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Netflix to Appear on Samsung Cable Boxes

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Netflix to Appear on Samsung Cable Boxes

In an attempt to partially merge with the classic television industry they have been helping to redefine, Netflix has announced a partnership with Samsung to make its streaming service available on Samsung Smart Cable Boxes. With the combined interface, users will be able to search for movies and television on Netflix the same way they do in their standard guide.

This type of interface has been tried in Britain via Virgin Media over the past month, and the trial has proven that integrating into the cable box does not negatively impact the concept of Netflix, nor does it threaten normal television. Instead, adding Netflix into the normal television experience allows Netflix to feel less like an after thought and more of part of television.

Being part of television means that Netflix will essentially change from an additional service that you have to have something special to watch, into a series of interactive premium channels. HBO and Showtime have proven for years that premium channels are something that people want and will pay for, so operating under that model could enhance their subscriptions.

Netflix CCO Jonathan Fiedland said in an interview this week,

Having the Netflix app on a set-top box is a natural progression. Our goal is to make it as simple as possible for consumers to enjoy Netflix while cable operators see value, too, because it makes their broadband service more attractive.

In this new world, no longer do you have to have a Roku on top of your existing cable box, or try to interact with the always painful smart TV apps available on some televisions, but instead use your existing cable box and remote as you always have. As Fiedland said, making it easier will be better for people who are not entirely comfortable with technology.

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Microsoft Makes Games with Gold a Permanent Feature

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Makes Games with Gold a Permanent Feature

Since first announcing Games with Gold at E3 2013 as a temporary program designed to reward loyal, paying customers with free titles, the program, as originally pitched, was to last through the end of the year and to be retired.

Well, after a successful run of almost 5 months, Microsoft has announced that Games with Gold will be a permanent feature of the Xbox 360. Apparently when a program brings about 120 million hours of gameplay, it is worth keeping. Personally, I have downloaded and played several of the titles made available through the program, so I am glad it will remain.

The question this leaves for most is, will Games with Gold be available on Xbox One? Most of the titles available through the program thus far have been older AAA titles. On the new console, there will not be any older AAA titles, at least not ones that were intended for the Xbox One. Microsoft could make Xbox 360 titles available for free on the One, but that might not get the same response.

Personally, I do not expect the Xbox One to have Games with Gold at launch, especially with launch titles getting delayed. Providing something for free when there are fewer than expected paid titles will not make the console a financial success. That being said, it might gain Microsoft some needed positive press in an environment where the Internet and most gaming press are deciding against the new console.

What do think? Will Games for Gold come to the One at launch? Let us know in the comments section.

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SoftBank to Purchase Distributor Brightstar

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Scott Ertz

SoftBank to Purchase Distributor Brightstar

After it purchased Sprint for $21.6 billion, who now owns Clearwire, SoftBank is enhancing its position in the wireless industry once again. Instead of bolstering their US carrier offering, this time SoftBank is purchasing a company you have never heard of: Brightstar.

Based in Miami, FL, Brightstar is the largest distributor of wireless phones in the world, bringing in $7 billion across 50 countries. They are responsible for negotiating the deals between manufacturers carriers, as well as insurance and buy-backs. They have also been working with Verizon Wireless to create Viva Movil, Latino-specific VZW stores in the US.

Following the $1.26 billion acquisition the company will remain in Miami, but the chairmanship will transition to SoftBank, though current President and CEO, Marcelo Claure, will remain in those roles. He will also retain 43% of the company, valuing the company at $2.2 billion, including outstanding debt.

While the acquisition will certainly help Sprint and Softbank's position in negotiating for devices, something Sprint seems to have had trouble with lately, only recently getting the HTC 8X nearly a year after everyone else, it could also hurt the company itself. Some of Brightstar's biggest customers are competitors of Sprint and SoftBank, meaning those competitors might no longer be interested in interacting with a middleman held by a competitor. It could also hurt the Viva Movil project with Verizon.

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Meet Splice, a Source Controlled Music Creation Program

posted Sunday Oct 13, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Meet Splice, a Source Controlled Music Creation Program

Long-time readers and listeners of the show will know of my love for mainly two things: cool tech toys and music (and the Giants, but they shall not be discussed right now). That being said, obviously things like Spotify quickly grab my attention and interest. So when I discovered the music-tech startup Splice, the situation was no different.

Splice is interesting because they take on music in a different way. First, the company is all about making the music creation process easier. For those who are not tech-savvy and wish to collaborate with artists or producers around the world, the programs and systems in place or either too difficult for the novice to use, or they're way too outdated and cumbersome, like MegaUpload. Second, the company introduces the music-making process to the tech world, head-on. How? By including version control so that changes can be made on the fly without worrying about undoing the others' work, or waiting for them to send you back the revision. It's kind of like a hybrid between GitHub and Team Foundation Server in that regard.

Splice's Steve Martocci puts it like this in a blog post,

Splice streamlines the fragmented process of creating and sharing music, freeing musicians to spend their time and energy on the creative process. Splice simplifies music creation by bringing all of the steps into one, frictionless digital home. The Splice community provides artists with a new means to connect with fans and other artists to solicit feedback throughout every step of the creative process - from ideation to the finished product. Founded by entrepreneurs Steve Martocci and Matt Aimonetti, Splice is located in New York City, NY and Santa Monica, CA.

Splice, currently in a private beta, integrates nicely with the popular software Ableton Live versions 8 and 9. Saving projects is easy once you install Splice; the program creates a "Splice" folder, letting you save your projects in Ableton right to the cloud, kind of like SkyDrive. Others can then access and work on their own versions on their own time and Splice automatically keeps up with all the tracks, samples, edit, cuts and more. All the artist has to do is make music, which is exactly what they wanted to do in the first place.

So far the company has raised $2.75 million in private funding and this little startup really looks promising. I can assure you I will be the first to update everyone on how Splice pans out, and hopefully we'll see them add integration into things like Pro Tools and Audition once more funding is acquired. For now, I'm playing with Ableton and learning how to use a new sequencer, so I can play around with the nifty idea that is Splice.

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T-Mobile Lets You Free Roam in 100 International Countries

posted Sunday Oct 13, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

T-Mobile Lets You Free Roam in 100 International Countries

T-Mobile has been a very interesting company to follow for the past couple of years. Through show-boating fake 4G networks, buying MetroPCS to have a real 4G network, shutting down call centers, almost being merged with AT&T and then being denied to merge with AT&T, the company has been a roller coaster of ups and downs. So this week would be no exception as T-Mobile makes another announcement to keep the ball rolling, this time on the international level.

Aside from its announcement of "nationwide 4G LTE," T-Mobile also announced that it will allow its customers to roam across the world and consume an unlimited amount of data at no extra charge. T-Mobile said that with this addition of over 100 countries being included in this global-wide coverage, it now has a larger "home" data coverage area than AT&T and Verizon combined.

John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile US, said,

The cost of staying connected across borders is completely crazy. Today's phones are designed to work around the world, but we're forced to pay insanely inflated international connectivity fees to actually use them. You can't leave the country without coming home to bill shock. So we're making the world your network - at no extra cost.

This addition of free roaming will be included in Simple Choice and New Classic plans starting on October 20th. Of course, there is a small catch. Customers using data abroad will be limited to speeds of 128Kbps or 2G speeds, but in most cases, that speed is good enough to download a few emails and browse the simpler pages on the Web. For those wishing to make calls while travelling the seven seas, T-Mobile will only charge customers 20 cents per minute on voice in these 100-plus "Simple Global" countries. The good news is that there is no charge to send text or picture messages to any mobile number while in the Simple Global countries.

For those wanting higher speeds, T-Mobile will be offering ala carte plans to accommodate. 100MB of faster speeds for one day will be $15, a seven day 200MB pass is $25 and a fourteen day 500MB pass runs $50. There is no word on how much faster the speeds will be on those passes.

While this news is great for T-Mobile customers, I'd be curious to know how many business and international travelers are actually using T-Mobile as their mobile provider. Regardless, this is probably able to be done thanks to T-Mobile's sudden influx of cash due to the failed AT&T merger, so they can probably spend more to make these offers and make the brand look more attractive to customers other than the pre-paid market.

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ITC Ban on Older Samsung Models Goes Into Effect

posted Saturday Oct 12, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

ITC Ban on Older Samsung Models Goes Into Effect

The battle between Apple and Samsung rages on, and now it is affecting consumers. On top of having to already pay Apple $1 billion in damages, Samsung's trade order finally goes into affect this week.

Thanks to the International Trade Commission's decision, older model Samsung phones are no longer allowed to be sold here in the States. Samsung's last line of defense was going to be a veto by President Obama. However, politics aside, he did not veto the order like he did to protect Apple from a nearly identical situation just a few months ago.

All of this is on the heels of an ongoing patent fight between the two companies through the ITC. For this order, it all boils down to patent infringements on touchscreens and headphone jacks. It should be stressed again though that this ban only affect older models of Samsung phones because the company danced around the patents and slightly changed a few functions in the newer models. This will force the product ban to be held to only a couple of phones instead of the entire Samsung line of devices.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman said on the remodeled newer phones,

The order expressly states that these devices and any other Samsung electronic media devices incorporating the approved design-around technologies are not covered. Thus, I do not believe that concerns with regard to enforcement related to the scope of the order, in this case, provide a policy basis for disapproving.

The phones you won't be able to buy in the States anymore are the Transform SPH-M920 and the Continuum SCH-1400, which hold such a minimal footprint that they won't even affect the company the slightest. There are also other phones on the banned list, however with the ITC site being shut down, we currently cannot pull the rest of the models. It should be noted that the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Tab 7.0 had been considered to be banned as well, but the devices did not infringe on the patent regarding headphone jacks.

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