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Smart Speakers: About More Than Just Music

2015 has been another banner year for the audio market.  While sales of stereo headphones and soundbars have grown 18 percent and 13 percent, respectively, according to The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, so too have wireless speakers.  In fact, the wireless speaker market figures to eclipse $1.5 billion in volume by the end of this year as an array of pricepoints, features, and form factors offer consumers plenty of choice in the market.  There are also options for consumers when it comes to how their speaker connects with an audio source.

Drop Dead Fitness

The checkup started really well. Blood pressure was right on track, blood oxygen was apparently great and my heart rate was, as usual, as slow as an athlete’s. There was just one problem: I'm not much of an athlete. Not that I'm unhealthy: I windsurf when the weather is warm and windy, and get out on a bicycle every now and then. Heck, I've even been known to break into a gentle run on special occasions. But I'm not deluded enough to think I'm in top shape.

Stream me up, Scotty!

On the spectrum of Star Trek fanship, I fall somewhere between devout moviegoer & re-run viewer, and fully costumed Trekkie conventioneer. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are rushing home after school to see which new planet the Enterprise’s landing party would beam down to, and what alien species Captain Kirk and the crew would encounter. Fifty years after the first stardate, it’s only fitting that Star Trek marks its golden anniversary by breaking out of the box again, with new episodes slated to premier on CBS All Access streaming service instead of broadcast TV.

Let's Play Ball

It’s September and the pennant race is heating up here in NY. At the time of writing, the Yankees are just one-and-a-half games out of first place, and the Mets hold a commanding lead in the NL East. Over the coming weeks, more viewers will tune in to the game, and October headlines will be all about the playoffs. Meanwhile, TV industry news has been concentrated on cord cutting; as expected Q2 ’15 turned out to be the inflection point where the first sizable number of subscribers canceled their TV service. Playing off the trend toward streaming video, Apple’s annual keynote included an Apple TV app demonstration from MLB.tv. Any fan watching immediately recognized what it means for the future of the game.

Intelligence Before Automation in the Kitchen

The kitchen refrigerator has got one heck of a challenge ahead of it when it comes to the automated home. Many household appliance advocates talk wistfully of when the fridge will know all about the food inside it and will be able to tell you that the eggs are about to go bad and that little Johnny just swigged the last of the milk and you are all out. And why stop there?

Loading, Please Wait

There’s a flaw with streaming video that smacks me in the face every now and then. Just when I’m settling into the show of choice, I occasionally get an ugly little message that says “Loading, please wait.” I don’t like it. It reminds me that my TV viewing habits are based on a less-than-perfect infrastructure (the Internet) with varying bandwidth to the home and potential server issues along the way. More importantly, it ruins my enjoyment of the show in question.

AT&T Rebuilds The Bundle, Thanks to DirecTV Approvals

The AT&T/DirecTV wedding is complete and the carrier wasted little time in consummating the deal. Almost immediately, AT&T launched a new TV/wireless bundle offering a 10 percent monthly discount that leverages either U-verse or DirecTV. Of course, the ‘bundle’ is not a new concept in the wireless industry or across telecom and broadband, and indeed the major wireless carriers have often tried to bundle TV and wireless together. But this one is a more serious attempt with a single billing package and, of course, it is the first time a carrier has been able to offer its own TV service on a nationwide level. Indeed, the DIRECTV merger now makes AT&T the largest TV provider in the U.S., surpassing Comcast.

Driving Mobile from the Desktop

Windows 10 launched with the key promise of creating a user experience that transcends the phone, tablet and PC. While this should, at least in theory, help drive the appeal of Windows-based phones, the reality is that it may be too little, too late for the mobile component. According to NPD’s Mobile Phone Track, Windows-based phones accounted for just 2.8 percent of U.S. smartphone sales in Q1 2015.

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