Netflix hikes rates today

The big question in Web video this week is how many Netflix customers will stick with the service in the face of a price increase. But even those planning to continue with the service might want to make some decisions before time runs out and the decisions are made by the company. In July, Netflix announced it would eliminate a popular hybrid plan. For $10 a month, users were allowed to rent one DVD at a time as well as obtain unlimited Web access to the company's streaming-video library. That's scheduled to disappear on September 1st. This is a reminder that if you're a hybrid subscriber and do nothing by then, Netflix will assume you want both plans. That's certainly logical but it may be something you didn't think about. After Thursday, each plan will cost $7.99 per month, or $15.98 per month for both. If you want to go exclusively with one offer or the other, it's time to get a move on.

Apple TV Show Rentals: Was 99 Cents Too Expensive?

In 2010, Apple announced the ability for Apple TV owners to rent television shows for $.99, the price of most iTunes music downloads. CEO Steve Jobs explained that the pricing was intentionally aggressive, and that the company would make revenue on the volume of rentals. This past week, however, Apple deleted all options for renting television shows, shuttering a rental service that only Disney and Fox had signed on for in the first place. Apple TV owners can buy shows for $2.99 each. So was the rental service shuttered for lack of consumer interest or a because of technical issue with the upcoming iTunes in the Cloud? An Apple spokesman told All Things D's Peter Kafka, who broke the story, that Apple was following the consumer trend. "iTunes customers have shown they overwhelmingly prefer buying TV shows," Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said. Fox corroborated the story by saying it hadn't seen much traction, telling Kafka that the best model for its consumers was to purchase content.

Rumor: Apple 'almost certainly' making iOS TV set for 2012

The persistent rumor of an Apple-branded TV was sparked once again with a rumor from multiple sources. The tips from San Francisco Bay area contacts for Alsop Louie Ventures didn't say much more than that it would most likely run iOS and with an aim for 2012. Co-founder Stewart Alsop explained to VentureBeat that he was on the boards of Sonos and TiVo and was connected to the hardware field. He speculated that Apple was mostly held back by the costs of LCD panels. Rumors of a full Apple TV, not just today's media hub, have been persistent for years and have in some cases been projections of desires more than reality. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has long called for an Apple TV set but has only now begun claiming sources at Apple and the supply chain that suggest Apple might be moving forward. A tentative separate report also mentioned a new TV video delivery method in the works at Apple.

Sharp Vies for an Edge in TV Market

As it becomes more and more difficult to sell TVs at premium prices, manufacturers are coming up with new features they hope will entice customers.  Sharp Corp. says its new Freestyle Aquos line of liquid crystal display TV sets, unveiled Thursday, are not bound by the location of the aerial plug, thanks to a tuner that can wirelessly send broadcast signals to a TV elsewhere in the house. “For people wanting to move around all the furniture and freely design their homes, the TV has been a bottleneck,” said Keiko Okada, a Sharp executive in charge of design and branding strategy at a press conference.Sharp’s new TVs represent the latest attempt among television makers to differentiate their product lineup, in a search for an alternative to cutthroat price competition that has been crimping TV earnings at most major electronics makers world-wide for the past few years. In 2009, for example, Samsung Electronics mass-produced light emitting diode-backlit TV sets ahead of rivals. When 3-D TVs debuted in early 2010, the industry hoped the new feature would create a more profitable market segment, but 3-D TVs soon became part of the relentless price competition plaguing the industry. In October, Sony Corp. released new Internet-enabled TV sets that run on Google Inc.’s software, and the so-called “smart TVs” with built-in processors and operating software became one of the major themes at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Downgrade: Broadband Adoption Linked To TV Cord-Cutting

More consumers with cable, satellite or telco TV services have downgraded their services in the last year -- and more are on the way. Dallas-based researcher Parks Associates says 13% of consumers who have broadband connections have made cutbacks within the last 12 months -- with another 9% to come. The study says this includes some 3.9 million people who regularly watch Internet video. These "downgraders" or "cord shavers," who typically spend $20 or less on monthly video services, are heavy TV users. They watch, on average, 4.2 hours of Internet video on their TV each week. Parks Associates says the growth of downgraders is more closely linked to the growth of broadband adoption than watching more Internet video.

Lutron Names 2011 Excellence Awards Finalists

Lutron has announced the finalists for its 2011 Excellence Awards, the competition to recognize the world's best Lutron lighting control and windows systems projects. The nominees will be judged by six journalists, and will be honored with either a gold, silver or bronze award at a private dinner during CEDIA EXPO. The 17 finalists vying for the 8 Awards are: Acoustic Theater Systems- Dallas, TX / Bay Screens and Shades- Beverly Hills, CA / Bekins- Grand Rapids, MI / Chesley Electric- Salt Lake City, UT / Cliqk Digital- New York, NY / Coastal Carolina Specialty- Hilton Head Island, SC / Design Resources- Oklahoma City, OK / DK Automations- Parker, TX / Doherty Design Group- Indianapolis, IN / Powerfull Systems- Los Angeles, CA / Powersurge Electric- Truckee, CA / Premiere Systems- Chicago, IL / Service Tech AV- Austin, TX / Soundline Audio- Auckland, New Zealand / Starr Systems Design- Baltimore, MD / System 7 Solutions, Inc.- Winchester, MA / The CDC Group, Inc.- Lisle, IL

Walmart becomes third-largest online film provider

Walmart has landed among the biggest online film providers in the USA, snatching the number three spot from Sony during the first half of the year, the Financial Times reported citing data by IHS Screen Digest. Part of Walmart's success is down to the problems Sony experienced earlier in the year, when its PlayStation network fell victim to hackers. However, the retail giant has also turned into an aggressive digital player in a bid to counter the steady decline in DVD sales. In 2010, Walmart acquired digital film store Vudu and has been building its market share through price discounts. IHS Screen Digest puts Vudu's first-half market share at 5.3%, a substantial improvement on its 1% in the comparable 2010 period. Microsoft, which operates the Zune Video Marketplace, came second with 16.2% against 18.5% last year. Apple continues to dominate the online film market by a very wide margin. Its iTunes store lifted its share in the first half to 65.8% from 64.9%.    

New research from ABI says 1.8 million home automation systems will ship around the entire world this year.

New research from ABI says 1.8 million home automation systems will ship around the entire world this year. Given the number of homes in the world, that's really not that many. Things are about to change, though--ABI's five-year prediction sees the figure rising to 12 million. It's all about new providers enabling the tech, the rise in smartphones and tablets, and the push to save energy by wiring our homes into the smart grid. Phone companies, looking for regular subscriber income, see home automation technology as a natural fit for the future of their business: Smart homes are all about remote control, and now that we're all carrying smartphones and tablets, the phone companies want to be the channel for that data. Communications tech makers see an avenue to build their tech throughout your home, in a totally new market--it's why Cisco, better known for making routers and wireless tech, has invested over $10 million in Control4 (which automates heating, air conditioning, and lighting) this year, and also made a deal with maker Zigbee to sell its home automation gear around the world.

CONNECTED DEVICES WILL ACCOUNT FOR 70 PERCENT OF CONSUMER ELECTRONIC DEVICE MARKET VALUE IN 2011

Seventy percent of Consumer Electronic (CE) industry 2011 revenues will come from Internet connectable devices, according to the latest research from the Strategy Analytics Connected Home Devices (CHD) service. Internet connectivity has become a key feature for the majority of CE devices, whose global installed base will reach the two billion unit mark by the end of the year. “While connected flat panel TVs, set-top boxes and DVRs still represent a small portion of their respective product segments, sixty-eight percent of all CE devices sold this year will be connectable to the Internet.” says Peter King, Director at Strategy Analytics. According to this report, Connected TVs represent one of the biggest growth opportunities over the next five years as major vendors, such as Samsung, LG and Sony, push their Smart TV initiatives. Global connected TV device revenues will total in excess of $95 billion in 2015, representing more than one-quarter of the overall connected device market.  

Google Acquires Motorola Mobility for $12.5B

Acquisition expands YouTube parent from software to hardware manufacturer, including expansion into consumer electronics and set-top boxes Google Inc. Aug. 15 said it would acquire Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. for $12.5 billion, establishing the search engine behemoth as a major player in both the hardware and software markets. Chicago-based Motorola is one of the largest manufacturers of mobile phones, including smartphones incorporating Google's open-platform Android wireless software. "The deal will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers," Google said in a statement. The largely all-cash deal helps Google control the rights to more than 24,000 patents, which should help the company deal with increased litigation regarding license fees involving the Android platform. Specifically, Google recently has been sued by Oracle, Microsoft and Apple, among others, over intellectual property and third-party patents currently in use in the burgeoning smartphone market.

Report predicts what new tech will be mainstream in ten years (and beyond)

Gartner’s newly released 2011 Hype Cycle Special Report looks at 1,900 technologies and predicts whether they have already reached their “Peak of Inflated Expectations” (such as Internet TV, the report states) or whether these technologies will have widespread influence across a number of industries in coming years

CEDIA Expo 2011 - Future Technology Pavilion

What’s next for your business and the industry? What technologies and products are you going to be able to offer your clients? Find out at CEDIA’s Future Technology Pavilion. The 2011 pavilion will simulate a future home environment with rooms focused on technologies for the kitchen, bath, bedroom, game room, office, living room, and garage. Products in the 2011 Future Technology Pavilion include a massive yet elegant video wall, smart appliances, wireless power for cooking and charging, and fully integrated home health and wellness. The pavilion offers you and your business insight on what you need to learn now to be profitable later. The Future Technology Pavilion is open during tradeshow hours.  Click Here for a Sneak Peek at the Pavilion

Boxee App Released for iPad

Boxee has launched its official, free iPad app, allowing users to watch streaming content on the tablet device and transfer playback from the iPad to the Boxee Box. Additionally, the new Boxee Media Manager allows you to stream video to the iPad from a Mac or PC. Alongside the new apps, Boxee has brought AirPlay support and Lion compatibility to its set-top box. The new Boxee iPad app looks really good. Particularly, there are some social networking features that make it easy to share what you’re watching with your friends. Users can also stream content through AirPlay from the Boxee Box, thanks to the latest update. The newest firmware update to the Boxee Box adds Lion compatibility for streaming locally stored files on a Mac running Apple’s latest desktop OS. NFS and AFP support have been added, with there also being better HTML5 implementation in the set-top box’s browser.

Sony, Panasonic, Samsung team up to standardize active shutter 3D glasses

Consumer electronics companies Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and XPAND 3D (X6D Ltd.) announced on Monday that they have begun collaboration on a new standard for active shutter 3D glasses called the "Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative." Even though electronics companies are pushing 3D as the next great frontier for cinematic, home theater, and video game-based entertainment, it's been pretty much a flop all around. Earlier this year, beloved film critic Roger Ebert said 3D doesn't work in movies and never will, and Panasonic's marketing director Andrew Denham said these poor quality 3D movies are causing poor sales of 3DTVs. Nintendo's first 3D handheld console, the 3DS, was cut down in price by more than 33% only six months into its availability. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said the "drastic step" was taken to ensure more users would buy the handheld.

American Airlines Offers Inflight Streaming

American Airlines has received FAA certification to stream video content inflight via Wi-Fi, and now is offering a library of more than 100 movies and TV shows on flights operated by 767-200 aircraft. The service is available primarily on flights between New York and Los Angeles and New York and San Francisco, though American plans to roll out the service to its entire fleet this year. “We continue to execute this strategy and lead in this space by making prudent investments in innovative, cutting-edge technologies,” said Rob Friedman, American’s VP of marketing. “During this initial phase of launch, Entertainment On Demand allows customers to access content through select personal Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, and in the coming months [we intend] to make tablets and other devices available for use with the product.” TV shows rent for 99 cents and movies go for $3.99. Movies are available for 24 hours, TV shows for 72, and both can be viewed on a portable device after the consumer has debarked, using the same browser and device.

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

Light sockets; Not just for lights anymore

Light sockets; Not just for lights anymore

Smart Bulbs are out there and they can do far more then just provide light. Speakers, projectors, wi-fi extenders and more. The standard light socket that is wired up and ready to go in nearly every home in North America is now providing an easy and affordable option for home owners and renters alike to enter into the world of the "Smart Home". Here is a look at some of the Smart Bulbs and Smart Lighting options out there, and this list is just the beginning. In this ongoing article we hope to continue to add to and grow this list, so stay tuned!