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Scott Ertz Netflix will restrict its apps on some Samsung and Roku devices
Netflix will restrict its apps on some Samsung and Roku devices One of the biggest concerns about cloud-powered software services is the longevity of those platforms. With standard software, you can use it for as long as you want. Take, for example, Photoshop. If you purchased a copy of Photoshop from Adobe in 1989 and continued to have a computer on which you could use it, it would continue to operate today, 30 years later. However, if you subscribe to Photoshop CC today, that version may be terminated from operation at any moment.

The most common way that consumers interact with cloud services is through their streaming video services. This week, the software as a service retirement issue is going to hit home for some Netflix users, as their devices will be officially unsupported. It's not going to apply to modern or highly popular devices, but it will apply to some high profile devices, including Samsung and Vizio TVs and Roku set-top boxes. According to a Netflix representative,

On December 2nd, Netflix will no longer be supported on a small number of older devices due to technical limitations. We've notified all impacted members with more information about alternative devices we support so they can keep enjoying Netflix uninterrupted.

Netflix has claimed that the move is because of the technical limitations of these older devices. As Netflix has continued to improve the features of its platform, it would make sense that older devices might produce some new challenges. When the company introduced the choose your own adventure story Bandersnatch, it was only made available on certain platforms. This created a user experience issue, as well as a technical issue, having to limit the reach of a particular media item. The introduction of the ability to skip political jokes in the new Seth Meyers standup special could have brought this technological divide back to light.

While this might be an immediate disappointment to those who own these devices and use them to stream Netflix, continued development for older devices is an unnecessary expense, especially if there are issues with the capabilities of those devices in general. For those affected, there are some inexpensive solutions to the problem, including the Roku Premiere, which is currently $30.
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Scott Ertz Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi government
Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi government For the first time, the American government has charged Saudis for spying within the United States. The charges come against two former Twitter employees who are accused of using their positions within the company to collect information and send it back to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The indictment specifically cites that these individuals acted as unregistered agents and submitting falsified documents to the Federal Bureau of Investigations to support their continued activities within the United States.

Three individuals were named, though only two were charged. The first is US citizen Ahmad Abouammo, who left Twitter in 2015 of his own accord. The second is Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi citizen, who was confronted by Twitter about his activities and put on leave from the company. He fled the country the next day, sending a letter of resignation to Twitter from the flight home. The third is Ahmed al Mutairi, also a Saudi citizen, who acted as an intermediary for the "invisible hand" of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The way it worked is that starting in 2014, Abouammo and Alzabarah, working for Twitter, collected information about users at the behest of Al Mutairi. While many of those who were investigated were Saudi citizens, others were simply critical of the Saudi government or Bin Salman himself. The collected information included the standard email addresses and IP addresses but also extended to browsers and device information. With this combined data, the Saudi government could potentially be able to track the movements of these people via their computers and mobile devices.

This issue highlights several issues in the technology industry. The first revolves around the amount of data that employees of software companies can have about the users of that software. If this exact scenario had happened in a company like Uber, the government could have tracked the movements of those they considered dissenters. On the other side, it also brings up the issue of hiring people with strong ties to foreign governments, especially those with a history of violating its citizens' privacy.
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Scott Ertz China implements a gaming curfew to fight videogame addiction
China implements a gaming curfew to fight videogame addiction Over the past few years, gaming addiction has become an increasingly hot topic. While there has been a lot of debate on the validity of the topic, both in the general population and among mental health professionals, some have taken a hard stance. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been known to overreact to some circumstances, has declared it a mental health disorder.

The WHO has not taken the strongest stance against gaming addiction, though. The Chinese government is working to implement a new videogame curfew system for all minors. While there have been curfew systems in the past, implemented by consoles, operating systems, and game makers themselves, they have all been parentally enforced. This would be the first major governmentally enforced videogame curfew.

The rules in question are beyond strict. Anyone under 18 years of age will not be allowed to play any online games between the hours of 10 pm and 8 am. During the other, permitted hours, only 90 minutes of gaming will be allowed on weeknights and 180 minutes on weekends and holidays. In addition to a restriction on time, there will also be a restriction on monthly spending. Under 16 will be restricted to $29 and under 18 will be restricted to $57 per month. The BBC report does not discuss the possible implications for standard offline POC titles, which would be harder to police than online and mobile games, which would have a much easier process for monitoring.

This move comes as the Chinese gaming market is quickly becoming one of the largest in the world with a lot of global influence. There are several large Chinese game developers, as well as one Chinese company, Tencent, which has been investing heavily in game companies. These investments include Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, Glu Mobile, and complete ownership of Riot Games. This policy could have a direct effect on the bottom line of these companies that Tencent has an interest in.
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Scott Ertz The Dream is not over, Google open-sources Cardboard VR platform
The Dream is not over, Google open-sources Cardboard VR platform I was just a few weeks ago that Google officially ended the experiment that was Google Daydream. With that, the era of phone-based virtual reality was officially dead. The two big companies in the space, Google and Samsung, were out, leaving the market void. However, consumers and developers were still interested in the concept - just not as intensely as several years ago.

This week, recognizing the interest in the concept, Google decided to re-release their former VR platform, Google Cardboard, as an open-source project. The move is not unusual for Google, which has frequently open-sourced former products and projects that had failed the marketplace (Google Wave, anyone). By releasing Cardboard into the wild, the Dream of phone-based VR could still live on.

The problem, however, is that a community of developers will have to want to take on the challenge of maintaining the project. Sure, Google Wave, later known as Apache Wave, lived on for 6 more years, it was eventually put out to sea because of lack of interest. That could also be the fate of Cardboard, as it was discontinued for a reason.

However, virtual reality is a far more attractive product than online collaboration to individual developers. VR is a space where individuals can make an impact, and an open-source framework could make it easier for developers to build their first VR apps because it would reduce the cost of learning and deploying. Plus, for those who want to participate inexpensively, Cardboard would still be a way to accomplish it.

If the open-source platform is going to be any more successful than Wave, however, it is going to need someone to build a headset for it that is better than homemade. The likelihood of that now that it is no longer commercial, is unlikely. So, as we said with Wave - goodbye.
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Scott Ertz PlayStation Vue is looking for a new home, but might have trouble
PlayStation Vue is looking for a new home, but might have trouble The streaming video space has gone from a two brand system to being overcrowded. We always knew that it was inevitable that brands would begin to dry up and begin to either close, shift owners, or merge with other platforms. Disney+ and Hulu, both to be owned by Disney, have begun running cross-promotions. AT&T TV Now subscribers have seen repeated price increases, now higher than cable.

This week, another streaming service is looking for a change. Sony is looking for a new owner for its ailing PlayStation Vue brand. According to The Information, Sony has begun working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch to facilitate the sale of the brand. The sale comes at a time in which Sony is trying to shed brands that don't add to their bottom line or help to maintain other brands. For Vue, with a smaller subscriber base and a newcomer to distribution, the cost of content was always going to be higher for them. This has resulted in the company raising prices to be profitable. However, as is always the case, it ended up driving customers away.

The brand, from the beginning, was a bizarre experiment from the company on every front. While Sony has always been involved in the production and corporate distribution of television content, they have never really done direct-to-consumer distribution. They also decided to follow Microsoft's lead and try to place their new entertainment brand under their gaming banner. This decision was made as Microsoft was already pulling the Xbox name off of Xbox Music and Xbox Videos. In the end, this branding decision will ultimately make the sale more difficult. There is no way that Sony allows another company to operate a product with the PlayStation name, but a buyer won't want to completely abandon the consumer awareness of the product with a new name.
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