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Disney Interactive Finally Turns an Annual Profit Again

posted Sunday Nov 9, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Disney Interactive Finally Turns an Annual Profit Again

In 2009, Disney merged the operations of their Internet and gaming divisions into a single subsidiary: Disney Interactive. Since then, they have never turned an individual annual profit for Disney. In 2009 they reported a loss of $295 million, but lessened the losses to only #81 million last fiscal year. Their futures changed this week when Disney posted their annual report, showing that not only was Disney Interactive profitable, they made $116 million in annual operating profit, which is a nice change of pace for the brand.

Most of this profit is attributed to the incredible success of Disney Infinity, with its gameplay and unique integration of a wide variety of interactive figures. Integrating characters from an array of Disney brands, including the uber popular Pixar and Marvel worlds.

President James Pitaro said of the success,

We are very pleased with the results of the first installment of (Disney Infinity) and we feel good about the launch of the second installment thus far. But we will have a better sense of overall performance as we enter the holiday season.

In addition to Disney Infinity, Disney Interactive saw growth come from mobile games. Their Star Wars free-to-play games, such as Assault Team, which were abandoned a few months ago, played a role. The real success in mobile came from expanding on the Frozen brand with Frozen Free Fall.

It hasn't been all rainbows and lollipops for Disney Interactive this year, however. Part of the operating profit came from March's layoff of 700 employees, which represented about a quarter of their workforce. Pitaro said at that time, "These are large-scale changes as we focus not just on getting to profitability but sustained profitability and scalability." It would appear that it helped.

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Taylor Swift Exits Streaming Services with Casual Insult

posted Sunday Nov 9, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Taylor Swift Exits Streaming Services with Casual Insult

I personally do not know much about Taylor Swift. In fact, the only two things I know about her is that her eyes appear to have been stolen from another person's face and that she is apparently terrible at relationships and enjoys telling the world about her disasters. Her relationship woes seem to extend to reality, as this week she limited the reach of her music heavily, pulling all wholly owned tracks from streaming services, including Spotify and Xbox Music (pictured here).

Upon exiting, she said,

All I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I'm not willing to contribute my life's work to an experiment that I don't feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don't agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.

It is definitely an interesting world view that paying for music perpetuates "the perception that music has no value and should be free." Personally, the reason I use services like Xbox Music personally is because I specifically DO NOT believe music has no value; if I did, I would use a free service to steal the music.

The decision to pull music from paid streaming services has confused and disappointed both consumers and services alike. A quick search of Twitter hashtag #justsayyes shows just how disappointed customers are with the decision. Spotify, one of the affected services, went so far as to create a playlist to encourage her back, with song titles reading: "Hey Taylor We Wanted To Play Your Amazing Love Songs And They're Not Here Right Now," which is a clever use of their own playlist capabilities.

The most interesting thing to come from this is the responses from artists, who generally agree that the move was a mistake, which is a sentiment I agree with. It is possible that after initial sales of her new album slow she might change her stance, but Swift does not seem to be the type to learn from past mistakes.

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The Darknet Lit Up by Law Enforcement; 410 Sites Raided, 17 Arrested

posted Saturday Nov 8, 2014 by Scott Ertz

The Darknet Lit Up by Law Enforcement; 410 Sites Raided, 17 Arrested

Tor is a name that is not known to the majority of the world: it is a segment of the Internet that is entirely encrypted and communication is anonymized. There are many legitimate usages for Tor, as it is an extension of the onion routing project, which is a US Naval system. The system was developed so that government communications could be protected from snooping by enemy states.

What the Navy never expected, however, was how Tor would evolve, and who would ultimately be interested in being encrypted and anonymous: criminals. Inside the semi-hidden world of Tor is the darknet, a collection of sites that openly and notoriously offer illegal products and services, from weapons to drugs and prostitutes. All of this is made easy by the anonymous nature of Tor and the pairing of the anonymous digital currency Bitcoin, making it seemingly impossible to trace these transactions to their source.

Or so users of the system believed. A year ago, a darknet marketplace, Silk Road was seized, "cash" was collected and arrests were made. It was always believed that a slipup made the raid possible, but this week may have changed some minds. A multi-nation coordinated attack through Tor ended up with 410 sites being raided and 17 arrests being made. Among the participating nations was the US and 16 European countries.

On Thursday, US officials claimed the first success in the raid: Silk Road 2.0. US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement,

As illegal activity online becomes more prevalent, criminals can no longer expect that they can hide in the shadows of the dark web. We shut down the original Silk Road website and now we have shut down its replacement, as well as multiple other dark market sites allegedly offering all manner of illicit goods and services, from firearms to computer hacking.

They are hoping that this public, coordinated raid will discourage at least some from using Tor and the darknet to trade in illegal materials. While it will certainly not stop the activity, perhaps it will prevent casual users from trying to purchase credit card data or false identity papers.

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Apple and Microsoft Take Different Tactics with Fitbit

posted Saturday Nov 8, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Apple and Microsoft Take Different Tactics with Fitbit

There are two big device-independent health platforms vying for attention from manufacturers: Apple's HealthKit and Microsoft Health. While both platforms offer a similar service in theory, both companies have taken very different approaches to, well, everything.

For example, HealthKit is an iOS platform, intended to tie together devices paired with your iPhone and iPad. Microsoft Health, on the other hand, is a platform independent system, based instead in Azure, intended to analyze data from any health device attached to anything that manufacturer wants to support. It also has apps on the 3 major platforms for users to be able to interact with their data.

While their overall approaches to the platform are very different, the place where Apple and Microsoft differ the greatest is, as always, their interaction with the outside world. Apple is known for being very heavy handed in their dealings with other companies, using mob-style threats and intimidation to force others to do what they want. When Bose made their sponsorship deal with the NFL, preventing players from wearing non-Bose headphones in public, Apple removed Bose products from their stores. Apple is also being blamed for the bankruptcy of a former partner because of a "bait and switch" contract.

This same strategy is being used to right now to try and get Fitbit, one of the biggest names in fitness hardware, to use its HealthKit platform. Fitbit has been pretty clear about its current intentions: they have none for HealthKit. As one would expect, Apple's response to this news was swift and sever: Fitbit products have been removed from Apple's store, all because they are not currently planning on implementing Apple's platform.

On the other hand, Microsoft is taking a very different approach to working with Fitbit. The company is also not publicly working on implementing Microsoft Health support (they have not spoken out negatively, however), and Microsoft's new Band health watch device is a bit of a Fitbit competitor. Despite all of this, Microsoft is giving a free Fitbit device with sales of Microsoft Lumia 830 phones on AT&T.

These are two very different approaches: Apple is trying to decrease Fitbit's sales in hopes of forcing them to implement Apple HealthKit, while Microsoft is trying to increase Fitbit's sales in hopes of encouraging them to implement Microsoft Health support through good will. Will either, neither or both of these tactics work? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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FCC Delays Spectrum Auction Again, This Time Until 2016

posted Sunday Nov 2, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

FCC Delays Spectrum Auction Again, This Time Until 2016

Around this time last year the FCC said it was delaying the second part of the famed broadcast spectrum auction until mid-2015. Well, consider this a PSA that the Commission is postponing the auction yet again, this time to early 2016.

The delay is in part due to the lawsuit that is pending, which was filed by the National Association of Broadcasters. The FCC also said that it needs more time to get more TV stations to join in on the auction.

The auction itself is a pretty intricate event. Certain broadcasters will have to give up spectrum and move signals to other parts of the spectrum, all while possibly purchasing new spectrum. Those broadcasters will receive a portion of the winning bid. Winning bidders, the mobile phone companies participating, have to disclose what they intend to do with the spectrum upon purchase and then allocate a signal to that spectrum. It's pretty much a big mess. Oh, and those stations not participating can still have spectrum sold from underneath them, in order to create consistent blocks to be sold to the telecoms.

The big four networks have stated that they will probably not be participating in the auction, said the FCC. Some of the networks, per the lawsuit, have opposed the auction and are saying that this event will affect coverage areas and will cost the stations viewers.

We'll definitely keep everyone posted on how this all plays out and how it will end up affected all parties involved. But it looks like we'll have at least another year before we have to worry about that coverage.

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New FCC Proposal May Restore Life to Aereo

posted Sunday Nov 2, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

New FCC Proposal May Restore Life to Aereo

Aereo's time on the shelf might not last for long, especially if the same hands that shut the company down are working on new regulation to bring it all back to life. A new proposal by the FCC would allow companies like Aereo to stream broadcasts to users without needing huge packages of channels.

Led by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, this proposal would let Aereo operate like a cable company, which was what Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia wanted to do since being shut down by the Supreme Court. Kanojia also called this proposal an "important step" in the progression of the broadcasting industry. "By clarifying these rules, the FCC is taking a real and meaningful step forward for competition in the video market," he said.

The change to the definition of a content provider would finally include online video services, which is the main form of media left out in what is considered a multichannel video programming distributor. Of course, all of this would have to be voted on, but at least there is there is progress being made and thoughts being put on paper. It seems like officials who were once formerly baffled by the Internet and technology are finally coming around to understand that people use the Internet for lots of different things. And maybe, just maybe, they use it for watching video when they're away from their homes.

On the matter of people being tied to cable packages because of outdated policies, Wheeler said,

Consumers have long complained about how their cable service forces them to buy channels they never watch. The move of video onto the Internet can do something about that frustration.

There is still a lot of debate and discussion to be had before we even see this proposal change make its way to a vote. However, advocates like the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Association of Broadcasters are both onboard with the FCC adopting a new form of media consumption.

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