The UpStream

Spotify Goes Completely Free for Mobile and Tablets

posted Sunday Dec 15, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Spotify Goes Completely Free for Mobile and Tablets

While Beats might be just looking to enter the music-streaming space, Spotify is looking to enhance its presence. The company that is actually trying to change how much streaming services get paid by the music labels is now adding to its offerings with an announcement this week that streaming has now been added as a free service to mobile devices and tablets.

Spotify, now available in 55 markets worldwide by launching an additional 20 new markets along with the announcement, will be giving users everywhere access to the entire catalog of music from any compatible smartphone or tablet for free. Here's what free-streaming on mobile devices with Spotify looks like:

  • Your music: Listen to all the playlists you've created and playlists from the people you follow. Spotify lets you discover new music, save, shuffle and share.
  • Your favourite artists: Want to listen to a certain artist? Just hit shuffle play, sit back and listen to their entire catalogue. Don't settle for something similar. Don't settle for just one track from the artist you want to hear every 20 minutes.
  • Discover great new playlists: Going for a jog or to the gym? We've got the playlist to help you go the extra mile. We know you just want the perfect music for a specific moment in time - and we've got you covered. There's something for every mood, genre or moment.

Spotify said that the company understands more and more people are using their tablets instead of their desktops to steam music, so it was a natural next-step to take. CEO and Founder Daniel Ek said,

Today we're giving people the best free music experience in the history of the smartphone and the tablet. Whether you're going to the gym, or having a party with friends. Just sit back and let Spotify serve you great music for every moment of your life.

Unfortunately, Spotify's free music experience on the tablet side of things is only available on iOS and Android. This technically means only Windows 8 RT devices are currently out of the running for free music from Spotify, as the desktop app runs perfectly on Windows 8/8.1. The good news is that there is a rumor of a Windows 8 app from Spotify, so hopefully we'll see that sooner rather than later.

Nokia-Microsoft Deal One Step Closer to Complete

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Nokia-Microsoft Deal One Step Closer to Complete

One of the stranger hurdles in the Nokia transition to Microsoft has been a handset factory in India. The factory in question was seized by the Indian government because of owed taxes from Nokia regarding software licenses. The seizure meant that Nokia did not technically own the facility, which was scheduled to change hands to Microsoft.

This week, Nokia and the Indian government have worked out a deal to unfreeze Nokia India's assets in exchange for keeping a security account of roughly $365 million. The factory, even during the freeze, employed 7,000 people and continued to produce handsets for the company.

Nokia India has said that, even if the tax issue had not been settled, the purchase would have gone on without a hitch, having a contingency plan. The idea was that the factory would work as a contractor for the new Microsoft hardware division, providing Microsoft handsets exclusively. It can be assumed that, at some point, the factory could have transitioned to Microsoft had all tax issues been resolved in the future.

As it turns out, these types of tax issues are commonplace in India, whose tax laws are famously complex. Vodafone, a major international wireless carrier and soon-to-be former stakeholder in Verizon Wireless, has a dispute with the Indian government over tax issues related to a purchase within the country.

Intel to Unload OnCue on Verizon [Rumor]

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Intel to Unload OnCue on Verizon [Rumor]

When GTE originally joined the Verizon family, one of the businesses that Verizon acquired and immediately sold off AmeriCast, GTE's fledgling cable company. That company was sold to Knology with the agreement that Verizon could not pursue any business in those markets that would compete with Knology for a period of several years. Verizon agreed to these demands because why would Verizon want to be in the content delivery business, right?

Fast forward to today, when FiOS and RedBox Instant are big business for Verizon, though market penetration for FiOS is low because of their original deal with Knology. So, in a day and age when content delivery is the business to be in, how do you expand your business? By buying another, failed company.

Enter Intel's OnCue, a web-TV service that has failed to attract content or enough momentum to offer the service publicly. It does, however, own a large amount of fiber-optic infrastructure, which Verizon desperately needs. So, with Intel's fiber and Verizon's FiOS content, this certainly seems to be a match made in heaven.

A deal has not been announced, though Bloomberg believes that an announcement could be made as early as this coming week. This will be good news to Intel, whose new leadership decided that this business did not fit in with the company's goals and should be sold off. As Intel regains its focus on chips, with renewed vigor in the mobile space, OnCue would simply be in their way.

Twitter Redefines Block as Mute, Reverses Decision

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Twitter Redefines Block as Mute, Reverses Decision

Twitter made an interesting decision this week: to redefine a word. At some point, someone at Twitter decided that "block" would be better defined by the same qualities as "mute" and implemented changes to the system to accomplish this English language upgrade.

Previously, blocking someone would alert them, and they would no longer be able to interact with your account or any of its tweets. On Thursday, none of that was the case; instead, no alert and the "blocked" account could still interact with you, but you would no longer see it in your feed. That's better, right?

Of course not. That was a ridiculous change that no one in their right mind could ever think was a good idea, nor would anyone want or expect Twitter to function as such. Because of this obvious fact, the Internet did what the Internet does and revolted. People took to the service to run Twitter through the wringer. As a result, Twitter made an interesting decision, and did it in VERY short order.

Earlier today, we made a change to the way the "block" function of Twitter works. We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users - we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe. Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect.

So: bad decision, lots of code, angry customers, decision reversed, code irrelevant. So recently after an IPO, it is not a great idea to show your new investors that you don't understand how your customers use your product or that you don't know what they want. However, it is a great opportunity to show your investors that you are willing to listen to your customers, even if after the fact, and reverse a decision for the greater good.

Whether you support the decision or not, I think we all have to congratulate Twitter on a swift and decisive act for their customers.

YouTube Flags Videos Erroneously, Costs Content Creators Revenue

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2013 by Scott Ertz

YouTube Flags Videos Erroneously, Costs Content Creators Revenue

Anyone who produces regular content for YouTube has had a video flagged before. It can be for music, video, imagery and, sometimes, it can be for something outside of your control. For example, music playing very quietly in the background of a live event where you are conducting an interview.

No matter the cause, the end result is the same: no revenue can be generated off of the video. While exceedingly annoying, these things happen, and we are all prepared for it. However, when your video is flagged for copyright violation for reasons outside of reality, the story is a little different.

Unfortunately for many videogame-related content producers, that situation became their reality this week when Google implemented a new pre-screening ContentID system. The system, which is an extension of their standard search and destroy algorithm, was rolled out to Multi-Channel Networks and checks videos for violations during the batch upload process.

The problem is that content is being flagged for violation from companies who do not hold the copyright for said content. For example, Deep Silver, owners of Metro: Last Light allow content producers to profit from content containing footage from the game, yet 4GamerMovie has placed claims on the content, preventing YouTube producers to make money from their content.

YouTube released a statement to VentureBeat, stating,

We recently enabled Content ID scanning on channels identified as affiliates of {multichannel networks}. This has resulted in new copyright claims for some users, based on policies set by the relevant content owners. As ever, channel owners can easily dispute Content ID claims if they believe those claims are invalid.

The biggest issue at hand is that a failed dispute will result in a strike on their account; after several strikes a channel can be closed, leaving a lot of reason NOT to contest a flag and, instead, simply accept the revenue loss.

This leaves an important question: why are videogames being targeted in this flagging wave? Does Google have reason to discourage videogame-related content or are they simply inept? Weigh in in the comments.

FCC Delays Part Two of Spectrum Auction Until Mid-2015

posted Sunday Dec 8, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

FCC Delays Part Two of Spectrum Auction Until Mid-2015

There are two auctions coming up for a big chunk of broadcast spectrum. A smaller one is next month in January 2014 and the second, larger auction was supposed to be in June. However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post that the big auction in June will now be pushed back to 2015.

The Broadcast Television Spectrum Initiative Auction, as it is called, has been talked about a lot at the FCC over the past month, since Wheeler took over as Chairman. Wheeler said that the FCC can't just issue an auction without putting some rules and policies behind the spectrum, such as what it can be used for. Wheeler has been working with the Incentive Auction Task Force on trying to meet the deadline of June 2014 but it just isn't going to happen. Wheeler said that the FCC will wait until new technologies, software and systems are in place and have been thoroughly tested before they decide to send everything to auction.

On the decision to push the date back, he said,

There are several key ingredients to fulfilling our instructions from Congress and making the incentive auction a success. We absolutely must make fact-based policy decisions in an open and transparent manner. Beyond the policy issues, however, we must also exhaustively test the operating systems and the software necessary to conduct the world's first-of-a kind incentive auction. This includes ensuring that such systems are user-friendly to both broadcasters and wireless carriers who will participate...

I believe we can conduct a successful auction in the middle of 2015. To achieve that goal, there will be a number of important milestones along the way. The Task Force will provide more details about the timeline and milestones in a presentation at the January 2014 Commission meeting.

Here's how it will all go down. The smaller auction of the 10MHz of space will happen in January 2014 as planned. Then, based on Congress passing the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act last year, 65MHz of spectrum must be auctioned off by the end of 2015. All of the money made from these auctions will go towards implementing first responder LTE network, FirstNet. This new network would allow first responders to have a dedicated system to be used for both their everyday and emergency operations.

So while there's not much change or news to write home about here, it was important to note that the FCC is acting in a methodical and carefully-planned manner, which is sometimes a rarity for the Commission. It's also refreshing to see that there is an actual effort being placed on making sure the spectrum can be implemented immediately and that there will even be a "mock auction" before everything actually takes place, in order to ensure that any flaws in the entire project are found before they do this for real.

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