The UpStream (Page 214)

AT&T Tries Merger Again, Now with Leap Wireless

posted Saturday Jul 13, 2013 by Scott Ertz

AT&T Tries Merger Again, Now with Leap Wireless

It has only been two years since AT&T began its failed bid for T-Mobile USA, which was, of course, eventually thwarted, giving T-Mobile money to upgrade its network to attempt to compete. Down but not out, AT&T has continued the search for a suitable spectrum donator, now landing on Leap Wireless, who operates the Cricket brand.

Unlike the $39 billion it offered for 4th place operator T-Mobile, AT&T has offered $1.2 billion in cash for Leap Wireless. This value represents a premium of 88% over the stock price, closing Friday at $7.98. After the announcement, Leap's stock price rose to nearly $17 per share, indicating excitement from the market about the merger.

This announcement comes in the wake of Sprint and T-Mobile both finding suitable merge partners, opening up the question as to how AT&T and Verizon would continue their own expansions in an even more competitive marketplace. The only thing about this particular purchase is that it doesn't really affect AT&T in any positive light. Leap doesn't own enough unique spectrum in enough markets to really give AT&T any wiggle room but does have $2.8 billion in debt and only 5 million customers.

What Cricket would give AT&T, however, is a foothold in the growing prepaid market. AT&T's GoPhone has not had a lot of success in the market, but Cricket has. Coming under the AT&T umbrella could mean a national roll-out of the brand name and product offerings, which has appealed to the core consumer base in the markets it is available. The company has had enough success that it has made product and service announcements at the International CES.

Predictably, AT&T plans to use Cricket in the same way Sprint has used Virgin Mobile USA and Boost Mobile: simply an established brand name to separate the prepaid offerings from the core business model. While it is a risky move to spend so much, plus absorb so much debt simply for a brand name, there are examples of success in other industries. For example, Systemax purchased CompUSA and Circuit City in full bankruptcy and have spun those brands into successful TigerDirect stores.

My personal guess is that this move could be successful. The company has had a lot of success in the core business, there has been no real success in prepaid; purchasing relevance is probably the only option.

Boxee Acquired by Samsung for $30 Million

posted Sunday Jul 7, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Boxee Acquired by Samsung for $30 Million

The lesser known of the popular Internet-streaming devices, startup media company Boxee, has been acquired by Samsung for $30 million. If you are unfamiliar, think Roku but with a lot less of a push from media providers to get content on their platform. A quick glance at Boxee's website led us to this statement:

We're pleased to announce that the Boxee team will be joining Samsung.

We started on this journey six years ago, and have been at the forefront of the changing TV and video landscape. We believe that over the next few years the video market will change even more than it has in the past few decades.

Joining Samsung means we will be able to work on products that marry the best hardware and software in the TV space, products that will be used by tens of millions of people and will help to shape the future of TV.

We are excited about the next chapter for our team.

For Boxee users, we're working behind the scenes to ensure there's minimal impact to your devices. However, the beta Cloud DVR functionality we provided to certain Boxee TV users will be discontinued on July 10th. You will not have access to your existing recordings after that date. We realize many of you loved the service, and we're sorry it won't be available moving forward.

We're incredibly proud of what we've built, and we want to thank you for being a part of our journey.

For Samsung, this will help the company boost the software and user interface for their net-connected TVs. At the International Consumer Electronics Show, Boxee has shown off some impressive software but simply never had the backing to get themselves off the ground like Roku has. Samsung acquisition will allow the Boxee staff to really work on something big and provide a great experience across all Samsung devices as a whole.

Initially, Boxee was looking for approximately another $25 million in the round of funding they started up. Then, with the funding not coming in, the company started to shop around looking for a potential buyer for the company. At $30 million from Samsung, I'd say the purchase was successful and beneficial on both sides. At that pricepoint, Samsung will be keeping about 40 Boxee employees, with half of those working from Israel and the other half coming out of the office in New York City.

Where does this all leave Boxee customers? Well, on July 10th Boxee will be discontinuing their Cloud DVR service, and customers will lose all programming they've stored on the cloud. No word yet on the remainder of the transition of the company, as the news just broke over the weekend, however we'll be sure to keep you updates as everything unfolds.

Move Over E3, Gaming Takes a Bigger Role at CES 2014

posted Sunday Jul 7, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Move Over E3, Gaming Takes a Bigger Role at CES 2014

A lot of people have defended that fact that I have continuously called out E3 on their lack of organization and relevancy in the gaming space with each growing year. Say what you will, but the facts do not lie. The convention grows more frustrating each year to attend and big names are stepping out and delivering press events on their own, to bigger media attention and coverage. Last year on our show, I even said that eventually we'd see gaming become part of the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) annual event, the International Consumer Electronic Show (CES). Well, either Shapiro heard me talking about it or I am less "out there" than everyone is saying, because the framework for a gaming showcase at CES is taking place starting next year.

The CEA announced that over 40 different companies will show off the latest in gaming technology and hardware at CES 2014 in Vegas this year. Dubbed the CES Gaming Showcase TechZone, this will add to the two handfuls of TechZones already existed in the 1.9 million square feet of showfloor, and will be the prime destination where gaming meets business. Like I've said in the past, business is where gaming matters and it is less important for these companies to cater to the "hardcore gamers" who fill forums across the Internet when literally billions of dollars exchange hands at CES. The CEA will also be giving the Gaming TechZone over 10,000 square feet of space in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center to show off their goods, "from mobile, online and HD gaming, plasma HDTV to surround sound and power conditioning hardware."

Karen Chupka, Senior VP of CES, said in their press statement about this addition,

The Gaming Showcase at the 2014 International CES is a must-stop destination for the latest gaming trends from around the globe. The 2013 International CES saw unmatched innovation in gaming technology with the launch of NVIDIA's Project Shield, the Oculus Rift, the Sifteo and the Razer Edge. We look forward to witnessing the bleeding-edge gaming technologies that will be unveiled at the 2014 CES.

As Chupka has mentioned, we saw the big names at E3 show up six months before the big gaming event, at CES 2013. Now with CES actually incorporating gaming as a highlighted showcase, I'll expect to see more big things come out of the event for gaming. A list of exhibitors include heavy-hitters like AMD, Innex, Intel, Logitech, Nokia, Nvidia, Orbotix, and Sony. We'll also see a huge focus in mobile gaming, naturally, as the CEA said revenues increased in that space by triple-digits in both 2011 and 2012. Plus, with the launch of next-gen happening over the holiday season, there is sure to be a load of new products to go along with the new hardware come January.

When you think about it, this all makes sense. CES is the largest technology event in the world, with media attending from 150 countries across the globe. Having that same group of 35,000+ attend a second event, six months later, that's only about gaming is just not in the cards anymore. Now it's time for a professional organization to take over gaming and make the convention the best it can possibly be. I can't wait for Vegas this year.

Socl Gets Even More Friendly and Interactive with New Site Overhaul and Additions

posted Sunday Jul 7, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Socl Gets Even More Friendly and Interactive with New Site Overhaul and Additions

It's been two years since Microsoft accidentally introduced, their take on social interaction with a twist. When I played around with it, I never really got hooked but could definitely see its uses. Share documents, songs, video clips and more, all in a playlist format that you can bring your friends in on. It kind of felt like GoToMeeting, minus the whole professional vibe that would stray college-aged customers from using it. If you aren't familiar with Socl, I think Microsoft could describe it best.

From Microsoft Research's FUSE Labs, Socl create experiences allow you to express your ideas through collages, videos, memes and dynamic media that take seconds to create and are easy to collect, comment upon, and share on Socl and to other social networks such as Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter.

Now, the company is taking Socl a little further by introducing "Create Experiences" that will allow you to express yourself, as they say. I have the list of experiences below along with a video after the break.


Currently available for Windows devices, BLINK apps provide ways to capture, create and share short dynamic media using Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8.

Using BLINK or BLINK Cliplets, you can capture the perfect shot or have fun creating surprising short films to share on Socl and your other favorite social networks.


Part "meme-generator," part game, Picotales are little stories made by overlaying text on an image. Something cool, witty, funny, playful... Simply type a message and hit go. Picotale will deliver an image including your text. Hit go again until you find a combination you like. Then post on Socl and your other favorite social networks.

Collage - now with upload!

Collages are comprised of images, links and videos found on the web or uploaded to Socl. Simply type a topic, paste a link or upload images then drag and drop. Your collage will be stylishly assembled for you in an instant to post on Socl and your other favorite social networks.

Video Party

Video Parties are shared video experiences on Socl. Got a favorite band, movie, genre, actor, activity? Simply name your party and click start. Then search for a selection of video clips to create a video playlist. Now you're ready to invite your friends to watch, chat and share the experience, in real time if you like.

Mobile Socl

Socl's responsive site design will optimize for your device; now you can take Socl on the go with you.

If Socl isn't something you've played with yet, I highly suggest you do so. It's kind of fun if you have a bunch of friends who are willing to mess around with the system along with you. Then, it also becomes useful when you get tired of the mundane status updates and static pictures that are Facebook and Twitter. Remember when Xbox introduced the whole "watch movies with friends" thing? It's kind of like that, except you can now watch the Internet with your friends. Plus, it's kind of cool to just be able to create the exact thing you want, within one experience, without having to load a bunch of side-apps to get the job done. It may seem like something you wouldn't usually do, but it was definitely a refreshing experience for me. Your mileage may vary.

Microsoft Stays Committed to the 360, Removes Title Update Fee

posted Sunday Jun 30, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Stays Committed to the 360, Removes Title Update Fee

Even after diving into details of the Xbox One at E3, Microsoft has remained committed to the Xbox 360 with new games and a new console. It's obvious that Microsoft still sees value in the eight year old console and will continue to support it even after the launch of the One this holiday season. To continue their committment, the Xbox team also announced that they have stopped putting the $10,000 price tag on developers to update their 360 titles. The only problem is they forgot to tell, well, anyone.

In a story that further makes everyone scratch their head at the lack of explanation coming out of Microsoft lately, apparently they stopped charging fees to update games back in April, however nobody seemed to know about it except for those pushing updates since then. Many third-party developers had no idea that the five-figure charge was done away with, leaving many gamers and developers going through the same motions as they have in the past. A prime example is the developing studio of Fez, Polytron, who did not fix an issue last year that corrupted a small number of gamers' save files because the percentage didn't justify the cost. Had we fast-forwarded a year, the game would've been fixed immediately and everyone would've been happy.

The official statement from Microsoft explains it a step further.

Microsoft eliminated fees for Title Updates on Xbox 360 Arcade games in April 2013. We're constantly evaluating our policies and implementing feedback.

While our development policies are confidential, and will remain so, we're pleased to say that this is just one of many ongoing changes and improvements we've made to ensure Xbox is the best place possible for developers and gamers.

Of course, this is just for the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One may or may not follow suit. If Microsoft really is trying to align themselves to compete against Steam (well, you know, before the whole policy reversal thing), then eliminating or cutting the cost on patch fees would be a great start. As it stands, however, that would seem less likely now that gamers complained about not being able to buy and play used games on a console for next-gen. I definitely do understand the need to include a patch fee for studios, as companies like EA have been known to rush products to market without fixing all of the issues first, so at least they have to pay each time they wish to push an update. Oh, and for those curious, Sony also had an update fee, but has since eliminated it when Microsoft did back in April.

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