Matchstick streaming stick delays shipping to get Netflix and faster chips

Matchstick’s Kickstarter backers will have to wait a bit longer to get the Firefox OS-based streaming stick: Matchstick is delaying shipments until August, the company announced Friday.

Matchstick wants to use that time to put digital rights management (DRM) in place — a key requirement to get premium video apps like Netflix — and also update its hardware to a faster chipset. Originally, Matchstick wanted to ship first devices to backers in February.

In an update posted to Kickstarter Friday, Matchstick said it has been exploring a number of new applications for the streaming stick that would require higher local processing power. That’s why Matchstick is now planning to ship with a quad-core chipset as opposed to the dual-core Rockchip CPU that was originally announced when the company launched its Kickstarter campaign back in late September.

I had a chance to see some of those applications during a brief demo in San Francisco on Thursday: Matchstick Content Manager Dan Lee showed me the prototype of a video conferencing app that would use a phone’s camera in conjunction with the TV display as well as a second-screen app that displayed contextual information relevant to what was showing on TV on the phone.

Lee also said that a big focus for the coming months will be DRM. Matchstick has decided to use Microsoft’s Playready DRM in order to get access to Netflix and other premium content services. As a Firefox OS-based device, it has to build a lot of things from scratch to make content protection work, and Lee said that Matchstick intends to contribute code it develops to integrate DRM schemes back to the open source community.

By embracing DRM, Matchstick does follow in Mozilla’s footprints. The browser maker has only recently begun to implement DRM for its browser in order to not lose out on Netflix as the video service is switching from Flash to HTML5. However, Mozilla’s decision has also been heavily criticized by DRM foes, and some of Matchstick’s backers may feel the same about the company’s decision.

To get ready for the now-delayed launch, Matchstick is also planning to staff up and raise some funding for its U.S. operations. Currently, the company employs about a dozen engineers in Beijing and 6 employees in Santa Clara.

Check out this video I shot earlier last year, before the product as officially announced, for a first glimpse at Matchstick:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS0VUOfrycw]

This Japan-bound Firefox phone is transparently gorgeous

Most phones running Mozilla’s mobile Firefox OS to this point have been drab and cheap affairs. But take a look at the latest Firefox phone headed to Japan: Called Fx0, it’s the highest-performance Firefox phone we’ve seen so far, wrapped in an unusual and gorgeous transparent body.

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Although Mozilla and KDDI, its Japanese carrier partner, are calling the Fx0 a “high-spec” device, that’s only in comparison to other Firefox phones that cost under $50. With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, 1.5GB of RAM, and a 4.7-inch, 720 x 1280 screen packed into its translucent shell, it’ll leave Firefox phones like the Cloud FX in the dust, but won’t stand up to the best that Android or iOS offers. The Fx0 will support NFC and LTE; the first Firefox phone to do so.

The Fx0 isn’t just pretty for its own sake. Designed by Tokujin Yoshioka — who has work in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Pompidou Centre in Paris — and manufactured by LG, the transparent shell is supposed to reflect “the openness, freedom and transparency that are core to the Mozilla mission.” For most people, they will simply think this phone looks cool. After all, there aren’t a lot of transparent phones readily available.

In Japan, the Fx0 will cost 50,000 yen, or about $416 dollars when it goes on sale on January 6th. (A limited sale starts on December 25th.)

That easily makes it the most expensive Firefox phone and puts it in a price category where it will have to compete with awfully compelling Android devices which are often less expensive. But KDDI seems to be planning to give the Firefox ecosystem as much of a boost as it can, with a dedicated website meant to encourage developers. One thing that would certainly give Firefox OS a little bit of a momentum is if this translucent gem became available in the United States.

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