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T-Mobile Promises Major Network Expansion

posted Monday Aug 8, 2016 by Scott Ertz

T-Mobile Promises Major Network Expansion

T-Mobile has had a difficult relationship with reality in their past. In 2010, the company rebranded their 3G+ network as 4G, which was not exactly true. While it had speeds that were close to or within the speeds of 4G, the network itself was not that. Either way, the reality and the marketing were not the same. Since then, John Legere, the company CEO, has changed the company almost entirely.

T-Mobile has introduced new features and closed out old business practices. Binge On allows customers to use certain services, including Pokémon GO, without it affecting your data usage. They did away with traditional contracts and went with a direct hardware lease program. This has caused the rest of the industry to panic more than once, having to create their own versions of programs at the last moment.

Let's face it, all of that is great, but if the network is bad, none of it matters. Recently, though, the company has been focusing on building their network power, as well. In fact, on several tests, including our friends at Tom's Guide, T-Mobile's speeds are the fastest in the industry. Now, if only the physical coverage was better, right?

That is the subject of this week's announcement from T-Mobile. Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said of their network compared to Verizon,

We plan to materially close the gap by the end of the year.

That is quite a financial commitment. Within 12 months, they intend to be within coverage range of Verizon Wireless. Currently, T-Mobile claims that 311 million Americans can currently use their network successfully. While the numbers are close to those of VZW, the additional coverage that Verizon Wireless offers also cover large areas of under-populated land. That means that, to cover the additional, missing customers, it will require larger network expansion than hitting the suburbs of Seattle.

Can T-Mobile manage to catch the two biggest players in the industry? Let us know in the comments.

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Stranger Things Already Renewed for Second Season

posted Sunday Jul 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

<i>Stranger Things</i> Already Renewed for Second Season

If you have not yet watched, or at least started watching Netflix's original series Stranger Things, you are definitely in the minority. The program has been one of the most talked about series on social media, and there doesn't seem to be anyone saying anything other than "Wow."

This sentiment, and people's tendency to watch the whole thing in a single sitting, myself included, has led to Netflix already renewing the series for a second season. This will come as no surprise to anyone watching, as the end of the last episode certainly setup for more story. In fact, several places throughout the other episodes have teased what could be the next season's storyline and potentially the enemy.

While we don't know a lot about that, what we do know about is how the next season will play out. Matt and Ross Duffer, the series creators, said to look for the next season to feel more like a sequel than a direct continuation. Most series go from season to season without much time passing and without a lot of story happening away from the cameras, but that isn't how a sequel works.

Ross Duffer explained to Variety,

There's a lot there we don't know or understand. Even with 'The Upside Down,' we have a 30-page document that is pretty intricate in terms of what it all means, and where this monster actually came from, and why aren't there more monsters - we have all this stuff that we just didn't have time for, or we didn't feel like we needed to get into in season one, because of the main tension of Will. We have that whole other world that we haven't fully explored in this season, and that was very purposeful.

Will we get all of the answers we seek in the next season? Hopefully not. If we did, that would mean that there would be no season 3. This universe that has been created is rich with a lot of potential, and has the ability to run for a long time, especially if they continue to draw inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons, as they have so far. I, for one, look forward to many future seasons of one of the best written and researched series in a long time.

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Yahoo's Fate is Final: Joining Verizon's Nostalgia Unit

posted Sunday Jul 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Yahoo's Fate is Final: Joining Verizon's Nostalgia Unit

As soon as Yahoo appointed Marissa Mayer CEO, we all knew it would end one of two ways: she would repair the deficits of the company and turn it around, or she would be the last CEO of the company. There was no chance that the company would survive losses long enough to replace her, as the troubles were greater than could overcome the search for another leader. Unfortunately the latter turned out to be correct, as the core business auction has finally come to a close, with a new owner at the wheel.

Joining their purchase of AOL, Yahoo's core internet businesses are now part of Verizon. This means that Verizon, who many analysts believed purchased AOL not for their content businesses, now owns some of the biggest names in content production. Including Engadget, The Huffington Post, Flickr, tumblr and Katie Couric, Verizon's portfolio of high profile platforms, publishers and content producers has grown to epic proportions.

The idea of the data provider also being a content provider is one that makes sense from a business perspective. While on the Verizon network, they could give preferential treatment to AOL and Yahoo properties, and make Comcast, Charter, AT&T, etc. second class citizens to the websites and apps. Traditional players have been involved in this business for years. Comcast owns NBC Universal, Time Warner owns Turner. The movement into web properties, though, is an interesting transition.

The next question to ask is, how will companies like AT&T respond? Will they try and find other publishers and content producers to invest in? If the goal is a web-based standoff between network operators, the next most obvious acquisition target is Ziff Davis, the company that owns a large collection of web properties, including IGN, PCMag and Gawker Media. Ziff would be an easy way to get a large collection of properties in a single acquisition. Another target could be CBS Interactive, which owns CNET, GameSpot and last.fm, among others. It would also give them a foothold into television, something that Verizon is currently lacking.

Will Verizon's continued focus on market innovation be what both AOL And Yahoo need? Will AT&T and others try and respond in kind? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Court Rules Facebook Must Refund Purchases by Minors

posted Sunday Jul 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Court Rules Facebook Must Refund Purchases by Minors

The concept of Facebook Credits was doomed from the beginning. In 2011, the company forced developers to use their currency within Facebook-enabled games. Later that year, they saw potential in mobile payments. But, just a month later, the wheels started to come off of the bus. Zynga was pulling away from Facebook, and focusing their attention on mobile.

2012, however, ended the concept when a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the parents of children who had purchased the currency illegally. Facebook allows children as young as 13 to sign up for the service, and any user could purchase Credits with an attached credit card. As it turns out, Facebook never validated that the purchases being made were actually authorized.

So, what was happening was, kids were taking their parents credit cards, attaching them to Facebook and buying Credits, not quite understanding what they were doing. Some parents offered evidence showing thousands of dollars worth of charges that were unauthorized. The lead attorney, John R. Parker, said,

These kids don't really know what they are doing. They've got a credit card they put into their account and they don't realize that every time they click on some button in the game to get some extra magic coin, the company is charging the parent's account.

The suit sat in court for years, but it has finally come to completion, and Facebook has lost hard. In fact, the end result is, anyone who has lost money to Facebook thanks to a child using their credit card can now get all of that money back. Period. To reclaim lost money, simply head to Facebook Payments Support for all conditions and processes.

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HPE Eying Final Shift: A Sale to a Private Equity Firm

posted Sunday Jul 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

HPE Eying Final Shift: A Sale to a Private Equity Firm

The landscape of the computer industry has changed a lot over the decade or so. IBM, the company responsible for personal computers, no longer makes or sells them, selling that division to Lenovo. Compaq, the company that created the IBM-compatible marketplace, was absorbed into HP. Dell, once the leader in computer sales, dropped and went private. Sony got out of the business entirely, spinning Vaio off to its own company. Hewlett Packard, formerly the first name in consumer sales, is now 2 companies, and one of them is not doing well.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise, better known within the industry as HPE, has had nothing but trouble since the company split. A seemingly constant shift in strategy, focus and management has shown a panic within HPE's board of directors, and this week's revelation shows they fear there is no hope for success.

Reports coming from several sources within the company suggest that HPE is currently considering a Yahoo-style selloff. This could be individual business units, or potentially the business as a whole. Included in the consideration is Autonomy, the disaster purchase that was masterminded by ousted CEO Leo Apotheker. Falsified revenue and internal dealings eventually led, in part, to Apotheker's firing, and the beginning of HP's current issues. Other software-based companies that have been acquired recently are on the table, including Mercury Interactive and Vertica. Those units could fetch between $6 and $8 billion.

Other options include selling the entire company, warts and all, to a private equity firm collective, members including Apollo Global Management, Carlyle Group and KKR. This would allow the company to try its luck at a turnaround without the need to answer to public and myriad shareholders, instead only being responsible to the collective. This is the same move that Dell made 3 years ago, which has, as far as we can tell, been on track for success.

HPE is a different type of company, though. While Dell dabbles in the enterprise space, it also has a very public face. HPE, on the other hand, is ONLY the enterprise aspect of the former Hewlett Packard corporation. Will the same move work as well for the enterprise-only corporation, or will it ensure HPE's ultimate destruction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Solar Energy is Hitting it Big on the Las Vegas Strip

posted Thursday Jul 21, 2016 by Michele Mendez

Las Vegas hosts millions of visitors each year for both leisure and business trips. Our team delights in the sights and sounds of the Las Vegas Strip on our annual tech pilgrimage to the Consumer Electronics Show, which is held at the various convention centers throughout the city. What's not to love about being immersed in the multitude of shows all around from lights on the strip and in the casinos to dancing fountains and star studded entertainment? Well, the cost, presumably... both monetary and environmental.

As everyone becomes increasingly energy conscience, the use of solar power is gaining momentum throughout the nation. More and more households, communities and businesses are taking advantage of tax incentives and lower prices and investing in solar energy. A popular place for large scale installations is the desert and Vegas itself is joining in on the trend. And what better place to go all in than the city whose grid is always at full capacity.

The Mandalay Bay Convention Center on the Las Vegas Strip now has the largest array of rooftop solar panels in the United States with 26,000 individual panels. Construction took two years to complete and the installation is capable of generating enough electricity to cover 25% of energy requirements of the convention center. And even more impressive is the fact that they will also be lowering their carbon dioxide output by over 8,000 metric tons in the immediate area. This is the equivalent of removing 1,700 vehicles from the road. Per a Mandalay Bay Convention Center announcement,

MGM Resorts International has a long history of integrating environmentally responsible practices throughout our operations to help preserve the planet's limited resources.

Not to be outdone, many other large casinos are now also investing in solar roof arrays of their own. This effort will not only help these locations keep their own energy costs down and result in a lower carbon footprint in the area, but will also attribute to Nevada's statewide goal of relying on renewable sources of energy for at least 25% of its electricity by 2025.

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