Posts tagged with "Comcast"

Amazon to launch Fire TV sets in bid to firm up its foothold in living rooms

September 10, 2021

Amazon plans to roll out  a line of Fire TV sets that will feature its Alexa voice assistant—an expansion that also showcases a growing ambition to place itself at the center of customer living rooms, reports The Wall Street Journal.

On September 9, the tech giant announced two lineups of Amazon-branded TVs—one named Amazon Fire TV Omni Series, starting at $409.99, and the other Amazon Fire TV 4-Series, which will start at $369.99. The TVs will be available on Amazon’s website and at Best Buy. locations in October.

TV brands including Toshiba and Best Buy house brand Insignia have for years sold televisions powered by Amazon Fire TV’s operating system after Amazon and Best Buy joined forces in 2018.

What’s more, the Journal notes, Amazon has become dominant in streaming, with its Fire TV devices regularly ranking among top sellers. Its entertainment services include the Prime Video streaming platform, Fire TV operating system, and an assortment of streaming devices.

In recent years, Amazon has expanded its own-brand business in several arenas, including apparel, groceries and even items such as batteries. The company has opened branded grocery shops and plans to operate several department stores that will feature its private-label brands, the Journal reported last month.

Through its branded TVs, the online retailer is taking on a segment of electronics known for low margins that have dissuaded some competitors. Apple spent years studying the potential for an Apple TV, but has so far only developed a streaming device and the video service Apple TV+. The iPhone maker has long targeted opportunities to integrate hardware and software to make products where it can command hefty premiums and profit margins.

Amazon, meanwhile, historically has sought market share over profit and to appeal to customers with lower prices. The company in recent years has released an array of Alexa-enabled products, including ear buds and glasses.

An Amazon TV “speaks to Amazon’s product road map—anything customers spend time on, they want to take a shot at,” said Loup Ventures tech analyst Gene Munster. “There will be a market for cheap, good tech.”

The streaming industry is crowded with competitors. Amazon has faced steep competition from Roku  while being challenged by broadband giants such as Comcast,  which has worked with Walmart  and Chinese manufacturer Hisense to develop smart TVs.

Amazon said its Omni Series TVs will be equipped with the company’s Alexa assistant, which will feature “far-field voice controls” that enable customers to ask Alexa questions without a remote, much like the company’s Echo smart speakers.

The TVs will be available in sizes ranging from 43 inches to 75 inches diagonally and will have 4K resolution. Amazon said its Fire TV 4-Series will support Alexa capabilities available through its Alexa Voice Remote. The more affordable 4-Series TVs will be available in 43-inch, 50-inch and 55-inch models.

Daniel Rausch, vice president of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, said the television lineup will build on the company’s effort to bring ambient computing to people’s homes. He likened their capabilities to its smart speakers, with the Omni Series models responding and turning on to a wake word—often programmed as “Alexa”—even when they are turned off.

Finally despite launching competing TV products, Amazon said its partnerships with Toshiba and others aren’t changing. The company Thursday also announced new Fire TV-powered televisions by Toshiba and Pioneer. Amazon has clashed with partners and potential partners over how it has launched products that compete with them. The company has said it doesn’t use confidential information that other firms share with it to build competing products.

Aside from its branded TVs, Amazon on Thursday also revealed the latest iteration of its Fire TV Stick 4K product. The new Stick 4K “Max” (priced at $54.99) will include Alexa features and have power and networking upgrades.

 Research contact: @WSJ

This $50 device is trying to disrupt the walkie-talkie market

December 4, 2019

A few months ago, the website for the Philadelphia-based startup, Relay Network, was adorned with smiling children and glowing testimonials from parents, illustrating how the $50 push-to-talk device would enable parents to chat with their kids and track their whereabouts as an alternative to the cellphone.

But, Fast Company reports, despite the family-friendly façade, companies in the hotel, amusement, and concessions businesses saw huge potential in Relay: Instead of using the small, squarish, screenless devices to help parents communicate with kids, what if they could be used to replace bulky and expensive walkie-talkies?

Some of these businesses—among them, Comcast, AAA, Citizens Bank, and DentaQuest—started placing orders, and Relay took note.

“Demand sort of showed up at our doorstep,” Chris Chuang, Relay’s co-founder and CEO told the business news outlet.

Now, Relay is rolling out a proper enterprise version of the product, with staid black and white color options and features specifically for business use— particularly for companies that have large numbers of employees who are out and about; not sitting behind desks.

Relay’s push-to-talk button serves as a quick way for workers to get in touch, and it even doubles as a panic button, letting construction crews or housekeepers rapidly send an emergency message. Relay also now offers a web app for businesses, so managers can communicate with their team’s Relay devices through a laptop.

Instead of just targeting an audience of worried parents, Relay hopes to take a piece of the nearly $3 billion walkie-talkie market, Fast Company says.

Although it doesn’t look like a smartphone from the outside, the Relay is similar on the inside, with 4G LTE radios, Wi-Fi connectivity, GPS for location tracking, a Qualcomm chipset, a headphone jack, and a battery that lasts roughly two days on a charge. The main difference, of course, is that it trades a touchscreen for a big button, which users can press and hold to talk with fellow Relay users over a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Parents could then talk to their children through their own Relay devices or through Relay’s mobile app, which would also let them monitor their children’s location. The idea was to provide the connectivity of a smartphone without the addiction of yet another screen.

Chuang says Relay has “tens of thousands of customers” for the family version, but it turns out that the same properties that made Relay work for kids—durability, simplicity, cost-effectiveness—also appealed to businesses. While walkie-talkie apps do exist for smartphones, the touchscreen requires “active workers”—that is, those in fields like construction and hospitality—to stop looking at what they’re doing..

This helps explain why walkie-talkies have stuck around in the smartphone era, but they have their own problems. Most of them are large and heavy, so they’re impractical for workers that don’t have an easy way to tote them around, and the costs are as steep as those for a smartphone, ranging from several hundred dollars to over $1,000 per unit.

“These devices, they haven’t changed much from the Nextel days,” Chuang told the magazine.

And at $50 per device, the Relay is a lot cheaper than a traditional walkie-talkie, even when you factor in $10 per month for cellular service.

“The price point enables people to now arm more of their workforce,” Chuang says. “Our vision is really to connect every active worker, whereas today where you have to ration out the walkie-talkies.”

And although the walkie-talkie business is unglamorous, it’s arguably ready for some disruption. According to Maia Research Analysis, the market has grown in revenue by over 8% every year for the past three years, and the group expects that trend to continue through at least 2024, at which point revenues could exceed $4.8 billion. Despite being more than 75 years old, the walkie-talkie isn’t slowing down.

Relay’s Chris Chuang argues that major vendors such as Motorola—which alone has 50% of the market—don’t have the expertise in smartphone-like hardware, software, and networking to make a product like Relay. But perhaps more importantly, walkie-talkie makers currently enjoy gross profit margins of over 40% on devices that can cost hundreds of dollars; they may not want to cannibalize that business with hardware that sells for a tenth of the cost. He notes that while Motorola has started offering cellular connectivity in some of its radios, the feature is only available on high-end models as a profit booster.

“A disruptively priced product like Relay would threaten their existing revenues greatly,” he says.

Still, Relay may not need to completely upend the walkie-talkie business to succeed. By virtue of being lighter and cheaper, it may appeal to workers who otherwise might not use a walkie-talkie at all. Schools, for instance, might want to equip their teachers with something lightweight for emergencies, and housekeepers could use them as protection against abuse, especially with a wave of state laws mandating panic buttons for hotel staff.

Chuang doesn’t like to say it publicly, but internally Relay thinks of itself as a Slack for active workers, the implication being that it’s a platform whose usefulness will extend as more businesses get on-board.

“As we get with customers, they brainstorm almost as much as we do,” he says.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Thieves are thinking ‘out of the box’ this holiday season

December 16, 2017

More thieves are thinking “out of the box” nationwide this holiday season. According to findings of a new Wakefield Research poll conducted on behalf of Comcast, 30% of Americans who live in houses or townhouses have been victims of package theft. And 53% of Americans know someone who has had a delivered package stolen from their porch or home premises.

This year, Cyber Monday lit up the Internet—setting an online record of $6.59 billion in sales and making it the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history. According to the researchers, following those online purchases, 71% percent of Americans planned to have as many or more packages delivered to their homes for the holidays this year as they did last year, with 35% expecting an increase in the number of packages.

As e-commerce retailers look to novel delivery approaches, such as in-home deliveries, remote security technology is even more relevant. According to the survey findings, nearly 32% of Americans who live in houses or townhouses would allow packages to be delivered inside their homes, if they had a live streaming home security camera and/or smart door locks to remotely lock and unlock their doors. Millennials are especially open to that idea, with nearly half (47%) reporting they would allow in-home delivery, compared to just 17% of Baby Boomers.

Research contact: charlie_douglas@comcast.com