Until recently, the download feature has been limited to a few Android devices, but now, it is on offer to anyone running Ice Cream Sandwich, version 4.0, or later. That’s around 96% of Android users now able to download episodes of Coast and Pointless for offline viewing.
So what happened to change their minds? The notion that there are more Android devices in use than iPhones?
Not quite. Basically, the BBC has got a bit carefree and decided to stop extensive tests for all the devices.
“We believe that the vast majority of devices will enjoy a great video downloading experience. However, with more than five thousand different phone, phablet and tablet models able to install the BBC iPlayer Android app, there are likely to be a number of devices that exhibit bugs concerning download behaviour,” said Auntie Beeb.
“We can’t promise that we will fix every issue that is brought to our attention (there may be device limitations that prevent us from doing so) but we will seek to address problems according to the complexity of the issue, as well as the UK popularity and the user numbers of the device itself,” they added.
Google’s Chromecast is a pretty great piece of kit, allowing you to stream from your phone, tablet or computer, straight to your TV set. BT Sports users who only have the app, will now be able to watch live sports on their tellies, or stream full length films from YouTube.
The homepage, which you see on your screen when not in use, is a selection of typical vistas designed to exude calm through nature, is pretty and all, but not particularly useful (apart from having a clock on it).
However, that looks like it is about to change.
There’s weather related icons, as well as the current temperature in a given region, but mainly, it’ll tell you what it’s like outside – either coat weather, t-shirt weather and so on.
On top of that, there’s also code which looks like Chromecast will eventually give users the opportunity to have custom wallpapers, instead of the various streams and horizons which Google love so much.
While these aren’t hugely exciting, you hope that this at least vaguely points to the idea that Google are willing to do much more with Chromecast. You could use your TV screen for reminders, checking messages and whatnot. Basically, you could make your television set a second dashboard, which is exciting if you like that sort of thing.
Google are riding high on the success of their Chromecast dongle, which has sold millions and become the best-selling technology product on Amazon since its launch in the US last summer.
So now they’re going to do what Amazon and Apple did and launch Android TV. And although it’s yet to be publicly announced, they’ve rather Partridge-ly described it as an ‘entertainment interface’, rather than a platform. They’ve also said it will be ‘cinematic,’ ‘fun’, ‘fast’ and ‘fluid’ (ewww), ‘with the least amount of friction.’ (Wait a minute. We ARE still talking about TV, aren’t we?).
It looks the same as other ‘entertainment interfaces’ – a bunch of horizontal tiles you can swipe through with a remote control, which has a navigation pad which goes in four directions. You can scroll through apps, and third party TV streaming services like Netflix.
One of the big differences, though – this being Google – is the ‘search’ function. They’re hoping that they’ll do such a good job with their predictive recommendations that you won’t even need to search.
How this all chimes in with Chromecast, though, is anyone’s guess. Won’t it leave their dongle dangling?
After loads of speculation, Amazon has finally announced their plans for Amazon Fire TV. With their set-top box, you’ll be able to stream Amazon Prime video and, in the States, it’ll cost you $99, which is around £60.
Amazon Fire is based on Android and, according to a statement, it is three times more powerful than Apple TV. With it, you get a little remote which has all the relevant buttons, but also, comes with a built-in microphone so you can control Fire with your voice.
For an extra $39.99, you can get a game controller, which connects with Bluetooth and gives 55 hours battery life.
Amazon aren’t mucking about when it comes to streaming content. They’re offering their own services, as well as their competitors such as Netflix, HuluPlus, ESPN, Vevo, Crackle and Flixster.
Disney, Gameloft, EA, 2K Games, Sega, Ubisoft, Double Fine, and Telltale Games are all signed-up to develop games for Fire TV. The controller itself is based on the Xbox 360 controller. Perhaps not as pretty or robust, but decent enough to throw around while gaming.
Will it make Apple fans switch? Probably not. Will is challenge Chromecast? It isn’t really vying for the same market. However, it should sell reasonably well for those looking for something to enable streaming on their TVs and get mild distraction with games more akin to those you’d find on a tablet, rather than the PS4 or Xbox One.
We await news on when Amazon Fire TV will be released in the UK.
In a move that seems to have been devised by Mr Burns from the Simpsons, the UK Intellectual Property Office is proposing to update copyright law to make it legal, even though everybody ditched CDs and DVDs ages ago.
The IPO announced the news by printing it out on striped green perforated paper and faxing it.
They said: The changes make small but important reforms to UK copyright law and aim to end the current situation where minor and reasonable acts of copying which benefit consumers, society and the economy are unlawful.’
(But apparently it’ll still be illegal to make copies of your CDs and DVDs for friends and family. Hahhahaha.)
The government will actually be debating this in the Houses of Parliament next month, and if it’s agreed, the law will be changed in June.
I wonder whether they’ve heard about these great new things called 78s? You can play them on the gramophone, so I hear.
Firstly, it is being suggested that Apple are thinking of offering iTunes to Android devices. However, the amount of complaining people have been doing about iTunes recently, you have to wonder if any Android users will want to go anywhere near the service.
Apple need to do something though – according to figures, iTunes’ rates have declined while things like Spotify are doing decent business. Google Music is on the up also, so is there any need to offer iTunes to anyone not using Apple devices?
They’re also rumoured to be tinkering with their Apple TV service, presumably on the back of everyone dashing off to buy Google’s Chromecast (as well as Roku and a mooted Amazon service) and the success of Netflix and the like. Basically, it looks like they’re going to offer a new streaming service which could be integrated into a new version of their set-top box.
Apple have already revamped the online store and they are said to be looking at featuring gaming capabilities. They are also hoping to sign-up with a variety of internet providers where they hope to separate the new TV service from public internet traffic, in a bid to get rid of buffering during peak internet usage.
Relatively speaking, it hasn’t been a spectacular year for Apple and other companies have stolen a march on a variety of products and services. Looks like Apple are playing hardball again, pinning their hopes on entertainment services rather than brand new products (although, there is this). For those waiting for an iWatch, it certainly looks like Apple are holding off while they try and tie up people’s viewing and listening habits.
The problem-haired joybringer George Osborne is bringing in new laws making sure that internet downloads are taxed in the country they are purchased.
This means, that Apple and Amazon will have to charge the UK’s 20% rate of VAT. The current situation they are allowed to sell digital downloads via places like Luxembourg, where the tax rate is as low as 3%.
This will affect books, music and apps and comes in from January 1 2015.
His budget document said:
“As announced at budget 2013, the government will legislate to change the rules for the taxation of intra-EU business to consumer supplies of telecommunications, broadcasting and e-services. From 1 January 2015 these services will be taxed in the member state in which the consumer is located, ensuring these are taxed fairly and helping to protect revenue.”
2013 saw singles ales at their highest for years, so after 2015 consumers are going to go the extra to obtain their music. Or maybe they’ll not bother and riot instead.
Initially, everyone thought Amazon would be doing their own take on Apple TV, but instead of a set-top box, it looks like they’ll be favouring a dongle.
Other rumours suggest that Amazon’s version will have support for streaming PC game titles.
With Roku launching their own device, it looks like wireless streaming competition is only going to get hotter from here on. With Amazon having their own marketplace for movies, games and everything else under the sun, they’re a real competitor for the Chromecast.
Amazon have been selling shedloads of Chromecasts too, with largely good reviews, so they’ll know what the appetite for these products is.
However, when Amazon turned the Kindle into a tablet, it came with its own unique problems – mainly the lack of the Google Play store and a imposing ads and the like – so if Amazon want to muscle in on the Chromecast market, they’re going to have to play it carefully.
BSkyB are going after the Apple iTunes Store (other services are available too, pedants) with a new service which allows you to download and keep films called ‘Buy and Keep’. There’s a name that took the branding team all of ten minutes to come up with.
It would’ve been funnier if they’d called it the SkyTunes Store or SkyPlayer.
With an imminent release, Buy and Keep will sit alongside the existing pay-per-view Sky Store rental service.
Andrew Griffith, BSkyB’s chief financial officer says this new service will target families with existing Sky subs who previously bought DVDs, but found the whole ‘going to the shops’ a pain in the hole.
“Having made a strong start in rentals, we think we can go one step further and actually start offering customers the opportunity to purchase movies from us and keep them forever,” Griffith said. “We think we are extremely well positioned to enter the market and take share.”
Apparently, Buy and Keep will “have all the flexibility and the convenience of a digital store but all delivered to your TV set with instant access through the touch of a button the Sky remote”.
There’s no pricing available yet.
There’ll be a £3 per month increase as standard, which means from April 5th, you’ll be paying £18.50 every month, rather than £15.50.
However, with that, they’ll be adding to their existing Sky channels. Plus TV subscribers will be able to watch seven more Sky stations, including Sky 1 and Sky Living as well as having on-demand access to shows from Sky Arts, as well as the aforementioned channels.
If you don’t want those channels or to pay more, tough. This is the standard package.
In a statement the company said that they “continue to offer Britain’s best prices with TalkTalk homes saving up to £230 over 18 months in comparison to BT.”
One thing TalkTalk have over BT is that BT don’t carry Sky channels after they fell out with Murdoch’s company over Premier League broadcasting rights.
In Stockholm last week, Warner Home Entertainment invited 12 Gravity enthusiasts to watch the movie in a series of special tanks. The viewers lay in the blue lit tank, which had been filled with water and salts and heated to exactly 35.5 degrees to mimic resting body temperature.
As your body is the same temperature as the water, there’s no sensation of BEING in water, so the viewer just feels that they’re weightless.
Apart from going to one of those weird bunkers owned by NASA in the middle of nowhere and doing full on astronaut training, it’s the closest to being weightless the world has to offer. And, doubtlessly it also made viewers feel closer to Sandra Bullock’s chemical peel.
Anyway, then a big screen hovering above showed them Gravity in 3D and they all lost their minds with excitement. Let’s hope they watched out for those big black holes! (in the plot).
Yes, Neil Young is developing a portable music player and download service which makes songs sound better. 68 YEAR OLD NEIL FREAKING YOUNG.
Called Pono, it’s a crowdfunded project that could potentially give the iPod a run for its money. Players will cost $399, and they’re very basic looking – shaped like colourful Toblerones.
But the thing about Pono downloads is that they’re bigger than usual, which means they won’t have that compressed, flattened quality. You will be able to hear the sound as the artist intended. The PonoPlayer can store from 100-500 albums, and there’s a memory stick for additional music.
Says Neil: ‘The simplest way to describe what we’ve accomplished is that we’ve liberated the music of the artist from the digital file and restored it to its original artistic quality – as it was in the studio. Hearing Pono for the first time is like that first blast of daylight when you leave a movie theatre on a sun-filled day.’
Now, remember, Neil has taken quite a few drugs in his time, but if this works as intended, it could potentially change how we listen to music.
So, if you’re sick of everything sounding neutered and flat in your ears, and long for the drama and depth of vinyl – get your wallet out and put in your pre-order on March 15th here.
We liked the look of Google’s Chromecast, and it appears that everyone else is going to be getting in on the action. If you missed it, or can’t be bothered to click on the link, Chromecast is a cheap device which you plug into your television, enabling you to stream things to it from your phone, tablet or whatever.
And now, Roku have announced their smart TV device, the Streaming Stick.
With this device, you can surf channels and browse from your iOS or Android phone or, if you like, use the bundled Roku remote. Channels that are available from Roku include BBC iPlayer, 4oD, Demand 5, Now TV, Sky Store and Sky News and you’ll be able to stream personal media from your devices. That includes your Netflix accounts and what-have-you.
The 2012 Roku Streaming Stick didn’t have the Chromecast functionality, so be careful if you’re looking at buying one.
Jim Funk, senior vice president of product management at Roku and owner of a marvellous, marvellous name, says: “The new Roku Streaming Stick gives consumers more choice for streaming entertainment to the TV than any other device. Consumers want a ton of entertainment, an easy way to search for movies and TV shows, and options to control the experience with a remote or mobile device. This new Roku Streaming Stick brings all that and more – and in a tiny form factor.”
Roku’s device is slightly pricier than the Chromecast, retailing at £49.99. However, it is in the shops now. Definitely worth looking at.
If you’ve got $1m (and you’re a prize fanny), you can now buy a roadworthy replica of the ‘Tumbler’ Batmobile seen in the Dark Knight films.
You – yes you, Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons – can finally show the people at work and all those girls who never talk to you that you are the boss man of Gotham City! (Batphone not included).
The limited edition car is currently selling on the James Edition website, which specialises in luxury goods for attention seeking rich people. It comes with 44 inch tyres, an 8 cylinder engine, Bluetooth, and five cameras to stop you from shunting it into other cars when you’re
parking outside your Nan’s house saving the world from the Joker.
But before you rush out to the building society to raid your Super Squirrel savings account, take heed. You can only get it in left hand drive, and although it’s legal to drive it on the roads, it’s not exactly equipped for popping to the shops.
As the makers say: ‘We have built this insane vehicle to be street legal however please understand that this is not a daily driver!’
‘Robin – to the Tw**mobile.’
We all know that any responsible government would put an outright ban on fixed odds betting machines, rather than sticking up pointless Gambleaware helpline numbers in the window of William Hill.
Instead, the Association of British Bookmakers has decided to take the problem into its own hands, by introducing a new code of conduct to stop the scourge of problem gambling. They’re installing new technology on gaming machines, so that gamers can set limits on their spending. (BECAUSE OF COURSE PROBLEM GAMBLERS ARE GOING TO SET THEIR OWN LIMITS.)
But it’s better than nothing, and the technology will also give staff an alert if someone has spent up to £250 or has been playing for half an hour. It’s being installed on 33,000 machines in England and Wales from today, and hopefully, will discourage vulnerable gambling addicts before they can get into any more trouble.
Chief exec of the ABB, Dirk Vennix said:
‘We recognise growing concerns that some customers are spending too much money or too much time on gaming machines. We want to take steps to protect them because one problem gambler is one too many.’
So, as they say in Glasgow, ‘you’re ontae plums’ – meaning that you have lost your game on the fruit machine and you must walk away from the nice flashing lights and step into the cold, wretched grasp of long term unemployment.
But will the technology work? Is the £250 limit still too high for players who are gambling with non-existent money? Maybe it would be less expensive and more effective to reconfigure the slots so that they only take 2ps, like one armed bandits in Scarborough?