The UpStream

Nokia Devices & Services to Become Part of Microsoft

posted Sunday Sep 8, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Nokia Devices & Services to Become Part of Microsoft

A few months back, it was revealed that Microsoft and Nokia had been in talks for a buyout, but that something had gone wrong and the talks had ended permanently. There was a lot of speculation over the reasons, from the market penetration of Windows Phone to pricing. No matter what was said at that point, it would appear that it was all a distraction from the fact that Microsoft and Nokia were actually finalizing details over the acquisition.

The final details, announced this week, has Microsoft writing a $7.2 billion check and receiving in return Nokia's devices an services business. This includes the smartphone, phablet and tablet business, as well as a license for Nokia's patents and mapping services.

Nokia will retain ownership of its corporate name, its mapping services as well as the underlying technology, NAVTEQ. Since the name isn't coming along with the purchase, that means that Microsoft will likely be branding future handsets from the ecosystem either Surface or just Microsoft, finally bring to reality the long rumored Surface-branded phones.

Another part of the acquisition is Nokia's now former CEO, Stephen Elop, who is becoming

Executive Vice President of Devices & Services. By taking that position, it means that he will be coming over to the executive team of Microsoft, a place where he is comfortable. Before becoming CEO of Nokia, Elop headed up the Office division of Microsoft.

This move is important because of Microsoft's announcement from 2 weeks ago, the search for a new CEO. Even before the announcement, when I knew that Ballmer wouldn't make it out of the Xbox ONE media disaster any better than Don Mattrick, especially after the way they bungled the Windows 8 launch, I believed that Stephen Elop was the next CEO of Microsoft. By purchasing Nokia, Microsoft has also purchased the contract for the man I think will lead the company into its One Microsoft philosophy, after uniting its closest hardware partner into the organization.

Obviously this is all speculation based on very little spoken from Microsoft, but there is enough out on the table to make an educated guess. It could take up to 12 months to know for sure, but my guess is that we will have our answer within the quarter.

Spotify Introduces Connect Feature to Keep Your Music Playing, No Motion Sensor Required

posted Sunday Sep 8, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Spotify Introduces Connect Feature to Keep Your Music Playing, No Motion Sensor Required

Ever since its arrival here in States, I've been following the Spotify saga. From the company's first greeting message to the list of new features and markets added recently, I'm a huge fan because of the software's uniqueness. Plus, it seems the developers are constantly adapting to the market and keeping Spotify competitive and ahead of the curve. This week is no exception, with the introduction of Spotify Connect.

Spotify Connect, described from the music-streaming company itself, is a new way to play at home. Whether you have a phone, tablet or even certain speakers and receivers, customers everywhere can play, fast forward, favorite and totally control all of their music, both stored locally and from Spotify's service. Here's an example from Spotify on how it works:

You walk through the door, listening to a great playlist on your phone. With Connect, just hit play on your living room speakers and the music instantly fires up, right where you left off. You won't miss a beat.

Then pick up your tablet to control the music from your sofa. Or switch the sound to your iPod Touch in the kitchen's docking station. Keep the music flowing with Connect.

You'll notice that it's sort of like Hulu's service in that you can continue watching your content on different devices (with some exceptions) and it'll pick up where you left off. Other services like YouTube and some cable company DVRs work like this, too, however the difference is that Spotify has brought on third party hardware to carry out the tune-playing when you decide to put down your phone for the day. All you have to do is look for the Spotify Connect logo on any Philips, Denon, Marantz, Hama, Pioneer, Bang & Olufsen, Revo, Typsich, Argon or Yamaha receiver and your space will be transformed into a new party, courtesy of DJ Spotify. To top it all off, Connect doesn't drain your device's power, and you will still be able to make calls, play games and more, all from your smartphone or tablet while the music is playing through your home system or another device.

As of right now, Spotify Connect will be coming soon to Premium subscribers on iPhone, iPad and the home audio systems, hopefully by the end of the year. Then shortly after, we should expect it to show up on Android and desktops as well. Now if only I could get the "Radio" feature on my Windows Phone, we'd be in business. You can check out the video after the break to see more on how this all works.

Xbox One Launch Date Set for Nov 22, Comes with a Second CPU Power Boost

posted Wednesday Sep 4, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Xbox One Launch Date Set for Nov 22, Comes with a Second CPU Power Boost

After Microsoft's initial reveal that was followed up by the company's E3 announcement, a lot of changes and updates were made to the console. However, through all of the announcements and focus shifts, we were still waiting on a release date. This week, Microsoft came through and delivered just that.

On November 22nd, one week before Black Friday, the Xbox One will hit store shelves in 13 markets. Lucky for us, we're included in those 13 markets, along with Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain and the UK. The date also marks the eight-year anniversary of the release of the Xbox 360, so it is a momentous and fitting occasion in that regard as well.

Now, this launch date announcement is also important because we learned that Microsoft will be upping the power inside the Xbox One. The processor has been increased from 1.6GHZ to 1.75GHZ, which is about a ten percent boost in performance. When you add this to the six percent increase that was announced earlier in the summer, this means that gamers on the Xbox One platform will experience a broader and more powerful range of games and services on the console, as it opens up the ability for developers to get more raw power from their projects.

Plus, corporate VP Yusuf Mehdi, took to the Xbox Wire to drive home some of the key features that really set the Xbox One apart from the other console that will be showing up during the holiday season. This is important because many gamers might have forgotten about these aspects during the whole Internet rage thing that happened.

We're going to keep bringing more value to the Xbox One as we head towards launch building on some of the advancements we have already shared such as the 40 plus improvements to the Xbox One controller, advancements to help you find the perfect opponent and make the most of our online community, to the power of the cloud.

And I have to mention the games - Xbox One is proving to be the best place for games, with our exclusive games winning over 100 awards at E3, driving pre-order increases of 200% in European markets after gamers first played our blockbuster line-up at gamescom, and blowing away thousands of fans at PAX PRIME this week-end. Only on Xbox One will you find exclusive blockbusters like "Halo," "Dead Rising 3," "Ryse: Son of Rome" and "Forza Motorsport 5"; new digital content from titles like coming "Call of Duty: Ghosts" and "Battlefield 4" coming to Xbox One first; and the "FIFA 14" Ultimate Team experience you won't find anywhere else.

So, now that we have a date, the CPU increase and a newly-spread rumor that US Xbox One buyers might get a free game, too, does this change or further strengthen your decision to buy or steer away from the Xbox One? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Apple Redesigns Facetime Over Patent Ruling, Damages Service Quality

posted Sunday Sep 1, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Apple Redesigns Facetime Over Patent Ruling, Damages Service Quality

Apple's $368 million patent loss to VirnetX and subsequent lost ruling challenge has cost Apple more than just some money. As part of the battle, Apple has redesigned the backend of their Facetime system, resulting in significant quality loss.

As explained by an engineer during the trial, only about 5% of all Facetime calls went through relay servers: almost everyone communicated peer-to-peer. That direct communication was instrumental in the patent loss, so a change was made to route ALL calls through relays. Engineer Patrick Gates testified that making the change would be trivial in result, but would be expensive to implement, trying to minimalize the effects.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the estimated $3.6 million total cost has resulted in an actual cost of $2.4 million per month. All of that money, and it also turns out that Gates was wrong about the effects of the change as well. As of August 15, Apple has received "over half a million calls" complaining that the service is no longer working properly.

With that knowledge, VirnetX has the ammunition to fight for higher royalties based on the value of their patents, being able to prove that their technology is essential and nearly impossible to work around. As of now, VirnetX is looking for an additional $700 million in ongoing use royalties.

In addition to this "work-around" Apple is also working on a work-around for their iOS VPN-on-demand service, which is also material to VirnetX patent lawsuits. My guess is that one won't go any better than this.

German Government Displeased About Facial Recognition on Facebook Again

posted Sunday Sep 1, 2013 by Scott Ertz

German Government Displeased About Facial Recognition on Facebook Again

A year ago, Facebook removed facial recognition from its photo services in Europe. The decision was made after a threat from the German government, where facial recognition is mostly illegal. As part of the agreement, all of the European facial templates were deleted, in return for the German commissioner dropping proceedings.

This is why commissioner Johannes Caspar was shocked to see facial recognition back in the data usage policy published by Facebook this week. He said in an email,

It is astonishing to find the facial recognition again in the new proposed privacy policy that Facebook published yesterday. We therefore have directly tried to contact officials from Facebook to find out if there is really a change in their data protection policy or if it is just a mistake of translation.

It would be illegal to re-engage facial recognition within Germany, without making it an opt-in setting. The proposed usage policy states,

We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by scanning and comparing your friend's pictures to information we've put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you've been tagged. You can control whether we suggest that another user tag you in a photo using the 'Timeline and Tagging' settings.

While this does not suggest that the setting will be turned off for European users, it also does not suggest it will not. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner, however, says that their office has had contact with Facebook and that they still do not intend to offer the service in Europe.

So, has Facebook really deleted the templates? Will the service return to Europe? Only time can tell.

Nintendo Announces 3DS Lite: 2DS

posted Sunday Sep 1, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Announces 3DS Lite: 2DS

In a move that sent the Internet into fits of insanity, Nintendo this week announced a new product in the 3DS line, the 2DS. The device, available on October 12 for $129, will be fully compatible with all games that the 3DS and 3DS XL can play, but without the 3D capabilities. It also has an altered design, looking more like a tablet that a clamshell; imagine an open 3DS.

After the immediate backlash on social networking sites, as well as my own immediate reaction to the news, I decided to consider what Nintendo was thinking, and whether it made sense or not. As it turns out, this might just be a genius move. Here's why.

October 12, the launch date of the new handheld, is the same day as the launch of the new Pokémon games. Nintendo has always made a ton of money off of these titles, but there is a problem this time around: there simply aren't enough 3DS handhelds in the wild. How can Nintendo solve this problem? A low-cost device.

Obviously, the easiest way to lower the cost on the device is to remove some of the high manufacturing cost items. Those two clear winners are the 3D screen and slider and the hinge. That is precisely what has been done here - little change to the device itself, just removing some of the higher cost pieces. That gets it a full $40 cheaper than the next cheapest device in the family.

So, while the Internet may have had an immediate negative reaction to the 2DS, it seems to me as if Nintendo is going to absolutely clean up with the new addition to the family, all because of Pokémon.

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