Magine: Swedish Service Envisions Pay TV Service Via the Cloud

  • Swedish service Magine hopes to reshape cloud distribution to make television a streaming service through an iPad or in-TV application, reports paidContent.
  • The service, which is still in its beta form, offers 16 premium channels for free in Sweden. Users can rewind live streams, and can access shows for up to a month after they air.
  • “We transcode all the channels in real-time, then put it through DRM and upload it in real-time to our cloud storage, and out through any CDN,” explains co-founder Mattias Hjelmsted.
  • The service has the potential to replace set-top boxes, notes the article. Many people already have broadband or Wi-Fi devices that can handle the duties traditionally assigned to set-top boxes.
  • While the service is currently free, the company plans to start charging for its service once it removes the beta label.

eBay Fuel Cell-Powered Data Center Leads the Industry

  • Tech giant eBay decided to generate its own power for its Utah data center rather than rely on power grids, reports GigaOM. EBay installed 6 megawatts worth of Bloom Energy solid oxide fuel cells on site in Utah, which marks the largest non-utility fuel cell system in America, according to GigaOM.
  • “Fuel cells are primary power for the computers and then the grid is used as backup. We have a higher available data center with this design than we would have with a traditional generator and UPS design. That was a big ah-ha moment for me,” said Dean Nelson, eBay’s Vice President who was behind the provisioning and consolidating of the data centers.
  • While fuel cells are more expensive than grid power in the short run, “the elimination of UPS and generators along with the simplification of the building design that included changing the height of the building as well as the structural support needed” could help eBay economically in the future, reports GigaOM.
  • While eBay paid the upfront costs for the fuel cells, Bloom Energy now offers an energy-as-a-service option to deal with the considerable capital costs.
  • EBay’s move could be the first of many companies taking control of their own power production. Generating power and using grid power as a backup gives companies more control over their operations, even if it is more expensive.

Review of the 4th Generation iPad

  • Apple’s iPad mini announcement overshadowed another Apple product – the “fourth generation” iPad which has a faster A6X processor and a Lightning port. “The 1.3-pound iPad’s 2048 x 1536 Retina display is still among the best we’ve seen on a tablet.” The new iPad comes just a few months after the “new iPad,” writes The Verge.
  • The new iPad’s A6X processor launches apps and Safari noticeably faster.  WiFi performance is improved and Facetime’s video is sharper. Game graphics are “smooth no matter how detailed, everything’s incredibly responsive, and I saw nary a skipped frame or stuttery animation.”  LTE data numbers are “off the chart.”
  • The new processor does not decrease battery life, which is an important aspect of the update. Maintaining battery life is crucial, writes The Verge.
  • The connector “means that any docks, cables, or accessories you had for your iPad are now useless without a $29 adapter that’s currently all but impossible to find anywhere,” writes The Verge. While they is critical of the adaptor, it does note that “Lightning’s clearly the future for Apple’s products.” Apple wants to get as many products on the market with Lightning adapters so people begin to make the switch to the new adapter.
  • The video review provides a great overview.

VISTA Telescope in Chile Reveals 84 Million Stars in 9 Billion Pixels

  • The Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) in northern Chile has compiled the most comprehensive, detailed catalog of stars to-date by creating a nine billion pixel image of 84 million stars.
  • If the image were printed on paper, it would be something like 30 feet wide and 23 feet tall, reports The Atlantic. For this reason, most researchers will need to use computers to access all 108,500 by 81,500 pixels.
  • “The image contains both visible and infrared light, which allows astronomers to document stars normally obstructed by gas clouds,” notes the article.
  • The data is offered to the public domain via the observatory’s archive, “so that in the months ahead astronomers can pore over them, searching for clues as the formation, evolution, and structure of our galaxy, and looking for stars that might be good candidates for more exoplanet discoveries,” writes The Atlantic.
  • The post includes a short video that illustrates the gigapixel view of the Milky Way.

Microsoft Windows Phone 8 Review

  • The Windows Phone 8 hopes to reverse the current trend in the smartphone market whereby Windows Phones have received critical acclaim, but not market share. Currently, Windows Phone has only a 3.5 percent global market share, while iOs and Android have 17 percent and 68 percent respectively, reports Wired.
  • The Windows 8 phone features the tile-interface that is now featured in Windows 8. The phone has a customized experience and features tiles that fill the entire screen, whereas older versions had a black rail along the right side of the screen.
  • The Wired review prefers the Windows interface to Android’s, and says it can see people switching to Windows Phones.
  • Non-Nokia Windows phones do not have public transportation compatibility on the maps application, but do have turn-by-turn directions. The phone also features multitasking, and apps run smoothly in the background, according to Wired.
  • But while the Windows Phone has a plethora of good features, it is still limited by the small number of apps for its platform. The lack of Instagram and other “killer apps” will limit the number of users who switch from other smartphones.
  • Wired summarizes that the Windows Phone has a “slick, intuitive interface with nice animations that just works,” along with “customizable live tiles and lock screen.”
  • The negatives: “Key apps are missing. Windows Store is cluttered, with reviews appearing in different languages. Rooms is useless unless you know a lot of Microsoft employees. Multitasking has some strange behaviors.”

SMPTE 2012: Roku CEO Predicts DVR Will Give Way to Streaming

  • During SMPTE’s annual conference this week, Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood suggested game consoles and DVR devices will soon no longer be dominant players in the television realm, as users shift to streaming players and smart TVs.
  • Wood said that he sees television heading in a direction in which the “end point is where any piece of video is available in any language, anywhere [via streaming]. That is the world we are heading to.”
  • He added that although game consoles dominate the current streaming market, their lack of growth will hurt them as consumers shift to smart TVs and streaming players. Of course, this supports his self-interest as CEO of steaming player maker Roku, and the release of new game systems within the next few years could change the “flat” growth Wood mentions.
  • He also said DVRs are “going to go away. That is a stepping stone.” He suggests the DVR will first go to the cloud, and then will simply become integrated into the new on-demand world of television.
  • Wood also discussed Roku’s newest product, the Roku Streaming Stick. The $100 device is about the size of a USB flash drive and connects devices to Roku’s streaming services.

Huffington Post Develops Plan to Manage 70+ Million Comments Per Year

  • The Huffington Post receives up to 25,000 reader comments per hour, and has handled a total of 70 million comments already this year. Justin Isaf, director of community for the news and opinion site, says that although the comments are great in number, they actually are insightful and typically part of conversations.
  • Isaf says 70 percent of the comments on Huffington Post are replies to other posts, so even when an article reaches 100,000 comments, people are still having smaller conversations within the giant scope of comments.
  • Isaf acknowledges that the largest problem with managing huge numbers of comments is that as conversations grow larger, the probability that someone begins to post inappropriate content increases.
  • The other challenge, he says, is helping people navigate so many comments and be able to find the conversation they are most interested in.
  • Huffington Post hopes to solve the first problem through “pre-moderation” to prevent people from posting negative comments. To solve the second problem, Isaf says the site helps readers with a “fan” network where individuals can see what their friends are posting and find their conversations. Then, by finding their friends and engaging in their conversations, people will find new friends, and the commenter network grows.
  • To manage the sheer scale of comments Huffington Post receives each day, the site employs 30 full time moderators who work in six hour shifts to sift through hundreds of comments per hour.
  • The moderators are assisted by an artificial intelligence program called Julia, which knows multiple languages and can learn over time.

Wii U Pre-Orders Exceed Expectations, Nintendo Cautiously Optimistic

  • More than 250,000 customers have pre-ordered Nintendo’s Wii U at GameStop, and have shown preference for the more expensive Wii U Deluxe set, reports Polygon. The Wii U Deluxe set sells for $349.99 and the regular version retails for $299.99.
  • While Nintendo president Satoru Iwata is excited about the high pre-sale numbers, he cautions that Nintendo will lose money on the sale of Wii U hardware. The company hopes to profit from the sale of software.
  • “In addition to the yen’s continuous appreciation, the Wii U hardware will have a negative impact on Nintendo’s profits early after the launch because rather than determining a price based on its manufacturing cost, we selected one that consumers would consider to be reasonable,” explains Iwata.
  • “In this first half of the term before the launch of the Wii U, we were not able to make a profit on software for the system we we had to book a loss on the hardware, which is currently in production and will be sold below cost price.”
  • Customer demand for Wii U has outpaced production efforts. “As production only started this summer, it has now become more likely that it is our production capacity, rather than consumer demand, that will place limits on our Wii U prospects for this calendar year,” says Iwata.
  • “But we will make every effort to supply as many units as possible, and we will strive to continue to ship Wii U hardware without any interruptions in each regions even after its launch.”

Coke Zero Video Places Ordinary Citizens in 007 Action Sequence

  • A new Coke Zero advertisement features people spontaneously being forced into a James Bond-style chase scene through a European train station in what Business Insider calls a “textbook case of how to create a successful viral ad.”
  • The video advertises both Coke Zero and the new James Bond “Skyfall” film. It begins with customers purchasing a Coke Zero from a vending machine. They are then prompted to run to Platform 6 if they want free tickets to “Skyfall,” but are told they only have 70 seconds.
  • As the people run, they are impeded by spilled oranges, people carrying a plate glass window, and joggers running down an escalator.
  • “The spot was created by viral masters Duval Guillaume Modem, best-known for their Belgian TNT effort earlier this year, which featured unsuspecting villagers who find themselves in the middle of gunfights, runaway ambulances, and lingerie-wearing women on motorcycles,” notes Business Insider.
  • The post includes the 2-minute video spot.

New Google Site Provides a Virtual View Into Secretive Data Centers

  • “Google is opening a virtual window into the secretive data centers where an intricate maze of computers process Internet search requests, show YouTube video clips, and distribute email for millions of people,” according to CNBC.
  • The site features photos from eight Google data centers in the U.S., Finland, and Belgium. The company is using its “Street View” technology to offer a virtual tour of one North Carolina data center.
  • Google’s original data centers were intended to index all the pages on the Internet and provide accurate, quick search results. But as Google has evolved into a business giant beyond search, the data centers have grown to accommodate “videos, photos, email and information about their users’ preferences,” writes CNBC.
  • “Google studies Internet search requests and Web surfing habits in an effort to gain a better understanding of what people like,” notes the article. “The company does this in an effort to show ads of products and services to the people most likely to be interested in buying them. Advertising accounts for virtually all of Google’s revenue, which totaled nearly $23 billion through the first half of this year.”
  • While Google is providing a view into its data centers, it continues to remain vague on how many computers it owns, and also will refuse physical access to the centers.
  • The company is building additional data centers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Chile.

Bravo Ready to Launch Online Real-Time Polls and Viewer Interactivity

  • Bravo plans to start using on-screen, real-time polls and graphics for all of its programming, reports AllThingsD. The graphics will first appear next month during the premiere of the new season of “Watch What Happens Live.”
  • Viewers will use Web browsers to participate in polls and contests, and the results will change on-screen in real-time.
  • Bravo reportedly spent a year on the new tech, which is built on interactive TV software from MegaPhone Labs.
  • While other programs have experimented with other types of “live” voting, these systems usually have used text messages, and results still had to be tallied.
  • Lisa Hsia, who heads up digital media for Bravo, explains that the Comcast cable channel will not overload users with graphics, and will only employ two or three the first time a show airs. She says that Bravo will use more graphics during repeat episodes in an effort to create “interactive episodes.”
  • Bravo’s largest challenge will be to figure out how to deploy the graphics without being distracting or annoying. “It’s our job to do it in a fashion that makes the fan enjoy it,” suggests Hsia.

Kinect for Windows: Microsoft Program Eyes New Era of Gesture Control

  • Microsoft hopes its Kinect for Windows program will help revolutionize the way people interact with their computers. The goal of the program is to bring the hands-free gestures Kinect made popular on the Xbox 360 to all Windows devices.
  • This will not only change the way people interact with their devices, but will create new possibilities for interaction, such as hands free gestures for surgeons who cannot touch keyboards.
  • “We initially used keyboards, then the mouse and GUIs were a big innovation, now touch is a big part of people’s lives. The progression will now be to voice and gesture,” explains Peter Zatloukal, head of engineering for the Kinect for Windows program.
  • Kinect for Windows equipment sells for $249 and is available in 32 countries. Before Microsoft can reach the number of people it envisions, developers must create applications for the system.
  • While Microsoft is currently targeting only software developers, Technology Review suggests the company could bring the system directly to consumers if developers make enough software progress.
  • Another option would be to “encourage computer manufacturers to bundle it with desktops, laptops, or monitors in place of a regular webcam,” notes the article.

Apple and VMware Join Forces on iPad App to Challenge Microsoft Office

  • Apple and VMware are partnering to create an iPad cloud-hosted office system to directly challenge Microsoft Office. This news comes just as Microsoft nears the release of its new Office for iPad and iPhones.
  • “The iPad app combines VMware View virtual-desktop software with cloud-hosted versions of Pages, Keynote and Numbers — known as the iWork suite — running on Apple infrastructure,” reports CRN. “VMware’s Horizon Application Manager, a management tool that has been likened to an enterprise app store, is also included.”
  • “Apple wants Pages to be seen as a replacement for Microsoft Word, Numbers as a replacement for Excel and Keynote as a replacement for PowerPoint,” a source told CRN. The article does not indicate what the program will cost or when it will be released.
  • The high price of the Microsoft Office suite allows for other competitors to enter the space, suggests CRN.
  • The new version of Office has been redesigned to accommodate touchscreens. This is important, as Microsoft’s Surface tablet is set to directly challenge Apple’s dominance in the tablet and smartphone markets.
  • Microsoft’s emergence as a direct competitor to Apple may have convinced Apple to begin challenging Microsoft in its traditional spaces.

Amazon Makes Major Push to Integrate Kindles into U.S. Classrooms

  • Amazon has tested its Kindles on students in grades from kindergarten to high school and hopes to sell the devices in bulk at a discounted price to school districts, reports Yahoo Finance. Amazon would then profit as districts purchased e-books on the devices.
  • Amazon has increased its appeal by introducing Whispercast, a “service that lets schools manage fleets of Kindle devices from one online location,” explains the post.
  • Whispercast allows administrators and teachers to block websites like Facebook from the devices, while also setting up user accounts for students and grouping students by class and grade level.
  • Jay Marine, VP of Kindle product management explains that Amazon wants “to make it as easy as possible for everyone to own a Kindle device.” But Yahoo Finance says that while Amazon’s mission to convince children to read more is noble, the company’s primary goal is to sell more product.
  • E-readers provide some tangible benefits for students. The devices are small and light, as opposed to bulky books. This also makes an e-reader less intimidating, as the student may not realize how many pages they are going through as they tap through the pages, rather than flipping them.
  • However, e-books also have their drawbacks. E-books cannot be resold, which places financial burden on those who rely on the resale of books. Also, it is difficult to study from multiple e-books at once, as people do with physical books.

Amazon Turns to Purchase History Data to Ramp Up Advertising

  • Amazon is positioned to make up to $1 billion in advertising over the next year, according to Baird Equity Research.
  • While Facebook “knows who your friends are” and Google “knows what you’re interested in finding on the Internet,” Amazon has the unique advantage of purchase history. This is an immensely valuable item to offer advertisers who want to target people who will actually buy their products.
  • Amazon can use its user purchase history data to help create targeted advertising on its ad-supported Kindles. Amazon can also use the data for a per-click advertising model on as well as Amazon-owned sites such as Zappos, IMDb, and, reports Wired.
  • Lisa Utzschneider, VP of global sales for Amazon, explains that Amazon’s advertising could help customers. “If we think about Amazon in two worlds, one world is an Amazon with ads and lower prices. Another world is an Amazon with no ads and higher prices,” she notes. “Which one would we choose?”
  • Amazon is the sixth most visited site in the U.S. every month, according to comScore. The top five sites all rely on advertising for revenue, but Amazon does not. It has already been successful without advertising, but if the company combines its substantial traffic with its precise user data, it could add much more value.
  • Additionally, the company’s demand-side platform (DSP) enables tracking of people who made purchases on Amazon, data that can be used to advertise on different sites.
  • “The winner in the media game is the one who can best identify a user and match that user up with an affiliation that an advertiser cares about,” suggests Jay Habegger, CEO of Boston advertising firm OwnerIQ.