The UpStream (Page 17)

In just one week, TikTok's future has changed to nearly impossible

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2020 by Scott Ertz

In just one week, TikTok's future has changed to nearly impossible

In just one week, TikTok's future has changed incredibly challenging to nearly impossible. Last week, the company was struggling to regain trust. This week, they are simply trying to survive through the weekend. This change for the company comes as the White House has taken direct aim at TikTok and parent company ByteDance. On Friday, President Trump told reporters on Air Force One that they were drafting an Executive Order to ban TikTok within the US.

The move comes at the same time that ByteDance was looking to unload the brand onto an American company. The idea being that, if TikTok were owned by an American tech company and the daily management and operations were managed within the borders of the US, it would change the perception of the brand within the government. This concept comes during a week where the US government has taken 4 of the biggest tech companies, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, to task for their own behavior. So, clearly being owned by a US company does not mean the US government will leave them alone.

The top contender for the purchase has been Microsoft. The fact that Microsoft wasn't part of the Congressional inquery this week could have made the sale a more calm possibility. The White House seems to have an affinity for Microsoft, with some encouragement being made for Microsoft to win the JEDI contract. But, the sale to Microsoft was also mentioned during the Friday conversation with reporters. President Trump said that he was not a fan of the idea of a sale of TikTok to Microsoft and would oppose it if it were to become a reality.

As a result on this comment, reports suggest that Microsoft and ByteDance have suspended their conversations about the sale. This doesn't mean that the deal is dead, but both companies involved are looking to the White House to seek additional information about what a sale could look like in regards to interaction with regulators.

So, this brings us back to the potential outright ban on the platform within the US. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today that the ban is coming in the next few days. This would be a massive move, and potentially the biggest presidential move for Trump. However, there is some fight back against the potential of a ban. But, the concern doesn't come from where you might think, but instead from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They claim that banning the app is an affront to free speech. Of course, if that were the case, it would mean that TikTok is the only way for people to commuinicate. The case is, it is far from the only way that people can communicate with one another. In fact, it is far from the only short form video platform.

As this upcoming week progresses, this scenario will continue to change. In the end, there is no telling what the future of TikTok will be, but chances are that it will not be the same on Friday as it is on Monday.

TikTok is looking for ways to regain trust in Western countries

posted Sunday Jul 26, 2020 by Scott Ertz

TikTok is looking for ways to regain trust in Western countries

While teenagers flock to the service, Western cultures are beginning to look closely at TikTok. The reason is due to some of the moves the company has made over its existence. The Federal Trade Commission fined the company over child privacy violations dating back to the days of Musical.ly. Recently, it was revealed that the platform was scraping iPhone clipboards for an unknown reason. The company claimed it was an accident, but that wasn't a good enough explanation.

As a result, investigations into the brand, which is owned by a Chinese company with strong ties to the government. That relationship makes a lot of people, including government regulators, very uncomfortable, especially when the target demographic for the platform is teenagers and young adults. As some governments, including the US, have begun banning it in certain environments and mulling banning it entirely, as India already has, the company needs to find a way to address the issue.

One solution, which seems to be gianing some momentum, is selling the brand, or at least a controlling stake in the brand, to a US company. This would make the decisions of daily activity a US process, and oversight over behaviors could be moved to the States. With a move like this, regulatory concern would be minimized, though likely not eliminated. But, companies like Epic Games and Activision have minoroty investment from Tancent, another questionable Chinese company, but have no real oversight issues from the government.

Another attempt to woo over the US, in particular, is through a new Creator Fund. The company has put aside $200 million in an attempt to draw US creators to the platform. If the company can show enough support form US creators, perhaps it can stave off an outright ban from the Western countries, especially the US. To participate in the fund, the company says that creators will have to post original content regularly and have to meet TikTok Community Guidelines, which have also come under scrutiny. LGBT content can be banned under the guidelines, which has led many to question the relationship with the Chinese government.

While a loyal fanbase and creator community could potentially have an affect on public policy, national security will always outweigh public demand. TikTok has bigger issues to address than just getting some popular creators to make engaging content if they want to stay in the West.

Twitter's woes continue while considering new business models

posted Sunday Jul 26, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Twitter's woes continue while considering new business models

As time passes, we're learning more about Twitter's major hack last week. The newest revelation is that not only did the hackers gain access to the system to be able to post their Bitcoin scam posts on high profile accounts, but they also got access to private data. 36 of the profiles that were compromised also gave up access to the users' direct messages (DMs).

This was an issue that the company was worried might have been part of the attack but had previously stated they had no evidence of. However, they did say that part of the shutdown of large portions of the service, especially for verified users, was to prevent access to private information, such as DMs. As it would appear, the move was the right one, as it potentially stopped the attack at 36 instead of the full collection of 130 compromised accounts.

The company has also been fighting against a large revenue drop. Part of the problem comes from user confidence, but it has also been largely impacted by advertiser confidence. Some advertisers have decided that the value of Twitter advertising isn't high enough during the economic downturn. Other advertisers have decided that Twitter isn't a safe place to put their brand, as it might sit next to content that their customers might find offensive.

Whatever the reason, advertisers have been leaving the platform in droves. That leaves the company scrambling to figure out how to generate revenue in the absense of advertising dollars. The current concept is through a subscription model. Subscriptions, whether thtye be monthly boxes or software services, have become more popular. However, integrating a paid service into a free service can be challenging.

The company has said, even if they add a subscription plan, the core service will remain free. So, what would a paid user get that a free user wouldn't? A bypass of advertising is a common scenario in mobile apps, but that doesn't tend to be subscription-based. Perhaps new features, such as the ability to post longer messages? Only time will tell, assuming the company moves in that direction at all.

If Twitter added a paid tier, what would be required for you to sign up? Let us know in the comments.

Xbox contributed to Microsoft's huge quarter, will continue all year

posted Sunday Jul 26, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Xbox contributed to Microsoft's huge quarter, will continue all year

With the world in a state of change, some companies have found ways to address the new issues. Microsoft has found two fronts on which to focus to make life easier for those who are now finding themselves at home nearly constantly. On one side, Microsoft Teams has addressed a large percentage of business communication issues. It combines the best of Slack and Zoom into a single product in a service that is part of the Microsoft 365 subscription that most companies already have. However, the entertainment division has also addressed an aspect of lockdown life with Xbox.

It's no surprise that gaming has seen a rise in usage while people are forced to be at home all day. But, Microsoft's Xbox division was accidentally prepared for this increase already care of Xbox Game Pass. With the service, you get access to hundreds of games on console or PC for a single price. This gives subscribers the ability to play different games on a whim, which can be a huge benefit when you're trying to stave off boredom. On the company's quarterly earning report, the company specifically called out Xbox revenue as significant.

But, it might just be the beginning for Xbox. With the newest member of the family, Xbox Series X, coming later this year, Microsoft is revealing more information. This week, the company revealed first looks at a large collection of new titles, all of which will be available on the Xbox Game Pass at launch. These titles range from Psychonauts 2 to a new Fable game, bringing titles for nearly any player. And, with the game being part of the Game Pass service, none of thse new titles will cost subscribers anything additional to play.

Adding to the information revealed last week that Project xCloud will be included as part of Game Pass Ultimate, even mobile game streaming will be part of this service in the near future. Microsoft is going all-in on subscription services, which will regulate corporate revenue and provide huge benefits for most users.

AT&T and T-Mobile are taking a different approach to network upgrades

posted Saturday Jul 25, 2020 by Scott Ertz

AT&T and T-Mobile are taking a different approach to network upgrades

This week, AT&T created concern with its customer base when an email was sent out informing users that their phone would not work following an upcoming network upgrade. The solution to their problem was simply to purchase a new phone. Easy, right? Obviously not. The price of a phone can be incredibly high, especially if you're purchasing more feature-rich devices. Plus, the process of changing devices can be a challenge, either because of the transition of data or because of our general comfort level with what we already know.

However, there's a bigger problem here. While AT&T says that users should purchase a new phone soon to avoid service interruption, the network upgrade will not be happening until 2022. That means that the phone replacements, according to the company's own email, should not be required until that time. Yet, the email that was sent out doesn't reveal that information directly. Instead, you needed to click a link and read further before this important information was revealed. AT&T claims that this was an accidental omission from the email, but how many people had to vet that email before it was released? And, through that process, no one noticed that they forgot to give a time table?

On the other side of the coin is T-Mobile. Both companies are planning on shutting down their 3G networks, requiring some users to replace phones. However, T-Mobile has been very open with its information. The company's network transition will take place in January 2021, and will require users without Voice Over LTE capability to replace their devices. The company has already discontinued all incompatible devices, and will not allow customers to activate existing incompatible devices after August 4.

But, let's take a look at the major device families and where their cutoff lines are. For Apple, iPhone 6 and newer are all compatible (that's 7 generations of iPhone). For Samsung, the Galaxy S7 and newer are all compatible (5 generations), and the Galaxy Note 3 and newer are compatible. So, as you can see, it requires a very old device to be in trouble - at least in regards to the flagships. If your device is incompatible, you'll soon be receiving a text message informing you of the issue.

Peacock's launch has been confusing for both viewers and Comcast

posted Sunday Jul 19, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Peacock's launch has been confusing for both viewers and Comcast

This week, the much anticipated Peacock streaming service finally launched to a mostly positive reception. While some have complained about the number of ads, anyone who has used the NBC-branded streaming website or app knows it's still less than on that platform. However, the amount of on-demand content available for free is staggering: from modern favorites like 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, to classic shows like The Carol Burnett Show and Murder She Wrote, there's a lot to watch.

But, there's been a lot of confusion involved in the launch as well. For example, users were surprised to find they can watch the Fox series Hell's Kitchen on the NBCUniversal-owned platform. While it's nice to see non-Universal series available on the platform, the show is missing a lot of its content. Of the 10 episodes in the first season, there are only 7 available on Peacock, while all 10 are available on the Disney-owned Hulu (Disney now owns Fox). If a series is going to skip episodes, including seasons finales, why even offer it at all?

The service seemingly has also been confusing for NBC itself. The company had to take a new approach to its upfront presentation this year. This presentation is usually a big event held in New York to present the newest slate of shows to advertisers, but this year a big gathering wasn't possible. To compensate, they created a 30 Rock special that served as the presentation. In it, they talked a lot about Peacock, because it's a place where advertisers can buy ad space.

Like we have become familiar with Hulu, the next morning (usually around 5 am Eastern), the show or special appears on streaming platforms. Since Peacock was brand new and highly featured in the special, it was reasonable to see the same behavior for Peacock. Unfortunately, it didn't appear on Peacock until 9 pm Eastern. However, it appeared on NBC's app and website in the morning. This goes to show that NBC still isn't sure exactly how or if these two platforms will live together, and which is more important to the business.

Before Peacock can really emerge as a top-tier freemium subscription service, NBC is going to need to work out what service is the priority and make consumers aware of that move.

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