Over the past few years, eSports have grown from a small niche following to a semi-major market. With games like Dota 2 and the Call of Duty gaining immense followings, it was mostly a matter of time before it became truly mainstream. That seems to have happened this week with ESPN's coverage of Valve's The International, a Dota 2 championship with almost $11 million in prizes.
The coverage was available through the company's online offering, ESPN3, with a special documentary airing on ESPN 2. An unnamed source said that the top viewing platform was the Xbox app, which is interesting considering the tournament is for a PC game. I guess that shows the power of Microsoft's media-game hybrid console approach.
Fortunately, as the source says, the company was "delighted" with the broadcast results. In fact, they are planning on increasing their future offerings based on these results. According to the unnamed source,
ESPN have seen enough recent successes with esports and are about to double down. The numbers they hit with The International have only cemented the view that the time is right.
ESPN's next eSports-related project is Major League Gaming's Call of Duty league. After their last partnership at the Austin X Games, where no games were broadcast, combined with a successful broadcast of The International, it is possible that this time around we could see some real coverage of MLG from ESPN. The source said,
They are in advanced talks to bring that product to both ESPN web properties as well as their TV stations, and they are in the preliminary stages of looking at other games.
Unfortunately, ESPN is not corroborating these statements, but they are also not ruling it out.
ESPN3 has carried similar events in the past, including MLG and EA. We recognized The International as an opportunity to deliver a championship event, but have not committed to any other eSports coverage at this time.
Whether or not they decide to produce live coverage of the next MLG tournament, even discussing the possibility is a great step for eSports in the mainstream.
Last week, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill stated that she was concerned about the nature of health tech, particularly health apps. She is afraid that the data collected by these apps, and their connected devices, might be used to predict future health conditions. Because of this fear, she believes that health tech should be regulated heavier, with her leading a charge to do just that.
Of course, she is right that data-based predictions are a reality, as that is exactly why these products exist. Why else would you gather and record this type of data if you weren't interested in using it to predict possible patterns and health concerns? Fortunately the Food and Drug Administration agrees with me and not the FTC, changing policy on pre-market approvals.
The organization has announced a plan to lift restrictions on several types of health devices, including direct-to-consumer products, many of which are connected with apps. These devices include exercise equipment, fertility diagnostic devices, hearing aids, talking first aid kits, thermometers and stethoscopes. The FDA said in regards to the new plans,
The FDA believes devices... are sufficiently well understood and do not present risks that require premarket 21 notification (510(k)) review to assure their safety and effectiveness.
This advisory does not go into effect immediately; the FDA has opened up a 60 day comment period before it goes from advisory to policy. Hopefully, for the sake of all of the mobile and wearable tech startups out there with unique and interesting ideas, this will not only become policy, but will be opened up even further.
Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, has taken to the media again to announce that the company is still committed to the Xbox One and that the Xbox hasn't completely lost its vision. With that in mind, Spencer said we'll see some of the true "next-gen" promised additions in the coming months.
We've talked about rounds of updates for the Xbox One in the past, and we harp on it because of the fact that the updates were merely things we were promised at launch before Microsoft backtracked on everything. So it is with great pleasure that I can say that Mr. Phil Spencer himself promised the gaming community that we'll see digital pre-orders making their way to the console. This means that you'll soon be able to pre-purchase a game before it's launched and will be able to play it as soon as it releases, without having to go to the store or wait for a download to finish after midnight. Instead, the Xbox One, just like a PC, will be able to download the full game ahead of time, and will be ready for 12:01 AM.
Of course, this is a big deal and something that I've wanted to see on these current generation consoles since November, and the PlayStation 4 already had this feature. How do we know this is coming to the Xbox One? Well, a Twitter user asked Spencer,
Will the digital preorder system become available on the next xbox preview update or anytime soon would love to start preordering!
And succinctly, @XboxP3 (Phil Spencer's account) responded with, "Stay tuned on this. Not long."
We probably won't see this in the August update though. Last week, Major Nelson pretty much laid out those expectations, however Microsoft is known to throw in a few surprises from time to time. It would be nice to see digital pre-ordering made available before this fall's sports titles hit stores. The ability to play NHL or FIFA right at midnight would be something I'd personally appreciate.
Verizon seems to be in a throttling mood when it comes to your Internet. There's the infamous Watching Netflix on FiOS through VPN video floating around, which affects the majority of FiOS users in the country. Now, Verizon Wireless will be throttling 4G LTE data on your smartphones. The good news is that for this instance, it's only for the heavy users on an old plan.
About one-fifth of all Verizon Wireless customers are still on a grandfathered plan that contains unlimited data. And until now, those customers have been lucky little ducks, able to stream and download to their heart's content without a care in the world. In sticking with the theme for the company's 3G data in 2011, beginning October 1st, VZW will now be throttling back the speed on the network's heavy users of 4G LTE data.
For now, only the top five percent of users will experience this slowdown, and to be affected by it, you'll have to use about 4.7GB of data a month. Plus, you'll only be throttled if you're on a tower that is undergoing heavy demand. While that doesn't seem like too bad of a deal, you really don't get a choice of which tower you connect to. So if you're in, say, New York City, you might have a better chance of being slowed down than if you were in a city like Topeka.
It should be noted that you must hit all three of those criteria before Verizon puts pressure on you. And it's also important to point out that this is only for those on the unlimited plans from back in the day. Those who are on a MORE Everything or other usage-based plan are not subject to what Verizon is calling (in a very Aperture Science way) Network Optimization.
Lastly, if you do experience Network Optimization, you will undergo that duress for the remainder of the current month, plus the following month, which is kind of a downer. Verizon also won't be nice enough to inform you on which towers or areas will have high demand.
There are many variables that can contribute to a cell site experiencing high demand including, but not limited to, the number of active users and the type of applications being used on that site. While we work to ensure we have the most reliable network for every location, these variables combined with other environmental factors determine whether or not a particular cell site experiences high demand at any particular time.
Does this affect you? Will it convince you to change your plan or will you just deal with it? As a reminder, always keep tabs on your data usage with Verizon's built-in monitoring tools.
Beats Electronics, the company Beats Audio, Beats Music and a $3 billion acquisition by Apple, is under fire by Bose for copyright infringement. Bose claims that the technology used in noise-canceling Beats headphones is infringing on patents owned by the company.
A lawsuit would probably not affect the Apple acquisition but it still is worth noting that these two companies have not come to legal blows until now. The headphones in question are the Beats Studio, Beats Studio Wireless and Beats pro, which all contain noise-canceling technology. In the filing of the lawsuit, Bose goes on to outline the long history of the company from 1978 and the use of the exact same technology it has patented and implemented in its headphones. The document even mentions a stint in 1991 where the US Air Force hires Bose to create in-flight headsets for military pilots. Bose specifically points out the QuietComfort array of headphones as a specific reference of identical technology.
In total, 27 US patents, 13 of them pending, are claimed to be infringed upon. Two of the patents include one for a "Method and
Apparatus for Minimizing Latency in Digital Signal Processing Systems" and one for a "Dynamically Configurable ANR Signal Processing Topology." Since the suit was filed late on Friday, we've not heard a response from Beats nor a retort from Bose on the matter. However the document does outline expectations from Bose. First, Bose wants the court to file an injunction to prevent all sales of Beats headphones that fall under their claimed infringement. Bose also is going after monetary damages for said infringement.
We'll have to see if this case has any merit and if the court finds Beats guilty of any type of copyright violation. If they do, injunctions and damages could be in order for the company. At any rate, considering the sound quality on most Beats headphones, it might not be a bad thing to see some models be pulled off the shelves.
If you are a fan of the digital comicbook marketplace Comixology, you are probably also aware of the highly limited nature of how you can interact with your purchases. That is all changing, sort of, now that Comixology is part of the Amazon family. Starting now, some titles will be available with a DRM-free backup, in both PDF and CBZ formats.
Unfortunately, the DRM-free copies will not be available for all publishers or all titles. The publishers can decide if they want to participate, and which titles they will offer this way. So far, the list of publishers is: Dynamite Entertainment, IDW Publishing, Image, Monkeybrain, Thrillbent, Top Shelf and Zenescope, with more to follow, according to Comixology. If you have purchased anything from one of these publishers that will be available DRM-free, you will receive an email informing you of your new capabilities.
So, what does this mean for consumers? It means that, instead of having to read your within the confines of the Comixology apps or website, you can now read these select titles whenever and wherever. For example, if you have a Windows Phone, your only option is to read your purchase on the web, as there is no app for the platform. This means that if you are without service on your device, you are totally out of luck. With the DRM-free download, you can read it right in the PDF viewer on your phone.
The topic of DRM is a sticky one, however. On the one hand it protects the content creators from pirating of content, enabling them to continue to create further works. On the other hand, especially in cases such as Comixology, it can greatly inconvenience legitimate customers; sometimes to the point of no longer being customers and, instead, looking for the pirated content. If you are so limited in your capabilities that you must interact with content you have purchased through a platform you might or might not have access to at any given point, it could certainly drive a legitimate customer to extreme means.
It will take a long while before the big guys, Marvel and DC, even consider DRM-free content. It might work out for the smaller publishers, though, as new customers might decide to check out their work simply because of the DRM-free nature of their publishing. It could be an interesting new day for comics.