What to expect from CES 2019

The timing is… less than ideal. Just as the industry is recovering from a holiday-induced hangover, we’re thrust into the country’s largest consumer electronics show. The timing, of course, is not coincidental. The show is intended to offer a preview for the tech year to come.

Many companies thrive on CES’s pace. It’s a five-day deluge of tech news, and, for many, it’s the largest platform they’ll get all year. The show is fairly unique in its ability to juggle announcements from all sizes of companies, from Samsung to startup, all vying for a little mindshare.

In recent years, its focus has shifted. Many larger companies have opted to make announcements on their own stages — and their own terms. CES, meanwhile, has changed accordingly, offering smaller companies a platform through showcases like Eureka Park, while making automotive and transportation a more essential plank of the show.

We’re about a week out from CES really kicking off in earnest, so it’s time to take a look at some of the trends that are beginning to emerge in the lead-up to the big show.

5G beyond the phone

5g illustration taken during the inauguration of the Media group Altice' s Campus in Paris on October 9, 2018.

5G illustration, taken during the inauguration of the Media group Altice’ s Campus in Paris on October 9, 2018. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP)

The big tech story of the year will no doubt also be the centerpiece of CES. The major U.S. carriers have already committed to rolling out 5G in 2019, so the show marks a perfect opportunity for hardware companies to get in on the action, as well.

Expect to see a lot of news out of component makers on this front, Intel especially. Qualcomm mostly showcased its 2019 offerings at its summit earlier this month, but the company will no doubt drill down on specifics, including the ways in which next-gen wireless will push IoT, automotive and other devices beyond the smartphone (more on that below).

In fact, I anticipate that’s going to be the big story here: 5G’s role beyond mobile. The big carriers — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint — are intent on demonstrating how the faster technology will keep us gulp more connected than ever. That’s going to apply to everything from enterprise products to health-monitoring wearables and smart home devices.

It’s a future where everything is always-on — and tapped directly into your bank account.

AR/VR

Barring any unforeseen trends, VR’s going to mostly have to sit this one out. We’ll likely see a trend toward cheaper, standalone headsets à la the Oculus Go, but most companies are currently a lot more interested in what augmented reality holds in the short-term.

AR’s immediate future is two-pronged. Most developers are focused on leveraging existing devices like smartphones and tablets, using ARKit/ARCore. But a number of headsets/glasses have already begun to pop up on the periphery. Expect plenty of these to be on display at the show as startups attempt to convince us that it’s an experience we need to bring directly to our collective faces.

Automotive

As noted, automotive/transportation has become an increasingly important presence at CES over the past several years. Car stuff now comprises a full hall and several of the keynotes, as automakers invested more in tech breakthroughs and the consumer electronics side of things.

A number of key trends are already starting to emerge ahead of the event. As in past years, expect to see a focus on on-site demos of EV and self-driving technologies. Augmented reality — including head’s up displays  — will be a big part of the showcase, as will smaller transport products, including delivery robots.

Smart Home

The smart home ruled last year’s show. 5G is expected to take the title in 2019, but connected home products won’t give up without a fight. They’re going to be EVERYWHERE. From door locks to cameras to microwave to wall clocks — if you can name it, there will be a smart version at CES this year.

It’s the one category that practically every company both large and small will have a hand in. That said, two big names with an increased presence are going to drive much of the conversation. Since bringing the Echo and Home to market, CES has become an increasingly important show for both Amazon and Google. Expect Alexa and Assistant on everything at CES.

Smartphones

Much of this has, admittedly, already been detailed in my recent “Top smartphones trends to watch in 2019” post. Of course, what actually gets announced at CES is a different conversation altogether. For one thing, more companies are opting to make big announcements at their own events. For another, Mobile World Congress is just over a month away, and it’s been known to take plenty of smartphone wind out of CES’s sails.

That said, I’d expect to see a handful of 5G handsets on display at the show. And while CES 2019 probably won’t be a watershed moment for the future of foldable smartphones, we’re going to get a closer look at the final version of Royole’s handset. I would also anticipate seeing plenty of foldable concepts hinted at, even as the final product will still be a ways away.

2018 was the toughest year for smartphones in recent memory. As such, a lot of companies are feeling the pressure to do some soul-searching and go back to the drawing board. If nothing else, at least we’ll get some interesting concepts out of the deal.

TVs

Another year, another K. This year, 8K will very much be the thing. It’s like 4K, but with more Ks. Is it a gimmick? Kind of. Is it cool? Sure. Mostly, however, it’s the latest reason to get you to upgrade that three-year-old TV that cost you three months’ rent.

Companies have been showing off 8K sets for half a decade now. This is the year manufacturers will really get serious about the technology — though the same probably can’t be said for content.

via Click on the link for the full article

Gillmor Gang: Next

The Gillmor Gang — Keith Teare, Esteban Kolsky, Frank Radice, Michael Markman, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Saturday December 22, 2018. 2019 — the year to come in review. Tech, Trump, Connected TV: products, services, and streams that could make a difference.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@kteare, @ekolsky, @fradice, @mickeleh, @stevegillmor

Liner Notes

Live chat stream

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook

via Click on the link for the full article

The New Horizons probe buzzes the most distant object ever encountered first thing tomorrow

Four billion miles from Earth, the New Horizons probe that recently sent such lovely pictures of Pluto is drawing near to the most distant object mankind has ever come close to: Ultima Thule, a mysterious rock deep in the Kuiper belt. The historic rendezvous takes place early tomorrow morning.

This is an encounter nearly 30 years in the making, if you count back to the mission’s beginnings in 1989, but it’s also been some 13 years since launch — the timing and nature of which was calculated to give the probe this opportunity after it had completed its primary mission.

New Horizons arrived at Pluto in the summer of 2015, and in its fleeting passage took thousands of photos and readings that scientists are still poring over. It taught us many things about the distant dwarf planet, but by the time it took its extraordinary parting shots of Pluto’s atmosphere, the team was already thinking about its next destination.

Given the craft’s extreme speed and the incredibly distant setting for its first mission, the options for what to investigate were limited — if you can call the billions of objects floating in the Kuiper Belt “limited.”

In fact the next destination had been chosen during a search undertaken in concert with the Hubble Space Telescope team back in 2014. Ground-based reconnaissance wasn’t exact enough, and the New Horizons had to convince Hubble’s operators basically to dedicate two weeks of the satellite’s time on short notice to their cause. After an initial rejection and “some high-stakes backroom maneuvering,” as Principal Investigator Alan Stern describes it in his book about the mission, the team made it happen and Hubble data identified several potential targets.

Ultima Thule as first detected by New Horizons’ LORRI imager.

2014 MU69 is a rock of unknown (but probably weird) shape about 20 miles across, floating in the belt about a billion miles from Pluto. But soon it would be known by another name.

“Ultima Thule,” Stern told me in an interview on stage at Disrupt SF in September. “This is an ancient building block of planets like Pluto, formed 4 billion years ago; it’s been out there in this deep freeze, almost in absolute zero the whole time. It’s a time capsule.”

At the time, he and the team had just gotten visual confirmation of the target, though nothing more than a twinkle in the distance. He was leaving immediately after our talk to go run flyby simulations with the team.

“I’m super excited,” he told me. “That will be the most distant exploration of any world in the history of not just spaceflight, but in the history of human exploration. I don’t think anybody will top that for a long time.”

The Voyagers are the farthest human-made objects, sure, but they’ve been flying through empty space for decades. New Horizons is out here meeting strange objects in an asteroid belt. Good luck putting together another mission like that in less than a few decades.

In the time I’ve taken to write this post, New Horizons has gone from almost exactly 600,000 kilometers away from Ultima Thule to under 538,000 (and by this you shall know my velocity) — so it’ll be there quite soon. Just about 10 hours out, making it very early morning Eastern time on New Year’s Day.

Even then, however, that’s just when New Horizons will actually encounter the object — we won’t know until the signal it sends at the speed of light arrives here on Earth 12 hours later. Pluto is far!

The first data back will confirm the telemetry and basic success of the flyby. It will also begin sending images back as soon as possible, and while it’s possible that we’ll have fabulous pictures of the object by the afternoon, it depends a great deal on how things go during the encounter. At the latest we’ll see some by the next day; media briefings are planned for January 2 and 3 for this purpose.

Once those images start flowing in, though, they may be even better in a way than those we got of Pluto. If all goes well they’ll be capturing photos at a resolution of 35 meters per pixel, more than twice as good as the 70-80 m/px we got of Pluto. Note that these will only come later, after some basic shots confirming the flyby went as planned and allowing the team to better sort through the raw data coming in.

“You should know that that these stretch-goal observations are risky,” wrote Stern in a post on the mission’s page, “requiring us to know exactly where both Ultima and New Horizons are as they pass one another at over 32,000 mph in the darkness of the Kuiper Belt… But with risk comes reward, and we would rather try than not try to get these, and that is what we will do.”

NASA public relations and other staff are still affected by the federal shutdown, but the New Horizons team will be covering the signal acquisition and first data live anyway; follow the mission on Twitter or check in to the NASA Live stream tomorrow morning at 7 AM Pacific time for the whole program. The schedule and lots of links can be found here.

via Click on the link for the full article

The New Horizons probe buzzes the most distant object ever encountered first thing tomorrow

Four billion miles from Earth, the New Horizons probe that recently sent such lovely pictures of Pluto is drawing near to the most distant object mankind has ever come close to: Ultima Thule, a mysterious rock deep in the Kuiper belt. The historic rendezvous takes place early tomorrow morning.

This is an encounter nearly 30 years in the making, if you count back to the mission’s beginnings in 1989, but it’s also been some 13 years since launch — the timing and nature of which was calculated to give the probe this opportunity after it had completed its primary mission.

New Horizons arrived at Pluto in the summer of 2015, and in its fleeting passage took thousands of photos and readings that scientists are still poring over. It taught us many things about the distant dwarf planet, but by the time it took its extraordinary parting shots of Pluto’s atmosphere, the team was already thinking about its next destination.

Given the craft’s extreme speed and the incredibly distant setting for its first mission, the options for what to investigate were limited — if you can call the billions of objects floating in the Kuiper Belt “limited.”

In fact the next destination had been chosen during a search undertaken in concert with the Hubble Space Telescope team back in 2014. Ground-based reconnaissance wasn’t exact enough, and the New Horizons had to convince Hubble’s operators basically to dedicate two weeks of the satellite’s time on short notice to their cause. After an initial rejection and “some high-stakes backroom maneuvering,” as Principal Investigator Alan Stern describes it in his book about the mission, the team made it happen and Hubble data identified several potential targets.

Ultima Thule as first detected by New Horizons’ LORRI imager.

2014 MU69 is a rock of unknown (but probably weird) shape about 20 miles across, floating in the belt about a billion miles from Pluto. But soon it would be known by another name.

“Ultima Thule,” Stern told me in an interview on stage at Disrupt SF in September. “This is an ancient building block of planets like Pluto, formed 4 billion years ago; it’s been out there in this deep freeze, almost in absolute zero the whole time. It’s a time capsule.”

At the time, he and the team had just gotten visual confirmation of the target, though nothing more than a twinkle in the distance. He was leaving immediately after our talk to go run flyby simulations with the team.

“I’m super excited,” he told me. “That will be the most distant exploration of any world in the history of not just spaceflight, but in the history of human exploration. I don’t think anybody will top that for a long time.”

The Voyagers are the farthest human-made objects, sure, but they’ve been flying through empty space for decades. New Horizons is out here meeting strange objects in an asteroid belt. Good luck putting together another mission like that in less than a few decades.

In the time I’ve taken to write this post, New Horizons has gone from almost exactly 600,000 kilometers away from Ultima Thule to under 538,000 (and by this you shall know my velocity) — so it’ll be there quite soon. Just about 10 hours out, making it very early morning Eastern time on New Year’s Day.

Even then, however, that’s just when New Horizons will actually encounter the object — we won’t know until the signal it sends at the speed of light arrives here on Earth 12 hours later. Pluto is far!

The first data back will confirm the telemetry and basic success of the flyby. It will also begin sending images back as soon as possible, and while it’s possible that we’ll have fabulous pictures of the object by the afternoon, it depends a great deal on how things go during the encounter. At the latest we’ll see some by the next day; media briefings are planned for January 2 and 3 for this purpose.

Once those images start flowing in, though, they may be even better in a way than those we got of Pluto. If all goes well they’ll be capturing photos at a resolution of 35 meters per pixel, more than twice as good as the 70-80 m/px we got of Pluto. Note that these will only come later, after some basic shots confirming the flyby went as planned and allowing the team to better sort through the raw data coming in.

“You should know that that these stretch-goal observations are risky,” wrote Stern in a post on the mission’s page, “requiring us to know exactly where both Ultima and New Horizons are as they pass one another at over 32,000 mph in the darkness of the Kuiper Belt… But with risk comes reward, and we would rather try than not try to get these, and that is what we will do.”

NASA public relations and other staff are still affected by the federal shutdown, but the New Horizons team will be covering the signal acquisition and first data live anyway; follow the mission on Twitter or check in to the NASA Live stream tomorrow morning at 7 AM Pacific time for the whole program. The schedule and lots of links can be found here.

via Click on the link for the full article

The New Horizons probe buzzes the most distant object ever encountered first thing tomorrow

Four billion miles from Earth, the New Horizons probe that recently sent such lovely pictures of Pluto is drawing near to the most distant object mankind has ever come close to: Ultima Thule, a mysterious rock deep in the Kuiper belt. The historic rendezvous takes place early tomorrow morning.

This is an encounter nearly 30 years in the making, if you count back to the mission’s beginnings in 1989, but it’s also been some 13 years since launch — the timing and nature of which was calculated to give the probe this opportunity after it had completed its primary mission.

New Horizons arrived at Pluto in the summer of 2015, and in its fleeting passage took thousands of photos and readings that scientists are still poring over. It taught us many things about the distant dwarf planet, but by the time it took its extraordinary parting shots of Pluto’s atmosphere, the team was already thinking about its next destination.

Given the craft’s extreme speed and the incredibly distant setting for its first mission, the options for what to investigate were limited — if you can call the billions of objects floating in the Kuiper Belt “limited.”

In fact the next destination had been chosen during a search undertaken in concert with the Hubble Space Telescope team back in 2014. Ground-based reconnaissance wasn’t exact enough, and the New Horizons had to convince Hubble’s operators basically to dedicate two weeks of the satellite’s time on short notice to their cause. After an initial rejection and “some high-stakes backroom maneuvering,” as Principal Investigator Alan Stern describes it in his book about the mission, the team made it happen and Hubble data identified several potential targets.

Ultima Thule as first detected by New Horizons’ LORRI imager.

2014 MU69 is a rock of unknown (but probably weird) shape about 20 miles across, floating in the belt about a billion miles from Pluto. But soon it would be known by another name.

“Ultima Thule,” Stern told me in an interview on stage at Disrupt SF in September. “This is an ancient building block of planets like Pluto, formed 4 billion years ago; it’s been out there in this deep freeze, almost in absolute zero the whole time. It’s a time capsule.”

At the time, he and the team had just gotten visual confirmation of the target, though nothing more than a twinkle in the distance. He was leaving immediately after our talk to go run flyby simulations with the team.

“I’m super excited,” he told me. “That will be the most distant exploration of any world in the history of not just spaceflight, but in the history of human exploration. I don’t think anybody will top that for a long time.”

The Voyagers are the farthest human-made objects, sure, but they’ve been flying through empty space for decades. New Horizons is out here meeting strange objects in an asteroid belt. Good luck putting together another mission like that in less than a few decades.

In the time I’ve taken to write this post, New Horizons has gone from almost exactly 600,000 kilometers away from Ultima Thule to under 538,000 (and by this you shall know my velocity) — so it’ll be there quite soon. Just about 10 hours out, making it very early morning Eastern time on New Year’s Day.

Even then, however, that’s just when New Horizons will actually encounter the object — we won’t know until the signal it sends at the speed of light arrives here on Earth 12 hours later. Pluto is far!

The first data back will confirm the telemetry and basic success of the flyby. It will also begin sending images back as soon as possible, and while it’s possible that we’ll have fabulous pictures of the object by the afternoon, it depends a great deal on how things go during the encounter. At the latest we’ll see some by the next day; media briefings are planned for January 2 and 3 for this purpose.

Once those images start flowing in, though, they may be even better in a way than those we got of Pluto. If all goes well they’ll be capturing photos at a resolution of 35 meters per pixel, more than twice as good as the 70-80 m/px we got of Pluto. Note that these will only come later, after some basic shots confirming the flyby went as planned and allowing the team to better sort through the raw data coming in.

“You should know that that these stretch-goal observations are risky,” wrote Stern in a post on the mission’s page, “requiring us to know exactly where both Ultima and New Horizons are as they pass one another at over 32,000 mph in the darkness of the Kuiper Belt… But with risk comes reward, and we would rather try than not try to get these, and that is what we will do.”

NASA public relations and other staff are still affected by the federal shutdown, but the New Horizons team will be covering the signal acquisition and first data live anyway; follow the mission on Twitter or check in to the NASA Live stream tomorrow morning at 7 AM Pacific time for the whole program. The schedule and lots of links can be found here.

via Click on the link for the full article

The New Horizons probe buzzes the most distant object ever encountered first thing tomorrow

Four billion miles from Earth, the New Horizons probe that recently sent such lovely pictures of Pluto is drawing near to the most distant object mankind has ever come close to: Ultima Thule, a mysterious rock deep in the Kuiper belt. The historic rendezvous takes place early tomorrow morning.

This is an encounter nearly 30 years in the making, if you count back to the mission’s beginnings in 1989, but it’s also been some 13 years since launch — the timing and nature of which was calculated to give the probe this opportunity after it had completed its primary mission.

New Horizons arrived at Pluto in the summer of 2015, and in its fleeting passage took thousands of photos and readings that scientists are still poring over. It taught us many things about the distant dwarf planet, but by the time it took its extraordinary parting shots of Pluto’s atmosphere, the team was already thinking about its next destination.

Given the craft’s extreme speed and the incredibly distant setting for its first mission, the options for what to investigate were limited — if you can call the billions of objects floating in the Kuiper Belt “limited.”

In fact the next destination had been chosen during a search undertaken in concert with the Hubble Space Telescope team back in 2014. Ground-based reconnaissance wasn’t exact enough, and the New Horizons had to convince Hubble’s operators basically to dedicate two weeks of the satellite’s time on short notice to their cause. After an initial rejection and “some high-stakes backroom maneuvering,” as Principal Investigator Alan Stern describes it in his book about the mission, the team made it happen and Hubble data identified several potential targets.

Ultima Thule as first detected by New Horizons’ LORRI imager.

2014 MU69 is a rock of unknown (but probably weird) shape about 20 miles across, floating in the belt about a billion miles from Pluto. But soon it would be known by another name.

“Ultima Thule,” Stern told me in an interview on stage at Disrupt SF in September. “This is an ancient building block of planets like Pluto, formed 4 billion years ago; it’s been out there in this deep freeze, almost in absolute zero the whole time. It’s a time capsule.”

At the time, he and the team had just gotten visual confirmation of the target, though nothing more than a twinkle in the distance. He was leaving immediately after our talk to go run flyby simulations with the team.

“I’m super excited,” he told me. “That will be the most distant exploration of any world in the history of not just spaceflight, but in the history of human exploration. I don’t think anybody will top that for a long time.”

The Voyagers are the farthest human-made objects, sure, but they’ve been flying through empty space for decades. New Horizons is out here meeting strange objects in an asteroid belt. Good luck putting together another mission like that in less than a few decades.

In the time I’ve taken to write this post, New Horizons has gone from almost exactly 600,000 kilometers away from Ultima Thule to under 538,000 (and by this you shall know my velocity) — so it’ll be there quite soon. Just about 10 hours out, making it very early morning Eastern time on New Year’s Day.

Even then, however, that’s just when New Horizons will actually encounter the object — we won’t know until the signal it sends at the speed of light arrives here on Earth 12 hours later. Pluto is far!

The first data back will confirm the telemetry and basic success of the flyby. It will also begin sending images back as soon as possible, and while it’s possible that we’ll have fabulous pictures of the object by the afternoon, it depends a great deal on how things go during the encounter. At the latest we’ll see some by the next day; media briefings are planned for January 2 and 3 for this purpose.

Once those images start flowing in, though, they may be even better in a way than those we got of Pluto. If all goes well they’ll be capturing photos at a resolution of 35 meters per pixel, more than twice as good as the 70-80 m/px we got of Pluto. Note that these will only come later, after some basic shots confirming the flyby went as planned and allowing the team to better sort through the raw data coming in.

“You should know that that these stretch-goal observations are risky,” wrote Stern in a post on the mission’s page, “requiring us to know exactly where both Ultima and New Horizons are as they pass one another at over 32,000 mph in the darkness of the Kuiper Belt… But with risk comes reward, and we would rather try than not try to get these, and that is what we will do.”

NASA public relations and other staff are still affected by the federal shutdown, but the New Horizons team will be covering the signal acquisition and first data live anyway; follow the mission on Twitter or check in to the NASA Live stream tomorrow morning at 7 AM Pacific time for the whole program. The schedule and lots of links can be found here.

via Click on the link for the full article

The New Horizons probe buzzes the most distant object ever encountered first thing tomorrow

Four billion miles from Earth, the New Horizons probe that recently sent such lovely pictures of Pluto is drawing near to the most distant object mankind has ever come close to: Ultima Thule, a mysterious rock deep in the Kuiper belt. The historic rendezvous takes place early tomorrow morning.

This is an encounter nearly 30 years in the making, if you count back to the mission’s beginnings in 1989, but it’s also been some 13 years since launch — the timing and nature of which was calculated to give the probe this opportunity after it had completed its primary mission.

New Horizons arrived at Pluto in the summer of 2015, and in its fleeting passage took thousands of photos and readings that scientists are still poring over. It taught us many things about the distant dwarf planet, but by the time it took its extraordinary parting shots of Pluto’s atmosphere, the team was already thinking about its next destination.

Given the craft’s extreme speed and the incredibly distant setting for its first mission, the options for what to investigate were limited — if you can call the billions of objects floating in the Kuiper Belt “limited.”

In fact the next destination had been chosen during a search undertaken in concert with the Hubble Space Telescope team back in 2014. Ground-based reconnaissance wasn’t exact enough, and the New Horizons had to convince Hubble’s operators basically to dedicate two weeks of the satellite’s time on short notice to their cause. After an initial rejection and “some high-stakes backroom maneuvering,” as Principal Investigator Alan Stern describes it in his book about the mission, the team made it happen and Hubble data identified several potential targets.

Ultima Thule as first detected by New Horizons’ LORRI imager.

2014 MU69 is a rock of unknown (but probably weird) shape about 20 miles across, floating in the belt about a billion miles from Pluto. But soon it would be known by another name.

“Ultima Thule,” Stern told me in an interview on stage at Disrupt SF in September. “This is an ancient building block of planets like Pluto, formed 4 billion years ago; it’s been out there in this deep freeze, almost in absolute zero the whole time. It’s a time capsule.”

At the time, he and the team had just gotten visual confirmation of the target, though nothing more than a twinkle in the distance. He was leaving immediately after our talk to go run flyby simulations with the team.

“I’m super excited,” he told me. “That will be the most distant exploration of any world in the history of not just spaceflight, but in the history of human exploration. I don’t think anybody will top that for a long time.”

The Voyagers are the farthest human-made objects, sure, but they’ve been flying through empty space for decades. New Horizons is out here meeting strange objects in an asteroid belt. Good luck putting together another mission like that in less than a few decades.

In the time I’ve taken to write this post, New Horizons has gone from almost exactly 600,000 kilometers away from Ultima Thule to under 538,000 (and by this you shall know my velocity) — so it’ll be there quite soon. Just about 10 hours out, making it very early morning Eastern time on New Year’s Day.

Even then, however, that’s just when New Horizons will actually encounter the object — we won’t know until the signal it sends at the speed of light arrives here on Earth 12 hours later. Pluto is far!

The first data back will confirm the telemetry and basic success of the flyby. It will also begin sending images back as soon as possible, and while it’s possible that we’ll have fabulous pictures of the object by the afternoon, it depends a great deal on how things go during the encounter. At the latest we’ll see some by the next day; media briefings are planned for January 2 and 3 for this purpose.

Once those images start flowing in, though, they may be even better in a way than those we got of Pluto. If all goes well they’ll be capturing photos at a resolution of 35 meters per pixel, more than twice as good as the 70-80 m/px we got of Pluto. Note that these will only come later, after some basic shots confirming the flyby went as planned and allowing the team to better sort through the raw data coming in.

“You should know that that these stretch-goal observations are risky,” wrote Stern in a post on the mission’s page, “requiring us to know exactly where both Ultima and New Horizons are as they pass one another at over 32,000 mph in the darkness of the Kuiper Belt… But with risk comes reward, and we would rather try than not try to get these, and that is what we will do.”

NASA public relations and other staff are still affected by the federal shutdown, but the New Horizons team will be covering the signal acquisition and first data live anyway; follow the mission on Twitter or check in to the NASA Live stream tomorrow morning at 7 AM Pacific time for the whole program. The schedule and lots of links can be found here.

via Click on the link for the full article

NYSE operator’s crypto project Bakkt brings in $182M

The Intercontinental Exchange’s (ICE) cryptocurrency project Bakkt celebrated New Year’s Eve with the announcement of a $182.5 million equity round from a slew of notable institutional investors. ICE, the operator of several global exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange, established Bakkt to build a trading platform that enables consumers and institutions to buy, sell, store and spend digital assets.

This is Bakkt’s first institutional funding round; it was not a token sale. Participating in the round are Horizons Ventures, Microsoft’s venture capital arm (M12), Pantera Capital, Naspers’ fintech arm (PayU), Protocol Ventures, Boston Consulting Group, CMT Digital, Eagle Seven, Galaxy Digital, Goldfinch Partners and more.

Bakkt is currently seeking regulatory approval to launch a one-day physically delivered Bitcoin futures contract along with physical warehousing. The startup initially planned for a November 2018 launch, but confirmed this morning an earlier CoinDesk report that it was delaying the launch to “early 2019” as it awaits permission from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Along with the funding, crypto news blog The Block Crypto also reports Bakkt has hired Balaji Devarasetty, a former vice president at Vantiv, as its head technology.

ICE’s crypto project was first announced in August and is led by chief executive officer Kelly Loeffler, ICE’s long-time chief communications and marketing officer. Bakkt quickly inked partnerships with Microsoft, which provides cloud infrastructure to the service, and Starbucks, to develop “practical, trusted and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into U.S. dollars for use at Starbucks,” Starbucks vice president of payments Maria Smith said in a statement at the time.

Many Bitcoin startups floundered in 2018, despite record amounts of venture capital invested in the industry. This was as a result of failed initial coin offerings, an inability to scale following periods of rapid growth and the falling price of Bitcoin. Still, VCs remained bullish on Bitcoin and blockchain technology in 2018, funneling a total of $2.2 billion in U.S.-based crypto projects — a nearly 4x increase year-over-year. Around the globe, investment hit a high of $4.6 billion — a more than 4x increase from last year, according to PitchBook.

“Notably, 2018 was the most active year for crypto in its brief ten-year history,” Loeffler wrote. “This was evidenced by rising investment in distributed ledger technology and digital assets, as well as by blockchain network metrics such as daily bitcoin transaction value and active addresses. Yet, these milestones tend to be overshadowed by the more narrow focus on bitcoin’s price, which has been seen by some, as a proxy for the potential of the technology.”

Today, the price of Bitcoin is hovering around $3,700 one year after a historic run valued the cryptocurrency at roughly $20,000. The crash caused many to dismiss Bitcoin and its underlying technology, while others remained committed to the tech and its potential for complete financial disruption. A project like Bakkt, created in-house at a respected financial institution with support from noteworthy businesses, is a logical bet for crypto and traditional private investors alike.

“The path to developing new markets is rarely linear: progress tends to modulate between innovation, dismissal, reinvention, and, finally, acceptance,” Loeffler added. “Each step, whether part of discovery or adversity, ultimately strengthens the product. Twenty years ago, it was controversial to suggest that commodities or bonds could trade electronically on a screen, and many steps were required for that evolution to play out.”

via Click on the link for the full article

2018 was a year of massive mergers and acquisitions with AT&T/Time Warner, Disney/Fox, and Comcast/Sky. The #MeToo movement made headlines, and the dominant emotion in boardroom discussions around Hollywood and beyond was fear … lots of fear in the ranks of our tech-infused world of media and entertainment (as well as in the world itself).

So what does the crystal ball predict for 2019?

Here are some of the narratives that will shape the world of entertainment next year and set the stage for the roaring 20s of the media industry.

PREDICTION #1 – Blood continues to spill in the relentless battle amongst premium OTT video giants, as Apple and Disney join the subscription video fray and add to the epic collective assault on Netflix.  In the midst of it all, smaller “niche” players either find their singular voices that attract “fandom” and broader monetization, or risk being marginalized and swallowed up by their strategic investors (for a fraction of what they would have commanded a couple years back). 

Originals continue to be the primary weapon used in the premium subscription streaming video battlefront, extending media’s new “Golden Age” for creators and further skyrocketing content-related development and production costs (including the price tags for A-list marquee talent).  Fierce premium OTT video competitors increasingly use content both offensively and defensively, like Disney withholding its crown jewels from Netflix (Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, Princesses, X-Men, Avatar).  Netflix feels the heat, as will its investors, as the collective crew of “Netflix-Killers” put increasing pressure on its pure-play business model.

Meanwhile, the newly expanded list of virtual MVPDs (multi-channel video program distributors) fix their initial flaws, offer consumers real competitive choice, and hasten consumer cord-cutting even further.  Whereas we started 2016 with 2-3 real, viable mainstream choices in the U.S. for live television, as of 2019, consumers now can access nearly 10 (cable, satellite, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, etc.).  And, even in these nationalistic times, let’s not forget about massive international players like Tencent, Alibaba or Baidu’s iQIYI, which went public in the U.S. markets this past year.

Amidst this battle of video giants, several smaller so-called “niche” or segment-focused video players either expeditiously find their uniquely compelling voice and build a fandom-fueled multi-pronged monetizing brand around it, or simply get lost in the noise.

FILE – This June 27, 2015, file photo, shows the Hulu logo on a window at the Milk Studios space in New York. Hulu said Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, that the company is dropping the free TV episodes that it was initially known for as it works on launching a skinny bundle of streaming TV. (AP Photo/Dan Goodman, File)

PREDICTION #2 – Media-Tech driven M&A continues to rule the day in all segments.  On the video side, both traditional media companies and undercapitalized and underperforming privately-held new media companies languish in this beyond-crowded OTT video space and become logical M&A targets.

M&A is a hallmark of the overall digital, multi-platform tech-infused transformation of the media and entertainment business.  Just like AT&T closed its acquisition of storied traditional (yet slow-moving) Time Warner ($85 billion), Disney beat back Comcast to acquire Fox’s entertainment assets in 2018 ($71.3 billion), Comcast struck back and acquired Sky ($39 billion), and SiriusXM acquired the remaining 81% of Pandora it didn’t already own ($3.5 billion), expect more massive deals in 2019, together with a number of smaller, yet still significant ones.  Viacom/CBS is one likely candidate.

And don’t just look within U.S. borders.  No virtual wall exists in our borderless new media world, which means that M&A’s pace will accelerate internationally as well.  Remember, the Comcast/Sky deal represents a U.S. behemoth’s ambitions to significantly expand its footprint into multiple European territories.  Lots of mega-companies around the globe desperately hope to expand their footprints to places where, up to now, they have never been.

To be clear, not all M&A will flow from weakness.  Sometimes the numbers offered simply will be too high to reject.  But make no mistake.  Weakness will abound amidst hyper-competition, and winners will swallow up losers in an environment of accelerating M&A.  Many of the so-called niche-focused OTT video services still primarily rely upon ad dollars (especially the younger ones), but remember, Google and Facebook already own about 2/3 of that global digital advertising market.  That means that most pure-play OTT video players simply cannot succeed on ad dollars alone.  And, for most, other means of monetization will be beyond their reach, as they fail to deliver a sufficiently compelling, differentiated and emotionally connected media experience.  So, much like Uproxx did this past year when Warner Music Group acquired it (likely for a song), expect several of the new media players to lose their Indie status.

PREDICTION #3 – The music industry’s streaming-driven turnaround continues and streaming revenues accelerate, but pure-play music services led by Spotify continue to hemorrhage money as losses mount.  Meanwhile, the giant “big box” retailers of the day — Apple, Amazon and YouTube (particularly YouTube) — brazenly march on, indifferent to that suffering with their fundamentally different underlying marketing-driven business models. 

Yes, Spotify boasts massive scale.  Yet, scale alone does not financial success make.  In fact, pure-play growth success leads to higher and higher losses due to sobering industry economics these pure-plays can’t stomach, but the behemoths can due to their multi-pronged business models.  These harsh realities mean that investors of many pure-play streaming music services will take a hard look at themselves in 2019 as they contemplate their next strategic next steps.  Many will realize that they can’t go it alone.  And that leads to more M&A, much like we saw this past year with SiriusXM buying Pandora and LiveXLive buying Slacker.  Spotify is not immune here.  Unless it successfully expands its business model and drives major new revenue streams, it too could be bought. Facebook anyone?

 

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 03: The Spotify banner hangs from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on the morning that the music streaming service begins trading shares at the NYSE on April 3, 2018 in New York City. Trading under the symbol SPOT, the Swedish company’s losses grew to 1.235 billion euros ($1.507 billion) last year, its largest ever. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

PREDICTION #4 – Tech-driven media companies thrive and increasingly dominate the entertainment world by using data to their advantage.  They use AI, voice and machine learning to dominate further and even more broadly infiltrate our lives and impact our media and entertainment experiences.

Netflix, Amazon and Facebook increasingly mine their deep data about all of our hopes and dreams to maximize “hits” and minimize “misses” as compared to traditional media companies.  In many respects, the studios simply can’t compete.  Faced with that reality, the quest for data — and the services that provide, analyze and inform – takes on new urgency.  Further, the Hollywood establishment and creative community still have yet to understand – at least in large numbers — the power of new cost-effective tech-driven ways to test and measure new characters, stories and engagement in order to more smartly and efficiently place their big expensive bets.

Meanwhile, the new tech-driven media giants hope to increase their overall Media 2.0 dominance through the soothing voices of Alexa and Siri (sorry Google, yours is a little less so) and the overall AI/machine learning revolution.  “Virtual assistants,” “smart speakers” (or whatever you want to call them) increasingly dominate our home conversations, improve significantly over time, and serve up our favorite content via “intelligent” recommendations (as well as increasingly targeted and smarter incentives, promotions, ads and goods).  71% of us already use voice assistants at least once per day (most frequently for selecting the music we like to hear), so voice most definitely is here to stay.

More exotically, and perhaps somewhat alarmingly, AI also increasingly drives so-called “intelligent” creation.  AI already develops movie trailers that some believe approach the impact of their human-generated counterparts.  You be the judge — check out the first AI-produced movie trailer, care of IBM’s Watson, for the fittingly AI-themed 2016 motion picture thriller Morgan.  And, just imagine how much AI has advanced in just these past two years since then.  Can AI screenwriters be far behind?  Gong Yu, founder and CEO of China’s leading streaming platform iQIYI certainly doesn’t think so.  In his words, AI “will reshape the entertainment industry over the next 10-15 years, much more so than the Internet did over the past three decades.”  Just chew on that for a bit.

So, AI may become a real threat even to creative pursuits that, up to this point, most in Hollywood believe are untouchable by computers, bots, and robots.  Tesla maven and global futurist Elon Musk is downright dystopian and takes things even further, warning that AI may be an ultimate global threat to us all.  Musk tweeted in 2017 that “competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3.”   Those were his precise words, so that was either Musk’s particular form of Twitter-speak, or his mind had become a bit hazy during one of his notorious cannabis-fueled interviews!

Amazon is releasing a software development kit that will let developers integrate Alexa into smart screen devices.

PREDICTION #5 – Behemoths Apple, Google and Facebook, together with other tech-driven media giants and deep-pocketed financiers from around the world, increase their already-massive investments in immersive technologies and accelerate mainstream adoption of AR.

AR’s gold rush means continued growth in the related wearables market and consumer adoption of AR-driven eyewear.  Investors of all stripes also continue to throw boatloads of cash into the overall immersive space to fuel the development of experiences (including real world live entertainment and storytelling, not only games) to feed these new platforms.  Expect significant investment in content.  The immersive market opportunity is still so nascent, yet its ultimate promise is so great, that the money working to capture it in 2019 and beyond will seem endless.  And, when so much money chases a market, that market becomes our consumer reality.

The onset of 5G wireless networks will only hasten the growth of extended reality (XR) in all its forms.  Speaking of 5G …

Attendees look at 5G mobile phones at the Qualcomm stand during China Mobile Global Partner Conference 2018 at Poly World Trade Center Exhibition Hall on December 6, 2018 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China.

GUANGZHOU, CHINA – DECEMBER 06: Attendees look at 5G mobile phones at the Qualcomm stand during China Mobile Global Partner Conference 2018 at Poly World Trade Center Exhibition Hall on December 6, 2018 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China. The three-day conference opened on Thursday, with the theme of 5G network. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

PREDICTION #6 – 5G Networks launch, reveal their early media and tech promise and possibilities, and begin to transform our media and entertainment experiences (as well as the overall ecosystem that supports them). 

5G networks are critical for media experiences that require low latency, including AR, VR, and eSports.  For AR, 5G reduces the size of consumer headsets, because processing is now done on the network itself rather than on the device.  That makes wearables increasingly user-friendly and fuels further innovation and adoption.  5G also accelerates more high quality video consumption on our mobile phones, thereby pushing purveyors of premium OTT video like Netflix to increasingly focus on mobile-first content experiences.

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s and Meg Whitman’s new mobile-driven Netflix-like premium video service Quibi (formerly NewTV) certainly saw this train coming, and jumped on first.

 

PREDICTION #7 – The oft-overlooked, yet potentially game-changing, live entertainment and event plank increasingly finds itself in multi-platform Media 2.0 strategies, deepening overall brand engagement and monetization possibilities.  Expect more significant “offline”-related experiments, initiatives and M&A by both traditional and new tech-driven media companies.

Call this the “Amazon Effect,” as players across the Media 2.0 ecosystem stop scratching their heads about Amazon’s direct-to-theater film releases, brick and mortar retail expansion, and Whole Foods superstore operations – and, instead, increasingly study, respect and emulate them.  Netflix certainly did in 2018.  After trashing Amazon one year earlier for releasing its features first in theaters, Netflix announced it would begin to do the same.

Amazon understands what most still haven’t even considered – that direct, non-virtual offline consumer engagement may be the most impactful plank of them all, driving online engagement into the real world (and then back again) to create a virtual cycle of daily brand engagement and consumer monetization every step of the way.  Even traditional media company Viacom now shows signs of understanding these online/offline brand synergies.  It bought both youth-focused video industry conference VidCon and music festival SnowGlobe in 2018.

So, while MoviePass may go the way of the Dodo bird in 2019, movie theaters themselves will not die.  They simply will be re-imagined.  We humans, after all, are social creatures.  We like to get out, and we won’t be satisfied binging on Netflix alone.  Movie theater subscription services most definitely are here to stay, and Amazon will offer one soon for Prime members.  After all, in a fun fact that may surprise you, more museums populate the planet – significantly more – than McDonald’s.  See, there is hope!

 

PREDICTION #8 – The #MeToo Movement continues to transform the face (and faces) of both old and new media.  And, new faces will invest new industry dollars in new (and frequently very different) content choices, bringing us new (and frequently different) stories and transforming our media and entertainment experiences.

Revelations aren’t over.  Abuse was simply far too pervasive.  Old players are gone.  New, frequently younger, tech-driven media savvy faces get a seat at the decision-making table.  They change the game of “what” and “how” we experience content.

Ultimately, #MeToo both cleanses the overall new media industry, and fills our plates with very different media and entertainment choices.

 

PREDICTION #9 – Fake news, fraud and breaches of privacy continue unabated and accelerate, as does marketing concern for “brand safety.”  These seemingly unstoppable negative forces continue to place downward pressure on ad-dependent open platforms. 

Make no mistake, we are in the midst of hacking wars, the likes of which we’ve never seen.  This “good versus evil” reality is here to stay, and players across the tech-driven media and entertainment ecosystem either significantly increase their investments in counter-measures and related PR, or risk the wrath of consumers and the overall ad market (much like Facebook did this past year).

Twitter housecleaned 70 million fake and automated accounts in a two month span last year (and 1 million more daily), Instagram conceded that over 50% of engagements on its posts tagged as #sponsored are fake, Spotify similarly conceded prevalent ad fraud and decreased its total reported content hours streamed by hundreds of millions of hours, and competing music service Tidal faced accusations that it had falsified tens of millions of streams.  Just a few examples of how pervasive fraud and audience manipulation has become in our Media 2.0 world.  These fake accounts create, in the words of Variety“a shadow army of followers that has comparatively little monetary effect.  But perform the same manipulation with music streams, and it constitutes fraud.”

 

PREDICTION #10 – Blockchain technology and crypto-currency-fueled investment and experimentation, already over-hyped and under-performing, continues apace.  Yet, once again, there will be little to show for it in the world of media and entertainment.  At least for now.

Early blockchain leaders continue to be irrationally overvalued, which is always the case with any nascent market.  But, on a happier note, the voice of blockchain technology – heard thus far mostly in investment circles with promises of “instant millions” (or even billions) – becomes increasingly heard for its more positive potential for the world of media and entertainment.  Blockchain technology conceptually holds revolutionary industry-transforming new offensive and defensive power.  On the offensive front, blockchain enables new ways to monetize content via micropayments and direct creator-to-consumer distribution sans today’s leading middlemen.  These possibilities begin to reveal themselves in 2019.  On the defensive front, blockchain promises to eradicate piracy, but that happens in years, not this coming year.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

2019 certainly will push 2018’s Media 2.0 boundaries noticeably further, driven by these and other industry meta-forces.  But, these changes will be barely noticeable compared to the seismic shifts to follow in the next ten years.

I close with Paramount futurist Ted Schilowitz’s perspective on all of this.  In our conversation, Ted points to two phenomena — the first of which he calls “the known unknown,” and the second he calls “the ten year curve.”  “The known unknown” refers to what he calls the “scary” fact that we all know that massive tech-driven change is coming, but we don’t know the “twists and turns that get us there.”  Meanwhile, “the ten year curve” refers to “big dynamic change waves” that follow ten-year cycles.  In Ted’s view, we just recently finished the YouTube and iPhone 10-year cycles, and now essentially everyone around the globe participates in those dual phenomena.

So, what’s “the next big thing?”  Ted calls it the “the evolution of the screen” – so-called “visual computing” via new forms of eyewear (wearables) that replace our smartphones.  Think Minority Report-like data and content interaction, and you get the general idea.  “Surprisingly little has changed with human/screen interaction in the past 30 years,” Ted points out.  He reminds me that while user interfaces have become more sophisticated, actual screen interaction is not massively different — comparing interaction on Mac screens 30 years ago and on iPhones today.

That is all changing right now — as you sit, read and soak in Ted’s thoughts either in print, or more likely on your own v.2019 screen.  According to Ted, we are only about 3.5 years into this 10-year visual computing cycle.  “In 2013-2014, we saw the first idea of commercializing a track-able screen, a spatial screen.  That is a massive change.  We will fundamentally change how we use our screens.  I see a very distinct future where these things will emerge from their cocoon and replace the iPhone, laptop, etc.  You will notice an evolution of 30 minutes per day, then one hour, then two hours, etc.” 

Think that overstates things a bit?  Well, Ted cautions you this way.  “It’s the exact same paradigm shift we saw with mobile phones decades ago.  Just imagine back then that you would – decades later (i.e., today) — carry a device with you almost every waking moment of your waking life.  Even Bill Gates would have said that is ridiculous.”

Yet, here we are.  Today.  In that “unimaginable” world.  That’s how fast it goes.

Ted is adamant about this inevitable “evolution of the screen” reality, and he is convincing.  “I know the next evolution is coming.  All of these experiments today are on their way to something really, really significant.  2019 will be very subtle in this revolution.  Still for the early adopter, because none of these head mounted immersive devices today will replace our smart phones.  But the constant and continuous evolution of this tech is happening

via Click on the link for the full article

2018 was a year of massive mergers and acquisitions with AT&T/Time Warner, Disney/Fox, and Comcast/Sky. The #MeToo movement made headlines, and the dominant emotion in boardroom discussions around Hollywood and beyond was fear … lots of fear in the ranks of our tech-infused world of media and entertainment (as well as in the world itself).

So what does the crystal ball predict for 2019?

Here are some of the narratives that will shape the world of entertainment next year and set the stage for the roaring 20s of the media industry.

PREDICTION #1 – Blood continues to spill in the relentless battle amongst premium OTT video giants, as Apple and Disney join the subscription video fray and add to the epic collective assault on Netflix.  In the midst of it all, smaller “niche” players either find their singular voices that attract “fandom” and broader monetization, or risk being marginalized and swallowed up by their strategic investors (for a fraction of what they would have commanded a couple years back). 

Originals continue to be the primary weapon used in the premium subscription streaming video battlefront, extending media’s new “Golden Age” for creators and further skyrocketing content-related development and production costs (including the price tags for A-list marquee talent).  Fierce premium OTT video competitors increasingly use content both offensively and defensively, like Disney withholding its crown jewels from Netflix (Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, Princesses, X-Men, Avatar).  Netflix feels the heat, as will its investors, as the collective crew of “Netflix-Killers” put increasing pressure on its pure-play business model.

Meanwhile, the newly expanded list of virtual MVPDs (multi-channel video program distributors) fix their initial flaws, offer consumers real competitive choice, and hasten consumer cord-cutting even further.  Whereas we started 2016 with 2-3 real, viable mainstream choices in the U.S. for live television, as of 2019, consumers now can access nearly 10 (cable, satellite, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, etc.).  And, even in these nationalistic times, let’s not forget about massive international players like Tencent, Alibaba or Baidu’s iQIYI, which went public in the U.S. markets this past year.

Amidst this battle of video giants, several smaller so-called “niche” or segment-focused video players either expeditiously find their uniquely compelling voice and build a fandom-fueled multi-pronged monetizing brand around it, or simply get lost in the noise.

FILE – This June 27, 2015, file photo, shows the Hulu logo on a window at the Milk Studios space in New York. Hulu said Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, that the company is dropping the free TV episodes that it was initially known for as it works on launching a skinny bundle of streaming TV. (AP Photo/Dan Goodman, File)

PREDICTION #2 – Media-Tech driven M&A continues to rule the day in all segments.  On the video side, both traditional media companies and undercapitalized and underperforming privately-held new media companies languish in this beyond-crowded OTT video space and become logical M&A targets.

M&A is a hallmark of the overall digital, multi-platform tech-infused transformation of the media and entertainment business.  Just like AT&T closed its acquisition of storied traditional (yet slow-moving) Time Warner ($85 billion), Disney beat back Comcast to acquire Fox’s entertainment assets in 2018 ($71.3 billion), Comcast struck back and acquired Sky ($39 billion), and SiriusXM acquired the remaining 81% of Pandora it didn’t already own ($3.5 billion), expect more massive deals in 2019, together with a number of smaller, yet still significant ones.  Viacom/CBS is one likely candidate.

And don’t just look within U.S. borders.  No virtual wall exists in our borderless new media world, which means that M&A’s pace will accelerate internationally as well.  Remember, the Comcast/Sky deal represents a U.S. behemoth’s ambitions to significantly expand its footprint into multiple European territories.  Lots of mega-companies around the globe desperately hope to expand their footprints to places where, up to now, they have never been.

To be clear, not all M&A will flow from weakness.  Sometimes the numbers offered simply will be too high to reject.  But make no mistake.  Weakness will abound amidst hyper-competition, and winners will swallow up losers in an environment of accelerating M&A.  Many of the so-called niche-focused OTT video services still primarily rely upon ad dollars (especially the younger ones), but remember, Google and Facebook already own about 2/3 of that global digital advertising market.  That means that most pure-play OTT video players simply cannot succeed on ad dollars alone.  And, for most, other means of monetization will be beyond their reach, as they fail to deliver a sufficiently compelling, differentiated and emotionally connected media experience.  So, much like Uproxx did this past year when Warner Music Group acquired it (likely for a song), expect several of the new media players to lose their Indie status.

PREDICTION #3 – The music industry’s streaming-driven turnaround continues and streaming revenues accelerate, but pure-play music services led by Spotify continue to hemorrhage money as losses mount.  Meanwhile, the giant “big box” retailers of the day — Apple, Amazon and YouTube (particularly YouTube) — brazenly march on, indifferent to that suffering with their fundamentally different underlying marketing-driven business models. 

Yes, Spotify boasts massive scale.  Yet, scale alone does not financial success make.  In fact, pure-play growth success leads to higher and higher losses due to sobering industry economics these pure-plays can’t stomach, but the behemoths can due to their multi-pronged business models.  These harsh realities mean that investors of many pure-play streaming music services will take a hard look at themselves in 2019 as they contemplate their next strategic next steps.  Many will realize that they can’t go it alone.  And that leads to more M&A, much like we saw this past year with SiriusXM buying Pandora and LiveXLive buying Slacker.  Spotify is not immune here.  Unless it successfully expands its business model and drives major new revenue streams, it too could be bought. Facebook anyone?

 

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 03: The Spotify banner hangs from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on the morning that the music streaming service begins trading shares at the NYSE on April 3, 2018 in New York City. Trading under the symbol SPOT, the Swedish company’s losses grew to 1.235 billion euros ($1.507 billion) last year, its largest ever. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

PREDICTION #4 – Tech-driven media companies thrive and increasingly dominate the entertainment world by using data to their advantage.  They use AI, voice and machine learning to dominate further and even more broadly infiltrate our lives and impact our media and entertainment experiences.

Netflix, Amazon and Facebook increasingly mine their deep data about all of our hopes and dreams to maximize “hits” and minimize “misses” as compared to traditional media companies.  In many respects, the studios simply can’t compete.  Faced with that reality, the quest for data — and the services that provide, analyze and inform – takes on new urgency.  Further, the Hollywood establishment and creative community still have yet to understand – at least in large numbers — the power of new cost-effective tech-driven ways to test and measure new characters, stories and engagement in order to more smartly and efficiently place their big expensive bets.

Meanwhile, the new tech-driven media giants hope to increase their overall Media 2.0 dominance through the soothing voices of Alexa and Siri (sorry Google, yours is a little less so) and the overall AI/machine learning revolution.  “Virtual assistants,” “smart speakers” (or whatever you want to call them) increasingly dominate our home conversations, improve significantly over time, and serve up our favorite content via “intelligent” recommendations (as well as increasingly targeted and smarter incentives, promotions, ads and goods).  71% of us already use voice assistants at least once per day (most frequently for selecting the music we like to hear), so voice most definitely is here to stay.

More exotically, and perhaps somewhat alarmingly, AI also increasingly drives so-called “intelligent” creation.  AI already develops movie trailers that some believe approach the impact of their human-generated counterparts.  You be the judge — check out the first AI-produced movie trailer, care of IBM’s Watson, for the fittingly AI-themed 2016 motion picture thriller Morgan.  And, just imagine how much AI has advanced in just these past two years since then.  Can AI screenwriters be far behind?  Gong Yu, founder and CEO of China’s leading streaming platform iQIYI certainly doesn’t think so.  In his words, AI “will reshape the entertainment industry over the next 10-15 years, much more so than the Internet did over the past three decades.”  Just chew on that for a bit.

So, AI may become a real threat even to creative pursuits that, up to this point, most in Hollywood believe are untouchable by computers, bots, and robots.  Tesla maven and global futurist Elon Musk is downright dystopian and takes things even further, warning that AI may be an ultimate global threat to us all.  Musk tweeted in 2017 that “competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3.”   Those were his precise words, so that was either Musk’s particular form of Twitter-speak, or his mind had become a bit hazy during one of his notorious cannabis-fueled interviews!

Amazon is releasing a software development kit that will let developers integrate Alexa into smart screen devices.

PREDICTION #5 – Behemoths Apple, Google and Facebook, together with other tech-driven media giants and deep-pocketed financiers from around the world, increase their already-massive investments in immersive technologies and accelerate mainstream adoption of AR.

AR’s gold rush means continued growth in the related wearables market and consumer adoption of AR-driven eyewear.  Investors of all stripes also continue to throw boatloads of cash into the overall immersive space to fuel the development of experiences (including real world live entertainment and storytelling, not only games) to feed these new platforms.  Expect significant investment in content.  The immersive market opportunity is still so nascent, yet its ultimate promise is so great, that the money working to capture it in 2019 and beyond will seem endless.  And, when so much money chases a market, that market becomes our consumer reality.

The onset of 5G wireless networks will only hasten the growth of extended reality (XR) in all its forms.  Speaking of 5G …

Attendees look at 5G mobile phones at the Qualcomm stand during China Mobile Global Partner Conference 2018 at Poly World Trade Center Exhibition Hall on December 6, 2018 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China.

GUANGZHOU, CHINA – DECEMBER 06: Attendees look at 5G mobile phones at the Qualcomm stand during China Mobile Global Partner Conference 2018 at Poly World Trade Center Exhibition Hall on December 6, 2018 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China. The three-day conference opened on Thursday, with the theme of 5G network. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

PREDICTION #6 – 5G Networks launch, reveal their early media and tech promise and possibilities, and begin to transform our media and entertainment experiences (as well as the overall ecosystem that supports them). 

5G networks are critical for media experiences that require low latency, including AR, VR, and eSports.  For AR, 5G reduces the size of consumer headsets, because processing is now done on the network itself rather than on the device.  That makes wearables increasingly user-friendly and fuels further innovation and adoption.  5G also accelerates more high quality video consumption on our mobile phones, thereby pushing purveyors of premium OTT video like Netflix to increasingly focus on mobile-first content experiences.

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s and Meg Whitman’s new mobile-driven Netflix-like premium video service Quibi (formerly NewTV) certainly saw this train coming, and jumped on first.

 

PREDICTION #7 – The oft-overlooked, yet potentially game-changing, live entertainment and event plank increasingly finds itself in multi-platform Media 2.0 strategies, deepening overall brand engagement and monetization possibilities.  Expect more significant “offline”-related experiments, initiatives and M&A by both traditional and new tech-driven media companies.

Call this the “Amazon Effect,” as players across the Media 2.0 ecosystem stop scratching their heads about Amazon’s direct-to-theater film releases, brick and mortar retail expansion, and Whole Foods superstore operations – and, instead, increasingly study, respect and emulate them.  Netflix certainly did in 2018.  After trashing Amazon one year earlier for releasing its features first in theaters, Netflix announced it would begin to do the same.

Amazon understands what most still haven’t even considered – that direct, non-virtual offline consumer engagement may be the most impactful plank of them all, driving online engagement into the real world (and then back again) to create a virtual cycle of daily brand engagement and consumer monetization every step of the way.  Even traditional media company Viacom now shows signs of understanding these online/offline brand synergies.  It bought both youth-focused video industry conference VidCon and music festival SnowGlobe in 2018.

So, while MoviePass may go the way of the Dodo bird in 2019, movie theaters themselves will not die.  They simply will be re-imagined.  We humans, after all, are social creatures.  We like to get out, and we won’t be satisfied binging on Netflix alone.  Movie theater subscription services most definitely are here to stay, and Amazon will offer one soon for Prime members.  After all, in a fun fact that may surprise you, more museums populate the planet – significantly more – than McDonald’s.  See, there is hope!

 

PREDICTION #8 – The #MeToo Movement continues to transform the face (and faces) of both old and new media.  And, new faces will invest new industry dollars in new (and frequently very different) content choices, bringing us new (and frequently different) stories and transforming our media and entertainment experiences.

Revelations aren’t over.  Abuse was simply far too pervasive.  Old players are gone.  New, frequently younger, tech-driven media savvy faces get a seat at the decision-making table.  They change the game of “what” and “how” we experience content.

Ultimately, #MeToo both cleanses the overall new media industry, and fills our plates with very different media and entertainment choices.

 

PREDICTION #9 – Fake news, fraud and breaches of privacy continue unabated and accelerate, as does marketing concern for “brand safety.”  These seemingly unstoppable negative forces continue to place downward pressure on ad-dependent open platforms. 

Make no mistake, we are in the midst of hacking wars, the likes of which we’ve never seen.  This “good versus evil” reality is here to stay, and players across the tech-driven media and entertainment ecosystem either significantly increase their investments in counter-measures and related PR, or risk the wrath of consumers and the overall ad market (much like Facebook did this past year).

Twitter housecleaned 70 million fake and automated accounts in a two month span last year (and 1 million more daily), Instagram conceded that over 50% of engagements on its posts tagged as #sponsored are fake, Spotify similarly conceded prevalent ad fraud and decreased its total reported content hours streamed by hundreds of millions of hours, and competing music service Tidal faced accusations that it had falsified tens of millions of streams.  Just a few examples of how pervasive fraud and audience manipulation has become in our Media 2.0 world.  These fake accounts create, in the words of Variety“a shadow army of followers that has comparatively little monetary effect.  But perform the same manipulation with music streams, and it constitutes fraud.”

 

PREDICTION #10 – Blockchain technology and crypto-currency-fueled investment and experimentation, already over-hyped and under-performing, continues apace.  Yet, once again, there will be little to show for it in the world of media and entertainment.  At least for now.

Early blockchain leaders continue to be irrationally overvalued, which is always the case with any nascent market.  But, on a happier note, the voice of blockchain technology – heard thus far mostly in investment circles with promises of “instant millions” (or even billions) – becomes increasingly heard for its more positive potential for the world of media and entertainment.  Blockchain technology conceptually holds revolutionary industry-transforming new offensive and defensive power.  On the offensive front, blockchain enables new ways to monetize content via micropayments and direct creator-to-consumer distribution sans today’s leading middlemen.  These possibilities begin to reveal themselves in 2019.  On the defensive front, blockchain promises to eradicate piracy, but that happens in years, not this coming year.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

2019 certainly will push 2018’s Media 2.0 boundaries noticeably further, driven by these and other industry meta-forces.  But, these changes will be barely noticeable compared to the seismic shifts to follow in the next ten years.

I close with Paramount futurist Ted Schilowitz’s perspective on all of this.  In our conversation, Ted points to two phenomena — the first of which he calls “the known unknown,” and the second he calls “the ten year curve.”  “The known unknown” refers to what he calls the “scary” fact that we all know that massive tech-driven change is coming, but we don’t know the “twists and turns that get us there.”  Meanwhile, “the ten year curve” refers to “big dynamic change waves” that follow ten-year cycles.  In Ted’s view, we just recently finished the YouTube and iPhone 10-year cycles, and now essentially everyone around the globe participates in those dual phenomena.

So, what’s “the next big thing?”  Ted calls it the “the evolution of the screen” – so-called “visual computing” via new forms of eyewear (wearables) that replace our smartphones.  Think Minority Report-like data and content interaction, and you get the general idea.  “Surprisingly little has changed with human/screen interaction in the past 30 years,” Ted points out.  He reminds me that while user interfaces have become more sophisticated, actual screen interaction is not massively different — comparing interaction on Mac screens 30 years ago and on iPhones today.

That is all changing right now — as you sit, read and soak in Ted’s thoughts either in print, or more likely on your own v.2019 screen.  According to Ted, we are only about 3.5 years into this 10-year visual computing cycle.  “In 2013-2014, we saw the first idea of commercializing a track-able screen, a spatial screen.  That is a massive change.  We will fundamentally change how we use our screens.  I see a very distinct future where these things will emerge from their cocoon and replace the iPhone, laptop, etc.  You will notice an evolution of 30 minutes per day, then one hour, then two hours, etc.” 

Think that overstates things a bit?  Well, Ted cautions you this way.  “It’s the exact same paradigm shift we saw with mobile phones decades ago.  Just imagine back then that you would – decades later (i.e., today) — carry a device with you almost every waking moment of your waking life.  Even Bill Gates would have said that is ridiculous.”

Yet, here we are.  Today.  In that “unimaginable” world.  That’s how fast it goes.

Ted is adamant about this inevitable “evolution of the screen” reality, and he is convincing.  “I know the next evolution is coming.  All of these experiments today are on their way to something really, really significant.  2019 will be very subtle in this revolution.  Still for the early adopter, because none of these head mounted immersive devices today will replace our smart phones.  But the constant and continuous evolution of this tech is happening

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