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Why a dedicated Zoom device makes sense – USA TODAY

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Jefferson Graham
 
| USA TODAY

In the beginning of the week, Microsoft announced something that, at first blush, sounds so cool, until you start to break it down.

A dedicated video device for Teams meetings, a whopping 85 inches for display in a conference room or hospital corridor, so large everyone could see it, and be seen.

No longer would we have to fiddle around with the laptop or phone. Just gather in front of the TV and click the touchscreen.

But at a price tag of $21,999, gosh, that’s just a little bit north of our budgets, wouldn’t you say?

So you’ve got to love Amazon’s answer, which came later in the week. A dedicated 10-inch unit, for $250, the Echo Show 10, which lets you go through Alexa to connect to Zoom, Skype or Alexa-to-Alexa direct calls. 

Again, no fiddling. This time, just use Alexa, your Zoom calendar and voice computing to connect.

Or better yet, plug a webcam to the TV via the $119 Fire TV Cube device and do it on the big screen TV of your choice. Maybe not 85 inches, but many of us have good 50 to 60 inches or larger in the living room. If not, Best Buy would be happy to sell you a 50-inch TCL, Samsung or Amazon-branded Toshiba TV in the $300 range.

The Amazon solutions are both listed as coming soon, but if you have a Facebook Portal video chat device, you can use the dedicated unit to connect now to Zoom. The update started rolling out Friday.

The Portals start at $129, and are available in three sizes: with 8-inch, 10-inch or 15.6-inch screens. An edition that connects to the TV, Portal TV, is not supported for the Zoom calls.

The smart displays were originally marketed as places for video chat first, then using the video screen to look up recipes on YouTube, operate your smart home and best of all, as economical and easy to mount digital photo frames.

Those features are still sound, but add in the dedicated Zoom device, and the kids who are stuck at home taking school on their laptops can have one unit just displaying the teacher and lessons. This would leave the students hands freer for schoolwork and notetaking on the laptop.

For those who are taking meetings all day, the same issue applies. Isn’t it hard to take notes when your laptop screen is filled with speaker video windows? Plus, this way, you wouldn’t have to worry about webcam placement. After all, it’s best to be at eye level, which most people ignore, and not have the webcam looking up at their chins and noses. That requires stacking the laptop atop a bunch of books, which gives you a better look, but makes it really hard to type.

So the savvy speaker or student would have to constantly move the books around. That dedicated device on the desk would solve the issue, living atop the books that could just stay there and not have to be moved around.

Meanwhile, that’s not all folks. On Wednesday, Google holds its annual fall hardware product event, where it’s expected to unveil a new top of the line smartphone, the Pixel 5, an updated streaming device, Chromecast and a new take on the Nest Home Hub video display unit.

Last year’s Nest didn’t work with Zoom or initially with Google’s Meet, the video chat service Google heavily touts as a Zoom alternative. (It does now, but setup is highly convoluted. You ask Google to set up a meeting, then need to click the touchscreen to confirm. Google generates a code to send to your guests, which it sends to your phone, via the Assistant app. You open your phone, copy the invite, and text or e-mail the invite. Got that?)

Meanwhile, Google has already said it will begin accepting calls from Zoom on Nest Hubs before the end of the year, so expect more action and hopefully improved  usability.

Finally, we began this edition by talking about that crazy Microsoft TV/PC.

What if you want to put Zoom calls on your TV now, without having to wait for Amazon’s Fire TV Cube update?

TVs with built-in webcams are rare, and besides, how would you connect to Zoom without a computer?

Exactly.

To get Zoom on the TV, all you need is a laptop, an HDMI cable, adapter to plug it into your laptop and webcam, and you’re in business.

Connect the HDMI cable from the TV to laptop, plug in the webcam and position it well (so it doesn’t look up your nose) change your HDMI settings on the TV to bring in the laptop, and you’ve got a Zoom call on the big screen. You’ll just need to operate it from your laptop. Without spending $21,199!

Questions about any of this? Just look for me on Twitter, where I’m @jeffersongraham.

In other tech news this week

ICYMI, Amazon announced 13 new products, including a redesigned Echo and Echo Dot speakers, which no longer resemble coffee cans but instead are now spherical, more powerful Fire TV Sticks (to help your programs load faster) and some wild stuff. There’s the indoor security drone from Ring that flies around your home automatically checking on things when you’re not at home (so Amazon claims), and security cameras for the car. The Fire TV products will be the first to come market, Wednesday, while Amazon says we’ll see the new Echo devices in October and November. The Ring products won’t be out until 2021. Amazon also announced a new gaming service, Luna, which is invite only. Amazon will start selecting players in October.

APPLE: Spotify and the makers of Fortnite and Tinder are taking on Apple and Google as part of a newly formed coalition calling for “fair treatment” in the way the tech giant runs its app store. The Coalition for App Fairness, a Washington-based nonprofit, will advocate for legal and regulatory changes, such as measures that could block Apple and Google from favoring their own apps in the iPhone and Android operating systems they control.

FACEBOOK: Warning of an urgent threat to democracy, civil rights activists say they’ve formed an independent Facebook oversight board to scrutinize the role the social media giant is playing in the 2020 election. The “Real Facebook Oversight Board” is an initiative from Citizens, a new nonprofit created to hold big tech accountable. It has start-up funding from Luminate, which is backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s foundation The Omidyar Group.

This week’s Talking Tech podcasts

Review: Netflix’s The Social Dilemma

The $22K new Microsoft TV/PC!

New videogame consoles will really hard to get for Christmas

Crazy things people connect to corporate Wi-Fi networks. Ryan Olson, VP of Threat Intelligence at Palo Alto Networks joins to tell us.

Amazon update and all those new products.

The one new Amazon device we really want to own. Bret Kinsella from Voicebot.ai joins to compare notes.

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Our Apple iPhone 12 video review is up – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com

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Apple finally launched the iPhone 12 lineup and for the first time, there are four smartphones – mini, vanilla, Pro, and Pro Max. The iPhone 12 was expected to be the bestseller of the four by delivering the most versatile size at a more affordable price tag.

Having already completed our written review, we are now ready to show you the video version. It’s over 10 minutes long, so take a comfortable seat and see what Will has to say about the Apple iPhone 12.

[embedded content]

There are plenty of things to get enthusiastic about but Apple also managed to disappoint some of its hardcore fans. While the iPhone 12 looks lovely and the Blue paint job is a head-turner, the panel still fails to impress – other manufacturers are going beyond the 120Hz refresh rate threshold while this one is stuck at 60Hz.

The new device does have the fastest chipset and 5G connectivity but the battery life is shorter than the predecessor iPhone 11 even if you stick to LTE networks only. In today’s world and with having an OLED screen, one would expect Apple to offer an alternative to FaceID (since it doesn’t work with a mask on) but alas there’s no TouchID.

Then again, the iPhone 12 is the fastest and most durable iPhone up to date, so it’s not like it doesn’t have a lot going for it.

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Jittery Investors Sell Apple Stock, but Bulls Advise Buying Ahead of Supercycle – Barron's

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It was a down quarter for iPhone sales, but Apple had substantial growth in almost every other category.


Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images


Apple

shares are taking it on the chin Friday one day after the company reported a strong September quarter, but one which triggered just enough questions to give investors pause after the stock’s big 2020 run.

For the quarter, Apple (ticker: AAPL) reported revenue of $64.7 billion, up about 1% from a year ago and slightly ahead of the Wall Street consensus of $64.2 billion. Profits were 73 cents a share, two pennies ahead of consensus.

It was a down quarter for iPhone sales, as demand slowed ahead of the iPhone 12 launch, but Apple had substantial growth in almost every other category. Mac sales were $9 billion, up 29%. iPad sales were $6.8 billion, up 46%. Wearables increased 20.8%, to $7.9 billion. Services revenue was $14.5 billion, up 16.3%.

There are multiple factors weighing on the stock. For one, the 21% drop in iPhone sales, while not a big surprise, was a little worse than some analysts had modeled. Two, the 29% drop in Greater China sales was a little shocking and a reflection of the company’s lagging position in 5G phones in a key market. And three, Apple declined to give guidance for the third straight quarter, which really shouldn’t have surprised anyone but seemed to rattle some investors.

On the post-announcement call with investors, the company responded to all of those concerns. Without providing detail, it said iPhone 12 sales are off to a strong start—but it just started shipping the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, and won’t even start taking orders on the low-end iPhone 12 Mini or high end iPhone 12 Pro Max until next week.

On China, the company said it was hurt more there than other markets by the lack of 5G phones in the quarter, but a rebound is expected in the December quarter, and early demand for the new phones is promising.

As for guidance, Apple didn’t provide detail, but did say that iPhone sales would be up year over year in the holiday quarter despite only a partial quarter of iPhone 12 sales—and it expects double-digit growth in services and in all non-iPhone hardware categories in the quarter.

Citigroup’s Jim Suva adds two other logs onto the worry pile—a modest decline in gross margin and worries about potential regulatory oversight. On the guidance issue, he writes that he was “a bit surprised” that Apple didn’t give an outlook. On China, he writes that “China has a more advanced 5G network compared to many countries and simply put consumers want a 5G phone rather than a 4G phone.” On margins, he says the issue is mostly one of mix, with Macs and iPads carrying lower margins than iPhones and services. (It was a spectacular quarter for both Macs and iPads, remember.) And as for regulation, he sees headline risk, but no risk to fundamentals for at least the next 12 months.

Bottom line: He keeps his Buy rating and $125 target price.

Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi, who keeps a Market Perform rating on Apple shares, writes that the quarter was “solid, but not spectacular.” He finds it noteworthy that Apple didn’t provide explicit guidance. “The upshot is that we doubt that consensus EPS forecasts are likely to change materially, which we view as a likely disappointment given high investor expectations,” he writes.

Sacconaghi agrees that the key from here is iPhone 12 demand. “So how do we interpret Apple’s Q1 guidance/commentary, and what does it say about the iPhone 5 cycle?” he asks. “Unfortunately, it is likely too early to tell—and Apple itself legitimately does not appear to know, given very limited selling days and the unique timing of the iPhone launch. But the punchline is simple: iPhone revenues have to grow double digits year-over-year in fiscal Q1, or March needs to be dramatically stronger than seasonal for this cycle to have a shot of being the super cycle buyside investors appear to be anticipating.”


Morgan Stanley’s

Katy Huberty came away from the call more bullish than ever. “All signs point to a supercycle,” she writes in a research note, repeating her Overweight rating and $136 price target. “We continue to see upside to fiscal 2021 estimates after Apple grew revenue double-digits across all products including iPhone after normalizing for [the iPhone] product cycle. iPhone growth will accelerate further on extended replacement cycles, more new [models] and aggressive subsidies.”

Huberty adds that her “confidence in Apple’s ability to retain existing users, attract new users and accelerate growth and profitability has never been higher as Apple enters fiscal 2021 with its strongest product and services portfolio in years and several tailwinds at its back, including the growing proliferation of 5G technology; work, learn and play from home demand; and rising adoption and monetization of digital services.”

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives likewise is undeterred in his bullish view. “Last night…the Street and the overall market was hoping for blow out results from FAANG tech stalwarts with Apple and

Amazon

leading the way and ultimately came away disappointed with tech stocks selling off this morning on the news,” he writes. “Taking a step back, we believe Apple is on the cusp of its largest iPhone product cycle since iPhone 6 in 2014 and we would be buyers on any weakness.” He keeps his Outperform rating and $150 target.

Apple was off 4.9%, at $109.70, in recent trading. The

S&P 500

was down 1.3%.

Write to Eric J. Savitz at eric.savitz@barrons.com

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Samsung regains top smartphone vendor spot as Xiaomi overtakes Apple – The Verge

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Samsung is back on top as the world’s biggest smartphone vendor one quarter after losing its spot to Huawei, according to reports from IDC, Counterpoint, and Canalys. The news comes just as Samsung posted its highest quarterly revenue figures ever, which the company said was helped by a boost in demand for smartphones.

Huawei became the number one vendor for the first time three months ago, benefiting from strong sales in China while much of the rest of the world was operating under constrained retail conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Huawei’s shipments fell 7 percent quarter-on-quarter and 24 percent year-on-year, according to Counterpoint, while Samsung’s shipments increased by 47 percent over the last quarter.

Xiaomi was able to regain the number three spot for the first time in several years, overtaking Apple for the first time with year-on-year growth of 46 percent. Apple’s shipments fell 7 percent year-on-year in the July-September quarter, no doubt affected by the fact that its new iPhones this year slipped until October and November release dates.

The fifth, sixth, and seventh spots go to BBK brands Oppo, Vivo, and Realme. Counterpoint has Oppo at number five, while IDC and Canalys give that spot to Vivo, but all three firms agree the numbers are close. If the three independent brands’ third-quarter shipments were combined, they would be closer to Samsung in first place than Huawei in second place.

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