New Direction: Apple Pulls The Plug on TV Rentals from iTunes

  • There has been a fair amount of recent press regarding changes to Apple’s TV rental offerings. Peter Kafka, reporting for The Wall Street Journal, writes: “Apple has completely removed customers’ ability to rent shows from iTunes; the remaining options are to buy individual episodes or in some cases a ‘Season Pass’ for a year’s worth of shows.”
  • Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr says people prefer buying TV shows instead of renting, which not surprisingly may be more in line with the needs of customers interested in Apple’s cloud initiatives. “iTunes in the Cloud lets customers download and watch their past TV purchases from their iOS devices, Apple TV, Mac or PC allowing them to enjoy their programming whenever and however they choose,” Neumayr said.
  • According to a Fox statement: “After carefully considering the results of the rental trial, it became clear that content ownership is a more attractive long-term value proposition both for iTunes customers and for our business. To further enhance the value of ownership, we are working with Apple to make content available within their new cloud-based service.”

Broadcasters Beginning to Adopt Cloud-Based Services

  • Some TV broadcasters are beginning to embrace cloud-based tools and services for graphics, asset management, back-office functions and document and video storage.
  • While these broadcasters are attracted by cost savings and increased efficiency, others reportedly remain skeptical, citing security concerns when services are tapped via the public Web.
  • Among the early adopters, according to TVNewsCheck: “Gannett Broadcasting and Scripps Television. Both use Chyron’s AXIS cloud-based system for all their news-producing stations and both report that the service works reliably, saves money and has helped speed production and distribution of graphics among the stations.”
  • John King, Bitcentral’s VP of engineering, predicts broadcasters’ reluctance to use the cloud for all applications will dissipate. “Eighteen months ago I’d hear the term cloud every two months. Today, I hear the term multiple times a day,” says King. “I predict it will be accepted in three years … and we’ll see widespread deployment in less than five years.”

Federal Ruling on Cloud Music: Happy Days for Apple, Google and Amazon

  • A federal judge has ruled that online music services that host tracks in the cloud are not liable if that music has been acquired illegally by customers. ETCentric reported earlier this week that this may seem like a hollow victory for the record labels. However, a green light for online music locker services also provides some legal certainty for the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon.
  • “The judgement, by U.S. District Judge William Pauley, came in a case involving EMI and fourteen other record companies and music publishers, who had sued the service MP3tunes,” reports MacUser. “Judge Pauley explained that MP3tunes and its chief executive, Michael Robertson, had not breached the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in allowing downloads.”
  • “This is a huge victory. Users can still download songs from publicly available websites, and store them without a separate license fee, so long as MP3tunes complies with takedown notices,” says Greg Gulia, representing MP3tunes and Robertson.
  • This ruling should also come as good news to those companies investing in cloud-based music services. For example, Apple’s iTunes Match is due in the U.S. later this year. According to MacUser: “It will scan users’ iTunes libraries and allow them to access versions of tracks in their library, but not purchased from iTunes, online in iCloud. Tracks purchased in iTunes are automatically available to computers and mobile devices associated with an iTunes account. If no match is found, users will be able to upload the track themselves.”

Internet Radio for Vehicles Set To Explode: Pandora Driving Demand

  • The number of vehicles worldwide with Internet radio service is projected to grow from 168,000 in 2010 to 24 million in 2018, according to IHS iSuppli.
  • U.S. sales alone are expected to move from 149,000 to 10.9 million during the same period.
  • “The next several years will see an explosion in the use of in-vehicle apps in cars, driven by booming shipments of automobiles employing head units designed to integrate Cloud-based content,” says IHS. “These apps, whether built into cars or provided via connected mobile devices like smartphones, will provide a range of infotainment, entertainment, remote diagnostics and navigation services. Internet radio is expected to lead the in-vehicle app revolution.”
  • The study concludes that the following are currently driving demand: Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker and Spotify (and in the Cloud: Apple’s iCloud, Google Music and Amazon’s Cloud Drive).

Google Goes Live with Music Discovery Site Magnifier

  • Three months after Google launched its cloud-based Music Beta, the company has introduced a new music discovery site called Magnifier.
  • According to the Official Google Blog: “Magnifier will feature great music and the people who make it, including videos of live performances, interviews with artists, explorations of different musical genres and free songs that you can add to your Music Beta collection.”
  • To kick-off Magnifier this week, Google is featuring indie rockers My Morning Jacket. “We’re giving away two of their tracks to Music Beta users, one of which is an exclusive to Magnifier: a live performance of ‘The Day is Coming.’ To get these free tracks and hundreds of other songs in our Free Song Archive, you need a Music Beta by Google account (if you don’t have an account, request an invitation).”
  • There is no mention that Google analyzes your Music Beta library to suggest new songs, but they certainly could do so.

Review: Gizmodo Selects the Best Cloud Storage Services

  • Gizmodo takes an in-depth look at 11 popular cloud storage services and provides analysis of each based on pricing, features and functionality.
  • This is a great bird’s-eye view for those who may be wondering what makes each service distinct.
  • The site picks SugarSync as the clear winner, which offers 5GB of free storage and has plans ranging from 30-500GB starting at $50 a year.
  • “It combines the best bits of all of the other services and weaves it together into a fast and intuitive package,” reports Gizmodo about SugarSync. “It worked exactly like we wanted to. Super powerful, super easy, and tons of features.”
  • Additional top services include Google (Budget Winner), Microsoft SkyDrive (Free Winner) and Dropbox (Your Mom’s Winner).

New Philips HDTVs Will Access Cloud Games and Set-Top Functions

  • Philips announced it will be including streaming set-top and gaming functions in some of its new HDTV sets.
  • The Philips 4000 and 5000 series, which use the CloudTV platform of ActiveVideo Networks, can access cloud-based games streamed as MPEG files.
  • Both lines will include Philips MediaConnect, that enables wirelessly connecting the TV and PC.
  • Other features include NetTV (offering services such as Netflix, VUDU, Facebook, Film Fresh, Pandora and Twitter), V-tuner Internet radio and built-in Wi-Fi support.
  • The 4000 series features six screen sizes, ranging from 19 to 55 inches, while the 5000 series adds another 10 screens, from 40 to 55 inches.

Federal Agency Cuts Costs by Moving Email to the Cloud

  • U.S. General Services Administration (that oversees the bulk of purchasing and acquisitions for the federal government) is the first federal agency to migrate its email systems completely into the cloud.
  • Unisys recently completed moving GSA’s 17,000 employee email accounts into the Google Apps for Government email client.
  • According to Digital Trends, “Unisys claims the move should save the GSA about 50 percent over the infrastructure, maintenance and personnel costs of an in-house email system. The change is part of a federal effort to save around $3 billion over the next five years by shutting down 40 percent of the federal government’s costly data centers.”
  • Nextgov.com reports an additional 15 agencies — including the USDA, NOAA and the Army — have plans to move into the cloud.

Logitech Takes to the Cloud with Mobile Video Meetings

  • Logitech’s LifeSize division — headquartered in Austin, Texas — is looking to the cloud in an effort to extend its videoconferencing reach.
  • The company is introducing the $1,499 LifeSize Passport Connect, a new videoconferencing system that integrates with the company’s cloud-based LifeSize Connections service.
  • The high-defintion endpoint system is built around a Logitech webcam and is priced below other LifeSize end systems.
  • Logitech also announced it has acquired Italian mobile video company, Mirial, which offers videoconferencing clients for PCs, Macs, and an array of mobile devices such as Android tablets, iPads and iPhones.
  • The company plans to integrate Mirial’s clients into LifeSize Connections.

AFTRA Ratifies Residuals for Streaming Video Games

  • A new contract was recently ratified by members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) that will provide performers who work on video games a onetime payment when games are streamed over the Internet.
  • The so-called “cloud gaming fee” is the first of its kind, and resolves a longstanding dispute over compensation for the remote delivery of video games.
  • The union represents some 70,000 actors, recording artists and broadcasters.
  • AFTRA’s sister union SAG has yet to negotiate a new video game contract.

Ford Demonstrates the First Private Cloud Vehicle

  • Ford recently demonstrated a “short-range” Wi-Fi network that allows vehicles to communicate in a private cloud with other vehicles.
  • One key application is to alert drivers of potential crash situations in time to allow them to respond. The cloud technology has significant advantages over radar systems.
  • The technology could also enable communication with a traffic management system to help avoid traffic jams, thereby saving time and fuel.
  • Ford hopes to have its intelligent car technology in production as early as 2013.

UltraViolet Opens Licensing Platform, DECE Adds New Members

  • UltraViolet, the cloud-based service that enables consumers to view content across multiple devices, has opened its licensing platform to content, technology and distribution partners.
  • It also welcomed eight new members to its governing consortium, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), including Blockbuster and Walmart’s VUDU. DECE now includes more than 70 members in ten countries.
  • DECE explained that consumers can expect to start seeing UltraViolet physical media and sell-through content by fall.
  • UltraViolet is intended to make the digitization process more efficient for content creators and to simplify consumer ownership by eliminating the current roadblocks to moving content between systems.
  • For example, a single digital movie purchase could be viewed on a TV, on a desktop PC, and on a portable device (up to six family members can use the same UltraViolet account).
  • According to a related article from paidContent: “Interoperability is the most critical challenge for the digital ecosystem to overcome, and there’s a lot riding on UltraViolet. If the big studios and their partners can’t provide a system for viewing content across platforms that’s simple and relatively inexpensive, digital piracy may continue to ‘solve’ the interoperability problem for them.”

Amazon Announces Cloud Drive and Cloud Player Updates

  • Amazon announced several notable enhancements to its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player service this week.
  • The Cloud Player is finally available for the iPad and has been optimized for Safari (joining existing apps for the Android phone, Android tablet, Mac, and PC).
  • New customers who register for the annual $20/20GB plan will receive unlimited space for music tracks.
  • Cloud Drive users can also store all of their previously Amazon-purchased MP3s for free.

Cloud Music Services Continue to Face Legal Questions

  • The legal debate continues regarding the divergent approaches to cloud-based music lockers proposed by Amazon, Google and Apple.
  • The 2008 Cablevision decision in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals allowed for a remote DVR feature (when done at the direction of users and separate copies were stored for each user as would be done for an in-home DVR). The decision is the strongest legal case for a music locker service.
  • EMI’s current suit against MP3tunes.com will also impact the situation. EMI asserts that music locker services must remove material if they become “aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent.”
  • While Apple has signed agreements with the major labels, it has not yet done so with smaller labels.
  • According to Ars Technica: “Either Apple wasted millions of dollars on licenses it doesn’t need, or Amazon and Google are vulnerable to massive copyright lawsuits.”
  • Google and Amazon will assert their rights under DMCA Safe Harbor and the Cablevision case. In addition, they may have some protection under rights they have to sell music through their online stores.

Plizy: Cloud-Based Video Discovery and Recommendation Platform

  • Plizy is a new cloud-based discovery and recommendation platform for Internet video.
  • The company currently offers an iPad app and will soon roll out to other devices.
  • The app makes recommendations from 300 Web “channels” based on an individual’s video habits, interests and social graph.
  • It downloads content for later viewing where they have agreements with owners.
  • The company is signing deals with content owners for quality content.
  • “You can enjoy TED, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook at the same place. And we are adding something new in the coming days, which is the ability to download some content, so you will be able to download TED videos [for example] and watch them on the plane or the bus or in a train. So we’re trying to push the experience, the discovery, and the access to the best content,” explains Jonathan Benassaya, founder and CEO of Plizy.

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