Amazon Hits 100M Prime Subscribers, Inks Deal with Best Buy

For the first time, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos revealed the number of Amazon Prime subscribers: 100 million people. In 2015, the company last hinted about the number, saying there were “tens of millions” of Prime members. With this revelation, Bezos is letting shareholders know that Prime is healthy, and that the large number of subscribers will allow the company to continue to invest in technology and thrive. Bezos also recently announced that Amazon is teaming with Best Buy to sell Amazon Fire TV-powered sets. Continue reading Amazon Hits 100M Prime Subscribers, Inks Deal with Best Buy

Consumers Are Using Phones to Control Smart Home Devices

Smartphones could be on their way toward becoming the new remote, as a recent GfK survey of 1,000 Internet users 18 and older found that 89 percent use their phones to control connected home products and services (an increase of 19 percent since 2015). The same respondents indicated that they are now using their phones more than other devices in the home: 83 percent use their smartphones at home, 75 percent use their laptops, 54 percent use PCs, and 34 percent use game consoles. The figures represent increases across all categories when compared to 2015. Continue reading Consumers Are Using Phones to Control Smart Home Devices

iPhone Users Spending More on Games, Streaming Services

Sensor Tower has found that iPhone users in the U.S. increased in-app purchase spending by 23 percent last year over 2016. Active users spent an average of $58 in 2017 using Apple’s in-app purchase or subscription options. The figures do not reflect e-commerce spending via sites like Amazon or payments for services such as Lyft or Uber. At roughly 62 percent of average spending, mobile gaming leads the charge in this sector. Subscription-based streaming services, and music, dating and lifestyle apps also contributed to the rise in spending. Continue reading iPhone Users Spending More on Games, Streaming Services

Changes to Facebook News Feed Plan to Curb Misinformation

Under pressure from lawmakers, regulators, and some of its two billion monthly active users to fight misinformation, Facebook is tweaking how information is presented on its News Feed. Users in the U.S. will now be able to easily see a news publisher’s Wikipedia page along with a given story and can see how frequently it’s been shared on the social network. Facebook is under renewed criticism following reports that Cambridge Analytica “improperly accessed data on millions of Facebook users,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

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Tech Giants Compete in Pursuit of Music Streaming Audiences

Apple, Pandora and Amazon are among those ramping up efforts to differentiate their music services in order to win over subscribers and artists. Second to Spotify’s dominance is Apple Music, which has taken off after an initially bumpy start. Pandora is another major competitor, boasting 74.7 million active listeners of its free music stations, which operate much like traditional radio. SoundCloud reports that it reaches 175 million monthly listeners in more than 190 countries, and Google plans to combine its Google Play Music “All Access” on-demand streaming service with YouTube Red. Continue reading Tech Giants Compete in Pursuit of Music Streaming Audiences

Microsoft Shifting Its Focus From Windows to Cloud Computing

Microsoft is reportedly downgrading the scope of its Windows franchise to “reorganize its business around its growing Azure cloud-computing operations and its stalwart Office productivity business,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “The move is designed to focus Microsoft on its biggest areas of growth. In its latest quarter Azure revenue jumped 98 percent while Office 365 grew 41 percent … In the same period, the More Personal Computing unit, which includes Windows, gained 2 percent to $12.17 billion.” Continue reading Microsoft Shifting Its Focus From Windows to Cloud Computing

Number of OTT-Only Households in the U.S. Continues to Rise

According to a new report from the Video Advertising Bureau, the number of households in the United States that are now using only OTT streaming services to watch movies and TV shows has reached 14.1 million, a figure that has almost tripled over five years. However, that number makes up just 11 percent of all U.S. TV households. The report also found that over-the-top services are often used in tandem with pay TV subscriptions; 70 percent of those with OTT services also pay for cable, satellite or telcos.

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Apple’s New iPad Aims to Top Google’s Classroom Dominance

In an effort to catch up to Google’s classroom dominance, Apple unveiled a new 9.7-inch iPad on Tuesday “aimed at classrooms and other education tools,” reports The New York Times. It has a faster processor and the ability to support its education-minded stylus, the Apple Pencil (which previously only paired with pricier iPads), as well as 200 gigabytes of storage. It’ll be priced at $299 for schools and $329 for consumers. Additionally, Apple announced new classroom software and new curriculum.

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Google’s Machine-Generated Speech Will Sound More Human

According to members of Google’s Brain and Machine Perception teams, researchers at the tech giant have developed “ways to make machine-generated speech sound more natural to humans,” even providing examples of the more expressive speech in a company blog post, reports VentureBeat. Google also announced the release of its Cloud Text-to-Speech services, which could “be used to bring more natural speech to devices, apps or digital services that utilize voice control or voice computing,” the article explains.

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Household Brands Are Competing to Put Tech in Your Kitchen

Brands like Whirlpool, Samsung and Bosch are in a race with tech companies like Google and Amazon to get into your kitchen, a room often considered the heart of a home. According to The New York Times, the goal is to get “Internet-connected appliances and cooking gadgets” like “refrigerators embedded with touchscreens, smart dishwashers and connected countertop screens with artificially intelligent assistants that react to spoken commands” into your home first as the promise of the connected smart home comes closer to reality. But these things remain a hard sell with consumers.

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NBA Digital Begins Testing 99-Cent Streaming of 4th Quarters

Fans of the NBA have game streaming options ranging from league-wide packages, team-specific packages, and single game options (with certain blackouts applicable to all). Now, NBA Digital, a combined effort between the NBA and Turner, is testing an even more affordable option — streaming the 4th quarter of live games for just 99 cents, according to social media reports from fans who are receiving notifications via the NBA app to test the service. NBA Digital has yet to respond to requests for more information.

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Google’s New Shopping Actions Aid Competition with Amazon

Google recently launched Shopping Actions, a new program to help retailers compete with Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer. The program allows companies to list “products across Google Search, in its Google Express shopping service, and in the Google Assistant app for smartphones and on smart speakers, like the Google Home,” reports TechCrunch. It offers a universal cart no matter what device shoppers are using and Google earns money via a pay-per-sale model. The program is now open to any retailer in the U.S.

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Amazon’s Vision: Whole Foods as Urban Distribution Centers

After acquiring Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion, Amazon.com Inc. has been working to more deeply integrate its new physical grocery stores into its online retail business. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has a vision that ties together the physical and the digital. Currently, the company is searching for larger Whole Foods locations to serve as grocery stores that double as urban distribution centers to enhance the efficiency of online order deliveries, according to a source close to the project.

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Streaming Accounts for Nearly Two-Thirds of Music Revenue

According to a 2017 report from the Recording Industry Association of America, revenue for recorded music in the U.S. grew 16.5 percent last year to a retail value of $8.7 billion. “We‘re delighted by the progress so far,” explained RIAA CEO Cary Sherman, “but to put the numbers in context, these two years of growth only return the business to 60 percent of its peak size  —  about where it stood ten years ago  —  and that’s ignoring inflation.” Variety reports: “Like 2016, the boost came primarily from the rapid growth in paid music subscriptions to services like Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, Tidal, Pandora and others, which grew by more than 50 percent.” Streaming represented nearly two-thirds of music revenue last year. Continue reading Streaming Accounts for Nearly Two-Thirds of Music Revenue

Americans Now Spend $2 Billion Monthly on Streaming Video

According to Deloitte’s 2018 Digital Media Trends Survey, U.S. consumers are now spending about $2 billion per month to watch their favorite TV shows and movies via streaming video services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. The survey notes that 55 percent of U.S. households subscribe to at least one such service — a significant increase from 2009, when it was just 10 percent — and the average customer pays for three. Conversely, the survey found that pay-TV subscriptions like cable and satellite are down to 63 percent from 74 percent in 2016.

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