The UpStream

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.

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.

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.

Alibaba to List Largest IPO Through NYSE, Not NASDAQ

posted Saturday Jun 28, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Alibaba to List Largest IPO Through NYSE, Not NASDAQ

Alibaba is not a name you've probably heard unless you're a big fan of Disney's Aladdin. That's about to change, though, as the Chinese tech giant is preparing for its IPO. And that IPO is going to take place on the New York Stock Exchange.

Through 2012 the NASDAQ was known for 19 years as the place for tech IPOs. Last year that changed as the New York Stock Exchange had more tech IPOs than the NASDAQ. While Facebook may have stuck with tradition, Twitter and social game maker King bucked that trend.

With Alibaba, however, something even more important is about to happen. The NYSE is about to be the host of the worlds largest IPO. Valued at almost $170 billion, the 12% of stock the company is expected to make public could raise them $20 billion. That would put them above both Facebook and Visa.

Obviously this is big news for the NYSE in a time when tech companies are once again looking for public funding. The exchange has also shown a lot more success in recent months then its competitor. Alibaba and the NYSE do have a bigger challenge ahead of them than some of the other recent tech IPOs. For example the company is not as well-known as the likes of Facebook and Twitter here in the West. In the East however they are THE brand. A little PayPal, a little Google and a lot of Amazon, the company traded nearly $300 Billion worth of merchandise in 2013. That is over two and a half times what Amazon did in the same time period.

If you're interested in stocks, this IPO, scheduled for August, could certainly be one to watch.

Iwata and Miyamoto Remain Onboard Nintendo Board

posted Saturday Jun 28, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Iwata and Miyamoto Remain Onboard Nintendo Board

It's no secret Nintendo is in some trouble. Their last fiscal year was the first time they ever lost money. The Wii U is their first home console to ever have sales trouble. They also just lost a patent suit over the Wiimote. With the trend like that you expect the company to make somebody pay for it.

That somebody will not be President Satoru Iwata. Nor will it be Senior Managing Director Shigeru Miyamoto. Both of these men, who are high profile for the company, were reelected to the board of directors.

The election comes after a couple of changes in direction for the company. First, sales of the Wii U have spiked, thanks in large part to Mario Kart 8. In addition, at this year's E3 presentation, Nintendo made a great showing with the number of surprises. For example, the inclusion of Miis into the next Super Smash Brothers game was incredibly well received. While not exactly the same as including Reggie Fils-Aime, it did shock and impress players.

It is possible that this change of sales and change of press helped retain the company's new direction, including their senior leadership. For me, both Iwata and Miyamoto are a big reason why the company has been successful in the past. If there are changes are helping to bring the company back to its roots, I think letting them finish the journey is a good decision.

If these changes are unable to sell more Wii U consoles at the launch of Super Smash Brothers, though, I might be writing a different type of article this time next year.

Supreme Court Protects Personal Privacy

posted Saturday Jun 28, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Supreme Court Protects Personal Privacy

This week was a big one for the Supreme Court and technology. In addition to stepping on streaming service Aereo, they tackled personal privacy concerns in the smartphone age. Before the ruling for whatever reason cell phones were not covered under the Fourth Amendment. This meant that police could search your phone without a warrant.

Obviously this created a variety of privacy and security issues. For example, if you filmed police brutality, the cops could take your phone and delete the evidence. This has happened a number of times and only enhanced an already dangerous situation.

The case in question involves something far more important though: personal privacy. Imagine being pulled over for speeding and the cop demands to see your phone. It is a similar request to searching your car on the suspicion of drugs. Previously, you had no legal expectation of privacy for that phone.

The only thing you could do was to have your phone PIN locked, as police cannot legally force you to divulge any information. This has created a sticky situation with the iPhone. If your phone is locked via finger scanner they CAN force you to touch your phone.

But, modern smartphones hold all of our personal information and the Constitution is written to protect our personal privacy from the government. Luckily, the Supreme Court unanimously agrees and cell phones are now protected under the Fourth Amendment.

A decade ago, officers might have occasionally stumbled across a highly personal item such as a diary, but today many more than 90 percent of American adults who own cell phones keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives.

This means, before searching your phone, law enforcement is required to get a warrant, just like searching your home. This helps protect both the accused and bystanders who happen to film something happening with their phone.

How does this affect other devices though? Unfortunately, since tablets and wearables were not included in the suit, the Supreme Court could not rule on them. So, as for now, they are still searchable. This ruling however is a good start.

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