At the NCTA Cable Show, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts showed off the next generation of the company's TV user interface. More important than the UI update, however, is how it has been built and delivered. Behind Xcalibur is a cloud-based platform that moves the intelligence out of the set-top box and into the network. For consumers, the move to a cloud-based system will largely be seamless. But for Comcast, moving to the cloud means it will be able to build new features, improve the user interface and iterate on its product more quickly and easily than if was building for individual set-top boxes. "What the cloud allows you to do is to have faster innovation," Roberts said. "Boxes have different generations, they become outdated…. That doesn't happen in the cloud."
Netflix's recent decision to increase the number of devices by which an individual subscriber can access streaming content underscores the service's ubiquitous reach in consumer electronics. Netflix recently upped the number of devices a subscriber can use to stream to 50 from five. And with Netflix streaming now directly accessible on more than 250 CE devices - the latest being Android smartphones - analyst Dan Rayburn believes the average U.S. family has 10 Netflix-enabled devices. If Netflix hadn't allowed individual subscribers more access points, a not-untypical member with an iPad, iPhone, iPod, video game console and connected Blu-ray player or connected HDTV would have risked a streaming cap. That said, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in recent presentations has said the percentage of subs accessing rental streams on mobile phones is minute, compared with those accessing streaming on tablet computers and connected TVs.
Lighting control manufacturer Lutron Electronics Co. Inc. has filed actions before the International Trade Commission and the United States District Court for the Central District of California against several manufacturers, importers and distributors of knock-off dimming controls made in China. The complaints allege willful infringement of Lutron's U.S. Patent No. 5,637,930, titled "Wall-Mountable Switch & Dimmer," covering proprietary Lutron lighting control technology, and seek treble damages. Pass & Seymour and the other defendants manufacture and sell products that Lutron alleges are made to look like Lutron's popular Diva dimmers. The Pass & Seymour lighting control products accused of infringement include certain Harmony dimmers.
Legrand, North America has completed its acquisition of Middle Atlantic Products, which now becomes the company's new commercial AV division focused on AV products and solutions for commercial, residential, security and broadcast applications. The acquisition enables a more comprehensive offering of AV infrastructure products and solutions, according to Legrand. "The Middle Atlantic brand, operations, and services are continuing as they always have, so our customers can continue to expect the exceptional experience we work hard to deliver every day," said Mike Baker, Middle Atlantic president and now also president of Legrand's Commercial AV division. "Now that we have the backing and support of a global company, we will be able to consider new products and services that will only increase our ability to serve our customers and the installation community going forward."
Roku said Monday that Walmart has officially joined the list of retailers carrying the Roku XD player, since distribution of the device was opened up last March. The nationwide discount chain recently started carrying the $78 box across the country, offering 250 entertainment channels, so far, including video from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Crackle and Revision3; live and on-demand sports from NBA Game Time, NHL GameCenter Live and Ultimate Fighting Championship; music from Pandora, MOG, Rdio, and TuneIn Radio; photo and video sharing from Flickr and Facebook; and, soon, casual video games, including Angry Birds.
Shipments of over-the-top set top boxes — also known as streaming media players and digital media adapters — have seen sizable growth over the past two years and will finish 2011 with more than 3.6 million units shipped, according to In-Stat. Future growth, however, will be a little more difficult as other Internet-connected devices, such as Blu-ray players and video game consoles, become even more common and compete for their share of consumers interested in streaming entertainment online. A new In-Stat report, “Streaming Media Players: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?,” finds that streaming IP video is quickly becoming a common feature in consumer electronics rather than a core function. As a result, some suppliers of streaming media players are de-emphasizing their stand-alone OTT set-top boxes in favor of concentrating development on streaming media software platforms.
Pioneer Electronics will begin shipping five new A/V receivers this summer, under its premium Elite sub-brand. All five models have many network-entertainment features, including built-in AirPlay support, for steaming music from an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, or iTunes library on a PC or Mac. Ethernet connectivity is built-in, and an optional Wi-Fi adapter is available. Four of the five receivers can also accept an optional Bluetooth adapter, and work with Air Jam, a free Pioneer app that lets iPhone/iPad and iPod users creative collaborative playlists on their devices and stream them to the receiver via Bluetooth. Other network entertainment features include DLNA 1.5 support, which allows high-resolution (up to 192kHz/24-bit) digital audio files to be streamed over a home network from from DLNA-compliant devices; and vTuner Internet radio capability. All five receivers work with Pioneer's second-generation iPhone/iPad app, iControl AV2.
The Honig Company has a solution for moviegoers who get headaches from watching 3D. The answer: 2D glasses. The Honig Company estimates that 30 million Americans, or 10% of the population have minor eye problems that lead to headaches and discomfort when watching 3D content. While typical 3D glasses show a different image to each eye, the 2D glasses block the second image, showing the same image to both eyes, and canceling out the illusion of 3D. The 2D glasses allow people who get headaches from watching 3D to still join family members and friends at the theater. The 2D glasses are low-priced, with a manufacturers suggested price of $7.99.
On Monday afternoon, Apple announced the introduction of iCloud, a music service that will allow users to listen to their music from almost any Internet-connected device.The service, which was introduced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, will be available starting in the fall for users of Apple products who also upgrade to the company's latest operating system. Though iCloud itself will be free, to fully take advantage of the service, users will need to pay $24.99 per year for a service called iTunes Match that will scan their iTunes library and make their songs available to be streamed on any Apple device, as long as those songs happen to among the 18 million available from Apples iTunes store. Songs that aren't included in the store will have to be uploaded from users' hard drives. A note on Apple's web page indicates that 5GB of storage will be offered to iCloud users for free. The service replaces Apple's previously available MobileMe service, which allowed users to store data and access email, calendar and contacts via a cloud. Subscribers to iCloud will have their E-books, photos and documents all backed up wirelessly and automatically. Purchased music, apps and books will not count toward the allotted storage.
LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) -- Music-streaming service Pandora Media Inc. said in a regulatory filing Thursday that it expects its initial public offering of 13.68 million shares to price between $7 to $9 a share. The offering could raise as much as $141.6 million, Pandora said in an amended filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Pandora will offer 5,000,682 million shares, and selling stockholders will offer 8.68 million shares. Pandora said it will not receive any proceeds from the sale of shares by the selling stockholders. The company has applied with the New York Stock Exchange to trade under the symbol "P".
The Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (SST) is aimed at reducing CO2 emissions by 70 percent compared with 1990 levels. The completely networked town will be a 19-hectacre subdivision built on a former Panasonic plant site some 30 miles southwest of Tokyo. It will house about 3,000 people whose lives will revolve around being energy conscious: the 1,000 homes and other buildings will have solar panels to generate electricity and smart appliances, as well as home fuel cells. The batteries might include the fridge-sized Ene-Farm developed by Panasonic and Tokyo Gas. They say the Ene-Farm can reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 35 and 48 percent, respectively, from typical Japanese household usage and can help lower home utility costs by up to $740 annually. Plans for the SST call for features such as EV recharging stations, LED lighting, surveillance cameras, and "wind paths" to accommodate wind patterns in Fujisawa, a city of 400,000 on Sagami Bay. There will be plenty of trees, too. The project will cost some $739 million, and all homes are expected to be occupied by 2018. I wouldn't be surprised if SST gets way too many applicants. Fujisawa has beaches, a surfing culture, and plenty of sunshine, so it's an ideal location for this experiment. If it's successful, it could become a model for future green communities.
At its event at COMPUTEX Taipei today, the HomePlug® Powerline Alliance announced support from Germany's major car manufacturers - Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche and Volkswagen - for its HomePlug Technology.The HomePlug GP specification, finalized in June 2010, is a low power, highly reliable and cost-optimized powerline networking specification which targets "Smart Grid" applications such as appliances, smart meters, climate control, and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. Utility companies and manufacturers are looking to adopt communications and networking technologies, such as HomePlug GP, to help consumers and businesses monitor and reduce their energy consumption. HomePlug GP is a key component of the HomePlug technology portfolio, along with HomePlug AV broadband powerline technology and the upcoming HomePlug AV2 specification. HomePlug AV is the baseline technology for the IEEE 1901 powerline standard. All three specifications are fully interoperable with each other and with IEEE's 1901 powerline standard, and they are designed to make it easier for multiple chip suppliers and manufacturers to deliver products to support IP networking.
Consumer electronics manufacturer Vizio is adding a Vudu button to remote controls for its connected TVs and Blu-ray players, adding one-click access to the video-on-demand service. The button provides easier navigation to an increasingly popular streaming service, but it also highlights the struggle video publishers face when they want to reach viewers on connected devices and differentiate their services in a rapidly growing ecosystem of TV apps. Nearly a dozen new Vizio models will come with a remote control that features the Vudu button. Like the Netflix button announced earlier this year, clicking on the Vudu button will instantly launch the video streaming service. That will give users instant access to more than 20,000 titles for rental or purchase from the Vudu store.
In a ruling on Thursday, May 19, 2011, Judge Edward F. Harrington of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied a Motion to Dismiss by Crestron Electronics, Inc. in a suit filed by Savant Systems LLC charging Crestron with violations of the antitrust laws and with other claims of unfair competitive practices. Among other charges, Savant asserts that Crestron has unlawfully coerced and/or induced dealers to refrain from carrying Savant's products. This is the second time that Crestron has attempted to dismiss Savant's suit and the second time that the court has refused to do so. In the May 19 order, Judge Harrington noted that Crestron's arguments for dismissal of the complaint were "without merit". Crestron will now be required to file a substantive response to Savant's complaint and the case will then proceed to formal discovery.
The completion of the transaction is anticipated for mid-June and is subject to the satisfaction of certain requirements, including regulatory approval. Prior to closing, Legrand and Middle Atlantic will continue to operate as separate, independent companies. The acquisition will help Legrand to fulfill one of its key objectives to establish a leadership position in the fast growing markets for AV infrastructure products, systems, and solutions, according to the company. Middle Atlantic has a sales relationship with more than 3,500 integrators in the U.S. and Canada. Once this transaction is completed, Middle Atlantic will offer an expanded product lineup, access to enhanced specification services and tools, and more complete AV infrastructure solutions. The combined offerings of the firms would include more than 5,000 AV products and services. After closing, Middle Atlantic would operate as an independent business within Legrand. Mike Baker, president of Middle Atlantic Products, would lead a new, fifth division - commercial AV - for Legrand in North America.
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