The UpStream

Amazon Rumored to be Releasing Their Own Set-Top Box

posted Friday Apr 26, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Amazon Rumored to be Releasing Their Own Set-Top Box

In the race to stay competitive, Amazon has found new and interesting ways to try and get customers to switch over to their Amazon Prime Instant Video service. Most recently, they've piloted 14 different shows, in hopes that you, the customer, will pick the ones you want to see the most. Now, since all the cool kids are rumored to be doing it, the gigantic e-store is said to be planning to release a TV set-top box for streaming video.

Sources who have wished to remain anonymous but are very close to the matter said that the set-top box would further expand the Instant Video service, including the Amazon Video on Demand store. With Apple, Roku and Boxee all having STBs plus Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo pushing their own media services through their gaming consoles and the upcoming 4th iteration of GoogleTV, there is a lot of competition in the space right now. Amazon's Instant Video service has quickly surged to the front of most of these services, and is even available on a huge array of tablets and smartphones, giving Amazon enough justification to push their own STB.

Co-founder of Sling Media, Jason Krikorian, agrees with Amazon's plans moving forward.

It would certainly make some sense. They have a ton of content, an existing billing relationship with millions of users.

Amazon reps have declined to officially comment on the matter. However, we do have some details on who is creating the actual box: Amazon's Lab126 division, which is headquarted in Apple's stomping grounds of Cupertino, California. The same sources say Lab126 has been playing around with connected TVs and set-top boxes for some time and has an extensive background in these products. Running the entire operation is Malachy Moynihan, who was previously Cisco's VP during Cisco's time messing around in video offerings. Moynihan was also with Apple during the late 80s and early 90s. Complimenting the exec are Andy Goodman, who came from TiVo and Vudu and Chris Coley, who was formerly with ReplayTV, a DVR start-up.

No rough figure on pricing was given from these sources. However, with all of the news we have right now, would an Amazon set-top box be something consumers would be interested in, given all of the other options? The Xbox 360 is really becoming a solid media hub with each passing day and if that isn't up your alley, the Roku is a less expensive, yet powerful little alternative. Is there room for the Kindle TV, the proposed name for Amazon's device? Let your text be read in the comments section below.

UK Sentences Counterfeit Headphone Seller to 30 Months in Prison

posted Thursday Apr 25, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

UK Sentences Counterfeit Headphone Seller to 30 Months in Prison

We've talked about counterfeiting in the past, with government agencies taking down fake product sites worldwide. Trying to pass off fake merchandise as real is also common when it comes to well-known brands of headphones, like Monster Products and Sennheiser. This week, the UK took down a heavy-hitter in what the country is calling the largest-ever seizure of fake Monster products, among other brands. Michael Reeder has been convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison on 13 different counts of selling the knock-off products.

Reeder's house and workplace were stormed by federal agents in February of 2011, where the task force found over 2,000 counterfeit products from big-name brands like Monster, Sennheiser, Apple, Sony and Nintendo. The con artist was already under watchful eye by the courts after a 2009 case for not giving customers refunds and shipping product in an excessively untimely manner. Since the initial case, hundreds of customers have complained to Monster directly about receiving headphones from Reeder's company, Odds and Pods, saying that the headphones had bad sound quality, buzzing and came in very strange packaging.

Fast-forwarding to September of 2011, government officials found another 1,500 fake Monster, Sennheiser and Sony headphones, along with Sony PS3 controllers and Wii accessories in the handful of raids they performed that month. The raids even caught the attention of David Tognotti, Monster's General Manager and Vice President of Operations, when he said,

Everyone at Monster is gratified that this long and complex investigation has finally reached such a favourable conclusion. The sale of counterfeit products literally hurts everyone, including manufacturers and retailers, but most especially honest consumers who might have no idea that the goods they purchase are not genuine.

At the sentence hearing this week, the actual size of Reeder's operations were exposed. A report submitted by Sennheiser showed that the seizure of all of their products came to a total of 4,000 different headphones, worth over $250,000 if they were legitimate. The court added that they estimate this was just one percent of all of the illegal activity and inventory Reeder was trafficking, as officials found a handful of sites selling the counterfeit headphones and gaming items.

Sennheiser's President of Corporate Services, Volker Bartels, said the company received an extremely high amount of reports of fake product from Reeder's companies.

At one point we estimated that almost 80% of all the complaints we received were due to the fake products he was selling illegally under our brand name... This is why Sennheiser launched a global anti-counterfeit campaign last year. We will not accept fake product in the market place as we want to protect our customers from fraud.

So after the 2,000 pages of evidence the Portsmouth UK City Council collected on Reeder and all of his fake product, is 30 months in jail enough of a punishment for what seems to be a multi-million dollar scam? The UK court also ordered refunds to all affected customers, although a final number and judgment has not been determined as of yet. I'd be curious to see the exact figure in damages they reach once they sort through all of the transactions.

Spotify Expands to Eight New Markets, Boosts its Paid Subscriber Numbers

posted Sunday Apr 21, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Spotify Expands to Eight New Markets, Boosts its Paid Subscriber Numbers

As I mentioned on our 300th episode, one of the best topics of discussion all year has been following the Spotify saga. As the company picked up a second round of funding late last year, they've been making a couple of remarkable moves. Spotify has taken some of the funding and added new features and started up a new TV marketing campaign, which has given the company enough of a bargaining chip to push for lower rates with the major record labels. Now, Spotify looks to expand beyond Europe and the US, further rivaling Pandora and other music-streaming services.

Spotify said that it is looking to Asia and Latin America in its next round of offerings. On the website this week, they said,

Exciting times! Today we're thrilled to announce that we're bringing a new world of music to eight new countries across the globe... This fantastic step now brings us to 28 markets and closer to our dream of making all the world's music available instantly to everyone, wherever and whenever they want it.

Mexico, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland are all getting to now enjoy the Spotify in their respective companies. The company also updated its user statistics, saying that out of the now 24 million active listeners, six million are currently paying for the service. Spotify also has "driven more than half a billion US dollars to rights holders and expects to drive another half a billion US dollars to rights holders during 2013."

Expanding to new markets and converting customers to their paid tiers are the best ways to get even more strength behind the company to take on the big gun, iTunes. Moreover, it'll force other competitors to adapt and innovate, or in the case of Pandora, go the other direction. As we've said time and time again, having more solid competition in any space only drives benefits to consumers at the end of the day. So, what music-streaming service do you currently use? Shout it out in the comments below.

Fitbug Sues Fitbit for Trademark Infringement

posted Sunday Apr 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Fitbug Sues Fitbit for Trademark Infringement

Fitness products were a big thing at CES this year, and it you don't believe me, look at our interview list. One of the first fitness products I encountered was Fitbit, a company that made a small pedometer that connects to your phone. Initially I thought that the company name sounded familiar, but quickly dismissed the thought. As it turns out, dismissing the thought was the right thing to do, as I was actually thinking of another company - Fitbug.

This company has been around for many years, creating very similar products to Fitbit, including a connected pedometer. Apparently I was not the only one confused by the branding. It has become so common that Fitbug has filed suit against Fitbit, claiming trademark infringement and brand confusion.

It seems that they might have something here. It turns out that Fitbug receives support requests for Fitbit products regularly and even receives Fitbit media inquiries. Adding to the similar names and similar product lines, having a logo that even incorporates the same general shade of blue for the dot over the "I" certainly does not help Fitbug's case. Add to that the fact that their website imagery is almost a direct ripoff and you end up with a nearly slam-dunk lawsuit.

To check out the website imagery comparisons, hit the source link and let us know what you think. Did Fitbit steal Fitbug's brand? Answer in the comments.

Amazon Lets You Pick Next Big Show

posted Sunday Apr 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Lets You Pick Next Big Show

With Netflix and Hulu continuing to create original content, Amazon Instant Video wants to get into the game. Their approach is a little different than the competitors, however. Amazon has pitched their pilots to YOU instead of the executives in the hopes of finding shows that people want to watch.

There are currently 14 pilots for you to take a look at; 6 for kids and 8 standard comedies. There is definitely something for everyone:

  • Zombieland: Four survivors are killin' zombies and searching for a home.
  • Those Who Can't: The most immature guys at this high school are teachers.
  • Alpha House: They work in the Senate. They live in the house-Alpha House.
If those 3 don't show the variety available in these pilots, I don't know what will. I am most excited about Zombieland and Betas, a show about 4 friends who create a Silicon Valley startup. There's also a music-based show, a space series, a cartoon and even a series from The Onion. How can this possibly go wrong?

Everyone, Amazon Prime customer or not, should check out these shows and vote for the ones you want to see made into a full-fledged series. Only with enough votes will any of these series be picked up for a full season, and from the looks of it, several of them deserve it. Check them out and let us know which are your favorites in the comments.

Frog Shows Us How to Make Your Entire Room Kinectable with RoomE

posted Sunday Apr 21, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Frog Shows Us How to Make Your Entire Room Kinectable with RoomE

We've been highlighting really cool things about what you can do with Kinect, even before Microsoft released the developer's kit for the motion-tracking and voice-recognition hardware. This week is no exception, as I spotted something really cool on the Microsoft Blog.

If you ever wanted to know if you could make your entire room Kinectable and totally awesome, look no further than this. Frog designers and technologists, who work with the world's leading companies, to help them design, engineer, and bring to market meaningful products and services, came up with this idea, which they call RoomE. From their description of the video,

RoomE to explore the next pattern of computing. In RoomE, objects and surfaces serve as the interface. This environment offers the opportunity to experience the value of room-size computing and experiment with new interaction models to create an intuitive, humanistic system of control.

In the video, you can see a gentleman demonstrating the different functions of what you can do with RoomE. We see lights being turned on and off with voice, motion or a combination of both, and then he moves on to showing off the entire table in front of him, converted to a SUR40 with PixelSense via a projector. He's then able to give commands to the computer he puts on the table to lookup different information.

It's just another really cool concept and proof that the Kinect technology really is something viable that extends beyond your private workout sessions in your bedroom. The video is after the break and please feel free to share with us other incredible demonstrations of Kinect being used in the comments section below.

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