In today’s Bulldog technology roundup blog: A Bitcoin bank closes after being robbed; Facebook may buy a drone company; Roku steps up video-streaming fight with Google; and Dish takes the lead in offering Internet streaming.
- Bitcoin Bank Robbed
LONDON - Flexcoin, a Bitcoin bank, was forced to shutdown after hackers stole 896 units of the digital currency, the Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday.
Flexcoin shut its website and posted a statement yesterday detailing the loss after the March 2 theft, according to the newspaper. The company still had some Bitcoins in “cold storage,” meaning they were held in devices not connected to the Internet, the Guardian said.
The reported theft underscores security concerns over the virtual currency, which has no central issuing authority and uses a public ledger to verify transactions while preserving users’ anonymity. Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest exchange for the digital currency, filed for bankruptcy in Tokyo last week after losing 750,000 Bitcoins belonging to clients.
Bitcoin last traded at $657.02, according to prices shown on the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index, valuing Flexcoin’s lost holdings at about $589,000. Flexcoin executives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment sent to e-mail addresses on the company’s website.
As Mt. Gox’s operations unraveled, U.S. and Japanese prosecutors opened investigations into the company while U.S. regulators began exploring ways to increase oversight of virtual currencies. The European Banking Authority said Feb. 28 it would create a task force to review ways to regulate Bitcoin and its derivatives.
Jinyoung Lee Englund, director of public affairs of the Bitcoin Foundation, an advocacy group for the currency, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
- Facebook May Buy Drone Firm
NEW YORK — Facebook is in talks to buy Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones, to step up its efforts to provide Internet access to remote parts of the world, according to reports from technology blog Techcrunch and financial news outlet CNBC.
Both websites cited anonymous sources who are familiar with the deal and put a purchase price at $60 million.
Facebook spokesman Tucker Bounds said Tuesday that the company does not comment on rumors and speculation. Titan Aerospace representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
If Facebook does buy Titan Aerospace, the purchase could fit with the goals of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org project. The Facebook-led partnership, which includes Qualcomm Inc., Samsung and Nokia, was launched last summer and aims to connect the more than 5 billion of the world’s 7 billion people who are not already online. Presumably, Internet.org could use Titan’s solar-powered atmospheric satellites to serve as airborne wireless access points.
Google Inc., which is not a part of the Internet.org effort, launched a similar undertaking earlier this year with the goal of getting everyone on Earth online. Called Project Loon, the effort launched Internet-beaming antennas aloft on giant helium balloons.
- Roku Steps Up Streaming Fight
SAN FRANCISCO — Roku is getting into an Internet video-streaming stick fight with Google’s Chromecast.
Like the similarly shaped Chromecast, Roku’s thumb-sized device plugs into a TV’s HDMI port and feeds Internet video through a Wi-Fi connection.
The Roku device, announced Tuesday, sells for $50 compared with $35 for the Chromecast. The low price and Google brand cachet have made Chromecast popular since its release last summer.
Google hasn’t divulged Chromecast sales, but the stick ranks as the second-most popular electronics item on Amazon.com. Only Amazon.com Inc.’s own Kindle Paperwhite e-reader outsells the Chromecast in the website’s electronic section.
Some of the Chromecast’s sales may have come at the expense of Roku’s line-up of set-top boxes for showing Internet video. The latest box, the Roku 3, sells for $99 and ranks fifth in Amazon.com’s electronics sales.
Overall, Roku Inc., which is based in Saratoga, Calif., says it has sold more than 8 million video-streaming devices since its first box hit the market nearly six years ago.
Apple TV is Roku’s biggest rival in Internet streaming boxes. Apple Inc. says it has sold more than 13 million of those boxes so far.
- Dish Takes Lead in Race to Offer Online TV to Compete With Cable
MEW YORK – In the race to deliver television over the Internet, Charlie Ergen’s Dish Network is pulling ahead.
With a groundbreaking agreement this week with Walt Disney, the satellite-TV company is poised to be the first to offer an Internet-based competitor to cable TV, a new kind of business that other major companies such as Intel and Apple have tried — and so far failed — to deliver.
The deal gave Dish the rights to carry the Disney Channel, ABC and ESPN online in a service known as over-the-top, or OTT, because it runs over an Internet connection. In exchange, Ergen agreed to put limits on Dish’s ad-skipping technology. Dish now plans to negotiate with other major cable networks, offering similar terms to get online rights.
“Every deal is different, but certainly there are parameters we agreed to that will help us define how we approach the OTT business,” said Dave Shull, Dish’s chief commercial officer, in an interview. “Disney-ESPN content has a great deal of appeal and is a core of what we want to offer on the OTT side. They moved first and we will build around that.”
An Internet-based TV package would give consumers a new option beyond cable, satellite and phone companies to get access to their favorite channels. For Dish, it would be a way to gain new subscribers at a fraction of the cost, since online delivery doesn’t require as much physical equipment. It also gives Dish a potentially bigger market since it would no longer be limited to consumers who are willing or allowed to mount satellite dishes on their homes.