By way of the FCC, we gather the TiVo Vox Voice remote remains on track for a fall launch and that older Roamio hardware (running Hydra) will be supported via a USB Bluetooth dongle (vs Bolt’s native BLE capabilities). Details on voice interaction have also been prematurely provided, and behavior appears quite similar to Xfinity … which is a positive.

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As Roku typically does, they’ll introduce a variety of hardware updates later this fall. And, as ZNF typically does, we’ll break that news to you first.

A trusted source indicates several 2017 models will be bundled with a revised Roku remote that expands television control — including a new handy dandy power button and brining the volume rocker to more models, independent of remote listening. However, instead of going with IR like Sideclick, I wonder if this represents an expansion of the HDMI-CEC capabilities Roku introduced last year. Update: It’s IR. Can I get an amen?!

Beyond that bit of practical news, I can now confirm that a 4K HDR Roku Streaming Stick+ will join the lineup mid-range, with the universal remote, while maintaining an elongated stick presentation — versus taking on a more chunky dongle form like Google has and Amazon will, with an incoming Fire TV. On the lower-end, the 2017 Roku Express will see a significant performance bump … and may finally make my list of recommended streamers. At about 1/4th the cost of Apple TV, why not?

As to other Roku rumblings, looks like the company has taken a renewed interested in audio as they march towards an IPO.

Due to the tremendous number of (accurate) leaks, there weren’t too many surprises from the new Steve Jobs theater located within the new Apple campus. But a couple of interesting items, that I hadn’t anticipated, caught my attention.

Apple TV Price Drop
I was convinced we’d see an Apple TV price drop of some sort, perhaps tied to a touchless-remote on the bottom-end, to bring them inline with the market leading Roku and Fire TV. However, Apple controls the supply chain like no other and is conceivably content with lower penetration but presumably larger margins. While not quite a surprise, again given those leaks, it was refreshing to see Apple will sell 4K movies for the same price as 1080P while upgrading existing purchases… for those who consume in that manner, anyway.

Expansive iPhone Lineup
While both the iPhone 8 and iPhone X were correctly predicted, in hardware if not name, I didn’t expect Apple would keep around so many former generations of phone. To meet a wide array of budgets and fend off the onslaught of solid lower-end Android handsets, the iPhone SE, 6S, 6S Plus, 7, and 7 Plus will join the 8, 8 Plus, and X on store shelves – in multiple capacities and colors. At least for now. Remember when they offered a single model? Beyond the expansive lineup, Apple is clearly committed to offering more than two years of updates (unlike the competition) — not that it’s a new m.o., but I do wonder if at some point they choose to fork the software a bit and continue to provide security patches to older OSes on hardware that cannot support the latest and greatest.

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Amazon Fire TV: Echo Edition

Dave Zatz —  September 13, 2017 — 10 Comments

As Apple continues to rest on its laurels, despite trailing the pack, Amazon is prepping an all-new Fire TV that mates their well-regarded video streamer to full-featured Alexa voice control. Like the Amazon Echo Dot, the incoming flagship Fire TV will incorporate a far-field microphone array, for always-listening capabilities, along with speaker output and the possibly iconic lightbar. Beyond the merged functionality you might expect, the new Fire TV seems likely to pick up a few Logitech Harmony Hub-esque remote control tricks given the included IR blasters… with hopefully a better reception than seen from the Xbox One. While timing and pricing remain uncertain, I’m willing to bet this tricked out 4K HDR 60fps digital media adapter will likely clock in lower than Apple’s $149 1080p aTV.

T-Mobile Now Bundles Netflix

Dave Zatz —  September 6, 2017 — 3 Comments

Amazon To Expand Fire TV Lineup

Dave Zatz —  September 6, 2017 — 6 Comments

Taking a page from Roku, Amazon appears poised to expand their Fire TV streaming lineup from two models to three streamers. In addition to the current generation Fire TV Stick ($40), AFTVNews suspects two new models will ultimately replace the existing second generation Fire TV box: At the higher end ($100? $120?), Amazon appears to be prepping a 4K streamer, with dedicated GPU, to bring 60fps and HDR for the first time. While a new offering mid-tier offering ($60, $70?) will serve 4K to the masses. Meanwhile Apple will likely announce a 4K box next week, perhaps with 4K iTunes and hardware pricing improvements to better compete in light of their $1b original programming initiative, and Roku will soon unveil a beefed up 4K Streaming Stick. With this upcoming round of fall updates, I’m hopeful Amazon and Apple also bring more powerful gaming capabilities to the table as an alternative to the bloated Xbox and Playstation experiences.

Well will you look at that… While Sonos’ April FCC filing turns out to be rather pedestrian, a brand spanking new, though heavily redacted (until February 28th) FCC filing confirms one new connected speaker with integrated voice control:

The EUT is 802.11 a/b/g/n (HT20) Client Device. Product model S13 is a high-performance all-in-one wireless smart speaker and part of Sonos’ home sound system. S13 adds integrated voice control functionality with far field microphones. Moreover, the device will support multiple voice platforms and music services, allowing customers to effortlessly control their music on Sonos.

So, not only will Sonos be gaining voice control from Alexa-powered hardware and apps, the streaming pioneer will also bring native hardware integration. From the included imagery, there will obviously be a mic button (or, more likely, touchable surface like the Play:5) – on what I assume is the first refresh of their entire speaker line. But will the speaker(s) also provide always-listening capability like Amazon, Google, and Apple? And which voice services, beyond Alexa, might we expect?

I can’t tell you if this is an entirely new model or replaces an existing one, but with CEDIA around the corner, perhaps the wait won’t be long…

No surprise, other than the delays, that Sonos is poised to drop their highly anticipated voice control. And we’re talking weeks, not months. While the connected speaker pioneer had previously suggested integration with multiple services, as they do music, I believe I can confirm Alexa as their sole, initial partner and that the Skill, accessed via Amazon hardware, may launch as a public beta (perhaps given a frustrating early implementation, per one source). Although, like Variety, we also wonder if new mic-enabled hardware is en-route … although it’s seemingly more likely they intend to stick with software integrations. In any event, the competition is about to heat up with the Siri-powered Apple HomePod and a more acoustically-focused Amazon Echo with whole-home aspirations on our fall agenda.