Update: Apple Considering a Bid for Hulu Video Service

  • In the latest installment of the ongoing Hulu saga, Bloomberg reports Apple is “considering making a bid” for the online video service.
  • Apple would join Google, Yahoo, AT&T and others who have expressed interest (Microsoft has reportedly dropped out of the bidding).
  • With $76 billion in cash and securities, an expected $2 billion bid would not be too difficult for Apple. If so, analysts suggest this would give Apple a leading subscription service that would rival, if not surpass, the Netflix service.
  • “Part of the ecosystem of Apple’s future is to include more video,” said Scott Sutherland, Wedbush Securities analyst (who recommends buying the stock). “It’s something they are focused on.”

Update: Microsoft Drops Out of Auction for Hulu Service

  • Microsoft has reportedly dropped out of the bidding for Hulu and would not continue into a second round, according to “a person with knowledge of the matter.” (Although the individual did not rule out the possibility of Microsoft re-entering in a later round.)
  • Google, Yahoo, AT&T and as many as eight other companies remain interested in the online video service.
  • According to Business Insider, Yahoo is willing to spend up to $2 billion if it can get content rights for the next four or five years.
  • It has been reported that Hulu plans to offer five years of access to content from its media company owners (Disney, News Corp. and Comcast’s NBC Universal), including two years of exclusivity.

Google+ Hangouts Can Provide Two-Way Broadcasts

  • Indie pop singer Daria Musk held a six hour live concert over the weekend from a Connecticut recording studio on Google+ Hangouts with her fans and followers from all over the world.
  • Unfortunately, the one major constraint was that only ten people at a time could join Musk’s Hangout (others were told to try joining again later).
  • According to GigaOM, audience members (including a Google engineering director) “figured out an impromptu way of daisy-chaining Hangouts, making it possible for others to join in on the fun by joining connected video chats. This type of Hangouts relay was a quick hack, something to deal with the fact that Google has restricted the number of live participants in Hangouts to ten — but it also hints at an interesting opportunity for Google to utilize Hangouts as a way to turn live online broadcasting into a two-way medium, that is capable of real audience interaction.”
  • Musk’s comments after the concert: “I have to tell you that I never really felt I belonged in the places I’ve been in… I’ve always dreamed of seeing the world, meeting people from all over, being a global girl, a global artist… Finding my tribe… I found you last night. Thank you for finding me.”

Three Weeks After Launch, Google+ Now Available for iPhone

  • Google launched its new Google+ social network June 28th, and an Android app was made immediately available.
  • Three weeks later, Apple finally approved the official Google+ app for iOS (until Tuesday, iPhone users had to access a mobile Web version in Safari).
  • Similar to the Web version, Google+ for iPhone includes Circles (stream of updates from a user’s contacts) and Huddle (for group messaging within a user’s circles).
  • Google+ for iOS works on the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 (running iOS 3.1 or later). A dedicated iPad version has yet to be announced.

Facebook Plans to Launch News Platform: Facebook Editions

  • Facebook is planning a new service called “Facebook Editions” that creates app versions of popular news outlets.
  • CNN, The Daily and the Washington Post are a few of around a dozen news outlets that have already signed on.
  • The recently released Google+, which already has 10 million users, reportedly has a similar idea in the works.
  • Both the Facebook and Google service have a potentially significant obstacle to face: paywalls (New York Times is holding back for the time being due to complications with this issue).
  • Look for Facebook Editions as a new feature of the social networker possibly by September.

Google+ Business Test Program will Move Up its Schedule

  • Google had originally planned to test business partners on Google+ sometime in the coming months, but strong interest has led to the company possibly announcing partners as early as next week.
  • Christian Oestlien, group product manager at Google, wrote this week that “thousands upon thousands” of businesses are interested in using Google+. And as a result, the demand “has got us very focused on accelerating our business plans.”
  • Several businesses — including Ford, Breaking News and Mashable — have already moved ahead by creating Google+ profiles for their brands.
  • Businesses interested in a partnership are being asked to submit their applications by Friday, July 15.

Dragon Go! provides Targeted Voice-Powered Search Results

  • Dragon Go! — a new voice-powered search app from Nuance Communications — is looking to join Google and Bing as a top search engine for mobile devices. (Nuance also offers the popular Dragon Dictation transcription program and a more generic voice search app called Dragon Search.)
  • Although not the first voice-activated search service available, Dragon Go is unique in that it identifies which ideal application to use for each query. For example, if “Play R.E.M.” is searched, Dragon Go will open Pandora — but if movie tickets are searched for, Fandango will open.
  • Nuance developed an open architecture geared toward including all types of vertical queries. It presently supports more than 180 services such as Yelp, Wikipedia, Pandora, IMDb, Fandango, OpenTable and Google.
  • The free app is currently available via Apple’s App Store and works on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Android OS Could Prove Big Business for Microsoft

  • Android is the global leader in smartphone platforms with over 500,000 daily activations, serving as an obvious advantage for Google.
  • However, Android’s success is also becoming a boon for Microsoft, which has negotiated agreements with several Android licensees to settle patent infringement claims, providing $5-10 for each device shipped.
  • With the potential of 500,000 activations per day, this could amount to $1 billion in value to Microsoft.
  • This amount would exceed the value of their Windows 7 and Bing businesses currently.

Insiders Say Netflix Not Interested in Acquiring Hulu

  • Netflix is reportedly not among the handful of companies currently considering a purchase of Hulu.
  • Sources “familiar with the matter” indicate Netflix was absent from the first round of bidding presentations that concluded last week.
  • The same sources also suggest that Hulu has no interest in seeing its biggest rival take it over.
  • Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo are reportedly still among the companies interested in the TV streaming service.

Google Continues to Push its Social Networking Efforts

  • Eric Schmidt, executive chairman and former CEO of Google, says his company is continuing to experience strong demand for invitations to the new social network, Google+.
  • As previously reported on ETCentric, the network allows people to share links and media with others they have divided into “circles” of relationships.
  • If demand continues, Google will be looking at applying the social “circles” relationships to its search functionality and YouTube.
  • On Hulu, which Google is rumored to be bidding for, Schmidt explained that if there were any sort of deal, Hulu’s current TV shows would complement, not replace, YouTube’s online-only content.

Most Popular Smartphone Platforms: Android, iOS, BlackBerry

  • Google’s Android continues its lead over all other smartphone platforms, according to the latest quarterly report from comScore.
  • However, Apple has overtaken Research In Motion’s BlackBerry for second place among U.S. smartphone software providers.
  • Android grew from 33 percent to 38.1 percent, while Apple grew to 26.6 percent and RIM declined to 24.7 percent.
  • Microsoft and Palm both showed declines as well.
  • In terms of handsets, Samsung currently leads with 24.8 percent of the smartphones in circulation while Motorola remains in second place.

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.

Google Misses Out on Nortel Patent Portfolio

  • Google missed out on the $4.5 billion auction for Nortel’s patents, losing to a consortium made up of Apple, Microsoft, EMC, Ericsson, RIM, and Sony.
  • Google’s loss of the patent portfolio puts its Android platform at a disadvantage, and the company will not have access to over 6,000 patents covering a range of technologies.
  • It has been reported that Google may respond with a Restraint of Trade suit in an attempt to force the consortium to license some or all of the patents.
  • The consortium’s participants will likely take key patents for their own use. For example, Apple’s $2 billion may give it ownership of Nortel’s LTE (4G) patents.

MySpace Efforts May Have Cost News Corp. More Than Millions

  • ETCentric reported earlier in the week that social networking site MySpace would be sold to Irvine-based advertising firm Specific Media for $35 million in cash and stock.
  • Although News Corp. has claimed that its Google ad deals helped curb MySpace losses over the recent years, others suggest a darker picture.
  • The sale of MySpace for a mere 6 percent of its original $580 million purchase price may be yet another chapter in a disappointing tale, one which started with a failed attempt to build an all-service media empire.
  • Ars Technica suggests that when considering the entire picture, including the operating losses over the years, the MySpace acquisition may have cost News Corp. well over $1 billion (read the article for a breakdown of the math).
  • Specific Media, with Justin Timberlake as a backer, is expected to focus on music for MySpace’s new direction.

Google Launches WDYL.com: What Do You Love?

  • Google quietly launched WDYL.com this week, a new site that presents search results across 20 different products/widgets on one page.
  • The acronym asks the question: “What do you love?”
  • WDYL.com was launched without fanfare or marketing, and while little more is known about it at this time, a box at the bottom of each search result suggests: “More coming soon.”
  • According to TechCrunch: “The most striking thing about the new site is that it seems pretty well designed — not always a given with Google.”