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11 things you need to know in tech today

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Here’s your daily tech digest, by way of the DGiT Daily newsletter, for Wednesday, March 20, 2019, and the first day of spring!

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1. Google Stadia: Here’s the good, the bad, and the questions

Google Stadia announcement

Google’s fantastic sounding launch of Google Stadia, shifting gaming to the cloud, was as genuinely exciting as it was disappointing. Let me explain!

First, the details:

Google Stadia is the name of Google’s game streaming service, which first debuted as a test called Project Stream.
Now players can jump straight into a game with a single click – even from a YouTube video or embed on a website, without installs or hardware. It just works, and within five seconds, according to Google.
Using Google’s state of the art network infrastructure, the company is promising seamless streaming, providing you have a good enough connection – more on that below.
Stadia is designed to be available everywhere: the cloud-based service works seamlessly on a Chrome browser, as well as Chromecast Ultra devices. That means both desktops, laptops, and phones with Chrome, can instantly stream a game and start playing.
No install, no patches, no downloads – just fire up the Stadia service, and games will be available, if you’re on a fast enough connection to handle the data requirements. 60FPS, 4K, and Googles hope to stretch to 8K, 120fps streaming in time. That’s crazy.
You can switch devices within seconds, going from playing on your TV to your phone rapidly, for on the go gaming.
There’s a Google controller which connects directly to a data center, or you can BYO favorite Xbox, PS4, or Switch controller too.
This is for AAA games – one of the first will be Doom Eternal, from id Software.
It will launch in 2019 in the US, Canada, UK, and most of Europe. Google has been working on it for years, going back as far as 2014.
We don’t know much else about how the platform will work when it comes to pricing. On-going subscription costs, plus purchasing of premium titles?
Google says it will share more about Stadia “this summer,” which we imagine means Stadia will have a big presence at E3 2019.
There are loads more technical details (The Verge) too, including performance info and new GPU chip from AMD. Google suggests that input latency might even be low enough for FPS games, although that’s a bold claim.
Can and will PC gamers now just game on any device? Will this kill the need for high-spec PCs and laptops for casual gamers and others?
How soon will this kind of service – if not Stadia, than a competitor – make buying a $400 console (plus the games) no longer make sense? Being offline isn’t really an option for any game, anymore, including single player.

Questions:

Stadia is an exciting proposition: play games anywhere, from any platform that has a Google Chrome browser which is just about every device you own, including directly on your TV via Chromecast, is massive.
The idea of having brilliant performance available without upfront cost for a gaming PC or console, available anywhere you go, is superb.
Though, of course, there are reasons to be skeptical.
Until we all see this working for us, it’s hard to really know how it will perform. What kind of DSL/Cable connection is sufficient? Do we need to wait for 5G?
Putting game clients and multiplayer servers in one place seems like it will work to reduce latency, but the speed of light remains fixed.
A large proportion of gamers aren’t worried about input lag and competitive edge, and don’t even know it really exists – and those that are.

Content:

The bigger problem is that Google doesn’t yet have the content. As Google’s announcement went on, our Slack channel lit up talking about the details and the lack of games announced.
Instead we saw Google offer technical demonstrations, pitching to the developers at its developer conference rather than the wider audience.
If Google was able to announce a single blockbuster game – Fortnite, PUBG, or Apex Legends, or something like Red Dead Redemption 2 on any platform, as my colleague Joe Hindy typed, that would’ve become a trending topic on Twitter that stayed there for three days. Doom Eternal was announced, but with no detail given, it didn’t have much pull.
Instead, we saw Google pitch to encourage people to create for their platform.
We saw game publishers id Software and Ubisoft involved, and two of the most popular game development engines, including Unreal and Unity, are supported. That’s encouraging from the get-go, but necessary as well.
Stadia will live or die on content, and we don’t yet really know how it will convince existing publishers and game houses to join its platform.
Scale counts, which Google mentioned, but its competitors that already have the games and IP are working on their own service. Epic is all-in on its own game store and Fortnite is its portal towards streaming gaming. (Imagine getting into a game of Fortnite within seconds, no install, no updates)
Sony is notorious for never giving an inch and already has PlayStation Now, Microsoft is working on streaming via Project xCloud, Amazon is working on its own service, Geforce Now is good right now, and many more, as we’ve discussed previously.
So how does Google get the big games it needs for Stadia to really, really matter?
Google is starting its own game studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment, to produce its own titles, with people like Jade Redmond involved.
But the memes have already started about a lack of games.
And many wondered if this would become another Google product to launch and disappear within a few years, as so many of its products do. (Here are 50 examples.)
And asking around my friends who are fringe gamers or not really into the tech scene, Stadia didn’t cross over into their consciousness – which Google may not mind just yet, given it has the reach to do so when it wants. Until it launches, that might not be necessary, as long as it gets publishers and developers on board.

Bonus: Google did pay a nice tribute to the Konami code with its controller. Type in the code (⬆⬆⬇⬇⬅➡⬅➡🅱🅰) to the stadia.com website for a surprise.

2. Big breaking news: The EU has fined Google €1.49 billion for “abusive practices in online advertising” (EU): “Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites. This is illegal under EU anti-true rules … The misconduct lasted over 10 years.”

3. Disney moves from behemoth to colossus with the closing of 21st Century Fox deal, for $71.3 billion (NY Times). A Hollywood monster rises.

4. Apple released an iMac refresh for both its 4K and 5K models. That’s useful if you really wanted an iMac, but Apple leaving a completely outdated 5400RPM HDD as the default is terrible (MacRumors). If you’re going to buy one, you absolutely must pay $200 for an SSD upgrade. Also, expect more Apple device updates this week.

5. Apple’s MacBook ‘Flexgate’ is real, and Apple should acknowledge it (The Verge).

6. Dell XPS 13 2019 review (CNET): “It’s finally happened. With the 2019 revision, I’ve finally run out things to complain about…”

7. Samsung Galaxy A50 review: Samsung’s best mid-ranger in years (AA).

8. NVIDIA AI turns crude doodles into photorealistic landscapes (Engadget).

9. Collecting samples from Asteroid Bennu may be harder than NASA realized, new findings suggest (Gizmodo).

10. Here’s a “brief, scientific guide” to the first day of spring (Vox).

11. If a body rejects an organ transplant, can that organ be used for someone else, or is it no longer usable? (r/askscience).

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