YouTube appears to be readying a paid premium music service that would cost US$9.99 a month, called YouTube Music Key. Roughly a dozen purported screenshots of the service were recently published online on the blog Android Police, possibly showing how it would work. The images showed exclusive content such as remixes or cover songs, offline access to entire albums or concerts, and personalized playlists.
A YouTube spokesman declined to comment, but rumors of a paid music service from the Google-owned video site have been circulating for some time now. An earlier report in the Financial Times claimed YouTube was blocking or penalizing independent labels that were not signing up for the yet-to-launch paid service. Earlier this month, YouTube head Susan Wojcicki confirmed the company was working on some kind of subscription music service, in aRe/code interview.
So it looks likely that a premium version of YouTube just for music is on the way. The free version of YouTube works well for many right now, but a premium version might let Google monetize some new content and lead users to the company’s other digital media services.
The amount and diversity of content already available free on YouTube is massive, and the advertisements don’t interrupt the listening experience like those on Spotify or Pandora do. Plus, Google already offers Google Play All Access, a paid music service that syncs across devices and lets people listen offline, for $9.99 a month.
“Premium” might be the draw for a paid music service. The special content might include exclusive recordings of professional artists’ cover songs, or unreleased tracks similar to iTunes exclusives.
To do that, Google would probably have to strike new licensing deals with music labels. But if YouTube could convert just a tiny fraction of its billion-plus monthly users into paying customers, that might be a win for Google, argues Mark Mulligan, co-founder of the music and technology research firm Midia Consulting.
YouTube claims viewers watch more than 6 billion hours of video each month on its site — almost an hour for every person on Earth — and that 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. That catalogue is peerless, Mulligan said, but Google probably wants to do more with it in order to take on streaming services like Spotify, Rdio or Beats Music.
“YouTube has the ability to offer so much more than anyone else, with video the killer component,” he said.
Amazon.com Inc rolled out a $10 credit-card reader and mobile app for brick-and-mortar businesses on Wednesday, marking the latest step by the U.S. online retailer to expand its presence in the physical world.
The move pits Amazon against a slew of rivals, including startup Square, which popularized a payments dongle that allowed small- and mid-sized businesses like food trucks, coffee shops and personal trainers to quickly accept credit and debit cards.
The new point-of-sale system, called Amazon Local Register, would give Amazon crucial data on how U.S. consumers shop offline. More than 90 percent of U.S. retail sales still take place in physical stores, according to U.S. government data.
Amazon hopes to court small businesses in part by charging lower fees than Square and eBay Inc’s PayPal unit. Those who sign up for Amazon’s program before Oct. 31 will be charged 1.75 percent for each card swiped until January 2016.
For those who sign up after October, Amazon will take a 2.5 percent cut of each card swipe, still less than Square’s 2.75 percent flat transaction rate and PayPal’s 2.7 percent.
“Final production of the current Reader model, PRS-T3, was made at the end of May,” a spokeswoman for Sony in Tokyo wrote in an email Wednesday. “The product will continue to be available until inventory supplies last, which differs by country.”
There are no plans for a successor to the device, she added.
The PRS-T3 was launched last year in 20 countries including Japan, Canada and European states, but was not released in the U.S.
Weighing 200 grams, it has a 6-inch E-ink touchscreen display, an optional night light, Wi-Fi and a battery life of six to eight weeks.
While it’s still available on Sony’s UK site for 99 pounds (US$166), it’s out of stock at Sony’s sites for France and Canada. The PRS-T3 will continue to be sold for the time being in Japan, where Sony maintains its Reader Store.
The company said earlier this year it is closing down its e-book business in North America, Europe and Australia and that users would be transferred to Kobo, owned by Japanese online shopping giant Rakuten.
Sony helped pioneer e-readers with a product it launched in Japan 10 years ago, the Librie. Developed with Philips, it was billed as the first commercial device of its kind to use E-ink’s electronic paper display technology.
Beginning with the PRS-500 Portable Reader System in 2006, Sony marketed a series of e-readers that were well received, though some reviewscomplained about its price compared to the features of cheaper rivals.
Sony Reader shipments had exceeded 800,000 units for 2010, according to IDC. But the product was never as popular as competitors from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Kobo. By late 2012, Amazon’s Kindle reader was used by over 50 percent of e-book buyers, according to Publishers Weekly.
The market for e-readers peaked in 2011 at 26.4 million units, IDC noted last year, adding it expects only modest growth in 2014 after a period of decline. The category was expected to begin a gradual, permanent decline in 2015.
Sony also shed its Vaio PC business this year as it continues to struggle with restructuring efforts.
Amazon.com Inc will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and other items from third-party vendors using a new personalization option on its website.
Most of the more than 200 items available on the company’s new 3D printed products store, which was rolled out on Monday, can be customized using a new feature that allows users to rotate and change the item they are viewing.
Before it is printed by one of Amazon’s sellers, users can customize a product like as a bobble head figure by changing its skin and eye color, hair style and outfit, Amazon said.
“The customization is something we’re keenly interested in,” said Petra Schindler-Carter, director for Amazon marketplace sales, speaking in an interview. “We’ll always look for new applications for that.”
Amazon, which has more than 240 million users, has expanded its marketplaces division to include new areas such as fine art and wine. It is part of Amazon’s larger investment into new areas like mobile services and original content that led to its larger-than-expected second-quarter loss last week.
The new printing option taps into a broader “Maker movement” among tech entrepreneurs in northern California, and to some extent Europe, that is focused on customizing 3D objects rather than development software or mobile applications.
3D printers have gained in popularity on Amazon Supply, a wholesale site for businesses. That interest led Amazon to offer customers an 3D print option, Schindler-Carter said.
Consumer and business shoppers can pay for products directly via bitcoins or through Coinbase, a third-party payment processing company, Dell said.
Buyers can pay for products through Bitcoin wallets or by scanning a QR code with a smartphone.
The volatile Bitcoin has had its share of controversies and exchange shutdowns as the currency matures. Companies like Overstock.com, Newegg, Expedia and some Amazon storefronts accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. But major retailers like Walmart and eBay have not warmed up to the idea. The value of one bitcoin was around $630 as of Friday, according to multiple cryptocurrency website.
There are some advantages to paying via Bitcoin. The form of currency is accepted around the world, and for Dell, the payment-processing cost is less than with credit cards.
But the form of payment has its quirks.
“Due to the nature of the Bitcoin network, once you initiate a Bitcoin transaction you cannot change or cancel it,” Dell said on a terms and conditions page.
Customers could seek refunds in the case of canceled transactions or product returns.
“For a qualifying return of product paid for in Bitcoin, any refund due will be remitted to the purchaser via check in U.S. Dollars for the full amount of the purchase price paid at the time of the original transaction, less any applicable restocking fees,” Dell said.
Amazon.com Inc is asking U.S. regulators for permission to test its delivery drones near Seattle, as part of a rapid expansion of a program that has sparked widespread debate over the safety and privacy implications of drone technology.
Chief Executive Jeff Bezos wants to use drones – small unmanned aircraft – to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less as part of the program dubbed “Prime Air.” The company is developing drones that can fly at speeds of 50 miles per hour.
Now Amazon is seeking permission to test drones in outdoor areas near Seattle, where one of its research and development labs is working on the technology, according to a letter posted on the Federal Aviation Administration’s website.
Currently Amazon can test drones indoors and in other countries. But it cannot conduct R&D flight tests in open outdoor space in the state of Washington, where Amazon has its headquarters.
“Of course, Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States,” the company said in the letter, dated July 9 and signed by Paul Misener, head of global public policy for Amazon.
In 2012, Congress required the FAA to establish a road map for the broader use of drones. The FAA has allowed limited use of drones in the U.S. for surveillance, law enforcement, atmospheric research and other applications.
Last year, the U.S. government created six sites for companies, universities and others to test drones for broader commercial use in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia.
But the area near Seattle, where Amazon wants to conduct its tests, is not among those sites. Amazon plans to use one or more of the six FAA sites, but said in the letter that it would be “impractical” to limit its testing to those areas.
CEO Bezos, who founded Amazon 20 years ago, disclosed the “Prime Air” drone program on the CBS television program “60 Minutes” late last year. His plan was derided by some as a mere publicity stunt, while others raised privacy concerns and said the technology needed more refinement.
Despite the controversy, Amazon has rapidly grown the drones team in the last five months. It has hired roboticists, aeronautical engineers and a former NASA astronaut, and recently advertised for a full-time communications manager for the program.
“Our goal is to provide even greater protection for data across all the great Microsoft services you use and depend on every day. This effort also helps us reinforce that governments use appropriate legal processes, not technical brute force, if they want access to that data,” Matt Thomlinson, vice president, Trustworthy Computing Security, at Microsoft wrote in a blog post.
The move follows similar ones from other cloud computing providers. For example, Google announced end-to-end encryption for Gmail in April, including protection for email messages while they travel among Google data centers. It recently announced similar encryption for its Google Drive cloud storage service.
It’s not clear from Microsoft’s announcement whether the encryption protection it announced covers Outlook.com messages and OneDrive files as they travel within Microsoft data centers. It’s also not clear what, if any, encryption OneDrive and Outlook.com have had until now. Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cloud computing providers like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and many others have been rattled by disclosures from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden regarding government snooping into online communications, due to the effect on their consumer and business customers.
As a result, these companies have been busy boosting encryption on their systems, while also lobbying the U.S. government to stop the stealthy and widespread monitoring of Internet services.
IBM announced the general release for its cloud development platform as a service (PaaS) offering Bluemix.
The Cloud Foundry suite, which has been in open beta since February, now boasts more than 50 services and has been adopted at a rate which, the company claims, makes it one of “the largest Cloud Foundry deployments in the world”.
IBM launched Bluemix as part of a $1bn investment in cloud computing, and it’s a framework that allows users to create cloud based applications, slotting in open source services from the IBM Cloud Marketplace.
New services added to the list include Gameification, to add incentives to apps, MQ Light, a messaging service, Redis Cloud, allowing Redis users to run datasets easily and Sonian Email Archive which allows mining of big data from emails and their attachments.
“Organizations are rapidly moving new, innovative apps to Cloud Foundry’s scalable, user-friendly model,” said James Watters, vice president of Cloud Foundry Product and Ecosystem at Pivotal.
“IBM Bluemix furthers the Cloud Foundry vision for rapid app development, as well as the ability for developers to work easily between platforms and tools from multiple providers.”
The investment in Bluemix stretches far beyond the technology infrastructure with over 80,000 consultants trained to advise developers on how to use it, and the first of a series of so-called Bluemix Garages opening in San Francisco as a place where developers from different companies can get advice both from IBM itself and through cross-pollenation of ideas from other companies.
The news coincides with the announcement of a new IBM data centre in London.
The expansion of the free tier, and other changes to OneDrive, will go into effect in July.
Microsoft’s moves come as all the major players are scrambling to offer customers more for less. Earlier this month, Apple said it would cut prices by up to 70% for paid iCloud plans. And last week Amazon said that users of its Fire phone would have an unlimited amount of storage for photos taken with the device’s camera.
Along with the doubling of the free allotment, Microsoft also said that it would hand subscribers of Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal — the two consumer-grade rent-not-own plans — 1TB (terabyte) per user, up from a comparatively paltry amount of just 27GB. Students who have subscribed to Office 365 University, an $80 four-year program, also will receive 1TB free of charge.
The bump to 1TB per user on the consumer side matched the move Microsoft made in April on Office 365 commercial accounts.
Microsoft will also slash prices for additional storage for those consumers and students who need more than the standard 15GB or 1TB. An extra 100GB will cost $1.99 per month — or $23.88 per year — 52% less than the current $50 annually; the price of 200GB will also drop by 52%, from $100 per year to $3.99 per month ($47.88).
The cuts appear deeper when compared to the monthly payment plan Microsoft offers as an option: Then, the new prices will be 65% to 73% less than the current ones.
On a per-megabyte-per-year basis, the new OneDrive paid-plan prices of about 24 cents will be competitive with Google Drive’s 100GB bump-up (also 24 cents) and Apple’s 200GB offer (24 cents), but will remain twice that of Google’s 1TB deal (12 cents).
Apple has said it will offer a 1TB iCloud plan, but has not revealed what it will charge for that amount.
German monthly Magazine Manager cited people familiar with the matter as saying the talks were far advanced but no deal had been clinched and that Netflix was also in touch with other German telecoms groups.
Netflix in May unveiled plans to launch in both Germany and France this year, in the biggest test so far of its global expansion strategy.
Manager Magazine said Deutsche Telekom was open to accommodate Netflix’s expansion even though the service would compete with the German company’s own web-based TV offering called “Entertain”.
Deutsche Telekom declined to comment.
Netflix, whose internet-based delivery of movies and TV series such as “House of Cards” has disrupted pay-TV markets in the United States and elsewhere, wants to grow its international business to reach new customers and increase its buying clout with content providers.
It is already in more than 40 countries, mostly in Latin America, and has entered Britain, Ireland, the Nordics and the Netherlands in the past two years.
In Germany, it would compete with Amazon’s Prime Instant Video, ProSiebenSat.1′s Maxdome, Sky Deutschland’s Snap and Vivendi’s Watchever.
Germany has the highest number of broadband households in Europe, with 29.1 million in 2013, according to estimates from SNL Kagan.
BlackBerry Ltd has agreed to a licensing deal with Amazon.com Inc that will let the Canadian smartphone maker offer some 240,000 Android applications from Amazon’s app store on its lineup of BlackBerry 10 devices this fall.
The move allows the Waterloo, Ontario-based company to add a vast array of consumer-focused apps to its devices, while at the same time directing its own efforts toward developing enterprise and productivity applications.
Customers who own smartphones powered by its BlackBerry 10 operating system will now be able to access popular Android apps such as Groupon, Netflix, Pinterest, Minecraft and Candy Crush Saga on their BlackBerry devices this fall. Google Inc makes Android, the mobile operating system used in more than a billion phones and tablets.
The apps will become available after the Canadian smartphone maker rolls out the upgraded BlackBerry 10.3 operating system, the company said.
The move is the latest by the smartphone pioneer to streamline its focus as it attempts to reinvent itself under new Chief Executive Officer John Chen as BlackBerry phones have lost ground to Apple Inc’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Galaxy devices.
Analysts saw the move as a step in the right direction, but are not sure whether it will help turn the tide for BlackBerry.
“While this will widen the BB10 app ecosystem, the consumer
smartphone environment still remains challenging,” Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um said in a note to clients.
Um views the announcement as a positive for BlackBerry, but said “whether it stems consumer churn remains to be seen.”
Chen wants to remain a competitor in the smartphone segment, but is focused on making BlackBerry a dominant force in machine-to-machine communications. The company’s QNX software already is a mainstay in the automotive industry, powering electronic and other systems in a wide range of cars.
BlackBerry already works with hundreds of large enterprise clients, including corporations and government agencies, to manage and secure mobile devices on their internal networks.
Chen intends to build on those ties and BlackBerry’s security credentials to let these enterprise clients build and customize in-house corporate and productivity applications for their employees.
When the Mayday button was announced with the Fire HDX eight months ago, Amazon said its response time goal was 15 seconds or less.
Amazon Customer Service Director Scott Brown said in a statement that the Mayday concept is working well and has helped revolutionize tech support.
About 75% of customer contacts regarding the Fire HDX come via the Mayday button to get a tech response. A tech then appears in a live video stream on a portion of the display (although the tech cannot see the customer). The tech can then make notations on a user’s display or help a user navigate through a process.
Amazon touted the lighter side of instant tech support using Mayday in a statement. Customers have asked tech advisors to draw on their screens, including everything from happy faces to rainbows, unicorns, fire-breathing dragons and aliens. One customer asked a tech adviser to sing happy birthday to someone receiving the Fire HDX as a gift as the person was receiving it.
Some tech advisors have even received date requests and marriage proposals, Amazon said.
There’s also a more serious side to the concept, analysts said: The Mayday button’s popularity should be a wake-up call to product manufacturers, many of whom suffer low customer-service ratings and should consider more personal contact with users.
“Companies could learn a lot from the way Amazon does customer service,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. “The focus Amazon has on customers, and has had for years, is often what makes users so sticky to them. It’s true of their general Amazon Web site, too. Consumers love good customer service.”
Gold said that what Amazon’s done with Mayday is not completely new, as enterprises have provided remote screen control, without video streaming, to IT help desk personnel serve users for years. “Remote control is not as slick as the Mayday button, and Amazon has made it work fast and easy,” he said.
Amazon.com Inc rolled out a streaming music service on Thursday that comes free with its $99-a-year Prime membership program, but offers a smaller selection of recent hits than rivals Spotify and Apple Inc’s Beats Music.
The new feature, named “Prime Music,” allows subscribers of the $99-a-year program to stream or download more than a million songs without added fees or interruptions from advertisements.
This is one of many steps Amazon has taken in recent months to broaden the appeal of Prime, which includes perks such as free two-day shipping, after increasing its price to $99 from $79.
But the selection on Amazon’s streaming service is less robust than Spotify and Beats, which both offer more than 20 million songs. Amazon will also have fewer new songs and will not include songs from Universal Music Group Inc’s catalog, which includes work from artists Kanye West and Lady Gaga.
Amazon’s head of digital music, Steve Boom, acknowledged those shortcomings, but added that because the service is free with Prime, it offers more bang per buck than standalone streaming services that can cost $10 a month.
“If there are a few tracks you want to buy, the cost of doing that in our store will be dramatically less than paying $120 a year for, frankly, a lot of music people don’t listen to,” Boom said in an interview.
Amazon’s own data shows that a “substantial” portion of the 25 million to 30 million songs sold on its website are never purchased, he said. He declined to elaborate.
Universal, the world’s largest record company, and Amazon are still in negotiations about the service, he said, declining to elaborate on the negotiations or its sticking points.
Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and other smaller labels have signed on to the Amazon service. In some of its deals with labels, Amazon will have to wait up to six months after songs are released to add them to its service. In other cases, Amazon will be able to add new songs immediately.
The new service is a reflection of Amazon’s aggressive push into new areas such as digital content and hardware. Next week, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is expected to unveil Amazon’s first smartphone during an event in Seattle.
HP has extended its reach in software defined networking (SDN) with an application that lets firms quickly create secure clouds with more flexible data centre networks.
Unveiled at HP Discover in Las Vegas, the Virtual Cloud Networking SDN Application is a network virtualisation offering based on open-source standards, according to HP. It broadens HP’s support for the Openstack environment, integrating with the Neutron plugin on HP’s Helion cloud platform, and works with HP’s Virtual Application Networks SDN controller.
HP also launched two Flexfabric data centre 7900 switches, which the firm said offers power savings and lower total cost of ownership for cloud and SDN infrastructures.
Antonio Neri, SVP and GM of HP’s Servers and Networking Business, said that legacy networks are holding back the full potential of cloud in the data centre. “It’s very complex to manage networks. Networks of today are not agile for the cloud speeds required for the business of tomorrow,” he said.
“There’s too much manual intervention in managing these networks.”
Key to resolving all this is SDN, according to Neri, without which there can be no cloud computing.
Neri said that the new SDN infrastructure HP has announced lowers cost by 35 percent, and along with Helion, HP’s Openstack-based cloud system, supports data centres that can scale up for the cloud with no lock-in or incremental hardware required. He added that firms can also save 50 percent on space requirements and 20 percent power in the datacentre with the Flexfabric 7900, of which 50 switches have already shipped.
Clive Freeman, UK chief technologist for HP’s Enterprise Group, told The INQUIRER that the 7900 offers the required reduction in complexity for getting the most out of the cloud.
“Critically it enables people to start scaling up their SDN environment in the data centre,” he said.
“I’ve seen some customers in the financial services space, they have 10,000-plus nodes in their data centres, and they need to rewire those things very dynamically several times a day. Doing that in a traditional networking environment is very difficult, but doing it in a software environment allows them this flexibility.”
Jason Cohen, global chief information officer at DAS Group, a marketing services company, said that the need for this flexibility, and tools like HP’s networking range, is due to the shift from offline to digital services.
“When I talk to my daughter about today’s technology, we talk about house phones versus cell phones – I’m not even sure she knows our home phone number – we talk about TV shows versus technology like Netflix. Everything I’ve just described using those examples, demonstrates our industry,” Cohen, pictured above left, explained.
“We’ve rapidly moved from an analogue world to a digital world, it is no longer a blur, everything is digital. Digital means that we need to, in real time, support our clients’ needs with technology.”
Cohen explained that with 100 different groups and 400 offices comprising the DAS Group, centralisation is key to supporting its clients and as such the firm has recently consolidated around 100 different entities into 3 data centres.
Cohen said there have been two key benefits from deploying the HP networking tools: security and time to market.
“Security – who in this industry doesn’t hear about security every single day,” he pointed out. “These technology tools have allowed us to provide our agencies and clients the best opportunity for secure data. Big data, we all talk about big data, but security goes hand in hand.”
DAS Group has also been able to deliver services quicker to clients using the HP networking tools, according to Cohen.
“One of our divisions does field marketing. We could have a company say, ‘Hey you know what, we’ve changed our mind, we want to throw in a couple of service desks for the World Cup, can you make it happen?’ If the client says we’ve got a change in strategy we have to change with them,” he explained.
“What used to take weeks or months, now takes days. Our standards and our tools have given us the opportunity to service them quicker.”
The HP Virtual Cloud Networking SDN Application will be available in August, while the 7900 switch is available now, priced from $55,500.
Worldwide server shipments were 2.3 million units during the first quarter, growing by just 1.4 percent compared to the same quarter last year, according to Gartner.
Growth was driven by Chinese server vendors Huawei and Inspur Electronics, which were ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, behind the declining Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM.
Huawei has been in the top five for server shipments for more than a year, but Inspur Electronics is a new entrant. Inspur builds blade servers, rack servers and supercomputers, and is best known for being involved in the construction of China’s Tianhe-2, which is currently the world’s fastest supercomputer, according to Top500.org.
Chinese servers partly benefitted from the 18 percent shipment growth in the Asia-Pacific region, while shipments in other regions declined, Gartner said in a statement.
Server buying trends have changed in recent years. Companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon, which buy servers by the thousands, are bypassing established server makers and purchasing hardware directly from manufacturers like Quanta and Inventec. That trend in part led to the establishment of the Open Compute Project, a Facebook-led organization that provides server reference designs so companies can design data-center hardware in-house.
Similarly, Chinese cloud providers are building mega data centers and buying servers from local vendors instead of going to the big name brands, said Patrick Moorhead, analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy.
The trend of buying locally is partly due to the security tension between the U.S. and China, but servers from Chinese companies are also cheaper, Moorhead said.
The enterprise infrastructure is also being built out in China, resulting in a big demand for servers. There is also a growing demand for servers from little-known vendors based in Asia — also known as “white box” vendors — in other regions, Moorhead said.