The UpStream (Page 105)

Facebook to Reduce the Amount of News in Your News Feed

posted Sunday Jul 3, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Facebook to Reduce the Amount of News in Your News Feed

Over the past few years, Facebook has courted publishers to their platform with tools to make publishing news, reviews and opinions easy. For many publications, Facebook is the first or second most popular source of traffic on news stories, with people liking, commenting and sharing on the network. The newsfeed takes all of that into account for what to show on your News Feed, meaning that your friends topics are more likely to show in your feed.

All of that is about to change, though, with Facebook announcing a new algorithm that places content from friends and family above that of brands and publishers. This is not the first time they have made a change in this direction, but it is the first time they have advertised it as such. Because of that, it is definitely a concern to both publishers and readers that they might see less of the news and articles they like.

Facebook will remind you that the important, trending topics are available in the Trending section of the site, though we have recently learned that Facebook curates that content, promoting news stories that they want you to see and culling topics they do not. That means that the Trending section represents the interests of Facebook, not necessarily your own. For example, you will not likely see a story promoted by Facebook that paints a conservative politician in a positive light.

The actual implementation of the algorithm is yet to be realized. It could have a large impact, or you might not notice at all. If you do see a change in behavior, there is good news for those who want to continue to see all of the stories from a particular publisher or brand. The New York Times has the steps to guarantee you see future stories from us or other brands.

In the meantime, the best way to ensure you and your friends continue to see content from your favorite publishers is to interact with their posts: like, comment and share.

Apple in Talks to Purchase Another Failed Streaming System, Tidal [Report]

posted Sunday Jul 3, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Apple in Talks to Purchase Another Failed Streaming System, Tidal [Report]

In 2014, Apple made a seemingly surprising purchase in Beats. The headphone brand was in slight competition with Apple's own headphones and the music service was a market disaster. In the 2 years since the purchase, Apple has mostly rebranded Beats Music to Apple Music and the headphone purchase will help them make the terrible transition from a regular headphone jack to their proprietary connection. It would seem that the company has what it needs to revitalize their music business.

With that said, it is once again a bit surprising to hear that Apple is in talks with another failed streaming service, Tidal, to join the Apple Music corral. It's clear why Tidal would be interested in this acquisition: they cannot seem to attract any customers to the service, despite having a number of exclusive tracks, albums and artists. But why would Apple be interested in purchasing a competitor to the failed service they already turned around?

For that answer, we examine Tidal's market value: exclusives. With a number of artists getting fed up with the way they were being treated by Spotify and Apple and signing exclusive deals with Tidal, purchasing Tidal would give Apple exclusive contracts with those artists instead. In the short-term, this would be good for Apple Music, as it would reintroduce a number of lost artists. In the long-term, however, Apple would need to make changes to retain them after their contracts are over.

If these artists left Apple because of mistreatment, you can imagine their reaction to having their contracts sold back to Apple. If nothing changed within the company itself, it would be likely those artists would jump ship once again, as soon as they were able. So, if Apple thinks this is going to be an easy, number-boosting move, they are sorely mistaken. They are going to have to work hard to maintain the artist-friendly focus that Tidal was known for within the industry.

Can they maintain those artists? Will they make the purchase? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Dell to Abandon Android, Focus on Windows Tablets

posted Sunday Jul 3, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Dell to Abandon Android, Focus on Windows Tablets

One of the truths about technology is that it eventually becomes a commodity. Centuries ago, bronze and steel were technologies, which were commoditized. In more recent times, cars were once considered technology, though today have also been commoditized. When that happens, manufacturers involved in those commodities must find ways to differentiate themselves in the market or get out.

A great example in the automotive industry is BMW. In the 70s, the company decided to stop marketing their cars themselves, but instead marketed the experience of driving the vehicle. Their slogan "The Ultimate Driving Machine" has absolutely nothing to back it up, but it emphasizes the emotional aspect of owning and driving a BMW. The marketing has been successful, seeing consistent sales increases.

Electronics are currently going through a similar transition, with many electronic categories becoming commoditized, but none more so than Android tablets. Everyone has seen the cheap, garbage Android tablets in drug stores and even convenience stores. Black Friday makes it even worse, with brands you've never heard of offering tablets for prices that don't seem possible. With so many companies competing on price, how can a manufacturer set itself apart from the pack?

Dell believes that they cannot and have decided to exit the market entirely. Effective immediately, the Android tablet division of Dell is closed, with current models discontinued, no future models coming and no future support for existing models. This means that if you have a Venue Android tablet now, you will never see an official update to Android Nougat, the next major release. A spokesperson said,

The slate tablet market is oversaturated and is experiencing declining demand from consumers, so we've decided to discontinue the Android-based Venue tablet line.

Rather than competing in the over-crowded, consumer-focused Android market, Dell has decided to focus on their own bread and butter: enterprise customers. In that space, the demand for Windows devices has always reigned supreme, so Dell will continue to produce tablets featuring Windows 10. This product category has a lot more room for growth and diversity, with specs being a top seller, as opposed to pricing.

Microsoft Studios to End Support for Xbox Fitness

posted Wednesday Jun 29, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Studios to End Support for Xbox Fitness

Since the beginning of the Xbox One, one of the best non-interface uses for the Kinect was Xbox Fitness. This app allowed you to exercise with the help of virtual trainers and coaches, using the Kinect sensor to ensure you were doing things correctly. Xbox Live Gold members got a whole collection of programs for free, with others available to purchase.

Microsoft Studios, the team behind the game, announced this week that Xbox Fitness would be coming to a gradual end. Effective immediately, no new content can be purchased. Existing content will continue to work, including the Xbox Live Gold benefits. On December 15, 2016, those Gold benefits will also come to and end. On July 1, 2017, Xbox Fitness will stop functioning all together.

The move seems very abrupt and harsh. It would seem that, if you purchased content within the app, such as the P90X workouts, that you should still be able to use that content after the "sunset period" has elapsed. If Microsoft is working so hard to bring Xbox 360 content to the newer console, why is it that content that was designed directly for the Xbox One is being dumped in such a way?

Personally, I am disheartened by this move. I have been using Xbox Fitness myself since the day my Xbox One arrived. In fact, it was a big part of the reason why I got the Xbox One when I did. Hopefully Microsoft will figure out a way to make the content, both the free and paid programs, available as a standalone platform, allowing those who have used, loved and paid money into the platform, to continue using the product, knowing that there will be no future development.

This concept falls inline with other closures in the gaming world, such as EA closing Playfish, the social-focused studio. With it went a number of pay-to-win type games, which some people had spent a lot of real-world money to advance their characters, cities, etc. Is this going to be the new trend in gaming - when the studio is done, so is our financial investment?

Have you lost money to a game or platform that has closed out from under you, including Xbox Fitness? Let us know in the comments.

Netflix to Implement Offline Viewing This Year [Report]

posted Saturday Jun 25, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Netflix to Implement Offline Viewing This Year [Report]

In the last few years, Netflix has become the indispensable service for most of the developed world. Between television and movies, plus comedy specials and original content, you can waste away many hours with the content available on the service. In fact, as I sit here writing, I have Netflix running in the background.

There is, unfortunately, a dark side to the service. That dark side is internet access: if you don't have it, Netflix is worthless. If you're on an airplane or driving through the desert, you are going to be completely without Netflix. For many people, this means resorting to either Amazon, which allows for offline viewing, or downloading content illegally. Obviously, neither of these options are good for Netflix.

In the past, Netflix has been very vocal about their customers' lack of interest in offline viewing, and the fact that they are currently not working on the feature because of the lack of interest. They have, however, remained open to the idea. A recent report suggests that, not only is the feature under development, but it is likely to be launched before year's end. Dan Taitz, Chief Operating Officer of Panthera, a mobile video downloading platform, says,

We know from our sources within the industry that Netflix is going to launch this product. My expectation is that by the end of the year Netflix will be launching download-to-go as an option for their customers.

Considering this feature is exactly what Panthera does, it is likely that the company is involved in the project. If not, perhaps they were approached to help implement the feature. Either way, a rumor from someone in this position within the industry is one to be taken seriously.

I still view download as something that's emerging into the consciousness of consumers. They know about downloads because before there were streaming services people downloaded movies and videos from iTunes, but they're not necessarily looking for download as a feature of their streaming service they're already paying for.

Of course, implementing offline viewing will be more difficult than just working with a partner like Panthera to build technology. The offering would be limited by contracts with the studios, similar to Hulu's Ad-Free option. Netflix will have to work with their content partners to allow for offline viewing, and not all partners will ever allow it. It stands to reason, though, that if Netflix is working on this feature, they will have already begun renegotiating the contracts, and have worked to include language in all new contracts.

Will we see this feature before the year's end? Let's hope so - it will give our team something to do on the flight to CES 2017.

Google Fiber Expands Through Acquisition of Webpass

posted Saturday Jun 25, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Google Fiber Expands Through Acquisition of Webpass

Google Fiber may be a well-known name, but it is not exactly a commonplace service. In fact, the company only offers service in 6 markets today, with another 6 in-progress, and several others being considered. Expansion has been slow, though, partially because of the high cost of installation and partially because of overall interest in the offering, both from consumers and from municipalities.

This week, the company has taken a major step in adding to their infrastructure, by announcing the purchase of Webpass. The San Francisco-based ISP offers a comparable service to Google Fiber, but in markets where Google is currently not offering their services. With this single transaction, they have nearly doubled their metropolitan footprint, including in 2 cities that were in-progress previously.

Webpass takes a different approach to offering their gigabit service to customers, though. Rather than using fiber running throughout a city, they use point-to-point wireless to connect to a central hub, where cabling is then run to the subscribers. For example, in an apartment complex, you might have an antenna on the top of a building, and the hub would cover everyone inside that single complex.

Because of this technological setup, the service is only offered to multitenant building, like offices, apartments and condos. The company says it is far too expensive to offer the service to individual buildings at this time. When combined with a fiber infrastructure from Google, however, it is possible that Google might be able to offer their services to all types of buildings in these markets for less than installing a full infrastructure.

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