The UpStream

Amazon Removes, Promises to Restore Fire Encryption

posted Sunday Mar 6, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Removes, Promises to Restore Fire Encryption

The whole world seems to be focused right now on Apple and their battle against the legal system, though mostly because they have been sucked into a marketing campaign they don't understand. Apple has convinced people that the battle is over encryption and wanting to protect user data. While that isn't really what is happening here, it would certainly be a weird time for a company to announce the removal of encryption entirely from their devices.

This week, Amazon filed a brief with the court supporting Apple's fight against the government. In the same week, it was revealed that Amazon had removed the ability for users to encrypt their data on their Kindle Fire and, to a much lesser extent, Fire Phone. This removal came last fall when Fire OS 5 launched. Their claim is that users simply didn't use the feature, and therefore decided to remove it entirely.

After discovering this change, the public backlash was severe to say the least. Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation spoke out against the move,

Removing device encryption due to lack of customer use is an incredibly poor excuse for weakening the security of those customers that did use the feature.

Given that the information stored on a tablet can be just as sensitive as that stored on a phone or on a computer, Amazon should instead be pushing to make device encryption the default - not removing it.

Bowing to pressure, the company has backtracked, announcing that the feature will be returned.

We will return the option for full-disk encryption with a Fire OS update coming this spring.

This is a good move, because device encryption is something that is more and more important today. Devices are stolen all the time, even when you're incredibly careful. Tablets are stolen by TSA often if left in checked bags, phones are stolen in coffee shops and keeping the data encrypted can protect your most sensitive data. Let's hope that Amazon returns this feature in short order, maybe even as the default for the device.

GameStop CEO Announces During TV Interview Stores Will Carry PlayStation VR

posted Sunday Feb 21, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

GameStop CEO Announces During TV Interview Stores Will Carry PlayStation VR

Virtual reality has seen a resurgence in the past couple of years. Seemingly everybody is wanting their hand in the game and even big players like Google and Sony have put their hat into the mix. Sony has been working on the PlayStation VR for about a year now and until this week, was looking for a retail home for the device.

In a live interview on FOX News, GameStop CEO Paul Raines proudly announced that the retail game store will play host to the PlayStation VR when it launches in the third quarter of this year. Raines also dropped the names of Oculus and HTC as the other two companies he is in talks with.

"We will launch the Sony product this fall and we're in discussions with the other two players," said Raines, adding that GameStop is the "destination for hardware in the United States."

The launch period is of importance because an earlier report from Wired indicated that we would see PlayStation VR hit the market before June of this year. Now that the CEO of a company who is going to carry the product has spoken, we can confidently believe that we'll see it in the fall as he stated. It's also a more fitting time frame, as hardware launching during the holiday shopping time typically has a higher rate of success.

Sony is looking to retain top hardware spot as of late, with the revival of sales for the Xbox One slowly shrinking the market share gap. With almost 36 million PS4s sold, Sony could easily capture those gamers who want a virtual reality experience on a console instead of a PC. Sony could also bundle the VR headset with a PS4 for the holidays in order to attract new users to the gaming platform.

The short interview clip is available after the break.

AT&T Launches Landline Service to Send and Receive Texts from Landline Numbers

posted Sunday Feb 21, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

AT&T Launches Landline Service to Send and Receive Texts from Landline Numbers

Have you ever wanted to send a text message from your business landline number? How about wanting to contact a business via text who only had a landline? AT&T is looking to solve that problem with its new Landline Texting service that was announced this week.

AT&T has launched a new service that allows business and government agencies to send and receive text messages from any landline or toll-free number. AT&T has developed an app that can be used via web, mobile or desktop that allows users to log in to the service to view those texts, with no additional equipment needed to make it work.

A perfect use case for this scenario would be for any company that has lots of inbound calls about status updates or retail businesses that want to send out exclusive offers to its userbase without purchasing an additional shortcode number. The Landline Service makes AT&T the first of the big carriers to offer this feature.

AT&T's director of Big Data and Advanced Solutions, Igor Glubochansky, said,

Businesses often waste time playing phone tag with customers just to get simple information. This service helps companies reduce calls, voicemails, and back-and-forth with clients. They can also manage several text chats at once rather than spending time talking to one person.

With less and less customers wanting to wait on hold to speak with someone who would typically give out a scripted response, the service will allow US companies the ability to quickly communicate with their consumers. A Pew Research Center study from 2014 said that over 80 percent of cell phone users send and receive texts, and that 64 percent of users would prefer to text a business with a simply inquiry.

AT&T said that those interested in the service simply have to register their toll-free or other landline number with the carrier. That will then allow the entity to create a user profile, which will allow web access to the account and the Landline Service.

AT&T Haults Production on U-verse boxes, Transitions Marketing to DirecTV

posted Sunday Feb 21, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

AT&T Haults Production on U-verse boxes, Transitions Marketing to DirecTV

With AT&T acquiring DirecTV last year for over $45 billion, many wondered what AT&T was going to do with its existing cable service platform, U-verse. AT&T said the acquisition would allow the company to expand its service offering, but that still left many questions marks. Recently, the company has bundled DirecTV with AT&T's cell phone service, essentially marking the end to U-verse as its primary option. Now, AT&T is putting an end to pushing U-Verse as it phases customers into DirecTV.

AT&T announced this week that is will be slowly bringing U-verse marketing efforts to an end and will transition to DirecTV as the suggested offer. The company has already halted production on set-top boxes for the service, and soon be offering incentives to existing customers to make the switch to the satellite platform. AT&T said that DirecTV has both cheaper hardware and programming costs. The company lost over 240,000 U-verse customers over the last quarter as well, so it makes financial sense for this decision to happen. In contrast, DirecTV saw an increase of 214,000 customers.

Additionally, AT&T announced a three-stage plan that will be executed over three years. The end result will be a hub-like system where all AT&T services will be brought together to allow video to be sent to any device on the network.

However, the company said that it will not be completely turning off U-verse. Brad Burns, an AT&T spokesperson, said that the company will still support the platform and its existing customers who elect to stay.

To realize the many benefits of our DirecTV acquisition, we are leading our video marketing approach with DirecTV. However, our first priority is to listen to our customers and meet their needs, and if we determine a customer will be better served with the U-verse product, we offer attractive and compelling options.

U-verse already has a limited market, with only a select number of cities having the service available. DirecTV provides the nationwide coverage that is synonymous with AT&T's wireless service. That, along with less expensive programming costs, cheaper hardware, a well-known name and better content selection, consumers will likely be more apt to choose DirecTV if given the option of both anyway.

Samsung Backed Smart Shoe Changes the Way Athletes Practice and Train

posted Sunday Feb 21, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

Samsung Backed Smart Shoe Changes the Way Athletes Practice and Train

With Mobile World Congress in Barcelona now upon us, it's time for the smartphone manufacturers to step into the limelight and show off their most precious wares. Samsung is no exception to this rule, and this year we expect to see some pretty incredible devices and innovation come out of that camp. One in particular combines the ever-familiar duo of fitness and tech, however Samsung is flipping the script by introducing not only the device and app, but the shoe itself.

IOFIT is a smart shoe from Salted Venture, a startup that's under the Samsung umbrella. IOFIT is geared toward coaches and athletes looking to get more out of their practices or workouts. Launching at MWC, the device is loaded with sensors that serve up a cornucopia of data. G-force, speed, altitude, pressure and other measurements allow the shoe's technology to determine things like weight balance, center of gravity and more.

The data, naturally, is sent to the app which can reside on a smartphone or tablet. The app also has a video recording feature that can sync with the data so users can watch their workouts and improve on shortcomings.

Now, while this isn't the first smart shoe to appear in the space, it is the first venture that solely backed by Samsung, which places more eyes on the product. It's also the first shoe to not just focus on runners, but instead on people who simply want more out of their workouts. Golfers are also part of Salted Venture's target audience, as the weight shift in a golfer's swing can make or break their shot.

Jacob Cho, CEO of Salted Venture, said this about balance as well as a golfer's swing.

Extensive field research, valuable insight and feedback from personal trainers and professional golfers went into building IOFIT smart shoes around their needs. Balance is an essential aspect of all fitness workouts and golf swing mechanism. Without it, there is greater exposure to injury and wasteful energy consumption, making fitness workouts a lot less effective and (more) dangerous. For golf, proper balance and weight shift is crucial to generate club head speed and power. We wanted to solve this problem not just with our guts, but with actual data telling us how we are performing.

If something like this can cure my terrible slice, I'm all for it. Salted Venture had visited with big name golf facilities and fitness centers around the country, allowing the developers to see how sensor-based technology is currently used. They then simply added value and a new take on an already existing solution. The company is looking to use the power of Samsung to allow it to find shoe partners like Asics, Adidas or Nike so that consumers can pick up the technology in their trusted brand of choice.

Aiming to launch a pre-order crowdfund campaign in July or August, Salted Venture said that the general version of the sneaker will cost $149, and the golf version - which will include additional specifically-placed sensors - will cost $199.

Spotify Adds Video Content to Platform

posted Monday Feb 1, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

Spotify Adds Video Content to Platform

Two years ago, rumors started swirling about Spotify adding a video streaming service to its platform. CEO Daniel Ek said he was focused on the music at the time, but kind of dodged the question when directly asked. Apparently the dodging was just and the rumors are true, as Spotify added video content to the popular app this past week.

First launching on Android, iOS users got their version over the weekend and Windows users by the end of next week. To provide content, Spotify has partnered with some of the biggest names in the game, like ESPN, ABC, NBC, Comedy Central, Vice and Maker Studios.

Recently, Spotify has been testing out their video features. Some of the ads on the app have been video-based and the company has added short clips over the past month. Over the next several months, users can expect to see more clips, packaged shorts in recap-style videos and more. Ek said that while he knows most users listen to Spotify with their device in their pockets, a lot of the video content will be made to be enjoyed just as much by listening as it is watching it.

Something that would propel Spotify forward on this feature addition would be to fully support podcasts on the app. Both video and audio podcasts could be curated, neatly organized and displayed for the entire userbase. Video podcasting is a growing market, and Spotify already has the media partners on the table for podcasters to tap into for advertising purposes.

For now, the answer is still unclear on whether this will be a positive move for the company in the long run. There is one benefit over leading video platform YouTube, and that's the fact that Spotify will not be placing ads before or after the videos. Video content will follow the standard ad policy for all media on Spotify. Premium users are ad-free, and free users see an ad once every 6 to 8 songs. That's for now, at least, as Ek did say he would not rule out video ads in the future, but it's possible that those would simply be a continuation of the current ad system.

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