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Since Amazon acquired book-based social networking site Goodreads about a year ago, the retailer has gradually been integrating Goodreads’ functionality into Kindle. Kindle Fire tablets and the new and first-generation Kindle Paperwhite e-readers support Goodreads, for instance, letting users log into their Goodreads account from the devices and share what they are reading. However, the integration hadn’t worked in the other direction — users hadn’t been able to add past Kindle purchases to their Goodreads shelves. Now they can: On Wednesday Goodreads announced a new feature, “Add Your Amazon Books,” that lets users add both print and Kindle books purchased on Amazon to their Goodreads accounts. It will be rolling out over the next few weeks to the U.S., Canada and Australia, but if you don’t want to wait you can jumpstart the integration through this link. One incentive for linking the accounts, Goodreads says, is that “more books added to your Goodreads shelves means better recommendations to help you find more great books to read. The super-smart algorithm powering our recommendations engine analyzes the books you rate to come up with the best book suggestions for your unique reading tastes.” The linking is also another way for Amazon to see which of its customers are Goodreads users, though Goodreads notes that “We give you full control over which books to add so you can avoid adding any books bought as gifts. Any book not rated or added to a shelf will not be added to Goodreads.” Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGThe evolution of consumer-media cloud storage

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Need a place to stay? Starwood Hotels is happy to oblige, particularly if you’re wearing Google Glass. The hotel chain has a beta app called SPG for Glass under development to be released soon. The software looks to offer the same or similar functions for the company’s apps on other mobile devices. Of course, being made for Google Glass, the app will lean heavily on voice input as well as touchscreen swipes. For example, you can speak to the SPG for Glass app to search for the nearest Starwood property based on your spoken location or GPS data from your paired phone. After finding a nearby place to stay, you can start the booking process with a tap. Hotel phone numbers are integrated into the search results, allowing for a quick call through the Glass headset. And you’ll be able to see the hotel before booking by swiping through pictures in the app. The software also shows your SPG account data, so using Glass you can view your member number or SPG reward point balance. And after you’ve made reservations, you can pull them up on Glass or get turn-by-turn directions to the hotel. Starwood says the app will also be “state aware” to recognize your hotel arrival and even customize your stay experience. While you can do all of this from a smartphone or tablet, the app looks helpful for times when you have your hands full. That’s really where apps for Glass will shine: Providing useful information at a glance without needing to stop and pull a phone out of your pocket.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Applying lean startup theory in large enterprisesWhat we expect for wearables in the near-term futureWhy design is key for future hardware innovation

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Give up hope all ye who enter MtGox, or whatever is left of the bankrupt bitcoin exchange that is “missing” hundreds of millions of dollars worth of customer deposits. According to reports on Wednesday, MtGox asked a Tokyo bankruptcy court to convert the proceedings from a restructuring process to an outright liquidation, which further lessens the chance that its 127,000 creditors will obtain any meaningful recovery. Meanwhile, filings in Texas bankruptcy court cite an exchange between the judge and MtGox lawyers, who say they are trying to recover a seized $5 million from the Department of Homeland Security — but are not optimistic: Mt. Gox Counsel: [...] there was money that was seized by Department of Homeland Security a while back. The Court: Five million? Mt Gox Counsel: Five million or so, yes. THE COURT: Fiat cash? Mt. Gox Counsel: Fiat cash, right [...] And so the company referred to it as a deposit. I don’t think, technically, we would refer to it as a deposit. I think we have a claim — and we’re trying to get the money back from Homeland Security, but I don’t really view that as a deposit like a bank deposit. It’s not clear we’re going to — you know, that’s a matter that’s under discussion with the Department of Homeland Security as to whether we get it back. [My emphasis] The chances of Homeland Security handing the $5 million back to MtGox seem remote, especially given that the agency is reportedly investigating ties between MtGox CEO Mark Karpeles and members of Silk Road, the notorious online marketplace shut down last year. A Wednesday report in the Wall Street Journal, consistent with what Gigaom reported last week, cites sources saying that lawyers fear Karpeles will be detained if he steps foot in the U.S. Meanwhile, as MtGox enters liquidation, other court filings suggests creditors are turning their attention from MtGox to Karpeles himself, whose personal assets are not shielded by the bankruptcy process. Collecting anything from Karpeles could be difficult, however, given the complexity of enforcing foreign judgments against someone like Karpeles who is a French national living in Japan.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Bitcoin: why digital currency is the future financial system

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Bridging the gap between social media and the real world is a thorny problem, but one company believes that it can get people outside and discovering the world around them by treating places like potential matches on a dating app. Superb is a new iPhone app released Wednesday that marries place discovery with the mechanics that have made hit dating app Tinder a success. The app invites users to swipe potential destinations in their immediate area to populate a to-do list, and users receive feedback about which friends are interested in going to the same place.  “Whenever people swipe more things, we put those to the top,” co-founder Eddy Lu explained. “And we keep who has also swiped a secret, but then you swipe and you see who wants to do it.” Lu said that the app will show whether friends have selected the same destination, but that it will also encourage users who want to meet one other to  set up excursions via the app’s messaging feature. Anyone who has spent time on Tinder will immediately understand Superb’s lightweight interface, which allows users to swipe right for places they want to go to and swipe left to trash them for good. It’s a bit clunky to swipe through places, though, as you actually have to physically swipe down on a place to pass it rather than a new location automatically appearing after swiping left or right. It takes a little getting used to, but the choice to populate the app with Foursquare’s free API with supplemented listings from Superb itself makes it visually appealing. Lu and his team of 12 previously worked on Grubwithus, a three-year-old Y Combinator-backed startup that encouraged users to set up group dinners based on geolocation. But that iteration never gained the traction that Lu desired, and the company put the $7 million Series C it raised in 2012 to turn the product into Superb. He added that the team learned to focus on making the app as minimal as possible to drive users to not get caught up in logistics and go out to places that excite them. “We wanted to take a step back, reduce the social barriers, and get people offline and connecting in the real world,” Lu said Grubwithus was born back in 2011, when companies like Oink and Zaarly tried to capitalize on “real world” actions like rating bagels or borrowing tools. But those companies didn’t take off. Lu and his team were smart to incorporate traits from the best online/offline dating apps to make Superb fun to use. But the idea of dinners with strangers or going through a complicated set of messages to get to the new restaurant in the area may still create enough friction to make that bridge from online to offline tenuous.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Applying lean startup theory in large enterprisesWhy mobile must be part of the shopping experienceFlash analysis: Facebook’s post-IPO prospects

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In an interesting report out of Reuters’ Seoul bureau Wednesday morning, product strategy VP Yoon Han-kil shared details about Samsung’s 2014 plans, including a “high-end model” Tizen phone at the end of the second quarter and a “new form-factor” for the Galaxy Note. Tizen, Samsung’s mobile operating system that incorporates its old Bada platform, has been in production since 2011 and has seen setbacks in the past, most recently when Japanese carrier DoCoMo decided not to carry a planned Tizen-powered phone. However, Samsung’s latest wearable smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear 2, uses Tizen, which may signal that Samsung’s ready to put it on a handset. Han-kil described the two unreleased handsets as complimentary: one would be a high-end model meant to show off what the OS could do, and the other would be targeted at the mid-market in order to drive growth and sales volume. He didn’t mention the countries where the phones would be released, although it’s unlikely to be available in the United States, per previous Samsung statements.  The Galaxy Note, Samsung’s popular large-sized phone that doubles as a small tablet, may be in line for a redesign: citing “the slowing high-end market,” Han-kil mentioned Samsung was planning to release a new version with a “new form-factor,” which could imply greater integration with the recently released Galaxy Gear smartwatches. Samsung bundled the Galaxy Gear 2 with the Galaxy Note 3, and could take a similar approach later this year. “We’re trying out a lot of new things like wearables, convergence with home devices and cars,” Han-kil said.   A common complaint of the American technology press is that the Galaxy Note 3 is simply too unwieldy to use with one hand, or even as an everyday phone, so a redesign would presumably balance the desire of the existing Note consumer for a tablet-sized phone with the mass market enthusiasm for smaller, pocket-sized devices. Or who knows — the “new form-factor” could be a 10-inch sized tablet with voice capabilities. We’ll likely know in fall 2014.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the global tablet market will look like by 2017Noteworthy mobile developments from the third quarter 2013Forecast: Global mobile subscribers and handsets, 2012-2017

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Apple expanded availability of the 8 GB iPhone 5c to several new countries on Wednesday. The expansion was first noted by 9to5 Mac, and Mac Rumors reports the low-cost model is now on sale in the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Spain, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Switzerland. While prices vary by location, customers can expect roughly a €50 discount for the 8 GB model as compared to the original 16 GB version. The lower-cost iPhone 5c with less storage was a bit of a surprise when Apple initially announced it: The company introduced the new model last month, in the middle of a current product cycle. That’s atypical of Apple, which generally keeps iPhone product launches on an annual basis. Early sales data suggested that the iPhone 5s was outselling the iPhone 5c, indicating that Apple may not be earning the results it expected from the new iPhone 5c. I doubt Apple will ever release sales figures specific to the 8 GB iPhone 5c — the company doesn’t break out data at that level — but I’d love to see the numbers. My expectation? A lower-priced iPhone 5c with a meager 8 GB of storage isn’t bringing a large sales bump for the company. The limited storage certainly isn’t appealing unless you’re getting a large discount on the phone as compared to the 16 GB model. And in some countries, you’re not getting a discount at all according to one Mac Rumors commenter who says: “its hilarious cuz[sic] they introduced the 8GB one for 499€ here in Germany while every big store chain is selling the 16GB one for 489€.” The timing of this product revision is taking place at a bad time. Until this year’s model, iPhones haven’t been sold at a discount by retailers — they kept prices the same as Apple’s own store. With the latest iteration, however, policies changed, allowing retailers to offer the phones at lower prices if they chose to do so. As a result, Apple’s offering of a discounted 8 GB iPhone 5c is competing with the newly discounted other models, making the product less desirable by comparison.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What You Need to Know About the SoftBank-Sprint MergerHow to manage mobile security through productivityThe impact of mobility on enterprise software development

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Let’s tee it up on June 17 and have fun on one of America’s top 100 golf courses, TPC Harding Park, host to the PGA Tour and the President’s Cup Championship. Play a round with cloud industry leaders and Structure conference sponsors while helping to raise awareness and funds for GLIDE, a San Francisco charity organization focused on alleviating suffering and breaking the cycles of poverty. Companies are encouraged to organize foursome teams, and we’ll have a special award for the company with the best team score. But don’t hesitate to sign up as an individual: We’ll be assigning single golfers to teams. Following the tournament, we’ll have an awards ceremony with barbecue and cocktails. Prizes will be awarded for first-, second- and last-place teams. Just announced! Tournament participants will receive a special discount on tickets to our Structure 2014 conference that takes place on the two days after the golfing event (June 18 and 19). Click here for registration info and details. We hope to see you there!  

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Amazon has taken some of its oldest EC2 instances, designated them as “previous generation” resources and  segregated them from newer, more efficient and robust instances on a separate page of their own. But it will keep selling those older instances, according to the AWS blog. The company said this will bring the newer, more powerful and more efficient processes to the fore for customers, but keep the older instances available for those who want them. At least for now. IT vendors typically stop selling an older product after a set amount of time or number of updates and eventually “de-support” or “end of life” it. That’s what Microsoft is doing this week with its extremely popular but 13-year-old Windows XP. The first AWS instances came online in 2006 and 8 years is a long, long time in the fast-moving world of public cloud computing. Keeping these older EC2 resources running may be fine for now, but at some point AWS will be forced to act, said Sebastian Stadl, founder of Scalr, a private cloud management provider that also tracks cloud usage. If it holds to its current course, AWS will end up running older gear that would normally be recycled and replaced. Such equipment uses a lot of energy for electricity and cooling — especially if it is lightly utilized. There will be lots of unsold inventory and at that point, AWS — which is known for its efficiency — will have to either keep eating the cost, terminate client machines or develop live migration, technology  that enables users to move workloads from one set of resources to another without shutting down. Google Cloud offers live migration but AWS does not (yet), Stadl said. Amazon’s energy use is something of a sore point. The company prides itself on its energy efficiency but has also been slammed by Greenpeace for its reliance on “dirty,” i.e. non-renewable, energy compared to Facebook, Apple, Google and other big data center operators. Greenpeace also said AWS is one of the least transparent tech companies about its energy use. Server Density CEO David Mytton, an avid AWS watcher, agreed. “AWS said they’re not planning to deprecate [these instances] but that may change as the hardware ages and spare parts become more expensive. It could also be about efficiency to help reduce power and improve the environmental impact, even if AWS doesn’t release anything about how green they are.”Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Sponsored Research: How direct-access solutions can speed up cloud adoptionMetered IT: the path to utility computingUnderstanding and managing the cost of the cloud

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After finding out how widespread the HeartBleed security issue is, it only made sense to find a Chrome extension to help the situation. There are a number of good ones but we chose ChromeBleed because it also works in Google searches, showing which sites may still have server vulnerabilities before you even visit them. Meanwhile, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook is looking good in tablet mode while Microsoft ended its Scroogled campaign just in time to add Office Online app shortcuts to the Chrome Web Store. Join us for this week’s podcast as we discuss those topics as well as some great new features in Chrome Beta for Android and new Chromecast apps here now and coming soon. Download This Episode The Chrome Show RSS Feed Subscribe in iTunes SHOW NOTES: Today’s Chrome Show episode is sponsored by New Relic. Hosts: Janko Roettgers and Kevin C. Tofel Lenovo’s ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook is closest yet to a Chrome tablet Microsoft adds Office “apps” to the Chrome Web Store Oh Snap! Google adds a Windows 7 function to Chrome OS Chrome Beta for Android gets an undo close tab feature Google gets in on the death of XP craze Nice tip to launch Chrome apps from the keyboard (h/t to Gregory Dillon) Need a Chrome device comparison tool? Check out the one from ChromeUP Player FM and Rocket Player get Chromecast support, Aereo will get it in May. App / Extension of the week: ChromeBleedRelated research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Google TV: Overview and Strategic AnalysisHow the mega data center is changing the hardware and data center marketsGoogle Chrome OS: What to Expect

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Berlin-based app search startup Xyo has a penned a deal with Deutsche Telekom to provide an alternative to Google Play for T-Mobile Android phones in the U.S. and Europe. Xyo analyzes app usage data and a user’s own preferences to produce better app recommendations than the mere download rankings used by most app stores. Now that contextual search capability will be featured in Deutsche Telekom’s Top Apps recommendation service in several countries, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Poland. While T-Mobile US is now a separate company from Deutsche Telekom, it will also use the startup’s technology, said Xyo’s co-founder and head of international partnerships Matthaus Krzykowski. While the mobile carriers will initially use Xyo’s recommendation engine as a search field within the Top Apps service itself, Krzykowski said, they will expand to other touch points, such as search widgets. Matthaus Krzykowski, Xyo co-founder Why are carriers getting into the app recommendation game? Two reasons, Krzykowski said: First, there’s money to be made in app discovery – Facebook has proven that. T-Mobile will tap into Xyo’s app search advertising, producing sponsored results. But carriers also have an interest in promoting the increasing number of developer partnerships they’re entering into, Krzykowski said. Carriers are offering their customers free cloud storage, integrating their address books with text and video chat providers and even offering free on-demand music subscriptions as with AT&T’s deal with Beats Music. Instead of packing all of those services as preloaded apps on the phone – which consumers usually view as bloatware anyway – carriers can target them at the customers who actually want to use them through contextual search, Krzykowski said. For instance, a carrier could have a deal with Spotify to provide a six-month free subscription to all of its subscribers. Any subscriber searching for “music streaming” would get a list of all of the usual song subscription and streaming radio services, but Spotify would be featured as a “best choice” recommendation. Krzykowski said that recommendation is different from a sponsored result because Xyo’s analytics engine determines that the subscriber receives a definite financial benefit from using Spotify over another service.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Takeaways from mobile’s second quarterWhat mattered in mobile in the second quarterThe state of the converged-mobile-messaging market

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New court reports this week suggest Apple is sinking ever deeper into legal quicksand, as the company fights a court judgment over ebook price-fixing that could ultimately cost it close to $1 billion dollars. In the latest bit of bad news for Apple, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote on Tuesday confirmed that 33 state attorneys general can proceed with a lawsuit to seek triple damages for “injury inflicted on their economies and their citizens.” (Consumers in the other 17 states who overpaid for ebooks will be represented by class action lawyers, who obtained class certification last month.) Cote’s opinion this week, which came in response to a motion by Apple to block the states’ claims on standing grounds, clears the way for the damages phase of the trial to get underway on July 14 – even as Apple asks an appeals court to reverse Cote’s decision last year that it brokered a price-fixing conspiracy over ebooks. The ultimate price-tag for Apple in all this is anyone’s guess. The book publishers that were sued alongside Apple agreed to pay about $160 million (check your Kindle account), but that came as part of a settlement. For Apple, if it loses, the bill will be much higher since the company decided to fight rather than settle, and because antitrust law includes a nasty penalty clause that triples actual damages. “Consumers could see a judgment of between $750 to $850 million,” Steve Berman, who is leading the class action, said last month. And that doesn’t even include Apple’s mounting legal bills. Meanwhile, Apple had to endure a further dose of legal misery this week in the form of a long scolding from a court-appointed antitrust monitor that the company sought to remove in January. In a 77-page report, the monitor Michael Bromwich bemoans Apple’s earlier lack of cooperation, and describes his affronts over Apple’s failure to immediately grant his requests to interview senior executives like Johnny Ive and Al Gore (neither of whom have anything to do with Apple’s ebook policies). Bromwich’s behavior has been the subject of acerbic editorials in the Wall Street Journal, which have pointed out that he is a personal friend of Judge Cote’s and has no background in antitrust law. Bromwich’s report is “the first in a series,” for which Apple must foot every penny. It notes the company’s “promising start to enhancing its Antitrust Compliance Program, but that Apple still has much work to do” — and carries on in that vein for many more pages (it’s embedded below, with some key parts underlined, if you want to take a look for yourself). As I’ve said in the past, this case jumped the shark a long time ago. Apple is now a bit player in an ebooks market dominated more than ever by Amazon. And unlike, say, the Comcast-TimeWarnerCable merger, there are no pressing antitrust issues here — but that’s unlikely to stop Cote, Bromwich and the merry band of lawyers from trying to hoist Apple on a legal petard a little longer. Monitor Report Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the global tablet market will look like by 2017What future mobile customer experience management looks likeHow mobile will disrupt the living room in 2014

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The race is on to become the software vendor with the best platform on which to run big data applications, and Microsoft thinks it stands as good a chance as anybody to win. At an event on Tuesday, the company detailed its vision of the future of computing — one that CEO Satya Nadella said entails “ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence” – and announced three new products it hopes will help its vision come to life. What Nadella had to say was really a continuation of what Microsoft has been talking about for the past year or so. The company has had to make itself into a data-driven company in order to compete in everything from web search to cloud computing (“Every aspect of Microsoft’s business is being fundamentally transformed because of data,” he said) and it’s going to help its customers undergo the same transformation. Today, that means faster databases (Microsoft announced SQL Server 2014 with expanded in-memory capabilities), easier SQL queries on Hadoop (Microsoft announced the Analytics Platform Service, which bundles SQL Server and Hadoop on the same cluster with a shared query engine) and an easier way to ingest all that data you’re storing (the company announced a preview of its Azure Intelligent Systems Service for getting sensor data into the cloud). The immediate result: Microsoft will “transform Office as the UI for data,” Nadella explained. We’ve already seen some of what that will look like with new visualization capabilities and the Q&A feature for Microsoft’s PowerBI Excel add-on, and it looks pretty good. Bigger datasets, faster performance and smarter results. Counting and visualizing Olympic medals with natural language using Q&A. However, this is hardly visionary stuff. If this were all Microsoft had up its sleeve, it would look like just another data management vendor whose line of sight doesn’t go much beyond SQL queries and business intelligence. The future is in machine data and machine learning The real future is the one with the ubiquitous computing and the ambient intelligence, the internet of things. And that’s why the Azure Intelligent Systems Service is so interesting. Microsoft, like EMC-VMware spinoff Pivotal (which, not coincidentally is ran by former Microsoft vice president Paul Maritz), wants to become the best place for running next-generation applications, not just analytic workloads. Whether that’s in the cloud, in the data center or both doesn’t really matter. Already, Microsoft corporate vice president of Quentin Clark told me in an interview after the product launch, Microsoft is working with a number of IoT-like applications industries from automobiles to farming. For example, he explained, one software-as-a-service vendor built an application on Azure that analyzes sensor data from cows in order to help farmers optimize their dairy production. This was all done before the advent of the new service, which should make Azure look like a more compelling platform by making it easier to get data into. The next step, which is where Microsoft thinks it has a real advantage, is in adding machine learning to the mix. Nadella hinted that machine learning will make its way into the company’s various products in order to deliver the intelligence he mentioned, and Clark confirmed this. “Microsoft, by nature of what it is … we’ve had to develop machine learning into an engineering practice,” he added. Whether it’s infrastructural improvements to enable machine learning on Hadoop, like Microsoft Research is working on with its REEF project (which is now open source), or advanced deep learning models for speech recognition (see embedded video below for more on this), the company does have some chops in this space. A platform that encompasses cloud and physical servers, multiple data management frameworks, and machine learning capabilities to help build smart applications sounds good on paper. What’s more, Clark noted, Microsoft is “certainly open to” the idea of actually building and selling some turnkey applications should customers demand it. This is a departure from the stance of most Hadoop vendors, such as Cloudera, and even Pivotal (Maritz acquired a handful of application assets while he was CEO of VMware, but VMware sold most of them off rather than send them along to Pivotal), but Microsoft is no stranger to developing the core applications for its platform. But despite all the money and all the talk, this is still just the beginning of the data revolution in IT. Cloudera, Pivotal, Google, Amazon Web Services, IBM — they all want some or all of the market Microsoft is going after, and they’re all arguably in a position to get it. Microsoft’s strategy seems complete, possibly the most complete, but the company could become a B-list player really fast if it can’t execute.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Why we must apply big data analytics to human-generated dataCloud and data first-quarter 2013: analysis and outlookReport: NoSQL Databases – Providing Extreme Scale and Flexibility

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Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Flight Center hosted its first rocket launch in 1967 when Apollo 11 lifted off to put the first human on the moon. Now, it will be reborn as a commercial launch pad after SpaceX signed an agreement with NASA to operate and fund it for the next 20 years. SpaceX already has close ties with NASA. It delivered two shipments to the International Space Station for the agency last year and has already launched seven rockets from Kennedy, with one more scheduled to take off this month. While the company has focused on delivery to Earth’s orbit, its capsules could go as far as Mars within the lifetime of the 20 year agreement. Pad 39A sits one mile from 39B, which NASA will continue to operate. “The parallel pads at Kennedy perfectly exemplify NASA’s parallel path for human spaceflight exploration — U.S. commercial companies providing access to low-Earth orbit and NASA deep space exploration missions at the same time,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a release.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Is the 3D printing market a hype, a hope, or a threat?What defines the key players of the IaaS industryGigaOM Euro 20: the European startups to watch

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Automattic, the San Francisco-based company that is responsible for the WordPress web-publishing and blog-hosting platform — and the associated open-source community — is raising a round of venture capital that could value the company at $1 billion or more, according to a report in Fortune magazine. The financing is said to be in the $100-million to $150-million range. WordPress recently acquired Longreads, a content-sharing community, and has said it wants to get more into content recommendation. Web-publishing competitor Squarespace just closed a financing round of its own that was worth $40 million. Disclosure: Automattic is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom. Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Connected world: the consumer technology revolutionAre Comments Facebook’s Next Big Service?A look back at the first quarter of 2014

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Secret’s co-founder and head designer Chrys Bader For Chrys Bader, the co-founder and lead designer of the two-month-old Secret mobile app, his “allergy to complexity” all started when he spent about a year working on Google+. It was during that time, working on one of the most complex social products out there, that he realized that utter simplicity and a singular focus were the keys to building powerful social mobile products. So with Secret — the anonymous secret-sharing mobile app that’s become a visual, gossip-filled addiction in Silicon Valley — Bader and co-founder and CEO David Byttow, decided every design decision should be made to enable the simplest way to share, read and interact with the text (the secrets) themselves. Bader discussed the company’s design strategy with me in an interview at the startup’s temporary office space at Google Ventures, just next door to a grilled cheese restaurant at the entrance to South Park in San Francisco. It’s the concept of a “UI that just gets out of the way,” or “non-design,” said Bader, who told me he’s been developing and designing digital products since he was 15 (he’s now 30). Before Secret and Google, he built the now defunct photo-sharing app Treehouse (which launched six months before Instagram) and went through the Y-Combinator program in 2008. Bader said that when a user opens an app, they should be able to understand within five seconds what the next thing is that they’re supposed to do, and it should be like that every step of the way. Secret, which just closed on $8.6 million from investors like Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, uses that barebones concept from top to bottom. The app uses a full-bleed, one-stream, entirely flat look (inspired by iOS7), where each screen is either one secret, or can be dropped down into the comment section. “We’re immersing the user in the content,” Bader explained. During the scroll, comments fade into a blur at the edges of the screen to highlight just what’s directly on the screen (the blur is also inspired by iOS7). The secrets appear onscreen in a few scattered letters at a time — reminiscent of a style more commonly used by movie credits — as a way to emphasize the impact or importance of the phrase. Users create secrets and backgrounds for their secrets with up and left finger swipes, which Bader wanted to feel more like finger painting than tapping buttons or turning knobs, and which he says gives the user a more “accomplished” feeling when they post their secret. GIF made by Brian Lovin An early form of Secret was actually even more simple than the current one. The first version was a one-to-one messaging app, and it only used black and white. A little color and “depth with constraints,” as Bader put it, were needed to create community when Secret changed into a broadcast app. One of the humanizing touches that the company added was the comment icons, which where created by independent designer Brent Jackson, and released online under open source. The cute, minimalist objects like a skull, a ghost, a heart and an owl added subtle but edgy touches and created personality in the app. It’s pretty hilarious to see people shouting at each other in the comments section of a secret, declaring that “purple ghost” or “red owl” is an idiot who doesn’t know anything about venture capital deals. Bader says the comment icons — which are randomly generated when a user makes a comment — are also supposed to create a sort of slot machine, gambling effect — as in, hell yeah, I got purple ice cream cone again! Geomicons, made by Brent Jackson Secret has been gaining fame in the early-adopter tech crowd, and much of the attention has been on the tech industry gossip that has emerged on the app, like acquisition and layoff rumors. But for people who pay attention to app design and user interface, the app has also drawn praise by many for its attention to detail and simplicity. Bader is in the process of putting together some formal design principles, which he shared with me and which I’ve included below. Also check out Brian Lovin’s GIFs of the Secret design touches. Bader’s four product design principles: Start from emotion — This isn’t a new concept, says Bader, but Apple’s design team embodies this and I agree with them. Tell a story — The user should be able to fit the whole product in his or her mind at once. You should be able to think about what Secret is and not spend more than one brain cycle piecing it together. Keep a balance — Positive experiences need to outweigh the negative ones (which can be prevalent on an anonymous app). The experience needs to be a net positive. Live by constraints — It’s great to use “blue-sky thinking” to brainstorm and come up with ideas, but when it comes time to implementing design, set constraints. Bader’s 3 rules for building home run social products: Allow for a novel form of self expression Make it stupidly simple to express yourself Make it rewarding. Gigaom is holding its annual experience design conference Roadmap on November 18 & 19 in San Francisco, and we’ll be announcing speakers and themes in the coming months.

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On Tuesday, Amazon announced a subtle but important change to its Login with Amazon service. On the newest Kindle Fires, mobile apps and games that required an Amazon login no longer require a password every time a user launches the app. Instead, the first time the app is run, Amazon will ask if the user consents to automatically log on using the account registered to their Kindle Fire. In addition, developers can now access the Login with Amazon service through Amazon’s mobile SDK. Presumably, some of these apps offer the option to log on through Facebook or Google as well, so it makes sense that Amazon would take steps to make sure its OAuth solution works as well as possible on its own devices. Considering that many Fire TV early adopters found their devices were already logged in to their account out of the box and the compelling Amazon phone rumors that keep cropping up, Amazon seems to be laying the groundwork for a big ecosystem push this year.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGThe evolution of consumer-media cloud storage

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Remember Big Buck Bunny and Sintel? Sure you do: The two animated short films have been a staple of product demos for smart TVs, streaming devices and video player apps for years, in part because their stunning production quality, and in part because both are Creative Commons-licensed, liberally allowing reuse. The Blender Foundation, which was behind both films, now plans to produce an animated feature film called Gooseberry. The foundation, which is using these kinds of films to show off the capabilities of its open source 3D software, is currently raising funds for Gooseberry through a crowdfunding campaign. The ambitious goal of the campaign is to raise €500,000 (close to $700,000), and with only four days left, it still has ways to go. Maybe it’s time for all those consumer electronics companies and startups that have used Big Buck Bunny and Sintel in the past to start pitching in?Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Applying lean startup theory in large enterprisesWhy design is key for future hardware innovationThe state of crowd-labor platforms in 2012

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From the review of Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable to the FCC’s proposed reboot of its overturned net neutrality rules, policymakers are playing a key role in shaping the future course of both old and new media industries.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The living room reinvented: trends, technologies and companies to watchReport: The Ongoing Battle for the Digital HomeOpportunities for living room application platforms

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Thanks to the web and real-time measurement tools, the media industry has gone from having virtually no hard data on readers and attention to an embarrassment of riches — not only can we measure what people click on, but we can measure how far down the page they got when they were reading, whether they posted a comment, which social networks they came from, and a hundred other pieces of data. The only problem is that this is very much a double-edged sword. New York Times media writer David Carr recently looked at some examples of media companies that are rewarding their writers based on traffic statistics and other measurements, including The Oregonian — whose efforts I wrote about here. But is paying your journalists based on pageviews or other metrics a smart way to align their incentives with your goals as a business, or does it poison the well when it comes to enhancing or encouraging creativity? This fear of well-poisoning has even led some outlets — including The Verge and MIT’s Technology Review — to deny their journalists access to the statistics about readers and attention, because they’re concerned that it might distort their judgement about which stories to cover or how much time to devote to them. But then how do writers know whether their work is reaching an audience? Be careful what kind of incentives you use In a piece he wrote for the American Journalism Review this week, Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile (who is also an adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia) looked at both sides of the data sword. One danger of using the wrong metrics to reward your journalists, he noted — as I also tried to point out in a recent post — is that you wind up incentivizing the wrong thing, and that can take your site far away from what its original goals were: “What we choose to measure defines what we aspire to. It is thus unsurprising that when a newsroom prioritizes a measure of link performance, that newsroom learns how to optimize links, but not content. Instead of metrics teaching the primacy of good content, we get clickbait and slideshows.” BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, who some might think would be a natural proponent of traffic-boosting statistics given his site’s focus on viral content, has also talked about the downside of this phenomenon. “If you are a slave to the numbers, then you start creating more stuff like that… and pretty soon you will have a site full of trash and salacious garbage,” the BuzzFeed CEO said in an interview with Capital New York last fall. As Haile put it in a similar piece he wrote for Time magazine earlier this year, media companies are “getting a lot wrong about the web these days — we confuse what people have clicked on for what they’ve read. We mistake sharing for reading.” As absurd as it sounds, according to some of Chartbeat’s research, whether someone shares a link to a particular story or blog post has virtually no relationship to whether they have actually read it or not. @jeffjarvis @shafqatislam @zseward @felixsalmon We've found effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading— Tony Haile (@arctictony) February 02, 2014 Who is your customer — reader or advertiser? So if publishers and media companies shouldn’t be looking at raw pageviews — which many advertisers still seem to prefer as a measurement of how effective their ads are going to be — and they shouldn’t be looking at sharing statistics because that doesn’t measure whether people actually read the content, then what should they be looking at? Not surprisingly, that question is more complicated than it seems, because there is no single answer. Part of the problem is that most content publishers are serving two very different masters: one is the reader, and the other is the advertiser (the exception being reader-funded sites like Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish or Jessica Lessin’s The Information). As Jeff Jarvis argued in a Twitter conversation with Haile — which I have Storified here, and also embedded below — if you want to measure service to the reader then you have to look at different data. Sites like Upworthy and even Chartbeat itself, Haile points out, choose to focus on metrics that measure something approaching “engagement” — so not only whether a page was loaded but how long the reader spent, whether they were a returning visitor, and so on. Upworthy’s version of this is called “attention minutes” (which I wrote about here) and Chartbeat calls it “engaged time.” Unfortunately, many advertisers and brands continue to look at what they call “reach,” and that encourages a focus not on engagement but on raw numbers like pageviews, as News Corp. executive Raju Narisetti noted in a recent piece for the Poynter Institute. And the larger those numbers are, the better advertisers like them — even if that encourages gaming strategies, such as buying traffic from clickfarms, etc. And that is often exactly what happens. @arctictony @mathewi abuse, not just by pageview baiting but I think the buying of fake/bot/clickfarm is bigger issue than some lead on— Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) April 15, 2014 How do you measure engagement? Driving pageviews is not difficult even if you don’t want to buy cheap traffic from clickfarms: all you need is someone like former Gawker writer Neetzan Zimmerman, who drove more pageviews per month than all of the other writers combined by focusing exclusively on viral content. Scott DeLong, who created a site called Viral Nova to do something very similar, built a massive traffic-generating engine singlehandedly from his house in rural Ohio. The downside -of this kind of behavior – as Jarvis points out in a recent post at Medium that is part of a series about the future of news — is that focusing on these metrics drives journalistic organizations even farther away from what should their goal, which is not just encouraging engagement but actual interaction. Haile makes a similar point in his AJR piece, and comes to a fairly grim conclusion: “Newsrooms are mission-driven businesses that have more complex standards of success than just profit. That complexity requires a more thoughtful approach than simply Revenue = Impressions = Pageviews. Otherwise, like the oily salesperson who wrings every last dollar out of your visit but ensures he will never see you again, media companies risk destroying their ability to build a long-term business in exchange for a few additional dollars today.” Embedded below is a Storify of the conversation that Jarvis and Haile had on Twitter about the metrics media organizations should be paying attention to: Post and photo thumbnails courtesy of Thinkstock / Sergey NivensRelated research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What We Can Learn From comScore’s Year in ReviewFrenemy mine: The pros and cons of social partnerships for online media companiesThe discovery democracy: how social discovery is transforming entertainment

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Daniel Graf, who led a number of Google Maps development projects over his years with the company, announced today that he will be taking a new job as vice president of Consumer Product at Twitter. Graf comes to the social media platform after two years within Google’s Maps team, where he is most widely credited for bringing Google Maps back to the iPhone after Apple introduced its own Maps equivalent. Before Google, Graf spent six years as the CEO of Kyte, an online and mobile video platform that snuck in on the ground floor of the smartphone media industry. He left after the company was acquired by KIT Digital in 2011. Followed Maps to find that the flock was just around the corner – excited to take wing with the @twitter product team…— Daniel Graf (@danielgraf) April 15, 2014 In his decision to join Twitter, Graf brings with him a deep understanding of mobile products, which are extremely important to social media companies. It will be interesting to watch Graf’s impact on Twitter’s product development team, which has had several leaders over the company’s short history, and how he will work with recently acquired technologies like Android lockscreen Cover to produce a mobile product that possibly expands beyond the microblogging platform.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Listening platforms: finding the value in social media dataHow mobile will disrupt the living room in 2014How LinkedIn is evolving its media business

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For anyone familiar with the seven-year-old production and distribution company, the recent announcement that My Damn Channel would be rebranding as Omnivision Entertainment was a surprising switch. The bigger surprise? That it would begin taking a management role in talent. Founded in 2007 by Rob Barnett and Warren Chao, My Damn Channel began as the home of premium comedy content created by established talent like The Simpsons‘s Harry Shearer and The State‘s David Wain. But it was also a major factor in building Grace Helbig into a cross-platform star and supporting Mark Malkoff in developing his trademark hilarious stunts. “We concentrated on quality over quantity, and worked with established as well as new and emerging talent,” Barnett said in a phone interview. Now, emerging talent is becoming a bigger piece of the puzzle, as with the Omnivision reveal came the announcement that the new banner would be providing “360 degree service” for Sara Maria Forsberg, a Finnish YouTuber who broke out last month with the videos What Languages Sound Like To Foreigners and One Girl, 14 Genres. “When [What Languages Sound Like to Foreigners] came out, it was obvious from first contact that we were one of many many other people looking to do something with her,” Barnett said. But Chao apparently had “a fire in [his] belly” and was able to gain her trust and sign her on the dotted line on March 30th. Forsberg has since made her American TV debut on Ellen, and plans are in the works to sign her a deal with a “major music label.” Forsberg is just about to turn 20 years old. “It’s really a joy to see how well it can go sometimes, when somebody puts their all into meeting the world,” Barnett said. “We felt like it would be really important for us to put all of what we’ve done in our careers, and everything we’ve learned, into helping her build what we think will be a ginormous entertainment career.” Omnivision is open to taking on other clients like Forsberg, but similar to My Damn Channel’s content strategy, will continue to be very selective. “We can’t do a hundred of them at once,” he said. “They won’t get the care and attention they deserve to get things right.” While Forsberg is being represented as an Omnivision client, that doesn’t mean that My Damn Channel doesn’t still exist — according to Barnett, his team is as committed to the My Damn Channel brand and its content as they’ve been for the last seven years. But it now functions under the Omnivision umbrella. Why make that change? Recently, the company has been branching out into brand-specific campaigns, including Aetna and Disney, the latter of which saw Malkoff “in search of his Disney side” to promote Disney’s parks. “The management company and team have been able to create noise-making productions that get a lot of attention. But doing it only under the My Damn Channel brand was limiting,” Barnett said. In addition, the company is moving into television production, with its first series, Videocracy, in development with HLN for its 2014 slate. “More than ever in the last 8 years, the world of digital and the world of traditional are doing a lot more dancing,” Barnett said. “It’s a really wild time right now,” he added. “It used to be there would be eight or nine months before a huge deal would happen. Now, it’s every eight or nine hours.”Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Why design is key for future hardware innovationThe new building blocks for IT: OpenStack, continuous delivery, and devopsWhat to watch in mobile in 2013

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Pioneer announced Tuesday that five existing in-dash LCD displays will be receiving a firmware upgrade “in early summer 2014″ that adds support for Apple’s CarPlay. Since Apple announced CarPlay on March 3, most reports have been focused on new cars, but these aftermarket in-dash consoles can be installed in your old jalopy. CarPlay, described as “iOS in the car,” pairs an iPhone with a car dashboard through a Lightning cable. After the phone is plugged in, the user can access Apple Maps, messages, and music through a Siri-based interface. New iPhones with the most recent iOS update are already CarPlay ready, although prior to Pioneer’s announcement there were no compatible products available to consumers. Apple will likely reveal more CarPlay plans in June at WWDC. Pioneer’s announcement comes on the heels of a report in Nikkei that pointed to Alpine, another manufacturer of in-dash units, releasing its own CarPlay compatible console this fall. All five units are part of the NEX line and are currently available from Amazon. They range in price from $700 to $1,400 — not cheap, but certainly less expensive than a new Mercedes-Benz.  Check out a complete list of compatible models over on Pioneer’s website.  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Social second-quarter 2013: analysis and updateHow mobile will disrupt the living room in 2014What happened in mobile in the fourth-quarter 2013

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Now this is smart: BitTorrent Inc. has teamed up with Netgear to take its P2P-powered Dropbox competitor BitTorrent Sync to the next level. Owners of a ReadyNAS device can now install apps for Sync directly on that device, which will make it possible to back up and sync phones, tablets and computers with the networked storage drive. BitTorrent announced Tuesday that it will reveal additional NAS integrations in the near future. BitTorrent first unveiled Sync a little over a year ago, and the app has arguably been one of the most promising projects the company has been working on. The app encrypts data to secure it during transit, and it offers unlimited file transfers for free, making it both a simple option for people who want to back up media from their smart phones as well as an alternative to paid cloud services. Sync originally was a BitTorrent Labs experiment, but has now seemingly graduated to become one of the company’s core products. It’s featured on the BitTorrent.com homepage, and late last year, BitTorrent decided to shut down its personal file sharing product SoShare and redirect all of its users to Sync instead.  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Bitcoin: why digital currency is the future financial systemHow emerging technologies are influencing collaborationCES 2012: a recap and analysis

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The stakes can’t get any higher for internet TV service Aereo. One week from now, the two-year-old company will go before the Supreme Court to face off against a group of big broadcasters that want to shut it down. If Aereo loses, its biggest investor says the company is “finished.” More significantly, the Supreme Court’s decision could alter the current business model of TV, which relies on selling large bundles of channels for ever higher prices. If the Justices side with Aereo, which rents subscribers a remote antenna to watch and record over-the-air stations like NBC, more consumers may become tempted to become “cord cutters” — leaving their TV provider in favor of some combination of internet TV services, including Aereo’s smaller and cheaper bundle of channels. While Aereo now offers its $8/month service in just a dozen cities, it plans to expand to 50 by next year. And while Aereo reportedly has only 100,000 subscribers in New York, that number would likely rise rapidly if the company engaged in a major marketing push — which it will no doubt do if it gets a final green light from the court. Aereo’s opponents, supported in court by the Justice Department, believe that Aereo is a signal-stealing freeloader poised to wreak damage on the TV industry. So if it is to survive, Aereo must persuade four of eight Supreme Court Justices to accept its view on copyright law (Justice Samuel Alito is sitting out, and a tie would mean the lower court decision that found Aereo to be legal will stay undisturbed) . Aereo’s side of the story, set out in a 100-page Supreme Court brief filed last month, is a double-barreled appeal to both the past and the future. The brief (embedded below) casts its technology as a natural evolution of the VCR, which the court declared legal three decades ago, while also claiming kinship with the emerging cloud computing industry — an industry Aereo says will suffer if the broadcasters prevail. While making those appeals to policy principles, Aereo also makes a third argument about the letter of the law and companies’ right to rely on it when building their business. Here’s an overview of how the case arrived at the Supreme Court, a look at three of the arguments that Aereo will put before the Justices on April 22, and how this could all turn out. A lawsuit from the beginning When ABC and other big broadcasters sued to shut down Aereo a month after it went live in February 2012, no one was surprised — Aereo least of all. According to a source familiar with the litigation, the company was ready with court briefs from the moment it started selling its service in New York (it’s now available in about a dozen cities, including Atlanta and Boston). For media mogul Barry Diller, whose company IAC has led a $97 million investment in Aereo, the money was a bet on copyright law as much as it was on the startup’s tiny antenna technology. Aereo is hardly the first company to take on the broadcasters. Prior to Aereo, short-lived services like Ivi, FilmOn and iCraveTV offered internet-based access to the airwaves — and were promptly sued out of existence. For Aereo to get a foothold, it had to show it was different — that, unlike the earlier services, it didn’t infringe on copyright’s public performance right, which TV networks use to restrict others from re-broadcasting their over-the-air transmissions. Aereo saw its legal opening with the arrival of cloud-based DVRs, which let consumers record and store live TV in a remote location. The DVRs have proven popular, and just as important for Aereo, they had already withstood a legal onslaught: in 2008, an appeals court refused a request by broadcasters to outlaw them. The court found that cloud-based DVRs are like a VCR or a set-top device like TiVo — a legitimate form of private copying outside the public performance right covered by copyright. (The broadcasters appealed, but the Supreme Court chose not to hear their plea.) Now the issue has returned thanks to Aereo, which says its antenna service service is a cloud-DVR too. The broadcasters, needless to say, disagree and are receiving support from sports leagues, Hollywood studios, big cable companies and the Obama administration, all of which filed briefs opposing Aereo’s position. Aereo, of course, has allies of its own, who also filed briefs this month. Those allies include familiar Silicon Valley names like Google and Facebook, as well as small and medium-sized cable companies, and even some small broadcasters. (Full list of briefs for both sides here). A canary in the cloud computing mine? In its brief, Aereo says that a Supreme Court decision siding with its opponents “would gravely threaten cloud computing.” But would it really? Would the end of Aereo really ripple beyond the TV industry and harm popular consumer cloud services like Dropbox? To understand Aereo’s argument, it’s necessary to understand how the service actually works: it rents each subscriber a tiny antenna coupled to a remote DVR for recording and distributing over-the-air TV. Subscribers store their shows with Aereo, and then watch the show on a phone or computer at a time and place of their choosing. They can watch the show in near-real time, just seconds after it goes live on the air, or store it on a personal cloud-based DVR to watch later. And, as Aereo points out, the service is not quite TV-like since there is no easy “channel-surfing,” and because the delay means “there is always the risk of hearing cheers from the next apartment moments before the big play.” According to Aereo, the company is a remote storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive, which rent consumers space in the cloud where they can retrieve media — including videos. Aereo warns the court that, if its service is found to be illegal, those other cloud companies could be put in an impossible position of having to monitor what their users are doing. It would mean that: there is no clear standard for determining when a technology company, rather than its customer, has engaged in volitional conduct. Instead, the government offers an indeterminate line, with most cloud computing companies apparently on the wrong side” [emphasis added] (Aereo’s mention of “the government,” incidentally, refers to the fact that the White House has weighed in by filing a brief in favor of the broadcasters, and by asking the court to give the Solicitor General precious time in front of the Justices.) Aereo also cites Google Drive as an example of another cloud provider that could be ensnared in a copyright dragnet of sorts, as content owners’ attempt to control public performances in the cloud: “[W]henever two users of a cloud-based ‘virtual locker’ service – such as Google Drive – separately play a song stored on the provider’s servers, the provider is publicly performing by transmitting the same ‘underlying’ performance to multiple members of the public.” Aereo, in other words, is attempting to cast itself as a canary in the cloud computing mine, saying that its legal death could imperil the larger fate of an important and growing industry. That threat would come if broadcasters used a Supreme Court ruling against Aereo to assert public performance rights against other storage services like Dropbox (which already restricts users from sharing copyrighted files with each other). This argument, however, may not get much traction if the Supreme Court judges decides that, unlike Dropbox and Google, Aereo’s cloud storage is different because it comes with an antenna tuned to over-the-air TV — a fact the broadcasters will be glad to point out. From cable to Betamax to Aereo The story Aereo wants to tell the Supreme Court is, in many ways, also the history of TV and technology — a history than spans from local over-the-air signals, to national networks to the 1960′s era “community” antenna that captured hilltop TV signals and ran them to individual homes with wires. More recently, this history has evolved to satellite TV and digital video recorders. To avoid being shut down, Aereo must persuade the court that it has a legal home within these technologies and the elaborate regulatory rules that have sprung up around them. One way Aereo will try to do that is by likening its legal position to cases involving the Sony Betamax, which let consumers record analog TV signals onto magnetic tape, and to Cablevision’s remote DVR service. Taken together, those cases, handed down 25 years apart, established that consumers have a “fair use” right to record shows, and that no “public performance” takes place when the consumer plays them back later on. Aereo says its tech does the same thing. As the company will tell the court, it is Aereo’s subscribers — not Aereo – who determine when the recording starts and stops, and when the show will start playing back. The company claims, in other words, that it’s protected by the same rules that protected other TV devices in the past. History may help Aereo too in rebutting the argument that Aereo, if it were operating legally, it would be paying signal retransmission fees like cable and satellite companies do. As Aereo points out in its brief, the retransmission fees (which now account for about 10 percent of broadcasters’ revenue) don’t flow from the Copyright Act, but from a separate law that Congress passed to promote competition in different sectors of the TV industry. The implication is that, if these fees should be extended further, it’s a job for Congress and not the Supreme Court. Finally, Aereo will try to tell the court that the local over-the-air TV signals that its antennas detect are free, and always have been. In the history of TV, Aereo says, these local signals stand apart and are part of an historical bargain in the TV industry under which the big broadcasters get access to public spectrum in return for beaming information to the public. It reminds the court: “As one CBS executive noted, the most significant ‘threat’ Aereo poses is reminding the public that ‘network content is…readily accessed’ for free with an antenna.” Aereo is reminding the court that its service is a way for consumers to consume something they get for free already, and could access with an antenna even if they don’t have cable. Building a business on the letter of the law The fate of the cloud and the television industry are policy arguments that will be used by Aereo and the broadcasters to tell the Supreme Court why the sky will (or won’t) fall if the service stays up. The court, however, has the option of avoiding sweeping policy discussions about TV and the cloud, and instead concentrating on the letter of the law. In this case, the letters in question are two words — “transmit” and “publicly” — that appeared in a new section of the 1976 version of the Copyright Act, known as the “Transmit Clause.” The Transmit Clause says that “to perform or display a work ‘publicly’” means, in part: “to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public,…by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.” In other words, the clause confirms hat a signal sent over-the-air by a broadcaster like ABC is a public performance — similar to a play or a poetry reading — that only ABC has the right to perform. That means that someone else can’t pick up the signal to the show “Nashville” and relay it to another batch of TV watchers. Aereo and the broadcasters disagree, however, whether the Transmit Clause protects just ABC’s transmission (the original broadcast) or, instead, if it covers the underlying performance — such as “Nashville” — contained in that transmission. The distinction matters because Aereo does not re-broadcast the original transmission, but instead rents an antenna/DRV tool that lets its subscribers pull down thousands of discrete transmissions. The broadcasters claim the distinction doesn’t matter, and are seizing on the words of dissenting judge U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, who blasted Aereo’s service as a “Rube Goldberg” device and said the court should group all the discrete Aereo transmissions together and treat them as a single public performance. Chin failed to carry the day, however, and the appeals court concluded 2-1 that the letter of the law favors Aereo on the transmission vs. performance question. Aereo, of course, is now urging the Supreme Court to adopt the appeal court majority’s definition of transmission too — and bolsters its case by saying that, even if Chin is right on the underlying performance question, it doesn’t matter: no one is transmitting the work to the public in the first place.  Instead, each viewing of “Nashville” is a private performance because it is the Aereo subscriber, not Aereo, who is pressing “play.” At the Supreme Court, Aereo is likely to expound on this letter of the law story by saying companies should be able to build their business based on what the law says — and if the law is supposed to mean something different, then it’s up to Congress, not the courts, to say so. What the Supreme Court will decide The Aereo case is the most important TV-related case in two decades but, for now, there’s no easy wager on the outcome. Unlike cases about issues like abortion or campaign finance, there is no clear track record that show where each Supreme Court Justice stands on the issue. The one exception may be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is known as a copyright hawk, and who will be reading a brief in favor of the broadcasters from her own daughter, Columbia law professor Jane Ginsburg. Copyright lawyers, meanwhile, appear genuinely divided on the issue. In informal discussions, lawyers with ties to the TV industry express incredulity that Aereo could possibly succeed, while tech company lawyers are convinced the law is on their side.  Some argue that Aereo’s black letter law arguments may find sympathy with the court’s conservative Justices, who generally favor strict statutory construction — but that’s simply conjecture. The scholarly community is split as well. Professor David Nimmer of UCLA, a famous name in copyright circles, has sided with the broadcasters. But on the other side, a group of 36 copyright professors, including tech authorities like James Grimmelmann, have submitted a forceful argument that the broadcasters entire performance rights theory is simply unfounded in the first place, and that the case is really about copyright’s reproduction right, where even the broadcasters concede that Aereo is on solid ground. A final factor is the presence of the Solicitor General. The Supreme Court has yet to announce if the government’s top lawyer will be given time to argue but, if so, his presence will give a give a boost to the broadcasters. The bottom line is that both the case and its consequences remain unpredictable. Few thought Aereo would end up before the Supreme Court so quickly, and few can say with confidence how it will turn out. (If I had to bet on the outcome, I would pick Aereo but that’s just a hunch — there are plenty who disagree). If Aereo wins, it could unleash a tidal wave on the TV industry, and lead broadcasters to pull their signals off the air as they have threatened to do. Or Aereo could become just another bargaining chip, like the Dish Hopper, for powerful people to use as leverage in the great game of the TV business. Aereo SCOTUS Brief Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGConnected Consumer Q4: New Platforms and OTT’s Dynamic Duo DominatedReport: The Live-Stream Video Market

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