tech in the spotlight

Samsung Shows Off an Ecosystem of Appliances at CES 2014

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 9, 2014 06:36 PM

Samsung Electronics aims to be the world’s largest appliance manufacturer by 2015—no easy feat with mega-brands like GE, Kenmore and LG to compete with.

But the South Korean giant is already the fastest-growing appliance brand in the US, with a 10.5 percent jump in market share since 2011. “We’re on track,” said B.K. Yoon, Samsung’s co-chief executive officer, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The bid is part of a bigger plan by Samsung announced this week at CES in which consumers will use smartphones and tablets to control their air conditioners, refrigerators, washers, LED lighting and more, creating a truly Smart Home. 

The Smart Home platform provides three core services: Device Control, which are customized settings for all of devices via smartphone or Smart TV; Home View, cameras built into Samsung connected appliances to keep an eye on what's going on at home; and Smart Customer Service, which alerts users when it's time to service an appliance.Continue reading...

video killed the _____ star

Hulu No Longer Playing Catch-Up with Slate of Original Programming for 2014

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 9, 2014 05:55 PM

Hulu has used the massive CES 2014 stage to tout its five million subscribers, over $1 billion in revenue, and its exciting new lineup of original programming and returning series on the video platform. The company announced new shoes, including Reaper and Happy Endings, as well as returning favorites including Seth Meyers' The Awesomes and Chris O'Dowd's Moone Boy.

"I think the last year was a very solid foundation for us to continue to build our original business upon," said Charlotte Koh, Hulu's head of original programming development. "We're very aware that a lot of our evolution is about moving from a catch-up platform to being a first-run window of exclusive content. The slate that you're seeing for 2014 reflects the growing profile of the company.” 

That evolution will put Hulu back in line with competitors like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, both who have developed multiple successful original series. New series include Deadbeat, a 10-episode supernatural comedy from Brad Pitt's production company Plan B and Wilfred writers Cody Heller and Brett Konnner, premiering April 9. Deadbeat follows "the genre reinvention angle we look for," Koh said, combining "supernatural, comedy and buddy elements in a cocktail."Continue reading...

brand battle

T-Mobile Jumps Ahead of AT&T in Mobile Race After CES Spectacle

Posted by Mark J. Miller on January 9, 2014 04:46 PM

While this year’s Consumer Electronics Show has yet to produce any big fireworks on the product front, it has held a significant role in adding fuel to the raging fire between AT&T and T-Mobile. 

In a battle that started months ago, with mobile carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon trying to one-up each other's best offer, it seems two have developed a particularly sour taste for one another. T-Mobile, the underdog in the tussle, has taken a no-holds-barred approach to building its customer base, from cutting out contracts and data limits to all-out bribery. But being competitive in the market means everyone else has to play that game, too. 

And so last week, AT&T announced that it would pay up to $450 for customers to switch from T-Mobile to their service, including up to $250 in turn-in credit for their old phone and $200 per line. 

The move no doubt would inspire a counter-offer from T-Mobile—and it did.Continue reading...

rising brands

Bitcoin Gets Its Game On as Bankers Grapple with Growing Popularity

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 9, 2014 11:47 AM

What does it take for a virtual currency that exists as software, is not controlled by any country or banking authority (and still eschewed by many), to hit mainstream adoption? Gaming.

Zynga recently announced it is testing Bitcoin payment in seven of its games, causing prices to surge to $1,000 on the Mt. Gox exchange.  

Zynga published the announcement exclusively on Reddit, saying, “We wanted to share with the r/bitcoin community that Zynga Inc. is now conducting a Bitcoin test with BitPay, a leading Bitcoin service provider, in select Zynga.com web games." The Bitcoin test is only available to Zynga users playing FarmVille 2, CastleVille, ChefVille, CoasterVille, Hidden Chronicles, Hidden Shadows and CityVille.

Created by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, Bitcoin crossed the $1,000 threshold in November, but plummeted to $640 as China stopped accepting deposits, disturbed by its sweeping popularity and reports of money laundering. But since then, merchants accepting Bitcoins for a wide range of purchases from Gummi bears to smartphones have boosted its value.Continue reading...

tech in the spotlight

T-Mobile's John Legere Steals the Show—and AT&T's Mojo—On Day 2 at CES 2014

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 8, 2014 07:23 PM

T-Mobile President and CEO John Legere’s performance wins day three at CES 2014. He took to the stage, can of Red Bull in hand, and excoriated his competitors, attacking AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon for poor service, high prices, and for generally not being cool.

But his most vehement attack was on AT&T, whose CES party Legere infamously crashed earlier this week. "AT&T is a total source of amusement for me. They are the ones that take my bullshit. Dumb move. They take the bait."

Continuing on its 'Uncarrier' streak, T-Mobile announced it will pay customer’s up to $350 per line to cover early termination fees and release them from an existing plan on a competing carrier. "We're giving families a ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card," Legere said in the press release.

The announcement adds wood to the already smoldering fire between T-Mobile and AT&T, which last week announced it would pay $200 for every line T-Mobile customers switched over (requiring those customers buy a new AT&T phone.) Legere called AT&T's promotion a "desperate move," and countered, “Try the network, try what we're doing. And if it doesn't work, these pricks will pay you to come back!"Continue reading...

retail

Try On Virtual Makeup and Pay With Your Hand with Retail Tech at CES 2014

Posted by Barry Silverstein on January 8, 2014 06:41 PM

Traditionally the International Consumer Electronics Show is an event that offers a glimpse of the future in technology from a consumer perspective. CES 2014 is no different—but it wasn't just a glitzy keynote by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer that was creating buzz. Also on display were several technological innovations that suggest a whole new retail world is right around the corner.

For one thing, retail will literally get a facelift with the new "3D Augmented Reality Makeup and Anti-Aging Beauty Mirror" (quite a mouthful) from ModiFace. This gadget lets consumers at cosmetics counters simulate makeup products—blushes, lipsticks and eye shadows—and anti-aging skincare effects, such as dark spot correction, facelift, browlift, cheek volume enhancement and jaw contouring. The consumer simply stands in front of the Beauty Mirror and uses a touchscreen to work magic in real time and in full 3D. The technology works both on a stand-alone store kiosk, or as an app that can be used on a smartphone or tablet.

"Our new 3D Beauty Mirror is a marketing breakthrough for retailers and beauty brands, particularly for cosmetic counters," says KyungMoon Lee, ModiFace Executive Director of Engineering, in a press release. "It's not only a try-before-you-buy tool in the store or at home, but also a way to capture consumers' interest as they walk store aisles."Continue reading...

social media watch

Biz Stone Thinks the World Is Ready for Jelly, a Social-Visual Search App

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 8, 2014 03:54 PM

Back in 2001, the ladies of Destiny's Child gave us fair warning, but who knew we'd have to wait 13 years to see if we were "ready for this jelly?"

After leaving Twitter in 2011, co-founder Biz Stone formed Obvious to explore new ideas with some former co-Tweeters, and then launched Medium, a "digital speakers' corner."

This week, he unveiled at CES 2014 his next big thing: Jelly, an app that brings social and search together to answer queries. Not quite the caliber of 'Queen Bey,' but we're intrigued.

Users will pose visual questions via Twitter and Facebook and receive answers back from select friends and followers.

“What we’re really doing is taking full advantage of what makes mobile mobile: the brevity, the location, the shortness of the answers,” said Stone, CEO of the new company.

In a blog post, the company said Jelly uses humans rather than algorithms to gather and parse information. “No matter how sophisticated our algorithms become, they are still no match for the experience, inventiveness, and creativity of the human mind."Continue reading...

brand revival

Polaroid, LG Get Nostalgic with Insta-Print Devices at CES 2014

Posted by Mark J. Miller on January 8, 2014 02:49 PM

The Polaroid brand may seem like the perfect one to box up and send off to the Smithsonian, but the camera maker isn’t close to dead yet. At CES 2014 this week in Las Vegas, Polaroid is demoing a nifty new camera that allows photographers to either instantly share an image on social media or print out a 2x3 inch version of it on sticker paper, CNET reports.

Of course, the Android-based Socialmatic with a 4.5-inch touchscreen will need special supplies such as heat-activated Zink paper, which will run about $30 for 80 sheets. Still, the “hipster-vintage retro design” may interest younger consumers, CNET predicts. The Socialmatic isn’t expected to actually be on the market till the fall, however, and TechCrunch reports that it will cost $299.

To add to the shareability, the printed image includes a small QR code “so that other Socialmatic users can scan it, get the digital version from Polaroid’s servers, and reprint it,” TechCrunch notes.Continue reading...

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