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LG Going Totally Wi-Fi

January 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

LG says that all its products will ship with Wi-Fi connectivity from this year.

LG marketing VP David VanderWaal says that “starting this year” all of LG’s home appliances will feature “advanced Wi-Fi connectivity”.

One of the flagship appliances that will make good on this promise is the Smart Instaview Refrigerator, a webOS-powered Internet-connected fridge that among other things supports integration with Amazon’s Alexa service.

While this might be a good thing in cases of flagship devices but just sticking Wi-Fi in everything is going to create a security nightmare. After all how are LG or anyone planning to update their appliances? Most people who don’t use the Wi-Fi are never going to bother connecting to anything and that is just going to be an open port sitting waiting some hacker’s attention.

What is also a problem is that if your whole house gets a virus you are going to have a hell of a job finding out what the source was and what you are supposed to unplug.

Also, there is the small matter of some appliance makers might be a little naughty about using their smart devices to serve up ads or give audio or video recordings to law enforcement.

LG might be more likely than most to know what it is doing, but the life of a fridge or washing machine is a lot longer than a computer. Our fridge is 15 years old and works fine, what will be the state of computer security in 15 years’ time? Many are going to find that their fridge is running the security equivalent of Windows XP.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon’s Alexa Takes On Rival Google’s Android OS

January 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc’s digital assistant popped up just about everywhere at the CES technology show this week in Las Vegas, even making an unexpected appearance on rival Google’s Android system.

Companies ranging from appliance maker Whirlpool Corp to Ford Motor Co unveiled products featuring Alexa, the digital assistant from Amazon that responds to voice commands.

Most strikingly, Chinese firm Huawei Technologies Co, which manufactures smartphones running on the Android operating system produced by Alphabet Inc’s Google, announced that its flagship handset will come with an app that gives users access to Alexa in the United States.

 The adoption of Alexa by a prominent Android manufacturer indicates that Amazon may have opened up an early lead over Google as the companies race to present their digital assistants to as many people as possible, analysts said.

Many in the technology industry believe that such voice-powered digital assistants will supplant keyboards and touch screens as a primary way consumers interact with devices.

While the shift is only in the early stages, Google must establish a strong presence quickly, particularly on Android devices, to maintain its dominance in internet search, said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research.

“To the extent that voice becomes more important and something other than Google’s voice assistant becomes the most popular voice interface on Android phones, that’s a huge loss for Google in terms of data gathering, training its AI (artificial intelligence), and ultimately the ability to drive advertising revenue,” he said.

Alexa debuted on the Amazon Echo smart speaker, and Amazon is establishing a broad array of hardware and software partnerships around it. The competing Google Assistant launched last year on the company’s Pixel smartphone, after appearing on Google’s messaging app, and has begun to roll out to third-party devices as well. Graphics processor maker Nvidia Corp announced at CES that its Shield television will feature the assistant.

While Google has expressed an interest in bringing its assistant to other Android smartphones, the decision to debut the feature on its own hardware may have strained relations with manufacturers, Dawson said.

“It highlights just what a strategic mistake it can be for services companies to make their own hardware and give it preferential access to new services,” he said.

Ford Gives Amazon’s Alexa Expanded Role In Vehicles

January 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Ford Motor Co  is expanding the use of Amazon.com Inc’s Alexa personal assistant in its automobiles to allow drivers to talk to their cars – demanding anything from a nearby cheeseburger to a weather forecast – marking a leap by the Detroit automaker to incorporate a technology initially targeted for home use.

The expanding alliance between Ford and Amazon, announced on Wednesday at the CES tech show in Las Vegas, underscores the importance to both automakers and internet commerce companies of connecting consumers on the move to a richer array of digital services.

Don Butler, Ford’s executive director of connected vehicle and services, told Reuters the technology represented the “deepest integration of any OEM (carmaker) inside a vehicle with Alexa.”

 The two companies are talking about how to take the Alexa partnership further, according to Butler. “Digital assistant is one tool that is increasingly prevalent in the industry,” he said.

Rival General Motors Co  plans to roll out IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence software in its OnStar system early next year in order to market services to drivers in their cars.

Similarly, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz will use Alphabet Inc’s Google Assistant, a rival product, to let car owners interact with their vehicles from home via Google Home.

Ford’s move follows its October announcement that it would use Alexa in three of its vehicle models by the end of 2016 to allow drivers to communicate with their smart home devices, such as heaters, lights or security systems.

Automotive personal assistants are being studied by every major automaker, according to Gartner research director Michael Ramsey, who said: “There’s a lot of vetting going on.”

One company that stands to benefit is Nuance Communications Inc. The supplier to Ford, GM and other carmakers provides natural language speech command technology to allow drivers to speak more or less conversationally to digital assistants.

Nineteen percent of the 160 million cars that use Nuance’s technology over the past 15 years have come out just in the past year, said Fatima Vital, Nuance’s senior director of marketing automotive.

One major decision auto companies must make is whether to give consumers a version of the smartphone systems they already use – Apple Inc’s CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto – or a third option. By using their own systems, carmakers can retain full control of valuable data that otherwise could be captured by Apple and Google from vehicles.

Amazon Into Exploring Airships

January 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc  has filed for a patent to use airships for storing of many of its products and serve as a base for delivery-drones.

The patent application was filed two years ago but was spotted only on Wednesday by Zoe Leavitt, an analyst at technology data and research firm CB Insights.

According to the patent filing, drones launched from the so-called “airborne fulfillment centers” (AFCs) would use far less power than those launched from the ground.

 The AFCs would hover at about 45,000 feet (13,700 meters) and be restocked and resupplied by “shuttles or smaller airships.”

Amazon, which was not immediately available for comment, has laid out plans to start using drones for deliveries next year.

Amazon Video Launches Worldwide, Challenges Netflix

December 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

amazon-prime-video-150x150Amazon.com Inc has officially rolled out its video-on-demand service, Prime Video, in nearly every country except China, coming into direct competition with video-streaming pioneer Netflix Inc .

Prime Video, home to popular shows such as “The Grand Tour”, “Transparent” and “The Man in the High Castle”, will now be bundled with Prime subscriptions in 19 countries including India, Canada and France.

In other new regions, Prime Video customers will have to pay $2.99 or 2.99 euros per month for the first six months, after which the price will be doubled to $5.99 or 5.99 euros.

Amazon has been spending heavily, sometimes at the cost of profits, on the creation and marketing of movies and TV shows.

The company hopes that people will sign up for its Prime service to watch these videos – and in turn buy more goods from its online store to make the annual subscription worth it.

The Prime Video launch comes almost a year after Netflix Inc went global with its video-streaming service – rolling it out in more than 130 countries with the notable exception of China.

Subscriptions for Netflix, known for shows such as “Stranger Things”, “Daredevil” and “Narcos”, start at $8.99.

Amazon Prime Video members can also access videos offline on mobile devices, a feature Netflix introduced late last month.

Microsoft, Intel Working On ‘Far-field Speech Recognition’ For Cortana

December 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

cortana-and-intel-150x150Intel and Microsoft are currently fine tuning the technology that allows you to shout out commands to Cortana or activate a Windows 10 PC from sleep mode without being all that close to it.

The chipmaker is working with Microsoft to add “far-field speech recognition” technology, where the user can shout out Cortana commands to a Windows PC from longer distances.

“Soon, you’ll be able to speak to your PC from a distance and access all of your information on the device and in the cloud,” said Navin Shenoy, senior vice president and general manager for the Client Computing Group for Intel, in a blog entry this week.

The range isn’t available yet.

Users also will be able to use Cortana to start a PC from standby. Users will have to say, “Hey Cortana.”

For now, Cortana works best if the user is close to the PC. This development is more in the vein of Amazon Echo, which can recognize commands from a distance.

The ability to shout commands to Cortana from a longer distance also has Amazon Echo-like benefits. Users will be able to tell a PC to play music or ask about the weather. The feature will be even more useful when Microsoft completes a plan to make Windows 10 PCs hubs for smart homes, with users being able to use Cortana to operate electrical appliances.

That’s just one of many developments Intel is planning for PCs. Intel is working with Microsoft on its wire-free PC initiative, with a high-speed WiGig wireless connection being used to connect PCs to peripherals. Intel also said it would bring its Optane premium memory to PCs by the end of 2017.

Intel is also aggressively pushing for LTE receivers to be installed in laptops and hybrid tablet devices, with the ultimate goal to bring 5G to all devices. The new 5G deployments are expected by 2020 and could bring new forms of long and short-distance communications to devices. Intel is developing modems for 5G connectivity.

Seagate And Amazon Backing Into The Clouds

December 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Hard drive maker Seagate has teamed up with Amazon to create a $99 1TB external hard drive that automatically backs up everything stored on it to the cloud.

Dubbed the Seagate Duet, the drive’s contents are cloned to Amazon Drive. All you need to do is plug in the drive, sign in with your Amazon account and that is it.

You can drag and drop files over, and access them from the web or Amazon’s Drive app on smartphones and tablets. Seagate claims you’ll get a year of unlimited storage just for buying the hard drive, which normally costs $59.99 annually.

Amazon’s listing for the Duet has some fine print. At the moment the offer is for the US and is not valid for current Amazon Drive Unlimited Storage paid subscription customers.

You also have to redeem the promo code within two months of buying the hard drive if you want the years’ worth of unlimited cloud storage.  Returning the Duet, will see your 12 months of unlimited drive storage slashed down to three.

Courtesy-Fud

Nissan To Offer Maintenance Alert Option For Internet-connected Cars

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

nissan-logo-150x150Nissan Motor Co will mark its first major entry into internet-connected cars by offering an option in some new vehicles that will use big data technology to notify drivers when vehicle maintenance is required.

As automakers compete fiercely to develop self-driving cars and improve the customer experience inside vehicles, Japan’s second-largest car maker said on Tuesday it will begin rolling out the service in Japan and India in 2017, followed by other countries through 2020.

With the availability of new mobility options including ride-hailing and car-sharing services threatening to cool demand for individual car ownership, automakers are looking for new ways to attract loyal drivers.

 Toyota Motor Corp, Japan’s biggest car maker, announced earlier this month that it will have a similar alerting feature in the domestic version of the upcoming Prius plug-in model.

And Ford Motor Co last month announced that by year’s end, some of its models will be able to communicate with smart home devices using Amazon’s Alexa voice service.

Nissan said that it would also market the device required to access the service, which can be retrofitted into existing models. In the future, 30 percent of its existing vehicles would eventually be equipped with the hardware, it said.

The new service will be enabled by a telematics control unit which will enable the automaker and its dealer network to access information about the car’s diagnostics and location, alerting the driver to any required maintenance work.

“With connectivity we can provide better information and better service offerings to our customers,” Kent O’Hara, Nissan corporate vice president and head of its global aftersales division, told reporters at a briefing.

“We’ll know what’s wrong with that vehicle, we’ll know where the vehicle is, we’ll know what parts are needed for the vehicle … and we can provide convenient service and alternative transportation options.”

He added that connectivity services and other new technologies would contribute 25 percent of the automaker’s aftersales revenues by 2022, from “low, single digits” at the moment.

 

Online Holiday Shopping Surged Over Thanksgiving Weekend

November 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

online-holiday-sales-150x150Online spending by U.S. deal seekers exceeded $1 billion by Thanksgiving evening, according to Adobe Digital Index, surging almost 14 percent from a year ago and reflecting a broader trend away from brick-and-mortar shopping.

At the start of the first holiday shopping season since the U.S. Presidential election on November 8, U.S. consumers loosened their purse strings and spent $1.15 billion online between midnight and 5 pm ET on Thursday, according to Adobe.

Traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, has started the holiday shopping season in the United States with retailers offering steep discounts and turning a profit. But its popularity has been on the wane given the emergence of online shopping and cheap deals through the year from retailers including e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc.

U.S. stores are now opening on Thanksgiving to try and boost in-store sales, while retailers have been offering online deals weeks in advance to cope with lower demand and stiff pricing competition.

“We saw one of our strongest days ever online,” Brian Cornell, chief executive of discount retailer Target, told reporters on Thursday evening. He added that online sales grew by double digits, without giving further details.

The holiday season spanning November and December is crucial for retailers because it can account for as much as 40 percent of annual sales. Retailers try to attract shoppers with deep discounts, sometimes as much as 85 percent.

The National Retail Federation, which has been bullish with projections in the past, expects holiday sales to grow 3.6 percent this year to $655.8 billion.

“Online discounts are earlier and a lot bigger than last year,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal research analyst at Adobe Digital Index.

Oracle To Acquire Cloud Infrastructure Provider Dyn

November 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

oracle-logoOracle plans to purchase internet performance and DNS provider Dyn in an effort to boost its cloud-based offerings as well as challenge infrastructure and platform service leaders like Amazon and Microsoft.

Dyn, in the news last month when it was targeted in a massive distributed denial-of-service attack, operates a global network that makes 40 billion traffic optimization decisions each day for more than 3,500 enterprise customers, including Netflix and Twitter.

Dyn monitors and optimizes internet applications and cloud services with the goal of delivering faster access and reduced page-load times. Dyn’s services will give Oracle a one-stop shop for enterprise customers looking for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS), Oracle said in a press release Monday.

Oracle has made an aggressive play in the cloud in recent months, with Executive Chairman Larry Ellison promising in September to give Amazon’s AWS “serious competition.” Some observers have questioned whether the company can catch up to Amazon and Microsoft, however.

Oracle has invested heavily in its cloud platform and has ambitions to be a market leader, but its strength right now lies in cloud support of its own applications, said Paul Miller, a senior analyst at Forrester.

“Oracle’s cloud makes most sense to customers already heavily invested in Oracle’s ecosystem of tools and applications,” Miller said.

Many existing Oracle customers also have a big investment in their own data centers, and that isn’t likely to change for several years, Miller added. So Oracle “mostly tells a hybrid cloud story in which some workloads run in public clouds, and others run on a customer’s premises, in a customer’s chosen co-location facility, or wherever,” he said.

In the hybrid service model, the Dyn acquisition makes sense, Miller said. Dyn’s network optimization services can help Oracle speed up its own network traffic and help the company and its customers “optimize the flow of data between Oracle’s data centers and a customer’s own facilities,” he added. “That optimization makes data flow faster and also saves everyone money.”

Customers should keep an eye on Oracle, he said.

“With a clear commitment to public cloud platforms and a strong history of success, clients would be foolish to write off this provider,” Forrester said in a report last month. “For those already invested in Oracle’s platform and applications, there may be no better choice.”

Oracle declined to comment on the acquisition and didn’t release terms of the deal.

 

Amazon To Sell Fiat Chrysler Cars Online

November 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

amazon-shopping-150x150Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)  said it has joined forces with U.S. internet giant Amazon to begin selling cars online offering an additional discount.

Initially only Italian buyers will be able to purchase their cars with a simple click online and the offers on Amazon.it will be limited to three models – the 500, the Panda and the 500L.

FCA said the choice was deliberate because the Panda is Italy’s biggest selling car, while buyers of the 500 and its larger 500L version embody the young and adventurous nature this initiative is trying to appeal to.

“The time has arrived to give consumers a new, more efficient and transparent way to choose a new vehicle,” Gianluca Italia, responsible for Fiat Chrysler in Italy, said during an online press conference.

The manager at the world’s seventh largest carmaker said the partnership will appeal to buyers looking for deals from the comfort of their own home, adding that existing promotions will be improved by up to 33 percent for online customers.

He said research had revealed that half of Italians were willing to buy a vehicle online but 97 percent still preferred to pick it up at a traditional dealer.

So, after making their clicks online, buyers will be contacted by Amazon to decide on a dealer where they can finalize their purchase and pick up the car. The vehicle should be ready within two weeks of the initial click.

 

Amazon Ordered To Reimburse Parents For Children’s In-app Purchases

November 14, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

amazon-logo-1-150x150A federal judge has ordered Amazon.com Inc to set up a year-long process to reimburse parents whose children made in-app purchases without permission, but rejected a U.S. regulator’s request for a $26.5 million lump-sum payout.

U.S. District Judge John Coughenour, in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, issued his order more than six months after finding the online retailer liable, in a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC in July 2014 accused Amazon of making it too easy for children to run up bills while playing games such as “Pet Shop Story” and “Ice Age Village” on mobile devices, resulting in an estimated $86 million of unauthorized charges.

 The order calls for Amazon to set up a notice-and-claims process beginning in early 2017 to alert parents of their eligibility for refunds, and then to reimburse them.

Coughenour said this approach “removes the uncertainty of the proper lump sum amount that the parties have vigorously disputed. Moreover, it accomplishes the goals of placing liability on Amazon and refunding eligible customers.”

Coughenour called the FTC’s $26.5 million damages request “too high,” agreeing with Amazon that it might have taken into account failed password attempts unrelated to unauthorized purchases by children.

But the judge rejected Amazon’s request to issue refunds in the form of gift cards, saying the company would “undoubtedly recapture some of the profits that are at issue.”

Neither Amazon nor the FTC immediately responded to requests for comment.

Is Electronic Arts Bullish On Next Quarter?

November 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

The second fiscal quarter is historically the quietest stretch for Electronic Arts, but the three months ended September 30 gave the publisher reason for optimism heading into the crucial holiday season. The company today released its second quarter results, beating its net income guidance and showing strong growth in its EA Sports Ultimate Team efforts.

“Q2 was an excellent quarter for Electronic Arts, led by breakthrough new EA Sports titles engaging players across console and mobile,” CEO Andrew Wilson said. “We are in an outstanding position for the quarter ahead, with two of the highest-rated games of this console generation in Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2, global competitive gaming tournaments underway, and our first virtual reality experiences coming soon. Across all platforms, this holiday season will be a fantastic time to play.”

While Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 launched after the second quarter, EA used the report to tout the games’ early achievements. For Battlefield 1, the company said the total player base during the first week of release nearly doubled that of 2013’s Battlefield 4. As for Titanfall 2, which just launched last Friday, the company said dozens of press outlets had given review scores the equivalent of a 90 out of 100 or above.

As for the releases actually covered by EA’s second quarter results, they would include EA Sports mainstays Madden 17 and FIFA 17. The company said “20% more players were engaged” in FIFA 17 during its first week than in the first week of FIFA 16, but made no mention of specific performance for Madden. However, the EA Sports Ultimate Team game modes appear to be healthy, as EA said Ultimate Team’s net sales between the FIFA, Madden, and NHL series are up 15% year-over-year on a trailing 12-month basis.

For the second quarter, EA reported net revenues of $898 million, up 10% from last year, but short of the $915 million it had given as guidance. However, the company’s net loss for the quarter of $38 million was a significant improvement on the previous second quarter’s net loss of $140 million, and better than the projected $51 million net loss.

EA gave the early performance of FIFA 17 and the holiday slate of releases as reason enough to adjust its full-year expectations, with the company now expecting net revenue for the year ending March 31, 2017 to be $4.775 billion, up from $4.75 billion. Net income for the year is also projected to reach $848 million, compared to the previous guidance of $809 million.

Update: On the earnings call, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen addressed the early feedback on Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2, noting that it’s too early to update any sales projections but that there’s “incredible excitement” around both and the company is “very optimistic” not just for this holiday season but for the longer term. Citing the fact that “quite a few players” were still playing Battlefield 4 years after it released, Jorgensen said he expects similar long-term interest in both titles. More generally, looking at EA’s business, Jorgensen is also encouraged by the opportunity that this generation’s consoles and the mid-cycle upgrades affords a big publisher like EA since the console installed base is already up 33% in the West compared to the previous generation, he said.

Interestingly, when asked about one of EA’s big upcoming titles, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Jorgensen effectively said that EA is not afraid to push the title back yet again (it was originally scheduled for 2016 but is now loosely slated for Q4, which ends next March). While that shouldn’t be read as a sign of trouble – Jorgensen said Mass Effect is “tracking extremely well” – it appears EA wants to be 100% sure that the game does not need any additional time before it commits more fully to a release date.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Are Tablet Sales Really Dropping?

November 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Despite what Steve Jobs and his minions in the Tame Apple Press told us, the tablet was not a game changer, and was simply yet another fashion fad which is now going the way of the dodo and the iPod.

According to figures from IDC, the global tablet market has been declining for eight straight quarters, has seen yet further reductions in this one.

Beancounters at IDC have added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and reached the conclusion that the global tablet market saw a 14.7 percent year-over-year decline in Q3 2016. No major tablet vendor shipped 10 million or more units this past quarter – that includes Apple.

Only 43 million units combined were shipped in Q3 2016 as opposed to 50.5 million units during the same period last year. The figures include the detachable form factors as well which means that tablets with keyboards are also accounted for in these figures.

The sorts of tablets that Jobs told us would take over the world are now being propped up by things like the netbooks they replaced.

Apple retained its position as the top tablet vendor by shipping 9.3 million iPad units in the third quarter of this year. Samsung remains in second place with shipments of 6.5 million units. Both companies saw a year-over-year decline of 6.2 percent and 19.3 percent respectively.

It is the cut price and often subsidised tablets which are doing the best. Amazon demonstrated strong growth by shipping 3.1 million units compared to 0.8 million units during the same period last year, it has seen a YoY growth of 319.9 percent.

Lenovo and Huawei complete the top five with shipments of 2.7 million and 2.4 million units. The top five vendors accounted for 55.8 percent of the entire global tablet market in the third quarter of this year.

What amazes us is that no-one saw this coming. While Jobs was showing the first generation of its keyboard-less netbooks, we were saying that they did not have a killer app and were practically useless. Apple fanboys said we were wrong and the proof was how well they sold. This could have been true because they sold quite well initially and then they didn’t.

Courtesy-Fud

Will LG See Black Next Quarter?

November 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Troubled phone maker LG has seen its third quarter operating profit fall 3.7 percent from a year earlier.

Once again, its bottom line is being dragged down by a record quarterly loss for its mobile division. The outfit said in a regulatory filing its July-September profit was $248 million which was pretty much the misery it predicted earlier this year. Revenue for the quarter dropped 5.7 percent.

LG’s mobile division reported its worst-ever quarterly operating loss of $382.17 billion, its sixth straight quarter in the red, offsetting a record $334.21 profit for the telly division.

LG said its fourth quarter profit would be weaker than the third quarter’s due to higher promotional expenses and weaker earnings for its appliances business due to seasonal weakness.

The company is a bit of a tragedy because it makes rather good mobile products but for some reason can’t get a lucky break. Its TV business is doing well too.

Courtesy-Fud

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