Weekend Roundup: Samsung Galaxy S4 probe, Youtube paid service, Windows 8.1 Blue & Microsoft Nook Rumour

BBC Watchdog investigates Samsung Galaxy S4 storage

BBC’s popular consumer programme Watchdog will investigate the Galaxy S4 onboard default storage capacity which currently stands at 16GB. Now this is a rather divisive subject as Samsung is likely to answer Anne Robinson’s queries by stipulating that it is industry standard, both for mobiles and computers in general, to claim that the total storage capacity merely reflects what the eMMC NAND chip inside the S4 can store. Purists can even argue that the 16GB are indeed 16 billion bytes, rather than the 16 gibibytes that they would expect (i.e. 2^30 bytes).

Now add in formatting conventions and overheads and you end up with a very muddled situation. Some have pointed out that you can actually shove in a microSD card to boost the storage capacity while others claimed that you cannot install apps on it. What puzzles us though is that BBC never brought out that case for any other smartphone or devices before the S4 and it illustrates the lack of understanding that currently prevails when it comes to specifications. Last year, Microsoft’s Surface RT hybrid tablet was hit by a similar claim after someone pointed out that Windows RT took more than a third of the tablet’s 32GB storage. The programme will be aired on BBC One on 15 May.

Check out our review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone here.

YouTube lists 53 paid channels

Users have been able to rent video content from YouTube for more than two years now and it was only a matter of time before some free channels get converted into paid-for ones. As a test, 53 of them now require payment for consumption. Not all of them are currently available in the UK, possibly due to licensing issues (Docurama, Acorn TV etc). Google is likely to drive the concept of freemium further with Youtube and it is unlikely to be a coincidence that days before the launch, Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, said that YouTube had “already killed off TV”. Like Freeview and Subscription TV, Google’s video service is likely to evolve to provide with an elaborate paid-for array of channels. Subscription fees start at £1.49 per month per channel with the majority charging more than that while not always removing ads. It is still a pilot that may be extended to other channels and other territories. With the rising threat of Facebook which is dipping its toes in video and the likes of Hulu (which is apparently in talks with Yahoo for an acquisition), Google may accelerate YouTube’s transition from being a free-for-all ecosystem to one which aims to reduce piracy and encourage creativity by charging for content.

Microsoft looking to acquire Nook?

Days after Barnes and Noble cut the price of the NOOK Simple Touch ebook reader in the UK to £29 and offered its Nook HD+ and Nook HD with Google Play, rumour has it that Microsoft could buy Nook Media LLC, the joint venture it setup with Barnes and Noble, for a whopping $1 billion. That would be less than the $1.2 billion spent on Yammer and twice what it paid for Danger in 2008. It has already invested $300 million in the venture and gained nearly 18 per cent of Barnes and Noble. Reports of that potential transaction helped pushed shares of the company to a 52-week high boosting its market capitalization to $1.4 billion. One wonders what Microsoft would get from it though and the only explanation we can see is that it wants to emulate Amazon and Apple by building an entire media ecosystem from scratch. Amazon has the Kindle, Audible, Amazon Video, Amazon Music and now even an App Store. Microsoft has Zune, Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 app but no eBook services yet.

Microsoft Windows Blue/8.1 to land in H2 2013?

So Microsoft will unveil Windows Blue, the first major upgrade to Windows 8, later this year according to a Q&A of Tami Reller, Microsoft’s new CMO and FCO, on the company’s blog. She broadly said that the update, which in other times, would have been called a service pack, will allow the company to “respond” to customer feedback both on Windows RT and Windows 8, which means that we might get the “start” button back at last. We can’t help but wonder whether Microsoft’s decision to identify Windows Blue as a distinct entity from Windows 8 is not a ploy to emulate what Apple has done with Mac OS X and move to an annual product cycle (while maintaining the monthly security updates/patch Tuesdays) with a couple of free major updates between two paid ones. Doing so would allow the company to be more agile and innovative by responding much faster to market changes (rather than having to wait for four years or more).