Netflix Teams with Facebook to Offer Social Movies (But Not in the U.S.)

  • Netflix announced a partnership with Facebook to allow members to share what they are watching on Netflix with their family, friends and associates via the social networking site. However, this feature will NOT be available in the U.S. (only in Canada and Latin America) due to a 1988 law that makes sharing that information illegal.
  • The Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) was created to prevent “wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records (or similar audio visual materials, to cover items such as video games and the future DVD format).” Congress passed the law after Robert Bork’s video rental history was published during his Supreme Court nomination.
  • “Unfortunately, we will not be offering this feature in the U.S. because a 1980’s law creates some confusion over our ability to let U.S. members automatically share the television shows and movies they watch with their friends on Facebook,” explains Netflix Director of Government Relations Michael Drobac. “The good news, however, is that some forward-thinking members of Congress have introduced legislation, H.R. 2471, that would allow you to make this choice… If you want the choice to share with your friends, please email Congress to urge them to pass this modernizing legislation.”
  • According to Wired, Netflix currently has 24 million subscribers inside the U.S. and only a million subscribers internationally.

NFC App Review: Katie Boehret Offers Her Two Cents on Google Wallet

  • As reported on ETCentric yesterday, Google Wallet rolled out this week. The technology allows you to pay for products and services by merely swiping your phone over a “tap payment” terminal (only MasterCard PayPass-enabled terminals right now). While only the Nexus S 4G phone is currently supported, there will be more phones coming soon that include the NFC (near field communication) chip.
  • Reporting for All Things D, Katie Boehret took the mobile app for a test drive. “I’ve been trying Google Wallet in Washington, DC, and Palo Alto, California, and I find it delightfully easy to use,” she writes. “Though still in its infancy, it isn’t hard to imagine digital payments catching on and becoming commonplace.”
  • Boehret points out that only the Citi MasterCard can be added to Google Wallet for now, but a Google Prepaid Card can accept other credit cards, and Google says other cards are coming (the company is working with Visa, Discover and American Express).
  • PayPal and Square are working on their own digital-payment systems, both of which do not require the NFC chip, so they will work on many phones.
  • Beyond payment, Google Wallet will let you register your store loyalty and gift cards (expect to see this from the likes of CVS, Macy’s and American Outfitters); however, you cannot register forms of ID, suggesting that despite its ease-of-use, the app is not a replacement for your wallet.
  • “Google Wallet can’t hold your driver’s license or other official forms of identification, so even if it takes off and works everywhere, you’ll still have to carry your license with you,” concludes Boehret.

Amazon Elastic Cloud Tech: Stretching the Boundaries of Cloud Computing

  • Cycle Computing demonstrated the potential power of cloud computing by building a 30,000-core cluster running CentOS Linux for molecular modeling using Amazon’s Elastic Cloud 2 (EC2).
  • The cluster, created for an unnamed “Top 5 Pharma” customer, ran about seven hours at a peak cost of $1,279 per hour (including fees to Amazon and Cycle Computing) and performed approximately 10.9 “compute years of work.”
  • “Amazon EC2 and other cloud services are expanding the market for high-performance computing,” reports Ars Technica. “Without access to a national lab or a supercomputer in your own data center, cloud computing lets businesses spin up temporary clusters at will and stop paying for them as soon as the computing needs are met.”
  • The statistics are rather impressive; highlights include 30,472 cores, 26.7TB of RAM and 2PB (petabytes) of disk space. The cluster — dubbed “Nekomata” — ran across data centers in three Amazon regions in the United States and Europe.
  • It is unknown whether or not Nekomata is the largest cluster run on EC2 to date. “I can’t share specific customer details, but can tell you that we do have businesses of all sizes running large-scale, high-performance computing workloads on AWS [Amazon Web Services], including distributed clusters like the Cycle Computing 30,000 core cluster to tightly-coupled clusters often used for science and engineering applications such as computational fluid dynamics and molecular dynamics simulation,” indicated an Amazon spokesperson.

Report Indicates Mobile Devices Dominate Airport Wi-Fi: iOS Leads the Way

  • A year ago, laptops made up two-thirds of Wi-Fi connections at airports. Today, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets comprise 59 percent of the total, reveals new data released this week by Boingo Wireless.
  • Boingo suggests that laptops are not going away — in fact, their numbers have doubled since 2007 — it’s simply that mobile devices are proliferating at a faster rate, fueled by the launch of the iPhone in 2007 (Apple’s iOS dominates the mobile segment with 83 percent of total devices on Boingo’s network).
  • Not surprisingly, the report suggests similar findings for inflight Wi-Fi, as offered by the likes of Gogo. In the air, iPads make up more than one-third of connections, along with 41 percent for PCs and 20 percent for Macs.
  • According to All Things D: “Mobile devices are also gobbling up a lot more data than they did just two years earlier, Boingo said. On a monthly basis, the average mobile device consumed 211 megabytes of data in June, compared with 114 megabytes in May 2009. And the devices are also consuming that data in less time, gulping an average of 8.9 megabytes in every 10 minutes of use, compared with 3.7 megabytes in the same period two years earlier.”

Flash Player 11 and AIR 3: For HD Video and 3D Gaming on Multiple Platforms

  • Adobe announced this week Adobe Flash Player 11 and Adobe AIR 3 software to enable “console quality” 2D and 3D games and scientific visualizations for multiple platforms including Android, Apple iOS (via AIR), BlackBerry Tablet OS, Mac OS, Windows, connected TVs and others.
  • Adobe touts 1,000 times faster rendering performance over Flash 10 and AIR 2 enabling 60 frames per second rendering and console-quality games on Mac OS, Windows and connected TVs. A production release for mobile is coming.
  • Content protection is available using Adobe Flash Access 3 on supported platforms — “including support for mobile platforms,” explains the press release — with support for rental and subscription options “to more than 80 percent of the U.S. pay TV subscribers.”
  • HD full frame video quality can be displayed on iOS devices using H.264 hardware decoding to deliver 7.1 channel surround sound.

Xbox TV to Launch: Microsoft Wants to Change the Way People Watch TV

  • Microsoft confirmed it will launch Xbox TV this holiday season. CNNMoney reports that the service will be similar to services offered in other countries which allow Xbox users to stream Sky TV in the UK, Canal Plus in France, and FoxTel in Australia.
  • At Microsoft’s recent financial analyst meeting in Anaheim, CEO Steve Balmer confirmed the company is working with “dozens or hundreds of additional content suppliers.”
  • Xbox TV will use Bing to search for content and use Kinect for voice or motion commands. Microsoft will also seek to create a social experience for TV shows and movies around its 35 million Xbox Live community.
  • In related news, Comcast and Verizon are reportedly in talks with Microsoft to enable cable subscriptions through the Xbox 360. “The tech giant’s gaming console, which already streams content from sources like Netflix, Hulu Plus and others, could in effect become a cable box if Microsoft manages to strike a deal ahead of its upcoming release of Xbox TV,” suggests ReadWriteWeb.

Report: Is Innovation being Stifled by Frivolous Lawsuits of Patent Trolls?

  • Looking at a database of over 1,600 patent troll lawsuits compiled by Patent Freedom, a team of Boston University researchers estimate that these suits have cost companies some $500 billion since 1990. These costs include not only legal fees and payouts to plaintiffs, but indirect costs such as employee distraction, legal uncertainty, and the need to redesign or drop key products.
  • The authors of the study also estimate that the original inventors received less than 10 percent of the “defendant’s lost wealth.”
  • Additionally, they found that software patents accounted for approximately 62 percent of the lawsuits (while a mere two percent of suits were related to drug or chemical patents, and only six percent involved mechanical patents).
  • The article concludes that the patent system is becoming a disincentive to innovation. “These results are important because the patent system is supposed to reward companies who invest in innovation,” suggests Ars Technica. “Yet thanks to the growing blizzard of frivolous patent lawsuits against technology companies, the patent system is actually becoming a net disincentive to innovation, especially software. We hope Congress and the Supreme Court are paying attention.”

Evos Concept Car Unveiled: Cloud-Connected Ford Goes the Extra Mile

  • Technology is now “an experience” on the Ford Evos Concept car, unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show last week.
  • This cloud-connected vehicle knows all about your preferences, health, work schedule and much more. As a plug-in hybrid it can also “run as a full electric for at least part of its 500 mile total range,” reports Engadget.
  • The car polls your work schedule, traffic and weather information to determine when your alarm at home should wake you to get you on the road in time. It continues your cloud music from your home seamlessly. It suggests alternate routes based on last minute changes to your schedule. It alters the energy consumption, braking, suspension and steering based on the requirements of the road ahead.
  • Moreover, it adjusts the music to suit your preferences for a particular stretch of road. You can also share driving routes with your friends. The Ford Evos monitors your heart rate and pollution conditions and responds accordingly.

New Industry Report to be Released: Suggests 3D Format Safe for Kids

  • The American Optometric Association, the Consumer Electronics Association and the 3D@Home Consortium will issue a report entitled “3D in the Classroom: See Well, Learn Well” that will promote 3D in the classroom. The report, endorsed by James Cameron and Jeffrey Katzenberg, also makes the case for 3D eye exams.
  • The AOA has been taking issue with a position by some companies to recommend that 3D not be used for children younger than 6 years of age.
  • In response to Nintendo on the 3DS, for example, they responded, “Since vision develops from birth, it is crucial to uncover the type of vision disorders that may interfere with Nintendo 3D viewing at an early age. Accordingly, children younger than 6 can use the 3DS in 3D mode if their visual system is developing normally.”
  • They also dispute the recommendation against prolonged 3D viewing, as there is no medical evidence to support this.
  • “While professionals like Technicolor’s 3D guru Pete Routhier note that poorly made 3D can cause eye strain, headaches or nausea, the AOA report notes that discomfort caused by stereoscopy is not innate to the format,” reports Variety. “In fact, pain associated with 3D can often be an indicator of a problem with the health of the viewer’s eyes.”

Future of Gaming: Can Portable Gaming Consoles and Smartphones Coexist?

  • “Mega Man” co-creator and  former Capcom head of production Keiji Inafune says, “You don’t use a smartphone camera for an interview, and you don’t use a really professional camera to take some small pictures when you’re going to work.”
  • Similarly, Inafune suggests smartphones are good for a quick game away from home, but dedicated gaming portables and home consoles offer a more complete gaming experience.
  • Still, game developers cannot ignore the smartphone market, which is currently the target for one of his company’s announced games. Inafune started two companies since leaving Capcom — Intercept and Comcept.
  • Inafune believes that developers cannot ignore the growing smartphone market: “We have to think about that when we’re making new games, because it’s kind of becoming very easy to let people play games now,” he says. “They don’t have to buy big consoles to play simple games. So that’s what we should think about for the future.”

Instagram iPhone Photo App Developing a Following: Brands Take Notice

  • Instagram, an iPhone-only photo app, has become a darling of the fashion world.
  • Started only 11 months ago, Instagram already has nine million users who take photos on their iPhone and apply effects from 15 filters. They can then share their photos in a stream.
  • Some professional photographers feel the app is “cheapening the art,” but the results can be quite striking and have already been used in magazines.
  • Kevin Systrom, chief executive and co-founder of Instagram, says the company is not yet profitable. However, the app is starting to draw attention outside the realm of amateur photo enthusiasts and social networkers.
  • “The top request Instagram gets from corporate users is for custom filters,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Brands want to create filters specific to their own aesthetic, so that Instagram users can echo a brand’s look — seeing the world as designer Kate Spade does, or Vanity Fair magazine. Mr. Systrom says the company has had other priorities but hinted new filters are coming soon.”

The Real Motivation Behind the Motorola Mobility Acquisition

  • An intellectual property analyst makes the case that the reason Google acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion last month was not to provide patent protection for Android as most believe. It was to prevent Motorola Mobility from making one or more key moves that would have weakened Android’s patent situation even more.
  • For example, Motorola Mobility could have taken a patent license from Microsoft signaling a surrender that would have affected every other Android licensee.
  • It could have started work on a Windows Phone as a way to help it deal with a Microsoft infringement case, suggests the FOSS Patents blog. It also could have attacked other Android licensees to collect royalties.
  • And finally, it could have sold off its patent portfolio to one of Google’s competitors.

Is the iPad and GarageBand Changing the Face of Music Production?

  • Apple’s iPad is becoming a production tool for both professional and amateur musicians.
  • One band, The Ultramods, produced their recent album in two weeks using only GarageBand on the iPad.
  • Damon Albarn’s hip-hop project, Gorillaz, combines real vocals and instruments with synthesizers using a collection of apps including Korg iELECTRIBE, Moog Filatron and FunkBox Drum Machine. According to Pocket-lint: “It perfectly illustrates the convenience of being able to lay down tracks on a device, while on the move, with no access to a desktop computer or studio.”
  • Accessory brand Griffin’s PR director, Jackie Ballinger explains the benefits of tablets for musicians: “Technology, like the iPad enables musicians to become mobile without losing quality, now people are able to make music anywhere without limitations and without substantial costs. With the iPad and relevant apps a less costly alternative to recording studios and instruments, aspiring musicians have the opportunity to produce professional recording using solely these means.”
  • The article points out that Apple’s GarageBand is the top-selling music app on the iTunes store, and with “iPad prices starting at $499, along with the $4.99 for the GarageBand, that puts the basic cost of The Ultramods’ album production at just under $505.”

New Ad Campaign from Turner Educates Viewers about TV Everywhere

  • Turner Broadcasting has begun airing a series of television commercials on TNT and TBS that lets viewers know they can watch TV episodes streamed online if they have a cable subscription.
  • The campaign is designed to educate consumers about the concept of TV Everywhere.
  • “Consumers have bought tens of millions of iPhones and iPads,” explains Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks. “Our vision is that TV Everywhere kind of becomes the consumer-enabling technology that allows them to unlock the potential of those devices.”
  • An instructional video is also posted on YouTube that goes into detail about how to download the app and login (for example, viewers should be aware that they will need to have their cable bill account number available during the process).
  • It is interesting to note that Nielsen is crediting the viewing in its ratings if the show is watched within three days of airing.

Content Swamps Yahoo: How Can Online Services Earn More Ad Revenue?

  • Yahoo and other content aggregators are finding that the more content they have, the less value it has. Ad rates for Yahoo and AOL have plummeted. Meanwhile, services that find interesting content like Google are doing exceeding well.
  • Moreover, advertisers have a wider range of competitors to reach their target markets. And they are increasingly working with advertising exchanges that buy ad space inexpensively across multiple properties.
  • Even smaller publishers like Salon and Slate are not consistently profitable.
  • “It’s a simple rule of any market,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “The more information that is created, the more the value is reduced. And despite attempts to woo spending with bigger, bolder and more targeted ads, services that help consumers navigate that content, namely search, remain the big money makers online.”
  • “Most people make money pointing to content, not creating, curating or collecting content,” suggests Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer at Vivaki, the digital-media unit of Publicis Groupe SA.