Netflix has quickly reversed course on its plan to split its streaming and DVD-by-mail services. Despite confusing customers by flip-flopping on the company’s course of action, the decision will be beneficial for subscribers. If you still rent DVDs and stream movies, you can manage it all from Netflix.com. In other news, social scientists are trying to use the massive amount of data created online to predict the future. The government funded “data eye in the sky” will analyze publicly accessible data like Internet traffic and Wikipedia changes to predict patterns of human activity. And finally, after months of rumors, Facebook has officially launched a native app for the iPad. The app adds better photo browsing, chatting with friends and a more interactive news feed. Perhaps the coolest feature is the ability to play Facebook games in full-screen mode.
Despite an underwhelming response to Apple’s iPhone 4S launch, Verizon and AT&T have already exhausted their pre-order supplies. Sprint still has some models left online, but future purchases won’t ship for up to a month. AT&T stated that this was its most successful iPhone launch to date. In other news, a computer virus has infected the systems of the U.S. predator drone fleet. While the virus hasn’t caused harm to military missions, security experts are currently unable to efficiently remove it. Predator drones have previously suffered from a number of security flaws. And finally, the Department of Homeland Security is testing a pre-crime detection system called the FAST for Future Attribute Screening Technology. The system tracks things like body movements, voice pitch changes, eye movements and breathing patterns to determine if the subject is about to commit a crime.
The Occupy Wall Street protestors have gained large amounts of support despite a lack of traditional media coverage, after turning to social media. Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr are being used to organize supporters, document police action and bring accountability to the movement. In other news, the FCC unveiled a proposal that hopes to bring universal broadband coverage to the nation by the end of the decade. The plan would re-appropriate funds for telephone service, to investments towards broadband infrastructure. Un-served areas could see high-speed Internet as early as next year. And finally, if you bought a “special offers” Kindle, you can now remove Amazon’s ads at a cost. On your Kindle, go to the Manage Your Devices page and click “unsubscribe to Special Offers.” Depending on your model, it will cost between $30 and $40 to make your Kindle ad-free.
Steve Jobs, former CEO and Co-Founder of Apple, has passed away. He was a visionary responsible for transforming the consumer electronics industry and ushered in a new era of digital innovation. From running one of the most successful companies in history to his ability to think outside the box, Steve Jobs will be missed, but not forgotten. In other news, the FCC wants all phones to have GPS by 2018 to aid 911 emergency responses. The FCC gave manufacturers an eight-year timetable to create location-capable handsets starting in 2010. And finally, Microsoft will offer streaming television through Xbox after partnering with Verizon and Comcast for programming. Over 40 television and entertainment companies will provide content including Time Warner, HBO and BBC. Some programming will be free while other content requires a paid Xbox Live account.
Apple announced the new iPhone 4S available for purchase on October 14th. It looks identical to the iPhone 4, but comes packed with better graphics, a faster processor and a higher-quality camera. Other notable features include wireless syncing with iCloud and a virtual assistant called Siri, which allows for a ton of awesome voice commands. In other news, starting October 12th, you can upgrade your iDevices to the newest operating system, iOS 5. The new OS has over 200 updates including a messaging service similar to BBM, Twitter integration and the ability to update your device without plugging it in. And finally, the hacker group Anonymous vows to erase the New York Stock Exchange from the Internet on October 10th. The threat was posted online in support of the Occupy Wall Street protestors after police arrested hundreds marching across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Sprint spent $20 billion to buy 30.5 million iPhones over the next four years, seeing the lack of Apple’s handset as the reason why customers are fleeing. Sprint will have to double its subscribers and move them all to iPhones to profit from this deal. In other news, Walmart will soon offer $30 a month phone plans through T-Mobile, offering unlimited 4G data, texting and 100 minutes of talk time. Data speeds will be slowed to 2G speeds after 5 gigabytes of use, but the plan is contract-free and a good option for heavy data users. And finally, one of the biggest improvements to Apple’s iPhone 5 will be the introduction of Siri’s Personal Assistant Software. The company was purchased by Apple last year and will let users accomplish tasks through voice communication. Steve Jobs equates the technology to artificial intelligence.
The United States Postal Service has posted multi-billion dollar losses since 2007. Snail mail is becoming technologically irrelevant just as the telegraph surpassed The Pony Express. Mail has decreased 47% since 2001 and with serious budget shortfalls the USPS could be nearing extinction. In other news, Kodak is also close to facing bankruptcy problems and has brought in outside help to restructure the company. The 131-year old staple in consumer electronics saw its shares drop 54% on Friday. With point-and-shoot cameras being replaced by mobile phones, Kodak will have to reinvent its product lines. And finally, market research firm iSuppli found that Amazon’s Kindle Fire costs the company about $210 to manufacture. While this loses Amazon $10 per device, the lose money to make money model is definitely going to net them future profit in content sales.
Amazon announced the Kindle Fire, a $200 7-inch tablet computer. The device is Wi-Fi only and an Amazon Prime account gives you access to thousands of e-books and streaming videos. You can also download apps through Amazon’s Android app store. The tablet ships November 15th with pre-orders available now. In other news, a report found that Facebook is saving up to 800 pages of personal information for each one of its users. While this information shouldn’t be shocking, it does mean that hackers could have a field day with such a large volume of stored personal data. And finally, Groupon is quietly entering online retailing by offering discounts on products like Ray Bans, mattresses and TVs. Called Groupon Goods, the deals are being offered in random batches of emails with plans to roll out the full retail section in the future.
Facebook has formed a political action committee in order to make contributions during upcoming elections. The company already has four registered lobbyists in its DC office and is funneling more many than ever into legislative debates. Facebook has already spent over half a million dollars this year lobbying the government. In other news, Microsoft launched the newest release of its mobile operating system called Mango. The upgrade includes over 500 updates including Office applications, and further Skype and Xbox Live integration. If you have a Windows Phone, check Microsoft’s website to find out when your device can be upgraded. And finally, at the Broadband World Forum, Google pressed its initiative to bring free gigabit speed Internet connectivity to the United States. Google is proliferating hi-speed Internet mainly as a way to test its projects that can’t perform on readily available broadband.
Netflix struck a multiyear dear with the DreamWorks Animation studio, bringing animated movies like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda to the streaming service. The deal won’t completely make up for Netflix’s loss of Disney and to make matters worse, the new content won’t be available until 2013. In other news, Google is working with the Israel Antiquities Authority to put the 2,000 year old Dead Sea Scrolls online. Five of the most important scrolls are now available and have been translated to English. Nearly all the scrolls should be available by 2016. And finally, news of Amazon’s keeps surfacing as the company is expected to make its big announcement this Wednesday. New information confirms a 7” backlit touch screen and a look similar to BlackBerry’s PlayBook. Amazon has named it the Kindle Fire, to differentiate it from its other e-readers.