Samsung Wants Bixby Assistant to Control Multiple Devices

Samsung’s digital voice assistant Bixby just arrived on millions of the company’s Galaxy S8 phones. According to Samsung head of mobile software R&D Injong Rhee, the inspiration for Bixby was super-hero Tony Stark (“Iron Man”), who only needs to voice orders to activate all kinds of systems. Similar to Stark, Samsung wants to use Bixby to activate all kinds of devices, from dishwashers to TVs. While Bixby cannot control all apps yet and, like other digital assistants has some limitations, early reviews suggest it excels at function-based commands. Continue reading Samsung Wants Bixby Assistant to Control Multiple Devices

Antitrust Case: EU Slaps Google With Record $2.7 Billion Fine

The European Union issued a record-breaking $2.7 billion fine against Google yesterday for violating EU antitrust rules. Margrethe Vestager, European commissioner for competition, announced that the seven-year investigation determined the U.S. tech giant had manipulated search results in order to place its own shopping service ahead of services offered by rivals, thereby creating an “illegal advantage.” Google now has up to 90 days to adjust its practices or potentially face additional penalties. The company is said to be considering an appeal. Continue reading Antitrust Case: EU Slaps Google With Record $2.7 Billion Fine

Google Share of Search Ad Market to Hit 80 Percent by 2018

According to a new eMarketer report, Google’s share of the online search advertising market could exceed 80 percent by 2019, as it outpaces other search companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Yelp and AOL. Last year, Google’s share of the ad market reached 75.8 percent ($24.6 billion in revenue). The company’s share is expected to reach 80 percent by 2018 and 80.2 percent the following year. The eMarketer projections include advertising on desktop and laptop PCs, mobile phones, tablets and other Internet-connected devices. Continue reading Google Share of Search Ad Market to Hit 80 Percent by 2018

Airbnb Debuts Tours and Activities in Turn Towards Services

Hoping to leverage the traveler’s yen for experiences that make her feel more connected to the places she visits, Airbnb is now offering local tours, activities from surfing lessons to pub crawls, and its travel services in major cities worldwide. Airbnb, valued at $30 billion, is currently one of the world’s fastest growing privately held companies, although it hasn’t been welcomed in all cities. Bringing in local hosts as guides, the tours have been tested by Airbnb in a few cities, soon expanding to 12 and, by 2017, 50. Continue reading Airbnb Debuts Tours and Activities in Turn Towards Services

Facebook Integrates Social and Utilitarian with New Features

Facebook has a strategy to become more useful in everyday life, combining and improving on the services similar to those from Yelp, Foursquare and others. The added value, says Facebook, would be its network of social connections and businesses. That idea is behind the updates the company is now unveiling, which will allow users to order food from a restaurant’s Facebook page or make an appointment at the beauty salon. Retailers must use third-party services such as Delivery.com, Slice, HomeAdvisory or MyTime for it to work. Continue reading Facebook Integrates Social and Utilitarian with New Features

New Voice-Powered App Takes On Leading Digital Assistants

Santa Clara-based startup SoundHound has developed a voice-powered digital assistant that could take on early players in the field, including Siri, Google Now and Cortana. Like the others, the Hound app (for iOS and Android) allows users to interact via voice so that it can perform requested tasks. However, Hound claims to be faster and smarter than its competitors. The app has been in beta with 150,000 testers since last summer, and is now publicly available along with new Yelp and Uber partnerships for restaurant info and ride hailing from within the app. Continue reading New Voice-Powered App Takes On Leading Digital Assistants

Facebook Profits Skyrocket, Beating Wall Street Expectations

Facebook finished 2015 with a strong fourth quarter, with sales rising 52 percent from a year ago to $5.84 billion, and profit more than doubling from $701 million to $1.56 billion. The upswing beat Wall Street’s predictions for Q4 of $1.2 billion in profit on $5.37 billion in revenue. Investors rewarded the company by pushing its stock up more than 12 percent in after-hours trading. Responsible for the stupendous upward trend is mobile advertising, which soared to 80 percent of the company’s total ad business in Q4 2015. Continue reading Facebook Profits Skyrocket, Beating Wall Street Expectations

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

Facebook Users Can Search Top-Ranked Local Businesses

Amazon and Google have recently made efforts to connect Internet users with home and local service providers, taking on companies such as Angie’s List and Yelp in the process. Now, Facebook is testing its own feature that directs social media users to the top-reviewed service providers in their area. The new site is only available on desktop, but Facebook offers the ability to find local businesses on mobile via “Nearby Places.” In addition to home services, Facebook’s feature highlights restaurants, bars, nightclubs and travel-related businesses such as hotels, sightseeing and tours. Continue reading Facebook Users Can Search Top-Ranked Local Businesses

CEA Announces New Name: Consumer Technology Association

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which represents more than 2,200 technology companies, announced yesterday that its new name is the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Replacing “electronics” with “technology” is meant to address an evolving consumer tech industry and more accurately reflect the diverse member companies. The change will take place immediately. The new name and logo were introduced in New York City at CES Unveiled, a “sneak peek” event that provides highlights of what’s to come at January’s CES 2016, which is produced by the CTA. Continue reading CEA Announces New Name: Consumer Technology Association

EU Regulators Gain Regulating Clout With U.S. Tech Companies

Brussels, where the European Union is primarily based, is becoming a mecca for U.S. tech firms to plead their cases. That’s because the EU has taken a hard stance on issues of antitrust and privacy among others, becoming the world’s first regulator to confront Google on antitrust charges… twice. The unintended result is that U.S. tech companies are now hiring full-time lobbyists to protect their interests. And aggrieved U.S. firms go there to lodge complaints that might otherwise have gone to the Federal Trade Commission. Continue reading EU Regulators Gain Regulating Clout With U.S. Tech Companies

Google Augments Search, Connects Users with Home Services

Google is no longer just a way to search for a good local plumber or electrician. Now, users in the San Francisco Bay area can make appointments via Google Home Services, a newly unveiled program that connects users with companies vetted by Google. So far, Google Home Services supplies plumbers, handymen, locksmiths and housecleaners. The move puts Google in direct competition with Amazon, which launched a similar service in March, as well as Angie’s List, Yelp and TaskRabbit. Continue reading Google Augments Search, Connects Users with Home Services

Tech Industry Presses Government to Address Patent Reform

A number of top technology executives representing the Internet Association submitted a letter this week to leaders of the House of Representatives calling for quick passage of the Innovation Act of 2015. CEOs of Etsy, Gilt, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Rackspace, TripAdvisor, Twitter, Yahoo and Yelp are among those urging politicians to pass the patent-reform bill this summer. The letter explains that these execs have “direct experience of the negative consequences of the patent troll business model on our economy.” Continue reading Tech Industry Presses Government to Address Patent Reform

Apple Watch Launch: Limited Availability, but Wide App Variety

Apple launched its new wearable last week, and a wide variety of related apps are currently available, but customers are still trying to figure out where to buy the smartwatch and companies are still trying to figure out how to use it. The Watch was not available in Apple Stores, but it was in stock at select fashion boutiques around the world. Companies like Yelp and WebMD, meanwhile, are still trying to figure out how Apple Watch users will use their Watch apps differently from their iPhone apps. Continue reading Apple Watch Launch: Limited Availability, but Wide App Variety

Amazon Expands its Offerings with Takeout & Delivery Service

Amazon is taking on the likes of DeliveryHero, GrubHub and Seamless with its new Takeout & Delivery, the latest service available to those in search of a convenient way to order food from local restaurants. A live version of the service recently launched in Seattle and other cities are expected to be added soon. Amazon’s Takeout & Delivery allows users to charge food orders to their existing Amazon accounts. It follows the success of Amazon’s door-to-door grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh. Continue reading Amazon Expands its Offerings with Takeout & Delivery Service