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Scott Ertz Beats design to be overseen by iconic former HTC mobile designer
Beats design to be overseen by iconic former HTC mobile designer One of the most loved and iconic Android hardware designs was the HTC One. It was such a popular design that HTC made a Windows Phone variant of the hardware. The designer responsible for that phone was Scott Croyle. That phone also included a technology that few mobile devices had at its disposal: Beats Audio. This tech allowed for deeper bass controls and a higher bitrate for digital audio. While today the underlying technology is available on almost all phones, it was unique to HTC at the time (and HP before that). Now, Croyle will take his design chops, and his experience with the Beats brand, and combine them to lead the Beats team at Apple.

Apple has used design firm Ammunition for its Beats products since purchasing the brand in 2014. But, since Apple took over, the brand has almost completely stalled out. When the product was designed and manufactured by Monster, you saw people wearing them everywhere all the time. After Monster exited the brand, its ubiquity diminished significantly. In fact, today, outside of a TV show, you are unlikely to see Beats headphones. Apple says that Ammunition will continue to be the lead design team for Beats products, but Scott Croyle will act as the company's voice in the process.

Bringing a talented design lead into the company to oversee what Ammunition is doing could potentially help return what Monster built during its time at the helm. However, Apple has never put a strong focus on the quality of its audio products. Most iPhone users replace their headphones immediately upon receipt of a new device. In recent years, it has been with another Apple product, but for years it was with Beats designed by Monster. A firm hand on the design wheel is a good start, but the product has to begin to sound like it did in the early days if they ever want to be the powerhouse they once were.
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Scott Ertz Discord ditches focus on videogames, expanding to all topics
Discord ditches focus on videogames, expanding to all topics Discord has long been known as a platform for videogame communications. However, over the past year or so, people who used Discord for gaming have begun expanding its uses for other topics. A lot of podcast communities have Discord servers. Even some businesses have attempted to use the platform for their in-house communications (though many revert back to Slack or Teams). Rather than fighting this trend, the company has announced that it is expanding its own focus to include all communities.

This change goes along with the brand's 6th anniversary. As part of the focus change, a number of branding changes have been made as well. The most obvious change is the font for the logo. The company claims that they looked through hundreds of possible fonts before landing on an altered version of Ginto. In addition, Clyde, the company's icon, was altered - interestingly looking even more like an Xbox controller. In addition, the color palette has changed, darkening the primary "blurple" color, and adding in green, yellow, fuchsia, and red, and reducing the reliance on greys.

The real change is in the company's focus. This expansion is bringing them into the very crowded marketplace of general communications platforms. The space is owned by Microsoft Teams and Slack in the business market, but personal communication is all over the place. In fact, Discord has been the most consistent player in that space, but many felt like it was a closed space especially for gaming. Discord is acknowledging that reality, and assuring people that everyone is welcomed.

The question is, will Discord be able to step back from their public perception and get people to accept the broader community? They have been working on changing this perception a year ago, and it has worked to a point. This past year was a perfect time to begin this transition, as people needed to find ways to be together while staying apart. As the world returns to normal, though, will non-gamers continue to use the platform? We will see on Discord's 7th anniversary.
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Scott Ertz Steam wants to participate in console gaming, but what's the plan?
Steam wants to participate in console gaming, but what's the plan? For many years, Steam has been the go-to store for PC gaming - although Epic Games Store is slowly trying to come for that crown. However, if you've been around the gaming space for a while, you might remember that Steam tried to get into the "console" business with the mostly disastrous Steam Machines. Fortunately, the company abandoned that concept (after most of the partners turned them into Windows computers anyway). However, Valve CEO Gabe Newell says that console news is coming soon.

Initially, it would sound like Valve is about to step back into their past mistakes, that is not necessarily the case. During a You will have a better idea of that by the end of the year.
There are a lot of possibilities about what that could mean. Likely, it isn't that Steam Machines are coming back - especially with a
global chip shortage going on. So, that leaves us with the possibility of the Steam Store coming to consoles. The problem with that idea, of course, is that is would cut the hardware manufacturer out of the game distribution market. While this generation of consoles does generate revenue, it's the game stores that actually provide value for Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony.

So, what is Gabe talking about? Are some Valve games coming to consoles? What Valve games are missing from consoles? Will we be getting the back catalog on modern hardware (Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5)? Are remakes of older favorites I the works? There are literally a thousand possibilities and absolutely no additional information. While "end of the year" might include everything up to and including December, the most likely place to announce something console related would be at the virtual E3 next month. Let's hope we get some more information at that time.
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Scott Ertz Zigbee Alliance expands its name and its purpose with Matter standard
Zigbee Alliance expands its name and its purpose with Matter standard While many smarthome owners have interacted with Zigbee technology, not everyone has heard of it. For those who have missed out on the Zigbee Alliance, the organization has been dedicated to creating a communication standard that allows unrelated brands of smart devices to speak to and work with one another over a special wireless technology. This alliance has produced unique and interesting products from big brands, including Philips Hue. The technology is so popular that it is even running on Mars, with the popular Ingenuity helicopter communicating with Perseverance over Zigbee.

This week, the Alliance announced a number of name changes to coincide with a focus change. No longer the Zigbee Alliance, the organization is now the Connectivity Standards Alliance. This change is because the organization is looking outside of just the Zigbee standard of wireless communication and looking for a way to allow communication between different Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

The project that was designed to connect different technologies was once known as Project Connected Home over IP (Project CHIP). But, with the rebrand of the Alliance comes the rebrand of the project, now known as Matter. This newly minted project has a lot of support, including from Amazon, Apple, Google, IKEA< Signify, SmartThings, and a lot more. Importantly, there is also support from NXP, which manufacturers a lot of internals for IoT products. Unfortunately, there are some notably absent brands, but as the group is just getting started, perhaps they will join in the future.

Obviously, the goal of Matter is to make your smart home choices wider, while making sure that things will work together from outside ecosystems. So, if you already have a number of Zigbee products but want to add in a couple of Wi-Fi-powered products, and one using Samsung's SmartThings Hub, one day you will be able to connect them all together using Matter. The organization says,

The Matter mark will serve as a seal of approval, taking the guesswork out of the purchasing process and allowing businesses and consumers alike to choose from a wider array of brands to create secure and connected homes and buildings.

This promises to make the disconnected smarthome a more unified place.
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Scott Ertz Roku exercises platform control, boots YouTube TV from all devices
Roku exercises platform control, boots YouTube TV from all devices In the early days of Roku, one of its big selling points was that there was no editorial control. Basically, anyone could develop an app for the platform and deploy it without interference from Roku, so long as very minimal rules were obeyed (no adult or pirated content). However, that has all changed in the past few years, with Roku requiring big platforms to agree to additional terms, and sign special publishing agreements. That makes Roku more like a cable provider than a content-agnostic platform. This week, YouTube TV fell victim to these contract disputes.

Anyone with cable has seen the ads from your local stations saying that your provider is going to remove the network. We've also seen ads from the cable company saying that FOX or NBC is trying to bully the cable company into a bad contract. That is precisely the back and forth seen between Roku and Google surrounding YouTube TV. Because of this fight, Roku has removed YouTube TV from the channel store following the expiration of the previous contract.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Roku's Story[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
On Roku's side, the company complains that Google has made unreasonable demands of the platform. For example, YouTube TV has its own search result row on the main screen, when no one else has the same feature. The company also uses the Roku voice search capability to search only within their own platform, which is something Roku plans to change in the next major update. There is also talk of Google wanting YouTube Music to be prioritized in search over the user's primary platform setting.

Roku claims that the reason they have given in on so many of Google's demands has been because of Google's size and power. Google, especially in the search and YouTube space, is often accused of anti-competitive behavior, but this is the first time we have seen a company really call them out and follow through on it.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Google's Story[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
Google says that Roku is infamous for these types of tactics, abusing its position as platform provider to bully the competition. Google and Roku compete on hardware, and this is an attempt to show dominance in contract negotiations. It truly does follow the path of cable providers before them.

Goog,e also argues that they have asked for no special treatment (though the operating system itself provides evidence to the contrary). Claims that Google wants to affect search results are false, and Roku is trying to make them look bad.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The Result[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
As of Friday, the YouTube TV app is no longer is the channel store. For now, users who already have it installed can continue to use it, but no new downloads ar permitted. It is possible that, depending on the direction of the contract negotiations, everyone could lose access in the future.

It would be a surprise if the app is pulled entirely, as it is a high-profile platform. But, Roku also famously delayed HBO Max's launch on the platform over similar contract disputes, so anything is possible.
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