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Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others join to create royalty-free video codecs for all

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Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, Cisco, Intel, Netflix, and Amazon today launched a new consortium, the Alliance for Open Media (Twitter). The group plans to develop a new generation of royalty-free open source digital media formats, but creating a new, open video solution is the primary goal. The new formats would be used for commercial and noncommercial content.

From the Alliance for Open Media website:

The Alliance’s initial focus is to deliver a next-generation video format that is:

Interoperable and open;
Optimized for the web;
Scalable to any modern device at any bandwidth;
Designed with a low computational footprint and optimized for hardware;
Capable of consistent, highest-quality, real-time video delivery; and
Flexible for both commercial and non-commercial content, including user-generated content.

Peter Bright at Ars Technica:

The issue of patent licenses and royalties continues to plague the video industry. While H.264/AVC video had relatively cheap licensing, it looks as if its successor, H.265/HEVC, is going to be considerably more expensive. Organizations that derive significant income from patent royalties and IP licensing weren't happy with the low-cost model used for H.264, and so are pushing back. This is a great threat to open source and non-commercial streaming, which has no obvious way to pay the royalties. The HEVC royalty structure would even threaten the viability of commercial streamers such as Netflix.

The Alliance for Open Media would put an end to this problem. The group's first aim is to produce a video codec that's a meaningful improvement on HEVC. Many of the members already have their own work on next-generation codecs; Cisco has Thor, Mozilla has been working on Daala, and Google on VP9 and VP10. Daala and Thor are both also under consideration by the IETF's netvc working group, which is similarly trying to assemble a royalty-free video codec.

Microsoft, Google, Amazon, others, aim for royalty-free video codecs [Ars]

And here's the press release.

Amazon cutting back on making consumer devices, reports WSJ

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After failed smartphones and other gadgets, Amazon's laying off people who work on consumer electronics.

Amazon.com Inc. flamed out with critics and consumers last year in its first attempt at a smartphone. Now, rather than forge ahead, as it has with other projects, such as its Kindle tablets, the online retailer is retrenching.

In recent weeks Amazon has dismissed dozens of engineers who worked on its Fire phone at Lab126, its secretive hardware-development center in Silicon Valley, according to people familiar with the matter.

For Amazon to quit, it must be very sure there's no place for it in whatever business it's muscled in on.

NYT report: Amazon is hell to work at

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The New York Times exposes a brutal, cultlike environment of midnight phone calls, mind-numbing jargon and sadistic management.

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Apple and Amazon spend big bucks to keep Cook and Bezos out of harm's way

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Apple spends nearly $700,000 to protect Tim Cook,

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How Amazon became a larger company than Walmart

The plain truth, courtesy of anchor John Potter of KTVN in Reno.

Amazon finally "bigger" than Walmart

bezos_surpriseAmazon's value on the stock market surged past Walmart's last night—a long-expected sign of changing times that will nonetheless generate a lot of pageviews today. market_value__amazon-com_walmart__chartbuilder

Brace yourself for Amazon Prime Day 2: Electric Boogaloo

A parody of Amazon's much-mocked Prime Day, by ThinkHero.

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Amazon Fire Phone for $159, includes one year of Prime

On June 23, I posted that an Amazon Fire Phone (32GB, Unlocked GSM) was selling for $179. I almost bought one, because it includes a year of Amazon Prime, which I pay $100 per year for. That meant the real cost of the phone was $79.

Today, Amazon is offering the same phone for $159, including the same one year of Prime deal. That did it for me. I bought one. I'm going to use it as my international travel phone (my iPhone is locked by AT&T so I can't use another carrier's SIM card) and a replacement phone for when my daughter drops her iPhone in the toilet.

Amazon will pay authors based on number of e-book pages read

Authors who self-publish through Amazon’s KDP Select Program will start getting paid based on the number of book pages that are read, as opposed to how many books are borrowed through two different Kindle services.

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The fate of the big box store

What happens to all the Wal-marts when we have every last Q-tip droned in from Amazon warehouses?

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Amazon will finally start paying tax in the UK


The company will abandon the pretense that its UK sales are consummated in Luxembourg and that the money floats in a state of taxless grace in the middle of the Irish Sea.

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Amazon drops "Boy" and "Girl" categories from toy listings


Amazon's toys category is no longer sorted into "Boys" toys and "Girls" toys.

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Stream Season 1 of Transparent FREE today only (24 January)

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If you have not seen it yet, you can enjoy the first season of Amazon's hit series Transparent for free today, Saturday 24 January. A great way to spend your Saturday afternoon or evening!

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Downpour.com: audiobooks without the DRM


I love audiobooks, but I hate DRM (actually, I think it's an existential threat to humanity), and since Audible requires all its books to be sold with DRM (even when the publishers object), that's left me with limited options -- until 2014, when I discovered Downpour.

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Hideous $10,000 plastic Christmas tree


Grad writes, "While cruising Amazon looking for some new Christmas tree magic for my family, I ran across what must be the world's most expensive Christmas tree."

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Amazon and Hachette kiss and make up

After nearly a year of Amazon (the largest bookseller on earth) refusing to sell books from one of the largest publishers on earth, they've finally made peace.

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Kindle Original vs Kindle Voyage

Jason Weisberger finally upgraded. Did seven years make much difference? The answer will probably not surprise you, but the details might.Read the rest