Amazon, Google and Microsoft Race to Dominate AI Platform

Silicon Valley has dubbed machine learning and artificial intelligence as the next big thing. Today’s tsunami of data has created the need to make sense of it, quickly and efficiently. Although recent focus has been on giant public clouds from Amazon, Google and Microsoft, now those companies’ abilities to use AI to parse all that data has become the latest arena of competition. All three companies are now striving to define the next gen platform, with Google in the lead and Microsoft and Amazon playing catch up. Continue reading Amazon, Google and Microsoft Race to Dominate AI Platform

Bitcoin Rival Ethereum Offers Online Markets, Smart Contracts

Although other alternative currencies have tried to gain traction as Bitcoin struggles with internal divisions, none have succeeded in doing so — until now. A rival virtual currency, Ethereum, has gained the interest of a wide range of finance and technology behemoths, including JPMorgan, Chase, Microsoft and IBM. As a result, its value has shot up 1,000 percent over the last three months. Built on a blockchain in which every transaction is publicly recorded as is Bitcoin, Ethereum promises to do more. Continue reading Bitcoin Rival Ethereum Offers Online Markets, Smart Contracts

Netflix, Not AT&T or Verizon, Throttles Speeds Over Networks

For the last five years, Netflix has been throttling speed of its service to AT&T and Verizon subscribers so they would not exceed mobile data caps and incur extra charges that could discourage viewing on mobile devices. After T-Mobile’s chief executive noted that AT&T and Verizon customers were watching Netflix at slower speeds, the two carriers were initially blamed, but denied the charges. Net neutrality rules prevent wireless carriers from throttling the speed, but those rules appear not to apply to content companies. Continue reading Netflix, Not AT&T or Verizon, Throttles Speeds Over Networks

Rental Kiosk Leader Redbox Readies Video Streaming Service

Redbox plans to launch a video streaming service called Redbox Digital. The DVD rental company previously launched Redbox Instant, a streaming service joint venture with Verizon, which lasted 18 months. The new effort will be a video-on-demand store similar to iTunes, Vudu or Google Play, letting consumers stream or buy digital copies of movies or TV show episodes. Redbox Digital will be part of the service’s existing loyalty program, integrate into its mobile apps and support TV-connected platforms like Chromecast and Roku. Continue reading Rental Kiosk Leader Redbox Readies Video Streaming Service

Hulu Unveils its First VR App, Content for Samsung Gear VR

Hulu debuted an app for Samsung’s Gear VR now available in the Gear VR Oculus Store, the first of several VR apps for different platforms that the company plans to unveil. The app allows users to watch Hulu’s 2D TV/film content library in a 360-degree immersive environment, choosing from several settings (a living room, a big screen movie theater, a beach). Among original content is Hulu’s first VR film, “The Big One,” produced in partnership with Lionsgate and featuring Freddie Wong and his RocketJump brand. Continue reading Hulu Unveils its First VR App, Content for Samsung Gear VR

ABC and Warner Bros. Ink Deal for Network’s Digital Platforms

ABC just struck a deal with Warner Bros. Television to make all in-season episodes of any future series from the studio available on ABC digital platforms. That’s a victory for the network over other streaming services, in particular Netflix, which often insists on exclusivity, thus blocking networks from securing so-called stacking rights, or five rolling episodes of a current show. The ABC-Warner Bros. deal means that ABC will have more relevant content for its own time-shifted options, including the revamped WatchABC app. Continue reading ABC and Warner Bros. Ink Deal for Network’s Digital Platforms

Google Makes its Move to Become a Player in Cloud Services

Until now, Google has been third, behind Amazon and Microsoft, in the fast-growing market of cloud computing services. That all changed at its NEXT conference in San Francisco when the company showcased a variety of cloud-based services including software for machine learning, a powerful new speech service that challenges Nuance’s dominance, and a recently introduced vision service. Google also plans to expand places where people can purchase its cloud services from four regions to 16 in the next year-and-a-half. Continue reading Google Makes its Move to Become a Player in Cloud Services

Nielsen Debuts Connected TV Data, Adds to Television Usage

Starting April 25, Nielsen will provide data for connected TV devices, including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation and Nintendo Wii. Also new is Nielsen’s Total Use of Television (TUT) that adds connected-TV device data to traditional TV usage. Nielsen research, based on data from 40,000 households with 100,ooo+ TVs and 50,000 TV-connected devices, also shows that consumers are less likely to cut the cord than add streaming services to traditional pay TV. Continue reading Nielsen Debuts Connected TV Data, Adds to Television Usage

Apple Debuts Minor Changes, But Has Big Plans for iPad Pro

Apple’s growth by the end of Q4 2015 was a pallid 2 percent, and the unveiling of its new products at this week’s event from Cupertino showed only incremental changes: an updated 4-inch screen iPhone, a new smaller iPad Pro and a free update to Apple TV. But Apple has big growth potential in its future plans. Although iPad sales have been declining, the company sees the new iPad Pro as a replacement for the huge number of aging PCs, and brought the newly converted Citigroup and Pixar to the event to make its point. Continue reading Apple Debuts Minor Changes, But Has Big Plans for iPad Pro

VR Faces its Moment of Truth as Headsets Become Available

Virtual reality is finally available for consumers. Oculus will ship the much-anticipated Rift VR headset next week, HTC will deliver its Vive VR headset one week later, and Sony is also readying the launch of its PlayStation VR headset. Although there are technical kinks to be worked out and business models to emerge, early signs that consumers want VR are positive. The Rift is back-ordered to July, the Vive to May, and, on Amazon, the PlayStation VR Launch Bundle pre-order sold out within minutes of going live. Continue reading VR Faces its Moment of Truth as Headsets Become Available

Streaming Boosts Music Revenues, But Not Equally for Artists

The Recording Industry Association of America reports that streaming is booming, more than offsetting declines in CD sales and digital downloads. In 2015, overall revenues rose almost 1 percent to $7 billion, the fifth consecutive year that the market grew — albeit slightly — in wholesale value. But artists and their representatives are saying that the gains aren’t being fairly shared, since many users still listen for free. In 2014, for example, on-demand streams grew 63 percent while revenue increased only 34 percent. Continue reading Streaming Boosts Music Revenues, But Not Equally for Artists

Comcast, Amazon Partner to Sell TV, Internet, Phone Services

Comcast now sells TV, Internet and phone service on Amazon.com in a new retail partnership that has been a year in the making. A new Amazon landing page — the Amazon Cable Store — sells Comcast’s Xfinity-branded bundles, with dedicated customer service for Amazon customers. Comcast, which hopes the relationship will improve its customer service image, also opened two customer call centers to focus entirely on Amazon-generated inquiries about Comcast sales, part of $300 million earmarked to improve customer service. Continue reading Comcast, Amazon Partner to Sell TV, Internet, Phone Services

Google Cast Technology Powers New Vizio TVs and Speakers

Vizio is launching a SmartCast TV set and several soundbars and speakers, all based on Google Cast, the same technology as that company’s Chromecast streaming stick. With the SmartCast TV, the user can control streaming services directly from his or her phone, without a remote control. Vizio just introduced a companion Android app on Google Play that will allow volume control and other basic functions as well as a movie/TV show guide. One partner in the launch is Walmart’s video service Vudu. Continue reading Google Cast Technology Powers New Vizio TVs and Speakers

New Daily Talk Show from E! Now Livestreaming on Facebook

On March 21, the NBCUniversal-owned cable network E! debuted a daily live talk show — “Live From E!” — on Facebook Live. The show, which runs 15 to 20 minutes each weekday at 12:30 pm Eastern time, is shot with an Apple iPhone 6s Plus smartphone, and is also available on eonline.com and the E! Online app. The show represents a success for Facebook, which has been pitching TV networks, media companies, sports leagues (including the NFL) and celebrities to bring premium live content to its streaming service. Continue reading New Daily Talk Show from E! Now Livestreaming on Facebook

Viacom Inks Multi-Year Deal for comScore/Rentrak Digital Data

Ever since comScore acquired Rentrak, the merged companies have posed competition to ratings giant Nielsen. Now, the merged digital measurement firm has signed a multi-year deal with Viacom to help the media giant more accurately target specific demographics across its linear TV, digital, mobile and over-the-top channels including MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central. Viacom offers Vantage as a data-targeting service to advertisers who want to reach “new parents looking for diapers” and other more granular targets. Continue reading Viacom Inks Multi-Year Deal for comScore/Rentrak Digital Data