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Week in Tech: Spotify must brace itself for a belated battle

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Spotify

TrustedReviews’ US-based reporter muses on the looming fight for music streaming supremacy, why it’s difficult to care about Android M and how fight promoters may have brought the Periscope piracy on themselves.

The long-overdue music streaming war is almost here

For more than half a decade, Spotify has sat proudly atop of the streaming charts, effortlessly batting away challenges from rivals who somehow thought doing exactly the same thing for the same price would win people over.

Deezer, Rdio and co. haven’t been able to prevent ‘Spotify’ becoming the ubiquitous term for music streaming and they never will. Spotify beat Beats with ease, Google’s confusing alternatives have, well, confused, Amazon Prime’s library is too small and Apple has inexplicably stayed out of the way until now.

However, the days of Spotify having everything its own way are coming to an end. Seven years after it arrived on the scene as the play-anything jukebox we’d always dreamed of, Spotify will finally have a real fight on its hands before the year is out.

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Apple’s days of sitting by and allowing iTunes downloads to dwindle away to nothing are quite literally numbered. The firm will roll out the revamped and re-branded Beats Music streaming service early next month, although whether it’ll launch straight away remains to be seen.

Apple won’t mess about with this, as it did with iTunes Radio. It will go all in. It has the relationships with the music companies, the resources and the competitive drive to aggressively target Spotify.

Reports this week have suggested Apple be playing dirty (again) in order to skew the deck in its favour. Word has it Apple is leaning on music executives to put the kibosh on free streaming options, seriously undermining Spotify’s appeal and destroying its ad-based freemium model. Regardless of whether Apple chooses to go after freemium, Spotify's latest earnings report suggests the tier may be unsustainable anyway.

SEE ALSO: Apple Beats relaunch: The story so far

It’s not just Apple gunning for the green giant either. Tidal may have gotten off to a bad start, as Noel Gallagher so elegantly put it this week, but it has the name value, the PR power, financial backing and the intriguing proposition to recover for its early missteps.

Spotify may dominate the market for consumers, offering them all the music they could ever want for free or just £10 a month, but there are those in the industry – artists, labels, publishers - who harbour serious resentment over the company's royalty payments.

The backlash has been manageable so far, but this could very easily change with the might of Apple and music’s biggest names orchestrating the campaign.

Spotify is not oblivious to this threat; far from it. The company is already plotting a pre-emptive strike. On May 20 it’ll hold a media event where it is expected to branch out into online video, to complement the core music offering.

What the company has in mind for video remains to be seen. It may be adding music videos, it may be live streaming concerts, it may be hosting video interviews or the chance for users to interact with their favourite artists through something like Google Hangouts. Who knows?

One thing’s for sure, we’re finally going to get a music streaming format war and, after leading the way since day one, Spotify is far from a safe bet to come out on top.

SEE ALSO: Android M: Features Google must add firstAndroid

Android M coming at Google I/O? So what?

I can’t really think of a single reason for Android users to get excited by the Android M announcement set for Google I/O. After all, if previous form is followed, more than 90 per cent of them won’t be using it a year from now.

With interest in the Nexus line dying on its rear end, realistically, the vast majority of folks won’t get Android M until the LG G5, Samsung Galaxy S7, and HTC One M10, or whatever they decide to call them, arrive on the scene.

Every time Google releases a new version of Android there’s some sort of pledge about how it has been optimised for all devices to combat fragmentation. Every year it turns out to be nonsense. Little wonder a third of this year's iPhone 6 buyers users switched from Android.

Android M-aybe see you this time next year? Android M-ay 2016? Android M-eh.

SEE ALSO: HBO really hates PeriscopePeriscope

Promoters’ greed partly to blame for MayPac Periscope streams

Boxing promoters are planning to go after Periscope, stream hosts and stream viewers over reports tens of thousands of viewers skipped the $100 PPV to watch Strictly Come Boxing freely, via their iOS device last weekend.

Well, I reckon they’re aiming their ire in the wrong direction. Again. In the US, bottlenecks in the pay-per-view ordering process left many unable to order the bout (for which they were probably thankful afterwards) potentially meaning millions in lost revenue. HBO even delayed the ‘fight of the century’ for more than half an hour to allow more orders to be processed. Bang up job there, lads.

Look, the fight wasn’t available to stream legally anywhere, while the event itself was so prohibitively priced that was always going to be a non-starter for savvy cord cutters. They might have paid $50, but $100? No chance.

As long as the cable industry and its partners display such outlandish greed and an unwillingness to embrace more convenient mediums, people are going to find a way to Robin Hood them, whether it’s web-based streams, Periscope or the next emerging format.

As Twitter CEO Dick Cosolo said on Saturday night: "And the winner is... Periscope"

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Oculus Rift will finally be a reality in early 2016

Well that’s a relief isn’t it? Oculus has finally announced that by the end of March next year, the Rift headset will finally be on the shelves. While we were all pulling for a pre-Christmas release, at least the countdown can officially begin. I was beginning to wonder what Facebook was up to with its $2 billion acquisition.

The announcement is also a fillip for developers working on, or thinking of working on titles, now armed with the knowledge they’ll finally be able to get them to consumers within the next 12 months. With the HTC Vive and Sony’s Project Morpheus in the cards too, it’s going to be a monumental few months for VR.

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