HBO announces stand-alone service
Currently, HBO has a lucrative partnership with cable service providers, exclusively selling its programming rights for them to bundle HBO with a host of other channels. That means only cable subscribers have access to HBO – until now. In a monumental move, HBO announced it will offer a stand-alone streaming service for consumers to access HBO content directly.
“So, in 2015, we will launch a stand-alone, over-the-top, HBO service in the United States. We will work with our current partners. And, we will explore models with new partners,” the company said in an official statement.
The move will allow HBO to compete with the likes of Netflix and Hulu in a world that that has shifted from cable television to online streaming. According to Experian Marketing services, a consumer-data company, households with a Netflix or Hulu subscription are three times less likely to have a cable subscription.
Consumers will soon be able to watch hit HBO series like Game of Thrones and True Detective without commercials, whenever they want to, for less money. While HBOGo already offers users a streaming service for HBO shows, you must still be a cable subscriber to use it.
The announcement has different repercussions for everyone involved – for cable providers, it is a worst nightmare as cable sales will likely take a big hit with people turning to the web for HBO. For consumers, TV’s most coveted content is now more accessible. Social media reactions highlight the widespread joy, with phrases like “cord cutters!” and “down with cable” trending online. For Netflix and other streaming providers, a huge competitor just entered the market.
According to HBO Chief Executive Richard Plepler, 10 million homes in the U.S. alone have high-speed internet but no cable, representing a hugely untapped market for HBO. “That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO,” he said in a press release.
Plepler’s words might be especially concerning for Netflix, whose shares plunged as much as 27% on the NASDAQ on Wednesday when subscriber growth did not meet forecasts. But Netflix is the U.S.’s biggest streaming platform and operates in nearly 50 countries, so for now, it holds the higher ground.
In an interview last summer, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said “we have to become more like HBO before they become like us.” While Netflix, with its own selection of movies and original award-winning series, has done an admirable job so far, it seems that HBO has taken a significant step closer to winning that race.
New Android Lollipop for the new Nexus devices
Google released the latest Android operating system on Friday, dubbed Android 5.0 or Lollipop. The upgrade will debut on three new Nexus devices: the Motorola designed smartphone Nexus 6, the HTC designed tablet Nexus 9, and the Nexus player, a set-top box for Android TV. Lollipop will be available on existing Android devices at some point in the coming weeks.
The new OS will primarily revamp user interface and make a number of visual enhancements, an upgrade that Google terms “material design.” Some other impressive functions include a legitimate battery saver mode and smart lock, which enables users to set a frequently recognized location like an office or resident where the phone will automatically unlock itself. Google has also gone to great lengths to making phone theft less enticing, by introducing Android Lollipop’s “kill switch,” where users can either wipe clean or preserve data on their stolen phones.
Perhaps the most important function of Android Lollipop is to create a seamless, unified user interface across different Nexus devices. Somewhat unexpected, the new OS is also targeting enterprises. Hiroshi Lockheimer, VP of Android engineering, spoke about the need for a single device that could seamlessly manage two personalities, one personal and one business related for enterprise users.
“The one device that they carry [should] work for various scenarios in their life -obviously for personal use, but also if they want to use it for corporate purposes,” he told the BBC. With the demise of Blackberry and the continuous competition between Apple OS and Microsoft Windows for corporate dominance, Google could may well find a niche in a segmented enterprise sector.
As for Google’s new devices, the first is its largest smartphone to date, the 6-inch Nexus 6. Made by Motorola, the phone has the latest Snapdragon processor, a 13-megapixel camera, and the promise that 15 minutes of charging can provide up to six hours of battery life. Contract free, it will sell for $649 in 26 countries starting in November.
The Nexus 9 is an 8.9-inch tablet made by HTC. Its square shape resembles an iPad more than its Android predecessors, and it will sell for $399.
Perhaps most eye catching is the third release, the Nexus player. Said to be a reincarnation of Google’s Smart TV platform, now dubbed Android TV, the box will allow media streaming on television and will also double as a gaming console. Costing $99, the player highlights Google’s latest attempts to make inroads into the living room. It remains to be seen how Android Lollipop will be received, but with a myriad of innovative features on a range of devices soon to be made available, it is clear Google is pushing Android as the platform for the future.
Third-party SnapChat vendor hacked
The social media market is saturated with popular photo-driven platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. So how did mobile photo-messaging app Snapchat carve its niche in the market? Impermanence. Users send each other photos and videos that self-destruct after 10 seconds, often prompting the sharing of more explicit content.
Third-party vendor Snapsaved.com offered users a way around Snapchat’s core model, promising to store their snap chatted photos online. Last weekend, the developers of the website announced that the server had been hacked, releasing around 100,000 images stored mainly by teenagers for public viewing online.
Users of the Snapsaved website stored explicit photos of their own volition, leaving Snapchat free of blame. But the company issued a warning to BBC Newsbeat regarding the hacking incident, now dubbed the “Snappening.”
“When you give your login credentials to a third-party application, you’re allowing a developer, and possibly a criminal, to access your account information and send information on your behalf,” Snapchat said.
Snapchat acknowledges its excitement regarding third party add-ons for its platform, but has said that it will take the necessary steps to make sure they are trustworthy.
The Snapsaved website took full responsibility for the photo leaks and has since been shut down. According to a statement released by Snapsaved itself, the incident affected about 500MB of photos but users’ personal information remained safe.
The site administrators also fielded anonymous accusations (posted on the Pastebin site) of knowingly granting hackers access to users’ content. The website has since rebuked such claims, claiming that an error in the web server setup led to the leak.
While TheSnappening.org once garnered around five million viewers per day according to a BBC report, it now sends users a message: “the website has been shutdown for good intentions. Thank you.”
You may have missed…
The week in numbers
Minerva Project lands $70m Series B round
Robotic bartender Monsieur secures $2m seed funding
BitFury grabs $20m Series A