Apple’s Plan to Dominate Streaming Music Off to a Good Start

Since launching Apple Music on June 30, Apple reports 11 million users have signed up for a three-month trial to access 30 million songs. If they all become paying members, by October the Silicon Valley firm will have half the membership of leading music streamer, 10-year old Spotify. Apple is launching a comprehensive marketing campaign — with billboard, TV and radio ads — for the new streaming service. In the fall, it will roll out its Android version of Apple Music in beta. Continue reading Apple’s Plan to Dominate Streaming Music Off to a Good Start

RIAA Confronts BitTorrent Over Its Piracy-Enabling Software

The Recording Industry Association of America, which has long fought piracy, is now taking aim at BitTorrent, the company whose technology enables it. The RIAA sent a letter to BitTorrent demanding that the company pay closer attention to the use of its software in peer-to-peer infringement. This came after the RIAA’s random sample of 500 audio torrents revealed that 82.4 percent of them were commercially available and likely protected by copyright. BitTorrent has stated that it does not endorse or actively engage in piracy. Continue reading RIAA Confronts BitTorrent Over Its Piracy-Enabling Software

China Ratchets Up Internet Control with On-Site Cyber Police

The Chinese government stated it will place cybersecurity police units at the country’s major Internet companies and websites, to prevent fraud, other illegal activities and the amorphously phrased “spreading of rumors,” reports the state-owned Xinhua News Agency. The Internet in China is monopolized by three major companies: e-commerce site Alibaba, Tencent for gaming and messaging, and search engine Baidu. Neither Facebook nor Google operate in China; LinkedIn, which has agreed to China’s cybersecurity measures, does. Continue reading China Ratchets Up Internet Control with On-Site Cyber Police

Virtual Reality Startups Define Diverse Facets of New Medium

The tech world is awash in virtual reality startups, each of them focusing on developing different aspects of the new medium. Oculus VR, which was purchased by Facebook last year for $2 billion, has made great strides in several areas, including its virtual reality head-mounted display Oculus Rift, but is also working on Oculus Cinema, a consumer-facing movie-watching app. Other companies are creating avatars, virtual worlds and virtual games, and a camera that allows viewers to go on tours of homes for sale and hotel rooms. Continue reading Virtual Reality Startups Define Diverse Facets of New Medium

Fox Offers Titles for WD’s Consumer 4K Ultra HD Movie Drive

A new 4K Ultra HD movie drive aimed at consumers is now on offer from WD, Western Digital’s storage company. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is partnering with WD by offering several movies and TV shows on the drive, dubbed My Passport Cinema. The drive plays back 4K/UHD, HD and HDR on Samsung SUHD TVs and a select range of other Vidity-enabled devices. Vidity is a 4K movie service backed by Warner, Universal, LG, SanDisk, Dolby, M-GO, Comcast and others in addition to Fox, WD and Samsung. Continue reading Fox Offers Titles for WD’s Consumer 4K Ultra HD Movie Drive

Ellation Debuts as New Chernin, AT&T Brand for Online Video

Ellation, a new brand for subscription-based online video services, is about to be unveiled by Otter Media, the joint venture between AT&T and the Chernin Group. When it rolls out, Ellation — whose name is a play on words on the Aleutian Islands, a series of interconnected islands between Alaska and Russia — will host Crunchyroll, Creativebug and SoompiTV. Otter Media’s goal is to build between 30 and 50 niche video channels under the aegis of Ellation, which has been in development for the past few months. Continue reading Ellation Debuts as New Chernin, AT&T Brand for Online Video

New ‘Do Not Track’ Standard Aims to Bolster Internet Privacy

DNT (Do Not Track) has been an Internet standard that consumers can activate to prevent sites from secretly following and recording their online activities. But, despite DNT, many unprincipled advertisers continue to clandestinely track and record users’ Internet activity. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), privacy company Disconnect and a group of Internet companies decided it was time to combine their resources to develop a stronger DNT setting. Continue reading New ‘Do Not Track’ Standard Aims to Bolster Internet Privacy

ToyTalk and Mattel Release Interactive Thomas the Tank App

San Francisco-based kids’ entertainment startup ToyTalk, founded by former Pixar execs, just debuted its first product, an eight-episode app that lets children chat with Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends as they go on different adventures. The app is the result of ToyTalk’s new partnership with Mattel, which owns the Thomas the Tank Engine franchise. The interactive app, which takes advantage of kids’ familiarity in speaking with virtual entities, debuts just as Thomas the Tank Engine celebrates its 70th anniversary. Continue reading ToyTalk and Mattel Release Interactive Thomas the Tank App

Apple, BMW Continue Conversations About Connected E-Car

When Apple chief executive Tim Cook and other senior executives visited BMW headquarters last year, to learn how the German car manufacturer makes its i3 electric car, rumors were rife that a partnership deal was in the works. When no announcement followed, many concluded that Apple was pursuing its own branded electric car. Now, industry insiders have come out with another twist in the story: Apple and BMW are still talking about their mutual interest in an intelligent electric car. Continue reading Apple, BMW Continue Conversations About Connected E-Car

Facebook, Google Capture Major Share of Advertising Dollars

The bulk of advertisers’ dollars still end up on television, but digital advertising is playing catch-up. Most recently, Facebook revealed quarterly revenue numbers that jumped 39 percent, nearly three-fourths of which comes from advertising on mobile devices. Users are spending an increasing amount of time on Facebook and Facebook-owned properties such as Instagram and Messenger. That coincides with advertisers’ interest in digital advertising’s ability to more narrowly target specific demographics. Continue reading Facebook, Google Capture Major Share of Advertising Dollars

Comcast Commits to Theme Parks with Billions in Investment

Comcast has turned to its theme park portfolio, which it acquired four years ago with its purchase of NBCUniversal, as a serious source of revenue. The company just committed to invest $1.6 billion to expand the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in California — featuring a snow-capped Hogwarts Castle — and build a $3.25 billion theme park in Beijing, in partnership with Chinese companies, slated to open in 2019. Comcast invested $100 million for a new “Transformers” ride at Universal Orlando in 2013. Continue reading Comcast Commits to Theme Parks with Billions in Investment

Microsoft Reportedly Plans to Invest Significant Sum in Uber

Unnamed sources report that Microsoft has agreed to invest in Uber. Although details are not yet public, the company is expected to invest a significant portion of the upcoming $1 billion funding round that values Uber at around $51 billion. That new funding round — and the valuation — makes Uber one of the most highly valued private companies ever, along with startups such as Xiaomi, a Chinese electronics company valued at around $45 billion and Airbnb, valued at more than $24 billion. Continue reading Microsoft Reportedly Plans to Invest Significant Sum in Uber

MPAA’s MovieTube Suit Tries New Legal Tack to Block Pirates

Members of the Motion Picture Association of America have filed a lawsuit against MovieTube — “the search engine for free movies” — and third parties to force the disabling of sites providing access to pirated films including, recently, Disney’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which is still in movie theaters. MPAA attorneys are trying another legal maneuver to hold third party ISPs responsible. This comes three years after the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was not passed by lawmakers, dealing Hollywood studios a blow in their efforts to thwart content thieves. Continue reading MPAA’s MovieTube Suit Tries New Legal Tack to Block Pirates

MPEG LA Calls for Patents to Organize Joint DASH License

MPEG LA announced a call for patents for MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP), to the dismay of many industry watchers. When MPEG-DASH first debuted in 2011, the issue of royalties wasn’t raised and DASH was quickly and widely deployed, in everything from browsers to smart TVs. The problem is that DASH is an integral part of HTML5, which is beginning to displace Flash. With the specter of patents looming, some software vendors could find royalties to be an obstacle to staying in business. Continue reading MPEG LA Calls for Patents to Organize Joint DASH License

GAO Report Looks at Privacy Concerns of Facial Recognition

U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) highlighted the findings of a just-released GAO (Government Accountability Office) report focusing on the privacy implications of facial recognition technology. The report details concerns about the practices of companies that collect, use and store massive amounts of personal information. Franken, chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy Technology and the Law, pointed to the report’s findings as more proof that federal standards are needed. Continue reading GAO Report Looks at Privacy Concerns of Facial Recognition