HTML5 Instant Games Threaten to Disrupt the App Store Model

The Android and iOS app stores have been dominant in gaming, but the advent of HTML5 may change that up. Developers will be able to create instant games, which they hope will grab the attention of more consumers. Games based on HTML5, which run in a browser and don’t require a download, are already being built into social media platforms and messaging systems. Instant game advocates argue that apps can be hard to find, require heavy advertising, and have to be downloaded and installed in order to play. Continue reading HTML5 Instant Games Threaten to Disrupt the App Store Model

Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Both Amazon and Google are thinking about turning their respective home speakers — Echo and Google Home — into home telephones. Knowledgeable sources say the tech giants could introduce the feature this year, with the goal of gaining yet more control over consumers’ home lives. But the companies are also finding that it’s not so simple, facing issues related to privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services — as well as the potential that consumers will be wary that their conversations are being recorded. Continue reading Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

GoPro to Lay Off 200 Employees, Tony Bates Stepping Down

Following failed attempts at becoming a media company, GoPro announced it plans to shutter its entertainment division and cut 15 percent of its staff, about 200 full-time positions. Former Microsoft exec and Skype CEO Tony Bates, president of GoPro since 2014, will step down by the end of the year. Despite high-profile hires, including Charlotte Koh from Hulu Originals and Bill McCullough from HBO Sports, as well as a 2014 Emmy for its Hero 3 camera and a variety of athlete endorsements, GoPro has been unsuccessful in pushing its entertainment offerings. After losing about half its value this year, the company hopes that restructuring will help return it to profitability. Continue reading GoPro to Lay Off 200 Employees, Tony Bates Stepping Down

Slack Faces Messaging Competition From Microsoft, Facebook

Group messaging is heating up. Startup Slack Technologies, valued at $3.8 billion, got it going and, now, Microsoft, with Teams, and Facebook, with Workplace by Facebook, are moving in on the space. Slack has been expecting this level of competition for some time, and it’s one of the reasons behind the company’s recent partnership with IBM to use Watson artificial intelligence services. All of this makes it clear that tech companies, big and small, see messaging as the next big thing after email. Continue reading Slack Faces Messaging Competition From Microsoft, Facebook

Microsoft Rolls Out Skype for Business, Android/iOS Updates

Having shown Skype for Business in preview in April, Microsoft officially debuted the business version of the popular communications app, and announced updates to the Android and iOS Skype for Business apps. Skype for Business features include full-screen sharing, one-click to join, and edge-to-edge video. The updated apps allow users to present remotely with PowerPoint directly from a mobile device. Mac users got Skype for Business six months ago, and the “full and final Windows version” was introduced 18 months ago. Continue reading Microsoft Rolls Out Skype for Business, Android/iOS Updates

New Microsoft Group Aims to Link AI Research with Products

Microsoft is reorganizing itself to better address the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence. The company says it has opened a new organization, staffed by 5,000 employees, that combines its sizeable research group and AI-enabled products including the Bing search engine and Cortana virtual assistant. The new group’s creation had a setback when computer scientist Qi Lu, who had overseen Bing and Microsoft Office products, suffered a serious bicycling accident and had to temporarily leave the company.   Continue reading New Microsoft Group Aims to Link AI Research with Products

Testing VR and AR as Next Wave of Videoconferencing Tools

Several companies and academic institutions are studying the use of virtual reality as a way to replace the videoconference call. Among those experimenting in the field is the NYU Media Research Lab, which showed a video of researchers using Samsung Gear VR headsets to collaborate in a simulated environment. The Bank of Ireland and U.K. utility National Grid PLC have also tried out early VR software. Skype, the Microsoft company often used for videoconference calls, is working on an augmented reality solution. Continue reading Testing VR and AR as Next Wave of Videoconferencing Tools

EU Proposes Regulations for Online Communication Services

The European Union’s executive arm is poised to propose that online communication services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp be regulated similarly to telecoms, a move that telecom executives have long advocated as creating a level playing field. Telecoms would actually prefer that the EU repeal regulations on user privacy among other specifics but, in lieu of that, are content to see their industry-specific regulations extended to online communication services, most of which are currently free. Continue reading EU Proposes Regulations for Online Communication Services

Drivetribe: Fox Invests in Digital Platform for Auto Enthusiasts

21st Century Fox just invested $6.5 million in the London-based Drivetribe, a new digital media platform for car fans. This comes two weeks after early Facebook investor Jim Breyer and venture capital fund Atomico, led by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, invested $5.5 million. Entrepreneur Ernesto Schmitt, former “Top Gear” hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, and the show’s former executive producer Andy Wilman are the creators behind Drivetribe, which launches in November. Continue reading Drivetribe: Fox Invests in Digital Platform for Auto Enthusiasts

EU Rules to Create Parity Between Internet Apps and Carriers

Deutsche Telekom and Spain’s Telefónica have long lobbied the European Union to either repeal some of the onerous regulations governing carriers or to extend them to Internet-based text-message and voice-call services, including Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp. Now, carriers might get their wish as the EU’s executive body is on the verge of suggesting more rules for Skype, WhatsApp and their ilk: tighter privacy and security, and an easier way for consumers to move information when switching services. Continue reading EU Rules to Create Parity Between Internet Apps and Carriers

Code Reveals Potential Features for Snapchat Including Video

Developers have discovered code within the current version of Snapchat that may offer clues about new features coming to the popular messaging app. While Snapchat may not roll out the features, it does show that the company has been working on ways to ramp up competition with other messaging apps such as WeChat and FaceTime. The hidden code provides a framework for the integration of stickers to sell within the app and an enhanced video chatting system that works more like a phone call. Continue reading Code Reveals Potential Features for Snapchat Including Video

Pandora Media to Acquire Rdio Assets Following Bankruptcy

Pandora has largely been focused on Internet radio since its inception, but has also been increasingly competing with on-demand music services such as Spotify and Apple Music. The company announced yesterday that it plans to spend $75 million for the assets of struggling online service Rdio, which is filing for bankruptcy. The move could help Pandora significantly expand the way it delivers music. While the company presently touts 78 million customers, most of them listen for free, and the current Pandora model involves a feed of songs based on a user’s tastes, but with limited control. Rdio’s tech could offer Pandora users more control over their selections. Continue reading Pandora Media to Acquire Rdio Assets Following Bankruptcy

Vrse Envisions a Cinematic Future for Virtual Reality Content

Vrse, a virtual reality content company headquartered in Los Angeles, recently brought on former Rdio chief executive Drew Larner as its chief operating officer. The company has also drawn investment from Andreessen Horowitz, Live Nation, Vice Media and Annapurna Pictures. It’s all about creating content that goes beyond gaming, notes chief executive Chris Milk. To that end, the company plans to produce its own content, through Vrse Works, and distribute its own and others’ through the Vrse app for VR headsets. Continue reading Vrse Envisions a Cinematic Future for Virtual Reality Content

Showgoers: Chrome Plugin Powers Shared Viewing for Netflix

For those who want a more social TV viewing experience, Showgoers is a new and interesting solution. The Chrome extension enables far-flung friends to watch the same movie or TV show featured on Netflix and play, pause or seek specific segments, simultaneously. Not surprisingly, the idea was born out of a long-distance relationship; the developer created Showgoers to create another experience that the couple could share. Although Showgoers can’t get around geographical blocking, it is simple to set up — and free. Continue reading Showgoers: Chrome Plugin Powers Shared Viewing for Netflix

MashMe Enables You to Create Animated Avatars in Real Time

Croatian company MashMe has developed new software that allows users to create animated scenes and avatars of themselves using only a webcam. MashMe tracks even the most minute details of a person’s facial expressions and gestures to create animated avatars that can be used with services like Google Hangouts, Twitch and Skype. The company recently launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $50,000, promising its contributors access to one of the two final software packages it plans to offer.  Continue reading MashMe Enables You to Create Animated Avatars in Real Time

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