TechSummit Rewind 188

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Disney to end Netflix deal, launch own streaming service

Cinderella Castle
Cinderella Castle, as viewed from Main Street USA, in the Magic Kingdom Park of Walt Disney World. (Image: Andrew Okwuosah)

Disney will end its distribution deal with Netflix and launch its own streaming service in 2019.

Netflix secured the deal in 2012, but it only kicked into effect last year.

According to Disney, Netflix will be cut off starting with the studio’s 2019 films. Netflix will be able to keep all movies released through the end of that year, including the next two Star Wars movies.

Disney’s streaming service will be built off of technology from BAMTech, the MLB-founded video streaming platform. Disney acquired a majority stake (75 percent) in the company today, with a $1.58 billion investment pending regulatory approval.

“This acquisition and the launch of our direct-to-consumer services mark an entirely new growth strategy for the company, one that takes advantage of the incredible opportunity that changing technology provides us to leverage the strength of our great brands.”

Bob Iger, Disney CEO

The Disney-branded service will be the “exclusive home in the US for subscription-video-on-demand viewing,” and will kick off with films including Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2. “Original movies, TV shows, [and] short-form content” will be added to the service, and it’ll be filled out with older movies from Disney and Pixar’s catalog along with shows from Disney’s cable networks.

In addition to creating a streaming service for Disney movies and TV shows, the company will also launch a streaming service exclusively for ESPN early next year. Disney is promising about “10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year,” with individual sports packages available as well. Disney plans to sell both services directly to consumers.

Google fires employee behind anti-diversity memo

Google_web_search

Google has fired James Damore, a senior software engineer, for writing a 10-page memo condemning the company’s diversity efforts and claiming men are biologically more predisposed to working in tech industry than women. Damore confirmed his firing in an email to Bloomberg, saying he was terminated for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”

Damore argued that biological differences between men and women are the cause of the gender gap at Google and the tech industry as a whole. He also said that efforts to remedy the gap drown out “ideological diversity” and create a culture that discriminates against conservative viewpoints.

Initially, Google had a tempered response. Danielle Brown, the company’s vice president of diversity, said that Damore’s views aren’t ones that “I or this company endorse, promotes or encourages.” Brown also made a point of saying that Google is tolerant of opposing viewpoints.

“Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions.”

Danielle Brown, Google VP of diversity

However, mounting backlash prompted Google CEO Sundar Pichai to send a company-wide email titled, “Our words matter.” In the email, Pichai said that Damore violated the company’s code of conduct by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

Sundar Pichai, Google CEO

Instagram tests letting you add a friend to live streams

Instagram Live split screen

Instagram is testing a new feature that lets you stream live broadcasts on the platform with a friend in split-screen mode.

Adding a friend to a broadcast can be done by tapping the new icon shaped like two smiley faces on the bottom right and select a friend to add, which will vertically split your screen. Everything else about live Instagram videos is unchanged.

Only a small number of users are participating in tests for now, but Instagram plans to roll the feature out to everyone over the next few months.

Spotify comes to Xbox One

spotify-xbox

Spotify is now on the Xbox One in 34 markets worldwide, allowing gamers to stream their favorite tunes while they game.

The app is available to download from the Xbox Store and works for both Spotify Free and Premium users.

To get started, you’ll need to either log in to an existing Spotify account or create a new account directly in the app. From there, you can browse in Spotify through a variety of playlists.

You can also connect your phone, tablet or laptop with Spotify Connect to control your music without having to switch between apps on the console.

Cruise running autonomous ride-hailing service for its San Francisco employees

Cruise, the self-driving startup acquired by GM last year, is already operating a complete autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco for its employees.

Cruise Anywhere lets employees use a mobile app to get anywhere they need to go in San Francisco seven days a week.

Cruise Anywhere is in beta, hence the employee-only restriction, but the company says that some employees are already using it as their primary method of transportation. In total, 10 percent of Cruise’s SF employees are using the beta, with more being enrolled each week from a waitlist.

“We’ve always said we’d launch first with a rideshare application, and this is in line with that and just further evidence of that. We’re really excited about how the technology is evolving, and the rate at which it’s evolving. This is a manifestation of that – putting the app in people’s hands and having them use it for the first time and make [autonomous vehicles] their primary form of transportation.”

Kyle Vogt, Cruise CEO & co-founder

The company wants to develop the hailing component as a full-fledged service that can stand on its own.

“We see a future where we’re open to partnering with one network or partner, many partners or even no partners if that’s the best way to release this technology and achieve the societal benefits of driverless cars sooner.”

Kyle Vogt

Vogt also noted that focusing on all aspects of the service gives Cruise more flexibility with a go-to-market strategy.

Cruise Anywhere operates between 16 and 24 hours a day depending on the availability of the R&D fleet that the company operates. This pool is set to grow by over 100 cars in the next couple of months, which should expand operational hours.

The cars are modified Chevrolet Bolt EVs equipped with sensors, self-driving computers, and software, with each also having a safety driver behind the wheel for testing and as required by law. Still, Cruise says that these drivers have had to take over manual control of vehicles on a few occasions.

 

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