's Cricket and T-Mobile's Metro, offering unlimited data for $40 per month. Adding to the collection of odd decisions comes the newly announced Yahoo Phone, a Yahoo Mobile exclusive.

This new device is an Android 10 powered phone with a very purple body, which they call grape jelly. The phone is simply a rebranded ZTE Blade A3 with a lot of pre-installed apps, which we assume cannot be uninstalled. These apps include Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, and Yahoo Weather, plus the obvious Yahoo Mobile companion app.

The Yahoo Phone is a very low powered device, with only 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, and a 720p screen. However, the company is trying to make up for the low specs with a low price of only $50. Of course, the phone is designed only for the Yahoo Mobile prepaid service, so they aren't focusing on the high-end or high price market.

In 2020, all of this leaning on the Yahoo brand seems confusing. Yahoo has never been known for understanding the mobile ecosystem, making the branding odd. Yahoo was successful in the early days of the web, long before search engines changed the way we used the web. Providing an index for the small number of web pages that were available made the site popular, and the custom homepage angle made it a success. But, those days are long gone, and people generally do not think of Yahoo as a mobile-friendly brand, let alone their primary mobile brand.

The sun sets on Quibi, the first major victim of subscription fatigue

posted Sunday Oct 25, 2020 by Scott Ertz

The sun sets on Quibi, the first major victim of subscription fatigue

The mobile-focused streaming service Quibi has been in trouble since before its launch. This week, that trouble has turned to disaster, as the company has announced it is shutting down around December 1, 2020 and looking for a buyer for the corporate assets. The executives did everything in their power to raise the value and recognition of the brand months before it was made available. They signed an agreement with T-Mobile, which brought the service to T-Mobile Tuesdays offering 6 months for free. They also signed big-name content, such as Reno 911!.

However, the problem the company faced was a lot of competition and a difficult value proposition. The short-form content concept was going to be a difficult sell under normal circumstances, but 2020 did not make it better. While under 10-minute episodes would have been good while waiting in line, walking on a treadmill at the gym, or sitting at a diner, none of those things have been common this year because of the lockdowns. Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman said in a joint statement,

Quibi is not succeeding. Likely for one of two reasons: because the idea itself wasn't strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service or because of our timing. Unfortunately, we will never know but we suspect it's been a combination of the two.

The company began to recognize that the business model wasn't working, and experimented with a free tier, similar to the Peacock service. Unfortunately, the experiment was only run in Australia and New Zealand, so it was not enough of a test to see if it would work. Because of the limited content available, it was difficult to convince people that $5 per month was worth the investment. A free, ad-supported tier with a portion of the content may have attracted users to the platform in the same way that it has worked for Comcast.

In addition to issues with the value proposition, the company has also been sued over patent infringement with its shifting view for landscape and portrait mode. This lawsuit has hurt investment which may have been able to keep the lights on longer.

The future of the content that was produced is unclear. The agreements with creators were very creator-friendly. The company paid to produce the content, and then licensed the content under 2 year exclusivity deals. With the shutdown of the company, it's not clear if the exclusivity would expire. If it does, the creators could shop the content to other services. If it does not, Quibi might be able to sell the license to other services. Either way, it is going to be on a one-off basis.

US Justice Department files antitrust suit against Google after years

posted Sunday Oct 25, 2020 by Scott Ertz

US Justice Department files antitrust suit against Google after years

2020 is shaping up to be a difficult year for Google legally. They have potentially lost its Supreme Court case against Oracle. Now, they will be heading back into court to defend themselves against the entirety of the United States legal system, care of an antitrust suit filed by the Justice Department. The suit has been imminent for months, but a formal filing marks a major change in the relationship between the government and the tech giant. This filing represents the largest US antitrust case since Microsoft in the 1990s that paved the way for Google's rise to power.

While Microsoft's case involved using the company's position in operating systems, Google's case involves its position in search. The suit claims that Google has continually used its search position to unfairly promote and prop up its other businesses. In a media call, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said,

Google is the gateway to the Internet. It has maintained its power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.

The DOJ also points to its use of its other brands to increase and maintain its search position, including pre-loading Google Search onto its Chrome browser as well as Android devices. The Android issue has continued to pop up across the globe ever since Google changed its licensing rules, forcing manufacturers to maintain certain Google products on their devices if they want access to the Play Store. In 2018, the European Union fined Google $5 billion in an antitrust case over similar issues.

Google has publicly responded to the charges, saying that the case could not possibly help consumers. The statement said,

Today's lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to, not because they're forced to, or because they can't find alternatives.

This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.

Google makes the comparison between Android and Windows, pointing out that Windows comes preloaded with Edge, which uses Bing as its default. The search bar in Windows 10 also uses Bing as its search engine of choice. However, there is no rule in Windows that says that Edge must be the default in order to use core features of the ecosystem. If HP want to include Chrome on its computers, it is welcome to do so, giving consumers a choice.

Clearly, this is just the beginning of the process, with charges just being filed. The Microsoft suit took from May 18, 1998 when the suit was filed, through April 3, 2000 when the judgement was announced. The Microsoft case was fascinating to watch, as the government continually proved its lack of understanding of the topic. It's been over 2 decades since that case, but something tells me this will be no less confusing.

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