Hulu Plus Comes to the Wii Today, Nintendo 3DS Later this Year


Remember the Nintendo Wii? That game console you really wanted to have a few years ago but that is now gathering dust somewhere in your attic? Neither did we, until we heard about the launch of Hulu Plus for the Wii today. It's hard not to think that Hulu is a few years behind here, though, but if you don't have any other means of getting Hulu Plus for your living room, your old Wii may just be a decent option.

The application is now available in the Wii Shop Channel and, as with all versions of Hulu Plus, it will cost $7.99 per month, though you get a free two-week trial as well.

Maybe more interestingly, Hulu Plus is also coming the 3DS, to Nintendo's handheld game console, later this year. There was no word on whether Hulu will offer any 3D content for the 3DS, though.

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8:26 am

Major Gmail Update Coming Soon: New Look With Better Search and Updated Conversation View


A few months ago, Google launched a preview of a new look for Gmail that is more in line with the general redesign of all of Google’s products. Today, a Google employee mistakenly made a video demo of the other changes that are coming to Gmail available on YouTube (sounds like a familiar story?).  That video has been set to private again now, but you can find a copy here and at the end of this post. Chances are, Google will make this update official very soon.

So what’s coming for Gmail? Besides making the current preview theme the default, Google will also roll out updates to its other themes. According to Google, the idea behind the new look is to “make it as clean, simple and intuitive” as possible.


The conversation view now also looks a bit more like the “preview pane” Gmail labs experiment the company introduced earlier this year. Among other things, the conversations view now features profile picture to, as Google says, to make your message threads more “like a conversation.”

Other updates include a redesigned advanced search menu. Instead of having to type in relatively arcane commands like “subject: Google,” the new search box gives you separate fields for searching for specific subjects and for emails from specific contacts  and with certain keywords. You can also now create new filters right from the search box.

The whole site has been redesigned to fit better on any size of screen, too. The new default theme features a lot of white space that brings the information density of the default view down by quite a bit. For those who prefer to see more messages by default, Gmail will allow users to tweak these settings.


5:58 pm

Cosmic Panda: YouTube Gets an Experimental New Look


YouTube, the world’s most popular video streaming site, just launched a new experimental design that brings a fresh look to virtually every part of the YouTube experience, including videos, playlists and channels. The new look, called Cosmic Panda, introduces a darker look, with an emphasis on black backgrounds that make the videos stand out more than the white backdrop YouTube has been using since its earliest days.

previews_youtube_pandaBesides the darker background, Google has also changed the way it displays video thumbnails by making them larger. This means you will see fewer suggested videos per page, but the images will likely make to click on more of them in the long run. The new design also sports a few new interface elements, including buttons that allow you to change the size of the video player without changing the video resolution.

To join the Cosmic Panda experiment, just head over here and opt in (to opt out again, just go back to the sign-up page). Google is also actively soliciting feedback with the help of a prominent button on the left side of the screen.

Google, of course, has been on a redesign spree lately, including major changes to the look and feel of some of its most well-known products like Gmail, Google Calendar and even its search engine.


4:25 pm

AOL’s New Dead-Simple Video Chat Service is Now Officially Live


This already leaked last week, but AOL’s new video chat service just officially launched in beta. This no-download, no-login, web-based service allows users to quickly set up video chats with up to three additional people. To get started, you simply head over to, give the site access to your camera and microphone. AV then gives you a shortened link that you can send to your friends.


With regards to features, the service is pretty basic. Indeed, there are really no features to write about here besides the fact that you can add your name on top of the video with your webcam’s video. This, of course, is also the whole point of AV (tagline: “fun, easy video chat”) and I wouldn’t be surprised if this service turned out to be quite popular because of its simplicity.

Interestingly, AV forces users to update to Flash 10.3, which was just released earlier today. This means that users who still rely on older browsers (pre-Internet Explorer 7, for example), won’t be able to use this service. According to Digital Trend’s Geoff Duncan, AOL plans to launch a mobile version of the service soon, though, which will likely mean there will be native apps for Android and iOS devices.

The closest competitor to AV is likely TinyChat, which established itself as one of the leaders of Flash-based browser-based video chat services over the last year.

11:03 am

Is Apple Getting Too Greedy? Demands 30% Cut of In-App Subscriptions


After a lot of confusion earlier this year, Apple today finally clarified its rules for in-app subscriptions for magazines, newspapers, video and music. The rules are very straightforward: Publishers can continue to sell digital subscriptions on their own websites and give free access to existing subscribers. Apple will not take a cut from these transactions. Publishers who offer out-of-app subscriptions, though, also have to offer in-app subscriptions and the price has to be the same or lower than for subscriptions processed outside of the app. Apple will take a 30% cut from these in-app transactions.

This is a rather hefty fee for processing a transaction given that most credit card processors just charge around 2.5% and a small transaction fee (generally around $0.25). It’s also worth noting that it looks as if Apple will take this same cut whenever a subscriber renews a subscription, though this isn’t 100% clear yet. This new subscription plan will become mandatory starting June 30.

Steve Jobs: “Our Philosophy is Simple”

Just in case developers think they can just provide a link to their regular web-based subscription service in their apps and circumvent Apple’s system, the rules explicitly state that “publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a website, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.”

In the words of Apple CEO Steve Jobs: “Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing.” That does sound fair, but in reality, chances are that the majority of new customers for subscription services will come from apps and given that developers aren’t allowed to route around the system, this 30% cut become a major issue for some publishers.

Can Publishers Afford This Without Raising Prices?

You can currently buy an annual subscription to Wired on Amazon for $10 and getting National Geographic for a year costs $15 per year. Will these magazines have to offer the same prices for the app-based versions of their products? (Or do these “promotional” prices not count?) If Hulu has to give Apple $2.40 of every $7.99 subscription it sells, can it still make a profit? Or will Apple’s move force them to raise their prices across the board?

It is, of course, a good thing that Apple is making it easier for consumers to buy subscriptions and helps publishers acquire new subscribers. Having to pay a 30% fee for these services does seem quite steep, though, especially given that Apple now owns the customer and not the publishers.

11:37 am

Skype Group Video Calling Comes Out of Beta and Goes Premium


Skype just launched the next update of its client software for windows and while there is little new in this version, the company did move the group video calling feature it introduced just a few months ago behind the premium firewall. Users who want to host video conferences with multiple users will need to get a subscription to Skype Premium ($8.99/month) or get a day pass ($4.99/day).

This move doesn’t come as a surprise. When the company announced this feature last year, it already stated that it would start charging for it sooner or later. These group video calls allow users to host between 3 and 10 people in a video chat room. To use this service, only the person who starts the group chat needs to pay for this premium feature. Everybody else on the call can just use the service for free.

Skype is also bringing group video calls to users of its business version, which gives corporations more control over how employees use the service.

For now, group video calling is only available on Windows machines. Skype hasn’t yet announced when it plans to bring this feature to the Mac.

More Skype News

It’s obviously been a very busy day for Skype. Not only did the company announce the acquisition of mobile video streaming service Qik, but Skype also just announced that its software will soon allow users on Verizon’s 4G LTE network to make mobile video calls.

4:16 pm