Staples entered the home automation space with an inspired, bold plan (and hardware hub). But sustaining the smart home movement required more resolve (in the form of time and money) than they’re obviously willing to commit. From the Friday (of course) email blast:

Staples will discontinue selling Staples Connect in our stores and online, but the Staples Connect service and related products will be supported in collaboration with Z-Wave Products, a leading provider of Z-Wave enabled wireless technology including security, lighting, and energy monitoring products, and smart home software company Zonoff. Z-Wave Products will work with Zonoff to continue to make updates to the Staples Connect App ensuring that it continues to operate with your existing home automation products.

Unlike Nest’s ham-handed approach with Revolv, there’s no public shaming required here to encourage the companies to do the right thing. So, while Staples is ceasing sales of their hub, Z-Wave Products and Zonoff will continue to offer some level of support for existing customers. Further, those who bought in will be compensated with a $50 Staples gift card… which is the break-even point for many. Next!

(Thanks Drew!)

Amazon Fire TV Going OTA?

Dave Zatz —  June 3, 2016

fire-tv-2015-hd-antenna-bundleAs Rovi indicates TiVo could move away from retail hardware, it appears Amazon is preparing to offer over-the-air capabilities on Fire TV … which dovetails nicely with uncovered support to display live channels within the AFTV interface. The Fire TV would obviously need some sort of network tuner, a la HDHomeRun, or a USB accessory, like the Xbox One, to pull in the signal via antenna. Of course, most televisions offer similar tuning capabilities. But accessing all our video content from a single interface offers some benefit… especially given Amazon’s search and voice capabilities. Having said that, for many, OTA content without DVR recording capabilities is a non-starter. Could that, too, be on the docket via USB storage or a subscription cloud service? In any event, piping in antenna television locally, as Sling intends to do with AirTV, is an excellent way to round out the video experience without worrying about retransmission licensing challenges that plague Sony’s PS Vue and the MIA Apple TV streaming service.

From Rovi CFO Peter Halt:

The consumer channel is one that has been very successful for TiVo. What people often forget is that the investment that they’re making in the consumer device is the same investment that they are making for the MSO provider. What the consumer channel gives them is a direct contact with the consumer and a very passionate loyal audience that gives them direct feedback. And it’s been a source of great innovation for them and stuff like that.

That said, being in the hardware business isn’t something that necessarily excites us. When we acquired Fanhattan and the Fan TV platform, they had an OEM relationship and we’re focused on a box solution. And when we acquired them, we said, we’d look to move to be box agnostic and be able to partner with box providers who can do that. There are several box providers out there who have direct-to-retail. We’ll be looking at the possibilities of working with them, having them control the box. And while that would be a partnership and we wouldn’t get all the sales as a result, we think that’s probably a better way to approach the consumer space. But don’t look for us to exit the consumer space.

arlo-ifttt

Those who follow me on Twitter know how much I dig my Arlo webcams. In fact, the 4-pack was one of my top 2015 gadget purchases. Beyond the original, compelling selling points of being entirely wireless (from both network and power) and providing a generous free tier of network capabilities (vs Nestcam), the service has seen quite a few updates that further improve and refine the experience. However, none are bigger than the two features introduced last month. Continue Reading…

While it still may be some time before we see an Amazon Video app on Apple TV, the retailer’s streaming service continues to see improvements. And one of the more interesting developments has been the aggregation of third party video services — including on-demand and soon, in some cases, “live” content. Presumably, like Roku, Amazon is compensated for new subscriber referrals. So we get a large catalog of providers and a (somewhat) unified Prime Video entry point, as Amazon generates additional revue. Win, win. (Well, other than the fact our à la carte “channels” will likely end up costing us more than cable.)

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Also, like Roku, Amazon is tempting us with a number of free trials worth checking out:

Kevin Tofel just cut the cord. While he’s a good pal (having live-Tweeted each other’s weddings), what makes his “cable” television exodus a bit more fascinating is his technological background — including years of contributions to the TV-centric HDBeat and PVRWire (RIP) blogs. Heck, we even collaborated on a piece for PC Magazine (back in 2006, when it was paper) documenting how to cut the cord… possibly before that term even existed.

So what’s different in 2016? The content Kevin and his family appreciate, including premium channels and futbol, is now available “over-the-top” … on the hardware of his choosing … and without waiting around for the FCC to unlock the box.

I’m convinced we’ve reached a bit of a turning point in the industry that makes “cord cutting” more feasible for a wider range of people. […] We’re not completely “cutting the cord” but are instead using a different “cord” for television content. […] Frankly, I don’t see why I need to pay Verizon — or any other company — $600 a year to rent set-top boxes or have the ability to DVR content.

Continue Reading…

We generally think of Roku in terms of streaming boxes and sticks. Yet, the company pitches themselves as a software platform and the reason hardware remains so affordable, for both consumers and television licensees, is because the company makes the bulk of its revenue elsewhere.

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From a Business Insider interview of Roku CEO Anthony Wood:

I don’t think people understand how we make money, that it’s a platform we distribute, we license, and then we monetize our installed base. […] When you sign up for Hulu on Roku, through Roku billing, we get a revenue share for the life of that customer. When you watch an ad-supported channel on Roku, some of that ad inventory is controlled by Roku. […] Advertising is our biggest business.

By comparison, it seems reasonable that Amazon’s intent with the Fire TV is to support their ecosystem of paid services, including Prime and video rentals. However, Roku doesn’t see their one-time suitor as much of a threat when it comes to television-based app delivery.

In the licensing business, we’re by far ahead, and there’s a couple of reasons. One is our neutral positioning. 30% of all TVs sold in the US are sold through Walmart. […] they hate Amazon. Walmart is never going to carry an Amazon TV, ever. […] In licensing, really the only competitor is Google. Apple doesn’t license […] So they’re our biggest competitor for TVs.

(via Cord Cutter News)

skypehost
As I continue to dig further into preview builds of Windows 10, ahead of the Summer Anniversary Update, there’s a lot to like from this stable and sensible operating system. Indeed, the integrated “Edge” browser has received plugin support and most notable extension is Adblock Plus. Yet the bandwidth savings and privacy ABD offers is somewhat incongruous to Microsoft’s native and ever-present telemetry. It looks like WiFi Sense is done. But, upon first boot of the latest Insider Build, messaging (skypehost.exe), calendar (hxcalendarappimm.exe), and cloud storage (onedrive.exe) apps all reached out to Microsoft without having been summoned, by me, the operator.