Netflix Finally Transitioned to the Cloud. That’s Huge...for Amazon.
Amazon Is Testing Out a Free Sommelier Service. Why Not?
Here's a new service from Amazon you probably didn't predict: The online retail giant has launched a free sommelier service to help customers buy the best wines for their meal.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, the service is—for now at least—only available in Japan. You can call up between midday and 5 p.m. and get free recommendations on the various wines that Amazon offers.
Amazon's Japanese arm sells 9,000 different wines.
The Verge's Sam Byford got to try it himself, and is positive about the experience. "I found her advice to be helpful and easy to understand. She explained the process by which Japanese wine is made, and the palate that makers tend to go for, and that the results tend to be quite light by Western standards," he writes. "It was interesting to hear all of this, particularly as the information was framed by my specific question."
Business Insider has reached out to Amazon to see if and when it will launch out the sommelier service in other countries. It's likely testing it in Japan to see how it performs before investing in rolling it out more widely.
Surprise: You May Actually Be Able to Afford the Tesla Model S
Tesla's next car will be a lot cheaper than previously expected. In fact, it could cost as little as $25,000.
CEO Elon Musk confirmed last year that its first mass market car, the Model 3, would price at about $35,000. However, it wasn't exactly clear until now whether that price would include tax incentives.
Tesla told Bloomberg Tuesday that the $35,000 price tag does not include tax incentives, meaning that with tax refunds included, the car could end up costing only $25,000.
The Model 3 is expected to have a range of about 200 miles per charge and be smaller than the Model S. Tesla is expected to show off the Model 3 at an event at the end of March and begin producing the car by the end of 2017. However, it's unclear if the company will show off the actual car or if they will only show off images.
Regardless, Musk has said a few times recently that he is pleased with how the Model 3 is turning out so far. However, Musk has emphasized that the Model 3 will not have as many features as the Model X.
"I do feel pretty optimistic about the Model 3. The key thing with the Model 3 is higher volume at a lower price. It is a smaller car, and without as many bells and whistles as the Model S or X,"Musk said at a recent event. "But the goal is to have a very compelling, affordable, mass market electric vehicle and I feel pretty good about that goal."
Beyoncé’s “Formation” Gave Red Lobster a Huge Bump in Sales
Red Lobster's sales soared 33 percent on Sunday, one day after Beyoncé released a new song mentioning the seafood chain.
"We're calling it the Beyoncé bounce," Red Lobster spokeswoman Erica Ettori told Business Insider.
In the song, called "Formation," Beyoncé refers to Red Lobster as a reward for sex.
She released the song on Saturday and then performed it during the the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday.
Red Lobster says it trended on Twitter for the first time in history following the song's release. The brand was mentioned on Twitter about 300,000 times over the weekend, including 42,000 times in a single hour, according to the company.
Some restaurants have been offering special Beyoncé-themed drinks, such as a "Bey Breeze," to celebrate.
These Two Hackers Made a Devastating MacBook Virus. So Apple Hired Them as Security Researchers.
Apple has hired two security researchers who previously worked on viruses targeting Mac computers.
LegbaCore founder Xeno Kovah revealed on Twitter in November that he and his partner, Corey Kellenberg, had been hired by Apple to do "low level security." The move went unnoticed until another security researcher revealed it during a presentation at a security conference in December.
LegbaCore was best known for developing a proof-of-concept virus-worm hybrid called Thunderstrike 2 that targeted Mac computers. The worm that Kovah developed was able to spread from MacBook to MacBook, even if the computers were not connected to the Internet.
interesting (and no-doubt unexpected) fact: today was @coreykal and my first day as full time employees of Apple!— Xeno Kovah (@XenoKovah) November 10, 2015
As we were having discussions with Apple in the wake of our presentation this summer...— Xeno Kovah (@XenoKovah) November 10, 2015
...it became clear that Apple had some *very* interesting and highly impactful work that we could participate in— Xeno Kovah (@XenoKovah) November 10, 2015
What did Apple hire us to do? We can’t say. :) Well, we can probably say something like “low level security” (I don’t know our job titles)— Xeno Kovah (@XenoKovah) November 10, 2015
"[The attack is] really hard to detect, it’s really hard to get rid of, and it’s really hard to protect against something that’s running inside the firmware," Kovah told Wired in July.
Kovah's worm virus was the first to attack Macs at the firmware level, according to Wired, which means it targeted the software that boots up before the computer's primary operating system, OS X. It's a valuable kind of attack because it usually can't be detected by antivirus and other security software.
After Thunderstrike 2 installed itself on a target's computer, it could spread to certain peripherals, such as a Apple-branded Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter, which would then spread the virus to other Macs it was plugged into.
But instead of exploiting their findings or selling it to the highest bidder, Kovah and team notified Apple of the vulnerabilities, which have since been fully patched. Although Apple does not pay "bug bounties" to researchers for finding security problems, the high road seems to have worked out for the founders of LegbaCore.
Uber Has a New Logo and It...Uh, What Is That?
Uber unveiled a new logo and app icon on Tuesday. The new look debuted alongside the latest Uber app update, version 2.118.8.
Uber's new app icon is already causing quite a stir on Twitter, with many quick to declare the app icon ugly. Of course, that's not uncommon when a hugely popular app significantly changes its look—just look at the uproar that sprang up when Spotify changed the specific shade of green it used in its app.
Aside from the new app icon, the only major change immediately noticeable in the update was a new splash screen that comes up when you first open the app. The splash screen shows off the new logo and icon, and we also get a brief glimpse of what the new icon looks like on a stark black background (which does make it somewhat resemble the Death Star from "Star Wars").
The typeface of the Uber logo has also been changed, firming up some of the small text flourishes found on the old one.
Uber has also announced the visual re-branding in a blog post, which details how the app's icons will change depending on regional colors and patterns.
Uber says that the "heart" of its new app icon is something it's calling "the bit," or the central square in the new logo. While that bit will remain the same throughout Uber's apps and website, the background and even the shape surrounding that tiny square will change to reflect a specific region or design theme.
Interestingly enough, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was also personally involved in the new design, according to the blog post.
"One of the big changes over the years is that Uber no longer moves just people; we’re now moving food, goods, and soon maybe much more," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick writes in the blog post. "With the potential for many apps with many app icons, we needed one approach that connected them all. So we came back to our story of bits and atoms. You’ll see that both rider and driver icons have the bit at the center, and then the local colors and patterns in the background. This is a framework that will also make it easy to develop different icons for new products over time."
The NHL’s New Live-Sports App Is A Glimpse at the Future of TV
When Tim Cook announced the new Apple TV last fall, he said that "the future of TV is apps." This week, I got a preview of that future. And I'm impressed.
I'll get to that in a minute.
First, let's think about what it's currently like to watch TV or Netflix through an app on a connected device, like a Roku, game console, or Apple TV. It probably goes something like this: You open the app, select whatever you want to watch, and then sit back and watch it.
In that sense, it's not that much different than watching something on-demand on a traditional cable box, except it's easier to navigate and find what you want to watch, the remote control isn't awful, and it's an all around better user experience.
That's great. That totally works for apps like HBO Now and Netflix—apps you use to stream TV shows and movies. But that experience could be so much better for other types of programs you watch on TV, like sports, reality show competitions like "The Voice," or game shows.
That's the future I think Tim Cook envisions when he talks about the future of TV being apps.
I mentioned how I got a preview of this technology. Next week, the NHL will release NHL.TV, a new app that allows hockey fans to watch live, out-of-market hockey games, keep up with their favorite teams, and more.
NHL.TV was built by MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), major league baseball's tech division. It's the same company that handles streaming video for HBO Now, the WWE, the MLB, and many others.
I checked out the app on Monday night. I'm not even a hockey fan, but what immediately piqued my interest was the new mosaic view, which allows you to watch as as many as six HD video feeds at a time. It only works on some games for now, but when it does work, it's an awesome way to watch a hockey game.
You can follow the puck on the main screen, or watch how the goalie made— or didn't make —a save. (The goalie cameras are actually on a slight delay, which gives the viewer time to move from one image to another.)
But you don't have to watch the game like that. If you'd like, you can just watch the normal, home team feed. Or the away team feed. Or highlights.
The point is that you have a choice in how you watch the game. And that's a completely different experience than watching a hockey game on TV, or even watching a hockey game in person.
All of it's in HD and at 60 frames per second, so it looks great. The app also has some other features that hockey fans will appreciate, like a dashboard that shows scores of current and recently played games.
This type of experience isn't limited to hockey. Major League Baseball is set to release an app this spring that will offer some of the same features, plus the ability to watch two games simultaneously.
Experiences like this are possible now because connected devices, like the new Apple TV and game consoles, have real processing power. They also allow for interactivity that wasn't possible with traditional TV.
It's by no means perfect, and for many sports fans apps like these may supplement their cable or satellite subscriptions. Contracts between TV networks and professional sports organizations limit what you're able to watch, especially when it comes to in-market games.
But the NHL.TV app, and soon, the MLB.TV app, offer a peek into how we're going to be watching, and interacting, with TV in the future.
What Keeps Facebook Up at Night: Ad Blockers
Facebook is starting to worry about ad blockers.
For the first time, the social network highlighted ad blocking technologies as a significant risk factor in its annual 10-K filing, noting that they have impacted its ad revenue "from time to time."
Although Facebook mentioned ad blockers in its 10-K last year, too, it did so only briefly as one of many things that could potentially impact its ads businesses, whereas it dedicated a whole section to the technology this time around.
The warning about ad blockers comes as Facebook delivered blockbuster fourth-quarter financial results and as its ad business appears to be firing on all cylinders.
Ad-blocking software, which nixes display advertising from websites, became a hot topic last year after an Apple operating-system update allowed ad blocking on iPhones and iPads for the first time.
Facebook makes about around 96 percent of its revenue from advertising, so if more people started using ad blockers on all of their devices, it could "adversely affect" Facebook's financial results.
Facebook notes that the adverse impact has so far has been on PCs, which represents a decreasing slice of its overall user base. But it notes that if ad blocking technology takes hold on mobile devices, its financials could be "harmed."
Here's how Facebook phrased the risk in its filings:
Technologies have been developed, and will likely continue to be developed, that can block the display of our ads, particularly advertising displayed on personal computers. We generate substantially all of our revenue from advertising, including revenue resulting from the display of ads on personal computers. Revenue generated from the display of ads on personal computers has been impacted by these technologies from time to time. As a result, these technologies have had an adverse effect on our financial results and, if such technologies continue to proliferate, in particular with respect to mobile platforms, our future financial results may be harmed.
Facebook isn't the only one fretting.
Last fall, Google's ads boss Sridhar Ramaswamy said that ad blockers were "a blunt instrument and we need to be worried."
See also: Facebook Explodes After Q4 Earnings Beat
All-Day Breakfast Is Saving McDonald’s—So the Chain Might Add More of It
McDonald's is testing an expanded all-day breakfast menu that includes McGriddle sandwiches, Candice Choi of the Associated Press reports. Adding to the all-day menu's offerings would fix customers' No. 1 complaint about the expanded breakfast hours: that the menu is too limited outside typical breakfast time.
"Many customers are frustrated about the limited menu," one franchisee wrote in response to a recent survey by Nomura analyst Mark Kalinowski. "I am in a McMuffin market that was almost evenly split, and I have customers furious that they cannot get biscuits. They feel that it is a sham or false advertising."
Another franchisee wrote: "Advertising ... leads consumers to believe that we have all breakfast items all day, and disappoints them when they cannot get all items when they come in. Customers say they are being misled." A third complained about "explaining to irate customers why the breakfast menu is so limited."
Expanding the menu has the potential to make a big impact on the chain's sales. McDonald's executives said all-day breakfast was a major driver behind the company's 5.7 percent uptick in U.S. same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, in the most recent quarter.
But it also has the potential to complicate kitchen operations. Several franchisees complained that it was slowing down service during lunchtime hours.
One franchisee wrote in the survey by Kalinowski that all-day breakfast was "killing service and causing chaos in the kitchens during the non-breakfast times." The person added: "It has also caused management turnover, and crew turnover out of frustration. Employee morale is down because of it."
So far, the all-day menu—which launched in October—has been limited to a couple of breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, and sides.
Restaurants serve either McMuffin or biscuit sandwiches — not both — depending on local preferences. McGriddles and bagels aren't served, and hash browns, a McDonald's breakfast staple, aren't available at 10% of restaurants because they are made with the same fryers as the french fries.
This Startup Wants to Offer Really Fast Wireless Internet for Really, Really Cheap. Can it Work?
If you live in the U.S., you're familiar with the dismal state of Internet service. Chances are that if you can even get broadband where you live, then you have no choice whom you pay for service, you pay a lot, and your bill is only going to go up.
But that could be about to change. On Wednesday, the tech world learned about Starry, a company hoping to bring ultrafast wireless internet service to cities.
Starry won't have data caps, so you won't have to worry about streaming too much Netflix during a billing period. It won't require a technician to come to your home to install anything. It will be available at speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, which is much faster than your typical Internet connection. It won't have long-term contracts. And Starry promises that if you have an issue, a technician will call you within five minutes.
Oh, and it will be significantly cheaper than comparable service from your traditional Internet service provider like Time Warner Cable and Comcast.
The company hasn't gotten specific about pricing, but Chet Kanojia, Starry's founder and CEO, actually laughed when a reporter asked him whether it would cost less than typical broadband. "That's the easy part," he said, smiling. "Consumers want more competition, better products, and cheaper prices," Kanojia told reporters at a press event on Wednesday.
It almost sounds too good to be true.
And it sort of is—at least for now. The service isn't available yet. Starry says it will be beta testing in Boston, where the company is based, starting this summer, but it hasn't given a timeline for when the service be available anywhere else.
The primary reason there's pretty much no competition when it comes to Internet service is that the infrastructure that has been required to bring it to your home—cable and fiber—is expensive to install. Companies have to rip up a street or sidewalk to install it, so it doesn't make economic sense for more than one company to wire your home or building. It's similar to why you don't have a choice for an electric or gas company.
But Starry says it will get around this by transmitting internet service wirelessly to your home.
Here's how it is supposed to work:
Starry Beams, roughly 4-foot-high transmitters that are installed on the tops of buildings in a city or town, transmit a wireless internet signal in the form of millimeter waves. Subscribers install a small receiver—called a Starry Point—in their windows, which picks up the signal and converts it into one that a traditional router can then broadcast as normal WiFi.
Each Starry Beam can support "hundreds" of Starry Point antennas, Kanojia told Tech Insider in an interview.
The company calls Starry Internet a modular service because it requires little installation. The Beams may present a challenge to install—the company has to get rights to put them on the roofs of buildings—but most of them simply have to be plugged into a power outlet.
That's because only one out of every four or five Beams needs to be wired to a fiber connection—existing fiber infrastructure that's already installed in cities — because the Beams speak to one another to send data.
Kanojia said a city could be outfitted with Beams in a matter of "weeks, not months."
All of this sounds like great news for consumers. Competition in the broadband space is sorely needed, and Google's Google Fiber service, which is wiring some cities for high-speed internet and bringing competition to a handful of cities, has been slow to roll out.
We know that competition works. Last year, it came to light that AT&T was charging $110 a month for its gigabit internet service in Cupertino, California, $40 a month more than it charged for the same service in Austin, Texas, and Kansas City. In Austin and Kansas City, Google Fiber is available, but in Cupertino, AT&T was the only game in town that offered high speeds.
If Starry succeeds with its ambitious goal, which the company, and its high-profile investors, think it can do, then it will bring real competition to a space that has been dominated by monopolies. This will not only give consumers another choice for an ISP but it will also force big cable companies to lower their prices, ditch data caps, and improve customer service if they want to compete.