Providing further evidence that consumers are moving toward streaming content is a new study by In-Stat that finds shipments of streaming media players to reach 3.6 million worldwide in 2011. However, the firm notes that streaming appears to be following a direction whereby it is a function within a more common consumer electronics products versus being a central function of the device. In-Stat, thus, is quick to warn that the road ahead for standaone streaming players will be "bumpy." Consider devices like the Sony PlayStation 3, which can serve as a video game console, Blu-ray player, and streaming devices for services like Netflix. With the increasing availability of Internet-connected TV sets and hybrid set top boxes, this will also impact the long-term viability of the streaming media player market. Nevertheless, Apple TV, a product developed solely for streaming, remains the leading product on the market.
Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Display, the world's top two flat-screen makers, expect the depressed LCD market to start rebounding as demand rises in China and new TV models are rolled out. Global LCD makers are hoping China, widely expected to become the world's biggest TV market this year, pulls the sagging flat-screen industry out of a year-long downcycle when oversupply pushed prices lower. European demand is faltering due to the region's debt crisis and U.S. consumers are showing little sign of significantly boosting their spending on big ticket items. After falling by one third over the past one year, TV panel prices are finally showing signs of bottoming out. Prices of 40-42 inch panels have edged up 1 percent since late April, industry data shows. In interviews with Reuters this week, Choi of LG Display and the head of Samsung's LCD business sounded upbeat on the outlook for an industry that posted widespread losses in the first quarter. Both companies control around one quarter of the flat panel market, although Samsung has a marginal advantage in revenue terms.
The streaming beast that is Netflix just got bigger. The Los Gatos, Calif.-based service now represents nearly 30% of peak down streaming traffic in North America, according to a new report from Sandvine. The Ontario, Canada-based online traffic management service said Netflix accounts for 29.7% of peak traffic, compared with 21% last fall. Noteworthy is that Netflix also bests file-sharing website BitTorrent (10.37%) and YouTube (9.85%). Social networking site Facebook generated 1.91% of peak downstream traffic, while Hulu generated 1.09%. Sandvine found that "real-time entertainment," which includes video and radio streams, accounts for 49.2% of peak traffic, followed by file-sharing (18.8%) and Web browsing (16.6%), among others. The report forecasts that the real-time entertainment category will represent 55% to 60% of peak aggregate traffic by the end of 2011.
Dish Network Corp., the U.S. satellite-TV provider that acquired Blockbuster Inc. last month, told NCR Corp. that its contract to license the Blockbuster name on movie-rental kiosks is invalid. Dish rejected the contract as part of Blockbuster's court- ordered bankruptcy proceedings and sent NCR a termination letter, expressing its intent on ending the pact, NCR spokesman Jeff Dudash said. NCR disagrees with Dish's conclusion that the contract is void, and plans to continue to brand its movie kiosks with the Blockbuster Express name, Dudash said. "There will be legal proceedings to address this that will come up at the end of the month," Dudash said. No lawsuits have been filed yet by either company. NCR builds kiosks, often placed in grocery and convenience stores, that allow customers to rent and drop off movies. The company pays Blockbuster for the use of its brand and collects all revenue from rentals. NCR says the Blockbuster Express name, design and related trademarks are held by a trust that wasn't part of Blockbuster's bankruptcy filing. Duluth, Georgia-based NCR has branded more than 9,000 kiosks with the Blockbuster name, Dudash said. If Dish successfully voids the contract, the Englewood, Colorado-based company will decide whether it wants to own the kiosk business, renegotiate deal terms with NCR or find another company that makes kiosks to license the name.
Bang & Olufsen's new 3-D TV has an 85-inch screen and a $85,000 price tag. That comes out to about $1,000 per inch of display real estate for the high-end consumer electronics firm's BeoVision 4-85 plasma television, which Sound & Vision magazine described as an aspirational product. "The massive, anodized aluminum -encased set -- all 359.6 pounds of it -- rests on a similarly massive motorized stand (the whole package weighs just north of a half ton), which raises and lowers the screen from a floorbound rest position and conceals an integrated BeoSound 10 center-channel speaker, which emerges gracefully from beneath the screen as the motor lifts the set to viewing height," Sound & Vision's Michael Berk wrote of the new TV. "The actuators used have built-in sensors that automatically stop the stand from parking should they encounter an obstacle, preventing you from crushing an unwary guest's foot." To see any 3-D images on screen, 3-D glasses that sell for $149 are needed, Berk said. The picture displayed on plasma TVs tends to fade as the set ages, he said. But Bang & Olufsen has added what it calls an Automatic Colour Management system to offset the problem. The system includes a "tiny camera-bearing robotic arm, concealed above the center of the screen" that "emerges every 100 hours of use to calibrate the device. No user input is required (though you can run the routine as often as you like)," Berk said. The robotic calibration should allow the TV to attain a life of about 60,000 hours, he said.
Today Android may live only on your tablet and smartphone and interact as mostly a standalone device, but Google has plans for its mobile operating system to take over your home. Android@Home was announced today at Google IO, which opens the door for what many imagined to be defining features of "the home of the future." Google will release open source libraries so that anyone can create an Android-compatible device that will allow Android to interface and control it. In a full Androidified home, that would mean using your smartphone or tablet to control the lights or the operation of the sprinklers outside. This functionality could also extend to music, where users of Google Music (Beta) will be able to stream the collection to any compatible device in the house.
Nielsen has a new report out showing that television ownership has dropped for the first time in 20 years. There are a few guesses at why this is the case, even in our TV-obsessed country, and it just might mean not only a shift in how we watch media but also on which gadgets we consume our favorite shows. TV ownership has dropped from 98.9% to 96.7%. It doesn't look like a huge drop, but the 2.2% represents about 1.2 million households that don't own televisions. There's a few possible reasons. First, Nielsen suspects that when the big switch to digital happened a couple years ago, many lower income families decided not to spend the bucks on a new television and instead are just going without. But another possibility is that with the rise of streaming shows and movies online, many people have decided a TV is just an unnecessary item.
Samsung's flagship D9500-series 3D TVs are now available in Korea. For an estimated US$17,570, you'll get the world's largest 3D Smart TV bundled with a QWERTY remote. This massive 75-incher also sports a new "secret" design promising a larger-than-life 3D experience. While this is something yet to be proven, we do know this model is quite well-equipped out-of-the-box. The TV includes a Smart TV function, 240Hz-processing and an LED-edgelit panel with micro (local) dimming capability that promises to reproduce deeper blacks. Price-wise, do note that 60-inch and larger panels usually command a huge premium, especially for a 75-inch giant such as this. The D9500 is expected to launch in the second half of 2011 for the rest of Asia.
A new study by TCO Development found little difference between 3DTVs that use active shutter or passive glasses, at least when it comes to the visual experience. "As a certification body with a long history in the field of visual ergonomics for displays, it is important for TCO Development to evaluate the visual ergonomics of these new technologies and to assess any possible impacts on the user experience. TCO Development will further investigate the need of a TCO Certification for 3D," said Niclas Rydell, product and certification director at TCO Development. Cross-talk, or ghosting, was low for both types of glasses, though proper height and distance placement was more important for a set using passive glasses. White luminance was three times lower for active shutter glass sets compared with passive sets. And the lower resolution available for a passive 3DTV (1920-by-540 vs. 1920-by-1080 for active shutter) is noticeable, but not too much of a drawback, the study concluded.
Lenbrook America will begin on June 1 to sell its NAD and PSB home audio brands through in-house regional sales managers for the first time after having sold exclusively through independent reps since the company's founding 20 years ago. The company will drop all or almost all of its independent reps in the U.S. and will decide on Tuesday whether to keep one or two, said Dean Miller, who earlier this year was appointed president/CEO of the U.S.-based subsidiary of Canada's Lenbrook Group. Lenbrook will hire three to four regional sales managers, each responsible for sales of the NAD, PSB, and Tivoli brands. They will report to Miller. Miller told TWICE that the decision to go direct was difficult, given Lenbrook's long relationship with U.S. rep firms. "We're grateful to these companies," he said. Multiple factors, however, forced the company's hand, including retail consolidation in the specialty-A/V channel, a flat audio specialty market, and continued rising business costs.
After several years of litigation, the patent-infringement case that TiVo launched against Dish Network and EchoStar has come to an end. Dish Network and EchoStar have agreed to pay TiVo $500 million to settle the case, including an upfront payment of $290 million from Dish and $10 million from EchoStar. Between 2012 and 2017, the companies will pay TiVo the remaining $200 million in equal installments. The parties also agreed to eliminate all pending litigation between them. The battle between the companies started in 2004 when TiVo claimed EchoStar, which was Dish Network's parent company before the satellite provider was spun off in 2007, violated its "multimedia time warping system patent." That patent covers how DVR users can watch one program while another is recorded. For its part, TiVo felt vindicated. The company said last month that after a long wait, it finally had the ruling it needed to ensure it could receive the damages it has been seeking for years.
You'll soon be able to watch 3D movies from 30,000 feet in the air. A start-up company called MasterImage 3D is reportedly very close to signing a deal with multiple airlines to bring its display technology to TV monitors across entire fleets of aircraft. Hollywood Reporter notes that the company just received $15 million in funding from Samsung, which is sure to start pouncing on the emerging glasses-free 3D market.
Logitech was herald of wider problems with Google TV on Thursday after its winter fiscal results (PDF) revealed very low numbers. The peripheral maker made just $5 million in sales from the Revue and all its accessories. At $300 per device, the figure would have seen it ship fewer than 16,700 of the Android-based media hubs. The sales were a steep drop from the $22 million in the fall, the Revue's first full quarter in shops. It also fell well below its official estimates of $18 million. Logitech chief executive Gerald Quindlen justified the plunge by claiming that his firm had reduced the amount of marketing, but the claim was contradicted by a 19 percent increase in marketing costs that had been focused heavily on Google TV. Some anticipation has circulated around a reboot of Google TV at the upcoming Google I/O conference in May. While never confirmed by Google, rumors have persisted that it forced a last-minute delay in many companies' Google TV plans that pushed their launches from the CES expo in January to the fall to give time for a theoretically much improved version of the platform.
Consumer confidence in technology and the overall economy both increased in April, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. The lobby's Index of Consumer Technology Expectations--it's ice tea--increased four points this month to 82.4. The ICTE measures consumer expectations about technology spending. It rose for the second consecutive month and is 10 points higher than this time last year. "New model and product launches making headlines this month are likely driving consumer interest in spending on consumer tech," said Shawn DuBravac, CEA's chief economist and director of research. "New models for traditional categories, together with tablets, smartphones and gaming devices, have raised consumer sentiment heading into the second quarter of the year." Consumers are also feeling more confident about the overall direction of the economy. The CEA's Index of Consumer Expectations--just plain "ice"--rose five points in April to 166.2. The ICE measures consumer expectations about the broader economy, is up for the first time since January and is more than two points higher than this time last year. It plunged in March on concerns of geopolitical instability and the natural disasters in Japan. "Consumer sentiment improved this month despite continued concerns and uncertainty over the stability of U.S. credit quality," DuBravac said. "But Americans are feeling more confident about the job market as companies indicate an increasing willingness to hire, easing concerns and leading to greater confidence in the economy."
Netflix continued to post impressive quarterly financial numbers, ending the first quarter 2011 as the largest subscription video service in North America. In the first quarter, Netflix added 3.6 million subscribers, ending the period with more than 23.6 million subscribers in total. That was up 69 percent from the 14 million subscribers it had a year ago. To put that in context: Comcast ended 2010 with 22.8 million pay TV subscribers. While it's always possible the cable company could report subscriber additions in the first quarter, it's unlikely to do so, given its declines over the last several quarters. Most of Netflix's customer additions came in the U.S., where it added 3.3 million new users to end at 22.8 million subscribers. Internationally, Netflix added an additional 290,000 subs, to bring total international users to 800,000. Netflix's revenue for the quarter came in at $719 million, which was 46 percent higher than the prior year's first-quarter sales of $494 million. The company recorded net income of $1.11 cents a share, compared to 59 cents a share in the year-ago quarter and 87 cents a share in the fourth quarter of last year.
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