The UpStream

Accidentally Public Help Section Reveals Pricing, Availability, More for Redbox Instant

posted Saturday Dec 8, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Accidentally Public Help Section Reveals Pricing, Availability, More for Redbox Instant

Back in the summer, we reported on Verizon teaming up with Redbox to deliver a new video streaming service, Redbox Instant. This week, we've discovered that it's possible the service will launch very soon. There was a section on Redbox's site that was only supposed to be available to the closed beta members but was somehow publicly accessible. In fact, the help section was so in-depth that we now have some details on pricing and other information.

Granted, it's possible that this information could change a month or even a week before the service goes public, but it's always nice to get a little heads up on a new streaming service. Here's what we know for now:

  • Subscriptions are as low as $6 per month, which will give customers unlimited streaming capabilities to the entire video catalog. We can assume that the catalog will be much smaller than Netflix's or even Amazon's but we do know that Thor and Iron Man 2 are in the list.
  • For $8 per month, you can get four Redbox credits added to your streaming subscription, which allows you to rent DVDs from physical Redbox locations. This will most likely be for movies that are only available via DVD but users will be able to reserve the disc from the website or via mobile app. Also, this isn't AT&T and credits will not rollover to the next month and will expire.
  • Redbox Instant will also deliver video-on-demand rentals and sales of titles that are newer and not available for streaming yet. Customers can download these titles for offline access and prices start at 99 cents.
  • Redbox Instant will be available on the web, Android and iOS devices, Xbox 360 (no PS3 from what we see) and on certain Samsung TVs and Blu-Ray players. Just like Netflix, you will be able to have five devices registered to your account at any one time.
  • The service will also be using Silverlight for web-streaming, just like we see on Netflix. This news makes me smile a little bit on the inside.
  • Lastly, from the now-removed help section, we saw that beta testers would not be able to use their Redbox credits that are included with their service at some Redbox locations until December 17th. This could lead us to believe we will either see a soft launch, public launch or announcement of official details on that date or shortly after.
Of course, you could imagine this news has spread across the Internet rapidly, so naturally Redbox Instant by Verizon's CEO Shawn Strickland made an official statement shortly after the news break.

We appreciate the enthusiasm for Redbox Instant by Verizon and we look forward to sharing the full details of the service soon.

Company spokespeople have not been allowed to comment on anything in regards to the rumors or findings. However, now that we have seen some information, we can't wait for more. Like I've said on our show, it's always good for competition to exist, especially in this space. We're likely to see some of these details change but at least we now have a starting point.

Are you excited for another competitor to enter the video-streaming ring? Or have you already picked your favorite dog in the fight? We want to know in the comments below.

Spotify Adds New Features, Gives New Customers Easier Buying Options with Gift Cards

posted Saturday Dec 8, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Spotify Adds New Features, Gives New Customers Easier Buying Options with Gift Cards

Everyone loves music, right? Of course they do! While there may be a lot of music streaming options out there, like Xbox Music, the recently price-reduced Sony Music Unlimited, Ping and others, those who have been following this publication know that I've been a huge fan of Spotify. From its app platform to its infinitely superior Radio service, Spotify has been my preference since it may its way to the States. I understand, however, if you haven't shared the same sentiment and have not yet paid for the premium service from the company. You shall not fear, though, as Spotify has given your loved ones an easy way to convince you to try out their service this holiday season: gift cards.

Want to try out a Premium subscription for Spotify but unsure if you want to pony up the bucks to do it? Ask your friends and family this year and have them pick up a gift card for you. Spotify announced this week that it will be making $10, $30 and $60 gift cards available online in their store and also at Target stores nationwide. This is a huge step in the right direction for the company, who is currently preparing for its next round of funding, as it puts Spotify in line with Pandora, who has been offering gift cards for quite some time now. Keep in mind that these gift cards are for the Premium service, too, and not the middle tier.

The gift of Spotify Premium provides your family and friends with unlimited access to music without interruption from ads. Your gift allows the use of Spotify on a mobile phone and the ability to take playlists on the go with our offline mode.

I usually don't go and mention things like this but I feel it would be an injustice if I don't follow through on all things Spotify as I've been doing for the past two years. Not only that, but this holiday season comes at a great time for the company. Spotify also said this week that it is up to 20 million active users worldwide, with one million here in the States, which is up more than 30 percent in less than six months. This is big because we already know that Spotify users spend more money on music than those who don't use Spotify. Secondly, they have added several key musical groups to the service as well, including Metallica, and have just recently added a new Twitter-like feature that allows users to follow their friends' listening trends if the information is not set to private. These are all good things that should entice new members to give the service a shot, and the gift card option is just a bonus.

So, are you currently a Spotify subscriber? Are you planning to be soon? Will you be picking up a gift card for someone else or have someone get one for you? Let us know in the comments.

Note: At the time of the writing of this article, Spotify has not paid for this article or any other article in this publication.

Sprint Charging Nextel iDEN Users Additional $10 Per Month in January

posted Sunday Dec 2, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sprint Charging Nextel iDEN Users Additional $10 Per Month in January

Are you still using Nextel's Sprint's iDEN network? If so, that means either you love the little beep it makes or you're working in the construction field with a boss who won't upgrade. That's because right now, in 2012, there are still 2.3 million postpaid and 800,000 pre-paid customers still using Sprint's acquired 2G network. 2G is worse than T-Mobile's fake 4G network for those keeping score at home. Because of the strikingly large number of people still using the network, combined with Sprint's desire to shut it off by June of 2013, Sprint has decided to encourage users to get off the network sooner rather than later.

How? Sprint will be charging all subscribers who still use the iDEN network an additional $10 per month beginning January 1st. That'll teach 'em! Sprint's spokesman Mark Bonavia said this week that the company has already begun notifying customers of the change via e-mail, physical mail and text messaging. The $10 price increase will only affect Nextel and PowerSource brand users, with those using Sprint's CDMA network remaining unaffected by this change. On the decision, Bonavia added,

Customers that migrate prior to January will likely find a price plan comparable to what they have now. They are also eligible to receive a variety of very attractive device offers.

Sprint has been trying to slowly ax iDEN since 2007, but the 2 million-plus subscribers have been loyal to the brand, making it hard to quickly cut ties. Now, with the new age of technology and faster 4G networks becoming available, Sprint wants to free up the iDEN spectrum for something else and put those users onto the faster networks, capable of handling more data. Unfortunately for Sprint, Nextel customers have noticed the lack of love for the fading brand and have left in droves, with 866,000 postpaid subscribers leaving during the third quarter of the year. Sprint was able to retain 59 percent of them, though, successfully transitioning those users to the Sprint side of things.

It is also important to note that the Nextel name will be going away for good come June, because of Softbank's acquisition of 70 percent of Sprint. The company said that when the approval goes through, which should be around summer of next year, it will drop the "Nextel" brand completely. So, while a beloved, older technology fades into the background like that of the Startac, one can only hope a new technology, like enhanced push-to-talk - which will be offered on AT&T's Samsung Rugby II next week - comes to Sprint, keeping its chirp connoisseurs happy for years to come.

Nintendo's Satoru Iwata Apologizes for Lack of Key Features on Wii U's Launch

posted Sunday Dec 2, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Nintendo's Satoru Iwata Apologizes for Lack of Key Features on Wii U's Launch

Wii U sales may be surpassing Nintendo's expectations, however the company's President, Satoru Iwata, believes that customers who have already purchased the console should be able to experience all of the features from day one. Unfortunately, the Wii U was missing some features at launch and that doesn't sit right with the man in charge. So much so, in fact, that Iwata has apologized for the features that were missing from the November 18th launch day.

Personally I think that users should be able to use all the functions of a console video game machine as soon as they open the box. So I feel very sorry for the fact that purchasers of Wii U have to experience a network update which takes such a long time, and that there are the services which were not available at the hardware's launch.

To be fair, Nintendo pushed out a 5GB update to the Wii U's firmware on launch day to include many of the missing features, however, it can take up to two hours to download, depending on your Internet speed. We also learned that this update won't be bundled into Wii U packages until 2013, when the next batch of units hit the shelves. The good news is that users were able to get access to Miiverse, Internet-based features and backwards compatibility for their Wii games with the update. TVii is still missing, though, and won't be available until later this month. This was one of the more anticipated elements to the Wii U, as it allowed a second-screen experience on the entertainment side of things.

Despite the lack of features that came included with the Wii U, the console was still able to push 400,000+ units on launch day, to the pleasure of Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo America.

Wii U is essentially sold out of retail and we are doing our best to continually replenish stock. Retailers are also doing their best to get the product to store shelves. But as soon as product hits retail, they're selling out immediately.

Did you buy a Wii U? Or are the missing features, like TVii, enough for you to hold off until they become available? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Zynga's Facebook Status Changed to It's Complicated

posted Saturday Dec 1, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Zynga's Facebook Status Changed to It's Complicated

Dating back to the negotiations for bigger cuts on Facebook Credits, Zynga and Facebook have been losing that special feeling they once had. While they have created new games, some with negative results, Zynga has shopped their concept around. They worked a deal with Google, as well as preparing for a post-Facebook world, built their own platform.

Being in a lot of places might not be enough for them, though, as this week the partnership terms between Facebook and Zynga have changed. Until now, Zynga was required to build some exclusive titles for Facebook, as well as provide their titles for the platform. That is no longer the case, and that could mean titles like FarmVille showing up on other networks, like Google+ or the new Myspace. That could be a big transition for the company, especially considering without Facebook, Zynga would never have existed. The change also drops the requirement for Zynga to advertise for Facebook everywhere - good deal for Zynga there.

The other side of the deal is the Facebook can also start producing its own games. Until now, the agreement had been that Zynga would kind of be the game studio of Facebook, but now Facebook, with all of its vast, dwindling resources, can begin to compete against Zynga, EA and any other studio producing games for the platform. This here is the part that is most concerning to Zynga, as well as the other studios. Facebook has never been good about equality, so you can bet you'll see a lot more advertising for their own games than other companies' titles. So long as they prepare by reading about Google's less-than-successful adventure in the same space.

The negative impacts of this deal, outside of the obvious potential loss of active users, showed up in the place we have all come to expect: Zynga's stock. In fact, after this announcement, the company's stock, which has not been doing well in the first place, dropped another 7%. Add that to their losses and staff firings, it paints a pretty bleak picture for investors. Just because the stock price falls, however, doesn't mean the company is exactly in trouble - it just means investors are doubtful of the company's decisions. It doesn't exactly provide any hurdles today, but it will if they need another round of funding, which they probably do if they had to lay off employees.

All-in-all, this is not necessarily a bad thing for Zynga - they could find success in Google+ or Myspace, they could find success in their own platform, or they could begin to focus on their OMGPOP brand and go mobile. Honestly, though, even if Zynga vanished tonight, would people really miss them? Let us know your thoughts.

Motorola Loses Injunction Bid

posted Saturday Dec 1, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Motorola Loses Injunction Bid

It has been about 6 months since the Microsoft vs Motorola case really started getting good. As we know, Microsoft sued Motorola for using its patents within Android without permission - the same ones used on other Android manufacturers. Motorola, now owned by Google, counter-sued Microsoft for using its patents in the Xbox 360. The case was headed for both court and the International Trade Commission. For a while it looked scary for Xbox with the ITC, maybe even a pre-holiday import ban.

Then came the news that the ITC wouldn't decide until next year whether or not to prevent Microsoft from selling Xbox consoles within the United States. This week, however, a judge in Seattle, who has been dealing with the related case between the two companies, semi-invalidated Motorola's claims, claiming the patents were tied to widely used technology standards and therefore could not be used to get an injunction against Microsoft.

Bad break for Googorola, who was really hoping to deal a harmful blow to the now clearly-defined Microsoft ecosystem of Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox with this sales ban. To add insult to injury, the case also ended up with the determination that Motorola could not penalize Microsoft through licensing fees for the suit. Since the patents are used in accepted standards, in this case WiFi, it must adhere to the RAND (Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) rules whether or not they feel they have been insulted by this suit.

This trial was a bad sign for Motorola in the first place, as it indicated that the judge was already considering preventing injunctive relief, which can only be granted if the judge believes that the company or individual has been harmed in a way that money alone cannot account for. In this case, the judge wanted to talk licensing terms, which would certainly indicate that he wanted to know how much money Motorola would get, from the time of infringement until the statute of limitations. Obviously, from his ruling, he believed money was enough.

Because Microsoft will pay royalties under any license agreement from the time of infringement within the statute of limitations, this license agreement will constitute Motorola's remedy for Microsoft's use of Motorola's H.264 standard essential patent portfolio to include the Motorola Asserted Patents. Accordingly, Motorola cannot demonstrate that it has been irreparably harmed.

Motorola still has a chance with the ITC, though it would be very unusual for the ITC to rule differently on patent matters from the judge. It also doesn't bode well for Motorola that the ITC has shown issues with import bans based on standards-based patents. My guess is, when the ITC rules, we will see a very similar response to the Seattle court decision.

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