Friday, October 9, 2015

Facebook launches reaction buttons beyond 'like' to become more expressive

Like it or not, Facebook Inc's trademark "like" button is set to get more expressive.

Users will soon be able to do more than "like" posts. They will be able to love them and express sympathy, anger or sadness with animated emoticons.

The social network said on Thursday it was launching a pilot test of "reactions", with users able to select from seven emotions, including "like" and "wow".

"Dislike", however, is not one of the options.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Thursday that users had been requesting ways other than "like" to respond to posts, such as when someone posts about the death of a loved one or a tragic news story.

"Not every moment is a good moment, and sometimes you just want a way to express empathy," Mr Zuckerberg wrote, after saying last month the company was working on expanding the like button.

"A like might not be the best way to express yourself."

In a video accompanying a Facebook post by chief product officer Chris Cox, the six new buttons appear as animated emoticons and pop up when the "like" button is long-pressed.

The company said it would pilot the new features in Ireland and Spain on iOS, Android and desktops. The feedback from the pilot test will be used to improve the feature.

The company hopes "to roll it out to everyone soon", Mr Cox wrote in the post, which was "liked" by more than 7,500 people within two hours.

"As you can see, it's not a 'dislike' button, though we hope it addresses the spirit of this request more broadly," Mr Cox wrote.

Mr Zuckerberg's comments last month, which many users took to mean the social network was working on a "dislike" button, spearheaded a debate over whether it would cause cyberbullying and negativity on the site.

But users mostly welcomed Mr Cox's announcement, saying on social media it was a smart idea.

Facebook user Marc Marasco posted on Cox's Facebook page: "Elegant solution", while Tony DeLisi wrote: "Cheers to nuance".

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall 2015: What’s New and Upcoming with Apple

About the author:
Beth Kelly is a freelance writer and blogger in Chicago, IL. An alum of DePaul University, she taught English in South Korea before returning to the US to write full-time. Find her on Twitter @bkelly_88

The Apple Media Event on September 9 previewed various new and updated consumer products that would carry the Apple banner into the coming year including iPhones, iPads, the Apple Watch, and Apple TV. 

The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, as expected, were updated from last year's models with a new, faster A-9 processor, custom display chip, and faster fingerprint sensors. The iPad Pro, a much faster 12.9" desktop-class iPad for the enterprise was previewed, along with an Apple Pencil stylus and a keyboard built into the smart cover. The Apple TV was updated, with Siri controls and a tvOS operating system, based on iOS, and built to take advantage of the App Store. Apple Watch is also getting a reboot with updated apps and new looks. And finally, a new iPad Mini 4 was quietly announced without much detail. 

The new iPhones are the most advanced phones Apple has created and most advanced in the world featuring 3-D touchscreens and are now made of 7000 series aircraft grade aluminum, unlikely to bend. The 3-D touch screen adds new gestures like pressing and holding, and peek and pop. The rear iSight camera has increased to 12 megapixels, 50% more pixels than the iPhone 6, to shoot and edit 4K video right on the iPhone. Apple also announced an iPhone Upgrade lease program that lets users upgrade their iPhone every year for a monthly charge of only $32. 

The faster, larger, and much thinner iPad Pro is targeted mainly towards business users. The advanced iPad is compatible with a newly introduced smart keyboard that doubles as a cover 

and a pixel-precise stylus dubbed the Apple Pencil ready to work with the likes of MS Office, Adobe Photoshop and even human anatomy apps like 3D4Medical. The new Apple Pencil "feels like a true writing or drawing instrument," in the words of Jony Ive, as it deciphers stroke thickness from the angle and pressure presented by the user. 

The Apple Watch was originally released last April, and there are already over 10,000 compatible apps. Many of these are now getting upgrades - the Facebook Messenger app will let you send audio, location and text messages, the GroPo app serves as a camera viewfinder, and iTranslate allows you to dictate a word and get a translation. The devices look is also being upgraded. The watch itself comes in gold and rose gold, and an increased selection of bands are now available, including a brown leather band made by Herm├ęs coming out in October. 

As for the Apple TV, a new operating system and Siri controls weren’t the only updates announced - apps are now the new big thing in the 4th generation device. The new tvOS operating system is designed to let third-party developers create apps specifically for the large screen and bluetooth remote. Siri will respond to a variety of commands and can be used to search for movies universally by title, genre, and actors across iTunes, Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and Showtime. 

Apple TV is Apple's first serious attempt to take over the living room with streaming content and multiplayer interactive gaming. The new Apple TV ecosystem expands the living room beyond streaming content or gaming and arriving in advance of Apple's own Internet TV subscription service, expected sometime next year, should drive holiday sales. And while Apple Homekit was not mentioned at the event, many see it as a natural fit for the upgraded TV. The more powerful TV box could hypothetically work with home equipment controls, enabling connections to home security systems, automated appliances, and a variety of other compatible tech in your house. 

The number of new and updated devices announced by Apple pushed boundaries to new levels, exceeding all expectations. While there is nothing particularly earth-shattering about the new technology, the devices - Apple TV in particular - are serious contenders to replace multiple technologies including traditional TVs. Only time will tell if the mainstream market will respond to the updates the way Apple has hoped.

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Is The Future of Television Internet Centric?

About the author:
Neal Bricker has a passion writing about technology with a lot of contributions on a large number of blogs.

The digital age has been rapidly transforming industries, including radio and television as drastic changes have occurred in each. The trends all point toward the Internet being the future of radio, as the big corporations that own most big-name radio stations have seen their stocks plummet, in some cases to penny-stock status. While some of the these companies such as iHeart are scrambling to avoid disaster, it remains to be seen if they can ever recover. Does the same fate await network television? 

There was a time as noted in a Wall Street Journal blog, that television meant having a TV set, and all of the programs we watched were on those sets, and were broadcast by the television networks. Things changed as cable and satellite television made hundreds of channels available with a wide variety of programming available. Now there are even options for satellite TV + Internet packages

Now you don't even need a TV to watch some of your favorite shows. With internet services such as Netflix and Hulu, you can watch many of your favorite shows, even going back a few years if you need to catch up on some episodes, and you can watch this content when you wish, on demand. You can even watch many movies, videos, and more on Youtube for free of charge. 

With fees as low as $8 a month for almost unlimited program viewing, these services are growing, and are not going away anytime soon. Does this mean the end for the television networks? Not necessarily, and not anytime soon. No one could have predicted the way the Internet would evolve 20 years ago, but those who follow the industry closely have some good opinions on the matter. 

To avoid the fate of the big radio companies, television networks and other entities must have a strong focus on the customer experience. With more and more choices for the customer, brand loyalties are going out the window as the consumer looks for the best possible deal from an increasingly crowded field of those offering them. 

The illustration above shows one way in which those offering television services can organize their fare to better satisfy the viewers. Many companies are already on-board with these changes, offering powerful search engines, but there is still much room for improvement. 

Those in the know actually see a new Golden Age of Television with the help of the Internet. With the growing number of choices and the growing intellectual currency of the medium, as many sitcoms and traditional favorites have become almost obsolete, and many shows are now more like books, complete with clues, subtexts, and a text narrative. 

The TV networks still have plenty of clout, and so do many of the cable stations, so it is hard to foresee any kind of cash crunch such as the radio is going through. It still takes millions and millions of dollars to produce those shows that everyone seems to love like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones. 

It's hard to see Hulu, Netflix, or anyone else stepping up to the plate and doing what the TV networks and powerful cable channels do anytime soon. But it is impossible to look at the future of television without acknowledging that the Internet will play a large part in it.

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