The Supreme Court heard the legal arguments in American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo this week, a case that pits traditional over-the-air broadcast television companies against the feisty TV-streaming start-up with the wee antenna farms. Legal eagles and advocacy groups are watching closely and everyone awaits the Court’s decision, which is expected by June.
Creative types have some new outlets for expression. Serious photographers are buzzing about the new camera from Lytro and the Blurb service has made it easier for photographers and other visual artists to sell their works directly on Amazon.
And on the subject of Amazon, Bloomberg News is reporting on a study that shows Amazon’s sales numbers are down in states that collect online sales tax. (About 20 states currently tax Amazon purchases.) Perhaps the company can make up the loss in spectacular smartphone sales. The Boy Genius Report site has more details on what it claims to be Amazon’s upcoming handset, including tilting gestures for control and navigation. (Could the smartphone UI paradigm be tilting — or maybe even shifting — as well?)
Even before its planned merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast continues to get larger. The company reported that its subscriber numbers were up for the second straight quarter, adding 24,000 new customers.
Comcast’s increasing size is what is driving monopoly fears in some people about the Time Warner Cable acquisition, and Netflix is one of the more recent companies to come out and voice its opposition to the pending deal. In a letter to its shareholders this week, Netflix said that with the decline of DSL in the broadband space, a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable would have more than 60 percent of the broadband in US households. Comcast quickly put up a response to Netflix on its website, claiming that “Netflix’s opposition to our Time Warner Cable transaction is based on inaccurate claims and arguments.” (Also mentioned in that Netflix shareholder letter: prices for new subscribers are about to get higher. )
Google has been making noise about bringing superfast Internet fiber to 34 cities in nine major metropolitan areas, but now AT&T is jumping into the game and says it’s considering adding its own fast fiber to 100 cities in 21 major metro areas. Nothing has been built yet, but AT&T is at least talking about it.
Google has other things on its plate besides fast fiber. The company has combined SMS text and Hangout chats into the same conversation so everything’s all in the same place. That’s new with the Hangouts 2.1 app for Android. The Venturebeat site quotes sources at The Goog who say the company is looking into ways to make end-to-end encryption tools like PGP easier to use with Gmail so that users can keep their mail locked up against prying eyes from the government or otherwise.
If you abandoned an old AOL mail account for Gmail back in the day — or even if you still use AOL — you may see messages from your old address spewing spam across the Internet this week. The AOL Mail site was hacked over the weekend and spoofed accounts are sending phishing mail to addresses on AOL contacts lists. AOL has confirmed the hacking and said accounts had also been spoofed by spammers.
And finally, it was Earth Day this week, and Apple took the opportunity to announce that it has free recycling for all used Apple products and says it plans to power all of its stores, data centers and offices with renewable energy sources. The company’s redesigned Environmental Responsibility site has a video clip narrated by CEO Tim Cook that outlines Apple’s approach to green living. Critics of Apple’s approach point out that the company video neglects to mention that most of its products are built in China and that many Apple products are difficult to repair, especially for the do-it-yourself crowd who strives to keep old gear functioning and out of landfills. Hopefully, the Mighty Oak of Sustainability will one day grow out of Apple’s Acorn of 2014 Environmental Promises — or at least they’ll start designing gear with long-lasting batteries that are easy to replace and recycle.