Twice the fun at 45 mph on the water from the folks who brought you the Aquada. “It’s about freedom.”
Like Apple, Amazon’s standing as a successful retailer has allowed it to drive the Kindle business beyond those of any other Android-based tablet maker. Both companies have succeeded in part because of their focus on the end-user or customer. The introduction of Whispercast, however, throws a wrinkle into that. This is the first “Whisper”-branded technology that caters to the needs of institutions, priming the pump for large-volume purchases.
It may also signal a continued move away from ads that are not enterprise-friendly; Amazon greatly reduced the price to remove ads in its latest round of Kindles. The move is timed well to take advantage of the larger, higher-end Kindle Fires on the way that can do a better job of displaying documents and other rich media as wel as the lower-end Kindle Paperwhites that are lean, mean text-reading machines. It also helps to shore up Amazon’s defenses now that its main competitor is partnering with enterprise software giant Microsoft, but also to further differentiate it from the signage-class e-readers that may soon start to aggregate in that unforgiving pool known as “the bottom.”
One of the details about Surface that has been revealed is the price of the device which, at $499, is competitive with the current iPad. But that includes a significant asterisk, which is the $100 for the well-highlighted touch cover and even more for the thicker version with tactile keys. The closest counterpart to this on the iPad is the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard which, unlike the Surface add-on keyboards, require a battery and Bluetooth and lacks a touchpad. But without such a relatively pricey peripheral, Surface users will have to rely on the device’s integrated kickstand for that satisfying clicking sound. At least that kickstand will allow users to have device propped up unattended in landscape orientation, something that requires an accessory for the iPad.
The new Boxee TV, like the original Boxee Box, is also produced by D-Link. But there’ll be little issue setting something on top of this one. Indeed, that’s what Boxee has figuratively done, stacking over-the-air DVR functionality on top of the Internet content that was delivered by the original oddly-angled cubazoid. The Boxee TV model is somewhat of a cross between Simple.TV and Aereo. Like the former, Boxee TV is a local device. Like the latter, though, it relies on cloud storage rather than local storage and unlimited local storage at that. Boxee TV will cost $99 and the company has struck a deal to blow it out at Walmart. Thus, not surprisingly, Walmart-owned Vudu will be one of the featured broadband TV launch partners along with Netflix.
Alas, there’s a monthly fee: $15 per month independent of any other services,. Like Aereo, Boxee will be offering access to all the recorded video via a Web app that should cover most services. So, it seems that Boxee, like Simple.TV, is courting the cord-never, or at least seeking to bring a bit of flavor of TV Everywhere to that crowd. Unlike Aereo, Boxee TV actually uploads recordings to the cloud, so it may be able to maneuver more deftly around legal challenges.
Xbox Music is in many ways Microsoft’s attempt to catch up with everything that has been going on in the digital music space in the last two years:
When Microsoft launched Zune, it had an opportunity to look at the landscape of subscription music players such as Rhapsody and sought to differentiate with moves such as large, panning photos of artists, smart deejaying, social integration and a few free MP3s per month. The service sputtered, but its competition hasn’t fared much better. With XBox Music, Microsoft is again turning to the freebie strategy, giving away six months of on-demand streaming, at which point you will hopefully be hooked. After that, it’s virtually indistinguishable from others on the market (or at least a combination of others on the market).
This will be a lot easier for consumers to manage than the MP3 credits were. And perhaps integration and a favored position in the living room will earn it some traction there, but with Pandora integrated into an increasing number of HDTVs and of course MusicChoice and Sirius XM on tap for most cable and satellite customers. With Microsoft’s weak market share in handsets already (and some decent competition from Nokia Music from one of its partners), it clearly will have to flesh out its strategy for other mobile platforms soon.
Thanks to Manan Kakkar for the correction.
MG Siegler gets very excited about the iPhone 5-inspired iPod touch, saying it will further obliterate the point-and-shoot camera market. But the only thing that gets obliterated over the course of the review from my fellow TechCrunch columnist is that argument. This is achieved via his own points which note that point-and-shoot cameras continue to improve and that a current-generation iPod touch now costs nearly 50 percent more I’ll say. If you value quality photography, not only can you get a superior point-and-shoot for less than the price of the iPod touch (increasingly even with Wi-Fi). And, by the way,the kinds of point-and-shoots being featured right now on Amazon’s home page are for underwater photography.
The iPod touch’s camera has improved, but it’s never been a camera cannibalizer. Indeed, the iPod touch has been holding up another category — MP3 players — under more severe attack from the real cannibals: subsidized smartphones. The digital media player market seen about everyone except Apple and semtimental Sony exit above the $100 price point. In contrast, the struggling point-and-shoot camera market continues to see robust if evolutionary (and not always profitable) competition from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Pentax and Olympus.
Even Siegler concedes that the iPhone 5 is a better camera choice than the iPod touch, but notes that not everyone has an iPhone 5. That is true, but increasingly even cash-strapped US consumers can pick up smartphones on pre-paid carriers that would effectively obviate the need for an iPod touch. Siegler probably would never consider using such a device, but to deny their influence is to favor an iPod out-of-touch.