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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.


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 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.



YouTube Planning Subscription Based, Ad-free Service

April 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube is planning a paid service that will allow viewers to watch select videos without ads, Google has confirmed.

YouTube began laying out the terms of the service in a letter seen by IDG News Service. The letter was sent Wednesday to members of YouTube’s Partner program, which lets YouTube video makers earn money from ads and merchandise.

It’s not clear when the new service will launch, nor the price or what it will be called.

“While we can’t comment on ongoing discussions, giving fans more choice to enjoy the content they love and creators more opportunity to earn revenue are always amongst our top priorities,” a YouTube spokeswoman said.

YouTube will pay video creators using the service 55 percent of the total net revenues from subscription fees, according to changes to the terms of the Partner program. That’s the same percentage partners collect from advertising. The changes go into effect on June 15.

A YouTube spokeswoman declined to comment on how revenue would be divided.

It’s unclear what type of content will be offered through the service, though some of it might be premium or exclusive content that can’t be found elsewhere. YouTube might position it as a premium service with its own programming, perhaps akin to Netflix or HBO’s new streaming service.

Its success is likely to depend on the number and diversity of video partners YouTube gets.

YouTube will have plenty of competition. In addition to Netflix, there’s also Vessel, a new paid video service from the former CEO of Hulu.


HBO Streaming Service To Launch On Apple Devices In April

March 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

HBO’s standalone streaming service will launch on Apple Inc devices in April, ahead of the season premiere of hit series “Game of Thrones,” the network said, a move to reach millions of viewers who do not subscribe to pay television packages.

The new HBO Now service will cost $14.99 a month. It will include the network’s past, present and future series plus its lineup of Hollywood movies, HBO Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Plepler said at an Apple event in San Francisco.

It is the first time the premium network will be available to people with Internet access who shun traditional TV bundles with dozens of channels. Other media companies including CBS Corp and Dish Network Corp also are taking steps to reach those audiences.

“This is a transformative moment for HBO,” Plepler said after an introduction by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The move by Time Warner Inc’s HBO could threaten the video businesses of cable and satellite companies, which are fighting to keep customers from dropping their TV packages. It also amps up competition with streaming services such as Netflix Inc. HBO’s library of hits includes “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.”

Starting in early April, HBO Now will be available through the Apple TV box and on iPhones, iPads and the iPod touch. The fifth season of “Game of Thrones” premieres April 12.

Apple will be the exclusive digital provider of HBO Now for three months. The network also is aiming to convince traditional TV distributors to offer the service as early as April.




Should AMD And nVidia Get The Blame For Assassin’s Creed’s PC Issues?

November 19, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Ubisoft is claiming that the reason that its latest Assassin’s Creed game was so bad was because of AMD and Nvidia configurations. Last week the Ubisoft was panned for releasing a game which was clearly not ready and Ubisoft originally blamed AMD for its faulty game. Now Ubisoft has amended an original forum post to include and acknowledge problems on Nvidia hardware as well.

Originally the post read “We are aware that the graphics performance of Assassin’s Creed Unity on PC may be adversely affected by certain AMD CPU and GPU configurations. This should not affect the vast majority of PC players, but rest assured that AMD and Ubisoft are continuing to work together closely to resolve the issue, and will provide more information as soon as it is available.”

However there is no equivalent Nvidia-centric post on the main forum, and no mention of the fact that if you own any Nvidia card which is not a GTX 970 or 980. What is amazing is that with the problems so widespread, Ubisoft did not see them in its own testing before sending it out to the shops. Unless they only played the game on an Nvidia GTX 970 and did not bother to test it on a console, it is inconceivable that they could not have seen it.


AT&T Delays Fiber Optic Plans Over Net Neutrality Uncertainty

November 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

AT&T plans to halt its ambitious fiber optic cable investments in 100 cities until U.S. regulators define the rules for net neutrality.

“We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed,” AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told investors on a conference call earlier this week.

“We think it is prudent to just pause and make sure we have line of sight and understanding as to what those rules will look like,” Stephenson added.

His comments came just two days after President Obama urged federal regulators to invoke rules banning Internet Service Providers such as AT&T from requiring payments from content providers like Netflix to get higher network priority.

AT&T has promoted its U-verse GigaPower service in recent months to bring 1Gbps service to cities and has heard from 100 different cities who are candidates for the rollouts. In an online promotional video, AT&T notes that it already has 16.5 million broadband connections and has laid more than 1 million miles of fiber optic cable.

Google, meanwhile, has connected several U.S. cities with its Google Fiber 1 Gbps connections and has plans to serve dozens more cities.

The delay in AT&T’s fiber optic investment could be vast, given AT&T’s estimate in 2013 that it would spend $14 billion over three years for wired and wireless broadband infrastructure in what it called Project Velocity.

AT&T didn’t respond when asked how long the delay in its fiber rollouts could be. But the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Monday said it won’t create new rules in its open Internet deliberations until 2015.

The FCC’s delay came shortly after President Obama on Monday called for far-reaching rules to affect cable and phone companies, including AT&T and other wireless carriers, that operate as ISPs. Obama made it clear he opposes any attempt by ISPs to prioritize Internet traffic in exchange for a higher payment by a content provider.

AT&T is part of a large group of carriers, including the CTIA industry group, opposed to Obama’s approach. Members have argued that regulating ISPs like traditional phone companies under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, as Obama prefers, won’t hold up in court.

Groups that favor expanding Internet service to underserved populations in inner cities and rural U.S. areas have largely welcomed fiber optic expansion by both Google and AT&T. The impact of AT&T’s delay on their efforts isn’t clear.



Amazon Acquires Rooftop Media, Expands Digital Content

October 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc is set to acquire online comedy service Rooftop Media, a small deal that underscores the Internet retailer’s broader ambition of becoming a media and entertainment powerhouse.

Amazon is persisting in buying content to round out its service, with designs to take on Netflix Inc and other online digital media services. But that increasing spending has helped keep the company in the red, inviting criticism from investors.

Audible, the audiobooks service it bought in 2008 for $300 million, is picking up the 10-person company for an undisclosed sum. Audible founder and Chief Executive Donald Katz said in a statement on Monday the company had been attracted by Rooftop’s content as well as its pool of comic talent.

Rooftop records comedians at clubs across the country and licenses the digital rights to thousands of hours of comedy, which is broadcast either live or later on demand. The company’s media partners include Apple Inc and Yahoo, and it also works with streaming services such as Sirius XM,  Spotify and Pandora.

Its content now becomes part of Audible, itself a fast-growing seller of online audiobooks, and vastly increases Rooftop’s audience, said Rooftop Chief Executive Officer Will Rogers.

Amazon is expected to continue acquiring digital content at a rapid clip. In past years, it began investing heavily to branch out from its online retail roots, delving into Hollywood-style content production as well as developing a line of tablets, smartphones and set-top boxes to accelerate the sale of digital content.



Verizon’s Redbox Instant Streaming Video Service Shutting Down

October 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Redbox Instant, a streaming video service partnership between Verizon Communications Inc and Outerwall Inc’s Redbox, will cease to exist this week because the venture has not been as successful as hoped, the two companies jointly announced.

The service, which combined the Redbox DVD rental kiosk business with a streaming video offering from Verizon, was launched in 2013 to compete against online video company Netflix Inc  but never caught on with consumers.

Redbox Instant will shut down on Oct. 7th, the companies said in a joint statement.

“The joint venture partners made this decision after careful consideration,” the statement said. “The service had not been as successful as either partner hoped it would be.”

Subscribers will receive an email notifying them of the termination of the service. A separate email will be sent on Oct. 10 with details on refunds, the statement said.

The alliance marked Verizon’s first foray into video streaming outside its network operating region, but it never gained a foothold against online rivals such as Netflix, Inc and Hulu Plus.

The telephone company had only offered Web video services to subscribers using its FiOS TV service, which competes with cable providers such as Comcast Corp  and Time Warner Cable.



Is Quickflix Trying To Block Netflix In Australia?

September 16, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Quickflix has sent an open letter to rival Netflix in which it accuses the competitor of not playing fair in the market and letting local users access US services.

The open letter is signed by Quickflix CEO Stephen Langsford and addressed to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and the internet community. Langsford asks Netflix to Australia through the front door. He accuses it of ignoring backdoor access to its services, hauling in cash and stepping on Australian rightsholders.

“Netflix not only knowingly collects revenues from subscribers with unauthorised access to your US service, investing nothing in the Australian market nor paying for Australian rights to the content you make available, but also tacitly encourages Australian consumers to inadvertently breach the copyright of the content owners,” he said.

“Unlike yourself, Quickflix has obtained all necessary Australian rights to the content on its platform, faithfully meets all necessary security requirements, including geo-filtering imposed by the content rights holders, and continues to reinvest in its service with the goal of offering the very best service in the market to its customers.”

We have asked Netflix to comment on this, but so far it has not responded.

Langsford made some suggestions to Hastings about getting Netflix’s game in order, starting with a legal launch and a VPN lockdown.

“We challenge Netflix to play by the rules. It’s how we do it here in Australia. Stop turning a blind eye to the VPN services acting as a gateway to your service. Be honest and face up to the issue of unauthorised access to your US service,” he said in his sign off.

“Have the courage to limit your service only to the territories where you have legally obtained the rights to operate by abiding by the geo-filtering obligations required by your content license agreements. And do so immediately.”

The Quickflix CEO said that he looked forward to fair and square competition and the resulting benefits to Australians.


Microsoft Updates Bing To Make Search Phrasing Easier

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has included some new updates to its Bing search engine that lets you phrase queries in a way that feels more natural.

The company said the new functionality makes using Bing more like “having a conversation.”

It lets you ask questions sequentially that build off each other, so you don’t have to keep repeating the topic you’re asking about.

For instance, if you ask Bing, ”Who wrote Dracula”? “Bram Stoker” pops up at the top of the screen. You can then ask, “Where was he born,” and it gives the answer “Dublin, Ireland.”

Microsoft said it answers the questions by combining “conversational understanding” with its database of knowledge about people, places and things.

It comes as Bing’s largest competitor, Google, is working to make its own search engine better at understanding queries in natural language.

Google also has a conversational search mode that works in a similar way, though currently it only works when doing voice searches in Chrome and in Google’s mobile search app.

Bing’s new feature works well, and you can take the questions far. After asking about Bram Stoker “Where was he born,” you can also ask, “When did he die?” Answer: April 20, 1912. Or, “How did he die?” Syphilis. (But, asking simply “how?” did not work as well.)

In Bing, the feature works on the desktop as well as on mobile devices.

Microsoft has worked to make Bing more useful over the years, partly by integrating a wider range of information from outside sources into results. Data from social sites like Twitter and Facebook plays a part in this, as well as data from services like IMDB and Netflix.

Earlier this year Bing expanded its index of the Web to include more information about professionals like doctors, lawyers and real estate.

With nearly 70 percent market share in the U.S., Google is still by far the dominant player in search, according to comScore. Microsoft’s Bing has just under 20 percent share.

But Bing’s new feature could give it a leg up against Google when it comes to search, at least for now.


Netflix Strikes Deal With AT&T To Ensure Smooth Streaming

July 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Video streaming service Netflix has agreed to pay U.S. broadband provider AT&T Inc to ensure smooth delivery of Netflix content to Internet users, according to a statement made by both companies

The announcement of the deal, put together in May, comes as Netflix has been waging a public campaign against such fees, which they present as tolls, and calling on the Federal Communications Commission to review the market.

Having brokered this so-called interconnection agreement, AT&T and Netflix are now working to build out new network connections for Netflix content to be delivered directly to AT&T’s servers “to improve the viewing experience for our mutual subscribers,” the companies’ representatives said.

“We’re now beginning to turn up the connections, a process that should be complete in the coming days,” AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris said.

This marks the third such agreement Netflix struck with major U.S. Internet service providers in recent months after it revealed similar traffic exchange agreements with Verizon Communications Inc in April and Comcast Corp in February.

Consumers have also complained to the FCC about an ongoing spat between Netflix and major Internet providers, saying they are experiencing slow download speeds for Netflix video.

Both sides accuse each other of causing a slowdown in Internet speeds by the way they route traffic.

Financial terms of such interconnection agreements are secret. The FCC last month moved to privately review the current deals, though did not indicate specific plans to regulate that part of the market.


A Possible Deutsche Telekom, Netflix Collaboration In The Works

June 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Deutsche Telekom is having discussions with U.S. video streaming company Netflix about a possible marketing alliance, a according to a German magazine.

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.