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Wednesday, 24 October 2012 14:19

Netflix Sees Future Fight With HBO

Another earnings report, another wild swing in share price for Netflix: The stock is down double digits this afternoon, even though the company's earnings of 11 cents a share handily beat the Street's 4 cents consensus. The culprit for the dyspeptic reaction: The company's Q3 domestic subscription numbers — as well as its guidance for Q4 — fell below investors' expectations.But if things are tough for Netflix how, they're only going to get tougher. The company used to have the Web home video market more or less to itself, and now it doesn't. It's facing competition from Amazon, Hulu and the cable companies, and is about to start fighting a joint venture between Redbox and Verizon. That's not a new observation, of course. But in this quarter's letter to shareholders, Hastings spells out the strengths and weaknesses of many of his competitors, and it makes for very interesting reading. The two biggest takeaways I found on my first scan: For the first time, Amazon appears to be making headway against Netflix with its digital offering. Netflix doesn't believe HBO and Time Warner executives when they say they're not going to sell a Web-only offering. They expect to compete directly with…
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 14:55

What to expect from Apple

(CNN) -- Apple is expected to announce a smaller 7.85-inch version of its iPad at a press conference in San Jose, California, Tuesday morning. Rumors and leaks have been plentiful ahead of the announcement, as they were for last month's iPhone 5 unveiling, but there's still the potential for a few surprises. All signs point to a smaller iPad with specifications similar to the iPad 2. The two models might turn out to have an iPhone/iPod touch relationship, with the smaller iPad always one generation behind in the features department. That means it won't have a Retina screen just yet, though it will probably sport the new Lightning connector port. A recent Apple Insider report shows 12 possible configurations, dabbling in different memory sizes (from 8GB to 64GB), connection options (WiFi or WiFi + cellular) and colors (black or white). Naming is one of the few things Apple still excels at keeping secret, as it did when it confusingly called the third iPad simply "the new iPad." While "iPad Mini" has been a popular guess thus far, "iPad Air" has also been floating around as a potential moniker for the device. This being Apple, there's always the possibility of additional…
Monday, 22 October 2012 14:59

Android apps 'leak' personal details

Scientists tested 13,500 Android apps and found almost 8% failed to protect bank account and social media logins. These apps failed to implement standard scrambling systems, allowing "man-in-the-middle" attacks to reveal data that passes back and forth when devices communicate with websites. Google has yet to comment on the research and its findings. Researchers from the security group at the University of Leibniz in Hanover and the computer science department at the Philipps University of Marburg tested the most popular apps in Google's Play store. By creating a fake wi-fi hotspot and using a specially created attack tool to spy on the data the apps sent via that route, the researchers were able to: capture login details for online bank accounts, email services, social media sites and corporate networksdisable security programs or fool them into labelling secure apps as infectedinject computer code into the data stream that made apps carry out specific commandsAn attacker could even re-direct a request to transfer funds, while making it look to the app user like the transaction was proceeding unchanged. Some of the apps tested had been downloaded millions of times, the researchers said. And a follow-up survey of 754 people suggests users could…
Friday, 19 October 2012 14:36

A bra that could detect cancer

(CNN) -- Bras can do miraculous things these days (thank you underwire). But can they detect cancer? That's the claim for First Warning Systems new bra, equipped with a series of sensors embedded in the cups that pick up temperature changes in breast tissue and, says the Reno, Nev.-based company, provide a thermal fingerprint that can alert doctors to the presence of malignant cells. According to the company's website, the data generated by the sports bra can predict the presence of breast cancer with 90% specificity and sensitivity. Women wear it for 12 hours to accumulate a stable enough reading of temperature, and the measurements are fed into the company's algorithm that then spits out a result: normal, benign, suspected for breast tissue abnormalities, or probable for breast tissue abnormalities. Sounds like a good idea, right? Except that the concept of using temperature to detect disease may not be ready for prime time just yet. "Hypothetically, it's conceivable that malignant processes would have a temperature gradient compared to non-malignant tissues," says Dr. Therese Bevers, medical director of the cancer prevention center at the Univ. of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. "But that gradient may not be very large." The idea…
Thursday, 18 October 2012 21:28

iPod 5 Strikes

If you are one of the 500 people who don't have a smartphone at this junction a MP3 player might still interest you. If that is the case then the iPod 5 is exactly what you need in your pocket. At first glance, the iPod 5 looks drastically different from the iPhone. It not only is thinner, it comes in a variety of colors, something that the iPhone still refuses to do. Its lines are more Samsung than Apple and honestly might confuse onlookers as to what it actually is. The great part about the iPod is it's essentially an iPhone without the ability to call people. The Retina display, iCloud, SIRI, the App Store, it's all there. Not only that, it takes the same "Lightning" charger as the iPhone 5 so don't worry about power as there will most likely be someone around you with a charger that fits. Also the iPod is compatible with virtually all apps released for the iPhone as well. So if you were worried about not having Temple Run or Angry Birds, fear not. Just like previous incarnations, the iPod 5 has a processor that is one step below its call-capable cousin. While the…
Thursday, 18 October 2012 13:43

Marketing Firm moves to downtown detroit

DETROIT — Another of Dan Gilbert's many business ventures is moving to Downtown Detroit. Rock Connections LLC, a marketing company launched in May, will bring 115 employees into the Chase Tower building, a 14-story high rise located at 611 Woodward Ave. The company, which launched in May with 13 team members in Southfield, has its employment base sixfold in less than five months, and anticipates hiring approximately 20-25 team members per month. Rock Connections' advanced technology, analytics, and reporting capabilities allow the company a big advantage versus its competitors, according to Victor You, president and CEO of the company. "Rock Connections maximizes a company's advertising spend by providing highly trained and dynamic communications representatives who provide customized service, combined with valuable analytics, making it the most qualified contact center out there," said You, who before launching Rock Connections, was a mortgage banking team leader at Quicken Loans. Rock Connections can serve as an extension of existing sales teams or as a stand-alone outbound sales group for companies desiring highly-trained specialists who reinforce their reputation and enhance their bottom line, said You. Rock Connections is an affiliated company of Rock Ventures, the umbrella entity formed to provide operational coordination, guidance, and…
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 14:32

Verizon Stirs Up Privacy Controversy

A new initiative from Verizon is raising questions about the telecom giant's commitment to protecting the privacy of its customers. The company's new marketing program, Precision Market Insights, collects data information from iOS and Android users, based on geographic location gleaned from apps and sites being accessed. Verizon plans to continue to share that information with potential advertisers. At a Paley Center talk earlier this year, Bill Diggins, the U.S. leader for Precision Market Insights, spoke candidly to an audience about the company's capabilities. "We're able to view just everything they do," said Diggins. "We realized we had a latent asset. We have information about how customers are using their mobile phones," Colson Hillier, vice president of the initiative, told FierceMobileContent. Verizon emphasizes that the program is legal and doesn't violate any federal wiretapping or other privacy laws because they keep user identities anonymous. The company is just the latest mobile carrier to jump on the data-mining bandwagon. In 2010, AT&T began monitoring how and when text messages were sent in order to analyze social trends and human behavior,reports MIT's Technology Review. Though the original intent of the study wasn't commercial, analysis of user data usage is a standard practice…
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 15:39

Blackberries Are Now Embarrassing?

If you're not Beyonce and you're still carrying around a Blackberry, chances are you are over 55, wear a three piece suit to work or–like a family itself–you are desperately beholden to a family plan from which there is no escape. Where once we touted Blackberry Curves like prized possessions, obsessively BBMing friends and humblebragging about the jitters induced by that phantom blinking red light, we now cluck our tongues in derision at the behind-the-times fogies who dare to wield a device that isn't an iPhone or Android. Current Blackberry users have one bragging right that they wave like a sad white flag, despite the fact that their phones do not have apps and can barely access the Internet without shutting down: It's that damn QWERTY keyboard. Once ubiquitous in the smartphone market, the physical button keyboard has largely been replaced by touchscreen phones designed to drive people with fat thumbs ever closer to the brink of insanity. Between insanity and perpetual shame is exactly where Blackberry users hover these days, at least according to the New York Times: "I'm ashamed of it," said Ms. Crosby, a Los Angeles sales representative who said she had stopped pulling out her BlackBerry…
Monday, 15 October 2012 18:14

Windows 8 Review

For as long as anyone using a PC can remember there was one thing you could count on and that was the Start Menu. That trusty menu was the gateway to all you programs, documents, control panel and the always needed search option. Well, say goodbye to that lovable menu and welcome the mobile OS like Start Screen that has been included in Windows 8. That screen, like many things in 8, have been totally turned around in the OS hoping to breathe life into the somewhat dated fare of PC use. From the starting gate, you will notice that the Windows 8 doesn't boot to the desktop but to the all new "metro" start menu. This tile covered skin holds myriad of new apps, games and programs all tethered to the screen. Instead of the Start Menu, the Start screen now pops up. The tiles are also live, meaning your weather tiles will auto-refresh; your Twitter tile will live stream tweets and more. The Screen can have any document or program locked to it by the user providing a great way to keep your desktop clean and organized but it will take some getting used to. You can get…
Monday, 15 October 2012 15:26

Windows Unveils Xbox Music

Microsoft wants to get into the music streaming business in a big way. The company already had the Zune Music Pass, but the Zune branding didn't do the company any favors. Now Microsoft is trying it again with Xbox Music, a brand that's much more synonymous with cool. We've only heard rumors and hearsay for the past few months since its initial announcement, but now we have some concrete details. Xbox Music will be available on October 16 in free and paid varieties. Users who opt for the free version will have to sit through ads just like Spotify. Paid users can expect to service to cost $9.99 a month, or $99.99 for a year. It looks like the pricing leak from last month was actually right. October 16 is actually just one of many launch dates for Xbox Music. Microsoft will be launching the service across multiple platforms as they become available. It will be available on the Xbox 360 on October 16 as it coincides with the console's biannual Xbox Live update. It will then be available on Windows 8 PCs and tablets on October 26 to coincide with the operating system's launch. Finally, it will be available…
Friday, 12 October 2012 15:50

Reasons Why We're Different Online

Fact: Most people act differently online than they do in real life. Whether we're more engaging, less polite or bolder in our political assertions, we tend to present our digital personas differently than we present ourselves in reality. But why exactly do we feel empowered enough to act a certain way on social networking platforms like Facebook? The site requires users to sign up with their real names, so we're not truly anonymous or far removed from virtual conversation. Even so, our behavior online can be... less than charming. Professors Keith Wilcox of Columbia University and Andrew T. Stephen of the University of Pittsburgh set out to answer this question in their study titled "Are Close Friends the Enemy? Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem, and Self-Control," which was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Consumer Research. In a series of five experiments, the authors illustrate the effects social networking has on individuals. Wilcox and Stephen's main argument states that "people present a positive self-view to others" when online, leading to a increase in self-esteem and decrease in self-control. "Think of it as a licensing effect: You feel good about yourself so you feel a sense of entitlement," Wilcox told…
Thursday, 11 October 2012 14:34

Transmedia: Immersive Experience Takeover

Want to bring down a fraudulent financial company ? Talk to the bodyguard of Abraham Lincoln? Go to a "Mad Men"-era Beatles concert with Don and Sally Draper? Well, now you can, thanks to an innovative -- and peculiar -- new form of entertainment called transmedia. The word "transmedia," in the most literal sense, means that the content used in an experience crosses the boundaries of traditional media. But that isn't what makes these participatory entertainment experiences so special. The defining quality of today's transmedia is that it allows an unprecedented level of immersion to those who participate in the narrative. In 2002, performance artist Brock Enright started charging $2,500 and above for "bespoke executive kidnappings," customized abductions performed by Enright and his partners. In these experiences, clients would be "kidnapped" and subject to specified abuse, but retain the right to stop "the game" at any time. Enright soon found a client base wanting more than abductions: today he calls what his organization does "customized reality adventures." "Anything you want to have happen, we will try our best to make it happen," Enright told The Guardian in 2005. The experience can be whatever the client wants -- as long as…
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 14:29

Lost Phone With Dying Battery?

Strategies for finding a lost cell phone often involve finding someone to continuously call the device in hopes a kind soul will answer. But such efforts also drain the phone's battery life, and thus, one's chances of recovering it. Before a phone dies, the app automatically sends out a signal flare from its last location. According to CNET, the user is then notified on their Lookout account of where the phone took its last breath. Now, that's not to say the phone won't continue to travel with whoever has it once it's dead, but it's better than knowing nothing about its whereabouts. Several apps do already help find lost phones with GPS tracking systems, but most services require the phone be turned on to function. Find My iPhone, for example, can set off an alarm on an iPhone when it's lost so that someone -- or the user, if the phone is just lost in the couch cushions -- might hear it. If that doesn't work, there's a mapping function that can show users where their phone is. When New York Times technology writer David Pogue lost his phone this past summer on an Amtrak train, he started a Twitter…
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 14:27

Amazon Taking Over Netfix?

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc's deal to purchase streaming movies from cable network Epix could transform the way such deals are done, thanks to a pay-for-performance sweetener that had not been previously disclosed. According to an executive directly involved in the deal, Amazon agreed to an earn-out provision payable to Epix over time if the number of subscribers to Amazon's Prime Instant Video service rises above a certain threshold. That comes in addition to a fixed upfront fee, the basis for most subscription video-on-demand deals up to this point. The generous terms of the deal, announced in September, provide the strongest evidence yet that Amazon is willing to pay up to be a player in this market as it faces a dwindling demand for DVDs - once its core entertainment offering - and tough competition for its Kindle Fire tablets. Film studios and TV network executives, meanwhile, now have a worthy foil to play against Netflix - once the only major streaming player - and possibly a template for future deals. "This could be considered online video deals 2.0. After doing 1.0 deals mostly with Netflix and a few with Amazon, it dawned on the media companies that they…