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Coach potatoes of the world, unite. Good morning, Aaron in for Adam on this Thursday, pondering the future of television.
For about the past six months, I’ve been getting my TV fix in a new way, via AT&T’s DirecTV Now service. For only $35 a month, I can watch dozens of cable channels plus HBO and all of my local stations (except puzzlingly PBS, but more on that in a second). There’s no cable box for DirecTV Now–it arrives over the Internet. Just like Netflix or Hulu, you watch via an app on a Roku, Amazon Fire, or Apple TV, which I’m using, connected to your TV set.
The picture quality is just as good as cable and browsing the channel guide on my TV is as easy as pressing the menu button on the Apple TV’s remote and swiping my finger to run through the listings. Many shows are available on demand, so you can click in the guide to watch things that already aired. I didn’t experience any of the technical glitches that hurt the service early on. And DVR capability is coming soon, too.
DirecTV and its competitors, including Google’s YouTube TV and Dish Network’s Sling TV, sure seem like a better deal than cable. The cost is lower, the apps are capable, and the interactive channel guide is great. That’s probably why cord cutting is accelerating. Only 77% of homes with Internet connections subscribed to cable or satellite TV last year, down from 81% in 2016, according to surveys by the research firm Parks Associates.
Still, it’s not a perfect world. My DirecTV Now package includes the local sports network that carries my beloved Celtics basketball games, but not the one with the Red Sox games. And in addition to no public television outlets, all of the local cable content related to my town is missing. PBS has its own app for the Apple TV, complete with content from my local station, so I’m not really missing out. And I can catch up on those zoning board meetings on the web, if I want.
The big question is whether I’ll continue saving so much money over cable. Analysts say AT&T and its peers are losing a ton of money on the Internet TV services, which are priced to attract budget-conscious cord cutters rather than to make a profit for the providers.
That situation can’t last forever. But until something changes, it’s a pretty sweet deal.
Television tango. Speaking of cord cutting, some of the nontraditional options are creating nontraditional bundles. Spotify said it would offer a combined subscription with Hulu’s “limited ad” tier for $13 a month. Separately, the two services cost $18. But Spotify obviously foresees that Apple is preparing a video service to compliment Apple Music and is lining up its own package. At Apple, where music leader Jimmy Iovine is stepping into a consulting role this summer, the company promoted European Oliver Schusser to vice president in charge of the whole service.
Deja vu all over again. Yes, yes, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent another day getting grilled by lawmakers, this time from the House of Representatives. They got the CEO to admit that Facebook collects data on non-users and that his own data was among the haul grabbed by Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg frequently told lawmakers he would have to have his team get back to them with answers. How many times? At least 46, according to a list compiled by Wired. In a probably not unrelated development, Facebook-owned photo sharing service Instagram will begin allowing users to download their data.
Not my problem. New-ish Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi seems to think Zuckerberg’s scandals will make his company look better by comparison. Uber won’t monetize user data it collects, he said. “The fact is that human beings are sometimes good, and sometimes not,” he said in a Today show appearance on Thursday. “I think Silicon Valley is understanding that with building these platforms comes the responsibility to make sure that those platforms are being used for good.”
Skinny bundle. Google has created an Android app to give users with slow Internet connections better access to Google services like search and maps. Google Go, which uses 40% less bandwidth than regular Google searches, is aimed at parts of Africa and other places where high-speed connectivity is hard to find.
Spectacular. Shares of popular messaging service Snap gained 2% on Wednesday after a regulatory filing appeared to show the company has a followup coming to its $130 Spectacles camera glasses. The update will include a faster Wi-Fi connection, according to the filing with the Federal Communications Commission.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Office sharing startup WeWork is expanding into China with a $400 million acquisition of a local competitor called Naked Hub, Bloomberg reported. The deal, WeWork’s second major acquisition, follows its purchase of Singapore-based SpaceMob last August.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
How did the Spectre processor chip security attack get its name? Researcher Paul Kocher, who discovered it, apparently did not mean to connect it to the evil criminal organization in James Bond stories. Rather, it was intended as a play on the words “speculation execution,” the common chip calculating shortcut that gave rise to the vulnerability. Robert McMillan digs into the whole weird world of naming cybersecurity attacks in a feature for the Wall Street Journal. Sometimes, the initial name ends up being a bad fit:
Like astronomers who discover new stars, security experts who first identify computer bugs, viruses, worms, ransomware and other coding catastrophes often get to name their finds. Such discoveries now number in the thousands each year, so crafting a standout moniker can be a serious challenge.
Two years ago, German security firm SerNet GmbH figured a punchy name for their bug discovery would give the company a publicity jolt. They called it Badlock, designed a fractured-lock logo and set up a website. The marketing push backfired when some security experts decided Badlock wasn’t that bad. Cynical hackers called it Sadlock.
“We would not do this again,” says SerNet Chief Executive Johannes Loxen of the branding blitz, which he says was overkill because a relatively small number of people were affected by Badlock.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Vietnam Is Outraged Over a $658 Million Cryptocurrency Scam By David Meyer
Tesla Blames Driver in Latest Fatal Model X Crash By Kirsten Korosec
‘A Fresh, Clean Look.’ Your Gmail Is About to Get a Makeover By David Meyer
Uber Adds Car Rentals, Bikes, Buses, and Trains to App By Kirsten Korosec
BEFORE YOU GO
Opening with a great bit of alliteration (“Slow Motion Ocean“), Scientific American warns that a critical current that brings warmth from the tropics up to the North Atlantic is slowing. You may recall the demise of the “Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation” current was the premise of the climate disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow. Two new studies show the current is slowly weakening, so it’s not threatening an instant ice age, but rather colder weather in Europe, higher sea levels on the U.S. east coast, and depleted fisheries. Oh, is that all?