Holiday gift guide: Smart home products – get a jump on HomeKit for 2015

holiday gift guide smart home products 2014

I wondered earlier this year whether Apple’s HomeKit system would bring home automation to the masses. The good news is that you don’t need to wait for HomeKit to start bringing smart home technology to your family and friends – and we’ve put together a gift guide covering some of the main products that might bring a smile to their faces during the holidays.

With the right gadgets, they will be able to control lighting, heating, cooking, sound systems … even have their kettle switch on when they walk up to their front door, which will automatically unlock as they approach. Best of all, you can get them in on the smart home action from just $30 …

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Amazon takes on Square and PayPal Here with $10 iPhone/iPad cardreader & lower fees

Small businesses looking to take occasional card payments without paying monthly fees now have a third option as Amazon has launched Local Register to compete with Square and PayPal Here – as we predicted last month. The $10 card-reader is compatible with any iPhone from the iPhone 4 onward, as well as any iPad or iPad mini.

Amazon is undercutting both competitor services with a flat fee of 2.5 percent per transaction (vs 2.7 percent for PayPal Here and 2.75 percent for Square). Not enough? Amazon is sweetening the deal with a special introductory rate of 1.75 percent until the end of 2015, and will also credit the $10 cost of the cardreader in full against transaction fees …  Read more

Roku CEO says Apple TV ‘loses money’, calls it an iPad accessory

roku-3-with-headphones

CNET is reporting that Roku CEO Anthony Wood described Apple TV as an ‘iPad accessory’ at Re/code’s Code/Media conference. Until recently, even Apple characterised the product as a ‘hobby’. The Apple TV box has not changed much since its major revamp in 2010. More controversially, Wood followed up by claiming that the Apple TV actually loses money for Apple – which would immediately seem strange since Rokus have similar hardware and cost less.

“Apple TV is essentially an accessory for the iPad. They lose money, which is unusual for Apple,” he said Thursday, speaking at the Recode conference here. “If you’re losing money, why would you want to sell more?”

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Caltech and NYU economists call for Apple ebooks trial verdict to be overturned

ebooks

Apple’s prospects of a successful appeal against the ruling in the ebooks trial may be improved by a brief filed by two economists from Caltech and NYU who suggest that the ruling was in error and call for it to be reversed.

Apple was found guilty of anti-competitive practices on two grounds. First, it asked publishers to switch from a wholesale pricing model – where publishers sold books in bulk and retailers set their own prices – to an agency model, where publishers set prices and retailers took a percentage cut. This, the court found, reduced price competition …  Read more

It’s AAPL schizophrenia time: most admired company; institutions bailing; tablet growth falling

Photo: Business Insider

Photo: Business Insider

If you based your assessment of Apple’s future prospects on analyst reports and polls, you’d be upping your medication today while reading three separate sets of numbers.

Fortune reports that Apple tops the ‘most admired companies‘ list for the seventh time in a row, with Amazon and Google the runners-up. The charts are based on polling directors, executives and analysts in the USA’s largest companies.

The same source cites a Morgan Stanley investment note showing that the 30 largest institutional investors, who between them hold at least 30 percent of the shares on the market, have been selling AAPL, with their holdings at a record low …  Read more

Amazon’s long-rumored Apple TV competitor to launch next month?

Image: digitaltrends.com

Image: digitaltrends.com

Amazon’s TV box, which the company is believed to have been working on for around a year, is to be launched next month, according to unnamed content distribution sources cited by re/code - ahead of the new version of the Apple TV box expected to be unveiled in April.

People I’ve talked to who are partnering with Amazon believe the company is aiming for a March rollout […]

Sources tell me Amazon’s box will be powered by Google’s Android operating system, which is also not a surprise — Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets use a “forked” version of Android …  Read more

Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac hits Amazon Germany and MacMall US with purported September 5th delivery date

Screen Shot 2013-08-18 at 9.39.08 AM

Cat’s out of the bag? It appears that Parallels is preparing an update to their award-winning virtualization software for Mac.  Amazon Germany has a pre-order page up with Parallels Desktop 9 artwork and an expected delivery date of September 5th. Having a quick look around, it appears you can also order it now in the US at MacMall/PCM for $74.99 shipped:

A variety of other retailers appear to be getting units in stock after a quick Google search of manufacturer part PDFM9L-BX1-EN-NT. The September 5th release date would seem to fit into Parallels’ schedule. Previous releases were:

  • Parallels 8 – Released on September 4, 2012
  • Parallels 7 – Released on September 6, 2011
  • Parallels 6 – Released on September 14, 2010
  • Parallels 5 – Released on November 4, 2009

Parallels allows Mac Users to run Virtual machines of Windows, other instances of Mac OS, Linux, Android and just about every other Intel-based OSes out there inside of Mac OS. Likely updates this time around would probably include OSX 10.9 Mavericks and Windows 8/.1 compatibility improvements.

Parallels has traditionally allowed users who’ve bought within 2 weeks of  release a free upgrade to the new version but no such policy has yet been announced for this version. (Update: Here’s Parallels Tech Guarantee saying if you buy after August 15th (now) you are covered for a free upgrade when V9 comes out.)  If you are interested in purchasing Parallels now (and it is a GREAT product), we recommend downloading a free 30-day trial of Parallels Desktop 8 which would conclude after the above early September update, guaranteeing you wouldn’t need to pay extra for an update to v9.

If Parallels 9 is indeed coming out soon, you can bet we’ll have a full review of the product and/or any iOS accessory products, should such products exist, as soon as they are available.

  • Parallels 8 – Released on September 4, 2012
  • Parallels 7 – Released on September 6, 2011
  • Parallels 6 – Released on September 14, 2010
  • Parallels 5 – Released on November 4, 2009

Thanks/Danke Tipsters! Read more

Sunrise Calendar, IMDb, iA Writer, Dolphin Browser, Myst, Finish, deals, more

Sunrise Calendar: Launched today by former Foursquare designers, the free Sunrise calendar app is getting a lot of attention for its simplistic approach to combining calendars, Facebook events and birthdays, and weather forecasts based on your current location. The app initially only supports Google Calendar, includes Timezone support (a feature missing from many popular calendar apps), and integration with LinkedIn to “see faces of people you are meeting.”

Features:
☆ 100% free calendar app with a gorgeous design.
☆ Compatible only with Google Calendar for now.
☆ A completely redesigned calendar experience for your iPhone.
☆ Synchronization that just works, in real-time.
☆ Quick Add Event just by typing “Lunch tomorrow at 9pm” (long-press on the +).
☆ Reminders.
☆ Timezone Support. No more headache when travelling!
☆ Facebook Events and Birthdays included.
☆ See faces of people you are meeting with using LinkedIn.
☆ Weather forecast based on your location.
☆ Smart icons.
☆ Tag location to events.
☆ Use Google Maps for Directions.
☆ Connect multiple Google Calendars.

IMDB-iOS-appIMDb version 3.1: IMDb announced a nice update to its IMDb Movies & TV iOS app that brings a number of new features including links to titles available on Amazon Prime for users that have the  Amazon Instant Video app installed on their iPhone or iPad. The update also includes a Special Oscars section with a “list of nominees and photos from the red carpet and ceremony and live winners,” a new Recommendations feature, and a few improvements:

- Award information for celebrities and titles (iPad/iPhone)
– Titles available on Amazon Prime feature a link to watch if the Amazon Instant Video app is also installed (iPhone/iPad)
– Special Oscars® section: list of nominees and photos from the red carpet and ceremony and live winners on iPhone and iPad during the ceremony
– Recommendations: tap on the “i” in the corner of the poster to see why it’s recommended for you, rate the title if you’ve seen it, or indicate “not interested” (iPad)
– Improved accessibility for TV episode navigation (iPad)
– Updates to side navigation (iPad)
– Bug fixes include episode picker in VoiceOver (iPad)

Finish version 1.0.2: Improvements and new features for productivity app Finish:
1. There’s now an option in settings to start the week on Monday.
2. Smoother gestures!
3. Some small interface improvements
4. Good ol’ VARIOUS BUG FIXES!

iA Writer version 1.8: Popular text editor iOS app iA Writer gets a big update today that includes a new iCloud engine and UI, overall new look and feel for the entire app, and a ton of features and improvements: Read more

Amazon Instant Video comes to iPhone and iPod touch

You can now watch all of those free Amazon Prime videos on your iPhone or iPod touch. Amazon updated its Instant Video App today to support Apple’s smaller screens. The app also lets you watch any of your Amazon collection of paid videos, buy videos, and allows you to store for offline viewing as well. Great for the holidays! More info here.

Amazon Instant Video is now playing on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Videos you’ve purchased or rented with Amazon Instant Video will show up instantly on your Apple device once you download and sign into the app. Amazon Prime members can stream titles from the entire Prime Instant Video library.

Next stop for Amazon: Apple TV?

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Amazon Prime now available as a $7.99/month plan (Updated)

Update: An Amazon spokesperson says this is just a test (but you still can order this per month)“We are always looking at ways to improve the shopping experience for our customers. We are testing a monthly Prime subscription. Beyond that, we don’t have anything further to offer.”

It appears Amazon is joining Hulu and Netflix with a monthly subscription plan for its Prime video streaming service, according to a new pricing scheme found by Hacking Netflix. Some users are seeing the new pricing scheme come up, while others see only the $79/year options (compare right and above).

Amazon also offers a one-month free trial (Hulu free trial, Netflix free trial).

In addition to the free streaming video service, users of Amazon’s Prime get access to free two-day shipping on product orders (amazing to have for the holidays—especially on a month-to-month basis), as well as access to the Kindle lending library.

While Amazon’s streaming player isn’t yet available on Apple TV like Netflix/Hulu, its recent iPad app has impressed us. The $7.99/month price comes out to $95.88 per year. So, if you aren’t timid about joining Prime, it is probably better to jump on the $79/year plan.

9to5Toys.com deals: Get a new Toshiba Wifi-ready BluRay player with Netflix for $30, or a Toshiba 24″ 1080P slim HDTV for $150

With more and more first rate content, according to a recent Changwave/451 Group study, Amazon’s Prime streaming service is said to be gaining on industry heavyweight Netflix (graphed below): Read more

Amazon Instant Video app for iPad hits the App Store with offline viewing and Prime streaming

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Just 24 hours after Hulu started popping up on Apple TV, we now see Amazon’s Instant Video Store in the App Store for iPad. It looks like a full app capable of not only streaming Prime content for free (with the$79 a yearl Amazon Prime membership, but the first month is free) as well as being able to download content for offline viewing. Also, Season Pass is available for TV shows, and episodes are available the morning after the show airs on TV. The app will also resume where you left off watching from Kindle Fire, PS3, PC, Mac, or hundreds of models of connected TVs and Blu-ray players with Amazon Whispersync.

Interestingly, no iPhone version yet.

I can confirm that Airplay only works for audio in streaming video so you can’t stream to an AppleTV, yet. Also, I am able to stream my purchased movies but offline downloading doesn’t appear to be working at the moment (update: 8 hours later, 1 movie has finished downloading).

Amazon’s Cloud Drive got updated just yesterday as well, but with the proximity to the Hulu announcement, we’re thinking this might be Apple’s move more than Amazon finally building the app. On the other hand, perhaps the $199 Google Nexus 7 is signaling a big shift – that Amazon doesn’t need to build its own hardware and it can just produce software for the variety of tablets out there.

Full App Description below: Read more

Apple snatches top corporate reputation score from rival Google

Apple earned the top spot in a new corporate reputation study by Harris Poll (via TechCrunch). It awarded Apple with a corporate reputation quotient of 85.63, which is enough to displace a second-ranked Google with a score of 82.82. Only eight companies earned an RQ score of 80 or above that denotes “excellent reputation.” Apple’s achievement is even more noteworthy knowing Google ranked as last year’s most reputable corporation. Facebook and Intel did not appear on the list this year at all. As for Apple’s rise:

Apple’s current dominance is built on strong investments in its brand, predominantly through its products and services. This one-dimensional approach to building reputation has ultimately yielded high associations with all six reputational dimensions. Conversely, Hewlett Packard, which once out-ranked Apple, has headed in the reverse direction. Hewlett Packard’s slowly eroding reputation has been injured by negative perceptions on Ethics and Vision & Leadership dimensions, and its brand is beginning to feel the damage.

Beverages giant Coca-Cola (No. 3), online retailer Amazon (No. 4) and multinational confectionery, food and beverage conglomerate Kraft Foods (No. 5) round out the top five. Apple ranked the highest in Financial Performance, Products & Services, Vision & Leadership and Workplace Environment—four  out of the six key dimensions in reputation. Interestingly, Amazon.com rules the Emotional Appeal category, even though it lacks brick-and-mortar stores and has a limited human interaction with its customers…

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