Target, Walmart, Best Buy Tempt Tech Shoppers

With many experts predicting that consumer electronics will emerge as one of the hottest gift categories in an otherwise hum-drum holiday, Walmart, Target and Best Buy are already sweetening the shopping options. Walmart is planning "The Amazing Walmart Electronics Event," kicking off Nov. 6, with low prices on a full line of Vizio HDTVs, including a 26-inch model for $198, a Compaq laptop for $288, and a $50 gift card for the Sony PlayStation 3 Move Bundle. And Target says it will begin offering the iPhone -- expected to be one of the season's most coveted gifts -- in some 850 stores that include Target Mobile centers beginning Nov. 7, and is cutting prices on iPod touch and offering two-for-one video games. Best Buy is rolling out its new line of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and Beatbox portable speakers, and offering "Free Phone Friday" specials. That's because while an estimated 32% of shoppers plan to make a consumer electronics purchase this season, reports the Consumer Electronics Association, they're also expected to be exceedingly price-wary.

Philips Discontinues Pronto

Leuven, Belgium-based Philips has pulled the plug on its Pronto remote control line.  The company issued a statement to the European press over the weekend that read in part: "In December 2009, Philips announced the intention to relocate some of its existing remote control activities in Leuven, Belgium to Asia. At the same time, the intention was communicated to investigate alternative strategic options for the Pronto business, as this activity no longer fits with the Philips strategy. Following thorough research, no suitable partner was found for the acquisition of these activities. As such, Philips confirms today that it will discontinue the Pronto product line and related activities."  Philips said it plans to offer support to users of the existing line. The company also said it "will engage in a dialogue with its social partners on the consequences for the involved personnel of this announcement."  The announcement came less than two months after Philips launched its latest Pronto product,  the TSW9500 in-wall touchscreen , at CEDIA EXPO in Atlanta, as well launching a  new, more robust website  for the line.

Redbox Confirms Streaming in 2011, May Not Follow Netflix

Movie kiosk operator Redbox has confirmed in a conference call late this week that it's planning to offer Internet movie streaming in 2011. The CEO of parent company Coinstar, Paul Davis, explained that there were talks with a "number of highly interested parties" hoping to start a Redbox Internet service in 2011. Physical rentals were still to be a core feature, but Internet video was a "significant opportunity," Davis said.   The executive warned investors not to presume that it would follow the $4 monthly subscription model proposed in a survey earlier this year. It was a "bit premature" to assume that Redbox would follow this model, made popular by Netflix, versus the pay-per-title approach taken by Amazon Video On Demand or Apple's iTunes. In the early suggestion, viewers would have had both unlimited movie streaming as well as four free DVD rentals each month, effectively giving users free Internet access for the same cost as using ordinary Redbox service once a week.

First Ever Rankings Of 3d Performance Show Plasmas Offer More Realistic Images Than LCDs

In its first-ever ranking of 3D performance, Consumer Reports evaluated 14 3D TV models and found that plasma TVs are better at displaying 3D images than LCD sets, primarily because they exhibit less ghosting, or double images that appear even when wearing 3D glasses. Three plasma models from Panasonic exhibited the best 3D picture quality and the least ghosting of all the sets tested. The report appears in the December Annual Electronics issue and online at www.ConsumerReports.org . “It remains to be seen whether 3D TV is just a novelty or a new product category in the consumer electronics space,” said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports. “But, our tests show that there are some fine 3D TV sets out there for those consumers eager for a new experience.”

AVS Android App, the wait is OVER!

You thought you were waiting in vain! You thought it would never come! You feared and fretted and worried...pacing the floor...nervous and anxious! "My Droid, my Android...it will never, ever be complete without an App for AVSForum!!! How will I stay on top of the latest happenings in Home Theater if I can not have easy access to the very best, most complete, most informative place on the web, thanks to its members, on my Android Phone?" IT...IS...HERE!!! (and free). Just visit the Android App Market and your nerves can now relax once you search for AVSForum and install. You then can get your fix of the latest, greatest innovations in the realm of Home Theater Entertainment.

Honeywell Releases Total Connect App for Android Smartphone

Honeywell today released a new Android compatible app for its popular Total Connect services. This app provides lifestyle-enhancing Total Connect features to the growing number of Android users—letting them view streaming video of their homes and businesses on their smartphones as well as control their security systems from any location. Total Connect is Honeywell’s award-winning service that gives consumers access to their Honeywell security systems or Total Connect video systems from anywhere, anytime. Using PCs, laptops, mobile phones and smartphones, Total Connect customers can arm and disarm their systems, receive e-mail alerts when an alarm trips, and access video from inside and around the premises. In addition to Android, Honeywell provides Total Connect apps for the iPhone® and BlackBerry®. The new Android app is available for free download at Android Market.

Vudu Support Coming to Boxee

Add Vudu to Boxee's list of streaming video tricks. The Wal-Mart-owned Web video service will be offered as a native app on Boxee's hardware and software platforms starting in November. On the D-Link Boxee Box (due November 10), the full library of Vudu movies--including titles in 1080p HDX video and 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus surround sound--will be available. On the Mac and Windows software version of Boxee, the same content will be available, but video output will be limited to standard-definition playback. The $200 Boxee Box is the fourth and final major Internet TV device to hit stores this fall, following new Roku boxes, an updated Apple TV, and the first wave of Google TV products. We'll have a full review by mid-November.

Harman Invests $100M in China Operations

Harman, parent company of 15 brands, including JBL, Lexicon, and Mark Levinson says it plans to invest another $100 million to bolster its manufacturing and research capabilities in the People’s Republic of China. This new plan follows an initial investment phase of $75 million undertaken in 2007-2008 to establish manufacturing and R&D operations in Shanghai, Suzhou, and Shenzhen. As part of the latest investment plan, Harman will partner with the northern city of Dandong to create two new manufacturing operations with a total joint investment of some $50 million. From its new automotive electronics and audio systems operation in Dandong, Harman will conduct development, engineering, and manufacturing for the world’s leading automakers. To attract the R&D and manufacturing of Harman’s brands into the region, the City of Dandong will provide various incentives including infrastructure build-up. Harman is currently evaluating potential Chinese companies or test facility acquisitions for the remainder of its planned investment.

New Western Digital Media Player Offers Blockbuster On Demand

Western Digital Inc. Oct. 26 unveiled an updated media player that for the first time grants users access to transactional video-on-demand movies from Blockbuster. The WD TV Live Hub media center , which is available exclusively from Best Buy for $199.99, also features Netflix streaming, Pandora music, YouTube videos, Flickr photo sharing, AccuWeather.com, and MediaFly repurposed video podcasts from ESPN, CNN, NBC and MTV, among others. Media players, including devices from Roku, Seagate, and Netgear, among others, represent conduits linking the Internet with the television. With consumer electronics products such as connected HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players expected to be a key holiday retail item, standalone media players are increasing content selections, compatibility and hard drive capacity to remain competitive. Indeed, the WD TV Live Hub features 1TB storage capacity, two USB ports, HDMI connection and wireless connectivity (with separate adaptor). The customizable user interface enables personalization of screen backgrounds and user interface themes, as well as setting of favorites and content ratings. Standard wired or wireless USB keyboards can be used for text input for activities such as searches of local content and YouTube and Facebook interaction. “Connected media players are an exciting new category that is helping to redefine home entertainment,” said Wendy Fritz, SVP, computing, at Best Buy. During an Oct. 25 demonstration of the media center, Jeff Chen, senior product marketing manager for Western Digital, said the box is Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) compliant, allowing it to communicate with most other connected devices found in living rooms. “So far people have been extremely impressed with it,” he said.

WallWizard's App to Control Motorized TV Mounts is Off the Wall

WallWizard, a relative newcomer in the TV mount world, has introduced a software application that permits remote control operation of the brand's motorized mounts from Apple iPad, iPod, iPhone via Wi-Fi, and Smartphones via Bluetooth. WallWizard's Control System is a 2-piece solution that consists of the brand's proprietary ControlWand software app which consumers download from App stores for $9.99, and a Wi-Fi / Bluetooth accessory that is available from authorized dealers at a selling price of $119.99. According to Sales and Marketing VP Craig Matthews, WallWizard is the first brand to offer such an application. One of the special features is a Gyro Mode, where the motion of the motorized mount duplicates the motion of the handheld device without having to push any additional buttons. In the Auto Mode, the mount can detect whether the TV is On or Off, and move the mount Up, Down, Left or Right. In the Manual Mode, the user can control the motion of the mount by pressing on the appropriate direction arrow. "Offering this type of next-generation motorized technology at prices as low as $149 sums up what our young WallWizard brand is all about, which is "More Mount for Your Money," added Matthews.
 In another example of innovation in the manual operation mounts, WallWizard's team of robotic engineers (the engineering is robotic, not the engineers) incorporate a cam mechanism that enables the TV to be swiveled or tilted using only a finger, creating less wear and tear on the TV and the viewer.

Xpand Universal 3d Glasses Now On Pre-sale Through Amazon.com

XPAND Universal 3D Glasses are currently the only 3D glasses that work with all the 3DTV brands and models, 3D computers, 3D gaming consoles and cinema. “The most anticipated product in the history of 3D is now a reality,” says Maria Costeira, CEO of XPAND. “The introduction of the XPAND Universal 3D Glasses represents a watershed moment in consumer electronics, as I am confident the glasses will serve as catalysts in the worldwide adoption of 3D systems for the home.” The Universal 3D Glasses can be pre-ordered on Amazon.com.

Sony expects TV price falls in U.S. by year-end

Television prices are likely to fall in the U.S. market ahead of the year-end, the head of Sony Corp's loss-making TV division said on Thursday. His comments came hours after LG Display, the world's No. 2 LCD flat screen maker, reported its worst operating profit in six quarters on sliding prices for panels. "I think TV prices as a whole will of course fall. There is a lot of inventory in the market," Sony senior vice president Yoshihisa Ishida told Japanese reporters at a briefing in Tokyo to mark the launch of the company's Google-enhanced televisions in the United States. "But what is different from the past is that we cannot necessarily rely on unit sales rising," Ishida added. "We cannot be sure that manipulating prices will mean the market expands again," he said. The launch date for Sony's Google TV, which enables users to search and toggle between live TV, Web content and apps, has not been fixed for Japan and other non-U.S. markets. Ishida said Sony, the world's third-largest maker of flat TVs after Samsung and LG Electronics, would have to reconsider pricing for its Google TV if it seemed too far out of sync with other sets. At present he does not envisage dramatic cuts in prices, which start at $400 for a 24-inch model.

Networks Block Web Programs From Being Viewed on Google TV

ABC, CBS and NBC are blocking TV programming on their websites from being viewable on Google Inc.'s new Web-TV service, exposing the rift that remains between the technology giant and some of the media companies it wants to supply content for its new products. Full-length episodes of shows like NBC's "The Office," CBS's "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," and ABC's "Modern Family" can't be viewed on Google TV, a service that allows people to access the Internet and search for Web videos on their television screens, as well as to search live TV listings. Logitech International S.A. and Sony Corp. began selling devices running the software this month. Spokespeople for the three networks confirmed that they are blocking the episodes on their websites from playing on Google TV, although both ABC and NBC allow promotional clips to work using the service. ABC is owned by Walt Disney Co., CBS is part of CBS Corp., and NBC is a unit of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal. The move marks an escalation in ongoing disputes between Google and some media companies, which are skeptical that Google can provide a business model that would compensate them for potentially cannibalizing existing broadcast businesses.

CEA Opens Doors To Consumers

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) will invite individuals -- consumers -- to become part of CEA, and to celebrate membership they will be able to attend the last day of the 2011 International CES in January. That was the main surprise in the keynote of Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of CEA, during his keynote speech at Tuesday lunch during the organization's Industry Forum, being held at the Fairmont Hotel, here, in which he discussed the industry, the economy and a little politics. Consumers will be invited to become members of CEA for the first time -- who will be called Consumer Technology Enthusiasts, or CTEs. These new members will be able to participate in beta tests of new products, be part of an online community, and be given insider access to the industry, Shapiro said. The recruitment program will begin on Nov. 9 with information on membership fees and other details, which will be announced by CEA at its annual International CEA press event in New York on that day.

Boxee Box ships November 10th

From the Boxee Blog:  We just got final confirmation from D-Link that the Boxee Box will start shipping on Nov 10th. Boxee and D-Link will have a launch event in NYC to celebrate and demo the Boxee Box, complete with Boxee 1.0.  People who pre-ordered from Amazon should receive their Box as early as Nov 11. The Boxes should start appearing in stores on Nov 17th (if you are the type of person who can’t wait the extra week you should probably pre-order from Amazon today).  D-Link has gone the extra mile (or kilometer) and turned mid-November into a worldwide launch. You can already pre-order the Boxee Box in Canada, Australia/New Zealand, UK and in other countries across Europe (these units will all start shipping on or shortly after the 10th).  On the evening of the 10th Boxee and D-Link will have a launch event in NYC to celebrate and demo Boxee 1.0, a new version of Boxee software that will initially be available only on the Boxee Box and will later roll out to Mac, PC and Linux.

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