Week in Tech: BlackBerry's back, Jawbone's movin' on UP, Netflix says no

Week in Tech
Skype begins its quest to break down language barriers

The weeks before Christmas tend to be slow news weeks, but not in tech: this week we discovered a really big deal, a really big-money deal, a big headache for YouTube and a Blackberry we wouldn't mind owning. It's week in tech!

YouTube's biggest threat is no empty Vessel

What's under the radar, is reportedly poaching some of YouTube's best talent and could be a really big deal in 2015? We're talking about Vessel, the new project from ex-Hulu CEO Jason Kilar. As Hugh Langley explains: "The service, which has been rumoured for some time, will go live in early 2015 and offer a two-tier subscription service. There'll be a free ad-supported option, or a $2.99-a-month choice that will offer "early access to the web's best short-form videos" but will still have ads, it seems.

Videos will sit in the early access zone for at least 72 hours, says Vessel, before moving into the free tier. While there'll be plenty on offer for subscribers, this is a platform that wants to be more focused on the content creators than rivals like YouTube are." It's clearly one to, ahem, watch.

Netflix says no

If you're hoping for offline viewing of Netflix movies, Hugh has some bad news for you: "while we'd say "never say never", it sounds like it is, in fact, a case of never." That's straight from the horse's mouth, and by horse we mean Netflix Director of Corporate Communications and Technology. Amazon has waded in, however, and told us that its offline viewing, which is currently available for Fire tablets, will make its way to other devices in the future.

You might not have offline viewing, but Netflix has expanded to a surprising new place: your wrist. You can now control Netflix with an Android Wear watch, although Matt Hanson would like to point out that "you can't actually watch Netflix on your wrist" because "that would be silly."

The not-so-fat controller

The final release is still some way off, but we've got our hands on a brand new image of the controller for Valve's forthcoming Steam Machines. The overall shape is much like before, but it appears to be a bit thinner and has a four-point directional guide on the left hand trackpad. We're expecting to see more at GDC 2015.

Songza praise

Google has added features from the much-liked Songza recommendation service to its Google Play Music service. The new 'Music Concierge' feature, which will be available to all subscribers of Google Play Music and YouTube Music Key beta, recommends playlists depending on the time of day or what you're doing. Brits even get a "wallowing in self-pity" playlist, Songza founder Elias Roman told us.

Skype imitates art

Remember the Babel Fish from the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Microsoft has invented it, and nobody has to stick a fish in their ear. The Skype Translator has begun breaking down language barriers, and it's no lab experiment: there's a preview you can try that translates speech from English to Spanish and vice-versa. The preview is limited to Windows 8.1 users who registered their interest last month. As big deals go, this one's pretty big.

Blackberry's back!

Remember Blackberry, the smartphone everybody loved before iPhones and Android came along? It's back in the form of the Blackberry Classic, a distinctly retro-looking new phone from the firm formerly known as RIM. As John McCann says, it's a real blast from the past: it's "aimed squarely at the business market, although avid BB fans will be able to get hold of one if they so wish."

Movin' on UP

Fancy a Jawbone UP but don't want to wear it on your wrist? The UP Move may be for you. Jawbone has taken the tech from its excellent wristband and stuck it into a pebble-shaped pedometer, and it's cut the price too. The app's a little buggy and the colours may be an acquired taste, but it's clever and the battery's good for six months.


Older UK readers will recall that BT used to be in the mobile phone business: its Cellnet service used hilariously sci-fi ads about surfing the BT Cellnet to sell terrible WAP phones. That division has long since been sold off (it's O2 now) but BT's getting back into the mobile business by acquiring EE. It's all about convergence: BT already provides broadband, landline and TV services, and mobile is an obvious omission.

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