Three Tech Titans Up the Ante in Scripted TV Programming

This year, 500 scripted TV shows will vie for viewers’ attention. Now, some tech leaders are turning up the heat by entering the original programming market: Apple has budgeted more than $1 billion for original content; Google will spend up to $3 million per episode; and Facebook said it is willing to spend $3 million to $4 million per episode. A few cable companies, including A&E and WGN, are withdrawing from scripted content but, with three tech titans in the game, the competition for eyeballs will be fierce. Continue reading Three Tech Titans Up the Ante in Scripted TV Programming

News Publications Testing Google’s New Subscription Tools

Google has unveiled efforts to help drive users to subscribe to news publications in response to publishers’ complaints that Google and Facebook now dominate online advertising. First, it is renovating its “first click free” feature that lets users access subscription publications via search. The company is also taking another look at publishers’ tools for online payments and how to target potential subscribers. The New York Times and the Financial Times will be the first to test these tools. Continue reading News Publications Testing Google’s New Subscription Tools

Amazon Promotes Alexa With SDK, Revenue for Developers

Amazon is going full bore promoting its virtual assistant Alexa. In an effort to make it available on more devices, the company has debuted the Alexa Voice Service Device SDK toolset, which lets developers integrate a fully functional version to their devices, offering speech recognition and all the other Alexa capabilities such as notifications, weather reports, streaming media and thousands of voice apps. Amazon is providing additional incentive to developers by paying those whose voice apps demonstrate customer engagement. Continue reading Amazon Promotes Alexa With SDK, Revenue for Developers

Nokia Phone Features Zeiss Optics, 360 Video, Spatial Audio

The once-popular Finnish smartphone manufacturer Nokia, now under the aegis of HMD Global, is introducing a new mobile device. With its Android-based Nokia 8, the company hopes to compete with the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S8. HMD Global, led by former Nokia employees and funded by private equity, bought Nokia’s phone tech from Microsoft, which purchased it in 2013. The flagship phone, encased in polished aluminum, is 7.9-mm thick and features a high-resolution 5.3-inch screen, 4K video recording, Carl Zeiss optics and spatial audio emanating from its 360-degree camera. Continue reading Nokia Phone Features Zeiss Optics, 360 Video, Spatial Audio

Google Purchases AIMatter to Boost Computer Vision Efforts

Google just acquired AIMatter, a Belarus startup that will boost the tech giant’s efforts in computer vision, the artificial intelligence sector that helps computers process images as well as, or even better, than humans. AIMatter has already built a neural-network-powered AI platform and SDK that quickly processes images on mobile devices, as well as Fabby, a photo/video editing app that has been used as a proof-of-concept. AIMatter has employees in Minsk, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Zurich, Switzerland. Continue reading Google Purchases AIMatter to Boost Computer Vision Efforts

MoviePass Cuts Subscription to $10/Month, AMC Fights Back

Early Netflix executive Mitch Lowe is now in charge of MoviePass, and he plans to drop its movie ticket subscription price to $9.95, which will let customers go to one showing per day at any theater in the U.S. that accepts debit cards. In return, MoviePass pays theaters the full price of each ticket, with the exception of 3D or IMAX screens. The company just sold a majority stake to Helios and Matheson Analytics, a publicly traded data firm. AMC has stated it wants to block MoviePass subscribers. Continue reading MoviePass Cuts Subscription to $10/Month, AMC Fights Back

China Set to Toughen IP Laws in Pursuit of Tech Dominance

China wants to become the most dominant nation in artificial intelligence, and it’s got three advantages that might help that become a reality. In addition to strong government support, which includes a willingness to share data about its citizens, China also has an immense number of engineers to write software and 751 million Internet users who can test out the work they do. As China seeks to gain market share, President Xi Jinping seeks to strengthen intellectual property laws to give its startups an advantage. Continue reading China Set to Toughen IP Laws in Pursuit of Tech Dominance

AWS, Microsoft to Pay $350K Annually for CNCF Board Seats

Amazon Web Services (AWS) officially joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) last week, two weeks after Microsoft did the same. According to Business Insider, “With Amazon’s membership, CNCF now has the support of all five of the top cloud service providers, which is good news for Kubernetes, a CNCF-managed container project.” Google created Kubernetes, a key tech in its own cloud platform, but offered it up as an open source project in 2014. With growing industry support, the tech could become the standard in container management software, to help facilitate writing apps for the cloud. Continue reading AWS, Microsoft to Pay $350K Annually for CNCF Board Seats

YouTube Introduces In-App Video Sharing and Chat Globally

YouTube has been testing a feature in select markets that allows the platform to become a kind of mobile messenger. The feature, which began testing in mid-2016, lets users avail themselves of a new tab in the mobile app to send videos to their friends and chat. After a soft rollout to users in Canada at the beginning of 2017, YouTube later launched the new feature in parts of Latin America. The global rollout  this week, but will take a few days to appear on all users’ phones. YouTube also tweaked the user interface in several ways. Continue reading YouTube Introduces In-App Video Sharing and Chat Globally

Andy Rubin’s Essential Raises $300M from Amazon, Tencent

Essential Products, the smartphone company founded by Andy Rubin, the creator of Google’s Android mobile software, has amassed $300 million from several investors, including China’s Tencent Holdings and Amazon’s Alexa Fund. The company, which plans to compete with Apple and Samsung in the smartphone market, also stated that Best Buy and Amazon will be its first partners for distributing the new $699 titanium-encased Essential phone. What Essential did not reveal was the date the phone will launch. Continue reading Andy Rubin’s Essential Raises $300M from Amazon, Tencent

IBM Divides Data Among Servers, Speeds Up Deep Learning

IBM says it has made a significant improvement in its deep learning techniques, by figuring out a way to divide the data among 64 servers running up to 256 processors. Up until now, companies have run deep learning on a single server, because of the difficulty of synchronizing data among servers and processors. With IBM’s new capability, deep learning tasks will benefit from big improvements in speed, enabling advances in many different tasks. Customers using IBM Power System servers will have access to the new technology. Continue reading IBM Divides Data Among Servers, Speeds Up Deep Learning

Internet Firms Adjust to the Needs of the Next Wave of Users

The Internet is undergoing an evolution, with an onrush of people forming the ranks of what the tech industry dubs “the next billion” users. These newcomers have a decidedly different profile than those who came before: often barely literate, these people avoid text in favor of voice activation and images as a way to communicate. These first-time Internet users are finally gaining entry with the advent of low-cost smartphones with user-friendly interfaces and inexpensive data. Now, tech companies must adapt. Continue reading Internet Firms Adjust to the Needs of the Next Wave of Users

Intel Buys Mobileye, Marking Commitment to Driverless Cars

Intel has purchased Mobileye for $15.3 billion, a strong statement that it is pursuing the autonomous vehicle market sector. The Israeli-based Mobileye, which supplies its technologies to most major car manufacturers, makes cameras, sensors and software that alert vehicles to obstacles in their paths and has become a leader in digital mapping and sensors. Mobileye co-founder Amnon Shashua will head Intel’s self-driving car initiative as an Intel senior vice president, and his company will continue to be based in Israel. Continue reading Intel Buys Mobileye, Marking Commitment to Driverless Cars

Lawmakers Speak Out Against FCC’s Plans for Net Neutrality

The current Republican-majority FCC intends to end net neutrality rules, as spelled out in 2015’s Open Internet Order. Now, 10 members of Congress are fighting back with an official comment describing their position. Among the signers are Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), ranking members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. At the same time, 15 Senate Democrats, led by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) have asked FCC chair Ajit Pai for more time for comments, given the record volume of public interest. Continue reading Lawmakers Speak Out Against FCC’s Plans for Net Neutrality

Google Aims to Take On Snapchat With New Stamp Product

Google is joining Facebook in seeking to undercut Snapchat by offering similar features. The company is reportedly developing Stamp, a so-called news product that will offer articles in a magazine-like design, similar to Snapchat’s Discover feature. Snap, however, isn’t standing still, with plans to focus Discover more on episodic video content. News of Google’s development of Stamp follows buzz that the company floated an offer last year to purchase Snap for $30 billion, according to sources who call it an “open rumor.” Continue reading Google Aims to Take On Snapchat With New Stamp Product

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