PICKING UP YOUR TAB: AT&T announced a new wrinkle to their data plan, “Sponsored Data,” which will allow app publishers, advertisers or other companies to pay for people’s data usage on certain apps or content. For example, a brand might allow consumers to stream a series of videos on their smartphones for free, without incurring any data charges. “Customers [will] look for the Sponsored Data icon and know the data related to that particular application or video is provided as a part of their monthly service,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility, when talking to The Verge.
PAY TO PLAY: On the surface, this does seem like a win for consumers, as they could get more mobile content each month without worrying about added data fees. But the plan may also create unfair competition among content providers, argues Nilay Patel. In other words, what if large, deep-pocketed content providers pay for data in order to squeeze out competitors? YouTube, backed by Google’s cash pile, might subsidise people’s data usage, and squeeze competitors like Netflix and Vimeo out of audience and revenue. From this perspective, Sponsored Data is mostly a plan to increase AT&T’s revenue. But consumers may look at the short-term benefits and ignore the possible long-term effects on competition and diversity of content. (The Verge)
In other news…
As wearables hit the mainstream, we’ll be seeing more legacy tech companies entering the mix with their own devices. The world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, Intel, unveiled its new wearable computers at CES 2014 — with a smartwatch and fitness-tracking earbud headphones. (The Next Web)
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’re at a crisis point now with regard to the security of embedded systems, where computing is embedded into the hardware itself — as with the Internet of Things. These embedded computers are riddled with vulnerabilities, and there’s no good way to patch them.” — Bruce Schneier speaking on the limitations and the potential security problems with the burgeoning Internet Of Things. (Wired)
The Inside Story Of Snapchat: The World’s Hottest App, Or A $US3 Billion Disappearing Act? (Forbes)
TROUBLE IN PARADISE? Samsung claims that it posted its first decline in quarterly profit for the first time in over two years as sales of its high-margin, flagship Galaxy S4 devices slowed upon the arrival of Apple’s new iPhone 5S and 5C. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
The race for new wireless subscribers continues in the U.S. T-Mobile wants to increase its network coverage, so it will buy a massive amount of unused spectrum from Verizon for a significant $US2.4 billion. (The Verge)
BEYOND THE CLOUD: Chromecast, the TV streaming dongle from Google, limits the content available for streaming largely to what is stored in the cloud. Netgear thinks this is a problem, so they are launching their own TV streaming dongle that also comes equipped with a MicroUSB and MicroSD slot for additional storage. (Gizmodo)
Apple’s iBeacon is starting to be put to use in the real world. inMarket just rolled out iBeacon technology 200 Safeway and Giant Eagle locations in Seattle, San Francisco, and Cleveland. (TechCrunch)
Another good read, from Fast Company — Can Apple’s Angela Ahrendts spark a retail revolution?
CHOOSE YOUR EXPERIENCE: Microsoft reportedly wants to offer smartphone users an opportunity to choose which platform they would like on their device, Windows Phone or a forked Windows version of Android. It would be a clever way to spur Nokia device sales. (The Next Web)
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