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Microsoft's Latest Branding Disaster - SkyDrive

posted Sunday Aug 4, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft's Latest Branding Disaster - SkyDrive

Microsoft has been having quite a time picking brand names that stand up to trademark suits. We all remember the issue over the term "Metro" for the new universal interface across Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox. Previously all of the interface concepts were referred to as Metro, until Metro AG, the world's 5th largest retailer, contacted them and demanded they pick a new name. unfortunately they have had no luck accomplishing that, having used the terms Modern UI and now simply Windows Store style.

This week, Microsoft has lost another brand name to not being legally prepared, this time one that matters: SkyDrive. For those who do not know, SkyDrive is a cloud storage solution from Microsoft that is heavily integrated into their current product offerings, with even closer integration in upcoming products. Windows 8.1, codenamed Blue, is set to have SkyDrive as its default storage location. Windows Phone automatically uploads photos to the service's Photos section. Xbox One will allow cloud storage of games and save data to SkyDrive as well.

All of that is almost correct, as Microsoft will now have to change the name of the service from SkyDrive. A trademark suit with BSkyB, or British Sky Broadcasting, was lost, with Microsoft having to let go of the brand which infringed on the 'Sky' mark. The mark in question is for a former cloud storage service, Sky Store & Share, which BSkyB shuttered in 2011, when they initially filed the trademark suit.

Luckily for Microsoft, BSkyB has allowed Microsoft a reasonable period of time to transition off of the mark. If Microsoft is unable to make a deal out of court for a licensing program for the name, which they have not mentioned being interested in, this loss will cost Microsoft dearly.

As Microsoft has been marketing SkyDrive as the center of a technological wheel that includes all of Microsoft's technologies, like Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, Internet Explorer, Outlook and Office, there will be a tremendous amount of branding changes to be done. All of these applications and platforms will need to have logos, marketing material and naming updated to reflect whatever the new name of the service is.

In addition, there will be a lot of development cost involved. All of these apps will have new API endpoints that will need to be developed and implemented. All existing SkyDrive shares will need to be rerouted to the new domain. Plus, there are non-Microsoft apps that rely on SkyDrive heavily that will also need to be rewritten at the cost of developers unrelated to Microsoft.

This last issue is the one that might cost Microsoft the most. At a time when Microsoft is trying to court new development on its platforms, costing those developers money because of a bad decision on Microsoft's part will not help in winning hearts and minds.

Luckily, SkyDrive as a brand name is still relatively unknown. Unless you use Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8, you might have never interacted with the brand at all. If this was going to happen, this would be the time to have it happen. Hopefully, whatever the new brand name is, it will not have the same over-reaching, bland descriptive branding that Microsoft has been known for.

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DirecTV and the NFL Discuss Sunday Ticket Deal

posted Sunday Aug 4, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

DirecTV and the NFL Discuss Sunday Ticket Deal

Could DirecTV and the NFL's happy relationship finally come to a disastrous end? It can if the two don't come to an agreement on the price that it will cost DirecTV for NFL Sunday Ticket.

During the earnings conference call for the second quarter, DirecTV CEO Michael White spoke about the current negotiations with the NFL. Their contract with the league ends after the 2014 season, so the satellite company still has a small amount of time left.

We're always in a dialogue with the NFL about how things are going and how we can continue to improve and build the franchise, and we've had those discussions as well this year. We continue to have very constructive discussions with the NFL. I continue to be optimistic that we're great partners together and that Sunday Ticket will stay with us for the long haul.

It's all about the price that the NFL would like to increase the deal to. As it stands, DirecTV shells out just over $1 billion for the Sunday Ticket package each year, giving them exclusive rights over the subscription, not counting the Web access. That's quite a lot of money, but it secures DirecTV as the only provider of this content. The company's CFO Patrick Doyle seems to agree with his statements back in March that DirecTV won't pay an exponentially higher price for the package.

For us, there's a point where we're certainly willing to renew and at some increase that's reasonable, that we can absorb and continue to pass on to the customer. I think, obviously, if it goes above that, we would certainly either think about not carrying it or go nonexclusive.

DirecTV has had exclusive access to broadcast Sunday Ticket since its inception back in 1994. However the NFL is putting pressure on upping the price of its media deals across the board. CBS, NBC, FOX and ESPN, altogether, have averaged a price increase of just over 75 percent for their renegotiated contracts, so if you carry that over to DirecTV, that send the current $1 billion price tag to $1.75 billion. Is that a hike that the satellite company would be willing to pay? If not, I'm sure any cable company would be quick to swoop in and try to work out a short-term deal immediately. However, with the amount of added incentives that DirecTV offers, like watching on your tablet, computer and even adding your fantasy football team into the Sunday Ticket interface itself, I think it would take a lot more work than what it's worth for cable providers, especially considering some of them balked for years at even introducing the NFL RedZone channel. It's also possible that DirecTV would consider signing a non-exclusive deal if it meant a sharp discount in price.

In contrast, Aereo is currently expanding their reach. By only having to pay $8 a month with no contract commitment, if Aereo is in your favorite team's market, that's a far better price to pay for five months than the $300 sticker shock that is Sunday Ticket - or having to sign a one- or two-year agreement with DirecTV.

Could Aereo be damaging DirecTV's value of Sunday Ticket to the point where they could no longer justify paying the price tag? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Yahoo Picks Up Social Browser Rockmelt in Year-long Trend of Acquisitions

posted Sunday Aug 4, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Yahoo Picks Up Social Browser Rockmelt in Year-long Trend of Acquisitions

It's a brand new week here in Cyberland, which means it's time for another company to be acquired by Yahoo. In what seems to be the ongoing trend as of late, Yahoo has been snatching up startups left and right, all while revamping their own projects, closing non-profitable ones and spending billions on established brands. Last week, it was Admovate and this week, it's Rockmelt, the startup social browser.

On their blog, Rockmelt posted:

We're excited to tell you that Rockmelt has been acquired by Yahoo!. Yahoo! and Rockmelt share a common goal: To help people discover the best content from around the web. In our short four and a half years at Rockmelt, we've learned a lot about how you like to browse the web, discover content, and share the great stuff you've found. You've been right by our sides as we've celebrated successes, endured failures, and invented new ways of doing things. You've taught us a ton. And we plan to put everything we've learned to work at Yahoo!.... Your kept items will be exported as bookmarks and the feeds you follow as an OPML file. The Rockmelt apps and web product will be shutdown on August 31, 2013.

Founded in 2009, the company was able to gain almost $40 million in investment funds from different companies around the country. The shutdown of Rockmelt's app and products are to be expected, as Yahoo has been doing that with nearly every other company they've brought into their portfolio over the past year.

It should also be pointed out that this wasn't Yahoo's only pick-up this week, either. The web giant purchased Lexity, an e-commerce business, but the terms of that deal were not disclosed. For Rockmelt, AllThingsD is reporting that Yahoo almost doubled the social browser's investment money, with a check in the ballpark of $60-$70 million.

Will Yahoo keep up this trend of buying up groups that will hopefully boost their relevancy moving forward? Or will they eventually run out of companies to buy and/or cash to spend?

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NVIDIA SHIELD Finally Hits Market

posted Sunday Aug 4, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

NVIDIA SHIELD Finally Hits Market

Ever since the announcement of NVIDIA's SHIELD at the International CES, gamers have anticipated putting their hands on the device and playing on-the-go in a new way. Unfortunately, five weeks ago NVIDIA said there was mechanical issues that prevented the launch of the product last month. Regardless of the actual reasons behind the delay, the good news is that the SHIELD is now available.

At the $299 price point, the NVIDIA SHIELD hit shelves this week at GameStop, Micro Center and Canada Computers and is also available through Newegg and NVIDIA's websites and is the company's first attempt at a gaming device. Slightly reminiscent of Sony's PSP, here's what NVIDIA says makes their handheld stand out in the crowd:

Take on the latest console-quality Android games with true HD 720p graphics, booming stereo sound, and the precise, familiar performance of a console-grade game controller. And stream your PC games over Wi-Fi to play anywhere in the house. With always-on access to Google Play and NVIDIA TegraZone libraries, SHIELD is great gaming, where and when you want it. Google Play is music, books, magazines, movies, TV shows, and apps, available anywhere you go.

SHIELD puts a complete multimedia theater in the palm of your hands. Get lost in the hottest movies, your favorite music, or the latest e-book with a stunning 5" retinal-quality multi-touch display and custom tuned bass reflex audio. Watch Hulu. Surf the web. Check email. Even update your Facebook status. SHIELD makes it easy to stay connected to everything you love.

What kills is for me, sadly, is the fact that it's all about Android, just like the rest of the mobile gaming startups we're seeing as of late. Considering that, it really doesn't appeal to anyone with a higher-end tablet that one might already own. Also, the SHIELD has had mostly positive reviews from several different types of users and sites, but many have said there's no real reason to switch from a Vita or 3DS, should a consumer already have one of those as well.

Did you already pick up your SHIELD? Do you have any reservations? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Sony and Panasonic Team Up to Create Next-Gen 300GB Optical Disc

posted Sunday Aug 4, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony and Panasonic Team Up to Create Next-Gen 300GB Optical Disc

Sony's pursuit to push the envelope of disc capacity has not stopped at just the Blu-ray disc, and this doesn't include the Sony store mailing you CDs in five to seven business days. Sony and Panasonic have joined forces to work on designing the next level of optical disc, which could hold, at minimum, 300GB of data. Even with streaming becoming a popular commodity in this age, many people still use high-capacity discs to archive their favorite moments, documents and other important materials. Along with that, several areas in this country, and other countries as a whole, have capped or limited bandwidth and speeds, which could hamper a user's streaming experience.

In their press release this week, the two companies said they look forward to launching this no later than holiday season of 2015.

Optical discs have excellent properties to protect them against the environment, such as dust-resistance and water-resistance, and can also withstand changes in temperature and humidity when stored. They also allow inter-generational compatibility between different formats, ensuring that data can continue to be read even as formats evolve. This makes them a robust medium for long-term storage of content. Both companies have previously developed products based on the Blu-ray Disk format, leveraging the strengths of optical discs. However, both Sony and Panasonic recognized that optical discs will need to accommodate much larger volumes of storage in years to come given the expected future growth in the archive market, and responded by formulating this agreement.

Interestingly, the two companies have done separate work on developing future disc tech. Panasonic has recently created a system which can read many 100GB optical discs all at once and Sony has already changed the quality of home movies with the introduction of their Blu-ray disc and player several years ago.

Sony and Panasonic both cited that this next solution may not necessarily be for consumers, but rather for businesses and professionals. Video production companies and data centers could benefit from larger disc capacities, as transferring insanely large amounts of data over the Internet may not always be a viable option.

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Don Mattrick Lays Out 90-Day Plan as New CEO of Zynga

posted Sunday Jul 28, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Don Mattrick Lays Out 90-Day Plan as New CEO of Zynga

Several things have happened recently with Zynga. First, the company has undergone a massive restructuring, including several rounds of layoffs and full-on studio closures by the foresight of COO David Ko. Then, the once-reigning social gaming champion was dethroned by new gaming mogul, King. And just last week, Don Mattrick left Microsoft to take over as CEO of Zynga, in hopes to change things around for the better. Many wondered what and how Mattrick would return Zynga back to its glory and the good news is that, this week, the Don laid out his 90-day plan in a statement and in an interview.

Mattrick has really come to the company to take charge, and here's how he says he will do it:

So here's what I'm focused on in the next 90 days. (I want to get) under the hood to evaluate every aspect of our business; conduct top-to-bottom business reviews and work with our leaders to calibrate against the market opportunity and to go after it with a real sense of urgency.

Obviously a lot of that needs some clarification as to what exactly it means. Mattrick continued,

I'll spend time heads-down with our team and focus on improving our product quality; how we're deploying people at all levels of the company, and I'm also going to use the next 90 days to assess and reset our product pipeline. Zynga's still a young company, and we have the capability to break some bad habits and get back to some good fundamentals. And while my approach in the first few weeks is to listen and learn, when it becomes clear what change is necessary, I'll move quickly and decisively to do what's in the best long-term interests of our players, employees, and our shareholders.

In his 90-day plan, Mattrick also decided that Zynga will no longer be involved with online gambling here in the US. And, even though investors have spoken with their dollars, causing Zynga to fall 14 percent in the stock market, the former Microsoft exec remained true to his quick-and-decisive mantra. He added that online gambling would not allow Zynga games to be social and accessible to everyone, and with $1.5 billion in cash and investments, Mattrick said he will be using the funds to bring Zynga back up to the 6 million paying monthly users it had just over a year ago. Currently the company only has 2 million of that type of customer, certainly a sharp downturn in just four quarters. Active users are also down to 187 million, compared to the 306 million that Zynga had playing their games last year, and the 253 million that were playing just a quarter ago.

Can Mattrick be the one to save the company? Depending on how responsible he was for the Microsoft PR debacle, I'm not sure. As time progresses, more signs point to Ballmer being the man behind not allowing the public relations team to speak to the press and fans as to the reasoning behind the decisions of the new Xbox One, so perhaps Mattrick has simply waiting for an opportunity to take his own reigns and shine. If anyone can bring Zynga back from the brink of a potential disaster, it probably is going to be Don.

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