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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.

We’ve been tracking new August Smart Home hardware for months … and the company’s plans are starting to coalesce, given some tipster-provided imagery. As with Nest, August intends to expand downmarket this fall with what appears to a lower-end smart lock that (primarily?) lacks the premium Yves Behar industrial design and light effects. However, like Nest, they’ll also be offering a more upscale and capable product for those so inclined in the August Smart Lock Pro. Beyond carrying forward the prior generation’s form factor, I’m hopeful they’ve managed to slim down the bulk (depth-wise) with this go around. And, on the technical end, both the company and requisite FCC filing indicate Z-Wave will be joining Bluetooth within the August Smart Lock Pro for expanded IoT interoperability.

The August doorbell camera will also see a slight refresh in the near future, although concrete details are a bit murkier. The perforations have clearly been relocated, but it otherwise retains its blocky form. Perhaps the video resolution or field of view will see bumps to better match the competition. Along with the new locks and doorbell cam, a feature called “doorsense” will likely launch – one we suspect is related to indoor package delivery.

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With 1200 employees, as reported last summer, you’d expect a far more expansive product line from Nest – the company that took the smart thermostat mainstream, prior the their Google acquisition in 2014. And they’re about the expand their appeal and market by heading downmarket this fall. As revealed by Evan Blass, what looks to be a more simplistic and less refined thermostat is on the docket. Based the imagery alone and some informed guesswork, I’m expecting more limited compatibility while the bulk of t-stat control will reside solely within mobile apps. Beyond the Nest Lite, a trusted industry source indicates the company is also working on a revised indoor camera and hopeful of hitting a $100 price point this fall, perhaps bolstered by an ADT partnership and monitoring upsell.

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As pointed out in the TiVo forums, the recently updated Arris TiVo product line made available to cable companies includes one model strikingly similar in appearance to our exclusive retail TiVo Mini 4K imagery. And I have reason to believe the hardware is, indeed, likely the same… making good on a TiVo/Rovi pre-transition promise:

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.

Retail has been challenging for TiVo in recent years and they’ve previously written off hardware expenditures, so leaning on a partner cable box manufacturer to limit TiVo’s retail outlay and risk, given Arris’ larger scale, superior supply chain, etc is a wise business move.

Assuming the differences are largely cosmetic, here’s what the Arris Mi4 spec sheet has to sayContinue Reading…