Xbox Entertainment Studios is doomed, original online programming efforts are not

James Careless , TechHive

James Careless has been covering the Internet since the days of 1200 baud modems. His credits include Business Week, KM World, Network World, PCWorld, and Streaming Media.
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Depending on your point of view, Microsoft’s decision to close down its Xbox Entertainment Studios barely two months after detailing launch plans for its original programming is a) a quick and cowardly rout, b) a wise strategic withdrawal, or c) proof that the company was never really committed to the online video space in the first place. You be the judge.

What the sudden closing of Microsoft’s Xbox Entertainment Studios should not be seen as is an indicator that other companies plan to dial back their efforts to develop more original online video.

Last week, Microsoft announced plans to shutter its fledgling effort to produce original online content for its Xbox consoles, instead choosing to refocus Xbox efforts on gaming. Some of the projects in the works will continue, most notably the live-action series based on Halo, and some of top executives will remain to see those projects through. But the ambitious programming plans Microsoft laid out earlier this year are dead in the water.

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Google reportedly seals deal to gobble up Twitch for $1 billion

Hayden Dingman , TechHive Follow me on Google+

It's been nearly two months since Variety and The Wall Street Journal reported Google was "in talks" to purchase popular games streaming site Twitch.tv for a billion dollars. According to VentureBeat, we can now upgrade the status from "in talks" to "sealed deal."

The report is unconfirmed currently, with VentureBeat only citing "sources familiar with the matter," but it'd hardly be a surprise if true. Details are scarce though—neither company has spoken on the matter, and there's no news of whether just Twitch or all of the empire formerly know as Justin.tv is also part of the deal. We also don't know whether YouTube's own streaming service would continue to function separately from Google. Here's hoping that if the acquisition rumors are true, Google+ won't become mandatory for Twitch accounts.

I stand by what I said back in May: Google's acquisition of Twitch is not necessarily bad for streamers. Despite Google's somewhat overbearing attitude towards copyright enforcement and Google+, there's no denying that Google has both the cash and knowledge to upgrade Twitch's infrastructure, turn it into a more robust service, and pay more streamers for their work. As long as Twitch is given space to function and the money to expand, the Google acquisition could be a great opportunity.

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The Binge-Watch List: Ricky Gervais is actually, alarmingly quite sweet in Derek

Monty Ashley Writer, TechHive Follow me on Google+

Monty Ashley lives in Seattle, where he watches movies and television, reads books, and plays games. He's trying to learn Latin, for reasons known only to him. He has written for Wizards of the Coast, Television Without Pity, and Previously.TV, and podcasts with The Incomparable.
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It’s not hard to find TV shows to watch these days. But finding good ones to watch amid all the streaming video services fighting for your attention and your eyeballs? That’s more of a challenge. Every other week, we’ll help you separate a would-be House of Cards from the rest of the pack, as we look at which streaming TV shows are worth your time.

Ricky Gervais has made quite a career out of playing unpleasant people. On the original UK version of The Office, he played a deluded, sadistic boss. On Extras, he played a frustrated, angry actor. On The Ricky Gervais Show, he created a podcast largely built around himself and Stephen Merchant mocking their weird friend Karl Pilkington. When he’s hosted the Golden Globes, he’s made headlines by being slightly meaner than is normally acceptable in the context of a back-slapping award show. So it’s surprising that his latest show, Derek (allegedly a “Netflix Original” but really created for Channel 4 in Britain), is a nice, sweet show, featuring Gervais as Derek Noakes, a nice, sweet character.

It’s even more surprising that a show that Americans could only watch on Netflix streaming got Gervais an Emmy nomination earlier this month for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy. (He’s up against Jim Parsons [The Big Bang Theory], William H. Macy [Shameless], Matt LeBlanc [Episodes], Louis C.K. [Louie], and Don Cheadle [House of Lies]. Of the six nominated actors, only Parsons is on a show that airs on a broadcast network. Louie is on FX, and all the rest are on Showtime, which is apparently the center of Emmy-approved comedy these days.)

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Google celebrates Chromecast anniversary with 90 days of free music

Derek Walter Contributor, Greenbot Follow me on Google+

Derek Walter is a freelance technology writer based in Northern California. He is the author of "Learning MIT App Inventor," a hands-on guide to building your own Android apps.
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Google is using the one-year anniversary of its Chromecast to lure more customers to its Play Music All Access streaming service.

Current and new Chromecast owners can get 90 days free and then continue at $10 per month thereafter. The promotion is available only in the U.S. If you are a current Chromecast owner, head the Chromecast offers page. It will then find your Chromecast if it is connected to your WiFi network and generate an offer for you to claim. Unfortunately, the offer does not apply to those who are currently Play Music All Access subscribers.

chromecast dongle Derek Walter

The Chromecast plugs into a TV’s HDMI port and casts content from the Chrome browser or variety of Android and iOS apps.

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How a Netflix subscriber used VPN to thwart Verizon's streaming slowdown

James Careless , TechHive

James Careless has been covering the Internet since the days of 1200 baud modems. His credits include Business Week, KM World, Network World, PCWorld, and Streaming Media.
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It is an accepted network truism that the more hops you add to a signal path, the slower your traffic will be. This should apply to everything, including streaming Netflix over Verizon.

Customer.io CEO and co-founder Colin Nederkoorn certainly thought this was the case. However, when Nederkoorn compared the performance of Netflix streamed directly over Verizon Fios to that same stream over VPN—an experiment he documented on his personal blog to much social media fanfare—he got a shock. The directly-streamed Netflix was far slower than the VPN-connected download, defying that extra hop truism. It’s as if someone revoked Moore’s Law.

The nitty-gritty: Using widely-available free tools, Nederkoorn first measured the download speed of Netflix coming in directly through Verizon Fios, and then through VyprVPN over Verizon.

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Don't panic! Microsoft isn't killing its Video and Music stores

Brad Chacos Senior Writer, PCWorld Follow me on Google+

Brad Chacos spends the days jamming to Spotify, digging through desktop PCs and covering everything from BYOD tablets to DIY tesla coils.
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First, Microsoft axed its video-producing Xbox Entertainment Studios and spun off Nokia's MixRadio streaming radio service as part of its devastating round of layoffs, which will see 18,000 jobs cut over the next year. Then, during Tuesday night's portentous quarterly earnings call with analysts and investors, CEO Satya Nadella dropped this little bomb:

"With our decision to specifically focus on gaming, we expect to close Xbox entertainment studios and streamline our investments in music and video. We will invest in our core console gaming in Xbox live with a view towards the broader PC and mobile opportunity."

The ominous questions started immediately. Is Microsoft going to put its Xbox Video and Xbox Music services out to pasture, too?

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Why Simpsons World will destroy the U.S. but not Canada

Philip Michaels Editor, TechHive Follow me on Google+

Philip has covered the Mac market since 1999, with a focus on the iPhone, iPad and iOS in recent years. In all that time, he has never tested a fart app.
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Earlier this week, we brought you word of Simpsons World, the forthcoming app and website that promises to bring humanity to a standstill with on-demand access to every episodes of The Simpsons along with extensive search and supplemental features.

Think I’m exaggerating about that? Then behold this chilling promo from FXX, the cable channel ushering in our doom, which imagines a world in which we can watch 552 Simpsons episodes whenever we darn well feel like it.

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