Following Amazon And Netflix, Rakuten Is Expanding Its Wuaki Video Service Across Europe; First Stop UK (Original)

wuaki.tv in UK

E-commerce giant Rakuten, often called the Amazon of Japan, is taking another step in a bid to square up to is rival: today it is officially launching a beta of its Wuaki video streaming service in the UK, part of what Wuaki’s CEO tells us is a plan to take the service across other countries in Europe.

“The UK is the first stop in Wuaki.tv´s European expansion beyond the company’s home market in Spain. Wuaki.tv has a long term aim of becoming a leader in the European VOD space, and is planning to complete launches in the main European countries, in addition to the UK and Spain, within the next 18-24 months,” Wuaki’s CEO Jacinto Roca told TechCrunch. “A detailed plan will be confirmed in the next few months, following the UK launch and initial feedback and results in that market.”

The UK launch is kicking off with “thousands of hours of movie and TV content,” including titles from Warner Bros., Disney, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and the BBC, among others (some of the specific titles include Disney’s Oz The Great and Powerful and Lincoln, and series like The Tudors and Doctor Who). Subscription prices for those who take up offers this summer will be £2.99 ($4.50) per month, plus an a la carte offering.…

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Vonage Co-Founder And VoIP Pioneer Jeff Pulver’s Next Call: Zula, A WhatsApp For Business (Original)

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Today, whether it be via Skype or Gmail, making phone calls over the web has become part of our daily routine. While the name may not ring any bells for younger generations, Jeff Pulver is one of the pioneers of that very technology we take for granted. A co-founder of Vonage, one of the biggest and earliest VoIP companies around, Pulver is a self-described futurist, serial entrepreneur and long-time evangelist for VoIP technologies. But lately he’s been largely absent from the space he helped create.

But now the Vonage co-founder is throwing his hat back into the ring as an entrepreneur with Zula, a startup and app by the same name that aims to revolutionize team communication for an increasingly mobile world — for those who’ve grown up on smartphones and social networks.

Put simply, Zula, which is still in stealth, is one of that class of business products that is looking to capitalize on the surge of consumer apps that younger people, weaned on smartphones instead of rotary dials, have used for their first forays into virtual communications with others. Pulver wants Zula to follow them into the working world. No surprise then that they’ve privately been calling it the “WhatsApp for businesses

To do that, Pulver has teamed up with co-founder Jacob Ner-David, a serial entrepreneur and communications technology veteran in his own right, who, among other things, co-founded Delta Three, a VoIP provider that he led through a $1 billion IPO on NASDAQ.…

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European smart TV adoption rates compared (Original)

LG Smart TVGermany trails behind other European countries in flatscreen adoption but the UK is a laggard among advanced markets in smart TV penetration, according to a survey of consumers.

According to the survey by Concentra Marketing Research for German consumer electronics trade association the GFU, over a third of Germans, or 34%, have smart TVs, a higher proportion than the UK, where only 21% have smart TVs. Higher proportions have smart TVs in France, with 42%, Turkey, with 40% and Poland, with 36%. Other laggards include the Netherlands, with 26%, Spain, with 26% and Italy, with 28%.

UK consumers that do have smart TVs are however more likely to connect them to the internet, with 86% hooking up. This compares with 79% of French smart TV owners, 76% of the Dutch and 73% of Turks. Fifty-eight per cent of Germans with smart TVs connect them to the internet.

Smart TV functionality has a significant impact on decisions to purchase TVs in Turkey, Spain and the UK. Price was a significant factor particularly in the Netherlands, Belgium and France, with fewer Germans citing price as a significant factor.

Germany is trailing other countries in Europe when it comes to flatscreen TV adoption, with 80% of Germans now having a flatscreen device in their homes compared with 91% of Britons.…

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Instagram Introduces Photo and Video Embeds (Original)

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Instagram added the ability to embed photos and videos on Wednesday

Users can find the embed button — available only on desktop — on the right side of public photos or videos. The button provides a code users can insert into blogs and articles.

Instagram, which added video capabilities in June, had lacked the embed feature — unlike rival video service Vine. Vine introduced the embed option in March. Instagram users who have their accounts set to private, however, won't see the embed option.

"Your embedded photo or video appears with your Instagram username, and clicking on the Instagram logo will take people to your page on Instagram.com where they can discover more of your photos and videos," Instagram said in an announcement Read more...

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Smart TVs get ‘thumbs down’ (Original)

LG Smart TVSmart TVs are getting a “thumbs-down from early adopters,” with viewers preferring to use tablets, smartphones and other connected devices to access online media, according to Strategy Analytics.

A new study by the research firm, called ‘online video lead adopters bypass the smart TV with personal devices,’ claims that while half the surveyed sample had bought a smart TV in the past three years “no one was found to be using it as their main source for connected media entertainment” as other devices were deemed easier to use.

Early adopters who had not purchased a smart TV yet were “concerned that these products were not ready to deliver an adequate experience,” and were happy to continue using other connected devices instead, the report said.

It added that while traditional TV will continue to play a key role in the home, people will “increasingly rely on the convenience of personal devices and OTT TV/video services” to support their entertainment needs.

“OEMs and app developers are failing to provide smart TV users with apps and services that enhance the TV experience. Furthermore, an intuitive remote that works fluidly with the UI and provides ease of text input with an integrated touchscreen is imperative to consumers finding the apps and services functional on a TV,” said Strategy Analytics senior analyst for the firm’s user experience practise, Taryn Tulay.…

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Google Brings Voice Calling Back to Gmail, Now Under Hangouts (Original)

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Gmail users who upgraded Google Talk to Hangouts back in May were up in arms after discovering that doing so removed the ability to make voice calls. Google addressed this issue on Tuesday after it finally introduced voice calls to Hangouts.

"For those of you who have taken the plunge and are using desktop Hangouts in Gmail, Google+ and the Chrome extension, we've heard loud and clear that you miss the ability to make calls from Gmail, so today, we're happy to announce it's back," Alex Wiesen, a senior software engineer, wrote in a blog post.

Citing new features such as adding multiple phone numbers and video participants to the same call, as well as playing sound effects with the Google Effect app, Wiesen said the newly dubbed "Hangouts calling" is "better than before." He added that calls to the U.S. and Canada are free from countries where Hangouts calling is available, while international rates are reasonably priced Read more...

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Google Wallet Launches Promotion With Popular Android Apps In A Bid To Increase Its Brand Recognition (Original)

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Several Android apps are offering discounts for customers using Google Wallet’s “Buy with Google” button as the company tries to ramp up adoption of its payment processing service. The button, which allows 2-click checkouts on mobile apps, is one of the strategies Google is deploying in its multi-pronged attack on PayPal’s dominance.

While the “Buy with Google” button for Android allows Google Wallet to leverage the world’s most popular mobile operating system, relatively few merchants are using it. These include airbnb, Expedia, Fancy, newegg.com (mobile site also), priceline.com, Ruelala, Tabbedout and Uber, all of which are currently offering promotions to customers who checkout using Google Wallet. Other apps with the button include Booking.com, GoPago, NFC Task Launcher and Wrapp.

The company unveiled the Google Wallet Instant Buy Android API in May, which gives merchants and developers selling physical goods and services (as opposed to in-app purchases of virtual items like those sold in games) the ability to offer customers a 2-click checkout with payment credentials stored on Google Wallet.

Google announced in May that it will shut down Google Checkout on November 20. The move is part of the company’s efforts to focus on turning Google Wallet into a PayPal rival and followed several moves by Google to retool its checkout process for the Web, mobile Web, Android apps and more.…

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Dropbox Now Has 175 Million Users, Up From 100M In November 2012 (Original)

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“Today is about making life easier for all of you” said CEO Drew Houston to launch his company Dropbox’s conference. The company now has 175 million users, up from 100 million in November 2012. DBX also saw the launch of several new APIs for the 100,000 apps on the Dropbox platform

The platform, in fact, seemed to be the theme of Houston’s keynote. Unifying your data across all the apps and devices you use is the goal. Houston said “We have all these companies making all this amazing stuff, but they’re punching each other in the face.” He went on to explain that your phone and your apps are new little cracks for your stuff to fall into, where your stuff can get trapped. Dropbox wants to make it all instantly accessible from anywhere.

Houston said that while there wouldn’t be anyone skydiving into the conference hall in San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center, he did tell us to reach under our seats to find a promo card for 100 gigabytes of Dropbox storage for life.

Announcements at the event included the Datastore API for letting apps save and protect user data added or changed while their device is offline. Meanwhile, the new Drop-Ins with native Chooser and Saver let apps easily pull in your files from your Dropbox into their apps.…

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Mobile, tablet TV revenues to hit $9.5bn ‘within four years’ (Original)

iPad miniRevenues from mobile and tablet television streaming is set to rocket to nearly US$10 billion (€7.8 billion) by 2017, according to a new report.

Streaming and download services on mobile and tablet devices revenues will reach US$9.5 billion within four years, up from US$4.5 billion this year, according to Juniper Research.

“In order to be truly successful in the future, I think we will see players emerge who are prioritising their customers’ preferences; they will do this by utilising cloud technology, allowing consumers to resume playback on different devices, and enabling offline viewing,” said Sian Rowlands, author of the Mobile & Tablet TV Video: Content, Broadcast & OTT Strategies 2013 report.

The key three markets for mobile and tablet TV and video will be North America, Western Europe and the Far East and China, whose combined revenue share will comprise more than 80% of the total. Latin America is also expected to become a key player, with the football World Cup and the Olympics being held in Brazil in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

However, the report warns mobile operators will come under increasingly pressure to improve their network capacity in order to delivery high quality video, while at the same time attracting revenues from usage.…

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Cloud, mobility to fuel SDN adoption (Original)

The blurring of boundaries between networks and devices stemming from the cloud trend is one factor behind the drive toward software defined networking in enterprise networks.

Manually administered networks can be a barrier to any cloud move due to the latter's need for agility, and SDN holds potential for lifting this barrier. Recently, NTT Communications announced its SDN-based cloud migration service that touts the ability for speed up the move from legacy to enterprise cloud.

SDN's purported promise of automation within the network is expected to facilitate the self-select and automatic provisioning process that is part of any business seeking to go on the cloud today, says Mike Banic, VP for global marketing at HP Networking.

SDN remains a relatively new concept in the networking industry but benefits touted include the elimination of what Gartner analyst Mark McDonald terms 'human middleware', the IT professionals whose job in the network consists primarily inputting command lines and scripting. SDN boasts the ability for the command line input and scripting procedures to be applied to the network as a whole.

This function signifies greater efficiency in the data center as the cloud, BYOD and Big Data have resulted in a large number of devices that have placed strain on both networks and IT administrators.…

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