Microsoft has filed a patent application outlining a new way to use the Kinect motion controller that could allow content creators to limit content or help cable providers target ads based on viewers.
“The patent has the ominous title of ‘Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User,'” Geek.com explains. “It details a system whereby the people sitting in view of a TV can be detected using cameras and sensors like those found in the Kinect motion controller.
“Once logged, the content provider can assess the audience and either choose to charge more for viewing the content or block access based on there being too many people.”
The post points out that cable providers could use the system to determine viewers’ ages in order to limit mature content or provide more relevant ads.
“But even so, this isn’t a system that would go down well with consumers, and how are they going to enforce its use? ‘This content can only be viewed with the Microsoft Kinect turned on’ is not a message I can see working as part of a content distribution system,” suggests the post.
“It’s no surprise the [Microsoft] team is continuing to figure out new ways to use the device, I just wish they were coming up with ideas that are a little less draconian.”
Once an Internet giant, AOL has dwindled as dial-up subscribers dropped off and Time Warner dropped the company. Now, CEO Tim Armstrong and executives have unveiled a new plan for the company, which could signal a major comeback.
“That strategy involves pruning the company into three operational units: a membership and subscription group; a ‘content brands group’ (Huffington Post, TechCrunch, etc.); and an advertising group,” reports paidContent.
“The first group,” the article continues, “amounts to a legacy unit that will presumably be spun off or milked for cash while the other two units could drive AOL’s re-emergence as a powerful media entity. According to Armstrong, advertisers are looking for ‘fewer, bigger partners’ that can distribute their messages on a massive scale. If he is right, AOL is well-poised to offer ad buyers what they want through its network of content providers, partners and ad platforms.”
AOL’s ad networks and video platforms have seen impressive growth, giving the company its best results in seven years.
Armstrong anticipates AOL’s video revenue to rise to $100 million in 2012 from just $10 million two years ago. The company claims it has risen to No. 2 in overall video views, trailing only YouTube.
“Finally, AOL predicts that 2013 will see more and more TV dollars pouring into its sprawling video properties… and that video will eventually overtake display dollars,” paidContent writes.
“If these predictions are even partly correct, it means that AOL has a leg up in the emerging (and lucrative) video ad market and that it will have to be less preoccupied with the problem of mobile media consumption that keeps up other publishers up at night,” the article concludes.
Internet radio provider Pandora has gained 150 million registered users in the U.S. but hasn’t been able to make a profit due to prohibitive music licensing fees. The company is now suing the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for “reasonable” fees.
“Pandora is seeking a blanket licensing fee that would cover all songs represented by the 435,000-member group,” Bloomberg reports.
Pandora and ASCAP had an experimental fee agreement from 2005 to 2010, which Pandora said was “effectively non-negotiable” and “ill-suited and not reasonable,” according to court papers. Following that arrangement, the two sides haven’t been able to reach another agreement, which leaves the decision to the U.S. District Court in New York.
However, ASCAP and the Radio Music Licensing Committee were able to come to a fee agreement, one that Pandora was not offered. The Radio Music Licensing Committee represents Clear Channel, which runs a rival Internet service called iHeartRadio.
“Pandora also claims that it’s entitled to lower rates because some large music publishers have announced they are withdrawing new media rights from ASCAP and negotiating licensing fees directly with Web radio services,” Bloomberg writes.
The proposed Internet Radio Fairness Act of 2012 could help to solve licensing disputes by requiring “music royalty rates for Web broadcasters to be comparable to what satellite radio and cable companies pay,” the article explains.
Last year, nearly half of Pandora’s revenues went to royalties — more than six times the percentage satellite radio Sirius XM paid. “For the six months that ended July 31, Pandora reported that its net loss increased to $25.6 million from $8.57 million a year earlier, while revenue rose 54 percent to $182 million,” notes the article.
Normally on opposing sides, top Silicon Valley companies are coming together with media giants and cable operators to resist the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Viacom, Disney, cable operators, a toy makers trade group and others have argued that the changes are so arduous that, “rather than enhance online protections for children, they threaten to deter companies from offering children’s Web sites and services altogether,” reports The New York Times.
“But the underlying concern, for both the industry and regulators,” the article continues, “is not so much about online products for children themselves. It is about the data collection and data mining mechanisms that facilitate digital marketing on apps and Web sites for children — and a debate over whether these practices could put children at greater risk.”
The update would institute persistent ID systems and require further parental permissions for data collection for ads.
Alan L. Friel, chairman of the media and technology practice at Edwards Wildman Palmer law firm, rebuts concerns that tracking is inherently bad.
“What is the harm we are trying to prevent here?” he asks. “We risk losing a lot of the really good educational and entertaining content if we make things too difficult for people to operate the sites or generate revenue from the sites.”
“The economic issue at stake is much bigger than just the narrow children’s audience,” suggests the article. “If the F.T.C. were to include customer code numbers among the information that requires a parent’s consent, industry analysts say, it might someday require companies to get similar consent for a practice that represents the backbone of digital marketing and advertising — using such code numbers to track the online activities of adults.”
During ShowEast’s International Day in Hollywood, Florida, media executives discussed the pressing need to convert from film to digital projection.
“I don’t know when the end [of film] will be, but it could be tomorrow,” said Mark Christiansen, executive VP of operations at Paramount Pictures. “It won’t be a studio decision… there simply won’t be stock.”
Christiansen explained that Fuji no longer takes film orders and Agfa has also stopped producing film, “to the best of my knowledge,” he said.
“That leaves Kodak,” Christiansen continued, noting the company’s battle with bankruptcy. “The judge could look at 35mm tomorrow and ask them to stop doing it. And they won’t have a choice.”
In Latin America, this evolution could be problematic with less than half of the region’s 10,000 screens being digital.
Speakers at the conference also discussed delivery methods, favoring satellite distribution over hard drives. However, physical delivery may get a second wind as capacity increases and prices decrease.
“We think satellite is the best choice for now,” said Randolph Blotky, chairman and CEO of Technology Convergence Partners. “Once they figure out how to deliver IP streams point to multipoint, you are going to see a lot of delivery that way.”
If you don’t know what a MOOC is, you soon will as massive open online courses continue to proliferate through higher education, attracting noteworthy numbers of students as well as top universities.
“I like to call this the year of disruption and the year is not over yet,” says Anant Agarwal, president of non-profit educational startup edX, which has 370,000 students enrolled this fall.
Another MOOC provider Coursera launched this January and has already attracted 1.7 million users, growing faster than Facebook according to founder and Stanford professor Andrew Ng.
“MOOCs have been around for a few years as collaborative techie learning events,” notes The New York Times, “but this is the year everyone wants in. Elite universities are partnering with Coursera at a furious pace. It now offers courses from 33 of the biggest names in postsecondary education, including Princeton, Brown, Columbia and Duke. In September, Google unleashed a MOOC-building online tool, and Stanford unveiled Class2Go with two courses.”
Many courses see a high number of signups, but a smaller number of certificates awarded as students drop off. There is also limited faculty interaction because of the volume of students, so users have to rely more heavily on other students for help.
“But the vibe is decidedly Facebook — build a profile, upload your photo — with tools for students to plan ‘meet-ups’ with Courserians in about 1,400 cities worldwide,” explains the article. “These gatherings may be bona fide study groups or social sessions. Membership may be many or sparse.”
The MOOCs also peer-source the grading; each student grades five others’ work and scores for each user are averaged out. Those who give inaccurate grades are flagged and their scores count for less. Cheating has been a concern, leading to proctored exams.
With various freemium alternatives, it seems that consumers aren’t as willing to pay for content. However, a new study from Forrester suggests otherwise, finding that the number of people in western Europe purchasing digital content will grow by eight to 12 percent in five years.
The findings predict that by 2017, 20 percent of tablet users in western Europe will pay for news; the number of people who pay for online games will increase 27 percent; digital content will account for 60 percent of video-buying; and the number of music subscribers will double.
“The boom will be fueled partly by the currently-radiating explosion in new devices designed for media consumption, many with attractive built-in payment mechanisms,” paidContent reports.
“The potential impact on marketers is huge,” says Forrester analyst Darika Ahrens. “Successful online content providers no longer need to rely on ad spend. (There will be) fewer chances to reach consumers with ads.”
“She says marketers should respond by building their own content channels, sponsoring content packages within a paid content environment and otherwise start advertising as though it were creating content for end consumers,” explains the article.
“The consequence of such a model is that as more content becomes marketer-created, disclosures describing the relationship between advertiser and publisher must be visible to readers, who are as used to the traditional church-and-state separation of editorial and commercial as content producers themselves are.”
The article notes some companies that offer subscriptions still rely on advertising revenue, like Hulu and the Financial Times. Even so, ad rates and premium ad opportunities are shrinking as advertising becomes available on more websites.
Microsoft is betting big on “Halo 4,” the latest installment of the popular Xbox 360 game, a series many gamers thought had concluded with “Halo 3.”
To convince consumers that “Halo” lives on and to advertise today’s debut, Microsoft has ramped up promotion. The company has launched a slick two-minute trailer from director David Fincher (included in article). Microsoft has also teamed up to put out “Halo”-themed Mountain Dew, Doritos and Axe deodorant, targeting the predominantly male gaming demographic.
The upcoming game is only available on the Xbox console, unlike its rival “Call of Duty,” which is also available on Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s new Wii U.
“The intense competition has put pressure on the ‘Halo’ developers to make sure the game arrives on time,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Microsoft estimates a week of lost momentum could wipe out roughly a third of projected ‘Halo’ sales.”
“‘Halo 4,’ with roughly 340 employees working on the project, cost about $40 million to produce, more than twice the industry average, estimates Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities,” notes the article. “That compares to Internet games which can have development teams a fraction of that size and cost as little as $1 million to $5 million. Some mobile games are created by single developers in a matter of months with almost no investment.”
Development of “Halo 4” started in 2008 but just 19 weeks before launch, only about a fourth of the game was ready for shipment. Improved technology helped game makers create a more realistic and rich game but slowed the game down. Numerous bugs also plagued developers.
Google Wallet promised quick, seamless payments by replacing credit cards with smartphones. But the tap and pay technology is not widely available at check outs and “let’s face it, tap payments are rarely painless anyway,” comments Android Police.
A leaked version of the Google Wallet app shows that Google has come up with a solution: a physical Google Wallet card that will work just like a regular credit card wherever major cards are accepted. Users select a default card on the Wallet app and the Wallet card will charge that account.
“The physical Wallet card could make carrier approval for Wallet a thing of the past unless you want to use tap payments,” suggests the post. “Google could publish a version of the Wallet app without NFC permissions that just allows you to switch between your cards, that could be installed on any phone (even iOS or Windows Phone, theoretically), and you just use the Wallet card for payments.”
Users can order their card through the app and have it mailed to their home.
“Other awesome new features are coming to Wallet as well,” the article continues. “The ability to deposit and withdraw money to and from a ‘Wallet Balance’ is being added (hopefully, this will integrate with the Play Store), as well as person to person money transfers. Transit cards? Wallet’s got transit cards.”
Android Police suggests the updated app will “reduce the chance of rival mobile payment systems of catching on,” giving Google a lead on competing systems.
ARM controls much of the mobile chip world, while Intel has dominated the server world. Now, ARM is looking to put cellphone chips in supercomputers and Intel is working on integrating supercomputer capabilities into smartphones.
With its experimental Single-chip Cloud Computer, or SCC, Intel hopes to turn smartphones into supercomputers in the next five years. The company is looking into possible mobile applications for SCC and is creating tools for developers to take advantage of the technology.
“Intel Labs has been working on many-core chips since around 2004,” Wired explains, “and the more immediate applications will probably be in servers and, yes, supercomputers, which are essentially a bunch of servers working in tandem. This is often called high-performance computing, or HPC.”
“HPC depends on parallel processing — breaking down big problems into smaller problems that are solved by different processors running in parallel,” the article continues. “What Intel Labs is now researching is whether this approach will make sense for mobile computing.”
The technology could be used in augmented reality applications and rendering 3D graphics for games.
The distinction between mobile hardware and data-center hardware is fading as big data-center operations look for ultra-low-power profiles of cellphones and mobile devices strive for the computational power of larger systems.
ARM’s challenge to Intel’s SCC is its new chip called Atlas that aspires to launch ARM into the server world.
Twitter has a new policy for responding to DMCA copyright notices that aims to provide more transparency.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act does not hold companies like Twitter or Google responsible for copyrighted material that their users post; however, it does require the companies to take down the content when they receive copyright complaints. Users can then counter the notice to get their content reinstated.
Previously, Twitter would simply remove the content without providing any public notice of copyright notices. Now the company is “withdrawing” tweets, replacing them with a statement explaining the takedown.
“This is important to reporters and scholars who use Twitter as a news source and now have an explanation when a piece of news vanishes due to copyright reasons,” notes GigaOM. “This is consistent with other efforts by Twitter to shine light on a copyright process that critics say is susceptible to abuse by content owners.”
After Twitter withdraws the tweet, it also sends the requests to the Chilling Effects clearinghouse for online publication, according to a Twitter spokesman.
“The new Twitter policy comes as both Internet companies and copyright owners are growing frustrated with the existing DMCA regime,” GigaOM writes.
“On one hand, content creators say it is too much effort to track and send DMCA notices for each infringement. On the other hand, rights owners may be growing trigger happy with notices; Google, for instance, is now receiving more than 1 million copyright requests a month, some of which are not justified and can create a ‘chilling effect’ for users.”
Facebook is developing a classifieds application for its users to help them engage with each other, expand their social circles and sell that couch.
“The new tool, which is tentatively called Marketplace… would allow users to create short advertisements that appear in their friends’ news feeds notifying them of everything from apartment rentals to furniture sales to job boards,” reports The Daily. “In short, practically anything you do on Craigslist can be done with this new service.”
For some ads — like those for a couch — users may have to pay a small fee (likely under $5) for the post to show in friends’ news feeds. “The new ads could include multiple photos and links to external resources. Users can also elect to ‘share’ a post on their own timeline,” expanding the message’s reach, the article explains.
The tool helps Facebook users create posts for targeted audiences, based on location or other criteria. For example, if a user is sharing a career opportunity, the ad could be restricted to those who have a Master’s degree.
“But it’s the projects section that is maybe the most interesting,” The Daily suggests. “Similar to Craigslist’s Gigs section, it would let users post tips and information about a variety of topics from clearing brush to installing WordPress. It would also let people share ‘ideas,’ or broadly scoped ventures they’d like to flesh out with help.”
Imagine having a wireless Internet connection everywhere. That’s what the Electronic Frontier Foundation and nine other groups in the Open Wireless Movement coalition hope to see as they advocate for universal sharing of Internet access.
“We envision a world where sharing one’s Internet connection is the norm,” EFF Activist Adi Kamdar said in a press release. “A world of open wireless would encourage privacy, promote innovation, and benefit the public good, giving us network access whenever we need it. And everyone – users, businesses, developers, and Internet service providers – can get involved to help make it happen.”
There have been concerns about security and legal responsibility on open networks, which the Open Wireless Movement website tries to address. The FAQs discuss Transport Layer Security (TLS), WPA2 and other Wi-Fi security protections.
As for legal liability for others’ illegal activity on the network, the coalition’s site simply says it doesn’t think it will be a problem and links to a longer explanation. “The detailed explanation isn’t much more reassuring than ‘we don’t think so,'” Network World writes.
Also on the site are how-to tips for users, small businesses, ISPs and developers. Many ISPs don’t allow open sharing, but the Open Wireless Movement provides a list of those that do, saying all ISPs should just be open.
HTML5 promises to allow web-based apps to run on any device, regardless of operating system. But as it stands now, native platform-dependent apps remain dominant, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has openly criticized HTML5 as inadequate.
That said, Business Insider Intelligence has published a report that supports the idea that HTML 5 will eventually surpass native apps.
“It’s currently less good than native apps at lots of things,” the report concedes. “But the technology is improving. And it is cheaper to produce HTML5 apps than native apps. Over time, the new, cheaper technology of HTML5 will get better and better, and as it does it will start to eat the rest of the market.”
Ad/subscription-based apps that display text, images and video can be created more effectively and inexpensively with HTML5, BI Intelligence concludes. As such, media apps and “access” apps that provide mobile access to existing accounts (like banks) will benefit most from this new standard. These apps will also be the jumping off point for HTML5 with gaming apps expected to follow suit later.
“Shell” or “wrapper” apps will also help the expansion of HTML5. These apps get the “best of both worlds” by having a native “shell” that allows them to be sold in platform-specific app stores but operating entirely with HTML5, the article explains.
“But, it will still take a while,” BI concludes. “HTML5 comes from a consortium, which means the technology will evolve slowly. It still isn’t ready for prime time, as there are many things that HTML5 apps just can’t do right now…So HTML5 will likely progressively replace apps as the feature set improves…”
Despite expectations that Apple will revolutionize television, HDNet founder Mark Cuban says in an AdWeek interview that he doesn’t see Apple making game-changing content deals with programmers for its Apple TV set-top box.
“I think there is zero chance of that happening. Apple tries to do everything on commission. It’s not big on upfront deals, and I don’t see that changing,” Cuban says. “Apple has always been about leveraging content to sell hardware and software. In order to get a return on a pay-up-front-for-content deal, they would have to sell a lot of high-margin products that have yet to be introduced.”
He does, however, say that Apple has the opportunity to push out competitors like Xbox, Roku, Boxee and connected TVs.
“Having a set-top box that uses a TV-ready version of iOS that changes the paradigm for user interfaces would create a platform from which Apple could sell content and integrate new options. I don’t think there is any doubt that if Apple released a set-top box that supported authentication for multichannel video programming distributors (like cable and satellite companies), it would be a huge success,” he says.
“If Apple succeeds at fully integrating its products with cable and satellite companies to facilitate both authentication and programming guides, it’s game over [for competitors],” he continues.
Cuban agreed that many technology companies that have tried to reinvent the TV business have been halted by programmers that require huge up-front cash commitments.
He also said Microsoft’s Xbox is poised to do well as a set-top box but he says the company might wait to see how the Apple TV pans out – and then try to improve upon it.