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Disney plans food-focused online series for young parents

Today, Disney announced its latest digital brand: Disney Eats, which is a food-centered online channel and website that focuses specifically on families with young kids. The company is putting its sights squarely on the generation of viewers who grew up with YouTube and are now having kids of their own.

Disney Eats will partner with Tastemade to launch original series such as Kitchen Little, which will see kids teaming up with celebrity chefs to make Disney-themed recipes. In another show, Tiny Kitchen, artists will create tiny replicas of food from Disney movies. Another show, Must Be Science focuses on (you guessed it) food science.

Digital video is becoming increasingly lucrative, as traditional networks and studios try to capture the audience that increasingly watches video in nontraditional ways. Last year, Disney announced its own streaming service (and has stated that it will be cheaper than Netflix). Yesterday, Twitter revealed more than 30 deals for original video, from sports to shows about space and women’s experiences.

Source: Broadcasting Cable


Sprint and T-Mobile: A coalition of also-rans

Once upon a time, two wireless carriers were struggling to survive in a cutthroat business. They tried going it alone, and even almost married other players. But they seemed to find kindred spirits in each other and soon began a courtship. After months of rumors, false starts and premature breakups, T-Mobile and Sprint are finally getting together. Well, pending regulatory approval, anyway. Their respective parent companies Deutsche Telekom and Softbank have reached an agreement to merge the two US carriers, and they’re calling the resulting company the “New T-Mobile.” No cute couple name here (sad, I’d fully ship Spree-Mobile or Trint), but the combined organization would be worth a total of $146 billion and cover almost 100 million subscribers.

The ramifications of this union are significant. Not only would this cut the number of US national carriers from four to three, but it could also spur serious change in the wireless industry, and it all boils down to one crucial reason: better competition. That sounds a little counter-intuitive, since cutting the number of national carriers seems on the surface like it’s reducing competition.

Why is competition such a big deal?

In the announcement, the companies take pains to spell out how the merger will “create more competition.” It isn’t just an effort to reassure subscribers, but also to convince regulators (in this case the FCC and the Department of Justice) to approve the union. Competition is a key point of consideration here, and history bears this out.

Back in 2011, when AT&T tried to take over T-Mobile, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division sued the companies involved to block that merger. The concern then was that the resulting carrier would become the largest wireless provider in the US, potentially driving up prices and limiting the options available to consumers. Ultimately, the FCC’s concerns over creating a monopoly were so overwhelming that AT&T withdrew its bid.

Capitalism relies on competition and consumer choice to drive down costs and spur innovation. A monopoly or oligopoly would give the sole (or few) service provider(s) full control over pricing, features and quality of service. Without healthy competition, the entire economic system that the US relies on falls apart.

Why did they do it?

By combining their powers, the “New T-Mobile” is much better positioned to take on rivals AT&T and Verizon. In a video announcing the agreement, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said the new company will “create robust competition and lower prices across wireless, video and broadband.”

According to a news release, “The combined company will have lower costs, greater economies of scale, and the resources to provide US consumers and businesses with lower prices.” The argument is that having fewer competitors on more equal footing is better than more options, where there are clear winners and losers.

The money the new T-Mobile would save from not having to compete against each other, and pooling their resources instead of building out separate infrastructures, could indeed allow for higher profits while charging low fees. That would enable the new company to continue Sprint and T-Mobile’s current strategy of undercutting AT&T and Verizon in pricing.

Legere also believes that “This isn’t a case of going from four to three wireless companies.” He said in a statement, “There are now at least seven or eight big competitors in this converging market. And in 5G, we’ll go from zero to one. Only the New T-Mobile will have the capacity to deliver real, nationwide 5G.”

That’s obvious (and typical) hyperbole from Legere — there will be more than one 5G carrier and it’s still too early to say if any single company will emerge victorious. Plus there aren’t seven or eight “big competitors” — the players with enough clout to be serious competition truly are just AT&T and Verizon.

Why the focus on 5G?

Much of the announcement focused on how the union could boost the new T-Mobile’s position in the race to deliver a widely available 5G network. The first 5G-ready phones are expected to be available in 2019, which would put pressure on carriers that risk losing disgruntled customers to rivals that beat them to the punch.

The company was up front about why the merger was necessary if either individual partner was to even have a hope in taking on AT&T, Verizon and international rivals. “Neither company standing alone can create a nationwide 5G network with the breadth and depth required to fuel the next wave of mobile Internet innovation in the U.S. and answer competitive challenges from abroad,” T-Mobile said.

5G offers something of a fresh start for the carriers. T-Mobile and Sprint, which struggled mightily in the 4G rollout (hey, WiMax!), will have an opportunity to reinvent themselves in a less established arena. Though AT&T and Verizon own most of the recently freed up spectrum that will power the new standard, the combined Sprint and T-Mobile airwaves put them in a better position to build out coverage. Plus, the merged entity can spend more on infrastructure. By pooling their resources, Sprint and T-Mobile should be able to get off to a faster start in the 5G race.

That’s not to say the union will fix all their problems or give them a lead. It would take years to technologically integrate the two networks, and T-Mobile has said the merger would take three years to complete. In that time, AT&T and Verizon will continue to plow ahead on 5G, and they don’t have to deal with the messy minutiae of a merger on the side, either.

Wrap up

As with all budding relationships, there’s no way to predict how this attempted union will pan out. The regulators could shut it down, the presumed benefits for the new T-Mobile’s 5G endeavors could end up costing more than predicted, and even if it passes scrutiny, it’d take years to close the deal. All we can do now is speculate. Cutting back on the number of competitors doesn’t sound like it would work in the consumer’s favor, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If T-Mobile continues its Uncarrier moves backed by Sprint’s loving support, the scrappy pair could perhaps even take on the top dogs in a modern Cinderella story.


Amazon wants Prime Book Box to be your kid’s summer reading companion

Amazon is a little late to the (non-food) subscription box fad, but that won’t stop it from shipping children’s books to your door. Prime Book Box Kids is targeted at parents, and will deliver either a pair of hardcover books or a quartet of board books on a regular basis. There are four age ranges to choose from, with appropriate titles available for infants all the way up to tweens.

You get to choose the frequency of deliveries (monthly, every other or quarterly), and the titles are checked against your purchase history to help prevent duplicates. Before each delivery you’l get an email previewing what’s in the box, and if you aren’t a fan of the pre-selected books there will be four alternates. And, if you don’t like any of those, you can skip the order entirely.

It’s probably a lot smarter doing this with hardbound titles and board books for kids than it would be shipping them kid-friendly Kindle books the way Amazon does for adults. Plus, everyone likes getting a box from Amazon with their name on it, and kids are no different. Of course, if you’re looking to keep your budget low, you could achieve pretty much the same thing by taking your little ones to the library at regular intervals.

Actual pricing isn’t entirely clear, but the FAQ page gives a clue. “Prime Book Box saves you up to 35 percent off list price, and is always an equal or better value than Amazon’s everyday low prices. In the event that the books in your box are available from for less than $22.99 at the time your order is placed, you’ll receive the lower price automatically,” one section reads. The program is invite-only for now, and you can request an invitation at the source link below.

Source: Amazon (1), (2)


Watch Facebook’s F8 opening keynote at 1PM ET

After a few turbulent weeks for Facebook, it’s now time for the company to host its annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California. And kicking off the event is none other than embattled CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who’s expected to talk about a wide range of topics. That, of course, includes user data and privacy — the thing everyone wants to know about right now, after what happened with Cambridge Analytica. But, that won’t be it: Zuckerberg will likely also touch on the overall state of the business, like the present and future of Messenger, Oculus, Instagram, Whatsapp and much more. You can tune in at 10AMPT/1PM ET right here.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from F8 2018!


UK warns Zuckerberg will face summons if he doesn’t testify

The UK has reiterated its request for Mark Zuckerberg to testify before its Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Parliamentary Committee and this time it says if the CEO declines, he’ll be compelled to appear the next time he steps foot in the country. In March, following reports that Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained information on millions of Facebook users, the committee asked Zuckerberg to testify on the company’s “catastrophic failure of process,” but the CEO declined. Instead, Facebook sent a letter summarizing its recent data privacy changes and offered up some other high-level employees in place of Zuckerberg.

Last week, Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and according to the committee’s chair, Damian Collins, he didn’t do a very good job. The committee was left with nearly 40 unanswered questions, which led it to re-request an appearance from the CEO himself. “As you may have seen from my press statement, the committee feels that the evidence lacked many of the important details that we need,” Collins said in his letter to Facebook UK Head of Public Policy Rebecca Stimson. “We therefore re-state our invitation to Mark Zuckerberg.”

In his letter, Collins included the list of questions that remain open and they stand in stark contrast to those presented to Zuckerberg by the US Senate and House committees earlier this month. While Congressional leaders asked the CEO many of the same questions repeatedly and inquired about rather basic concepts, such as how Facebook makes money, the UK committee’s questions dive into audits of third-party developers, the legalities of storing non-Facebook users’ data and dark ads. Zuckerberg’s mediocre performance in the US may shed light on why he’s so hesitant to testify before a more tech-savvy group of politicians.

The UK committee has asked for responses to its questions and its invitation by May 11th and it would like to host the CEO by May 24th. “We hope that he will respond positively to our request, but if not, the committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK,” wrote Collins.

Via: The Verge

Source: Parliament


Facebook will let users see which sites are tracking them

Facebook is kicking off its F8 conference by heading off everyone’s most pertinent question: What is the platform doing to address user data concerns? The answer, it seems, is Clear History, a new feature the social network is building to give users more control over the information it collects from your browsing history.

By popular demand from users and Congresspeople alike, Facebook’s chief privacy officer announced in a post that Clear History will be both a monitoring tool and a set of controls. It allows users to see which websites and apps using Facebook ads and analytics (including those with the ‘Like’ button) send your browsing information back to the social network. Then users are given the choice to stop associating this data with their personal account.

These sites will still collect data on user activity and send it to Facebook, but if a user opts-out under Clear History’s settings, the social platform won’t link the info to your personal account. This may sound trivial, but it means when the network repackages that information into advertising insights to sell to sites and apps, user data is folded into general demographic insights — not personally-identifying info.

As Facebook is only just announcing Clear History, it’s unclear when the feature will go live for users.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from F8 2018!

Source: Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)


Sony adds a slew of PS2 games to PlayStation Now

Sony’s PlayStation Now hasn’t been of much use for nostalgia trips unless most of your memories revolve around the PS3, but that’s about to change: the first wave of PS2 titles is available through the game streaming service. They’re not must-have blockbusters, but they’re definitely titles you’ll recognize, including Ape Escape 2, Dark Cloud 2 and Hot Shots Tennis. And importantly, these aren’t straight content dumps — each of these games plays in HD (no 4K, alas) with trophy support.

This same batch also includes a handful of high-profile PS3 titles like Limbo and Metal Slug 3.

This doesn’t include PS1 titles, and it’s safe to presume that many of the PS2 favorites of your youth aren’t here. It’s a start, though, and it makes PS Now considerably more compelling. If you no longer have access to your PS2 or never owned one in the first place, this gives you a chance to revisit the games of yesteryear without hoping for a remaster or digging through your closet.

Source: PlayStation Blog


Facebook continues AR push with tracking, audio and location tools

Last year, Facebook revealed Camera Effects Platform and the associated AR Studio — tools to make it easier to create interactive experiences using the Facebook camera. The latter enabled developers to add animated frames, masks and effects for Live broadcasts. Today at the F8 summit in San Jose, California, Facebook is announcing a new version of AR Studio that the company says will make it even easier to create and distribute AR experiences.

The draw here is the ability to create 3D objects to seamlessly integrate with the real world via your phone’s camera. AR Studio has new visual programming abilities that will let anyone drag-and-drop custom animations with their own actions and logic without having to write any code. Don’t want to create your own 3D models? Facebook partnered up with Sketchfab, which provides a library of models you can download and use in your own projects.

AR Studio will also have new capabilities, including a tracking system that gives your AR experience the ability to track targets like faces, hands and bodies. There will be a patch editor to control audio, manipulate virtual material, add interactions and even create custom shaders without any knowledge of code. The tools can separate people from the backgrounds, too, letting developers put people in a variety of real and unreal places. In addition, developers can connect their AR apps to specific locations and contexts, like AR tied to a movie theater or heat waves that show up when a coffee cup is recognized in a scene.

Analytics are coming soon, too, which will let you track the reach and engagement of your AR experiences. Finally, all these cool effects will be able to leave the Facebook app proper; you’ll be able to distribute AR apps that can be viewed with Instagram and Messenger, a system that’s already in closed beta on each of the platforms.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from F8 2018!

Source: Facebook


Oculus Rooms gets Hasbro games and a major redesign

Alongside the Go’s launch today, Oculus also announced an updated version of Rooms, its app for hanging out with friends in VR. The new app sports a swankier design, and it also features Hasbro board games, which will really make it feel like you’re relaxing in your living room. Boggle will be available this month, and Oculus says Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit will arrive in the future. As for other new features, you’ll be able to customize your rooms environment, and you’ll also have higher-quality avatars to customize.

With the previous version of Rooms, it was as if Oculus was just dabbling in the social VR space. But this update seems a lot more useful. For example, you’ll also be able to sit on a couch and watch movies from the Oculus Store. The company is also working on integrating Netflix and other streaming apps. The best part? You can keep the video on in the background while you play boardgames with your friends in another corner of your virtual living room.

Additionally, Oculus offered a few more details about its Venues app, where you can sit and enjoy concerts, sports or just about any live performance in VR. It’s kicking off with Major League Baseball games, Vance Joy and School Night at the Bardot concerts, as well as shows from the Gotham Comedy Club. There’s no update on when these events will happen, but Oculus says it’ll have a performance schedule soon. At first, Venues will target the Go and Gear VR — Oculus hasn’t said anything about Rift availability yet.


Facebook provides more ways to help in a crisis

Facebook is offering two new ways to contribute when lives are on the line. For starters, it’s launching a Blood Donations on Facebook feature that moves beyond signing up for donations to a full-fledged hub where you can find people and facilities looking for donations. You’ll not only see nearby requests, but the urgency and specific details (say, the eligible blood types). From there, you can get in touch if they don’t accept walk-ins.

The feature is rolling out to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan over a two-week period starting on May 15th. It’ll only be available on mobile to start with. Facebook told Engadget that it’s focused on what’s “most applicable” to people in these countries, many of whom primarily use their phones to get online. Expansions to other countries will depend on what Facebook learns from this initial launch — it’s serving these initial countries due to demand.

Regardless of where you live, the Crisis Response feature is adding a feature that lets you share important information with other affected people, such as the state of your neighborhood, a damage video or a road closure. It’ll be available sometime later this year. And in case you’re wondering, Facebook is keenly aware of the potential for abuse: you can only contribute if you’ve marked yourself safe (in other words, you have to be in the affected area), and you’re still subject to community standards. In theory, you’ll only see updates from those in a position to know.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from F8 2018!

Source: Facebook

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