Market research firm Infonetics Research earlier this month released its fourth quarter 2010 (4Q10) Cable, Satellite, IPTV, and OTT Set-Top Boxes and Subscribers market share and forecast report, now led by analyst Teresa Mastrangelo. ALYST NOTE "In the fourth quarter of 2010, we witnessed the dramatic growth of over-the-top services, as service providers and equipment vendors hit the 'sweet spot' for pricing. However, these services continue to complement pay TV rather than replace it. On a global basis, demand for set-top boxes continues to increase as more countries transition from analog to digital and more operators offer enhanced services such as high definition and DVR. We also are seeing increasing demand for hybrid set-top boxes, which leverage the existing broadcast infrastructure, but utilize the broadband connection to incorporate OTT content and increase interactivity and on-demand services," notes Teresa Mastrangelo, directing analyst for video (cable, satellite, IPTV video) at Infonetics Research.
Best Buy is rebalancing its channel strategy to address market share gains by online retailers, including Amazon.com. In the process, the company is dramatically expanding its online-only assortment, is promising to price those products aggressively, and has begun shrinking the footprint of some of its big-box stores as they come off lease. The chain has also not ruled out the possibility of closing some of its larger locations outright. In a fourth-quarter earnings call last month, co-Americas president Mike Vitelli said Best Buy will offer "very aggressive" pricing on a much broader online-only assortment to improve its price perception with customers. The move is designed to help counter mobile price-comparison technologies, which can put in-store stock at a disadvantage because price checks don't reflect value-added promotions like extended financing, loyalty program discounts and bundled offers, he said. The low web pricing will be achieved through a combination of supplier fulfillment, two-step distribution and Best Buy-owned inventory, he said. Still, CEO Brian Dunn stressed the importance of maintaining a brick-and-mortar presence to differentiate Best Buy from online-only competitors. Stores allow in-person consultations, provide a convenient pickup option for ecommerce orders, and will give the company a competitive advantage should tax policy favoring e-tail-only merchants change.
After selling its streaming media players primarily online for the last three years, Roku will now start selling its set-top boxes in Best Buy stores. This is Roku's largest retail partnership; it also sells its models through smaller chains BJ's Wholesale Club, Fry's Electronics and RadioShack. The deal demonstrates the growing interest among consumers in bridging online video and TV, and perhaps down the road, cutting their cable cords. Roku XD player will start appearing in Best Buy stores nationwide and on the retailer's website. The player has a list price of $79.99. In a statement, Anthony Wood, Roku's founder and CEO, claims that the company has already sold one million boxes via online retailers.
The so-called celestial jukebox that digital-music dreamers talked about in the 1990s looks a little closer. Early Tuesday morning, Amazon launched a Web-based music service that lets you listen to your songs from Internet-connected computers and Android smartphones. Called Cloud Player, it lets Amazon's "Cloud Drive" servers take the place of a computer's hard drive or a phone's flash storage--provided either device has a sufficiently fast connection to the Internet and a user whose Amazon account includes a valid U.S. billing address. The Seattle retailer provides 5 gigabytes of storage for free; buying an MP3 album from its store upgrades that quota to 20 GB. You can sync new Amazon purchases to your Cloud Drive automatically. But you can also upload other songs from a Mac or Windows computer using Amazon's MP3 Uploader. Contrary to what that name suggests, it will also upload AAC files bought from iTunes, provided they're not older purchases locked with the "digital-rights-management" system Apple retired in April of 2009.
XpanD 3D began licensing today a new active-shutter 3D standard developed with Panasonic, called M-3DI, that is intended to bring about compatibility among 3DTVs, computers, home projectors and cinema projection. XpanD chief strategy officer Ami Dror told TWICE the first licensor of the M-3DI standard is founding partner Panasonic, soon to be joined by other founding partners including Changhong, Funai, Hisense, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Philips, Sanyo, Seiko Epson, Sim2 and Viewsonic. "The idea is to allow you as a user to buy a pair of glasses for a Philips TV, for example, and take them to an XpanD cinema, or use them to watch 3D on a friend's Panasonic TV, etc." said Dror. The standard uses two-way technology to allow communication between glasses and components. Once a user puts the glasses on, the glasses will recognize which brand and model component the user is viewing and will allow the user to adjust certain parameters, such as rate of transition time and dark time, to address user issues such as ghosting and brightness. The parameters can be adjusted using a PC or through an XpanD app on a handheld device.
Starz, the pay cable channel, is about to be more restrictive about what it allows Netflix to stream to customers’ computers and television sets. The channel has been one of Netflix’s closest partners, but it backed off a bit from that partnership on Thursday, when it announced a three-month delay between the time Starz plays new TV episodes and when those episodes will be available on Netflix. Starz also said that it would impose a similar delay for movies sometime in the future, though Netflix said any such delay of movies would violate the contract between the two companies. The policy shift by Starz, a unit of Liberty Media, reflects an attitude change toward Netflix by many in Hollywood. Though Netflix, which has more than 20 million subscribers, has been embraced by media companies as a new buyer of library content, it is perceived by some of those companies as a competitive threat. Starz, after all, relies on subscriber revenue just as Netflix does. Showtime, a unit of the CBS Corporation, is also expected to place new restrictions on the shows it streams through Netflix later this year. Last week, Netflix said it would enter the original programming business by buying the rights to two seasons of “House of Cards,” a new political thriller. The show will have its premiere exclusively on Netflix late next year.
Best Buy Co.'s shares were fluctuating in heavy trading Thursday after the giant electronics retailer reported a dip in fourth-quarter sales and profits, even while it beat earnings estimates. The Richfield-based company said its profits fell to $651 million, or $1.62 per share, for the three-month period ended Feb. 26 - that included a $222 million charge related to a restructuring of its international business, with store closings in China. Earnings for the fourth quarter last year were $779 million, or $1.82 per share. Without the charge, earnings in the most recent quarter would have been $1.98 per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of $1.85 per share on sales of $16.3 billion. Such estimates typically exclude one-time charges. Best Buy reported fourth-quarter sales of $16.26 billion, down less than 2 percent from $16.55 billion a year earlier. Same-store sales, a key retail metric, dropped 4.6percent.
Apple Inc. is weighing an expansion of its AirPlay audio service to include streaming video from an iPhone or iPad to television sets, according to two people familiar with the project. Under the plan, Apple would license its AirPlay software to consumer-electronics makers that could use it in devices for streaming movies, TV shows and other video content, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the plans haven’t been made public. Apple now only licenses AirPlay for streaming audio. Devices that could be used for video may be available this year, one of the people said. An expanded AirPlay would let users stream programming wirelessly from an Apple mobile device to a TV that carries the technology. That may spur wider use of Apple’s services and devices in consumers’ living rooms. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs has had limited success selling Apple TV, a set-top box introduced in 2007, and as recently as September still called the product a “hobby.”
Samsung hasn't exactly been as big on glasses-free 3D TVs as some other manufacturers in recent years, but it's now showing one off at the FPD China trade show -- or a prototype of one, anyway. According to Tech-On!, the 55-inch display is able to accommodate nine different viewpoints for glasses-free 3D viewing, and it can be switched into a 2D mode at any time, which works by changing the optical refraction index of an LCD panel that sits on top of the main LCD that's actually used to display images. Right now, the prototype is also relying on a direct-lit CCFL backlight, although Samsung notes that would likely be replaced with an LED backlight before it actually hits the market -- something that's still a good three years away.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® today announced the winners of the 2011 Mark of Excellence Awards, presented by CEA’s TechHome Division. Winners were honored at an awards reception at the Electronic House Expo (EHX) 2011 in Orlando, Florida. CEA is the nation’s largest trade association representing the consumer electronics industry and CEA member companies include more than 500 installers and integrators of home technology. CEA’s Mark of Excellence Awards recognize outstanding achievement and innovation in custom home electronics products, services and installation. Award entries were reviewed and judged by an independent panel of industry experts in Supplier, Systems Integrator and Training and Support categories. Click here for the full list of winners.
Marchon3D™ today announced the new Marchon3D Ultraclips, an expansion of the M3D™ collection, which features a clip-on glass for prescription wearers. Prescription-wearers will have the ability to clip-on Marchon3D Ultraclips, which work simultaneously and smoothly with their prescription lenses for the ultimate 3D viewing experience. Using micro-magnets soldered directly onto the clips, Marchon3D's patented Ultraclips provide a superior fit with the patented, polarized M3D lenses. Marchon3D will launch the Autoflex line with the flagship Flexon® memory metal frame technology in six styles.
Panamax/Furman today announced that the company will be combining LiteTouch(R), a leading manufacturer of lighting control products, with its operations. Both companies are subsidiaries of the Home Technology Group of Linear, LLC. An industry leader for more than 35 years, Panamax delivers cutting-edge power management, monitoring, and control solutions engineered for professional custom electronics integrators. The Furman brand provides a wide range of power management solutions for musicians, audio professionals, and commercial A/V integrators, and it offers a line of high-performance power conditioners for audiophile-grade A/V systems and 220V-240V power management solutions for use outside of North America. Together, Panamax and Furman products give A/V systems the pure, noise-free power they need for superlative performance, providing longevity to the components connected by protecting them from damage caused by power surges and lightning. LiteTouch, a 30-year leader in the residential custom installation market, delivers robust lighting control solutions designed to be installed and custom-programmed by authorized dealers, certified installers, and distributors worldwide. LiteTouch lighting control systems are engineered for both new construction and retrofit applications, with features such as remote access, conditional event and custom programming, daylight harvesting, and a host of other energy-saving features. Both companies are increasingly focused on providing energy efficiency and energy management solutions. As a combined entity, LiteTouch and Panamax/Furman will move forward under the leadership of Panamax/Furman President Bill Pollock, located in Petaluma, Calif.
Microsoft's Kinect has become quite the hacking hotbed -- the fields of medicine, music, and even shadow puppeteering have all benefitted from the peripheral's incredible versatility. And now, to the delight of home automation nerds everywhere, an enterprising young hacker has rigged a Kinect to automate the lighting in his home. By positioning the camera bar in a corner to track his movements, connecting it to the automation controller, and coding on / off commands, he's able to control the lights throughout his geektastic domicile. The automation logic then turns on the lights when entering the room, localizes them according to location, and turns them off upon leaving.
Pioneer is building more bridges to Apple products in its mainstream A/V receiver (AVR) series. Four new mainstream-series A/V receivers include the company's first three AVRs certified by Apple to connect and charge an iPad (starting at $349), first A/V receiver with Apple's Air Play wireless audio-streaming technology (starting at $549), and first model (at $549) compatible with the new iControlAV2 app, which turns iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches into full-function remotes that control all features of the company's networked A/V receivers and Blu-ray players. The company promises to include the new Apple features in the rest of the A/V receivers that it will launch in the spring and summer, citing the high percentage of Pioneer AVR owners who own Apple products. More than 62 percent of Pioneer AVR owners own an Apple product, with 49 percent owning at least three Apple products, the company said. Twenty-six percent own an iPhone.
Facebook took some air out of the Netflix balloon when it announced its own movie streaming media service Tuesday. Working with Warner Brothers Digital Distribution, Facebook is testing a video service that will let users rent movies for $3, or 30 Facebook credits. The first installment of the trial is the 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight, and users can have access to the rental for 48 hours. The move was not welcomed by Netflix investors who see Facebook's 600 million-member social media site as a formidable challenge to company's $8-a-month video streaming efforts. Netflix shares fell more than 4% to $199.30 in early trading Tuesday. Given Facebook's immense reach and the apparent ease at which it can keep users on the site while they watch movies, the move certainly threatens the Netflix model. Not only does Facebook give the studios access to its vast membership, it can also deliver advertisers a big group of consumers with shared interests.
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