Broadcast television executives came to New York this week, as they do every year, to talk up their new TV shows in front of advertisers. This year, they are having to talk about yet another technology trying to tear them down. The disruptive technology at hand is an ad eraser, embedded in new digital video recorders sold by Charles W. Ergen's Dish Network, one of the nation's top distributors of TV programming. Turn it on, and all the ads recorded on most prime-time network shows are automatically skipped, no channel-flipping or fast-forwarding necessary. Some reviewers have already called the feature, named Auto Hop, a dream come true for consumers. But for broadcasters and advertisers, it is an attack on an entrenched television business model, and it must be strangled, lest it spread.
Comcast has launched its next-gen cable box called the X1 that brings a slick new interface, cloud integration, and app support. Over the coming weeks, the company will start by making the new set-top boxes available in the the Boston area followed by a nationwide launch later this year. With the X1, Comcast has shifted the bulk of the work from the firmware to the network, which will make it easier for cable providers to upgrade the system over time without having to push new firmware. The X1 is connected to the cloud and offers integration of social apps, such as Skype, Facebook, and Pandora, The X1 can also be used with mobile phone apps that turn handsets into remote controls, similar to what's offered on Roku, AppleTV, and Boxee. The gesture controls on your handset can be used to more easily navigate through the X1 interface and menus.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had a lackluster IPO last week, but it certainly wasn't a failure. The $38 price seems to have been priced correctly as it settled at $38.35 at the end of Friday. The next day, Zuckerberg married his longtime girlfriend in a surprise ceremony. Guests thought they were coming to his fiance's graduation party instead it turned out to be a wedding ceremony.
A watchful eye has arrived on San Francisco's bar scene, but not to keep you in check. It just wants to check you out. A new app launched this weekend that will scan the faces of patrons in 25 bars across the city to determine their ages and genders. Would-be customers can then check their smartphones for real-time updates on the crowd size, average age and men-to-women mix to decide whether the scene is to their liking. The Austin, Texas-based makers of SceneTap say the app doesn't identify specific individuals or save personal information. But in a city known for its love of both libations and civil liberties, a backlash erupted even before the first cameras were switched on from bar-goers who said they would boycott any venue with SceneTap installed.
A former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to spy on his gay roommate was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail -- just a fraction of the maximum -- in a case that focused attention on anti-gay bullying, teen suicide and hate-crime laws in the fast-changing Internet age. Dharun Ravi, 20, was also placed on three years' probation for his part in an episode that burst onto the front pages after his roommate, Tyler Clementi, threw himself to his death off the George Washington Bridge. "Our society has every right to expect zero tolerance for intolerance," Judge Glenn Berman said in imposing far less than the maximum, 10 years behind bars.
The European Union has given Google "a matter of weeks" to propose remedies to antitrust concerns arising from its alleged dominant position in the online search market. European antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia said that after a one-and-a-half-year investigation following complaints from Google's rivals, the EU had pinpointed four areas of concern centering how the Internet giant deals with its search results, how content is used, how advertising is run on its search engine and how advertisers are restricted from using rival search engines.
Cable TV companies are trying to give customers another reason not to cancel their service: better access to Wi-Fi hotspots. Five major operators with nearly 40 million broadband subscribers will let each other's customers access more than 50,000 Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide for no extra charge. The initiative adds Internet customers of Cox Communications and Bright House Networks to an existing deal between Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. The hotspots are in New York City and the surrounding area; Los Angeles; Tampa, Fla.; Orlando, Fla.; and Philadelphia. Cable TV companies have been battling to retain video customers as more people watch TV shows and movies over the Internet and through DVD rental services such as Netflix Inc. The companies have found growth instead in high-speed Internet.
Microsoft is taking a shot at social networking. The company rolled out access to its social search site So.cl to the public. The service was initially available to students at a select number of universities. According to an FAQ on So.cl's site, it combines "social networking and search, to help people find and share interesting web pages." So.cl, a research project from Microsoft's FUSE Labs, lets users take search results from Bing, then share them with others. Search results can include standard links, or even photos and videos. Among the features available in So.cl is Video Parties, where users can basically create a video playlist and share it with friends.
The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear an appeal from a Boston University student who was slapped with a $675,000 penalty for illegally downloading 31 songs and sharing them on the internet. Joel Tenenbaum was sued in 2007 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after Sony BMG, Warner Brothers and other record labels accused him of copyright infringement for sharing songs like Aerosmith's "Pink" and Eminem's "My Name Is" on a peer-to-peer network. Tenenbaum was fined $675,000, but in 2009, a federal judge in Boston downgraded the penalty to just $67,500, deeming the original fine "unconstitutionally excessive." Following pleas for further leniency from Tenenbaum and indignant filings from the RIAA, a federal appeals court revisited the ruling last year and reinstated the $675,000 judgment against Tenenbaum, a graduate student in his late twenties pursuing a physics PhD at Boston University.
Happy belated birthday to YouTube, which celebrates its 7th anniversary with a staggering new stat on video uploads. According to a blog post from YouTube, users upload 72 hours of video a minute to the website. Not a typo. 72 hours a minute. It's nearly double compared to the same time last year, when users were uploading 48 hours of video every 60 seconds. Users of the video sharing site love watching clips, too. They're logging 3 billion hours a month viewing videos on the site. "What started as a handful of videos shared among friends has transformed into a global platform delivering the next generation of channels to anyone, anywhere, and on any device," reads an excerpt from the YouTube post.
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