Monday, May 9, 2016

Who rules the world? Not really the US; Sales plunge sends HTC into loss; Broadcasting live from a drone

1 Who rules the world? Not really the US (Noam Chomsky/TomDispatch in The Guardian) The challenges faced by western powers at the outset of 2016 are usefully summarized within the conventional framework by Gideon Rachman, chief foreign-affairs columnist for the London Financial Times. He begins by reviewing the western picture of world order: “Ever since the end of the cold war, the overwhelming power of the US military has been the central fact of international politics.”

This is particularly crucial in three regions: east Asia, where “the US navy has become used to treating the Pacific as an ‘American lake’”; Europe, where Nato – meaning the US, which “accounts for a staggering three-quarters of Nato’s military spending” – “guarantees the territorial integrity of its member states”; and the Middle East, where giant US naval and air bases “exist to reassure friends and to intimidate rivals”.

The problem of world order today, Rachman continues, is that “these security orders are now under challenge in all three regions” because of Russian intervention in Ukraine and Syria, and because of China turning its nearby seas from an American lake to “clearly contested water”.

The fundamental question of international relations, then, is whether the US should “accept that other major powers should have some kind of zone of influence in their neighborhoods”. Rachman thinks it should, for reasons of “diffusion of economic power around the world – combined with simple common sense”.

2 Sales plunge sends HTC into loss (BBC) A sharp plunge in sales has pushed the Taiwanese phonemaker HTC into a loss for the three months to March. Revenue for the first quarter dropped 64% to 14.8bn Taiwanese dollars ($456m), while the net loss was 2.6bn Taiwanese dollars, compared with a profit the year before.

The firm has been struggling to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung. It is pinning hopes on its new HTC 10 phone to revive fortunes as well as its virtual reality headset Vive. The HTC 10, which comes with an "ultraselfie" front camera designed to reduce the risk of blurry shots, and the Vive headset were both only launched in April and so are not reflected in this current quarter.

The success of those two products will dictate the success of the company, said analyst Ben Wood from CCS Insight. Five years ago, HTC was the world's fourth bestselling smartphone maker with a market share of about 9%. But in 2015, it fell to 17th place with a share of about 1%, according to research firm IDC.

3 Broadcasting live from a drone (Emily Price in San Francisco Chronicle) Sure, Periscoping an event from your smartphone is great, but what if you could shoot that same video from a drone instead? Twitter-owned Periscope announced a new integration with drone maker DJI which will allow video shot with the drones to be broadcast in real-time through the mobile app.

To broadcast from a drone, all you’ll have to do is connect your smartphone to your drone’s remote. After that, you’ll be able to switch between the drone, your phone, and even a GoPro camera while you’re filming an event. A sketch feature will also allow you to draw on the feed as you broadcast in order to point out something specific in the action to your audience, like a sports play, or a small corner of a larger landscape, for instance. The feature will be available for everyone who happens to own one of the supported drones within the next few weeks.

While on the surface the ideas seems like a novelty, the move could be just what Periscope needs to make itself more of a mainstream video destination. There certainly will be a handful of broadcasts of just people filming their own antics at home, but the ability to seamlessly switch between cameras and use drones in the process could open the door for some pretty impressive video feeds when it comes to sports and concert streams, and even live news coverage.

Periscope also announced plans to make all broadcasts permanent on the service by default. Currently when you film, a broadcast will disappear after 24 hours unless you expressly choose to save it. Now, all those broadcasts will be saved by default (you can still delete them if you’d prefer they weren’t there). Periscope is also offering a new search feature, which will make finding those broadcasts in the future much easier.

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