General Motors Promises an All-Electric Future for its Vehicles

While autonomous and connected vehicles have been getting much of the press attention this year, there has also been a push toward electric cars. General Motors recently announced that it is ending its gas and diesel efforts to focus on an all-electric, zero-emissions future. The American automotive icon plans to roll out two new fully electric vehicles in 2017 and at least 18 more electric models by 2023. GM is not alone in this pursuit. Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo are among the auto manufacturers that have made similar announcements in recent months to eventually phase out gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. GM, which sold 10 million vehicles in 2016, is one of the world’s largest automakers.

Continue reading General Motors Promises an All-Electric Future for its Vehicles

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

Facebook Reveals the Philosophy of New Social VR Platform

As part of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s goal to get one billion people into virtual reality, the company has also targeted social interaction as a potential powerhouse, with avatars communicating in a shared virtual world. This vision is already a reality on the company’s software platform Facebook Spaces, headed by Rachel Franklin, who previously worked on “The Sims.” She recently described her team’s philosophy and how that motivates design choices. She also described Facebook’s most successful VR elements. Continue reading Facebook Reveals the Philosophy of New Social VR Platform

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

Clicking Flash Update on the Equifax Site Results in Adware

In the wake of May’s Equifax website breach that reportedly involved personal data of 145.5 million U.S. consumers, the credit reporting service’s site was manipulated again this week. On Wednesday, and again on Thursday, fraudulent Adobe Flash updates appeared that infected computers with adware when clicked. Only three of 65 antivirus providers detected the adware. Security analyst Randy Abrams discovered the issue while investigating false information that had appeared on his credit report. Meanwhile. federal legislators have introduced a new cybersecurity bill to help protect consumers. Continue reading Clicking Flash Update on the Equifax Site Results in Adware

Snapchat Introduces its New Location-Based Discovery Tool

Snapchat debuted “context cards” this week, a new feature that helps its users easily make a restaurant reservation or book an Uber ride without having to exit the app. The new feature is designed to keep users engaged with the app and its contextual location-based search. By swiping up from geotagged images while viewing certain stories, users will get related data such as contact info, directions and reviews. Early partners include Bookatable, Foursquare, Michelin, OpenTable and TripAdvisor. Ultimately, more time on Snapchat could mean more advertising revenue for the popular messaging app. Continue reading Snapchat Introduces its New Location-Based Discovery Tool

Hollywood Studios Join Disney for Movies Anywhere Service

While a formal announcement is pending, insiders report that 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures are among the Hollywood studios that will be joining Disney’s Movies Anywhere service, which enables consumers to purchase movies from authenticated platforms — including Amazon Video, Fios by Verizon, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft and Vudu — and store them in a digital locker so that they can be viewed on multiple devices. Disney Movies Anywhere, powered by KeyChest storage technology, was first introduced in 2014 when other studios were supporting the UltraViolet format. Continue reading Hollywood Studios Join Disney for Movies Anywhere Service

Americans Spend Half of Their Media Day Consuming Digital

According to new data from eMarketer, the average U.S. adult is expected to spend two more minutes each day consuming media than the average time per day last year, up two hours from a decade ago. The researcher estimates that adult consumers will average 12 hours and 1 minute per day with major media this year. This increase, not surprisingly, reflects a continued shift in consumer behavior toward multitasking, thanks in large part to mobile tech. The average American still spends the most time watching television (nearly four hours per day), while mobile continues its ascent (currently at three hours and 17 minutes per day). Continue reading Americans Spend Half of Their Media Day Consuming Digital

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

Netflix Bets Subscribers Are Willing to Pay More for Streaming

To help offset its investments in original programming, Netflix will raise prices starting next month for its streaming-video subscribers in the U.S. Marking the third price increase in four years, the company’s $9.99-per-month standard two-stream plan will be bumped to $10.99, while the premium four-stream $11.99 plan will now cost $13.99. The basic plan will remain at $7.99 for now. Wall Street reacted positively, as Netflix stock was up 4 percent following the announcement. Nearly four million consumers in the U.S. still subscribe to the company’s $7.99 DVD-by-mail service. Continue reading Netflix Bets Subscribers Are Willing to Pay More for Streaming

Amazon Acquires 3D Body-Scanning Tech Startup Body Labs

Amazon has acquired 3D body-model startup Body Labs for a reported $50-$70 million, although some sources say the figure could exceed $100 million. New York-based Body Labs specializes in true-to-life 3D models that are ideal for B2B software applications, including the creation of photorealistic avatars for gaming and virtual approaches for consumers to try on clothing. The latter should be of particular interest to e-commerce giant Amazon. The online retailer could use the scanning and modeling tech to help shoppers select fashion purchases ideal for their body types. Continue reading Amazon Acquires 3D Body-Scanning Tech Startup Body Labs

Security Update: 3 Billion Yahoo Accounts Hit in 2013 Attack

Yahoo announced yesterday that all 3 billion of its user accounts were affected by a previously disclosed August 2013 cyberattack, originally reported by the company as affecting 1 billion accounts. Yahoo had earlier reported that a separate 2014 attack affected 500 million accounts. Last year we learned that, “digital thieves made off with names, birth dates, phone numbers and passwords of users that were encrypted with security that was easy to crack,” according to The New York Times. “The intruders also obtained the security questions and backup email addresses used to reset lost passwords.” Continue reading Security Update: 3 Billion Yahoo Accounts Hit in 2013 Attack

Roku Refreshes Product Line to Compete With Apple, Amazon

Following its recent Nasdaq debut, Roku is updating its product line with new specs and pricing in addition to a number of software enhancements. Roku’s entire line — from its streaming stick to home entertainment hub — is being upgraded. The $30 Roku Express gets a new processor, while the $50 Roku Streaming Stick now features a remote with voice control. The $40 Roku Express+ is the next step up from the Roku Express, offering analog component connections for those with older TVs. And the high-end 4K Roku Ultra will remain $100 for the holiday season (it recently had a $30 reduction), and gets a refresh for its remote and a wider selection of streaming options.  Continue reading Roku Refreshes Product Line to Compete With Apple, Amazon

Comcast Rolls Out ‘Skinny Bundle’ for Its Internet Customers

Comcast is introducing an $18-per-month “skinny bundle,” a new service the pay-TV provider has been testing and is now ready to roll out across different regions over the next few weeks. Xfinity Instant TV, which is available for Comcast’s 25.3 million broadband customers, is designed for cord cutters (and cord nevers), and will compete with OTT services such as Hulu Live TV, Sling TV and YouTube TV. Comcast’s service can be streamed at home or anywhere with a broadband connection. The company is specifically marketing to its customers that pay for Internet but not TV, hoping they will one day switch to a larger bundle. Continue reading Comcast Rolls Out ‘Skinny Bundle’ for Its Internet Customers

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

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