Posts tagged service.

Heroku May Be Limiting Free Service For Hobbyist App Developers

Heroku may be dropping the hammer on hobbyist developers, at least according to hints we’re seeing that it may soon limit its free services. The app hosting company has apparently floated a new pricing scheme that’s only visible to participants in a private beta of its service.

According to those who’ve seen it, the most notable change in the new plan is an apparent restriction on Heroku’s free offering. At the moment, this tier allows users the use of 1 dyno—Heroku’s unit of processing power—up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Under the proposed new plan, that level of service will force users into a new Heroku Hobby tier that will cost developers $7 a month.

Heroku, which hosts apps for customers as large as Macy’s and Toyota alongside trial efforts by students and part-time developers, declined to comment on its private beta. Tellingly, though, it also didn’t deny the reported pricing scheme.

Developer Eric Jiang, who reported seeing the new pricing tiers firsthand, described what he called the “verbatim text” of Heroku’s announcement in the private beta:

Free – Experiment in your own dev or demo app with a web and a worker dyno for free. Sleeps after 1 hr of inactivity. Active up to 12 hours a day. No custom domains. 512 MB RAM.

Hobby – Run a small app 24×7 with the Heroku developer experience for $7/dyno/mo. Custom domains. Run a maximum of one dyno per Procfile entry. 512 MB RAM.

Standard 1X, 2X: Build production apps of any size or complexity. Run multiple dynos per Procfile entry to scale out. App metrics, faster builds and preboot. All Hobby features. 512MB or 1GB RAM. $25 or $50/dyno/mo.

Performance – Isolated dynos for your large-scale, high-performance apps. All Standard features. Compose your app with performance and standard dynos. 6GB RAM. $500/dyno/mo.

Since only private beta users are able to see the potential prices, I wasn’t able to confirm them.

Those Who Pay, Pay Less; Those Who Don’t, Pay More

Developers are busily debating the merits of the possible pricing change. Many paying Heroku customers are greeting the news enthusiastically, as the reported changes actually result in lower prices for higher service tiers.

Jeremy Green of Octolabs wrote a blog post graphing how much money developers could save in the paid tiers. “If you already pay Heroku just about anything for hosting your app(s) this new pricing is nothing but Good News,” he wrote.

See also: Five Steps To Build Your Own Random Non-Sequitur Twitter Bot

The changes won’t affect the most casual users much. If you are using Heroku to host very small apps that don’t run continuously—such as the randomizer Twitter bot I created and described here at ReadWrite—you’re still in the clear.

But hobbyist developers who don’t use Heroku to make money, especially students, are less excited. “So, as a fellow hobbyist with 12 free dynos running on Heroku with custom domains, I clearly don’t want to pay $84 a month for apps that aren’t meant to generate revenue,” one commenter wrote on Hacker News before asking where he should move his projects.

See also: Heroku Grows Up As It Courts Bigger Players

Heroku rose to prominence in the world of app hosting thanks in part to its freemium model, in which developers could launch apps for free on a small scale, and then upgrade to paid support if and when those apps become popular. But as the service has grown, it has started catering to larger business customers.

The purported new pricing structure appears designed to court big paying customers while shutting out what some call “freeloader” developers who game Heroku’s free services in order to run their apps continuously on Heroku’s servers. (Heroku normally idles apps after an hour of disuse.) That practice itself has long been a subject of debate; some, and perhaps many, such developers go on to become paying customers.

Those days may be coming to an end.

View full post on ReadWrite

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4 Ways Apple’s New TV Service Could Beat Back The Competition

The world has waited four years to learn what Steve Jobs meant when he told biographer Walter Isaacson that he’d “cracked” the television conundrum. Anticipation ran high for new hardware, in particular an Apple-branded integrated TV set. Now it looks like the company has other plans in mind—namely, a revamp of its existing TV set-top box and a new online service that blends streaming live TV and on-demand online programming. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple aims to debut its new TV service this fall. If the report is true, the iPhone maker may have a competitive advantage. Only a few online services offer both live TV and a streaming catalog of shows and movies (for now, anyway).

Even fewer would-be competitors can boast a potential customer base as enormous as Apple TV—which has moved some 25 million units and is reportedly worth billions. And that’s to say nothing of the huge iOS-wielding user base.

See also: Cord-Cutting For Some: HBO Now Launches With A Limited Apple TV Exclusive

It might seem like this is Apple’s game to lose. But the company can’t cut corners. Expectations around television are different than for mobile gadgets. So if Apple wants its new TV offering to become more than just its latest “hobby,” it needs to cover some key bases.

Apple’s Fascination, And Challenge, With Television

The state of TV today “sucks,” as Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue said at last year’s Code Conference—which should have been a major clue that his company would aim to improve it. 

Apple has had television on its mind for years—long before it joined forces with HBO as its exclusive launch partner for HBO Now, the premium cable channel’s standalone streaming service. The recent WSJ report lines up with what Jobs told his biographer several years ago:

“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,” he told me. “It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.” No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

The hardware reference to “television set” aside, Jobs’ overall theme was simplicity, which matches up nicely with the all-in-one approach Apple reportedly wants to launch later this year. With one box (the Apple TV) and one subscription (for streaming live television and on-demand titles), Apple could eliminate the need for cable or satellite TV.

Apple, of course, isn’t alone in trying to blend live TV and streaming. Dish’s Sling TV offering, launched in February, and Sony’s new PlayStation Vue (which just debuted Wednesday in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago) do exactly the same thing.

Older stalwarts like TiVo are also experimenting with streaming features and app integrations. The digital video recorder maker works with TV signals from antennas, cable or satellite providers, but that may change before long. TiVo already supports apps like Netflix and Hulu and the Opera TV app store—and it will have some new additions, courtesy of Aereo. The company got a green light from a U.S. bankruptcy court to scoop up assets from the defunct startup, which attempted to grab OTA (over-the-air) TV signals and stream them online.

See also: Would-Be TV Disrupter Aereo Files For Chapter 11 Reorganization

With the fight for the living room heating up, Apple’s new service will need to lock down a few essentials.

What Apple TV’s New Service Needs To Compete

According to BuzzFeed, the new Apple TV device will come with voice control and access to the App Store for the first time ever. That may drive product sales, but it won’t compel users to plunk down even more money on a subscription streaming service. 

To drive the new offering home and make it enticing, especially in the face of growing competition, Apple needs to:

Make the selection good

Reportedly, Apple has been talking to broadcast and cable partners to flesh out its offerings. ABC, CBS, Fox, ESPN, Disney and FX may be on deck, while the chances of NBC coming on board seem slim. Apple almost partnered with NBCUniversal parent company Comcast on another streaming television offering last year, but talks appear to have fizzled.

The WSJ’s sources say the company aims to offer around 25 channels. That would be far less than basic cable packages, as well as Sony Playstation Vue’s lineup, which ranges from 50 to more than 85 available channels. But at least it’s more than Sling TV’s 16 channels. 

For on-demand streaming, Apple TV currently hooks to iTunes, which offers plenty of movies and TV shows via á la carte purchases or rentals for films, TV seasons or episodes. However, Netflix has proven the market for all-you-can-stream service for a flat monthly subscription.

Although Apple TV won’t ditch Netflix—it’s too popular to overlook—Apple should rethink its iTunes strategy if it wants to start holding its own against its future rival. For starters, it should think about making at least some selection of videos available for a flat fee, similar to Amazon’s Prime Instant Watch.

Make the system work with other gadgets

Apple doesn’t play well with competing platforms. But it may need to, if it wants to give its online TV service its best chance at success.

What that could look like: Suppose Apple were to open up and give competing devices some basic remote-control functions—say, via an Android app? Likewise with allowing some iTunes streaming on Android or Windows devices. Sling TV, Playstation Vue, TiVo and others stream to mobile gadgets outside their own platforms.

The company should also think about casting support. Made popular by Google’s Chromecast TV stick, casting—that is, wirelessly flinging videos via mobile devices—is one of the hottest features in streaming TV products. Samsung smart TVs, TiVo set-top boxes, Nexus Players, Rokus and other devices support it from a variety of phones and tablets, using either the DIAL protocol or Google Cast technology. 

Apple TV supports something similar through AirPlay, but the feature is limited to Apple gadgets only. That rigid and stand-offish approach may work for mobile, but television is another matter. Unlike smartphones, which are designed for individuals, TVs are usually shared among household members—not all of whom may be Apple users. To get whole families on board, the company may have to loosen its grip.

Make it easy to use

Apple’s new service will test its mantra about simplicity. The experience will have to be as easy as navigating traditional television while managing more complexity, given all the ways people want to watch Internet TV—whether live programming, rentals or purchases, or other streaming options. If it’s too basic or overly complicated, users could wind up wanting to throw something at their TV instead of enjoying it. 

Adding Siri to the box will help, but only if it works flawlessly. Ideally, it will allow for both search and navigation, but even if it can only do one, it has to be reliable. But that’s only part of the equation. 

TiVo, Sling TV and Playstation Vue all allow for passive viewing. Playstation Vue offers a clean interface channel guide that makes it easy to find and play live shows, or save favorites. Sling TV brings channel-surfing to live streams, letting users easily fly through whatever’s on by pressing a button.

TiVo has built a loyal following based on the strength of its easy-to-use interfaces and remote controls. Since it relies on cable, satellite and broadcast pipes (for now), it’s very good at old-fashioned channel-surfing. But its primary function is recording shows, and as a DVR, it recently stepped up its approach. Now it offers a new OnePass feature, that can track and save your shows from live television or the Internet in one interface.

Make it cheap(er)

Apple will reportedly charge $30 to $40 a month for the service, which will work on the newly reduced Apple TV boxes, now $69 (from $99), and most certainly on whatever new model Apple has up its sleeve. It will reportedly work on iPhones and iPads as well. 

That’s not out of whack compared to the competition. TiVo service starts at $15 monthly, while Sony’s Playstation Vue goes for $50 per month to start. Sling TV charges $20 per month, and unlike the others, isn’t restricted to a single hardware line at all—it comes via an app you can download to Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox One, Android, iOS, and Mac and PC computers.

Apple’s service, limited to its Apple TV and iOS devices, is neither the least nor the most expensive. It comes in way under the cost of cable or satellite service, which can easily run two or three times what Apple will reportedly charge.

But there’s a rub: You need broadband Internet connectivity to make Apple’s service work, and the cable operators still control those strings. 

See also: Belatedly, TiVo Makes Its Play For Cord-Cutters

Unbundled, broadband access can cost $40 to $60. Add the Apple TV service subscription, and suddenly the savings don’t look so steep. If you have to hunt down missing channels or shows somewhere else, the cost only go up from there. 

That would put the company and its new service in a tough spot. Because as it stands, the Apple TV service’s selection and pricing are on the  mediocre side, and striking deals to reduce the cost could be an uphill battle. Apple successfully managed to muscle the music industry, thanks to the influence of iTunes. But it’s not at all clear whether the company has the same bargaining power in Hollywood. 

Lead photo by Robert S. Donovan; TV with streaming apps and Android device images by Shutterstock;  product images courtesy of Apple; Apple TV and box photo by ReadWrite

View full post on ReadWrite Announces SearchPro Systems as the Thirteenth Top SEO Service … – Marketwired (press release) Announces SearchPro Systems as the Thirteenth Top SEO Service
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Lucky Nexus 6 Owners Will Reportedly Try Out Google’s Wireless Service First

Google’s upcoming wireless service—which will run on spectrum leased from the Sprint and T-Mobile networks—will be exclusive to Nexus 6 handset users to start, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. It’s not entirely clear why that might be, although we’ve got a few ideas.

Nexus 6’s Motorola Pedigree

Motorola’s most recent smartphone offerings have been designed to work with Republic Wireless, a so-called mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, that basically resells access to Sprint’s cellular network. Because Republic’s services rely on a mix of Wi-Fi-based calls and cellular, handsets like the Moto X, G, and E have software specifically built to handle such network switching.

The Moto X is designed to jump on Wi-Fi and cellular networks with ease.

Previous reports on Google’s wireless-service plans suggest it will also jump back and forth between Wi-Fi and cellular signals, just with T-Mobile’s networks added into the mix. As such, the Motorola-made Nexus 6 may be particularly well-suited to juggling multiple networks and Wi-Fi calling.

See also: How I Got My Nexus 6

But if the ability to easily switch networks is the barrier of entry for trying out Google’s forthcoming wireless service, why aren’t those other Moto handsets being included in the initial test? I pinged Google for comment on the WSJ story and related questions, and will update with anything I hear back.

Staying Small, Even On Big Phones

For answers, we might need to look at another potentially revolutionary Google initiative: Google Fiber. The high-speed, affordably priced Internet service dots areas around the country. If Google were to set its mind to rolling out Fiber in every metro in America, it would certainly disrupt the hold ISPs have over their consumers.

See also: The Genius Of Google Fiber

But by keeping Fiber small, Google provides a blueprint to Internet providers about how things could be. The idea, it seems, is to spur innovation.

The same idea basically informs the Nexus device line itself. Despite partnering with popular OEMs like Samsung, LG, and most-recently Motorola, Nexus handsets can sometimes be tough to find. That’s been a particular problem with the Nexus 6, with the Google Play Store having only one of the four versions of the phone in stock.

Motorola’s stock is better, but it still only offers three of the four versions. The Nexus 6 isn’t even available from Verizon at the moment. Needless to say, the ginormous Nexus 6 isn’t in a lot of pockets at the moment.

The Nexus 6 is tough to find, no matter where you’re looking.

Widespread adoption isn’t the point, however. Nexus phones run stock Android, with no frills or bloatware pre-installed. The devices show Google’s partners how Android smartphones ought to be.

Google’s wireless service might be following the same playbook, with an extremely limited and slow rollout. (No one yet seems to have any idea where Google might actually offer the service.) It’s a way to show other carriers “how it’s done” and to spur them to innovate themselves. It might also inspire other smartphone makers to take a page from Motorola in terms of its network-switching software.

Whatever the reason, Nexus 6 owners may have a shot at trying out the new service by the end of March. As for when or where—or even if—the service will be available to other users, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Nexus 6 and Moto X images courtesy of Motorola; Google Play Store image courtesy of Google

View full post on ReadWrite

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