The UpStream (Page 243)

Microsoft's New VP, Head of Research

posted Saturday Nov 24, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft's New VP, Head of Research

Shortly after the departure of Steven Sinofsky from Microsoft's Windows team and the promotion of two current executives into his former roles, Microsoft is continuing to beef up its executive team. Most likely in response to the surprisingly negative reviews from tech blogs (though the sentiment does not seem to be echoed by consumers themselves), Microsoft has brought in a new Vice President and head of Microsoft Research International, Dr. Jeannette Wing.

Joining the company from Carnegie Mellon University and the National Science Foundation, Dr. Wing will answer to Chief Research Officer Rick Rashid and will head up the international branches of Microsoft's research endeavors. She is a leader in formal methods, security and privacy, and will probably work primarily on related tasks, such as privacy policy and setting research for Skype, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and, particularly for other countries. This could help free up some brain power to work through some of the perceived cognitive friction in the new Windows Start screen.

Dr. Wing's new boss had some very nice things to say about his new executive,

Jeannette is a leading light in the computer science research community, providing strong leadership both at Carnegie Mellon and at NSF. I have long been impressed by both her profound commitment to world-class research and her service to the research community, and I look forward to working alongside her. It's a privilege to welcome Jeannette to Microsoft Research.

Rashid is not the only one excited about the move. Dr. Wing said,

I'm excited to join Microsoft Research, a world-class research organization in computing and related disciplines, and I appreciate this unique opportunity to lead its international labs. Microsoft Research has already had tremendous impact on the field of computing, on Microsoft's products and services, and on society, with potential yet to be unleashed. I am looking forward to working with the extraordinary talent at Microsoft Research, and I am especially honored to serve the international labs, each with its own character, strengths and distinct cultures.

It will be interesting to see how she is able to work through the problems of internationalizing some very localized products while maintaining proper, legal privacy. It sounds like Microsoft is working to prevent the problems Facebook is facing now.

ICANN Tries to One-Up XXX with New Top-Level Domains

posted Saturday Nov 24, 2012 by Scott Ertz

ICANN Tries to One-Up XXX with New Top-Level Domains

Domain names have gotten more and more difficult to register with companies and individuals hijacking sites before the popularity of their content has been established. For example, a personal domain from one of our staff members was once being sold by one of these hijack organizations for $2500 and the domain for our sister company was purchased for a little over $500. One way to eliminate this problem is to offer more specialized top-level domains.

For those who don't know, top-levels are the suffixes at the end of a domain name, such as .com and .net. ICANN, the organization responsible for moderating the Internet domain, has been taking suggestions for new top-levels over the past few months. As of the closing of the requests, 1930 applications were submitted, including .cloud, .music and .lol. Personally I really like .lol and would consider purchasing one just for laughs.

Not all of the applications have been well-received, however. A panel of officials from 50 countries have given a list of 50 of these applications that they believe to be concerning either globally or regionally. For example, .patagonia has been contested because of being a name of a region and the problems that could come from assigning it to a private company. Also, some intolerant countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have protested the use of .gay because of their collective dislike of the people and the fear it might encourage more gay people to be born, I suppose.

This Government Advisory Committee (GAC) has submitted 242 "early warnings," which equate to concerns over usage. Some of the concerns are of the type mentioned above, while others are over registrations by companies that might end up owning a top-level, such as Google or Microsoft owning .search or amazon owning .book. The applicants have 21 days to respond to the warnings and, if no response or no application withdraw happens, then the GAC can lodge a formal complaint to ICANN in April.

We know that formal complaints do not always equate to canceled top-level domains. At the beginning of 2011, ICANN approved .xxx, even through massive complaints. My guess is that some of these top-levels will be approved, such as .gay, despite protest, and others, like .book, will not because of Amazon's possibility to register one for every book ever (not really, of course - that would be insane).

We probably have another six months before any of these are available to register, but if you would like to be prepared, you can check out the list here and the ones that have been marked as warnings here.

Facebook May Be Deemed Illegal in Scandinavia

posted Saturday Nov 24, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Facebook May Be Deemed Illegal in Scandinavia

We are all annoyed by Facebook's constant privacy policy changes and advertising schemes, but apparently not as much as the governments of the Scandinavian countries, who believe that Facebook's recent changes to their news feed advertisements go against the European Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications. The directive was created as a way to prevent email spam by requiring a user to have opted-in to receive solicitations, unlike the US requirement to be able to opt-out of solicitations.

Obviously the "Sponsored Stores" aren't exactly opt-in, and they aren't exactly not. Until recently, the Sponsored Stories would only show up for companies you or your friends had liked, but now that isn't exactly the case. When it was, it was easy to justify opt-in status - you friended a person who liked the page voluntarily, you can always remove them from your friends list if you don't like the things they do. In the new world, it is a little harder to justify to the Scandinavian governments.

It is not impossible, however. This is not email where, without it life on the Internet is impossible. This is a free, opt-in social networking site who needs to make money somehow to keep providing their free service to consumers. If you are not happy with the service you are receiving, or you believe the ads are too hard for you to live with, you are always able to opt-out of receiving them by deleting your Facebook account. I hear Myspace is looking for users again.

In reality, advertising on a social networking site is no different that advertising on any other free site. Why would Facebook's Sponsored Stores be any different than the SMS Audio and Microsoft Store ads on this site? Is it because the news on Facebook belongs to the user? No, that can't be it because anything that is posted on Facebook becomes the property of Facebook, they merely give you easy access to it. So what if they want to add a little more data in there between the other content?

Everyone is coming to the realization that Facebook advertising doesn't work, so why not let them burn out this business model while they look for the next one? No, that isn't how it is going to work - instead there will be a lawsuit filed and, once again, we will be forced to follow a suit between one group that doesn't understand technology and one that is trying to stay afloat. Hopefully either the governments will back off and let Facebook try and make money in one of the last ways they know how or Facebook can pull a Google and shut its service down in those countries. It seemed to work for Google, except for those 2 times this month.

What do you think? Should Facebook be forced to stop showing Sponsored Stories because they make some government officials uncomfortable or should they back off and leave things as they are? Let us know in the comments.

Psy Takes Number 1 Spot on YouTube

posted Saturday Nov 24, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Psy Takes Number 1 Spot on YouTube

It's official - Korean pop sensation Psy has taken the top watched video spot from Justin Bieber this week. We kind of all knew this was coming - when Gangnam Style hit 800 million views it was clear that it would not be long before it overtook "Baby", which has held the top spot for a very long time. The difference here is that Bieber has had since 2010 to reach the 806 million views he has, while Psy has managed to accomplish the same goal in only five months.

YouTube trends manager, Kevin Allocca, said,

The velocity of popularity for Psy's outlandish video is unprecedented. Each day, 'Gangnam Style' is still being watched between 7 and 10 million times.

Coverage, like ours, in addition to Psy's official tweet and YouTube's blog post about the topic certainly won't slow down that trend. In fact, ChannelMeter, a video data tracker, believes that not only will Psy own this title for a while to come, he will blow past Bieber like he was standing still. At his current rate, increased by the news of his record breaking week, they believe Gangnam Style will become the virst ever YouTube video to receive 1 billion views.

Yes, the very catchy galloping song will become the first ever 1 billion view video on YouTube. Congratulations, Internet, you win. You have officially unified the world under one song that most of the world cannot understand but a few words of.

Rumor Mill Says an Xbox TV Set-Top Box May Be On Its Way By Next Holiday Season

posted Friday Nov 23, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Rumor Mill Says an Xbox TV Set-Top Box May Be On Its Way By Next Holiday Season

Following last week's news that Xbox Live members broke the record of hours logged for a week, with 442 million from November 6th through 13th, some rumors leave the Redmond office this week. If the rumors are true, it would surely put any doubt to rest that Xbox really is synonymous with entertainment. Word on the street is that there is an Xbox TV coming, that would directly compete with traditional set-top boxes, as well as the Apple TV, Roku, Boxee Box and others. Sources say that it will be a watered-down iteration of the existing Xbox 360 that would be completely designed with a focus to play all types of media using the same frame that Windows 8 operates on. If all goes according to plan, reports are saying we should see the Xbox TV hit stores right before holiday 2013, along with the Xbox 3, or whatever you'd like to call it.

Putting aside if a year from now is too little, too late for Microsoft, moving into this space makes sense. Xbox Live already delivers a ton of content, and now with the addition of Windows 8/Windows Phone 8, your Windows experience is able to be carried from your PC, to your gaming console, to your smartphone. While SmartGlass may enhance the second-screen experience for movies and TV shows on the 360, it doesn't really replace your existing cable or satellite subscription. Xbox TV could be the thing that allows consumers to finally have their entire digital life revolve around Microsoft manufactured-products.

I'd also like to point out a rather interesting thing we're expecting to see in the next family of Xbox's. It appears that the next-gen Microsoft systems will be "always on," in that the company will be including a chipset that will allow fast startup times, as well as the ability to come out of sleep mode in an instant to allow users to access their TV and other media content as quick as possible.

Microsoft was asked to comment on plans for an Xbox TV or set-top box, to which they replied,

Xbox 360 has found new ways to extend the console lifecycle by introducing controller-free experiences with Kinect and re-inventing the console with a new dashboard and new entertainment content partnerships. We are always thinking about what is next for our platform and how to continue to defy the lifecycle convention.

So now with that question not answered and out of the way, the only question is how much would Microsoft charge for Xbox TV? Google and Apple have both priced their boxes at $99, while Roku and Boxee play around in the $79 to $129 range depending on the day. Because of this, it would be natural for Microsoft to not overprice their product, especially against Apple. All I know for now is that the rumor mill is spinning and if this comes true, I'd love to cut my cord and go the way of Xbox TV, as Xbox Live already lets FiOS, Comcast and U-Verse customers connect to their entertainment without the need for another box in the living room.

After Facebook Comes Steve Jobs for Sorkin

posted Thursday Nov 22, 2012 by Scott Ertz

After Facebook Comes Steve Jobs for Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing and The Newsroom and writer of The Social Network has a new project underway and it will probably be his most controversial topic to date - Steve Jobs. He has the task of turning Walter Isaacson's biography of the co-founder of Apple Inc into a motion picture, which is not an easy task. From random bouts of crying to calls with the President of The United States, there is a lot of content to bring to life on the screen.

Sorkin, however, does not like a project that is not a challenge. With The Social Network he made it clear that Zuckerberg was a creative guy but a real jerk. With this film, however, there is a lot more jerk than there is creativity. So, how does Sorkin plan to bring the man's story to life for those who didn't know him personally? Sorkin explained at The Daily Beast's Hero Summit,

This entire movie is going to be three scenes, and three scenes only, that all take place in real time. Each of these scenes is going to take place backstage before a product launch-the first one being the Mac, the second one being NeXT, and the third one being the iPod.

So, we will completely blow off the original success of Apple, jump right to one of the failures of the company, jump to the company he founded after being fired from Apple and the come back to the product that brought Apple out of bankruptcy in 2001. Each of the 3 scenes will take place in 30-minute segments highlighting the behind-the-scenes prep for the individual product launches. If there is something Sorkin knows how to write, it's "behind-the-scenes" stories (a sports show, the White House, a sketch comedy show and a cable news network, plus Facebook so far in his career).

His biggest problem here will be his unusual focus on realism and comedy. If he shows Jobs to be the person he really was, who would throw engineers out of his office for bringing him the wrong shade of white for the iPhone or crying because Woz's father believed he wasn't doing enough work in the company, it could possibly alienate Apple customers who, through some sort of Apple-delusion, have come to believe that he was a kind genius, neither term really describes him.

I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to seeing Sorkin's take on Jobs. Are you excited to see what others really saw of the Apple co-founder? Let us know in the comments.

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