The UpStream

VLC Returns to Apple App Store

posted Sunday Jul 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

VLC Returns to Apple App Store

It has been more than 2 years since VideoLAN had its VLC media player yanked from Apple's App Store. The app was originally removed because, like all of VideoLAN's code, it is released open-source. The code, released under the GPL license, conflicted with App Store rules because of the rules of the license.

The new version, now a round 2.0, is being released under 2 different licenses: Mozilla Public License Version 2 in addition to the GNU General Public License Version 2 or later. Obviously, missing from the list is the GPL; clearly an attempt to prevent the same issue from popping up again.

It isn't that VLC was impossible for the past 2+ years, as any jailbroken iOS device could run the app side-loaded. Availability in the store, however, means that those who are unwilling or unable to unlock their devices will be able to play files, like MKV, on their iOS devices.

For better or worse, the re-entry into the store is a win for open source projects in the Apple ecosystem. Perhaps other projects, whose apps have been removed because of the GPL license, will be able to re-apply by releasing under other open-source licenses. It might also encourage GPL to reexamine their licensing, or offer a mobile version of the license terms.

The app, of course offered for free, is available in the store right now. If you've got an iOS device and download the app, let us know how you like it in the comments below.

Batman and Superman to Unite On-Screen

posted Sunday Jul 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Batman and Superman to Unite On-Screen

It has finally happened - The Caped Crusader and The Man of Steel will be coming together on the big screen for the first time. Henry Cavill, the most recent Superman from this summer's Man of Steel will reprise his roll, along with Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane.

Christian Bale, who has headlined the last 3 Dark Knight films, will not return to the Kevlar suit, nor will Christopher Nolan be directing another film in the franchise, though he will serve as an executive producer on the hybrid film. This definitely means that the film is a sequel to the current Superman franchise and will not live within our now defunct Batman universe.

In addition to Batman and Superman meeting on-screen, we will also see a film starring the Flash, and, assuming commercial success of these films, we will see a DC Universe meetup in a Justice League film. No announcement was made about future Batman titles, but that might have to do with the fact they have not announced any casting for Batman in this new film.

Obviously, this news comes in response to the Marvel Movie Universe's massive success. With films starring Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, Wolverine and their own meetup, The Avengers, constantly succeeding in theatres, it was only a matter of time before DC tried to get in on the cash train.

During the announcement, Harry Lennix, who played DC's Nick Fury, read a selection from The Dark Knight Returns, the book from Frank Miller.

I want you to remember, Clark. In all the years to come. In all your most private moments. I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you.

This means that the film will be less team-up and more beat-down. The rivalry between these two heroes is legendary and makes for a more tense Justice League, whether or not they resolve their differences before the possible film. It would be even more intense than The Avengers had Edward Norton remained as Hulk.

NCAA Ends Relationship with Electronic Arts

posted Sunday Jul 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

NCAA Ends Relationship with Electronic Arts

In the least shocking EA news of the year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has decided that it will not renew its licensing contract with EA Sports. This means that we will not see an NCAA Football 15 coming from the publisher. This news comes after a group of current and former college athletes sued the NCAA for profiting from their likenesses without providing any compensation to those athletes.

We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.

Now, to be fair to the NCAA, they are not responsible for licensing the likeness of college athletes. In fact, the licensing of teams and information is done through an organization called the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC). The licensing between EA and NCAA merely allowed EA Sports to use the name and logo on the box and in the title of the game, not to use the names of any of the schools or players in the game.

EA and the CLC have confirmed that they will continue to work together after the NCAA license expires for future college football titles. Andrew Wilson, EVP for EA Sports, wrote,

EA Sports will continue to develop and publish college football games, but we will no longer include the NCAA names and marks. Our relationship with the Collegiate Licensing Company is strong and we are already working on a new game for next generation consoles which will launch next year and feature the college teams, leagues and all the innovation fans expect from EA Sports.

So, this means that the only change in the franchise will be the title of the game, from NCAA Football 15 to something like College Football 15. Not exactly a win for the athletes involved in the litigation, but not a loss either, but it won't make it any easier to win. In the current setup, the NCAA was taking money from EA Sports for a game featuring athletes that the NCAA says cannot receive any money for. Now, with the NCAA no longer involved with the title, arguing that there is impropriety in the system will not be easy.

It does make sense, though, for the NCAA to get out of the business, at least for now, while they sort out the legal implications. The cost of litigation is potentially HUGE, both financially and in brand value. Any chance to avoid such cost is worth it to the organization.

Microsoft Takes Almost $1 Billion Charge on Unsold Surface RT Inventory

posted Sunday Jul 21, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Takes Almost $1 Billion Charge on Unsold Surface RT Inventory

I think everyone thought Acer was crazy when they told Microsoft back in August to stay out of the tablet industry. However, days after the launch of the latest line of Windows 8 and WinPho 8 products, including the Surface RT, Microsoft's President of Windows, Steven Sinofsky, left the company, which clearly meant Ballmer & Co. believed that the launch of the Surface RT either could have been better or that RT in general was a bit crazy. It appeared that Sinofsky seemed confident RT would take off and excel well in the market, however the numbers from this week's earnings call leads us to believe Microsoft was right in removing Sinofsky from his position.

Microsoft took a charge-off on the remaining Surface RT inventory, along with their recent discount adjustments for Q3 ending June 30th that came to a total price of $900 million. That's quite a big number, even considering that some of it was for the sharp price cut of the devices just two weeks ago. Amy Hood, CFO for Microsoft, also noted that the charge-off includes an unspecified number of components purchased, which we can assume is for parts that haven't been used to build new Surface tablets and also for accessories.

In regards to the announcement, Hood commented on the state of the company as a whole.

While our fourth quarter results were impacted by the decline in the PC market, we continue to see strong demand for our enterprise and cloud offerings, resulting in a record unearned revenue balance this quarter. We also saw increasing consumer demand for services like Office 365, Outlook.com, Skype, and Xbox LIVE. While we have work ahead of us, we are making the focused investments needed to deliver on long-term growth opportunities like cloud services.

Steve Ballmer, who's still around for now, added,

We are working hard to deliver compelling new devices and high value experiences from Microsoft and our partners in the coming months, including new Windows 8.1 tablets and PCs. Our new products and the strategic realignment we announced last week position us well for long-term success, as we focus our energy and resources on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value the most.

With the rumored Surface Mini and Surface 2.0 right around the corner, it doesn't surprise me that Microsoft is clearing out and taking back all of the first-gen devices. Plus, with the Ballmer-mentioned company restructuring and realignment, it's going to take a quarter or two to see any real changes reflected in sales number. For now, all we can do is sit back and wait, and hope that we see some new hardware in the near future. Until then, enjoy the latest Microsoft ad against the iPad after the break. It's the best one yet, and includes the iPad questioning its attractiveness.

Google's Legal Problems Mount in Europe

posted Sunday Jul 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Google's Legal Problems Mount in Europe

While Google might have legal troubles in the US, they are nothing compared to their troubles in the EU. One of the complaints against the company here is that they promote their own services and sponsors at the expense of actual, valid results. The same complaint has been filed against Google in the EU, but with significantly bigger implications.

Here, when you do a search for, say, computer monitors, you will probably see sponsored results at the top and right of the results page for TigerDirect or Best Buy or Amazon. Those results are semi-clearly labeled, sometimes with a slightly different background and always with a little word "Ad" or "Sponsored" somewhere near it. While not necessarily obvious, these things do differentiate the paid results.

In the EU, however, the same search terms may return the same or similar paid results, but the paid results are not differentiated from the proper, valid search results in any way. In fact, in this case, the non-paid results may not even show up until the third or fourth page. While this is good for Google and the advertisers, it is not exactly good for the people using the service.

The EU's antitrust investigation, opened in 2010, received a proposal from Google earlier in the year, and it seems the commission is not pleased with the results. In response to this proposal, the European Commission has issued Google a warning that they need to fix this proposal if they hope to get out of their antitrust case in the EU. Even American organizations are weighing in on the EU case. John Simpson from Consumer Watchdog wrote to the commission,

Since 2007, if not earlier, Google has favored its own services-particularly its specialized 'vertical search' services-over the services of competitors. Google has both promoted its own services in its search results and demoted and penalized the results of its competitors.

He also noted that the proposal excludes Google.com, which is, of course, the site that most commonly returns search results, including in Europe.

One of the unique aspects of an EU antitrust case is that the European Commission works closely with the competitors to ensure that everyone is content with the solution. If not, those competitors can sue the commission for damages, which is something that they would prefer not happen. Therefore, the process will have Microsoft, Yahoo and whoever else the commission deems a damaged competitor, actively involved until an adequate resolution can be found.

PlayOn Adds Aereo Channel to its Network

posted Sunday Jul 14, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

PlayOn Adds Aereo Channel to its Network

After winning their court appeal and then filing a complaint against CBS for repeated lawsuits, Aereo is moving on to bigger and better things. MediaMall Technologies, the company responsible for PlayOn, wanted to get in on the Aereo action and will be placing the video-streaming service onto PlayOn's TV/Cloud-DVR service.

For those who don't know, think of PlayOn to be a media server for all of your movies and shows that you have on your computer. You can then stream all of that content to TVs, smartphones and tablets that you own. You can either pickup PlayOn for $24.99 per year or go with the lifetime subscription option at a reduced cost.

Named the Aereo Channel, Aereo customers will have the ability to stream live shows and watch their saved programs on the PS3, Xbox 360, Google TV, Wii, Wii U and Android devices all through PlayOn. In the future, PlayOn will expand the Aereo channel to all of its supported devices.

Jeff Lawrence, CEO of MediaMall Technologies, spoke about the addition of Aereo.

PlayOn already gives users a simple, easy, and accessible way to watch on-demand movies, TV shows and personal media through their TV and mobile devices. Now, with our new Aereo channel, we can bring users in New York, Boston and Atlanta live local content as well. With Aereo, PlayOn is an even more powerful and comprehensive cable-replacement solution - making it easier than ever for users to cut the cable cord.

A spokesperson for Aereo said that "Aereo has no business relationship with PlayOn." MediaMall added that this is not "taking any revenue away from Aereo" and that this is merely expanding options for Aereo customers to consume their content. Aereo is currently only available on PC and Roku, with the company starting their service up in 24 new markets by the end of the year.

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