Tag Archive | "movies"

Google Play Movies & TV Comes To iOS To Compete Head-To-Head Against iTunes Store

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Google Play iOS

Google just released a new app in the iOS App Store, and it’s a significant one when it comes to the company’s content strategy — the awkwardly named Google Play Movies & TV is an iTunes Store competitor for movies and TV shows. You can watch your Google media content directly from your iPhone or iPad. But, just like the Kindle app, you won’t be able to buy or rent your content directly from the app — you’ll have to use the browser.

With today’s release, Google is using a strategy that was very efficient in Amazon’s case with the Kindle — if you want to make people switch to your content ecosystem, release your app on every major platform.

The company has an advantage over Apple. If you own an Android phone and an iPad, you can watch your Google Play movies on both devices thanks to the new app.

The app is pretty straightforward. You can browse your content and watch a movie or a TV show directly on your iPhone or iPad. There is a Chromecast button as well to stream your video to your TV.

Yet, Google is a bit behind in the content game. It doesn’t have the same thorough deals in place. For example, you can only buy or rent TV shows in the U.S., Japan and the U.K. So if Google Play Movies & TV is available in your country, it could be a nice alternative to the iTunes Store, Amazon Instant Video and other minor players.

Apple still has two key advantages over Google on iOS. The iTunes app is already installed on your iOS device when you first launch it, and Apple rejects apps with an integrated content store. That’s why you can’t buy books from the Kindle app on iOS — it’s one of the iOS SDK rules.

In other words, users will have to browse the Play store from Safari or another device. It’s not the best experience possible, but it works — Apple keeps the best user experience for its own store.

Google Play iOS - Screenshots

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Fandango Will Offer Embedded Trailers And Ticketing On Samsung Smart TVs

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Fandango is announcing the first partnership that will see its movie ticketing capabilities embedded on Internet-connected TVs.

Mark Young, the vice president of mobile strategy and business development at NBCUniversal (which owns Fandango), said that the service has been available on smart TVs before this, but consumers had to actually download it. Thanks to a deal with Samsung, Fandango will now be directly integrated into the Samsung Smart Hub.

Essentially, Fandango will be powering the Trailers section of the Hub’s Movies & TV section. That’s not exactly what I would have expected, since Fandango is best-known as a ticketing service — sure, it will offer ticketing capabilities as well, but that’s not what it’s leading with. Young described it as the “branded storefront for all movie trailers,” comparing the approach to music video site Vevo.

Although the announcement, which is being made at the Consumer Electronics Show, is the first of its kind for Fandango, Young said the team has been looking beyond ticketing for some time, for example with the launch of original video series FrontRunners and Weekend Ticket.

“We believe Fandango as the movie discovery brand has an opportunity to work with not just consumer electronics manufacturers but also other types of over-the-top delivery services,” he said, later adding, “It’s a definite strategy for us to be more forward-leaning in video as content discovery.”

The embedded capabilities are supposed to launch in the first quarter of 2014.

A few weeks ago, Fandango also announced that 2013 was the best year in its decade-plus history in terms of total ticket sales, visitor traffic, and mobile app downloads.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Michael Bay Joins Tom Hanks, Lady Gaga And Dr. Dre In Memorable CES WTF Moments

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As if an overhyped summer blockbuster, Michael Bay just flopped his CES 2014 debut. But it seemingly wasn’t his fault. The famed director was part of Samsung’s over-produced, over-the-top CES 2014 press conference. He was evidently brought on stage to talk about Samsung’s new curved 4K TV, likely supposed to highlight how this new form and tech will help bring his movies to life. But that didn’t happen. Just watch.

To Bay’s credit, it wasn’t his fault. As he exclaimed a few lines into his bit, the teleprompter was not displaying the proper text. The carefully worded script was not available for him to read. And then he gave up.

Update: Michael Bay took to his blog and stated among his countinued endorsement of the product, “I guess live shows aren’t my thing.”

Giant consumer electronic companies have long dragged Hollywood stars to CES. They give them big paychecks and big publicity for a few moments of their time. These companies are looking for a brand name to endorse their wares. Sometimes it doesn’t work in the company’s favor though.

Tom Hanks had a fantastic time at Sony’s 2009 press conference. Watch this one. It’s epic.

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Polaroid rolled out Lady Gaga in 2010 to help announce their upcoming camera line. She was 2 hours late and said about 5 words. Worse yet, the camera she supposedly helped design, ended up looking nothing like the concept.

When Monster first partnered with Dr. Dre in 2009, they co-hosted a press interview. Let’s just say, at that time, the good doctor wasn’t as excited about his headphone venture as he is now.

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And let’s not forget last year, 2013, when Qualcomm’s keynote turned into a WTF wondershow for the ages.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Infographic: Top movies of 2013 on Facebook

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2013 was an action-packed year for movies, with another Fast & the Furious movie racing through theaters everywhere and the second installment in the Hunger Games series generating lots of Facebook buzz.

But which movies reigned supreme on the social network, and which ones fell flat? A new infographic from Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer Expion breaks it all down.

2013 Movies by Facebook_ExpionTop image courtesy of the Fast & Furious Facebook page.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Selling Anything

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Editor’s note: James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and several-times entrepreneur. His latest book is “Choose Yourself!” (foreword by Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter). Follow James on Twitter @jaltucher.

I’ve never read a book on sales. They seemed corny. Like many people, I always looked down on the concept of “selling.” It seemed like something lower than me.

To some extent, selling appears manipulative. You have a product where you give the perception it has more value than it has in reality. So you need to manipulate people to buy it. This seems sad, as in “Death of a Salesman” sort of sad.

I was a salesman snob.

I was wrong. And for the past 25 years all I have been doing is selling. Selling products, selling services, selling businesses, selling myself.

Sometimes I have been manipulative. And sometimes I’ve sold things I’ve had such passion for I sold it cheap just because I wanted the message out about what I was selling.

And often, it was very much in the middle: I needed to sell something because I had to pay my bills. Maybe I was a little desperate, a little hopeful, a little scared, and I wanted to make sure my family got fed.

We live in a hard world where our basic needs cost money, and as we get older we become responsible for the basic needs of others. We become adults.

Adults sell for today. Professionals sell for life.

So here are the rules of this cheat sheet: None of this comes from a book. All of this is from my own experience. Which means it might not work for you. Which means it might go counter to the basic rules of salesmanship. I have no idea.

I downloaded a book by Og Mandino and by Zig Ziglar but I didn’t read them. Maybe I should.

But I can say that over the past 25 years I’ve sold hundreds of millions of dollars of stuff. That stuff being everything in Pandora’s box that I had to sell just to stay alive. When I think what worked for me, here’s what I come up with:

A) Friendship

Nobody is going to buy from someone they hate. The buyer has to like you and want to be your friend. People pay for friendship.

This sounds sort of whoreish, and it is. The times when I’ve hated myself the most were the times when I’ve prostituted myself to make money (this isn’t as sexual as it sounds but it might as well be).

One time when I was raising money for something, the buyer was going through a business catastrophe and was worried he would go out of business. I didn’t like him but I called him every day for three months at the same time to see if he “wanted to talk” and to offer my advice on how he should deal with his situation.

I eventually raised a lot of money from him even though the first time I met him he was honest with me and said, “it seems like you don’t know your industry very well.”

Which just goes to show: friendship outweighs almost every other factor in selling. One time I wanted to do a website for ABC.com. How did I do it? The main decision maker was involved with a school in Harlem for charity. I went up there for four weeks in a row and played 20 kids simultaneously in chess. Everyone had fun. I got the website job. My competitors were all bigger, better financed, and probably better.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like either of those people personally. And eventually, I lost the business.

The only good outcomes come when both sides like each other.

At one point I was so sick of my new “friendships” I went to see a therapist with the clichéd line, “I don’t even know who I am anymore because I hate all my friends and all my friends are customers so I’m their slave friend.”

Now I only do business with people I like. The fastest way to lose all your money, mutilate your heart, and then kill yourself is to work with people you don’t like. I will never do that again.

Nor do you have to, despite what you might think.

B) Saying No

If someone wants to do a big deal with you it’s hard to say “no.” But No is valuable for many reasons:

Opportunity cost. Instead of pursuing something you really don’t want to do, you could free up time and energy to find something more lucrative or something you would enjoy more. Opportunity cost is the one BIGGEST cost in all of our lives. We spend it like there’s no tomorrow.

And guess what? Eventually there’s no tomorrow.

Supply and demand. If you reduce the supply of you (through “No”) then the demand for you goes up and you make more money (and have more fun).

You’ll hate yourself. I see this every day, particularly in my own life. The reason I can write about this is not because I’m an expert. We don’t write about the things we KNOW. We right about the things that are deep down CHALLENGES for us right now. When I say “yes” to something I don’t want to do, I end up hating myself, hating the person I said “yes” to, doing a bad job, and disappointing everyone. I try try try not to do it anymore.

(source: Palookaville by Seth)

(source: Palookaville by Seth)

C) Over-Deliver

If someone pays $100 and you give them just $100 in value then you just failed. F.A.I.L.E.D.

You’ll never sell to that person again. That’s fine in some situations, but in most situations it’s no good. If someone pays $100, you need to give them $110 worth of value.

Think of that extra $10 as going into some sort of karmic bank account that pays interest (as opposed to a U.S. bank account). That money grows and compounds. Eventually, there’s real wealth there. And that wealth translates into wealth in the real world.

People are three-year-olds. They like to get presents.

People want to do business with people who give them presents. Over-delivering is a present. And it makes you feel good. Give and you will receive.

D) Never Take “No” For An Answer

This statement, which everyone knows, is usually applied incorrectly.

People think it means, keep pushing and trying new things until you get a “yes.” That’s not what it means. If you do that, you end up in the spam box. Then you end up in the coffin box. In other words, you end up dead to the person you are trying to sell to.

Instead, remember point A. Be a friend. However flimsy that connection of friendship is. Follow on Twitter, follow on Facebook. Say nice things about the person to other people. Never gossip.

Do the art of the “check in.”

Send updates after the “No” on how you are doing, on how the product or service or business or whatever is doing. Not every day. Maybe once a month. Maybe once a year. Who knows. Eventually you will find the “yes” with that person. It could be, and often is, up to 20 years later.

Who knows? You plant a seed and eventually the garden blooms.

E) Under-price (when it’s your passion so it’s easier to over-deliver)

I once wanted to do the website for Fine Line Films. I loved their movies. I met the guy running their site. He kept saying over and over again, “we can’t afford a lot” and I kept saying, “don’t worry about it” and would show him more and more of our work.

Eventually we did the websites for every one of their movies. $1,000 per website. We made amazing websites for $1,000. Then, when Con Edison wanted to hire us, Nevin at Fine Line was a reference. Price for coned.com (a basic four-page website): $250,000. And that was the first of five websites we did for them plus monthly maintenance.

I write for a lot of places right now for free. Any medium I love, I am willing to write for. It’s like a dream come true for me. The benefits from doing that have been incalculable. Not always financial, but always real.

We are a combination of many constituencies inside of our bodies and minds. Financial is just one. But all of our constituencies need to work together to make us well-balanced and peaceful.

The art of selling, for me, is to have everything inside of me working together.

F) Be The Source

One time I wanted to buy a company. The details of how I would do that are sort of obscure and not important. The company is well-known in the financial media space.

At the critical moment, the owner called me and said, “what should I do? I have this other offer and I have your offer.” He described the other offer to me. I told him to take it.

I missed out on what could have been a lot of money to me. But there was a slight chance we would have all gone bust. Now he is thriving and eight years later he is a friend.

Will we ever do business together? I can’t predict the future. But I know I delivered value to another human being. That value is real and I can put it to use whenever I want.

Often the best way to make friends and customers for life is to direct them to a better service or product than yours.

Be the source of valuable information rather than the source of your “product-of-the-day.” Then they will know forever that you are a trusted source.

Trust is worth more than next month’s rent being paid. Trust builds a bridge that will never wear out. At some point in the distant future, when you are on the run in every other way, you may need to cross that bridge.

G) Sell Everything

Your offering is not your product. Your offering is product, services, your employees, your experiences, your ideas, your other customers, and even (as mentioned above) your competitors. Sell them all.

When you are good at what you do, the product or service you offer is just the way people build the first link to you. It’s the top of a huge pyramid.

But the base of the pyramid, the real service, is when they have access to you and you can provide advice and the full power of your network and experience. This is when you are over-delivering on steroids and how real wealth is built and not just a one-time fee for a service or product.

Many people say, “no! My product is high margin and I want to make money when I sleep.”

Stop going to BS entrepreneur, get-rich conferences. In the long run nobody cares about your product. In the long run, it is the entire holistic view of your offering, your service, you, that you are selling. Without that, you will build a mediocre business that may or may not pay the bills. With that, you will create wealth.

H) Sell The Dream

People can see what your product is right now. What they want to know is…the future. Will your product make them more money? Will it get them a promotion? Maybe even: will YOU hire them if they buy your product.

Everything is possible. When you get in the door, do not sell your product. People make a decision on your product in five seconds. Sell the dream. The dream has up to infinity in value. Build up images of the dream. Give a taste of what the dream is like. Let it linger. Let it weave itself. Let the imagination of the buyer take hold and run with it.

But then, you might ask, do I risk under-delivering.

Answer: Yes. Don’t do that. Be as good as the dream.

I) Fire Customers

This is similar to point B with the one difference that you have already made a sale.

If it’s not going well or if it’s leaving a bad taste somewhere inside of you, or if they have gone from friend to enemy for whatever reason and it seems like there is no repair, then fire your customer. The sooner the better.

This applies to not just customers but everyone in your life. EVERYONE.

If someone no longer has your best interest at heart, then in your own self-interest you need to back off. NOW.

A bad customer (a bad person) spreads like a disease inside you, your employees, your other customers, your competitors, your future customers, your family, etc.

“But what if it’s my biggest customer? How do I pay the bills?”

I don’t know. Figure it out. You have to or you will die.

When I tell people to build their “idea muscle” (by writing down 10 ideas, good or bad, every day) it’s not so they can come up with great business ideas (although they might).

It’s so they can come up with ideas in situations like this. This is where being an idea machine saves your life and saves everything around you.

But remember: bad customers will kill you and your family and your friends.

J) Welcome To The Pleasure Dome

Your best new customers are your old customers. If you need to make more money or build new business then go to your customers (who are now your friends) and ask them, “I need advice. What other service can I provide you or anyone you know.”

It might be something totally unrelated to your business. No problem. Do it. It might be your customer is looking for a new job. That’s great. Make it your business to find him a new job. Now you have a new customer.

It might be your customer needs a boyfriend. Ok, introduce her to all of your friends who might be good for her. If you’ve been following this approach to sales then your customers are now your friends, are now your family, are now the lifeblood of how you wake up in the morning.

We spend years building a garden. We plant the seeds. We tend the soil. We water the plants.

But we are also the sun. The sun shines no matter what. It doesn’t care which flower blossoms. The sun is always there providing value every second of the day.

Be the sun and you will become abundance.

I don’t know the buzzwords to make a sale. I’m not very good at shaking hands. I don’t take people out to baseball games or do any of the things I see other people do.

But I’ve been selling for 25 years. And whenever I’ve been dead broke, depressed, and suicidal, I’ve picked myself up and sold again and again.

I am a salesman.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

ToyTalk Isn’t Just Entertaining Our Kids, It’s Teaching Our Machines To Converse

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Today the talking iPad app The Winston Show from ToyTalk gets two new scenarios based on classic movie genres. The skethc called In the Movies has a film noir segment called Winston Sly, Private Eye and a sci-fi jaunt called Squabble Amongst the Stars.

We’ve covered ToyTalk before, but it continues to be fascinating because of the underlying technology. Yes, it’s a kids entertainment app for the iPad, but it’s created by talent culled from the Artificial Intelligence Center at SRI international (the company that  spawned Siri) and Pixar, among others. The company has raised over $16M from Greylock, Charles River Ventures, True Ventures and First Round Capital and a number of angels. It’s using artificial intelligence and voice recognition to build a framework that’s working towards full-on conversational technology that will allow our machines to talk back to us.

We talked to CEO Oren Jacob — a former Pixar CTO — about the latest update to the app. The two new episodes, he says, came about because kids seemed to really love it when they became the characters. The previous content in The Winston Show was focused on a ‘game show’ environment where the kid played ‘themselves’ on a show hosted by the eponymous Winston. He would converse back and forth with them using tons of dialogue written and recorded by ToyTalk, and the company’s AI engine to determine the proper responses.


The new episodes in the app use the iPad’s camera to place kids right in the scenes, allowing them to ‘become’ an alien themselves. This immersion helps them to place themselves into the scenario and be more engaged in dialogue.

In the film noir episode, for instance, the kids take on the role of the suspect, and Winston grills them on ‘who made the mess in their room’. The kids can say just about anything back, and Winston either answers or fills in the blanks with noncomittal language. As ToyTalk gets the feedback from the app, it can see what the most popular responses coming in that Winston is unable to reply to and it can add in dialog to fill those gaps.

In September, ToyTalk launched The Winston Show with around 6 hours of content, which translated to about 8-9 hours of gameplay. By January, it hopes to have around 12 hours of content for kids to partake in.


Jacob says that as they observed usage patterns, some interesting data points bubbled up. For instance, most kids used them on the weekends, with usage sloping up on Saturday Morning and tapering off Monday morning. And they used the app for around 30 minutes a week — which is pretty impressive for a single app given that the average is just a few minutes. Essentially, they’re setting aside 30 minutes of ‘Saturday morning cartoons’ for a conversation with Winston.

One of the particularly interesting notes to come out of ToyTalk’s research in building the app is that the age group they’re targeting, 5-10 year olds, feels incredibly natural ‘talking’ to gadgets and services. When asked who talks to Siri, Google Now or apps like Dragon Naturally Speaking, nearly all of them try these things. “They do it for sport,” Jacob notes.

For the next generation, speaking to a tablet or phone will be a matter of course. And having those devices not only hear and recognize, but also converse with us seems like an intriguing possibility. Even though kids are presented with touch interfaces young, they can’t type or spell, Jacob notes. But they can speak before they do any of those.

There have been over 2 million things said to Winston, and ToyTalk is learning with each one. They use a proprietary technology called PullString to design a two-way conversation via animation, recording and the response process. The app is already popular, but the technology, the framework, is where the power of ToyTalk is, and what could eventually be the thing that it leverages for revenue.

If, after all, our devices are going to talk to us, someone has to teach them.

The Winston Show’s update is live in the App Store now.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Wire, A Would-Be Snapchat Competitor From Ex-Amazon Engineers, Raises $1.8 Million

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Wire Labs, a company founded by ex-Amazon engineers Piragash Velummylum and Jordan Timmermann, has raised $1.8 million in seed funding for their new – what else? – mobile messaging application called “Wire.” The app, currently in a private beta release, is targeting the teen audience with photo and video messaging features and promise of real-time feedback.

Investors in the round include Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, former Expedia CEO Erik Blachford, former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta, former Facebook general counsel Rudy Gadre, Mike Slade from Second Avenue Partners, Microsoft M&A veterans Bruce Jaffe, Hank Vigil & Fritz Lanman, Decide.com founder Brian Ma, Origin Venture’s Brent Hill, Senator LP executives, and 16 current and former Amazon executives, including former CIO Rick Dalzell.

The company had reported $150,000 in funding back in June.

Wire Labs participated in TechStars Seattle this year, and first showed off Wire last month at the TechStars Demo Day event. There, the company compared Wire side-by-side with Snapchat. Wire’s advantage? Its messages don’t expire for 24 hours, giving users more time to actually view and respond to the content before the message disappears. The messages can also be optionally saved, making the app less about fully “ephemeral” communication and more about just providing private chat.

In addition to the disappearing messages, at the time of the demo, Wire’s feature set also included comments, a feed and support for stickers, the latter which could hint at Wire’s potential business model if things go well.

Pirgash and Team Wire. #tsdemoday pic.twitter.com/AaxKL2VlJk

- Alan Balabingbong (@balls187) October 24, 2013

However, the company isn’t yet offering the public a look at the Wire app, and given that it’s only a beta release, its features could change between now and its official launch.

The app is only described vaguely in the company’s funding announcement, out today, as being “designed from the ground-up for the next-generation of mobile users” and  offering a “great user experience.” That could refer to any of a dozen or so contenders to the Snapchat throne, of course. 

What’s more impressive, perhaps, than this fairly generic-sounding app are the backgrounds of those building it. Combined, the team at Wire Labs worked on Kindle Fire HD, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon Cloud Player and Cloud Drive, Amazon fulfillment, Windows 8 and MSN Messenger.

Velummylum, Wire Labs CEO, was at Amazon for nearly six years, and had prototyped and pitched Cloud Drive and Cloud Player to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos before founding the Cloud Drive team. Meanwhile co-founder and CTO Jordan Timmermann was the lead engineer for Amazon Instant Video on the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, and helped designed the X-Ray for Movies feature.

There aren’t as many ex-Amazon engineers who leave to create their own startups when compared with other large companies like Apple, Google or Microsoft. That alone should make the progress of Wire interesting to watch.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Madefire Raises $5.2M, True Ventures-Led Round As It Tries To Reinvent Digital Comics

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“Motion books” platform Madefire is announcing that it has raised $5.2 million in Series A funding.

Madefire’s motion books are essentially comics that have been enhanced with animation, music, and sound effects. The company launched last year with a lineup of original titles from established creators, most notably Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons.

Since then, it has expanded its library by partnering with deviantART (the deal has already helped Madefire by giving it a significant presence on the web, and the company says it will be adding user-generated content from the deviantART community to its iOS apps soon) and by signing deals with publishers like IDW. (Among the “Big Two” publishers of Marvel and DC Comics, DC has said that it’s working with Madefire but hasn’t offered any details.)

When it comes to digital comics, ComiXology has already become a top-grossing app by bringing well-known titles to the iPad and other devices. When I brought this up with Madefire co-founder Ben Wolstenholme, he acknowledged the work that ComiXology has done: “They’ve proved that people buy comics on these devices.” At the same time, he suggested that there’s room to create a genuinely new experience, and to reach a new audience in the process.

“The world is expecting more than just a scanned PDF,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you want to tell a story that’s designed for the screen? That’s really how simple our business plan is.”

In addition to the features that Madefire already offers, Wolstenholme suggested the platform could also help connect comics to other media — parts of IDW’s Star Trek and Transformers comics, for example, could link to relevant content from the movies, TV, and more, turning them into “the pulse of that story world.”

He added that despite the early successes in digital, most comics companies still focus on print as their primary product. Working with Madefire allows them to take a less risky approach to experimenting with the format, using the startup’s already-built technology. (At the same time, he said Madefire has also built technology for a more straightforward print-to-digital conversion in case that’s something its partners want, but it’s not the company’s focus.)

Despite all the talk about partnerships, Madefire continues to publish its own comics. Wolstenholme acknowledged that some potential investors had a hard time with the fact that the company is both a publisher and a technology partner for other publishers, but he argued that this approach is important, because it allows Madefire to test out different formats and business models. (And if that wasn’t enough, Wolstenholme is drawing a motion book himself, called Mono.) It’s probably too early to say for certain, but he speculated that a Netflix-style, all-you-can-read monthly subscription will probably be part of the ultimate business model.

As for the Series A, it was led by True Ventures (the firm also led Madefire’s $1.1 million seed round), with participation from Anthem Venture Partners, Crosslink Ventures, Correlation Ventures, and various angels including former Apple SVP Sina Tammadon, former Macromedia chairman Bill Woodward, entrepreneur and investor Richard Seet, and Hollywood attorney Gary Stiffelman. Among other things, Wolstenholme said the investment means that Madefire is starting to build connections to the media world.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Apple TV 6.0 Update Pulled After Users Report Bricking, Other Issues

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On Friday, Apple launched its 6.0 software update for its Apple TV set-top box, but soon after, some users reported that the update bricked their devices while others were a bit luckier and just lost their connection to the internet or had to restore their machines. Some users are also reporting extremely slow download speeds and many seem to have lost some or all of the movies and TV shows they downloaded from Apple’s servers. Now, it looks like Apple has pulled the update, which was the first to introduce its new iTunes Radio service to the set-top box.

Apple’s own support forums are currently full of complaints about these issues.

For some users with multiple Apple TVs at home, the update seems to work on some and fail on others. It’s unclear what exactly causes these issues, which seem to affect both the Apple TV 2 and 3.

While the Apple TV is typically a stand-alone devices, getting it back to work may mean that you have to connect it to your PCs or Mac to restore it. To do so, you need a micro USB cable, connect the box to the PC, bring up iTunes, select the Apple TV in the Devices list and click ‘restore.’ That’s not very complicated (and easy for anybody who has ever tried an Apple TV jailbreak), but it’s also not something most users would even think about doing. For some, however, even this procedure doesn’t work.

So far, we haven’t heard anything official from Apple, but it’s clear that the 6.0 update has been pulled for the time being (it’s currently not available for my personal Apple TV either). We will update this post once we hear more.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Luma For iPad Is A Personalized TV Guide For Streaming Video…With A Few New Tricks

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Movie and TV recommendations app Luma.tv has been working to solve the “what to watch” problem for years. The company first launched as Inveni.com, a free web service backed by nearly $2 million in founder and angel funding, which helped users create their own “taste profiles” in order to serve up streaming video recommendations. Now the same technology that Inveni once used forms the basis for Luma, a newly launched iPad app which connects users to their favorite shows on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Max Go, iTunes, Crackle, and other TV channels.

The result is a personalized TV guide where instead of titles and times, you’re offered lists of shows you’ll love, and options as to all the various places you can currently view them.

The Minneapolis-based company was founded by former W3i co-founder Aaron Weber, who explains he’s long been interested in personalization technologies. According to the company’s own internal data, it was taking users on average eight minutes to decide what to watch. “We thought that was ridiculous and there were no tools to actually solve this problem,” he says. “So we’ve spent the last three years working with engineers and creating all these different solutions to the problem.”

When Inveni was first getting off the ground, the personalization problems around TV and movie recommendations were only just being addressed.  Netflix, for example, offered a million dollar grand prize to a team of engineers who could improve its algorithm by 10 percent.

“When I looked at [the Netflix prize] and what people were doing, as an entrepreneur, it became clear that this was not an engineering / science-type problem that needed to be solved. This was a data problem,” says Weber. To improve recommendations, a company really needs more user preference data, he explains. But more importantly, what made Inveni, and now Luma.tv, different is that it does object-to-object recommendations via crowdsourcing techniques rather than pure algorithms.

What that means is that Luma TV asks workers on a large crowdsourcing platform to manually match up a movie or TV title with other, similar shows or films that a user who liked that title may also like. More crowdsourcers then go in behind those initial recommendations to refine the data. The exact details of the crowdsourcing process are something of Luma’s secret sauce, and the company has filed for patent on the techniques involved. “We found that algorithms doing the mapping, or movie genomes – they get you close, but it’s subjective. This is art,” Weber claims. “The crowdsourced group is helping us by confirming things are similar and also by making the connections themselves.”

Today, Luma has around 300 movie experts matching up movies and shows, who have combined mapped out almost 600,000 connections between items. Algorithms then fill in the long tail, making around 11 million metadata connections.

While Inveni once targeted users streaming videos on the web, Luma is a rethinking of the problem for the multi-platform, mobile-first era. Currently, the iPad app connects users to the other services they have, and in some cases, pay for, like Netflix or HBO, so they can go from Luma directly to the app in question and start watching the show.

But in around a month’s time, the company plans to add live TV into the mix as well, through integration of APIs from cable and satellite partners (like Direct TV), and connections to other platforms, like Google TV. The company plans to talk with Dish and Tivo as well, and says supporting Chromecast on the forthcoming web version of the Luma service is also something that’s now on the radar.

In addition to its crowdsourced-backed technologies, Luma wants to also offer different types of viewing suggestions which haven’t yet been seen before, like the ability to offer multi-person recommendations, for example.  That means, it could change its recommendations based on whether you were looking for shows to watch with the family versus watching alone by combining taste profiles.

At launch, Luma.tv offers access to over a dozen different video sources, but expects to reach around 40 by year-end. Though the underlying technology differs here, the startup broadly competes with others in this space like recently launched app Yidio, Peel, Televised, Fan.tv (Fanhattan), and more.

Eventually, Luma.tv hopes to monetize through promoted content within the app, but in the near-term will likely first offer users tools to help them preview and compare streaming services like Amazon’s Prime Instant Video, Netflix and others, then earn affiliate income when users sign up.

The Luma.tv app is a free download here in iTunes.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

April 2014
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