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Are Amazon Tablets Taking Over?

February 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

While research groups like IDC and Gartner have shown an overall 15.6 decrease in worldwide tablet shipments in 2016, the market has not gone entirely belly-up, as Amazon continues to pull ahead with a phenomenal 99.4 percent increase in annual tablet growth during the same period.

According to a report by the folks at TrendForce, Amazon managed to ship 11 million Fire-series tablets over the course of 2016 even as global tablet shipments fell by 6.6 percent from the previous year. While the sales numbers were impressive, the company still fell behind Apple at 27 percent of the market and Samsung at 17.2 percent, yet managed to beat expectations as a result of strong year-end holiday sales.

Apple also pulled ahead with strong tablet sales last year and retained its top spot, selling 42 million devices to Samsung’s 27 million. A few weeks ago, we wrote that IDC may have regretted telling the media to rely on expectations that the fruit-themed device company would allegedly oversee the decline of traditional PC sales by 2015. While traditional PC sales dropped 5.7 percent to 260.2 million in 2016, they still remain an impressive part of the overall device market and have not fallen as quickly as tablets have over the past year.

TrendForce expects tablet sales to continue declining from 157.4 million units in 2016 to around 147.8 million units 2017. While Amazon nearly doubled its annual shipments and Apple enjoyed strong iPad sales over the holiday season, other brands such as Microsoft are expected to fall into 7th place as the company experiences panel shortages for its Surface Pro series.

For a limited time, Amazon will occasionally offer its 7-inch 8GB Fire Essentials bundle and its 16GB Fire Essentials Bundle at discounted prices. For instance, the former had been available for $33.33 in November and $49.99 until earlier this month, along with free Prime shipping. The company is expected to offer similar deals throughout the year in an effort to strengthen its sales base from loyal Prime customers.

Courtesy-Fud

Are Tablets Still On The Demise?

February 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

IDC has added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked out that they really cocked up when they believed Apple’s propaganda that tablets were “game changers”.

After telling everyone that tablets were to blame for declining PC sales, IDC famously claimed that tablets would overtake traditional PC sales by 2015. Now, it is really regretting believing the Tame Apple Press and supping on Steve Jobs’ Coolaid.

Today they have issued a report saying that there had been a 15.6 percent decline in tablet sales for 2016.

Shipments of tablets – defined to cover both dedicated tablet devices and convertibles like the Surface family of half-tablet half-laptop portables – flopped from 207.2 million in 2015 to 174.8 million in 2016. Traditional PC sales might have been miserable but they still sold 275.8 million in 2015 and 260.2 million in 2016.

It was the high-end tablets that suffered the most. Apple which started the whole thing off by stealing a Microsoft design which was not going anywhere and claiming it invented it saw its shipments drop 14.2 percent. Samsung saw a 20.5 percent decline over the same period. However cheap and cheerful tablets did rather well. Huawei’s shipments jumped nearly 50 percent, though it still holds a minority 5.6 percent share of the overall market, while Amazon’s Fire family of tablets shipped nearly double in 2016 compared with 2015 at a 98.8 percent growth rate.

Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers division said that the tablet market continues to grow stale and not even talk of the detachable segment doing well is helping.

Typical tablets without a dedicated keyboard, which IDC refers to as slate tablets, are continuing to lose relevancy across all regions.

“We do see future growth in some emerging markets like the Middle East & Africa as well as Central & Eastern Europe with the sole catalysts being simplicity and low cost. Unfortunately for the industry these are the devices that don’t equate to large revenues.”

Still no apology for helping to lead the market astray by claiming that an Apple marketing fad change everything in the long term.

Courtesy-Fud

Snap Agrees To Pay Google $400M Annually For Cloud Services

February 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Over the next five years, the firm that owns Snapchat will pay Google at least $2 billion in cloud bills.

Snap has revealed in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it signed a five-year contract to pay Google at least $400 million a year for cloud services. That’s a steep figure, considering that Snap made roughly $404 million last year.

In return for the massive commitment, Snap will receive reduced pricing, though it’s not clear how deep the company’s discounts will be. Sinking a bunch of money into Google Cloud makes sense, because Snapchat began its life built on top of Google’s AppEngine platform-as-a-service offering.

Furthermore, Snap’s commitment to Google is a massive vote of confidence in the latter’s cloud capabilities, at a time when there’s heavy competition in the cloud market.

Right now, Google’s cloud is an underdog compared to Microsoft and Amazon. But being tied to a rising star in the social media landscape like Snapchat could help draw other companies to at least give Google’s platform a chance.

However, the contract is not without risk. If Snap doesn’t use $400 million worth of Google Cloud services in a year, it’s still on the hook for the full value of the contract. What’s more, the company said in the filing that it uses Google for the “vast majority” of its “computing, storage, bandwidth, and other services.” If something goes wrong with Google Cloud, or if the tech titan gets out of the public cloud business, it could be bad news for Snap.

That last scenario seems highly unlikely, considering that Google continues increasing its investment in its cloud platform. Urs Hölzle, Google’s vice president of technical infrastructure, said last year that the company plans to launch new cloud data centers at the rate of roughly one each month this year.

All of this is tied to Snap’s plans to pursue an initial public offering in the near future. The filing released on Thursday is one of the company’s steps along that path. Snap’s IPO is being closely observed by the tech industry because of the company’s high-flying status.

It remains to be seen how Wall Street will receive the company, especially since it’s far from profitable and its losses have widened year over year. Plus, the deal with Google means that Snap will be saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars in liabilities for the foreseeable future.

Apple, Other Rivals Team Up On A.I. Research

January 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple has teamed up rivals as it looks to advance research and development of artificial intelligence technologies.

After months of collaborating, Apple is joining the Partnership on A.I., with other founding members including Google, IBM, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon.

The Partnership on A.I. was founded in September last year to also steer debate on best practices on A.I. The group believes A.I. could help in the areas of health care, transportation, and automation in factories.

Apple’s most visible A.I. technology is Siri, a voice assistant that can answer questions. But a larger A.I. strategy is still a subject of speculation. Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, Amazon, and Google have well established A.I. strategies.

Speech and recognition are well-known use cases for A.I. Apple will likely implement A.I. in its mysterious autonomous car project so self-driving vehicles can navigate and cruise the roads safely without a human at the wheel.

Beyond the Alexa voice assistant, Amazon uses A.I. to provide buying recommendations. Google this week said it was providing TensorFlow tools so users can build a wide variety of A.I. capabilities into Raspberry Pi 3 and IBM’s high-powered cognitive computers.

The group believes A.I. holds tremendous promise and will lead to a big societal impact. A.I.’s impact needs to be discussed, and companies need to establish ground rules on how the technology is developed and deployed, according to the group.

The Partnership on A.I. is establishing a diverse board to bring in a variety of opinions. The board includes personnel from the top companies and members from universities and organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

There is a lot of cooperation among organizations pursuing A.I. research. Tesla co-founder Elon Musk has poured $1 billion into OpenAI, which is also a member of the Partnership on A.I.

Seagate Finds Profit In The Cloud

January 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Hard-drive maker Seagate has done better than the cocaine nose-jobs of Wall Street predicted this quarter.

Apparently Seagate’s bottom line was augmented by strong demand for its cloud-based storage products.

Seagate has been focusing on cloud-based products as businesses cut spending on traditional storage systems.

Chief Executive Officer Steve Luczo said: “From a macro perspective, we remain cautiously optimistic about the current macroeconomic environment and IT spending trends,” on a post-earnings conference call.”

The company forecast third quarter revenue of about $2.7 billion, above estimates of $2.61 billion.

Seagate said it expects to achieve revenue growth this year. This is a bit of a turnaround from July where the outfit slashed 6,500 jobs, or 14 percent of its workforce, by the end of fiscal 2017, as part of a major restructuring.

The company’s net income rose to $297 million in the second quarter ended December 30, from $165 million.

Its rival Western Digital will report its second-quarter results today.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon Expands Presence Of Dash Button

January 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc has added its popular Dash button to its website and mobile app, making it easier for shoppers to purchase their favorite items such as peanut butter, detergent and paper towels.

The online retailer launched its thumb-sized Dash button in 2015, allowing Prime members to re-order products such as Tide detergent, Huggies diapers and Gillette products by pushing a button.

Prime customers can create virtual dash button on “millions” of Prime eligible products on Amazon, the company said in a video.

  The online retailer said that it was also automatically creating virtual Dash buttons for products that are frequently purchased by customers.

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.

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