Weekend news round-up: Google wants to fix your TV, Twitter ads strategy

7 Apr 2014

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech news: Google is working with major video app providers to roll out a very simple internet TV platform, Twitter is planning to roll out 15 new ad formats, and new internal documents reveal Apple’s fears for future growth.

Has Google fixed the TV with Android TV

The Verge reported that internet search giant Google is about to launch a renewed assault on your television set called Android TV. It says major video app providers are building for the platform right now.

“Google’s new vision for Android TV is less ambitious and easier to understand. The company is calling for developers to build extremely simple TV apps for an extremely simple set-top-box interface. While Android still lives under the hood, the interface will consist of a set of scrolling ‘cards’ that represent movies, shows, apps, and games sitting on a shelf.

“You use a remote control with a four-way directional pad to scroll left and right through different suggestions, or up and down through different categories of content, each with their own shelves. Much like on other set-top boxes, each item will be like a miniature movie poster or book cover, and you’ll pick the one you want. The controller will also have Enter, Home, and Back buttons to help get around, and there will be ‘optional’ game controllers.”

Built an app, made a stash of cash, feeling guilty? Give us a break!

The New Yorker reported on a recent phenomenon – the guilt-laden video-game creator who can’t deal with the sudden success. This stems from the spectacular success of Flappy Bird, an app created by coder Dong Nguyen who, stunned by the success of his app, took it offline after a few weeks.

“Stories of sudden indie-game riches are appealing. They have a fairy-tale quality, the moral of which is often, ‘Work hard and you will prevail’ (even though this kind of overnight success is often the result of an unreplicable recipe involving privilege, education, talent, toil, and timing). In the field of video games, which many people view as childish and pointless, these stories also have a legitimising effect: they measure the medium’s worth in dollars, when its artistic and moral worth is more questionable. Profiles of prominent video-game makers often lead with details of their financial success.

“But for many of these young game-maker millionaires, who created their work out of a passion for play rather than prospecting, the wealth and attention can be jarring.”

The Mozilla fallout – the internet cut off its nose to spite its Facebook

Quartz’s analysis of the departure of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, the inventor of Javascript, threw up an interesting metaphor: one does not simply throw Picasso out of the art school.

“It is undeniable that public opinion is rapidly shifting toward LGBT equality, marriage included. But it should be equally undeniable that the organisation dedicated to the internet as ‘global public resource’ should understand that the ‘global public’ also contains people who – on their own time – espouse, advocate, and sometimes monetarily support foreign, even ugly, views. Brendan Eich, who ‘kept his views’ (which he called irrelevant to his mission) on LGBT marriage ‘out of Mozilla for 15 years,’ should not have his life’s work invalidated by bygone donations.

“We, especially those of us in the open-source community, both LGBT and heterosexual, reap the benefits of Eich’s work every day. And I am curious to see if Firefox OS will take off for mobile without someone as uniquely qualified as Eich at the helm.”

Twitter to roll out 15 new ad formats

Social media site Twitter is going to be rolling out 15 new advertising formats in the next six months, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Twitter’s advertising revenue, which makes up the bulk of its earnings, more than doubled in the fourth quarter to US$219.6m from the same period a year earlier. Twitter, which has yet to turn a profit, is under pressure to show its young advertising business is deserving of its current market cap of US$26.9bn. The company’s stock has fallen about 33pc so far this year to US$42.96, approaching its post-IPO low of US$39.06.

“To address advertisers’ needs, Twitter is taking a page from Facebook’s playbook. Twitter has been beta-testing a mobile app install ad unit. It is similar to the popular product Facebook launched in late 2012 and that has fuelled its mobile advertising revenue, which last quarter accounted for more than half of overall revenue for the first time.”

Apple’s strategic impasse

9to5Mac published an entire email written by the late former CEO Steve Jobs that was unearthed during the latest bout of tit-for-tat patent quibbling between Apple and Samsung in the US courts.

The email included Jobs’ suggestions about “leapfrogging” Android via Siri and the need for a low-cost iPhone.

Re/Code also reported on internal Apple documents that voiced concerns that Apple’s growth could stall.

“The document, which was presented as part of Samsung’s cross-examination of Apple senior VP Phil Schiller, noted that all the growth in smartphones was coming either from large-screen devices costing more than US$300 or from devices that cost less than US$300, with the segment that included the iPhone showing decline.

“Other concerns noted in the document included the idea that Android rivals were ‘spending ‘obscene’ amounts of money on advertising and/or carrier channel to gain traction and that mobile carriers had an interest in limiting iPhone sales because of, among other things, the high subsidies they had to pay on the device.

“Schiller noted in his testimony that he didn’t agree with much of the document, which he said didn’t represent Apple policy.”

Internet TV image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years