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NBCUniversal to Launch Comedy Video Platform

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

NBCUniversal to Launch Comedy Video Platform

Aereo's demise, by coincidence or not, has sprung a bunch of standalone video on-demand subscription apps created by major broadcasters or cable companies. HBO Now, SlingTV, Starz and CBS all come to mind, and mixed in with that are the time-tested services like Netflix and Hulu. However, even with NBCUniversal's involvement in many services already, including their own monthly subscription platform, the company is launching yet another online video network.

This one is a little different, as it will be focused on NBCUniversal's comedy, but it will certainly add to the company's portfolio of Internet offerings that they're involved in. The service is still in the beginning phase of development, but it is said that it will contain The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. NBCUniversal's newest employee, Evan Shapiro, who is the executive VP for digital enterprises, will be spearheading the endeavor.

This gives NBCUniversal four different video on-demand services they're directly involved in, with Radius, NBC's fitness-based channel, being the newest and latest project. Could so much parity between offerings cause NBC more trouble? Or will genre-specific programming play better to the consumer? We'll know the fate of this comedy-based channel in just a few short months.

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Microsoft Stays Committed to the Xbox 360 with New Preview Program

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Stays Committed to the Xbox 360 with New Preview Program

If you wanted concrete proof that Microsoft was still committed to the Xbox 360, Major Nelson's announcement this week should have been the proof you were looking for. The 360 is here to stay, for at least the next handful of years, and the new Preview Program for the 360 should eliminate any doubt that the console would be phased out.

From Major Nelson's blog,

Starting in early March select invitees will be able to join the Xbox 360 Preview program. This will work much like the Xbox One preview - and selected customers will be able to sign-up directly from their Xbox 360. Look for a special Xbox Live message then head to Settings, then account then under account management if you've been selected, you'll see Xbox 360 Preview Registration. Sign up there and enroll your console. Nothing will happen yet, but we'll let you know when the Preview is ready to begin through a Xbox Live message.

In our upcoming release will be addressing common customer issues including improving the ability to troubleshoot common network issues from the 360 and adding a Network Connectivity test including Download and Upload speed tests.

There will be even more changes coming later this year - so sign up to be a part of the Xbox 360 Preview Program.

I've already received my invite and have accepted the new terms, but it doesn't appear that any updates have been pushed yet. Rumors are that we'll see a Windows 10-style skin in the coming months, along with some enhancements towards the media side of the console. Of course, all of that could change and we could see new game additions. At this point, all we know is that Microsoft is still committed to the Xbox 360 and it's here to stay for a while. It's been my favorite go-to media device in the bedroom and spare room, with the Xbox One taking its throne as my living room device.

Do you still have a 360? What do you use it for more, gaming or media? Let us know in the comments section.

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Google Launches Program to Advertise Apps on Play Store

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Google Launches Program to Advertise Apps on Play Store

In a move that shouldn't surprise anyone but will almost certainly add more malware to unsuspecting users' smartphones Google is launching a new advertising platform for its Google Play Store. Be ready to call your parents and those you know who aren't so tech savvy to be careful what they start tapping on.

Rolling out to a small set of developers in the next few weeks, companies will be able to, much like the sponsored results on Google's searches, to pay for the top spot in the Google Play Store. The only notification will be a small orange square that says "Ad" which will be placed next to the developer's name. Currently, you can already advertise your app on a Google search, but now this places those apps into the prime position on the Play Store's homepage or search results.

This new programs comes with the good and the bad, as you would expect. The good is that independent and startup developers with some capital can advertise their app so it doesn't go unseen. This could give some great exposure to a talented team and reward them for their efforts. Google shelled out over $7 billion to developers last year, so why not reap the benefit of more downloads?

However, the big red flag staring me in the face is the amount of malicious and fake ads that will be advertised because of this. Google doesn't prevent these companies from hijacking top and common search queries on Google results, so what would make them put the clamp down on that fake Skype app on the Play Store? I can see more devices being infected with malware in the near future, as shady apps start being promoted on these search results.

The program is currently in a test phase, with only a certain number of users seeing a pilot group of advertisers who have chosen to advertise their app. Google will look to expand this to full-scale in the coming months.

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IKEA Embraces its Inner Qi, Will Launch the Tech-Infused Hardware Next Month

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

IKEA Embraces its Inner Qi, Will Launch the Tech-Infused Hardware Next Month

Long time subscribers of our content that includes our International CES coverage know that we're huge fans of the Qi wireless power standard, headed by the Wireless Power Consortium. For several years now, Qi has been implemented into phones, giving wireless charging capabilities to those devices. However its vision was to expand to common appliances, hardware and other applications in a household or business setting. Because of this, we've been waiting to see when major retailers would pick up the idea and place it into their own offerings. And while we've seen some companies serve up some Qi, it is with great excitement and happiness that I tell you that IKEA will be launching a full line of Qi-powered desks and furniture coming next month!

Beginning April 15, IKEA will be selling tables, work desks, nightstands, complete with Qi from the WPC. The company will be offering these products to European and North American stores for now.

This decision from the biggest furniture manufacturer is a pretty bold move. First, it puts IKEA on the leading edge of technology and innovation. Not many companies are currently offering tech-infused solutions into business and work furniture and this makes IKEA stand out even more, Swedish meatballs aside. Second, a nod from a company like IKEA proves that businesses see the need to carry this type of product for the consumer. Some of the items we talk about at CES are just vaporware - ideas and products that never make it to market for one reason or another. However with Qi, we're now seeing real-world application of the technology in dozens of different environments and use cases. Additionally, IKEA choosing Qi over the competition means that companies solidly believe in the WPC, instead of some of the other standards out there right now that are also powered by big name companies like Samsung and Qualcomm.

Now all we need to see is food chains switch from the other standards to Qi and we'd have a match made in heaven, especially if those brands grab their hardware from IKEA. IKEA has also announced that it will be selling a standalone kit that will bring wireless power to furniture that does not already have the feature. The company will be offering one or two full collections in their massive showrooms each year, with the idea to bring 10 total collections to their lineup in a few years.

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HBO Now Coming this Spring, Costs $15 Per Month

posted Saturday Mar 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

HBO Now Coming this Spring, Costs $15 Per Month

After months of speculation, HBO kind of announced a standalone streaming service, in which no details were given. This week, though, International Business Times got word that the new service would come around very soon. In fact, the new service, known as HBO Now, could launch as soon as April, giving us only a month to wait before being able to watch shows like Game of Thrones without having to have cable and HBO service.

The service is expected to retail for around $15 per month - roughly the same price as purchasing standard HBO service from a cable provider. The big difference will be that you will not be required to have cable to make the purchase for the first time in HBO's history. This is a great addition to the world for those who are trying to get as far away from cable or telecom companies as they can.

The service will be available in a similar line as HBO Go, being available on a wide variety of portable devices and set-top style devices. As part of their launch plans, Time Warner, HBO's parent company, is in talks with Apple to have the service available on Apple TV at launch. It is also likely to be available on platforms that are used more than Apple TV, such as Xbox 360 and Xbox One, PlayStation, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, etc.

Though the April timeframe is speculative, it is based on information from inside the company. The release is trying to be timed to coincide with the premiere of the next season of Game of thrones, slated to release on April 12. While the company has shown pride in the fact that their show is the most pirated television program, being able to circumvent the piracy would certainly be better. Being able to provide legal programming to those without cable is a win-win for everyone involved, and timing it with this premiere is the best way to market the launch.

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Tampa Man Arrested in Middle East for Facebook Post in Florida

posted Saturday Mar 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

In the United States, Facebook is filled with a collection of things, like 16 things you didn't know about a TV show, obligatory birthday wishes, photos of food and pets, selfie challenges and political debates. With all of this, the most common thing we find on Facebook is complaints, be it about friends, family, business or work. It is a great outlet for anger and insanity with little to no repercussions, unless your employer trolls Facebook pages.

The one thing you can guarantee is that no matter how much you complain about work from the comfort of your home, you will never be arrested for your complaints. That rule assumes that you stay within the confines of that home, or at least the confines of the country. Unfortunately, it turns out that rule goes right out the window as soon as you leave the country, especially if you are going to the Middle East for work.

A Tampa Bay area resident, Ryan Pete, found out this exemption the hard way after he left his Belleair Bluffs home, where he had posted about his anger at his employer. The post had been pretty scathing because of issues over leave because of a back injury which required he stay in Tampa longer than originally planned. He flew to the Middle East, where he is a helicopter mechanic, where he was promptly arrested.

As it turns out, in the United Arab Emirates it is illegal to complain about your employer. Now, this doesn't apply just to Facebook; in fact, the law prohibits anyone from slandering their employer at all, whether it be online or in print. Ryan Pete said in an interview after the arrest,

I just couldn't register it in my head because as an American growing up in the United States, the First Amendment right is just ingrained in my brain. I never even entertained the fact that I would wind up in prison out here for something I put on Facebook in the United States.

He has been released on bail, but faces a trial that will take place on March 17. If he is found guilty of the "crime" he faces up to 5 years in prison and a steep fine. His congressman, Rep. David Jolly, has intervened, getting the State Department and Emirates to agree to drop the case because the post took place on American soil.

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