Posts Tagged ‘media’

Amazon Really, Really Wants to Sell More Kindle Fire HDX Tablets

December 15, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Amazon seems to be selling a lot of its newest Kindle Fire tablets*. But it would like to sell many more .  So here’s Jeff Bezos’ newest pitch : Buy a Kindle Fire HDX tablet today, and we’ll give you nine months to finish paying for it. Amazon started pushing its installment plan program this weekend, by splashing the offer on its home page. The basics: It is letting customers pay for its $229 Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch tablet , or its $379 8.9-inch version , in four-part installment plans. Customers shell out 25 percent of the purchase price – plus tax and shipping charges –  when they buy the gadget, and then spread out the remaining three payments in 90-day increments. There aren’t a lot of catches with the offer — for instance, Amazon isn’t adding any interest charges to its installment plan. But there is one interesting twist spelled out in the relatively fine print: If you don’t cough up the rest of the money, Amazon may semi-brick your tablet: “our remedies will include the right to deregister your Kindle Fire HDX device, which will block your ability to access Amazon content from your Kindle Fire HDX device.” Amazon rolled out its HDX line  earlier this fall. The tablets feature extras like a “Mayday” button which connects users with live support staff, and the ability to download some of the movies and TV shows offered on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video streaming service. The gadgets are supposed to compete with Google’s top-end Nexus tablets and Apple’s iPads, though Walt Mossberg says they’re not there yet . And now, an excellent movie about installment plans: *Though, of course, we have no idea what “a lot” means .

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Hear How Witnessing a Cross-Burning as a Child Motivated Apple CEO Tim Cook to Fight for Equality (Video)

December 14, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Apple CEO Tim Cook isn’t known for talking much about himself, but in a speech this week, he talked about some of the early childhood experiences that shape his passions around fighting for human rights and equality. “Growing up in Alabama in the 1960s, I saw the devastating impacts of discrimination,” Cook said, accepting a lifetime achievement award from Auburn University, his alma mater. “Remarkable people were denied opportunities and treated without basic human dignity, solely because of the color of their skin.” He talked about seeing a cross-burning at the home of a nearby family. “This image was permanently imprinted in my brain, and it would change my life forever,” Cook said. “For me, the cross-burning was a symbol of ignorance, of hatred, and a fear of anyone different than the majority. I could never understand it ,and I knew then that America’s and Alabama’s history would always be scarred by the hatred that it represented.” Cook notes that in his office are three photos — two of Robert Kennedy, and one of Martin Luther King Jr. “They sacrificed everything, including their lives, as champions of human rights and of human dignity,” Cook said. “Their images inspire me. They serve as a reminder to me every day that regardless of the path that one chooses, there are fundamental commitments that should be a part of one’s journey.” Cook said he is glad that his path has taken him to Apple, a company that shares his values. He talks about his and Apple’s support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit companies from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers. “I have long believed in this, and Apple has implemented protections for employees, even when the laws did not,” he said. “Now is the time to write these principles of basic human dignity into the book of law.” The Senate has passed the bill, but the Republican-led House has not indicated any plans to take up the legislation. He also noted the work Apple does to make its products accessible to those with disabilities, sharing the story of a single mom with an autistic child who was completely nonverbal and spoke his first words thanks to an iPad. The full speech is about 13 minutes, and well worth a watch:

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Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe on Raising $75 Million, the "Oh My God" Demo and Working With Valve

December 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Last night, news leaked out that Oculus VR had raised $75 million from Andreessen Horowitz to help it release its first product, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. In an interview with AllThingsD , CEO Brendan Iribe said the company first talked with Andreessen Horowitz shortly before it closed a $16 million Series A with other investors in June. The two teams hit it off, but what sealed the deal was a demo meeting in November. That month, the Oculus founders and CTO John Carmack demoed the latest internal prototype of the Rift, which Iribe describes as a significant leap ahead of what the company has publicly shown off so far. “You feel like you’re looking through the lenses to a different world,” Iribe said, summarizing the reactions of the demo recipients as “Oh my God, this is it.” Iribe said Marc Andreessen had expressed enthusiasm earlier in the year, but needed to be convinced that a consumer version was feasible. The November demo — in which Andreessen was one of the people to try the headset — was evidently good enough, as the room then hashed out a $75 million investment intended to cover inventory, marketing and sales for the version-one Rift. However, launching any new hardware is tricky without stuff to use it for, and Iribe said Oculus VR is also using the new funds to invest in content. The goal is to ensure that the Rift will not only have games at launch, but also a calendar of games to expect post-launch, so that consumers will know what’s coming. So, what has changed that suddenly makes an expected 2014 consumer release a possibility? Iribe repeatedly praised Valve’s R&D head Michael Abrash

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Tech Giants Establish $3 Million Prize for Mathematics Scholars

December 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner announced on Thursday evening the establishment of the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, a set of $3 million awards given to recognize outstanding achievement in the discipline. These are in addition to the Breakthrough Prizes in life sciences and fundamental physics, a set of awards sponsored by Milner, Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley luminaries, including Sergey Brin and Art Levinson.

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Twitter Tries to Get Your Attention

December 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Twitter’s great, but if you’re a regular human, you can’t spend all of your time looking at it.* So what if someone plops out something interesting, and you miss it? Twitter has a plan for that. Former Foursquare product head Alex Rainert happened to catch a glimpse of it yesterday, when Twitter sent a push notification to his iPhone, telling him that two of his pals were talking about … “Grey’s Anatomy.” As Rainert notes, he’s not particularly interested in knowing about that. But Twitter is very interested in TV, so you can see why it would experiment with different ways of telling users what people are saying about TV on Twitter. (Here’s an earlier experiment from this summer .) And more broadly, as John Herrman pointed out a while back , you can imagine Twitter using push notifications to tell people about all sorts of stuff that’s happening on Twitter. Note that Twitter has recently rolled out two features/experiments designed to surface interesting stuff for you — Event Parrot for breaking news , and Magic Recs for people your friends are paying attention to — and it has already converted Magic Recs into a push notification system. If you opt in, Twitter will start suggesting Twitter users for you to follow, based on the fact that your Twitter pals have started following them, too. (The most recent heads-up I received was about Danah Boyd ’s new “think/do tank” called  Data & Society Research Institute .) In Rainert’s case, he didn’t ask Twitter to tell him that his pals were talking about TV. And you can see the downside of this thing if Twitter pushes too many of these to people who don’t want them. But I think Twitter thinks the upside is pretty significant. Highlighting cool stuff is nice for power users, and may keep them more engaged. And it could be crucial for new users, which Twitter really needs : Hey, we know this seems like a lot of people jabbering about weird stuff — WTF is an RT, right? — but look over here! You might want to know about this . So I have a hunch we’ll see more of this. Even if we don’t ask for it. * I do know some people who look at Twitter every minute they are awake, but they are most definitely not regular humans, even though they are nice people in their own special way.

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QOTD: My Favorite Waste of Time

December 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

All writers should have as many forms of unproductive distraction as possible. For me it used to be that I would clean drawers or rearrange my closets or start cooking lunch. I had many, many ways of pretending to be working, but not really working. So Twitter is quite marvelous at that. It is a wonderful, wonderful way of just procrastinating … – Author Susan Orlean, extolling a side benefit of Twitter, on the All Write Already! podcast

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Twitter Flip Flops on Safety Feature Changes

December 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Twitter rolled out a set of tweaks to its “blocking” feature on Friday, only to reverse its decision hours later and revert back to the original settings after a torrent of user outrage and petitions from activist groups. Concerns were primarily around user safety and harassment issues that could have occurred as a result of the changes.

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Aereo Welcomes Supreme Court Intervention in Fight With TV Broadcasters

December 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Online television startup Aereo Inc. said it would welcome the Supreme Court’s intervention to resolve a legal fight with broadcasters, who argue its service violates their copyrights. Several major broadcasters asked the Supreme Court in October to take up the matter. The broadcasters, including Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, Comcast Corp.’s NBC, CBS Corp. and 21st Century Fox are appealing a lower-court ruling in favor of Aereo, whose backers include Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp. Read the rest of this post on the original site »

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Web Video Startup Ooyala Raises $43 Million

December 11, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

iStockphoto | dny59 We saw a smattering of ad tech IPOs this year, and there are a bunch of companies  that are supposedly lined up for next year. Here’s one you likely won’t see going public in 2014 — at least not in the beginning of the year: Ooyala , the Web video startup. The Mountain View-based company, which had already raised $79 million, just added $43 million in new funding, all from Telstra, the Australian telco. The move which indicates Ooyala will stay private a while longer, says CEO Jay Fulcher: “I wanted to be able to go public when its the right time to, instead of having to.” If you’re not in the Web video business, you’re unlikely to know who Ooyala is, because it’s not a consumer brand like YouTube or Hulu. It handles a variety of backend video services, including distribution and ad serving, but its primary business is selling analytics about Web video usage, so video makers can figure out what kind of videos they should be serving up, and when they should be serving them. Customers include ESPN, Bloomberg and Comedy Central. Telstra, which is both a significant Ooyala customer, as well as a reseller of its service in Australia, had invested in Ooyala’s last round.

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Simulmedia’s Investors Bet $25 Million More on Smart TV Ads (Video)

December 10, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Dave Morgan’s pitch is simple, and counter-intuitive: There’s going to be a boom in video ads – and it’s going to happen on TV. The Simulmedia CEO  doesn’t mean that the TV Industrial Complex is  going away (and  you would miss it if it did ). Instead, he predicts, advertisers and programmers are going to get savvier about the way TV ads work, and will start using the same data and mechanics that power Web ads. And since TV ads are going to be a much bigger business than Web video ads , for a quite some time, he wants his company to be in the middle of that. Morgan has been making some version of this pitch for several years now , and he admits that the future isn’t here quite yet. But investors keep betting on the thesis, and him. Simulmedia has just closed a $25 million round, led by Valiant Capital and R&R Ventures, bringing its total raised in 5 years to $58 million. Until now Simulmedia has been making money by buying leftover airtime from programmers and pay TV providers, adding in a dollop of data about who’s actually watching the stuff, and reselling it to advertisers. Now it wants to use some of the new funding to build out a platform so other people can use to do the same thing. Morgan’s idea is that networks may want to apply advanced analytics to their prime ad inventory, but won’t want outsiders like Simulmedia inserting themselves as middlemen. So he’ll sell them the tech instead. You can hear him explain his plan in his own words at the bottom of this post. But one quick detour first. I don’t usually spend time talking about the people behind the money in funding stories but I’ll make a brief exception here, because they’re interesting. So: Valiant is a hedge fund run by Chris Hansen, which normally makes big bets in late stage Web companies like Facebook, Dropbox, Pinterest and Uber; you may also have heard of Hansen because he’s the guy who nearly bought the Sacramento Kings and moved them to Seattle earlier this year. Hansen used to be an analyst at Montgomery/ Banc of America, the bank that almost took Real Media, Morgan’s first company, public, back in the first boom. And R&R Ventures is a new fund run by former Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons and media investor Ron Lauder. Earlier investors including Time Warner, Avalon Ventures, Union Square Ventures, and Allen & Co. are all back in this round as well.

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