Tech Industry

Tech Retrospect: YouTube chimes in with Music Key, BlackBerry gets down to business

Google takes YouTube into the premium realm, and BlackBerry strikes up some partnerships. Plus, the first Lumia to lose the Nokia branding. All that and more in this look back at the week in tech.

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Are you ready to start paying a premium for YouTube?

Don't freak out. It'll be an optional thing when Google launches YouTube Music Key next week, and, as you can tell by the name, it's a very tunes-focused affair. For $10 a month, subscribers will get unlimited streaming of music, made easier than it is now thanks to app enhancements that'll enable users to browse an artist's catalog.

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YouTube is already the Internet's biggest video site by audience and the dominant, legal source of music online. Google

Subscribers will be able to stream music even when YouTube is running in the background, which explains why Google hasn't added this feature before now, and for the first time you'll be able to download music for listening offline.

Leading up to this announcement, there was speculation that Google might enable other premium YouTube features along with this service, like freedom from pre-roll ads or the ability to take videos offline. Sadly, as of now, it's all about the music -- though Music Key subscribers will get access to Google's other premium music service, Play Music.

YouTube Music Key launches next week in an invite-only beta. Those who survive the beta will be able to subscribe for just $8 a month, a $2 savings over the normal price. Can Google find success in the crowded and competitive world of music streaming? We'll wait and see what Taylor Swift has to say about it.

BlackBerry makes some noise -- and deals

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BlackBerry CEO John Chen Nate Ralph/CNET

The consumer business at BlackBerry is still limping along, with the square-screened Passporthaving a reasonably warm reception despite its unusual dimensions, but the real future of the company looks to be more on the enterprise side of things. This week, CEO John Chen laid out a series of partnerships and new services to help add some much-needed revenue to the equation.

Among the biggest is a deal with Samsung that will see the company's BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) support Knox. Knox is Samsung's own layer of security intended to make it easier for corporate administrators to add trusted services to individual smartphones. BlackBerry integrating this makes its own BES12 offerings more compelling, but it also has plenty of other new tricks rolled in, including improved VPN (virtual private network) authentication and a new service called WorkLife, which effectively creates a virtual corporate phone within a personal phone.

Finally, there's BBM Meetings, an extension to the company's iconic instant-messaging service intended to tackle the frustrations of corporate conference calls. For $12.50 per month (about £7.96, or AU$14.35), I'd simply expect them to go away.

Nexus 6 Impresses, for a cost

Now Playing: Watch this: Google's supersized Nexus 6 takes a bite out of Lollipop
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Lovers of big phones, you are awash in options right now. It's a lovely moment full of excellent selections, including the iPhone 6 Plus, the Galaxy Note 4 and, now, the Nexus 6. Yes, finally, Google has applied its pure Android experience to the world of the phablet, and it has done so in fine form. Though it is bulky, and the battery life isn't the best, the latest Nexus has great performance and, best of all, it comes with Lollipop, the sweetest Android yet. Our full review breaks it down. You'll want to check it out, but be warned: it won't come cheap. A starting price of $650 makes this among the most expensive smartphones on the market.

Sony's PlayStation Vue takes on big cable

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Sony's PlayStation Vue service Sony

Cut the cable but miss having some channels to surf through? Sony will soon launch a service intended to fill that gap. Called PlayStation Vue, it'll be a streaming offering of 75 channels, a mix of major networks (including Fox and CBS, which shares the same parent as CNET) and cable mainstays (HGTV, Food Network, Comedy Central). The service will first be available for PS3 and PS4 owners, though an iPad version is said to be in the works, and presumably other mobile devices will follow -- hopefully even the company's own phones. Vue is slated to launch early next year, starting in New York City. Sony chose not to answer the most important question: how much will the thing cost? Without that info it's hard to get too excited. But, if affordable, this could be a very compelling cable alternative.

The latest Lumia is no Nokia, but it is cheap

Now Playing: Watch this: Microsoft's Lumia 535 is colourful and cheap
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It was seemingly inevitable, but Microsoft has chosen to drop the Nokia brand from its latest phone, the Lumia 535 . It's a bargain 5-inch device, powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 running Windows Phone 8.1. How much? Just €110 internationally, or about $135, £85 or AU$155. Sadly, there are no plans to bring it to the US, but it'll be available throughout much of Asia before the end of the year and the UK early next.

DJI Inspire 1 4K drone tops my holiday list

Now Playing: Watch this: DJI Inspire 1
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As ever, your readership is all the gift I need, but if you really want to put a smile on my face this holiday season, consider the $2,900 DJI Inspire 1 drone. (That's £2,380 for those of you in the UK, AU$4,130 if you're Down Under.) The company's newest drone is made of carbon fiber, has better autonomous functionality to help it stay stable and land safely, and captures 4K video at 30fps. I can't imagine a better tool for capturing those reindeer footprints on the roof.