Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called on the agency to “seize this opportunity” and act on a year-old proposal to make an additional 195MHz of spectrum in the 5GHz band available for Wi-Fi. The FCC now allows wireless devices to operate in 555 megahertz of spectrum in the 5GHz band, but the agency has set limits on how some of that spectrum can be used.
With some analysts estimating that 50 percent to 70 percent of mobile phone traffic is now offloaded onto Wi-Fi networks, the longtime Wi-Fi band at 2.4GHz is “getting mighty crowded,” Rosenworcel said during a speech before WifiForward, a new group set up to push for more unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum. Members of the group include Google, Microsoft, Best Buy and Comcast.
“Let’s start by leaving behind the tired notion that we face a choice between licensed and unlicensed airwaves, because good spectrum policy requires both,” she said. “Moreover, I think this kind of division is a simplistic relic from the past. ”
Some mobile carriers and congressional Republicans have questioned whether the FCC should carve out unlicensed spectrum in lower bands coveted by the carriers, but carriers don’t see a licensed use for the 5GHz band. Satellite firm Globalstar uses part of the 5GHz band, however, and has raised interference concerns about new Wi-Fi services there.
Cisco Systems predicts that by 2017, a majority of the Internet’s traffic will be carried on Wi-Fi. About 90 percent of the tablets now sold in the U.S. have Wi-Fi-only connections, added Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information. Counting several factors, including the cost for mobile infrastructure that would be needed without Wi-Fi, the annual value of Wi-Fi to the U.S. economy is about US$220 billion, Katz said at the WifiForward event.
In addition, part of the 5GHz band is targeted for use by smart automobile technologies, and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America and other auto groups have also backed opening that part of the band to Wi-Fi. The FCC may act on part of the 5GHz band as soon as its March 31 meeting.
Parts of the 5GHz band present a “terrific near-term opportunity” to add Wi-Fi spectrum, Rosenworcel said. “We should move beyond old dichotomies that pit licensed versus unlicensed spectrum,” she said. “Because across the board we need to choose efficiency over inefficiency and speed over congestion. Because we can take steps that inspire innovation and meet the growing demand for wireless services — or we will fall behind.”
Rosenworcel also called on the FCC to consider opening up parts of lower bands to unlicensed Wi-Fi, including parts of the 600MHz band now controlled by U.S. television stations. That spectrum, eyed by carriers as some of the best available for mobile broadband service, is scheduled to be auctioned by the FCC in mid-2015.
The radio service, announced last Friday, is available for free, with no ads, and users don’t need a log in to use the service, said Daren Tsui, vice president of music at Samsung Media Solutions.
The Milk application is available through the Google Play store, and will initially work with Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones and tablets. The company is, however, thinking about expanding its use to competing mobile devices, Tsui said.
The service will initially be available in the U.S., and will be expanded worldwide at a later date. It has 200 radio stations and 13 million songs, and in addition to functioning as a jukebox, allows users to create customized stations based on artist or genres.
Milk is targeted at competing music service like Apple’s iTunes Radio service, which is available for free with ads and ad-free for $24.99 via the iTunes Match service. Samsung is not yet providing an option to buy music, but Tsui said that idea is being researched. Meanwhile, the service could be one way to sell more tablets and smartphones. The app works with the AllShare feature, which allows streaming of music to TV sets and other Samsung devices.
Samsung worked with popular radio service Slacker — which is ad-based and has a database of 10 million songs — to develop the service. Samsung will also compete with other ad-supported free music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify.
Milk covers a range of genres and songs, and has an interface designed to make it easy to find songs, Tsui said.
The Milk interface is centered around a dial — which looks much like the software version of dials found on Apple’s iPod Classic and Shuffle — which can be customized to include favorite genres. The dial can’t fit all 17 genres provided in the app, so users can select up to nine genres to fit on the wheel. The dial can be turned around to switch on a music stream from a specific genre such as dance, electronica or indie.
Users can also customize radio stations by searching for songs or artists. Samsung has music licensing deals directly with labels, Tsui said.
The U.S. company’s CarPlay makes its debut in Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles at the show, demonstrating the software system that allows drivers to control their iPhones via touch and voice, Apple revealed on Monday.
Carmakers have already enabled some access to smartphones via Bluetooth technology, but Apple’s latest offering aims to integrate iPhone functionality more seamlessly with dashboard-mounted display and speaker systems.
CarPlay enables drivers to access to contacts stored on the iPhone, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands from the steering wheel.
Drivers can also use maps, listen to music and access messages “with just a word or a touch”, Apple said. Drivers will also be able to read messages and dictate responses via Apple’s voice-activated Siri software.
Apple said that CarPlay will also be available in cars from manufacturers including BMW,Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp.
The company is investing in original content to attract customers to its $79-a-year Amazon Prime service, which competes for online viewers with services such as Netflix and Hulu.com. Prime also includes free two-day shipping for Amazon products.
The new pilots include three comedies and two dramas for adults, plus five children’s shows. Amazon will make a decision on how many to put into development after customers have their say by leaving online comments and ratings.
Malcolm McDowell stars in the comedy “Mozart in the Jungle,” a story about “sex, drugs — and classical music,” an Amazon statement said.
A science-fiction show, “The After,” was written and directed by “The X-Files” creator Chris Carter.
Amazon chose the pilots after looking at the genres that are popular with its customers, said Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios.
“Customers have responded really well in the past to sci-fi,” Price said in an interview. “We start with some areas that customers are responding to and try to develop shows that fit in there.”
Other pilots include “Transparent,” a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family that stars Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light, and “Bosch,” based on best-selling novels about a Los Angeles homicide detective.
The new pilots are available for a month in the United States on Amazon.com and through the Amazon Instant Video app, and in Britain through Amazon’s Lovefilm streaming service.
Last year, Amazon released two comedy series, “Alpha House,” starring John Goodman as a senator, and “Betas,” about a tech start-up, after considering customer input on 14 pilots.
Three children’s series also were selected during that process, which brought in thousands of customer reviews within a few days, Price said.
The website is reacting to pressures from rights holders. It is very unpopular among media firms and in the UK, at least, most ISPs are blocking access to it and some other websites like it.
The Pirate Bay has made a number of changes already, most recently having to do with its domain name and address, and it has also been working behind the scenes on a system that makes the website and its Bittorrent links available to users.
“The goal is to create a browser-like client to circumvent censorship, including domain blocking, domain confiscation, IP-blocking. This will be accomplished by sharing all of a site’s indexed data as P2P downloadable packages, that are then browsed/rendered locally,” said a Pirate Bay insider to the Torrentfreak website.
“It’s basically a browser-like app that uses webkit to render pages, Bittorrent to download the content while storing everything locally.”
The Pirate Bay already has its own web browser and that has acquired some 2.5 million users. Released on the 10-year anniversary of the filesharing website, it promised a TOR-based browser bundle. Again, as now, that was pitched as a solution for security and content aware web users.
“Piratebrowser is a bundle package of the TOR client (Vidalia), Firefox Portable browser (with foxyproxy addon) and some custom configs that allows you to circumvent censorship that certain countries such as Iran, North Korea, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Italy and Ireland impose onto their citizens,” it explained.
“While it uses TOR network, which is designed for anonymous surfing, this browser is intended just to circumvent censorship – to remove limits on accessing websites your government doesn’t want you to know about.”
Google Inc has removed an experimental privacy feature from its Android mobile software that had given users the ability to block apps from collecting personal information such as address book data and a user’s location.
The change means that owners of smartphones using Android 4.4.2, the latest version of the world’s most popular operating system for mobile devices released last week, must provide access to their personal data in order to use certain apps.
A company spokesman said the feature had been included by accident in Android 4.3, the version released last summer.
“We are suspicious of this explanation, and do not think that it in any way justifies removing the feature rather than improving it,” said Peter Eckersley, technology projects director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The digital rights website first publicized the change in a blog post on Friday.
Android users who wish to retain the privacy controls by not upgrading to Android 4.4.2 could be vulnerable to security risks, Eckersley said. “For the time being, users will need to chose between either privacy or security on the Android devices, but not both.”
Many third-party apps for Android devices, such as music-identifying service Shazam and popular smartphone flashlight apps, require access to personal information that does not always have an obvious connection to the app’s functionality, such as phone call information and location data.
The privacy feature allowed users to pick and choose which personal data a third-party app can collect, Eckersley said. Users had to install a special Apps Ops Launcher software, which was created by another company, in order to access the hidden privacy controls.
Android software was loaded on 81 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide in the third quarter, according to industry research firm IDC. Apple Inc’s iOS, the software used on the iPhone, had 12.9 percent market share.
Privacy has become an increasingly important issue as smartphones, which are loaded with consumers’ personal information, become the primary computing device for many consumers. In November Google agreed to pay a $17 million fine to settle allegations that it secretly tracked Web users by placing special digital files on the Web browsers of their smartphones.
Spotify offers free music on desktop computers with advertising but customers previously had to pay for on-demand connection on their mobile devices.
Its new service will allow listeners to choose the tracks they want to hear for free – with commercial interruptions – in the hope that people will upgrade to subscriptions.
“The more music you play, the more likely you will pay,” said Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek during a press conference at Spotify’s offices in New York.
Spotify has about 24 million active users around the world of which 6 million pay to listen to music without advertising.
Ek also announced Spotify launched in 20 new markets for a total of 55 markets worldwide.
As smartphones and tablets mushroom they have become choice devices to listen to music, even in the home, Ek said.
“It’s the one thing on my mind more than a year that had been bugging me,” Ek said about the proliferation of mobile devices and making Spotify available on them for free.
Streaming music has soared in popularity but competition is fierce with U.S. rival Pandora,Apple Inc’s iTunes Radio, Sirius XM, Rdio and a handful of smaller players all battling it out for listeners.
Revenues from mobile advertising at Pandora, which dominates the U.S. music streaming space and has over 70 million active listeners in three markets, have been rising as more people tune in on their smartphones.
Ek said that Spotify plans to air an ad every three or four songs, similar to the frequency of advertising spots on Spotify’s free desktop service.
Still, while consumers flock to streaming music services it has been difficult to turn a profit because of the cost to license music. Spotify strikes royalty deals with record labels and pays back about 70 percent of its revenue – already totaling $1 billion – to rights holders.
It’s a point that Spotify brings up often that usually coincides with the announcement of an artist or band that has chosen Spotify as a partner.
This year, that group is Led Zeppelin, whose entire catalog is now available to stream and on-demand exclusively on Spotify.
Last December Spotify announced that Metallica signed with the service – a notable addition since that group was once one of the leading crusaders more than a decade ago against the digital music sharing service Napster.
Previously, SugarSync offered users 5GB of free capacity. Users can still try the SugarSync service with a 90-day 5GB trial or a 30-day trial with higher capacities of 60GB or more.
SugarSync said the new policy will allow the company to further focus on “updates and improvements that better meet the evolving needs of its consumer and business subscribers.”
“There are many companies in this space that are giving away free storage However, most of these companies will not be viable. We are already in a solid financial position and this shift will further strengthen our business,” said SugarSync CEO Mike Grossman.
The change will let SugarSync better serve its “loyal” existing customers through new service enhancements.
SugarSync plans to release redesigned apps and additional features in the coming year.
The company will make existing and new 4K products the focus of its presentation at the event as it gears up for a major push of the technology in 2014, Phil Molyneux, president of Sony Electronics, told reporters in a recent briefing in San Francisco.
“We’re the only company in the world that allows you to shoot 4K content, edit it on our computers, play it back on our 4K TVs via HDMI,” he said. “We’ve built that eco-system out together with Vegas Pro so that people can come to Sony and have that unique experience.”
Sony is the only consumer electronics company to touch so many areas of the broadcast, movie and TV content chain. Through Sony Pictures it makes movies, its television arm produces several popular TV shows, it produces video hardware from professional through consumer for capturing content, and sells the televisions used to watch it.
But that doesn’t necessarily make Sony into a winner when it comes to 4K. In the portable audio market, it managed to cede the lead to Apple’s iPod despite having led the market for years with the Walkman, beaten Apple to market with a digital music player and had the backing of Sony Music.
Sony has spent the last few years trying to learn from those mistakes and says it’s in a much stronger position now.
What’s clear with 4K is that consumer demand is increasing, said Molyneux.
“When you see HD and you compare it with 4K, it’s a remarkable difference,” he said. “So you have to see it to really engage and believe it. If you look at the forecasted adoption rate of 4K over the last year, every three months the take-up rate on these reports have gone up and up and up.”
He attributed the rising consumer demand to falling prices of 4K televisions.
Spotify has had its knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for an email that contained an uncensored “f” word.
The promotional email had the subject line, “Have you heard this song by Lily Allen? Give it a try. F-ck You”.
Contextually, the phrase refers to the song “Fuck You” on Lily Allen’s album “It’s Not Me, It’s You”, and the suggestion was genuine, generated automatically based on the listener’s previous selections.
Unfortunately, this particular Spotify customer chose to take it the wrong way and made a complaint to the ASA, which announced it would uphold the complaint on Wednesday.
Defending against the claim, Spotify said it “believed there was a clear difference between deliberate language use such as that and the context in which it was used in the ad” and that “…around 36 million recommendations were sent to users by e-mail every month and therefore over the years a significant proportion of its users would have had the same song recommended to them”.
However, the ASA had not received any other complaints, Spotify said. Upholding the complaint, the ASA ruled that it “considered the use of ‘Fuck’ was likely to cause serious offence to some recipients of such e-mails and therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code”.
Although no action is taken in isolated instances like this, the ASA chose to uphold the complaint “to ensure [Spotify's] future advertising contained nothing that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence”.
But what songs had this customer been listening to that would trigger this recommendation? Perhaps he or she is a fan of Cee Lo Green or the Dead Kennedys?
Spotify has responded to criticism of the royalty amounts it pays to music artists.
Music industry figures including Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke have long called for fellow artists to boycott the Swedish music streaming service, which Yorke described as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”.
In launching the new Spotify For Artists website, Spotify has been proud to boast that it has paid out more than $1bn, over half of which it has paid in the past year. However, digging deeper the truth emerges that this equates to between $0.006 and $0.008 per play.
That’s fine if you’re Lady Gaga or Beyonce, but for musicians at the grassroots level this represents a massive hole in their finances. Or to put it in perspective, it would require a five piece band to be played 5,477 times just to be able to buy themselves a round of drinks. For a new, untested and undiscovered artist, that simply isn’t enough to get by.
A play on Great Britain’s BBC alternative radio station 6 Music nets an artist approximately five cents. Not a king’s ransom, but a huge amount compared to Spotify’s rates. In contrast, Bandcamp, the service designed to allow artists to self release their music, lets artists set their own prices for music, or even leaves it up to consumers to pay what they believe the work is worth.
This is the way that the internet is supposed to empower artists. The internet has made it possible for anyone to be a star, or at least make a living from their music, if they are good enough.
But accepting the payment of these tiny amounts of money is actually far worse for the industry than so-called ‘piracy’, because copyright infringement will always be considered wrong, while streaming for fractions of pennies normalises the practice of underpaying for creative talent and creates the kinds of gatekeepers that have made the giant music industry companies such a cartel. A cartel that is starting to implode.
Apple confirmed the acquisition but would not say why it purchased the company, which specializes in analyzing Twitter data and providing insights into current sentiment on a variety of topics.
The Wall Street Journal, which reported the news earlier, cited people familiar with the deal as saying Apple forked over more than $200 million.
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said.
Topsy did not respond to requests for comment.
The iPad and iPhone maker often does what it calls “bolt-on” acquisitions, small deals to acquire technology that then gets integrated into existing or future products.
Apple’s main effort in social media has revolved around Ping, a music-centered social sharing network that was at one point integrated into its iTunes app. The service, which lets users post music tracks they liked to a newsfeed, didn’t catch on and was shut down.
But the California gadget maker has been increasingly making it easier for people to share photos, videos and news through its devices and directly to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
It also operates iTunes Radio, an online streaming music service that competes with Pandora and could benefit from Topsy’s data on consumer sentiment.
Dubbed the “Google Winter Wonderlabs,” the showrooms are designed to be interactive spaces where potential customers can get their hands on Google products ranging from the Nexus 7 to the latest Chromebooks and Chromecast video streaming devices.
Google noted on the Winter Wonderlabs website that customers can place their orders right from the showroom.
The company also invites shoppers to take a break from holiday buying madness and hang out in their new showrooms to listen to music, watch videos, play games, and, of course, buy Google products.
For anyone who ever wanted to be inside a snow globe, they’re in luck.
Each one of the Winter Wonderlab showrooms will be outfitted with a human-sized igloo-looking “snow globe.” Visitors can step into it and create slow-motion videos — complete with fake snow — to keep and share.
The showrooms will be located in New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Paramus, N.J., and Sacramento, Calif.
Google also is building interactive showrooms on two barges — one docked in San Francisco and the other in Portland, Maine. The company plans to use the floating showrooms to not only show off its gadgets but also to bring attention to coastal businesses around the harbors where the barges are docked.
Construction work is underway on the barge docked in San Francisco. When that is completed, work is expected to begin on the East Coast barge.
Apps featuring indie rock band Metric, pop sensation Lady Gaga and the late John Lennon were released last week that allow fans to re-mix tracks, create music-inspired art or access rare recordings.
Toronto-based Metric’s new app, METRIC Synthetica, available on iOS devices, lets fans interact with music from the band’s new album using finger gestures to re-mix tunes and create their own music. Fans can toggle different instruments and speed up and slow down tracks, creating more of a conversation with the band.
“Music in the modern day is about a lot more than just the music itself,” said James Shaw, the lead singer of Metric and producer of the album.
“In the late 70s and 80s it was just about the record and that was it. But now it’s about being engaged in all sorts of different mediums,” he added.
Shaw said he is eager to hear the creations that others will make with his music.
“Our version will always be there. But now you can break a song down according to your own imagination and it brings depth and allows people’s imaginations to go into what the record is about and get a greater understanding of what they’re listening to,” he said.
The app is free and includes one song to re-mix. Each additional song costs 99 cents or $7.99 for 11 songs.
With Lady Gaga’s free app, ARTPOP, for iOS and Android, fans can create and share animated graphics and interact with each other. The app is a companion to Gaga’s latest album of the same name.
Another new app, John Lennon: The Bermuda Tapes, follows the former Beatle’s trip to Bermuda in 1980 to record his Double Fantasy album through audio and photographs. The app, which costs $4.99 and is available for iOS devices, features music and stories from Lennon and his widow, Yoko Ono.
ZTE said on Monday that it was preparing the device, and pointed to the first quarter as a probable date for its arrival. However, it gave no further details.
The company is better known in its home country of China as a low-price smartphone maker, but ZTE also has its eyes on the U.S. market, and wants to introduce more high-end phones while building up its brand recognition.
ZTE’s development of a smartwatch is no surprise, considering that many tech vendors are also coming out with rival devices. Samsung and Sony both have smartwatches on the market, at prices of $299 and $199, respectively. Apple has also long been rumored to be working on a watch.
The gadgets, however, still have some way to go before they catch on among consumers. Over 30 smartwatches are in development, according to research firm Gartner’s count, but the devices have yet to reach mass market appeal.
Current smartwatches are either priced too high, come in bulky designs, or don’t offer enough battery life, Gartner said in an October report. Vendors still need to offer a clear message about the advantages of owning a smartwatch.
In the year-end holiday shopping season, Gartner expects consumers to buy tablets over smartwatches. But over time, demand for the devices will grow, especially from health conscious users, the research firm predicted.
In the fitness and health segment, the wearable devices market is projected to reach US$5 billion in revenue by 2016, according to Gartner, and smartwatches will continue to remain “companion” devices to smartphones at least until 2017.