Deal Brings Warner Music to Google Play Store

  • Google signs a deal with Warner Music Group which will bring artists such as Green Day, Madonna, Neil Young, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and hundreds of other acts to its Play store.
  • “We’re now working with all of the major record labels globally, and all the major U.S. magazine publishers, as well as many independent labels, artists and publishers,” – Andy Rubin, Google’s SVP for mobile and digital content.
  • Google’s music store will open in Western Europe on Nov. 13 and will introduce a “scan and match” capability which matches songs on a customer’s computer to a master database on Google’s servers eliminating the need to upload every single song. This feature will later come to the U.S.
  • Warner, which comprises 15 percent of the world’s recorded music market, is the last big music label to be added to Google.

How Hurricane Sandy Slapped the Sarcasm Out of Twitter

  • David Carr of the New York Times has written a fascinating piece in which he discusses how he used Twitter during Hurricane Sandy to “see” what was happening around him as it was happening.
  • “Because my Internet connection was poor, so much of the rich media — amazing videos and pictures documenting the devastation — was lost to me. In true media throwback fashion, Hurricane Sandy was something I experienced as a text event, but I don’t feel as if I missed much. The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel inundation, the swamping of the Lower East Side, the huge problems at New York hospitals, the stranding of the holdouts in Atlantic City, all became apparent on Twitter in vivid detail.”
  • There were tweets from Reuters, NPR, the New York Times and many others, as well as, those from friends distant and down the street. There was also misinformation and rumors spread and discounted at Internet speed.
  • “Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of The New York Times, said in a message on Twitter that whatever the quality of the feed at any given moment, it was riveting: ‘Impossible to tear one’s eyes from, with occasional nuggets of helpfulness amid constant stream of flotsam and jetsam.’”
  • “It was hard to resist. Twitter not only keeps you in the data stream, but because you can contribute and re-tweet, you feel as if you are adding something even though Mother Nature clearly has the upper hand. The activity of it, the sharing aspect, the feeling that everyone is in the boat and rowing, is far different from consuming mass media.”
  • Twitter became “a great place to laugh, cry, argue, sympathize together.”

Sony Goes RED-Hunting with Two CineAlta Pro 4K Cameras

  • Sony debuts two CineAlta pro cameras that will compete directly with RED.
  • Both cameras feature a new type of 4K Super 35mm image sensor with a 4096 x 2160 resolution.
  • Both support multi-codecs including Sony’s new XAVC MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 format, the SR codec (MPEG4 SStP) and the industry-standard High Definition XDCAM 50Mbps 4:2:2 codec.
  • Using the new AXS-R5 RAW recorder, slow-motion imagery can be captured at up to 240fps (PMW- F55) and up to 120fps (PMW- F5) as 4K RAW files on newly developed AXS memory.
  • The cameras support Sony’s new high-speed, SxS PRO memory cards in 128 and 64 GB capacities.
  • The new cameras are scheduled to be available in February 2013, with suggested list pricing to be announced.

FCC Describes Cellphone Problems Caused by Hurricane Sandy

  • Power outages throughout the Northeast were the main cause for the loss of more than 20% of cellphone tower sites in 10 states. Restoration is making slow progress down from the 25% rate on Tuesday.
  • “The crisis is not over,” Julius Genachowski, chairman of the F.C.C., said Wednesday. “Over all, the condition of our communications networks is improving, but serious outages remain, particularly in New York, New Jersey, and other hard-hit areas.”
  • The New York Times reported that 6 percent of Verizon Wireless’ cell sites remained down in storm-affected areas, but its switching and data centers “are functioning normally.” T-Mobile has roughly 20 percent of its network in New York City and 10 percent of its network in Washington that are out of service.
  • AT&T and T-Mobile customers will be able to use the networks of both companies in the affected areas of New York and New Jersey at no additional charge as their networks use similar technologies, so switching between them will be seamless.

Apple Restructures its Senior Management: Forstall and Browett to Leave

  • Apple’s mobile software head Scott Forstall and retail chief John Browett will leave the company in a sweeping management overhaul. Forstall will leave next year and serve as an adviser to Cook until then.
  • Forstall was responsible for Apple’s recent problems with its Maps app and Siri which has been met with criticism. Moreover, there were reports of friction between Forstall and other senior Apple execs. The final straw may have been his refusal to sign an apology for the Maps app which was eventually signed by CEO Tim Cook.
  • Browett who joined Apple in April oversaw the retail operation. His plans to reduce staff, cut hours and limit store transfers was reversed as a “mistake.” He was seen as a bad fit since his arrival.
  • Apple execs Jony Ive, Eddy Cue, Bob Mansfield and Craig Federighi will take on added management responsibilities. Ive will now oversee responsibility for the user interface design. Cue will inherit Siri and maps which puts all the company’s online services in one group. Federighi will take over iOS development and the Mac operating system, merging the mobile and desktop teams. Mansfield’s new Technologies group will combine Apple’s wireless teams as well as the semiconductor groups.

Google Nexus 10 Tablet Unveiled: Available November 13th Starting at $399

  • Google unveiled the new Nexus 10 tablet with an impressive 2560 x 1600 resolution, 10-inch screen. This 300ppi display competes directly with Apple’s high-res Retina display.
  • The Nexus 10 will be available in 16GB or 32GB models and will be Wi-Fi only. It will include a dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 chip, 2GB of RAM, a 5-megapixel camera on the rear and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera, a 9,000mAh capacity giving it up to 9 hours of HD video playback, front-facing speakers for audio, microUSB, Micro HDMI and two NFC chips.
  • Running Android 4.2 will allow it to support multiple users with personalized homescreens and apps.
  • The Nexus 10 will be priced at $399 for the 16GB version and $499 for the 32GB version. It will be available on November 13th in the Google Play Store in the US, UK, Australia, France, Germany, Spain and Canada. In the US, the 32GB model will also be available in Walmart stores.

Disney Buys Lucasfilm for $4 Billion: Will Revive Star Wars

  • The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in stock and cash which the New York Times says “gives it a commanding position in the world of fantasy movies.”
  • Disney is planning to revive the Star Wars franchise.  It will release a seventh feature film in the series in 2015 and have new films every two or three years thereafter. Disney’s CEO Bob Iger said the company had also acquired a detailed treatment for the next three “Star Wars” films as part of the acquisition.
  • While founder, George Lucas, will step down from day-to-day operation of the company, he will be a consultant on future film projects.
  • Lucasfilm will continue to be run by Kathleen Kennedy who will become its president reporting to Alan Horn, Disney Studios chairman.
  • The acquisition includes Lucasfilm’s live-action production business, the Industrial Light & Magic effects business, Skywalker Sound and its consumer products unit.

Opinion: Will $65 Laser Printer Impact Cost of Future Devices?

  • Amazon is selling a Brother monochrome laser printer for $65. In 1985, Apple’s Laserwriter for the Mac, arguably the first commercially successful laser printer, cost $6,995.
  • So in 27 years, we now pay less than 1 percent of the original cost! And for you economists, the dollar buys much less today than it did back then.
  • If one assumes a similar cost reduction over the next 27 years, we will be paying $6 for the new iPhone (with no contract required), $5 for the new iPad — or if you don’t want to pay anything, these low costs suggest both the iPhone and iPad will be given away FREE with an iTunes subscription.
  • Of course, Apple will certainly add new features and capabilities to justify a higher cost — perhaps it all fits into your heads up display glasses and SIRI can access or do anything. But even a new device like this will have dramatically reduced pricing based on the Moore’s Law cost curve.
  • Now, if we could only get healthcare to come down like this!

SIGGRAPH: HDRchitecture Real-Time Stereoscopic HDR Imaging System

  • Current digital cameras have limited dynamic ranges. Users typically expose for the highlights or the shadows or a compromise between them, and rarely get everything exposed properly.
  • To address this, University of Toronto researchers showed their HDRchitecture in the Emerging Technology section of SIGGRAPH last week. HDRchitecture is a real-time visualization system that can handle scenes with dynamic ranges in excess of a million to one.
  • The demonstration featured a welding scene in which attendees were able to clearly see the object being welded as well as nearby objects without the usual visual distortion. (Take a look at the video demo.)
  • The real-time HDRchitecture video system processes up to 120 frames per second in groups of three or four frames. Each frame has a different exposure setting. And together in a group, it captures both the highlights and shadows.
  • The system them composites the images together for viewing at 30fps on a lower dynamic range display. The system can render images at a high image quality up to 1920×1080 resolution and can accommodate stereoscopic vision.
  • HDRchitecture uses GPUs and multicore CPUs for real-time HDR processing. The system is compact enough that it might eventually be incorporated into eyeglasses.
  • Finally, the HDRchitecture system may be adapted to current digital cameras. One of the rigs shown consisted of a Canon DSLR with customized firmware. One limitation of that system, however, was a reduced frame rate of only 20fps.

NASA Mars Science Laboratory: Curiosity Lands on the Red Planet

  • The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California streamed a live link as the Curiosity rover landed safely on Mars and began transmitting images from the planet.
  • The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology.
  • According to the MSL update page: “NASA’s Curiosity rover has landed on Mars! Its descent-stage retrorockets fired, guiding it to the surface. Nylon cords lowered the rover to the ground in the ‘sky crane’ maneuver. When the spacecraft sensed touchdown, the connecting cords were severed, and the descent stage flew out of the way.
  • “The time of day at the landing site is mid-afternoon — about 3 p.m. local Mars time at Gale Crater. The time at JPL’s mission control is about 10:31 p.m. Aug. 5 PDT (early morning EDT).”
  • Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on November 26, Curiosity is scheduled to spend one Martian year (687 Earth days) analyzing samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the surface of Mars.
  • “Curiosity will carry the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars’ surface, a payload more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers,” notes the NASA fact sheet. “Its assignment: Investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.”

Twitter CEO Discusses Whether Twitter is a Media or Technology Company

  • In an interview with The New York Times, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo addresses whether the micro-blog is a media or technology company, describing it as some variation of both.
  • “I think of the company as a technology company that is in the media business,” says Costolo. “Our business is an advertising business, we don’t sell technology… I don’t need to be or want to be in the content business.”
  • Instead of encouraging external Twitter apps, Costolo is building a Twitter platform with its own API.
  • In a recent example, Twitter featured tweets from Pocono 400 drivers and teams last month. “The NASCAR-branded page that Twitter highlighted in television ads was incredibly visceral, with pictures from inside driver’s cars. Fans could practically smell the fuel from the pit,” notes NYT.
  • Twitter has announced a similar page for the Olympics.
  • Engagement rates with ads especially on mobile have been better than with traditional Web ads.
  • “Our vision for the company is simple: Twitter brings you closer,” concludes Costolo. “You can say something now and broadcast and everyone around the world sees it immediately.”

Examining Innovation and Business: Who Really Invented the Internet?

  • Columnist L. Gordon Crovitz suggests that the idea of the government launching the Internet is an urban legend.
  • “The myth is that the Pentagon created the Internet to keep its communications lines up even in a nuclear strike,” he writes in the Wall Street Journal. “The truth is a more interesting story about how innovation happens — and about how hard it is to build successful technology companies even once the government gets out of the way.”
  • “The creation of the Arpanet was not motivated by considerations of war. The Arpanet was not an Internet. An Internet is a connection between two or more computer networks,” wrote Robert Taylor via email in 2004 (Taylor ran the ARPA program in the 1960s).
  • While Vint Cerf developed TCP/IP, the Internet’s protocol, and Tim Berners-Lee gets the credit for hyperlinks, Taylor says it was Xerox PARC that created the Ethernet — the precursor to the Internet.
  • Ethernet, which allowed the links between different networks, was the technological breakthrough that not only allowed Xerox to link computers to share copiers, but later formed the basis for the Internet.
  • “Then, in 1979, Steve Jobs negotiated an agreement whereby Xerox’s venture-capital division invested $1 million in Apple, with the requirement that Jobs get a full briefing on all the Xerox PARC innovations,” explains the article. “‘They just had no idea what they had,’ Jobs later said, after launching hugely profitable Apple computers using concepts developed by Xerox.”
  • “It’s important to understand the history of the Internet because it’s too often wrongly cited to justify big government,” concludes Crovitz. “It’s also important to recognize that building great technology businesses requires both innovation and the skills to bring innovations to market. As the contrast between Xerox and Apple shows, few business leaders succeed in this challenge. Those who do — not the government — deserve the credit for making it happen.”

Are Tech Firms Exploiting the Neuroscience of Internet Addiction for Profit?

  • Tobacco, alcohol, drugs… the Internet?
  • “Much of what we do online releases dopamine into the brain’s pleasure centers, resulting in obsessive pleasure-seeking behavior,” reports The Atlantic. “Technology companies face the option to exploit our addictions for profit.”
  • Companies are actively seeking to exploit our newest addiction — the Internet — by creating a “compulsion loop.” Game companies, for example, hook players by rewarding them with new content when they achieve a goal which leads them to work harder to achieve and receive even more.
  • Neuroscience has been able to track how Internet activities can stimulate the neurons of the ventral tegmental area of the midbrain leading it to release the neurotransmitter dopamine to the brain’s pleasure areas.
  • But this behavior goes well beyond games. “We now believe that the compulsion to continually check email, stock prices, and sporting scores on smartphones is driven in some cases by dopamine releases that occur in anticipation of receiving good news,” explains the article. “Indeed, we have grown so addicted to our smartphones that we now experience ‘phantom smartphone buzzing,’ which tricks our brains into thinking our phone is vibrating when it isn’t.”
  • The author, Bill Davidow is trying to manage this situation by actively creating walls around his virtual environment. He answers email only at the office. And when spending time with his wife, daughters and grandsons, he puts the iPhone away. Still, he recognizes, “There is, of course, no simple solution to this problem.”
  • “I’m learning that to function effectively and happily in an increasingly virtual world, I have to commit a significant amount to time to living without it,” concludes Davidow.

Future of Shopping: Is a Revolution in Personal Empowerment Underway?

  • Today, Internet companies track online behavior without permission, force you to accept terms and conditions too complex to even understand, and limit one to work within their carefully constructed silos.
  • A new discipline called Vendor Relationship Management is being developed, which focuses on the needs of the user rather than those of sellers and third parties.
  • This is a recognition of the new realities of the Internet that gives individuals unprecedented power by allowing them to self-publish, syndicate their opinions, and in general, influence many others often around the world.
  • In the near future, “you will declare your own policies, preferences and terms of engagement — and do it in ways that can be automated both for you and the companies you engage,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • You’ll be able to knit different apps together to perform what you need. You will decide if you want to be tracked (Microsoft will turn on a “Do Not Track” feature in the next version of Internet Explorer) or if you want to receive ads (ad blockers are already a popular extension for some of the major Web browsers).
  • “Progress in empowering customers won’t be smooth or even, but it will happen,” notes WSJ. “Today, the supply side still reigns, but by the time of that dinner party in 2022, everyone will understand that free customers are more valuable than captive ones.”

The Internet Defense League Launches to Serve as Online Policy Watchdog

  • The Internet Defense League (IDL) officially launched Thursday. IDL will actively work against future laws that seek to regulate copyrighted content such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).
  • Members of the organization include Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), WordPress, Mozilla, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reddit and OpenCongress/PPF.
  • “What Americans understand that the government doesn’t understand is that Americans can do things well without government regulations,” explains Issa.
  • “I gained prominence during SOPA because my entire way of life was being threatened,” adds Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder. “We’ve been busy spending our attention innovating instead of lobbying on Capitol Hill.”
  • Interestingly, The Motion Picture Association of America, which supported SOPA and PIPA, released the following statement:
  • “We couldn’t agree more with the Internet Defense League that an Internet that works for everyone is critical to both our economy and our national identity — and in order for the Internet to work for everyone, we need to set balanced policies that help protect hard work while still encouraging the freedom to create. The creative community, like the tech community, is built entirely on ideas and innovation. The free flow of information on the Internet is critical, but it can’t be promoted at the expense of creators and their rights.”
  • Symbolic of the alert code it will send out to members to mobilize their activities, IDL projected a “cat signal” into the sky on Thursday night in four cities — New York City, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Ulaarbataar, Mongolia.