Comcast and Verizon Decide They Don’t Need to Compete With Apple, Google and Everyone Else, After All

never mind

Last year, when Verizon Wireless and Comcast were trying to get lawmakers to sign off on a giant wireless spectrum sale/noncompete pact, the two companies also said they were going to create a technology/R&D joint venture. It was supposed to come up with really cool tech products that consumers would love.

That JV is now dead. Verizon announced its demise today during the company’s earnings call, but said the partnership actually ended in late August.

The news here is that the most important part of the Comcast/Verizon deal hasn’t changed. Verizon still owns valuable spectrum it purchased from Comcast, and the two companies are still agreeing not to compete – or at least not to compete very vigorously.

It’s not surprising that Comcast and Verizon have concluded that their JV didn’t make sense. Most JVs don’t. And if there is an example of two companies at the scale of Comcast and Verizon successfully working together to create cool consumer tech, I’d love to hear about it.

For the record, though, the two companies didn’t seem to have those doubts back in March 2012. Back then, when the companies were still trying to get federal approval for the deal, they were pointing to the JV as a big win for consumers.

Here’s what Comcast executive vice president David Cohen told a Senate subcommittee back then:

“By enhancing the Cable Companies’ and Verizon Wireless’s own products and services, the Joint Venture will compete with similar solutions that AT&T, Dish Network, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others already have introduced into the marketplace. This, in turn, will spur other companies to respond, perpetuating a cycle of competitive investment and innovation.”

And here’s what Verizon is saying, via a spokesperson, today:

“The joint venture was formed to bring innovation to the marketplace and enhance the customer experience through technology that integrated wireline and wireless products and services. Evolving technology and market changes since the joint venture was formed have led all parties to conclude that a joint venture, per se, is no longer needed to deliver innovative services to customers. Verizon Wireless and the cable companies will continue to explore ways to collaborate on technology in the future. Each company remains committed to bringing innovation to its customers and will continue to find ways to optimize the user experience for each company’s products.”

If you’re a skeptical person, you might think that Comcast and Verizon were overselling the benefits of the JV from the start. You might think that they never really thought they could successfully compete with the likes of Apple and Google, but were holding out the idea because consumer groups were unhappy with the other parts of their pact, which seemed likely to reduce competition between the two companies.

On the other hand, both Comcast and Verizon did assign people to work on this stuff together, and they did do some work. Comcast, for instance, points to the Xfinity TV Player app, which lets you download movies and TV shows to your iPad and iPhone and take them with you, as an example of the joint venture’s output. [Update: Strike that. A Comcast rep tells us we had bad information: The app was made in-house, not via the JV.]

So, if you were a different kind of skeptical person, you might think that Comcast and Verizon really did think they could successfully compete with the likes of Apple and Google. And the fact that it only took them 17 months to realize they were wrong – and pull the plug – is a good thing.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Carlos Caetano)

Oculus Rift Will Be a “No-Motion-Sickness Experience,” and 4K Display in the Works, CEO Says

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Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe pledged today that the company’s upcoming virtual-gaming headset, the Oculus Rift, will not cause people to get motion-sick when it launches.

And that still-unannounced consumer launch date definitely won’t be in 2013, Iribe noted.

Iribe, who appeared at D: Dive Into Media in February, discussed “The Future of the Rift” at the Gaming Insiders Summit today in San Francisco. He said the combination of improving screen quality and decreasing latency between motion in the game and virtual-reality vision will make the new class of games – or at least the ones not designed to cause motion sickness – nausea-free.

“It is going to work,” Iribe said. “It’s gonna work for everybody.”

The CEO used his own experience to back up the claim: His own company’s previous hardware made him sick within two minutes, every time he tried it in the past. But with the latest internal build of the Oculus Rift, Iribe said he played for 45 minutes straight with no issues.

Iribe also dropped two new notes about the Rift’s use cases: The headset will eventually have a 4K display, and it might work with big gaming consoles, as well as with PCs and mobile devices.

“You can’t imagine what it’s going to look like when it’s 4K,” he said. “It’s not now, but it’s coming.”

As for consoles, Iribe talked up the Rift’s ability to project 2-D content on an IMAX-like field of view. Curiously, the way he chose to describe that 2-D-within-3-D experience was, “You can play Playstation 4 or Xbox One on this IMAX screen at home.”

Now, that’s far off from an official announcement, but, as founder Palmer Luckey told me back in May:

There’s no technical reason that the Rift can’t work on consoles. It has standard input/outputs, it wouldn’t be a lot of work. It’s just a matter of console manufacturers deciding to license it as a peripheral. They’re the gatekeepers.

Darth Vader and the “Clockwork Orange” Guy Do Facebook Updates (Video)

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While you kind of feel badly for them, James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell manage to still look classy in the new Sprint commercials, in which they emote on a phone call and, in another, on Facebook updates for someone named Jenna.

“I think I see you. Nope, wasn’t you,” booms Jones, who has most memorably been the voice of Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” films, among other big roles.

“Now, I’m by the tools … now, I’m by the linens,” responds McDowell, who once starred as Alex in the movie classic, “A Clockwork Orange.”

Ah, well:

Are Smartphones Turning Us Into Bad Samaritans?

In late September, on a crowded commuter train in San Francisco, a man shot and killed 20-year-old student Justin Valdez. As security footage shows, before the gunman fired, he waved around his .45 caliber pistol and at one point even pointed it across the aisle. Yet no one on the crowded train noticed because they were so focused on their smartphones and tablets.

Read the rest of this post on the original site

Twitter’s Mobile Apps Begin to Look a Bit More Like Instagram

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Continuing its trudge toward becoming a more media-centric service, Twitter on Tuesday announced a new version of its iOS and Android mobile applications, giving more prominence to photos and video in the stream.

Instead of needing to click through to see an attached photo in your Twitter timeline, now users will see previews of pictures and videos captured with Vine within the stream as they thumb through it.

It’s a simple yet logical move for the microblogging service, which until now has primarily been relied upon for text-based updates in real-time. With the rise of Instagram over the past few years, users have flocked to more visual platforms, preferring to thumb through images and videos.

The move comes as Twitter aims to broaden its appeal to users, only weeks before the company makes its public debut on the New York Stock Exchange. While practically ingrained into the mainstream media consciousness, Twitter’s user growth rate has slowed year over year; the company is home to around 230 million monthly active users, far short of Facebook’s billion-plus member network.

Not to mention the obvious appeal to advertisers, which will receive more prominent billing in the Twitter feed when including pictures and Vine videos within their tweets. (Digiday’s take on this is good.)

Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram did not help matters for Twitter. The microblogging network was in fierce competition with Facebook to acquire Instagram just a few years ago, but lost out to a last-minute billion-dollar offer directly from CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

As a result, Instagram later rescinded the ability to preview its photos from within the Twitter stream, requiring users to click an extra link in order to reach the Instagram shots. Not only was it annoying for users, it was a blow to Twitter, which lost a great deal of rich visual content.

Shortly after Twitter received the heads-up late last year that Instagram would cut off its integration, the company scrambled to figure out a solution to bringing filters into the Twitter app itself, according to sources familiar with the matter. To do that, Twitter contracted the services of Aviary, an outside company responsible for much of Twitter’s photo filter product.

Twitter certainly learned from the whole situation. What you won’t see are previews of photos uploaded from nonTwitter products; only photos uploaded via Twitter’s apps and services will show up in preview form. Same goes for Vine videos (but not for YouTube videos). No word on whether that will change in the future.

Expect the download to roll out for Android and iPhones on Tuesday.

iPhone 5c Was Always Planned as Mid-Tier, Not Low-End, Says Cook

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Is the price of Apple’s new iPhone 5c too high for the market for which it was intended?

Not according to CEO Tim Cook, who said the device isn’t intended for the unsubsidized prepaid customers that many observers thought it might be. During a Monday earnings call, Cook said the 5c isn’t the long-rumored “budget iPhone,” nor was it conceived as that.

“If you look at what we’ve done with our iPhone line, we’re selling the iPhone 4s as our entry-level offer,” Cook said. “We’re selling the iPhone 5c as sort of a mid-tier offer and then we have the iPhone 5s. Our goal is to have overall growth for the total iPhone [line], but also growth within each of those categories. … I realize that some people were reading rumors that the entry phone would be the 5c, but that was never our intent. Our entry iPhone is the iPhone 4s.”

In other words, Apple’s plan all along was to use a legacy device as its entry-level iPhone, just as it has done for years. And, as I’ve written before, the 5c was a move to establish a new mainstream price band between the smartphone market’s high end and its low end: “Historically, Apple has done quite well for itself using mid-tier products with lots of aspirational appeal to draw budget-conscious consumers into a higher price range. It did it with the iPod nano, and again with the iPad mini.”

Ion Air Pro 3 Adds New Image Sensor, Swims Deeper

Since launching nearly a year and a half ago, action-camera maker Ion has been pumping out a new model about every six months, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Today, the company announced its third-generation camera, the Ion Air Pro 3 Wi-Fi. It will be available in early November for $350.

Air Pro 3 (2) EMBARGOED 10 30 2013

New to the camera is a 12-megapixel sensor that allows you to capture 1080p video at 60 frames per second; the previous model could only shoot 1080p video at 30fps. The Air Pro 3 also utilizes a new fog-free lens with improved light transmission and 160-degree viewing angles.

In terms of design, the camera looks largely the same as the Air Pro 2, but the casing is now waterproof in up to 49 feet of water (up from 30 feet) and features a metal tripod screw mount instead of a plastic one.

One of the advantages of Ion’s cameras is that you don’t need a separate case to bring it with you in the water, and its unique pod system allows you to add different functionality to the camera without any cumbersome accessories.

Ion faces stiff competition from market leader GoPro, which just released its latest Hero 3+ camera in September. Sony, JVC and Garmin all have action cameras, as well.

Ion CEO Giovanni Tomaselli said the company has about 3.5 percent of the market share right now, but it’s not all about numbers for them.

“All we’re looking for is for people to just appreciate what we’re creating,” said Tomaselli in an interview. “Here’s something that’s best in class, and that’s what it’s all about in the end. We do that, and we can get that recognition, the rest will come.”

Going forward, Tomaselli said the company will focus on improving optics, connectivity and mounting systems. Ion is also working to make its cameras available through larger retailers, like Best Buy.