Consumer Study Points to iPhones and iPads for Holiday Wishlists

  • According to data from research firm Parks Associates, consumers have Apple devices on their holiday wishlists this year.
  • Parks reports that 53 percent of prospective smartphone purchasers plan to buy an iPhone for the holidays, compared with 33 percent who indicated the same in the third quarter and 24 percent one year ago.
  • “And when it comes to tablets, most of those surveyed said they’d prefer an iPad,” reports AllThingsD. “Following the iPad at 44 percent was Kindle Fire, with 24 percent of consumers expressing interest in Amazon’s touchscreen tablet.”
  • “Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said they’d go with the Microsoft Surface tablet — down from the 45 percent who just a few months ago said they wanted the Surface — and the Google Nexus tablet came in last at 12 percent.”
  • Additionally, Parks notes, “When presented with the iPad mini as a tablet alternative, many of those planning on purchasing other tablet brands opt for the iPad mini.” And among those planning on buying an iPad, 40 percent said they would opt for an iPad mini.
  • The smartphone portion of the Parks survey focused on brands only, not individual models, so it is not clear which version (and price point) of iPhone is enticing consumers.

Google Fields Bids from Arris and Pace on Motorola STB Business

As the Google TV platform fails to gain traction, Google is looking to sell its Motorola Home Business, which is responsible for building set-top boxes for cable providers. The Motorola cable box business was acquired by Google for $12.5 billion last year. According to Bloomberg, Google has received multiple offers, the most compelling coming from Arris Group Inc. and Pace Plc. Google reportedly wants to sell in order to focus on its high-end smartphone business to ramp up competition with Apple. Continue reading Google Fields Bids from Arris and Pace on Motorola STB Business

Cloud-Based Gaming Service Playcast Plans 2013 Launch in the U.S.

Playcast is a cloud-based gaming service that runs through pay TV, IPTV, or over-the-top TV providers like Google TV and Roku.

“For the end user, the system operates like VOD or an app, while remote servers actually run the games and stream a video feed of the gameplay in real-time,” reports Engadget. “On the back end, one server shelf can serve up to 15 players an HD (read: 720p) feed simultaneously, and graphical artifacting is kept to a minimum because it streams over the operator’s managed network.”

Playcast differentiates itself from OnLive because Playcast can brand its front-end interface to fit specific customers’ desires and does not need additional hardware. Playcast also offers packages of games for subscription use.

The company plans to launch in Q3 of 2013 with 10-15 packages of 20 games each. The packages will likely cost $10-$15 a month. Playcast will alternate 10 percent new games in each month to keep customers engaged.

“It appears that Playcast will provide casual gamers an intriguing option for getting their gaming fix next year,” concludes the post. “But we’re reserving judgment until we see how well the games run on a managed network, what titles are offered, and just how much it’ll cost.”

Larry Page Talks Future of Search and Company Projects

  • Google CEO Larry Page, who rarely agrees to interviews, sat down with Fortune to discuss the future of search, clashes with Apple, the company’s numerous Google X projects, and more.
  • Page acknowledges the change in advertising models, but views disruption as a good thing. Google still devotes 70 percent of its effort into search and ads.
  • “The perfect search engine would really understand whatever your need is,” he says. “So one of my favorite examples I like to give is if you’re vacation planning. It would be really nice to have a system that could basically vacation plan for you. It would know your preferences, it would know the weather, it would know the prices of airline tickets, the hotel prices, understand logistics, combine all those things into one experience. And that’s kind of how we think about search.”
  • On Google’s competition with Apple, Amazon and others: “I’d like to see more cooperation on the user side. The Internet was made in universities and it was designed to interoperate. And as we’ve commercialized it, we’ve added more of an island-like approach to it, which I think is a somewhat a shame for users,” Page says.
  • “I think it would be nice if everybody would get along better and the users didn’t suffer as a result of other people’s activities. I try to model that. We try pretty hard to make our products be available as widely as we can. That’s our philosophy,” he notes.
  • The remaining effort at Google is split between apps (20 percent) and new projects (10). “I think investors always worry about this. You know, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to spend all their money on self-driving cars.’ I feel like no matter how hard I try, I can never make the 10 bigger, because it’s actually hard to get people to work on stuff that’s really ambitious. It’s easier to get people working on incremental things.”

Twitter Answers Instagram with Image Filters for Android and iOS

  • Twitter has responded to Instagram’s latest social network assault (making Instagram photos incompatible for immediate viewing on Twitter) by releasing its own line of image filters in an update for both Android and iOS.
  • The eight filters — vignette, black & white, warm, cool, vintage, cinematic, happy and gritty — were designed exclusively for Twitter. Users can also use crop, zoom and auto-enhancement tools, writes The Verge.
  • The filters allow users to preview how their images will look using any of the filters in a 3 x 3 grid (including no filter).
  • The development is “thought to be a direct response to Facebook’s purchase of Instagram earlier this year,” and will only heighten the tensions between the social media giants, suggests the post.
  • “To be sure, Instagram has a massive lead, and a very passionate community,” notes CNET in related coverage. “But Twitter has a nine-figure user base, and now that it is offering filters — albeit just eight, while Instagram has 18 free filters — it can begin to chip away at its competitor’s lead.”

Strategic News: Mark Anderson Delivers 10 Predictions for 2013

Forbes provides an overview of the latest computing and telecommunications predictions for 2013 from tech guru Mark Anderson, as published in his Strategic News Service newsletter.

1) Tablets or “CarryAlongs” will become the dominant segment of computing devices.

2) Intel will fade into obscurity as Qualcomm and ARM take over computing, dominating the production of mobile chips.

3) Most U.S. homes will have Internet-enabled TVs, and other developed nations will follow suit as bandwidth improves.

4) The LTE vs. fiber battle will determine carriers’ business model for the years to come. “Customers choosing broadband LTE in DSL-served regions will be paying more and getting more; but those choosing LTE in fiber-served regions will be paying more for wireless broadband but getting less.”

5) Google will become the next Apple. “Google’s efforts in email, video, smartphones, maps, and driverless cars open up new long-term expansion paths, with more to follow.”

6) The driverless car will work toward ubiquity as countries pass laws to allow it and major brands work on developing new features.

7) e-Books will substantially outpace paperback sales in 2013 and will eventually dominate the market.

8) “Enterprise IT struggles to achieve very modest gains, with executive purchase decisions captured between large cash holdings, increased Asian competition, and their own poorly performing customers.”

9) “‘Hacktivist’ efforts acquire an important and permanent role in political transparency.”

10) Supply chain security will determine global technology purchases. “Recognition that today’s supply chains are virtually all compromised will lead to plant relocations and a new set of business opportunities for onshore component makers.”

Mobile Video Calling Creates New Frontier as Technologies Improve

  • “As the cameras and screens of smartphones and tablets improve, and as wireless networks offer higher bandwidth, more companies are getting into the business of enabling mobile video calls,” reports The New York Times, noting that the rise has been so quick that analysts have yet to compile numbers.
  • In 2011, Microsoft acquired video calling service Skype. Similarly, Apple developed its own FaceTime feature to sell the iPad and in September expanded the service beyond just Wi-Fi to cellular networks.
  • Google’s free video calling service Hangouts on its social network Google Plus allows up to ten people to video conference, and it features more than 200 apps. Just last week, Yahoo purchased its own video chat service OnTheAir. Tango Mobile is yet another video calling service, which has attracted 80 million active users and sees 200,000 join daily, according to CTO and co-founder Eric Setton.
  • Microsoft has incorporated Skype into its Windows 8 mobile phones, allowing people to receive calls even when the app isn’t running. Google is interested in “making money on the applications, but in learning more about them so it can sell more ads by getting people to use [Hangouts],” notes the article.
  • “Don’t expect video calling to improve productivity. Tango uses the same technology that enables video calls to sell games that people can play simultaneously,” the article states. “Google says some jokey applications on Hangouts, like a feature that can put a mustache over each caller, seem to encourage people to talk longer.”
  • “Tango’s average video call used to last six minutes, Mr. Setton said, but when the company started adding other applications to go with the videos, like games and designs that float over people, the average call length rose to 12 minutes.”

Debunking Tech Perceptions: If TV not Broken, Why is Everyone Trying to Fix It?

  • Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku and Boxee are just some of the companies working on ways to re-imagine the TV experience.
  • “But nobody seems to be able to answer the big question: what exactly is so broken about TV anyway?” writes Matt Rosoff in a commentary for CNN, part of a series designed to “debunk commonly held perceptions about technology.”
  • Rosoff acknowledges that channel guides are inefficient… “But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most TV viewers simply won’t care enough about any of this stuff to shell out $1,500 for a new Apple TV, or spend a few hundred bucks and countless hours fiddling around adding a new box to their TV set and figuring out how it works.”
  • He notes that while the tech industry wants to optimize the television experience, it is important to remember that TV is passive. We don’t want to work at it. It’s not too difficult to turn the set on, find your channel and you’re done. Even Steve Jobs sometimes just wanted to watch TV and vegetate.
  • “That’s why we love TV just the way it is,” writes Rosoff. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Will Verizon Take on Netflix and Others with its own Streaming Video Service?

  • Verizon is planning to launch a standalone video streaming service for 2012 that would offer movies and TV shows via the Web, according to several people close to the plan.
  • “The phone company is talking with prospective programming partners about the service, which would be introduced outside of markets where it currently offers its broadband and TV package, known as FiOS, these people said,” reports Reuters. “That would make it available to some 85 million U.S. households.”
  • Verizon may be concerned about cord cutters and competition from Netflix, Amazon and Google.
  • “Verizon has been back and forth with programmers over the last two years exploring the possibility,” suggests the article. “While a lot of the discussion has been around fees, the programmers have also been concerned about the possibility of hurting their existing — and lucrative — relationships with the cable operators.”
  • Having its own streaming service would allow Verizon to grow its customer base and thereby lower its programming costs.
  • “News of the service will have added controversy in the wake of sister company Verizon Wireless’s plans to resell cable TV service for Comcast Corp, Time Warner Cable Inc and Bright House Networks,” points out Reuters. “Under that deal, announced last week, Verizon Wireless will pay $3.6 billion for valuable spectrum from the cable companies.”

Google Taps a New Market with Indoor Mapping at Malls and Airports

  • Google is adding indoors maps for select malls, airports and transit stations with the release of Google Maps 6.0 for Android.
  • “Detailed floor plans automatically appear when you’re viewing the map and zoomed in on a building where indoor map data is available,” explains The Official Google Blog. “The familiar ‘blue dot’ icon indicates your location within several meters, and when you move up or down a level in a building with multiple floors, the interface will automatically update to display which floor you’re on.”
  • Initial partnerships include locations in the U.S. and Japan: Mall of America, IKEA, Home Depot, select Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco International Airport, and others.
  • “Apart from the obvious advantage to users who would now find it easy to navigate through buildings, we also expect the indoor map feature to provide a significant advertising opportunity,” reports Forbes. “Retailer locations in malls and airports would now show up on the map, and they should be interested in highlighting any new deals and promotions on the map users as soon as users enter the building.”
  • Last month, Google announced that more than 200 million Android devices have been activated worldwide, more than double what was reported by the company in May.

New Feature: Conference into Google+ Hangouts with Free Voice Calls

  • Google may directly challenge Skype with a new feature that enables free voice calls to the U.S. and Canada within Google+ Hangouts.
  • “To activate the feature, simply start a Hangout, click the Invite button at the top, select ‘Phone,’ and enter a phone number. If the recipient picks up, they’ll be instantly connected,” reports TechCrunch. “The free offer is supposed to last through 2012.”
  • This allows people who don’t have a Google account or even a computer to join a G+ video chat. It also enables free 1-on-1 calls, much like Skype.
  • The service has the potential to be used for conference calls, in making group decisions or serve as a a draw simply for casual use.
  • Google hopes the free calls will attract people to Hangouts, which has been “a bit sparse due to the social network’s low current user count.”

Safe Internet Coalition Established in Europe Aimed at Protecting Children

  • Apple, Google, LG, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung and Facebook are among 28 tech and media companies that are joining forces to “deliver a better Internet for our children,” reports TheNextWeb.
  • “The group was put together by the European Commission (EC) and the priority actions set out include making it easier to report harmful content, ensuring privacy settings are age-appropriate, and offering wider options for parental control,” according to TNW.
  • “This new coalition should provide both children and parents with transparent and consistent protection tools to make the most of the online world”, says Neelie Kroes, vice president of the EC. “The founding coalition members are already leaders in children’s safety online. Working together we will be setting the pace for the whole industry and have a great basis for fully empowering children online.”
  • The coalition has created a statement of purpose covering five key areas: create effective reporting with simple, robust tools; enable age-appropriate privacy settings; develop age-rating through widespread content classification; extend parental control; and effectively remove child abuse material through improved cooperation with law enforcement.

New Homepage: YouTube Goes Social with Focus on Google+ and Facebook

  • YouTube is redesigning its homepage and channel pages to incorporate “better personalized video discovery and viewing, with a notable emphasis on social features,” reports TechCrunch.
  • A new default Subscriptions feed on the homepage offers users content based on what videos they watch and which channels they subscribe to (the feed can also be filtered). Users can share videos using Google+ or by opting-in on Facebook, both located on the navigation bar.
  • Channel pages have four new templates that come with a Feed tab showing the channel owner’s activity (highlighting features such as commenting on a video and subscribing to a channel).
  • “These additions, which are more analogous to template options in Tumblr or MySpace rather than Facebook’s one-size-fits-all style, let producers promote their works in the most natural style for what they offer,” suggests the post.
  • The homepage and channel changes are the first significant updates, but TechCrunch adds that YouTube is “also introducing a site-wide design upgrade to all the elements — typography, iconography, etc. It’s separately adding new versions of its Xbox and Google TV applications, that feature magazine-style tile interfaces showing various channels. Finally, the company is touting the success of its advertising platform, saying that it’s seeing strong demand for its new cost-per-click style of video ads.”

Mossberg on iTunes Match: Store Your Songs without Slow Uploads

  • Walt Mossberg favorably reviews Apple’s iTunes Match service. For $25/year, you can create a music locker in the Cloud that allows you to play your music collection on up to 10 devices.
  • In contrast to similar locker services from Google and Amazon, you do not have to upload your entire collection — iTunes Match scans your iTunes library and matches it with its 20 million song library.
  • The service only works for digital music currently, and not for movies, TV shows or audiobooks.
  • Your locker can include up to 25,000 songs. It’s worth noting that, “Match is an optional addition to an existing free service called iTunes in the Cloud, which covers only songs you bought from Apple’s iTunes store.”
  • “In all, I like iTunes Match, and can recommend it to digital music lovers who want all their tunes on all their devices,” writes Mossberg. “It’s another nice feature of iCloud, priced reasonably.”

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