BlackBerry has announced today that its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) messenger service will be launching on iOS and Android this summer. The new cross-platform app will support all Apple hardware running iOS 6 and higher, as well as Android version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and above.
It means that for the first time, BlackBerry owners will be able to communicate with users on other mobile platforms, for free, using the BBM service. The new apps will support multi-person conversations, voice note sharing and BlackBerry Groups; the latter of which lets users set up group for up to 30 people in order to share calendar information, photos and other files.
“For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service,” Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President of Software Product Management and Ecosystem at BlackBerry said.
“BBM has always been one of the most engaging services for BlackBerry customers, enabling them to easily connect while maintaining a valued level of personal privacy. We’re excited to offer iOS and Android users the possibility to join the BBM community.”
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins made the announcement at BlackBerry Live shortly after unveiling BBM Channels, a new social feature which will allow any company, celebrity or lifestyle brand to create a public page for BBM users to follow. Channel owners can send out news or status updates at anytime, which users can interact with by leaving a comment or ‘like’.
The concept feels very similar to Plus Friend Home, a combination of both instant messaging and passive social network accounts which was recently unveiled by Korean-startup Kakao for its cross-platform messaging app Kakao Talk.
It’s only a beta program for now, but BlackBerry plans to update the feature every two to four weeks ahead of a full launch later this summer. BBM Channels can post news and status updates at anytime, and users who follow these accounts will be able to comment and like on them too.
BlackBerry says BBM Channels will be added to its upcoming Android and iOS apps later this year, alongside voice and video calling, subject to approval by the App Store and Play Store.
Heins also announced today that BBM now has over 60 million monthly active users, which send and receive over 10 billion messages every day – twice as many as any other mobile messaging app. The number of daily active users that connect with other BBM enthusiasts for at least an hour and a half every day has also risen to 51 million.
It should come as no surprise that BlackBerry wants to expand the BBM service to new users. The rise of cross-platform mobile messaging apps such as Viber and WhatsApp has slowed the growth in BBM users, and perhaps even put off new consumers from switching to the BlackBerry 10 platform. The addition of BBM Channels is an interesting move, but one that will likely struggle to gain the same critical mass of users enjoyed by Twitter or Facebook.
A bold move, or just a case of too little, too late?
Image Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
View original post here: BlackBerry is finally taking BBM cross-platform, launching on iOS and Android this summer
Aereo users, listen up.
The company that has been bringing you access to 30 over-the-air broadcast channels on the cheap is switching up its pricing structure a bit to make things less complicated. Unfortunately, this switch also makes things slightly more expensive, but still highly competitive in today’s content streaming landscape.
Starting on May 15, the original five-tier structure will be boiled down into two options: The base $8/month fee will offer 20 hours of DVR storage, and a $12/month fee will get you 60 hours of DVR storage. Neither service requires a long-term commitment.
However, it’s worth noting that the $8/month plan changes the way you can record on Aereo’s DVR service, only letting users record from one channel at a time. At the same time, the $12 plan actually offers more than it used to, bumping up storage from 40 hours to 60 hours.
When Aereo first launched, it offered more levels of service, including a $1/day deal. This was a unique option for the service, as it let users tune into huge, national events without forcing them to buy into the service on a monthly basis. Events like the Superbowl, presidential election, or the Academy Awards instantly became accessible to people without cable, and also offered an easy, painless way to taste the Aereo service without making a commitment.
While dropping that plan may remove that taste-test-ability, in the end Aereo believes that simplifying the options will be a better experience for customers.
Here’s what founder Chet Kanojia had to say in a prepared statement:
We looked at our data and it was clear, consumers want a more simple approach to pricing. With our new pricing structure, consumers begin with one base plan and then have the ability to upgrade their membership to triple their DVR storage capacity. We want to make it simple and easy for consumers to access our technology and we believe this updated pricing plan accomplishes just that.
For current users of Aereo, your plan will remain the same until the end of your current membership period. For those on the $12/month payment plan, you will be automatically upgraded to 60 hours of storage.
Right now the service is only available in New York, but Aereo has plans to expand into new territories very soon.
Happy TV viewing, everyone!
View original post here: Aereo Switches Up Pricing: $8/Month For 20 Hours Of DVR, $12/Month For 60 Hours Starting May 15
Congress is on track to passing a nationwide Internet retail sales tax, but it has serious flaws that could majorly muck up the e-commerce industry. We think citizens are often smarter than the government, and we want to give you a chance to make the bill better before it becomes law. So, we’ve teamed up with Congressman Darrell Issa’s Open Government Foundation, which designed a platform for making line-by-line suggestions to proposed laws. In TechCrunch’s version of the “Project Madison” crowdsourcing legislative platform, our readers can add, delete, and amend specific passages in the upcoming tax law.
Suggestions that are voted up by our community will get the most attention of Congressional staffers (which we know are watching our platform). It’s been claimed that the Internet is “democratizing” the world; well, here’s our chance to prove it.
Senate Bill S.743, the “Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013,” passed the Senate with overwhelming support and is on to the House of Representatives. But, it won’t be passed for at least a month, so we have some time to bubble up the best ideas from our community of readers.
As we promised when we first launched our new civics channel, Crunchgov, TechCrunch would source and promote the most insightful ideas from the technology community. A proactive approach to improving law is just the next logical step for how we can support the amazing work you all do.
Go to http://madison.techcrunch.com/ and get your citizen on. Encourage your friends, ping your local expert, and share this opportunity loudly. If we make an impact on the bill, it’ll a watershed moment in American democracy. Go forth!
While it would take you a million lifetimes to watch all the video on YouTube, the company relies on contributions from its amateur and professional partners to keep its content fresh. At the same time, its core business model revolves around providing advertisers with the ability to reach its billion-plus viewers. In turn, video creators rely (or want to rely) on a piece of that ad revenue to continue producing their content. The problem is, of course, that those ads are intrusive, annoying and, at the end of the day, its partners are finding that the revenue from those banners and clips isn’t growing nearly as fast as, say, the number of cat videos on YouTube.
In an effort to provide its partners with an alternative revenue stream, YouTube announced today that it is officially launching a pilot program that enables its video stars to charge subscription fees for access to their channels. Subscriptions will start at $0.99/month, and every channel will be able to offer a 14-day free trial, along with discounted yearly rates.
In its announcement, YouTube cites Sesame Street, which will offer full episodes through its paid channel, and UFC offering fans the ability to watch classic fights as examples. For more, here’s the list of its 53-odd pilot channels.
As of today, users can subscribe to paid channels from their desktops and laptops and watch across devices, but going forward YouTube will look to add the ability to subscribe from any medium/device. On top of that, YouTube will begin a broader roll out of subscriptions in the next few weeks for “qualifying partners,” and from the looks of it, it will be adding a paid channel recommendation feed — just as it does now for free channels.
If you don’t have a YouTube channel, why should you care? Well, YouTube has been telegraphing this for awhile, but it’s really the first (official) sign that YouTube is beginning to tiptoe into the paid video market. Granted, the subscription model isn’t a new idea for YouTube, considering the company just announced in March that it will be launching a music subscription service later this year.
The goal is much the same: Give musicians/artists/creators an opportunity to make some money, while improving the user experience for listeners by potentially removing some of those obnoxious ads that start every video. Of course, in the case of both video and music, it’s much more likely that YouTube is going to stick with both.
Amateur content creators are going to be hesitant about erecting paywalls around their content. Most viewers are going to balk at the idea of buying a subscription to a YouTube channel, and there’s a question of whether or not they’d really be able to convert enough of their viewers to paid subscriptions to make it worth it. In the end, it’s the same issue newspapers and publishers have struggled with for years.
There’s also the fact that every video producer is already offering their content for free, although behind ads. Now you’re going to tell viewers that they have to pay for the same content they’ve been getting for free? Sure, that will work for your superfans, but as is the way with the “freemium” model, if you’re going to charge, the content behind the paywall better be, well, premium. I want to see “Extras,” exclusive content/footage, and so on.
Of course, as Peter Kafka pointed out this week, amateur video producers likely don’t have the resources to produce that exclusive or premium content.
Nonetheless, the company is going to use paid subscriptions in an attempt to attract new partners, new content creator and, we assume, more dollars — although YouTube doesn’t specify whether it will be taking a cut of subscriptions or not. YouTube is clearly aware of the success Hulu, Netflix, Vimeo and other video sites have been having with subscription and on-demand models, and it wants to become more attractive to film and TV networks, studios and producers.
But for now, YouTube can’t make the jump exclusively to subscriptions, because it needs those ad dollars that are keeping the whole thing afloat. It’s a tricky line to walk, no doubt, but YouTube certainly isn’t helping its user experience by setting up the potential to have both a paywall and ads in and around videos for the foreseeable future.
Just speaking for myself personally, I probably most frequently use YouTube for search (and a little discovery), particularly around music. In other words, I’ll have a song or an artist in mind, will do a YouTube search, which inevitably serves a couple or dozens of choices for the same song, artist or even subject. There’s a high likelihood that I have no idea which video I want or is best, which requires some perusing, so having a 10 second ad at the beginning of each video is really disruptive.
Maybe that’s a niche use case, but I suspect not. YouTube ads, while tolerable because we consciously or subconsciously recognize their role in keeping millions of cat videos afloat and online, are frustrating. Sure, Hulu has ads, too, and they aren’t much better. But at least in Hulu’s case, the viewer knows they’re watching a 30-minute or hour-long episode of television online, and regular old offline TV has already conditioned us to expect ads every 5 seconds. Unfortunately. But for a 2-minute clip of questionable quality? Come on.
So keeping ads, while slowly throwing up paywalls is just a bad idea. So the roll out of paid video will end up being incremental and almost just a show of good faith — to keep from ruffling feathers — while the ads just keep proliferating.
YouTube has just announced that it will offer a pilot program for a ‘small group of partners’ to offer a subscription service that starts at $.99 a month. The program will expand outwards from there.
A statement from YouTube says that it has been building out its partner program since 2007. “We’ve watched them build amazing channels that have made YouTube into a news, education and entertainment destination one billion people around the world cannot do without.”
YouTube says that of the over 1M channels generating cash on YouTube, one of the most frequent requests has been ‘more flexibility in monetizing and distributing content’, which is what this new program is about.
Beginning today, a group of early test channels will start to offer paid channels beginning at a buck a month. Every channel will have a 14-day trial and some will offer discounts if you pre-pay for a year. Sesame Street is among those that will be offering free channels and UFC is also a tester.
You can only subscribe to paid channels on the desktop for now, but YouTube says that will be coming to mobile later. For now, you can still watch subscribed shows on every platform. YouTube says that this is ‘just the beginning’ and that the paid channels will be rolled out over the coming weeks as something that ‘qualifying partners’ can toggle on themselves.
So far, the mix of channels is heavily kid oriented, which makes a lot of sense. Full episode content of kids shows is hard to find on tablets like the iPad, which are very kid friendly. I would personally welcome a Disney Junior subscription channel with full episodes of some of those shows, for instance. Currently, you can only catch one or two full ones in the app and the others are bootleg copies all over YouTube.
While the subscription model won’t be right for every channel, it does open up a new source of revenue for big YouTube partners aside from ads. It also encourages those partners to seek addition revenue streams within YouTube, rather than from without. YouTube has built its partner program up over several years, offering courses in maximizing content and taking advantage of its shift towards a channel model. This addition is just one more stepping stone in the effort to make YouTube a viable place to make money and therefore more attractive to individual creators and broadcast media looking to serve up back catalogs alike.
Photo credit: LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images
See the original post here: YouTube launches subscription channels with pilot partners at $0.99/mo, will expand in coming weeks