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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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Netflix Loses Nearly 500,000 Subscribers, Could Redbox Take the Credit?

posted Sunday Jul 28, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Netflix Loses Nearly 500,000 Subscribers, Could Redbox Take the Credit?

Ever since Netflix announced their price hike and attempted a change in policy over two years ago, things haven't been the same for the company. While they may have been able to break records and post profits in questionable quarters, subscribers keep leaving for sometimes, quite literally, greener pastures. Now, with a new, red competitor by the name of Redbox Instant emerging, Netflix is facing even more customer losses.

Even with a competitive edge, Netflix lost 470,000 subscribers to their disc-by-mail option this past quarter alone, ending June 30. This brings total subscribers down from 8 million to just over 7.5 million. This marks the largest downturn in subscribers to the disc rental subscription since 2011, when Netflix lost 800,000 members after the price change. The good news is that Netflix was able to turn a profit of $109 million, which is a 47 percent margin for discs. The streaming-only business model, interestingly enough, only generated a 22.5% margin of profit.

Through it all, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is still committed to mailing you DVDs should you choose that option. However, with Redbox Instant by Verizon stepping up with an ability to allow you to rent four discs at a time, along with unlimited streaming to over 5,000 shows and movies, it appears some stiff competition isn't just waiting in the wings - it's here, waiting for Netflix to counter the attack. Redbox, of course, is only $7.99 for both of those services combined, where that same $8 only gets you disc rentals from Netflix now.

B. Riley & Co. analyst Eric Wold commented shortly after the earnings call about the new game in town,

We continue to believe that the $8 combo disc/streaming subscription plan offered by Redbox Instant will represent an attractive option to Netflix DVD-only subscribers that are paying the same price for disc access only. Nevertheless, we take this trend reversal with Netflix DVD-only subscribers as an optimistic sign that Redbox Instant is already having a competitive impact on the industry.

Could Redbox signify the tide turning for the successful endeavor that is Netflix? As always, competition breeds innovation and gives companies the reason to push the envelope, where otherwise they would not take such a risk. I'm excited to see where this war will go, as Redbox has, at least by the numbers, been the only real competition that has hit Netflix where it hurts: in their profit-and-loss statement.

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Samsung to Hold Own Developer Conference

posted Sunday Jul 28, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Samsung to Hold Own Developer Conference

Samsung has been becoming a major player in the mobile space for some time now. Over the past few years, more and more people are picking up Samsung products and the company has created a very loyal following of both consumers and developers. That being said, Samsung has finally decided it wants to fit in with the rest of the big boys and host its own developer conference in order to appeal to the mass amount of developers who support their products.

Following the footsteps of Microsoft, Google, AT&T and Apple, the Samsung Developer Conference will take place for the first time this year. Announced this week, the event will be held in, sadly, San Francisco from October 27 to the 29th at the Westin St. Francis. As of right now, registration is not available but you can sign up for an email alert to be notified when it will go live, which will be sometime later this summer. Also, there's no details on what to expect of the conference yet, at least to the public. Samsung says they will announce sessions, guests and other details in the near future and that all of Samsung's products will be covered at the event, so it won't be just focused on phones and tablets. I'd love to know the one developer who signs up to learn about the Samsung washer and dryer SDK.

In comparison to the rest of the popular crowd, Apple and Google usually get about 5,000 attendees each year and Microsoft sees far more than that at Build. The Westin St. Francis has 34 rooms for conferences and a Grand Ballroom with capacity for 1,100 people, so we'll have to see how many developers Samsung can pack into that hotel for their event.

All things considered, it's probably a good idea for Samsung to be starting a conference of their own, as they do have a wide variety of products and services. However, seeing as though they don't own their own dominant operating system, and instead simply provide their services on other interfaces, I'm not sure if the turnout will be what they expect. While Bada is their own operating system, it really doesn't have the attention nor marketshare to deserve its own conference. With Windows and Android being the only two main interfaces to discuss, it seems a little redundant that they would host an event to cover them a second time.

Comparatively, AT&T hosts their own conference and tends to attract both the attention and respect to make it a worthwhile event. Perhaps it is the fact that it occurs at the same time as CES. At any rate, I think a lot of people will become confused as to what the purpose of the conference is for, and fans and loyalist will get mad that they can't attend. Sort of like E3. Perhaps it'll all work out in the end though, and I do have high hopes for the event as a whole, as it'll bring more awareness to Samsung's offerings that aren't Galaxy-named.

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