Why Is Apple Dropping the Ball on Cloud Gaming?

Cloud Gaming… It’s kind of where things are going. Consoles are great but being able to seamlessly pick up your game and keep playing on other devices makes them even greater.

Google has Stadia, which has been a fantastic cloud gaming experience so far, especially when it can be used on Chromecast, Android devices and from the browser.

Microsoft has xCloud which was bundled into their Gamepass Ultimate which lets you take selected included games you use via Gamepass on your xbox to your Android devices.

Nvidia has GeForce Now, which is one of the first cloud gaming platforms.

Amazon even has their cloud gaming platform Luna that is starting to come out.

And Apple?

Apple has Apple Arcade, which when it was announced, some Apple fans said would blow Stadia out of the water, but since Apple Arcade is really just a pass to play exclusive games via the app store. Google even has this as their Play Pass.

Notice I mentioned Android devices and not iOS devices?Apple gets weird with their cloud gaming rules. Really weird.

According to Apple, the primary reason why it wouldn’t allow Stadia, Gamepass, and GeForce Now into the App Store is this: its App Store rules require developers to submit each and every game individually so they can be reviewed and listed as apps in Apple’s App Store. If they didn’t want to do that, then they were out.

Back in September, Apple added these rules:

4.9.1: Each streaming game must be submitted to the App Store as an individual app so that it has an App Store product page, appears in charts and search, has user ratings and review, can be managed with ScreenTime and other parental control apps, appears on the user’s device, etc.

4.9.2 Streaming game services may offer a catalog app on the App Store to help users sign up for the service and find the games on the App Store, provided that the app adheres to all guidelines, including offering users the option to pay for a subscription with in-app purchase and use Sign in with Apple. All the games included in the catalog app must link to an individual App Store product page.

“What’s so wrong with listing cloud games on the App Store,” you might wonder? Well, it’s a whole lot of work with little benefit for Microsoft and Google, to start.

They have to individually submit every single game, create App Store pages for each one, and hand the customer relationship to Apple — instead of just beaming their ready-made platform into an iOS device the same way they beam it into an Android device right now.

Oh, and then there’s rule 3.1.2(a):

3.1.2(a): Games offered in a streaming game service subscription must be downloaded directly from the App Store, must be designed to avoid duplicate payment by a subscriber, and should not disadvantage non-subscriber customers.

Ok, let’s start with “downloaded directly from the App Store”,  Apple doesn’t mean that games have to run locally on the iPhone — they can still be thin-client cloud games harnessing the power of remote servers to produce AAA graphics.

We have seen this already with Square Enix using a service called G-cluster to wrap a thin-client cloud game like Final Fantasy XIII on the App Store

But the point of cloud gaming is that you want to jump directly into a game within one app, like they do with movies or songs and not have to download over 100 apps to play different games from the cloud.

Why all the hate on cloud gaming from Apple?

Why doesn’t Apple require other subscription services to do this? Netflix? Prime? Youtube? Spotify? Twitch?  Why aren’t they under the same restrictions as gaming?

I guess this is getting into rant territory but really, what is with the hate?

Apple is astonishingly confident in its new M1 Mac processors

Apple is astonishingly confident in its new M1 Mac processors
Big promises — can Apple deliver?
www.theverge.com

Apple’s big Mac event delivered three new computers — a new MacBook Air, a new entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, and a new Mac mini. But really, it delivered one thing that those three computers have in common: the M1 chip. That’s the official name for the Arm-based Apple Silicon the company is going to migrate all of its Mac computers over to.

[…]

Here’s my takeaway: Apple is astonishingly confident in this chip, these computers, and the software it has developed to ensure they all run well.

First, Apple is making battery claims that I would characterize as “bombastic at best” if they were applied to a laptop with an Intel chip inside. With this M1 chip, I have no frame of reference at all except for Apple’s claims — which are substantial.

Apple claims 18 hours of video playback on the MacBook Air and 20 hours on the MacBook Pro. Video playback is a bad metric (especially since modern chips are optimized for it), so the real thing to note is those claims are significantly higher than what Apple claimed on their Intel-based predecessors: 6 more on the Air and nearly double on the Pro.

Since the M1 is based on the Arm architecture, Apple needs an extra software layer to run apps designed for Intel chips — it’s called Rosetta 2. The very idea of emulated x86 apps on an Arm processor gives me hives. The experience of emulated Intel apps inside Arm on Windows is not great. But Apple says that for certain graphically-intensive apps it can get better performance on an app running through Rosetta 2 than it did on an equivalent Intel chip.

[…]

I’m less sure what the plan will be for graphics. The M1 chip has an integrated GPU, and on Intel machines that usually means sub-par graphics. We’ll need to see what the reviews for these machines say, but again Apple is exuding confidence. Going forward, though, I do wonder whether discrete GPUs are in the cards, especially since Apple is also touting the benefits of sharing RAM across both the CPU and GPU in its integrated system.

Those are all interesting questions, but Apple has two years to answer them — that’s how long it says this transition will take. Right now the company is already selling and will soon be shipping these new computers. I can’t wait to see if Apple’s confidence is justified by the performance and battery life of these computers. If it is, the M1 chip will be a huge indictment of Intel, Qualcomm, and even Microsoft — each for different reasons.

It’s been a long time since a company has both promised and then delivered a step-change improvement in laptop computers. As of this moment we have a big promise, now let’s see if Apple can deliver.

The new iPad Air

Apple unveils all-new iPad Air with A14 Bionic, Apple’s most advanced chip
Apple today introduced an all-new iPad Air — the most powerful, versatile, and colorful iPad Air ever.
www.apple.com

Cupertino, California — Apple today introduced an all-new iPad Air — the most powerful, versatile, and colorful iPad Air ever. Now available in five gorgeous finishes, iPad Air features an all-screen design with a larger 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display, camera and audio upgrades, a new integrated Touch ID sensor in the top button, and the powerful A14 Bionic for a massive boost in performance, making this by far the most powerful and capable iPad Air ever made.

The new iPad Air will be available starting next month.

“Today we’re excited to introduce a completely redesigned and far more powerful iPad Air, debuting Apple’s most powerful chip ever made, the A14 Bionic,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

“With its gorgeous new all-screen design, larger 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display, next-generation Touch ID, and a massive boost in performance with A14 Bionic, the new iPad Air brings customers powerful pro features at an even more affordable price. Along with major upgrades to the iPad Pro and eighth-generation iPad this year, and the powerful new features of iPadOS 14, this is our strongest iPad lineup ever, giving our customers even more ways to enrich their daily lives.”

[..]

The new iPad Air features a completely new thin and light design in five gorgeous finishes: silver, space gray, rose gold, green, and sky blue. The new all-screen design features a larger 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display for a stunning visual experience, with 3.8 million pixels and advanced technologies, including full lamination, P3 wide color support, True Tone, and an anti-reflective coating for an amazing visual experience.

To allow the display to extend on all sides, a next-generation Touch ID sensor is integrated into the top button, providing the same fast, easy, and secure way to unlock iPad Air, log in to apps, or use Apple Pay that customers know and love. iPad Air is compatible with Magic Keyboard and its floating design, and built-in trackpad, Smart Keyboard Folio, and new Smart Folio covers, as well as Apple Pencil, which attaches magnetically to the side for easy pairing, charging, and storing.

iPad Air delivers a massive boost in performance with Apple’s most advanced chip, A14 Bionic. Handling even the most demanding apps, A14 Bionic makes it even easier for users to edit 4K videos, create gorgeous works of art, play immersive games, and more. Using breakthrough 5-nanometer process technology, A14 Bionic is packed with 11.8 billion transistors for increased performance and power efficiency in nearly every part of the chip.

Joanna Stern on the Surface Duo

Microsoft Surface Duo Review: Two Screens, Too Many Problems
Microsoft’s new phone-tablet provides a glimpse of what is ahead for mobile devices, if you can look past the slow performance and buggy software.
www.wsj.com

It isn’t always clear when something is ready.

Take my grilling. Sometimes I remove steak well before or after I should’ve. You might say it’s a “tough” call. But there’s nothing tough about stating this: The new two-screen Surface Duo is undercooked.

Microsoft’s new $1,400 book-like phone-tablet thingy is not ready for me and not ready for you.

Unless, of course, you want an Android device that repeatedly ignores your taps on its screens, randomly slows down, struggles to figure out its own up, down and sideways positioning, and abruptly rearranges parts of its own interface. If that is your dream, well, then it is ready.

Somehow, Microsoft disagrees. “We had been testing for some time. We wanted to get it out. We thought this was the right time for us,” said Matt Barlow, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of modern life, search and devices.

The device, which begins shipping on Thursday, has already received one software update that has rectified some of the bugs I’ve experienced. Additional fixes related to the performance and software quirks I’ve been experiencing are said to be coming. “Monthly updates will continue to improve the experience,” Mr. Barlow added.

John Gruber said it well in his own review of Joanna’s review:

This is exactly what I thought when they let the first round of YouTuber reviews come out under the condition that they not turn the devices on. The hardware really is well-designed and the concept is both fascinating and original. But if the experience were actually good, you wouldn’t do a round of reviews that forbade talking about the actual experience.

Stern’s video, as usual, is extremely good, too — and she gives a very fair shake to the Duo for what is good and clever about it. But the bugginess of the software really makes clear why it’s better (necessary?) to control the OS when you want to invent a new form factor.

The fact that the camera is subpar is to me a dealbreaker for a $1,400 phone. I can’t shake the feeling that despite the fact that the Surface Duo is itself a phone — not just a folding tablet that can use a SIM card for cellular data — that Microsoft sees this as something one might carry in addition to a dedicated phone (with a better camera).

Also, I saw a couple of TV ads for the Surface Duo yesterday while watching football — Microsoft is marketing this.

Why you can no longer install Fortnite on iOS

Why you can no longer install Fortnite on iOS
Reinstalling Fortnite on an iOS device was an easy process — until Apple pulled the plug.
www.theverge.com

Fortnite disappeared from the App Store last month as part of developer Epic Games’ big legal and regulatory showdown with Apple, but the battle royale hit was not gone entirely — at least not for a little while. Apple terminated Epic’s developer account last week, making it impossible to reinstall iOS versions of Epic’s apps, but there was a short period of time during which iPhone and iPad owners were still able to get their hands on Fortnite using a lesser-known feature of iOS.

[…]

As part of Apple’s termination of Epic’s developer account, Epic is no longer able to submit new apps to the App Store or issue updates to any existing ones. And with the apps completely delisted, they can’t be reinstalled even if you search for and find them in your purchase history. Trying to do so just results in a message reading, “This item is no longer available.”

There’s no telling how long this Fortnite struggle will persist or whether Epic will ever decide to give in to Apple’s demands and remove its own in-app payment method. As of right now, you can still take Epic up on its price cut offer by paying less for Fortnite V-bucks. But you’re no longer able to buy the new season’s battle pass because Epic can’t update the app properly.

The Apple / Epic Games battle has been interesting to watch.

John Gruber on Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz’s Statement That He’s ‘Stepping Down’”

John Gruber:

From a company-wide memo sent by Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz Thursday:

As we’ve shared over the last several weeks, in order to set Magic Leap on a course for success, we have pivoted to focus on delivering a spatial computing platform for enterprise.

As nearly everyone has finally realized, our actual technology is nothing at all like what we promised, lied about for years, and sold gullible deep-pocketed investors on. Our con is falling apart at the seams, so we’ll milk the last few dollars out of the only investors dumb enough to give us even more money, by repeating the word “enterprise” and doing that thing with our fingers like Obi-Wan Kenobi.

We have closed significant new funding and have very positive momentum towards closing key strategic enterprise partnerships.

You’re not going to believe this but we somehow raised another $350 million. I know, right?

As the board and I planned the changes we made and what Magic Leap needs for this next focused phase, it became clear to us that a change in my role was a natural next step.

Everyone agrees the jig is up.

Read the rest of his post to finish his translation of their memo.

Apple and Google are launching a joint COVID-19 tracing tool for iOS and Android

Matthew Panzarino, writing at TechCrunch:

The project was started two weeks ago by engineers from both companies. One of the reasons the companies got involved is that there is poor interoperability between systems on various manufacturer’s devices. With contact tracing, every time you fragment a system like this between multiple apps, you limit its effectiveness greatly. You need a massive amount of adoption in one system for contact tracing to work well.

At the same time, you run into technical problems like Bluetooth power suck, privacy concerns about centralized data collection and the sheer effort it takes to get enough people to install the apps to be effective.

Apple announces online-only WWDC 2020 due to coronavirus spread

Apple has announced that this year’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference will be held online due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus. Scheduled to be held on an unspecified date in June, it will feature a “completely new online experience” that includes both Apple’s traditional announcement keynote and developer sessions.

This June, WWDC20 brings a completely new online experience to millions of talented and creative developers around the world. Join us for a fully packed program — including Keynote and sessions — to gain early access to the future of Apple platforms and engage with Apple engineers. Dive into an exciting learning experience and discover how to create your most innovative apps yet using the latest Apple technologies.

Stay tuned for details on the web, by email, and in the Apple Developer app.

Not really surprised at this point as everything is getting cancelled thanks to covid-19.

Google Cancels Google I/O 2020: “Due to Concerns Around Coronavirus”

Corbin Davenport, writing for Android Police:

Google I/O takes place near Google’s headquarters in California every year in the early summer, aimed at helping developers with their work and announcing new products. The 2020 event was scheduled to take place on May 12-14, but now Google has canceled it due to safety concerns.

Google is sending out emails to registered attendees, explaining that the company decided to cancel I/O due to concerns about the COVID-19 virus. “All guests who have purchased tickets to I/O 2020 will receive a full refund by March 13, 2020,” the message reads. Also, guests who registered for the event will automatically enter the drawing for I/O 2021 tickets next year, and Google is pledging to give $1 million to local small businesses and schools for STEM research and coronavirus protection.

Google I/O is the latest in a string of events to be canceled due to the coronavirus, joining Mobile World CongressGDCFacebook’s F8 developer conference, and others. It’s a shame for anyone who planned to attend I/O, but as governments around the world are struggling to contain the virus, bringing together thousands of people from many different countries might not be the best idea at the moment.

Wonder if Apple will go ahead of WWDC?

HQ Calls Game Over

CNN Business:

The company behind the once-popular live mobile trivia game is shutting down, CNN Business has learned. HQ will part ways with 25 full-time employees. When HQ launched in 2017, its first game HQ Trivia quickly attracted millions of people across the world who stopped whatever they were doing twice a day to play the game on their smartphones. The company was profiled by The New York Times and its original host Scott Rogowsky became a household name, appearing on programs like NBC’s “Today” show. 

But over the next year, the game’s popularity faded and its parent company was hit with a series of setbacks.

The company grappled with internal turmoil, including the death of HQ cofounder Colin Kroll, who died in December 2018 from a drug overdose. CEO Rus Yusupov said in a company-wide email on Friday that “lead investors are no longer willing to fund the company, and so effective today, HQ will cease operations and move to dissolution.”

[…]

Yusupov also disclosed that the company had hired a banker “to help find additional investors and partners to support the expansion of the company.” He said the company had “received an offer from an established business” and was expected to close the deal on Saturday, but the potential acquisition fell through. 

In recent months, HQ tried to expand its audience by launching new products, including a photo challenge game in December called HQX. 

“Since Colin and I founded the company, we really set out to develop this network of live interactive shows on mobile phones,” Yusupov told CNN Business at the time.HQ generated millions in revenue through brand partnerships and in-app purchases — a feat few young consumer tech companies could boast of in their early years.

It worked with big-name brands such as Nike and Google and partnered with NBC, ABC and CBS to promote their programs. HQ’s sponsored show for Warner Bros’ “The Lego Movie 2” was nominated for an Emmy. (Warner Bros. and CNN are both owned by WarnerMedia.)But HQ wasn’t immune from financial woes.

The company laid off employees in July 2019 and other staffers left. HQ raised $15 million at a $100 million valuation in March 2018. The company had previously raised $8 million.