Amongst the predictable onslaught of rehashed new games out of E3, comes word that the Xbox One is set to receive a significant makeover – courtesy new Windows 10 underpinnings. And it really can’t arrive soon enough as I find the current interface unwieldy and disorienting. Granted, I am middle-aged and perhaps my synapses don’t fire as fast as they once did. But we’re often the ones bankrolling these initiatives. So I’m happy to see Microsoft throw this old dog a bone. In fact, I give them credit – when it comes to Xbox, they’ve never been afraid to blow up the UI and try something new. It may not always resonate, but I salute their risk-taking in support of bettering the experience.

Some highlights: Beyond a much simplified, though still visually rich, presentation, with a heavy emphasis on “community,” clicking left from the new Home screen or double clicking the Xbox button while in a game brings up a narrow overlay of common settings, features, and messages we’d quickly want to get at. Microsoft is also promising a generally smoother, quicker experience. Further improving usability in a highly significant way is an always-present Cortana for voice control. However, it’s not clear to me if Cortana can be accessed via the gaming headset with mic or if I’m going to once again plug in my dust-collecting Kinect. Sadly, while you can still “pin” your favorite apps, games, and the like … they’re now banished to the very bottom of the Home area and, at least for the moment, I pine for higher priority presentation.

No additional word on background music or DVR capabilities, but we expect both are on the docket … even if they don’t launch with this already massive update, scheduled for late Fall.

Sonos CEO: ‘We would embrace Apple Music’

What if the smart devices around your home could all interact with each other, even if they were from different manufacturers or different systems? Say your front door sensor could trigger a light to turn on in the living room when you get home. Currently, to get this kind of interoperability, you either need to acquire all the components of the same system (like Insteon), or have one agnostic hub that tries to “talk” all the different languages of the smart home landscape (like Staples Connect, SmartThings, and the dreadful Wink).

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What if there was another way? What if each of your home devices could speak the same langauge independent of manufacturer? An Elgato door sensor that opens when you get home could tell an Ecobee thermostat to turn house temp to 72 degrees. Or turning off a specific Lutron light switch in the bedroom could tell the August front door to lock?  That’s the promise of Apple’s HomeKit.

Much has been written already about HomeKit. But now that Apple is officially allowing vendors to start selling devices, we are finally starting to get a better understanding of what can and can’t be done with HomeKit. At first, my thought was that the iPhone now becomes the “hub” to control the devices of your home, but that was the wrong way to think about HomeKit.   HomeKit is much more far reaching. Continue Reading…

Philips has been slowly updating their lineup of wireless Hue LED lighting the past few months. Last week, Philips announed HomeKit compatibility for the Hue system stating that all existing lights would be compatible. Now whether that means a new bridge is required (my strong guess would be yes!) or a software only update to the existing bridge, you will be able to voice control your Hue lights this fall.

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And, now today, Hue announced new “beta” features for their Tap product that makes the device much more useful. Previously, you have 4 buttons to use for your Tap. You would assign these four buttons to existing scenes of your Hue system, and usually you’d want to have one of the buttons be an “all off” option. With Hue Labs, you now have two more options you can select for a button: a toggle and a dimmer.

Let’s start with the toggle feature first. Continue Reading…

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By way of a pulled Apple Store listing, it appears we’ll soon see an addition to the Ultimate Ears Boom speaker line in the form of a new UE Boom “Roll” — the design is clearly flatter and disc shaped, with an integrated lanyard. We were delighted with the original UE Boom when reviewed back in July and this update brings a smaller form factor with fresh styling to the line, perhaps competing with the newly announced Bose SoundLink Mini II. The Apple Store’s specs and pricing were somewhat suspect… as they closely resemble those of the Boom. So we’re just going to have to stay tuned for more info from Logitech Ultimate Ears.

So a variant of the web portal that TiVo had developed for their cable partners, like RCN, is now being made available to retail subscribers. And TiVo Online is looking pretty killer. Beyond the expected Season Pass OnePass configuration, recording management, and a highly polished guide, the tent pole feature is the ability to stream our DVR recordings and live content to Mac, PC, and possibly Chromebook (replacing the tired and archaic TiVoToGo, if not the infinitely valuable kmttg).

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Sadly, TiVo is only allowing in-home laptop or computer streaming at this time while TiVo indicates all Roamio and Premiere models are supported… But I’ll go ahead and assume Premiere and lesser Roamios require purchase of the TiVo Stream accessory to make it happen, versus native Roamio Pro/Plus capabilities.

All we need now is that Fire TV or Roku app…

(Thanks Sam!)

Philips Hue to support Apple HomeKit this Fall

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  June 5, 2015

insteon-fail

Insteon’s Apple HomeKit-compatible hub drops support for many Insteon products.
So will the new Hub Pro eventually support the same devices currently supported by the product formerly known as the Hub II? We don’t know. Insteon’s not saying. We have to imagine that this is not what long-time Insteon users expected or hoped for.

DISH and T-Mobile flirt with the idea of a merger… but Ergen doesn’t always seal the deal.
Mr. Ergen envisions selling bundles of video and wireless service to better compete with cable and telecom rivals who are banking on their broadband businesses for growth. Mr. Ergen has had near brushes on deals with MetroPCS, Clearwire, Sprint, Hulu and DirecTV, and in each case, he walked away empty-handed.

Amazon Echo does what Sonos can’t with native Audible streaming.
Since Amazon owns Aubilde, there’s no account linking or setup required. Simply say “Alexa, read [book title]” to begin listening to a book in your library, or say “Alexa, read my book” to continue listening to your most recent audiobook.

New 800 Lumens Philips Hue bulb incoming?