Adobe’s Cloud Photoshop Suggests We May Finally Realize The Dream Of Streamed Computing

chromebook-photoshop I’ve been writing about tech for nearly a decade now, and in that time, one thing has always seemed perpetually promising, and yet also ultimately unsatisfying: remote streaming consumer computing. I’m not talking about remotely connecting to your work PC to grab a couple of files, but actually using programs interchangeably with your own local apps, despite some being hosted and… Read More

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Gaming’s Next Revolution Will Be Live Streamed, And The PS4 Has A Nice Lead

This holiday season, only one of the two major next-gen consoles will feature an out-of-the-box game-streaming solution: Sony’s PlayStation 4. And that streaming feature taps into some powerful trends that should act as an ambassador for the hardware and Sony’s online network.

If you’re not familiar with the feature, it’s very simple. The PlayStation 4 controller has a streaming button that you tap at any point while playing a game. From this screen you can upload a clip of your last 15 minutes of play (the console buffers a chunk at all times just in case you do something cool you want to share). But you can also choose to live stream your gameplay, with or without a feed from the PlayStation camera or mic that carries your image or voice. You can also choose to allow comments to be displayed on the screen during your stream.

This is all powered by Twitch, the gaming video network born of Justin.tv. You can also use Ustream to send live video, but the majority of gamers I’ve seen are using Twitch. I’m not sure it matters which you use, as the audience is likely coming mostly from your shared links, not the networks themselves. Though this could change if either/or builds special browsing tools that surface new streams faster.

While Microsoft has plans to implement game streaming, also via Twitch, those plans hit a snag and the only option available at launch is to save a video and upload it for later watching. You can’t do the same kind of real-time streaming on Xbox One as you can on PS4, at least not yet. Microsoft says that this functionality should arrive early next year.

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I’ve been testing out the live streaming on the PS4 and it’s a pretty awesome experience. The streaming is incredibly easy to get going. You can sign up for a Twitch account right in the flow and get going. You can share the stream to Facebook or Twitter so that people can hop in and watch, and a channel gets made on Twitch as well. People can comment on your gameplay as you run through Knack or Call of Duty or what have you.

There’s something invigorating about having people watch your play in the game live.

This partially taps into the ‘let’s play’ movement that’s been gaining steam on video sites like Twitch and YouTube in a big way. Millions of people watch pre-recorded videos of other people playing games. It’s a crazy phenomenon that seems counter-intuitive. Why wouldn’t you just play the games yourself?

The answer, I think, lies in the realm of spectator sports. Yes, we can all play basketball or football in one form or another, but there is a pleasure in watching people play that are really good at what they do. And there’s a sort of thrill that comes in seeing people fail as well.

In addition to the charge you get out of having an audience, there’s also the collaborative aspects. People watching my streams give comments, advice, encouragement and, yes, insults. I’m able to respond with the mic without having to type anything. It’s a super fun mechanic and really well executed on PS4.

Both ‘let’s play’ and the PS4′s live-streaming feature tap into something primal; games as performance art, to a degree.

I used to play games competitively in ladders, climbing rung after rung with every match, until I was close to the top of one of the biggest amateur leagues. Those matches often hosted spectators, who watched and chatted as they went on. This was long before the days of Major League Gaming or the Pro Gaming League or any of those huge formal events. It was cool then, but now the audiences are massive, with finals held in huge arenas. Live streaming allows anyone to get a small taste of that kind of performance.

Live game streaming is set to be the next big social layer for platforms big and small. Yes, it’s on the major consoles now, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see most portable devices, including those running iOS and Android, get some support for this kind of thing. Playing a game is fun, sure, but playing in front of an audience gives it another kind of punch, something I haven’t felt for a lot of years.

Sony and Microsoft have tried for years to get people to share achievements and trophies on social networks, or even to passively send status updates like ‘watching Netflix’ or what have you. But this is another level entirely.

Sony has a nice early start on the streaming layer for the holidays, and I think it’s going to be a big win for them. Microsoft’s Xbox One has a host of media-related features that outstrip Sony’s offering, and I’m enjoying both consoles. But when I play the Xbox One, I’m immediately missing the ability to just ‘pull’ people into my session to see what they have to say. Not having streaming ready to go on launch day has to irk them.

Now, Sony has roughly two months to capture the interests of gamers with its streams and the network effects of the social followers of those streamers. People are going to be seeing tons of these Twitch.tv links on Twitter and Facebook over their winter breaks of whatever sort, and they’re going to be intrigued. Clicking on them and seeing a human playing a fighter or shooter in real time is a compelling sales tool.

Beyond that, once both consoles have the capability, It will be interesting to see how fast and how far it spreads when it comes to other platforms. Twitch recently announced it had 45 million monthly viewers, and raised $ 20 million in a series C. That’s growth of roughly 10M viewers in 3 months and all of that was before the PS4 and eventually the Xbox One.

Game streaming is just getting on its feet, but the possibilities are strong.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Roku Hits 5M Streaming Players Sold In The U.S., Has Streamed 8B Videos And Music Tracks

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Roku just announced via its blog that it has sold 5 million of its streaming Internet media players since its launch back in 2008. The devices have managed to stream a total of 8 billion pieces of content in that time, impressive for a device that started out as essentially a dedicated Netflix box. Roku recently introduced its third-generation hardware to market with the Roku 3, which went on sale in March.

The milestone is significant, since it indicates that there’s a very real and growing market out there for a device that essentially just acts as a service layer for bringing web-based content to televisions, independent of what TV manufacturers themselves are doing with their own built-in Smart TV services. Roku announced that it reached 2.5 million streaming devices in sales back in January of 2012, after having sold 1.5 million during all of 2011. That means it managed to sell somewhere close to 2.5 million devices in the U.S. between then and now, which is a marked increase from its previous yearly high.

We’ve seen how this 5 million milestone compares with Roku’s performance to date, but how about vs. the rest of the market? Despite the fact that Apple still isn’t driving massive amounts of sales with its Apple TV products (especially when compared to its iOS devices), it still sold 2 million in total during the holiday quarter last year, up from 1.3 million in the quarter before that, and up from 1.4 million year over year.

Apple’s sale totals are global, but that still adds up to more than 10 million sales since the device’s introduction, and it sold as many devices as the Roku did in a whole year at home in the U.S. in a single quarter. Still, for a company without Apple’s marketing clout and ecosystem of devices, Roku is definitely holding its own.

The Roku 3 is receiving high praise so far, and has simplified things on the product side, as well as narrowed Roku’s product line to a single device, which is probably best in terms of helping it focus its marketing efforts and avoid consumer confusion. But it will face new competition from Panasonic, which introduced two new streaming media players this week, both of which plug into the popular new Miracast tech, essentially AirPlay for Android, being built into many of today’s smartphones.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Facebook Home’s Cover Feed Is A Laid-Back, Streamed News Feed On Your Phone’s Home Screen

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As predicted, Facebook announced a way to turn your Android phone into one focused on people and not apps, as we’ve grown accustomed to on computers and mobile devices.

“We don’t want to build a phone or operating system that only some people could use,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, adding that he wants to do more than build something for 1-2 percent of the smartphone market since the company has over a billion users. Facebook Home isn’t a fork of Google’s Android operating system, it’s a new launcher that brings all of the things that are happening with your friends right now to the forefront of your mobile experience.

Since the home screen is the first thing you see when you wake up your phone, what we see first is Cover Feed, an experience that our own Josh Constine explained as a “Sixth Sense.” Cover Feed is a visually rich news feed on your home screen. The hope with Cover Feed is that you’ll start interacting with your friends quickly, rather than tapping around your apps, waiting for notifications to appear in your bar. You’ll be able to tap items that come up in Cover Feed to like them, so you’re not required to open the full Facebook app.

“Typically all you see is a clock or a snippet of an email. What we aspire to do with Home is provide much more value than that,” Facebook pointed out. Cover Feed is a huge part of this experience, bringing all of your friends’ updates to your device right on the home screen. The Home experience will be updated every month, with more feature fixes than an operating system would.

Apps are important, too, Zuckerberg says, so you can still add apps to your device. The launcher for other apps is just one swipe away from the home screen. When all was said and done at the event, Zuckerberg stated: “We think this is the best version of Facebook there is.”

Home will be available for Android phone users on April 12th, with tablet coming at a later date. The HTC first has been announced as the first devices with Facebook Home installed. To get it, you’ll have to have the latest version of Facebook and Messenger installed on your device, you’ll then get a welcome message that sends you to Google Play.

Since Home isn’t a new operating system and doesn’t require new hardware, there’s a good chance that the experience could be downloaded millions of times as soon as it’s available on April 12. By going this route, Facebook has been able to focus on design and usability without having to contend with the hassles that manufacturers have to when supporting different hardware types.

Follow our liveblog of the event here.


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