Essential Kills Next Smarthone and Is Reportedly Up for Sale

Android creator Andy Rubin’s startup, Essential Products, born out of his incubator Playground Global, may be on the sales block. The startup, which raised about $300 million from Amazon, Tencent Holdings, Redpoint Ventures and Hon Hai Precision Industry (Foxconn), ceased development of a new smartphone, say sources, and hired Credit Suisse Group to advise on its sale. Reportedly, Essence has already piqued the interest of one potential buyer. The original Essential smartphone, manufactured by Foxconn, debuted last August. Continue reading Essential Kills Next Smarthone and Is Reportedly Up for Sale

Google and Amazon Remain Leaders in Smart Speaker Market

Smart speakers continue their popularity, with nine million units shipped in Q1 2018, representing a 210 percent jump over Q1 2017, according to Canalys. In a first, global shipments of Google Home speakers surpassed those of Amazon’s popular Echo speakers. “Google shipped 3.2 million Home and Home Mini devices, versus 2.5 million Echo devices shipped by Amazon,” reports VentureBeat. “Google held an estimated 36.2 percent share for the quarter over Amazon’s 27.7 percent — a profound reversal from a year earlier, when Amazon had 79.6 percent of shipments to Google’s 19.3 percent.” Continue reading Google and Amazon Remain Leaders in Smart Speaker Market

Apple Awarded $539 Million in Smartphone Tech Patent Ruling

In the latest ruling of an ongoing seven-year patent battle over smartphone technology, a federal court in San Jose, California awarded Apple $539 million in its lawsuit against Samsung Electronics. “Apple sought about $1 billion in a retrial of a case that originally produced a verdict of that amount in 2012,” reports Bloomberg, “while Samsung argued it should pay only $28 million this time.” Following the 2012 verdict and 2013 retrial, the case went to the Supreme Court in 2016 before returning to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to determine damages. Continue reading Apple Awarded $539 Million in Smartphone Tech Patent Ruling

The Obamas Are the Latest to Sign Production Deal with Netflix

Netflix yesterday announced a multi-year partnership with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to produce original content for the streaming service. The Obamas created production company Higher Ground Productions for the Netflix deal, which is reportedly valued in the high eight figures. According to Netflix, the partnership may include scripted, unscripted and docu-series, in addition to documentary and feature films. Two months ago, the Obamas signed a joint book deal with Penguin Random House worth a reported $65 million for their respective memoirs. Continue reading The Obamas Are the Latest to Sign Production Deal with Netflix

Amazon Channels Making a Splash in Subscription Video Sales

According to The Diffusion Group (TDG), Amazon is now responsible for 55 percent of a la carte direct-to-consumer video subs. Amazon Channels is “the company’s platform for reselling subscription services like HBO and Showtime,” explains Variety. TDG’s new research indicates that “53 percent of all consumers who don’t get HBO through their pay TV provider are purchasing it via Amazon Channels,” notes the article, adding that “72 percent of Showtime subscribers get the network’s direct-to-consumer offering via Amazon Channels, and 70 percent of Starz a la carte subscribers receive it from Amazon.” Continue reading Amazon Channels Making a Splash in Subscription Video Sales

Apple Plans to Sell Streaming Video Subs via its Own TV App

Apple plans to make it easier for viewers to watch its TV app, and boost its use on Apple TV, iPhones and iPads. Rather than make users purchase subscriptions through various apps in its App Store, Apple will sell subscriptions to some of these services directly through its own TV app, and also centralize streaming from its own app, rather than through third parties. Sources say the feature will roll out next year. Apple has focused on growing its services business, which is slated to generate $50 billion a year in revenue by 2021. Continue reading Apple Plans to Sell Streaming Video Subs via its Own TV App

Apple and Goldman Sachs to Launch Apple Pay Credit Card

Apple and Goldman Sachs Group are readying the launch early next year of a joint credit card branded with Apple Pay. This will be Goldman Sachs’ first credit card, and it will also replace Apple’s current rewards-card with Barclays. Apple Pay, which generates revenue with every transaction, has been slow to take off, and Goldman’s move into consumer banking is intended to compensate for a significant dip in securities trading. In 2016, Goldman Sachs also debuted Marcus, retail banking for online savings and personal loans. Continue reading Apple and Goldman Sachs to Launch Apple Pay Credit Card

Google Debuts Android Auto Upgrades, Inks Deal With Volvo

At Google I/O, the company revealed an upgrade to Android Auto that allows a user to plug her smartphone into the car and see all her apps with new templates presenting the apps in a more engaging manner. The upgrade also includes group messaging and RCS (Rich Communication Services) with support for Google Assistant. The update will allow a driver to group text friends via voice. Also announced is that Volvo will build Android Auto into its head units, one of the first automakers to do so. Continue reading Google Debuts Android Auto Upgrades, Inks Deal With Volvo

Upgraded Google Lens to Be Featured in Top Android Phones

During this week’s Google I/O conference, the importance of Google Lens to chief executive Sundar Pichai’s AI-first strategy became apparent. Google Lens combines computer vision and natural language processing with Google Search, for a solution aimed at consumers. Lens, described as “Google’s engine for seeing, understanding, and augmenting the real world,” resides in the camera viewfinder of Assistant and, soon, its top-end Android smartphones. Lens recognizes people, animals, objects, environments and text. Continue reading Upgraded Google Lens to Be Featured in Top Android Phones

Microsoft Builds on Existing Tech, Voices Moral Conscience

At its Build developer conference this week, Microsoft is showing products that highlight its changed direction under the aegis of chief executive Satya Nadella. Among them is a DJI drone loaded with Microsoft software to identify oil pipeline faults without an Internet connection. Although Microsoft is helping customers enhance their existing gear, the company promised “big things ahead” to those entirely in the Microsoft ecosystem. Uninvolved in recent data scandals, some deem Microsoft to be the tech industry’s moral conscience. Continue reading Microsoft Builds on Existing Tech, Voices Moral Conscience

Google Moves Android Things for Smart Devices Out of Beta

As Google opened its annual developer conference I/O, the company debuted Android Things, a version of its operating system for smart devices, offering SDKs to hardware and software developers. According to Google product management director Venkat Rapaka, with Android Things, such devices can now be built “faster, cheaper and more secure.” Android Things will also provide a consistent interface for users. Until its formal debut, Android Things had been in beta, with several partners already developing IoT products. Continue reading Google Moves Android Things for Smart Devices Out of Beta

Google Assistant Is Connected to 5,000 Smart Home Devices

Google revealed that its AI-powered Google Assistant is now connected to more than 5,000 smart devices in the home, up from 1,500 such devices in January. Among the devices now controlled by Google Assistant are air conditioners, cameras, security systems, thermostats, vacuum cleaners and washing machines. Google faces stiff competition in the smart home arena, most notably from Amazon Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit and Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Samsung’s SmartThings and Bixby. Now the rivals must convince consumers to buy the devices. Continue reading Google Assistant Is Connected to 5,000 Smart Home Devices

Facebook May Lead AR Race, Some Already Have Concerns

With augmented reality in its News Feed, Instagram and Messenger, Facebook is well positioned to dominate with the biggest AR platform, based on the Camera Effects Platform debuted at F8 2017. Selfie filters are one of the more popular Facebook applications, and Facebook is now rolling out very different filters for its Instagram platform, which has a bigger focus on brands and personalities. Engineering director in charge of Facebook’s AR project Ficus Kirkpatrick said the company wants “to increase the diversity of AR.” Continue reading Facebook May Lead AR Race, Some Already Have Concerns

Xiaomi Plans Hong Kong IPO, China Reins In Tech Companies

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi plans to launch its IPO in Hong Kong in what is anticipated to be the world’s biggest IPO in 2018. The filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange did not reveal the size or projected valuation of the offering, but sources say the company hopes to raise at least $10 billion. A source also reported that the listing will value the company at “less than the $100 billion figure previously suggested.” Xiaomi’s filing also uncovered some financial details for the first time. Continue reading Xiaomi Plans Hong Kong IPO, China Reins In Tech Companies

Apple Developing Wireless AR/VR Headset With Its Own Chips

Apple is developing a wireless headset for augmented reality and virtual reality, a project code-named T288 and slated for release in 2020, says a source. Specs for the untethered headset include 8K-resolution for each eye and high-speed, short-range wireless technology connecting the headset to an Apple processor-powered “brain.” Chief executive Tim Cook has indicated his strong interest in AR, most recently pushing it in iPhones and iPads. The box currently looks like a PC tower, but reportedly won’t be a Mac computer. Continue reading Apple Developing Wireless AR/VR Headset With Its Own Chips

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