Google Nest… Powered by Amazon

Dave Zatz —  September 20, 2015 — 7 Comments

Amazon Web Services had a really bad Sunday AM. Specifically, resources in my ‘hood were sucking wind…

Amongst the large number of websites and cloud services inaccessible this AM, was Google’s Nest. Despite being a Google company, and for quite some time, their infrastructure rides Amazon. Which I find deliciously ironic.

More Sling Media Shenanigans

Dave Zatz —  September 18, 2015 — 20 Comments

Remember that Android or iOS SlingPlayer app that cost you $15 (or even $30!) to beam your Slingbox video around?  Well, the company is retiring it. And you’re welcome to replace it with a free, ad-infested variant.  Oh, you don’t like ads? Sling will gladly take another 15 of your hard earned dollars to remove them via an in-app purchase. At the very least, should your original app purchase cease to function, you’ll have some compelling new fodder for the class action lawsuit and I wonder if you can encourage iTunes to refund your original app purchase given its retirement and Sling’s double dipping.


UPDATE: It appears Sling may have changed course based on the feedback… and perhaps they had intended to take care of prior paying customers all along, but just failed in the communication department.

So, what we said yesterday about not supporting your paid version of Slingplayer after October 1? We realized that we could make things easier for everyone by just leaving things as they are, so the paid app will continue to be available and you don’t need to download the new, free Slingplayer app if you don’t want to.

But you should still download the new free app after October 1! It has great new features you don’t want to miss, and you’ll still have an ad-free experience. (As long as you download the free app from the same app store account you used to buy the original Slingplayer app)

(Thanks Mark P!)

Amazon Launches $50 Fire Tablet

Reuters —  September 17, 2015 — 12 Comments

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Inc introduced on Thursday a $49.99 tablet, a price tag analysts said was low enough to set it apart in a crowded market and draw more customers to its online services. The new Fire tablet, one of several new and upgraded devices launched by Amazon, comes with a 7-inch (17 cm) wide screen and a front and back camera. It will start shipping on Sept. 30.

The new Amazon Fire tablet six pack is displayed during a media event introducing new Amazon products in San Francisco, California September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

The new Amazon Fire tablet six pack is displayed during a media event introducing new Amazon products in San Francisco, California September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

“There’s one part of the tablet (market) that’s growing right now and….that’s sub $100 tablets,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon devices, adding that the company’s $99 Fire HD was its best selling tablet last year. Continue Reading…

As we continue to examine the updated Sonos Android app that revealed the upcoming touch-sensitive, second generation Play:5 connected speaker, we’ve learned that Sonos looks to further improve audio quality by listening to room acoustics – as we often see with home theater receivers. This new feature, called Trueplay, uses the mic on your mobile device to analyze acoustic performance in a given space. Presumably units with more speakers can be fine tuned to overcome positioning obstacles while units with fewer speakers might elicit suggestions to move it to another location.

There are multiple references to using the internal Android’s microphone for walking and waving as the analysis is conducted. Further, within the Android app code, there’s even reference to using an iPad microphone, so iOS support is clearly on the docket. Given some of the wording, I also wonder if newer Sonos models like the ZPS6 could even include their own mics. And while self tuning is great, the potential for Echo-esque voice control is absolutely stellar. Make it so! Continue Reading…

As the story goes, I’ve been tracking at least one new incoming Sonos speaker — the S100 aka RM010. And after unpacking a publicly available Sonos beta APK for Android, I came across several interesting renders. They appear to show a sleeker Play:3 or Play:5 that does away with hardware buttons on top in favor of a touch sensitive surface and gesture control… including newly introduced transport controls. Around back, near the power cord, is what appears to be a relocated pairing button.

Like the existing Play:3, this “ZPS6” speaker can placed vertically or horizontally. Beyond the new hardware itself, Sonos is also poised to unveil speaker tuning technology based on evaluation of in-room acoustics via smartphone or iPad mic.As to driver count, acoustic quality, and price, we’ll have to wait and see.

UPDATE: I’ve learned that both Trueplay and the new speaker will be announced tonight. And, the speaker is indeed a Play:5 replacement — available later this fall for $500 in white or black. Beyond the modern new look featuring touch controls, we’ve also learned it’s been upgraded from five custom drivers to six for a wider, room-filling soundstage.

No one leaks quite like TiVo… as the forthcoming TiVo Bolt has just shown up in five YouTube videos that seemingly document time to launch, play, etc for the development staff. However, for us civilians, there are a few interesting nuggets.

First, the Bolt will feature flatter interface elements, as previously disclosed via patent filings and an overseas demo.  Next, we can confirm the TiVo Bolt really is the “Series 6” — which reinforces differing internals than Roamio and perhaps bolster the case for those 4k capabilities I’d been alerted to. Lastly, lo and behold, the System Information screen is finally rendered in glorious HD! Will 2015 be the year that TiVo finally and completely abandons the SDUI? (probably not)

By way of Fierce Cable, we learn TiVo is seemingly posed to introduce voice recognition and control.

Jeff Klugman, EVP and general manager of products and revenues for TiVo, said “I don’t know” when questioned whether the company would build a TiVo app for the Apple TV. Klugman also pointed out that TiVo offers a number of the same features as Apple TV, including universal, voice-powered search.

Now TiVo wouldn’t be the first to bring voice to the DVR and linear television, as Comcast beat them to market with a legit Xfinity solution. And, on the streamer side, Roku and Fire TV both provide voice control… via physical remote or app. Indeed, a quick Internet search shows TiVo has been developing an Android solution with cloud-based, natural language processing.


I assume iOS would also be on the docket and perhaps a revised remote control will ship with the 4k TiVo Bolt. But I really, really hope voice control extends beyond TiVo’s universal search. Despite their generally superior interface, pulling up apps remains inefficient … and I’d much rather just speak “Launch Netflix.”

While Belkin’s WeMo is largely a closed smarthome ecosystem, with a questionable history in terms of performance and security, I found $40 for three “connected” bulbs and mini hub too good a deal to pass up. So, at the very least, the two lamps I have on old school mechanical timers will be getting an wireless upgrade (and CFL > LED). It’s probably all a little redundant with my existing Hue Lighting and Staples Connect, but … new gadgets!


If you too are similarly tempted by Wemo, visit this link and add the kit to your cart for $50 in savings plus a bonus bulb. At the checkout screen, enter SAVEWEMO (in all caps) to get another $10 off. Shipping is free, but state sales tax will be added.