Amazon Plans to Launch Portable, Lower Cost Version of Echo

Since Amazon had a surprise hit with its tabletop, voice-controlled Echo speaker, released in November 2014, competitors have stepped into the space. Amazon is fighting back with another, smaller, portable and lower-cost version, code-named Fox, expected to debut in a few weeks. Echo, which costs $180, must be plugged into an outlet; its Alexa software answers questions, creates shopping lists, plays music and can control connected lights. Originally a voice activation experiment, Echo has become a popular personal assistant. Continue reading Amazon Plans to Launch Portable, Lower Cost Version of Echo

CES: Chinese UAV Company Unveils Autonomous Flying Taxi

Chinese company EHang, known for its Ghostdrone with head-tracking VR goggles, introduced a giant quadcopter simply called “184 drone” in Las Vegas this week. The cockpit has no controls, just a seat for one passenger, a tablet stand and air conditioning. Navigation is controlled by a mobile app using Google Maps, so passengers do not require a pilot’s license, according to the company. (However, the drone will still need FAA approval in the U.S.) The drone stands about 4.9 feet, weighs 440 pounds and can transport a 260-pound load capacity for about 23 minutes. Continue reading CES: Chinese UAV Company Unveils Autonomous Flying Taxi

Global CE Industry Impacted by Strong Dollar, China Slowdown

The global economy is getting back on track, says CTA senior director of market research Steve Koenig, but tech spending is down, with growth moderate or negative in key sectors including TV, smartphones, laptops and tablets. The strongest U.S. dollar in 13 years makes it “unfavorable to conversion of global currencies.” “GDP growth is moderate and uneven,” he said. “We see disparate fortunes between advanced markets and developing economies. And everyone is dealing with the slowdown in China. It’s a very, very mixed bag.” Continue reading Global CE Industry Impacted by Strong Dollar, China Slowdown

Apple Plans to Leverage Hi-Res Audio Format for Streaming

Apple Music subscribers are poised to enjoy the results of recent Apple development of the new Hi-Res Audio format with an expanded 96kHz, 24-bit sampling rate. The Hi-Res Audio format leverages the high fidelity audio output capability of Apple’s new Lightning ports, which were introduced last year and utilized by Philips, JBL and others for Lightning-equipped headphones. Japanese site Macotakara, with input from inside sources, says Apple Music will debut Hi-Res music streaming next year. Continue reading Apple Plans to Leverage Hi-Res Audio Format for Streaming

Apple Shelves Live TV Service, Opens App Store to Developers

Apple has put its plans to offer a live Internet-based television service — a package of 14 or more channels for $30 to $40 a month — on hold, say sources. Media companies balked at the prices Apple wants to pay, in order to keep its own subscription price low. Executives from Starz and other outlets have already stated they expect Apple and Amazon to pay more, not less, than existing distributors for media. Instead, Apple has pivoted to opening up its App Store so media companies to sell directly to customers. Continue reading Apple Shelves Live TV Service, Opens App Store to Developers

Shopify’s New Mobile App is Like Instagram for Classified Ads

Shopify — known for helping small businesses create e-commerce websites — has launched a new mobile app called Sello that joins a crowded field of peer-to-peer commerce efforts. Sello resembles Instagram and provides easy-to-use functionality for individuals and small businesses to sell products online. It is free to list items, but the Sello app collects a 3 percent fee for each transaction. Sellers simply post a product photo and description, list payment and shipping options, and specify a choice of social platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter. Continue reading Shopify’s New Mobile App is Like Instagram for Classified Ads

YouTube Music Aims Spotlight on Personalization, Discovery

After a year in beta testing, YouTube Music is finally available for Android and iOS. The app — meant to compete with streaming music offerings such as Apple Music, Pandora, Rdio, Spotify and Tidal — emphasizes music videos and amateur recordings. YouTube’s catalog of 50 million songs does not mean a video for every song, since the collection mixes video, audio-only, fan covers, emerging indie artists and much more. Discovery continues to be the underlying focus, and each song is connected to an auto-generated station of related songs. YouTube Music also blends human and algorithmic curation, similar to Apple Music’s approach. Continue reading YouTube Music Aims Spotlight on Personalization, Discovery

Apple Goes After Enterprise With High-End, Pricier iPad Pro

Apple’s new iPad Pro is the company’s biggest, priciest tablet and the first aimed squarely at enterprise users. The company says it’s pitting the iPad Pro against laptops, not other tablets, but it almost immediately draws comparisons with Microsoft’s Surface, that company’s business-focused tablet. Apple has not typically targeted the enterprise market, but this new focus is driven by the need to bolster revenues in light of declining iPhone revenues. Sales of the iPad have also declined since the 2013 peak of 71 million units. Continue reading Apple Goes After Enterprise With High-End, Pricier iPad Pro

Israeli Startup Debuts Index-Finger Device to Replace Mouse

Israeli startup MUV Interactive unveiled Bird, a device the user wears on an index finger, to replace the mouse. The small plastic shell, covered with sensors, is on sale to the public for $150 for the first 15,000 units; the regular price is $250. With Bird, the user can move his or her hand as if controlling a touchscreen — but without any touch — for any TV or projector up to 300 inches. The device weighs about 20 grams (7/10th of an ounce). With plug-ins, Bird can control other devices, including a drone. Continue reading Israeli Startup Debuts Index-Finger Device to Replace Mouse

Amazon Offers Echo Through Staples, But Exclusively Online

Amazon announced it will sell its Amazon Echo device with office supply chain Staples; however, it will only be available online. The Echo, a voice-activated speaker with the ability to answer questions, dim lights, and play music and more will be available for $179.99. The decision to sell the product through a third party has received mixed feedback, because the device still lacks a retail presence. While Staples carries Kindles, Fire TV and the Fire tablet, the Echo will not be showcased in stores. Continue reading Amazon Offers Echo Through Staples, But Exclusively Online

ACSI: Customer Satisfaction of Facebook Users on Upswing

According to new data released by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, user satisfaction with social media platforms is on the rise, led by Facebook’s recent success with its mobile app and improved ad targeting. In terms of customer satisfaction, Facebook was ranked the lowest social media site in 2012, but has since worked its way up to the middle of the pack, behind Pinterest, Wikipedia, YouTube, Instagram and Google+ (in that order). ACSI currently has Facebook ranked ahead of Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn. Continue reading ACSI: Customer Satisfaction of Facebook Users on Upswing

Microsoft: Mixed Reality is Future of Immersive Entertainment

Microsoft used its E3 media event last week in Los Angeles to present its vision of the future of immersive entertainment with a “mixed reality” demonstration of the popular video game “Minecraft” seen through its HoloLens headset. The demonstration at the Shrine Auditorium exhibition hall lasted only a few minutes but its impact continues to resonate. Although Microsoft has provided few detailed plans, its early demos and comments made at E3 and other conferences suggest a future that is something more than a virtual or augmented reality. Continue reading Microsoft: Mixed Reality is Future of Immersive Entertainment

Sony Announces 1TB PlayStation Will Be Thinner and Lighter

In the wake of E3, Sony has announced that its new PS4 will be thinner, lighter and pack more storage than its predecessor. The new PlayStation 4 1TB Ultimate Player Edition, coming to North America next month, will weigh 10 percent lighter than the current PS4 and use 8 percent less power. The new console will come in black or white with a hard drive bay cover in a matte finish, which Sony suggests provides “a more casual look.” Earlier this month, Microsoft confirmed that its latest Xbox One would feature 1TB of storage and an upcoming wireless controller. Continue reading Sony Announces 1TB PlayStation Will Be Thinner and Lighter

Qualcomm Tech to Power Next-Gen Project Tango Smartphone

Qualcomm announced that its Snapdragon 810 CPU and Adreno 430 GPU will power Google’s next generation Project Tango smartphone, coming out in the third quarter of 2015. The new phone promises to offer the same capabilities of the Nvidia-powered Project Tango tablet, but in a smaller form factor. “We’re excited to work together with Google and Android developers to help deliver new, innovative visual experiences using depth-sensing technology on mobile devices,” said Raj Talluri, SVP of product management, Qualcomm. Continue reading Qualcomm Tech to Power Next-Gen Project Tango Smartphone

Google’s Project Fi Phone Service Promises Fast Connectivity

Google has unveiled its experimental Project Fi, a new mobile phone service that seamlessly switches between Wi-Fi and 4G LTE networks to ensure that people will have the fastest connections. Users will also be able to switch between devices, so text messages and phone calls can be answered from a smartphone, tablet or computer. Google partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile for the data networks, and it plans on offering its Project Fi for as low as $30 per month. Continue reading Google’s Project Fi Phone Service Promises Fast Connectivity

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