The Court's Aereo decision is a huge loss for broadcast innovation
Television streaming startup Aereo was dealt a blow by the Supreme Court Wednesday, which, in a big win for broadcasters, ruled 6-3 it violates copyright law. Aereo’s CEO said afterwards that he’ll “continue to fight,” but even bigtime Aereo backer Barry Diller said the Court’s decision means the company will have to close up shop and cut the cord. The decision is bad news for all the other cord-cutters out there, too.
Aereo was one of the most influential innovations in broadcast television in years. Its subscribers pay about $8 a month for access to broadcast content on their web browsers, tablets and phones. Each Aereo subscriber gets access to a single tiny antenna, which captures broadcasters’ over-the-air transmissions and stores them in a remote DVR, which then sends the content to users. Aereo made many a cord-cutter very happy by making it easier to enjoy broadcasters’ content on the device of their choosing.
Of course, Aereo also posed a major threat to the broadcasters. They’re terrified of cord-cutting, or the trend of people dropping their television subscriptions and going Internet-only, relying on services like Netflix, Hulu and Aereo to replace their typical TV time. Even though broadcasters’ signals are already available for free to anyone in range, broadcasters make a big chunk of their money from the fees that cable and satellite companies pay for the privilege of retransmitting their signals to people not in broadcasters’ range. If more people ditch their cable or satellite TV subscriptions, that means less profits for the broadcasters, too.
Aereo’s interloping gave broadcasters two options: Either compete with it on services, or try to sue it out of business. The broadcasters banded together and chose the latter option, filing a suit two years ago that culminated in Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision in their favor.
For cord-cutters, it’s a shame the broadcasters went with Option B and then won at the Court. People are ending their cable and satellite television subscriptions because, aside from paying less, they want to be able to access their content anywhere, anytime. Cable and satellite companies have long known this, and many offer services that let you watch live TV in any room in your house, on a television or mobile device.
Broadcasters could’ve learned from their cable-and-satellite brethren, finding innovative ways to deliver their technically-free-anyway content in ways people actually want. But big incumbent players like broadcasters are resistant to internal innovation—unless an outside threat forces them to whip up something new.
Aereo has been and could have continued to be that force. If the broadcasters’ sue-the-pants-off-’em strategy didn’t work out, they would have had to find ways to compete with Aereo. That could have generated all sorts of unpredictable benefits for consumers on which we’ll now miss out: new apps, better quality streaming, maybe even wholly new and genre-redefining ways of consuming television content — it’s impossible to know for sure. And Aereo itself will soon be gone, too, leaving would-be cord-cutters with one fewer way to throw away their television and few better options on the horizon. Broadcasters’ message to cord-cutters? Cut it out, now.
A challenge to Tesla
Toyota unveiled its 2015 hydrogen fuel-cell sedan on Wednesday, its closest competitor yet to Tesla’s fully-electric Model S.
The car will launch in Japan and cost seven million Yen (almost $70,000), but will not reach U.S. and European markets until the summer of 2015. The company known for the fuel-efficient Prius is one of the first to challenge Tesla after Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk announced that he would not initiate any patent lawsuits against competitors using his revolutionary technology.
But Toyota will not be going fully electric.
“Hydrogen is a particularly promising alternative fuel since it can be produced using a wide variety of primary energy sources, including solar and wind power,” the company said. “When compressed, it has a higher energy density than batteries and is easier to store and transport. In addition to its potential as a fuel for home and automotive use, hydrogen could be used in a wide range of applications, including large-scale power generation.”
The new sedan boasts a cruising range of approximately 435 miles and a refueling time of less than 3 minutes—leaving only water vapor in its wake.
Google ended its annual I/O developer conference keynote with the peculiar announcement that it would be giving all attendees a piece of cardboard. It’s in support of a new virtual reality app for Android phones, appropriately called Cardboard, that Google says will allow people to “experience virtual reality in a simple, fun and inexpensive way.”
What that means is you boot up this app on your phone, stick your phone in a piece of actual cardboard, cut out some eye sockets in said cardboard, then stick your face in the low-tech device. You may recall this application from the time your parents let you play with a refrigerator box when you were five.
The app, which seems to be a real thing, includes the ability to look at popular Google services such as YouTube and Google Earth in a VR environment. Google has even offered some handy instructions for how to engineer your own cardboard mask. While the competing Oculus Rift virtual reality device costs $350, Google says a Cardboard headset is absolutely free if you happen to have an extra large pizza box lying around.
If this seems to ridiculous to be real, remember that an app that does nothing except send people the word “Yo” was recently one of the top programs in Apple’s App Store. One man’s trash is another man’s next billion-dollar project.
Google is entering the fitness tracking sector. At its annual I/O developers conference, the search and data giant announced Google Fit, a new health platform that allows various apps to share health data for individual users to create a complete picture of their fitness. It’s not yet clear how Google Fit will be presented as a consumer-facing product, but the APIs will let companies such as Nike and Adidas pull data from multiple sources to offer more comprehensive apps. Other Google Fit partners include RunKeeper, Intel, Motorola and LG. Development tools for Google Fit will be available in the coming weeks.
The software is similar to HealthKit, Apple’s new health tracking system for iOS 8 that the company announced last month.
Google now has more than a billion people using its Android mobile operating system on a monthly basis, and it has a new plan to lure the next billion users. At its annual I/O developers conference, the company announced Android One, a new set of basic hardware standards that phone manufacturers will be able to use to develop smartphones on the cheap.
The new initiative is aimed at developing markets and will initially roll out with three manufacturers in India. The company demonstrated one phone with a 4.5-inch screen and SD card reader, FM radio slot and dual-SIM support that would retail for less than $100. Though India is the initial target, Google has plans to expand the program globally.
Google I/O, the search and data giant’s annual developer conference, made one thing clear: the Android operating system is coming for you. At a nearly three-hour-long keynote presentation held in San Francisco on Wednesday, Google executives and engineers showed off new products aimed at nearly every facet of most Americans’ lives. Android-powered devices are coming to cars, living rooms, and wrists, among other places.
Google showed off the newest version of its upcoming Android operating system, with VP of design Matias Duarte helming the stage to talk about “L”—short for “Lollipop.” Duarte walked through a range of interface-related features including lending pixels “depth” and giving on-screen objects greater dimension. Objects in L can have physical surfaces and edges with accurate perspectives and shadows, noted Duarte.
The company showed the first in-depth look at its upcoming operating system for smartwatches, dubbed Android Wear. Wearable devices using the system will be an extension of users’ smartphones, scrolling through notifications from both phone apps and apps built into new gadgets. Executives demonstrated emails, appointments, weather updates and text messages popping up on connected watches.
Google also renewed its assault on the living room with Android TV. Android TV, which can be incorporated into smart TVs, set-top-boxes and video game consoles, allows people to switch between streaming apps like Netflix, downloaded movies and video games from the Google Play store. A variety of devices, from smartphones to tablets to video game controllers, can be used to control Android TV. The platform will also make extensive use of Google search, allowing users to not only look up specific shows but also less obvious parameters like Oscar winners from a specific year.
Android TV is a follow-up to Google TV, the company’s first foray into creating TV software, which failed to gain widespread adoption. This time around, Google seems to be focusing on creating a platform more squarely focused on entertainment and ease of use. The platform will enter a crowded market that already includes Apple, Amazon and Roku, but the company did announce some key early partners like Sony and Sharp.
The other major advantage? Android.
Here are the highlights from I/O 2014:
- Android’s upcoming operating system called L, the “biggest release in the history of Android,” with upgraded interfaces that bring the stunning visuals of computer games to your mobile device
- Android Auto, which casts your Android phone experience into your car, and allows you to use voice to send messages, select music, make calls and more.
- Android Wear, smartwatches linked to smartphones that display content—such as calls, messages, weather or directions—that operate simultaneously
- A second attempt at TV with Android TV, allowing users to switch seamlessly between apps, games and movies on their big screens, complete with Google search functions
- Chromecast via cloud, a new feature that allows users to cast content to nearby TVs without connecting to WiFi, and instead, through the cloud and a proximity-based authorization system
Kids are actually using the social network more than they did a year ago
Facebook isn’t dead yet. Far from it, in fact.
In October 2013, Facebook’s CFO admitted that young teens were visiting the social network less frequently. Following that announcement, anecdotal reports and a few different studies suggested that teens—the arbiters of cool—were fleeing Facebook en masse. Even if they kept an account, it wasn’t their primary social network. Teens in the U.S. especially were supposedly opting out of Facebook and into networks like Twitter and Tumblr.
But Facebook is making a comeback. Nearly 80% of U.S. teens still use Facebook and are more active on the social networking site than any other, according to a Forrester Research report. The survey, which polled 4,517 U.S. teens and tweens, found that almost half of the respondents (aged 12 to 17) said they use Facebook more than they did a year ago. And 28% of respondents say they’re on Facebook “all the time” (as opposed to “about once a day” or “at least a few times a day”), a higher percentage than any other service.
The results are actually consistent with a comScore report from earlier this year that found even though there was a three-percentage-point drop in Facebook usage among college-aged adults, 89% of those college kids still use the site. That is, again, better than any other social network is doing in that demographic.
Instagram was runner-up to Facebook in terms of time spent on the network, followed by Snapchat, Twitter, Vine and WhatsApp. That’s great news for Facebook: the company owns Instagram and is in the process of acquiring WhatsApp.
Verizon and Google say they're sorry to Chromebook users.+ READ ARTICLE
When customers bought the more expensive LTE-equipped model of Google’s Chromebook Pixel they thought they’d be getting 100MB of free data for two years from Verizon. They didn’t get it.
Just one year into the plan, users began reporting they no longer received the data they were promised.
“We apologize for this and are looking for a solution for these customers,” Verizon said in a statement, and Google offered $150 to placate customers. But if that doesn’t satisfy Chromebook buyers, Boston Lawfirm Block and Leviton LLP have begun looking into the matter to determine if there was a breach of contract.
Google announced Wednesday that it’s taking another crack at television with Android TV, a new version of its computer operating system made specifically for the big screen. Android TV, which can be incorporated into smart TVs, set-top-boxes and video game consoles, allows people to easily switch between streaming apps like Netflix, downloaded movies and video games from the Google Play store.
A variety of devices, from smartphones to tablets to video game controllers, can be used to control Android TV. The platform will also make extensive use of Google search, allowing users to not only look up specific shows but also less obvious parameters like Oscar winners from a specific year. Video games will also be a big emphasis, with users able to play multiplayer together on the big screen using different types of controllers.
Android TV is a follow-up to Google TV, the company’s first foray into creating TV software, which failed to gain widespread adoption. This time around, Google seems to be focusing on creating a platform more squarely focused on entertainment and ease of use. The platform will enter a crowded market that already includes Apple, Amazon and Roku, but the company did announce some key early partners: The 2015 line of HD and 4K televisions from Sony, Sharp and TP Vision will make use of Android TV.
Apps designed specifically for Android TV will arrive in the fall, alongside the latest version of the Android OS.