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Archive for March, 2015

Twitter LogoA new way for the company to make money

Of the many notable social networking services out there, Twitter has been one of the most popular ones for a while. However, it has come to the point where its user numbers have begun to stagnate. A problem that hasn’t been helped by the company’s CEO admitting that the platform sucks when it comes to dealing with trolls. As a result, it is looking for new ways to generate revenue. So to help keep the money rolling in, Twitter has publicly launched Curator, a tool for media partners to help search, filter, and curate Twitter for content that they can then display on their website, mobile apps, and even TV.

“Curator was built to allow media publishers to search, filter and curate Twitter content that can then be displayed on web, mobile and TV,” said Twitter product Manager Matt Dennebaum on the company’s official blog. “Those who have been testing Curator have seen strong increases in audience engagement, participation and attention. With these encouraging results, we’re opening up the product to all media publishers around the world, for free. This includes news organizations, production companies, broadcasters, local governments, and even concert venues.”

The new tool gives media publishers the ability to create complex keyword and hashtag queries to help discover streams containing high quality Tweets. Such queries can then be refined by location, follower counts, and languages in order to create a collection of the most relevant tweets that are pertinent to a particular topic. In addition, publishers will be able to work with Twitter Certified Partners, such as Flowics and ScribbleLive, for access to more advanced integrations, customizations, and hands-on support. 

How much revenue Curator will bring in for Twitter is anyone’s guess. But it could be a big cash grab for the company which saw its average number of monthly active users grow by only 20 percent in the fourth quarter and its stock in 2014 drop from $65 a share to around $35 by the end of the year.

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ATT logoHigher prices for customers when there is no competition

Competition between rival services might be bad for a business, but it usually ends up being good for the consumer. In the case of Google Fiber expanding, competition between Google and other ISPs tend to result in lower prices between rival gigabit services. AT&T, for example, has had to offer its own gigabit service at a matching price in areas that Google Fiber has entered. But when there is no competition, things change. So while AT&T’s gigabit service is now available in Cupertino, it comes with a starting price of $110 a month according to the company’s press release.

For $110 a month, Cupertino residents will have access to AT&T’s U-Verse service that provides internet speeds of up to 1Gbps. For residents who want 1Gbps speed and TV service together, the price starts at $150 per month. The company also offers download speeds of up to 300Mbps at $8 a month for those still wishing for faster internet speeds at a lower price. Finally, AT&T is offering the full package which includes up to 1Gbps internet speed, TV, and unlimited U-verse Voice with a starting price of $150 that comes with a two year price guarantee. 

While it is great that those living in Cupertino, California now have access to a gigabit broadband network, it is a shame that they are paying $40 more than residents who live in areas that offer Google Fiber. For up to 1Gbps, Google Fiber charges $70 a month, a price that AT&T matches when both companies are competing in the same area. Hopefully, we will start to see more competition when it comes to gigabit networks. 

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Charter CommunicationsAnother potential merger between cable providers

Last year, Comcast caused quite a stir when it announced that it would purchase Time Warner Cable. So far, the merge has yet to take place as Comcast is still waiting for the government to approve of the merger. But now, two more cable providers are looking to merge. Today, Charter Communications announced that it will purchase Bright House Networks for $10.4 billion in cash and stock.

Charter is the fourth biggest cable provider in the United States with 5.1 million internet subscribers and 4.3 million pay-TV subscribers. Meanwhile, Bright House is the sixth largest provider with 2.5 million customers with services located in Florida, California, Michigan, Alabama, and Indiana. The deal, if it were to go through, would make Charter the second largest cable provider in the company. However, the deal is “subject to several conditions, including Charter shareholder approval, the expiration of Time Warner Cable’s right of first offer for Bright House, the close of Charter’s previously-announced transactions with Comcast and regulatory approval,” according to the press release.

“Bright House Networks provides Charter with important operating, financial and tax benefits, as well as strategic flexibility,” said Charter Communications President Tom Rutledge. “Bright House has built outstanding cable systems in attractive markets that are either complete, or contiguous with the New Charter footprint. This acquisition enhances our scale, and solidifies New Charter as the second largest cable operator in the US.”

So what do you think about another merger between cable providers? Do you think the Federal Communications Commission and the US Department of Justice will approve this deal? Sound off in the comments below!

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Plays.tv takes a bite out of Twitch and YouTube, Instagram style

Raptr today announced the official public launch of a gamer-focused service called Plays.tv, a kind of Instagram for gamers, where the idea is that everyone and every game has an epic moment of some kind.

The idea though, says Raptr, is entirely different from Twitch.tv and YouTube. According to Dennis Fong, CEO and founder of Raptr, “Twitch is just too complicated to set up for most people, and YouTube is like uploading your moments into the ether.” The premise behind what Fong says is that there’s a junction that serves a clear purpose through Plays.tv that doesn’t exist on any other platform, and we get what he’s saying.

Plays.tv

Right now, Twitch.tv is primarily a platform for pro gamers; they’re there to make money as full-time broadcasters. At that point, you’re essentially an entertainer and less of a “gamer.” On YouTube, it’s everything and everyone: make-up artists, cooks, car crash videos, street fights, idol shows, and gaming. However, YouTube announced recently that it would compete with Twitch.tv. As for Facebook, it seems that gamers don’t often share their quirky or crazy moments there.

“Facebook isn’t a great place for [game moments] either. You have coworkers, random friends, and family. It’s just weird,” says Fong.

We’re trying out Plays.tv now, and the service is very easy to use. The videos upload seamlessly and there’s not much involvement at all, which is a good thing. The Plays.tv client handles the work duties for you, and those who use Raptr can also upload to Plays.tv. Raptr is hoping that its current install base of 46 million gamers will find a home on Plays.tv

With Plays.tv, users are able to instantly create a 15-second (user definable) video clip of what’s happening in their game. The Plays.tv client continuously records the game play session to ensure no moment is missed. Plays are then sent directly to the user’s profile page, where like-minded players can view and comment.

“Raptr’s current user base, combined with Plays.tv ease of use and stardom appeal, makes for a compelling community,” Fong tells us.

And he would know.

Rewind the gaming scene back to the Quake, Quake 2 days, and Dennis “Thresh” Fong was a renowned world champion. Some would say he was the first professional gamer and the best FPS player of all time. Since then, Fong has created four companies: two of which are thriving today; the other two were successfully sold to larger companies. It’s been a long road for him since winning John Carmack’s Ferrari.

Raptr’s business model, too, has expanded with Plays.tv. Originally launched as a cross-platform communications system for gamers, Raptr became a tool to solve some of the headaches surrounding performance from variations in the PC ecosystem. Think “GeForce Experience,” but for all platforms. The Raptr client detects your hardware and games, and tunes settings to deliver what it believes to be the best combination of speed and quality. Raptr recently secured a partnership with Intel, and having AMD under its belt, the company is now the biggest player in game-system optimization.


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Improvements to be enabled via DX12 and Vulkan APIs

Graphics cards are currently “not living up to their full potential,” says AMD, and the company is adamant that the forthcoming DX12 and Vulkan APIs will change that. Specifically, the red team says that these APIs will be able to take advantage of AMD’s asynchronous compute engines (ACE), which are inherent to AMD’s GCN architecture. These asynchronous compute engines will allow future games that support them to accomplish more simultaneous tasks at a time. AMD infers that this is tantamount to hyperthreading for GPUs. 

DX11 amd

This is the traditional GPU pipeline with DX11. 

The logic here is that having multiple GPU queues allows for tasks to be completed much faster, and that users could see better performance out of their GCN graphics cards. On a call with AMD, the company claimed that the traditional GPU pipeline behavior is currently very linear with DirectX11 and that all work must be done in a single queue that is scheduled in a pre-determined order. With DX12, however, tasks like physics, lighting, and post-processing can be divided into different queues and can be scheduled independently. This not only amounts to higher FPS in applications that support asynchronous shaders, but lower latency as well, which is key to having good VR experiences. To analogize the comparison, AMD equated DX11’s current inefficiency to inner-city roads with traffic lights against DX12’s more asynchronous model, which the company equated to a freeway system. In the asynchronous/freeway model, tasks can merge in to fill gaps and aren’t bogged down by red lights, or bottlenecks, in this example.

dx12 amd async

AMD says DX12 will be able to leverage its GPU’s asynchronous compute engines to perform more efficiently.

According to AMD, using asynchronous shaders can provide post-processing effects with minimal impact on performance. The company cited its LiquidVR SDK demo, which rendered a scene that had an average FPS at 245 with async shaders and post-processing turned off. With the post-processing effect on, however, the FPS took a huge hit and dropped to 158. With async shaders turned on, the average FPS jumped back up to 230, which is just ever slightly more taxing than the scene with post-processing turned off. According to AMD, async shaders have the potential to save performance by over 40%. 

async shaders perf

AMD is touting that its async shaders will be very non-taxing on post-processing. 

AMD says that async shaders and asynchronous compute engines are a part of the GCN DNA, so developers will be able to take advantage of them with the next generation APIs. With AMD pouring its Mantle learnings into Vulkan, the next iteration of OpenGL, the open-source API will also be able to take advantage of AMD’s asynchronous shaders. In addition, AMD tells us that all the major game engines, like Epic’s Unreal Engine and Crytek’s CryEngine, will be able to take advantage of AMD’s asynchronous shaders. 

According to AMD, the PlayStation 4, which uses AMD hardware, are already uses asynchronous shaders in games like InFamous Second Son and The Tomorrow Children to get more performance efficiencies and the company believes these learnings will work their way over to the PC with the next-generation APIs. AMD also says the philosophy behind its asynchronous shaders will also apply to the company’s GCN-based APUs. 


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