Posts with «professional services» label

Netflix debuts free tier for Android users in Kenya

Netflix has started offering potential paying subscribers in Kenya access to some of its content at no cost. The streaming service has launched a free tier in the country that offers around one-fourth the content available to paying subscribers. It has no ads and won't even ask for payment information upon sign-up — a new subscriber will only need to confirm they're over 18 and to type in their email address and password. 

That said, it does have limitations in addition to having a smaller selection: It's only accessible on an Android device and users won't be able to download episodes for offline viewing or to cast shows on movies to a TV. In the announcement post, Netflix's Director of Product Innovation Cathy Conk, said: "If you’ve never watched Netflix before — and many people in Kenya haven’t — this is a great way to experience our service." The company is hoping that the free tier would entice people to pay for the service.

This isn't the first time Netflix made some of its content free to access. Last year, it launched a "watch free" page where people can stream original movies such as Bird Box and the first episodes of popular shows like Stranger Things without even having to log in. The free plan is new, though, and a spokesperson told Variety that it's launching first in Kenya as a way for the company to gather information on how effective it is in generating paying customers. Netflix has been investing more heavily in new markets to offset its slowing growth in the US and other saturated markets and amidst an increasing number of rival streaming services. Based on what the rep said, we may see the free tier make its way to more regions in the future. 

HBO Max promo offers 50 percent off subscriptions until September 26th

WarnerMedia pulled HBO Max from Amazon Prime Video Channels on September 15th, but it's hoping to convince the subscribers it lost from the move to sign up for the streaming service directly. From today through September 26th, HBO Max's ad-free monthly subscription is available at a 50 percent discount for $7.49 per month for up to half a year. The offer isn't even exclusive to former subscribers on Prime Video. Even new and returning customers can take advantage of the promotion by signing up through the official HBO Max website or via Apple, Google, LG, Microsoft, Sony, Roku and Vizio.

The service's removal from Prime Video Channels is part of WarnerMedia's efforts to grow a closer relationship with viewers. To that end, it also removed HBO Max as premium add-ons on Apple TV and Roku. The company is fully aware that it will lose subscribers in the process — it could lose 5 million after pulling out of Prime Video Channels — which is why it's now trying to woo both new and returning customers. 

By making HBO Max's ad-free subscription available at $7.49 a month, people can sign up for an account cheaper than the $10 ad-supported option. It's a great opportunity to try the service out for those who've been thinking of giving it a shot. For those still on the fence: Some of the most anticipated titles coming to the streaming service this year are Dune and The Matrix Resurrections.


T-Mobile will start offering in-store phone repairs on November 1st

In-store repairs are becoming increasingly commonplace, and T-Mobile is finally ready to catch up on that trend. The carrier now plans to offer in-store repairs to Protection subscribers in 500 stores starting November 1st. Pay $7 or more per month and you can get your device fixed the same day thanks to "highly-credentialed" Assurant technicians using approved parts. More stores will provide the option in the future, T-Mobile said.

The provider is also expanding Protection to handle five claims per year instead of the more conventional three. The service already covers accidental damage and theft, Jump upgrades and AppleCare.

This isn't a novel concept for carriers. However, it makes sure T-Mobile is at least competitive with heavyweight networks that already offer some in-shop repairs. And unless right-to-repair measures become commonplace, you'll likely be reliant on outside repair facilities for a while to come — in that light, more choices can't hurt.

‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ cleans out its literal and metaphorical closets

This post contains light spoilers for season two, episode six of ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks.’

In last week’s episode, Lower Decks wrapped up the first half of its second season by addressing some leftover plot threads from season one, namely Rutherford’s memory loss and the fallout between Mariner and Boimler. With those issues out of the way the series is free to move forward. But first, this week’s “The Spy Humongous” takes some time to look at an average day onboard the USS Cerritos. It’s not quite the TNG classic “Data's Day,” but it’s close enough for fans of smaller, more intimate Trek stories.

There’s no strict division between A-plot and B-plot this time, with both upper and lower decks crew starring in four loosely connected stories. The bridge crew is attempting to negotiate a ceasefire with the Pakleds, while the ensigns have been assigned to “artifact reclamation duty,” which is a fancy way of saying “clearing out weird space junk.” Boimler is thrilled, but he gets pulled away by a group of career-driven “redshirts” who think his time on the USS Titan makes him prime command material. And Ransom ends up babysitting a Pakled defector/tourist/spy. It’s a grab bag of jokes and Star Trek lore, sure to please any long-time Trekkie.


However, it’s still remarkably newcomer friendly, in that it doesn’t require too much background to understand the basic plot, while also illustrating the show’s core concept as a show about the nuts and bolts of Starfleet. If this were a live-action show it would be what’s called a “bottle episode,” one shot on a limited budget using pre-built sets and the regular cast. Even on the one exotic locale we’re shown — Pakled Planet — we never actually go inside any buildings. It’s an interesting contrast to last week’s expansive tour of Starbase 25.

In live action programming, bottle episodes exist because a show blew through its guest star or special effects budget on a big important story, and “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” would fit that bill. But as I pointed out last week, Lower Decks is not limited by what a set designer can build or how much makeup an actor will wear or how long would it take to render a sentient gaseous anomaly on a green screen. The animators can draw whatever needs to be drawn. So there’s no reason to follow the trope of a bottle episode except that… they want to.


Lower Decks has made no secret that it’s essentially a giant love letter to Star Trek. What was initially predicted to be “Family Guy in space,” ended up treating the franchise with a lot of respect, and was packed full of jokes for the fandom to discuss and catalog in places like Reddit and Trek wiki Memory Alpha. But this week’s adventure illustrates that attention to Star Trek tropes and backstory can go beyond showcasing little-seen alien species or getting justice for murdered characters.

It’s also about the love of how Star Trek tells its stories, with a strong emphasis on the personal aspect. Here we get to see Freeman, Mariner and the others simply do their jobs. We know they’re not going to die, especially not mid-season, so it’s really about seeing how they handle adversity and ultimately, what made them Starfleet material in the first place.

Disney+ is remaking the classic sci-fi movie 'Flight of the Navigator'

Disney+ is about to lean more on sci-fi nostalgia to reel in viewers. Deadlinereports Disney is remaking its 1986 classic Flight of the Navigator for the streaming service. Details of the reboot are scarce, but it would feature a female lead and see Bryce Dallas Howard (who directed two The Mandalorian episodes) both direct and produce the title.

There's no mention of the cast or a release date. It's safe to say the basic premise, of a child who bonds with an alien spaceship, won't change much for this adaptation.

The project is a shrewd move for Disney. The company still focuses Disney+ originals (and many of its other titles, for that matter) around familiar brands and shows. A Flight of the Navigator reboot lets Disney+ bank on a well-known name and speed up story development — it can draw in a generation of fans (you can probably still hear "compliance!" in your head) without investing huge sums in production.

HBO is no longer available through Amazon Prime Channels

HBO's subscriber numbers will take a hit after it disappears from Amazon Prime Video Channels today. Earlier this month, Amazon told users who signed up for HBO through Channels their $15/month plans would be canceled on September 15th with pro-rated refunds being issued.

In all, HBO is expected to lose around 5 million subscribers as part of this move, which WarnerMedia agreed with Amazon last year. Amazon refused to support HBO Max if it wasn't available through Channels. According to The Hollywood Reporter, HBO may offer its former Amazon subscribers a discount to persuade them to sign up to HBO Max.

That's what this shift is all about for WarnerMedia: cutting out the middleman and having a direct connection to viewers through HBO Max. It's willing to lose some subscribers in the short-term to make that happen, so it can, for instance, personalize the HBO Max home page. WarnerMedia removed HBO as premium add-ons on Apple TV and Roku for similar reasons.

The HBO Max app is available on Amazon Fire TV devices. Those who switched from HBO on Prime Video to HBO Max on Fire TV shouldn't encounter any disruptions when the former disappears from channels, THR notes.

Meanwhile, Amazon is hoping people will subscribe to other premium channels. It's offering discounts on Paramount+, Starz and Showtime plans. You can pay 99 cents per month for two months if you sign up by Friday.

Ford, Walmart and Argo AI to launch autonomous vehicle deliveries in three cities

Ford, Walmart and Argo AI plan to launch autonomous vehicle delivery services in Miami, Austin, Texas and Washington DC later this year, Ford has announced. The service will focus on last mile deliveries and use Ford vehicles equipped with Argo's AI self-driving system to deliver Walmart orders. Don't count on driverless ghost cars pulling up to your house with groceries, however, as Argo emphasized that the new venture is all about "testing" and "potential." 

"Our focus on the testing and development of self-driving technology that operates in urban areas where customer demand is high really comes to life with this collaboration," said Argo AI founder and CEO Bryan Salesky. "Working together with Walmart and Ford across three markets, we’re showing the potential for autonomous vehicle delivery services at scale."

Jared Wickerham/Argo A

Deliveries will be available in those cities "within defined service areas" and expand over time, Ford said. It will focus on next day or same day deliveries in urban cores, helping the players learn about autonomous technology as it relates to deliveries, particularly for logistics and operations. 

Ford and Walmart previously announced a collaboration with Uber's PostMates to deliver goods in Miami, and it has been operating with Argo AI in Miami and Washington DC since 2018. All current testing is done with safety drivers at the wheel. 

The Walmart delivery effort "marks a significant step toward scaling a commercial goods delivery service," according to Ford. Left unsaid, however, is that level 4 and higher autonomous driving is still a distant dream, even after many years of development. As such, vehicles are nowhere near ready to ply city streets without a safety driver at the wheel.

Kroger and Instacart promise grocery deliveries in as little as 30 minutes

Kroger is betting big on internet grocery delivery services, and it's tapping Instacart for help. The two have launched a Kroger Delivery Now service they claim offers a no-compromise approach. You can have a full selection of groceries and other essentials delivered from Kroger's various chains (including Ralphs and Fred Meyer) in as little as 30 minutes — the first time that kind of speed has been available nationwide, Instacart claimed.

The service is available both through the Kroger website as well as a new Convenience Hub on Instacart's Marketplace. The section "streamlines" shopping for convenience items in most major US cities with 24/7 shopping. Instacart Express members can get free high-priority delivery through the hub (sometimes as quickly as 30 minutes) for orders worth at least $10.

The team-up might not thrill you if you prefer other store-independent delivery services like Uber. It also won't help much if you don't shop at Kroger-affiliated locations — Walmart's Instacart-based delivery isn't that fast, at least not on a national level. The move makes sense for both companies, however. This gives Kroger an advantage over Walmart and other chains, while Instacart forms a close bond with a major chain that others might not match.

Amazon's palm-reading tech is heading to sports stadiums and music venues

Amazon has been using its palm-scanning technology to allow customers to pay for purchases at Whole Foods and its own cashierless stores. Now, it's expanding the technology's availability for use outside its own properties, starting by allowing people entering sports, music and other live entertainment venues without the need for a ticket. Amazon One will be offered as part of standalone ticketing pedestals to be deployed by ticketing company AXS, which will will debut at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver today.

To enter venues via Amazon One, attendees can enroll one or both palms for the option at a dedicated station just before they enter. Doing so will enable them to enter the event, and future AXS events, without the need to show a ticket. Amazon says the enrollment process only takes a minute, during with the system creates a unique palm signature using the company's custom-built algorithms. Once that's done, they can then simply scan their palms, which takes a couple of seconds, to enter an AXS venue.

In its announcement, Amazon said it's the "first time the Amazon One service is available outside Amazon and Whole Foods Market stores and for entry into an entertainment venue." It also sounds like the company is looking to make the palm-scanning tech available for other purposes in more locations. "[We're] excited about the potential for expansion to other locations where entry lines can be long and time consuming," it added. Since there's an increasing demand for contactless solutions due to the pandemic —the technology only needs users to hover their palms over a sensor — that may happen sooner than later.

Defense Department seeks nuclear propulsion for small spacecraft

The US Defense Department's ambitions beyond Earth just grew a little clearer. SpaceNews has learned the department recently put out a call for privately-made nuclear propulsion systems that could power small- and mid-sized spacecraft. The DoD wants to launch missions venturing beyond Earth orbit, and existing electric and solar spacecraft are neither suitable for that job nor suitable to smaller vehicles, the department's Defense Innovation Unit said.

The nuclear propulsion system will ideally offer "high delta-V" (above 33ft/s) while scaling down to less than 2,000kg in dry mass (4,409lbs on Earth). On top of providing electricity for the payload, the technology will hopefully keep the spacecraft warm when in shadow and minimize radiation both on the ground and to other components. Responses are expected by September 23rd, with contracts handed out as quickly as 60 to 90 days afterward.

Officials acknowledged they were making the request as a matter of expediency. NASA and other agencies are already developing or backing nuclear spacecraft, but those won't be ready for a long while. The DoD is hoping for a prototype within three to five years — this technology would serve as a stopgap that puts nuclear propulsion into service relatively quickly for near-term projects.

While the request didn't provide clues as to what spacecraft were in the works, the focus on smaller spacecraft suggests it could involve probes, satellites or other vehicles with modest goals. You won't see this power human trips to Mars. All the same, it's clear the DoD is frustrated by the limitations of existing spacecraft engines and wants a fast track to more powerful designs.