The UpStream

RockStar Consortium Members Reunite With a Surprising New Member

posted Sunday Dec 9, 2012 by Scott Ertz

RockStar Consortium Members Reunite With a Surprising New Member

It has been 16 months since Google's public breakdown after losing the Nortel patent auction to the RockStar Consortium. RockStar, if you remember, was the group formed by Apple, Microsoft and others to jointly bid on, and subsequently win, the auction. The breakdown came when Google realized they had been invited to join, but refused the offer, leading to their ultimate loss.

Well, the main players in the Consortium are back together and once again invited Google to join, this time to purchase Kodak's patents. Google, having learned their lesson previously, seems to have agreed and the three largest players in the tech industry will be bidding together to take ownership of Kodak's patent portfolio.

No, this joining did not quite work out as pleasantly as it would seem. In reality, Google did try and bid against Apple and Microsoft originally, with the backing of a patent firm and several Asian smartphone manufacturers. Unfortunately for Google, Apple and Microsoft also had an investment company with them: Intellectual Ventures, and the opening bids were pretty close. Finally, Google's group decided there was no winning against MicroApple and and the two groups merged.

While Apple's patent suit against Kodak has not made negotiations less tense, Kodak knows there is probably no interested group on the planet with as much money to throw at this purchase than this one. Also, no one has more at stake in this auction than Apple, Google and Microsoft, who produce the three remaining viable smartphone platforms in the world.

As far as I'm concerned, these three coming together on the patents means there will be no future war between them on the usage of the patents. All three can use their ownership percentage to shield their manufacturers from outsiders and everyone can continue to include ever-improving camera technology on their devices. It is a win for consumers, a win for the consortium and a win for the manufacturers. Maybe these three should work together to promote innovation instead of legal action more often.

Nintendo Sets Time-Range on 18+ rated eShop Purchases in Europe

posted Sunday Dec 9, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Sets Time-Range on 18+ rated eShop Purchases in Europe

I don't exactly know what to do with this information, so I'll just get to it and let you decide. Nintendo of Europe has started preventing content rated 18+ from showing in the eShop, except during certain times. Those times? 11pm to 3am. Yes, that is right - if you want to purchase ZombiU, and we know you do, you cannot if it is during the day. It gets better, too. You cannot view the trailer, either.

A user, after experiencing the issue, contacted Nintendo. The company replied,

Dear customer,

We would like to let you know that Nintendo has always aimed to offer gameplay experiences suited to all age groups, observing carefully all the relevant regulations regarding content access that are present in the various European countries.

We have thus decided to restrict the access to content which is unsuitable to minors (PEGI) to the 11pm - 3am time window.

So, because children might see the content, the times are restricted to the exact times when children in the US, and therefore probably Europe, are most likely to be on their consoles playing games. Of course, no Nintendo customer has ever stayed up past their bed times to play videogames. I suppose that is only for Microsoft and Sony customers?

The best part - no amount of parental control settings will change it - the restriction is set in the store itself. That means, if you are a 24-year-old college student living in a dorm with no children anywhere around and want to play Assassin's Creed 3 for the first time between classes, you are totally out of luck.

So, after writing all of this, I still do not know what exactly to do with the information. Can anyone help me understand this? Please?

Virgin America Brings YouTube to In-Flight Televisions

posted Saturday Dec 8, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Virgin America Brings YouTube to In-Flight Televisions

As part of its commitment to expand its in-flight video offerings, Virgin America and YouTube have announced the availability of five high-profile YouTube channels on Virgin America flights. The content, provided to passengers for free, will be available on all US and Mexico flights whose planes are equipped with the video screens (about 25 percent of their fleet of planes).

While this certainly is a big expansion for Virgin America, it is also a big expansion for YouTube, which has never before had a distribution agreement with an airline. This brings the content to a very captive audience, who is desperately seeking distraction from the mundane event of flying. As someone who flies several times per year for the show, I can tell you the worst part of flying is trying to occupy yourself. We bring movies and books on tablets and laptops, but that requires prep work. Many times I have wanted to be able to watch my favorite YouTube channels or other online content, but am not really willing to pay for the Internet access (on those flights that require it). This is a great option, especially if you like those five channels.

Speaking of the channels, you are probably wondering who they are. Don't fret; I have the list right here! Blue (starring Julia Stiles) from WIGS, Crash Course from Geek & Sundry, H+ The Digital Series from Warner Bros., The Key of Awesome from Barely Political and Written by a Kid from Geek & Sundry. Obviously, in addition to YouTube, this is a huge deal for these content producers. With more distribution comes more viewers, and with more viewers comes more ad revenue.

Hopefully, as this program succeeds, YouTube and Virgin America will work together to bring more channels to the lineup. Obviously missing from the lineup is anything in the news chat category, including entertainment, technology, gaming or culture. I wonder where they could find a channel like that. Seriously, though, it would be good to see an expansion of categories offered, though it is a pretty exciting situation to have at least some of YouTube available to you for free on a flight.

Have you ever pined for free YouTube access on a flight? Let me know in the comments.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Lawsuit

posted Saturday Dec 8, 2012 by Scott Ertz

<i>Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull</i> Lawsuit

File this one under "bizarre." Lucasfilm, new parent company Disney and distributor Paramount Pictures, have been sued over Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - and not for the obvious "it really sucked" reason, either. Instead, the companies are being sued for using the likeness of the Mitchell-Hedges skull, which is the missing fourth real world crystal skull, in the film without permission.

Now, while that might sound crazy on its face, it gets even crazier. The artifact in question is not currently in the possession of the person who brought the suit: director of the Institute of Archaeology of Belize, Dr. Jaime Awe. In fact, the artifact is not in the possession of anyone in the country, as it was stolen by treasure-hunters in 1924. This fact did not, however, prevent the suit from being filed, and damaged claimed. The good doctor claims that the use of the likeness without permission is unlawful and wants damages paid.

Oh, he also wants the skull returned - which I suppose is Disney's responsibility?

So, in recap: the director of an archaeology institute is suing for damages created by a movie about a real-world artifact because the item in the movie looks a lot like the artifact which is not under his jurisdiction, nor in his country for nearly a century, but should be returned by people who do not have it. And you thought the plot of the movie was convoluted and hard to follow... boy, were you wrong!

Sony's PS3 is Number One Player for Netflix Streaming

posted Saturday Dec 8, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony's PS3 is Number One Player for Netflix Streaming

The PlayStation 3 may not be getting love from new companies entering the video space but everybody knows that it is the number one Blu-Ray player. What people may not know is that the PS3 is also top dog in other video-related categories, which is interesting considering the amount of PS3s out there versus other Internet-connected devices.

Almost every Internet-connected device can stream videos from Netflix, too. However, we have been told this week that Sony's PlayStation 3, amidst all of the problems that plague the platform, is the leader for Netflix streaming among all hardware, including the Roku, Boxee and Apple TV. Netflix's CEO, Reed Hastings, said,

PS3 is our largest TV-connected platform in terms of Netflix viewing, and this year, at times, even surpassed the PC in hours of Netflix enjoyment to become our No. 1 platform overall. PS3 is a natural fit for Netflix in terms of developing and first deploying our most advanced features. We can transparently update our application with new features on a daily basis, and through the free PlayStation Network, people around the world can sign up for Netflix directly from their PS3.

Granted, the PlayStation Network being free is certainly a plus, where Xbox 360 users need a Gold Xbox Live account to access Netflix, but that can't be the only selling factor. Roku's are $79 and do not require a special subscription to access the same content. Perhaps it is those who are buying the PS3 for Blu-Ray that are almostly exclusively loading up a Netflix subscription as well. It could also be that not many people know what a Roku or Boxee Box is, and have opted to get one of the more commonly known, free, devices to stream video from. At any rate, Sony Computer Entertainment America's CEO, Jack Tretton, shared Hastings' delight on the news.

The PlayStation and Netflix communities both share a strong passion for high quality entertainment. Netflix provides a fantastic experience for watching TV shows and movies on PS3, and our joint development will continue to produce innovations for our customers that further demonstrate PS3 as the true home for entertainment in the living room.

With 30 million Netflix customers using a device to stream video, I'd be curious to see exactly how many PS3s are being pushing video to TVs. Tretton standing tall behind the PS3 being a "true home for entertainment" definitely speaks volumes, too. I believe Microsoft has been saying that for years now and has the resume and catalog to back it up. While being the top device for Netflix streaming sure is remarkable, Sony still has to make up about another 25 media partners in order to be in the same category that the Xbox 360 has been in for a while now. Perhaps this news will help them out with their revival plan and get Sony back on the right track. Outpacing the Wii, Xbox, Apple TV and Roku on the most popular video streaming service sure is a good start, so let's just hope they can continue to ride the momentum.

Accidentally Public Help Section Reveals Pricing, Availability, More for Redbox Instant

posted Saturday Dec 8, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Accidentally Public Help Section Reveals Pricing, Availability, More for Redbox Instant

Back in the summer, we reported on Verizon teaming up with Redbox to deliver a new video streaming service, Redbox Instant. This week, we've discovered that it's possible the service will launch very soon. There was a section on Redbox's site that was only supposed to be available to the closed beta members but was somehow publicly accessible. In fact, the help section was so in-depth that we now have some details on pricing and other information.

Granted, it's possible that this information could change a month or even a week before the service goes public, but it's always nice to get a little heads up on a new streaming service. Here's what we know for now:

  • Subscriptions are as low as $6 per month, which will give customers unlimited streaming capabilities to the entire video catalog. We can assume that the catalog will be much smaller than Netflix's or even Amazon's but we do know that Thor and Iron Man 2 are in the list.
  • For $8 per month, you can get four Redbox credits added to your streaming subscription, which allows you to rent DVDs from physical Redbox locations. This will most likely be for movies that are only available via DVD but users will be able to reserve the disc from the website or via mobile app. Also, this isn't AT&T and credits will not rollover to the next month and will expire.
  • Redbox Instant will also deliver video-on-demand rentals and sales of titles that are newer and not available for streaming yet. Customers can download these titles for offline access and prices start at 99 cents.
  • Redbox Instant will be available on the web, Android and iOS devices, Xbox 360 (no PS3 from what we see) and on certain Samsung TVs and Blu-Ray players. Just like Netflix, you will be able to have five devices registered to your account at any one time.
  • The service will also be using Silverlight for web-streaming, just like we see on Netflix. This news makes me smile a little bit on the inside.
  • Lastly, from the now-removed help section, we saw that beta testers would not be able to use their Redbox credits that are included with their service at some Redbox locations until December 17th. This could lead us to believe we will either see a soft launch, public launch or announcement of official details on that date or shortly after.
Of course, you could imagine this news has spread across the Internet rapidly, so naturally Redbox Instant by Verizon's CEO Shawn Strickland made an official statement shortly after the news break.

We appreciate the enthusiasm for Redbox Instant by Verizon and we look forward to sharing the full details of the service soon.

Company spokespeople have not been allowed to comment on anything in regards to the rumors or findings. However, now that we have seen some information, we can't wait for more. Like I've said on our show, it's always good for competition to exist, especially in this space. We're likely to see some of these details change but at least we now have a starting point.

Are you excited for another competitor to enter the video-streaming ring? Or have you already picked your favorite dog in the fight? We want to know in the comments below.

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