Gadgets

Consumer Choice Is the New Tech Industry Theme

Over the past few years, signs have pointed to a number of consumer tech product markets reaching their maturity. In the western markets, for example, we are well into replacement cycles for products like PCs, smartphones, and even tablets to a degree. When a market becomes more of a replacement market than a first time buyer market, interesting things happen. Primarily, it segments, and new products start focusing on specific features that may be attractive to certain segments of the market, large and small. The outcome of this is an increase in consumer choice. Some categories have more choices than others, of course. TVs, for example, which have been in a replacement cycle for many years, offer a wide variety of displays, ports, sizes and price ranges. Similarly, the traditional PC is now seeing an increase in form factor choices. The smartphone is the latest device that’s beginning to see this increase in consumer choice. We have smartphones with different colors, display options, screen sizes and prices. The tablet is not quite there yet, but it’s on the cusp the same trend happening. When an increase in consumer choices comes to a product segment we know, the market has reached a point of maturity. When a market reaches maturity, competition heats up. An increase in competition is always a good thing for consumers. 2014 will mark a critical point for many of us industry observers due to the above points. When a market reaches maturity, often the competitive dynamics begin to shift. How companies competing in consumer tech product segments react to this shift is key to thriving in the market going forward. A key shift in mature markets can often favor ecosystems. An ecosystem could be a hardware ecosystem, software ecosystem, services ecosystem, or some combination of all three. In mature markets, the companies that create the strongest lock-in are the best suited to compete. This lock-in has to be something a consumer desires rather than a lock-in that results in a consumer feeling trapped, like the lock-in most

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Volvo Shows Off the Apple CarPlay iPhone Interface

Hot on the heels of Apple rolling out the details behind its CarPlay interface, Volvo has posted a video to YouTube showing off what everything will look like. As you can see, you’re presented with a limited number of apps that have been given car-friendly designs: Maps, Phone, Messages, Spotify and others. Apple says “even more supported apps are coming soon,” which is a sign CarPlay won’t just be a free-for-all where you can futz with every app you have on your phone. They’ll each have to be re-imagined for a quick-glance environment first, which is probably safest for everyone involved. There’s no mention of web browsers, either, which may very well be another safety measure. You can read more about CarPlay from my colleague Harry here. Volvo and Apple CarPlay [YouTube via 9to5Mac]

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New Samsung Chromebooks Aim to Leave the Bargain Basement Behind

According to market researcher NPD, Samsung is by far the most successful seller of computers based on Google’s Chromebook platform in the U.S., with 60 percent of the market in 2013. But it has more and more company: Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Toshiba and Google itself all make Chrome machines in a variety of sizes and with varying approaches. Today, Samsung is announcing a line of Chromebooks it calls Chromebook 2 — and since it includes two models for the first time, it does indeed count as a line. The changes involved are incremental, but they continue the general recent trend of Chromebooks increasingly encroaching on the low end of the market for Windows-based notebooks. For the first time, Samsung is offering a 13.3-inch Chromebook with a 1920-by-1080 HD screen — a size which makes for a more plausible primary computer for more people than Samsung’s current 11.6″ model. It weighs 3.09 pounds and comes with a 2.1-GHz Exynos processor, 4GB of RAM and 16GB of solid-state storage. Samsung says it can run for up to 8.5 hours on a charge. And rather than looking like a knockoff of Apple’s MacBook Air done in plastic, as the existing Chromebook does, it’s got a gray case done up in a stitched, leather-like material, a look also seen in other Samsung devices such as the Galaxy Note 3. (I’ll reserve judgement on whether that’s a touch of class or tacky until I’ve seen the system in person.) Samsung The Chromebook 2 line also includes a revised 11.6-inch model, still with a 1366-by-768 screen. It, too, is at least a bit less MacBook-like than its predecessor, since it comes in black and white variants, also with the leather-ish look, rather than the silver of the current version. Its specs are similar to the 13.3-inch model and a little nicer than the current model, with a 1.9-GHz Exynos chip, 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. It weighs 2.43 pounds and is rated for up to eight hours of battery life. I’m struck by

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Business Card Plays Tetris, Might Be for Sale Soon

The above video showcases a credit card-sized whatsit with a built-in screen, control pad and two buttons. It plays Tetris! If you’re not convinced by now that we’re either at or very near the pinnacle of human ingenuity, I’m not sure I’d ever be able to convince you otherwise and I’m not sure it’s worth your time to keep reading this. We should amicably go our separate ways. For the rest of you, this project is called Arduboy. It’s about a millimeter and a half thick and apparently packs north of nine hours of battery life. Its creator, Kevin Bates, created the proof-of-concept you see in the above video and has plans to roll out a Kickstarter campaign to sell these things, complete with a website where people can share other types of software and games they create for Arduboy. Bates writes on his site that he wants to use Kickstarter to raise $820 to cover licensing costs. I write here that he’ll probably be able to raise that amount faster than he can clear the first level of Tetris. He’ll also probably have to sell the cards without a game loaded onto them to avoid legal issues, though. No word on how much a final version would cost, but you can visit Bates’ website to read more about how the project came together, complete with photos of the Qdoba and REI gift cards he used to test some of the early builds. My business card plays Tetris [YouTube via The Next Web]

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Get Here Faster, Retirement: This Is a Segway-like Rideable Golf Scooter

You can’t see the man’s face in this photo, but he is weeping. He is weeping tears of joy – the salty, warm tears of joy that could only have been elicited by the feeling of riding around on the lovechild of a Segway and a golf cart. The $4,500 Ride On Golf Cart Scooter has a dull name – I’d suggest Ultimate Freedom USA Golfglide 3000, but I’m not in marketing – and is good for 27 holes at up to 11 miles per hour. It’s rechargeable, with a full charge promised in five hours. It’s not the first rideable standing golf cart in the history of rideable standing golf carts — here’s me getting frothed up about one all the way back in 2010 — but the fact that it’s being sold by Hammacher Schlemmer is a step in the right direction for the entire category. There’s handlebar-mounted throttle and reverse controls, and the whole shebang is steered by leaning left or right. It can handle 20-degree inclines, which might be good for courses in Florida or other relatively flat areas, but things might get a little dicey on hillier tracks. There’s also a cupholder, and the entire apparatus folds down to a foot and a half thick so you can pop it in the back of your Dodge Neon when you’re done playing. If I were to retire tomorrow, this would be one of my first purchases even though my financial advisor would threaten to quit if I bought it. “It’ll pay for itself after a couple hundred rounds,” I’d keep saying to anyone who’d listen. The Ride On Golf Cart Scooter [Hammacher Schlemmer]

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