Not all tech news is about Consumer Electronics Show 2014 this week. Today, Vimeo unveiled a new video player that puts preference on HTML5 streaming and provides content creators with fresh tools. Alongside the default codec choice, two benefits stand out: Improved performance, with videos loading claimed 50-percent faster, and support for in-app transactions.
The latter feature extends video-on-demand capabilities. "The addition of in-player transaction support allows creators even further control, by making any embedded Vimeo player a point of sale -- be it on a creator's own website or any page across the web", Kerry Taylor, Vimeo CEO, explains. "Since launching the Vimeo On Demand platform last year, we've continued to add new features that empower filmmakers to sell directly to their audiences on their own terms".
I would dump DSL tomorrow and switch the family to cellular data, if not for cost. Downstream wireless is faster than my home Internet and would always be there -- wherever the phone goes; use it as personal hotspot for PC or tablet. But pesky, expensive data caps hold me back.
So I'm intrigued by one of the oddest and most provocative announcements coming on Consumer Electronics Show 2014 Day 0: AT&T "Sponsored Data". The carrier turns around the Net Neutrality debate by encouraging data gluttons to pay up so that cellular customers can consume more while paying less. It's a novel concept, and I like it. Netflix, this is for you, baby. You might resist, but I'll love you forever if you sponsor me. Surely, I'm not alone.
It's Consumer Electronics Show 2014 Day 0, and we have hands-on with new Acer and Toshiba Chromebooks -- and both share the same flaw: Yes, flaw. Not enough memory, like HP Chromebook 11, among other newer models. I know margins are tight on these things, but how much more costly really would be 4GB? I can say from absolute experience that 2GB simply isn't enough, particularly if the objective is Chromebook replacing Mac or Windows PC.
Shared memory takes a good chunk out of that 2GB, let alone Chrome running atop Linux. What are these manufacturers thinking? One foot in the Chrome OS outdoors, but rest of body inside Windows? Because Chromebook with 2GB of RAM, even running a Haswell processor, stretches to replace a Windows PC. Make that 4 gigs, and the experience can be as good or better. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, you can stop laughing now. I can hear you all the way down in San Diego.
Consumer Electronics Show 2014 starts next week, and that means tech companies tripping over one another to get the goods front and center early. No one really waits for Day One anymore, and Acer picks Day -4 to announce another touchscreen Chromebook -- this one in Moonstone White. Moonstone? Does it light up the Google cloud at night?
The white C720P joins the darker sibling launched in late November. Touch is the C720P's defining characteristic for the price. Google is the only other company selling a touchscreen Chromebook, and it starts much higher -- $1,299. Anyone looking for the feature on a budget laptop running Chrome OS, Acer C720P is it.
I'm not big on making year-ahead predictions -- common as the stories are at the turn of the year. But it's a slow news week, with the holiday and Consumer Electronics Show still ahead, so I thought: "Why not look into the crystal ball?"
If any of these come to be, something is seriously wrong with the space-time continuum.
Motorola's New Year's resolution gives notice to Apple and other Android phone manufacturers: We don't need stinking subsidies. Today, the Google subsidiary cut Moto X's off-contract to $399, even personalized, on all carriers. The permanent discount is $50 more than Motorola's glitchy Black Friday sale.
Google has a long history of selling unlocked, off-contract phones, starting with Nexus One four years ago. But in 2012, Nexus 4 brought the price down to something mere mortals could afford: $299. The Android's successor costs more, starting at $349.
Better last than never. Colleagues Ian Barker, Alan Buckingham, Brian Fagioli, Mihaita Bamburic, Wayne Williams, and Mark Wilson have all picked their favorite tech for the year. I join them. Only things I actually have used qualify for consideration.
My list focuses on one aspect: Value. Which products I see delivering the most value for money spent. Surely your value choices will differ. You can spend 25 cents and get loads of value from something or $2,500 and little at all. With that short introduction, I present my five favorite tech products of 2013 (and one from 2005, newly discovered).
Well, frak me. I'm writing something about Chromebook and early this morning swung by Apple's website to double-check iPad Air pricing. There's a 1:30-long commercial donning the front door that is absolutely fabulous. Beat me with a stick, so I can wake up because this must be a dream. Apple has got back its marketing mojo.
Commercial "Misunderstood" is self-depricating in the most surprising way -- a teenager obsesses over his iPhone instead of jollying with the family for the holidays. It's all so terribly stereotypical, and watching you have to wonder what insanity has taken over Apple marketers. But there's a great, sentimental story here which I won't explain. Watch the commercial and judge for yourself.
As the flu subsides some, I feel ever so cranky and, hehe, suspicious. So I look askance at the newest Gmail changes and ask my favorite question: "Who benefits?" By product manager John Rae-Grant's reckoning, you do. But Google gains more from plans to display remote images.
Yeah, images make your email look prettier, when Uncle Duck sends a collage of his vintage Winchester and new truck. But they also snazz up spam -- the stuff you don't want -- and advertising collateral you desire about as much but which is gold to Google and its partners. Stated differently, and I will explain why later: Gmail image changes make Google spam's middleman. Say, can some grifter give a con game's name in comments to this thing?
I'm all for curbing government snooping, but what about corporations collecting information? Tech Giant's -- AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo -- reform rally is disingenuous and self-serving. These same companies collect mountains of personal information for profit. So, what? It's okay for them to snoop, but not governments?
Today, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and Hanukah, a rare occurrence they overlap. We reflect on the things we feel -- or should be -- grateful. Ahead of the holiday meal I served up "13 things for which Google gives thanks" and colleagues Wayne Williams and Alan Buckingham "5 things to be thankful for in Windows 8.1" and "5 products I'm thankful for", respectively. I would be remiss ignoring Apple.
The fruit-logo company is unique in techdom, inventing or reinventing several hugely successful product categories. Most companies have one- or two-hit wonders. Apple has a string of smash hits, like the rarest of iconic musicians. The Beatles come to mind, because of their 50th-anniversary and name shared -- you know, Apple Records. The many things for which the company should be thankful are obvious, so let's just dispense with those and get to items other list-makers, if there are any, likely will overlook. I present Apple's thankful things from least to most important.
U.S. Thanksgiving Day comes late this year for retailers, but makes more time for Google to count its blessings and to offer gratitude for them. Oh, they are bountiful, and there is still another month of them to come. The year 2013 will be remembered as one of the finest in Google history. The company has so much to be thankful for, I could have trebled the list.
But for succinctness, I whittle down to those things that mean more than others or that otherwise would be overlooked in the typical yearly review. The list goes from that for which Google should be least thankful to most. Gobble. Gobble.
Whoa, twice now in less than seven days, I defend Microsoft's "Scroogled" advertising campaign. Seriously, someone deserves a fat Holiday bonus for hitting homers out of the marketing park. As good as anti-Google logo mugs and Tees are, the followup is better.
The Scroogled commercial featuring Rick Harrison and his dad from "Pawn Stars" is so effective that BetaNews has three posts debating the merits -- and there are loads more across social networks. Colleague Brian Fagioli calls the commercial the "best Scroogled ad yet", while Alan Buckingham says it's an "embarrassment". Hehe, they're both correct.
My colleague Wayne Williams calls Microsoft Scroogled gear "pathetic" and a "new low". I agree that the anti-Google hat, hoodie, mug and Tees are more crass than class but they tap fanboy sentiments. The Scroogled product line is brilliant marketing, I say.
Look at the amount of attention generated across blogs, news sites and social networks today. Scroogled is everywhere. Microsoft rarely gets such viral uptake, and any advertising consultant will tell you that all news is good news. Controversy is sweet marketing, and here pointed. Scroogled isn't just anti-Google, it's pro-discussion -- as fanboys from both sides and everyone between them argue about one company against the other. Microsoft marketers want flaming debate about Google search.
Apple has a big problem. The news media and technorati treat your company like Microsoft. Can you say "has-been?" For nearly 15 years, the company that Bill Gates built could do no right. Every seeming innovation met fierce criticism. Today, tongues wag about how Apple has lost its way under your leadership and how the days of innovation are over.