Saturday, July 22, 2017

Intel is Out of the Wearable Market

Intel has axed the division that worked on health wearables, including fitness trackers, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The company has been slowly de-emphasizing its own line of wearables for the past several years, and has not mentioned wearables on its earnings calls since 2014.

In November, TechCrunch reported that the company was planning to take a step back from the business after its acquisition of the Basis fitness watch didn't pan out as expected. Intel denied at the time that it was stepping back.

But a source told CNBC that the chip maker in fact let go about 80 percent of the Basis group in November. Many of the people were given the opportunity to relocate to other parts of the business.

About two weeks ago, Intel completely eliminated the group, this person said. The company's New Technologies Group, which looks at cutting-edge business areas, is now focusing on augmented reality, another source told CNBC.

Intel once hoped that it would rule the wearables category alongside such players as Apple and Fitbit. Back in 2014, the company partnered with celebrities like 50 cent to show off its heart-rate sensing earbuds. Also in that year, it shelled out roughly $100 million for Basis.

"I want to be able to leave my phone at home," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich told reporters in January 2014 during a keynote the Consumer Electronics Show. "We will get there."

On its web site, Intel continues to advertise its Curie chipset for connected Internet of Things devices, including wearables, alongside partnerships with watch makers like Tag Heuer.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Google Glass 2

Google is to sell a revamped version of its smart glasses to businesses, more than two years after the original version of the product was cancelled.

The company said Glass Enterprise Edition had improved battery life and felt more comfortable during long-term wear than before.

However, it still resembles the original model, with a small see-through display and built-in camera.

It will face competition from Microsoft's HoloLens among others.

Many had assumed the project had been cancelled after the executive in charge, Tony Fadell, resigned last year.

However, parent company Alphabet's X division continued to develop the technology and has now revealed its efforts in a post on the news site Medium.

"Workers in many fields, like manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy," wrote project lead Jay Kothari.

"That's why we've spent the last two years working closely with a network of more than 30 expert partners to build customised software and business solutions for Glass for people in these fields."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chicago Dog Sauce

If you put ketchup on your hot dog, you’re not really a Chicagoan.

That truism is at the heart of a new Heinz campaign in which the brand leans into the Windy City’s no-ketchup-on-hot-dogs establishment by trying to develop a new tomato-based “Chicago Dog Sauce.” The hope is that people there actually would put this stuff on their hot dogs—along with the yellow mustard, chopped onions, sweet pickle relish, dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers and dash of celery salt that make up the classic Chicago dog.

Chicago Dog Sauce, available for a limited time for $5 plus shipping and handling at, is being put to the test with product sampling throughout the Chicago area.

So, the whole campaign, timed to National Hot Dog Day on Tuesday, is a classic misdirect. Chicago Dog Sauce, with its “delicious red ripe tomatoes and special blend of spices and flavorings,” is really just regular old Heinz ketchup. Not a huge surprise, really, but it does lead to those amusing reactions from the tasters, first in their enjoyment of it and later in their F-bomb-laced chagrin.

The product launch will be supported by print and out-of-home advertising.

The whole stunt is a bit reminiscent of when Anheuser-Busch tricked Brooklynites into drinking Budweiser, which they also liked, to their unending horror. For Heinz, it’s an easy way to try something new without actually making anything new. And leaning into the tension around ketchup-hating is a fun way to churn up some decent content.

Now, if they could just get Chicagoans to change their hot-dog habits for good.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

China Slow to Deliver AI Devices

When it comes to web businesses, China has created its own versions of a search engine (Baidu), e-commerce platform (Alibaba) and video-streaming service (iQiyi) with resounding success. Yet there’s a conspicuous absence of smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home.

The market for devices using audio to deliver artificial-intelligence services is so nascent in China that few researchers track sales. Counterpoint Research estimates that 2 million smart-speaker units will be shipped in China this year, compared with 14 million in the U.S.

The question of adoption is about more than the devices -- it’s about which enterprises will control the delivery of AI-based services. In the U.S., Inc., Google, Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. are all battling to determine which will cement a place at the center of peoples’ digital lives. Amazon said this week that the heavily discounted Echo was the best-selling product during its Prime Day shopping event.

“The overall understanding and response for Chinese natural language in a conversational way is still not mature,” Tracy Tsai, a Gartner Inc. analyst, said. Poor audio recognition on devices produced by some Chinese makers are a key reason for the lack of adoption, she said.

There are also other factors why smart speakers aren’t taking off in the world’s biggest retail market, according to Kai Yu, chief executive officer of Horizon Robotics and founder of the Institute of Deep Learning at Baidu Inc., China’s biggest search engine. Many people, especially younger workers, tend to spend less time at home, where smart speakers are meant to be used.

“If you look at the popularity of the food delivery business, it shows people don’t have much time; young people spend most of their time either at work, or going to work,” Yu said. “There’s still some speculation on whether smart speakers will be popular in China.”

Beijing resident Tianran He doesn’t see a compelling reason to buy a smart speaker, and hasn’t heard of any of his friends or family members talking about getting one. “Having a speaker in the house and knowing it could pick up all the audio feels a bit weird to me,” he said.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Windows 10 Problem

Owners of some Windows 10 laptops and tablets are crashing into a worrying roadblock when they try to install the Windows 10 Creators Update. Windows Update initially says the notebooks are compatible with the upgrade, but fails to install it after downloading the setup files, instead displaying the following message: “Windows 10 is no longer supported on this PC. Uninstall this app now because it isn't compatible with Windows 10.”

That sounds ominous, but you don’t need to uninstall your existing version of Windows 10, and there’s no app to uninstall. Instead, the message means your PC’s hardware isn’t compatible with the Creators Update—which could wind up being trouble in the future. Here’s what you need to know about the error, which affects early 2-in-1 PCs powered by Intel’s Clover Trail processors.

What processors and PCs are affected?
A recent ZDNet article thrust this issue into the spotlight, but Microsoft laid out details about the error in an April forum post. Microsoft won’t let affected hardware install the Creators Update because “Icons and/or text throughout the Windows interface may not appear at all, or may appear as solid color blocks on some devices.”

Devices with these Intel “Clover Trail” processors are impacted:
  • Atom Z2760
  • Atom Z2520
  • Atom Z2560
  • Atom Z2580

Clover Trail processors powered the earliest Windows 8 2-in-1 hybrid devices, such as the HP Envy X2 and the Asus VivoTab. If you embraced Microsoft's vision for a versatile future for Windows in the early days, you’re now left stranded if you accepted—or were forced into—the free Windows 10 upgrade for your Windows 8 PC.

Monday, July 17, 2017

New Alexa Trick

Alexa’s latest trick is offering a hands-free TV viewing experience, that will allow consumers to turn on or off their television, change inputs, fast forward, rewind and more, without having to first invoke a specific skill, or even press a button on their remote. Instead, makers of smart home devices are today adding new “entertainment controls” to their own skills, which allow customers to control a variety of devices, including TVs, as well as AV receivers, IR hubs and even connected speakers.

Amazon says this new capability is today available via the smart home skills from Sony, Logitech Harmony, and BroadLink, while others from Denon, Creston, LG and Pulse-Eight are coming soon. The skills are first available to U.S. users, with support for U.K. and Germany arriving in the future.

The companies are using an updated Smart Home Skill API to make the hands-free TV and media player control possible. Because this API already uses Amazon’s standardized Alexa language model, the companies don’t have to build out their own voice interactions for their existing skills, Amazon explains.

Alexa will understand the user’s speech, convert it into a command, and then send it to the skill adapter that communicates with the device in question.

For consumers, what this means is that you’ll be able to just talk to Alexa to control your TV or other entertainment devices without having to remember to invoke a particular skill. So, for example, you could just say things like, “Alexa, turn on the TV,” “Alexa, fast forward,” “Alexa, make it louder,” or “Alexa, switch input to Blu-Ray.”

This is not the first time that Alexa has been used for hands-free TV. In May, Dish rolled out an Alexa integration that allowed its pay TV customers using either its Hopper or Wally receiver to search for programs, change channels, rewind and fast-forward television, and more, just by speaking, in much of the same way.

And of course, Amazon’s own Fire TV platform already supports the ability to use Alexa to launch streaming apps like Netflix, as well as do things like play TV shows, movies, and more.
But by bundling this “entertainment control” feature into Alexa’s existing Smart Home Skill API, hands-free TV becomes just another part of the larger smart home ecosystem, while simplifying the experience for end users. For example, previously, users had to say “Alexa, ask Harmony to…” before issuing their TV-related commands, when using Logitech’s skill. Now they can just talk to Alexa directly.

Third-party devices aren’t the only ones getting a smart upgrade, it seems. As spotted by the blog Android Police, a Fire TV software update changelog implied that users with Alexa-powered devices, like the Echo, would be able to control playback on their Fire TV, also just by speaking. Users could use phrases like pause, resume, fast forward, and next episode – the same sort of thing that was already possible via the Alexa button on the Fire TV remote. The difference is that you’d be able to now skip the remote and just talk to your Echo instead.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Free Books from MSFT

It’s that time of year again, and today I am kicking off my annual FREE MICROSOFT EBOOK GIVEAWAY extravaganza! And this time, I’m posting MORE FREE EBOOKS in this post than I ever have in any of my previous giveaways! Based on this, you will notice something different about this year’s post… In previous years, I included images of the eBook covers next to each item; however, I would also get feedback from people on the amount of time to load all of the images. So, this year I decided to streamline the list to make it easier to get to the eBooks you want. You will now find a simple list, organized by category, with the download links in the Format column so you can choose which format you want to download.

If you have been a follower of mine in the past, you know that several years ago I tried a simple concept: Let’s try giving away a bunch of free eBooks, reference guides, Step-By-Step Guides, and other informational resources to our customers and partners around the world. Needless to say, the concept was extremely the first year (over 1,000,000 FREE eBooks downloaded), and it has grown and grown over the past few years (over 3.5 Million downloaded three years ago and we surpassed that by a lot last year!) So, how many FREE eBooks can we give away this year? That is completely up to you.

Before we get to this year’s list of FREE eBooks, a few answers to common questions I receive during my FREE EBOOK GIVEAWAY:
  1. How many can you download?
    • ANSWER: As many as you want! This is a FREE eBook giveaway, so please download as many as interest you.
  2. Wow, there are a LOT listed here. Is there a way to download all of them at once?
    • ANSWER: Yes, please see the note below on how to do this.
  3. Can I share a link to your post to let others know about this giveaway?
    • ANSWER: Yes, please do share the good news with anyone you feel could benefit from this.
  4. I know you said they are “Free,” but what’s the catch?
    • ANSWER: There is no catch. They really are FREE. This consider it a, “Thank you,” for being a reader of my blog and a customer or partner of Microsoft.
  5. Ok, so if they are free and you’re encouraging us to share this with others, can I post a link to your post here on sites like Reddit, FatWallet, and other deal share sites to let them know, or is that asking too much?
    • ANSWER: Please do. In fact, I would encourage you to share a link to this post on any deal site you feel their users could benefit from the FREE eBooks and resources included below. Again, I WANT to give away MILLIONS of FREE eBooks!
  6. Are these “time-bombed” versions of the eBooks that stop working after a certain amount of time or reads?
    • ANSWER: No, these are the full resources for you to use.

Ok, ready for some FREE eBooks? Below is the collection I am posting this year (which includes a ton of new eBooks & resources, as well as some of the favorites from previous years):