The good news about streaming platforms is that there’s always something to watch, but the flip side of supercharged release schedules is that there’s almost too much to choose from. It seems like I spend more time trying to find something to watch than actually watching anything, and obviously Netflix sees all that flipping back and forth between apps as a weakness its competitors can exploit.
On TV platforms, it just rolled out a Play Something shortcut that puts the choice in the hands of an algorithm, and now it’s testing the button for mobile users. You may see it in testing if you’re using an Android device, where you punch the button and it picks something you might like based on your viewing habits. Is a one-press play button the perfect defense against Amazon (more about that below), HBO Max and Disney+? We’re about to find out.
— Richard Lawler
The rumors were true.
Amazon storied Hollywood studio MGM in a deal worth $8.45 billion in a bid to bolster its streaming catalog. The takeover hands it the rights to an eye-watering pool of crowdpleasers, including James Bond, Rocky and Robocop.
The deal — the second largest in Amazon's history after its $13.7 billion Whole Foods acquisition — is part of a new wave of media consolidation ushered in by the so-called streaming wars. Already, we've seen Disney consume 21st Century Fox for $71 billion, while Discovery and WarnerMedia just announced a mega-merger of their own.
In response, US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, like Ken Buck, Mike Lee, Amy Klobuchar and David Cicilline, have expressed concern about the deal. It will need to be approved by the Justice Department and FTC, not Congress, but things could get messy before it’s approved.
The Beats Studio Buds must be getting close to going on sale.
New versions of macOS and iOS provided an early preview of the first truly wireless Beats earbuds, and by the looks of things, LeBron James couldn't wait to try out a pair of the Beats Studio Buds. A series of photos posted to @KingJames on Instagram shows the Lakers star wearing a pair of buds that lineup closely to the leaked images and FCC pictures. Apple still hasn’t announced the first completely wireless earbuds in the Beats lineup, but if the Lakers go deep into the playoffs, James’ teammates will probably be gifted a set for their pregame arrivals very soon.
‘Sleeping tabs’ frees up resources that would otherwise go to ads that you can’t even see.
According to Microsoft, version 91 of its Edge browser contains new features, specifically "startup boost and sleeping tabs," that will push it ahead of Chrome and all other browsers.
Startup boost was introduced in March and works by "running a core set of Microsoft Edge processes in the background," according to the post. At the same time, it supposedly won't use any additional resources when Microsoft Edge browser windows are open. That feature has apparently boosted startup speeds by up to 41 percent.
In the upcoming build, Microsoft will introduce a "sleeping tabs" feature that immediately puts ads to sleep when you switch to another tab, allowing for "instance resource savings."
Another big leap for graphics and sound.
Epic Games' Unreal Engine 5 is no longer just a pretty technical demo. The company has released an Early Access version of UE5 through the Epic Games Launcher and GitHub, giving developers an opportunity to start work with the next-gen toolkit ahead of the full release sometime in early 2022.
The key, as hinted last year, is the ability to produce near-photorealistic visuals, convincing animations and unique sounds with relatively little work. You can quickly produce movie-quality landscapes using the Nanite system, while Lumen provides real-time lighting that adjusts for the time of day and clouds overhead. The animation system adapts to nearby surfaces and fills in crucial gaps, and the MetaSounds system can quickly produce distinctive effects.
A tech demo shows promise of games that look as good as pre-rendered cutscenes, but it will probably be a while before we see the fruits of developers' labor.
Google agreed to pay a first-of-its-kind $200 million community benefit to secure the deal.
The project calls for a mixed-use development that will be integrated into the city and partially open to the public. In addition to 7.3 million square feet of office space for approximately 20,000 employees, Google plans to build 4,000 housing units, 300 hotel rooms and at least 10 parks alongside other amenities like retail spaces and a performance area.