It's been the year of smart, streaming music companies. And if Sonos has anything to say about it, 2011 will also be the year of the smart speaker. As Sonos prepares for the upcoming holiday season, it's bringing its wireless speaker system to mainstream retail outlets like Target, where it will be featured prominently in store displays. Sonos speakers have built-in compatibility with many popular streaming services including Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Rhapsody and iRadio. "We set out to be the Bose of the digital age," said co-founder Tom Cullen in a VentureBeat interview. Cullen added that between cloud-based subscription music services and hardware systems like the ones he's worked on, "It's the best time in history to be a music lover." Target is just one part of Sonos' plan to infiltrate the consciousness of the average consumer. "In the last few weeks, we've added almost 3,000 retail locations that are selling our products," said Cullen. "Sonos has been selling in consumer electronics places for years. Target for us was a big change … And they have a huge customer base that looks to them to introduce them to new ideas."
Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications and JVC Kenwood recently demonstrated a 200-inch glasses-free 3D display that they touted as the world's largest auto-stereoscopic 3D screen. Aside from the enormous size, the system offers a full-HD resolution with 57 effective viewing angles. Hardware-wise, 57 projectors were deployed to render the 3D visuals, and these have to be individually tuned to maintain a uniform brightness and color consistency. The hefty 1,000-plus-pound screen is far from ordinary, either, and features a condenser lens and a diffuser film to smooth the transition between viewing angles. An improved version of this glasses-free 3D system with 200 viewpoints is in the pipeline as well. Unfortunately, according to Akihabara News, there's no indication this technology will make it way into consumer electronics as it was originally conceived for design and digital-signage applications.
The Internet search engine unveiled a revamped version of its Google TV service and announced plans to create about one hundred online "channels" of original video programing for its YouTube website, in separate announcements on Friday. The YouTube channels will feature videos created though partnerships with various media organizations, and involving celebrities including rapper Jay-Z, Madonna and skateboarder Tony Hawk. The partnerships involve more than $100 million in upfront payments by Google to the various partners, according to a person familiar with the matter. The new 2.0 version of Google TV provides new tools for recommending movies, TV programs and online videos to TV viewers, and makes it easier for software developers to create new apps for the television screen.
Pretty soon, new AT&T U-verse subscribers won’t have to go through the hassle of having their entire home re-wired with coaxial cable when they sign up for the pay TV service. Instead, all they’ll need is a residential gateway and a set of thin-client wireless receivers to deliver live and on-demand TV throughout the home. Starting Oct. 31, U-verse customers can order the new wireless receiver, which can be placed anywhere throughout the home or even outside, as long as it’s within Wi-Fi range. By hooking up the wireless receiver, users will no longer have to connect the TV’s set-top box to a coax connection, meaning they have the flexibility to move TVs around the house or to switch out the wireless receiver to rooms that aren’t used as much.
Tony Fadell is the man who took the idea of the iPod to Steve Jobs, spawning a renaissance at the company and then overseeing successive products, including the first iPhones. He officially left the company last year (after a stint in a consulting role) to pursue green technologies, and today he's ready with his first introduction. Dubbed Nest Labs, his post-Apple debut is a home thermostat. Yes, a thermostat.Nest takes a different approach by learning when you turn it up and down, understanding your preferred settings at particular times of the day, and then after a week or so starting to make those changes on its own. It even has a motion sensor so that if no one walks by it after a couple of hours, it will switch into "away" mode, and turn down the heat or the AC, according to presets. (Of course, you can turn it back up, and it will learn to stay on longer, too.) Current programmable thermostats can be set for a week, but they don't learn your family's habits or watch for movement. They also aren't automatically connected to the Internet.
This year continues to be slow for TV sales. Not only do economic conditions remain sour, but the roll-out of 3-D technology has been poor — lacking necessary programming — and so-called "smart TVs" have been marketed confusingly, or in some cases not demonstrated at all. This has led to high inventory levels. The holiday season is the last chance for retailers and set makers to improve their fiscal year. This year all sizes are affected. The glut of sets has already produced the lowest prices of the year and we know the holidays will mean "loss-leader" models that stores can offer in outstanding deals. In fact, the areas where we'll see the greatest price drops are in the category of TVs measuring 55 inches and above. Click here for the list:
For Netflix, the hits keep on coming -- the bad kind. The latest thwack: Netflix lost 800,000 U.S. subscribers in the quarter that just ended, which was littered with PR nightmares including a price hike and the Qwikster debacle. It was the first time in years that Netflix's U.S. customer base shrank instead of growing. Netflix spoke bluntly about the recent problems in its third-quarter earnings letter, released late Monday. "The last few months...have been difficult for shareholders, employees, and most unfortunately, many members of Netflix," Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote in a letter to shareholders. "We've hurt our hard-earned reputation, and stalled our domestic growth."
Smart TVs are poised to see significant growth next year, with shipments to double to 52.85 million units, according to the Topology Research Institute, compared to 48.2 million 3D TV shipments. Taiwan-based research company said 7.04 million smart TVs were sold globally in 2010, with the figure likely to increase to 25.18 million units in 2011. This would account for 10.4 percent of all TV shipments worldwide. This number is expected to grow to 52.85 million units in 2012, growing 100 percent for the year and accounting for 20 percent of all TV shipments. The growth for smart TV shipments for between 2012 and 2013 will be 41.2 percent, then 66.2 percent between 2013 and 2014. Growth for 3D TVs is expected to be 78.2 percent for 2012 to 2013, then 32.2 percent for 2013 to 2014. 3D TV unit shipments will not exceed those of smart TVs.
It's the first annual Streaming Media 100, Streaming Media magazine's editors' picks for the 100 companies that have the greatest impact on the streaming media industry. Click here to view the full list.
Vizio Thursday night unveiled L.A.'s First 3D Sports Bar at South, in Santa Monica, Calif. The star-studded event featured 33 Vizio Theater D LED HDTVs covering the bar, ranging in size from 42 to 65 inches, as well as numerous Vizio 3D Blu-ray players, soundbars and tablets. "We want to bring the social setting with 3D into the bars and into the homes," John Schindler, Vizio's vice president of products, said. "We are going to use bars like South to highlight our technology. You can experience 3D with lightweight glasses, no flicker, and no headaches. Also, we can give it to consumers in the home at a great price. You can get the entire 3D experience bundled for less than $700 [with a] 42-inch TV, Blu-ray player, and $25 of product (glasses). We believe it's time for 3D to take over the home."
Owners of online-video site Hulu LLC ended efforts to sell the joint venture, after an auction process exposed rifts between them and potential buyers on the value of future rights to stream television shows over the Internet. The decision, which came in a joint announcement late Thursday, draws to a close an auction process that began in June, after Hulu received an unsolicited offer to buy the venture.
Sigma Designs and manufacturer of Z-Wave wireless technology, announced today that Verizon Home Monitoring and Control service is now available.The system will enable customers to lock doors remotely; see what's going on at home via networked cameras; and set, adjust and control lights, smart thermostats and appliances -- all by using a smartphone or a computer or through their FiOS TV. The solution is controlled by a gateway device that will eventually enable Internet-based connections from Android or iOS tablets. This service is available to all Verizon broadband customers.
LG Display has developed what it claims is the world's most energy efficient LCD TV panel. The new 47-inch 1080p LCD panel uses a new vertical single side LED backlight technology that helps to consume less electricity while still delivering high levels of brightness. LG claims that although 47-inches in size, its panel uses less electricity than typical panels LCD TV panels 40-inches in size and even normal PC monitors over 20-inches in size. LG explains further that its panel uses only 28W of power. A typical 20-inch PC monitor uses between 30W and 50W. The LCD panel also delivers 400 Nits of brightness suitable for HD TVs through a three-film structure, which helps focus and diffuse light, together with local dimming technology and energy efficient LED bulbs.
Netflix is going back to the future. The digital video delivery company said Monday that it is reversing a plan announced only weeks ago to spin off its DVD-by-mail business from its streaming video service. CEO Reed Hastings announced on Sept. 18 that the company's movies-by-mail service would be rebranded as Qwikster and would add video games to its catalog, while the Netflix brand would be dedicated to streaming video. Now Netflix is abandoning that plan. "Instead, U.S. members will continue to use one website, one account and one password for their movie and TV watching enjoyment under the Netflix brand," the company said in a statement. Netflix issued its second mea culpa in as many months, acknowledging the consumer outrage about its Qwikster announcement.
Jobs didn’t make microchips go faster, he didn’t increase the capacity of hard drives, he didn’t invent optical storage drives, bitmapped graphics, cellular radios, Ethernet, or even the mouse. If Jobs wasn’t around, we’d have had all of these advances anyway—and people like Bill Gates, Andy Grove, Michael Dell, and Larry Page would have turned these technologies into computers, phones, and music players. If Steve Jobs hadn’t been around, what might that stuff have looked like? To appreciate how Jobs changed what you do every day, you’ve only got to look at how entire industries shifted after Jobs pushed Apple into them. Think of the BlackBerry, the Palm Pilot, the Creative Nomad music player, or MS-DOS. These are all perfectly serviceable technologies, things that got the job done. But none of them was transcendent. None was a dream to use, and most were a pain.
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