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CBS Channels Go Dark On Dish Network

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

CBS Corp’s TV stations no longer broadcasting for Dish Network Corp’s customers over a network carriage deal dispute, the companies said early Tuesday.

Dish said in a statement that CBS rejected its offer to extend their contract while negotiations continued.

“This particular dispute is yet another example of the company punishing its subscribers instead of negotiating a fair carriage deal that reflects the current marketplace,” CBS said in a separate statement.

CBS and 28 other CBS-owned local television stations were blacked out across 26 states.

The Smithsonian Channel, Pop, and CBS Sports Network would also be unavailable on Dish networks in cities including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, CBS said.

China’s Tencent Surpasses Facebook In Value

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tencent Holdings Ltd has had an impressive week – becoming the first Chinese firm to be worth more than $500 billion and surpassing Facebook to be the world’s fifth-most valuable company.

Earnings for China’s biggest social network and gaming firm have surged on the popularity of its smartphone games led by titles such as Honour of Kings – a fantasy role-playing game, which has as many active players as the population of Germany.

 Also driving earnings has been its messaging-to-payment super app WeChat which has amassed 980 million monthly active users, with 38 billion messages sent daily, while its Youtube equivalent, Tencent Video, has become the video streaming service with the largest paying subscriber base in China.

That success has helped Tencent’s stock more than double this year, making it Asia’s most valuable company worth $522 billion on Tuesday and easily outpacing a 36 percent rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Led by Chinese billionaire Pony Ma, Tencent this month reported a better-than-expected 69 percent rise in third-quarter net profit.

“Tencent’s high growth, as demonstrated by its quarterly results, has supported the rally in its shares,” said Steven Leung, a sales director at UOB Kay Hian.

“Since the company has been able to deliver on its earnings, the stock is still worth holding onto despite its current high level.”

In addition to robust earnings, Tencent has also burnished its luster after some units and affiliates have made some eye-catching market debuts.

An executive recently also told Reuters the company is close to making Malaysia the first foreign country to roll out its WeChat ecosystem, pitting it against Alibaba as they scramble for new growth opportunities outside China.

Verizon Wireless To Sign A Streaming Deal With NFL

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications Inc, no. 1 U.S. wireless carrier, is closing in on a deal  with the National Football League for digital streaming rights, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

With the new agreement, Verizon will be able to give subscribers access to games on all devices, including big-screen TVs, and not just phones, according to the people, Bloomberg said.

Verizon will lose exclusive rights to air games on mobile devices, Bloomberg quoted two people as saying. Verizon’s rights will include the NFL’s Thursday night games, among others, one of the people said, according to Bloomberg.

Financial details and the duration of Verizon’s contract with the NFL could not immediately be learned, Bloomberg said.

Neither NFL nor Verizon could immediately be reached for a comment by Reuters.

Yahoo Out, Google In For Firefox Corporate Browser

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google picked up a previous location as the default search engine on Mozilla Corp’s Firefox Internet browser in the United States and other regions as the browser maker stunned Verizon Communication Inc’s Yahoo by canceling their deal.

Google confirmed the move but declined, along with Mozilla, to disclose revenue-sharing terms of the multiyear agreement. Google’s growing spending to be the primary search provider on apps and devices such as Apple Inc’s iPhone has been a major investor concern.

 Google will be Firefox’s default search provider on desktop and mobile in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said Denelle Dixon, Mozilla’s chief business and legal officer.

The decision was “based on a number of factors including doing what’s best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search and the broader content experience for our users,” Dixon said. “We believe there are opportunities to work with Oath and Verizon outside of search.”

Verizon said Mozilla terminating the Yahoo agreement caught it off guard.

“We are surprised that Mozilla has decided to take another path, and we are in discussions with them regarding the terms of our agreement,” said Charles Stewart, a spokesman for Verizon’s Oath unit, which oversees Yahoo.

The search provider switch came as Mozilla announced Firefox Quantum, a faster, new version of the browser that company says is “30 percent lighter” than Google Chrome in that it uses less computer memory.

For a decade until 2014, Google had been Firefox’s worldwide search provider. Google then remained the default in Europe while regional rivals such as Yahoo, Russia’s Yandex and China’s Baidu Inc replaced it elsewhere.

Former Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer won a five-year contract with Mozilla in 2014 when Firefox and Google’s Chrome browser were battling for users.

 Chrome’s U.S. market share has since doubled to about 60 percent, according to data from analytics provider StatCounter, with Mozilla, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp browsers capturing the rest.

Yahoo paid Mozilla $375 million in 2015 and said that it would pay at least the same amount annually through 2019, according to regulatory filings.

Yahoo and Google aim to recoup placement fees by selling ads alongside search results and collecting valuable user data. Google said in October that contract changes drove a 54 percent increase in such fees to $2.4 billion in the third quarter.

 

Amazon Decides Against Offering ‘Skinny Bundle’ Video Service

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc has decided to cancel plans to launch an online streaming service bundling popular U.S. broadcast and cable networks because it believes it cannot make enough money on such a service, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The world’s largest online retailer has also been unable to convince key broadcast and basic cable networks to break with decades-old business models and join its a la carte Amazon Channels service, the sources said and has backed away from talks with them.

 The reversals come a month after the abrupt departure of Roy Price from his job as head of Amazon Studios, the company’s high-profile television production division, following an allegation of sexual harassment, which he has contested.

They show how difficult it is for Amazon to change entrenched habits in the U.S. entertainment business in the same way that it has done in retail, cloud computing and other areas.

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment.

Video has become an important tool for Amazon in generating subscriptions for its U.S. $99-a-year Prime membership service. It is on track to spend some $4.5 billion or more on video programming this year, analysts estimate.

On Monday it made waves in the entertainment world with the purchase of global television rights to “The Lord of the Rings,” planning a multi-season series to draw more viewers to Prime.

Such an offering, known in the industry as a “skinny bundle,” is a way of capturing younger viewers who are dropping traditional, expensive cable or satellite TV packages in favor of channels watchable on smartphones and tablets.

But in recent weeks, Amazon decided not to move ahead with a service on the grounds that it would yield too low a profit margin and did not necessarily indicate the direction the TV business will eventually go, the sources told Reuters.

Amazon could still decide to change course and introduce a skinny bundle, but the talks are over, the sources said.

Qualcomm To Power Alibaba

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Qualcomm and Alibaba have ported Alibaba Cloud Link One to run on the Qualcomm MDM9206 global multi-mode LTE IoT modem.

This is all part of a cunning plan to allow developers to quickly develop and deploy solutions that connect with the Alibaba Cloud using LTE IoT connectivity and client software running directly on the LTE system-on-chip (SoC).

Qualcomm pre-integrated the Alibaba Cloud Link One on to the MDM9206 modem, so that module manufacturers and IoT Tight and cost-effective integration between edge devices and the cloud.

The porting fixes a vast array of the existing and emerging LTE IoT use cases, including smart transportation (e.g. bike sharing), smart cities, as well as industrial IoT applications in areas such as smart grid, smart metering (e.g. electricity, gas, water), asset tracking and more.

It means that Qualcomm will have a foot in the door as more of our hardware becomes sentient and cloud based.

Courtesy-Fud

Roku Signs Licensing Deal For Inclusion On Philips TVs

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku Inc’s shares skyrocketed by 43 percent to a record high earlier this week after the streaming device maker said it signed a licensing deal that would put its technology on Philips-branded televisions in the United States this year.

The company said the licensing partnership with Japan’s Funai Electric Co Ltd, which manufactures Philips N.V. televisions for North American, would place its operating system on Philips’ smart TVs.

 Roku also said that it would give a $20 discount on its $69.99-priced streaming stick for the Black Friday weekend, and separately said its customer would get a free one-month trial of AT&T Inc’s streaming service DirecTV Now.

The barrage of news was well received by investors, who sent Roku’s shares jumping 28.5 percent to close at $42.71 on Monday. The stock hit a high of $47.49 earlier in the session.

“The price move was solely due to long shareholders bidding up ROKU’s stock price” and not due to investors covering their short positions in the stock, financial analytics firm S3 Partners said in a note.

S3 Partners said while the short interest in Roku has risen since its initial public offering (IPO) in late September, it has stayed relatively flat in November and isn’t likely to go up further due to the limited number of shares available to borrow.

Investors who sell securities short first borrow shares and then sell them, expecting the price to fall so they can then buy the shares back at the lower price, return them to the lender and pocket the difference.

Roku, one of the first to make a device to stream content such as from Netflix Inc onto TVs, is now combating deeper-pocketed entrants such as Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc among others.

Still, up to Monday’s close, Roku’s stock has now more than tripled from its IPO price of $14 on Sept. 27. The stock debuted at $15.78 on the Nasdaq on Sept. 28.

 Los Gatos, California-based Roku’s success in the stock market is in stark contrast to the fortunes of other technology companies to make their market debuts this year.

Snap Inc’s shares have fallen 26 percent since its February IPO, while Blue Apron Holdings Inc has lost about 70 percent since its IPO in June.

SportsCenter Show Comes To Snapchat

November 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. sports broadcaster ESPN rolled out its flagship SportsCenter program on messaging app Snapchat on Monday, reimagining the show that provides sports highlights and commentary into a short-form series.

The new show deepens the relationship between ESPN parent Walt Disney Co and Snapchat parent Snap Inc.

The sports network, which has made Snapchat content since 2015, is trying to reach a younger audience, while the social media app, whose messages disappear after viewing, is adding more content in an effort to grow its user base beyond its core youth demographic.

The partnership is a two-year deal and Snap and ESPN will share revenues, Snap said, though it declined to give specifics.

SportsCenter will air twice a day on Snapchat during weekdays, and once a day on weekends. A roster of six hosts will give commentary and perspectives, including ESPN anchors Katie Nolan and Elle Duncan, and ESPN Radio host Jason Fitz, Snap said.

Sean Mills, Snap’s head of content programming, said SportsCenter helps round out the app’s stable of daily shows, which already includes news shows from CNN and NBC News, as well as an entertainment show called “The Rundown” from E! Network.

Along with daily shows, Snap launched a joint venture studio with NBCUniversal last month to produce scripted shows to air on the app.

Disney Plans To Take On Netflix With Streaming Service

November 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Disney’s future streaming service will face off with Netflix, the reigning streaming champ, with lower prices, CEO Bob Iger said in an earnings call earlier this week.

In August, Disney announced its plans to pull movies like “Moana” from Netflix and instead stream them along with future films like the sequel to “Frozen” on its own service, which will launch in 2019.

Iger said:”I can say that our plan on the Disney side is to price this substantially below where Netflix is. That is in part reflective of the fact that it will have substantially less volume. It’ll have a lot of high quality because of the brands and the franchises that will be on it that we’ve talked about. But it’ll simply launch with less volume, and the price will reflect that.”

Iger went on to say that the company’s main goal starting out will be to attract as many subscribers as possible, diverting at least some of the wind out of Netflix’s sales.

Disney-owned brands include Pixar, Lucasfilm (of Star Wars), Marvel Studios (think of all those “Thor” and “Avengers”-themed shows and films) and the ABC television network. While Marvel shows developed for Netflix are expected to stay on that service, such as “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” features like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” will likely move to Disney’s service.

Disney first signed a deal to stream content through Netflix in 2012.

 

Opera Browser Now Supports Virtual Reality

November 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The Opera desktop browser was revamped with social media capabilities earlier this year, but the updates didn’t end there.

The latest update adds VR support to the multifaceted browser, letting you stream 360-degree videos to your HTC Vive or Oculus headset, as well as any OpenVR devices. It’ll also let you edit screenshots, add emojis and take selfies with your laptop camera.

The feature-packed update comes as Opera plays catch up to Chrome, Safari and Firefox, and the new features are part of the company’s plan to rethink and modernize the browser as part of its Reborn project.

While tracking site Statcounter says Opera’s market share is just 3.89 percent globally in October, Opera is reporting rosy numbers. It claims to have seen double-digit growth in 2017, with active monthly users increasing by 25 percent year-on-year. The company says use of its desktop browser has grown by 65 percent in the US, 64 percent in France and by 50 percent in the UK.

Other features previously added include built-in browser support for chat services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and VK. Unit conversions were also added in a September update, making it easier to figure out time zones, miles to kilometers and more.

YouTube Shows Unsavory Videos To Youths

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube is facing criticism for allowing troubling videos to get past its filters on an app designed specifically for younger viewers, according to a report this weekend by The New York Times.

The Google-owned website is the largest video site in the world, with more than a billion people visiting a month. The affected service, YouTube Kids, was launched in 2015 to be a family-friendly version of the site.

But the kids service reportedly has a dark side. One video showed Mickey Mouse in a pool of blood while Minnie looks on in horror. In another video, a claymation version of Spider-Man urinates on Elsa, the princess from “Frozen.” The videos were knockoffs depicting the beloved Disney and Marvel characters.

Representatives from The Walt Disney Company, which owns Marvel, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

YouTube called the content “unacceptable,” but said it isn’t rampant. In the last 30 days, less than .005 percent of videos viewed in the app were removed for being inappropriate, the company said. YouTube is trying to reduce that number.

“The YouTube Kids team is made up of parents who care deeply about this, so it’s extremely important for us to get this right, and we act quickly when videos are brought to our attention,” a YouTube spokeswoman said in a statement. “We use a combination of machine learning, algorithms and community flagging to determine content in the app as well as which content runs ads. We agree this content is unacceptable and are committed to making the app better every day.”

The videos made it onto YouTube Kids by getting past safety filters, either by mistake or by trolls gaming the software.

The controversy comes as tech giants find themselves under intense scrutiny from Congress over the power and influence they have over what billions of people see online. Google, Facebook and Twitter spent last week in marathon Senate and House hearings over the way Russian trolls abused their platforms to meddle in last year’s US presidential election. Lawmakers grilled the tech companies over accountability for the algorithms they used.

This isn’t the first time YouTube has faced a backlash for unsavory content. Earlier this year, advertisers boycotted YouTube after their ads appeared next to extremist and hate content because of YouTube’s automated advertising technology. Major brands including AT&T and Johnson & Johnson ditched advertising on the platform.

As for the issues with YouTube Kids, the company said parents can use additional controls to limit what their kids see. The controls allow for blocking specific videos or channels and turning off search. YouTube said the app was never meant to be a curated experience, and that parents flagging inappropriate videos would make the app better over time.

Sprint, T-Mobile Ends Merger Talks

November 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc announced they have discontinued merger talks to create a stronger U.S. wireless to rival to market leaders, leaving No. 4 provider Sprint to engineer a turnaround on its own.

The announcement marks the latest failed attempt to combine the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless carriers, as Sprint parent SoftBank Group Corp, and T-Mobile parent, Deutsche Telekom AG, show an unwillingness to part with their prized U.S. telecom assets.

The companies’ unusual step of making a joint announcement on the canceled negotiations could indicate they still recognize the merits of a merger and could keep the door open for potential future talks.

The companies said they ended talks because they “were unable to find mutually agreeable terms.”

A combined company would have had more than 130 million U.S. subscribers, behind Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

John Legere, president and chief executive of T-Mobile, said in the statement that the prospect of combining with Sprint was compelling but “we have been clear all along that a deal with anyone will have to result in superior long-term value for T-Mobile’s shareholders compared to our outstanding stand-alone performance and track record.”

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said that even though the companies could not reach a deal, “we certainly recognize the benefits of scale through a potential combination.”

Claure said Sprint has agreed it is best to move forward on its own with “significant assets, including our rich spectrum holdings, and are accelerating significant investments in our network to ensure our continued growth.”

Failure to clinch an agreement leaves SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, a dealmaker who raised close to $100 billion for his Vision Fund to invest in technology companies, with the need to find another option for Sprint.

Sprint is in the middle of a turnaround plan and has sought to strengthen its balance sheet by cutting costs. But industry analysts have expressed concern that the company, weighed down with total debt of $38 billion, has few financial options. Even though its customer base has expanded under CEO Claure, growth has been driven by heavy discounting.

Claure said in August that while Sprint could sustain itself, cost savings from a transaction were significantly better than remaining a standalone entity.

Analysts said an end to talks to T-Mobile would leave debt-laden Sprint without the scale needed to invest in its network and to compete in a saturated market.

Sprint has sought to strengthen its balance sheet by cutting costs. To shore up cash over the past two years, the company has already mortgaged a portion of its airwaves and equipment through sale leaseback deals.

Mark Stodden, telecom analyst at Moody‘s, said “To really take the kind of next step from a business that has been stabilized to a business that has been growing is going to require a new more intense investment phase.”

T-Mobile is a better position than Sprint as a standalone company, analysts have said. German majority owner Deutsche Telekom, which owns roughly 65 percent of the U.S. carrier, was the first major carrier to eliminate two-year contracts, a shift quickly embraced by consumers and copied by competitors. The company has also badgered rivals with its unlimited data plans.

Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges said in a statement on Saturday that T-Mobile has a “strong basis for growth in the upcoming years.”

Does Virtual Reality Have Unlimited Potential

November 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Virtual reality, exciting as it may be for enthusiasts, is a technology that has yet to truly take hold with the masses, let alone transform people’s daily lives in the way that smartphones have. First, 2016 was supposed to be the “Year of VR.” Then, in 2017, we’ve heard over and over about the trough of disillusionment from VR developers. But that’s okay, because these early VR developers believe that they can become the leaders of a VR space that one day will be mainstream.

Certainly, that’s what Oculus VP of Content Jason Rubin thinks and it’s why his company continues to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the ecosystem. If you ask Rubin to respond to analysts’ assessment that VR’s so-called trough is becoming more of an abyss, he’ll tell you why comparisons to other technologies, like Kinect, simply aren’t valid.

“I tried to explain this in my keynote [at Oculus Connect] in a few sentences and I think I utterly failed to get the point across,” Rubin tells me. “When I said that VR gets compared to other technologies, each technology is different. I would suggest the easiest explanation I can give to a type of technology that VR gets compared to that is exactly wrong to compare would be 3D TV. 3D TV, when it came out, you could understand exactly how good 3D TV could get… It’s two cameras sitting next to one another. It’s still not real 3D yet. It’s stereoscopic, but you can’t move your head and see behind things. So I could say right then and there I am not spending a dollar extra on 3D. And, for that reason, none of the networks wanted to make 3D content…So you saw the entire potential of that device in the moment it was launched and you could easily dismiss it. 

“Let’s look at VR. I can tell you that there is a world in which VR acts a little bit more like a holodeck than it does today. That is way out of our timeline, but if you talk to Michael Abrash about what VR could be in his lifetime or the next lifetime, you start to get into some weird discussions, because VR could be, literally, anything. There is nothing that can come after VR because VR could simulate anything.

He continues, “VR’s potential is literally infinite because as we go from, as Mark [Zuckerberg] said, admittedly bulky goggles to smaller glasses to tricking your inner ear to getting into haptic and touch, you can imagine a world in which VR can do literally anything you can imagine. So, if we judge VR on today’s market, we are making a mistake. Even if the trough of disillusionment is deeper than many analysts might have wanted it to be, or they’re making that momentary discussion, this is silly… Can we imagine a world where there’s no screen door effect? Yes. Can we imagine a world where it’s not heavy? Yes. Can we imagine a world where there’s more content? Yes. So, unlike 3D TV, in exactly the opposite way, it has infinite potential. Not limited potential. Infinite potential. The question is, how long will it take to get there?”

Some have used the discontinuation of the Kinect from Microsoft not only as a reminder of the demise of traditional motion gaming ushered in by the Wii, but as a cautionary tale for technology that just doesn’t resonate on a large enough scale.

Rubin dismisses any Kinect comparisons as well: “Kinect was not as easy to understand as 3D TV. So I cannot look at Kinect and say, ‘Well, that’s [like] 3D TV.’ When I looked at Kinect first, I thought, ‘Huh, this could do some interesting stuff.’ But it was also not [something with] infinite potential because, ultimately, all it can do is track one or more bodies and put the information that those one or more bodies was transmitting onto a screen.

“So Kinect looked great, reached its potential quickly, and then the additional potential failed to deliver. And developers looked at Kinect – and I was there, I remember I was talking to Microsoft about building a Kinect game at one point very early on – and two years later it was pretty clear to everyone that this was not going to be the future. We had reached the potential. So, while Kinect started looking like VR, it very quickly reached its potential. I will tell you as we sit here today, whether this generation of VR, or a next generation of VR, one generation of VR will take over the world. That’s infinite potential. And that’s why I don’t like any of these analogies. They all fall flat for me.”

An analogy he does like, however, is one that Intel’s Kim Pallister shared with me recently. And that is the VR space is still searching for its Wii – a headset that sacrifices some performance for a much more attractive price and accessibility. When Oculus Go launches next year at $199 – $100 more than Gear VR, with which it’ll share a library – Rubin believes the standalone headset could be the answer to the Wii question.

“The perfect product market fit is the right hardware quality with the right price point and the right software to drive it,” he says. “I would suggest that VR is on the path to finding that perfect product.”

Go is far from perfect, but Rubin believes it will offer consumers a good balance between price and performance. “That $199 buys you a significant amount of capability,” he offers. “First of all, it’s fully contained. It doesn’t need a phone to plug into it. So, right off the bat, if you happen not to be a Samsung phone user… it doesn’t require you to switch to Android from iOS or switch to Samsung from another Android marketplace. In being all-in-one, it also allows you to take it on and off quickly. It won’t draw on your phone’s battery. Updates, carrier things, other stuff like that are taken care of much more cleanly because it’s not doing double duty as a phone and a VR device.

“The lenses are fantastic. They’re our latest technology. They’re amazing. If you try it, you will know I’m not exaggerating. The ergonomics are fantastic. When you take apart a phone and you take the pieces you need for a VR device out and distribute it around a headset appropriately, the weight isn’t slung all the way out at the end of your nose, so it feels better. [Gear VR] is still a great way of getting VR inexpensively. But if you’re a big VR enthusiast and you use it often or if you don’t have a Samsung device, Oculus Go gives you an opportunity to jump into the market. So our addressable market at low price point radically improves.”

The other major hardware announcement at Oculus Connect was the company’s Santa Cruz headset – an all-in-one HMD that offers six degrees of freedom and hand-tracking (as compared with 3DOF on Gear/Go) but Oculus isn’t revealing it as a consumer product just yet. Similar to the multiple dev kit iterations that Rift went through following its Kickstarter reveal, it appears that Santa Cruz is going to continue to be tweaked by the engineers on the team. One thing is clear, though: barring a technological miracle, there’s no way Santa Cruz will be able to replicate the exact high-end VR experience that Rift provides.

“To be completely honest, that [power equation] is still a part of our research,” Rubin notes. “That’s what we’re doing. We’re looking at the marketplace that it would come into. We’re looking at the capabilities that are needed to run inside-out tracking, because all of that has to be in the device. We’ll make that decision. Having said that, anyone with a mild amount of technical expertise, could pretty quickly determine that the power usage, the cooling, and the other demands of the PC min spec even that we’ve taken on Rift is not likely to show up in a portable device in the immediate future.”

There’s no doubt that committing to VR remains a risky proposition for many studios still. EVE Valkyrie dev CCP Games just exited VR altogether, and while this interview was conducted prior to that news, Rubin sees a light at the end of this chaotic VR tunnel. Studios may rise and fall around VR in the next few years, but those who manage to stick around may be amply rewarded.

“The chaos and excitement is creating a lot of failure that will eventually lead to success,” Rubin stresses. “So if a company or three or five or ten are struggling, that is the business. They understand that. They may complain, but that’s the world we live in. They’re betting on the long-term success of the hardware, and their ability to be the Naughty Dog, the Zynga, the Rovio, whatever, of VR. There are companies now that are succeeding if you look at the numbers, making million dollar, multi-million dollar titles.

“That did not exist a few years ago. They could not [invest that much]. A few hundred thousand dollars, maybe you could make your money back. Could you make a million dollar title? Probably not. But if you just read across the press, there are companies out there that are self-sustaining and they’re making titles that are a few million dollars… As we continue to make more and more [games with larger budgets], we bring more consumers into the marketplace. As we keep our price reasonable, we bring more people into the marketplace. That allows $2 million games to become $3 million games, etc, etc. As long as we stay ahead of that curve, and continue to expand the size and scope of the products we’re making, we will continue to make the ecosystem larger and larger, and that will bring more and more people in and that makes developers more likely to succeed on their own.”

For that reason, Oculus has been funding games by investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the ecosystem. But it’s clear that Oculus would rather see the ecosystem become self-sustaining. At that point, then we’ll truly see some AAA efforts on digital storefronts.

“If we pull this off – and I intend to – in the long run, we will be able to back away, and there will be companies like EA and Activision and Take-Two and everyone else that are putting $100 million into VR games and making their money back without any input from us,” Rubin adds. “That is the eventual success state. When we reach that point, to wrap this into some of the other questions you asked, some of those people will also want to do non-game things, and that will lead to opportunities to create the next Uber of VR or the Airbnb of VR or whatever strikes the people.”

There’s been a fair amount of controversy surrounding Oculus’ exclusives, but to Rubin it’s the competition that’s not doing VR any favors. “Again, if you’re not investing in the ecosystem, you are not driving VR’s success. You are coming along for the ride,” he states.

These days, Oculus closely scrutinizes every project before it commits to funding rather than looking to fund every small developer that comes knocking at its door.

“If a team comes to Oculus with a $1 million title or so, the question we ask ourselves is, ‘Do we need to finance this?’ That title can make its money back,” he says. “Especially, when we don’t fund it, they can put it out on multiple VR platforms, which we’re all for. It just increases the odds of making their money back. As Microsoft and others enter the marketplace, that is good for VR, because it is yet more pieces of hardware out there. Unfunded content that comes out for all of them has a better chance of making its money back.

“The shape of what we fund will change as that window of investment that can pay off gets larger and larger every year as the consumer base grows. And it may be that we continue to stay ahead of that to the point where we’re funding very expensive games and very expensive non-games. If we get to that point where we’re spending twice what we’re spending now on an average title, the only way we’ve gotten there is the average self-invested title is significantly larger too, because it can afford to make that investment and get a return on its investment. I’m not looking to retire anytime soon. But I do think we’ll get there some day.”

As Rubin alludes to, non-games could very well become a large chunk of Oculus’ business in the future. Right now, Oculus is a games-first company, but clearly social platform software and enterprise software for various industries is gaining in importance. And with the new VR interface for Oculus (called Dash) that allows you to control all your programs within VR, thereby eliminating the PC monitor, it’s conceivable that Oculus could become more like Microsoft – gaming would be just a slice of the corporation.

“Games were a big part of the launch of the [Apple] App Store because it was a low hanging fruit and it was obvious. But, in the long run, there is no question that, when we reach a billion people [in VR], games will be A use case, not THE use case,” Rubin says. “Social will be a massive use case…So will applications and utilities, because we all have things to achieve in our life. Seems to me, since I’ve been alive, every year we get more things we need to achieve in our life. So if we find a technology that makes some of those things easier, faster, or more efficient, we will adopt it. And that is exactly what drove mobile phone usage. It’s in your pocket. Look at how much easier I can do x, y, or z, and you immediately start doing it. By definition, as a computer platform, we will do all of those things. But we will start with entertainment and move towards them. By the way, we announced our enterprise partner program, so we are already taking steps to broaden.” 

One of the problems that content producers may have with VR is that it’s such a young technology that keeps evolving. It’s effectively changing faster than some studios can keep up with. This, too, will stabilize, Rubin promises.

“As a long-term developer of content… the most frustrating and exciting times always happen at the same point,” he says. “It is frustrating because there is so much change. So as a developer, creative, or other app creator, you are frustrated by how much things are changing and how rapidly they’re changing. But it’s also the most exciting time because, invariably, that change leads to opportunity and then opportunity leads to success. I can give you an endless number of examples of this. When cartridge based 2D games went CD and 3D, 2D cartridge based character action game makers stuck with 2D because 2D was something they knew and they made hundreds of millions of dollars at that time making those products. My little team at Naughty Dog didn’t have that background, so we joined the frustrating and exciting change to 3D and we watched a lot of companies try and fail at how to get various things into 3D. My company happened to get it right and we created Naughty Dog and billion-dollar franchises. 

“The exact same thing happened at the beginning of mobile,” he continues. “If you remember iPhone 1, iPhone 2 – every resolution of the screens would radically change. The capability of the screens would change. It was crazy town. And we didn’t know what people wanted out of the devices… Again, when Facebook opened up the opportunity for people to make apps on Facebook, nobody knew how to make a social app. [That] created Zynga. Was it frustrating? Oh my God! I actually was working on games back then. I’m sitting in Facebook’s offices [and] I will still say this. They changed the underlying SDK and rule-set on a bi-weekly basis and we were working on stuff that was going to take six months to a year to come out. It was incredibly frustrating and crazy. [But] it created multiple billion-dollar companies.”

VR developers are in the midst of figuring out how to best leverage the medium’s best traits. Titanfall creator Respawn, for example, announced a new project at Oculus Connect that aims to depict the realism of being a soldier. Rather than simply glorify the violence the way some shooters do today, Respawn wants to make you feel the tension and fear that someone on the battlefield must endure.

very empathetic,” Rubin notes. “I would also add that it may be that if you experience certain things in VR, it will teach you a lesson about what that would be like in real life. And so everything is a lesson and a learning. I will also say that Respawn is very aware of what they make. They’re good citizens. So judge us when the product comes out.”

Respawn’s title isn’t due until 2019, but as we’ve seen with the VR marketplace itself, patience is a virtue.

“The one thing I have no control of at Oculus is bringing software through production any faster. And it pains me,” Rubin laments. “All the Crash [Bandicoot games] were made in a year. Jax took two years. Two years is aggressive these days. At some point, it’s going to be a lifetime to bring out software. I hope we can figure out a better way. But, yes, unfortunately, it will take a little while, but the payoff will be there when we finish.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Viacom Eying Mobile As A Way To Gain Younger Viewers

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Viacom Inc is experimenting with a new tactic in its multi-front effort to win back younger U.S. viewers ditching expensive cable TV packages: seeking deals directly with mobile phone networks.

Media companies and mobile networks are increasingly dependent on each other for content and distribution. AT&T Inc’s pending $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc, for example, is a means for the No. 2 wireless carrier to own the content that its mobile users want to stream.

New York-based Viacom already has mobile agreements in other countries. Now, it is in talks with U.S. carriers to see if it can execute a similar strategy, Viacom Chief Executive Bob Bakish told Reuters in an exclusive interview recently.

 The company is setting up a division that ultimately will have at least 100 people to produce short-form shows that are more easily watched on mobile phones, he said.

“There are hundreds of millions of mobile users in the U.S. who are in the nascent stages of consuming content on their devices and certainly are in the nascent stages of doing it on a pay basis,” Bakish said.

Bakish declined to say which carriers his company has approached.

The stakes are high for Viacom and its traditional TV rivals, which need to find new sources of revenue as they grapple with shrinking cable subscribers and fees from distribution deals.

“Ten years ago, Viacom would never have wanted to do anything like this because they wouldn’t want to jeopardize their relationships with the traditional distributors,” said Terry Denson, a media consultant and former head of content at Verizon Communications Inc. “The balance of power has shifted as the opportunity for growth lies with newer distribution platforms like social media, smartphones and tablets.”

While U.S. mobile carriers are interested in content, it is unclear if they will pay for Viacom’s shows. But Viacom can no longer bank on future fee increases from the traditional cable and satellite distributors. Earlier this month, after fractious talks, it agreed to lower fees so its networks would feature on all cable bundles offered by Charter Communications Inc’s Spectrum.

That makes dealing with mobile carriers, which it has done elsewhere, more attractive.

In Japan, Viacom has two deals with mobile companies for its MTV and Nickelodeon apps. In the 18 months since launching, mobile consumption of Viacom’s MTV Hits, a music video service available on AbemaTV, a free, ad-supported web-based mobile service, has surpassed its MTV Japan TV channel, Viacom said. The two share ad revenue.

Qualcomm To Go 10nm With 845 Processor

October 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm’s flagship SoCs are the leading-edge process and Fudzilla can now confirm that Snapdragon 845 SoC, likely to be presented this year, will be made on a 10nm FinFET manufacturing process.

Our sources believe that Samsung fabs are behind the SoC, and as some of you know, it is simply too early for 7nm. We expect to see 7nm solutions from everyone by the end of  next year. You know that Apple is pushing fabs to get the latest and greatest manufacturing process and A11 is also 10nm, so that is as good as it gets, at least in late 2017/early 2018.

Traditionally, Qualcomm announces its flagship chips in the latter part of the year and by that time, it is ready to ship it to its customers. Samsung S8 was the first with the Snapdragon 835 and we expect to see the upcoming Galaxy S9 featuring the Snapdragon 845 SoC. Of course, there is no confirmation on the 845 name, but media colleagues decided to use it and we are just playing along.

Samsung, of course, will have its own Exynos version of the Galaxy S9 phone with an updated successor to the 8895 possibly called Exynos 8900. Samsung did say that its 7 nanometer process is the first time that the company will use extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography and we can expect to see production in the second half of next year.

The Snapdragon 845 will feature an updated Kryo cores as well as a better Adreno GPU. The company has had quite some time to do a lot of optimisations on the 10nm process and we can expect decent gains in performance compared to the Snapdragon 835. The Adreno GPU will offer further optimisations for the VR, AR and XR as well as slightly faster clocks and gains. 

It will serve as a reminder that Nvidia’s flagship Volta chip is on 12nm and hasn’t even got to 10nm yet, while the mobile phone industry is getting ready for 7nm next year and the second generation 10nm this year. 

Courtesy-Fud

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