Facebook to Integrate Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp

Facebook chief exec Mark Zuckerberg reportedly plans to integrate the company’s Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp messaging apps. According to those familiar with the plan, the three services will continue operating as standalone apps, but their tech infrastructure will be stitched together. For the first time, the messaging networks’ 2.6 billion global users will be able to communicate across platforms. The initiative is expected to be completed by the end of this year or early 2020. It will require teams to significantly reconfigure functionality of all three services and will include new end-to-end encryption. Continue reading Facebook to Integrate Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp

New Australian Legislation Challenges Unbreakable Encryption

Australia passed a law that challenges the right of tech companies to sell devices with unbreakable encryption. The Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018, which took effect last month, covers all devices sold in Australia. But if Apple, for example, creates a back door for its iPhones sold there, authorities in other countries previously stymied by Apple’s tough encryption could demand the same access. Australia’s law said it can’t ask a company to build universal decryption. Continue reading New Australian Legislation Challenges Unbreakable Encryption

Streaming Audio Gets Better with Free Lossless Audio Codec

The quality of digital audio has waxed and waned since storage migrated from physical media to files stored on devices or in the cloud. Up until now, large technology companies such as Apple have been the ones making audio developments, such as taking MP3 mainstream with the iTunes Music Store in 2003. Increases in bandwidth have helped improve the quality of streaming audio. Consumers have pushed for better audio, and now some music services have adopted FLAC, a Free Lossless Audio Codec that is changing the game. Continue reading Streaming Audio Gets Better with Free Lossless Audio Codec

Netflix Is Joining the MPAA, ‘Roma’ Nominated For 10 Oscars

Netflix continues to define itself as a significant player in the film industry. Shortly after it revealed plans to continue investing heavily in original content, the streaming media giant has joined major Hollywood studios as a member of the Motion Picture Association of America. The move marks the first time an Internet company has joined the MPAA. “Joining the Motion Picture Association further exemplifies our commitment to ensuring the vibrancy of these creative industries and the many talented people who work in them all over the world,” explained Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. Continue reading Netflix Is Joining the MPAA, ‘Roma’ Nominated For 10 Oscars

Voice Tech Adoption Reaches Beyond Smart Homes to Autos

Together, Amazon and Google claim about 85 percent of the smart speakers currently installed in U.S. households. In the wake of a successful holiday shopping season, the number of smart speakers in the U.S. has climbed to around 119 million. And while Amazon and Google battled for dominance at CES with voice assistant support featured in a growing array of devices and services, a new survey from Voicebot.ai suggests that voice assistants may be more habit-forming in vehicles than via smartphones. The voice tech publication found that 77 million adults use such assistants in their vehicles at least monthly, and companies are taking notice. Continue reading Voice Tech Adoption Reaches Beyond Smart Homes to Autos

Apple Grows Its Services by Partnering with Samsung, Others

Although Apple doesn’t have an official presence at CES, it still made news there, with companies announcing partnerships for iTunes, AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. The Silicon Valley firm is rumored to be rolling out a streaming video service in early 2019, with content from Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, M. Night Shyamalan and Steven Spielberg. At CES 2019, Apple’s integration with third party platforms included TVs from Samsung, LG, Vizio and Sony. The move into content and services comes as Apple contends with lower iPhone sales. Continue reading Apple Grows Its Services by Partnering with Samsung, Others

NBCUniversal Readies Free, Ad-Supported Streaming Service

In 2020, Comcast’s NBCUniversal will launch a free, ad-supported streaming video service featuring the company’s own TV and film content as well as acquired programming and original content. The 52 million subscribers to Comcast Cable and Sky, the recently acquired European pay-TV unit, will receive the streaming service for free. According to sources, NBCUniversal will also offer the service for no additional charge to Charter Communications and Cox Communications, among other U.S. pay-TV companies with NBC channels. Continue reading NBCUniversal Readies Free, Ad-Supported Streaming Service

CES: Voice Assistants Are No Longer Just for Smart Speakers

If CES is any indication, 2019 may be the year that voice assistants become more integrated into our daily lives. Amazon and Google went head-to-head in Las Vegas last week with a flood of partnerships touting smart home and CE devices that now support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Among the products featuring voice support included LG’s much-hyped rollable OLED TV; Panasonic’s new 4K OLED TV; Samsung’s 2019 TV lineup; Vuzix Blade AR glasses; an array of speakers, soundbars and headphones; new smart displays from Lenovo, Archos and KitchenAid; and a collection of home security devices, kitchen and bathroom appliances — even toilets. Continue reading CES: Voice Assistants Are No Longer Just for Smart Speakers

Judging Current State of Amazon and Google Rivalry at CES

At CES 2019, in what some are saying has become an annual battle in recent years, Amazon and Google went mano a mano, with the former’s Alexa voice assistant in one corner, and the latter’s Google Assistant in the other. Since the debut of the voice assistants, this sector’s importance has soared, and both companies have been jockeying for dominance. Amazon stated that more than 100 million Alexa devices have been sold, while Google said its Assistant will be built into one billion devices by the end of the month. Continue reading Judging Current State of Amazon and Google Rivalry at CES

LG OLED TV With Rollable Screen Impresses CES Attendees

While MicroLED, 8K QLED and some impressively large quality displays have been generating the most TV buzz this week in Las Vegas, LG has been showcasing a concept that’s taken different forms at CES in the past, but not with this level of sophistication. Rather than introducing a foldable or bendable screen that retracts, LG debuted a 65-inch OLED TV with rollable screen at this year’s confab. The LG Signature OLED TV R “rolls” into a base to the point that the flexible screen is no longer visible. The 3-millimeter OLED panel then rises from its base for easy viewing. Users can also play music through the base since it’s a 100W Dolby Atmos soundbar. Continue reading LG OLED TV With Rollable Screen Impresses CES Attendees

CES Keynote: LG Exec Asks if Life Is Better and By How Much

In his CES pre-show keynote presentation, LG Electronics president and chief technology officer Dr. I.P. Park set the stage for an AI-infused vision of tomorrow by questioning if we are “making our lives better, how much better, and better how?” Park called on XPRIZE Foundation founder and executive chairman Peter Diamandis to illustrate what artificial intelligence enables and Landing AI founder and CEO Andrew Ng to explain how AI technologies will evolve. Open-source webOS and 5G were the cornerstone technologies for the product demonstrations by Luxoft and Qualcomm, respectively. Continue reading CES Keynote: LG Exec Asks if Life Is Better and By How Much

Apple Among Those Impacted by Slowing Chinese Economy

Apple stock slumped 10 percent last Thursday to $142.19, the company’s biggest single-day percentage drop in almost six years, erasing $74.65 billion from its market value. That came after Apple chief executive Tim Cook warned that China’s economic slump is responsible for slowed-down iPhone sales in the past quarter. China’s wobbling consumer confidence is impacting the entire world economy, however, and Apple has problems beyond China. In India, it’s reaping a mere 1 percent of overall smartphone sales. Continue reading Apple Among Those Impacted by Slowing Chinese Economy

Sony Increases 3D Chip Supply to Meet Demand for Phones

After receiving interest from Apple and other customers, Sony plans to rev up production of its next-generation 3D sensors, which power front- and rear-facing 3D cameras. Sony sensor division head Satoshi Yoshihara reported that the company accelerated production of the 3D chips in late summer to meet the demand for several smartphones slated to debut in 2019. Although he did not provide production targets, he said Sony’s 3D business is already profitable and will impact earnings for the fiscal year beginning in April. Continue reading Sony Increases 3D Chip Supply to Meet Demand for Phones

France to Impose Tax on U.S. Technology Companies in 2019

On January 1, 2019, the French government will begin to tax digital companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, even as other members of the European Union have balked at imposing an EU-wide tax. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire declared that, as the other EU countries debate, his country will move forward alone, estimating that the total tax bill will come to 500 million Euros ($568 million), which will help defray 10 billion Euros in emergency spending announced by President Emmanuel Macron. Continue reading France to Impose Tax on U.S. Technology Companies in 2019

Google Commits $1 Billion to New York City Expansion Plans

In the wake of tech giants Amazon and Apple detailing their latest expansion plans, Google unveiled specifics regarding its planned facilities in New York City. The company, which currently employs more than 7,000 people in New York, announced it plans to spend $1 billion on its new Google Hudson Square campus, which will provide more than 1.7 million square feet of space in lower Manhattan. “We will have the capacity to more than double the number of Googlers in New York over the next 10 years,” explained Ruth Porat, SVP and CFO of Google and Alphabet.  Continue reading Google Commits $1 Billion to New York City Expansion Plans

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