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Verizon Nearly Done with New FiOS Installs

posted Saturday Jan 24, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Verizon Nearly Done with New FiOS Installs

In early 2010, Verizon announced that they would slow down new FiOS installs at some point in the future, with the plan to stop new markets. Even though 2 years later they began ramping up again, it was only a matter of time before they completed their planned expansion. This week, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said that they were nearing the end of new construction, saying,

I have been pretty consistent with this in the fact that we will spend more CapEx in the Wireless side and we will continue to curtail CapEx on the Wireline side. Some of that is because we are getting to the end of our committed build around FiOS, penetration is getting higher.

As the XLTE install has continued, and the speeds of wireless has gotten closer to that of wireline services, it makes sense that Verizon would want to focus their attention there. Wireline services are definitely not a growing industry, while wireless services are. This is especially important to a company who, as part of the same conference call, announced a net loss of $2.23 billion in the last quarter of 2014.

In regards to the overall health of existing FiOS subscriptions, Shammo said,

In broadband, we added 145,000 net FiOS customers in the quarter and 544,000 for the year. We have a total of 6.6 million FiOS Internet subscribers, representing 41.1 percent penetration... Overall net broadband subscribers increased 59,000 in the quarter and 190,000 for the full year. In FiOS video, we added 116,000 net customers in the quarter and 387,000 for the year. We have a total of 5.6 million FiOS video subscribers, which represents 35.8 percent penetration.

While this is good customer growth, it does not pay for the expansion of FiOS, or even the maintenance of a copper network. Hopefully they will use the money saved to speed up the expansion of XLTE, and even the 3G retirement plans, which will make room for more bandwidth. That will allow for Verizon to compete in a market that Clear tried to create - a wireless-based home Internet plan. Clear's network wasn't prepared to support the demand, though a renewed vigor from Verizon could make their network capable.

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Nintendo 'Winding Down' Club Nintendo Reward Program

posted Saturday Jan 24, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo 'Winding Down' Club Nintendo Reward Program

This is the end of an era: after 6 years of running within the US, Nintendo has announced that they will be ending their Club Nintendo rewards program. For those unfamiliar, the program rewards coins for performing certain actions, such as registering games or completing surveys. Those coins can then be used to purchase Nintendo-related items, such as Virtual Console downloads or clothing items.

While an interesting idea in concept, the implementation has always left a lot to be desired. Coins were rare, and difficult to collect enough of to be eligible for any reward that mattered. The best rewards were reserved for gold or platinum members, which was even more difficult to become. Those who were eligible for rewards were often left without them because of timelines and other odd requirements that were missed.

The program will be phased out in stages between now and July 1, 2015. New products will no longer be eligible for Club Nintendo rewards beginning now. March 31 will see the end of earning new coins, either for registering products whose codes you already have or for taking surveys, as well as the end of new sign-ups. June 30 will see the end of redeeming any remaining coins, with all data vanishing on July 1.

While it seems like a loss, it isn't so much. Club Nintendo will be replaced by a "new program" which, hopefully, will work better than the current implementation. With the new program, one can hope that the Japanese-exclusive rewards, the ones that everyone always actually wanted, will come to and end and we will see prizes in the US that people actually want.

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Windows 10: Predictions vs Reality

posted Friday Jan 23, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Windows 10: Predictions vs Reality

A little over a month ago, I gave some predictions on what Microsoft would present at this week's Windows 10 event, as well as some of the stuff I personally hoped to see more of. Luckily, Microsoft did not disappoint, even one-upping me on some of the categories. They even announced a product within the embedded family that I don't think anyone could have possibly anticipated.

They even outpaced themselves on releasing the next version of the technical preview - build 9926. During the event, the team said the next build would be made public sometime next week, but it was released at 1PM Eastern on Friday. That is less than 48 hours after the event's end, making it an extremely quick turnaround. While the build does not include everything from the presentation, it is fairly close.

Main System

The notification system saw a healthy upgrade from the last build. While in the past, the notification area seemed to be an after thought, this time it is well implemented and even feels a lot like its Windows Phone counterpart. Appearing as a Modern-style flyout, the screen takes the place of several former Windows 8 features in the Charms bar that are receiving new life.

At the bottom are the quick actions - buttons like in current Windows Phone that allow you to get to certain features or disable radios quickly. The system settings portion of the Charms bar is now here, along with the ability to interact with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. The 4 most common can be customized like in Windows Phone, but all are available from the expanded menu.

The whole top portion is the notification area. All of the toast messages that display, either from Modern or desktop apps, will be available here until you dismiss them, or you launch the calling application. An enhancement over Windows Phone and the previous build is the ability to dismiss individual notifications from an app instead of being forced to clear all notifications as a group. Just like with the phone, though, there are certain types of notifications that I never want to stick around, but perhaps that will be solved in the near future.

One of the nice revelations about Windows 10 was about pricing. It will be a free upgrade for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 for the first 12 months after release. If you don't take advantage of the free upgrade during that timeline, you will presumably be required to pay a standard upgrade fee. Obviously, the smart idea will be to get the free upgrade information while you are able and upgrade later if that is your plan.

Missing from that list are two Windows platforms: Windows Phone and Windows RT. Most Windows Phone 8+ devices will be compatible with Windows 10, though a list is not available. Microsoft intends to bring the OS to all Lumia devices, though I do have some doubts about any older 512MB devices, such as the 520 and 620 series. Windows RT, on the other hand, will not be quite so lucky. An update to RT will be released that will bring many of the Windows 10 features to the devices, without actually bringing Windows 10 to the devices. In conjunction, the Microsoft Store no longer has any Surface 2 devices for sale.

For all of the information on the rest of the Windows 10 announcements, hit the break.

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Minecraft: Pocket Edition Breaks 30 Million Downloads

posted Sunday Jan 18, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

<i>Minecraft: Pocket Edition</i> Breaks 30 Million Downloads

Microsoft acquiring Minecraft has definitely caused a small rift in the gaming community. Some thought this meant the Mojang studio was selling out, while others believed this could mean bigger and better things for the game. Luckily, Microsoft is fully committed to Minecraft and has been pushing it towards mobile devices with full force. The game has still grown since the purchase, too, with Minecraft breaking yet another record.

First, the record. Minecraft already owns a number of Guinness World Records, including the largest indie game convention, the first country modeled at full-scale in a video game, the most popular beta game and the most-played Xbox Live game. Now, sales have been so big for the game that it's earned the right to be called the best-selling indie game at over 16 million units. Pretty impressive stuff, and I only see more records in Minecraft's future.

Switching over to mobile, as Microsoft promised, there is no change on the commitment to getting more people on board with Minecraft: Pocket Edition. At only $7 on iOS, Android, Kindle Fire and Windows Phone, the title has now eclipsed 30 million downloads, which is a remarkable number for a paid mobile game.

Mojang's blog post included some humor, mentioning that 30 million is bigger than Texas, 23 times hotter than the sun in summer time and is more than the observable universe, because science and math and stuff. More importantly, the 30 million downloads more than justifies Microsoft $2.5 billion purchase for the franchise. Clearly, the Minecraft machine is showing no signs of slowing down, and with full support being passed down to the mobile version of the game, the money train won't be stopping any time soon.

It should be noted here that these sales now place Minecraft: Pocket Edition as the second highest-grossing iOS game worldwide, well ahead of popular titles like Game of War and Candy Crush Saga. For comparison, 18 million copies of Minecraft have been sold for the PC, over 12 million for the Xbox 360, 1 million for the PS3 and 100,000 for the Vita. Mojang did not create the console edition themselves, and instead, licensed the title out to 4J Studios.

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Facebook to Launch Social Media Service for Internal Company Connections

posted Sunday Jan 18, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Facebook to Launch Social Media Service for Internal Company Connections

Are you so into the world of Facebook that you need to have it in your life at all times, even at work? Well lucky for you Facebook is hoping to make that a reality and will be bringing the water cooler and social media - your two favorite places - together for the daily nine-to-five.

Dubbed "Facebook@Work," the platform will be more focused towards productivity instead of procrastination. An employer can use the program and connect all of the employees together to connect and discuss news, join groups, message each other and create events. The kicker here is that you won't be able to sync up your friends and connections into Facebook@Work, and instead it will be a separate site that users will be interacting with.

Think of it like a weird cross between Microsoft Lync and Skype. The service will essentially be competing with Chatter from Salesforce and Microsoft's recent $1.2 billion acquisition, Yammer, among others. Facebook spokesperson Elisabeth Diana said that F@W has been working beautifully, at least internally, and that Facebook employees have had success using it.

We have internally used Facebook at Work for many years now, it works pretty effectively and efficiently for collaboration. We think we can bring this insight to other companies.

Currently, the talks are that Facebook will be considering a subscription model for the service, but will also likely offer an ad-supported lite version for free. Considering how much of a beast the Facebook snooping advertising platform is, I'm unsure if I'd want employees for my company using Facebook@Work for internal communication and file-sharing. I just get this weird feeling that someone will be sharing some documentation on a new idea through the service, and somehow Facebook would end up launching an identical feature set the very next day.

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After Leaked Emails Suggest Otherwise, Sony Entertainment CEO Says Business Not for Sale

posted Sunday Jan 18, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

After Leaked Emails Suggest Otherwise, Sony Entertainment CEO Says Business Not for Sale

After Sony's rejection of spinning off the media division in order to possibly save the company, CEO Kaz Hirai then had to cut $250 million from the media budget, which meant a reduction in movie releases for the year. Now, the company has to fight off rumors that it will be spinning off its music publishing business.

One could imagine that after having to deal with the gigantic data breach by the hands of the Guardians of Peace, Sony might have to make some drastic changes to its company structure. However, in the middle of the aftermath, and after several shareholders begging for it to happen, Sony Entertainment's CEO Michael Lynton said there are no current plans to sell off the division.

This comes after several of the leaked emails by the GOP had indicated that Lynton was considering offers as recent as November. For Sony Entertainment, its catalog contains over 2 million songs, which is currently the biggest collection in the world. This includes EMI, formerly the largest independent recording distribution label that was purchased by Sony for over $2 billion in 2012. A sell-off of this nature would surely inject much needed cash into Sony proper, allowing the company to invest more in its security measures to prevent another massive breach in the wall.

So now that Lynton has pretty much dissolved the rumors that came out of the email leak, what can Sony do to save itself? We've talked in the past that the PlayStation brand seems to be Sony's saving grace up until now, but how long can they rely on that small portion of their business in order to sustain the entire company? At what point does that water-tight compartment eventually get ripped open by an iceberg? Who, for that matter, might step in and pick up the profitable pieces after the ship sinks?

Of course, all of this is speculation right now, but considering the company's current state, none of it is too far from a possible reality. What do you think is going to happen? What parts of Sony stick around? Let us know in the comments section below.

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