The UpStream (Page 173)

Amazon Bribes Developers with Coins

posted Saturday Jun 21, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Bribes Developers with Coins

One of the early issues with Android was its massive fragmentation. New versions of the operating system were coming out so frequently that every device seemed to have its own version. This caused a giant gap in the number and types of apps that each device could download. Fortunately for Google they have solved this problem.

Kind of. Now, instead of there being multiple versions of Android in the market, there are multiple operating systems based on Android in the market. While Android, Nokia X and Fire OS are all based on the same platform, the app catalogs are very different. Each publisher has to resubmit their app to each app store, each with their own unique requirements.

So, how does a company differentiate itself against the other Androids, especially to developers? The answer is usually cash. In a move similar to BlackBerry, Amazon is offering developers up to $5,000 per app to create their applications natively for Fire OS, but there's a few caveats.

First, the application must take advantage of the unique features of the Fire Phone. For example, instead of using swipe or a hamburger menu icon to create multiple displays, use Dynamic Perspective. Also, you must use the carousel widget to qualify.

Our second caveat is the fact that you will be paid in Amazon coins, not straight cash. The idea is that the developer will then gift those coins to their application's users. You could use the coins to create a marketing campaign or to reward loyal users of your program.

Getting applications on a new platform is difficult. Unfortunately, this scheme has not worked in the past for other companies. If it had, perhaps BlackBerry would not have lost its number 3 position in the market. With Amazon, however, results do not always align with reason. Only time will tell if Amazon can convince developers to take advantage of the unique aspects of their phone.

Are you considering purchasing a Fire Phone? If so, how important is the application catalog to your decision? Would a lack of custom-feature applications change your mind? Let us know in the comments.

LG webOS-Enbaled TVs Surpass One Million Units Sold

posted Sunday Jun 8, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

LG webOS-Enbaled TVs Surpass One Million Units Sold

We love the fact that LG picked up webOS for two reasons. First, it kept alive one of our most favorite operating systems ever. And second, it allowed us to continue supporting our webOS app (assuming it works on the TV)! So naturally you could understand our excitement when LG debuted a webOS TV at CES. Now, we share LG's excitement and success of their webOS line of TVs selling so well.

This week, LG announced that it has sold over 1 million webOS-enabled smart TVs since they first went on sale in March. LG says that by June of 2015, it estimates sales to hit 10 million units sold. If that's not success and the rescue of a platform that would've fizzled out, I don't know what is.

In-kyu Lee, SVP and head of the TV division at LG, said this about LG's success in TVs this year.

Reaching the one million mark in just three months is a significant achievement in the TV industry. Rather than continuing to add more and more functions into our smart TVs that few people will ever use, we've decided to focus on simplicity with our 2014 Smart+ TVs with webOS. Consumers seem to share our view that this is the right direction for the evolution of smart TVs going forward.

It probably helps that a group of die-hard webOS enthusiasts got on board with LG's adoption of the mobile operating system. Either way, it's good to see the OS come back with a force that is to be reckoned with. Now, seeing as though we don't own an LG TV with webOS, can anyone tell us how well our app works on the TV? Or, rather, if it works at all?

Music Director for Halo Files Suit Against Bungie for Unpaid Time Off and Benefits

posted Sunday Jun 8, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Music Director for Halo Files Suit Against Bungie for Unpaid Time Off and Benefits

With E3 just around the corner, it would be natural for people to focus on the event. However, with the International Consumer Electronics Show upstaging E3 only six months ago, and with a number of surprises being spoiled by leaked information, I felt it was only right to bring to light some other news that isn't convention-related. There seems to be a lawsuit brewing between a Halo music composer and Bungie.

Marty O'Donnell, renowned music compose for the popular videogame series Halo, has sued developer studio Bungie and also Bungie's CEO Harold Ryan. O'Donnell says that Bungie and Ryan did not pay him for paid time off, various expenses and benefits and unpaid vacation time.

O'Donnell was recently let go by Bungie in April but it was not said as to why he was terminated. Considering that the composer was with the company since May of 2000, there's probably substantial reasoning to his firing. In the lawsuit, it's said that Bungie did not give reason or explanation for the dismissal of O'Donnell and that Bungie violated company policy in regards to pay employees for any vacation time that went unused, any paid time off and other benefits. It also says that Ryan personally promised to pay for those items.

O'Donnell is also settling other issues with Bungie and its CEO through arbitration, but the reasons are not described in the lawsuit. He is currently seeking double the amount he is owed in the suit filed on May 1st. On May 27th, Bungie and Ryan responded to the suit, denying that the company owed O'Donnell any money.

Considering that Halo had made almost $3.5 billion, it can be safely said that O'Donnell's music had something to do with the overall success of the franchise. While we don't know much of the situation, do you think he is in the wrong? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and we'll fill you in on the result of the lawsuit.

Samsung, BLU, Prestigio, YEZZ and Others Announce Non-Android Phones

posted Saturday Jun 7, 2014 by Scott Ertz

It is no secret that Android has seen a lot of commercial success over the past few years. A big part of that success has come from the perceived low cost of manufacturing an Android-powered device. Unfortunately, Google's mistreatment of others' patents has made the per-device cost pretty steep. For some manufacturers, they could pay upwards of $15 per device to license patents that Google has violated.

This is one of the main reasons we have seen companies searching for an Android alternative. Combine that with the shifting sands that are Android's manufacturing rules and regulations, and you'll find an immediate need for manufacturing alternatives. This week we got to see how manufacturers, both big and small, are responding to the Android issue.


First we have Samsung. Samsung, whose smartphone business has been built on the back of Android, has been unhappy with the platform for a while. They have been working in-house on their own operating system, Tizen, which has been released on several devices. None of these, however, has been a Samsung smartphone. All of that changed at Samsung's Tizen developer conference, where the company has announced their first Tizen-powered smartphone, the Samsung Z.

On the outside, the device is classic Samsung: big screen, great camera and their iconic physical home button, which they currently use on both Android and Windows Phone devices. In fact, a casual look at the handset would lead you to believe it is one of their flagship Galaxy handsets. You wouldn't be far off, with the device having many of the Galaxy S5 features: fingerprint sensor, heart rate monitor, 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash, etc.

The big difference here, of course, is the operating system. However, if you are a Samsung fan, you might not notice too many visual differences. That is because the TouchWiz interface that Samsung uses on their Android phones is designed by them, as is Tizen. With this, Samsung has made the transition from Android to Tizen fairly seamless for users.

Hit the break for a photo and some of the other manufacturers ditching Android.

Netflix's Reed Hastings Speaks Out Against Comcast Again

posted Saturday May 31, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Netflix's Reed Hastings Speaks Out Against Comcast Again

One of the interesting things about Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is the fact that he's not afraid to say what he thinks. Over the past couple of months the thing he's been thinking about is net neutrality. This is been at the top of his mind because of the situation he's gotten into with some of the Internet providers. The service he has the most trouble with is Comcast.

This week at Re/code's Code Conference, he said what he was thinking once again. Once again, Comcast was the target of his frustrations. He calls out Comcast for what he considers to be "double dipping." By that he means Comcast charges both the subscribers and Netflix for the same Internet access.

They want the whole Internet to pay them for when their subscribers use the Internet. Should Comcast be able to charge everyone else for access to their subscribers?

He says the price Netflix is currently paying to keep their speeds high on some of the larger ISPs doesn't hurt them yet. However, if you're a cable subscriber, you know that the cable companies have a tendency to increase prices as time goes on. He feels that Netflix will become a victim of this same situation subscribers already go through.

In the past, Hastings has spoken out on the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable. He believes that the merger will only lead to more situations like this. It will certainly increase the amount that Netflix have to pay to Comcast to get their speeds up, as Comcast's subscriber count will increase dramatically.

Another recent concern has come from AT&T's announced plans to acquire DirecTV. This move could also help to consolidate the broadband market, making prices go up. Those increased prices could affect both you and Netflix. As we know, as Netflix's cost goes up, so does their monthly price. All of these topics are what the FCC is trying to address with the net neutrality regulations.

Do you think Comcast should be able to charge for access in both directions, or should direct subscribers be the only ones subjected to fees? Let us know in the comments.

Bill to Prohibit FCC's Classification of Broadband as Utility

posted Saturday May 31, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Bill to Prohibit FCC's Classification of Broadband as Utility

We've been talking about net neutrality around here a lot lately. That is, in part, to the FCC recently trying to reinstate net neutrality regulations. While most of the country is happy about this, not everyone feels the same way.

One of the ways the FCC hopes to reinstate net neutrality is by reclassifying broadband as a utility. This move would make the Internet an optional necessity. This would allow for easier credit checks for customers, among other benefits. As a utility, more customers should have access to better Internet connections.

Unfortunately for the FCC, they have an opponent in Representative Bob Latta from Ohio. He has introduced a bill prohibiting the FCC from reclassifying broadband as the utility. Representative Latta said the move would actually hurt the economy.

At a time when the Internet economy is thriving and driving robust productivity and economic growth, it is reckless to suggest, let alone adopt, policies that threaten its success. Reclassification would heap 80 years of regulatory baggage on broadband providers, restricting their flexibility to innovate and placing them at the mercy of a government agency.

In light of the FCC initiating yet another attempt to regulate the Internet, upending long-standing precedent and imposing monopoly-era telephone rules and obligations on the 21st Century broadband marketplace, Congress must take action to put an end to this misguided regulatory proposal. The Internet has remained open and continues to be a powerful engine fueling private enterprise, economic growth and innovation absent government interference and obstruction.

Many consumer advocacy groups have demanded the FCC make this move. Since asking for open comment on the subject, the FCC has received over 48,000 comments. The general consensus from consumers is that they want the FCC to step in and prevent carriers from limiting their access to content.

The internet should be managed like a utility," wrote one person. "Don't let corporate greed degrade line speeds.

I am requesting that the FCC reclassifies Internet Service Providers as Title II common carriers. The USA is founded on principles of equality and freedom. These foundational concepts need to be applied to the Internet, particularly as we as a society move forward with technological advances. The internet is vital to society, and this uniquely creative and open marketplace must remain a place for all of us regardless of deep pockets and political connections.

These consumers fears have been underscored by the recent Viacom situation with Cable One. Viacom's ability to punish Internet subscribers for the perceived sins of their cable company is exactly what people are worried about. This, by definition, is the opposite of "The Internet has remained open," so eloquently spoken by Representative Latta.

So, do you think the FCC should regulate the Internet or do you think we should continue down the Wild West path we're on. We want to know. Sound off in the comments.

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