The UpStream

AT&T's Mixed Reality with Video Streaming

posted Saturday Nov 12, 2016 by Scott Ertz

AT&T's Mixed Reality with Video Streaming

There is nothing in the mobile world that uses data faster that streaming video. If you are on a limited data plan, streaming video over cellular can eat up your data allotment with just a single episode of a television show. The wireless carriers have tried to come up with solutions to this problem and this week AT&T is working with both of the popular choices.


If you are using an AT&T phone, no matter what your data plan, you will soon be enrolled in AT&T's new program: Stream Saver. Following the moves of Sprint and T-Mobile, AT&T will begin limiting the quality of video streamed on its network. Rather than receiving video at 1080 or above, all video will default to 480 instead.

The company is implementing this restriction in an attempt to save you from their other restriction: limited data. By limiting the video quality, you will be able to stream move video without exceeding you data allotment. Unfortunately, the restriction also applies to users who have an unlimited data plan, though technically speaking, unlimited plans can be throttled after 22GB of usage.

Luckily, Stream Saver is completely configurable. Users are capable of disabling the feature at will. If you are more interested in video quality than saving data, simply turn the feature off in your myATT account. Unlike with T-Mobile, disabling this feature does not cost anything additional.


All video streaming services are affected by Stream Saver, except possibly one: DirecTV. If you are a subscriber of both AT&T's mobile and television service, you can stream the DirecTV video unrestricted. Video from their own provider will not affect your data cap at all, making Stream Saver a needless feature. This feature, named Sponsored Data, seems very similar to T-Mobile's Binge On feature, where partners' content does not count against a customer's usage.

The FCC does not seem to see these features as related, simply because DirecTV is owned by AT&T. In fact, Jon Wilkins from the FCC wrote a letter to Bob Quinn, AT&T's external and legislative affairs head, complaining about the new feature. In the letter, Wilkins claims that the new feature might violate some rules. In response, Quinn said,

With our Data Free TV offer, DirecTV picks up the tab for our Mobility customers' data use when they're streaming content. For example, consumers can watch DirecTV content - such as NBC, Fox News, CBS, CNN, ESPN - all on their AT&T mobile devices without incurring any data changes. While we welcome additional questions, we hope the FCC will consider the enormous value consumers find in obtaining free data or free streaming where someone else is footing the bill for their data.

This move by the FCC is a little surprising, for a couple of reasons. First, the "Net Neutrality" rules that were implemented do not fully apply to wireless, only wireline. As evidence of this is Binge On - essentially the same service. Second is the FCC's relative ineffectiveness. Most of the upper management of the FCC are on the chopping block with the new administration taking over in January, so any move they make today is likely to be reconsidered in a mere 2 months. It seems like a hollow gesture to make this move now.

Likely, this move has to do with shining a spotlight on AT&T at a time when they are looking to add Time Warner to their previous DirecTV purchase. The FCC has been against AT&T purchases in the past, including their failed T-Mobile purchase.

Amidst Troubles, Twitter COO Steps Away

posted Saturday Nov 12, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Amidst Troubles, Twitter COO Steps Away

Twitter has been in a bit of a freefall as of late. Poor earnings, layoffs and shutdowns have plagued the company, following an unsuccessful attempt to find a new owner for the company. This comes within a year in which executives have been leaving, including product head Kevin Weil, who left earlier this year.

Following Weil, this week Chief Operating Officer Adam Bain has left the company, effective immediately. Replacing him is Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto, who has already stepped into the role. The departure comes at a difficult time for the company, which could either be made better by the departure or indicate a continued slide. Bain tweeted about his departure saying,

After 6 years and a once-in-a-lifetime run, I let Jack know that I am ready to change gears and do something new outside the company.

It will be interesting to see if this change in leadership will coincide with a change in direction. The immediate future could indicate whether Bain left the company because he disagreed with the direction the company is taking or because his direction was not the one the company wanted to follow.

Either way, whatever direction Twitter decides to go, hopefully it will work out for the company. It is time that Twitter understood who they are and where they are going, with a plan to become a profitable company - a goal that seems out of their grasp at this moment.

Nintendo Releases NES Classic Edition, Discontinues Wii U

posted Saturday Nov 12, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Releases NES Classic Edition, Discontinues Wii U

This has been an interesting month for Nintendo. It was just a few weeks ago that the company let the lid off of the Nintendo Switch, the production name of their next console. The console has added a new twist to their current hardware, combining the Wii U and 3DS into a unique single device. This week, however, Nintendo both added and removed a product from their lineup.

The New

Earlier in the year, Nintendo announced a revival of their original home console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. The new device, the NES Classic Edition, looks a lot like the original console with similar controllers. It comes pre-loaded with a number of classic games and is perfect for gamers who do not own the original hardware itself.

This week, the retro console was released to much success. In fact, the device, which retails for $60, has sold so well that Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop and more are completely sold out. Because of the demand, consoles purchased early have been selling on eBay for as much as $300 each. For that price, you could go to a used game store and purchase an actual NES with most of the games included and get the real NES experience.

The Old

In preparation of the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo has confirmed that the Wii U generation is coming to a close. While we all expected that production of the Wii U would be coming to a close, we did not know what timeline the company might be planning. According to the company's Japanese website, the two remaining hardware bundles are both ending production. A Nintendo rep confirmed to Ars Technica,

As recently posted by Nintendo on the Wii U website in Japan, Wii U production will end in the near future for the Japanese domestic market.

We can confirm that as of today, all Wii U hardware that will be made available in the North American market for this fiscal year has already been shipped to our retail partners. We encourage anyone who wants Wii U to communicate with their preferred retail outlet to monitor availability.

While the wording of this quote does suggest that new hardware could be made available next year, it is certainly not encouraging. The only chance of new manufacturing, in all reality, is if sales pick up for the holidays, which is not terribly likely. So, with that, the Wii U generation has come to a close, leaving the world with the same whimper in which it entered.

Google in Trouble in EU Over Android Requirements, Google Disagrees

posted Saturday Nov 12, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Google in Trouble in EU Over Android Requirements, Google Disagrees

Over the past few years, Google has changed their policies on how OEMs can interact with Android. The most notable policy change came in 2014, when they limited access to the Play Store for OEMs that don't give preferential treatment to Google services.

This requirement, among a few others, has raised concern among governments the world over. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission has investigated the move. In Europe, the EU itself has investigated, and continues to investigate the policy. The EU considers it to be anti-competitive, and has done a lot of work to prove their beliefs.

The European Commission conducted a market survey which they cite often in their complaints, despite seemingly not understanding the results of the survey. For example, in their Statement of Objections, released in April, the primary basis for their complaint is that Android is alone in the marketplace. Obviously, that is nonsense, as Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows 10 mobile both compete in that market, as well. According to Google's public response, published this week,

In fact, 89% of respondents to the Commission's own market survey confirmed that Android and Apple compete. To ignore competition with Apple is to miss the defining feature of today's competitive smartphone landscape.

These are the same types of complaints that were once made against Microsoft. While the EU is today complaining about Google Search and Chrome are being bundled with Android, they once complained about Internet Explorer being bundled with Windows. The argument is primitive and uneducated, indicating a complete misunderstanding of software, operating systems and how companies work with OEMs.

For example, in Windows' case, OEMs have always been allowed to preinstall competing software, including Google's Chrome browser. In fact, those OEMs are allowed to override the default browser without penalty (except in the case of Windows 8 with Bing). Android has many of those same capabilities. In addition to Chrome, OEMs are welcome to install additional browsers into Android. In addition to Google Search, OEMs are welcome to install Bing as well. The only difference is that these services cannot be set as default out of the box.

Google points out the similar behavior between Android, iOS and Windows. On a Lumia 550, 39 of the 47 included apps are made by Microsoft. Almost every included app is removable and replaceable by the manufacturer or users. On iOS 10, 39 out of 39 apps are made by Apple, and few of the apps can be removed, and carriers and users cannot replace many of them. With Android, however, only about 10 of the apps come from Google, and most of them are replaceable by the user later.

While it is unusual for me to take the side of Google in an argument, I can say that, as a developer, it is nice to know that certain things will be available to me. If Android was to continue to fragment, like it was in the beginning, software would have to be built for every device individually, completely killing the environment. For example, look at Android's Fire tablets, built on Android, but not being able to access Play Store, requiring developers to rebuild their apps if they want them available on the platform.

All in, the idea of a government trying to regulate an industry which they do not understand is never a great idea.

Alphabet Pauses Google Fiber Rollout, Mulls Future of Brand

posted Sunday Oct 30, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Alphabet Pauses Google Fiber Rollout, Mulls Future of Brand

In August, Google Fiber began the process of scaling back their operations. The brand has failed to meet their goals, or even come close to hitting their goals: only 200,000 subscribers instead of 1 million. This came shortly after purchasing Webpass, a company that provides a similar service, but entirely wirelessly, in high-capacity areas.

This week, the company publicly announced their plans to scale back and make a decision on the future of the brand. Access, the company within Alphabet that is responsible for Google Fiber, will not be taking applications for new cities for installation, and any cities that have been announced for future expansion, but whose rollout has not begun, will be put on hold.

As part of the exploration pause, Access will also be removing their offices and personnel. Current Access CEO Craig Barratt has stated that he hopes that these cities will understand this technological imperative and will still be open to discussions once all decisions have been made for future deployments.

In addition to pausing the installation, Barratt has announced that this transitional time for Access is the perfect opportunity for him to step aside as CEO. There is no telling who will replace him in the role, but it is likely that Alphabet leadership will replace him sooner rather than later. A turnaround plan like this can only be successful if there is a talented leader running the show. As for Barratt, he will be staying on in an advisor role, so he is not going anywhere just yet.

The Most Essential Partner for Apple's TV App is Missing: Netflix

posted Sunday Oct 30, 2016 by Scott Ertz

The Most Essential Partner for Apple's TV App is Missing: Netflix

Apple may have focused their Thursday presentation on a MacBook Pro refresh, they also discussed a new app for video consumption, helpfully titled TV. The app accesses your video streaming services and presents information based on your current streaming habits, as well as recommendations from Apple itself.

Obviously, for TV to be successful, or even useful, it will require participation from the big content providers. Heavily featured in the presentation were services like Hulu and HBO Now, but some services were conspicuously missing. Namely, Netflix was nowhere to be found anywhere in the presentation, either in demo or even in screenshots. This could have been a mistake, but it wasn't. A Netflix spokesperson told Wired,

I can confirm we are not participating and evaluating the opportunity.

So, while Food Network content will be listed, nothing on Netflix will be. The majority of video streaming takes place through Netflix. In fact, the amount of video watched is so large that Netflix gets its own line item in bandwidth usage studies. As I write this article, I am streaming a television show on Netflix. The lack of Netflix participation in TV will make its usefulness almost non-existent.

Unfortunately for Apple, Netflix isn't the only high-profile service missing. Amazon Instant Video is also conspicuously missing, though not surprisingly. Amazon Instant Video has never been available on Apple TV, so their lack of participation in the TV app is no surprise. It will, however, make the app a lot less effective, but it will drive potential sales to iTunes.

Amazon is a longshot, but if Apple hopes to make TV the place people actually want to go, they will absolutely need Netflix participation.

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