Shopify Debuts Product Updates Including Balance Debit Card

At Shopify Reunite, the Canadian company’s first virtual event, the direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform released numerous updates. Among them are Shopify Balance, a business account and debit card; a Local Delivery app; and Shop Pay Installments, a buy-now-pay later option. The company’s AI-powered fulfillment network is also now welcoming merchant applications. Shopify canceled what would have been its fifth annual partner and developer conference, Shopify Unite, due to the coronavirus. Continue reading Shopify Debuts Product Updates Including Balance Debit Card

Apple and Google Offer Contact Tracing Tech to Developers

Apple and Google unveiled jointly developed contact tracing technology to help the government track the spread of COVID-19. The app notifies a user if she has been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. The technology’s protocol relies on the phone’s Bluetooth signal to identify those who have been near an infected person. So far, North Dakota, Alabama and South Carolina in the U.S. and 22 countries have asked for and received access to the technology. The app was previously released in beta. Continue reading Apple and Google Offer Contact Tracing Tech to Developers

Facebook Reveals New AI-Powered Text-to-Speech System

Facebook introduced an AI text-to-speech system (TTS) that produces a second of audio in 500 milliseconds. According to Facebook, the system, which is used with a new approach to data collection, powered the creation of a British accent-inflected voice in six months, versus over a year required for other voices. The TTS is now used for Facebook’s Portal smart display brand. The system can be hosted in real time via ordinary processors and is also available as a service for other apps, including Facebook’s VR. Continue reading Facebook Reveals New AI-Powered Text-to-Speech System

Spatial VR/AR Meeting Platform Is Now Free and Open to All

Spatial lets its enterprise customers use VR or mixed reality headsets to meet in virtual spaces. The company now plans to launch support for desktop web browsers, Android and iOS — open to all and free. That support means virtual meetings can include participants who do not have a headset. According to Spatial co-founder and chief executive Anand Agarawala, “in light of COVID, we’ve actually had an intense amount of demand — about a 1,000 percent increase.” He added that, unlike Zoom, “something like VR gives you that level of presence and personification.” Continue reading Spatial VR/AR Meeting Platform Is Now Free and Open to All

Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook has acquired the GIF platform Giphy for $400 million. Giphy’s 100+ million active daily users send over 1 billion GIFs a day. Facebook stated that Giphy’s content database will be integrated into its apps including Instagram, although it didn’t state a timeframe. Since every social app offers at least some GIF integration, including many that rely on a GIF keyboard and Giphy’s database, Facebook’s purchase is both a competitive edge and another way to harvest the kind of data that attracts advertisers. Continue reading Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Scener Offers Virtual Theater and Video Chat for HBO, Netflix

WarnerMedia’s HBO has partnered with Seattle-based Scener to allow HBO Now and HBO GO subscribers to create a private virtual theater, including video chat, for up to 20 people. Scener already allows co-viewing for Netflix accounts. This is HBO’s first significant partnership with an online co-viewing platform. Scener co-founder Joe Braidwood said the company saw a “crazy surge in demand” for the product with the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership, which began in March, includes a new design for the site and update for Google Chrome browsers. Continue reading Scener Offers Virtual Theater and Video Chat for HBO, Netflix

Huawei Phone Sales Slump Without Google Apps, Software

Banned from buying U.S. technology, Huawei Technologies is still struggling to replace Google apps, which it utilized for ten years. Although all demand for smartphones is down during the coronavirus pandemic, Huawei’s phones are seeing a 35 percent slowdown of shipments outside of China. According to Canalys, that’s more than double the drop faced by its rival Samsung Electronics and four times that of Apple. The slide threatens to topple Huawei from its No. 2 position in global cell phone brands. Continue reading Huawei Phone Sales Slump Without Google Apps, Software

Spotify Rolls Out Premium Feature for Party Mode Streaming

Spotify just debuted Group Sessions, a feature in beta testing for exclusive use of Premium subscribers. Group Sessions acts as a kind of “party mode” to allow two or more users in the same space to share control of the music being played in real time as well as contribute to a collaborative playlist for the group. The company points out that it is ideal for those quarantining together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spotify anticipates the feature will now encourage more free users to convert to subscribers. Continue reading Spotify Rolls Out Premium Feature for Party Mode Streaming

Roku Users and Streaming Hours Skyrocket During Pandemic

Roku benefited from the rise in streaming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding 2.9 million accounts in Q1 2020, up 37 percent year over year. The company now has 39.8 million active accounts, with 13.2 billion streaming hours in the quarter, representing a 37 percent year-over-year increase. This, however, was a smaller increase than its 68 percent jump in Q4 2019 and a decline from 16.3 billion hours in the same quarter. Roku also warned that advertising revenue will also likely drop in 2020. Continue reading Roku Users and Streaming Hours Skyrocket During Pandemic

TiVo Stream 4K Offers Cord-Cutters Live TV, Streaming Apps

TiVo launched Stream 4K, its first device that focuses on streaming video. The Stream 4K dongle, which plugs into HDMI and hangs from the bank of the TV set, was announced at CES 2020 and is shipping today for $50. It uses Google’s Android TV system to access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and other familiar apps and provides 4K resolution, Dolby Atmos sound and Dolby Vision HDR if available from the app. Stream 4K will compete with Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick+. Continue reading TiVo Stream 4K Offers Cord-Cutters Live TV, Streaming Apps

Twitter Sees More Daily Active Users But Advertising Declines

In Q1 2020, Twitter reported 24 percent year-on-year (YoY) increase in daily active users to 166 million, which it said is at least in part to the coronavirus pandemic. Although Q1 earnings beat estimates, the company’s advertising business slowed, which Twitter also attributes to the pandemic. Stock was up 12 percent during premarket trading on news of the report, but then fell 7.8 percent during the earnings call because executives didn’t reassure investors that the advertising slump would recover or stabilize. Continue reading Twitter Sees More Daily Active Users But Advertising Declines

Facebook, Google and Others Challenge Zoom’s Dominance

The group video chat app Zoom has been No. 1 in the Apple store for more than a month, growing 740 percent in the last month, according to App Annie. The company, valued at $47 billion, now boasts 300 million daily participants. Success spurs competition, and Zoom is now in the crosshairs of Big Tech and telecommunications companies. After Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg urged a focus on completing its video chat projects, the company launched Messenger Rooms for as many as 50 people. Continue reading Facebook, Google and Others Challenge Zoom’s Dominance

Apple Planning Mac Computers With Own ‘Kalamata’ Chips

Two years ago, Apple stated plans to sell Mac computers with its own chips, and now announced it will roll them out in 2021. The company is developing three Mac-specific chips using the 5-nanometer process it will debut this year. The chips, which are expected to be faster than those found in the iPhone and iPad, won’t be able to initially surpass Intel’s performance for Apple’s high-end MacBook Pros, iMacs and Mac Pro. For that reason, Apple will likely first debut a laptop. Apple has used Intel chips since 2005. Continue reading Apple Planning Mac Computers With Own ‘Kalamata’ Chips

Adobe Publishes Workflow Guide for Quibi Content Creators

Adobe issued a workflow guide for content creators producing short-form video for the new Quibi app for mobile devices. The guide offers a step-by-step process via its Premiere Pro production platform, outlining technical specs for deliverables and use of the machine-learning-powered Auto Reframe feature to streamline creation of both horizontal and vertical versions. Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg also stated that, in May, some Quibi users will be able to cast the service from phones to their TVs. Continue reading Adobe Publishes Workflow Guide for Quibi Content Creators

Google Unveils an Internal System for Secure Remote Access

Google debuted BeyondCorp Remote Access, a cloud-based service allowing remote access of internal systems without using a virtual private network (VPN). With so many employees working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, Google said it has “heard repeatedly … that organizations need an easier way to provide access to key internal applications.” Based on a product built for internal use almost ten years ago, the system uses a “zero-trust approach,” which requires additional authentication before granting access. Continue reading Google Unveils an Internal System for Secure Remote Access

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