FTC Looks Into Acquisition Strategies of Big Tech Companies

The Federal Trade Commission is focused on acquisitions made by Big Tech companies, ordering Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft to turn over information on such past deals. Specifically, the FTC wants to know about the smaller deals — many less than $100 million — that the companies were not required to report to regulators, in hopes of learning more about potential antitrust abuses. FTC chair Joseph Simons noted that if they find “problematic transactions,” they can conceivably “initiate enforcement action.” Continue reading FTC Looks Into Acquisition Strategies of Big Tech Companies

Dominance of Top Big Tech Companies Continues to Grow

The five Big Tech companies — Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft — are all getting richer, with three of them (Amazon, Apple and Microsoft) nearing $1 trillion in stock value. Alphabet’s revenue skyrocketed past $161 billion last year, and Facebook is over halfway to a $1 trillion value. This concentration of wealth and power is making it increasingly difficult for smaller companies to compete — with little to indicate that this state of affairs will change. The result is a market of haves and have-nots. Continue reading Dominance of Top Big Tech Companies Continues to Grow

Amazon Forms Coalition for Voice Assistant Interoperability

Amazon created the Voice Interoperability Initiative to achieve software compatibility among digital voice assistants, encouraging its widespread adoption. Although 36 companies have joined the initiative, Apple and Google have not. Their absence is a significant impediment to the initiative’s goals, since Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant software are installed by default in most of today’s smartphones. Amazon’s Alexa, meanwhile, has no presence on smartphones, although its Echo speakers are a hit with consumers. Continue reading Amazon Forms Coalition for Voice Assistant Interoperability

Amazon Maintains its Lead in Growing Smart Speaker Market

The Amazon Echo lineup continues to dominate the smart speaker market with a 63 percent share in the U.S., according to an online consumer survey conducted during July and August by Strategy Analytics. While Amazon models represent the majority of smart speakers currently in use, Google follows at 17 percent and Apple trails at 4 percent. The survey found that 88 percent of U.S. homes with smart speakers currently have at least one Amazon speaker, and 31 percent indicate they have at least one Google speaker. Additionally, 58 percent of households with smart speakers are already using two or more devices. Continue reading Amazon Maintains its Lead in Growing Smart Speaker Market

In Taiwan, CE Firms Devise Contingency Plans for Trade War

Taiwan plays an important role in the global technology supply chain, assembling devices from smartphones to computers. Now, as tensions rise between China and the U.S., some of the largest Taiwan-based companies are figuring out ways to avoid the worst depredations of the trade war. Foxconn Technology Group chairman Terry Gou took the first step, by opening a $10 billion display plant in the U.S., and now the chief executives of Pegatron and Inventec are revealing details of their own plans. Continue reading In Taiwan, CE Firms Devise Contingency Plans for Trade War

Reviews: Apple HomePod Offers Great Sound But Not Smarts

Apple’s HomePod smart speaker has debuted to mixed reviews. HomePod can stream music directly from Apple Music but no other popular music streaming service such as Spotify or Pandora. It’s equally partisan in that, despite its Bluetooth, users must use Apple’s own AirPlay to stream the music, and Android phones aren’t able to pair with it. The Home app lets users set up and control a variety of HomeKit-compatible smart home devices. The system currently lacks the ability to link HomePods together for a multi-room setup. Continue reading Reviews: Apple HomePod Offers Great Sound But Not Smarts

CES: Qobuz High-Res Music Service to Launch in U.S. in 2018

In mid-2018, Qobuz, a European online music streaming and downloading service, will be available in the U.S. The company, which claims it is “the highest resolution music streaming service in the world,” offers 40-million music tracks, among them one million high-resolution tracks. The service is compatible with Mac, iOS, Android and Windows operating systems. Qobuz also produces original editorial content including album reviews, bios, introductions to discographies and exclusive photos, art and videos. The company will showcase its service at CES in Las Vegas next week. Continue reading CES: Qobuz High-Res Music Service to Launch in U.S. in 2018

Forecast: Smart Speakers Will Outsell Wearables This Season

Strategy Analytics predicts the smart speaker market will nearly quadruple in unit volume this year, bringing the total to 24 million. According to eMarketer, smart speakers will likely outsell wearables in the U.S. this holiday season. “We expect smart speakers to be the gift of choice for many tech enthusiasts, because of their lower price points,” said eMarketer analyst Cindy Liu. The research firm anticipates continued growth for devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers in the U.S., but slowed growth in terms of usage. Continue reading Forecast: Smart Speakers Will Outsell Wearables This Season

TunesMap to Offer Liner Notes and More for Streaming Music

TunesMap believes every song has a story. After 10 years of development, the company will debut a product intended to fill an empty space in the digital music industry: liner notes. Online streaming music has grown to be a huge success, but it still lacks all the materials that once graced the album, including lyrics, songwriting credits, thank-you lists, essays, artwork and other information. TunesMap, founded by music supervisor G. Marq Roswell, will debut an Apple TV app for Sonos speakers in November that will uncover “the greater cultural context around any song” and offer a feed of links to relevant material, photographs and videos. Continue reading TunesMap to Offer Liner Notes and More for Streaming Music

Amazon, Microsoft Partner to Connect Their Voice Assistants

In a competitive landscape, Amazon and Microsoft are forming a rare partnership to enable communication between their respective voice assistants, Alexa and Cortana. This will allow users to summon Cortana using Alexa and vice versa, by the end of 2017. Chief executives Jeff Bezos and Satya Nadella made the move because of their concern that keeping digital assistants in a walled garden could hold back their progress, and that, by facilitating communication between them, end users could enjoy each one’s unique strengths. Continue reading Amazon, Microsoft Partner to Connect Their Voice Assistants

Amazon and Lenovo Discuss the Integration of Alexa into PCs

Lenovo, the world’s biggest PC manufacturer, is in discussions with Amazon about integrating Alexa into its computers and other devices. Also recently, LG decided to integrate Alexa support into its SmartThinQ Hub. These moves underscore Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos’ goal to incorporate Alexa into a wide range of electronics, to spread the company’s influence to more consumers. Other tech companies attempting to do the same are Microsoft with Cortana, Apple with Siri and Google with Assistant. Continue reading Amazon and Lenovo Discuss the Integration of Alexa into PCs

Sonos-Amazon Partnership Highlights Need for Improved Mics

Since Amazon debuted Echo in 2014, digital tinkerers have been creating hacks to connect Amazon’s speakers to Sonos’ better speakers. Now, Sonos has introduced a system, developed with Amazon, to let users do just that. With a limited beta test version available this year, the system will be released widely in 2017. This partnership highlights a larger problem in audio technology: digital assistants from Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft are being held back by limitations in microphone technology. Continue reading Sonos-Amazon Partnership Highlights Need for Improved Mics

Amazon Promotes Integration of Alexa in Multiple IoT Devices

With the successful release of the Echo, Amazon now has more extensive plans for the intelligent assistant that powers the smart speaker. Via Alexa Voice Service-enabled voice commands, Echo plays music, turns the lights on or off and sets thermostats. Now, Amazon plans to use Alexa to power an array of devices in the home. Being a player in the Internet of Things is a goal of many other large technology companies including Apple, Google and Microsoft, as well as numerous startups. Continue reading Amazon Promotes Integration of Alexa in Multiple IoT Devices

Amazon’s Alexa Moves Artificial Intelligence Into Mainstream

Amazon spent years to bring Echo from an idea to an intelligent, voice-controlled product that could play music, order groceries and read the news out loud. Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos demanded perfection, bringing latency levels to below 1.5 seconds, and the result is that Echo and its virtual assistant Alexa are a hit. In less than two weeks, Echo hit a million pre-orders, which took the iPhone 70 days to achieve. Amazon is now letting third-party hardware manufacturers integrate Alexa into their products. Continue reading Amazon’s Alexa Moves Artificial Intelligence Into Mainstream

Target Display Educates Shoppers About the Connected Home

Target recently joined forces with Local Projects, the New York design studio that worked on the interactive installations of the 9/11 Museum, to build a new retail space and test lab in San Francisco that leverages interactive storytelling to help illustrate how smart products work. Open House is arranged as a 3,500-square-foot model home filled with the latest Internet-connected gadgets, from Drop’s smart thermometers and scales in the kitchen to Withings’ wireless blood pressure monitors and Sonos speakers in the bedroom. Continue reading Target Display Educates Shoppers About the Connected Home

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