Today we arrive at the first of two 10-year anniversaries regarding iPhone: Steve Jobs unveiling the handset six months before its release -- unusual for Apple's then-CEO to pre-announce something, but necessary, with the federal regulatory rigmarole that cellular devices go through. Jobs and his management team brought the smartphone to market at great risk: Established and entrenched manufacturers, mainly Nokia, had huge distribution channels and massive amounts of research and development invested in their cellulars. iPhone debuted in one market (United States) and on a single carrier (AT&T, which concurrently rebranded). By most measures of business strategies: Insanity. But risk was a defining characteristic of Jobs' leadership style running the company.
You will read many "state of iPhone" analyses and commentaries this week spotlighting slowing sales, as buying growth plateaus in major markets (China, Europe, and the United States) and observing that Android continues to gobble global market share. The problem with iPhone is something else, and it's a metaphor for what's desperately wrong at Apple as 2017 starts: Loss of innovative mindshare; obsession with an outdated design motif; unwillingness to take meaningful risks. The company's fortunes rose with iPhone, and they will fall with it.
2016 is drawing to a close and we're already looking forward to everything a new year will bring. It gets started quick when the Consumer Electronics Show kicks off 2017, but before we start ogling at all those products that may or may not ever see a store shelf, it's time to take a glance back at the year that was.
Many products showed up on the BetaNews doorstep this year and we all worked hard to bring you an overview of them so you'd know what to buy and what to avoid. Now it's time for me to take a look at a few of my favorite items from the past 12 months.
Amazon's Echo devices are incredible. I'll admit that I was a skeptic at first, but once I got my own, I was hooked. Not only can the Alexa voice assistant provide me with important data like weather, news, and traffic, but it can play music too. Most importantly, it serves as a brilliant IoT control unit. My house has several WiFi connected power outlets, and I can verbally tell Alexa to turn off my lamps. It can even control my television!
Much of Amazon's success with Echo and Alexa is thanks to third-party developers and hardware. Today, Conexant and Amazon announce the AudioSmart 2-mic Development Kit. This add-on for the Raspberry Pi should enable easier development of devices using Amazon's Alexa voice technology. This could ultimately lead to further growth and adoption of the Alexa voice assistant.
If you happen to own the Amazon Echo and also happen to have a Fire Tablet sitting around, then you have an update for the tablet that has either arrived or soon will. Version 5.3.2 brings a very interesting feature that many users have been clamoring for.
This update rolls Alexa into the mix, bringing voice control to the handheld device. This means you can access the Echo from anywhere in your home, even out of voice range.
Election Day is finally here, and I have already voted. Throughout the rest of the day, many Americans will head to their polling places to cast a vote for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or someone else. No matter who you vote for, it is certainly an exciting day.
Today, Amazon's Alexa voice-assistant gains new Election Day commands. If you want to get information about the election without turning to the TV or radio, you can just summon the assistant to be presented with audible information.
We are currently in the golden age of television. Not only are shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones excellent, but there are so many ways to consume it all. Of course, you can watch TV live on cable or satellite, but thanks to DVR and streaming, you can watch on your schedule too. It is all quite glorious.
For those serious about their television watching, an investment in a quality remote control can be very wise. Logitech's Harmony line is arguably the best, and today, it gets even better. Owners of hub-compatible models can now link their Amazon Echo to the Harmony app, enabling voice controls for their AV equipment. Yes, fellow couch potatoes, we can now be even lazier when watching TV!
If you have a Wink hub then it's easy to set up home automation across a number of different platforms. Throw in Alexa and do a little additional setup and you'll be able to control it all with voice commands.
In the past you've been able to use groups to control multiple bulbs -- simply name each bulb and then add them to a group which you also name.
There are a lot of media streaming products to choose from, but my personal favorite is Amazon’s Fire TV Stick. It’s compact, powerful and gives you access to Amazon’s full range of on-demand video content, as well as apps and games.
Today, the retail giant announces a new version of Fire TV Stick that’s faster and adds Alexa voice control to the remote. No more browsing long lists of TV shows and movies, now you can simply ask Alexa to play anything you're interested in, launch apps, and more.
As prices continue to drop, and the technology becomes easier to use, 'smart home' devices are set to explode in popularity. As someone who once swore off such things, I now have Wi-Fi-enabled electric sockets and home cameras. When I am away, I can turn on a lamp and monitor my house. It is very cool, but slightly annoying that there is no central app for all of my connected home devices. Since I chose different brands, I unfortunately have a few different apps on my smartphone and tablet.
Today, iDevices announces 'Smart Home Essentials'. This focused kit is both Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa compatible. By purchasing this well-designed kit, you can avoid managing multiple apps. It even comes with free concierge service based in the USA for help setting things up (if needed).
Lost your phone? We probably all have at one time or another and it borders between annoying and scary depending where you've been. If you didn't leave home then it's there somewhere. If you did then it can be a full panic.
Now Amazon would like help via its Echo device. You're likely familiar with that by now, thanks to a TV ad campaign a while back, but it continues to do different things thanks to constant updates.
There is something of a trend for voice activated devices at the moment, and you might well be wondering if any of them are worth investing in. If you've been thinking about buying an Amazon Echo, you can now try it out in your web browser to get a feel for what it's like.
Amazon has launched the Alexa Skill Testing Tool which gives everyone the opportunity to test drive the virtual assistant for themselves. It's the perfect blend of try-before-you buy blended with clever marketing.
Amazon has been actively pursuing improvements to its line of products, be it Echo, Fire TV, Kindle or Fire tablet. Of all of the products, perhaps the most updated one and the one which gets the most attention, is the Echo, often referred to as Alexa.
The latest improvements are to Fire TV, gaining Alexa-like features. This isn't technically an Echo update, but an update to the set-top box.
"Alexa, play Jeopardy". Many phrases uttered around here lately begin with "Alexa". Amazon's Echo can do an ever growing number of things from simply playing music to controlling home automation. Other tricks are always in the works from both Amazon and third-parties.
The latest "skill", as these things are called, is integration with travel giant Kayak. The company is announcing integration with all Amazon Echo devices, including Dot and Tap.
It seems as though there is a constant flow of new features and capabilities arriving on Amazon's voice-enabled platform Echo. You can play Jeopardy, listen to music and podcasts, even control your lights and thermostat.
Now the system is partnering up with Fitbit to allow Alexa to tell you about your activity. There is a new series of questions that you simply ask the device and get your answers.
We knew updates were on the way to various Amazon products, but with a gradual roll out it was hard to say when things would arrive. Today the waiting is over, as both Fire TV and Kindle picked up the latest updates from the retail giant.
So what is in the cards for these updates? Well, lots of cool things that can prove useful to the company's multitude of customers.