Boxee, which makes software that makes it easy to watch Web video on your TV, celebrates a big milestone this week, when the first Boxee-branded hardware starts shipping to consumers. The start-up is celebrating with an event at New York’s Irving Plaza. But the company’s next big move likely won’t happen in public view: Sources say Boxee is out trying to raise a significant funding round, likely in the $10 million to $15 million range. I’m told that existing investors Union Square, Spark and General Catalyst, which have helped Boxee raise $12 million to date, all plan to re-up, and will likely pick up half of the round. No word on who the new money is, or how close the round is to closing. CEO Avner Ronen will need it sooner than later, though. His two-year-old company now has a significant payroll–33 people, at last count–and very little revenue coming in the door.
Speculation is mounting that Philips may have been crying "wolf" when they announced that they were set to shut down their Pronto control business with insiders now claiming that the actions of last week were designed to flush out a buyer. According to Michael Henriksen the Managing Director of Qualifi, which distributes Pronto products in Australia, the Pronto operation has been "Up for sale" for some time. "It would not surprise me if they are trying to flush out a buyer with their announcement last week that they were going to shut the operation down," he said. According to sources in Asia, Philips has been engaging with potential acquirers of the remote control and home automation line for several months but no one has put a satisfactory offer on the table for the IP and brand name. Philips was hoping that an IP automation company would want to capatalise on the IP as several companies move to software applications that can be used on Smartphones and iPads or a new generation of Google Tablets. Evidently, Philips received so much interest in the product since the announcement of its demise, that the company is now entering discussions with suitors.
As the Internet and TV converge in living rooms, lots of folks, including the New York Times, have been drooling over the idea of smartphones as next-gen remotes. On the surface, this seems like a cool idea. After all, smart mobile devices have touch screens, keyboards, and all sorts of other bells and whistles that should equal an enhanced, enjoyable smart-TV experience. Once you scratch the surface, however, you soon realize what a terrible and impractical idea an app-enabled smartphone remote really is. Here, then, are nine reasons your smart device is a lousy TV remote. 9. It’s still a phone 8. Battery life 7. A phone is a personal device 6. It will still get lost in the couch. Click here to read the full article by Jeremy Toeman of Cnet Crave.
There’s now even more evidence that subscribers are cutting the cord and opting out of paying for cable: By adding up subscriber losses from four of the top five cable companies, we found that more than half a million users have ditched their cable companies. The carnage began last week when Comcast announced it had lost 275,000 basic cable subscribers, but it has continued as Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Cablevision have all reported major subscriber losses of their own. No. 2 cable provider Time Warner Cable announced today that it shed 155,000 cable subscribers during the third quarter, which included 46,000 digital video subs. Yesterday, Charter Communications reported that it lost 63,800 basic cable subscribers during the previous quarter. And Cablevision said this morning that it shed 24,500 subscribers during the same period, including about 5,000 digital video subscribers. Add that all together and you have more than 500,000 customers that left their cable providers last quarter, and that’s just data from four of the top five cable companies that have reported earnings. (No. 3 cable provider Cox Communications is privately held and therefore doesn’t have to announce its subscriber losses for all the world to see.) No doubt even more subscribers have left some of the smaller, non-public local and regional cable providers over the past few months.
The Wi-Fi Alliance and the HomePlug Powerline Alliance announced an agreement Tuesday to collaborate on applications that allow smart energy grids to interoperate with "connected" homes. The two alliances are part of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel, a forum that coordinates smart grid standards. They plan to collaborate on wireless and wired network applications for what the forum calls its Smart Energy 2 Applications Profile. The Wi-Fi Alliance believes that working with HomePlug will help mesh Wi-Fi equipment and devices connected to home powerline networks. The collaboration is focused on helping bring about "a great user experience with smart home technology," Edgar Figueroa, the Wi-Fi Alliance CEO, said in a statement.
Hulu users would wait a lot longer to catch up on their favorite shows, if Dish Network VP of Online Content Development and Strategy Bruce Eisen had his way. “If I can watch Glee tomorrow morning and I don’t have to pay a pay TV service –- I think that’s bad,” Eisen said during a panel about cord cutting at the Streaming Media West conference this morning. The model of sites like Hulu that make catchup content available immediately isn’t benefiting the industry, he said, adding that broadcasters should instead reserve catchup episodes for authenticated TV Everywhere services, and only make them available freely after 30 days. “If people decide that they don’t have to pay for pay TV, then one of the pillars (of the TV industry) starts crumbling,” he said.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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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.
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, 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.
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.
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Automation & Control - Featured Product
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