Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Digital Experience - Part 3

By Bayle Emlein

Dojo from BullGuard addresses what is probably the biggest barrier to voluntary entry into the Internet of Things: security and privacy.

What if my bathroom scale blabs to my refrigerator? What if the doorbell tells my insurance company what time the teen-agers really came home? What if the neighborhood kids post my ice cream habits to Facebook?

The creative options are legion if not quite endless, and an open invitation to every script kiddie as well as to the more serious snoopers who have premeditated maliciousness in mind. Dojo is a device from BullGuard device secures the notoriously porous web of smart home devices.

A dojo, for those of you who don’t know, is where one practices and perfects Japanese martial arts. The Dojo device secures your personal stuff [that’s a technical term] with an enterprise-grade network security service.

This Dojo is quite elegant: the company refers to the physical device as a “pebble.” I think of it as a pet rock, larger than a pebble but still blending quite well in my shell collection. A discreet glowing band changes color to indicate the level of security, clear enough to see instantly and elegant enough to maintain the decorative motif.

Of course, you can use your phone to alert when you’re away from home or prefer to monitor from remote control mode. As of now, only items within your home (or office, I presume) can be monitored.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Digital Experience - Part 2

By Bayle Emlein

JLab Audio has you covered whether you’re entertaining the whole building or keeping it to yourself. The Party series speakers (House Party and Block Party) wirelessly connect sound with any gathering, with batteries that last up to 9 hours. Both feature an IPX4 splashproof rating so you can feel comfortable taking them to the summer parties indoors or out.

The JLab Epic Air wireless earbuds are designed with active users in mind. The Epic Air features comfort, fit, best-in-class battery life, and ability to withstand dust and sweat; give them a quick rinse and go out and play with uninterrupted listening; use the built-in microphone to activate either Siri or Google Assistant while you’re on the run; controls are built into the earbuds

Monday, May 29, 2017

Digital Experience - Part 1

By Bayle Emlein

Switchmate doesn’t offer exciting new concepts in smart home options. What it does offer is the ease of installation that anyone who can plug a cord into an outlet can manage. No tools, no wiring, no electrician needed. Voice and motion activated lighting modules snap over existing switches. The voice activated smart power outlet (with USB ports) plugs into your existing wall outlet. 

A bit of skill is needed to download the control app and pair with your switches. Then you have all the control and functionality of scheduling that any system offers, plus portability when you move, all without investing in special light bulbs or waiting for an electrician. Especially if you are a renter or live in a “traditional” home, 

Switchmate offers easy access to the modern world of controlled home illumination. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Here Comes Huawei (again!)

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei plans a global expansion into computers, it said on Tuesday, posing a fresh challenge to established PC players in a market that has suffered two years of falling sales volumes and pressure on margins.

At a news conference in Berlin, the Shenzhen-based company introduced its first line-up of three personal computer models, including a 15.6-inch screen notebook, a 2-in-1 tablet and notebook hybrid and an ultra slim, metallic 13-inch notebook.

Initially, Huawei plans to target the premium-priced consumer market, competing with Lenovo, HP and Dell [DI.UL], which together sell more than 50 percent of all PCs. To a lesser extent, it will also go up against Apple's high-end, but shrinking, Mac computer business.

Huawei's Matebook X is a fanless notebook with splash-proof screen and combined fingerprint sign-on and power button, priced between 1,399 and 1,699 euros ($1,570-$1,900). Its Matebook E 2-in-1 hybrid will run from 999 to 1,299 euros while the Matebook D with 15.6-inch display is priced at 799 to 999 euros, it said.

Overall, PC market sales volumes dropped 8.3 percent in 2015 and a further 3.7 percent in 2016, according to research firm Gartner, which has predicted a flat outcome this year and increasing market consolidation through 2020.

"From Huawei's perspective, we see opportunities in the PC market's decline," Cheng Lei, senior marketing manager for the PC business, said in a phone interview of the cost-savings and design and manufacturing benefits it gets from its smartphone business.

Huawei, the world's top maker of wireless and fixed-line telecoms equipment, emerged two years ago as the world's No. 3 smartphone maker after Samsung and Apple, displacing Lenovo, which remains focused on its computer business.

Huawei's new PCs all run seventh generation Intel microprocessors, Microsoft Windows 10 software and in-house developed software to automate data transfers between Huawei smartphones and its new computer models, Lei said.

Huawei said it aimed to offer the new PCs in 12 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East in early June.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Amazon Echo Camera

Amazon’s odd foray into the world of selfie cameras via the Echo Look is now complete with the launch of a companion application for iOS and Android devices that works with the new connected camera. The app allows Echo Look owners to view live previews from the Look’s camera, take a picture, survey their outfits, mark favorites, compare styles and more.

The company had already detailed how the Echo Look app would work, but the app only rolled out to the various app stores over the weekend – a little under a month after Amazon’s announcement of the Echo Look device itself.

The app is designed to work alongside the Look – Amazon’s funky $200 camera that takes full-length photos and short videos of users via a depth-sensing camera, complemented by built-in LED lighting and computer vision-based background blur. The Look also doubles as a standard Alexa device that can read the news and play audiobooks, give weather forecasts, play music, launch apps, set timers, and more.

The new app also includes support for Style Check, a new service from Amazon that uses a combination of machine learning and advice from human fashion specialists to help you figure out what to wear. The company had actually launched this feature ahead of the Echo Look, via an “Outfit Compare” option on and in its main mobile app.

The Echo Look app includes that feature along with other tools to view and favorite your outfits – allowing you to create a personal lookbook you can access at any time. By encouraging users to save their photos in the app instead of discarding them, Amazon then gains access to real-world data about what’s in consumers’ closets, and what they like to wear.

This will help to better inform the company’s fashion ambitions, which have so far included its own private label brands, some of which are exclusive to Prime, and even an interesting patent for on-demand clothes hinting at future fast-fashion plans.

Not only would the Look know about upcoming trends and popular styles, it could potentially grow to one day include other features – like the ability to take measurements and figure out user’s sizes, or make recommendations about how to accessorize outfits via purchases from Amazon’s site.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Huawei Narrows the Gap

China's Huawei has narrowed the gap with its two biggest competitors Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics in global smartphone sales, first-quarter data from research firm Gartner showed on Tuesday.

The Chinese network-to-consumer-electronics builder increased its market share to 9 percent during the first quarter from 8.3 percent in the year-earlier period.

"Huawei has now steadily held the third spot in the worldwide ranking of smartphone vendors," Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

"However, pressure is mounting as its counterparts in China are catching up."

Chinese vendors Oppo and Vivo grew their shares of the market to 8.1 and 6.8 percent respectively, helped by aggressive marketing and sales promotions, posing a threat to both Huawei and Apple in China, where Oppo is the No. 1 smartphone seller.

Samsung Electronics kept its top spot but saw its market share shrink to 20.7 percent from 23.3 percent as it continued to feel the impact of its costly Galaxy Note 7 recall last year after several devices spontaneously caught fire.

"Although Samsung announced that pre-orders for the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are up 30 percent year on year, the absence of an alternative to Note 7 and the fierce competition in the basic smartphone segment are leading Samsung to continuously lose market share," Gartner's Gupta said.

Apple's market share dropped to 13.7 percent from 14.8 percent. The first quarter of the year is Apple's weakest when sales dip after the holiday-heavy fourth quarter. Customers are also holding back on buying iPhones in anticipation of new models that will be launched later in the year.

Overall, 380 million smartphones were sold during the first quarter, 9.1 percent more than in the year-earlier period.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Smart Devices

Smart home and digital consumer electronics developers are hard at work developing a new generation of smart devices, appliances, and equipment that rely on artificial intelligence (AI) to take the concept of personalization and digitally automated work and lifestyles to new heights, ReportLinker highlights in a new smart home owner survey.

Automated, voice and remote-controlled energy management technology adjusts lighting and temperature based on end user preferences, as well as on what is sensed in the surrounding environment. Smart sprinklers can switch on automatically, dispersing the minimum amount of water required to keep lawns lush and green, while smart refrigerators take stock of what’s inside and notify you of what’s lacking or in short supply, even if you’re outside the home. They can even place online orders to restock and deliver the items as needed. Then, of course, there’s smart home entertainment, a huge, fast growing market segment that just about anybody who’s anybody in the business is keen to dominate.

Home, business, and organizational security is another main focal point for the development of new AI/voice-enabled devices and digital assistant software, ReportLinker highlights singling out French hardware manufacturer Netatmo recently joining with Velux to develop connected windows that will open and shut depending on the weather. Other, similarly endowed smart home tech will enable parents to watch and monitor their babies remotely, not to mention their pets as well.

According to ReportLinker’s market research, nearly half of Americans consider themselves to be tech-savvy, or adept. That rises to 58 percent among young adult Millennials. Furthermore, smart home tech users tend to own more than one associated device – 3.4 on average.

Half of online respondents surveyed said they have one or two smart home automation devices installed at home. One-third said they had five or more. Among those cited were smart home appliances (20%), smart thermostats (16%), smart security systems (12%) and smart lighting solutions (10%).

Monday, May 22, 2017

No Booze Beer

The new beer, known as Heineken 0.0, was unveiled at the Spanish Formula One over the weekend and the brewer is hoping it will make it a major player in a segment of the market growing at five per cent per annum.

And no-booze beer comes with far less tax, which Heineken hopes will allow it to play in the soft-drink market space and offer a beverage that it believes is far healthier to many sugary juices and fizzy drinks on the market. A 0.0 reportedly has half the calories of a can of Coke or full-strength beer.

Heineken will target Europe, Russia and the middle-east with 0.0 and, (some might say thankfully), there doesn’t appear to be any news of the booze-free beverage coming to Australia anytime soon.

News of Heineken’s move comes as the planet’s biggest brewer AB InBev, makers of the likes of Stella Artois, Corona and Budweiser, announced plans that a quarter of its beers would be low or alcohol free by 2025. Low alcohol tends to mean any beer under 3.5 per cent.

According to Heineken brewmaster’s Willem van Waesberghe the reason most no-alcohol beers has failed in the past is they’ve tasted awful.

However, for 0.0 the brewer has created two separate brews with different qualities, then removes the alcohol and blends them together.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Win 10 S Limitations

If Windows 10 S will only allow apps that can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store, it can run the new downloadable Linux apps, right? Wrong!
Here's why: Microsoft is actively blocking "command-line" apps that run outside the safe environment of Windows 10 S, Microsoft senior program manager Rich Turner wrote in a blog post on Thursday.
Microsoft said it created Windows 10 S as a way for students and even mainstream users to add a bit more security to their Windows 10 experience. Windows 10 S only runs apps that have been vetted by Microsoft and appear in the Store. Though Microsoft didn't explicitly say so at the time, those apps don't run at a low level on a user's PC, like debuggers or those applications that explicitly write to hardware or modify the system registry.
Linux does, however.  And in Turner's words, those apps won't run on an operating system "that has been deliberately constrained to prevent just these types of apps and tasks from running!" Though they install just like a traditional Windows 10 UWP app, they behave like command-line tools that run outside the UWP sandbox and the secure runtime infrastructure, Turner wrote.
And it's not just Linux. Examples of other low-level apps that won't run under Windows 10 S include the Windows Console, Cmd/PowerShell, or Linux/Bash/WSL instances.
Fortunately, there is a solution: Windows 10 S contains a built-in upgrade path to Windows 10 Pro, and here's how to do it. If you've preordered the new Surface Laptop, the device will ship with Windows 10 S, but you'll be able to upgrade for free for a limited time.
Why this matters: Many Windows users look askance Windows 10 S and its built-in constraints, and this restriction on certain Windows Stores apps may deepen their skepticism. As anyone who's done tech support for a family member knows, keeping some people away from the registry or other low-level functions is sometimes a good idea. The question becomes a bit thornier, though, if Windows 10 S does in fact take off in the classroom. It could be hard to encourage kids to code, and then hack, without giving them access to low-level functions.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Uber Wins (Sort Of)

A judge in Alphabet’s case against Uber has determined that the ride-hail company can continue operating its autonomous efforts as is so long as Anthony Levandowski, the executive at the center of the suit, is barred from any and all work related to the radar in question.

This simply formalizes Levandowski’s decision to voluntarily recuse himself from all work on lidar — the specific type of radar Alphabet claims he stole the designs for — ahead of the injunction hearing. However, Uber will now face legal ramifications if Levandowski violates this court order.

The court will appoint a “special master” to review and monitor communications and operations to ensure Levandowski is truly removed from all lidar work.

The court order reads:
The bottom line is the evidence indicates that Uber hired Levandowski even though it knew or should have known that he possessed over 14,000 confidential Waymo files likely containing Waymo’s intellectual property; that at least some information from those files, if not the files themselves, has seeped into Uber’s own LiDAR development efforts.

As part of its bid for an injunction, Alphabet asked that the court order Uber to stop using any and all technology that included allegedly stolen trade secrets in developing its driverless cars. Uber made clear that none of its semi-autonomous cars on the road today use its in-house radars, so regardless of what the judge’s decision ended up being, it’s not likely the company would have had to stop operating the cars on the road.

The judge also said that Alphabet “overreached” when it asked for protection of 121 of what it believed qualified as trade secrets.

“General approaches dictated by well-known principles of physics, however, are not ‘secret,’ since they consist essentially of general engineering principles that are simply part of the intellectual equipment of technical employees,” Judge William Alsup wrote.

As part of this partial injunction, Uber must account for any and all conversations — written or oral — that Levandowski had with any company employee discussing or related to the radar Alphabet claims he stole.

Importantly, Alphabet’s legal counsel and an expert will also be able to inspect any and all of Uber’s current work with this specific type of lidar radar, regardless of whether that results in a prototype. This is part of what is called “expedited discovery,” which the judge granted Alphabet so that the company could ask for additional preliminary relief or other additions to the injunction.

Alphabet has also been granted depositions of seven more Uber employees.

Alphabet is suing Uber for stealing proprietary information, claiming Levandowski downloaded 14,000 files before leaving Alphabet to start a new autonomous company that the ride-hail company eventually acquired.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Apple Buys Lattice Data

Apple once led the pack with its intelligent assistant Siri, but in just a few years, Amazon, Microsoft and Google have chipped away at its lead.

Siri is a critical component of Apple’s vision for the future, so integral that it was willing to spend $200 million to acquire Lattice Data over the weekend. The startup was working to transform the way businesses deal with paragraphs of text and other information that lives outside neatly structured databases. These engineers are uniquely prepared to assist Apple with building a next-generation internal knowledge graph to power Siri and its next generation of intelligent products and services.

Broadly speaking, the Lattice Data deal was an acquihire. Apple paid roughly $10 million for each of Lattice’s 20 engineers. This is generally considered to be fair market value. Google paid about $500 million for DeepMind back in 2014. At that time, the startup had roughly 75 employees, of which a portion were machine learning developers. Give or take a few million, the math pretty much works out. But beneath the surface, the deal signals that Apple is willing to spend significant capital shoring up the backbone of Siri.

Apple and its peers grapple with the challenge of teaching conversational assistants basic knowledge about the world. Apple relies on a number of partnerships, including a major one with Yahoo, to provide Siri with the facts it needs to answer questions. It competes with Google, a company that possesses what is largely considered to be the crème de la crème of knowledge graphs. Apple surely has an interest in improving the size and quality of its knowledge graph while unshackling itself from partners.

Lattice’s experienced engineers are particularly important to Apple as it designs future products for an AI-first world. Companies like Microsoft, Facebook and Google have already declared their intentions to build up infrastructure to support the implementation of machine learning in as many products and services as possible. Apple brought on Rus Salakhutdinov in October 2017 to lead research efforts at the company, and it has acquired startups like Turi and RealFace, but it still has a lot of work to do if it intends to remain competitive in AI in the long run.

“Google is applying machine and deep-learning to about 2,500 different use cases internally now. Apple should be doing the same,” asserted Chris Nicholson, CEO of Skymind, the creators of the DL4

At Apple, the Lattice Data team could start by helping Apple get its knowledge graph up to speed. This infrastructure is integral to Apple’s plan to embed Siri into each of its products. It’s an ideal place to start because it both improves existing offerings like Siri search on Apple TV and lays the groundwork for future products like its rumored Amazon Echo competitor.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Russians Didn't Orchestrate Trump's Election - So Let's Move On

By Gary S. Miliefsky

Ever since Americans woke up on the morning of Nov. 9, 2016, to find out that Donald Trump had won the presidential election and would be the 45th President of the United States, many have been wondering how Trump pulled it off.

Plenty of conspiracy theories made their way to the mainstream as many people were convinced that something fishy was afoot and Trump could not have won the election without behind-the-scenes dirty work. Voter suppression, ballot stuffing, vote buying and dead voters were just some of the theories thrown out there. But perhaps the most popular was that the Russian government somehow hacked the election and sent Trump to the Oval Office for at least the next four years.

Only if the Russians planted actors with physical access to our voting equipment could they have hacked the election because voting machines are not online. It's not possible to hack them from the outside. In fact, since the hacked Virginia election in 2014, when voting machines in Virginia were found to be picking up wi-fi signals, it has been illegal for voting machines to be hooked up to the internet in any capacity – hard line or through wi-fi, according to the Federal Election Commission.

With 3,141 counties in the United States (3,084 of which Trump won) and multiple voting districts within most of those counties, it seems like a near impossible task for the Russians to find a way to compromise enough voting machines – either physically or by somehow giving them access to the Internet – to turn the tide of the election.

No doubt it would be possible for the Russians – or even the Chinese who make most electronic equipment in the U.S., and have backdoors into America beyond Russia’s capability – to hack into a political party’s servers. However, this would not affect the outcome of a national election.
Of course, the Russians have been suspected of meddling in the elections of other countries, including this past weekend in the French presidential election. And a congressional investigation has been launched into Trump’s former national security adviser possibly taking money from the Russians during the campaign, raising questions about whether Russians interfered in a non-hacking way.

Of course, there are questions about who hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email or Hillary Clinton’s email server. We hear it was the Russian government, right? Well, I’m guessing wrong but here’s where I need evidence.

Where were the IP addresses hosted that hacked the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s server? Yes, they were in Russia.  However, Vladimir Fomenko, owner of King Servers of Russia, a tiny GoDaddy-like internet host, who offers hosting starting as low as $5 per month has made some important statements:

  1. His servers were pointed to as the source of the attack upon the DNC and U.S. elections.  However, anyone with a credit card can rent a server there and now suddenly you are “in Russia.”
  2. Once Fomenko found out, he traced the account holders/renters of servers where these attacks originated to Europe. That means someone was logging into rented Russian-geo-located-servers to launch some older Russian malware remotely from Europe.
  3. He claims that the authorities (the FBI and others) don't care, don't want the server logs and don't want to help him track down those who leveraged his servers to commit the alleged attack.

Now, we have a joint FBI and Department of Homeland Security report directly pointing at the Russian government for the attack and sanctions against the Russians were begun before President Obama left office.

Pointing a finger at the Russian government, without digging deeply into the remote access to these servers from Europe, placing sanctions on them, seems to be making a big mess. It's glaringly obvious that the Homeland Security joint report with the FBI skipped over this major issue.

I always call it like it is even if my analysis is unpopular. I don't think the Russian government is ever this sloppy in their hacking attacks and while sometimes it takes many years, time will tell and truth will prevail as to what really happened. For now, I'm sticking with my original prediction: The CIA was wrong, and the Russians did not hack the U.S. election, nor could they. With too many years on the job in the anti-hacking community, in these matters, I'm usually right.

Much of the evidence that has come out points to the Russians not doing much of anything to try to influence the U.S. election in 2016, and only time will tell how much involvement they may have played in the French election.

Given those facts, it is time to either investigate these issues or for the nation to move forward.  Moving forward seems to be the least damaging to the nation. So let’s do it, shall we?

Gary S. Miliefsky is the CEO of SnoopWall, Inc. ( and a co-inventor of the company’s innovative breach prevention technologies. He is a cyber-security expert and a frequent invited guest on national and international media commenting on mobile privacy, cyber security, cyber crime and cyber terrorism, also covered in both Forbes and Fortune Magazines. He has been extremely active in the INFOSEC arena, and he is an active member of Phi Beta Cyber Society, an organization dedicated to helping high school students become cyber security professionals and ethical hackers. He founded and remains the Executive Producer of Cyber Defense Magazine. Miliefsky is a Founding Member of the US Department of Homeland Security.  His detailed bio is at

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

MSFT Store to Add iTunes

Here is a surprise: at its Build developer conference, Microsoft today announced that Apple’s iTunes will come to the Windows Store by the end of the year. The iTunes app will have full iPhone support and users will essentially get the same iTunes experience from the Windows Store app that the existing Windows app currently offers, including access to Apple Music and the iTunes Store.

Why is this a big deal? Windows 10 S only runs Windows Store apps and unless an application like iTunes is available in the store, those users who want to buy a Surface Laptop, for example, either have to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro (which may not always be an option) or forego syncing their iPhones with their new Windows PC.

Details about this arrangement with Apple remain vague, though. Microsoft didn’t show any screenshots of what this experience will look like, for example, but there’s a good chance that Apple will use this opportunity to rewrite large parts of iTunes to better support its rival operating system and adapt iTunes’ design to Microsoft’s new Fluent Design system (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part and iTunes in the Windows Store will be as clunky there as it is everywhere else).

Monday, May 15, 2017


More people are devoting their free time to gaming.

Nielsen, the data group you know best for TV ratings, released its 2017 report on the gaming market today. It notes that 64 percent of U.S. population 13 years of age and older are gamers in 2016, up from 63 percent in 2015. That figure was at 58 percent in 2012.

Nielsen attributes the steady growth to new software like Pokémon Go and Overwatch, while the launch of updated consoles like the PlayStation 4 Pro has expanded consumer choices.

Also, 46 percent of gamers only play on one device in 2017, up from 42 percent year-over-year. Meanwhile, those who play on two devices is down from 40 percent to 38 percent.

Nielsen is noting that after years of growth, mobile and tablet game seems to be leveling off a bit. It says that 62 percent of console gamers also play games on mobile and tablets in 2017, down from 66 percent in 2016. Nielson also noted that 47 percent of gamers name consoles as their favorite device to play on. Computers followed at 27 percent, with mobile close behind at 26 percent.

People are also spending more of their leisure time playing games. People in the U.S. devote 12 percent of their leisure time to gaming in 2017, up from 11 percent in 2016.

Friday, May 12, 2017

EA Quarterly Profits

Video-game publisher Electronic Arts adjusted quarterly profit handily beat analysts' estimates, lifted by demand for high-margin digital downloads of its games such as "Battlefield 1".

The results pushed up the company's shares nearly 4 percent to $99.70 in after-market trading on Tuesday, putting them on track to open at a record high.

EA also forecast current-quarter adjusted profit above analysts' average estimates and said it would buy back up to $1.2 billion of shares over a two-year period.

Sales from EA's digital business surged 30.6 percent to $934 million in the fourth quarter ended March 31, as players increasingly buy games online rather than physical copies at retail stores.
However, EA's profit fell to $566 million, or $1.81 per share, in the quarter, from $899 million, or $2.79 per share, a year earlier.

The year-earlier quarter included an income tax credit of $453 million.

Excluding items, EA reported a profit of 85 cents per share, handily beating the average analysts' estimate of 75 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company's revenue rose 16.7 percent to $1.53 billion in the quarter.

However, on an adjusted basis, revenue of $1.09 billion was in line with analysts' expectation.

EA released its action role-playing videogame "Mass Effect: Andromeda" toward the end of its fourth quarter, with the game hitting No. 3 on market research firm NPD's March list for top-selling games in the United States.

The company said it ended up deferring about $53 million in "Mass Effect: Andromeda" sales from the fourth quarter into the first quarter, because of deluxe editions of the game, which triggered a revenue deferral.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Amazon Alexa News

Look out, world: Alexa is coming to a screen near you. Today Amazon unveiled the Echo Show, a WiFi-enabled home device with a seven-inch screen that is the newest addition to its Alexa-powered Echo range of home hubs that plays media and responds to voice commands.

While previous versions of the Echo have been all about asking Alexa questions and getting responses from her, this new device takes a more IRL turn: one of the main selling points is that you can use the Echo Show to make and take video calls, with other humans.

The device, which comes in black and white versions, will cost $229.99 and will be shipped from June 28, with preorders available now. It appears that it will be available first in the U.S. only.

For those who follow the company, the new device may not come as a surprise, following several leaks about the product before today, with two coming in the last week alone, one yesterday claiming the device would be unveiled today.

“Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask,” Amazon notes in its blurb on its product page. You can use the device for video calls and it looks like it will also integrate and enhance skills that you already use on the existing Echo, for example you can now see music lyrics for Amazon Music. It also has Dolby-powered speakers and eight microphones, and lets you use existing Alexa skills that do not have a video component. You can see more on how the Echo Show works in Romain’s run-down here.

The device’s potentially biggest feature — the calls and messaging — also herald’s Amazon’s move into a key, new area of services. Alexa Calling, as the feature is named, will also work on other Echo devices, and the Alexa app. More on this here.

The device weighs 41 ounces, nearly 1.1 kilos. It’s not a mobile phone replacement, that’s for sure!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Chromebook Sales

In a slowing PC market, Chromebooks siphoned market share away from Windows PCs in 2016 as their popularity grew outside the education market.
Chromebook shipments grew by a stunning 38 percent in 2016 compared to 2015. Gartner estimated 9.4 million Chromebooks shipped, compared to 6.8 million units in 2015.
The number is just a fraction of overall PC shipments, but growth came in an otherwise down PC market. Overall PC shipments in 2016 were about 270 million units, a decline of about 6.2 percent, according to Gartner.
Looking forward, 2016 may go down as the best year ever for Chromebook shipment growth. Gartner is estimating shipments to continue growing in the coming years but at a slower pace.
In 2017, Gartner is projecting Chromebook shipments to be about 10.9 million units, a growth of about 16.3 percent compared to 2016. In 2018, the shipments will total about 11.9 million units, a growth of 8.6 percent.
Analyst firm IDC has also predicted Chromebook shipments will grow by double-digit percentages in coming years. Most of the Chromebooks are shipping to classrooms in the U.S., Nordic countries, Australia and New Zealand.
There is also growing interest in Chromebooks from businesses in the finance and retail sectors. Companies are using Chromebooks as no-frills mobile thin clients, considering they are cheap to deploy and easy to manage, said Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner.
Traditional client-server virtual desktops can be expensive to deploy and hard to manage. Conventional thin clients from companies like Dell, HP, and Ncomputing aren't portable but remain popular as a way to centralize data on servers.
Chromebooks run on Google's Chrome OS and are targeted at users who do most of their computing on the web. They are popular in classrooms because they are rugged, low-cost and fit into the limited budgets of schools. Schools are switching to Chromebooks from the expensive and fragile iPad.
The iPad had limited use for educators, many of whom need a keyboard, Kitagawa said.
While popular in the U.S., Chromebooks still haven't broken through in international markets, especially in Asia, Kitagawa said.
Some basic problems, like a lack of cellular modems, are holding back the adoption of Chromebooks. Chromebooks today are reliant on Wi-Fi, which has a strong presence in the U.S. but not developing countries, Kitagawa said.
Google, however, is taking steps to grow in international markets. Android is popular worldwide, and many new Chromebooks support apps downloaded from the Google Play store. Newer Chromebooks have touchscreens to run Android apps.
Microsoft this week announced Windows 10 S OS to counter the growing popularity of Chromebooks. Windows 10 S will run applications downloadable from the Windows App store, similar to Chromebooks.
Also, like Chromebooks, teachers will be able to easily set up Windows 10 S laptops. Laptops with Windows 10 S will be priced starting at around US$189 will begin shipping in the coming months.