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YouTube Jumps into the Live TV Streaming Fray
March 1, 2017
YouTube has jumped headfirst into the growing market for live streaming television with the announcement of YouTube TV, a service aimed squarely at cord cutters. The $35-a-month service will offer live sitcoms, dramas, news and sports from ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN, CW, Telemundo and other networks. It will include local TV stations offering news and sports in broadcast areas where customers live.
Facebook Gets More In-Your-Face
February 17, 2017
Facebook this week announced new features for News Feeds videos, along with an app for TV. News Feed videos now have sound turned on by default in mobile devices. This can be disabled in the Settings menu. A larger format to present vertical videos now is standard on iOS and Android devices. The feature became available as a preview last year. A Watch and Scroll feature lets users minimize the video they're watching and drag it to any corner of the screen.
Can Former Amazon Fire TV Exec Save Apple TV From Itself?
February 9, 2017
Apple has hired Tim Twerdahl, the former head of Amazon's Fire TV unit, in an effort to revive its struggling Apple TV business, which has been losing market share to rival streaming content services. Twerdahl reportedly joined Apple this month as VP in charge of product marketing for Apple TV, and the company shifted the unit's former head to a post responsible for negotiating content deals.
Facebook Aims to Carve Out a Spot in the Living Room
February 2, 2017
Facebook is working on a video app for set-top boxes, according to a Wednesday report. The social network wants to deliver longer-form video content -- and with it video ads -- to the living room TV, the one screen it has been unable to reach. The Facebook app soon could be available on a variety of set-top boxes, including Apple TV. The initiative reportedly began in earnest last summer, after incubating for years as a concept.
Netflix Surprises Itself With Gangbusters Membership Growth
January 20, 2017
Netflix generated $8.3 billion in global streaming revenue in 2016, with 35 percent year-over-year growth, it reported Wednesday. The company ended last year with 93.8 million members, including 19 million net additions -- up from 17.4 million new subscribers in 2015. Netflix's global revenue for the fourth quarter of 2016 grew by 41 percent year-over-year to $2.4 billion, and 7.05 million net new members joined during that time period.
Nintendo Banks on Switch Hit
January 14, 2017
Nintendo on Thursday announced the Nintendo Switch handheld gaming console, its long-awaited successor to the poorly received Wii 2. The $300 Switch will hit the streets March 3. Purchasers will get the console, two Joy-Con controllers, a Joy-Con Grip, a set of Joy-Con wrist straps, a Nintendo Switch dock, an HDMI cable and an AC adapter. The Switch can be used as an independent handheld player.
Apple May Show Up Fashionably Late at the Original TV Party
January 12, 2017
Apple reportedly plans to follow premium channels HBO and Showtime, as well as streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, in creating its own original TV shows and movies. The company may be negotiating agreements with veteran content producers to buy the rights to scripted television programs. It likely will offer its content through an over-the-top service similar to Netflix.
Gadget Ogling: The CES Spectacular Edition
January 12, 2017
Trust Razer to come up with something completely ridiculous that I need in my life immediately. Project Ariana is a projector that incorporates Razer's full-spectrum lighting system, Chroma. It uses a wide-angle lens to project images. Its 3D depth-sensing cameras detect objects in a room and adjust for them accordingly so that it still projects a flat image.
Nvidia Lays Out Bold Strategy at CES
January 6, 2017
Nvidia offered a bold new strategy at this week's International CES in Las Vegas. The company, which has been a leader in hardware graphics technology for decades, recently has expanded into the realms of artificial intelligence, deep learning and automotive tech. Graphical support and video delivery will however remain a key component of the company's strategy, according to Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang.
Netflix Offers Offline Option at Long Last
December 2, 2016
Giving in to years of customer pressure, Netflix has announced that a limited number of television shows and movies will be available for viewing offline without a live connection to the Internet. Customers have been asking for a way to view content on airplanes or other locations where Internet service might be unavailable or expensive, noted Eddy Wu, director of product innovation at Netflix.
Gadget Ogling: Big Bendy Screens, Chatterbox Robots, and TV in the Cloud
November 22, 2016
I'm at long last about to start setting up my new home office. Goodbye, Ikea dining table. Hello, fancy new desk. When I actually have my new setup, I'd like to have a monitor at long last to complement my laptop. AOC's latest is under serious consideration. The AG352QCX is a 35-inch, curved behemoth with two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI 2.0 input, VGA, DVI, audio in and out ports, and DisplayPort 1.2.
Tech on TV: A Little Realism Goes a Long Way
October 27, 2016
Watching TV shows often requires the suspension of disbelief -- that is, a willingness to press pause on one's critical faculties in order to believe the unbelievable. Realism often must be secondary to story, in other words. This very often is necessary when computers are used to advance plot lines, when programmers and hackers alike can produce tremendous results in seconds.
Battlefield 1: Big, Bombastic and Very Loosely Based
October 25, 2016
If filmmaker Michael Bay -- known for the Transformers and other over-the-top films -- were to decide to make a World War I movie, and if he chose to rely on comic books for research, the result would be very much like Electronic Arts' newly released video game Battlefield 1. This latest entry in the popular series moves the action from recent modern settings to the Great War.
Amazon Music Unlimited Rolls Gently Down the Stream
October 13, 2016
Amazon on Wednesday rolled out its Music Unlimited cut-rate subscription streaming service, available on its Echo, Echo Dot and Amazon Tap devices for as little as $4 a month for a single device. Setting a low-entry price point "is a logical move, given that the company has invested heavily into the AI and voice recognition powering Alexa," said IHS Markit analyst Paul Erickson.
Amazon Throws the Books at Prime Subscribers
October 13, 2016
Amazon last week launched Prime Reading -- a new benefit for subscribers to its US$100-a-year Amazon Prime service that lets them access content for free. That content will come from more than 1,000 top Kindle books, Kindle Singles, magazines, comic books, children's books, and classic works from writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer and Gloria Steinem.
Gadget Ogling: Google Embraces a Hardware Future
October 12, 2016
The first smartphones Google has made by itself, Pixel and Pixel XL, are the first to bear Android 7.1 and the first to have the impressive Google Assistant built in. The Pixel has a 5-inch HD screen, while the Pixel XL offers a 5.5-inch QHD display. The phones have a quad-core processor and 4 GB of RAM. I like that the fingerprint sensor is on the back.
Gadget Ogling: Streaming Merrily, Snapping Happily, and Listening My Way
October 1, 2016
Roku has refreshed its lineup of media players with lower prices, so bringing streaming video to every screen in your home just got a little more accessible. At the lower end, the Roku Express costs $30. The lineup includes $40, $50, $80 and $100 models with a variety of feature combinations. At $130, the Roku Ultra, pictured here, is the feature-loaded top-of-the-line option.
Music Industry Rebounds on Streaming Subscription Surge
September 23, 2016
The music industry is showing its best surge in revenue in nearly two decades, led by a major shift toward streaming subscription services by Apple, Spotify and others firms, according to a new mid-year report the RIAA released this week. The report shows an 8.1 percent gain in retail revenue to $3.4 billion during the first half of 2016, the strongest growth since the late 1990s.
Pandora Plus Trades Ad Views for Extra Features
September 16, 2016
Pandora on Thursday launched Pandora Plus, a replacement for its $5-a-month Pandora One streaming music service. The 4 million Pandora One subscribers will be switched over to Plus, which will continue to offer ad-free listening at the same price. However, Pandora Plus also offers an opt-in video advertising feature that lets users skip or replay songs. Plus also has an offline mode.
Echo Owners May Get Their Own Kind of Music
September 1, 2016
Amazon is planning two music subscription services, according to rumors that began circulating last week. One is a $10 a month offering that is similar to Spotify and Apple Music, and the other is a $4-$5 a month cut-rate service available only on Amazon's Echo device. Amazon reportedly wants to launch both in September, but it has yet to finalize deals with major music labels and publishers.
Intel's Kaby Lake Chip Promises Deeper Internet Immersion
August 31, 2016
Facing a shrinking market for personal computers and a stalled market for tablets, Intel on Tuesday unveiled its 7th-generation processors, code-named "Kaby Lake," which deliver more speed and power than its 6th-generation chipsets, while improving battery efficiency. Intel has positioned the new Kaby Lake chipsets as ideal for the immersive Internet.
Intel's Project Alloy Tosses Reality Into a Blender
August 17, 2016
Intel on Tuesday presented its virtual reality vision -- a vision that mixes virtual and real worlds into a kind of merged reality -- to developers attending a conference in San Francisco. Mixing reality and unreality sometimes can be a recipe for disaster, but Intel thinks it will be a formula for success. At the center of Intel's vision is its Project Alloy mobile headset and its cutting edge RealSense software.
Microsoft to Add Beam's Live-Streaming Skills to Xbox
August 16, 2016
Microsoft last week announced a deal to acquire live-streaming startup Beam. It plans to use Beam's interactive technology to enhance the Xbox Live experience. Beam, which was the winner of Techcrunch Disrupt earlier this year, has attracted a number of top investors, including Techstars, Courtside Ventures and Ore Ventures. The deal is designed to help make Xbox Live more social and fun.
No Man's Sky: The Universe So Far Feels Good
August 10, 2016
One of the most highly anticipated gaming titles ever, No Man's Sky from indie developer Hello Games, has arrived -- and it could have a major impact on the resurgent gaming world this season. The title made its PS4 debut on Tuesday in North America. It will be available for the PC on Friday. The long-awaited game takes players on a mind-bending journey of space exploration.
Time Warner Cable Really Doesn't Like Me
August 9, 2016
After surviving well over a year as a cord-cutter, I recently returned to the cable fold -- and after less than a month, I'm having major regrets. The problem isn't with the service itself or even with the pricing. The problem is with the lies. I wasn't entirely happy with my cord-cutting solution, but I wasn't eager to go back to a high-priced cable service either.
Apple Might Need to Think Different About TV
August 5, 2016
Apple's tough negotiating stance apparently has hobbled its efforts to bring entertainment industry companies on board with its planned streaming TV service. Talks with Disney, 21st Century Fox and CBS reportedly have fallen through. Had the entertainment and cable TV industry given in, Apple's demands would have turned current practices topsy-turvy.
Time Warner Bets Heavily on Hulu
August 4, 2016
Time Warner on Wednesday announced it has entered an agreement to buy a 10 percent stake in online-streaming service Hulu, in a bid to leverage its lineup of television and film content on multiple viewing platforms. With the new investment, Time Warner will join a joint venture that includes some of the nation's largest media companies, including The Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox and Comcast.
KickassTorrents Owner Faces 20-Plus Years in Stir
July 26, 2016
Polish authorities last week arrested the alleged owner of pirate website KickassTorrents, or KAT, 30-year-old Artem Vauln of Kharkiv, Ukraine. Vaulin faces charges in the United States of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, criminal copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Conspiracy to commit money laundering is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Netflix Shares Fall as Subscriber Growth Hits a Wall
July 20, 2016
Shares of Netflix fell sharply Tuesday after it reported lower-than-expected second quarter earnings, which the company blamed on subscriber growth that fell short of forecasts. Netflix added 1.7 million subscribers in the quarter, pushing its total membership to more than 83 million, the company told shareholders. However, that growth was far less than the 2.5 million it had projected.
Hackers Claim Credit for Pokemon Go No-Go
July 19, 2016
Pokemon Go, the augmented reality overnight sensation, experienced sluggish performance over the weekend, possibly from a hacker attack on its login servers. Shortly after Pokemon Go devs tweeted that the game was rolling out to 26 additional countries, this tweet appeared: "Trainers! We have been working to fix the server issues. ... We'll post an update soon."
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