The Vegas Rules of Cybersecurity

For all of the serious business that takes place at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas, there is a fair share of old-school trade show fun, from the tech demos to the booth games (sink a hole-in-one, take a t-shirt) to the fortune tellers who predict whether visitors will receive a new pair of ear buds (spoiler alert: yes). But, the serious business comes first. I was advised by a colleague to wear a pedometer; it is not unusual to walk several miles in day roaming the rows at the convention facility.

Telehealth and connected devices have occupied a lot of floor space for the past several years. And if you did not think you needed to worry about cyber-security yet, the proliferation of connectivity is compelling a greater need to ensure security at all stages of the transmission process, from the so-called “at rest” points of origination and termination to the “in motion” period of transit when encryption secures against unwanted eyes. At the Black Hat Security Conference last August, researchers presented their findings on smart car hacking (which puts a whole new spin on the old Hollywood device of cutting the brake lines).

Perhaps the biggest current news in hacking is the Sony case (sorry, Home Depot), which has led to such entertaining headlines as “13 Revelations from the Sony hack.” I am not wholly amazed by the information that is being leaked, since it does not stray too far, if at all, from what one would expect an employer to hold. But, it certainly reinforces a piece of advice I have given to anyone who will listen (I have also given it to my kids, but, like I said, “anyone who will listen”): operate as if every email you send will wind up in the hands of your worst enemy.

Cybersecurity is about more than email, of course. The hacking of accounts at major retailers underscores the hazards of moving transactions that contain highly confidential information online. The same concerns abide electronic health records. An article in GigaOM this week advises cloud users to bring their own security; the author compares non-encrypted communications to a post card that anyone can read.

This year’s CES is reportedly set to devote a substantial amount of space and time to security issues. The so-called “zone of privacy” is becoming increasingly important as everything from business transactions to smart home devices transmit to and exchange information in the cloud. As CES unpacks this topic next month, the maxim of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” may be an apt metaphor — “What happens on your network, stays on your network — unless it is encrypted.”

Sony Unveils PlayStation-Based TV Service

Sony last week announced its long-anticipated online TV service, which the company hopes will pose a formidable challenge to cable and satellite providers.

Dubbed PlayStation Vue, the service initially will offer approximately 75 channels. These will reportedly include CBS, NBC and FOX, as well as USA, FX, Discovery, MTV, the Food Network, Bravo and Comedy Central. Conspicuously absent are ABC’s networks (including the Disney Channel and ESPN) and Time Warner’s channels (which include HBO).

The service initially will be delivered through Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 game consoles.

While a specific price point has not been publicly announced, it is speculated that PlayStation Vue will cost approximately $60 per month, with no long-term commitment. This price point would make it extremely competitive with cable and satellite service.

“Everyday TV is about to become extraordinary,” Sony Computer Entertainment Group CEO Andrew House said in a statement. “PlayStation Vue reinvents the traditional viewing experience so your programming effortlessly finds you, enabling you to watch much more of what you want and search a lot less.”

Sony plans to offer the service to selected beta testers in the New York area, before expanding to testers in other major markets. PlayStation Vue is expected to be widely available in early 2015.

Sony Creates Original TV Series for PlayStation Gaming Console

Sony has released details of the first original series it has developed for its PlayStation gaming console.

The show, to be entitled “Powers,” is based on a graphic novel and follows the exploits of a mortal private detective in a world of people who possess incredible superpowers.

“Powers” will be produced by Sony Pictures TV, which has already churned out such hits as “Breaking Bad,” “Masters of Sex,” and “Hannibal.” Shooting on “Powers” has not yet begun. The show had previously advanced as far as the pilot stage with the FX network.

Reportedly, “Powers” will be available through the PlayStation network itself; users will be able to stream it in the same manner as they stream content from Hulu or other online providers. Sony has not yet released any information on pricing or availability.

The move allows Sony to enter the world of original production, following the successes of Netflix (“House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black”) and Amazon (“Alpha House.”)

Microsoft is also reportedly working on original programming for its Xbox console—a show based on the video game “Halo”–but has not yet offered any concrete details.

Sony Announces Plans for Streaming TV, Video Games at CES

At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Sony announced plans to enter the web-based video services market.

The company unveiled plans for an as-yet unnamed service that will allow users access to live television, video on demand and DVR in the cloud. Subscribers will be able to access cloud-based content on the more than 70 million Sony devices currently in circulation.

According to Sony, the service will not only offer users recommendations based on their viewing history, but also will allow for the creation of “personalized channels.” Sony also plans to incorporate social media into the service.

Also at CES, Sony announced plans to soon make available “PlayStation Now,” a streaming service that will allow users to access Sony’s PlayStation game library on PlayStation consoles, as well as on phones, tablets and televisions. PS Now will allow gamers the flexibility to decide how they want to access content—either renting by title, or subscribing to an “all-you-can-eat” plan.

“We are thrilled to deliver entertainment experiences only possible from PlayStation through our new streaming game service,” said Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. President and CEO Andrew House. “PS Now will allow users to engage in the world of PlayStation, whether they’re existing fans or have never owned a PlayStation platform.”

Sony will begin testing the service immediately and hopes for widespread availability sometime this summer.

A Continuing Commentary on My Search for a New TV: Are 4K TVs Worth It?

Those of you who have been following my quest for the perfect TV know that I am in need of an upgrade. Football season is coming and the Lions are poised for a Super Bowl run. Ok, maybe luck would be on our side if we scored more than four wins; that would be like a Super Bowl win for the Lions. I’ve been looking into Ultra HD TV, also known as 4K TV.

So what is Ultra HD/4K TV? Well, it has more than 8.8 million pixels, while a standard HD TV has about 2 million. This link explains it further, but the increased resolution is purportedly amazing.

There are a few on the market but dig deep if you want to buy one now because they are pricey. Reviews of the available models are excellent, with the general consensus being that, pricing and content availability questions aside, the picture quality is amazing. The real issues right now with 4K TV are content and whether the improvement in resolution is worth the price tag. Read more

What They’re Watching

Online blogs and trade news sources began reporting on April 10 that Sony would layoff roughly 6% of its global workforce as part of its reorganization. Sony reported a $6.4 billion loss for fiscal 2012 precipitating the cuts along with several product changes yet to come. Among those, Sony will focus its television manufacturing to high-end organic light emitting diode (OLED) sets and “Crystal LED” displays. Read more

Google TV Slowly Adding More Partners

LG Electronics joins Samsung, Sony and Vizio as a partner in the development of Google TV. This past October Google released the long awaited 2.0 version of the middleware to less than stellar reviews.

While the Google TV idea holds promise for combining content from the Web and from conventional television distribution, it remains to be seen if the addition of another electronics manufacturer and new chip sets can help propel Google to a wider and deeper market penetration. Logitech announced this past year that it was dropping out of Google TV development after developing the “Revue” box which reportedly created a $100 million loss for Logitech.

Google notes in blog postings that there are more than 150 individual apps built specifically for the Google TV platform with additional Android apps available to enhance the television experience.

It will be interesting to see what the Google TV partner companies demonstrate at CES 2012.

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