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Amazon Echo: Get Your Uber Rides, Pizza Pies and Hit Music Here
February 9, 2016
Amazon last week added Uber calling, Spotify listening and Domino's pizza ordering to its growing list of functions available to Echo's voice-activated speakers and Alexa software. Users need only to ask Alexa to call an Uber or an UberX, which is one of the various levels of the Uber private car service, to get a ride. New Uber users can get $15 off their first ride by using the 15Alexa discount code.
Virtual Reality May Be Coming Around Again for Nintendo
February 3, 2016
Nintendo is looking into virtual reality, 20 years after its failed Virtual Boy console, suggest reports that surfaced Tuesday. Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima reportedly described VR as "interesting technology" during an earnings call to discuss the company's Q3 financial report. With VR finally poised to break into the mainstream, it could find a way forward by returning down an old path.
Report: Apple Has Assembled a Crack Team of VR and AR Experts
February 1, 2016
Apple reportedly has hired a team of hundreds of workers as part of a plan to develop a new set of virtual reality headsets. The report came on the heels of Oculus VR finally taking preorders on its Rift virtual reality system, which it is offering for $599. The Rift is scheduled to begin shipping on March 28. Apple reportedly also poached a number of experts in the field from other companies.
T-Mobile's Binge On May Run Afoul of Net Neutrality Rules
January 29, 2016
T-Mobile's Binge On streaming video service violates Net neutrality rules, according to a report authored by Barbara van Schewick, director of The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. Among the reasons the Binge On service may be problematic: It doesn't offer unlimited video streaming, raising transparency concerns; and it gives participants a competitive advantage.
Report: Amazon Primes Spotify Alternative
January 29, 2016
Amazon has been in licensing talks with music industry executives as it prepares a rival to Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming music services, according to a news report Wednesday. It's targeting a fall launch. Amazon already offers 1 million tracks through its Prime Music service, but that pales in comparison to Spotify's 30 million-strong collection.
FCC Chief Proposes End of Set-Top Box Rule
January 28, 2016
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday announced that he'd shared with colleagues a long sought-after proposal to loosen the set-top box's grip on home entertainment. The proposal seeks to spur competition and consumer choice in an arena dominated by large cable and satellite television providers. Wheeler's proposal would provide a mechanism for creating new ways to access video content.
GoPro Shooters Can Send Live Streams Up Periscope
January 27, 2016
GoPro on Monday announced an integration with Twitter's Periscope app that allows live streaming from a GoPro Hero4 camera. Periscope users can switch between broadcasting from their iPhone's camera to their GoPro directly from the phone screen with the touch of a button, GoPro said. The feature allows GoPro shooters to use the Periscope interface like a production switchboard.
Sony's Gaming Biz Coming to America
January 27, 2016
Sony on Tuesday announced plans to merge its PlayStation operations in a new company to be headquartered in the U.S. Sony Interactive Entertainment will open for business on April 1, starting with $2 million in operating capital. The new California-based firm will merge the operations of Japan-based Sony Network Entertainment International and Sony Computer Entertainment.
Android Is Download King, but iOS Reigns Over Revenues
January 23, 2016
Worldwide downloads of Android apps in 2015 were double those for iOS, but revenues from iOS apps were nearly twice those of Android, according to an App Annie report released this week. First-time device owners in emerging markets drove the huge increase in Android downloads, researchers found. "This growth opens up avenues for publishers to create new markets," the report says.
Facebook Opens Sports Stadium
January 22, 2016
Facebook on Thursday announced its new Sports Stadium -- built with no taxpayer dollars or city leases required. About 650 million sports fans already make Facebook the world's largest stadium, the company reasoned. The new hub will compile and chronologize game-related content in real time so that fans can feel they're watching the action with friends.
ESPN Boss Sees Significant Role for Sling TV
January 21, 2016
Streaming media services, including Dish Network-owned Sling TV, could help make up for losses in traditional pay TV subscribers, ESPN President John Skipper said an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Tuesday. Sports remains a growth business, he said. It would be foolish to predict that sports rights -- and therefore prices -- would decline in the near future.
Reading, Writing and Minecraft?
January 19, 2016
Microsoft on Tuesday announced its acquisition of MinecraftEDU, one of the building blocks for its upcoming Minecraft: Education Edition. MinecraftEDU, developed by Teacher Gaming, launched in 2011 as a version of Minecraft enhanced for the classroom. Microsoft has used the lessons learned from MinecraftEDU to expand Minecraft: Education Edition's feature set, the company said.
Netflix Cracks Down on Overseas Proxy Access
January 19, 2016
Netflix last week announced it will crack down on members using proxies or unblockers to access titles from overseas. That follows the company's announcement at CES 2016 earlier this month of a global rollout that has it offering streaming content in 190 countries. The problem is that not all of Netflix's content is available globally, said Netflix's David Fullagar.
Gadget Ogling: Baring Souls, Soaking Up Sound, and Tracking Babes
January 19, 2016
As time advances, more responsibilities seep into our lives. We get wrapped up in our own worlds, and don't necessarily make enough time to spend with the friends and family members who've been important parts of our worlds for decades. Concepter's Soul time tracker seeks to make us more conscious of the time we spend with those who matter most to us.
Pokken Tournament to Kick Off in March
January 18, 2016
Nintendo last week announced that "Pokkén Tournament" will be available worldwide for Wii U on March 18. The Pokémon-themed fighting game, developed by Bandai Namco and published by Nintendo, will retail for $60. For the first production run, Nintendo is tossing in a Shadow Mewtwo amiibo card. When used with a Wii U gamepad, the amiibo card will unlock Shadow Mewtwo as a playable character.
Time Warner Possibilities Put Glint in Apple's Eye
January 14, 2016
Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes this week hinted at a meeting with investors that he might consider a sale of the company, according to a news report. Apple, which reportedly is interested in purchasing Time Warner or its media assets, is keeping a close eye on the discussions. Buying Time Warner's assets would give the flailing Apple TV streaming service much-needed programming.
Google Sharpens Its Virtual Reality Focus
January 14, 2016
Google has confirmed the appointment of Clay Bavor as vice president of virtual reality, one of several indications that the company intends to get serious about competing in the emerging field. Diane Greene will take over Bavor's former role as vice president of product management. The news comes as Facebook's $599 Oculus Rift and HTC's yet-to-be priced Vive are being prepped for shipment.
Periscope's Live Streams Now Pop Up in Tweets
January 13, 2016
Periscope on Tuesday announced integration with Twitter, allowing users to view its live-stream broadcasts directly in the Twitter iOS app. Previously, Periscope broadcasters could share only links to their videocasts in tweets. Now they can embed video directly into tweets, and the content can be set to autoplay. Periscope has more than 20 million user accounts, according to CEO Kayvon Beykpour.
AT&T Baits Pay-TV Hooks With Unlimited Mobile Data
January 12, 2016
AT&T on Tuesday began offering unlimited mobile data to its pay TV customers. New or existing DirecTV and U-Verse TV subscribers can get unlimited talk, text and data for $100 per month. AT&T will charge $40 for two additional phones, and a fourth phone will be free. Subscribers can add smartwatches and certain connected devices to their unlimited plans for $10 per device.
Legere Steps Back After Hurling F-Word at EFF
January 12, 2016
John Legere, T-Mobile's loquacious CEO, has apologized to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for what he described as a "color commentary" that drew sharp criticism. "I am a vocal, animated and sometimes foul mouthed CEO," Legere wrote in a blog post. "I don't filter myself and you know that no one at T-Mobile filters me either." Legere offered a mea culpa for "offending EFF and its supporters."
YouTube Reveals 4K HDR and 360-Degree Video Support at CES
January 9, 2016
YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl on Thursday laid out the direction the service plans to take this year, including new partnerships with GoPro to support 360-degree video content and support for 4K HDR, or high dynamic range, video. So-called cord cutters are having an impact on streaming video services, including those of competitors such as Amazon and YouTube, he said at CES 2016.
The World According to Intel
January 8, 2016
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich earlier this week demonstrated a wide variety of new technologies and laid out the company's vision for where the industry is headed. There is a rapidly growing role for technology that is at once transformative, unprecedented and accessible," he told a CES audience. The 90-minute address offered a compelling look into Intel's view of the tech industry's future.
Oculus VR Founder Laments Failure to Communicate on Pricing
January 8, 2016
Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey on Wednesday said the company did a poor job of communicating the price of the consumer version of the Oculus Rift headset. However, similarly priced products, such as TVs and smartphones, cost less to manufacture than the Rift VR headset, he said. A bare-bones Oculus Rift kit wouldn't cost much less than the bundle's $599 price tag, Luckey noted.
Yahoo Rolls Up Screen
January 6, 2016
Yahoo has shut down its Yahoo Screen on-demand streaming video hub, according to news reports. The hub's offerings included a National Football League game played in London, licensed clips of shows such as "Saturday Night Live," and a number of original series. The company had to write off $42 million in losses stemming from running original series, Yahoo's third-quarter report states.
HTC Shows Off Vive Pre's Room-Sensing Camera
January 6, 2016
A room-sensing camera planted on the front of the Vive Pre was the reason the release of Valve and HTC's virtual reality headset was delayed, the companies revealed Tuesday at CES 2016. The Vive VR headset was supposed to beat Oculus VR and Sony to the punch, coming out in the last quarter of last year. A last-minute "breakthrough" required more work on the Vive headset, HTC CEO Cher Wang said last month.
PCs May Not Be Ready for VR's Breakout Year
January 5, 2016
Will 2016 be a breakaway year for virtual reality technology? Exhibitors at CES 2016 this week seem to think so. More than three dozen of them will be flogging their VR wares at the show, more than double the number from last year. "2016 will be the year of VR," said Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner. "That's pretty clear with all the hardware that's going to be coming on the market."
Home Broadband Use Falls as Consumers Go Mobile
January 4, 2016
A recent Pew Research Center study found that adoption of traditional high-speed Internet in the U.S. has fallen to 67 percent, the lowest level since 2012. More consumers were using mobile phones, the study found. Thirteen percent of respondents said they were smartphone-only customers, compared with 8 percent in 2013. Fifteen percent said they have cut the cord on cable and satellite TV.
Smart Homes Meet Connected Cars: X Marks the Spot
December 29, 2015
Several factors have contributed to the sudden expansion of connected car services available or coming to the market, notably the expansion of mobile broadband networks, high penetration of smartphones, and automakers' re-evaluation of connected services as a competitive advantage. Crossover between connected car and smart home ecosystems offers a unique opportunity for the ecosystem players.
Gadget Ogling: Streaming Socks, a High-Powered Hoverboard, and a Vigilant Vacuum
December 29, 2015
Finally, a pair of socks I would not be ever-so-slightly disappointed to find among my gifts on Christmas morning. Netflix has released some designs for socks that can stop streaming the show or movie you're streaming if you should nod off. The socks detect when you've stopped moving for a long period and hit the pause button. If you're still awake, you can wiggle your big toe to halt the action.
10 Things on an Apple Fan's 2016 Wish List
December 22, 2015
When your favorite consumer tech company is also the best consumer tech company in the world, and said tech company is generally a magnet for hyperbole and blind customer loyalty -- while also producing more products at higher levels of quality than ever before -- what's left to really wish for? Plenty, it turns out. I'm not talking about a new Apple car or even any special new product category.
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