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Samsung Abandons Content, Focuses on Hardware

posted Friday Jul 4, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Samsung Abandons Content, Focuses on Hardware

The digital media distribution business is a tough one. While many companies have tried to sell digital goods, only a few have been successful. In the videos space there's really only been four: iTunes, Xbox Video, Amazon and Google Play. Because of this, Samsung has decided to leave the industry to the big boys.

As of August 1st Media Hub and Video Hub will be shut down. If you've made purchases there either of these services you will be able to transfer them to M-Go for free. You will also get a $5 gift card and 50% discount on future rentals. At least that should ease the pain for the few who were using the services.

This is not the first time Samsung has decided to close a media business. Just this month Samsung closed its Music Hub. That service was intended to take on Spotify and Xbox Music. Obviously it was not successful either.

But this is not the end for Samsung and media. Even while closing one music door they opened another. Samsung's new, strangely named, Milk Music is intended to take on Pandora with a shuffled streaming model. The service is currently ad free, though that will change.

It also appears that Samsung is not done with video. Working again with M-Go, Samsung plans to launch a streaming 4k video service. Just like their remodeled music service this appears to be all about changing the business model. Rather than competing against Apple and Microsoft, Samsung now plans to compete against Netflix and Hulu.

What I can't tell is whether this is an intelligent pivot from a company who recognized that their products did not match their strong suits, or a desperate shift to an market that they believe will return more money. If it's the former, Samsung will have to bring something to the table. If it's the latter, Samsung will squeeze until they don't see a return and move on to a new pet project. Either way, what I don't think Samsung is prepared for is the fierce competition in the video streaming market.

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Yahoo Kills More Projects, Again

posted Friday Jul 4, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Yahoo Kills More Projects, Again

Since Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo, the company has seen a lot of changes. From product makeovers to acquisitions and even entirely new features, today's Yahoo is very different from the day Marissa became CEO. One of her biggest staples has been closing up products that are no longer serving their purpose or would be better served in another Yahoo product.

This week Yahoo announced another round of products closures. Most notable is Xobni, a company that Yahoo purchased only a year ago. The service, which provided smart email features, will be merged into Yahoo's existing email offering. This includes their people-centric search, which allows you to view both sent and received emails from a person, and auto-suggest, which predicts who you're going to send the email to.

Other closing products are
  • Bookmarks.yahoo - Bookmarking tool. Integrated into Yahoo Toolbar and Yahoo Extension for Chrome.
  • Newlook - Virtual makeover tool. No replacement.
  • Research Reports - Yahoo Finance report generator. No replacement.
  • Yahoo People Search - Separate search engine for people. Integrated into standard Yahoo Search.
  • Yahoo Shine - A health and living site. Integrated into other Yahoo digital magazines.
  • Yahoo Toolbar for Chrome - Replaced by Yahoo Extension for Chrome.
  • Yahoo Voices and Contributors Network - Yahoo content contribution system. Yahoo now curates its content; no replacement.

With resources from these products freed up Marissa can continue to focus on Yahoo's new focus services. For example, Yahoo Video, which recently saved cancelled NBC series Community and has access to the entire Saturday Night Live catalog. She will also be able to focus resources on Yahoo Mail which, after its remodel, received less than favorable reviews.

Are you a user of any of these products and services? Do you think Mayer's approach to revitalizing Yahoo is correct? Sound off in the comments.

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Crytek UK Fails to Pay Employees, Sees Walkouts

posted Friday Jul 4, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Crytek UK Fails to Pay Employees, Sees Walkouts

There are not a lot of studios that you can really credit with pushing the boundaries of gaming. One who deserves that honor however is Crytek. The studio is responsible for the Crysis series, which was for years used as the benchmark for computing power, as well as the Ryse series in the original Far Cry.

Unfortunately it appears at the studio has come under some financial hardships. The sequel to Ryse has been canceled, and apparently some employees have not been paid. As a result around 100 employees have stopped coming into work after filing formal grievances.

Based on the size of the studio, that leaves very few people left in the office. With so few resources that will make finishing Homefront: The Revolution next to impossible. Publishing the game however would add money back into the coffers, something that is obviously very needed.

So, will Crytek abandon everything and go the way of the pet rock, or will they find a way to get Homefront finished, with the hope of turning around the company? My guess is that we will know the answer to that sooner than later.

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Microsoft and Canon Team Up for Patent Sharing

posted Friday Jul 4, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft and Canon Team Up for Patent Sharing

It's no secret that smartphone cameras are getting better. It's also no secret that stand alone point and shoot camera demand is down. So what do you do if you're a company with a lot of photography patents? Why, team up with a smartphone maker that's known for its cameras of course. That's exactly what happened this week when Microsoft and Canon agreed to share intellectual property. The companies said in a joint statement,

With this agreement, Microsoft and Canon gain licenses to each other's highly valued and growing patent portfolios.

The natural first question here is "What will we see come from this partnership?" Hopefully we will see Microsoft include Canon inspired lenses in their next generation of Lumia smartphones. Adding a high quality lens to the Lumia 1020 would make it a truly stand out product, and Canon knows all about high quality lenses.

There's also a potential benefit here for Canon. In addition to producing lenses for smartphones, Canon has the potential to improve their high end camera offerings. With the addition of Windows for Devices, Canon could develop a connected digital camera that people would actually want to purchase. They would even have the ability to encourage developers to extend the functionality of said camera.

Obviously all of this is merely conjecture. Some options are more probable than others. The important thing to take away here is that large companies are becoming more willing to work with others on intellectual property. The more willingness there is to collaborate with partners the more innovation we will see in new and exciting industries, like photography.

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iOS: It's Not Just for Writing Poetry Anymore

posted Thursday Jul 3, 2014 by Mark Lauter

iOS: It's Not Just for Writing Poetry Anymore

Wargaming, the company that brought us World of Tanks to both PC and Xbox 360, have launched the mobile version of the title, World of Tanks Blitz. Blitz is available exclusively on iOS devices including both the iPhone and iPad. If you're not familiar, World of Tanks is a free-to-play MMO where you can own, operate and destroy literally hundreds of historic armored vehicles from the battle fields of the 20th century.

I grew up addicted to board games like Panzer Blitz, so it's no surprise that I downloaded World of Tanks the same day it was released on the Xbox 360. I have heard other people comment that World of Tanks is the sole reason they don't upgrade to the Xbox One. "What's the point: it doesn't have WoT." WoT is simply the most mind-blowingly addictive game I've ever experienced and I'm not the only one who feels that way.

World of Tanks is said to be free-to-play. That's mostly true. You can enjoy infinite hours of gameplay without dropping a quarter into the machine that is Wargamming. However, advancement requires in-game resources and those resources seem to become increasingly scarce as you purchase more advanced tanks. As resources grow scarce, operations become more expensive. A single tier 10 tank round might cost as much as a tier two tank. The temptation to purchase "premium time," where you receive resource bonuses, grows greater as you advance. If you can just get the next level gun, then you'll do some real damage!

Blitz features over 90 German, Russian and American tanks and it allows for 7 vs 7 PvP battles. There are updates since the beta to improve graphics and gameplay. My experience from the Xbox 360 version tells me that Wargamming will continue to invest in improvements in the game. I've seen videos and screenshots of iOS game play; it appears to be 3rd person only. The PC and Xbox versions of WoT have a first person aiming view for precision long distance shots. It will be interesting to experience Blitz firsthand to see if they were able to maintain the addictive nature of the game I've grown to love. I might even risk touching a dreaded iPad to play it myself.

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Fox Turns Supreme Court Win into Legal Hammer

posted Saturday Jun 28, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Fox Turns Supreme Court Win into Legal Hammer

Fox is pretty excited about their Supreme Court win over Aereo. They're so excited in fact that they've taken the ruling on the road, trying to apply it to their case against Dish Network.

Dish Network has a family of devices which they call The Hopper. In addition to automatically skipping commercials on the DVR, The Hopper also has Slingbox technology built into it. This technology gives users the ability to watch their recorded and live content remotely.

Fox has claimed that this ability violates Copyright law. Citing the Supreme Court ruling, Fox has filed new papers with the appeals court handling the case.

In Aereo, the Supreme Court held that Aereo's unauthorized retransmission of Fox's television programming over the Internet constitutes an unauthorized public performance of Fox's copyrighted works. Dish, which engages in virtually identical conduct when it streams Fox's programming to Dish subscribers over the Internet-albeit also in violation of an express contractual prohibition-has repeatedly raised the same defenses as Aereo which have now been rejected by the Supreme Court. Among other things, the Supreme Court rejected Aereo's argument... that it is merely an equipment provider and that Aereo's subscribers were the ones transmitting content over the Internet to themselves.

Dish Network and Sling believe that this is a different scenario. In the case of Aereo, there was no paid agreement for content. Aereo was picking up transmissions over-the-air and rebroadcasting them over the Internet without permission. In Dish Network's case, users are paying for a satellite television subscription which is first broadcast to the home.

Fox believes that this is tantamount to a public performance. Dish Network believes that this is private, personal use. Dish Network has responded to the court saying,

The first distinction lies in the Court's constant refrain that Aereo looks just like the cable companies Congress intended to cover with the Transmit Clause, which took signals off the air and retransmitted them to the public without authority or payment. Dish pays retransmission fees to Fox-Sling does not implicate pirating signals. Customers pay for the right to receive works, with Fox's authorization, and do receive them at home before sending them to themselves.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling against Aereo, I would guess that this case is not yet over. There are enough differences between the two that the judge can probably not cite case law. However, if the ruling is an indication of legal trend, it doesn't look good for Dish Network or The Hopper.

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