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Toshiba Embraces Windows 10 With Cortana Key

posted Sunday Jun 14, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Toshiba Embraces Windows 10 With Cortana Key

Toshiba made an interesting announcement this week that, on its face, seems like a minor change, but in reality is a major decision. The announcement is that, "across the board, top to bottom," all Toshiba Windows 10 computers will have a dedicated Cortana button. Cortana is one of the killer new features in Windows 10, but some have concerns that her initial listening skills are problematic. For some, saying "Hey Cortana" has not triggered her to listen, forcing a manual approach. For many, though, this requires leaving the keyboard and switching to the mouse, slowing down typing progress. This is where the new Cortana button comes in.

The addition of a dedicated Cortana button will definitely improve the experience for those who have issues with Hey Cortana. The addition of a dedicated button, however, indicates more than just a commitment to customers; it shows a dedication and excitement for Windows 10. It is not a small move to add a new key to a keyboard, or a button to a tablet, especially when you are dealing with limited real estate, like on a tablet's body. This button really shows that Toshiba is excited about the release of, and features of Windows 10.

More importantly, they recognize just how important and exciting Cortana really is. Her arrival on desktops, laptops and tablets is a huge move for Microsoft, and Toshiba's showing that they agree with the move. While I have not personally had issue triggering her with my voice and personally enjoy interacting with her that way, I can see scenarios where interacting entirely through the keyboard would be a huge win. For this, a dedicated key is incredibly exciting.

This will be the biggest change to the standard keyboard since 1995, when keyboard companies began adding a dedicated Windows key to the keyboard for the introduction of the Start Menu in Windows 95. In 1995 we couldn't have expected just how essential that key would become in the future, making the computer completely usable from the keyboard if needed. Now, with the introduction of Cortana, we are in the same scenario, with Toshiba leading the charge in the new keyboard layout.

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Spotify Says No to Gaming, Yes to Podcasts and Videos

posted Sunday Jun 7, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Spotify Says No to Gaming, Yes to Podcasts and Videos

Spotify has had quite a few contenders lately. Most notably, Jay-Z's high-quality music-streaming service Tidal has taken a shot at the king, but has missed the mark. To remain relevant, Spotify has added podcasting support for both audio and video, and has also added music videos to its offerings as well. Naturally, given the run the company has been on, people speculated if Spotify would expand into other markets as well, like the gaming space. Depending on how you feel about the situation, this could be good or bad news, as the company has said that it will not be looking into gaming on its current platform.

A Spotify spokesperson said in an interview,

It's all about the right content for different people and different parts of your day - expanding on music content to include podcasts and video. Games are not part of this.

There you go. If you were looking for an OnLive alternative, this isn't where you're going to find it. However, something I've speculated Spotify would do in the near future was get involved in video games a different way. Instead of the sometimes very poor choices studios make for their in-game soundtracks, Spotify could integrate into games and offer up gamers to pick their own playlists to use, with the streaming service paying out royalties to the artists the gamers choose to listen to. Everyone would win here, except Taylor Swift.

So while this wasn't a ground-breaking newsbreak, it is definitely news worthy, considering Spotify's rapid expansion as of late. If the company does decide to get involved in the gaming world, it could really set a new trend for music integration with games.

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Google Looks to Add Gaming to the Chromecast

posted Sunday Jun 7, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Google Looks to Add Gaming to the Chromecast

If you're a fan of the Google Chromecast and you really like Android gaming, you'll be pleased to know Google is working to make that happen on its $35 streaming device. It's "coming soon," but users will soon be able to play games on their Chromecasts.

Moreover, Chromecast users will also be able to play both Android and iOS games on their television sets without the need to mirror the content. Currently in beta, Google has released an API to Android and iOS games developers and made it available to those devs at Google I/O. The most important feature is Google's "casting" ability that is now open for devs to tinker with. This gives the ability to bring around a second screen experience for users of smartphones. The main difference between the existing feature to cast your Android screen and this is that the new API allows for iOS and Android games to play games on a TV without needing to have a console accompany it.

Google is already in second place with its Chromecast at 20 percent marketshare. Roku is in first with 29 percent. Giving the Chromecast an enhanced feature set might boost sales if consumers actually want these features on their streaming devices.

The search giant didn't just stop at gaming, however. The company is also going to give Chromecast users a way to queue up and autoplay both videos and music without the need to use YouTube. As it is right now, you can only play one song or video at a time, which is an annoying thing to have to manage. Through the new API, developers can now enable buffering and queues on their apps.

As far as gaming is concerned, the question that is always the constant is what type of games can be offered on such a limited platform. Unless AAA brands can get behind a movement, these attempts at Android gaming often fall by the wayside, usually prompting another company to swoop in and give it a go. Can Google's direct attempt at this be a success? Is gaming on a Chromecast something you want? Let us know in the comments below.

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Ford Prepares New Sync 3 for Summer Launch

posted Sunday Jun 7, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Ford Prepares New Sync 3 for Summer Launch

After dropping Microsoft's services and switching over to a BlackBerry QNX-based system, there was a lot of concern that Ford would be taking a step backwards. However this summer could be a bright moment for Ford, as the automaker looks to launch Sync 3 in both their new Fiesta and Escape models by August.

New voice recognition, snappier response time and the addition of a touch-screen will all accompany an overhauled operating system for the Sync 3. This is much needed after the breakup of an eight year relationship with Microsoft, as Ford has now fully invested in QNX.

Popular apps are already available in Sync, and will also be available in Sync 3, like Spotify, Pandora and more. Via AppLink, users can now search an even broader list of apps to play through Sync, thanks to integrations with both the Android and iOS platforms. Keeping in the iPhone realm, Sync 3 also fully supports Siri, however the vehicle will not play nice with Apple CarPlay. For what it's worth, it won't work with Android Auto, either, however Ford says it will try to integrate with both of those services in the future.

The new Sync 3 is a far step above the old Sync systems, too, as the firmware can now update itself via Wi-Fi courtesy of your own home. Simply sitting in the driveway or garage should have enough signal strength for the car to download what it needs to. Additional safety features have been upgraded as well. Ford's 911 Assist can pass along pertinent info about your emergency call, such as airbag deployment, how many seat belts were fastened and where the vehicle was impacted in a collision.

Ford also says that Sync 3 will end up in all new vehicles by the end of 2016. Lincoln vehicles should also see the new system in the coming months.

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Toshiba Teams with Microsoft on New Internet of Things Initiative

posted Sunday Jun 7, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Toshiba Teams with Microsoft on New Internet of Things Initiative

In the ever-growing Internet of Things space, it's becoming harder and harder to stand out from the long list of devices, platforms and technologies. With the help of Microsoft, Toshiba is looking to gain the upper hand by truly harnessing the power of the cloud.

Announced at Computex in Taipei, Toshiba has signed a deal with Microsoft that will allow the company to use Microsoft's Azure services to boost its Internet of Things offerings. By the end of 2015, Toshiba says it will combine Azure with its various sensors, devices and apps in order to bring more offerings to enterprise customers.

Microsoft's OEM VP Nick Parker spoke at the conference.

Bringing together the power of the Azure Services and IoT Suite with Toshiba's cutting edge sensor-driven devices will provide a new level of data access and business intelligence to customers.

The first thing we should expect to see out of the deal will be a logistics solution that will take advantage of Azure Machine Learning, allowing devices in shipping vehicles the ability to track the finer points of package delivery. Toshiba said that the system will be powered off of a battery that can continually operate for six months before needing to be replaced or recharged.

This deal is part of Toshiba's efforts to achieve the company's "Human Smart Community" initiative, that pairs technology with real-life applications to make the world a better place overall. It was only a matter of time until a company would combine a greater good effort with the power of Azure to come up with a different way of accomplishing big-picture tasks.

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Showtime to Offer Streaming Without Cable, Partnering With Apple

posted Sunday Jun 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Showtime to Offer Streaming Without Cable, Partnering With Apple

When HBO announced HBO Now, the thing that seemed like a mistake to many was its Apple exclusivity. There may be a lot of Apple devices in the world, but when it comes to set-top boxes, Apple is far from a market leader. In fact, they are barely a market player. Their numbers are beat by nearly every set-top box and console on the market. Why, then, would they have launched Apple exclusive?

That exclusivity may have already ended, but that is not the end of the odd behavior. This week, CBS announced that they would be releasing a Showtime streaming service to compete with HBO Now. This would give users the ability to interact with Showtime content without needing a cable subscription, giving potential cord cutters one more reason to pull the plug, literally and figuratively.

The service will launch in July, with an expected date of July 12. This is based on Showtime's plan to launch in time for the Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan premieres. The service will run users in the United States $10.99 per month and will offer live channels and on demand content. There is one annoying caveat: the service is launching Apple exclusive.

iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Apple TV owners will be the only ones capable of using the service at launch, though the company has said that other platform announcements are incoming. So why would a service obviously aimed at cord cutters, designed to be watched on a television premiere on a platform that is statistically insignificant? It is all about Apple trying to make Apple TV a worthwhile product.

Right now, the device is fairly useless. Outside of these occasional exclusive launches, there has been very little reason to own one. There are more services available on Roku, more capabilities on Xbox and easier ways to share a screen from a phone or computer. Apple is making the device the hub for its upcoming HomeKit offerings, but that is unlikely to be enough to grab the attention of users. What they need is content, and they clearly believe that short-term initial lock-ins are the way to do it.

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