With the somewhat recent increase in price for Amazon Prime, along with the increased pressure from competing video content providers, Amazon has added more features and incentive to its Amazon Prime offering. At $99, most people are unaware that along with free 2-day shipping, they also receive unlimited video streaming from Amazon Instant Video. To gain more interest in the platform and to keep people using the service, Amazon has now added the ability to download shows and movies on Instant Video to watch offline or wherever you might not have Internet.
For now, the free add-on is available via the Amazon Video app for iOS or Android, but Amazon said it will look into PC downloading in the very near future. Amazon also said the downloading will apply to almost every show and movie available on Instant Video, including its original exclusives.
Compared to Netflix and Hulu, which only offer streaming service, this is surely a plus to those who already subscribe to Prime and use Instant Video. Amazon's VP of digital video, Michael Paull, said, "There's no doubt that the way people watch entertainment is changing-anytime, anywhere viewing is important."
When asked, Netflix said that they have no intentions to follow in the footsteps on Amazon on this one. A PR rep for the company said that as wireless Internet speeds increase and coverage improves, the need to download content will be less and less.
Coming from an individual who travels a lot and lives near a beach, I couldn't disagree more. There are several known dead spots in heavily-populated areas where streaming music or video is just not possible. And that doesn't even count the influx of steel structures that one may shop in or frequent for other reasons. The need to download content will always be a necessity until there is an always-on, fully coveraged world.
After years of customers asking for it, and months of speculation, Hulu has finally confirmed what we have all wanted - advertising-free streaming. What was once called Hulu Plus has been renamed "Limited Commercials" and will remain unchanged at the $7.99 price point. Coming in at $4 more, "No Commercials" will mostly live up to its name for $11.99 per month. In addition, you can add Showtime content to either plan.
Mike Hopkins, Hulu CEO, said of this announcement,
At Hulu, we pride ourselves on listening to our customers and giving them the best possible experience. Many of our customers have asked us for a commercial free option, and so today we are excited to introduce just that. Providing more choice for consumers is fundamental to the Hulu experience, in addition to an array of choices in content and devices, our customers can now choose to watch with or without commercials.
Unfortunately, the name is just a little misleading, as there are 7 shows for which Hulu was unable to negotiate a completely ad-free contract. Those shows are:
- Grey's Anatomy
- Once Upon A Time
- Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- New Girl
- How To Get Away With Murder
This list is subject to change in the future, hopefully for the better, as Hulu attempts to get the proper licensing for these shows. Luckily, there will be no mid-roll ads - only a 15 second pre-roll ad and a 30 second post-roll ad.
In addition to commercial-free streaming, Hulu also hijacked the contract for EPIX content from Netflix, bringing their content to Hulu for several years. All of this is a definite bonus for loyal members of the streaming service, and with so many options, Hulu has finally decided to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.
Are you excited about the commercial-free option on Hulu? Let us know in the comments.
A few years ago, ICANN, the organization that oversees the overall Internet protocols, proposed a slew of new top-level domains. TLDs are the suffix at the end of a website. Most commonly you will see .com, .net, .tv, etc., but there are many others, and new ones are being added all the time.
When these new TLDs were initially proposed, there was a lot of concern that they could create places that could promote negative behavior. For example, if there are hundreds of TLDs, getting an email with a link to http://chase.zip could easily take you to a phishing site. Normally people who are observant will look to ensure the website makes sense, but many won't understand the difference between chase.com and chase.zip. Once you're on the site, a user might enter their password and have their bank account emptied fairly quickly.
As it turns out, these fears were entirely accurate. In fact, there are some TLDs that are almost entirely, if not 100%, shady. This comes to us thanks to a report by Blue Coat, a security firm that scanned known sites to determine the shadiest "neighborhoods" on the Internet. The results might be a little surprising to some, and even more importantly, some of the results don't make a lot of sense.
For example, 100% of sites that end in .zip in their database were classified as "shady." The problem with this one is that .zip is not available yet. In fact, there is only a single domain in existence in the TLD, and that is owned by Google and redirects to Google's domain registration service. Luckily, Blue Coat has an explanation for this behavior.
An unfortunate scenario is that 100% of known domains ending in .review also show up as shady. That is truly disappointing, as this TLD was one I was personally excited about - being able to distinguish review sites from traditional content. Apparently this is not to be the case, however. Also on the list, with 97% or higher shady rankings, are country, kim, cricket, science, work, party (not surprising), gq and link (also not surprising). It is important to note that gq is actually not a new TLD, but a country code for Equatorial Guinea.
Not all TLDs are bad, though. Church has a less than 1% and london only 1.85%. It's good to see that not everything is being taken advantage of, but it is disappointing to see some of the better ones being used so heavily for nonsense. The important takeaway here is that you should always inspect your FULL domain path before visiting a website, not just the core. Be vigilant whenever you are online.
When a new product launches, one of the most important things to do is get good marketing to the world. While television, web and mobile ads are good, what is better is positive content. The best way to get this is from tech blogs and websites, but sometimes that is not possible. For example, when Microsoft released the Xbox One, many media outlets misunderstood the platform or wanted to see it fail and published negative content instead.
Because of this, Machinima was brought in to produce and market positive content about the Xbox One around its launch. They paid 2 YouTube personalities a total of $45,000 to produce videos, and created a program for other "influencers" to receive $1 for every 1,000 page views, maximum of $25,000. All of this is completely legal and fairly common. The problem is that this is not the whole story.
What Machinima failed to do, or possibly actively discouraged, was provide disclosure of these payments. As it turns out, since these were paid product endorsements, they fall under the purview of the FTC Act, which prohibits deceptive advertising. Because the videos contained "seemingly objective opinions," they require the video producers to disclose that they are paid advertising, just like an infomercial. Jessica Rich, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director said,
When people see a product touted online, they have a right to know whether they're looking at an authentic opinion or a paid marketing pitch.
In a proposed agreement, Machinima would be prohibited from running future campaigns of this nature, and would be required to clearly disclose future paid endorsements. Microsoft and ad agency Starcom MediaVest Group were both cleared for their involvement in the issue, citing corporate policies prohibiting such activity and swift action once informed of the problem. Machinima points out that these issues came about before a corporate leadership change in March 2014.
The differences between the way Apple does business and how everyone else in the industry do business are well documented. For most of the Mac's existence, the largest software developers for the platform were Microsoft and Adobe, with Apple barely making the list. Microsoft has produced Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even a version of Internet Explorer for a period of time. Adobe has produced what is currently called the Creative Cloud, which includes products like Photoshop and Premiere. Even Google produces Chrome for the Mac.
What does Apple produce for Windows? iTunes and QuickTime. For a while they produced Safari, but that was short lived. That leaves their software products, like Photos, Pages, Numbers and Keynote, available only on their own platform. Considering the overall adoption rate of Mac, which is higher than in previous years, but only around 10% of active computers, this represents a lot of development cost for very little reward.
The company's focus on hardware has been successful for them for many years, but has certainly slowed in recent years. While Microsoft's foray into hardware, the Surface, has continued to see sales growth, the iPad has retreated over the past few quarters, despite new hardware. The iPhone has similarly seen sales declines, but not of dangerous amounts. So, while hardware in general becomes less attractive to consumers, how is Apple to compete in an industry that they have never participated in? We might find out on September 9th at the next Apple event.
Apple may not have teased or leaked any information about Windows software coming our way, but the event page does give a little hint to a change within the company. To watch the livestream of their event, they have always required an Apple product - Mac, iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. On this event page, however, is this text:
Requirements: Live streaming uses Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) technology. HLS requires an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with Safari on iOS 7.0 or later, a Mac with Safari 6.0.5 or later on OS X v10.8.5 or later, or a PC with Microsoft Edge on Windows 10. Streaming via Apple TV requires a second- or third-generation Apple TV with software 6.2 or later.
Supporting Edge is a very big deal, because it represents a shift in mentality for the company. It could also indicate an announcement for the event of Apple software coming to Windows, likely Windows 10. The most logical product for them to bring over to Windows would be their iWork suite, which would attempt to compete with Microsoft's own Office suite. While the prices might be less for the product, the capabilities are also far less - an issue that has helped drive adoption of Office on iOS and Mac. Another good choice could be Photos, which would give Windows users easier and direct access to the iCloud photos takes with an iPhone.
The problem here will be whether Apple can get adoption on these products off their own devices. To accomplish it, they will need to increase the capabilities of their products. For example, expanding the iCloud storage available to customers paying $10 per month: Apple currently gives 500GB for that price, while Microsoft gives 1TB of OneDrive plus Office for Windows and Mac and Skype Phone for $7 per month. It will take a big move to get people consider the change.
So, is this the beginning of a change in culture for Apple, or did Microsoft simply implement HLS in the new browser? We only need to wait a few more days to find out. Would you consider using a product like iWork or Photos on Windows? Let us know in the comments.
When RIAA took offense to BitTorrent, while they obviously didn't understand what the company does, they did have something right: it can be misused. One of the products that is misusing the protocol is a site called Popcorn Time. If you have not encountered the site you're in luck. Using the BitTorrent protocol, Popcorn Time allows you to stream television and movies with or without legal access.
Clearly, it was not going to take long before the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) took action. That action came this week in the form of a lawsuit, whose defendants are named as "Anonymous Users of Popcorn Time: Does 1 - 11." Obviously this is a suit focusing on copyright infringement, as the defendants are being sued for accessing torrented, protected content.
Cobbler Nevada, LLC, the plaintiff, is looking for a jury trial, but needs one thing before they can do that: to know who the defendants are. They are seeking a subpoena for Comcast, demanding they turn over the names attached to the IP addresses currently named "Does 1 - 11." Comcast has refused information requests like this until a federal judge required it, so it is possible they could put up a fight, but not under the circumstances.
As the owner of NBC Universal, Comcast actually has a dog in this race. Helping to make it less desirable to use a service like this could directly affect their bottom line, encouraging people to, instead, use a service like Hulu, in which they are also partial owners.
The plaintiff is using a warning on the Popcorn Time website as proof that the defendants knew ahead of time what they were doing was illegal. Given that RIAA never had any success with suits like this one, it will be interesting to see if the MPAA can change that statistic. The moral of the story is, don't use Popcorn Time, as users are being watched.