The UpStream (Page 203)

House of Cards Headed to... Redbox?

posted Saturday Sep 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

House of Cards Headed to... Redbox?

Sometimes I wonder if companies make announcements just to see if we will believe them or not. That is what we have here. Netflix has announced that their original series House of Cards will soon be available at Redbox, one of their biggest competitors.

This is all part of their attempt to transition from broadcaster to producer, the same thing that Hulu and Amazon have been trying. This is just an interesting approach to the concept, and a upping of the ante for the competitors. If you are going to challenge the industry through the competition, there is probably not a better Trojan horse than House of Cards.

With NINE Emmy nominations, this series can appeal to anyone through any service. Adding the "Netflix Original Series" bumper to the beginning and end of an episode turns the show from a great series to watch to an advertisement for one service on another. It's a little like seeing FOX commercials while watching a show on Adult Swim.

Will this undercover marketing work? Well, if the concept was bad, the broadcast networks wouldn't do it all the time. If it is successful, it can help CEO Reed Hastings accomplish his goal of having around 20 original programs running at any given time. Currently, in addition to House of Cards, they also have Orange is the New Black; only 10% of the way to his goal.

If you don't currently have Netflix and are interested in checking out this program, you will be able to through Redbox on October 8th. Once you fall in love, it might be time to get a Netflix subscription and check out the rest of the great content that is available.

3 Days in, $1 Billion Up for Rockstar Games

posted Saturday Sep 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

3 Days in, $1 Billion Up for Rockstar Games

If you have been paying attention to your social media feeds over the past 2 weeks, you already knew that Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto V was going to have a huge opening. If you read any of the reviews online, you could probably have guessed that it was going to have a record-setting release. But, how did it do in reality?

The fifth major installment in the franchise raked in $800 million in its first day of sales. That is an impressive number, especially with a development cost somewhere in the $250 million range. Now, not all of that money goes to Rockstar, as these are retail not wholesale numbers, but it is a good indication that development costs were paid off day 1.

The game hit its $1 billion mark on day 3, far ahead of the previous record holder. At the launch of Activision's Call Of Duty: Black Ops II, it took a then record-breaking 15 days to hit that mark. That is 5 times longer than the new Rockstar game took for the same milestone. CEO Strauss Zelnick said in an interview,

Grand Theft Auto is a cultural phenomenon and Rockstar Games continues to redefine what can be achieved in interactive entertainment. We are incredibly proud of the extraordinary critical and commercial response to Grand Theft Auto V.

Now, while the company has not announced plans to include the title on the upcoming Xbox One or PlayStation 4 consoles, there is logical speculation that it will be available, possibly at launch. If the company can maintain enough steam to sell the title again, or for some a first time, on the new consoles, investors will be all over the already successful developer for future titles.

BlackBerry Founder to Purchase Company [Rumor]

posted Saturday Sep 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

BlackBerry Founder to Purchase Company [Rumor]

One of the stranger topics in our world has been the concept of Co-CEOs. The most famous example of this odd concept is Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry). These two were replaced by Thorston Heins in 2012, but that transition has not panned out well. BlackBerry took forever to launch its BlackBerry 10 OS, which was plagued by marketing disasters, and that was the best aspect of the company's performance over the past year.

Currently, the company is considering sales of either the entire company, or parts, depending on what bidders might be interested in. Those bidders might be less interested as this week it was announced that they will see a $1 billion loss, which I assumed they spent on Grand Theft Auto V. With all of that said, there is one individual who might be interested in making a bid: former Co-CEO and founder Mike Lazaridis.

Reports suggest that Lazaridis has actually been in talks with two investment firms: Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group. If he gets his way, he might be able to pull a Dell and buy his company back. The important question here is, can the founder's return help the company?

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he revived the company from bankruptcy to a valuable corporation, but Jobs was fired by someone who wanted to take the company in a different direction. Lazaridis' departure was a direct response to the company's performance.

His return to the helm of the company could return the company to its glory days of the early 2000s, or it could continue down the path we have been seeing. Of course all of this is currently speculation, but BlackBerry definitely needs a new direction, and possibly their old direction of appealing to enterprise and not consumers under their former leader might be just what they need. It certainly couldn't hurt, right?

Microsoft Brings Bing Inline With the One Microsoft Philosophy

posted Saturday Sep 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Brings Bing Inline With the One Microsoft Philosophy

Over the past year, we have watched as Microsoft has redefined itself. From a completely redesigned Windows, to an entry into hardware and a corporate reorganization, topped by CEO Steve Ballmer's retirement, it is a completely new Microsoft. The one thing that has been the staple of the new One Microsoft philosophy is a central branding.

Starting with a new Windows logo to a redesigned corporate logo, and of course the evolution of the Xbox logo with the introduction of Xbox One, every major Microsoft brand has had a redesign, save for one: Bing.

Microsoft fixed that this week, unveiling a new Bing logo and showing off the future of the Bing brand. The logo, seen to the right, certainly matches the look and feel of One Microsoft: simple, clean lines that align to the Microsoft grid design. The primary color has been altered, from a darker blue to the corporate orange-yellow from the bottom-right corner of the logo, retiring the blue entirely. The font is, expectedly, an altered version of Segoe, which is the font used in all currently Microsoft marketing materials, as well as Windows 8.

One fear with a major redesign like this is that the brand image will be lost. Luckily, the thing that has always been associated with Bing, the beautiful, colorful photography on the homepage, is not going anywhere. In fact, Bing has emphasized their commitment to beautiful full-bleed photography throughout the Bing universe, even including a branded photo in their announcement message.

One of the things that I thought was interesting about the new brand is what Bing calls the Searchlight graphic. Essentially, they took the new Bing takeaway symbol and extended all of the lines towards infinity and, using colors and transparencies, created a truly beautiful graphic. I have absolutely no idea where or why it could ever be used, but I love the look of it.

You can check out all of the information about the branding at Bing, and can see all of the new Microsoft logos within context after the break.

EA Names Internal Employee Andrew Wilson New CEO

posted Wednesday Sep 18, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

EA Names Internal Employee Andrew Wilson New CEO

Six months ago, EA's CEO, John Riccietiello, stepped down from his position as leader of the gaming company, putting former exec Larry Probst back at the helm while Electronic Arts hunted down a new chief. Well, EA has now found the right person for the job, Andrew Wilson.

In a blog post on EA's site, Probst speaks on not only the search process, but also on what Wilson brings to the team.

The rigorous search conducted by our Board included several talented executives from both outside the company and from within EA. Andrew's appointment is a clear demonstration of the deep bench of management talent at EA, and reflects our fundamental belief that EA is on track to become the global leader in interactive games and services.

For Wilson, he signed on to the company back in 2000 and was heavily involved in the South Korea studio for EA. He first started with the company as Executive Producer of FIFA and most recently was the Executive Vice President of EA SPORTS and Origin. Probst said that during Wilson's time as EVP of EA SPORTS, he discovered that the new CEO showed "an exceptional ability to identify and develop talented people and teams."

Wilson also posted on the EA blog. He spoke on his goals moving forward with the company, outlining exactly what he's going to do.

I envision EA as the World's Greatest Games Company. This is not about what we are aiming for or what we will become. Rather, it is about an unfaltering commitment to what we will be every day. This is an attitude that must drive our culture as one team.

In the short term, our mission is crystal clear: We are 100 percent focused on delivering our FY14 business plan.

Looking ahead, my focus will be on three things:

1. Continued transformation for our digital future;

2. Delivering amazing games and services across platforms; and

3. Instilling a culture of execution that will drive profitable growth.

For now, Probst will remain on with the company for an "indefinite period" of time as Executive Chairman, while he helps Wilson transition into his new role as CEO. The new leader of EA also said that in the next few weeks we should see a full detail of his operational plan, which will contain information to turn his three bulleted goals into a reality. For EA's sake, and for the sake of gamers everywhere, let's hope Andrew Wilson will start turning EA into a more human company again, and I'll wish that he steers the gaming studio and publisher away from the bottom-dollar-focused, no-accountability, micro-transaction-ladened world we're currently seeing EA live in.

Samsung CEOs Push to Bring Tizen to TVs, Everything Else

posted Sunday Sep 15, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Samsung CEOs Push to Bring Tizen to TVs, Everything Else

Long time fans of our show will know that LAPTOP Magazine's Avram Piltch, Scott and I talk about Samsung's operating system, Tizen, occasionally. It's Samsung's in-house OS and the company has been looking to expand it as it tries to transition from a stock Android experience in various ways. At IFA in Berlin this past week, Samsung continued to push Tizen and will now be introducing the experience to the company's TVs.

In an interview with a German publication, co-CEO of Samsung Boo-Keun Yoon said that this would allow Samsung to have more direct control and say over how its devices function and are deployed. Samsung had its own operating systems on TVs already, however it is fragmented and sometimes doesn't communicate easily to the rest of Samsung's line of electronics. Introducing Tizen should make a fully Samsung life better and easier.

Tizen is going to be used on some of our smartphones just like on our TVs and on home appliances. This way we create an ecosystem in which we are able to connect all Samsung devices.

So far, no announcements on availability have been disclosed but Samsung did say that would all be decided by if each market would be receptive to adopting Tizen. Last month, Samsung's other co-CEO JK Shin said that he wanted to see Tizen on every device Samsung puts out, and that he wanted it to happen sooner than later.

There are many convergences not only among IT gadgets, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, and cameras, but also among different industries like cars, bio, or banks. Cross-convergence is the one (area) Samsung can do best since we do have various parts and finished products.

I am very excited to see the potential of Tizen, not only for what Samsung can do with it, but to see yet another company detach itself from the grip of a Droid. Creating independence for a company brings several things to the market, like innovation and competition. Things have become a bit stale in the mobile space and if Samsung breaks off of Android completely and puts Tizen on TVs, phones, tablets, washers, dryers and stoves, you'd know when your clothes are done and when your eggs are spoiled - all while watching your favorite TV show and enjoying your second screen experience. I welcome Tizen with open-source arms.

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