Report: About 16 Percent of Americans Own Smart Speakers

NPR and Edison Research released a report this week indicating that about one in six Americans (39 million people) now own a smart speaker, up 128 percent from last January. “Amazon’s Echo speakers are still in the lead, the report says, as 11 percent now own an Amazon Alexa device compared with 4 percent who own a Google Home product,” reports TechCrunch. Amazon and Google promoted their devices heavily and cut prices during the holiday shopping season. “The Echo Dot became a top seller across its site and by manufacturers through the Black Friday weekend.” Continue reading Report: About 16 Percent of Americans Own Smart Speakers

Venture Capitalists Discuss the Latest Startup Trends at CES

Who better to discover trends at CES 2018 than the venture capitalists that roam the exhibit looking for the most promising startups to fund? TMTPost founder/chief executive Hejuan Zhao brought together three such executives to ask them about what they’ve seen at the show and what they predict for the future. Caerus Ventures co-founder Gregory Borchardt, whose company focuses on connected devices, was astounded by the exponential growth of startup haven Eureka Park, with heavy representation from France and the Netherlands. Continue reading Venture Capitalists Discuss the Latest Startup Trends at CES

Top Platforms, Enabling Technologies Expected to Impact CES

Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google may not all have a big booth with their name on it at this year’s CES, but be sure that their presence will still be felt. For example, we expect dozens of new devices that are “Alexa-enabled” to appear on the show floor. Ever since Amazon Web Services opened up Alexa to the developer community in 2015, voice-enabled devices have really taken off and Alexa has been endowed with hundreds of new “skills.” At CES, we expect to see a wide range of voice-enabled smart speakers and IoT devices, “Made for HomeKit” sensors and devices, more private and hybrid cloud products, and a continued push into VR, AI and live streaming. Continue reading Top Platforms, Enabling Technologies Expected to Impact CES

T-Mobile Buys Layer3, Prepares to Debut Streaming Service

T-Mobile US is buying Layer3 TV, a streaming pay-TV distributor, to launch its own pay-TV streaming service. In doing so, T-Mobile, the third largest wireless carrier (by subscribers) in the U.S., joins a growing host of other companies, such as Sony, Dish and YouTube, that aim to lure cord-cutters to their streaming services. Some of those efforts have been successful; AT&T, for example, now has one million subscribers to its DirecTV Now streaming service, which debuted last year and is priced as little as $35 per month. Continue reading T-Mobile Buys Layer3, Prepares to Debut Streaming Service

Google Removes YouTube From Amazon Fire TV, Echo Show

Google is pulling YouTube from Amazon’s smart speaker Echo Show, saying it is doing so because Amazon won’t sell Google products including its Home speaker, Chromecast streaming device and some Alphabet Nest products. Google also states that Amazon won’t make its Prime Video shows available for Chromecast. The move escalates an ongoing battle between the two behemoths whose business interests now overlap. In addition to Echo Show, Google plans to block YouTube on Amazon Fire TV’s media streaming device beginning January 1. Continue reading Google Removes YouTube From Amazon Fire TV, Echo Show

AISense Teams Up with Zoom for Voice Transcription Product

AISense, a company that offers a voice transcription service, is partnering with videoconferencing service Zoom to bring a product to market in 2018 that will provide automatic transcriptions for Zoom’s customers. AISense’s technology uses machine learning to provide a full text record of what is said, and Zoom’s videoconferencing is its first practical use. AISense also just raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Horizons Ventures, with Draper Associates, Draper Dragon, David Cheriton, and Bridgewater Associates. Continue reading AISense Teams Up with Zoom for Voice Transcription Product

CTA: 170 Million to Purchase Tech Gifts This Holiday Season

According to the Consumer Technology Association, 170 million people (68 percent of U.S. adults) plan to purchase tech gifts this holiday shopping season. While the CTA’s annual report indicates tech spending is expected to only increase 1 percent to $96.8 billion during Q4, it still represents a new record following a strong 2016. “On the surface, it sounds pretty weak, but we saw 3.8 percent holiday growth in 2016,” said Steve Koenig, CTA’s senior director of market research. “That’s a tough act to follow. It’s hard to post 3 percent to 4 percent growth rates year after year.” Headphones, drones, VR headsets, 4K TVs, laptops and smartphones are among the products predicted to be top-sellers. Continue reading CTA: 170 Million to Purchase Tech Gifts This Holiday Season

Voice Shopping: Target Expands its Partnership With Google

Target announced that it is expanding its partnership with Google to cover a number of initiatives: consumers will be able to shop Target via Google Express home delivery (including by voice), Target’s REDcard payment card will be integrated into Google’s shopping platform, and new support for store pick-ups of purchases made through voice will be introduced. Amazon’s biggest rival Walmart announced in August that it would also team with Google for voice-based shopping efforts. The moves could help Google Home compete with Amazon’s Alexa-powered smart speakers. Continue reading Voice Shopping: Target Expands its Partnership With Google

LINE’s New Clova Wave Smart Speaker Is Available in Japan

LINE, known for its popular WhatsApp-style mobile messaging platform, has released a $125 smart speaker in Japan named Clova Wave, beating Amazon and Google to market. LINE has more than 220 million messaging users in the region. The company first announced the speaker device at a conference in June, after unveiling its new digital assistant, Clova. LINE also earlier announced a smart speaker called Champ, based on the LINE Friends characters, but no release date was revealed. LINE is a subsidiary of Naver Corp., South Korea’s largest web operator and search portal. Continue reading LINE’s New Clova Wave Smart Speaker Is Available in Japan

Walmart and Google Debut Voice-Command Online Shopping

Walmart is debuting shopping with voice commands on its website, via Google Home and Google Home Mini devices; it also offers customers $25 off their order if they buy one of the Google devices and link their Walmart account to Google Express’ shopping platform. The result may boost numbers of users who adopt voice shopping, and will also make it easier for customers with Google Home to easily reorder items they’ve previously purchased; with it, Walmart’s ease of shopping rivals Amazon’s Buy Now option and Dash Buttons. Continue reading Walmart and Google Debut Voice-Command Online Shopping

Google to Take On Tech Giants With Second-Gen Hardware

Google just debuted its second-generation Pixel smartphones and Google Home speaker, among other hardware devices, as it competes with Apple, Samsung and Amazon to break into the top ranks of consumer electronics. The company’s first year in the space was mixed: although the devices got positive reviews, the Pixel smartphone suffered from supply shortages, capturing only a minute market share in the U.S. and elsewhere. Likewise, Google Home only made minor inroads into the arena dominated by Amazon’s Echo. Continue reading Google to Take On Tech Giants With Second-Gen Hardware

Amazon Launches Alexa on Music Apps to Attract New Users

Amazon, ranked third in streaming music, launched virtual assistant Alexa on its Amazon Music apps this week to better compete with No. 1 provider Spotify and No. 2-ranked Apple. Amazon Music will provide a button which users can push to access Alexa “play” commands that will work as they do on Echo. Amazon determined that Alexa is now the primary way that users listen to Amazon Music. Competitor Apple offers its virtual assistant Siri on Apple Music. Meanwhile, Google has decided to stop supporting the Amazon Echo Show on YouTube. Continue reading Amazon Launches Alexa on Music Apps to Attract New Users

Google to Acquire Part of HTC Mobile Division for $1.1 Billion

Google will spend $1.1 billion to purchase part of HTC’s smartphone operations. The Internet giant plans to use HTC’s engineering and design teams to help ramp up its nascent hardware efforts to complement its expanding portfolio of software products and grow its revenue beyond Android and search ads. The deal, which is expected to bring about 2,000 HTC employees to Google, also includes a non-exclusive licensing agreement for HTC intellectual property. While HTC has shown growth potential in VR with its Vive headset, its mobile business has been struggling. Continue reading Google to Acquire Part of HTC Mobile Division for $1.1 Billion

Facebook Messenger Day Now Attracts 70 Million Daily Users

Messenger Day, Facebook’s version of Snapchat Stories that launched six months ago, may not be experiencing the same growth as similar offerings from Instagram or WhatApp, but it now touts 70 million daily users. Messenger Day enables users to share photos and video slideshows. While its latest daily usage is significant, it only took Instagram Stories two months to reach 100 million users, and two weeks less for WhatsApp Status to attract 175 million (both have since surpassed the 250 million daily user mark). Continue reading Facebook Messenger Day Now Attracts 70 Million Daily Users

Sony, Harman Kardon and JBL Debut New Smart Speakers

At the Berlin trade show IFA this year, manufacturers showed smart speakers that incorporate voice assistants from Amazon and Google. Sony debuted its LF-S50G, one of the first third-party products, including Google Assistant and offering 360-degree sound and a digital clock, due out in December for $200. Another rival is the $250 Harman Kardon Allure, which offers Amazon’s Alexa and features ambient lighting that keeps the music’s beat. In addition, JBL’s new LINK series features three wireless speakers with Google Assistant and Chromecast support. Continue reading Sony, Harman Kardon and JBL Debut New Smart Speakers

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