Former Segment Host
Current UpStream Contributor
Current Product Reviewer
With over ten years of audio engineering experience, Nick's addition to the PLuGHiTz Corporation is best served when he is behind the mixing board every Sunday night to produce the audio side of their PLuGHiTz Live! Radio show. While mixing live every week, his previous radio show hosting experience gives him the ability to co-host as well, giving each show a unique flare with his slightly off-center, yet still realistic take on all things tech. An integral part of the show, you can find Nick always enveloped in coming up with new (and sometimes crazy) ideas and content for the show and you can always expect the most direct opinion on the stories that he feels need to be shared with the world. During the few hours where Nick isn't sleeping or working on ways to improve the company, he spends his free time going to hockey and football games and playing the latest titles on Xbox 360. Email him for his gamertag and add him today for a fun escape from the normal monotony and annoyance that the Xbox LIVE gaming community can sometimes be!
Recent UpStream Articles
posted Sunday Aug 24, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo
Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO and now the owner of the NBA's LA Clippers, has officially stepped down as a board member with Microsoft this week, effective immediately. In an open letter to new CEO Satya Nadella, Ballmer mentions that his six month mark of retirement is coming up and he's had a lot of time to reflect on what he's done and what he wants to do moving forward.
Given my confidence and the multitude of new commitments I am taking on now, I think it would be impractical for me to continue to serve on the board, and it is best for me to move off. The fall will be hectic between teaching a new class and the start of the NBA season so my departure from the board is effective immediately.
After buying the Clippers for $2 billion, I figured the team would occupy his time, especially considering he paid four times more for a basketball team than anyone else ever has. And as mentioned in the letter, he's also going to be teaching. Ballmer will be teaching an MBA class, STRAMGT588: Leading organizations, for the Stanford School of Business come fall. Then in the spring he will move over to USC's Marshall School of Business.
Ballmer left Nadella some encouraging words, saying that Microsoft will have to be "bold" and "make big bets" in order to remain on top. He also said that he still believes in the company's mobile-first and cloud-first approach. As far as his shares, Ballmer will remain as a shareholder and still wants to give his opinion on new ideas.
Count on me to keep ideas and inputs flowing. The company will move to higher heights. I will be proud, and I will benefit through my share ownership. I promise to support and encourage boldness by management in my role as a shareholder in any way I can.
In response, Nadella thanked Ballmer for his contributions and assistance during the CEO transition, wishing him the best of luck in the future.
As you embark on your new journey, I am sure that you will bring the same boldness, passion and impact to your new endeavors that you brought to Microsoft, and we wish you incredible success. I also look forward to partnering with you as a shareholder.
What do you make of all of this? Is there an underlying reason that Ballmer would leave everything but his shares of Microsoft? Or is he really going to be too busy to contribute effectively? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.read more...
posted Friday Aug 22, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo
With Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Redbox owning the video-streaming service without needing to rely on customers having an active cable subscription, it would only make sense for companies tied to those cable companies to want a piece of the action. It also isn't surprising that financial groups are starting to talk about the benefit of those endeavors. This is why Barclays Capital issued a report this week saying that if HBO would sell its programming - something we all have thought would happen at some point soon - the company could make an additional $600 million per year.
The report contains the inner-workings of Barclays' analysts showcasing a bunch of different plans that could lead HBO to providing either a direct service to customers or having other companies buy its content, all while keeping cable providers happy. In one of the scenarios, HBO content would be able to be streamed at $11 per month, but the content would only be available for six to twelve months after the shows air on the network's cable offering. In other case, all HBO content would be readily available indefinitely but customers might have to pay higher than the $15 per month they pay to cable companies, about $18 a month.
If HBO chose to go with the less expensive model, Barclays analysts predict that somewhere between 4.5 and 7 million homes would pick up HBO at only $11 a month. Only 300,000 to 800,000 might opt for an $18 per month package. However, Kannan Venkateshwar, the creator of the report, says that if HBO were to offer both packages on a tiered system, HBO could rake in about $600 million each year. As a reference, HBO made about $1.7 billion in 2013.
As we've even said on the show, it makes total sense for HBO to offer its own service outside of HBO GO, which currently requires an active cable subscription and HBO subscription for the service to work. And HBO is becoming less affordable to most consumers, as cable bills are constantly on the rise. A standalone Netflix-style business model could open up huge opportunities for this current trend of cable cutters. However, cable companies would take notice quickly and may put up more of a fight than Barclays might be willing to admit.
What do you think? Would you subscribe to HBO video-streaming if you didn't have to be tied to a cable company? Do you currently have cable to have HBO Go? Let us know your situation in the comments below.read more...
posted Sunday Aug 17, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo
Those checking out the YouTube app on an Xbox One this week would have noticed a slight change in aesthetics within the Google-owned video-streaming service. It's part of a full renovation to the look and feel of the site, coming off the heels of a a bunch of feature additions announced two months ago.
In the past, searching for videos from channels you subscribed to could be a chore, and finding new and interesting videos were not easy. YouTube looks to change all of that with this interface update, which will make the app on a set-top box look more like what you see on your phone, computer or tablet. In the following weeks, YouTube will push the update to all set-top box and Smart TVs across the country.
The new YouTube guide on the left of the app will allow you to subscribe to channels, watch videos and search all within one button press. Signing in to the app will lead you to better recommendations from the What to Watch section and you can even view your playlists now.
Aside from it being easier to just find videos, there's a bunch of other features the new look will bring you. Since content creators are working every day to bring new videos and playlists to their subscribers, the updated YouTube app will allow you to finally see all of those videos and playlists. No longer will the app decide for you on what you can view. The updated channel pages will show you all of the content, front-and-center.
It always confused me why certain apps would only show select information and why the experience had to be different from the website. Part of me thinks this facelift is to ease some of the tension of the all-but-certain Twitch acquisition. The good news is that the app sure does look nice, and it functions, too. Have you checked it out yet on the Xbox One? Let us know what you think in the comments below.read more...
posted Sunday Aug 17, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo
This week at Gamescom in Germany, we got to see the future plans from Sony and Microsoft for the holiday season and beyond. Specifically, we saw the rebirth of some original ideas, and a little bit of copying and finger-pointing from one of the two.
First, let's start off with Microsoft. The Xbox presentation in Cologne was refreshing in that it brought back some vigor within the brand and gave gamers hope that this generation of console truly can be innovative. Games were plentiful, there was a proven commitment to independent developers and we got to see the Xbox One finally come out of the shell it was placed in since E3. No major vision changes and instead the message was around the fact that the Xbox One is trying to go back to what made people excited for it. While we didn't see a console without an optical drive or the original idea to share games with your friends, in true Microsoft fashion, the company announced it has purchased exclusive rights to the upcoming Tomb Raider game, locking it on the Xbox One for a "duration" of time. When pressed, Xbox head Phil Spencer would not give a specific length of time because, "there are certain things (he's) just not going to talk about because it's a business deal between us (Xbox) and them." This exclusivity combined with the dozens of top titles coming to the platform has brought energy back to the Microsoft brand, which has been slacking in terms of sales performance when compared to the PlayStation 4.
Speaking of Sony, the entire conference seemed to be presented with a chip on its figurative shoulder. The message that was repeated was "this is for the players" however it felt like those onstage were doing it for Sony instead. While the games presented were fantastic, as expected, the underlying tone did not change since E3. Sony is still not a master at the art of subtlety, and again Sony is yelling that the PlayStation 4 is the best console, instead of just proving it is through the console's offering itself.
The good news is that Sony announced an idea we thought we'd never have in this current generation of consoles: digital game sharing. The idea that originally came out of the Xbox camp has now made its way over to the PlayStation 4. The difference is in the implementation, though. While the Xbox One was going to allow unlimited sharing of your digital titles to up to five of your friends for an unlimited amount of time, Microsoft failed to properly relay its vision and message to its fans and all they heard was "DRM", causing Microsoft to backtrack on the plan altogether. On the other hand, the PlayStation will allow you to share a game with your friend as many times as you want, but only for an hour each session. Yes, you'll still need an active Internet connection to do it even if Sony didn't say it outright.
And then there's the post-presentation interview. Speaking on exclusivity, Jim Ryan from PlayStation Europe said that Sony doesn't just buy up exclusive rights.
So do we feel the need to go out and buy outright exclusivity? Probably not. You saw last night (at Sony's press conference) that before the media briefing we showed updated videos of games that we had revealed at E3. That's because we wanted to keep the show itself full of new, fresh things. We think that gave us a good, strong, convincing portfolio of exclusive stuff, and we're happy with that.
But Sony buys up games all the time, especially indie games. Immediately after that statement, Ryan went on to say just that.
...the icing on the cake is that we will go out and look at a small number of games and seek to help the developer make those games as successful as they possibly can, and that support can take a whole range of forms. It can take the form of financial support, it can take the form of having Sean Murray from Hello Games on the stage at E3-there are many ways to do it, and we try not to be prescriptive and say 'this is the template you have to follow, this is the path.'
So, Sony is brushing off Xbox's exclusivity as weak when they turn around and do the same thing. Do you think PlayStation is still bitter over losing the exclusive rights to the Metal Gear Solid franchise? All of this is typical of where we are in this current "console war" and none of it should come across as surprising, especially considering the party of which it is coming from. In the meantime, I'll be waiting to play Final Fantasy XIV and Dust 514 on my Xbox One. Oh wait, I can't, because they're PS4 exclusives.read more...
posted Friday Aug 15, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo
As we've talked about on the show, the health tech space is growing so rapidly that government agencies are now afraid of it. That means the industry is doing quite well. It also means we're seeing new and cool ways to implement health features into technology products, as well as some interesting partnerships. This all happened when SMS Audio and Intel joined forces this week to launch a new line of in-ear health headphones.
SMS Audio, the lifestyle brand of headphone backed by rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, has released a new smart headphone that will be able to measure your heart rate, which will be powered by Intel. Intel mentioned in January at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that the company was looking to get more involved in integrating health metrics into consumer products, and the SMS Audio BioSport In-Ear Headphone will do just that.
During the launch party, the two companies said that the new product will cater to runners, sprinters, exercise enthusiasts and anyone looking to improve their lifestyle. It was clear from the event that Intel is trying to outdo the current health tech competitors out there, taking subtle jabs at Nike+, Apple and Samsung throughout the evening.
Michael Bell, corporate VP and New Devices Group GM at Intel, said,
Intel is focused on driving innovation in the wearable technology segment by partnering with lifestyle brands like SMS Audio that complement our technology and design expertise. With SMS Audio, we will bring smart headphones to market that eliminate the inconvenience of add-on devices with an integrated, one-device fitness accessory offering high-end style and premier sound quality for an exceptional fitness experience. This is a prime example of Intel driving innovation in wearable devices while being a forerunner in merging lifestyle and technology.
We should expect the BioSport earbuds to launch sometime around holiday season. Intel said the headphone will be able to monitor your heart rate at any time so that the program will be able to identify workout habits by recording all of that data. There will be an accompanied app that will give out health tips and exercise advice in order to get the customer motivated to workout each day. Plus, the headphones will have the same high-quality sound that the SMS line has been known to have, essentially giving you the best of both the health and sound worlds. Additionally, the headphones are also water and sweat resistant, which is something some exercise products forget to include.
While pricing has not been announced yet, are you excited for these headphones? Would you try them out? Let us know in the comments.read more...
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