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Scott Ertz What We've Learned: Everyone is tired of the app store policies
(2018-12-28)
One of the biggest surprise trends of 2018 has been the disillusion with the normal process for distribution. The leader of the revolution has certainly been Epic Games. Between circumventing Google Play for Fortnite on Android and launching a new PC game store, they have been the ones carrying the flag against high commissions and "business as usual" in the industry. Epic has not been the only one fighting against the norm, however. Discord also created their own store, yet another way for developers to distribute their games and for gamers to discover great new content.

But standard distribution is not the only problem facing developers. One of the biggest financial hits to any subscription service is the cut that platform providers charge for those recurring payments. The biggest problem has always been Apple, which requires that in-app purchases be made available through the App Store. This requirement is because Apple takes 30 percent of the charge. That means that a service offering the ability to subscribe to their service through their app must either charge more for the service or potentially lose money on every subscriber.

Netflix has been on the leading front of this particular battle. As the company produces more and more original content, they need every penny that they can get. Since announcing their plans, they have tried to keep their prices steady, but with a 30 percent loss on every Apple-based subscription, that gets really tough.

Earlier this year, there was a rumor that they would turn off the ability to subscribe through an Apple device, requiring new users to go to the website to sign up instead. This week, the rumors were proven true, with Netflix officially killing the ability to sign up for service through their iPhone app. This change could significantly change the bottom line for Netflix, meaning that they can continue to enhance their slate of original content for the foreseeable future.
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Scott Ertz Moral of the Story: Giving up personal data is how it works now
(2018-12-28)
Moral of the Story: Giving up personal data is how it works now If 2018 has had a theme, it would be that people simply don't care about their privacy anymore. Online services have increased the amount of data they collect about you and the types of companies that they sell that data to. Some apps don't even provide a value and still collect information. This has been the way that the web has worked for decades, and we have accepted it, but things are changing.

These days, we don't just expect the behavior from free services. We purchase Alexa-powered devices that proveably record everything that happens around them, and when they send that data to the wrong person, we seem to accept it as normal. But, in Amazon's case, both of these instances were accidental.

Then there are companies who knowingly violate your privacy, like Facebook. Despite their own terms of service and data sharing disclosures, Facebook has still made your data available without your permission or knowledge. For example, when they gave top tech companies carte blanche to your Messenger account. Or how about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Rather than users fleeing the service that obviously doesn't care about you as a person, nothing has changed. Perhaps because the company has a policy of silencing their critics.

No matter the scenario, the response always stays the same: we're doing what we can to continue to provide you with the services you want. We're sorry you didn't like what we did, maybe we'll change. The reality is that we cannot expect these companies to change their behaviors, because as users we've told them that we're okay with it. Clearly, the problem is a complex one, that has been made more complex by our dependence on these platforms for everything from personal communication to corporate collaboration.
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Scott Ertz Blizzard is fighting the nonsense that is the Twitch Chat community
(2018-12-28)
Blizzard is fighting the nonsense that is the Twitch Chat community Anyone who has ever spent any real time on Twitch knows that a channel's chatroom can go from 0 to 60 in way under 10 seconds. As a streamer gets more popular, the potential for chat disaster gets exponentially worse. There are some measures that streamers can take to try and keep some semblance of control over their chat, including content filtering, moderation, and bans. For most streamers, this is enough to prevent the madness that can become a reality.

When it's an official channel, however, it's an almost guaranteed scenario that viewers will get contentious, and quickly. When that happens, things like moderation becomes nearly impossible because of the sheer number of messages being posted. Often times, these channels take more severe measures to try and keep some civility in the chat. Others, however, take severe to all new heights.

This is the way that Blizzard is trying to handle their official Overwatch channels. Discovering that toxicity comes with the territory, Blizzard has decided to bring harsher penalties to viewers who try to raise a ruckus in chat than just being banned from the chat itself. In fact, the company has announced intentions to force Twitch users to link their Battle.net accounts before they can chat on official channels.

The question is, how does the company intend to use the linked information? It would not be a surprise to find that Blizzard plans to suspend users from certain features on Battle.net, or within Overwatch itself, if things get too out of hand. They might even go so far as to ban users on their Battle.net accounts. Starting with the Overwatch Contenders season 3 finals, Blizzard will be piloting the program. If successful, it is likely that we will see the program rolled out on a larger scale, including all of the Overwatch League.
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Scott Ertz Apple's app approval process has gone from stringent to easy
(2018-12-28)
Apple's app approval process has gone from stringent to easy Over the past decade, the policies governing the Apple App Store have changed significantly. In the early days, getting any app into the store was incredibly difficult. Apple didn't want anyone they considered a competitor to have software on their platform. They even denied Google Voice for duplicating native features. Today, in addition to Google Voice, there are hundreds of voice and text services on the iPhone that duplicate native features from a myriad of competitors, including Google and Microsoft.

The company's content policing policy was also very different a decade ago. An early app submission, named Ninjawords, was a dictionary - one of the simplest and most innocuous apps possible. However, Apple took offense to the dictionary containing certain words and forced the company to censor the dictionary. Today, Apple allows apps like Tumblr, to display adult content.

These days, the company's less stringent guidelines have led to a platform that occasionally lets through an app with potentially malicious intent. The App Store isn't quite the security threat of Google Play, but it is letting through fake apps, including those that steal personal data and violate copyrights. But there is a big difference between an unofficial Pokemon game and an app that pretends to be a productivity tool.

This week, just such an app made waves on the App Store. An app called "Setup for Amazon Alexa" managed to not only crack Apple's security, but it also cracked the top 10 utility apps in the store. The app gathers IP address, as well as your Alexa device's serial number, though it is not known exactly what can be done with that information. It is possible that this could be enough to monitor transmissions sent from the device to Amazon for processing, turning the device into more of a spy device than most people already consider them.

Needless to say, if you have downloaded the app, you should uninstall it immediately.
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Scott Ertz T-Mobile delayed their TV service because it's hard
(2018-12-22)
T-Mobile delayed their TV service because it's hard Just a few days over a year ago, T-Mobile announced that they would be entering the already crowded streaming TV business. They believed that they could bring their "uncarrier" attitude that won them fame in the mobile industry to another business model. At the time, the market was heating up, with services like Sling, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV already on the scene.

The goals were so lofty that they bought Layer3 TV, a cable company with a serious focus on streaming. The service, like FiOS, delivered all television over a network connection provided through fiber optics. T-Mobile planned on using that expertise to create a new service which would include live TV, on-demand offerings, Netflix and Hulu integration, as well as a strong social aspect. You would theoretically be able to see who of your friends are watching a live program with you, as well as integrate commenting and liking that content.

Since December 2017, there has been almost no word about the service, or when in the promised 2018 the service would launch, including at T-Mobile's several high-profile events. This week, according to a Bloomberg report, plans to launch this year have been abandoned. As of now, the plan is to launch in 2019 instead. As it turns out, delivering on CEO John Legere's promise of an industry-changing service is harder than they thought.

Differentiating themselves from the growing list of streaming TV services is definitely going to be a challenge. Since their announcement, several new services have entered the market, including mobile rival AT&T. They are going to have a challenge dealing with comments made by Legere when AT&T started bundling DirecTV with their mobile service, which he considered to be an inappropriate move. Now they'll have to figure out how to market their own service without running afoul of Legere's beliefs of AT&T.

This also comes at a time when T-Mobile is trying desperately to purchase competitor Sprint. They need government approval, which they are receiving right now, but that has taken focus from the upper brass that would have been needed to hit their goal of launching in 2018. A move to 2019 should allow the company to finalize their Sprint acquisition, which is expected to finish in Quarter 1 and focus back on the TV service.
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