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

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

Samsung Takes on Rift With Windows Mixed Reality Headset

Microsoft and Samsung have partnered on a new virtual reality headset, HMD Odyssey, that relies on the former’s Windows Mixed Reality, Windows 10 software for immersive computing on devices and headsets. Samsung is not the first company to base its VR headsets on Windows 10: Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo Group are all building such VR devices. But Samsung is Microsoft’s most important partner thus far as the computing company faces Apple, Google, Facebook and other major rivals in the virtual reality/augmented reality arena. Continue reading Samsung Takes on Rift With Windows Mixed Reality Headset

Investigations Into Social Media Accounts With Ties to Russia

Four Russian-linked Facebook accounts that bought ads during the U.S. election period were active, posting divisive messages, as late as this past August. “Secured Borders,” “Blacktivist,” “Heart of Texas” and “Being Patriotic” collectively had almost one million followers, before Facebook removed them for misrepresenting their identities. On “Secured Borders,” which had 133,000 followers, messages included those calling for the killing of Muslims and dubbing illegal immigrants “rapists, murderers and child molesters.” Google, Facebook and Twitter are expected to testify before Congress about Russian ties to ad buying, search manipulation and fake news. Continue reading Investigations Into Social Media Accounts With Ties to Russia

Amazon Intends to Rule the Smart Home With Alexa Devices

Amazon is making a big push to be everywhere in the smart home, which is why its devices are relatively inexpensive: the new Amazon Echo is $99.99, Echo Plus is $149.99, Echo Spot is $129.99 and the new Fire TV stick is $69.99. The company is betting on being ubiquitous enough in homes to become the de facto standard for smart home devices — in essence, a new operating system. Proof that Amazon is playing a long game is the Echo Plus, which with a single command could turn off the lights, lock the door and turn off the TV. Continue reading Amazon Intends to Rule the Smart Home With Alexa Devices

Google Will Let Publishers Decide the Number of Free Clicks

Google is developing new tools for publishers and will end the “first click free” policy to help them boost subscriptions. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Financial Times keep their online articles behind a paywall, but savvy readers get around that by googling a headline or search terms, and then clicking for free access. Google’s new program, “flexible sampling,” allows publishers to determine how many free clicks they want to provide. The “first click free” policy required them to provide three free articles per day. Continue reading Google Will Let Publishers Decide the Number of Free Clicks

Netflix Makes Major Commitment to Canada With New Studio

Netflix is planning to invest a minimum of 500 million Canadian dollars ($400.8 million U.S.) over the next five years to build a studio in Canada, revealed Canada’s Heritage Minister, Melanie Joly. The studio will create original Canadian productions, some of which will be French-language, in recognition of Canada’s status as a bilingual country. Canada, which was the first foreign country where Netflix launched, is also home to the third most global subscribers. The Canadian studio will be Netflix’s first global content outpost. Continue reading Netflix Makes Major Commitment to Canada With New Studio

Microsoft Debuts AI-Powered Software, Customer Service Bot

At the Microsoft Ignite annual IT event in Orlando, Florida this week, Microsoft announced it will soon debut a customer-service virtual assistant as part of its Dynamics 365 product line that will incorporate artificial intelligence. A user will be able to describe a problem in her own words, and the virtual assistant will answer by relying on user manuals, help documents and other materials. The customer can request a human, in which case the bot will assist the human customer service agent; a manager can view the result on a dashboard. Continue reading Microsoft Debuts AI-Powered Software, Customer Service Bot

Service Providers Ask Supreme Court to Review Net Neutrality

AT&T, trade group USTelecom and broadband service provider CenturyLink filed separate appeals yesterday requesting that the FCC’s net neutrality rule barring ISPs from slowing or blocking content be overturned. The rule, supported by tech companies such as Google and Facebook, was enacted during the Obama era when the FCC was under Democratic control. “Now under Republican leadership, the FCC is already considering a plan to replace and weaken the rules,” reports Bloomberg. “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to remove strong legal authority that critics say over-regulates telephone and cable providers and that defenders say is needed to enforce fair treatment of web traffic.” Continue reading Service Providers Ask Supreme Court to Review Net Neutrality

Roku Goes Public Today, Sets its IPO Price at $14 per Share

Video streaming device maker Roku begins trading today on Nasdaq, setting its IPO price at $14 per share, which would give it a $1.3 billion stock market value. The 15-year-old company is competing with the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google that all offer streaming video boxes featuring popular apps such as Netflix and Hulu. Roku’s devices provide access to Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and dozens of online channels, but competition is a major consideration with today’s tech investors. Snap Inc., for example, the year’s biggest tech IPO, has watched its shares plummet in value as Facebook’s Instagram rolled out Snapchat-like functionality. Continue reading Roku Goes Public Today, Sets its IPO Price at $14 per Share

Amazon’s NFL Deal Creates New Paradigm for Sports Rights

On September 28, Amazon will live-stream the first of 11 NFL “Thursday Night Football” games to its Prime Video members in over 200 countries and territories (excluding China). The last game, between Pittsburgh and Houston, will live-stream on Christmas Day. The event marks the beginning of an era in which technology titans, including Google and Facebook, vie with traditional broadcasters for the rights to major sports deals. The sports leagues are drawn to the global reach of the major technology companies. Continue reading Amazon’s NFL Deal Creates New Paradigm for Sports Rights

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

Facebook Debuts Cross-Platform Metrics Tools for Marketers

Advertisers will be able to improve their marketing campaigns with two new tools for measuring Facebook and TV metrics both separately and together. The new Facebook Cross-Platform Brand Lift, which will debut in 2018, and the Nielsen Total Brand Effect with Lift, already available in the U.S. and U.K., are particularly aimed at marketers moving from digital to cross-media advertising. The platform also allows Facebook to compete with Google’s Brand Lift for TV, which debuted a number of years ago. Continue reading Facebook Debuts Cross-Platform Metrics Tools for Marketers

Facebook, Microsoft, Telxius Transatlantic Cable Is Complete

The new underwater cable between North America and Europe, built through a partnership between Facebook, Microsoft and Telxius (a subsidiary of Telefónica), is now complete. Dubbed Marea (Spanish for “tide”), the new 4,000-mile subsea cable runs at a depth of 17,000 feet under the Atlantic from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Bilbao, Spain and has been under construction since August 2016. Marea will offer a capacity of 160 terabits per second, and will help meet the demand for high-speed Internet and cloud services. Continue reading Facebook, Microsoft, Telxius Transatlantic Cable Is Complete

Paid Subs for Streaming Music Services Top 30 Million in U.S.

The music business is experiencing significant growth, thanks in large part to the increasing popularity of streaming services. According to RIAA’s midyear report, leading services such as Spotify and Apple Music currently have 30.4 million paid subscribers in the U.S. (up from 20.2 million the previous year). Streaming services are now responsible for 62 percent of total industry revenue, followed by 19 percent for digital downloads, 16 percent for physical sales, and 3 percent for synch rights. Continue reading Paid Subs for Streaming Music Services Top 30 Million in U.S.

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