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Spotify will let its podcast hosts include full songs in their shows

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Spotify is tying podcasts and music close together. The company announced today that it’s testing a new podcast format that’ll allow podcast listeners to hear entire music tracks during a show, as opposed to a brief sample. Hosts will also be able to create shows in this format through Anchor, the Spotify-owned podcast creation app. The new format effectively makes Spotify the only podcast platform where hosts can include entire songs in their shows without having to worry about copyright.

Anchor creators in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland will have access to this interactive format, which you can imagine they might use to promote songs like a radio DJ or to offer historical context or insight more like a music podcast. Critically, though, the episodes Anchor users create will only be accessible through Spotify and not distributed elsewhere.

In fact, all shows that take advantage of this interactive format will be exclusive to Spotify because the technology relies on the company’s deals with record labels. (Musicians will be paid per song stream like they already are.) Spotify says the way these podcasts are created allows the company to treat songs and the podcast commentary as playlists almost, which gives podcasters the power to include full songs in their shows.

Still, only premium Spotify subscribers will hear full songs. Free users will only hear a 30-second preview of each track because free users aren’t able to directly play songs; they can only shuffle play.

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Along with this announcement, Spotify is launching seven new original, exclusive series that’ll take advantage of the format and make music a central focus. Listeners of these shows, and Anchor-created ones, will be able to interact with each podcast episode’s track list to save songs for later and skip around to different segments.

The broader strategy with this launch seems to be making Spotify the most appealing place for creators to launch and maintain their shows. Apple has started archiving some of New Zealand DJ Zane Lowe’s Apple Music radio shows as podcasts, but the feature is limited only to Apple hosts. Spotify is giving other creators the power to become radio DJs, which might give it a leg up on its competitors.

For example, a music show that typically can’t include full songs might be inclined to try making its show in Anchor, if only so its Spotify version includes the complete tracks. The hosts then might start promoting Spotify as a place to listen, which could drive more people to the platform and to subscribe. The company’s already tried other interactive podcast features like ads and polls that could add to its value as a streaming platform and make it a more dominant player in the space.

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Amazon’s Fire tablets are getting new smart home controls

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Amazon is adding a new menu to select Fire tablets to control Alexa-compatible smart home gadgets, the company has announced. The Device Dashboard, which is rolling out starting today, can be accessed via a new Smart Home button on the left of the navigation bar.

Although Alexa-compatible smart home devices can already be controlled with spoken commands (including via Fire tablets), Amazon says the new interface is meant for when “touch might be more convenient than voice.” It opens up some fun possibilities, like mounting a cheap Amazon Fire tablet on a wall to use as a smart home controller.

The dashboard can be accessed from the smart home button on the navigation bar.
Image: Amazon

As you can see in the image above, the shortcut to access the smart home device dashboard is accessible from the navigation bar, and Amazon says you don’t have to close your current app to access its controls.

According to ZDNet, the update is limited to a selection of Amazon’s more recent tablets: the 2018 Amazon Fire HD 8, the 2019 Amazon Fire 7, the 2019 Amazon Fire HD 10, and the 2020 Amazon Fire HD 8.

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Amazon adds device dashboard in bid to make Fire tablets a smart home control center

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It’s been a busy few weeks for the smart home race. Amazon, Google and Apple have all announced new smart speakers aimed at — among other things — cementing their respective positions at the center of users’ connected households.

Adding onto the introduction of a whole bunch of new Echo devices, Amazon is also improving what its famously inexpensive Fire Tablets can do. Today the company will be rolling out a free software update to select slates that brings a smart home device dashboard. The system essentially serves as a one-stop shop for connected devices that work with Alexa.

It’s similar to the sorts of control centers Google and Apple offer with their respective Home apps, with access to things like smart lights, plugs, cameras, thermostats, you name it. Similar functionality can also be found on the Echo Show devices. Fire tablets offer a pretty cheap way in to that functionality (so, too, might Fire TVs, going forward). And, of course, Amazon has also made efforts to improve Alexa functionality on the devices, essentially letting them double as inexpensive smart displays.

Perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle, however, is the addition of smart home hub functionality on the new Echo. The fact was a bit under reported (Amazon, after all, started adding this functionality with previous Echo Plus models), but adding zigbee functionality for the $99 device should go a ways toward lowering that barrier of entry.

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Netflix is making a live-action Assassin’s Creed series

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A live-action adaptation of Ubisoft’s long-running series Assassin’s Creed is coming to Netflix. The show will be the first of several new series, Netflix announced, as the agreement between the streaming platform and Ubisoft will “tap into the iconic video game’s trove of dynamic stories with global mass appeal for adaptations of live action, animated, and anime series.”

The live-action show is still in early stages and in need of a showrunner. It’s also unclear when it will take place or what it will be about; the franchise is known for combining historical settings with modern narratives and has tackled everything from the Crusades to Vikings.

“From its breathtaking historical worlds and massive global appeal as one of the best selling video game franchises of all time, we are committed to carefully crafting epic and thrilling entertainment based on this distinct IP and provide a deeper dive for fans and our members around the world to enjoy,” said Netflix original series vice president Peter Friedlander in a prepared statement.

Netflix has already found success in a live adaptation of another beloved game series, The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill. Following the first season, Netflix announced a six-part live-action prequel spinoff. The streaming service also revealed a live-action take on Resident Evil earlier this year.

For Ubisoft’s part, it’s not the first time the developer has brought its sci-fi world to the screen. In 2016, a film adaptation starring Michael Fassbender was released to largely negative critical response.

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