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Napster Brand Making A Comeback

June 17, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The Napster name, once widely known for illegal music sharing, is now respectable enough to carry the flag for one of the oldest names in paid music streaming.

Rhapsody will soon change its name worldwide to Napster, the listening service has announced. It already uses the Napster brand in Europe.

“Napster is coming,” the post said. “No changes to your playlists, favorites, albums, and artists. Same music. Same service. Same price. 100% the music you love. Stay tuned!”

The name change in the U.S. could be another attempt to catch up to Spotify, which recently passed 30 million subscribers. Rhapsody said late last year it had about 3.5 million.

Napster began in the late 1990s as a service for sharing and downloading mp3 music files and quickly attracted a large following, especially among college students. The Recording Industry Association of America sued the company for copyright infringement in late 1999 and won an injunction that shut down Napster in 2001.

A series of acquisitions by companies including music publisher Bertelsmann and retailer Best Buy put Napster on a path to respectability, but it also faded amid the growth of legal music stores like iTunes and then streaming services like Spotify.

Rhapsody, which has been around since 2001, bought Napster in 2011 and set out to replace Napster’s brand with its own in the U.S. Later it bought Napster International to expand into Germany and the U.K., where it decided to keep the Napster brand.

With the latest change, that moniker has won out. A formerly infamous brand now seems to carry more clout than one that once was almost famous.

 

 

In-Home Tech Support Companies HelloTech, Geekatoo Merging

May 24, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Los Angeles-based startup HelloTech and rival in-home tech support company Geekatoo announced that they have merged, in a sign of consolidation in the hotly competitive on-demand sector.

HelloTech will combine its network of about 150 college students who provide on-demand tech repair to Southern California consumers with Geekatoo’s U.S. network of about 5,000 technicians, the companies said in a joint statement.

The merger connects HelloTech with Geekatoo’s national market and provides Geekatoo with more access to venture capital funding, HelloTech co-founder Richard Wolpert said in an interview.

HelloTech, which launched about a year ago, has raised $17 million from investors, while 5-year-old Geekatoo has raised close to $3 million.

“You could either use capital to expand really quickly or you could merge with a company like Geekatoo that had already spent money doing this,” said Mark Suster, managing partner at Upfront Ventures, which backed HelloTech.

The new company keeps the HelloTech name and will be led by Wolpert. He said the deal was a stock transaction, rather than a cash payment, but declined to provide further details.

Both companies dispatch in-home tech support within hours of a request to fix a wonky printer, install a new TV or troubleshoot WiFi problems, among other services.

HelloTech hit a few bumps last year after launching, with some negative customer feedback that its workforce of predominantly college students was unprofessional.

Wolpert said the company has worked out the glitches. HelloTech has a five-star rating on customer review site Yelp.

Geekatoo Executive Chairman Christian Shelton saw demand for tech services rising as more people add internet-connected devices – such as the smart thermostat Nest or WiFi camera Dropcam – to their homes.

The U.S. tech support industry makes about $30 billion in annual revenue, according to research by Parks Associates, a consulting firm.

“The opportunity is massive,” Wolpert said.

The company’s main competition is Geek Squad, a tech support service founded in 1994 and owned by big-box retailer Best Buy.

HelloTech targets baby boomers with disposable income to spend on new gadgets and someone to help get them up and running.

“There is enormous wealth in the baby boomer generation,” Suster said, and their “digital lives are becoming increasingly complicated.”

 

 

Samsung Boots Two-Thirds Of It’s R&D Staff

November 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung Electronics is about to decrease personnel at its Samsung Seoul R&D Campus by as many as two-thirds in order to restructure its business model and operations

A new report from ChosunBiz said that Samsung originally aimed to house around 10,000 personnel on the site. However the majority of the decreases will be applied to Samsung’s Digital Media & Communication (DMC) and Media Solutions Centre (MSC).

The campus will instead house about 3,500 staff who have master and PhD degrees and specialise in software, design and digital media development.

The move is odd as it is coming at a time when Samsung is really desperate for killer innovation to steal the march on the competition. However reading between the lines it looks like it is reducing work in its content creation side.

We are surprised that it is doing anything with its Media Solutions centre. Originally, it was established to operate as a Korean version of the App Store. But the company announced on December 10 last year that it was dissolves the organisation.

At the time it was admitted that the content business has not been as successful as the hardware business. Moreover, the worsening performance of the smartphone business arising from the increasingly saturated market forced the company to speed up the break-up process.

Courtesy-Fud

 

JPMorgan Chase To Launch Service To Rival Apple Pay

October 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

JPMorgan Chase & Co has announced that it will soon unveil its own competitor to Apple Pay that will allow consumers to pay retailers using their smartphones in stores, and it has already won the endorsement of a major group of merchants.

The largest U.S. bank is the latest company to try to profit from the prevalence of smartphones, which many financial executives believe will one day be consumers’ preferred way to pay for everything from milk and eggs at the supermarket to a rental car at an airport.

No clear front-runner has emerged in the business yet. Chase believes its smart phone application, known as Chase Pay, has one key advantage: the caliber of retailers it has brought on board, Gordon Smith, chief executive of the bank’s consumer business, told Reuters.

Chase has signed a deal with the Merchant Customer Exchange, a group of major retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the largest U.S. retailer, and Best Buy Co Inc  to accept payments through the bank’s technology.

Retailers included in the Merchant Customer Exchange ring up more than $1 trillion of sales per year and have over 100,000 outlets.

Rivals like Apply Pay have struggled to sign up retailers to accept their payments. In June, Reuters interviewed the top 100 U.S. retailers and found that two-thirds said they did not plan to accept Apple Pay this year.

Chase signed up the Merchant Customer Exchange mainly by promising to cut retailers’ costs, Smith said. Whenever a consumer pays for something with plastic, the retailer pays fees to banks and credit card networks to process the transaction.

Chase is willing to accept a lower fee for Chase Pay transactions than for other transactions, and hopes to make up the difference by getting more volume over its network, Smith said.

“As merchants give us more business, we will give them better pricing,” Smith said in an interview. Chase declined to comment on how much it would cut fees.

Chase expects to market its product heavily in the middle of next year. Smith is speaking to retailers about Chase Pay at a conference about payments on Monday in Las Vegas.

 

 

 

Samsung Appears To Be Back In The Black

October 8, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung is expected to announce its first annual increase in quarterly profit in two years following a dismal third quarter in 2014, but word on the street is that things are not going well.

Samsung’s July-September operating profit to have risen 64 percent marking the first pickup since a record profit in the third quarter of 2013, but investors are not exactly excited.

Most of Samsung’s problems are its phone business. Though overall phone shipments likely rose, the brokerage says the greater share of lower-end products and price cuts for the Galaxy S6 models weighed heavily on the company’s bottom line.

At the lower end it launched new products targeting markets such as India, while at the high end it switched from plastic to metal, introduced curved screens and cut the price for its flagship Galaxy S6 devices after sales fell short of high expectations in the second quarter.

The smartphone market is saturated and no one is selling that many anymore. Chinese makers have eaten up its lower end market. New hardware features can be quickly matched by rivals. Samsung lacks service or software offerings that can pique consumer interest and not easily be replicated, a problem it hopes its recently launched Samsung Pay service can help address.

None of this has convinced investors that the company is back on track for sustained growth and the sustained growth is likely soon. The company is under pressure to return some of a cash pile of $53 billion through dividends or share buybacks.

Samsung’s semiconductor business probably remained its top earner for the fifth straight quarter as new premium phones came to market.

Courtesy-Fud

Samsung Expected To Announce Smartphone Leasing Plan

September 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung is said to be launching its own smartphone leasing plan, following the recent lead of Apple in a long-term attempt to wrest customer control away from U.S. carriers.

“If Apple does it, then it must be good enough for Samsung,” said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics. “The two companies are in an intense fight and Samsung cannot let Apple have a leg up on just about anything.”

Samsung did not comment directly on any plans to set up a leasing program, but a spokeswoman did tell Computerworld, “Samsung continuously evaluates trends and assesses business growth opportunities…. We remain committed to growing our mobile business in the U.S.”

Samsung launched its newest Galaxy devices on Aug. 21: the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus and Note 5.

Forbes reported Sunday that Samsung may be launching its leasing program for Galaxy devices within the next several months in the U.S., quoting an unnamed industry official.

Apple announced its iPhone Upgrade Program on Sept. 9; it lets a U.S. customer select an unlocked iPhone at an Apple retail store after making an appointment.

After the Apple announcement, several financial and technology analysts declared Apple’s move as a bold one that allows savvy smartphone users to mostly bypass a carrier. Jan Dawson, an analyst at research firm Jackdaw, called Apple’s upgrade plan a game-changer.

While Apple’s distribution of installment plan phones is limited, Samsung’s “will be even more limited, unless Samsung can get some retailers to partner with for distribution,” Entner said. Samsung today sells devices through Best Buy and other U.S. retailers, but Entner said that is still a limited channel. He estimated the top four U.S. wireless carriers together have 10,000 retail outlets.

Major U.S. carriers have mostly been quiet about the Apple announcement, and didn’t respond to questions about Samsung’s expected launch of a leasing plan.

 

 

Best Buy To Sell Apple Watch In All Stores By September

August 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Best Buy will offer the Apple Watch in all of its 1,050 retail locations by the end of September, responding to strong consumer demand for the wearable.

By Sept. 4, the Apple Watch will be available in 900 Best Buy stores, and it will appear in the retailer’s remaining locations by the end of the month, CEO Hubert Joly said.

Best Buy began selling the wearable in 100 stores as well as online on Aug. 7. The company had planned to expand availability to 200 additional stores by the Christmas shopping season.

However, “early momentum” from the Apple Watch “triggered” Best Buy to expand and accelerate the rollout, Joly said during a conference call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings.

Joly didn’t say how many Apple Watches the chain has sold so far. Apple hasn’t shared watch sales data either.

During Apple’s third-quarter earnings conference call, CEO Tim Cook said customers would have more ways to purchase the smartwatch because the company expects it to be a popular Christmas gift. A few days later, Best Buy said it would carry the wearable.

Best Buy is the only major retailer to stock the Apple Watch. The device can also be purchased from Apple’s retail and online stores and from a few high-end clothing and department stores.

Joly also discussed plans to expand Best Buy’s relationship with Apple.

The Apple shop-in-a-shop sections of 740 Best Buy stores are getting a makeover, with new fixtures and larger display tables to show Apple hardware, he said. So far, Best Buy has remodeled 350 of those departments and will revamp another 170 by the holiday shopping season.

 

 

 

 

Best Buy To Begin Selling Apple Watch In August

July 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The Apple Watch will go on sale at stores of Best Buy Co Inc, the largest U.S.consumer electronics chain, starting Aug. 7.

The Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport models will be sold at more than 300 Best Buy stores in time for the holiday shopping season, a spokeswoman for Apple Inc  said.

“Customers love Apple Watch, and we are thrilled to begin offering it at Best Buy,” she said in an email.

Best Buy is the first retailer to sell the watch outside of the Apple retail store.

“The Apple Watch is an important addition to an emerging product category, and we know our customers want it,” Jason Bonfig, senior category officer, said on the Best Buy website.

The company said the product will also be available on its online store BestBuy.com.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Apple watch was coming to Best Buy.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told Reuters earlier this month that sales of the Apple Watch had beat the company’s expectations. He said in the nine weeks since its launch in late April, the device had sold better than either iPhones or iPads over a similar period after their launch.

 

 

Best Buy Changes Course, Decides To Accept Apple Pay

April 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Best Buy said its customers could start using Apple Pay from Monday to shop using its app through the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, thus appearing to break ranks with a group of leading U.S. merchants who are backing an alternative payment system.

“The acceptance of Apple Pay in the Best Buy app is the latest enhancement for our mobile platform,” the giant retailer said in a statement on Monday. Best Buy stores in the U.S. will start accepting Apple Pay later this year, it added.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also announced during an earnings conference call Monday that Apple Pay would be supported on the Best Buy app now and in stores later this year.

The move by Best Buy is significant as the retailer is part of Merchant Customer Exchange, a merchant’s association that backs its own mobile payments platform called CurrentC. MCX members Rite Aid and CVS stopped accepting Apple Pay at their stores a week after the launch of the Apple system, in a move that was seen as reflecting the rivalry between the two payment systems.

Best Buy could not be immediately reached for comment on whether it would support both CurrentC and Apple Pay once the MCX payment system is available.

The retailer, however, seemed to suggest in its statement that it will support both options. “Today’s consumers have many different ways to spend their money and we want to give our customers as many options as possible in how they pay for goods and services at Best Buy,” it said.

Apple Pay got another big win on Monday when card issuer Discover Financial Services said its card members in the U.S. would be able to make contactless payments using Apple Pay at participating stores, through the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch. Discover card members will also be able to make purchases through apps on the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.

 

 

 

 

 

4K Monitors Fall Below $500

November 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Prices for 4K monitors have fallen below $500, bringing them within the reach of cost-conscious buyers looking to replace 1080p displays.

The prices have been falling steadily from $700 or more earlier this year. 4K monitors are available from Samsung, Sharp, Dell, Asus, Acer, Monoprice and small vendors.

4K gives a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, or four times deeper than conventional 1080p resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Dell is selling its 28 Ultra HD P2815Q monitor for $449.99, down from $699.99 when the product started shipping earlier this year. Newegg is selling 28-inch monitors from AOC and Planar for $499.99.

Samsung has also dropped the price of its 28-inch 4K monitor, the UD590, which is now selling for $599.99 through retailers like Best Buy and Newegg.

Not all 4K prices have dipped so low. Lenovo’s ThinkVision 28-inch Pro2840m is still selling for $799.99. It was announced in January and started shipping around the middle of the year.

It’s important to check all the features on lower priced monitors. They often have a all the main features and ports but suffer on refresh rates, which affect the display’s ability to cope with fast-moving images. For example, Dell’s P2815Q monitor has been criticized for its 30Hz refresh rate. Samsung’s UD590 has the more desirable 60Hz refresh rate via its DisplayPort 1.2, but it drops to 30Hz when connected to a PC via the HDMI port.

Increased competition is bringing prices down, as monitor makers try to attract buyers. Intel recently predicted that 4K monitor prices will fall to below $400 by the end of this year.

As with the other types of computer hardware, prices will continue to fall quickly over the next couple of years and then more gradually after that, said Jonathan Gaw, a research manager at IDC.

 

 

 

eBay Re-vamping Its Local Delivery Program

November 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

EBay Inc is making over its local delivery program and extending more logistics options to smaller merchants that make up the bulk of the e-commerce giant’s sprawling base of marketplace sellers, according to one of its executives.

More of eBay’s smaller sellers, including some with annual sales under $100,000, will allow shoppers to buy items online that can be picked up in stores, an option now used by big companies such as Best Buy Co Inc and Toys ‘R’ Us.

EBay also plans to dismantle its standalone mobile app for its $5 same-day delivery service “eBay Now” as soon as this week. The service will instead be folded into eBay’s mobile app and website.

“The big play in the U.S. has been around buy online, pick-up in store,” Tom Allason, head of eBay Local, said Wednesday.

The shift reflects how eBay and other technology companies, including Amazon.com Inc and Google Inc, still struggle with the high cost of same-day delivery. Only a fraction of a small retailer’s sales come from customers who also opt for same-day delivery, making it difficult to make a profit.

“That’s a part of why delivery is only one piece of the equation,” Allason said in an interview.

Earlier, the e-commerce giant intensified efforts to court retailers as it prepares to split its marketplaces division next year from PayPal, the payments unit that has been the fastest-growing part of its business.

EBay had planned to expand same-day delivery to 25 markets by the end of 2014, but it is only available in New York, San Francisco, the broader Bay Area, Dallas and Chicago.

EBay is exploring other delivery options for the United States, Germany and other markets, including the “click-and-collect” model used by Shutl in the United Kingdom, in which shoppers pick up certain eBay purchases from British retailer Argos.

 

 

Amazon Mulling Retail Store In New York

October 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com, the largest online retailer in the world, is exploring the possibility of opening its first brick-and-mortar store — in New York City — just in time for the holiday shopping season.

The company, which is reportedly opening the store on Manhattan’s busy 34th Street, is looking to experiment with a retail store that would focus on same-day delivery in the city, as well as give customers a place for product returns, exchanges and even online order pickups, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) .

The store also would give shoppers a place to check out – and hold in their hands — Amazon’s Kindle e-readers and Fire smartphone.

Kelly Cheeseman, a spokeswoman for Amazon, told Computerworld, “We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan.”

“This is kind of interesting because it’s so counter-intuitive,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. “People buy in different ways and often, with holiday buying, folks shift sharply to stores as their procrastination catches up with them at the end of the season. Amazon loses business when this happens and by setting up stores in very high-traffic areas, they can go after at least some of this business.”

The brick-and-mortar store also will be an in-your-face reminder for people to think about shopping at Amazon as they move through Manhattan. They might not be able to stop in the store but it might nudge them to look online – especially at Amazon.com — for that sweater, book or stand mixer they want to buy.

“I think it’s more about bringing publicity to Amazon during the holiday season rather than a new move to bricks and mortar,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “First, it’s in New York City — in the heart of midtown Manhattan — and it will be open during the Christmas shopping season. I would also imagine that this will garner Amazon a lot of attention during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events.”

 

 

Microsoft Cuts Price Of Surface Pro 2, Gears Up For Surface Pro 3

June 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft has dropped prices of its almost-retired Surface Pro 2 tablet by $100 days before the next-generation model hits retail.

New prices for the Surface Pro 2 — which debuted last fall — now run $799 for the model with 64GB of storage and $899 for the 128GB configuration. The cuts represent discounts of 11% and 10%, respectively.

Microsoft is scheduled to start selling the Surface Pro 3 it’s-a-tablet-it’s-a-notebook on Friday. The company has been taking pre-orders for the device since the Surface Pro 3′s unveiling on May 21.

The Surface Pro 3 tablets start at $999 for the 128GB model and end at $1,299 for 256GB of storage. Both devices sport a Core i5 processor, the same one used in 2013′s Surface Pro 2.

Three other Surface Pro 3 tablets won’t ship until August, Microsoft has said, including the $799 64GB model that runs an Intel Core i3 processor, and two configurations boasting the Core i7 CPU, priced at $1,549 (256GB of storage) and $1,949 (512GB).

The Surface Pro 3 devices available this week will be available in Microsoft’s own brick-and-mortar stores and those of retail partners like Best Buy, and on Microsoft’s online outlet.

When the $799 entry-level Surface Pro 3 reaches retail later this summer, Microsoft will probably slash the price of the Surface Pro 2 tablets even further to empty its inventory.

Microsoft has promised to support the Surface Pro 2 with software and firmware updates until April 10, 2018.

The Surface Pro 2 can be ordered through Microsoft’s website. The prices do not include a cover keyboard, which is essential for running Windows legacy applications.

 

FCC Urged To Release More Wi-Fi Spectrum

March 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission should advance plans to open up new 5GHz spectrum to Wi-Fi as consumer demand for wireless bandwidth skyrockets, a member of the commission said Friday.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called on the agency to “seize this opportunity” and act on a year-old proposal to make an additional 195MHz of spectrum in the 5GHz band available for Wi-Fi. The FCC now allows wireless devices to operate in 555 megahertz of spectrum in the 5GHz band, but the agency has set limits on how some of that spectrum can be used.

With some analysts estimating that 50 percent to 70 percent of mobile phone traffic is now offloaded onto Wi-Fi networks, the longtime Wi-Fi band at 2.4GHz is “getting mighty crowded,” Rosenworcel said during a speech before WifiForward, a new group set up to push for more unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum. Members of the group include Google, Microsoft, Best Buy and Comcast.

“Let’s start by leaving behind the tired notion that we face a choice between licensed and unlicensed airwaves, because good spectrum policy requires both,” she said. “Moreover, I think this kind of division is a simplistic relic from the past. ”

Some mobile carriers and congressional Republicans have questioned whether the FCC should carve out unlicensed spectrum in lower bands coveted by the carriers, but carriers don’t see a licensed use for the 5GHz band. Satellite firm Globalstar uses part of the 5GHz band, however, and has raised interference concerns about new Wi-Fi services there.

Cisco Systems predicts that by 2017, a majority of the Internet’s traffic will be carried on Wi-Fi. About 90 percent of the tablets now sold in the U.S. have Wi-Fi-only connections, added Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information. Counting several factors, including the cost for mobile infrastructure that would be needed without Wi-Fi, the annual value of Wi-Fi to the U.S. economy is about US$220 billion, Katz said at the WifiForward event.

In addition, part of the 5GHz band is targeted for use by smart automobile technologies, and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America and other auto groups have also backed opening that part of the band to Wi-Fi. The FCC may act on part of the 5GHz band as soon as its March 31 meeting.

Parts of the 5GHz band present a “terrific near-term opportunity” to add Wi-Fi spectrum, Rosenworcel said. “We should move beyond old dichotomies that pit licensed versus unlicensed spectrum,” she said. “Because across the board we need to choose efficiency over inefficiency and speed over congestion. Because we can take steps that inspire innovation and meet the growing demand for wireless services — or we will fall behind.”

Rosenworcel also called on the FCC to consider opening up parts of lower bands to unlicensed Wi-Fi, including parts of the 600MHz band now controlled by U.S. television stations. That spectrum, eyed by carriers as some of the best available for mobile broadband service, is scheduled to be auctioned by the FCC in mid-2015.

 

Acer Introduces First Chromebook With Touchscreen For $299.99

November 27, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Acer introduced the first Chromebook laptop with a touchscreen for US$299.99, which is about $100 more than the company’s cheapest non-touch model.

The C720P Touchscreen Chromebook has an 11.6-inch touchscreen, which displays images at a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. The lightweight laptop offers roughly seven-and-a-half hours of battery life and runs on an Intel Celeron 2955U processor based on the Haswell microarchitecture.

Chromebooks are laptops for those who do most of their computing on the Web. Chrome OS is mostly adapted for keyboards, but the touchscreen could ease selection of options in menus and improve interaction in browsers and other applications.

A new wave of Chromebooks running the latest version of Chrome OS started shipping in October.

The laptop will be available in early December through Amazon.com, Best Buy and Acer’s online store. The laptop will be available in the U.S., Switzerland, Germany, U.K., France, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden and Finland.

Other Chromebooks include Acer Chromebook C720-2848, which has an Intel processor and is priced at $199.99, and Hewlett-Packard and Google’s Chromebook 11, which has an ARM processor and is priced at $279. HP’s Chromebook 14 has a 14-inch screen, an Intel processor and is priced at $299 in Office Depot.

The C720P weighs 1.35 kilograms and boots in seven seconds. Other features include 32GB of solid-state storage, 2GB of DDR3 memory, USB 3.0 ports, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and an HDMI slot. Users will get 100GB of free Google Drive storage for two years with the laptop.