Integrated digital media stores : a quick overview

After using iTunes and Google Play Store to download and buy some digital media, I wanted to see which store was the best and most convenient to use.

It’s weird to see that in 2014, there is still no web version of iTunes. The name itself doesn’t make sense anymore : on the desktop, you can use iTunes to download music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, books, and even iOS apps (which you can’t use on your computer, very useful…).

With all its features, desktop iTunes has become a real mess. It’s better on iOS though : you just use iTunes for buying music, movies and TV shows, and then you have dedicated apps to consume each kind of media. Books and Podcasts are separate apps (with their own integrated store) that you have to download though.

In comparison, Google Play Store is a one stop shop : you can get every kind of media (except Podcasts, a weird omission), even devices. With the web app, the store is also more ubiquitous than iTunes. I also like the fact that the music and books sections have a digital locker : you can upload your own collection of media and stream them on the web, iOS and Android.

Also, unlike iTunes, you can pay for content with Paypal and not give your credit card info to Google, which is nice.

The only thing that I miss with with the Play Store is the ability to download purchased movies on your computer. There is also less info of the quality of the movie catalogue (is it 720p or 1080p ?)

Next to Apple and Google, Microsoft is way behind : except of Xbox Music and Xbox Video (which are badly named), you can’t get books and magazines. There is a Windows Phone app for podcasts, but nothing on Windows 8 or on the web. 

Weirdly, you can’t buy music from the Xbox Music web app, and you cannot also add content to a wish list… Small consolation, you can buy content with your Paypal account, like on Google Play.

It seems that Google is the most ubiquitous player, with a web store and some native apps on iOS. I also expect them to bring more synergies between the Play Store and YouTube : A new music subscription service called YouTube Music Key is reportedly on the way, but I also expect them to try to compete with Netflix. Because why iTunes and Google Play would allow you to rent movies but not music, and subscribe to music and not to movies/TV ?

I also didn’t talk about Amazon, which is right now not as ubiquitous as the other players. But competition is good and I expect to see a lot of things to happen in the digital media distribution field in 2015.

A few pictures from the first Maker Faire Paris : some 3D printed robots, Arduino prototypes, a bionic hand and giant 3D printing machine.

It’s great to see events like these in Paris, and it wasn’t a 100% engineers  or tech public, a lot of families actually. Children especially seem really curious about all of this stuff. 

A giant 3D printing machine is busy printing chairs and other furnitures at Maker Faire Paris

A 3D printed humanoid robot responds to voice commands at Maker Faire Paris.

It’s strange to see France football team featured on Spotify’s homepage. There are dedicated playlists from famous people, and the French Football Federation and all the team members also have their personal profile.

It’s obviously nice for everyone’s image, but looking closely to the footballer’s profiles, it looks that each profile was created for the World Cup, and that the footballers barely use them. Spotify stills feels immature and weird as a social network for music. 

Microsoft's plans to transition Nokia into its own brand leak online

Both Microsoft and Nokia have become pretty weak brands: Nokia lost its mojo since Apple launched its first iPhone back in 2007, and the Microsoft brand is too tied to unsexy software. Microsoft’s Windows Phone is probably not going to look sexier with Microsoft branding…

Still at Geekopolis, I also saw people drawing with 3D printing pens. You can use these to draw on paper, or to draw in the air to construct anything you like. It looks fun, but the pens exhales some kind plastic smoke, I’m not sure it’s healthy to breathe that for a long time.

I saw a 3D printer made from 3D printed parts at the last Geekopolis event in Paris. Who knew 3D printers started breeding?

Amazon’s amazing music pricing

As I was browsing Amazon music store, I discovered this: when you buy CDs on Amazon, the “Autorip” features allows you to download the digital album as well.

Obviously, it’s cheaper to buy the mp3 version than the physical version… except for some albums, where the CD version is cheaper (including the free mp3 files thanks to the Autorip thing). Kinda amazing…

YouTube shuts down public RSS feeds of user subscriptions

If you’re a news junky, you probably use an RSS reader like Feed.ly to keep up with stuff on the Web. One of the nicest ways to consume YouTube subscriptions was to use an RSS feed of new videos, allowing them to show up just like news articles do. You might not have noticed yet, but Google quietly shut down this feature a few days ago.

After killing Google Reader a year ago, it seems that Google intends to drop support of RSS feeds for its few services that used it. Obviously, suscribing to a YouTube channel via RSS was a feature only known for news junkies, Google never promoted it on YouTube.

Besides YouTube, the only Google products that still promote their RSS feeds are Blogger and Picasa, with the latter being nearly absorbed by Google+ photos nowadays. 

RSS feeds are still supported on Vimeo, Flickr and Dailymotion though… but for how long? All these services would like you consume content on their websites, spend time more time on them, and see more ads…

Microsoft really nailed the smartphone homescreen in my opinion: not only can you add lots of apps on it, but you can also get useful information at a glance, without needing to open any app. Now if only the apps quality was better…

Flickr, 10 years and slowly going mobile

Flickr 10th birthday

Last February, Flickr celebrated its 10th birthday. I missed the mark as I wasn’t a user back then, but I recently started using it here to embed pictures on my posts.

Tumblr is a great tool for writing, but it’s not very good to share photos or videos. I like using Flickr is better because you can embed slideshows on your posts, that people can easily share. Also, you can see how many people checked your pictures if you care.

But I’m surprised Flickr isn’t better better integrated with Tumblr. The 2 services are owned by Yahoo!, even if Tumblr is still run indepently. But an obious synergy would be the ability to to link your 2 accounts to easily embed your own Flickr pictures on Tumblr posts.

Following the rise of Instagram on mobile and the absorption of Picasa into Google+, Flickr is a bit lost in the social media landscape. On Google’s Play Store, the Android app hasn’t passed the 5M downloads mark. Obviously, it’s still mainly used on the desktop, and some features like “Flickr mail” clearly remind us the web roots of the service.

I still think Yahoo! made a good job revamping the service last year, the home page sure looks good. Also, Yahoo! seems to have great ambitions in media these days, at least enough to build a YouTube competitor in we read the rumors. I guess they’re not ready to let Facebook or Google own photo sharing too, and competition is always good.