April 12, 2019

Link: Disney+ Streaming Service Starting in November for $7/month ☍

Peter Kafka for Recode:

Now we have them: Disney+ will launch in the US on November 12, for $7 a month. It will have a very large library of old Disney movies and TV shows — crucially, including titles from its Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars catalog — along with new movies and series made exclusively for the streaming service. It won’t have any ads. And it will allow subscribers to download all of that stuff, and watch it offline, whenever they want.

For comparison: A standard Netflix subscription now costs $13 a month. […]

Disney’s event still left several unknowns, some of which won’t get answered anytime soon: For instance, does Disney plan on distributing its service via big internet platforms like Amazon and Apple, who are now officially frenemies with the media giant?

And how will Disney bundle its suite of streaming services, which also include Hulu and an ESPN spin-off? (Kevin Mayer, the Disney executive in charge of all of Disney’s streaming services, said the company would likely bundle them in some way, but didn’t say more.) […]

Oh, and one more thing: Disney+ will also feature shows and movies that previously belonged to 21st Century Fox, which Disney mostly absorbed this year. That means the service will also be the place to watch The Simpsons, for starters.

I think for many this will be an insta-susbcribe. The service will have a discounted rate if you subscribe for a year at a time ($69.99/year). Between the vast back catalogs of Disney (with Pixar and Marvel) and 21st Century Fox, there’s immediately a vast library of proven content, not to mention the new content that will be created explicitly for the service. The price also puts it in a place that it probably won’t be the first thing canceled if people decide to cut back on streaming options. Furthermore, if there is some sort of bundle discount, Disney+, ESPN+, and the lower tier of Hulu would end up coming out cheaper than Netflix.

Seeing how Disney CEO Bob Iger sits on Apple’s board and Hulu was featured prominently at Apple’s event last month, I suspect Disney and Apple will continue to have a good relationship, despite their streaming services competing for your time.

April 6, 2019

Link: Netflix Kills AirPlay Support on iOS ☍

Sean Hollister for The Verge:

Netflix confirmed to The Verge that it pulled the wireless casting feature this past week, due to what it’s calling a “technical limitation.” But it’s not the kind of technical limitation you’d think.

You see, Apple recently partnered with most of the major TV brands to allow AirPlay 2 to send shows directly to their 2019 TV sets with a firmware update later this year, but a Netflix spokeperson tells me AirPlay 2 doesn’t have digital identifiers to let Netflix tell those TVs apart — and so the company can’t certify its users are getting the best Netflix experience when casting to those new sets.

So now, it’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater and pulling the plug on AirPlay, period. “We can’t distinguish which device is which, we can’t actually certify the devices… so we’ve had to just shut down support for it,” a Netflix spokesperson says.

I was always under the impression that as long as the receiving device supported AirPlay (previously just Apple TVs and various audio devices), any content that could play on iOS could be piped to it. Even though Netflix claims it’s not a policy/punishment change, it seems incredibly lazy and drives people to the various smart TV apps instead. Perhaps it’s so that they can figure out what kind of devices they’re using, rather than just assuming that AirPlay = Apple TV?

For what it’s worth, I rarely use AirPlay with Netflix, due to being logged into numerous devices, but it does have utility if visiting friends/family/hotels and not having to log into the Netflix app on their devices.

April 4, 2019

Link: Regarding That Ostensibly ‘Small Number of Customers’ Reporting Problems With Their MacBook Keyboards ☍

Nick Heer:

But what’s missing from the numbers Apple Insider published and the general malaise about these keyboards is any understanding of the impact they’re having on otherwise-silent users. Hansson’s piece sheds some light on this, plus a poll he posted on Twitter. As of writing, over 4,600 people have responded: 38% say that their keyboard is perfect, 11% say that they had problems with the keyboard but Apple fixed it, and 51% say that they’re living with their keyboard problems. I’m not surprised by that — people who use their laptop a lot, especially for work, cannot just be without their computer for a week or two. It is enormously disruptive.

The thing I keep getting back to in my head is that this is a problem that should not exist. The highlight feature of the next MacBook model should be something like Face ID or being powered by one of Apple’s own kick-ass processors, not a keyboard that hasn’t regressed and now functions correctly. And I understand completely that all tech companies experiment with new and different things. In Yosemite, Apple tried to replace the fine-but-old mDNSResponder with the new-but-flaky discoveryd; that decision was reverted after a year. Apple has now been shipping MacBooks with crappy butterfly keyboards for four years.

Apple needs to make redesigning/replacing these mechanisms the number one priority for the company. The MacBook family are the most popular Macs and all it takes is for someone to get burned once or twice to decide to maybe go look and see what other non-Apple products are out there next time. There’s also people hanging on to years-old models because they don’t want to upgrade and mess with this. It’s absurd.

Link: ‘Beyond Sketchy’: Facebook Demanding Some New Users’ Email Passwords ☍

Kevin Poulsen for The Daily Beast:

Facebook users are being interrupted by an interstitial demanding they provide the password for the email account they gave to Facebook when signing up. “To continue using Facebook, you’ll need to confirm your email,” the message demands. “Since you signed up with [email address], you can do that automatically…”

A form below the message asked for the users’ “email password.”

“That’s beyond sketchy,” security consultant Jake Williams told the Daily Beast. “They should not be taking your password or handling your password in the background. If that’s what’s required to sign up with Facebook, you’re better off not being on Facebook.”

In a statement emailed to The Daily Beast after this story published, Facebook reiterated its claim it doesn’t store the email passwords. But the company also announced it will end the practice altogether.

I get Facebook is probably wanting to verify that accounts are real, but the fact that someone thought this was a good idea baffles me. They should probably ask for social security numbers and bank information instead. I’m sure they’ll be secure.

April 1, 2019

Link: AirPower Cancelled ☍

Benjamin Mayo:

I’m sad that the product will not exist and I’m also not thrilled with how Apple handled the cancellation. When Apple finally decided to release the AirPods wireless charging case earlier this month, which carried a hefty premium over the normal second-generation AirPods, they clearly knew that they had given up on the mat. They decided to wait until after the rush of AirPods orders had gone through to announce AirPower’s fate. Therefore, plenty of people bought the wireless charging model with the AirPower mat use case in mind, none the wiser to Apple’s internal plans. I am one of those buyers. Apple made more money by making its announcements public in that order. Even if the total of those purchases is small, it is a bit sketchy. I know I regret paying the extra £40 for my new AirPods.

I wholeheartedly agree that Apple handled the numerous delays and eventual cancellation poorly. AirPower being delayed had been a thing for so long that I (like many who spoke about it last week) had to look up when it was originally shown off, when it was originally expected to ship, and when any news on delays started. After a bit of time, anyone who wanted to use wireless inductive charging had moved on to the various third-party Qi options out there—I have numerous ones scattered around my home and office, probably for less than I would’ve spent on an AirPower mat.

On the flip-side, Apple should’ve killed it before the Qi-capable AirPods case was introduced because it did send some mixed messages. Initially, there was talk about the AirPods case charging via a proprietary means like the Apple Watch, so I assumed that a Qi-capable case meant that AirPower was dead, but that was a consolation prize. Many others thought that it was confirmation that AirPower was happening, and I’m sure a few people fell somewhere in the middle. The upgraded AirPods are within the return window, so if someone got them with the intent of using AirPower, but now cannot, there are a few days left to do a downgrade exchange. Regardless, I’m glad that this chapter is finally over because it went on for much too long.