Tech Retrospect: Meerkat vs. Periscope, and Facebook's grand VR plans

Is Meerkat's dominance of the live-streaming mobile video market over? Also, Facebook talks more about Oculus, and its high-flying Wi-Fi drones. All that and more in your look back at the week in tech.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
4 min read


It was just a few weeks ago that Meerkat hit Apple's App Store and set the world alight with blocky, low-res live streams of mundane activities all over the world. Suddenly you didn't have to just post 15-second videos of your lunch, you could let people watch you eat it live! Meerkat made a big splash, but this week Twitter made an even bigger one with Periscope.

Periscope is Twitter's response, offering very similar functionality and certainly the same basic message: live-stream whatever's going on. That this one has Twitter's backing gives it a huge leg up over the competition, but I can't help being disappointed that neither is available on Google's Android operating system. Both are Apple iOS exclusives. While I'm well aware of the difficulties of multiplatform development, as well as the benefits afforded to those who exclusively target iOS, it still seems short-sighted.

With Periscope there are three featured streams at the top and several more from other people. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Android users are just as keen to try out this sort of thing, and the higher retention rates on that platform would help prevent them from being the next high-flying, quickly forgotten app. (Looking at you, Secret.) If you are on Android, as I am, there are a few alternatives, including Stre.am and Tarsii -- but neither has anywhere near the followers of these two new ones.

Facebook F8 talks drones, VR and more

Attendees at F8 get a taste of the virtual. James Martin/CNET

Facebook paid $2 billion for Oculus Rift almost exactly a year ago, and finally we're starting to get some idea of just what the heck the social network hopes to do with the little company that single-handedly renewed the world's interest in virtual reality. At the Facebook F8 developer conference this week, CTO Mike Schroepfer spent a lot of time making references to fiction like "The Matrix" and throwing other curveballs at the audience to make them rethink what, exactly, is reality.

However, he still didn't state just what the company hopes to do with VR tech, other than indicating it is working on standalone VR apps. He wouldn't even give us the long-awaited date for the consumer release of an Oculus headset, other than to say it will be shipping "before long." Thanks for that.

Facebook also spent plenty of time talking about its initiatives to bring Internet access to rural areas of the world, the so-called Facebook Connectivity Lab. A big part of that is a fleet of massive, solar-powered drones that would fly about in the sky and bathe the earth below with warm, comforting network signals. The drones will be tested this summer, but they make up just one facet of a plan that also includes low-orbit satellites and laser beams. It's all very noble, of course, assuming those who will be served can get to things other than Facebook.

Third-party Apple Watch apps released

The first Apple Watch apps are here. CNET

If you've updated your iPhone recently you've probably noticed the mandatory Apple Watch app that magically found its way to your screen, whether you wanted it or not. Now it's getting some friends, with the first wave of third-party Apple Watch-enabled apps hitting the App Store. Major entrants like Twitter, WeChat, The Wall Street Journal and Expedia updated this week to enable interactions with the smartwatch. Remember, Apple Watch ships on April 24, but if you want one you'd better get in on that April 10 preorder.

PS4 update brings suspend/resume, but not Spotify (yet)

The PS4 now sits at version 2.5. Sarah Tew

Sony confirmed earlier this year that it was killing its Music Unlimited service and rolling out Spotify to the PS4, Vita and elsewhere. Sadly that isn't included as part of the company's latest PS4 update, but a series of other niceties did make the grade. Most notable is the ability to suspend and resume games, much like you can on the Xbox One. This means that you'll be able to jump back in exactly where you left off -- no more worrying about how far back that last save point was. The update also makes it easier to find friends, via Facebook even, and you can now save data to an external hard drive if you so choose. The 2.5 "Yukimura" update is available now, so you can look forward to sitting through that download the next time you want to play something.

Amazon Cloud Drive drops to $60 for unlimited storage

Amazon's Cloud Drive gets even cheaper. Amazon

In November, Amazon managed something of a PR wave for its Cloud Drive file storage service by offering Prime subscribers unlimited space for all their pictures. Now, anyone can get unlimited storage for anything for just $59.99 yearly . That's unprecedented compared to the competition. Dropbox is one of the few also offering unlimited storage, but you'll pay $180 annually for the privilege. OneDrive maxes out at 1TB for $84 annually, while Google Drive has a maximum of 30TB for $300. (10TB is $100 per year.) Amazon has just vastly under-cut the competition, but it still lags far behind when it comes to the quality of the clients available for various platforms. If and when it improves its tools I'll be signing up for sure. At $60 a year, it's well worth it for an off-site backup alone.

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