iPhone 6 Pre-Orders Reach Record Numbers

Despite most people probably seeing that the item in question is only a few advancements on a product that was released at the same time last year (continuing a cycle that now generally passes each September), that has not stopped masses of Apple fans from putting their names (and soon to be money) down for pre-orders of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, both released later this week.

apple-logo-fontIt was claimed by Apple that the take-up so far, even in the space of 24 hours since launching pre-orders, managed to surpass any other iPhone release process, with a total of over 4 million units committed to on day 1.

CEO Tim Cook notes of the record that has been set (and continuing to drag their internal bar higher until release day): “iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are better in every way, and we are thrilled customers love them as much as we do. Pre-orders for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus set a new record for Apple, and we can’t wait to get our best iPhones yet into the hands of customers starting this Friday.”

However, additional comments this week from the company as a whole suggested that some customers may be left disappointed come Friday 19 September, stating: “Demand for the new iPhones exceeds the initial pre-order supply and while a significant amount will be delivered to customers beginning on Friday and throughout September, many iPhone pre-orders are scheduled to be delivered in October. Additional supply of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available to walk-in customers on Friday, September 19 at 8am local time at Apple retail stores.”

Given the sales figures so far, it is extremely likely to see the regular crowds of ‘devoted’ buyers ready to purchase lining up from Thursday afternoon onwards, so the question now is how far will the Apple sales records manage to end up stretching this month?

Roku Streamer Passes 10 Millionth Sale In US

They might not quite have theh Apple ‘cool factor’, or compete with Google and Amazon’s marketing muscle, but the Roku streaming players have still managed to pass the 10 million sales mark in the US, since launching in 2008.

Roku-streamingThe news comes from Roku CEO Anthony Wood, who writing in a blog post today said that since launching in 2008, they have sold 10 million streaming set-top boxes in the United States.

Although the figure is impressive it still looks a little tame compared to Apple’s sales of 20 million units for the Apple TV, revealed back in April.

But the Roku users are engaging more with their box say the company. Quoting an NPD survey, Roku say that users of it’s devices are streaming double what other users are with 37 million hours weekly compared to 15 million hours for Apple TV owners, 12 million for Chromecast, and just 6 million hours for Amazon Fire TV.

And their sales figures are mightily impressive with little marketing compared to big hitting rivals such as Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast. The future is looking bright for Roku with both the launch of their streaming stick, and a deal in place to integrate it’s platform in Hisense and TCL TV sets.

Netflix Releases In France

Looking to increase their presence around Europe, Netflix have launched the first of a new expansion drive by offering their subscription streaming services to the population of France.

netflix_france_conceptLaunched yesterday, the American company’s French franchise has had a more mixed reception than generally positive views elsewhere, with local companies not exactly taking a shine to the streaming platform.

Part of the problem stems from fears by state-subsidised local media that Netflix will not conform to traditional French culture by producing a set amount of original local-language content, which the service is looking to address with the announcement of co-producing new ‘House of Cards-esque’ original 8-episode political drama series Marseille.

Novelist Dan Franck, tasked with writing the screenplay, stated: “Netflix has given us a blank page to create a House of Cards in French that breaks through unspoken hypocrisy.”

Further complaints against Netflix, from the French film producers’ association, accused the company of partaking in ‘fiscal dumping’ by setting up European headquarters in Amsterdam (Netherlands), and therefore exempting themselves from cultural service taxes that help fund local original content in France, and waives a requirement that all French-based entertainment services must have 40% of French-origin content.

Pascal Rogard, leader of the ‘French Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers’, noted: “Offering only American series would never work here.”

Frédéric Goldsmith, head of the national film producers’ association, added: “What is impressive with Netflix is its technological and marketing abilities, but its service isn’t new.”

It appears as though this poor first impression has already led some local carriers to vote with their feet when it comes to helping Netflix make their breakthroughs, with France Telecom (owners of Orange), SFR, and Free all refusing to host a Netflix app on their supported TV boxes as with existing French streaming services, though the official line is a lack of agreed financial terms for carriage. Netflix have so far found Bouygues as a set-top box carrier, though.

An anonymous senior manager from a non-carrying telecommunications company stated to newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche: “We receive between 20 and 35 per cent of the revenue to distribute a service but Netflix is offering us a ridiculously small share. No operator is interested in signing now.”

Having faced opposition both legally (with even national government getting involved in the debate on both sides) and on the air with equally new streaming competitors such as Numericable and Canal+ (who have forged a partnership with HBO), how many more will Netflix be able to add to their 50 million subscribers from a large but skeptical French market? Perhaps they’ll have better luck when they continue their expansion by sliding into Austria, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland…

Tim Cook Promises Big Innovation At Apple

Shortly after participating in the large-scale announcements of the company in revealing the next generation of iPhones, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has made a ‘rare TV interview appearance’ on PBS’ The Charlie Rose Show, and has started the first of a two-parter by announcing that Apple could yet pull out a new technological innovation of iPod or iPhone-esque proportions.

charlie_rose_tim_cookWhile most of the world turns their head towards Google’s secretive ‘Google X Labs’ for the next big thing after a driverless car concept and Google Glass (amongst other ‘wearable technology’ markets that Apple is starting further back on), Cook claimed in the show that Apple have some secrets of their own.

He stated to Rose: “There are products we’re working on that no one knows about. Yes, that haven’t been rumoured about yet. And part of some of those are going to come out and be blow-away, probably. And some of those we’ll probably decide, ‘You know, that one we’re going to stop’. And so, we kick around a lot of things internally. And we might start something and get down the road a little bit, and have a different idea.”

He added potentially the biggest hint yet that the American company are to try something new in the smart TV industry, after claiming television as a concept is currently ‘stuck back in the seventies’, stating: “TV is one we continue to have great interest in.”

Cook also noted (along with citing the potential for development with new subsidiary Dr. Dre’s Beats) that the larger-screen and larger-priced iPhone 6 Plus (unveiled alongside the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch) was something that the company “could have made years ago”. He said: “It’s never been about just making a larger phone. It’s been about making a better phone in every single way.”

With the ‘second half’ of the differently-structured interview show set to broadcast on PBS tonight, will Cook offer any further hints as to what Apple’s next major product reveal could be all about, or has the company been overtaken for good in the innovation departments? The first part of the episode in question can be seen here.

Virgin Media Roll Out TiVo Update

British company Virgin Media, in their continuing efforts to challenge regional pay-TV powerhouse Sky, have revealed an update to their user interface on their TiVo platform that will better incorporate content recommendation and discovery options.

virgin_media_tivo_new_interfaceClaimed to be the first system update for close to four years, the new on-screen look of Virgin Media TiVo carries a number of ‘extensive visual enhancements’ (including a change from a red to ‘plum’ colour scheme and ‘refined fonts’), and will seek to improve the user experience whilst retaining similarities to the format they are familiar with.

Part of that familiarity will be in the service’s electronic programme guide (EPG) which retains its previous ‘grid’ format, with the added ability of allowing viewers to go backwards in the schedules to view now on-demand content.

Following in the footsteps of Sky, Virgin Media will also be introducing ‘predictive search’ functions to be a part of their newly-emphasised ‘content discovery’ direction, which also includes show recommendations based on viewing habits complete with optional background ‘automatic downloads’, and groupings for downloaded content such as TV/Radio, Kids, and Movies, amognst others.

Hardware-wise, the update roll-out is designed to ensure that TiVo runs faster and with higher-resolution imagery than ever before, combined with an upgrade to HTML5-based apps as opposed to flash, with more apps becoming available through a store carriage agreement with Opera.

Also updating their mobile ‘TV Anywhere’ platform in line with the TV improvements starting between now and the end of the year (with 28 October cited as the main ‘launch date’ for the most boxes in the UK), will .

Telecommunications Costs Likely To Increase With Scottish ‘Yes’ Vote

There are many questions that continue to be asked about Scotland regarding their potential secession from the United Kingdom, plenty of them without a definitive answer, and almost all turning hypothetical if the result is a ‘No’ on 18 September, but the major telecommunications companies of the region have banded together to try and explain what their reaction will be in the instance of Scottish independence.

scotland's_future_white_paper_logoThe answer is essentially one that ‘Yes’ campaigners will not want to hear, in that services will become more expensive. This is according to the chief executives of BT, EE, TalkTalk, Telefonica (owners of O2), Three, and Vodafone, who recently released an open letter discussing the possible situation and highlighting the ‘risk’ to consumers in Scotland should they become a fully-independent nation.

Their joint letter cites the need to assess a number of possible ‘strategic and operational factors’ regarding separation, with potential consequences such as network modification and slower rollout of high-speed broadband likely to occur given a new national status for Scotland.

The letter noted: “Specifically, we would need to know how a Scottish telecoms industry would be regulated. Would there be continuity with the current European Union regulatory framework so that we would continue to operate across the border with common infrastructure under a single set of rules? What approach would the government of an independent Scotland take to the radio spectrum – currently licensed on a UK-wide basis – without which mobile networks cannot operate? We may also need to modify our networks to reflect the reality of an independent Scotland; and we may need to consider whether to modify the services offered in Scotland, given its relatively demanding topography and relatively low population density. Any of these factors could lead to increased industry costs.”

Whilst the UK’s telecommunications industry claim they will remain ‘fully committed’ to Scottish services regardless of any outcome in the vote, there is no doubt that ‘Yes’ would make life at home a little more difficult as far as phone/internet service is concerned… what will be needed in such an instance is a strong national leader to take charge of the situation: