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Vimeo On Demand Adds Subscriptions

I originally noticed this story on The Hollywood Reporter, but they left out many of the specific details that the official Vimeo blog covers. This an interesting move for Vimeo and can ultimately serve to make it much more appealing to people producing video content. It does build off of the existing Vimeo On Demand service — what? You didn’t know about that either?

Vimeo On Demand premiered two years ago, and I finally recalled it when I started reading about it. It is/was a storefront for paying for individual videos — either by “renting” them, or by “buying” them. The person paying got access to the video in any Vimeo client signed in to their service, though you couldn’t purchase in every app (like YouTube on the Apple TV). Creators had granular control over how the work was presented, how much they charged, and how long rental windows were. However, it was another storefront, and many of the things there were either available through other storefronts, or not worth singing in to pay for. It was just as unappealing as I remember it being.

This subscription changes things because no one else is offering anything like it. It’s not a subscription for all of Vimeo, which gets divvied up between all the Vimeo content creators, it’s a subscription only to the relevant content creator. The money goes directly to the people that give me what I want, and those people keep 90% of it. If they stop making what I want, I can cancel my subscription for them without affecting my other Vimeo subscriptions. This is sort of like Patreon, in a way, except instead of paying Patreon, and going somewhere else to watch what you pay for, it’s right there.

Video creators can still make certain videos free, or available for rent or purchase, in addition to being available for subscribers. That’s a good way to get people to discover a show and sign up for a month.

In a way, the a la carte nature also hurts Vimeo, and video creators, because people are going to weigh the cost of subscribing more carefully than they would with an ad-supported service like YouTube.

Perhaps they’re still not trying to compete with YouTube? Or offer shows like Netflix or Amazon? Vimeo is mostly still a place for one-off, oddball stuff, and demo reels of very unimportant people.

Maybe something new will grow from this petri dish of experimental stuff, with this broth of financial tools.

2015-06-02 08:30:00

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Google Photos and Bar Snacks

One of the larger announcements at Google’s I/O conference today was that Google+ Photos were being spun off as a separate product, Google Photos. Sorry, “+” I guess you didn’t add a lot of value.

A big deal was made about unlimited, free photo uploads. There are some caveats that they have not been super clear about, so you’ll read varying things from news outlets about when they compress, or resize images, and under what conditions, so go to the source. From Google’s support site:

High quality Unlimited free storage Regular cameras: Recommended for phones or point-and-shoot cameras that are 16 megapixels (MP) or less. Uses: Good for typical printing and sharing. Size: Save high-quality photos and videos while reducing size.

Original Limited free storage: Uses your Google Account’s 15 GB of free storage. DSLR cameras: Recommended if you take photos with a DSLR camera and want to maintain the exact original quality. Uses: Recommended for printing large banners or to store your original files. Size: Store your photos and videos exactly as you captured them.

Most importantly, you can change your mind at any time. Confusingly, it affects storage sizes going forward and won’t resize items you’ve already stored. Uh… So… Does that mean I can pay for one month, upload 4 TB of UHD video, and 3 TB of 24 MP images, and then switch to the free plan and it’s all there, and not resized or altered? That would be weird.

This also differs from Apple’s iCloud photo storage which divvies up everything from the same bucket as device backups, media, and application data. Google’s plan doesn’t lump this together with Google Drive’s data plan. They’re separate silos. Unless you use the ‘Original’ plan. In which case, you technically have 15 GB of free space with the ‘Original’ plan before you have to pay for anything.

In fact, many people use all their free Google Drive space to upload photos. Drive does have 15 GB of free storage, and won’t do anything to compress, or alter, your photos. You can even toggle on an option to show your images stored in Google Drive in Google Photos. It is not toggled on by default though. That might be because it didn’t work great under a few simple tests.

Test Drive

I made an edit to a test photo and it wasn’t reflected in the local copy in my Drive folder. I deleted the image from the Drive folder and it still showed on the site, but it had a weird gray box where the thumbnail was. Refreshing the page removed the broken thumbnail.

Next test was opening the Google Drive site, where there’s now a Google Photos button — which doesn’t take you to photos.google.com, but shows some text “Stay tuned! Your photos are coming soon.” If I restore the deleted file from Drive’s “trash” the image returns to Photos. Confusingly, the photo that’s restored has the editing adjustments from before I deleted it still applied in Photos, but not in Drive on the web, or in my Drive folder. This is possibly because Google is storing the adjustments as metadata and applying it on-the-fly in the Photos interface — but that is confusing, and not really “syncing”. Also there’s no versioning for those edits, you can only restore to the original, even though Drive is perfectly capable of saving many revisions. Stranger still, it asks if you want to keep changes if you adjust something that was already edited. Not a modern save-as-you-go workflow. The editing options are also a total joke, so I’m not sure that’s a huge loss for me.

What was also bizarre, was opening Google Photos for the first time and seeing images I put up in 2008 … which I guess was Picasa, or something. I’m really not even sure.

Storage Wars

As Jason Snell mentioned on Twitter, “Would be nice if Apple felt some pressure to lower its iCloud photo storage rates, which are twice Google’s.”

Amazon also offers unlimited photo storage for Amazon Prime members, and some paid plans. However, I haven’t really noticed this gaining traction, even though every tech writer in the universe is an Amazon Prime member. You’d think people would be writing about it nonstop.

Dropbox also wants all of your photos. It put a “please let us upload all your iPhone’s photos” button in their iOS app. How else can people fill up the free, two gigabyte tier and pay $9.99 a month (or $99.99 a year) to upgrade to one terabyte?

Flickr has taken some controversial twists and turns over the years (the last turn seems to have been into a ditch). They introduced a free, one terabyte tier a few years ago. It serves gross ads, and offers no first-party syncing, or downloading, off the service. The pro account now offers unlimited photo uploads at $24.95 a year. That’s a great value – if Yahoo hadn’t defecated on Flickr, set it on fire, and tried to put out the fire with urine-soaked novelty T-shirts that say, “We Hate You” in purple Optima.

How Does Google Pay For Photos?

It is not fear-mongering to ask about how this service, and associated apps, are financed by the company. Especially if it is Google, a company that makes most of its income from collecting information and displaying targeted advertising. They have offered no indication how their photo service is paid for, but several reporters have been told that it does not collect personal information to sell ads.

Pete Pachal, writing for Mashable:

The thrust of the new Photos, as described by product lead Bradley Horowitz, is to provide a “private secure, safe place where all of my memories can live without compromise or agenda.”

From the “agenda” part, Google wants to make clear this isn’t Gmail: the Photos app isn’t scanning your photos to sell you things via ads (although it is scanning them for other reasons). Others, including Apple, Dropbox and Lyve, are trying to solve the immensely difficult problem of photo management, but Google thinks it has the best approach, and from a look at the new app, they might be right.

CNN’s Heather Kelly, and my request for a clarification:

From an interview with Bradley Horowitz on Medium’s Backchannel:

The information gleaned from analyzing these photos does not travel outside of this product — not today. But if I thought we could return immense value to the users based on this data I’m sure we would consider doing that. For instance, if it were possible for Google Photos to figure out that I have a Tesla, and Tesla wanted to alert me to a recall, that would be a service that we would consider offering, with appropriate controls and disclosure to the user. Google Now is a great example. When I’m late for a flight and I get a Google Now notification that my flight has been delayed I can chill out and take an extra hour, breathe deep.

Now, those of us that skew a little more to the cynical, or paranoid, might read in some hedging. Once all the worlds’ photos are uploaded the trap will spring! Targeted ads for diapers based on your baby photos! MWAHAHAHA!

Ahem.

I don’t see this as being a major concern, or a major obstacle, for most people. Particularly for the billions of Android, and Gmail, users that already agree to actually agree to actual data collection. NBD – as the kids say.

I have a Gmail account. I use Google Maps every day to go to and from work. I’m not going to get on a high horse about the photos, except that there is a certain intimate knowledge that can be gleaned from photos which we’re not used to thinking about. As Horowitz notes in that same media piece, people want the vast majority of their photos to be private.

Loss Leader

Since there are no (current) plans to do anything with the data collected from the photos, and to offer a lot of free, or discounted, storage, then this is paid for by money from other parts of the company. That’s perfectly justifiable. It immediately increases the value of any product Google has which can take, or view, photos.

It’s like snacks, and food, at a bar. You can pay for some sodium-heavy food items, that make you crave paying for a refreshing beverage, or you can just grab some complimentary, salty nuts.

The salty nuts are unlimited.

2015-05-29 09:00:00

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Over the Air, PVR, with a Rube Goldberg on Top ►

Glenn Fleishman wrote up how he’s getting TV at home — with all the modern conveniences of time-shifting! It is convoluted, but completely necessary, and legal, thanks to years and years of precedent. If you thought about making your own PVR system back in the mid-2000s then this will seem very familiar (and perhaps highlight reasons you might have passed on doing so). Not much has changed in a decade except convenience features around shoveling the content. Before that, the biggest innovation was the software to record and playback on a home computer.

This is a diagram of what Glenn wrote in his blog (glog?) post:

Yuck. It all just seems so unnecessary, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be nice to streamline that?

That’s the potential benefit we might see from Apple’s rumored OTT (over the top) service. Yesterday, at the Recode Conference, Les Moonves, President of CBS, confirmed that he’s in talks with Apple to do just that, but that the sticking point is money. Shocking, I know.

2015-05-28 08:30:00

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Desperation Notifier

20th Century Fox rolled out an app, with apparently some text for The Hollywood Reporter and Variety to paraphrase. They’re so excited about this app they didn’t bother to open it, or to apply any critical thought. That’s how exciting this app is. Wee!

It’s an app from Fox Digital Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox. They do promotional tie-in apps for Fox’s entertainment properties. You download this free app, which is white-label software from Premiere Digital Services, and then it will notify you of daily flash sales on Fox’s movies in the iTunes Store. There is no special deal brokered between Fox and iTunes.

The sale price is the same in the app, or in the iTunes store. This is merely a way to highlight the film on sale, and provide a countdown timer — including complimentary seconds ticking away! — to entice people to hurry up and purchase something.

Strangely, “Movie of the Day” is by Fox, for Fox, but has no Fox branding on it. It’s also “MovieOfDay” when displayed on your iPhone, which amuses me.

Since no one appears to have opened the application before they wrote about it, allow me to be the first.

Hands-On

First of all, if you go to the store to download the app you are treated to screenshots of films that are not available to download. Not a big deal, right? It’s just demonstrating a flash sale.

Except that the image in the screenshot is of last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past and the only film available for download happens to be 2011’s X-Men: First Class. Surely, just a coincidence. Surely.

Upon launching the app, you get the best first screen experience anyone can ever hope for:

Keep that in mind, because that’s really the primary goal the company has. The people running this project feel it is their duty to notify customers to purchase something immediately.

The home screen has a share button, which pulls up a standard iOS 8 share sheet to send this important sale to Twitter, or run a Workflow. The “i” pulls up a bar of icons that have no text explanation. Turns out, they’re for cast & crew (just the stars and director), reviews (it doesn’t label where they’re from but it appears to be sourced from iTunes), and a synopsis. I could get more information from the search page in Google, or even by clicking the button in the app that kicks you to the iTunes Store.

What’s the value to the customer? Almost none that I can think of. Unless you really want to be notified every day about an old movie you might not be interested in owning on the off chance that you might want to own one of them.

This seems to want to evoke some of the excitement of bargain bins, with $5-10 DVDs, but there’s no shelf space to clear out, and no retailer with volume to move. Apple can move as much, or as little, as Fox wants. Fox, when left to its own devices, thinks everything it makes is gonna be gold forever and finds it very difficult to markdown their own movies.

That’s why there’s a flash sale with a timer. Artificial scarcity for the customers, and then the panic over low-low prices can subside.

From Variety’s original reporting: “…available for purchase on [on?!] digital HD for $6.99 — ordinarily priced at $14.99.” Perhaps the problem is that Fox is pricing a movie from 2011 at $14.99 the rest of the year? Look, X-Men: First Class was OK, but it’s not like it’s The Godfather.

2015-05-27 08:26:45

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Peddling Risk Aversion

Brent Lang offers up some specious reasoning and doomsaying in Variety today.

“Tomorrowland’s” middling debut points to a nagging problem in Hollywood. As much as people claim they love fresh and unique movies, they’re more likely to shell out money for sequels and reboots.

A few problems with that. First, and foremost, is reading too much into the performance of a single film opening. There are so many factors that can contribute, or detract, from any film opening. Indeed, you can wind the clock back to November and see interstellar box office numbers from … Well, Interstellar. As Brent writes about several paragraphs later:

Some analysts cautioned against reading too much into the failure of one film. After all, original pictures like “Gravity,” “Interstellar,” and “Inception” have enjoyed commercial success.

Brent does highlight that he might not really be using “original” correctly because this is, of course, a feature film tangentially related to a themed attraction. Much in the same way that the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was related to 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Remember those “original” films? They had nothing to do with the ride, really, and the ride was redone to hew more closely to the films.

Brent points out that sequels and reboots are the only things people turn out for, but the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise declined, financially at the very least, after the second one. $46M opening box office for the first one, $135M opening for the second, $114M opening for the third, and $90M for the fourth. More alarming, the fourth had a lifetime gross that’s 80% of the first film.

After four years, they’re going to release a fifth pirates film, but will it be labelled a success or an example of declining sequels? If it has a $50M opening weekend, will Variety run a piece about how audiences won’t turn out for sequels?

I completely agree with Brent that the production budgets put an enormous amount of pressure on films at this scale, but I don’t think the solution is to take fewer risks, as he does. The first Avengers might not seem like a huge risk, but it was, and that risk worked out well. That Tomorrowland isn’t Avengers should surprise no one. That it isn’t as financially successful shouldn’t merit a piece about how people don’t like original stuff.

I’m not worried that this will make Disney less risk averse than they already were. Every few years they release something expensive that doesn’t work out. John Carter and The Haunted Mansion being two films that spring to mind, which had big budgets, but weren’t original, and had disappointing box office numbers.

Disney is flush with cash. They should be taking as many chances as they can.

Just like the other studios trying to mirror the success of the Marvel films at Disney, I worry that other studios will try to dodge these “obvious” failures from Disney. That those studios will look at this piece in Variety and greenlight as many, competing Ghostbusters movies as possible. Only making financially successful movies isn’t a realistic strategy.

Marketing is another area worth dwelling on. Brad Bird has hinted that he hasn’t been completely happy with the trailers. Particularly with the most recent one. This isn’t the first time Brad Bird has had a low opening weekend because the potential movie-going audience didn’t understand what his movie was. Look at The Iron Giant which Bird made for Warner Bros. before they decided they didn’t want to make animated movies, and sabotaged the film. It’s a cult classic, and a risky movie.

Like Brent, I also can’t tell you what is happening in the film based on any of the trailers. There is some place, a pin that lets you see the place, George Clooney’s inventions, a ship, and they have to save something while being chased by [thing that might be a spoiler but is in the trailer]. I still intended to see it, because of Brad Bird, but that isn’t a selling point for everyone. Whatever tension exists between marketing and Brad Bird is reflected in the low turnout and 61% adult audience for this summer “tentpole”. Maybe this is a movie that shouldn’t have been a tentpole? Maybe this is a movie that needs to build with word-of-mouth instead of an explosive opening weekend? That’s all speculation.

The only thing that isn’t speculation is that this isn’t a teachable moment about why original properties should be avoided. That’s not filmmaking, that’s accounting.

2015-05-26 12:45:00

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Bag of High‑Dynamic Hurt

The Hollywood Reporter ran a story last night that Fox will be the first studio to put out media for home viewing in UHD “HDR”. I’ve updated the Wow Factor Cheatsheet accordingly.

It helps that the UHD Alliance president is also the CTO at Fox.

Speaking last month at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, UHD Alliance president Hanno Basse — who is chief technology officer at Fox — asserted: “We want to have a first version [of a quality spec] later this year to coincide with the Blu-Ray Disc Association (which is introducing Ultra HD Blu-Ray with HDR support).”

Remember that “HDR” isn’t a standard, but the UHD Alliance’s HDR will be a standard. The Blu Ray Association will support “HDR” from a variety of sources, including Dolby Vision. Dolby is also a member of the UHD Alliance. So that is going well.

I haven’t found any information on the technical differences, but sources familiar with the matter (that’s right, jerks! I have a source!) told me that the UHD Alliance is adopting Samsung’s SUHD as their draft, and the “HDR” that Fox is using.

Disney is releasing Tomorrowland which was mastered in Dolby Vision for the Dolby Cinema experience (just put ‘Dolby’ in front of every word.) They haven’t announced what they’ll back for home video release. Disney is also a member of the UHD Alliance.

Does that mean we’ll live through another format war over home video formats? Instead of HD DVD and Blu Ray, are we getting Ultra Blu Ray with UHDA HDR and Ultra Blu Ray with Dolby Vision? Since the technical differences might come down to different metadata, would we potentially see discs that support both? It’s really unclear. I imagine that there will be non-technical (money, ego) reasons beyond technical ones.

If you buy an SUHD TV now, will that mean you’re future proof? Maybe? It certainly doesn’t support Dolby Vision, but maybe it won’t ever need to. Or at least, not if you only like Fox movies.

What about disc players? Considering that part of the UHD Blu Ray move is about larger capacity, it’s not clear if firmware updates would allow older players to read the extra capacity on the disc (might not physically be possible), even then, the hardware would have to be capable of handling 4x the pixels. None of the gaming consoles offer UHD playback from streaming sources but we might see updates. Again, no one is saying.

The new Ultra Blu Ray discs are backwards compatible, so you will have your traditional Blu Ray experience if you load the new discs in old players. Awesome, right? Totes worth paying a markup on that disc, just like those combo DVD-BR discs. Totes.

That means you can’t really count on any existing market momentum. In addition to buying a new TV, a new Ultra Blu Ray player, and new Ultra Blu Ray discs. All of them agreeing on the supported format, Dolby Vision or UHD Alliance HDR, to pipe from the disc to the panel.

At this point in the article, it’s probably worth recalling Steve Jobs’ thoughts on Blu Ray:

Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It’s great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we’re waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace.

It never took off in the marketplace. The licensing, alliances, and a looming format war over brightness and contrast make that particularly clear.

To quote from Steve again, in an email he sent to a MacRumors reader, Siva:

No, free, instant gratification and convenience (likely in that order) is what made the downloadable formats take off. And the downloadable movie business is rapidly moving to free (Hulu) or rentals (iTunes) so storing purchased movies or TV shows is not an issue.

I think you may be wrong - we may see a fast broad move to streamed free and rental content at sufficient quality (at least 720p) to win almost everyone over.

Obviously, we are a little ways past 720p, but Steve’s opinion that streaming will win out over discs still seems to hold true.

Then the question really becomes a combination of what “HDR” flavors the streaming media companies will support, and which of those your TV will also support. You’ll have the same problem if Netflix backs something your TV manufacturer doesn’t. Apple doesn’t even seem likely to include UHD content at this rate.

And the “4K” UHD is mostly going to be scaled up from 2K. Because VFX.

Yaaaaay…

2015-05-20 16:30:00

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Shelved Prototype and TVKit Rumors

More Apple TV rumors popped up yesterday. One rumor was about a shelved TV panel that’s locked away in some lab. I have no interest in what they are rumored to not-release.

There’s still some simmering excitement over “4K” with some news outlets saying it’s possible, and some saying it’s not on the table at all. I’m very inclined to believe it’s not on the table. “4K” is really UHD, which is a way to sell panels, not content. Even with the Blu Ray Association revising the disc standard to allow for UHD content, there will still be a paucity of people excited about rebuying a library of discs for UHD. Particularly when most TV and film is not output for the format.

Since the rumors around Apple’s OTT service center on American broadcast stations, and a select number of cable networks — none of which show UHD content — I don’t think it’s a remote possibility. Particularly when Apple is competing against cable networks on that OTT service and those networks aren’t rolling out UHD channels either.

That’s not to say that they will never, ever do it, but there’s no reason to expect it in the fall, or even next year. Not until things you can watch in UHD show up. Crazy, I know, but most people don’t want to sit at home and watch a handful of Netflix episodes and some demo footage of a scenic waterfall, or canyon vista.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Apple is in talks with programmers to create a bundle of TV channels delivered over the Internet to its devices, according to people familiar with the matter. It has told media companies that it hopes to unveil the service in June, and begin programming in the fall, they said. Whether Apple makes that announcement may depend on the progress of those talks.

There are also rumors about “TVKit” which will allow third party developers to create their own apps for the Apple TV.

Our sources add that a new version of Xcode, known as “MuirTrail” internally, includes a new feature called “TVKit” for developers to build third-party Apple TV apps.

Many people, including MacStories’ Federico Vittici are interpreting that as gaming on the box:

TVKit rumor: http://9to5mac.com/2015/05/18/app…

Thinking about the possibilities of Metal and haptic feedback powering future Apple TV games…

While that is possible, I would like to point out that it’s just as likely that this won’t have anything to do with gaming. It’ll allow for richer brand-engagement with custom menus and interfaces for apps that serve streaming content. Think about the networks that have apps on your phone. Now imagine those apps on your TV. Imagine someone on stage at WWDC talking about how easy it will be to develop apps for both devices with “TVKit”. Also imagine that it’ll focus on analytics, possibly through iAd, because I still see analytics driving advertising as the primary motivation for these networks to take OTT services seriously. Like Roku’s deal with Nielsen.

I mean, yes, I’m sure “TVKit” is for super-fun games. Sure.

2015-05-19 08:45:00

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Wow Factor Cheatsheet

A few things I want to reiterate about 4K, UHD, Dolby Vision, HFR, and HDR:

  • “4K” is not actually a standard, UHD is. It’s still used by many to refer to the resolution.
  • UHD is about frame rate, color, compression, and different resolutions, including 4K. Officially, the whole thing is Rec. 2020, or BT 2020.
  • Blu-Ray doesn’t play back UHD content, but it will.
  • HDR is also not a standard. It means “high dynamic range”. In terms of TVs, it’s usually used to refer to Dolby Vision.
  • Dolby Vision is a proprietary standard of (suspense accent) Dolby. They’re very eager to license it to people.
  • Dolby Vision has the same Rec. 2020 color gamut as UHD, but it has a greater range of luminance. Whites are whiter, darks are darker. I recommend reading the very short PDF on it.
  • Dolby Vision can be any resolution. When it initially premiered, it was pitched as a competing technology to UHD. However, there are “4K” Dolby Vision displays.
  • Dolby Vision is even supported for laser projectors in theaters. It’s not the same as a Dolby Vision TV in a home. The specification allows for this variation (mostly because they can market it all as Dolby Vision).
  • HFR means “high frame rate” and it’s not a standard. It basically just means anything higher than 24 FPS, the standard frame rate for film. 30 FPS was common as part of the NTSC standard, but it doesn’t really count. People are usually referring to 48+ FPS when talking about HFR. It hasn’t been very popular with critics, or audiences.

It’s about more than just the TV, it’s the pipeline of how stuff got to your TV. Whatever a person watches on their TV is only ever going to be as good as the worst part of that pipeline. If you’re watching satellite broadcasts, they’re compressed. If you’re watching a movie that was transferred to UHD, but your display is Dolby Vision, you’re not getting that amazing color and contrast. If your source material was an episode of Doctor Who shot in 1976 then no fancy TV is going to help very much.

A major limitation is getting the content into homes, with the Blu-Ray Association announcing another revision to their disc format to accommodate UHD (but not Dolby Vision), and only a handful of streaming services. Even Apple’s magical, unicorn TV coming this fall is rumored not to have 4K support.

In terms of color, and brightness, there’s a ton that’s available in older material that’s not been represented to people in their homes. Some recent productions are using an ACES pipeline to try and keep color, and brightness, as lossless as possible through the whole mastering process.

Movies from the last 20-ish years had their effects mastered in about 2K-ish resolutions. Even modern film and television shows are not mastered to take advantage of the new technologies appearing on the market. Some do, like House of Cards which had its’ third season mastered in 6K (6 times HD). Even Disney’s Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron had the intricate effects for The Vision’s face delivered at a final resolution lower than UHD.

Will the person sitting at home perceive variations in quality? Probably not. I’ll know they’re there, damn it. I’ll know they’re there, and I’ll judge you all.

2015-05-18 09:00:00

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Critical MAS

Oh noes! The Mac App Store is in the news again, and it’s for the same thing that it’s always in the news for — being really, really lame. Some developers make a living off of apps that they distribute through it, and others — notably ones that had apps that predate the store — left. No big third parties ever joined the store, except to offer camera apps or tiny utilities.

349 days ago, I wrote this:

The Mac App Store offers very little promise to developers, which in turn, offers very little promise to me. I’m still using web downloads, serial numbers, and — for fuck’s sake — Creative Cloud. I hate that. Words could not possibly do justice to the caustic bile that wells up from within my blackened soul when I think of Adobe’s Creative Cloud and it’s update for it’s update process. It spews forth excrement in to the world, and I gladly sup it, because I need it.

I hope that after Apple’s WWDC event next week they release an “App Store”.

LOL, they totes didn’t release any update to the store, it’s exactly the same, and we’re having exactly the same conversations. Yaaaay!

This specific iteration of “MAS sucks” started with Sam Soffes’ blog post on Redacted’s launch. What’s important about his experience is how ranking in the store translates to real-world value. Even though he was ranked very highly, it’s ultimately not that important because not a lot of people are buying things in the store. Contrast that with the iOS app store, and it’s rankings.

Stephen Hackett, of 512pixels, chimed in with, “I think it may be time for Apple to take a long, hard look at the Mac App Store and either invest in it and woo back developers (and customers) or just shutter the thing.” He wasn’t really serious about shuttering it, as he went on to reiterate in an episode of the Connected podcast.

After the initial brouhaha, Sam’s story turned in to press for the app, and drove his sales up. However, that doesn’t resolve the issue with how it originally ranked, and how little people are using the store. A public outcry to shop at a store is not a sign of a healthy store.

Todd Ditchendorf, developer of many fine apps at Celestial Teapot, jotted off a few comments defending the MAS on Twitter.

Some of us are making a nice living as Mac devs, & MAS is an important part of that. Do us a solid & don’t tell  to shut it down /cc @512px — @iTod May 7, 2015

The Mac App Store has problems, but as a marketing vehicle, it’s well worth the 30% revenue share. Indie devs would be worse off without it — @iTod May 7, 2015

So there’s a divide here where there are indie devs that are making a living off of what they earn from the MAS. Perhaps that has to do with releasing a variety of apps, like Todd, rather than living off the release of a single app, like Sam’s post initially lamented. That’s why I choose to look past the specific value, since “a living” varies for everyone, and concentrate on those ranks.

What About the Big Fish?

Why would an app that focuses on obscuring part of an image reach the very heights of the MAS — in the graphics category, and overall — and be a featured app? Where are the usual, profitable software companies that are prolific in the graphics field, or in any field?

Currently sitting at number five in the “Top Grossing” list is “Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 & Adobe Premiere Elements 13”, a bundled app at $149.99. There are no customer reviews, but this is a $149.99 app so it’s not like it takes a lot of people buying it to show up on a top grossing chart.

Adobe doesn’t offer any of it’s high-end software for the MAS, you have to use their site, and store, and CreativeCloud subscription model. They have no incentive to put apps people need for work in the store, because those people will do whatever they tell them to[^1]. Dance for Adobe, monkey! Dance!

Microsoft Office isn’t in the store, even though MS and Apple have made a big deal about how closely they want to work together. You can, however, get Microsoft Remote Desktop. That’s exciting.

Autodesk isn’t absent from the store either, they just have total garbage in the store. Their high end software, like Adobe and Microsoft, lives elsewhere.

A big part of that is upgrade pricing, and pricing in general. Since subscription models are all the rage these days, even at Apple, perhaps Apple should offer subs as a way to entice big third parties to put their big apps in the store?

Perhaps, maybe, they could do… anything at all, really, to make it slightly more appealing to big, third parties?

This is why an app that redacts regions of an image hit the top of the charts.

Ain’t No Party Like a First Party

I will continue to argue, like I do every year, that Apple should put forth effort for best-in-class software. For a while, Apple, and Adobe, were direct competitors with many of their products, but that competition has dropped away. Final Cut and Logic still compete with Adobe products, but Shake is long gone, and the plug was officially pulled on Aperture last year.

Even now, the applications you’ll see topping the charts are Apple’s own, but in many ways, they win by default in the store.

Marco Arment, expressing his discontent with Apple (totes shocked, bro) rattled off a few tweets last night:

Photos is a great app in many ways, but it definitely doesn’t replace Aperture.

Reality: This is iPhoto X, and Aperture was discontinued. — @marcoarment

I really miss Adobe adjustment tools when using Photos.app on RAWs.

I might add a Bridge process-to-JPEG step before importing to Photos. — @marcoarment

Just another happy customer that loves Apple’s first-in-class software!

A small store, filled with indie developers in various states of happiness, no big third party software, and a mixed bag of first party software that neglects the high end. Apple can, and should do better than that.

[^1]: Before anyone else points out perennial store, and fan favorite, Pixelmator does what Photoshop, or Photoshop Elements does, I will reiterate that it does not. It’s absolutely fantastic, and fills most customer needs (I’d certainly recommend it over Elements!) but it is not a feature-for-feature replacement for Photoshop and if you argue that it is then I know that you don’t use Photoshop in a professional capacity.

2015-05-13 09:00:00

Category: text


Vanity Publishing System

The whole reason I wrote this blogging “engine” is because I was inspired by Casey Liss writing his own. A major decision was where to put the blog, but instead of picking Heroku, I elected to go the VPS route. Even though I was intimidated at the time, I’ve never looked back on that choice with regret. Heroku has many nice things, but it lacked the flexibility I wanted. I found out through Casey’s blog that Heroku is limiting the operational time of apps on the free tier, but they are offering a hobby tier, with restrictions, at $7 a month. That’s baffling to me when almost every company offering a VPS offers far less restrictive plans for $5 a month.

Now, I might just be a simple, country lawyer (I’m not) but that seems like it is not a very good deal. It is not a significant amount of money, but it’s enough that I wouldn’t recommend anyone with a pet project go play with it on Heroku instead of setting up a VPS. At least Casey has momentum, and he’ll save time by not having to adapt or change, his setup.

Of course, Constantin Jacob wrote a wiki to install and run Camel on a VPS from scratch… Erm, so…

For anyone that is considering moving over to a VPS, I do encourage you to do so. It is very easy to get up and running. The fine-tuning can be a breeze, or a real slog, depending on the specific needs of the task you want to do. With something like Heroku, the boundaries are defined, but there’s so much freedom in running a server that the lack of restriction can be daunting. It’s a bit like looking at a blank page, so give yourself a little “writing exercise” of serving some static files.

My setup? An Ubuntu droplet (out of the box) that serves static files with Twisted (not out of the box). It’s even easy to manage things on the go with tools like Panic’s Prompt and Transmit.

Problems I’ve faced:

That’s really not that bad, right? There’s nothing really messy, even less so if you’re better equipped than I am. After all, I am a simple, country lawyer (still not true).

If you want to try out DigitalOcean, feel free to use my referral link for a $10 credit, which is 2 free months to give it a shot. Or try Linode, or whatever else. It’s better than paying Heroku $7 a month to host a blog.

2015-05-12 08:23:00

Category: text