In a move that appears to be a bit of damage control mixed with a bit of new-product marketing, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings posted an apologetic message on the Netflix blog Sunday that has received mixed reviews.
And by mixed, I mean… mostly not great.
Hastings apologized for the PR fiasco that ensued following Netflix’s announcement in July that they would be charging separately for DVD-by-mail and streaming services.
The message begins with Hastings saying “I messed up” and “It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology.”
But then it moves to an announcement about splitting the two components of the business into different websites and different names and NO integration between the two (meaning if you’re searching for a movie, you have to look for it on two sites instead of one). Streaming = Netflix. DVD = Quikster. Current subscribers will now get two charges on their accounts, but with no more price changes.
What do you think? Good move? Bad move? Does it matter?
Seattle-based startup Medio is partnering with the company that makes those wildly popular birds of destruction.
Rovio, makers of the 300-million-times-downloaded Angry Birds, will be using Medio technology to track who tosses those birds into the pigs (or monkeys or whatever enemy is stealing their eggs).
"… our games generate a gold mine of consumer behavior across every demographic, from kids to senior citizens. Figure out a way to crunch those data in real-time and the result will be much better game play for all to enjoy."
"With more than 200 million people world-wide playing games like Angry Birds, Rovio and others are presented with the gift of “Big Data” 24 hours a day. Over the span of even just a few months, these data sets are massive – from dozens of terabytes to many petabytes – unstructured and complex. But they contain a gold mine of information that we think can increase our fan engagement and satisfaction."
In a battle to rally search engine market share, Microsoft is taking their fight… to the mall. The Redmond giant (I know it’s cliche to use that phrase, but for some reason it amuses me every time) now offers detailed maps of hundreds of shopping centers around the country, including all the major ones in the Puget Sound.
Southcenter, for example:
From a person who is always looking for a directory to find that elusive-but-ever-present watch repair store (psst, it’s next to the nail salon and the tux rental shop), thanks. And it’s not a bad way to win over some fans, especially of the younger demographic.
(Now… what to do about those aerial photos… I mean, come on, it still shows the movie theater being built, which means it’s at least four years old. And the other aerial pic is even older.)
One week into Google+ and counting: An analysis (or... "BECAUSE EVERYONE IS WRITING ONE OF THESE")
Okay. Bottom line: Yes.
Yes, I like Google+.
Yes, it has some amazing bells and whistles.
And yes, it kind of scares me.
I’ve told many people G+ sure seems like the Buzz Lightyear of social media, the new must-have everyone wants to play with to the detriment of the old Woody the Cowboy (psst… I’m talking about Facebook).
But at some point, many of us will finish trying to figure out this new behemoth and go back to the tried-and-true white and blue.
Considering I’ve had at least 30 people ask for invites in the last two days, and nearly all signed up within minutes of being added to my Circles, it’s safe to say the g+ears are turning. Some estimate ”Plus” may already have around 5 million users (see below for more on that).
So here are my first week impressions:
THE “+1”S OF G+
Google Hangouts - To quote my friend Josh, an aircraft engineer, “How is this is free???” Hangouts may be the most awe-inspiring thing about the Google+. Over the weekend, I extended an open invite for the multi-person video chat function.
We got a maximum of six people at one time, mostly journalists (apparently we tend to stay up the latest), from Anchorage to Toledo to an SUV navigating the streets of San Jose. I’m told up to ten can simultaneously chime in, and it’s an nice technological detail that whoever is speaking the loudest takes the big window.
You can also share YouTube videos with everyone, though that part still seems a bit awkwardly implemented (You had to click on the “Join” button before it disappeared, and even then it didn’t always play the video the person was watching immediately).
Still, considering Skype charges for multi-person teleconferencing and XBox Live is still experimenting with multi-person “Avatar” chat, color me impressed. Oh, by the way, the video hardly lagged on any of the webcams.
Circles - I would have put this first if not for how much fun I had with Hangouts. Circles, it seems, is the fundamental pillar of Google+. In order to add friends to your list, you drag them into a labeled circle, be it “Friends” or “Acquaintances” or something else of your choosing.
To be fair, Facebook has “circles” in the form of Groups, which even has some settings and features similar to Google+ (How many of us knew you can tailor who sees your status updates or photos?).
I think the difference is that by prominently featuring Circles rather than making it a sorting afterthought, Google+ encourages cliques. Facebook, it might be said, would rather you be friends with everyone. Google+ keeps your friends close and your enemies, well, in their own circle.
But Circles can also be a bit problematic (see below… again).
Integration - One interesting side effect of Google+? My old GChat list has exploded. It’s more than doubled in size, which speaks to how much Google has integrated its different apps.
As someone pointed out, teleconferencing, news feeds, and photo/document sharing are not new concepts to the ole’ World Wide Web. It just really takes someone with Google’s clout to turn it into one big social network.
To continue with the Disney analogies, it’s like taking all the classic animated features, the ones we revisit time and again anyway, and looping them into one massive “Princess Collection.” Not that.. um.. I have… said collection… (anymore)…
The Google+ Minuses
Privacy - With Ancestry.com founder Paul Allen already estimating more than 4.5 million Google+ users using his unique method, you expect Google to face the same privacy questions that Facebook has dealt with over the course of its own explosive growth.
By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.
Granted, I’m pretty sure Google+ isn’t trying to be uber-private. They want you to have a public profile. I’m just not sure they tell you just how public some of your stuff can be.
As soon as some “acquaintances” I know signed up, Google+ started posting photos from their previously established Picasa albums. While they’re okay with it, it did catch many by surprise.
Circles - If you understand them, Circles have the potential to rock your world. But if you don’t, they can really make your head spin. That’s the part that worries the folks who don’t want others to be able to add them into a circle sans mutual consent (a la FB).
You have to realize that Google wants to know who you want to see virtually everything you post. That means paying attention to the green versus blue:
Blue is a constricting circle, so to speak. Green, on the other hand, means people you haven’t sorted will be able to see what you’ve posted. If you’re not paying attention, it’s tough to know who is seeing what on your page.
Beta - In the end, most of the knocks on Buzz Lightyear relate to the fact that he’s shiny and new and simply inexperienced. In this parlance, that means Google+ is glitchy+.
Tech superstar Chris Pirillo lamented that 200 people unfriended him after his photos started posting automatically. Apparently, due to a miscalculation by Google, his pictures would float to the top of people’s feeds every time someone made a comment about them.
On a smaller scale, I had friends texting me to stop emailing them every time I posted on my stream. First of all, I wasn’t aware at the time that I had added people who were not already Google+ members. Second, I didn’t know the default setting (cleverly enough, because it encourages people to sign up for G+) is to notify those non-members via e-mail every time I hit the “Share” button.
But Google tends to fix things (except for letting me sort GMail by file size, but that’s a fight… sigh… for another day), so I’m just going to be patient for now.
I wrap up with a philosophical question I posed on a G+ comment from Ted Kim of the Dallas Morning News, regarding the difference between Facebook’s “like” and Google’s “+1.”
Do they have different connotations? I venture you’d be more likely to “+1” a witty yet negative comment than “like” it. Eh, what do I know?
So.. for now, yes.
Yes, Google+ gets my +1. But Facebook still has all my food photos.
Pretty huge deal. Not only does this help MS potentially leap-frog Google’s voice and video capabilities, but a potential Skype on the XBox LIVE network would make that Kinect web cam function immediately more appealing to millions of Skype users around the world. The official press release from MS:
REDMOND, Wash., and LUXEMBOURG – May 10, 2011 – Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: “MSFT”) and Skype Global S.à r.l today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire Skype, the leading Internet communications company, for $8.5 billion in cash from the investor group led by Silver Lake. The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Skype.
The acquisition will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications, bringing benefits to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities. The combination will extend Skype’s world-class brand and the reach of its networked platform, while enhancing Microsoft’s existing portfolio of real-time communications products and services.
With 170 million connected users and over 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations in 2010, Skype has been a pioneer in creating rich, meaningful connections among friends, families and business colleagues globally. Microsoft has a long-standing focus and investment in real-time communications across its various platforms, including Lync (which saw 30 percent revenue growth in Q3), Outlook, Messenger, Hotmail and Xbox LIVE.
Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.
“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”
Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft, and Skype CEO Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Ballmer.
“Microsoft and Skype share the vision of bringing software innovation and products to our customers,” said Tony Bates. “Together, we will be able to accelerate Skype’s plans to extend our global community and introduce new ways for everyone to communicate and collaborate,” Bates said.
“Tony Bates has a great track record as a leader and will strengthen the Microsoft management team. I’m looking forward to Skype’s talented global workforce bringing its insights, ideas and experience to Microsoft,” Ballmer said.
Speaking on behalf of the investor group that sold Skype to Microsoft, Egon Durban, managing director of Silver Lake, said: “We are thrilled with Skype’s transformation during the period of our ownership and grateful for the extraordinary commitment of its management team and employees. We are excited about Skype’s long-term future with Microsoft, as it is poised to become one of the world’s most dynamic and comprehensive communications platforms.”
Founded in 2003, Skype was acquired by eBay in September 2005, and then acquired by an investment group led by Silver Lake in November 2009. Skype has made impressive progress over the past 18 months under Silver Lake’s leadership, increasing monthly calling minutes by 150 percent, developing new revenue streams and strategic partnerships, acquiring the intellectual property powering its peer-to-peer network, and recruiting an outstanding senior management team.
Other members of the selling investor group led by Silver Lake include eBay International AG, CPP Investment Board, Joltid Limited in partnership with Europlay Capital Advisors; and Andreessen Horowitz.
The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The parties hope to obtain all required regulatory clearances during the course of this calendar year.
The guy who live-blogged the death of Osama Bin Laden... and didn't realize it!
Sohaib Altar was complaining about helicopters circling overhead via Twitter and unwittingly became an eyewitness account of the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound. I love that it appears now he’s getting followers by the thousands. Here’s some snippets:
Xbox LIVE is now offering Hulu Plus free for 7 days to all Xbox users (and then only to Xbox Live gold members after that).
That means XBox 360’s can stream your favorite TV shows and some movies for $7.99 per month.
Adds Microsoft, because it can: ”With Kinect for Xbox 360, easily control your Hulu Plus entertainment content from your couch using your voice as the remote control. Play, pause, fast forward and rewind any show you are watching using gesture or voice commands, as well as select movies and TV shows recommended for you by Hulu Plus through the Kinect Hub.”
KING-5 reporters use Verizon aircards out in the field, and we recently upgraded to the new 4G aircards, which at once make our laptops look 30 percent more cyborg, and make the download/upload speeds much much faster.
At least, when they work.
We’ve already had some problems with the connections switching between 3G and 4G in a way that, shall we say, is less than seamless.
Some firmware upgrades to the hardware seem to have helped a little, but the cards have definitely been more finicky than their predecessors. For the most part, I’vea been chalking that up to new technology (it takes a while to get the cell towers upgraded) that stuff up and running.
Then, yesterday happened. VZW’s 4G network went down nationwide, and with it, my ability to access my newsroom remotely. Not fun.
And the outage lasted 24 hours… Around 8am this morning, the Verizon Wireless Twitter account posted:
"4G LTE up and running. Thank you for your patience."
Although, while it seems smartphones can now connect to 4G without a problem, the Wall Street Journal says customers with a laptop USB modem (like yours truly, who just experienced this while driving into Tacoma) will still have to reconnect to the network when switching between 3G and 4G connections.
VZW has not said what caused the 4G LTE network, which is rolled out in 45 meropolitan areas so far, to fail.
Amazon announces Library Books to be available for Kindle
Amazon says it will start allowing Kindle users to borrow books from more than 11,000 libraries across the country later this year.
I’ve spoken with avid e-readers over the years who say they specifically went with Barnes and Noble’s Nook or Sony’s Reader specifically because they could download books from libraries.
And librarians have expressed frustration at the Kindle, believing that Amazon’s decision not to support their widely used EPUB format was solely so they could sell their own books online.
But today Amazon said it’s working with OverDrive, a digital distributor that already hosts 500,000+ titles, according to its website, to create Kindle Library Lending, a new feature that will be available for all versions of the Kindle, including the reading apps, like those for smartphones.
What that says about the Pac Sci’s ability to target an audience is commendable. What that says about the future of music is… well, no comment. My niece would kill me if I said anything bad about Bieber.
I got this email this morning signed by Best Buy Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer Barry Judge:
Dear Valued Best Buy Customer:
On March 31, we were informed by Epsilon, a company we use to send emails to our customers, that files containing the email addresses of some Best Buy customers were accessed without authorization We have been assured by Epsilon that the only information that may have been obtained was your email address and that the accessed files did not include any other information. A rigorous assessment by Epsilon determined that no other information is at risk.
The email warns customers to look out for unusual emails, not to click on any suspicious links or give out your personal info. You know, the usual ID theft protection stuff.
Though only email addresses and names were among the hacked, the big concern is that whoever has access to that information can send you a realistic email looking like it comes from a place where you shop (also known as “phishing”).
By the way, the AP says email addresses may also have been stolen from The College Board, which runs the SATs, and Walt Disney Co.’s travel subsidiary Disney Destinations.
AT&T/LG and Sprint/HTC fighting for your stereoscopic eyeballs!
On the heels of LG’s Thrill 4G for AT&T, the first glasses-less 3D smartphone, HTC has unveiled its new EVO 3D, which will run off the Sprint 4G network.
These include an Android (running the Gingerbread version) smartphone model the HTC EVO 3D that promises to deliver glasses-free 3-D. Consumers will also be able to capture 3-D on the device up to the 720p high definition standard. EVO 3D is due out this summer (no pricing yet). (thanks TechnologyLive)
Actually, both phones sport large screens and dual 5.0 megapixel cameras. Both are powerful enough to shoot 720p 3D video or 1080p 2D video, though HTC’s supposedly has just a little more processing power.
Now if only I had a 3DTV on which I actually could watch all the 3D cat videos that are going to be showing up on youtube…..
No more specifics have been given on the release dates of either.
YouTube announced this week it’s acquired Next New Networks, a Web video production company, which New York Times says may be a step in an effort to produce original content and get its viewers (aka everyone with 55 free seconds to watch Kitten vs. Baby) to watch its content for extended periods of time (more like, well, Hulu).
This has been rumbling around the tech community for a bit…. but it’s official. Nokia and Microsoft are combining forces in the mobile phone market.
That should mean Nokia’s phones will no longer use their own operating system (Symbian, in case anyone wants to know) and use the Windows Phone software instead. (Well, actually, Symbian won’t completely go away, not just yet, not with a few hundred million cell phones currently using it)
Why is that good for you? It means more competition for iPhone and Android phone, and possible some crazy interesting phones in the next few years as MS tries to grab more market share from the Apple’s current gold standard and Google’s rising star.
According to the AP report, analysts said the deal was a bigger win for Microsoft than Nokia.
Neil Mawston of London-based Strategy Analytics said Microsoft was the big winner in the partnership, by teaming up with the biggest mobile hardware vendor in the world.
“In terms of expanding their distribution reach, this is a huge win for Microsoft,” he said.
Now if they can do something about that Nokia ringtone…
"The new iPad will be thinner and lighter than the first model, these people said. It will have at least one camera on the front of the device for features like video-conferencing, but the resolution of the display will be similar to the first iPad, these people said. It will also have more memory and a more powerful graphics processor, they said."
One of these days, I want to be a “source familiar with this matter” for someone’s story.
The news isn’t shocking, of course. iPad 2 rumors have been swirling around even since the introduction of the iPad (in large part due to its lack of a camera).
And to explain the title, my poor father was just coaxed into buying an iPad. Mind you he loves it, especially since it recognizes his writing in Chinese script, but he’s always the kind to get something really early on. I mean, we have a laser disc player lying around somewhere.
Still not seeing 3DTVs take off like they'd like...
As someone who wears the real thing, I’ve said to many folks I think 3D HDTV’s won’t go mainstream until you can watch them without special glasses (which I always have to stack on top of my existing pair).
Apparently, to throw out an overused adage, size matters too.
Toshiba came out with retail glasses-less 3DTVs in December in Japan. But now, Bloomberg is reporting that the company is having less-than-expected sales of its sets… Really low. Like less than 1000 of them in a month. It doesn’t help that the two models they have are 20- and 12-inch sets. The technology limits them to those sizes, because any bigger, and you have to resort to — you guessed it — special glasses.
But the numbers also just reflect that most of us are still in wait-and-see mode with this technology. Roger Ebert (via Gizmodo) apparently thinks we’ll never get past that mode.
Still, 3D was good for one part of the market: plasma TV’s, which saw a bit of a resurgence in 2010 (after all those newer, thinner, and less energy hogging LED’s jumped onto the market).
Offline since last Friday, it looks like Egypt’s largest Internet providers are back on.
The home pages of Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat, two of the country’s largest telecommunications carriers, were first to appear at around 0930 UTC, according to IDG News Service monitoring. Shortly after the websites of Orascom Telecom and the Egyptian Stock Exchange reappeared.
VZW iPhone 4 Available for Pre-Order Tomorrow; Sales start 2/10
Fresh off the PR wires:
CUPERTINO, Calif.—(BUSINESS WIRE)—Apple® today announced an exclusive opportunity for Verizon Wireless’ 94 million customers to pre-order iPhone® 4 online beginning on Thursday, February 3 through the Apple Store® (www.apple.com) and at www.verizonwireless.com/iphone. Due to high demand, customer orders will be fulfilled on a first come, first served basis.
Beginning on Wednesday, February 9, all qualified customers will be able to order an iPhone 4 on Verizon through the Apple Store (www.apple.com) for delivery or reserve for in-store pick up beginning February 10.
Beginning at 7 a.m. local time on Thursday, February 10, iPhone 4 on Verizon will be available to all qualified customers at Apple’s retail stores. iPhone 4 will also be available at more than 2,000 Verizon Wireless Communication Stores nationwide.
As for how much the iPhone 4 will cost, MSRP is set at $199 for 16GB models and $299 for 32GB models. Of course, you have to sign a 2-year agreement to get that price.
I feel like I know at least five… hundred.. people who might be able to use this.
While I credit Facebook for trying to remedy this, the way they prioritize who shows up on your news feed has a nasty habit of bringing up some folks you might not want to see (unless you do, and yes I know some of you out there are ex stalkers… at least 74 percent of you, actually…), someone has gone and developed an app to hide people from “your news feed, profile updates, photo updates, suggested photo albums, and Facebook Chat.”
Downside: You have to be using Google’s Chrome web browser for it to work.
While this map comes courtesy the other UW (Wisconsin), I had to share it. It’s not your normal topography. Rather, Daniel Huffman logged about 1.5 million Twitter posts, and checked them for swear words (you can check out his methodology — that is, which swears he used — on his blog). Essentially, what the peaks of bright red show us is that almost all of our big cities like to wax profane, while the Midwest (and Salt Lake City, in particular), are quiet. Chicago seems uncharacteristically dark, too, dont you think? Meanwhile, Louisiana and Georgia… wow. :)
Facebook just gave me the option to upgrade my Facebook Messages to its new format, which includes — drum roll — an @facebook.com email address.
The new format appears to do what Facebook does best (and what FB messaging had previously done the worst), organizing a social network out of your email. Now when I click on a friend’s name, I can see not just the most recent message they sent me, but the entire string of conversations all the way back to the beginning. No more endless scrolling to find one lost message in the haystack.
On a similar note, it’s really nice to list my messages by just unread ones.
FB says it will also “smart filter” messages according to people with whom “you’re close.” I’m assuming that means it incorporates a system similar to the “Top News” on my newsfeed. Either that, or it will just weed out spam messages.
If you haven’t gotten your upgrade button yet, here’s Facebook’s FAQ explanation:
We’re rolling out the new Messages to everyone gradually, so you should see steps to upgrade soon. If you want to access the new Messages sooner, visit the Learn more page to request an invitation (invitations will be sent pending availability).
I am curious to see how the new email meshes with the old “messaging” system. And the notification by text message seems very Twitterish, though if I recall, Facebook has had text messaging status updates for some time.
Ballmer promises (though should Apple take it more as a threat?) Windows will be "everywhere"
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ended his CES keynote with this: “Windows PCs will continue to adapt and evolve, and Windows will be everywhere, on every kind of device, without compromise.”
The speech itself was littered with demonstrations of that promise centering around Microsoft’s XBox (and Xbox Live), Windows Phone 7, and Windows 7 PCs (including support for system on a chip, which essentially puts a full version of the company’s flagship OS on a tiny motherboard, like the kind you would see on a smartphone).
"We’re entering a new generation where you’ll be able to use Windows from the small screen to the biggest screens," Ballmer continued.
While the enduser (read: me) is probably most interested in the deals MS is offering with Hulu Plus, Netflix, and ESPN (streaming bowl games!), some of its other partnerships, like with Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Texas Instruments, may have some long-ranging impacts.
The idea that you can make a full version of Windows run off a motherboard (not processor, but entire motherboard) that’s maybe about 1.5 inches square could mean serious competition to all those mobile devices, from smartphones to tablets (ahem iPad and Android tablets) to whatever the tech industry deems the next big thing.
Overall, while Ballmer’s speech itself and the demonstrations likely lended little new information to the crowd sitting there listening (from the pre-speech hype I got the sense that people wanted Ballmer to talk about the future of the industry as a whole), it did make clear one of Microsoft’s goals going forward.
Did you know the proposed NBC-Comcast merger includes an FCC requirement that Comcast offer any online video provider (i.e. rivals to Hulu) ”reasonable access” to NBC Universal programming? What does that mean? Allthingsd has some theories.
(Disclosure: I work for KING, an NBC affiliate which is owned by Belo)
Facebook overtakes Yahoo as world's #3 most visited website
With the juggernaut momentum Facebook has going, was there ever any doubt that it would surpass Yahoo?
Now only Google and Microsoft remain as bigger websites (and by “websites,” we’re talking about the sum of everything they own, i.e. Youtube = Google, XboxLive = Microsoft), according to data collected by Comscore.
Facebook drew an estimated 648 million unique visitors from across the globe in November, 2010, compared to 630 million for Yahoo. In October the two sites were dead even with 633 million worldwide unique visitors each (actually Facebook had already passed Yahoo by a smidgeon in October with about half a million more visitors).
Last year Facebook took over AOL for #4 (yes, yes, you also probably are more curious about how AOL is still ranked that high).