Couch Commerce: Consumers Using Phones and Tablets for Purchases

  • Although consumers are using both smartphones and tablets for shopping, Nielsen has found that the devices are used for different reasons.
  • “For instance, U.S. consumers are most likely to use their smartphone to find a store and check prices, whereas tablet owners are more likely to do PC-type activities, such as researching products and reading product reviews,” reports AllThingsD. “Owners of both devices report frequently making purchases, including 42 percent of tablet owners and 29 percent of smartphone owners.”
  • “Last Christmas, the mobile shopping category first started to get retailers’ attention in a big way, leading to new vernacular such as ‘m-commerce,’ or more fun things, like ‘couch commerce,’ which conjures up images of consumers shopping while sitting in front of the TV,” adds the article.
  • A new forecast from eBay predicts purchases made on apps or mobile browsers will increase 60 percent this year to $8 billion in gross merchandise volume, up from $5 billion in 2011.

Research Team Develops Tech that Turns Objects into Touchscreens

  • Researchers from Disney Research, Pittsburgh University and Carnegie Mellon have collaborated to develop Touche, a touch-sensitive technology that has the potential to turn anything from doorknobs to kitchen appliances into touchscreens.
  • “The technology uses Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing, or SFSC, which lets objects interpret the body position and how it is being touched and reacts accordingly,” reports Mobiledia. “Users can coat the surfaces of ordinary objects with transparent conductors programmed to respond to the body’s electronic frequencies, making them touchscreen-enabled.”
  • “This might enable us to one day do away with keyboards, mice and perhaps even conventional touchscreens for many applications,” suggests Munehiko Sato, one of the researchers.
  • Touche has the ability to revolutionize smart home technology with the ability to convert regular devices into smart devices. It may also shake up the gaming industry, turning practically anything into a controller.

Oracle and Google Lawsuit: Judge Says Android Lost Money in 2010

  • Although Google does not publicly report financial information about Android, some figures have come out through the company’s legal battle with Oracle concerning copyright violation in the mobile OS’s programming.
  • In 2010, the mobile platform reported a net loss in each quarter even though it did earn Google $97.7 million in revenue in Q1.
  • U.S. District Judge William Alsup said, “that adds up to a big loss for the whole year,” although he did not announce specific loss figures.
  • “Oracle sued Google in August 2010, saying Android infringes on its intellectual property rights to the Java programming language,” Reuters explains, adding the company, “contends that Google should not be able to deduct certain Android expenses for the purposes of copyright damages in the case.”
  • Google has denied any violations on the grounds that Java is open-source software language.
  • It might be interesting to see what Oracle stands to gain from the lawsuit if Google has been posting significant losses on the platform.

CTIA Wireless Show Anticipates Debate on Spectrum and Competition

  • Telecommunication operators will be gathering at the CTIA Wireless trade show in New Orleans this week and expect to hear complaints about spectrum shortages and consolidations, according to Reuters.
  • U.S. mobile carriers have been challenging the FCC for more spectrum to meet the ever-increasing demand on bandwidth with the expansion of mobile video viewing and other usage. The top providers are also calling for mergers that will eliminate the fierce competition over resources.
  • The FCC has shown opposition to consolidations with its denial of AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile. The failed merger was very costly for AT&T, leaving other providers weary. Additionally, AT&T has been vocal regarding Verizon’s proposed spectrum deal, still being reviewed by regulators.
  • “Everybody is going to be talking about the fact that in the U.S. we have a spectrum crisis. That crisis is everywhere and it’s a crisis that is hitting everybody,” says Glenn Lurie, AT&T’s president of emerging enterprise and partnerships.
  • “Because of the uncertainty around spectrum availability, analysts expect vendors to use this year’s CTIA to aggressively promote technologies that promise to improve management of existing wireless network capacity,” adds Reuters. “One key topic will revolve around how operators manage the growth in demand for bandwidth-hungry services like video streaming, according to Mark Lowenstein, managing director at consulting firm Mobile Ecosystem.”

YouTube Channels Offer Original Content at Lower Production Costs

  • Just as other online services such as Hulu and AOL have ventured into the content creation business, Google is pushing forward its original programming on YouTube channels.
  • “YouTube said Wednesday it would spend $200 million to market original content through a variety of channels,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “So far, YouTube’s strategy isn’t to own content outright but partner with those who produce it and generate advertising revenue.”
  • The investment has created film-quality productions like the channel WIGS, which offers scripted dramatic series and short films featuring stars like Jennifer Garner and Julia Stiles. Impressively, WIGS has done all this on a tight budget.
  • “But with only modest funding from YouTube — it is giving channels only up to a few million dollars each, far less than the cost of a typical TV production — it is impossible to pay average industry salaries,” the article explains, adding actors and crew usually work for a $15/hour wage.
  • While YouTube isn’t looking to replace other sources of entertainment, the site definitely attracts a wealth of viewers — 750 million unique visitors a month, according to a recent comScore report.

Is the Shift to Netflix by Kids Bad News for Nickelodeon and Others?

  • Netflix has been putting pressure on traditional pay TV, but networks like CBS, ABC and NBC haven’t been hit nearly as hard as kids’ TV networks.
  • “Bernstein Research used data from TiVo boxes to find out that, among households that use Netflix regularly, kids’ TV networks are losing out — Nickelodeon’s ratings declined 6 percent in streaming households despite seeing 2 percent growth elsewhere, and Teen Nick saw an even bigger 11 percent drop for Netflix users while increasing viewership 26 percent in non-streaming households,” The Verge reports.
  • One reason for this might be that adults are more likely to tune in for TV show premieres as they follow linear shows. Streaming services are more ideal for catching up on past seasons. For children, Netflix provides a more convenient means of accessing the content they like, when they want it.
  • “However, Bernstein also discovered that Netflix viewing made consumers much less likely to watch repeats of shows in off-net syndication, with the streaming group declining in off-net viewing by about 19 percent compared to 9.7 percent for non-streamers,” notes paidContent in a related article.

Kindle Fire the Clear Leader in Android Tablets, Remains Behind iPad

  • The Android OS is slowly encroaching on Apple’s tablet market share, which fell 6.8 percent in 2011.
  • One tablet has had much more success than others and accounts for much of Android’s growth. Amazon’s Kindle Fire now takes up more than half of the Android tablet market at 54.4 percent, followed by the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Motorola Zoom.
  • According to a new study from comScore, the Galaxy Tab saw a drop from 23.8 percent share in December to 15.4 percent today. The Zoom fell to 7 percent from 11.8 percent last year. The study did not include Barnes & Noble’s Nook, since comScore categorizes it as an e-reader, not a tablet.
  • Another study conducted by IDC found that Amazon likely sold 4.7 million Fires in Q4 — and the tablet remains the top-selling item on Amazon’s site — but is still dwarfed by the 15.4 million iPads that Apple sold in the same period.

Nokia Plans to Use TV White Space for Wireless Networking and More

  • After three years in development, Nokia has unveiled its research project that looks to offer wireless networking and location-based information using the available bandwidth in TV networks.
  • “TV white space is the unused spectrum in a particular area that has been reserved for a channel elsewhere in the country,” The Verge reports. “It’s not the first time that white space networks have been trialed — Cambridge recently received a city-wide network — however it’s clear that this currently unoccupied space offers potential well beyond just networking.”
  • As part of the project, a network for the Imperial War Museum near Cambridge, UK has been implemented that provides multimedia content on handheld devices. Right now, the system hasn’t been built into any radio chips, “meaning that the receiver has to be carried in a small suitcase which is connected by USB to a Nokia N9, with the chips required expected to be standardized in the next three years,” explains the post.
  • The project shows the extensive potential for this unused bandwidth, especially for projects like Google’s Indoor Maps.
  • The post includes a 4-minute video report on Nokia’s efforts.

FTC Chair Suggests Most People Do Not Understand How Our Data Is Used

  • Even as people are sharing an increasing amount of personal data online, Internet users are still worried about digital privacy, according to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
  • “I think they are very concerned because they have a sense that information is being captured, and they’re not sure where it’s going,” Leibowitz says. “I don’t think most of us understand how it’s captured and transferred and monetized, but I think there is generally concern from consumers about that.”
  • Privacy has been a hot news topic recently with the CISPA debate and various breaches by top companies such as Google and Facebook.
  • Some believe that younger people who have grown up in the digital age are less concerned by privacy, but “I think if you drilled down a little bit on that data, it’s actually not that accurate for everyone,” suggests Leibowitz.
  • “Will personal privacy standards relax as social media becomes more entrenched in everyday life? Or will increased sharing mean heightened consumer vigilance about controlling personal information?” asks Mashable.

New Milestone: Mac App Store Features More Than 10,000 Apps

  • After passing the 100 million app downloads marker, Apple’s Mac App Store has now hit another milestone. According to third-party estimates, the store’s catalog now has over 10,000 apps.
  • “French outlet MacGeneration today posted its estimate of the tally based on its own data,” reported CNET on Friday. “Macrumors later pointed to its Appshopper site that pulls App Store data and currently lists the store’s total at 10,334 apps.”
  • “To put the benchmark — which an Apple spokesperson declined to confirm — in context, it took Apple’s App Store for iPhone (and later iOS) less than half a year to reach 10,000 apps,” explains the post. “At the same time, that store had pulled in more than 300 million downloads, Apple said. Worth pointing out though, is that the App Store is the only way to officially get software on the iOS platform, whereas Mac users can install from other sources.”
  • In future editions of Apple’s Mac OS, like the upcoming Mountain Lion to be released this summer, the App Store will play a bigger part with functions like “Gatekeeper” that protects against malware and limits new app installations to the Mac App Store.

House Passes CISPA, but Faces Privacy Concerns and Possible Veto

  • The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act has passed through the U.S. House of Representatives with some important amendments added, but still leaving some concerns unaddressed.
  • The 248 to 168 vote shows the strong support for the ability for companies to share information freely — for the sake of protecting against cybersecurity threats — without the threat of antitrust laws. Tech and communications companies including Facebook, Microsoft, and AT&T have pledged their support for the bill.
  • The Obama Administration and the Center of Democracy & Technology (CDT), on the other hand, are concerned that the law could be used to aggregate private user data and to essentially police the Internet.
  • “The bill has three critical civil liberties problems, and we have worked with Members of Congress, Internet users, advocacy groups, and industry to address them,” the CDT said in a statement. “The first is that CISPA permits unfettered sharing of private communication with the government; second, it permits that sharing to go to any agency including the super-secret NSA; and third, it permits the government to use this information for purposes wholly unrelated to cybersecurity.”
  • CISPA must still pass through the Senate and again through Congress if President Obama opts to veto the bill, which has been recommended by his advisors.

Google Launches Drive Cloud Storage Solution with Built-In Google Docs

  • Google has officially released its Drive cloud storage solution that gives users access to cloud-connected storage across all their devices.
  • The service will compete with the likes of Dropbox, SugarSync, Box and Microsoft’s SkyDrive.
  • “The company will give every Drive user 5GB of free storage. If you need more room for files, you can get 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month, or 1TB for $49.99/month,” reports VentureBeat. “Google says that when upgrade to a paid account, your Gmail account storage for e-mails will also expand to 25GB, meaning more storage for all those huge e-mail attachments your boss likes to send.”
  • Google Drive has Google Docs built in, includes a powerful search feature and photo recognition and has a screen reader feature for blind users.
  • The search giant is still working on an iOS app, but is already capable on Macs or PCs and Android.

Facebook Update for Android Auto Installs Two Additional Apps

  • Android users who install the new version of the Facebook app will now have two other obligatory apps — Camera and Messenger — also installed.
  • The two apps look and work similar to the phone’s default apps but if users don’t want them, too bad: there’s no getting rid of the two additions without uninstalling the Facebook app entirely.
  • The Facebook camera app actually operates less efficiently than the native camera function, taking lower quality pictures. When using the app, it is not immediately clear that it is Facebook-specific. Unlike other photo apps like Instagram, the only benefit to Facebook’s Camera app is improved tagging of friends.
  • “People love Instagram, but almost nobody loves Facebook,” Jeffrey Van Camp writes for Digital Trends. “We all use it because we must (everyone is on it), but gutsy moves like these are why it lacks love. If someone wants to install a Facebook camera app, they can, but forcing three apps on users who only signed up to install one is not cool.”
  • “Trying to trick them into using the Facebook Messaging and Camera alternatives through deceptive icon designs and names is just sad,” he adds. “Well, sad and a bit savvy. Facebook may not be very lovable, but it does know how to insert itself deeper into your life.”
  • In a related Facebook story, the social network is taking steps to address security concerns. On Wednesday, it announced partnerships with Microsoft, McAfee, TrendMicro, Sophos, and Norton/Symantec “to enhance its own URL blacklisting system; and it is launching a new service, the Antivirus Marketplace, with these five companies, to offer a selection of antivirus software to protect users even further. That software will be free of charge for the first six months of use,” details TechCrunch.

Sandvine Releases Compelling Figures Regarding Network Traffic

  • A new report from Sandvine found that real-time entertainment (primarily video) has risen to 64.5 percent of total U.S. network traffic in March from 53.6 percent last September.
  • YouTube accounted for 13.8 percent of total traffic in March.
  • Sandvine also reported last fall that half of North America’s Internet use was related to video; Netflix accounted for 27.6 percent of daily downstream volume with HTTP following at 17.8 percent, YouTube at 10.0 percent and BitTorrent coming in at 9.0 percent.
  • With this transition to broadband for video content, usage can become an issue for both video quality and the network. “Technical solutions such as adaptive bit-rate streaming or buffering content to a hard drive help,” GigaOM reports. “But Sandvine concludes that basic monthly usage caps, such as the ones ISPs are implementing, don’t.”
  • “Are caps a worrisome protectionist tool to keep subscribers locked to both broadband and pay TV subscriptions?” GigaOM asks. “And if that’s a yes, then what should the FCC, Department of Justice or Congress do about it?”

AOL On Network: Newly Launched Video Site to Feature AOL Properties

  • AOL is making its foray into the TV sphere with a new Web channel that aims to go beyond being just a YouTube clone with its six new original programs produced by some top entertainment names.
  • “Yesterday the company launched a new video site called AOL On Network, which will bring all of the company’s video offerings (Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, AOL.com, and others) under one umbrella,” VentureBeat reports.
  • “The video content will play across 14 content channels, including food, business, entertainment, style, tech, travel, and health,” explains the post. “The AOL On Network will reach an audience of 57 million U.S. consumers on a variety of Internet-connected devices, according to a comScore report of video viewing behavior for March 2012.”
  • The site will offer “320,000 high-quality, short-form videos created by over 1,000 third-party publishers as well as AOL,” according to the post.
  • While AOL remains among the top 10 most popular sites for video content online, “the biggest factor in that success is in delivering video content that people actually want to see — meaning people don’t mind sitting through a few commercials or pre-roll ads during a video,” comments VentureBeat.

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