Category Archives: Google

Chromecast’s expansion raises streaming stakes

The new Google Chromecast dongle is pictured on an electronic screen as it is announced during a Google event at Dogpatch Studio in San FranciscoDon’t look now, but Google has beaten Roku’s Streaming Stick into Canada with the international expansion of Chromecast, its own streaming dongle for HDTVs. The device, which has been popular in the United States since its release there last year, became available in Canada for $39 through and Google Play as of Tuesday evening, as well as 10 additional countries.

Roku announced earlier this month it would be launching its device in both Canada and the United States in April but with Google getting past the post first, the battle to control the living room streaming experience is now most definitely on. The third participant in the fray is, of course, Apple, but more on that in a second.

In assessing the combatants, it’s hard to deny that Chromecast has a lot going for it. Like the Roku Streaming Stick, it’s tiny. The dongle plugs into a TV’s HDMI port and sucks power from its USB port, so it’s basically invisible behind the set. Alternatively, it can be powered via a regular electrical plug, but one of the great things about these sticks is that they can eliminate one cord from the nasty spaghetti mess found behind the typical home entertainment system. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 19, 2014 in apple, Google, netflix, roku, youtube


Roku Streaming Stick takes aim at TV wire mess

roku-stickOne of the downsides of the big gadget revolution of the past few years is television spaghetti, or that big mess of wires that many people have behind their home entertainment systems. With all the PVRs, game consoles and media-streaming set-top boxes out there, plenty of households are having to deal with this unseemly problem.

Fortunately, things are likely to improve over the next few years as TV sets gets more powerful and connected and more cloud services take off. PVR pioneer TiVo is just one of the big names looking to replace hardware-based recording with an internet-accessed service, while Sony is leading the charge toward cloud gaming with PlayStation Now, scheduled to launch in a few months. Some day in the not-too-distant future, both PVRs and game consoles - with all their attendant wires - will be a thing of the past.

Media-streaming devices such as Roku and Apple TV are likely to beat them to the punch, however. California-based Roku is indeed taking steps toward that wireless - or at least less-wired - destiny with its announcement Tuesday of a new stick-like streaming device that plugs directly into TVs. The Roku Streaming Stick, which resembles a USB thumb storage drive, will be available in Canada and the United States in April at $59 and $49, respectively.

Roku has had a similar device on the market since 2012, but this one is different in several respects. For one, it works with any high-definition television, whereas its predecessor was only compatible with so-called “Roku-ready” TVs. The new Stick plugs into any HDTV’s HDMI port, with an additional power plug going into the set’s USB port. Users who don’t want to clog up their USB port have the option of plugging the Stick into a regular electricity outlet for power, but that might defeat the whole idea of getting rid of excess wires.

Regardless of power option, the Stick gives American users access to Roku’s 1,200 apps or “channels,” as the company calls them, while Canadians get about 750. The device also comes with the basic remote control, which is similar to that included with the Roku 1 and Roku 2 streaming boxes, but which lacks the headphone jack or motion gaming control of the Roku 3.

The Streaming Stick is similar to Chromecast, the $35 Google device that also streams online apps and media to TVs. Roku’s price premium represents the extra value of having the remote control, while the Stick itself is an obvious answer to Google’s device, which has been wildly popular in the United States since its release last year. Canadians are still out of luck when it comes to Chromecast, meaning that Roku’s device may have a leg up here when it’s released.

The Streaming Stick isn’t Roku’s only effort to eliminate TV spaghetti. The company announced its own Roku TV at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, a collaboration with Chinese television makers Hisense and TCL that will see its streaming devices effectively built into the flat panels themselves.

Set-top streaming boxes are thus coming under pressure from both ends - from smaller, cheaper and more convenient USB-like dongles, and “smart” televisions with software and interfaces that are indeed smarter, as opposed to the dog’s breakfast that many of them have been so far.

The writing is on the wall for boxes, but their demise probably won’t happen overnight. “We think the external player is going to be around for many years,” says Lloyd Klarke, Roku’s director of product management. “There are still a bunch of TVs that need Rokus attached to them.”

Roku TVs are coming to the United States later this year, he added, with their arrival in Canada likely happening a few months after that. Still, it won’t be too long before at least a few wires can be trimmed away from that giant mess behind the TV.


Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Google, roku


Smartphones jump the shark with Lenovo deal

moto-xNeed more evidence that smartphone prices are about to tank? Look no further than Lenovo’s announcement on Wednesday to buy Motorola from Google for $2.9 billion. While the deal gives the Chinese company its long desired presence in the Western smartphone market, it also represents a looming commoditization. The rule of thumb with Lenovo is: when the company comes knocking, your product is probably about to jump the shark, if it hasn’t already.

Lenovo’s most famous purchase came in 2004, when it announced it was buying IBM’s PC division and ThinkPad brand for $1.7 billion. PCs were already commodified by that point, with prices and profits going nowhere but down. IBM wisely saw the writing on the wall and got out while the getting was… well, not good, but at least doable.

The question everyone was asking was why would anyone want to buy a sinking ship? Lenovo’s executives had a simple answer: they wanted to become China’s first international brand. The profit margins on PCs were shrinking, but everybody still needed them, so what better way to familiarize the world with the Lenovo brand than with a ubiquitous product? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 30, 2014 in Google, IBM, Lenovo, mobile, motorola


Google opens Pandora’s Box with virtual Lego

lego-houseIf this blog post seems a little short today, it’s because I’m busy preparing my lawsuit against Google and Lego. It seems the two companies have poached an idea I shared nearly a year ago, wherein I proposed a 3D  tool that could allow people to construct their own virtual Lego creations and then share them online.

Lo and behold, Google has launched Build With Chrome, a tool for its web browser that does exactly that. Excuse me, I think that’s my lawyer calling…

I’m only kidding, of course. As a Lego aficionado, I’m actually overjoyed that Google has done this - and I’m amazed at how well it works. In a blog post, product marketing manager Adrian Soghoian explains that the tool uses WebGL, a 3D graphics technology, to create a smooth-flowing interface. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t look a lot like professional CAD software. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 29, 2014 in Google, lego


2014: Wearable gadgets continue to flop

Google founder Sergey Brin and his Glass: banned all over.

Google founder Sergey Brin and his Glass: banned all over.

Whew, what a decade. Well, decade and then some.

Ever since the iPod came out in 2001, it’s been one non-stop rush of revolutionary new gizmos, from smartphones and e-readers to GPS devices and tablets. It’s not an overstatement to say that all these brand new categories of electronics have collectively changed how we do just about everything.

It’s no wonder then that many people in the technology industry, and plenty in the tech press, expect or even want this cavalcade to continue, which is probably the main explanation for why there has been so much hype over so-called wearable computers or gadgets. Going into 2013, there was an awful lot of anticipation for Google Glass, the search company’s camera-equipped eyeglasses, and smartwatches from the likes of Samsung.

As the year draws to a close, however, it’s almost funny how badly those particular two items flopped. Despite not even being a commercially available product, Google Glass has been pre-emptively banned all over the place for its safety and privacy issues (never mind its nerdiness), while Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smart-watch may very well have been the most poorly received gadget of the year. Even the commercial for it was mind-numbingly bad.

Heading into 2014, there are a few reasons why such big flops are likely to continue. Read the rest of this entry »

1 Comment

Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Google, samsung


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