Most wanted web services for Ireland in 2011


26 Dec 2010

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We take a look at some top web services we want to see the “not available in your country” banner removed from.

Spotify

Music-streaming service Spotify is both critically acclaimed and extremely popular … in the countries it’s available. While it covers much of Europe, it still hasn’t managed to reach Irish shores yet.

Perhaps this is due to Ireland’s inflexible digital rights framework, and if so, it is a real shame. Spotify is a great service, offering 20 hours a month to stream a huge collection of music. In terms of revenue, its paid version offers unlimited streaming and also a mobile version – which is surely a popular feature for the growing smartphone user base in Ireland.

However, Ireland isn’t the only country lacking Spotify. America’s access to the service is also being denied, due to the fact that record companies want to see Spotify’s subscription rate double before taking it up. This is a crucial market for the music streaming service and if it doesn’t crack it, it may falter. Hey, Spotify, I know we’re a small country, but every little helps, right?

More video-on-demand services

While Irish broadcasters have supplied video-on-demand services for their own stations – which are useful – there is still a big demand to widen the net and give Ireland access to international TV shows online.

Services such as Hulu and Netflix offer a huge library of TV shows and movies that have proven to be extremely popular in the US. Hulu has said it wants to make its content available globally but – of course – outdated licensing issues are getting in the way.

While it’s understandable that Irish users aren’t allowed access to shows that haven’t aired on Irish channels yet but will in the near future, it’s still frustrating that users can’t binge on older international shows when they feel like it. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has aired a million times over on TV – why can’t I watch it online when I feel like it if the technology is there?

Even more annoying is the fact ITV Player and BBC iPlayer is not available in the Republic of Ireland, in spite of the fact most Irish viewers have access to these channels. Which is rather curious, considering that Channel Four’s 4 on Demand works just fine in Ireland.

Again, there could be licensing issues at work here, but the demand for these services is there. If anything, making them more available worldwide would help the media industry rather than hinder it. Many users turn to piracy because they can’t access TV content or they missed a show and forgot to record it. Legal reform is needed to make video-on-demand services more available globally. It really helps everyone in the end.

OnLive

The consumption of gaming has changed a lot in the current generation of consoles, what with the ability to download independent titles, add patches to games with bugs and share progress online. OnLive appears to be another step in this direction, offering the ability to stream games.

Players can instantly purchase and play new titles, without the need for downloading or using physical discs. The console itself costs a mere $99, a welcome price for the more cash-strapped gamer.

Of course, it still needs time to establish itself, as many may still need to warm to the concept of having all their data on the cloud, but it’s a highly promising concept. However, Irish gamers will have to wait a long time before they see it over here.

While BT has a deal in place to bring it to the UK, nothing like this has occurred in Ireland. For now, I’m interested in keeping an eye on how OnLive is doing in the US to see if and how it will influence the games industry.

Google Boutique

All right, in fairness, this has only been recently launched, so it should be coming to Ireland soon. But it’s worth highlighting – it’s a great concept that might help shoppers wary of buying clothes online take the plunge.

I’ll confess – the only clothes I’ve ever bought online were T-shirts with cool logos on them. And in those cases, I was prioritising the graphic on the shirt over the fit of the garment. I personally would be too afraid to buy an outfit online for a night out, simply because I’m the kind of clothes shopper that must try on anything before I buy it. With gadgets, you can look up the spec and the features to see if it suits you, but clothes are an entirely different animal.

But Google Boutiques could be some sort of solution to my paranoia. No online store can really replicate the experience of walking into a shop and trying on an outfit before buying it, but this is a good compromise.

Using search filters, it hunts out clothes by genre, silhouette pattern, colour families and sizes. It also allows users to build their own boutique and get recommendations for products.

The site includes tips from fashion designers and has style guides, but it was the search method that caught my eye. It’s nice to allow shoppers to actually specify exactly what outfit they’re looking for as opposed to having them trawling through shops lamenting that “this one doesn’t have pockets” or “that one has a stupid collar.” Or maybe that’s just me …

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