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Week in Tech: Tidal re-launch is just an ego-driven, cash grab

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Tidal relaunch event

Chris Smith looks back at a week, where music’s biggest names upset the streaming apple cart, Microsoft finally kissed goodbye to Windows RT and Amazon almost had us fooled. Meanwhile the iconic iPad approaches a landmark birthday with big questions hanging over its future.

Tidal relaunch is all about the Benjamins for music's biggest names

Some of the biggest egos in the world gathered on a stage in New York on Monday and proclaimed a new world order for the music industry; a future where the artists held all the cards.

Musical monoliths like Madonna, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Rhianna and those Daft Punk helmets gleamed triumphantly as they signed Tidal's landmark ‘declaration’ presumably vowing to take the power back from the Robin Hood streaming services taking food from their tables.

For me, the whole affair was a little too reminiscent of the classic South Park episode, where the boys get in trouble for illegally downloading music. If you recall, the kids visit Lars Ulrich of Metallica’s house, only to find him sobbing. Unfortunately, illegal downloads meant he had to wait a while before he could afford to have a gold-plated shark tank bar installed next to his pool.

“NOT A BIG DEAL?! *cue dramatic music* YOU THINK LOWER STREAMING ROYALTIES ARE NOT A BIG DEAL?!”

Look at the musicians gathered on that stage on Monday! Look at them! Exactly which of those folks are actually feeling the effects of lower streaming payoffs?

Those who are struggling in this new streaming-focused era are the smaller artists being genuinely low-balled by Spotify and co. weren’t represented. But Madonna, and her estimated net worth of $800 million, is sure having her say.

Read more: Tidal Music Streaming Service: The story so far

Lars South Park

So, what of this new democratised service, which ‘brings the humanity back to the art’? The new owners have offered a non-descript “royalty rates are higher” and have boasted about their being no free tier, but there’s little to suggest Tidal’s mission is to help emerging artists get a fair pay cheque for their efforts.

Music fans may be willing to side with Tidal if it were actually focused on making sure emerging talents were rewarded more handsomely for their music. After all, real music fans are loyal to their favourite artists and want to see them succeed.

For the average consumer, the Tidal proposition offers little in the way of positive change. It costs more, there’s no free listening option and it’s likely to start a war for exclusives, which will mean they may end up having to pay for more than one service. Why exactly should we be excited by this so-called shift of the status quo?

Until we get some more details from Tidal over how these changes can be positive for the industry as a whole, all we can assume is this new proposition is simply a self-serving, back-slapping plan to ensure these rich artists’ bottom lines aren’t remotely effected by the evolution of the industry.

Adios, Windows RT! You were a necessary evil

So Microsoft finally launched the new Microsoft Surface 3 this week and conspicuous by its absence was poor, old Windows RT, which has finally been put out of its misery.

The much maligned, touch-focused operating system was dead on arrival, but all-things-considered it could prove a blessing in disguise for Microsoft. Without Windows RT, Windows 8 might have been able to float by as a ho-hum update, without that tirade of criticism and ridicule.

Partly because Windows RT was so poorly received, Microsoft was forced into some once-in-a-generation soul searching, where it seemed to re-evaluate everything it is doing as a company.

They say the darkest hour comes just before the dawn and with Windows 10 about to emerge on a clear and bright new sunrise, Microsoft looks in rude health. It is energetic, in tune, efficient and laser focused, which is everything it wasn’t during the last launch cycle. Perhaps Windows RT had to happen?

Read more: Microsoft Surface 3 vs Surface Pro 3: What's the difference?

Surface 3

Amazon has us Dashing for the April Fools button

Amazon sure picked a good time to launch its Dash Buttons, the connected tools that allow users to re-stock on household essentials with just a simple touch.

April Fools gags are arriving earlier and earlier and on March 31 this was certainly one we didn’t want to get caught out on. The fact it was real, shows the innovative and interesting work Amazon continues to do to make our lives simpler.

However, we’d love these adhesive buttons, which immediately place an order for Prime members, to be a ubiquitous, programmable solution rather than handcuffed to Amazon’s brand partners. Maybe that’s one for April 1 next year?

Read more: How Amazon's Dash buttons will save the day when you're low on essentials

Amazon Dash Button

Happy fifth Birthday, iPad: So what now?

So the iPad has been around for five years, and it has truly changed the world. Thanks to the Apple slate, we’ve finally achieved peace in the Middle East, disposed of nuclear weapons and cured cancer.

Seriously though, it has been a rollercoaster ride for the iPad. In the early days it was dismissed as a ‘big iPod touch’ by some and hailed as a device with the potential to permeate every aspect of our lives, by others. Just have a read of our first generation iPad review. The truth, as usual, lay somewhere in the middle.

In the last 2-3-years, and certainly since the iPad Air launch, it seems Apple has hit a bit of a wall. Sales are falling as more folks rely on larger iPhone screens and app innovation seems to have stalled following the great work of the first couple of years. There was very little excitement when the company updated the range last year. I can’t remember the last time I stumbled across a groundbreaking iPad app that really furthered the medium and I’ve never even been slightly tempted to upgrade my trusty iPad 2.

SEE ALSO: The iPad turns 5: How Apple's tablet changed the world

iPad Air 2

It seems very much like the iPad has peaked already. The first iPad Air was hailed as the perfect tablet. How much better can it get beyond the usual incremental improvements?

To keep the iPad on top for another five years, Apple must find a new proposition to extend the tablet beyond its current limitations. Namely, its inability to replace our laptops.

You wonder whether it’ll ever pull the trigger on a Surface Pro 3 like device running iOS and Mac OS X? Right now it looks like the non-touch 2015 MacBook might be the closest we get.

RonRoyce

April 4, 2015, 3:41 pm

Tidal:- You forgot to mention one part of tidal that makes it unique. The premium service is uncompressed audio. £20 a month maybe but who else is offering that right now? Spotify sounds dreadful on high quality HiFi kit and we already know they pay pretty much jack royalty wise. So let's see what the actual numbers are first. Oh, and the list of stuff available...well I wasn't disappointed and I have pretty obscure tastes. What I couldn't find on Tidal was also not on Spotify. Sorry, don't really see your beef, apart from the fact you possibly don't like the idea that people should be paid for their art?

Lars was right, he just went about it the wrong way.

Bugblatter

April 4, 2015, 7:23 pm

RT happened because MS got tired of waiting for Intel to make their mobile x86 solutions remotely competitive. MS realised they could be relegated to the desktop when all the growth was in mobile.

I think that helped to wake Intel up. They did then put the effort into decent mobile solutions, which are now at least usable. So in that respect RT did its job.

Hamish Campbell

April 4, 2015, 9:31 pm

'So let's see what the actual numbers are first.'

Re-read the article with you line above in mind, and you'll see that's one of his main beefs.

LeeTronix

April 5, 2015, 12:23 pm

It simply is not worth £20 per month and obviously that is so they can pay higher royalties. As for the hifi part, most average listeners do not have a high end setup, let alone would be that bothered about streaming quality, simply put they are not high end hifi snobs. I would'nt want to be inflicted by any of these artists on my ears whilst feeding their never ending lust for greed.

I think maybe as you subscribe to this snob stream of tat your the slightly bias one with the "beef"!

RonRoyce

April 5, 2015, 8:43 pm

No numbers are mentioned, just this comment:-

So, what of this new democratised service, which ‘brings the humanity back to the art’? The new owners have offered a non-descript “royalty rates are higher” and have boasted about their being no free tier, but there’s little to suggest Tidal’s mission is to help emerging artists get a fair pay cheque for their efforts.

So you're going to have to help me there. A journalists opinion is not fact.

RonRoyce

April 5, 2015, 9:13 pm

It's not worth £20 a month because you can steal it for free from torrent sites I suppose? Well you did call me a snob so I will call you a thief. After all we don't know each other so let's make some assumptions based on a few sentences. I'm game.

Tell me why the only uncompressed audio streaming service is not worth more than the £10 a month charged by spotify for their compressed "premium" service?

Snobbery does not come into it. It is about what people can put up with. If you're happy with compressed audio then the £10 a month service is the same as Spotify premium and there's no ads so what's the problem? Me? I'd pay £20 a month for it because for an annual fee of £240 you get a library of millions of uncompressed tracks and I have the kit to exploit the extra detail that comes from it. How many CDs or LPs does £240 buy? Not an awful lot these days.

As it happens I don't subscribe to any music streaming service right now, but after trying Tidal I know where the future lies, and it is not with Spotify. And when my personal life is more settled I will happily pay for the extra quality.

You might want to read the article on diffuser, it's a tad more balanced than the claptrap posted above.

LeeTronix

April 5, 2015, 11:14 pm

You are missing my point, I said that most average listeners do not care about the quality. As for the snob part I was not saying you are, however are you, its ok if you are?

Tidal is offering a quality stream that is for sure and I agree but it simply not worth £20 per month, I create produce and master music an own a state of the art music studio so I understand all to well what Tidal is. If you feel comfortable with Tidal then good for you I would never suggest to anyone not to do what they want but I will always offer my opinion.

As for the review I agree as with most reviews on this site, it is low quality with lots of vital facts missing, I sometimes wonder a lot why I come on here as I find this a rubbish review site in general, maybe it's the ongoing morbid curiosity!

I use Naim audio equipment for my home hifi and also sonos which I never thought I would like but it is not bad for what it does, what is your hifi set up?

Hamish Campbell

April 6, 2015, 2:30 pm

Exactly, the reviewer is saying if you are going to slag off other services, and say you are paying more to artists, then you should really back it up with some numbers.

RonRoyce

April 11, 2015, 12:45 pm

Exactly what? A journalist's opinion is not fact. There are no mention of numbers or factual comment, just a "little to suggest" jibe which in the real world means nothing. As I pointed out in the thread above read the article about Tidal on diffuser, far more balanced and informative than this one.

RonRoyce

April 11, 2015, 1:10 pm

Funny that, I was thinking exactly the same thing about the reviews.

I use Musical Fidelity CD and amplification and Celestion A3 speakers - the last truly great speaker they made for the home market. For my vinyl pleasure that's courtesy of a Linn Sondek LP12 but hope one day to get my hands on an SME model 20 or 30 if ever the funds allow. Not only are they amazing sounding turntables they are gorgeous works of engineering that quite literally will last a lifetime. It took a long time and a lot of saving and bartering to get the stuff I have now, so who knows what the future brings?

Personally I find Naim sound to be a little remorseless over extended listening periods but fully get the reason why people (including friends) like it so much. MF is a more relaxed, neutral presentation to me - but that is purely a subjective thing. Both companies offer seriously high quality products.

At the moment streaming has had to take a back seat while I figure out exactly what I'm going to do and I will get on to it seriously when I'm settled. May build my own NAS but not sure yet. Also, as a vinyl junkie it's taken a while for me to get too excited by digital streaming, especially the compressed services which sound horrid. But now, after some auditions with lossless audio and with Tidal you can see where the future lies - uncompressed streaming. FLAC or WAV, doesn't matter. And that's the reason why I think Tidal is the step up streaming services need.

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