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Chinese Electric Car Maker Looks To Challenge Musk’s Tesla

April 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Future automobiles will be all-electric, self-driving, connected to high-speed communications networks … and free.

That, at least, is the vision of Jia Yueting, a billionaire entrepreneur and one of a new breed of Chinese who see their technology expertise re-engineering the automobile industry, and usurping Tesla Motors, a U.S. pioneer in premium electric vehicle (EV) making.

“Tesla’s a great company and has taken the global car industry to the EV era,” Jia said in an interview at the Beijing headquarters of his Le Holdings Co, or LeEco. “But we’re not just building a car. We consider the car a smart mobile device on four wheels, essentially no different to a cellphone or tablet.

“We hope to surpass Tesla and lead the industry leapfrogging to a new age,” said Jia, wearing a black T-shirt and jeans.

A wave of EV start-ups has emerged in China after the government opened up the auto industry to deep-pocketed technology firms to drive a switch to cleaner electric as an eventual alternative to gasoline cars. Skeptics wonder just how start-ups like LeEco will deliver on their grand visions.

As a sign of intent, 43-year-old Jia last week unveiled the LeSEE electric concept supercar, a rival to Tesla’s Model S. The “smart, connected and self-driving” car will be displayed at this week’s Beijing autoshow.

“People questioned our idea, a small IT company building a car to compete with the BMWs  and Teslas of the world, and laughed at us. It wasn’t easy, but here we are,” Jia told Reuters.

LeEco hopes to start producing a version of the LeSEE in a few years at a plant being built near Las Vegas by U.S. strategic partner Faraday Future, in which Jia has invested. Those cars would be sold in the United States and China. Further ahead, the plan is to produce electric cars in China, too, probably through a partnership with BAIC Motor.

The web-connected electric cars will have a “disruptive” pricing model similar to phones and TV sets LeEco markets in China, Jia says. His company, often called China’s Netflix, will sell movies, TV shows, music and other content and services to drivers of its cars. That’s why he says “one day our cars will be free.” Nearer-term, the disruption is more likely to be “double the performance at half the price.”

 

 

 

Netflix International Subscriber Growth Slows

April 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Streaming video service Netflix Inc forecast U.S. and international subscriptions would grow at a slower pace than Wall Street expected this quarter, causing its stock price to tumble by 8 percent earlier in the week.

Netflix said it expected to add about 500,000 customers in the United States in the second quarter that ends in June, compared with Wall Street targets of 586,000, according to FactSet StreetAccount. The forecast includes a “modest impact” from the beginning of a price increase for its monthly movie and TV subscription service, the company said.

The company known for its original shows including “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards” said it expected to add about 2 million subscribers in markets outside the United States, versus analyst expectations of 3.5 million, according to FactSet. It also reported results for the first quarter, when subscriptions outpaced its own target.

Netflix is prone to large stock price swings as investors bet on the possible success of its mission to redefine television viewing around the world.

The company’s long-term results depend in large part on how fast and profitably it expands. Netflix has launched in almost every country in the world, at a substantial cost, and now faces the task of adapting the service to different markets and cultures as competitors also rush in.

In January, Netflix went live in more than 130 countries, a huge global push by Chief Executive Reed Hastings to counter slowing growth in the United States.

Initial sign-ups were limited in some countries because the service at this point offers only English-language content and does not accept all of the local payment options.

 

 

Netflix Promises To Over Users More Streaming Control Options

March 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Netflix recently admitted to throttling video streams worldwide for its mobile users, but said it hasn’t been an issue for customers.

The video streaming company plans to roll out to its members sometime in May a “data saver” feature, allowing them greater control over their data usage when streaming on mobile networks.

Users will then be able to “either stream more video under a smaller data plan, or increase their video quality if they have a higher data plan,” wrote Anne Marie Squeo, a spokeswoman for the company, in a blog post.

The company said it capped worldwide the default bitrate for viewing over mobile networks to 600 Kbps (kilobits per second), to protect its members from overage charges when they exceed mobile data caps. “We believe restrictive data caps are bad for consumers and the Internet in general, creating a dilemma for those who increasingly rely on their mobile devices for entertainment, work and more,” Squeo wrote.

Netflix said its research and testing indicates that “many members worry about exceeding their mobile data cap, and don’t need the same resolution on their mobile phone as on a large screen TV to enjoy shows and movies.” It is nevertheless providing the new feature for those users who value higher resolution and quality and are less concerned about data caps or have plans that don’t bill prohibitive overage charges.

AT&T and Verizon Communications were last week handling accusations from T-Mobile CEO John Legere that the “duopoly” was  throttling Netflix streams to 360p resolution.

Netflix told The Wall Street Journal that it doesn’t limit video quality at T-Mobile and Sprint, as historically those two companies have had more consumer-friendly policies, usually slowing network connections, rather than charging overage fees when users cross data caps.

Netflix has been a strong supporter of the principle of net neutrality which opposes mobile and broadband service providers from throttling or speeding data from certain websites. But it recently signed on to T-Mobile’s free Binge On service that exempts some video streaming, including Netflix at 480p resolution and YouTube, from the operator’s monthly data caps on customers.

 

 

AT&T Set To Announce New DirecTV Streaming Options

March 3, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc announced that it will debut three new ways to stream DIRECTV content on wireless and wired devices from smartphones to PCs, targeted at price-conscious U.S. viewers who shun pricey cable and satellite subscriptions.

The Dallas, Texas-based wireless provider said it expects to launch the three offerings in the fourth quarter of 2016. They can be streamed on apps through any Internet or mobile connection, it added.

The first option DIRECTV Now will offer all content in its current packages, including add-ons, live and on-demand video. DIRECTV Mobile, for smartphone users only, will include premium content and youth-oriented videos created by Otter Media, an AT&T joint venture with an investment group headed by media entrepreneur Peter Chernin. Free, ad-supported DIRECTV Preview will offer content from “AT&T’s AUDIENCE Network,” which has exclusive original videos, in addition to Otter Media offerings.

Prices will be announced at a later date, a company spokesman said.

AT&T acquired DIRECTV for $48.5 billion last year, making it the world’s No. 1 pay-TV operator with 45 million video subscribers, including Mexico and Latin America, at the end of 2015. It is betting big on video to tap new revenue as the U.S. wireless market stagnates.

The online video market is competitive, with players such as Netflix Inc and new entrants like Dish Network Corp and Verizon Communications Inc rushing to service viewers who increasingly consume video online than through pay-TV services.

AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson hinted in December that his company was planning content packages that can be viewed on a smaller screen, or to a single screen in a home that’s not set-top box-driven.

AT&T executives have said the company has already acquired mobile streaming rights, by leveraging DirecTV’s relationships and agreements with content providers, for various premium cable channels such as Showtime. It will deploy 40 megahertz of contiguous airwaves to relay content over its network.

“We intend to offer customers a quality pay-TV experience, including top channels, sports and more, with increased value and flexibility of pure online streaming and no need for home installation,” John Stankey, CEO, AT&T Entertainment Group, said in a statement.

 

 

T-Mobile Riding High, Triple Profits

February 18, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile US Inc’s profit nearly tripled during the recent holiday quarter as aggressive price reductions and offers helped it lure customers away from competitors.

T-Mobile added a net 2.1 million customers in the three months ended Dec. 31.

The company’s average revenue per postpaid user fell marginally to $48.05 in the fourth quarter from $48.26 a year earlier, mainly due to promotions.

T-Mobile said it expects to add a net 2.4 million to 3.4 million branded postpaid customers in 2016, compared with the 4.5 million it added in 2015.

T-Mobile has rolled out a series of initiatives in the past three years to attract customers from bigger rivals Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc, including free music and video streaming and lower-priced plans with phone leasing and data rollover offers.

T-Mobile said in November it would give customers a new option to stream video from services such as Netflix Inc , on their mobile devices without having it count against their data plans.

Net income nearly tripled to $297 million, or 34 cents per share, in the quarter from $101 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue rose 1.1 percent to $8.25 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $8.20 billion.

 

The EU Wants Anywhere, Anytime For Online Subscriptions

December 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The European Union is aming to push for allowing consumers to access to their online subscriptions for services like Netflix, Sky and Canal+ when they travel in the 28-member bloc, setting it up for a battle with media groups.

The proposal was presented by the executive European Commission (EC) on Wednesday, along with a longer-term strategy for making copyrighted works more easily available across the EU, likely to run into stiff opposition from the media industry as well as from artists.

Letting people take online subscriptions abroad chimes with Brussels’ aim of tearing down borders in the online world and is reminiscent of its efforts to allow use of domestic mobile phone subscriptions abroad without paying hefty roaming charges.

Under the proposal, consumers with subscriptions to services such as Sky TV Now, ProSiebenSat.1MaxDome TV in Germany or Netflix in France, would be able to view content they have paid for when they temporarily travel abroad.

What temporarily means has been left open, but the EC expects companies to set limits on the amount of time people can use their subscriptions abroad so they do not abuse the system by buying cheaper services outside their home country.

While Netflix is already available in many European countries, content is tailored to local tastes, so a French user in Belgium, for example, will not have access to the specific French catalog without using workarounds such as virtual private networks.

“People who legally buy content – films, books, football matches, TV series – must be able to carry it with them anywhere they go in Europe,” said Andrus Ansip, commission vice-president for the digital single market.

The EC also proposed rules protecting people when they buy goods and digital content online, estimating this will spur up to an additional 13 million consumers to start buying online from other EU countries.

However, the bigger battle with the media industry is likely to come next year, when the EC plans to enhance the availability of TV and radio programs online across the 28-member bloc.

Broadcasters, film producers and rights holders fear even a modest dilution of territorial licenses would diminish their value. “Any dilution of territorial exclusivity could lead to pan-European licensing, ultimately destroying that rich, culturally diverse content offer that we are all striving to create,” said Mathieu Moreuil, head of European policy for England’s Premier League.

 

 

Microsoft Teams Up With Law Enforcement To Take On Dorkbot

December 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft announced that it has worked with law enforcement agencies in several regions to disrupt a four-year-old botnet called Dorkbot, which has infected one million computers worldwide.

The Dorkbot malware aims to steal login credentials from services such as Gmail, Facebook, PayPal, Steam, eBay, Twitter and Netflix.

It was first spotted around April 2011. Users typically get infected by browsing to websites that automatically exploit vulnerable software using exploit kits and through spam. It also has a worm functionality and can spread itself through through social media and instant messaging programs or removable media drives.

Microsoft didn’t provide much detail on how Dorkbot’s infrastructure was disrupted. The company has undertaken several such actions over the last few years in cooperation with law enforcement.

Coordinated actions to take botnet servers offline have an immediate impact, but the benefits can be short-lived. Cybercriminals often set up new hosting and command-and-control infrastructure and begin rebuilding the botnet by infecting new computers.

Microsoft said it worked with security vendor ESET, the Computer Emergency Response Team Polska, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, Europol, the FBI, Interpol, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Cybercriminals have sold a kit that allows other bad actors to build botnets using Dorkbot. The kit, called NgrBot, is sold in underground online forums, Microsoft wrote in a blog post.

 

 

YouTube Aiming To Get Rights To Stream TV Shows, Movies

December 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube is looking to get rights for streaming TV series and movies for its $9.99-a-month subscription service as it attempts to ramp up competition against rivals such as Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Journal reported that executives of the company have met with Hollywood studios and other production companies in recent months to consider pitches and negotiate licenses for new content.

YouTube is eager to secure these rights and is focusing on new material. It is however not clear which TV series or movies the company is pursuing, WSJ reported.

YouTube is still deciding how much content to license, but it wants to have a strong collection of original programing and licensed programing in 2016 and beyond, WSJ reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The company is using existing relationships of Google Play with movie studios and other premium video content owners to negotiate streaming deals, WSJ reported.

Former programing chief of MTV Susanne Daniels and Kelly Merryman, a former Netflix content executive, are involved in these talks, the newspaper said.

The service, which is called YouTube Red, could be host to exclusively streaming these contents. The shows or movies could also be also released through traditional channels like movie theaters, cable networks and DVDs alongside YouTube Red, the person added.

YouTube Red, which was launched in October, allows viewers to watch videos from across the site without interruption from advertisements.

 

 

 

T-Mobile Announces Free ‘Binge On’ Video-streaming Service

November 12, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile announced that it will begin offering free streaming of wireless video to certain T-Mobile customers for services such as HBO, Hulu, Netflix and 21 others.

The service, called Binge On, will be available starting Sunday at no extra charge to T-Mobile’s Simple Choice customers paying for 3GB of data. In addition, the carrier said it doubled the LTE data caps at every level in Simple Choice at no extra cost.

“T-Mobile is un-leashing entertainment and giving customers exactly what they want,” CEO John Legere declared at an event in Los Angeles that was webcast.

He also said that neither the 24 video-streaming services involved nor T-Mobile customers will pay for the service. Binge On is powered by new technology built into T-Mobile’s network, which optimizes video for mobile screens and minimizes data consumption.

In an online FAQ, T-Mobile said its Binge On video quality “looks great” on a phone. The explanation says the service optimizes video quality for smartphone screens and minimizes buffering and maximizes quality.

Analysts had predicted the free video service would be announced today, but some were skeptical that T-Mobile could afford to offer it without leading to widespread LTE network congestion.

Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, said T-Mobile would be using a compression algorithm that reduces video streams to one-third of their original size. Binge One won’t work with encrypted data, such as that from Google and Facebook, he said.

To be eligible for one line with sufficient data to use Binge On, a user would pay $65 a month. That cost would include $50 for one line that includes 2GB of data, but a customer would need to add 4GB more for $15 a month to get above the 3GB minimum for Binge On.

 

Chip & Pin Cards Responsible For Netflix Subscriber Slowdown?

October 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Video-streaming service provider Netflix Inc reported third-quarter U.S. subscriber growth below its own forecast, blaming a transition to chip-based cards for the miss.

Shares of Netflix, known for its original shows such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black”, plummeted about 15 percent after the bell, before finally reversing most of the loss to trade down 2.4 percent.

U.S. credit and debit card companies have been shifting to chip-enabled cards ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline mandated for the switch.

For Netflix, the switch meant that many of the older cards on its file no longer worked as the companies gave new cards to their customers, leading to “involuntary churn,” as Chief Executive Reed Hastings put it in a letter to shareholders.

“It’s just the dumbest thing I’ve heard,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.

FBR Capital Markets analyst Barton Crockett said the issue around the chip cards is particularly confusing, given that these cards have been around for a bit.

“It begs a million questions,” he said.

Netflix said on Wednesday it added 0.88 million U.S. subscribers in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with its forecast of 1.15 million.

“The slowdown in U.S. subscriber growth was particularly disappointing because one would expect that since Netflix just raised rates last week, this number would have been strong,” said Crockett.

Netflix increased the subscription rate for some new members earlier this month by $1.00 a month to $9.99 in the United States, Canada and Latin America.

Internationally, Netflix added 2.74 million subscribers, compared with its projection of 2.40 million.

Netflix, which is also battling competition from streaming services such as Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video service and Hulu, has been aggressively building its overseas presence.

The company said it was in the “early stages” of its China entry and said it was “still learning a lot”.

Netflix said in July its plans to enter China in 2016 could be delayed.

Netflix is being “more adventurous” on the news side, company executives said on a post-earnings conference call.

The company added it was not looking at live sports as an offering currently.

 

Microsoft, Google Cease Fire In Global Patent Deal

October 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has been pursuing a more collaborative approach under CEO Satya Nadella, engaging longtime rivals like Salesforce, VMware and Apple. There hasn’t been much love between Microsoft and Google, but an announcement on Wednesday points towards an easing of those tensions.

Google and Microsoft have reached a broad agreement on patent matters, with a legal settlement ending some 20 lawsuits between the companies in the U.S. and Germany. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the deal brings a laundry list of lawsuits to a close.

“Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues,” they said in a joint statement. “As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility.”

They also agreed to collaborate on patent matters and work together “to benefit our customers.”

The suits that have been settled include those related to mobile phones, video encoding and Wi-Fi technologies. That doesn’t mean Microsoft has given up its campaign to collect royalties from Android device makers for the mobile operating system’s alleged infringement of Microsoft patents.

It’s not clear from the statement what patent matters the companies will be working on together in the future, but changes have already begun. The two companies agreed earlier this month to work together (alongside other firms like Netflix and Mozilla) on a royalty-free video codec.

It remains to be seen if the settlement will lead to more work between Microsoft and Google in other areas. A major sticking point for consumers has been the lack of a Google-made YouTube app for smartphones and tablets running Windows.

 

 

Verizon Enters Mobile Video Space With ‘Go90′ Launch

September 9, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications Inc launched a trial version of its new mobile video service on Tuesday, looking to prove that telecom players can compete with mobile ad industry titans Google Inc and Facebook Inc.

Verizon said its service, a mobile app dubbed “go90″, will be offered initially to a select set of its own customers, with advertisements from well-known brands, which it declined to name, but without newly acquired ad technology from AOL, the media company it bought in June for $4.4 billion.

Verizon is targeting young viewers or millennials with about 100 to 200 hours of exclusive content from online video networks such as AwesomenessTV and Machinima, said Brian Angiolet, Verizon’s senior vice president, consumer products. The free service will drive revenue from data usage and targeted advertising.

Verizon’s best chance to prove its advertising potential rests on technology from AOL, which has built tools to deliver targeted Web and mobile ads. That, combined with Verizon’s customer data, should improve targeting, analysts say.

The AOL technology is in the process of being integrated with Verizon’s video service, and targeted advertising tools will be available over time, Angiolet said.

The service will launch officially to all users as soon as later this month, a Verizon spokesman said.

Companies from Netflix Inc to Dish Network Corp already offer Web-based video services through subscriptions, but the No. 1 U.S. wireless company’s ad-supported, short-form video model is unusual.

Go90 pits Verizon against Internet advertising industry heavyweights Google and Facebook, and advertisers will take a “wait and see” approach to determine how many viewers Verizon captures, telecom industry consultant Tim Farrar said.

“Pretty much without exception telecom operators have not been successful as third parties in exploiting the Internet access service, whether it’s video or anything else,” Farrar said. “What percentage of people’s app viewing is going to be over a Verizon app versus YouTube or Facebook…That’s the biggest uncertainty.”

Verizon’s rival AT&T Inc has said it has mobile video services targeting young viewers in the works. Smaller rivals Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc have said they are watching their competitors’ efforts closely.

 

ASUS Goes Automated GPU

June 10, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Asus has come up with a new fully automated graphics card production method.

According to Toms Hardware it is an industry first and it should deliver more reliable, higher quality graphics cards.

Dubbed Auto-Extreme the process is supposed to remove the chance of human error in the manufacture of graphics cards.
The new production process fully automates all the steps of PCB manufacturing, which includes rolling the spools and manufacturing the MOSFETs. These PCB components used to be soldered to the PCB by hand, but now that everything is fully automated, it can be done with much more precision than before.

Process designs, which lead to smooth PCBs and neat component layouts, are optimized further due to the higher precision possible in manufacturing. Installation of the components can be accomplished without oxidation and in environments with less dust.

It reduces Asus’ production costs due to a lower failure rate in the quality control phase, and the graphics cards will likely have a longer lifetime, reducing warranty claims.

Asus’ first products to have been built using this new production line are the 20th anniversary graphics cards.

Courtesy-Fud

Netflix Has Expansion Plans For Southern Europe

June 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Internet television service Netflix has announced plans to enter into Italy and Portugal markets later this year, the company said on Saturday, as part of a bid to expand its popular streaming TV service to some 200 countries worldwide within two years.

The Silicon Valley-based company said that, starting in October, Internet users in Italy and Portugal would be able to subscribe to watch a selection of TV series and movies on TVs, computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices.

On Thursday, Netflix said it planned to enter Spain, also in October. Netflix is available in more than 50 countries worldwide, including 13 in Europe.

Its focus on international expansion comes as growth slows in the United States, where it has reshaped TV viewing habits since it was first launched in 2007.

 

 

AT&T To Offer Exclusive Content For Connected Cars

May 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc is preparing to bring connected car users exclusive content such as videos and games that can be streamed onto personal mobile devices later this year, AT&T’s senior vice president of emerging devices Chris Penrose said.

“It’s no different than being able to hook onto a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere and get access to content you already subscribe to and get unique content that you could only get in the back of the vehicle,” Penrose said.

AT&T has signed up eight automaker partners, including General Motors Co, Audi AG and Ford Motor Co, to hook up cars with Internet access. The goal is to offer free or paid content exclusively for connected car users and sell more data, Penrose said in a recent interview.

AT&T is talking to its auto industry partners and content companies to bring new content like “special” shows or gaming levels on phones and tablets in connected cars, Penrose said. This would be in addition to subscription services such as Hulu and Netflix that users can already stream on mobile devices.

Most Americans already own a mobile phone, and the $1.7 trillion U.S. wireless industry is turning to connected cars and devices for growth. Besides being the essential pipes that deliver data, telecom players such as AT&T are looking to extract revenue from content.

GM has begun testing new content on its OnStar in-vehicle service best known for connecting drivers to live operators for directions or emergency help.

The subscription-based service, which also sells data to drivers, has special offers and some exclusive content on apps such as Famigo, an educational app for kids, and TumblebooksTV, a children’s digital books app. It also has retail partnerships with Dunkin’ Donuts and travel booking site Priceline.com for location-based deals.

AT&T is exploring business models that include revenue share for data, content and advertising with automakers, content and retail partners, Penrose said without sharing specific details.

AT&T is working with automakers to design a landing page or a portal for users to log in to access content, get vehicle service updates and buy data, he said.