The UpStream (Page 90)

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.

Google to Begin Enormous Slaughter of Hazardous Apps

posted Saturday Feb 11, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Google to Begin Enormous Slaughter of Hazardous Apps

Google is definitely not a company known for security or privacy. There have been privacy concerns with products like Google Wave and security issues with allowing unsafe ads in Adsense. The lack of interest, however, is most obvious in Google Play. The company has rules for what must be included to submit an app. However, those rules are not enforced and unsafe apps flood the marketplace. Malware numbers are in the millions in the Play Store.

All of that could change, however, with an email that was sent to some developers recently. One of the policies that has been ignored in the Play Store has been the requirement for a detailed privacy policy if you use certain APIs. For example, if you access the microphone you must explain why and how the data will be used. Unfortunately, Google has never actually enforced the requirement of these documents. That is until now.

A recent email sent to developers who are missing the privacy policy informed them that apps will be removed from the Play Store if they fail to comply. This could signal a change inside of Google that they are going to actually start caring about your privacy and security. It's obviously an important topic as Android is installed on more types of devices and apps are available on even more. With televisions, phones, watches and even computers running Android applications, your security and privacy are more at risk than ever. The current email going around shows a date of March, 15th 2017 to fix the issue or apps will start disappearing from the store.

If you've interacted with the Play Store at all, you know that this could affect millions of applications that have either been lax on supporting, or have ignored the requirement entirely. Obviously this is good news for users of Android and Chrome OS.

People who are not terribly tech savvy are often tricked into downloading apps that look legitimate, but access your contacts, your account and other sensitive information without telling you what they intend to do with that data. Hopefully this change in policy at Google will begin to put an end to this deceptive practice that is so prevalent on the platform.

Floundering TIDAL Finds Strong Partner in Sprint

posted Sunday Jan 29, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Floundering TIDAL Finds Strong Partner in Sprint

Since Jay-Z bought TIDAL, and likely before, the company has had no end of issues. In fact, the purchase itself may have been an indication of issues, as the subscriber numbers that were reported and led to the purchase were incredibly inflated. Since then, artists have come and gone, as have customers. Last year, rumors suggested Apple was interested, which the company immediately denied. Why would they want another failing music service, anyway?

One of the reasons, of course, is the artist exclusives, something that Apple Music has tried to get into with varied success. This week, someone else decided that exclusive content was in their wheelhouse: US wireless carrier Sprint. Sprint has also been in a bit of trouble, actually having to compete for its #3 spot in the rankings with T-Mobile. Looking to give subscribers another reason to switch, other than the Verizon Guy, Sprint has picked up a 33% stake in TIDAL.

Jay-Z said of the acquisition,

Sprint shares our view of revolutionizing the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential. Marcelo understood our goal right away and together we are excited to bring Sprint's 45 million customers an unmatched entertainment experience.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, who is joining the TIDAL Board of Directors, added,

Jay saw not only a business need, but a cultural one, and put his heart and grit into building TIDAL into a world-class music streaming platform that is unrivaled in quality and content. The passion and dedication that these artist-owners bring to fans will enable Sprint to offer new and existing customers access to exclusive content and entertainment experiences in a way no other service can.

As of now, it is unclear exactly how Sprint will fulfill its promise to "make TIDAL available to its 45 million post and prepaid customers," whether through included access, discounted rates or T-Mobile or AT&T-style bandwidth cap exemptions. It is definitely an interesting move at a time when the telecom companies are looking for new and interesting ways to differentiate themselves in a market where exclusive handsets are mostly a thing of the past.

Would free or reduced TIDAL access, or exclusive content, make you consider the switch to Sprint? Let us know in the comments.

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