roku-streaming-stick-2016

The newly released and highly regarded 2016 edition of the Roku Streaming Stick is already on sale for a mere $40. Boasting superior performance, compared to both its predecessor and the competing Amazon Fire TV Stick, this streamer represents an excellent value and is the best all-around streamer for most.

Of course, one size doesn’t fit all. And, for example, those needing Kodi would go for the full-fledged Fire TV, while others deep into Apple’s ecosystem would naturally gravitate to the iTunes-sporting, Airplay-mirroring Apple TV. While not my cup of tea, Chromecast remains an inexpensive option for those willing to control their television experience via a smartphone. Perhaps we’ll learn more about its future capabilities and Android TV this week from Google I/O.

netflix-fastBeyond their monthly ISP Speed Index ratings and hot on the heels of the recently introduced mobile app bandwidth configurator, Netflix appears poised to launch “Fast” – an online service and app functionality to provide customers even more insight into their connections and streaming video potential.

From Netflix’s newly filed USPTO trademark application:

  • Downloadable computer software for testing and analyzing the speed of a user’s Internet connection
  • Providing a website featuring non-downloadable software for testing and analyzing the speed of a user’s Internet connection

Seeya, SpeedTest.net?

fios-mobile-voiceVoice interaction has evolved into something much more than a gimmick. And Verizon is up next with a pair of app updates today (iOS, Android) that bring spoken control to FiOS TV. The refreshed FiOS Mobile app allows you to speak fairly naturally when searching for programming, stars, or tuning a channel. While not yet as adept or versatile as say Apple TV or Comcast’s Xfinity implementation, with somewhat limited reach and requiring you tap the magnifying glass followed by the mic icons, Verizon surely beats TiVo’s yet-to-launch voice solution.

Related, as a TiVo owner, I can’t obviously use the FiOS app to change TiVo channels. Which reminds me… I’ve been meaning to check out this Alexa TiVo skill for use with Echo.

amazon-video-directBy Narottam Medhora and Anya George Tharakan

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> launched a service on Tuesday that allows users to post videos and earn royalties from them, setting up the world’s biggest online retailer to compete directly with Alphabet Inc’s <GOOGL.O> YouTube.

The service, called Amazon Video Direct, will make the uploaded videos available to rent or own, to view free with ads, or be packaged together and offered as an add-on subscription. Continue Reading…

By Lauren Hirsch

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> is investing between $250,000 and $500,000 in Bluetooth technology company TrackR to extend the reach of its Alexa virtual assistant, according to a source familiar with the matter

Alexa is the cloud-based system that controls the Amazon Echo, a speaker system launched by Amazon in 2014 that has emerged as a surprise hit. “Alexa” is the name the device responds to when users make requests, such as “turn on radio.”

trackr_bravo Continue Reading…

tivo-bolt-packaging1

Photo via jccfin on TiVo Community. Thanks!

Just seven months after launch, TiVo has gone back to the drawing board on Bolt pricing. While we don’t yet know every detail, based on new packaging Best Buy shipped out prematurely, the included year of TiVo Bolt service is no more.

New white box:
TiVo service subscription is required and sold separately.

Prior black box:
First year of of TiVo Annual service included.

new-bolt-pricing

TiVo’s likely goals are to limit potential customer churn (when that first year is up) and to lower the barrier to entry. As such, leaked dealer pricing indicates both the TiVo Bolt 500GB and 1000GB units drop by $100. Of course, this is mostly smoke and mirrors… as, after one year of service, new customers would actually end up paying more, should monthly and annual pricing remain unchanged — which I suspect will be the case, when everything gets official May 2nd.

Fortunately, you have a few days to get in on the original TiVo Bolt and service dealio during what looks to be a ReplayTV-esque transition should you want to roll the dice. $232.40 for the Bolt, with a bundled 12 months of service, is extremely compelling… unless you were holding out for that possible pro-level box next fall.

Patent Trollvi rises…

Yes, the leaks were true. Rovi intends to purchase TiVo.

While TiVo creates amazing products and has successfully deployed their solution to numerous cable operators around the world, beyond patent litigation and licensing, they haven’t found much financial success. Basically, the writing was on the wall. Continue Reading…

fitbit-logoBy way of the USPTO, we learn that Fitbit has applied for Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2 trademark protection. So, while Fitbit has beefed up the top end of their fitness tracking line with Alta band and Blaze watch additions this year, it appears they also plan 2016 revisions to their lower and mid-end wearables.

As to potential improvements, Fitbit could conceivably up its plastics game – while effective as a fitness tracker, I’ve always found the bands a bit cheapy – in appearance, feeling, and durability. Further, the charging ports could use some work even if battery life cannot be extended. Although increased time between charges would be a nice-to-have, as well. For me personally, I’d like to see the vibrating activity alerts of Alta make its way down to other devices. What’s on your wish list?