Disney screws with UK cinema market yet again, Odeon caves

The BBC reports that Odeon’s reversed its decision to boycott the upcoming Alice in Wonderland film “following talks with Disney”. If you’ve not followed this story, Odeon got narked after Disney announced it was to ignore the standard ’17 weeks to DVD’, dropping the gap by four weeks. This, argued Odeon, would screw over UK cinema chains by setting a new benchmark that would reduce their potential revenue.

Disney’s stance is that by getting the DVD out sooner, it’ll reduce bootlegging. I have two helpful hints to Disney in this regard:

  1. A brilliant way to stop bootlegging is to stop screwing over the international market. If you release all of your films at the same time everywhere, rather than many of them in the US first and six months later everywhere else, people will be more likely to rush out to see them, rather than reading about them in some mag, twiddling thumbs for a few days, reading more online reviews from the US, getting impatient and then torrenting the films. Note: happily, this will also deal with the ‘disappointing international box office returns’ you keep whining about regarding Pixar films that are out on Region 1 DVD by the time they finally arrive in cinemas in the UK and elsewhere.
  2. You cannot bootleg a cinema experience. It’s pretty clear that many films—including a lot of those by Disney—are as much about the environment and the big screen these days as the story. To that end, reducing the potential amount of time films stay in cinemas by at least four weeks is stupid.

February 25, 2010. Read more in: Film, Helpful hints, News, Opinions

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Helpful hint: How to convert Microsoft PR speak regarding Office pricing

TechRadar and a billion other sites confirm Microsoft won’t be offering any upgrade pricing for Office 2010. In the UK, you’ll pay £109.99 for Office Home and Student version, £239.99 for Office Home and Business and £399.99 for Office Professional, which reportedly comes with an aversion to actual work, a slick hair-do and a propensity for leering after digital secretaries.

Microsoft’s reasoning is that “Office Home & Business 2010 represents a substantial saving over [the] comparative Office Standard 2007 suite while including an additional application (OneNote) and Office Web Apps” and claims “the majority of users will immediately benefit from the greater value and simplified setup experience offered by Product Key Cards”. The lack of an upgrade path has nothing to do with Microsoft “wanting more of your money, scumbag users who are locked into our product and yet don’t realise they don’t really need to upgrade if they’re happy with what they have—mwahahahaha”, or “sticking our fingers in our ears and going lalalalalalalalala, I can’t hear you, whenever OpenOffice.org and other dangerous competing products are mentioned”.

February 17, 2010. Read more in: Helpful hints, News, Technology

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The PRs versus journos battle—and some helpful hints for PRs

On Twitter and elsewhere, there’s a bit of a debate brewing right now about whether PRs should be ‘first against the wall’ when the revolution comes, or whether journos are a bunch of grumpy sods for moaning about being deluged by stuff they’ll likely be interested in writing about.

In the technology field, I find it strange journos are getting angry due to receiving press releases. Sure, many are irrelevant, and far too many are written in an absurdly needy manner, but even though I get dozens of these weekly (sometimes daily), I’d rather have more than fewer press releases. They enable me to find out about new stuff for zero effort, and if I’m not interested, a quick ‘delete’ banishes the release forever. (Note to journos claiming they’re annoyed by constant interruptions from PR emails: don’t check your email every time a new one arrives; alternatively, set up notification so you can glance at incoming email and only tend to urgent messages.)

That all said, there are three increasingly common things that irk me regarding PR guys, and so here are some helpful hints:

  1. Only phone me for first contact or if something’s urgent. Do not phone me about a 0.0.1 app upgrade that you’ve decided is “revolutionary”. Phone calls are a major distraction—unless your call includes extremely exciting and interesting information, I will hate you.
  2. When you’re pimping something you’re doing on the other side of the planet (say, the west coast of the USA or Australia), and I kindly inform you that I’m UK-based, don’t then try to convince me that I should show up via several more emails and phone calls. Yes, I’m sure I’d like to be at CES right now, but unless you buy me a ticket, I’m not going to visit just to see your new gizmo.
  3. If you want me to check something out for review, send it to me. Don’t try to convince me to buy it myself because it’s the “Best Thing Ever”. I get very regular requests of this sort, and so even with 59p iPod games I’d be broke by the end of the month if I bought them all.

January 7, 2010. Read more in: Helpful hints, Opinions, Technology

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Tips for iPhone and iPod touch developers regarding press pages

Yesterday on Cult of Mac, Leander Kahney wrote The top 5 secrets to designing a killer iPhone app site, citing the importance of a decent web page for marketing your app or game. He suggested: make the site a single page; use an iPhone image with your app inside as the main image; include an instantly recognisable App Store badge; use animated screenshots showing the app in action; and display the price up-front.

I rather grumpily commented that tip six should be devs including some kind of downloadable media kit, and, surprisingly, a dev just emailed me for some advice on this, and so I figured I’d share it with the world at large.

First, some reasoning for me being grumpy about a lack of press pages. I write about iPhone and iPod touch apps a lot, but many of the articles are round-ups. Commission rates are such that you don’t get a lot of time with each app, and so you need to maximise the amount of time you spend using it and writing about it, and minimise everything else. Time I have to spend faffing about taking screen grabs, syncing my iPhone to send the grabs to iPhoto, and then extracting them to Finder, is time I could have instead spent using your app or your game.

Furthermore, although Apple intelligently provided a means to take grabs on a device (hold the home and sleep buttons), this is, at best, awkward. I often end up back on the springboard, because I pressed the home button too early, or ‘missing’ the right moment in a game, because my fingers were otherwise engaged on the multi-touch screen, and requiring two of them to take a trip to the iPhone’s tactile buttons was a quest too far.

What makes me happy is when developers deal with this themselves. You know the best bits of your own game or app, so should provide insight into such things for people writing about it. And you shouldn’t be saying “just go to the site and grab something there,” unless the site has appropriate material. Two companies that utterly get this are GymFu, whose press area is fantastic, offering PNG grabs, icons and press releases, and Madgarden, whose Saucelifter website provides succinct info, a bunch of PNG grabs you can drag to Finder or Windows Explorer, and a downloadable press pack.

If you’re thinking of revamping your website for an app or game, take note of the Cult of Mac article, but also ensure you include a press page or at least some basic assets for download:

  • As a minimum, ensure your app or game grabs are full-size PNGs, which are not lossy. Compressed JPEGs are not usable in print, nor are resized images and those with watermarks.
  • If there are specific points about your app you want to share, include these in a succinct text overview.
  • To seriously make friends with hacks, provide everything as a downloadable ZIP.
  • And always make sure you provide an email address for media enquiries—otherwise people like me sometimes give up and go and write about someone else’s creation instead.

It’s not necessary to have all this in a separate press section, although you can if you choose. Just having usable PNGs on app info pages is enough. The important thing is you do something, rather than just bung heavily compressed grabs online and avoid telling writers how to contact you.

Update: As a couple of people have already said to me, this information is largely good for anyone developing apps and games. Ensure people can contact you. Provide info about what you create. Provide uncompressed screen grabs for download.

November 25, 2009. Read more in: Apple, Helpful hints, Opinions, Technology

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Tweetie 2 author evil incarnate, wants to make a living

Once, there was this great app called Tweetie by Atebits. It was a Twitter client for iPhone and iPod touch, and very good, and the (Twitter-loving iPhone-using) people rejoiced.

And then there was Tweetie for Mac OS X. It was a Twitter client and very good, and the (Twitter-loving Mac OS X-using) people rejoiced.

And then there was Tweetie 2. It was a Twitter client for iPhone and iPod touch, and very good, and the (Twitter-loving iPhone-using) people GOT TERRIBLY ANGRY.

The reason behind the vitriol? The dev had the audacity to charge three bucks for his updated, rewritten Tweetie for Apple handhelds. Three dollars, for an app that you’ll likely use daily! Shocking!

But it’s not like this is without precedent. Increasingly, consumer-level software provides no upgrade cycle. On the Mac, the likes of Bento, iLife, Photoshop Elements, iWork and many others provide no discount if you bought the previous version, which is largely countered by the value of the product.

Tweetie 2 is on the App Store, which provides no upgrade model anyway, and so the dev had no other choice other than ‘work for nothing and eat baked beans every night for dinner’, which would pretty much guarantee no Tweetie 3 and no further apps. So, here are some helpful tips if you’re a Tweetie 1 owner who’s feeling hard done by:

  1. Carry on using Tweetie 1. Atebits didn’t include a ‘blow up iPhone if user doesn’t delete Tweetie 1 when Tweetie 2 comes out’ feature. Your app will continue to work, enabling you, ironically, to bitch about its follow-up on Twitter.
  2. Save up your pennies for Tweetie 2. I know times are tight and the economy’s screwed, but let’s look at something for a second: you’re sitting there with an iPhone or an iPod touch, which cost quite a lot of money. If you really want that copy of Tweetie 2, which costs all of $2.99 or £1.79, I’m fairly sure you could save up your pennies. Don’t have that Starbucks coffee for one whole day, or make your own sandwich for work. As if by magic, you’ll have saved enough cash to buy Tweetie 2!
  3. Stop bitching. No, really—it’s getting old, and you sound stupid.

October 13, 2009. Read more in: Apple, Helpful hints, News, Opinions, Technology

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