Sergey Brin Clarifies Statements Made About Facebook and Apple

  • Following an article about his views on Internet censorship, Google co-founder Sergey Brin issued a clarification. Some believed Brin was equating the “walled gardens” of Facebook and Apple to the Internet censorship of totalitarian regimes.
  • “So to clarify, I certainly do not think this issue is on a par with government based censorship. Moreover, I have much admiration for two of the companies we discussed — Apple and Facebook. I have always admired Apple’s products,” Brin wrote in a Google+ post.
  • “Likewise, Facebook has helped to connect hundreds of millions of people, has been a key tool for political expression and has been instrumental to the Arab Spring. Both have made key contributions to the free flow of information around the world,” he added.
  • Although Brin approved of the original Guardian piece in which he was quoted, it only included a small part of a month-long conversation. Additionally, he suggests secondary reports of the interview did not accurately interpret his comments.
  • “But regardless of how you feel about digital ecosystems or about Google, please do not take the free and open Internet for granted from government intervention,” Brin wrote. “To the extent that free flow of information threatens the powerful, those in power will seek to suppress it.”

White House Suggests that CISPA may Provide Inadequate Protection

  • The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) hopes to fight potential cyberattacks by enabling companies and the federal government to share cyber threat intelligence with each other.
  • Although the bill has been supported by many big Internet players, the Obama administration is now expressing some hesitation, suggesting CISPA “fails to adequately protect critical national infrastructure, such as electrical grids and water supplies, and could threaten individual privacy and civil liberties,” reports Digital Trends.
  • According to Caitlyn Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, cybersecurity legislation requires strong safeguards. “Legislation without new authorities to address our nation’s critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, or legislation that would sacrifice the privacy of our citizens in the name of security, will not meet our nation’s urgent needs,” she said in a statement.
  • Some civil liberty and privacy advocates criticize the bill’s broad language, which could “allow companies to hand over private information about their customers and users to the federal government without sufficient oversight or consequences for mishandling the data,” explains the article.
  • The “Stop Cyber Spying” campaign against CISPA also raises concerns that the shared information could be given to spy agencies with little public oversight.
  • Although the White House has not made any plan to veto the bill, there is definitely some question as to whether the proposed legislation will do much to protect against cyberattacks.

NAB: Will the Future of Netflix Depend on Original Programming?

  • At the NAB Show in Las Vegas, Netflix took the stage to talk about the variety of original programming it is currently working on. If the shows prove successful, this could be a new direction for the streaming service that has devoted a lot of time and resources to acquiring licensing deals.
  • “The freedom to make interesting shows — without a network controlling the process or the output — seemed to be an underlying theme, though I don’t think anyone actually came out and said it,” comments GigaOM writer Ryan Lawler. “In that respect, Netflix could use its newcomer status as a way to recruit more talented content creators who are frustrated by the usual network system.”
  • Jenji Kohan, the creator of “Weeds” and the head of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” series, said working for Netflix on original content is a great new business model and provides opportunities that might not be available at a traditional TV network.
  • Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos acknowledged that delving into content creation does put the company in competition with the same people they try so hard to get licensing deals from.
  • “But if Netflix ends up competing for a greater share of viewers’ attention with its streaming offering, it’s only fair, Sarandos posited. After all, the increasing number of TV Everywhere apps and services are starting to encroach on its turf,” reports GigaOM.

Listen Feature on Facebook Musician Pages Plays Music via Streaming Apps

  • Facebook is making it easier for fans to listen to music through Musician Pages with a new “Listen” button right beside the “Like” button.
  • The button launches the user’s most frequently used Facebook music streaming app — or if there isn’t one, prompts users to set up a service like Spotify, Rdio or MOG.
  • When a user hovers over the “Listen” button, it will indicate which service it requires to play the songs or album.
  • This new function won’t bring in a lot of revenue for artists who get very small streaming royalties, but it could help capture fans, getting them to “fall in love with their recorded music,” suggests TechCrunch.
  • “Overall, this is a smart build-out of Facebook’s music partnerships from f8, and the synchronous “Listen With” feature it added in January,” adds the post. “This could make Facebook Pages your first stop when you want to check out a new band.”
  • For now, the button is only available on the Web, but TechCrunch is hopeful a mobile version will eventually follow. “Down the line, Facebook could even add a similar ‘Watch’ button to TV show and movies Pages that would launch Hulu or Netflix,” the post states.

Sony to Launch Nasne in Japan: TV Tuner and Media Box as Network Hub

  • The new digital media box from Sony called Nasne will connect to Sony’s various products with satellite and terrestrial TV tuners.
  • The unit can be used as a playback or standard media storage device and is expandable via external hard drives.
  • “Nasne has a 500GB hard drive of its own, however, and will extend deeper into the Sony ecosystem by letting Sony Tablet and Xperia phone users access recorded content when on the same home network. There will also be an app for the PS Vita, which currently offers limited streaming ability with Torne, and VAIO users will be able to watch and record TV broadcasts from their computers,” reports The Verge.
  • The Nasne’s predecessor, the Torne was also a PlayStation 3 TV tuner accessory that recorded TV broadcasts. If the Torne is any indication, the Nasne could very well never be sold outside Japan, suggests the post.

Streaming Music: Spotify CEO Predicts $800 Million in Revenue This Year

  • In the two years it’s been up and running, streaming music service Spotify has accumulated $96 million in losses. However, CEO and founder Daniel Ek says the company is focusing on sales to turn that around.
  • “We know we are making money on each new user we get, whether it’s a free user or paying. Therefore, all user growth [is] positive for us,” Ek said, adding that he expects to see $800 million in revenue this year.
  • The big hits for the company came in expanding its reach to new markets, which requires extensive capital investment in local music rights.
  • Although Ek said the company is now in a position to operate without additional capital, Spotify could be accepting investments amounting to $4 billion.
  • “We utilize the principle that if an investor can add strategic value and the valuation is good, we are interested,” he said.

Facebook Offers in Beta: Plans to Deliver Local Deals to News Feed

  • After a failed attempt with Facebook Deals, the social network is planning to take another stab at the social shopping market, which is currently dominated by Groupon and Livingsocial.
  • Through Facebook Offers, local businesses will be able to reach out to their customers by providing freebies and promotions directly in their news feed.
  • “The offers are free to create, though Facebook says that each will only reach a limited number of people. This is obviously a way for the social network to maintain interest in its regular ads, though it’s an interesting strategy that could see more smaller businesses investing in wider advertising campaigns,” The Verge reports.
  • The service is not yet available on a wide scale. “Facebook rolled out Offers in beta to a handful of clients in the U.S. after announcing it at fMC in February,” announced the social network. “Facebook is continuing to roll out the beta to a limited amount of businesses in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Turkey, but it’s not a global roll out. It’s not yet available to additional U.S. businesses.”

Analyst Recommends that Apple TV Partner with DirecTV or DISH

  • BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield offers some speculation on Apple’s rumored TV offering, suggesting the tech giant should not aim to completely reinvent television, but instead work with DirecTV or DISH to launch a product with access to live TV feeds.
  • “Apple’s only solution to the problem would be to either take an existing service and completely reinvent its UI, or create a whole new offering to compete with Comcast & Co,” GigaOM reports.
  • Steve Jobs had reportedly approached networks to discuss a-la-carte type programing, but the networks turned him down in fear of losing their lucrative deals by unbundling.
  • “The company could try again, Greenfield argues, but this time offer to carry the whole bundle — and even charge customers more, not less, if it succeeded at making the bundle look sexier. Think integrating an iCloud DVR, piping live TV to your iPad, and so forth,” the article states.
  • Greenfield suggests partnering with DirecTV or DISH to take advantage of their national reach, and “once those guys rake in the big money, the cable boys will come to their senses and eagerly partner with Apple as well,” the article suggests.

Pentagon Eyes Innovega for iOptik Augmented Reality Contact Lenses

  • Upgrading from the bulky head-up display (HUD) equipment currently used by the U.S. military, the Pentagon has ordered contact lenses that provide an augmented reality display system with expanded field of vision.
  • “The system, called iOptik and developed by Innovega, allows the wearer to focus on a HUD at the same time as the surrounding environment by projecting an image onto different sections of the lens,” reports The Verge. “HUD information goes through to the center of the pupil, and light from the wearer’s peripheral vision is filtered out to avoid interference.”
  • Innovega CEO Steve Willey said eventually the lenses could be used for consumer applications like 3D movies, gaming or augmented reality like Google’s recently-released Project Glass.
  • The post features a 3-minute video interview with Innovega CTO Randall Sprague.

Google+ Claims Jump in Users: Facebook and Twitter Hold Comfortable Lead

  • Google has announced that its social network now has 170 million users, which makes Google+ the third-largest social network in the world.
  • The number of Google+ users still lags far behind those of Facebook and Twitter — 850 million and 500 million respectively — and in terms of usage, the site is still struggling.
  • But is Google+ really the third largest social network? It depends on how one measures the numbers.
  • “If you go by active monthly users in the U.S., particularly those reported by third parties, it appears that Google+ is well behind LinkedIn and neck-and-neck with Tumblr. If, however, you are measuring by monthly visits — again, in the U.S. — then Google+ is number six,” Mashable reports.
  • “Meanwhile, monthly visit data compiled by ExperianHitwise estimates that Google+ received 61 million U.S. visits in March, a nice jump over February, but still well behind Facebook (7 billion), Twitter (182 million), Pinterest (104 milllion), LinkedIn (86 million) and Tagged (72 million),” explains the post.
  • Additionally, a report from comScore found that Google+ is much closer to Tumblr and Pinterest when considering number of active users.

Will Redesigned UI and Focus on Hangouts Attract Google+ Users?

  • Google is providing a redesign of its social network Google+, which could very well lure early users back to the platform.
  • “The UI has been greatly streamlined with a customizable ribbon of shortcuts on the left and your buddy list moved to the right. The main interface has been tidied up quite a bit and a new focus has been placed on one of the universally beloved features of the beleaguered social network — Hangouts,” Engadget writes.
  • Hangouts will now have their own dedicated home page, allowing users to more easily see any available video chat party lines.
  • “Replacing the old static toolbar at the top, the Navigation bar includes the usual icons for Home, Profile, Photos, and more. But this bar is customizable,” details CNET in a related report. Users can change the order of the icons, dragging their favorite ones to the top and removing ones they do not use at all.
  • Multimedia sharing has also been enhanced. Larger photos are coming to profile pages and Sparks have been replaced by an Explore tab.
  • The new Google+ will rollout gradually to users.

Video and Music Apps: Pros and Cons of Xbox Expansion Beyond Games

  • As Xbox expands its entertainment offerings with new apps, it is coming in direct competition with other set-top box solutions.
  • All the apps are free to download but most require a paid membership as well as an Xbox Live Gold account, which cost about $60-$100 a year. For example, the HBO Go app requires a current cable subscription; for Netflix and Hulu Plus, users must pay the $8/month subscription; and to access the MLB.TV you must have the $125 annual Premium account.
  • To use these apps on other devices, consumers also have to have accounts set up. However, the Roku and Apple TV set-top boxes don’t require annual fees like Xbox Live Gold. Additionally, both alternatives are much more compact and they only cost $50 and $99 respectively, compared to the Xbox’s $200-$400 price tag.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal it’s clear that Microsoft is serious about its non-gaming apps, but “a smaller, more stylish console would make the device even more welcome in the living room,” which could more effectively compete with other options.

Department of Justice Targets Publishers and Apple: E-Book Price Fixing?

  • Apple and five publishers are facing lawsuits for their adoption of an agency pricing model, “where the vendor takes a 30 percent cut of each sale rather than the wholesale model which allows stores to sell books at rock-bottom prices,” reports Engadget.
  • Three of the publishers — Simon & Schuster, Lagardère SCA’s Hachette Book Group and HarperCollins — have already made settlements with the Department of Justice.
  • “Apple and Macmillian have already denied any wrongdoing, saying that the agreements were enhancing competition in an industry previously dominated by Amazon,” explains Engadget.
  • “If successful, the DoJ will allow Amazon and Barnes and Noble amongst others to return to the wholesale model to sell best-sellers at a loss, something that the big five are desperate to avoid, and will look to fight the battle in court,” adds the post.

Spotify Offers Music to Sites Beyond Facebook with New Widget

  • Spotify is looking to expand its user base by using a new “play button” widget on Web pages. Sites can use the feature to run free music on their sites and Spotify will get numerous new promotion partners.
  • “The integrations echo the Spotify/Facebook partnership, where the widget works as a remote control for the Spotify software. But, just like the Spotify/Facebook link, it won’t do you any good if you don’t have the Spotify software on your machine,” AllThingsD explains.
  • If you don’t have the software running or have it at all, you have to click a couple of buttons to open or download it.
  • “Things would be a whole lot easier if you could just click a button and get Spotify streamed directly from the Web, and Spotify might end up there one day. For now, it can’t, because of both technical and biz-dev reasons,” the article reports.

Forecast: iPad and Other Tablet Sales to Approach 120 Million This Year

  • Research firm Gartner forecasts that tablet sales will hit 119 million in 2012, nearly doubling last year’s 60 million tablets across the world.
  • “Of those 119 million tablets, approximately 73 million, or 61 percent, will be iPads, Gartner predicts. The researcher thinks that the Apple device will continue to dominate the tablet market through 2016, despite increased competition from the likes of Amazon and Microsoft,” Mashable reports.
  • In 2012, Android tablet sales will only be about half of the iPad sales but the OS will catch up by 2016 when an estimated 137.6 million Android tablets will be sold, only slightly behind the forecasted 169.6 million iPads.
  • The study also found that enterprise will be a big sector for tablets, taking up 35 percent of all tablet sales in 2015.

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