Weekend news round-up: digital TV revolution stalls, the story behind the Snowden story

9 Dec 2013

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden

From the weekend’s tech news, lessons arise from Intel’s attempt to revolutionise TV, the real story about revelations from former CIA contractor Edward Snowden, and former BlackBerry workers and associates on the death of a dream.

Lessons to be learned from slow start to digital TV revolution

Intel’s attempt to revolutionise TV as we know it may have ended in failure and an impending sell off of its OnCue division, but this doesn’t mean players like Apple, Google and Sony can’t succeed on their own terms, CNET reported.

“Intel is just one company attempting — and failing — to change the TV industry, underscoring the difficulties involved with convincing the major players to move out of their comfortable and lucrative business models. There are lessons that can be gleaned from Intel’s botched project, lessons that should be heeded by the likes of Apple, Google, and Sony, which are all said to be chasing the same vision.

“Their goal is to leap onto the biggest screen in the household, where Americans still spend the majority of their time watching media, and deliver what cable and satellite companies do now and more, all in one.”

But what is Netflix really up to?

While the tech giants attempt to ensure a lucrative revenue stream for the future, online streaming player Netflix also has its eye on the prize but is doing things differently; it is declaring war on mass culture, reported New Republic.

“For the past two years, the Silicon Valley company has been making a major push into original programming, putting out an ambitious slate of shows that have cost Netflix, which had profits of $17 million in 2012, hundreds of millions of dollars. Because of the relative quality of some of those series, such as ‘House of Cards’ (a multiple Emmy winner) and ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ they’ve been widely interpreted as part of an attempt to become another HBO. Because every episode of every show is made available to watch right away, they’re also seen as simply a new twist in on-demand viewing. But in fact the company has embarked upon a venture more radical than any before it. It may even be more radical than Netflix itself realises.”

The story behind the Snowden story

RollingStone.com carried a fascinating profile of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, the two men who broke what could be the story of the decade during the summer.

“Early one morning last December, Glenn Greenwald opened his laptop, scanned through his e-mail, and made a decision that almost cost him the story of his life. A columnist and blogger with a large and devoted following, Greenwald receives hundreds of e-mails every day, many from readers who claim to have “great stuff.” Occasionally these claims turn out to be credible; most of the time they’re cranks. There are some that seem promising but also require serious vetting. This takes time, and Greenwald, who starts each morning deluged with messages, has almost none. ‘My inbox is the enemy.’”

The rise and fall of BlackBerry

BusinessWeek put together an oral history of the rise and fall of smartphone player BlackBerry. BusinessWeek spoke to dozens of current and former BlackBerry employees, vendors, and associates.

“In 1984, Mike Lazaridis, an engineering student at the University of Waterloo, and Douglas Fregin, an engineering student at the University of Windsor, founded an electronics and computer science consulting company called Research In Motion, or RIM. For years the company tinkered in obscurity, until it focused on a breakthrough technology: an easy, secure, and effective device that allowed workers to send and receive e-mails while away from the office. They called it the BlackBerry.

“RIM grew into one of the world’s most valuable tech companies. The BlackBerry became the indispensable accessory of business executives, heads of state, and Hollywood celebrities – until iPhone and Android came along and spoiled the party.”

Verizon to spend US$350m on EdgeCast

Verizon is to acquire content delivery network Edgecast for US$350m, TechCrunch reported.

“Owning EdgeCast, and combining it with the carrier’s global network backbone COMMA, will give Verizon access to EdgeCast’s big-name CDN clients while also extending its reach.

“According to a source, the deal for EdgeCast — which provides CDN services to the likes of Twitter, Pinterest, and Hulu — is expected to be announced in the coming days, and will be worth more than $350 million. Both EdgeCast and Verizon declined to comment on the matter,” TechCrunch reported.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years