Apple's 'hobby' could own 1/3 of streaming set-top market in 2011

By the end of this year, the streaming set-top box market will reach about 12 million units worldwide, according to a survey published Monday. And the company known mainly for phones, tablets and computers is set to own a third of that, according to Strategy Analytics. It says Apple's small $99 streaming Apple TV is on pace to hit 4 million units by the end of this year. For perspective, four million devices is what the iPhone 4S sold in a weekend. But Apple's somehow managed to reach this number in Apple TV without really trying. And by "trying" I mean doing things like running TV and billboard advertisements or making it the centerpiece of press events. Apple has for years since its introduction excused Apple TV as merely "a hobby." And while it's played with the concept and design and the price, doesn't talk much about it or how many it's sold. Breaking with tradition, Steve Jobs did say in October 2010 that after a month on sale, the new $99 Apple TV had sold 250,00 units.

Panasonic Announces Availability of LF30 Series of Professional LCD Displays for Digital Signage

Panasonic announced the availability of the LF30 Series of Professional LCD Displays. The LF30 Series was designed to serve as a reliable indoor digital signage solution distinguished by high brightness, slim design, fanless design, low power consumption, light weight and a wide range of professional features. The displays are built specifically for digital signage and are ideal for environments such as airports, showrooms, shopping malls, hotels/casinos, financial institutions and hospitals. The LF30 Series features Slot 2.0 architectures which accommodates optional boards, expanding application possibilities. The technology allows users to easily mount and swap optional function boards to suit specific applications. The Slot 2.0 architecture also allows for a variety of input terminals, including DVI-D In/Out and RS-232C In/Out, for connection of up to 100 displays in a daisy chain configuration for greater operating efficiency.

Google TV: how soon will it be on your set?

Google chairman Eric Schmidt's claim that half of TV sets in stores next year will have Google TV capability sounds impressive – but how quickly does that mean it will reach everybody? Eric Schmidt, previously Google's chief executive and now chairman, forecast at the Le Web conference in Paris on Wednesday that "by the summer of 2012, the majority of the televisions you see in stores will have Google TV embedded on it". That's because he sees the "smart TV" sector exploding – with companies that make TVs wanting to build in internet connectivity and processing capacity. He didn't specify which companies will be selling sets with that capacity, but Samsung and Sony have already been offering "smart TV" sets for more than a year.

Samsung's November TV sales hit record

Samsung Electronics Co, the world's top TV brand, said on Thursday its television sales hit a record 5.7 million units in November, helped by strong U.S. sales during the long Thanksgiving weekend. November sales grew 14 percent from the 5 million units sold in October and Samsung is certain to keep its top global title for all of 2011, the South Korean firm said in a statement. During the Black Friday weekend, Americans spent $7.4 billion more in stores than a year ago. A Samsung spokesman said it was confident of meeting its 2011 flat-screen TV sales target of 45 million units. The solid results come as global TV manufacturers are restructuring their businesses and outsourcing production as cutthroat competition and weak demand squeeze margins.

Postal Service Looking to End Next-day Mail Delivery

The financially challenged U.S. Postal Service Dec. 5 said it is taking further steps to eliminate first-class, next-day delivery of letters, postcards and related items - such as Blu-ray Disc and DVD mailers - in an effort to save money. Netflix is the Postal Service's largest individual commercial mail client, generating more than $500 million annually in first-class postage revenue. The USPS in September first announced intentions to possibly eliminate more than 250 mail processing centers, stop Saturday delivery and eliminate about 28,000 jobs, among other steps. The USPS, which lost $5.1 billion in its most recent fiscal year, is looking to enact $20 billion in cost savings and return to profitability by 2015.

Amazon Will Pay Shoppers $5 to Walk Out of Stores Empty-Handed

Amazon is offering consumers up to $5 off on purchases if they compare prices using the online giant's mobile phone application in a store. The promotion goes live Saturday and will serve as a way for Amazon to increase usage of its bar-code-scanning application, while also collecting intelligence on prices in the stores. This holiday season, mobile commerce is surging as more people become comfortable using applications on their phone to compare prices or simply shop when not at home or at work.

Consumers Expecting A Wireless Holiday

American consumers want a wireless Christmas, according to a survey by Cisco's home networking unit. The survey found that 96 percent of those surveyed expected that they themselves, or one of their immediate family, would receive some type of new wireless gift this year. What people expected Santa to bring was wide ranging, with 26 percent expecting a new computer or laptop, 19 percent a game console system, 16 percent a tablet PC and 14 percent a smartphone. When asked what was the most important technology they had in their home, 28 percent said it was their wireless home network. However, 85 percent of those people had no idea what kind of wireless network was in their home, and this could cause a problem, Cisco said, as many of the newer wireless devices require an up-to-date 802.11n home network to properly operate.

TV isn't broken, so why fix it?

The technology industry is absolutely bent on reinventing television.  But nobody seems to be able to answer the big question: what exactly is so broken about TV anyway? It's true that the TV guide in most cable systems is pretty awful -- it looks like Yahoo circa 1994. It's a pain fiddling with a bunch of different remotes. It might be kind of nice to watch YouTube videos on a big screen in the living room. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most TV viewers simply won't care enough about any of this stuff to shell out $1,500 for a new Apple TV, or spend a few hundred bucks and countless hours fiddling around adding a new box to their TV set and figuring out how it works. All of these are destined to be niche products at best -- just like every other attempt to improve TV over the last 20 years.

Lenovo Sets Web-Linked TV

Chinese personal-computer maker Lenovo Group Ltd. on Tuesday said it would soon unveil a "smart TV" product called LeTV as well as a new cloud-computing strategy, as it competes with others to diversify and address growing demand for Internet-connected devices. The company, which surpassed Dell Inc. in the third quarter to become the world's second-largest PC vendor by unit shipments after Hewlett-Packard Co., is the latest to enter the competition to offer Internet content on television. Lenovo didn't provide details on the capabilities of LeTV, but it comes as others have released smart TVs, which are expected to have computer-style features and could allow companies to directly sell movies, TV shows and other content. Search giant Google Inc. is gearing up to challenge the likes of Apple Inc. in the area with its Google TV operating system. Lenovo said the new LeTV will be an Internet-connected product and is expected to launch in the first quarter. In recent weeks, Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. have also announced plans for smart TVs.

Cyber Monday sales hit record $1.25 billion

Cyber Monday online sales set a record, led by department stores and home goods retailers, according to U.S. data released on Tuesday. Online sales reached $1.251 billion on Monday, up 22 percent from the same day last year, said comScore Inc, a closely watched Web tracking firm. IBM Benchmark, a unit of International Business Machines Corp, put the increase at 33 percent compared with Cyber Monday in 2010. Department stores saw online sales surge 60 percent this Cyber Monday, compared with last year, while sales of home goods rose 68 percent, IBM Benchmark added.

New Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface Is Available to Pre-order

Retail outlets looking for new, innovative ways to get hands-on with their customers will soon have a new tool – the Samsung SUR40. Companies are already using Microsoft Surface to give potential customers virtual tours of plane interiors, help them plan flights, provide them with the ability to create immersive photo books, and entice bank customers into brick and mortar branches. Those experiences only hint at how the new Surface device will be able to help businesses engage with customers, said Somanna Palacanda, director of Microsoft Surface.  Samsung and Microsoft announced today that a new, more versatile Microsoft Surface device is now available for pre-order, the near final stop on its journey from lab to marketplace. Now, businesses in 23 countries can visit the Samsung website to find a local reseller and place an order for the Samsung SUR40. Shipments are expected to start early next year.

CE Spurs Record Black Friday Sales

Earlier store openings, a bargain-hungry consumer and the lure of deeply discounted TVs and laptops contributed to the largest Black Friday sales haul in history this past weekend.  Americans spent a record $52 billion from Thanksgiving through Sunday, or $398.62 per shopper, a 9.1 percent increase from last year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported, while traffic to stores and websites rose 6.6 percent to hit an historic high of 226 million visits.
Broken out by channel, 62.2 percent of the total weekend spend took place in brick-and-mortar stores and 37.8 percent was transacted online, the trade group said. Black Friday proper was also one for the record books. According to market research firm ShopperTrak, sales at brick-and-mortar stores rose 6.6 percent the day after Thanksgiving to $11.4 billion, while foot traffic increased a 5.1 percent from last year.
 

After four years of declines, TiVo adds new customers

TiVo has spent the last several years losing subscribers, dropping to mid-2000s customer levels in the second quarter of this year. But the DVR maker might finally be showing some positive momentum, reporting 117,000 net new customers in its third-quarter earnings report. Those new customers are the result of growth in TiVo's partnerships with pay-TV operators, spurred by the addition of partners like Virgin Media and RCN. And that strategy - based around getting cable companies to offer TiVo DVRs to their customers rather than the set-top boxes they've been using - could help the company grow even more over the next few quarters. In addition to its existing partnerships, TiVo will see some promotion from DirecTV soon, and Comcast is integrating its video-on-demand service to work with TiVo DVRs consumers can buy themselves. The company says its partnerships give it a potential footprint of 10 million homes between them, compared to the 2 million subscribers it currently has.

Has Netflix overextended itself?

Netflix agreed to sell $400 million in stock and convertible bonds on Monday in an effort to stockpile some cash. The filings were seen as the latest in a series of bad news for the company by investors, with shares down about five percent. But the raising of short-term funds brings up the question of how well Netflix has been managing its cash, particularly as the company has seen customer additions stall at home while investing heavily to expand internationally. Netflix has already committed billions of dollars to new streaming deals over the next few years, which would be fine if the company had ample cash in the bank or was still on an outstanding growth trajectory. Netflix finished the third quarter with just $366 million in cash and short-term investments, however, and with $200 million in long-term debt.

Cyber Monday Shoppers At The Ready

Discount-seeking cyber shoppers will hit the web early on Nov. 28, looking to take advantage of free shipping, said shopping site PriceGrabber. The PriceGrabber survey of 2,322 people found 39 percent intended to do their shopping on Cyber Monday over any of the other four days of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. This is up 2 percent from last year. Ninety-two percent said this decision was based on the fact that this is the day most one-day sales and free-shipping offers took place. Other reasons cited for hitting the web on Monday instead of fighting the crowds Black Friday morning were to spend time with friends and family on Black Friday to discover what they wanted, 20 percent; family tradition to shop online that day, 6 percent; 5 percent consider it a chance to take a break from work, and 5 percent said their office Internet connection was faster than the one at home.

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