Netflix Teams With LG For ‘Prepaid’ Streaming Worldwide

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An anonymous reader writes: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced at CES that the service had gone live in 130 additional countries including India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. He called the expansion “the birth of a global TV network.” Partnering with LG, the company hopes to expand its reach by providing prepaid access worldwide. China remains the most notable holdout for the streaming service but Hastings is hopeful saying, “We are continuing to work on that and we are very patient.”

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IBM Union Calls It Quits

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dcblogs writes: A 16-year effort by the Communication Workers of America to organize IBM employees into a union is ending. The union’s local, the Alliance@IBM, is suspending ‘organizing’ efforts, and says its membership has been worn down by IBM’s ongoing decline of its U.S. work force as it grows overseas. The union never got many dues-paying members, but its Website, a source of reports from employees on layoffs, benefit changes and restructuring, was popular with employees, a source of information for the news media, and a continuing thorn in the side of IBM.

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Oculus Rift Pre-orders Begin At $600

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New submitter jerome writes: Pre-orders have just started for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The $600 price tag is higher than most people were expecting — and that doesn’t even account for the required upgrade needed to fully enjoy VR apps. “In September of 2014, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey said to expect a $200 to $400 range for the Rift.” The device will first begin shipping on March 28th, though the store is already showing an estimate of April for Rifts beyond the initial stock. “The Rift package also doesn’t include the relatively powerful Windows PC that will be required to use the device. Oculus recommends a rig with an Nvidia GTX 970 (or equivalent), an Intel i5 processor, and at least 8GB of RAM.” In February, they’ll start taking pre-orders for a package that does include a full, “Oculus-ready” system for $1500.

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Coin Teams With MasterCard In Wearable Payments Push

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An anonymous reader writes: Smart payments startup Coin has announced it will team up with MasterCard to use its electronic card technology to help companies integrate payment services into their wearable devices. Under the new MasterCard partnership, owners of wearables with integrated Coin technology will be able to pay at retail outlets without the need to take out any cash or card . The deal is not exclusive, which means that there is still potential for Visa and American Express customers to benefit when the Coin-embedded tech begins to ship later this year.

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Microsoft Teams With Automakers To Put Windows, Office In Cars

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An anonymous reader writes: Today Microsoft announced partnerships with several companies to bring Windows 10, Office 365, and Azure to cars. Volvo is having their Call Universal App integrate with Windows 10 smartphones and Microsoft Band 2 watches to let drivers interact with their cars. Harman, a company that builds infotainment systems, will allow drivers to access Office 365 services (while parked or while the car is driving itself). IAV, a similar company, will let users stream Windows 10 Continuum from their smartphone directly to a vehicle’s dashboard. Finally, Nissan’s LEAF and Infiniti models in Europe will run their telematics system on Azure. “The common thread between these announcements is that Microsoft is pitching Azure as an enabling platform, tossing in analytics and focusing on its core productivity strengths. Aside from the Microsoft Band 2 partnership with Volvo, Microsoft is taking an enterprise behind-the-scenes approach to the auto industry.”

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EFF: T-Mobile “Binge On” Is Just Throttling of All Data

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onedobb writes: Tests confirm that when Binge On is enabled, T-Mobile throttles all HTML5 video streams to around 1.5Mps, even when the phone is capable of downloading at higher speeds, and regardless of whether or not the video provider enrolled in Binge On. This is the case whether the video is being streamed or being downloaded—which means that T-Mobile is artificially reducing the download speeds of customers with Binge On enabled, even if they’re downloading the video to watch later. It also means that videos are being throttled even if they’re being watched or downloaded to another device via a tethered connection.

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Samsung’s Latest Smart Fridge Has Cameras and a Huge Display

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anderzole writes with news about Samsung’s latest and greatest refrigerator unveiled at CES. Engadget reports: “One of the highlights of CES is always the wacky new appliance tech (and associated bickering) from Samsung and LG. This year looks to be no exception thanks to a new ‘Family Hub’ refrigerator from Samsung. The imposing-looking model is equipped with a 21.5-inch, 1080p monitor and cameras inside so that you can watch your mayonnaise go bad in real time. You can even check the contents remotely via a smartphone app to see what’s in there while you’re shopping, in case you forgot whether you need that jar of sweet pickles or not.”

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LG Announces “Super UHD” TV Lineup

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An anonymous reader writes: LG Electronics will be showing off a new line of 4K Ultra-HD television sets at CES this week and a 98-inch 8K Super UHD giant. Digital Trends reports: “The UH9500 (screen sizes 55-86 inches) UH8500 (screen sizes 55-75 inches) and UH7700 (screen sizes 49-65 inches) share several traits in common. All will offer what LG is calling HDR Plus, which means all of the sets in this series can process and display High Dynamic Range content from a variety of sources, include LG’s Color Prime tech for enhanced color brightness. These sets will also apply processing that aims to improve non-HDR content for an HDR-like experience.”

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Oculus To Ship “Lucky’s Tale” Game With Rift

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An anonymous reader writes: Oculus has announced that a second game, Lucky’s Tale, will come bundled with their virtual reality headset. The system will also come with another free virtual reality game: EVE: Valkyrie from CCP Games. An announcement reads: “Today, we’re excited to announce that Lucky’s Tale, the incredible made-for-VR platformer by Playful, will be included free with every Oculus Rift! Lucky’s Tale, an Oculus Studios title, takes you on an adventure of a lifetime with Lucky, the fun-loving fox. The game takes you to a charming new world, with dozens of locales and lush environments.”

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George Lucas Criticizes the Force Awakens

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RogueyWon writes: While many critics have responded positively to JJ Abrams’s take on Star Wars, one particular industry figure seems rather less impressed. George Lucas has criticized the “retro” tone of The Force Awakens and lamented his own lack of involvement in it. Speaking to television talk-show host and journalist Charlie Rose, Lucas quipped that he had sold his “kids to the white slavers that take these things”. “They wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that,” he said. “They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway, but if I get in there, I’m just going to cause trouble, because they’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control to do that any more, and all I would do is muck everything up. And so I said, ‘OK, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.’”

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Google Confirms Next Android Version Won’t Use Oracle’s Proprietary Java APIs

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An anonymous reader writes: Google is ditching the Java application programming interfaces (APIs) in Android and moving to only OpenJDK. The news first came by a “mysterious Android codebase commit” from last month submitted to Hacker News. Google confirmed to VentureBeat that Android N will rely solely on OpenJDK. “As an open-source platform, Android is built upon the collaboration of the open-source community,” a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat. “In our upcoming release of Android, we plan to move Android’s Java language libraries to an OpenJDK-based approach, creating a common code base for developers to build apps and services. Google has long worked with and contributed to the OpenJDK community, and we look forward to making even more contributions to the OpenJDK project in the future.”

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Verizon Offering $650 To Switch To Their Network

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An anonymous reader writes: Verizon is offering up to $650 to customers who switch to their network. PC reports: “To get the discount, you’ll need to port your number to Verizon, trade in your current device, and buy a new 4G LTE smartphone. Verizon will give you up to $650 on a prepaid card to cover the installment plan balance, minus the device trade-in value, or up to a $350 via a prepaid card to cover your old carrier’s early termination fees (minus the device trade-in value). Your existing phone needs to be in ‘good working condition,’ and you have to keep your new Verizon line active for at least six months.”

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Four Factors That Will Push VR Forward in 2016

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At MIT Technology Review, Rachel Metz lists four factors that she believes will mean great advancements for virtual reality in the next year. More and better games; wider adoption of specialized cameras for capturing the deep imagery that immersive worlds require; specialized presentation techniques that supplement VR with physical cues like temperature or direction; and availability of better viewing hardware. That better hardware seems poised to take off. According to the article, . Facebook-owned Oculus’s first consumer headset, Rift, is slated for release in the first quarter of the year, while the HTC Vive—a headset created by smartphone maker HTC and video-game company Valve—is set to be available to consumers in April. Sony, meanwhile, is building its own headset, called PlayStation VR, which the company says will be released in the first half of the year.

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Star Wars Pulls In $1 Billion At Record Speed

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New submitter henrydan798 writes to note that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has set a new record for ticket sales, becoming the fastest movie ever to earn a billion dollars at the till. As the L.A. Times reports, The latest installment in the “Star Wars” franchise grossed an estimated $153.5 million in the U.S. and Canada in its second weekend, beating the lower end of analyst expectations of $140 million. This drives the J.J. Abrams-directed picture to a to-date domestic gross of $544.5 million.

“The Force Awakens,” which cost an estimated $200 million to produce, debuted last weekend to record domestic ticket sales of $248 million. It also grossed $281 million overseas for a global total of $529 million, topping the previous worldwide debut benchmark set in June by “Jurassic World” ($525 million). This week, with an international estimated gross of $546 million to date, the film became the fastest to surpass $1 billion globally.

Were any of those dollars yours? If so, do you think they were well spent?

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Microsoft CMO Confirms Development of ‘Spiritual Equivalent’ of Surface Phone

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MojoKid writes: We all know what Microsoft wants to do with Windows 10. It’s supposedly the last monolithic release of Windows and the ultimate plan is to unite hardware from different device categories under a single, universal ecosystem. That includes smartphones, which is an area where Microsoft has historically struggled hard to compete. The release of a premium “Surface Phone” of some sort, however, could prove to be a game changer. Microsoft is aggressively pushing Windows 10 upgrades, and makes no bones about it, all in an effort to get developers on board to build universal Windows 10 cross-platform apps and spur mobile development. In that respect, Microsoft needs to finally make an impact in the handset space and Windows 10 Mobile is the company’s one shot to do just that. And it appears that Microsoft is working on what could be essentially a true Surface Phone, or at least something very similar. In a recent interview, Mary Jo Foley pushed Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela on the prospect of a Surface Phone and he confirmed the company is working on a “breakthrough” phone that is the “spiritual equivalent” of their very successful line of Surface branded products. Capossela has been with Microsoft for over two decades. He used to write speeches for Bill Gates and is intimately familiar with Microsoft’s many products and strategies.

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ASUS To Include AdBlock Plus On All Phones and Tablets In 2016

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JoeyRox writes: Starting in 2016 Asus will ship all phones and tablets with AdBlock Plus integrated into their mobile browser. The ad-blocking software will not only be pre-installed but enabled by default as well. The move to include ad-blocking software on mobile devices is significant because unlike desktop users the percentage of mobile users presently employing ad-blocking software is very low at approximately 2%.

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Google Planning New Messaging App With AI Chatbots

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An anonymous reader writes: The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is testing a new mobile messaging service. They say one of the defining new features of the service is the inclusion of AI-driven chatbots, which can answer questions asked of them in a conversational manner. Google veteran Nick Fox is reportedly running the team building the messaging service. It’s not clear what will become of Messenger or Hangouts, or when the product will launch. “Google would steer users to specific chatbots, much as its search engine directs users to relevant websites. The move is strategic, because messaging apps and chatbots threaten Google’s role as the Internet’s premier discovery engine.”

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Google Tests Signing Into Accounts Using Your Phone, No Password Required

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An anonymous reader writes: Google’s battle against poor passwords continues. The company is now testing a new Google Account option that lets users login using their phone, skipping the part where you have to enter your password. The feature uses your phone to authenticate your identity by bringing up a notification that allows you to grant or deny access to your account. Google confirmed it was testing the feature with a small group of users.

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Apple To Pay Ericsson Patent Royalties On iPhones and iPads

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itwbennett writes: In settlement of a long-standing dispute over patents that Ericsson considers essential to the implementation of a number of mobile communications standards, including GSM, the 3G standard UMTS and LTE, Apple has agreed to pay Ericsson royalties on sales of iPhones and iPads. While the companies would not disclose further details of their agreement, Ericsson gave a hint about its value. For the full year 2015, Ericsson predicts its intellectual property rights revenue will amount to between 13 billion and 14 billion Swedish krona ($1.64 billion). In comparison, it reported IPR revenue of 10.6 billion krona for the full year 2014, including a 4.2 billion krona lump sum in settlement of a similar global dispute with Samsung Electronics.

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Vivendi Takes Over Radionomy, Winamp Relaunch Now Possible

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SmartAboutThings writes: Winamp could once again be brought back to life after Vivendi Group took over the majority stake in Radionomy, the previous owner of the app who purchased it from AOL in early 2014. AOL originally planned to discontinue both Winamp and Shoutcast, but instead the company decided to sell the software to Belgian online radio service, Radionomy. The new owners initially promised that they’ll keep Winamp alive, but no updates have been released since the takeover, which made most people think that Winamp era has ended for good. Vivendi Group, which owns or is involved in famous companies such as Dailymotion, Ubisoft, and Deezer, could help relaunch Winamp, although the press release announcing the acquisition offers no suggestion in this regard. The company, however, does mention Winamp and Shoutcast as two of the most important assets that will join its portfolio following the takeover.

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