AFTRA Ratifies Residuals for Streaming Video Games

  • A new contract was recently ratified by members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) that will provide performers who work on video games a onetime payment when games are streamed over the Internet.
  • The so-called “cloud gaming fee” is the first of its kind, and resolves a longstanding dispute over compensation for the remote delivery of video games.
  • The union represents some 70,000 actors, recording artists and broadcasters.
  • AFTRA’s sister union SAG has yet to negotiate a new video game contract.

Ford Demonstrates the First Private Cloud Vehicle

  • Ford recently demonstrated a “short-range” Wi-Fi network that allows vehicles to communicate in a private cloud with other vehicles.
  • One key application is to alert drivers of potential crash situations in time to allow them to respond. The cloud technology has significant advantages over radar systems.
  • The technology could also enable communication with a traffic management system to help avoid traffic jams, thereby saving time and fuel.
  • Ford hopes to have its intelligent car technology in production as early as 2013.

family-TV

UltraViolet Opens Licensing Platform, DECE Adds New Members

  • UltraViolet, the cloud-based service that enables consumers to view content across multiple devices, has opened its licensing platform to content, technology and distribution partners.
  • It also welcomed eight new members to its governing consortium, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), including Blockbuster and Walmart’s VUDU. DECE now includes more than 70 members in ten countries.
  • DECE explained that consumers can expect to start seeing UltraViolet physical media and sell-through content by fall.
  • UltraViolet is intended to make the digitization process more efficient for content creators and to simplify consumer ownership by eliminating the current roadblocks to moving content between systems.
  • For example, a single digital movie purchase could be viewed on a TV, on a desktop PC, and on a portable device (up to six family members can use the same UltraViolet account).
  • According to a related article from paidContent: “Interoperability is the most critical challenge for the digital ecosystem to overcome, and there’s a lot riding on UltraViolet. If the big studios and their partners can’t provide a system for viewing content across platforms that’s simple and relatively inexpensive, digital piracy may continue to ‘solve’ the interoperability problem for them.”

Amazon Announces Cloud Drive and Cloud Player Updates

  • Amazon announced several notable enhancements to its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player service this week.
  • The Cloud Player is finally available for the iPad and has been optimized for Safari (joining existing apps for the Android phone, Android tablet, Mac, and PC).
  • New customers who register for the annual $20/20GB plan will receive unlimited space for music tracks.
  • Cloud Drive users can also store all of their previously Amazon-purchased MP3s for free.

Cloud Music Services Continue to Face Legal Questions

  • The legal debate continues regarding the divergent approaches to cloud-based music lockers proposed by Amazon, Google and Apple.
  • The 2008 Cablevision decision in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals allowed for a remote DVR feature (when done at the direction of users and separate copies were stored for each user as would be done for an in-home DVR). The decision is the strongest legal case for a music locker service.
  • EMI’s current suit against MP3tunes.com will also impact the situation. EMI asserts that music locker services must remove material if they become “aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent.”
  • While Apple has signed agreements with the major labels, it has not yet done so with smaller labels.
  • According to Ars Technica: “Either Apple wasted millions of dollars on licenses it doesn’t need, or Amazon and Google are vulnerable to massive copyright lawsuits.”
  • Google and Amazon will assert their rights under DMCA Safe Harbor and the Cablevision case. In addition, they may have some protection under rights they have to sell music through their online stores.

Plizy: Cloud-Based Video Discovery and Recommendation Platform

  • Plizy is a new cloud-based discovery and recommendation platform for Internet video.
  • The company currently offers an iPad app and will soon roll out to other devices.
  • The app makes recommendations from 300 Web “channels” based on an individual’s video habits, interests and social graph.
  • It downloads content for later viewing where they have agreements with owners.
  • The company is signing deals with content owners for quality content.
  • “You can enjoy TED, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook at the same place. And we are adding something new in the coming days, which is the ability to download some content, so you will be able to download TED videos [for example] and watch them on the plane or the bus or in a train. So we’re trying to push the experience, the discovery, and the access to the best content,” explains Jonathan Benassaya, founder and CEO of Plizy.

microsoft

Microsoft Launches New Cloud Version of Office

  • Steve Ballmer will launch Office 365 this week: “a combination of communication, collaboration and productivity software delivered via the Internet” that Microsoft refers to as the “next generation cloud service.”
  • The company is hosting a launch event in New York to celebrate the suite’s debut.
  • Office 365 joins a crowded field including Google Docs and VMware’s Zimbra email, but WSJ suggests its biggest competitor might be itself: “The company now needs to convince those computer users, estimated at about one billion, to switch to Office in the cloud without disrupting the legacy version that is financing the transition.”
  • Businesses will be able to buy only the cloud services they need such as email for $2/month or Office for $27/month.
  • Large corporate clients will be allowed to use the service for free until license agreements are renewed.

samsung

New App from Samsung Offers Streaming 3D Content

  • Samsung announced that the Explore 3D app on its SmartHub-connected TV interface is now offering free streaming 3D content.
  • The app is streaming 3D movie trailers, music videos, educational content and full programs from Wealth TV.
  • The company says Explore 3D will provide access to paid 3D content later this year, including feature films, shorts, and documentaries.
  • The app is powered by Rovi and includes its Cloud-based metadata and RoxioNow platform.

Phil Harrison: Apple Will Be the Games Industry

  • Edge Magazine speaks with Phil Harrison, former president of Sony Computer Entertainment’s Worldwide Studios, and recently appointed advisory board member of cloud-based streaming game service Gaikai.
  • Harrison answers questions on the future of gaming and suggests the following projections: Games will rely increasingly upon social networks; free-to-play will become the predominant business model in 20 years; local storage will disappear; music, film and television will be consumed like a utility and browsers will replace consoles (in the wake of a next-generation browser war).
  • On the future of non-physical media: “If you live in Korea, it’s already happened, if you live in China, it’s already happened. That’s an easy prediction to make: there is undoubtedly a generation of kids alive on the planet today who will never purchase a physical media package for any of their digital entertainment.”
  • On Apple’s impact on the market: “At this trajectory, if you extrapolate the market-share gains that they are making, forward for ten years – if they carry on unrestrained in their growth, then there’s a pretty good chance that Apple will be the games industry.”

asus_padfone

Ultrabook, Padfone and iCloud: Impact on the PC Market?

Personal computing has seen some dramatic shifts in recent years, thanks in large part to the impact of social networking and its integration with entertainment media; the increased capability of smartphones and other portable devices; new high-speed networks and faster, smaller chips; the introduction of tablets and apps — and, of course, the success behind what many are currently labeling “The iPad Effect.”

Consumers have responded with increased demands and expectations regarding the convenience in which they are able to access their information, entertainment and various forms of electronic communication. As CE manufacturers scramble toward meeting these expectations, we are starting to see some interesting new form factors and delivery systems, as well as a potential impact on our more traditional electronic devices.

One of the ways this is playing out is in regards to the design, features, functionality (and competition) of tablets, laptops, netbooks, and PCs. And the prospect of additional changes resulting from cloud computing may accelerate the competition between devices. As we look forward, it should be worth keeping our eyes on the following trends and new products:

The Ultrabook

Intel is promoting a new category of laptops called the “Ultrabook” — a sort of hybrid laptop that incorporates the best features of tablets. The new designs (less than 0.8-inch thick) will be made possible by the latest 2nd-generation Intel Core processors. ASUS is one manufacturer behind the Ultrabook design and hopes to give Apple’s $999 MacBook Air a run for its money with the Ultrabook UX21 (featuring Intel’s i7 CPU and the new SanDisk U100 SSD). Intel predicts Ultrabooks could claim as much as 40 percent of the laptop market by 2012.

According to The Wall Street Journal: “A key goal is to deliver much thinner and lighter laptops, with mainstream price points and tablet-style features such as touchscreens and the ability to switch on quickly to let users call up websites without waiting.”

“They’ll cost under $1000, be extremely thin and portable, start up in seconds, be produced by a number of manufacturers and go on sale before Christmas,” adds Digital Trends in a similar write-up. “The emphasis on the portability and responsiveness of Ultrabooks shows that the world’s biggest chip maker is hoping to make consumers think twice about purchasing mobile devices such as the hugely popular iPad tablet.”

The Padfone

At Computex last week in Taipei, ASUS unveiled another new form factor, the “Padfone” — which Digital Trends describes as “a smartphone with a battery-equipped display dock that turns the device into a tablet.” The “pad” component does not function independently, but essentially serves as a tablet-shaped display with a dock, basically enhancing the phone’s functionality. In addition to a 10.1-inch screen to play with, the Padfone offers extended battery life, speakers, a keyboard, an I/O extender that will allow other devices to communicate with the phone, and functionality for the phone’s camera to keep working while docked. ASUS hinted at additional features that will be announced closer to the product’s planned Christmas release.

Will the Padfone, Ultrabook (or a similar new design) compete with current slate of tablets, laptops and desktop PCs? If the trends continue to push toward convenience, portability, speed, power, Web surfing and cloud services — the answer may be yes. At the very least, they may be the answer to netbooks. WSJ reports in response to the rise of thinner, more powerful devices: “The activity reflects both technology advances and growing pressure on personal-computer makers, particularly the rise of the iPad and other tablets. Goldman Sachs estimates that nearly 18 million of the touchscreen devices were sold in 2010, a figure it expects to swell to 60 million in 2011.”

iPad Tablet Competition

A number of manufacturers currently have tablet PCs on the market, but so far none of the devices (including the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom or BlackBerry PlayBook) have been able to significantly compete with the growing success of the iPad, its many accessories and more than 65,000 apps. However, emerging tablets may impact the market by undercutting the price of the iPad. And with new, more powerful tablet chips from the likes of Intel, ARM and AMD, we may start to see some significant breakthroughs.

Taiwanese manufacturer Acer, for example, recently debuted its Iconia Tab A500 that runs Google’s Android OS. A $449 Wi-Fi version went on sale in April and a new model that works on AT&T’s 4G wireless network is scheduled for a summer release. “While it doesn’t beat either iPad overall, the Iconia Tab offers a decent alternative to Apple, especially for multimedia enthusiasts who want to display their content on a TV, PC or smartphone without additional gear,” reports WSJ.

If a new wave of price-conscious tablets can address the needs of consumers — particularly in regards to subscription- and cloud-based access to media content, video chats via services such as Skype or ooVoo, free and affordable new apps, and even potential glasses-free 3D displays (see the Eee Pad MeMO video demo from Engadget) — then the iPad (and other tablets) may start to feel the heat.

We may also see additional impact on the desktop PC market. It has been reported that PC manufacturers remain optimistic, viewing the recent dip in growth as a temporary bump in the road. However, in a report issued by Gartner this week, PC sales are not expected to grow as much in 2011 as earlier expected. The Gartner analysts blame the collapse of netbooks following the iPad’s release and added that, “regardless of the direct impact of the iPad and its kind, PCs no longer had the safety net they once did. They now had to compete against tablets, phones, set-top boxes and other devices as even the computers themselves were getting more specialized.”

Cloud Computing

A number of companies are gearing up for a new era of automated backup, synchronization, data storage and variety of cloud-based media services. There are those who believe this may be the final nail in the coffin for the desktop PC.

In a recent blog post commenting on Apple’s unveiling of OS X 10.7, iOS 5 and iCloud service — Robert X. Cringely addressed the possibility that Apple CEO Steve Jobs may be taking aim at killing Microsoft. Cringely writes, “Jobs is going to sacrifice the Macintosh in order to kill Windows. He isn’t beating Windows, he’s making Windows inconsequential.”

“We’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device — just like an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod Touch. We’re going to move the hub of your digital life to the cloud,” explained Jobs at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this week.

Cringely contends that this is the bold kind of thinking that Microsoft lacks. With Apple leading the charge, he suggests Google may soon take the same approach, “…adding automated backup, synchronization and migration to Android and Chrome.” We may see increased competition between Apple and Google if Cringely is correct in his assertion regarding the company that gets our data in the cloud, gets us as captive customers forever. “Both companies will be grabbing for data, claiming territory, and leaving Microsoft alone to defend a desktop that will soon cease to exist,” he suggests.

Time will tell what impact these changes will have on the desktop PC, but if Cringely is right, it won’t be much time… “This transition will take at most two hardware generations and we’re talking mobile generations, which means three years, total.”

What else?

Are there additional “bigger picture” themes we should be watching for in this sector? Let us know your thoughts…

 

Related Electronista article: “Apple more profitable than Microsoft as netbooks plunge 40%” (4/28/11)

Related Electronista post: “Gartner: PC growth slowing to 9.3% through iPad effect” (6/8/11)

Related Forbes article: “Microsoft Gets Reprieve As Tablets Aren’t Killing PC Sales (Yet)” (6/1/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “PCs See Tablets’ Silver Lining” (6/1/11)

Related Network World article: “AMD finally enters tablet market with new chip” (6/1/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “PC Makers Push Into ‘Ultrabooks’” (5/30/11)

Related Digital Trends article: “PadFone officially revealed, ASUS hints at Ice Cream Sandwich and second-gen tablets” (5/31/11)

Related Engadget post (includes videos): “ASUS announces the Padfone (update: eyes-on!)” (5/30/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “Samsung Leans on Android” (5/31/11)

Related Reuters article: “Intel unveils laptops that include tablet features” (5/31/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “A New Tablet From Acer Challenges iPad on Price” (5/26/11)

Related Gizmag post: “ASUS announces glasses-free Eee Pad MeMO 3D tablet” (6/2/11)

Related O’Reilly Radar article: “The iPad’s ripple effect” (1/31/11)

Apple-cloud-music-300x192

Apple Close to Launching Cloud-Based Music Service

Earlier this month, ETCentric reported that Apple has been planning a cloud-based music locker service that will enable its customers to stream music to smartphones, tablets or computers. As progress continues regarding deals with the major music labels, the new service may launch sooner than originally reported — with rumors speculating possibly as soon as June 6 in San Francisco at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2011).

The Apple proposal is different from Amazon’s recent Cloud Drive rollout and Google’s Music locker service (the beta for which was announced at Google I/O). As reported, Apple is seeking paid licenses from the labels for its service (Amazon and Google launched their services without gaining such approval). Bloomberg reports that Apple has reached agreements with three of the major labels (Sony, EMI and Warner) — with Universal Music Group close to a deal.

By jumping the gun, Amazon and Google may have helped Apple position itself to take the lead in this arena. As TechCrunch reports: “So the labels, which for the better part of a decade now have been looking for someone, anyone to help counter Apple’s power in their business, is turning right back to Apple when they need help. And Apple will obviously gladly welcome them with open arms. After all, with these licenses, Apple will have secured the cloud music high ground despite being the last to launch. Think about it. With these agreements, Apple is likely going to be able to do the one thing that is absolutely crucial for cloud music to take off: offer library syncing without uploading.”

Plus, Apple has the benefit of an existing consumer base, with 200 million people who already have iTunes accounts. There has also been speculation that the cloud music service may be integrated with a revamped version of MobileMe, Apple’s subscription-based collection of online services and storage.

CNET raises two interesting points:

1. There’s no doubt who the top-four record companies are pulling for in the cloud music wars. They hope Apple’s service makes the other two guys look shabby by comparison. The thinking is that if Apple’s service eclipses those of its rivals, it will prompt Amazon and Google to pay the labels’ licensing rates.

2. What nobody has proven yet is whether consumers even want the cloud. CNET has reported that Apple is likely to charge a subscription fee eventually for its cloud service. Subscription music services, such as Rhapsody, have a spotty record at attracting audiences.

Related TechCrunch article: “Google And Amazon May Have Just Handed Apple The Keys To The Cloud Music Kingdom” (5/18/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “For a Song, Online Giants Offer Music in a Cloud” (5/19/11)

Related Patently Apple article: “Whoa! Apple Patent Confirms iTunes Cloud Media Services” (5/19/11)

Related CNET article: “Exclusive: Apple near cloud-music deals” (5/18/11)

Related TechCrunch article: “Without The Labels, Google’s Music Locker Service Will Look Like Apple’s Ugly Sibling. Again.” (5/9/11)

AndroidMarket-300x215

Google News: Updated OS, New Google TV Partners, Cloud Music Service

Google has been making headlines the last few days as product and service announcements continue to emerge from the Google I/O 2011 conference in San Francisco (live streaming, photos, announcements and a Twitter feed are available on the Google I/O site).

Much of the news is surrounding OS changes, the availability of cloud-based Music Beta, and a potential revitalization of Google TV.

Gizmodo reports that the Android Marketplace may have the greatest impact on Google TV when it launches later this summer: “At first, it’ll just be apps from Google-approved developers to set standards. The most awesome kind of app we’re going to see are multi-screen apps — apps specifically designed to span your Android phone/tablet to the TV. Google’s going to pushing them totally hard as a huge part of what makes Google TV special. Think things like poker games on the big screen, with individual controls on your own phone/tablet. And other crazy ways to control Google TV from your phone from app developers.”

Some of the recent Google announcements include:

  • The anticipated Google TV update to Android 3.1 will be available this summer.
  • There are new hardware partners for Google TV (for example, Samsung and Vizio are joining Logitech and Sony as hardware vendors).
  • Google has added movie rentals to the Android Market, accessible from Android devices and the Internet (similar to YouTube’s new rental service).
  • Android@Home framework for home automation is a future platform that will enable interaction with home media equipment, dishwashers, cars, lights, security systems and more via any connected device.
  • The next version of Google’s Android operating system, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, will merge the phone and tablet versions of the OS.
  • The beta version of Google’s cloud music service is now available (and like Amazon’s earlier launch of a similar cloud service, Google is forging ahead without approval of the major music labels).

Check out the posts below for more details…

Related Engadget post: “Google announces Android@Home framework for home automation” (5/10/11)

Related Ars Technica post: “Google announces Android Ice Cream Sandwich will merge phone and tablet OSes” (5/10/11)

Related ZDNet post: “Google TV getting update to Android 3.1, access to Android Market this summer. Will it be enough?” (5/11/11)

Related Gizmodo post and video: “Google Music: Upload and Stream All Your Tunes From the Cloud” (5/10/11)

Related All Things Digital article: “Google Launching Its Cloud Service Tomorrow, Without Big Music’s Approval” (5/9/11)

Related GigaOM post and video: “Google Forces Roku to Take Down Its YouTube Channel” (4/21/11)

Related WSJ article about gathering info from mobile phones: “Apple, Google Take Heat” (5/11/11)

Related Engadget post: “Google TV shows off new Honeycomb UI, plans for Market, SDK; opens up remote app source code” (5/11/11)

Related New York Times article: “Google’s Digital Music Service Falls Short of Ambition” (5/10/11)

itunes_cloud-300x150

Apple Plans Cloud-Based Music Service

Apple is planning a cloud-based music locker service that will enable its customers to stream music to multiple devices. The Wall Street Journal reports that what makes the Apple proposal different from Amazon’s recent Cloud Drive rollout is that Apple is seeking paid licenses from the labels for its service (Amazon started its service without gaining such approval).

Although the Apple version has yet to go public, insiders report that it will work differently than the Amazon Cloud Drive and Player, which acts much like an external hard drive. Through deals with the labels, the Apple service will allow for a single master copy of a song to be stored on its servers, that can then be shared with multiple users (the Amazon service requires users to upload each song they want to access remotely).

“The idea is that Apple will let users store songs they’ve purchased from its iTunes store, as well as others songs stored on their hard drives, and listen to them on multiple devices,” reports WSJ.

Recent rumors suggest Apple will charge users an annual subscription fee, possibly in the area of $20.

Related Wall Street Journal article: “Amazon’s Cloud Music Move Isn’t Earth-Shaking” (3/29/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “Amazon’s Cloud Service Is A) Legal B) Illegal? C) Probably Here To Stay” (3/29/11)

Related Los Angeles Times article: “Price war! Amazon launches 69-cent MP3 store for top-selling tunes” (4/28/11)

Related TechCrunch article: “Behind the Scenes: Record Label Demands from Amazon” (4/29/11)

Related CNET article: “Expect Apple to charge for music cloud” (4/26/11)

shareVue-300x212

Technicolor Rolls Out Cloud-Based ShareVUE Dailies Solution

Technicolor announced its next-generation secure, cloud-based dailies solution for film and television studio clients. According to the press release, ShareVUE enables remote viewing, collaboration and sharing of dailies content on HTML5-supported web browsers, iOS and Android devices. Technicolor explains it is working with the Squeeze Solution Pack encoding technology from Sorenson Media to implement cloud-based scalability.

ShareVUE features include:

— A central hub to remotely view production materials while sharing time-stamped comments and playlists.

— A single encode that is transcoded and optimized “behind-the-scenes” to maximize visual quality for each supported device.

— Streaming-only model ensures media security, and includes content protection protocols combined with link encryption protocols, content scrambling and dynamic watermarking techniques.

Related Variety article: “Technicolor, Canon pact for cinematographers” (4/5/11)

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