The UpStream (Page 85)

Controversial Changes at Google Fiber Indicate Risky Changes

posted Saturday Feb 18, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Controversial Changes at Google Fiber Indicate Risky Changes

The future of Google Fiber has been in question for about 6 months. In August of last year, the company began the process of scaling down their operations, followed nearly immediately by pausing new rollouts entirely in October. This week, Alphabet is transitioning hundreds of employees from Access, the division responsible for Google Fiber, to other areas within the company.

Nothing signals a major restructure like moving employees out of a division. The idea of fiber-to-the-door was always an expensive and unrealistic one. The cost of petitioning access to easements from cities is enough for most companies, essentially wiping out an existing telecom from the market. Once the backbone is in-place, it is also expensive to run the fiber from the pipe to the premises and then convert existing internal infrastructure, all for internet speeds that nearly no one actually needs.

The question is, then, "What is going to happen with the brand?" As I have predicted before, the future for Access is wireless rather than fiber. The company purchased Webpass in 2016, and will use their existing technology and infrastructure to continue their high speed internet access roll-out. Combined with Google's balloon-based internet service concept, they could potentially cover an entire city with internet quicker, easier and less expensive than laying cables.

This will require that Access gain more wireless spectrum to make this possible. It also, currently, requires whole buildings to convert to the network, as Webpass will not install their antennas and hardware on a single-tenant property. Unless that changes, people who live in houses will still not be able to switch, and neither will people within buildings who are unwilling to convert entirely. Without an operational change, the whole business model and consumer target for Access will change dramatically, though not entirely negatively.

Valve Has Surprising New Belief About VR Technology

posted Saturday Feb 18, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Valve Has Surprising New Belief About VR Technology

Right now, for better or worse, the majority of the tech industry is focused on, and excited about, virtual reality. Even our CES coverage couldn't avoid it this year. With that said, one of the companies who should be the most optimistic about the technology is taking a decidedly different, and characteristically unusual, approach: Valve.

Gabe Newell, CEO of Valve, is known for big, unfounded statements about the success, or lack of success, of certain products and platforms. He famously said that Windows 8 "isn't for gamers," a statement that turned out to be far from true. You would expect then, that he would have a very optimistic view of VR, considering the HTC Vive, a partnership with Valve, is arguably the best VR headset currently available. In a unique sit-down conversation, he said,

We're optimistic. We think VR is going great. It's going in a way that's consistent with our expectations... We're also pretty comfortable with the idea that it will turn out to be a complete failure.

Some people have got attention by going out and saying there'll be millions of (VR unit sales) and we're like, wow, I don't think so.

For the first time, potentially in history, I have to agree completely with Gabe. I believe that VR is going to be the next 3D TV - a technology that is splashy and popular for a while, but will fade to the background with time. There are two current issues that are preventing the technology form succeeding. First is the cost of entry for real, PC-based VR. Second, as I have maintained, is a lack of quality content. The majority of VR content on the market is so-so at best. Gabe, as it turns out, agrees,

I can't point to a single piece of content that would cause millions of people to justify changing their home computing... If you took the existing VR systems and made them 80 percent cheaper, that's still not a huge market. There's still not a really incredibly compelling reason for people to spend 20 hours a day in VR... There's an old joke that premature cost reduction is the root of all evil.

It will be interesting to see if this new revelation is the beginning of a change within Valve in regards to VR. There are really only 2 places for VR content today: Valve's Steam VR and Oculus, and a potential dismissal of the technology by Valve could open the door for another player, including Microsoft's incoming partner VR headsets, to rule the space.

A Perspective T-Mobile Merger Could Energize Sprint

posted Saturday Feb 18, 2017 by Scott Ertz

A Perspective T-Mobile Merger Could Energize Sprint

Over the past 7 years, one of the stories that just won't die is the possible partnership between T-Mobile and Sprint. In 2010, T-Mobile considered a technology switch, from their existing GSM platform to WiMAX for 4G. They were in talks with Clearwire, the company that was partially-owned by Sprint, and provided Sprint's WiMAX network. At the time, it was suggested that the move would have been intended to make it easier for Sprint and T-Mobile to become one network. In 2013, after acquiring Sprint, SoftBank opened discussions for T-Mobile.

Those discussions ultimately broke down because of the FCC, but not because the parties were uninterested. Today, the environment at the FCC is far less negative than it was 4 years ago, and SoftBank has begun reconsidering their offer. Unfortunately for them, Deutsche Telekom is no longer interested in relinquishing control of T-Mobile, so SoftBank has a new strategy. Instead of offering them a buyout to go away, SoftBank is considering offering them part of Sprint, making the two partners.

As of today, no official offer has been made, nor have any conversations been had of any sort. It turns out that is against federal regulations for participants in an ongoing spectrum auction to have any official contact. That means that SoftBank has through April to put their thoughts together before approaching Deutsche Telekom.

The issue at hand, though, is could a merger between the two networks be a success? Sprint is no stranger to cross-technology mergers, having purchased Nextel in 2005. Sprint used CDMA technology, while Nextel used iDEN technology, which were technologically incompatible. Nextel's fate was a complete shutdown of the iDEN network in 2013. Today, Sprint continues to use CDMA for its voice network and LTE (GSM) for its 4G data network. T-Mobile uses GSM voice and data technologies, leaving the proposed company with 3 different technologies to work with.

Some sort of overall purge would be necessary for the group. Likely, Sprint's CDMA technology would be the technological victim, giving Sprint the ability to bring unlocked devices GSM devices to their customers, as well as a larger variety of phones, which would be a welcomed addition. There would also need to be a brand purge, however. Within the proposed group would be: T-Mobile, Sprint, MetroPCS, Virgin Mobile USA and Boost Mobile.

Obviously, everything is conjecture at this point, as the two companies are not even permitted to discuss the idea until April, but this is a fascinating twist to a nearly decades-old story.

Prince's Popular Music Just Arrived to Streamers' Delight

posted Sunday Feb 12, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Unless you're Taylor Swift, most modern musicians have their music available on streaming services. It's a move that makes sense as most consumers seem to be using the streaming model versus the purchase model to listen to music. One artist who made the decision not to participate in streaming is the late Prince.

In 2015, he removed all of his music from streaming services except for struggling service Tidal. He wasn't the only artist to pull music from other services and focus exclusively on Tidal, though he is probably the only one who never went back. While Prince took a decidedly standoffish approach to music streaming, his estate has a very different view. In fact, as of today, Prince's music is officially available on streaming services again.

This move by the estate, which owes a tremendous amount in taxes, will bring back the question of art versus profit. Obviously, Prince believed that the art deserved certain recognition. In fact, he famously sent cease-and-desist letters to websites that featured Prince-inspired personal tattoos or photos. On the other hand, the estate, which owes upwards of $100 million in estate taxes, needs the revenue to be able to pay the estate taxes on what he left when he died.

Taylor Swift has always argued that streaming music was insulting to the artists because of the royalties that are received versus the income received from the sale of an album.

All I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I'm not willing to contribute my life's work to an experiment that I don't feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don't agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.

Well, while that's not exactly an art versus profit argument, it does play in that same arena. While, many fans have asked why the estate is making these types of deals which Prince would not have agreed to, it will be interesting to see if fans will still stream his music.

Despite Presidential Surge, Twitter Fails to Generate Profit

posted Sunday Feb 12, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Despite Presidential Surge, Twitter Fails to Generate Profit

Today, there seem to be 2 groups that are enamored with Twitter: President Donald Trump and the news, though the interest from the news tends to be in reporting on what Trump has tweeted. Despite the surge in usage because of the President, Twitter has not been able to capitalize on its usage gains.

The company posted its quarterly earnings this week and despite the focus from the media, the President and increased traffic from sports, the company only had a 1% increase in sales, totaling $717 million. The important number, however, is their losses, up 86%, from $90 million last year to $167 million this year. That puts the losses at about 25% of the total sales. The losses were higher and the sales were lower than expectations.

This has been a constant trend for the company, however. Since their Initial Public Offering in 2013, the company has struggled to find revenue, despite consistent gains in usage. In fact, before their IPO, the company struggled to find a business plan of any sort. In the last year, these problems have been so bad that they have actually looked for a buyer for the company. To date, all interested parties have ended discussions.

It's possible, however, that this most recent quarter of trouble will lead the company to renew its search for a buyer. It's possible that some of the formerly interested parties could come back to the table or somebody new might enter the fray. The problem, of course, will continue to be how to monetize the service, or at least the data. Companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon could use the data to improve their search, AI and marketplace services. It does, however seem far fetched that anybody will figure out how to properly monetize the product as it stands today.

Introducing Steam Direct, Replacement for Foundering Greenlight

posted Sunday Feb 12, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Introducing Steam Direct, Replacement for Foundering Greenlight

If you're a common user of Steam, you're probably aware of Steam Greenlight. This is a service that allows independent developers to pitch their game ideas to the gaming community to potentially find a space in the Steam store. It has never been loved by developers or gamers as it requires a fee for developers to have a chance at publishing, and a strange amount of time for gamers to evaluate a game which you have not played.

Fortunately, nine years after its launch, the Steam Greenlight program is coming to an end. In its place, Steam will be launching a Steam Direct program where independent developers don't need your permission to publish their games to Steam's online marketplace. Instead, a publisher will simply need to provide some corporate paperwork, tax information and a registration fee, and they can start selling in the Steam marketplace.

This structure is similar to how most of the app stores work as well. For example, if you want to publish to the Windows Store, all you have to do is provide a one-time payment and your information to receive taxes and you're ready to go. As this setup has worked well in the mobile space, Steam will be adopting it as well. This move puts an end to Valve's belief that Steam would succeed as a curated content store and, instead, moves them into a more open marketplace of gaming ideas and concepts.

This is a good move for steam because it will encourage more indie developers to publish through the Steam marketplace, generating more revenue for Valve and more revenue for indie game developers. It will likely also encourage more people to try their hand at game development, as they now have a centralized place to sell their wares.

If you've checked out our game review section you will notice that we are fond of indie games. We are really excited to see Steam support that community in a new way. The new setup will go live in Spring 2017.

We're live now - Join us!



Forgot password? Recover here.
Not a member? Register now.
Blog Meets Brand Stats