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As revealed back in April, Sonos is poised to announce a new entry in their home theater lineup. As described in the FCC filings:

The model S14 is a high-performance all-in-one home theater smart speaker and part of Sonos’ home sound system.

Given the newer hardware like the Sonos Playbase and Sonos One, we might reasonably expect on-device touch controls, unlike the somewhat long-in-the-tooth (stylistically) Playbar. But what exactly does the “smart” refer to? Is it onboard Alexa control as seen with the Sonos One? Or might it have something to do with the integrated Bluetooth Low Energy communication, which I don’t think we’ve seen from Sonos before.

In terms of connectivity, Sonos has shied away from HDMI. But that will no longer be an issue as also revealed by the regulatory documentation. Further, a supposed report by a former employee indicates the video market didn’t move exactly as the company had expected and so they have embraced the new HDMI 2.1 eARC specification enabling increased throughput for higher-fidelity:

HDMI 2.1 introduces so-called eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel), which increases bandwidth for audio to 38 Mb/s. This allows TVs to output lossless audio, including Dolby Atmos and the full range of DTS audio formats. […] The first product from Sonos to take advantage of this will be a mini soundbar due this year.

Beyond a new, smaller soundbar (perhaps similar in size to the Bose Solo 5 and supposedly pictured in the leaked render above), might Sonos also announce updates to the existing Playbase and Playbar? We’re gonna find out real, real soon…

As foreshadowed by yours truly and then announced at CES, Alexa has finally come to TiVo retail boxes. Well, sort of. Over the weekend, a placeholder app appeared – announcing the imminent arrival of Amazon’s voice assistant. Although TiVo has introduced their own native voice remote, it requires an additional purchase, vs those who already own Alexa gear, and is limited to units running the less desirable TiVo Experience 4 (Hydra) on a subset of TiVo hardware. By comparison, Alexa will be made available to a broad swath of devices, dating all the way back to the Premiere and running either Hydra or the HDUI Encore interface.

The TiVo Alexa skill isn’t live yet, but we know it’ll utilize Amazon’s beefed up media api. And, based on some of the documented commands that’ll be available to us, the delay will have been well worth the wait: Continue Reading…

As Rovi foreshadowed, prior to their 2016 TiVo acquisition, the merged company wants out of the retail hardware business. Not consumer services itself, but the manufacturing and distribution. As such, from Seeking Alpha’s transcript of the TiVo quarterly call yesterday:

In addition, we have signed on a major device manufacturer as our direct-to-consumer box partner. This partner will take over retail sales outside of TiVo.com, namely through Amazon and Best Buy. Once we complete this transition, we still will have direct consumer hardware sales through TiVo.com which we will be fulfilling through this box manufacturer. […]

What that means is that we are not going to be producing or manufacturing or contracting directly the manufacturer of these boxes. That will be done by our partners. We will be securing whatever volume we need for tivo.com. We will be securing from the partner.

In that sense, what I think as a distribution channel. But the majority of the sales to everything that happens for example on Amazon or in Best Buy will be handled directly between the partner and the distribution. We would be completely out of that transaction.

From an end consumer perspective, there will be no material change. There’s no significant co-branding. Of course, there’s always recognition of who manufactures the device that will continue. But basically, the consumer will continue seeing a TiVo branded devices with a TiVo experience, TiVo software that they know and love over the years. […]

Yes, in fact that’s a positive impact because they have better presence in those channels that we do today. And then, it’s a partner that we have a great relationship with. We’re very confident of their ability to succeed there. But we’ll continuously work with them, in some places when we decide to jointly try to promote something or jointly try to accelerate something. We’re not just a normal relationship that we will have with them.

So who is this mystery partner? The new TiVo Mini Vox is produced by Arris, a close TiVo partner. But I’m not certain what their retail experience is. Hmmm.

Don’t know what sort of stockings you’re sporting this time of year, but here are a few decent deals on some low ticket items that might interest you.

Aukey USB Charger – $6
I replaced an older, bulkier two-port Anker model with this little guy back in February and have been pleased. It’s unobtrusive in the kitchen, travels well, and simply does what it’s supposed to do. Use code FORMOM32 to knock $2 off and it’s shipped free via Prime. If you need more power (for iPads) or faster charging, this somewhat larger Anker is also on sale for $9.

Anker SoundBuds Slim – $20
I’ve been rocking these since December and use them more frequently than my Apple AirPods (for music) given the customizable fit (see the multiple options above) and comparatively superior blockage of ambient noise. Decent sound, decent battery life, and fairly quick recharging. I also appreciate the

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Noted Apple gossip blog Bloomberg indicates the company intends to beef up its TV app on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad:

Right now, the TV app aggregates content from other providers, allowing people to locate shows from a wide array of apps and channels like ABC, NBA League Pass and HBO, rather than having to hop between different apps. But then Apple sends customers outside its app to buy access to those channels or watch shows. With the pending change, subscription purchasing would move to the TV app. Apple could eventually move the streaming to its own app, instead of sending users to third parties.

Sounds a lot like Amazon’s Prime Video app and Channels approach, by becoming a streaming service content hub for, presumably, a more elegant end-user experience, that also happens to generate additional affiliate revenue for Apple — and not entirely dissimilar from Roku’s desire for a bigger cut on the content distribution front. Beyond 3rd party providers, this may also signal that Apple intends to leverage an updated TV app to distribute its own upcoming original programming.

The TiVo Hydra experience has seen a number of updates, since its October release, but they’ve primarily been focused on squashing (numerous) bugs. While that work continues, TiVo has begun rolling out their first “feature update” to existing Hydra owners — beginning two weeks ago with 5000 randomly selected boxes and now expanded to the general TiVo populace.

There are a number of visible changes, but the headline feature relates to the continued deprecation of textual lists in favor of a newly unveiled, graphically-intensive, dual-axis navigation. Another possibly notable revision is an update to the “mini guide” that closes the gap on the abandoned pioneering “Live Guide.”

As one pal told me, if you already appreciate the Hydra experience you’re gonna enjoy it that much more. If Hydra isn’t your thing, the 21.8.1 update won’t move the needle much… and I personally see no reason to give Hydra another go our home at this point. Our TiVos work just fine and predictably within the Encore HDUI. Although I do wonder if Hydra will be a pre-req when the delayed native Alexa integration hits.

(Thanks Daren, Mikey!)

An Arlo Baby with 7″ touchscreen display just popped up on Best Buy for $350, which represents a $100-150 premium over the Arlo Baby itself. Like all Netgear Arlo products, the camera feed can be viewed from both Apple and Android devices, so what’s obviously new and notable here is the bundled tablet. Sadly, the production description doesn’t provide a whole lot of insight – but here are the relevant bits:

This Arlo Baby monitoring system includes a 7-inch touch-screen display for real-time footage viewing.

The 7″ color LCD display lets you clearly see the full-motion video to ensure your little one is safe.

I’m just going to go ahead and assume it’s a heavily skinned and slimmed down lower-resolution Android affair. But, really, the bigger question is: Will this product actually see the light of day? While there’s been a year of display-related chatter, to compete with the traditional baby monitors, Arlo staff recently posted a note to their forums suggesting they’ve pulled the plug:

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