The UpStream

Tesla and AT&T Team Up to Bring Wireless Connectivity to the Car

posted Sunday Oct 20, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Tesla and AT&T Team Up to Bring Wireless Connectivity to the Car

Tesla is in the news again this week, and this time it's not for the car that caught on fire. The company has partnered up with AT&T to take connectivity to the next level.

AT&T's SVP of emerging tech, Chris Penrose, announced at GigaOM Mobilize that AT&T services will be available in a Tesla. AT&T will be powering all two-way communications for the vehicle, along with access to the engine's diagnostics and tweaks, and all information and entertainment apps and features. The car will then also be able to actively monitor a driver's habits, speed and other driving information you'd usually only find on a small screen in a car.

On stage, he said,

We believe that our ability to bring total solutions into the space is something that is being demanded, and something that we can excel and differentiate. Not just being a connectivity partner.

For this to work, the Tesla will have to have a built-in modem installed, as well as an AT&T SIM card, which will allow the vehicle to connect to AT&T's towers. The connection will also allow the car to have access to real-time traffic data and the navigation system can adapt to the data and change routes on-the-fly. Active monitoring of the transmission, brake system, engine and more can all take place, letting the driver know the instant the car should be taken into the shop. The same software can also be used to track down the car if it's stolen. Obviously the possibilities are almost endless.

Tesla is already working with the Qi Wireless Power Consortium to wirelessly charge the vehicle and now, with the addition of AT&T, Teslas are now wirelessly connected to all the information in the world, literally. This is a great step for all types of communication in vehicles, though, not just for Tesla and AT&T. If this ends up working extremely well, we can probably see a Verizon Wireless partnership in the near future. Perhaps they'd like to power Ford cars that already come loaded with a feature-rich Sync by Microsoft system. But until that happens, I'll just be waiting for my phone call from Tesla extending an invitation for me to drive one of these cars.

Apple Cuts Orders of iPhone 5c as Fans Only Want Premium Model

posted Sunday Oct 20, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Apple Cuts Orders of iPhone 5c as Fans Only Want Premium Model

In the past, we've talked about the flurry of problems Apple has had with iPhone launches but nobody else seems to talk about. Fortunately, we're here to break the conformity barrier, and with the iPhone 5s and 5c launches, we covered the sensor issues of the 5s and sales failure of the 5c. This week it continues, as it's been reported that Apple has requested a cut in production on the iPhone 5c.

Before the phone even came out, we predicted the phone would be a failure, if not for anything else than Apple bashing Samsung for using plastic, claiming it makes Samsung phones appear "cheap." Well, keeping with the "cheap" moniker, the 5c was apparently no different and the citizens of Appledom did not want to associate with a lesser model of the newer iPhone. For the final three months of the year, Apple has asked one of the company's largest manufacturers, Pegatron Corp, to raise the production of the 5s while sharply cutting production of the 5c.

Pegatron has reported that orders for the iPhone 5c have been cut by more than 20 percent in the past two weeks, which is huge for a company that bolstered this phone as a premium, yet affordable option. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co is another assembly plant for the 5c, and that group has seen orders drop by over 30 percent in the same couple of weeks. However two executives from the company also confirmed that Apple has raised orders for the 5s for the fourth quarter. Analyst Michael Walkley has estimated that sales for the 5s could be up to 2.5 times more than the 5c.

Morningstar analyst Brian Colello even said that Apple's marketing towards emerging markets would have been great, if the iPhone 5c wasn't so expensive.

We're not especially concerned with 5C order cuts at this point because they appear to be offset by strong demand and increased production for the 5S. As far as emerging markets, the 5C is simply not cheap enough to gain traction with customers that can buy $150 Android devices.

As we predicted, the fact that the phone is not much different than the iPhone 5 would prevent adopters from switching over to the 5c, with some owners only being ten to twelve months into their contract. That, on top of the not-so-cheap price point of $649, leaves the Apple iPhone 5c to be but a mockery of a plastic Galaxy S phone trapped in a colorful Lumia shell. Do you disagree? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments section below.

Facebook to Allow Teens to Post Publicly

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Facebook to Allow Teens to Post Publicly

Facebook has made what might seem like a trivial change to their sharing policy, but one that has drawn a lot of fire from various advocacy groups. The change, described by Facebook,

Up until today, for people aged 13 through 17, the initial audience of their first post on Facebook was set to "Friends of Friends" - with the option to change it.

Going forward, when people aged 13 through 17 sign up for an account on Facebook, the initial audience of their first post will be set to a narrower audience of "Friends.

Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard. So, starting today, people aged 13 through 17 will also have the choice to post publicly on Facebook.

Now, Facebook's policy about preventing teens from posting publicly has been one of the few things that has gotten the company praise in the security realm. Obviously, preventing teens' posts from being seen publicly is important in preventing bullies and sexual predators from interacting with their posts. Obviously, the responses have been varied.

We'll start with the positive. Many people are excited that the default setting has been changed from "Friends of Friends" to "Friends," which makes sense to me. This allows all posts to default to only those you choose, again helping to prevent bullying.

The ability to post publicly, however, is not being received as well. There are a number of reasons for the response. First is the security issues, which we can all understand. Central Florida has recently been going through the suicide of a 12-year-old girl over cyber bullying by 2 young girls, 12 and 14. With a recent arrest in the case, it is certainly a strange time to make this change, but the problem has become so common, no time would work.

On the other hand, another issue at hand is the purpose for the change. Facebook explains it in the above quote as a way for teens express themselves on topics of importance. But, why does Facebook care about the intended audience for a teen's views? Because, if a post is public, it can be used in Facebook marketing.

Getting everyone to share everything that ever happens to them is very profitable for Facebook. Marketing to the highly impressionable teen crowd could be even more profitable for Facebook, but they have to be able to provide information to their advertisers to do so. Allowing teens to post publicly gives them the ability to do just that.

Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy said,

They're hitting kids from a neurological weak spot. Kids don't have the same kind of impulse control that adults do.

That is exactly what advertisers are hoping for. Since Facebook is known for controversial privacy policies and not reversing decisions, all we can do is live in this new world. Maybe this will be the thing that starts the member exodus.

Watch Dogs Misses Holiday Deadline, Delayed Until Spring 2014

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Watch Dogs Misses Holiday Deadline, Delayed Until Spring 2014

One of the most anticipated titles announced at E3 was Watch Dogs. Every two weeks or so, the developers at Ubisoft have leaked a bit more information to the masses, including a website, real-time gameplay clips, trailers and more. It felt like the holiday season could have been saved from the unimpressive new consoles with a great title like this. Unfortunately, Watch Dogs will now be pushed back to the first quarter of 2014.

Citing unexpected bumps in the road and some minor setbacks, the Watch Dogs team said that "In a world of mega-blockbusters we have come to the conclusion that the team needed more time to realize the game's potential. We consider it to be a long term pillar of our future performance, alongside the likes of Assassin's Creed and Far Cry."

That's a pretty big statement for a brand new franchise. The team might have felt like the game was not going to be ready for a while, but was putting off the official message until they knew for sure that it wasn't going to happen in time for holiday season and the new console launches.

Here's the message directly from Ubisoft.

Our ambition from the start with Watch Dogs has been to deliver something that embodies what we wanted to see in the next-generation of gaming. It is with this in mind that we've made the tough decision to delay the release until spring 2014.

We know a lot of you are probably wondering: Why now? We struggled with whether we would delay the game. But from the beginning, we have adopted the attitude that we will not compromise on quality. As we got closer to release, as all the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place in our last push before completion, it became clear to us that we needed to take the extra time to polish and fine tune each detail so we can deliver a truly memorable and exceptional experience.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you. We thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the way you respond on the web, at events, press conferences and other opportunities we have to interact. Your passion keeps us motivated.

We can't wait to see you in Chicago next spring. We are confident you'll love this game as much as we love working on it.

Ubisoft's Communications Manager, Gary Steinman, has been very active and upfront about the decision in the blog this week. Fans have been asking questions and he's been answering. Steinman also reiterating the points above by replying directly to a user with, "The team has been working really hard to deliver a really ambitious game within the original timeframe. We tested the game until the very last minute in order to make the most informed decision."

Obviously a lot of disgruntled fans have come out of the woodwork to berate and demean the product, claiming that many have pre-ordered the game and now that Ubisoft has the consumers' money, the game won't come out. However, in the real world, things like push-backs and delays happen all the time. On the other side of it, the game could've been released for the holidays, most likely it would have been buggy or broken, and fans would've complained there, too. Luckily, Steinman and the Ubisoft team have not given in to the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" fans and have stuck to the spring 2014 timeline. Hopefully we'll see some more news leading up to the new release date, including some notes on what was refined or fixed. This should at least appease the fan who is just upset that he or she can't play potentially the greatest new IP to hit a next-gen console since Halo.

Netflix to Appear on Samsung Cable Boxes

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Netflix to Appear on Samsung Cable Boxes

In an attempt to partially merge with the classic television industry they have been helping to redefine, Netflix has announced a partnership with Samsung to make its streaming service available on Samsung Smart Cable Boxes. With the combined interface, users will be able to search for movies and television on Netflix the same way they do in their standard guide.

This type of interface has been tried in Britain via Virgin Media over the past month, and the trial has proven that integrating into the cable box does not negatively impact the concept of Netflix, nor does it threaten normal television. Instead, adding Netflix into the normal television experience allows Netflix to feel less like an after thought and more of part of television.

Being part of television means that Netflix will essentially change from an additional service that you have to have something special to watch, into a series of interactive premium channels. HBO and Showtime have proven for years that premium channels are something that people want and will pay for, so operating under that model could enhance their subscriptions.

Netflix CCO Jonathan Fiedland said in an interview this week,

Having the Netflix app on a set-top box is a natural progression. Our goal is to make it as simple as possible for consumers to enjoy Netflix while cable operators see value, too, because it makes their broadband service more attractive.

In this new world, no longer do you have to have a Roku on top of your existing cable box, or try to interact with the always painful smart TV apps available on some televisions, but instead use your existing cable box and remote as you always have. As Fiedland said, making it easier will be better for people who are not entirely comfortable with technology.

Microsoft Makes Games with Gold a Permanent Feature

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Makes Games with Gold a Permanent Feature

Since first announcing Games with Gold at E3 2013 as a temporary program designed to reward loyal, paying customers with free titles, the program, as originally pitched, was to last through the end of the year and to be retired.

Well, after a successful run of almost 5 months, Microsoft has announced that Games with Gold will be a permanent feature of the Xbox 360. Apparently when a program brings about 120 million hours of gameplay, it is worth keeping. Personally, I have downloaded and played several of the titles made available through the program, so I am glad it will remain.

The question this leaves for most is, will Games with Gold be available on Xbox One? Most of the titles available through the program thus far have been older AAA titles. On the new console, there will not be any older AAA titles, at least not ones that were intended for the Xbox One. Microsoft could make Xbox 360 titles available for free on the One, but that might not get the same response.

Personally, I do not expect the Xbox One to have Games with Gold at launch, especially with launch titles getting delayed. Providing something for free when there are fewer than expected paid titles will not make the console a financial success. That being said, it might gain Microsoft some needed positive press in an environment where the Internet and most gaming press are deciding against the new console.

What do think? Will Games for Gold come to the One at launch? Let us know in the comments section.

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