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A Week of Streaming Video Pivots

posted Sunday Mar 6, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Live video streaming is not a new concept. Livestream, Justin.tv, Stickam, Ustream and the like got started a long time ago. Despite that fact, software seems to come cyclically, with old concepts becoming popular again in short bursts. Video streaming has hit that mark with services like Twitter's Periscope and Facebook Live dominating the market for casual, mobile usage.

This has caused several services to reconsider their businesses. This week we heard 2 of the larger competitors announce just such a pivot. First Stre.am, the smaller of the two, announced that they will be adding a new focus on mobile gaming. With new additions to Android, it is easy to stream your screen similar to what Twitch offers for traditional gaming.

Stre.am will be competing with slightly more established services, such as Kamcord and Mobcrush, both of whom were prepared for these new features and have a Twitch-like focus on mobile gaming, like Boom Beach and Clash of Clans. Kamcord has received over 200,000 unique views for a single broadcast, making them a formidable competitor. Luckily for Stre.am, it is a new and emerging market, so there is room for competition.

On the other hand, Meerkat, who was the first name on the scene for mobile streaming, has been a little less forward about their intentions. In a statement on Medium, the company said,

We found the best Meerkat moments happened when people who knew each other (either in person or online) came together live and interacted in realtime. We saw this in the conversations when the threads would go on and on and on. We especially saw this in cameo when broadcasters were able to see their audience and interact in a more human way, people passed around the camera for a campfire chat session. And we saw many of these groups have the best repeat behavior of anyone.

While not detailed information, it does suggest that the company is looking into competing with Blab. Their model is interesting, though it is missing many features that would keep our company from considering it for use. The lack of 16x9 or high-res video, for example, keeps it more of a toy than a successful platform.

If Meerkat is capable of using what they already know and creating a similar service without the serious limiting factors, it is possible that Meerkat could return to popularity and possibly profitability.

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Yahoo's Expanding Their Long-Term Options

posted Sunday Mar 6, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Yahoo's Expanding Their Long-Term Options

The fight for Yahoo's future has been an interesting, winding journey. One day they want to sell off their stake in Alibaba, the next day they want to keep that and sell off their core businesses. All along, CEO Marissa Mayer has fought the sell-off of major properties and investments, She has maintained that the company's turnaround plan is close to producing fruit.

This week, the company's CFO Ken Goldman said at a conference that the sell-off plans have evolved once again. Rather than selling off core business units and investments, they are looking for alternatives. One of those alternatives is to sell between $1 and $3 billion worth of non-core assets. Goldman said that all non-essential assets, including patents, land and business units are all up for grabs.

Depending on the patents, this could be either really good or really bad. Over the past 3 years, the company has generated $600 million in revenue just from the licensing of patents. Rather than selling off what they have, they could potentially focus harder on finding new patent licensing deals to increase revenue, without becoming a patent troll. They could make some quick cash selling those patents and their licensing deals, so long as they get free use of the patents from their new owners.

Goldman did not confirm who was interested in making offers, but rumors have surfaced that Time Inc. and Verizon are among the interested parties. Several shareholders and investors are pressuring the company to act fast, as return on investment has been low for a long time.

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E3 2016 to Have a Little Extra Floor Space

posted Sunday Mar 6, 2016 by Scott Ertz

E3 2016 to Have a Little Extra Floor Space

In January, Electronic Arts announced their departure from E3 2016, instead hosting off-site events in LA and London where anyone can play their games. This came as quite a shock to some people in the industry, but not to us here. In fact, we have predicted for a few years that the event, which is incredibly poorly run, would implode on itself.

This week, that prediction came closer to reality with 3 more companies announcing that they will not be showing at the event. First comes the biggest of the group, Activision Blizzard, who said in a blog post,

In June, we're going to be at E3 showcasing gameplay from Infinity Ward's ambitious new game. We're looking forward to sharing exciting new details about the next great Call of Duty game in partnership with our friends at PlayStation. We're proud to be participating in this premier video game event, but won't have an Activision booth on the show floor.

Not to be outdone, Disney Interactive and Wargaming, the company behind World of Tanks, announced that they, too, will not have a booth this year, either. This is going to leave A LOT of floor space empty open at the event this year, and is hopefully going to force the ESA, who produces the show, to reconsider a lot about how they run the show. Rich Taylor, senior vice president of communications, said,

Each and every show, we have conversations with attendees, exhibitors, the retailers, the community. Our objective is to deliver the highest value we can. We continue to go through that process. We are listening and talking and asking right up to the show. We are in full service mode at the show to make it as high quality as possible. I'd argue that is why it's such a successful.

Clearly they have not done a great job of this in the past, but perhaps serious consequences to a lackluster show will make them look differently at what they do.

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Amazon Removes, Promises to Restore Fire Encryption

posted Sunday Mar 6, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Removes, Promises to Restore Fire Encryption

The whole world seems to be focused right now on Apple and their battle against the legal system, though mostly because they have been sucked into a marketing campaign they don't understand. Apple has convinced people that the battle is over encryption and wanting to protect user data. While that isn't really what is happening here, it would certainly be a weird time for a company to announce the removal of encryption entirely from their devices.

This week, Amazon filed a brief with the court supporting Apple's fight against the government. In the same week, it was revealed that Amazon had removed the ability for users to encrypt their data on their Kindle Fire and, to a much lesser extent, Fire Phone. This removal came last fall when Fire OS 5 launched. Their claim is that users simply didn't use the feature, and therefore decided to remove it entirely.

After discovering this change, the public backlash was severe to say the least. Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation spoke out against the move,

Removing device encryption due to lack of customer use is an incredibly poor excuse for weakening the security of those customers that did use the feature.

Given that the information stored on a tablet can be just as sensitive as that stored on a phone or on a computer, Amazon should instead be pushing to make device encryption the default - not removing it.

Bowing to pressure, the company has backtracked, announcing that the feature will be returned.

We will return the option for full-disk encryption with a Fire OS update coming this spring.

This is a good move, because device encryption is something that is more and more important today. Devices are stolen all the time, even when you're incredibly careful. Tablets are stolen by TSA often if left in checked bags, phones are stolen in coffee shops and keeping the data encrypted can protect your most sensitive data. Let's hope that Amazon returns this feature in short order, maybe even as the default for the device.

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GameStop CEO Announces During TV Interview Stores Will Carry PlayStation VR

posted Sunday Feb 21, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

GameStop CEO Announces During TV Interview Stores Will Carry PlayStation VR

Virtual reality has seen a resurgence in the past couple of years. Seemingly everybody is wanting their hand in the game and even big players like Google and Sony have put their hat into the mix. Sony has been working on the PlayStation VR for about a year now and until this week, was looking for a retail home for the device.

In a live interview on FOX News, GameStop CEO Paul Raines proudly announced that the retail game store will play host to the PlayStation VR when it launches in the third quarter of this year. Raines also dropped the names of Oculus and HTC as the other two companies he is in talks with.

"We will launch the Sony product this fall and we're in discussions with the other two players," said Raines, adding that GameStop is the "destination for hardware in the United States."

The launch period is of importance because an earlier report from Wired indicated that we would see PlayStation VR hit the market before June of this year. Now that the CEO of a company who is going to carry the product has spoken, we can confidently believe that we'll see it in the fall as he stated. It's also a more fitting time frame, as hardware launching during the holiday shopping time typically has a higher rate of success.

Sony is looking to retain top hardware spot as of late, with the revival of sales for the Xbox One slowly shrinking the market share gap. With almost 36 million PS4s sold, Sony could easily capture those gamers who want a virtual reality experience on a console instead of a PC. Sony could also bundle the VR headset with a PS4 for the holidays in order to attract new users to the gaming platform.

The short interview clip is available after the break.

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AT&T Launches Landline Service to Send and Receive Texts from Landline Numbers

posted Sunday Feb 21, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

AT&T Launches Landline Service to Send and Receive Texts from Landline Numbers

Have you ever wanted to send a text message from your business landline number? How about wanting to contact a business via text who only had a landline? AT&T is looking to solve that problem with its new Landline Texting service that was announced this week.

AT&T has launched a new service that allows business and government agencies to send and receive text messages from any landline or toll-free number. AT&T has developed an app that can be used via web, mobile or desktop that allows users to log in to the service to view those texts, with no additional equipment needed to make it work.

A perfect use case for this scenario would be for any company that has lots of inbound calls about status updates or retail businesses that want to send out exclusive offers to its userbase without purchasing an additional shortcode number. The Landline Service makes AT&T the first of the big carriers to offer this feature.

AT&T's director of Big Data and Advanced Solutions, Igor Glubochansky, said,

Businesses often waste time playing phone tag with customers just to get simple information. This service helps companies reduce calls, voicemails, and back-and-forth with clients. They can also manage several text chats at once rather than spending time talking to one person.

With less and less customers wanting to wait on hold to speak with someone who would typically give out a scripted response, the service will allow US companies the ability to quickly communicate with their consumers. A Pew Research Center study from 2014 said that over 80 percent of cell phone users send and receive texts, and that 64 percent of users would prefer to text a business with a simply inquiry.

AT&T said that those interested in the service simply have to register their toll-free or other landline number with the carrier. That will then allow the entity to create a user profile, which will allow web access to the account and the Landline Service.

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