The UpStream

PlayStation Outsells Xbox in September, Helps Sony's Bottom Line

posted Saturday Oct 18, 2014 by Scott Ertz

PlayStation Outsells Xbox in September, Helps Sony's Bottom Line

Congratulations are in order for Sony's seemingly only profitable division: PlayStation. September was another successful month for them, outselling Microsoft's new console for the ninth straight month. This is a big win for Sony, who has been having nothing but trouble internally. Between billion dollar losses and major layoffs, Sony needs the win here.

With a 136% increase in hardware sales over last year and a large increase over August of this year, this was a great month for hardware. A lot of this can be attributed to the overall success of Destiny. Unfortunately for Microsoft, higher than Sony software sales of the game did not translate into higher hardware sales. Neither did offering a free game with console sales.

However, Sony shouldn't put all of their eggs in their PlayStation basket. In the last generation of consoles, at the end of September, the winning console was the Wii. Nintendo focused so hard on the Wii that they lost sight of the ball. Shortly after, the Wii was no longer the top console, being unseated by the Xbox 360, which stayed there almost unchanged until the end of the generation.

Obviously, initial sales successes do not indicate product successes. Allowing the PlayStation's initial success to rule the company could ultimately prove fatal. Hopefully they can continue to expand their Xperia line and get the media division back into profitability before the possibility of a leader change catches up to them. It wouldn't be the first time it happened.

HBO Announces Stand-Alone Streaming Service, Gives No Details

posted Wednesday Oct 15, 2014 by Scott Ertz

HBO Announces Stand-Alone Streaming Service, Gives No Details

HBO's business model has been fairly consistent for its entire existence: if you have cable, you can add HBO to your subscription for a monthly fee. In the last few decades of cable-based appointment television, this model has been incredibly successful. The two major changes to their business have been original programming, such as The Newsroom and Game of Thrones, and HBO GO.

HBO GO allows existing HBO subscribers to stream content on a variety of devices. The biggest issue with the service is the existing subscription requirement. Many young people are cutting their cable subscriptions entirely, meaning the target audience for HBO GO is completely ineligible to use it. That makes it difficult to justify the cost of the service, which can't be inexpensive.

Earlier this year, HBO Chief Executive Richard Plepler said,

Right now we have the right model. Maybe HBO GO, with our broadband partners, could evolve.

Analysts predicted that the evolution would come sooner than later, which makes sense in a time when the face of television is changing. Appointment television is coming to a swift end; I am watching old episodes of a television show as I write this. But can HBO compete in an arena that RedBox is vacating?

They are certainly going to give it a go. Plepler announced that, launching some time in 2015, HBO plans on offering content to non-cable subscribers. What they did not say was what content would be available on this unnamed platform. He said they would work with "current partners," which indicates that, currently, none of their contracts allow for off-network availability. This could prevent current programming from being available, as indicated previously.

What price would you be willing to pay to get HBO content without a cable subscription? Sound off in the comments.

Uber Driver Accused of Kidnapping, Company Disagrees

posted Wednesday Oct 15, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Uber Driver Accused of Kidnapping, Company Disagrees

Ride sharing apps, like Uber and Lyft, have been in the news a lot lately. A lot of the talk has surrounded the precarious legal position these types of apps have in various regions around the world. Cities, states and countries the world over have banned the app citing safety concerns and regulations skirting.

Unfortunately for these companies, the fears have been realized a few times over. Earlier this summer, a Washington DC ride became part of a "high speed chase" with a DC taxi inspector that ended up crossing state lines. Another rider, drunk and bar hopping in LA, was allegedly kidnapped, taken to a motel and asked to stay with the driver.

This week, another unfortunate incident has brought the topic of rider safety to the forefront, this time also in Los Angeles, and also with a drunk rider. The story, as reported, goes like this: female rider uses UberX to schedule a "taxi" ride to her home; a 20 minute trip. The driver then takes her 2 hours out of her way and into an empty parking lot, where he locked her in the car when she tried to get out. He then only took her to her destination after she began to scream in the locked car.

The driver, however, tells a different story of the event. According to the driver: drunk rider gets into car and requests an extended route home. At some point, the driver got concerned and called 911. Eva Behrend, from Uber, says,

Early reports on this ride are inaccurate. Based on the information we have at this time, this driver called 911 to ask for assistance with an intoxicated rider who requested an extended trip. However, we have refunded the rider's trip and reached out to the rider for additional information.

The most interesting thing about the refund was the comment attached to transaction: "inefficient route."

Obviously this all highlights the issues with an army of almost entirely unvetted drivers, the biggest of which being safety of the passengers. Taxi companies are responsible for the behavior of their drivers, but Uber and Lyft are completely unregulated, meaning they are not necessarily responsible for their drivers. The unregulated aspect seems to be part of the allure for some, though, so it is an interesting issue to solve.

Do you think more areas should focus on safety concerns or should Lyft and Uber be left alone? Let us know in the comments section.

Ballmer Forcing His Own Clippers to Get Rid of Apple Products

posted Sunday Sep 28, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Ballmer Forcing His Own Clippers to Get Rid of Apple Products

For those of you who might not have known by now, Steve Ballmer has stepped down as an executive board member for Microsoft after relinquishing the title of CEO to Satya Nadella earlier this year. One of the reasons he publicly mentioned for his stepping down as a board member was to devote more time to his other endeavors like teaching and his humanitarian efforts. Another one of those projects is his ownership of the NBA team, the LA Clippers. Now, he's setting aside a lot of time to permanently remove all remnants of Apple products from the team.

One thing Ballmer has promised as new owner is that he is going to ensure that his loyal Clippers fan will have "the best experience and that is not just the best in L.A." If you're on a smartphone or tablet, Ballmer said the fan's stay in the Staples Center will be unlike any other. To that end, he doesn't want an iPad, iPhone or any other iDevice or "Apple Device" in sight.

Most of the Clippers on are Windows, some of the players and coaches are not. And Doc (Rivers, the coach of the team) kind of knows that's a project. It's one of the first things he said to me: 'We are probably going to get rid of these iPads, aren't we?' And I said, 'Yeah, we probably are.' But I promised we would do it during the off season.

Especially after the NFL butchering the $400 million deal with Microsoft only to have the announcers call Surfaces iPads, one could assume that Ballmer doesn't want to repeat that debacle in his own arena and team. How will he ease out the Apple usage? We're not sure yet, but it's rumored it'll be through lots of pressure and yelling something about developers. Who knows, maybe he'll even fine players unwilling to change. It could be a new form of, "if you don't like it, don't play here and leave!" After all, Steve Ballmer is a man of character and is never known to do anything with half-effort. And if he's ever involved in a project, you know he's going to do it big.

In fact, Ballmer set a new record by purchasing the team for four times more than any other team has been sold for - a cool $2 billion. After purchasing the team, he held a pep rally, where I assume nobody on the team knew who he was other than "former Microsoft CEO." This is all due to the video of the pep rally that I watched, where the row of NBA stars were in shock by Ballmer's insanity passion and excitement. Somebody should have passed them a memo on who this guy was; see the reference about developers above for a good idea. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing how he will transition the team out of Apple products and into his devices he helped create. Additionally, I'd like to see him pry an iPhone out of DeAndre Jordan's hands. The guy is 6'11 and 265 pounds. I'd go to my first ever NBA game to see that in the pre-game events.

Photo courtesy of Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports.

In a Social Networking World Where Ads are King, Ello is Unique and Rebellious

posted Sunday Sep 28, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

In a Social Networking World Where Ads are King, Ello is Unique and Rebellious

Heello, Yo, and now Ello. The rise of social networks and apps to get away from the norm of Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter has been so rampant (and sometimes stupid) lately that it feels like everyone has been taking a shot at cashing in on the new dot-com bust. Regardless of your opinions on social networking and what you think of previous apps, Ello is actually interesting in that is accomplishes two things. First, it's actually different. And second, it's set up in sort of a pay-to-win deal.

So, what is Ello? Well, it's a new social network, but one whose focus is not on getting you to sign up just to be an ad puppet. In fact, Ello's designer Paul Budnitz said that there is a definitive no-ads policy for the site. People must like it, as Ello is getting over 27,000 requests an hour. Of course, brands have picked up on this and have signed up, too, but as Budnitz put it, he's not concerned.

If you don't like what a brand posts, even if it's all ads, you don't have to follow them.

It may sound like taking the easy way out, but unlike Facebook and now Twitter, Ello will never show you something from somebody you don't follow. Ever. Ello also says it allow sponsored tweets or other enhanced promotion methods the other sites are doing as well.

So, if it's has no ads, how will Ello make money? There's a small caveat in the service and one that almost feels like it takes a page directly from EA's book. It's also something services like Diaspora and have tried but did not go over so well. The main-stay of Ello is free, however if you want to try something more than the basics, you're going to pay for it. Want multiple accounts tied to one login? You pay for it. Ello says it will have a bunch of features like that, and each will have a different cost. It's a great option for those who don't want or need every feature of a social network but still want to enjoy a service. And, for those who do want them, they have to pay. It keeps the ads off the site and the users happy, but I can't help but think of a free-to-play game with an ingrained notion that you have to pay to really get the full experience.

Beyond that, Ello is unique. I've come across dozens of truly interesting profile pages, each with their own design, flare and feel. People have put a lot of work into their pages and Ello lets you pretty much make it look how you want. For your name, Ello doesn't care. Name yourself the Refreshing Penguin and Ello will let you. Searching Ello is easy, as you only have two options: Friends and Noise. Friends has pictures, long text and everything those you follow post. Noise is simply a grid of quick-hitting news sorted by most recent. One minor downfall is the lack of privacy settings, though. You can't block people nor can you report content that is inappropriate. It's unfortunate but controls for those things are coming soon, Budnitz says.

Overall, I'm still getting used to Ello and have only spent a short time with it so far. I plan on giving it an honest effort and seeing if I'll stick with using it. I think my friend good friend, Traveling Mamas creator Shannon DalPozzal put it best when she described Ello from her perspective.

Testing out, playing with it, sharing little nuggets of thoughts. Brings back the creativity for me. Longer than twitter, less noise than FB, bigger images than Instagram, it reminds me of that Eagle's song "Peaceful Easy Feeling" - Overall, it's different. And I like that.

I hope that in the long run Ello will remain different and not fall into the same trap everyone else does. After a while, most companies fade into the mix by copying the competition. If Ello doesn't want to say goodbye (you knew that was coming in this article, right?) then it needs to remain a stand-out. Have you tried Ello? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments.

Netflix Hours Streamed Exceeds World Population

posted Sunday Sep 28, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Netflix Hours Streamed Exceeds World Population

Two years ago, we mentioned that Netflix eclipsed one billion hours of streaming in a single month. Since that time, that number has steadily increased. Now, a new study has shown that Netflix users take binge watching to the extreme.

The Diffusion Group, a research and analysis firm, said that Netflix customers are streaming at an increased rate of 350 percent over the last ten quarterly measurements. To put that into perspective, users are now watching an average of 93 minutes per day, equating to 45GB of data gobbled up each month.

TDG added to the report, using Netflix's streaming volume data, that across the board the total number of hours watched per month exceeds the number of people on the planet. Over 7 billion hours of Netflix is streamed each month and that number has seen roughly a 2.5 percent increase each quarter since January of 2013.

What can attribute to the growing success of the company, even though businesses like FiOS and Comcast are throttling service? Since 2013, Netflix has been expanding across the globe. That month of January in 2013 is pretty significant for the company, as that was a time where 94 percent of all Netflix traffic came from the US. However as Netflix has grown internationally, as of the summer of this year, that number has dropped to only 72 percent. Countries like Germany and France have openly adopted the video-streaming service and are heavily on board.

It's also interesting to note that US customers stream their content at a rate of only 2.57Mbps - about 1GB of data consumed per hour - and if the FCC has its way, that number may sadly decrease unless you pay more per month to your ISP. Also, considering that in order to watch Netflix in Super HD you need between 6 and 8Mbps, it pains me to know most users aren't enjoying their movie-watching experience to its fullest potential.

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