Daily Archives: June 16, 2015

Airbus to build 900 satellites for OneWeb to beam Internet from space


These satellites will be launched into orbit around Earth beginning in 2018 (Representational Image)

Europe’s Airbus Group will design and build about 900 satellites for privately owned OneWeb Ltd, which plans to offer high-speed, space-based Internet access to billions of people worldwide, company officials said on Monday. About 700 of the satellites, each of which will weigh less than 330 pounds (150 kg), will be launched into orbit around Earth beginning in 2018. The rest will stay on the ground until replacements are needed, said OneWeb, based in Britain’s Channel Islands.

Bankrolled in part by Richard Branson’s London-based Virgin Group and chipmaker Qualcomm Inc, the project will cost between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, OneWeb founder and Chief Executive Officer Greg Wyler said. Airbus Defense and Space will build the first 10 spacecraft at its Toulouse, France, facility, before shifting production to an undisclosed site in the United States, Airbus said.

Several other companies were vying for the spacecraft contract, including Thales Alenia Space, Space Systems/Loral, Lockheed Martin Corp’s Space Systems and OHB of Germany, the industry trade journal Aviation Week and Space Technology reported. Some of OneWeb’s satellites will be flown by Branson’s space company, Virgin Galactic, which is developing a low-cost, small satellite launcher as well as a suborbital passenger spaceship.

Wyler declined to disclose how much Virgin and Qualcomm are investing in the project. As part of the deal, unveiled in January, Branson and Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs joined OneWeb’s board of directors. Before starting OneWeb, Wyler co-founded satellite venture, O3b Networks, and briefly worked at Google Inc on another project to beam Internet access from space. Wyler left Google in 2014 to work on his own satellite project, named WorldVu, which later became OneWeb.

Google, along with Fidelity, has since made a $1 billion investment in another Internet-via-satellite project being developed by California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX.


News outlets face losing control to Apple, Facebook and Google


Traditional news outlets face an increasingly uphill struggle to make money as readers move to mobile devices, giving Facebook, Google and Apple increasing control, according to a new international survey.

The use of mobile devices to access news on a weekly basis surged in the last year from 37% of respondents to almost half (46%), according to a 12-country report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ).

As smartphones and tablets become the devices of choice for accessing content, traditional news brands are being dis-intermediated by the Silicon Valley giants.

The US firms are in a battle to be the top platform for news, with Facebook recently unveiling its Instant Articles service, and Apple announcing a revamp of Newsstand as Apple News.

The report shows a 42% increase year-on-year in referrals from Facebook to the top 20 global news organisations, showing the increasing importance of social media in driving traffic and revenue.

The proportion of all respondents that say they read or shared news on Facebook in the last week grew from 35% to 41% year-on-year. In the UK, this rose from 22% to 29% year-on-year.

Debate has raged across the media industry as to whether partnering with new services from the likes of Facebook will be an invaluable traffic and revenue driver – or whether publishers will eventually find themselves increasingly beholden to third parties such as Google, Apple and Facebook.

“Fragmentation of news provision, which weakens the bargaining power of journalism organisations, has coincided with a concentration of power in platforms,” said Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center at Columbia university, in a lead commentary for the report.

The report also found that although 70% of smartphone users have downloaded a news app, only a third actually use them on a weekly basis.

“The reality is that only the most loyal users are downloading and using apps,” said Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of research at the RISJ. “For others, social media, messaging apps, email and mobile notifications are becoming an increasingly important route to news”.

Kleis Nielsen says the relative difficulty in monetising content on mobile devices compared to traditional desktop websites, and the rise of ad-blocking technology, means that news brands will find it increasingly hard to make money.

Almost half (47%) of the US sample, and 39% of those surveyed in the UK, said that they regularly use ad-blocking software to screen out pop-up ads and banners.

The report also found that the paid-access model is facing issues, with only a small year-on-year increase in the number of people willing to pay.

“A small number of loyal readers have been persuaded to pay for brands they like but it is proving hard to convert casual readers when there is so much free news available from both commercial media companies and public service media,” the report says.

Of those surveyed, only 6% of UK respondents said they paid for some sort of news, from subscription to one-off payments for an article or an app, the lowest proportion of the 12 countries in the report.

Of the UK respondents who do not currently pay for digital news, 75% said they never would, and the average acceptable price point cited by the remainder was just £4.50 per year.

The report also found significant differences in people’s trust in news, with 68% agreeing they trust the media in Finland, dropping to 51% in the UK and just 32% in the US.


Facebook Moments App Delivers Private Photo Sharing


Facebook has a brand new separate app for fans of the social network, and it is known as Moments. Just what will this particular app be able to deliver? For starters, Moments will be able to detect people’s friends in their smartphone camera roll – automatically, now how about that? In fact, this looks to be Facebook’s way of allowing one to share photos in a private manner which they obviously think that it is better to do so.

Released on both the iOS as well as Android platforms, Moments is a standalone app which will organize the photos on people’s smartphones. The very same users are able to share those photos in a private manner with a selected bunch of friends, which means you will keep stuff really, really private, and this ought to allow you to have a gist of who leaks out your personal photos just in case that happens.

Moments will be smart enough to group photos together based on the date and time that they were snapped, as well as the people in them, taking advantage of the same facial recognition technology which also keeps the suggested tagging feature up and running on Facebook’s site. All in all, Facebook is looking at Moments to be a more practical method of sharing photos in a private manner. [Press Release]

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