It's been about 18 months since Walmart bought Vudu, but as demand for physical media declines, the big box retailer is finally marrying the online video service with its website. By doing so, it's hoping to introduce its customers to a new way of watching movies and getting them to spend money on digital copies instead of buying the DVD. Steve Nave, SVP and general manager of Walmart.com, said the decision to buy Vudu was made as the retailer realized that there was a rapid shift in consumer behavior from purchasing physical media to streaming content online. The acquisition was made to help better position Walmart and its web property as this shift occurred. The result of that purchase can now be seen at Walmart.com. Users shopping online for DVDs and Blu-ray discs on the site will now also have the option of buying or renting digital copies of titles that are available as part of the Vudu streaming library. Once purchased, those movies can then be accessed either through the Walmart website, Vudu.com or on any of the 300-plus connected devices that the Vudu streaming service is available on.
NextGen introduced Active 3D Glasses ($79.95 MSRP) that work with virtually any 3D TV and are the only universal ones on the market that are rechargeable. When used with a compatible 3D TV, users will enjoy lifelike, vivid 3D images right in their home. According to NextGen's President, Bob Dolatowski, "These new Active 3D glasses are highest quality and work with all the major 3D TV brands. What really sets them apart is the convenience of being able to recharge them with a standard USB cable. And a three hour charge lasts about 50 hours which will get you through quite a few movies before they need to be recharged." NextGen's Active 3D Glasses are available to order now and will be shipping around August 1.
Apple, which is sitting pretty on an Uncle Scrooge-sized pile of $76.2 billion in cash, is rumored to be eyeballing making a bid in the upcoming Hulu auction. Apple is currently the world's second largest company, and surely figures it needs to put that cash to use, especially with an enterprise as tantalizing as the Hulu video service is. Hulu would add a subscription service to Apple's portfolio, which, valuable as it is on its own, could potentially flourish within the highly-insulated and interconnected tech ecosystem Apple has put so much work into creating. Hulu also offers Apple an excellent opportunity to jump headlong into the subscription-based streaming video marketed that's been dominated with much aplomb by Netflix until that company's recent dust-up with subscribers over upcoming rate changes.
Despite sluggish sales of Internet-enabled television and 3DTVs, the consumer electronics industry is projected to surpass $190 billion in overall shipment revenues this year, a growth rate of 5.6%, according to a new mid-year industry report from the Consumer Electronics Association. The projection is higher than a previous CEA projection in January. The CEA also predicts industry shipments will grow in 2012, reaching an all-time high of $197 billion. Tablet computers, which offer movie streaming and downloads, are projected to grow 157% in 2011, with more than 26.5 million units being shipped to dealers and resulting in $14 billion in shipment revenue.
Roku launched Wednesday a next-generation version of its popular TV set-top Internet streaming box, highlighted by a more compact form factor, an interactive Bluetooth remote that will support new video game play, and expanded entertainment offerings. The new Roku 2 is billed as a new family of streaming players that will be available in three (good-better-best) versions -- the Roku 2 HD ($60 suggested retail), Roku 2 XD ($80) and Roku 2 XS ($100). All will be available at the end of July and retailer outlets, including Roku.com, Amazon.com, Best Buy, Fry's Electronics and RadioShack. The new line introduces popular casual game play, including Rovio's Angry Birds (free with the XS version), to the system.
Global retail-level CE sales are growing, and so is China's share of the pie, according to Germany-based research company GfK Retail and Technology. The company also found smartphones accounting for a significant and growing share of global CE sales and that combined sales of smartphones and other cellphones exceeds sales of flat-panel TVs. In a presentation during the China International Consumer Electronics Show (SINOCES), GfK Group GM Juergen Boyny forecast that global retail-level CE sales will grow in 2011 by 6 percent to 668 billion euros ($937.3 billion at an exchange rate of $1 to 0.71 euros) compared with 19 percent growth in 2010 and a 5 percent decline during the Great Recession year of 2009. In each of these years, China accounts for a growing share of global retail-level CE sales, GfK said. In 2011, China's share will grow to 13 percent from 2008's 10 percent while Europe's share shrinks from 35 percent to 28 percent, Boyny said. In 2011, North America's share will remain at 21 percent, the same level as it was during the previous three years.
Research In Motion is reportedly going into the home entertainment business with a rumored set-top box in the works intended to rival Apple TV. Nerdberry is reporting that RIM is developing a BlackBerry OS-based media box similar to Apple's set-top box that will be dubbed as the "BlackBerry Cyclone." Expected features include HDMI, Wi-Fi connectivity, and access to Netflix, YouTube and more unspecified channels. Not much else is known at the moment except that we should be seeing this device this fall - if it is really going to happen.
Registration is now open for CEDIA Expo 2011, which will take place Sept. 7 -10 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. CEDIA Expo 2011 will offer 30 new CEDIA University courses. The show will also feature an expanded edition of the Future Technology Pavilion, and CEDIA members can take advantage of the $299 Members' Only Education Pass for unlimited education at an affordable rate. To register for CEDIA Expo 2011, click here. Early-bird registration discounts are available until July 15.
The recent public flap between theater owners and studios over premium video-on-demand appears to be much ado about nothing -- at least for now. Initial consumer response has so far been tepid to an experiment by four studios that signed up with DirecTV to offer movie rentals at home for $30 as little as 60 days after theatrical release, executives from three of those studios acknowledged privately because they were not authorized to speak on the record. Beginning in April, the studios - - 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. - - began testing so-called premium VOD. They have thus far offered 13 films, ranging from the comedies "Hall Pass" and "Paul" to action films including "Battle: Los Angeles" and "Sucker Punch" and dramas "Water for Elephants" and "The Adjustment Bureau." The pictures became available about two months after they debuted in theaters and one or two months before they were released on DVD. Under their agreements with DirecTV, each of the four studios is expected to provide at least four premium VOD films to the satellite television service by the early fall.
Revenues for U.S. consumer and SMB (small and medium business) technology support services will grow nearly threefold in the next five years, with U.S. households accounting for over 40% of the $30 billion market, Parks Associates reports. The firm's new research reports - Consumer Technical Support Services: Overview and Opportunities for SMB Technical Support - find broadband service providers in particular driving this market. Services such as AT&T's ConnectTech and Tech Support 360, Verizon's Expert Care, and Comcast's XFINITY Signature Support have increased awareness and use among both consumers and SMBs in the past year. Major retailers (Best Buy, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples) and OEM efforts (Dell and HP) are also important in promoting technical support services to a wider audience.
A new report from Informa Telecoms & Media (publisher of IPTV News) reveals that worldwide sales of connected TVs will surpass games consoles for the first time in 2011. While Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony will sell 37mn consoles this year, consumers will buy 52mn connected TVs from the likes of Samsung, Sony and LG. "The market for connected devices - connected TVs, connected Blu-ray players, games consoles, media-streaming devices and hybrid set-top boxes - is continuing to grow globally, as consumers seek to access services such as Netflix and iPlayer via their televisions," said Andrew Ladbrook, analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. "In 2016, 1.8bn in-home video devices - including tablets - will be sold, an increase of almost 800% from today. And by this time, 70% of all in-home video devices sold will be able to connect to the Internet.
Samsung said last week that it has crossed the 60 percent mark in domestic market share for 3D TVs. The company cited data from NPD Group's tracking survey measuring late April and early May. Clearly consumers are voting with their wallets and choosing the TV that provides a superior 3D experience," John Revie, senior vice president of Home Entertainment, Samsung Electronics America, Inc, said as part of the announcement. "Samsung 3D TVs can deliver Full HD 3D, but a TV isn't just about 3D. We also are leaders in design with our gorgeous TVs, and leaders in connected TV with our hugely popular Samsung Apps platform." The Samsung reaction comes as LG had been claiming publicly that customers prefer its passive-glasses Theater 3D approach.
Netflix is bringing its online video subscription service to 43 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean later this year, the company announced Tuesday. This will be Netflix's second expansion outside of the U.S., following Canada. Like Canada, only its Watch Instantly service, which provides unlimited streaming TV shows and movies for $7.99 per month in the U.S., will be offered. Members will be able to access Netflix on a variety of Internet-connected devices in Spanish, Portuguese and English, the company said in a statement. There are no plans to extend its DVDs-by-mail offering at this time.
Every now and again, the rules for how to build a personal computer change. One of those moments may arrive next year with a high-speed wireless technology that could let people link tablets with big-screen TVs or dock laptops when arriving in the office. The technology, which uses the 60GHz band of radio spectrum and is designed to transfer as much as 7 gigabits of data per second, matches what many wired connections provide, either inside a computer chassis or through the profusion of ports that perforate laptop sides. A group called the WiGig Alliance is developing it, and the group announced today new specifications that could help replace the current tangle of cables.
For a medium heavily ridiculed for its zombie-making capabilities, television is certainly taking on more of an active role courtesy of Yahoo! Connected TV. Coming later this year to select Sony and Toshiba models, the interactive software that's already in eight million homes gains two new features destined to either creep you out, or snag you a twofer on those wings -- broadcast interactivity, and device control. While the latter enhancement merely transforms your smartphone or tablet into an extended remote, it's the former that'll turn your TV choices into a game of peeping Tom, delivering ads custom-fit for you. But the old, yodeling tech giant's not stopping there -- the company also plans to trot out an app store by the years' end, which is currently in pilot testing with Ford and HSN (among others). If widget-based ads are your thing, you might want to hold off until the big manufacturer roll-out next year, or you could always consider that Google option. Brain-rot, please meet the tech loop.
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