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Evolution of the 4th Utility: Fixed Broadband
October 17, 2017
In-home broadband has become "the fourth utility" in United States households, many of which have multiple connected devices and viewing screens. More than 85 percent of U.S. homes have broadband service, according to Parks Associates, 93 percent of those have DSL, fiber or cable high-speed, fixed-line Internet services. Fixed broadband demand is a key contributor to operators' ongoing profits.
Study: Music Improves Customer Experience, Even in Serious Settings
October 14, 2017
Music can enhance the customer experience even in nontraditional retail environments, suggests a study released Thursday by Mood Media and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers. The study was conducted in France. Customers had a more favorable experience in five business locations -- including gas station, optical, banking, sports apparel and pharmacy locations, the study found.
Google Assistant Shines in Pint-Sized Home Mini
October 12, 2017
The first wave of reviews touting Google's Home Mini smart speaker surfaced this week, following reports that the company had to quash a top touch function to prevent the device from accidentally activating and recording conversations without users' knowledge. Google has promised to update the device by Oct. 15. The Home Mini can provide reports on weather, traffic, news, sports and more.
New Kindle Oasis E-Reader Can Take a Dunking
October 12, 2017
Amazon on Wednesday pulled the wraps off a new premium e-reader that's waterproof and has a sharp 300 pixels-per-inch display. The Kindle Oasis has a 7-inch Paperwhite display and sports an aluminum back and ergonomic shape that makes it easier to read for prolonged periods. It has a battery life measured in weeks, and it can charge from zero to full power in two hours.
Apple Releases Retro Version of iTunes
October 11, 2017
Apple has made a retro version of iTunes available, 12.6.3, reviving features removed by the mammoth 12.7 overhaul it released last month. News of the release surfaced Monday in a post on Reddit by user vista980622. Apple was low key about the release, saying in an online post dated Sept. 23 that the retro version was for business partners who needed iTunes to mass deploy apps on iOS devices.
Roku Sets Up New Streaming Player Buffet
October 4, 2017
Roku has introduced five new streaming media players designed to provide viewers with new and improved ways to connect to content. The five players range in price from $29.99 to $99.99, and offer a variety of features and functionality. The introductory-level Roku Express targets new cord cutters who want to stream TV content, or those who want to extend their Roku experience throughout the house.
Amazon Deploys Army of Echoes Against Oncoming Threats
September 29, 2017
Amazon has unveiled five new Echo products that raise the bar in the automated home market. Among other things, Amazon has improved the sound quality in its second-generation Echo speaker to compete with several new competitors in the high-end audio segment. The new Echo, which is more compact and comes in a variety of shell colors and finishes, offers more immersive sound.
Google Assistant Goes to Work for Nvidia's Shield TV
September 29, 2017
Nvidia on Thursday announced that its Shield TV now includes Google Assistant as part of its Shield Experience Upgrade 6.0 update. The update also lets the Shield device work as a SmartThings Hub when paired with a SmartThinks Link. The SmartThings Link, which can be used to connect Shield TV as a SmartThings Hub, will be released in the coming months with a promotional launch price of $14.99.
Behind-the-Scenes Cryptocurrency Mining Discovered on Showtime Sites
September 27, 2017
Showtime Networks apparently has mined the websites of online viewers using the same Coinhive technology that The Pirate Bay recently used in a test run on its site. A subsidiary of CBS, Showtime is a premium television network that offers professional boxing, feature films, original scripted television shows like Ray Donovan and other programming.
Sony's Foolish Failure to Learn From Microsoft's Mistake
September 25, 2017
Microsoft has learned a lot of very hard lessons over the last couple of decades, and it continues to surprise and annoy me that other firms seem to have the suicidal tendency to learn the same lessons the hard way. It is far better and cheaper to avoid the mistakes of others, but firms like Apple, Google and, most recently, Sony seem to want to experience past Microsoft disasters first hand.
Is Packaged Entertainment Media Really on the Way Out?
September 19, 2017
As home video viewing patterns continue to evolve, one common prediction is that packaged media is on its last legs. Streaming services have been gaining market share. In fact, streaming media sales eclipsed sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs for the first time in Q4 2016 -- with discs accounting for $5.4 billion in annual U.S. sales compared to the $6.2 billion haul for SVOD providers.
Alexa Can Make Music Echo All Through the House
August 31, 2017
Alexa has a new musical talent, Amazon announced Tuesday. "Today, we're making Alexa even smarter with an all-new feature that lets you play music synchronized on multiple Echo devices to provide room-filling music throughout your home," said Amazon Alexa Vice President Toni Reid. Setting up the syncing is easy. Using the Alexa app, you give a group of devices a name, such as "first floor."
Apple to Sate iPhone Curiosity Sept. 12
August 29, 2017
Apple plans to refresh its iPhone, TV and watch lines at an event scheduled Sept. 12. In addition to upgrading its iPhone 7 models, the company is expected to debut the "iPhone 8" to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the brand. It reportedly will have an OLED display with barely any bezel, a fingerprint scanner at the rear of the phone, and support for facial recognition and wireless charging.
Report: Apple to Funnel Megabucks Into Original TV Content Development
August 17, 2017
Apple reportedly has decided to put more than $1 billion toward the acquisition and development of original programming, part of a long-awaited rollout of a new television and film experience. The investment will leverage Apple's thus far underwhelming Apple TV business, bolstering its core video and music library to fulfill the promise of disrupting traditional television and film studios.
Automotive Grade Linux Reaches Key Car Platform Milestones
August 3, 2017
Automotive Grade Linux has released version 4.0 of the AGL infotainment platform and announced new projects to support telematics, instrument cluster, heads-up-display and a virtualization component. The group also announced that seven new companies have joined AGL and The Linux Foundation. The breadth of the seven new companies indicates the range of open source involvement in the auto industry.
HBO Cyberattack Driven By Mysterious Motives
August 3, 2017
HBO on Wednesday admitted that it had been targeted by a cyberattack, confirming an anonymous email the alleged hackers distributed to media outlets last weekend. Among the content that may have been compromised were upcoming episodes of the series Ballers, Barry and Room 104, along with script outlines of the channel's hit show Games of Thrones.
Facebook Adds Hardware, Software Vetting and 4K to 360 Live
July 26, 2017
Facebook has announced several updates to its live-streaming platform, including a new hardware and software vetting program used to create 360-degree video. Through its new Live 360 Ready Program, Facebook will review hardware and software and approve products that work well with its Live 360 offering. Products deemed "ready" for Live 360 will be allowed to display a Facebook Live logo.
Amazon's Echo Show: The Future Is Here
July 13, 2017
Amazon recently launched its Echo Show, which brings a visual screen to its smart speaker device. I wonder whether we're ready to start living in what seems like a futuristic Star Trek world. The Echo Show experience is sort of like having a laptop sitting on your table -- one that uses AI, allows you to speak to it, speaks back to you, and shows you relevant things on its screen.
Google Makes It Easier to Create Virtual Reality Videos
June 28, 2017
Google has introduced a new video format, VR180, developed with input from its Daydream team. The VR180 format, which displays what's in front of the user only, delivers good video quality both on desktop PCs and mobile devices. While VR180 videos appear in 2D on desktops and mobile devices, they appear in 3D VR when viewed with Cardboard, Google's Daydream headset or a PlayStation VR headset.
What's Next in the Volatile Pay-TV Services Market?
June 26, 2017
There recently has been an erosion in penetration of pay-TV subscriptions in the United States. They have fallen from a high of 86 percent in 2014 to 83 percent in early 2017, based on Parks Associates recent consumer research. Despite signs in late 2015 and early 2016 that the U.S. cable TV industry finally had reversed years of subscriber losses, the numbers declined again.
Netflix Climbs the Growth Wave as Cable TV Slides
June 22, 2017
A few short years ago, Netflix was nothing more than a mail order Blockbuster-type video rental business. Since then, it has been growing rapidly and changing. Believe it or not, Netflix today has more U.S. subscribers than cable TV. That's an amazing accomplishment for Netflix -- and a major hit to traditional cable television. Netflix and cable TV are on opposite sides of the growth wave.
Verizon Makes New Oath
June 19, 2017
Verizon last week completed its US$4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo's operating business assets, merging it with its existing AOL business to create Oath. The new subsidiary encompasses more than 50 media and technology brands -- including HuffPost; Yahoo Sports, Finance and Mail; AOL.com; Makers; Tumblr; TechCrunch; Flickr; and Build Studios.
Nintendo's New Lineup Electrifies E3
June 16, 2017
Nintendo previewed an impressive lineup of gaming content at E3 2017 this week, by many accounts. Its collection of new titles and targeted versions of some of the industry's hottest third-party content seemed to validate surprisingly strong sales of the Nintendo Switch console. Moving easily from a living room big screen to a mobile gaming device, the Switch already has gained a significant following.
Art, History and 3D Printing
June 15, 2017
The Tech Museum of Innovation last month debuted an exhibit that includes numerous installations with an interactive component. Visitors can don Occulus VR headsets to appreciate classical works of art in virtual reality -- a completely new museum experience. There long has been a debate on what constitutes "art" -- and opinions have differed as to how music, film, radio and TV fit in.
Xbox One X: More Speed, More Muscle
June 14, 2017
Microsoft earlier this week announced the next version of its Xbox line of gaming consoles, ahead of E3 2017, now ongoing in Los Angeles. The new Xbox One X, which goes on sale Nov. 7 for $499, is slimmer than previous models and packed with power. With a 6-teraflop Scorpio engine, the One X has 40 percent faster graphics performance than its chief rival, Sony's PS4 Pro.
'Arms' Could Help Nintendo Fight Its Way Back Into the Ring
June 9, 2017
Arms, the highly anticipated fighting game for Nintendo's Switch, will be available next Friday, and based on the early reviews, the company just may have found the magic bullet. Nintendo's Switch console, launched earlier this year, has been something of a surprise success. Prior to its launch, it seemed like a risky play for the company, which has been bobbing and weaving in recent years.
E3 2017: Enhancements, Expectations and Perhaps Excitement
June 8, 2017
All of the major video game developers, publishers and console hardware makers, as well as many retail buyers and the gaming press, will descend on Los Angeles for E3 2017 next week. The annual event -- a showcase for computer, video and mobile games and related products -- will kick off officially on Tuesday and run through Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Apple's Risky Gambit to Redefine the Smart Speaker
June 7, 2017
Before Apple launched its long-awaited HomePod smart speaker earlier this week, the expectation was that it would unveil a sophisticated Echo killer that would redefine the landscape that Amazon has dominated, with Google playing catch-up. "Just like iPod reinvented music in our pockets, HomePod is going to reinvent music in our homes," Apple SVP Phil Schiller told WWDC attendees.
Rumored Apple Plans Hint at Smart Speaker Battle Ahead
June 2, 2017
Apple reportedly has begun production of a high-end speaker with Siri-based digital assistant technology to compete directly with Amazon's Alexa-based Echo speakers and the Google Assistant-powered Home speaker. Production is in the early stages, but the device could be unveiled as early as next week at WWDC. That would position the company to begin shipping in time for the winter holiday season.
Plex Advances Cord-Cutting Case With Live OTA TV
June 2, 2017
Video streaming service Plex on Thursday announced the availability of a beta version of its Plex Live TV. The live-TV streaming launch follows last year's introduction of the Plex DVR, which provides users with free over-the-air access to 86 of Nielsen's 100 most watched shows in the United States. Plex Live TV currently is available only on Android TV and iOS devices.
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