Apple reportedly near $3.2 billion Beats acquisition
Apple is reportedly negotiating the purchase of Beats for $3.2 billion, according to a new report from The Financial Times. The deal would include both the streaming Beats Music subscription service, as well as the part of the company that produces headphones and speakers. The move, which would be Apple’s largest acquisition ever, could be announced as soon as next week, the paper says. Citing sources, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and Recode also confirmed that the deal was nearing completion.
Apple declined to comment, and Beats did not respond to a request for comment.
Apple already sells Beats products in its retail stores, and just last month Beats began offering a way to subscribe to its streaming music service using Apple’s in-app purchase, something that gives Apple a cut of its subscription revenue. That service competes with Apple’s iTunes Radio in part by offering playlists curated by celebrities and musicians, however Beats requires a paid plan that gives users full access to that entire streaming music catalog. In recent months, Apple has said to be developing its own similar service, possibly for use on Android devices, that would augment its own free service.
The music aspect of the deal would come amid declining album and individual track sales, which according to Nielsen SoundScan, were were down 13 and 11 percent respectively in the US for the first eight weeks of the year. Apple’s own streaming service iTunes Radio only came out about eight months ago with iOS 7. Apple’s used it to push people to buy full versions of the songs from iTunes, though the service has been limited to the US, and only recently Australia.
Gozer prediction #1 TRUE!!!!!!!!
Microsoft Frees Xbox One From Kinect With $399 Standalone System
Microsoft has seemed to be unwavering in its commitment to the Kinect motion/voice-control peripheral, refusing to unbundle it from the console even after altering many other aspects of the One in the wake of last year’s E3. Microsoft always maintained the Kinect was an essential part of the One, and as such, they couldn’t part with it.
But 2014 has brought with it the revelation that the Xbox One continues to lag behind the PS4 in sales. The last known numbers put Sony’s system at 7 million sold to customers, while the Xbox One has five million sold to retailers. The gap is apparently wide enough to warrant drastic action like what we’re seeing today.
The announcement states that the current $500 Kinect bundle will also continue to be sold, and this fall, consumers will also be able to purchase a standalone Kinect if they picked up a $399 system and decided they did indeed want the peripheral. No word on the potential price of a standalone Xbox One Kinect as of yet.
If this wasn’t enough of an announcement Microsoft also revealed that they’re freeing a number of app services from the requirement of Xbox Live Gold, including NetflixNFLX +0.46%, Hulu, HBO Go, Twitch, Machinima and many more.
As its direct competition, PS4, offers access to these services without a PS Plus subscription, and indirect rivals like Chromecast and Roku allow easy streaming with no additional fees, the move seems absolutely necessary for the Xbox to remain competitive in the “living room entertainment box” space. It rubbed most consumers the wrong way when third party subscription services were being hidden behind not just the ISP fee to access the internet, but then Microsoft’s additional Gold fee to access the internet through Xbox. It’s far too many subscription layers in this day and age, and an overwhelming amount of competition in the streaming space has forced Microsoft’s hand.
As expected, Microsoft is not even close to doing away with the hugely profitable Xbox Live Gold altogether, as it’s still required to play multiplayer games. Today Microsoft announced that there will be many free games, discounts and special offers associated with continued Gold membership as well. All of this, between moving apps outside of the paywall and offering deep discounts and free games, shows that Microsoft is doing their best to close the gap with Sony’s PS Plus, as now the two services are now nearly mirror images of each other.
If the timing of this seems odd just a few weeks ahead of E3, it’s important to consider what’s being announced here. Essentially both of these major items are things that fans have been requesting for a long while now. Microsoft is essentially admitting that a forced Kinect bundle was hurting them, and not the best idea, and the app/Gold paywall problem was absolutely necessary to fix quickly as more and more competition continued to emerge. Microsoft is correcting a pair of mistakes here, and that’s not really something you’d announce to boisterous cheers at E3 on stage.
Microsoft has shown remarkable flexibility when it comes to course correcting. They did so last year at E3 in record time when it came to the Xbox One’s online connectivity requirements and used games policies. Here, they’re doing the unexpected by once again listening to their fans and making very big moves to ensure the Xbox One remains competitive.
Uber and Google are just getting started
This week, Google announced a huge update to its Maps app on Android and iOS, bringing new tools such as lane guidance along with one particularly intriguing feature: Uber integration. If you have the ride-sharing service’s app on your phone, Uber will show up as an option when you search for public-transit directions, and you’ll be able to jump into the Uber app from Maps to order a ride.
Google’s clearly favoring one ride-ordering app over others like Hailo and Lyft. Of course, Uber’s integration with Maps will mean nothing to you if you don’t already have the app on your phone, but for current customers, it’s one more reminder that a ride’s just a few taps away. Looking at the larger picture, though, this move points to Google’s (literal) investment in Uber — and it could be the first step in a wide-reaching partnership between the two companies. Driverless rides to the airport, anyone?
Fast-forward several years from now, and we might be talking about on-demand, driverless cars and unmanned delivery vehicles.
Google Ventures, Mountain View’s tech-investment wing, threw a whopping $258 million behind the transportation company in late 2013, the biggest deal it’s made to date. Ventures, which operates independently of Google as a corporate VC firm, previously invested heavily in another big name, theNest smart thermostat. Nest Labs, of course, famously ended up a member of the Google family in a $3.2 billion acquisition deal. Given that there’s a precedent for investments turning into acquisitions for Google, Uber seems like an obvious next pick.
Fast-forward several years from now, and we could be talking about on-demand, driverless cars and unmanned delivery vehicles. It’s hardly a new idea to think that Google will utilize Uber to execute its vision for driverless transportation, especially considering reports that it’s been working on autonomous taxis of its own. While plenty of Uber users may wince at the idea of Google cannibalizing an independent service, it’s not like the ride-share app is any stranger to aggressively edging out the competition. And while Google Ventures does back the Uber alternative Sidecar, it wouldn’t be out of character for the company to buy out the competition once it throws its full weight behind Uber.
But driverless cars that you can order from your phone are just one way Uber complements Google’s vision for the future. Considering that Amazon’s becoming a power player with itssame-day delivery service, Mountain View could bolster its Shopping Express program by joining forces with Uber. That latter company is currently testing its new UberRUSH courier service in New York City, and a combined Google-Uber effort would help in taking on Jeff Bezos and co. With Google-backed, driverless Ubers delivering you that urgent supply of mouthwash, Amazon’s delivery drones could start to look a tad gimmicky.
So, will Google acquire Uber? It already owns a significant chunk of the company, but buying it outright would give Google freedom to shape the service to serve its own goals, many of which we probably haven’t even seen a glimpse of yet. Should that day come to pass, let’s just hope the ride-sharing app continues to operate under its original name — “Goober” just doesn’t have a nice ring to it.
Geek This Week:
Aaron: BarTender for Mac – http://www.macbartender.com/
New SONOS control app
New hacking with switches and my SmartThings system
Gozer: Fucking Game of Thrones! Tyrion!!! ahhhh & Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes & Xbox One remote
Feedback and items of Note:
Check us out on Stitcher! Visit http://www.stitcher.com/geekcast and sign up. Not only can you catch the podcast through the app, but if you use the code ‘geekcast’ within the app and you’ll be entered to win $100!
Audible: Try Audible Now and Get 1 Free Audiobook Download with a 14 Day Trial. Choose from over 85,000 Titles. Continue your membership and receive 1 audio book credit a month for only $14.95 per month! Just visit <a href=”http://www.audiblepodcast.com/TheGeekcast“>AudiblePodcast.com/TheGeekcast</a>