Windows Phone v8.1. Arriving Earlier Than Expected


While they are only the third most prominent mobile operating system provider in the world (albeit in a market where it is an extremely difficult task to place any higher if your name does not begin with ‘A’), Microsoft will be aiming at the very least to cement that position with the release of their latest operating system update, one that is now believed to be arriving earlier than originally anticipated.

windows_phone_v.8.1._redesignedThe development, known simply as ‘Windows Phone 8.1‘, has been launched recently in a ‘developer build’ format ahead of widespread release.

However, it is set to be seen by public eyes prior to that, with users who can log into the ‘Windows Phone App Studio’ with a Microsoft Account ID entitled to access of a unique ‘preview app’ that offers a taster of what the updates will have to come. However, the sneak peek will not be without some risk, with use of the trial voiding any warranty the device carries until the full software updates are in place for widespread consumption.

The updates in question are believed to include, in the American market at least (though believed to be worked around by changing the region/country settings on the product being used), the debut of Microsoft’s Apple/Siri-competitor ‘virtual assistant’ ‘Cortana’, already usable for anyone registered as a ‘developer’ within the Windows Phone Dev Centre.

Set to be released later this year, Windows 8.1 will also feature ‘skinned tiles’ on its Start Screen, a new ‘notification centre’, and ‘customised lock screen support’, amongst other features, but will it prove to be a match for something soon moving onto v.8.0, or the greater challenge of whatever candy-based title takes over on the current market-leading range?

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Amazon Add Doctor Who To Instant Video Collection


Proving that the BBC far from limits itself to providing exclusive content to just one major American online streamer within its home UK market, the commercial division BBC Worldwide have dispatched a number of their most high-profile shows to Amazon’s newly-branded Prime Instant Video platform.

sherlock_221bAlong with high-profile current programming most prominently including Doctor WhoSherlock, and Call the Midwife, the BBC have also announced a number of classic comedies such as Only Fools and Horses, The Office, and the Blackadder franchise, amongst others, including more recently-ended programming including Life on Mars.

The non-exclusive deal between the online retailers and the region’s leading public broadcaster will be seen as a huge launching boost to the Amazon Prime Instant platform who are looking to establish themselves as their own brand after taking over branding from their purchased property LoveFilm.

Whether this transition into an Amazon brand will prove as successful as hoped remains to be seen, but the addition of such high-profile dramas and comedy series to a slate boasting over 15,000 movies and TV shows for subscribers. In competition with Netflix, a key selling point for the in-house subscription is to also provide unlimited next-day delivery for Amazon online retail products and unlimited borrowing of Kindle books, complete at a fixed annual rate of £79.

Also looking to introduce their own-brand ‘Fire TV’ set-top box (that allegedly also functions as a games console and in power is three times greater overall than Google Chromecast and Apple TV), Amazon’s efforts to sell and deliver on their own products as well as everyone else’s is one which they hope will carry on in the form of the latter, and if they succeed you wouldn’t need to be a time lord or a detective to figure out why…

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Game of Thrones Interactive Map Rolled Out

Utilising energies that could be well-invested in helping to upgrade real maps, a group of TV fans have produced a ‘fully interactive’ guide map to HBO‘s leading show Game of Thrones.

game_of_thrones_interactive_mapUtilising the same API as Google Maps, the website known as Quarter Maester has revealed production that enables followers of the series and its original novels by George R.R. Martin to ‘trace the routes’ undertaken throughout Westeros by different characters on their respective stories through the series, with key stopping points identified by markers providing further information on request.

Ever-mindful of giving away potential spoilers, the map creators have also included a tool that enables users to select the current point in the books or series that they are ‘at’, meaning the journeys represented are shown only to that point in the overall story.

In addition to being able to toggle their respective paths, each character and constituency of Westeros featured is provided with a direct link to their profile on the ‘Wiki of Ice and Fire’ show wikia site, which on virtual paper completes the most complete and immersive fan-made service that a follower of the show could ask for.

The Quarter Maester site is noted as being the spiritual successor to the previous leading map made by an internet user by the name of ‘serMountainGoat’ (who has presumably resurfaced here), an effort praised by George R.R. Martin, who stated: “This is a very handsome map. And based on the information you have, it’s quite good.”

The creators of this map can expect to be working overtime when it comes to drawing their overlays over the next few weeks, with the fourth season of Game of Thrones currently occurring and being lined up for several more. The current set has been promised big things by producers, but will they translate easily in cartographic form?

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Netflix Streaming Gets 66% Faster With Comcast Deal

Now that the Netflix deal with Comcast to supply a higher speed streaming service has kicked in, the service is seeing blindingly fast results for customers that use the Comcast network for internet tv watching.

Netflix-membersThe results are that the 21 million homes that rely on the Comcast connection are getting videos streaming at an average rate of 2.5 megabits per second compared to 1.5 in January. An increase of around 66%.

Netflix agreed the deal with Comcast back in February to pay interconnection fees of an undisclosed amount. This would improve connection speeds for its 33 million US customers paying $8 monthly for unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows.

The connections speeds result in smooth, high quality picture and a lack of interruptions and buffering. The improved performance beats the best previous recorded monthly high of 2.17 mps recorded by Netflix for November 2012.

Although Netflix were resisting paying Internet Service Providers (ISPs) extra for speed improvements, they had no real choice. Prior to the Comcast agreement, Netflix used third parties to deliver traffic using companies like Cogent Communications. But now Netflix pays directly to the provider, and they are said to be negotiating with other providers such as Verizon.

Netflix said that the improved speeds show a, “a great illustration of how performance can improve when ISPs work to connect directly to Netflix.”

For Comcast’s part, they see it as unfair that they should have to burden the load for the massive amount of data shifted by streaming users at the expense of other customers, and that Netflix should shoulder some of the cost to deliver video that accounts for almost a third of the webs downloading activity during peak times.

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Dailymotion Prepare Portal Into Original Content

As any slightly video-based website worth their salt seems to have some sort of original content on display for viewers, Dailymotion have decided that the time is right to launch their first-ever show.

dailymotion_logoThe French-based video sharing website chose at the end of last week to announce their first-ever ‘original scripted drama series’, a concept known as Portal.

Not to be confused with the innovative video game series, Portal is a new 6-episode drama with 15-minute installments, focusing on a world where all social media has been banned.

Such an unthinkable society is being brought to screen by executive producer Mark Ashmore of Future Artists, with the schedule planning a September release date towards a prime potential audience on the site, which carries an average of 250 million unique users monthly.

Harriet Fuest, Dailymotion’s ‘director of content and partnerships’, summarised: “Commissioning original content is good for our brand identity. House of Cards generated a significant number of subscribers for Netflix, so it makes sense for us to play in the space, too. We are not a broadcaster, so we won’t be focusing all of our efforts on it, but it is important to try it out. There is an opportunity for us, because YouTube is not prioritising drama and Netflix is a subscription service.”

With a theatrical release for the show also said to be in the planning stages, it appears as though Dailymotion have big plans for their Portal format, but will it be enough to make them stand out in the internet video market? In lieu of any content related to that show at present, please enjoy the following trailers for the series better associated with the name:


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BBC Mark 20 Years Of Online Presence

In a month which like many others will be commemorating a milestone anniversary (some more sombre than others), the BBC have one of their own in the field of broadcasting – having officially marked 20 years of online presence as of Sunday (13 April).

bbc_networking_club_beginningsTheir launch of ‘The BBC Networking Club’, which occurred on 13 April 1994, is notable for being one of the first media organisations or TV networks in the world to carry their own website, and while access was a little more limited than it is today, would offer some of the world’s first tastes of mainstream (audio) streaming with the inclusion of live BBC Radio 5 Live coverage the next year in 1995.

The Networking Club, between its launch and moving aside for a more rounded and news-centric BBC website in 1997, was notable as a ‘not-for-profit subscription website‘ carrying basic social networking features such as bulletin boards and organisation information, the launch of which was claimed to be timed to coincide with ‘educational TV series’ The Net, joined later by other popular programmes.

Other notable milestones for the BBC online have included the launch of a dedicated ‘BBC Sport’ subsection in 1996 (co-inciding with that year’s Summer Olympic Games), and the BBC iPlayer in 2007, though video generally in more shortened form would be a feature of the BBC website between those two dates.

As the online service in both news, features, and streaming continues to evolve across a range of mediums and methods, the public broadcaster commemorated their origins in a ceremony on Friday (11 April), featuring former BBC staff part of The Networking Club, including  Martha Lane Fox, John Naughton, and JP Rangaswami.

BBC Future Media director Ralph Rivera summarised: “The BBC was there at the beginning, helping to usher in a whole host of online technologies that are now ingrained in our everyday lives. The web certainly looked different back then but it has retained the same potential to change our lives for the better, and we continue to be at the forefront of this exciting industry. We’re continually looking at how we can use the technology of tomorrow to bring even better services to our audiences today, and help improve access to information and entertainment.”

While it remains to be seen what the BBC’s online presence will look like after their 40th anniversary, rest assured they will try to make it an ‘appy’ two decades…

For those wishing for a bit of nostalgia after that potential vision of the potential future, fire up your Wayback Machine to 88 kb/h and take a look at the earliest BBC pages the Internet Archives have on record