The Tech Bet

  Friday, 8 Aug 2014 | 1:01 PM ET

This robot is a personal assistant to your family

Posted By: Erika Santoro

Technology is beginning to reach new heights with the unveiling of a family robot that acts as a personal assistant to families.

Jibo, a social robot that can interact with people, has six skills that users may find helpful. "It can act as an assistant, a messenger, photographer, an avatar, a storyteller and companion," said Cynthia Breazeal, founder and CEO of the company which created the robot and is also called Jibo.

Its two high-resolution cameras recognize and track peoples' faces, capture photos and enable immersive video calling. It also has 360-degree microphones and natural language processing so that a user can talk to Jibo from anywhere in the room.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 5 Aug 2014 | 1:30 PM ET

What Samsung could be doing wrong with smartphones

Posted By: Althea Chang

Samsung could be spreading itself too thin and targeting too wide a range of smartphone users, leaving the manufacturer to play second fiddle to more popular competitors.

"Apple, in sticking to its strategy of only targeting the high end, is really paying off. Samsung's approach has always been different. It's been 'fill every niche possible.' It's attacked the low end...the mid-range and the high end, and it seems like a good idea, but ultimately when you try to target everyone, you kind of end up targeting no one," explained Mashable Tech Editor Pete Pachal.

Apple's iPhone users make up more than a 50 percent share of smartphone web traffic, according to July usage data from Chitika, an online advertising network. Meanwhile Samsung smartphone users account for about half of that, according to Chitika.

Read MoreApple acquisitions suggest hardware sales concerns

"Web traffic is a pretty good measure of usage. The most popular app on most phones is usually the browser," Pachal said.

"Samsung, for all of its power in mobile, doesn't really have a full 'platform.' It's still very Google-flavored, and its attempts at differentiation amount to a spaghetti-against-the-wall approach. Other manufacturers, like HTC, focus on just a few key features, and it makes them awesome," Pachal said.

Read More'China's Apple' knocks Samsung off top spot in China

In China, local manufacturer Xiaomi has beaten Samsung as the country's top smartphone maker, based on sales in the second quarter.

"Homegrown brands like Xiaomi and Oppo are cranking out great phones with low prices. There's also crazy competition at the low end, with brands like Motorola and Nokia offering some impressive stuff," Pachal said.

»Read more
  Friday, 1 Aug 2014 | 12:18 PM ET

Hi-tech gadgets for the new school year

Posted By: Erika Santoro

The new school year is around the corner, so it's time to start thinking about some of those back-to-school gadgets that may be useful to students.

Here are a few standout recommendations from Andrea Smith, executive producer of the website livingindigitaltimes.com.

Quirky's Power Pop is a colorful outlet that bends to fit any size plug or adapter. "That item now comes in five colors and has a 4-foot extension cord with a flat, 45-degree plug to put power in hard to reach places," Smith said.

At $20, the Power Pop costs a bit more than any standard power cord that can be purchased on Amazon for $11, but it has a more attractive look and bends around furniture so that it doesn't get in the way.

»Read more
  Monday, 28 Jul 2014 | 2:12 PM ET

Apple acquisitions suggest hardware sales concerns

Apple has acquired book recommendation service BookLamp, and it's expected to close a deal to buy podcast app Swell, possible signs that Apple's smartphone and tablet sales are expected to level off.

Quarterly tablet sales have already fallen, according to NPD Research, forcing Apple to explore revenue streams from products other than hardware, according to Jon Swartz, USA Today's San Francisco bureau chief.

»Read more
  Friday, 25 Jul 2014 | 11:31 AM ET

Three gadgets for handling business on the go

Posted By: Evelyn Cheng

As more business operations shift to the cloud, physical office needs are shrinking. Here's how technology can offer greater mobility for business on the go.

Smartphone maker ZTE recently launched a new projector with Sprint that is less than 5 inches square and 1.1 inches thick, complete with a 4-inch Android touchscreen system and speakers. One charge gives the unit up to 10 hours of battery life, and the device can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot and a power pack. Sprint also offers an LTE data plan for the projector.

Winning a "Best of CES 2014" from PCMag, the LivePro is a fair match for larger projectors, with the ability to project quality images of 1,080 pixels up to 10 feet long on the diagonal, ZTE said. But its 100-lumen lamp, while trumping the 80 to 90 range of most pocket projectors, is far weaker than the 3,000 lumens of bigger devices.

For comfortable typing, CTX Virtual Technologies has made a pocket-sized laser keyboard fob that projects a pink or green QWERTY layout onto any flat surface. The keyboard links to computers and smartphones via Bluetooth or a USB cable. The company said it is planning to embed the keyboard into smartphones and tablets to eliminate the key fob.

»Read more
  Monday, 21 Jul 2014 | 1:40 PM ET

Why the Xbox One is gaining on the PlayStation 4

Posted By: Althea Chang

Sony's PlayStation 4 has outsold the Xbox One, but Microsoft is making moves to gain ground and could still be a strong competitor in the game console market.

Even as Xbox One sales doubled in June, they still fell short of Sony's PlayStation 4 sales, according to NPD, but Microsoft has been taking strides to improve sales of its consoles and still has a chance to compete more fiercely with Sony, said said Jeremy Rosenberg, head of digital at Allison+Partners.

Read More Is this the last hurrah for video game consoles?

"I think the Xbox One was a little bit slow out of the gate. They had a lot of challenges coming into the marketplace," Rosenberg said.

But in May, Microsoft dropped the price to $399 by making its Kinect motion sensor an optional $100 add-on.

»Read more
  Friday, 18 Jul 2014 | 11:09 AM ET

Snap winning pics with these cool gadgets

Posted By: Devin Hance

The future of mobile photography is underway and there are numerous ways to be able to capture and share your favorite memories.

Here are two standouts recommended by Andrea Smith, executive producer of Living in Digital Times.

»Read more
  Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 | 1:59 PM ET

Apple-IBM deal could challenge BlackBerry, Android

Posted By: Althea Chang

Apple has partnered with IBM's enterprise arm to develop business apps for iOS devices, a move that could bring much-needed enterprise features to gadgets that are increasingly being used in the workplace.

Under the exclusive agreement, IBM's data analytics would be put to work on Apple's iPhones and iPads, which will be sold by IBM to its enterprise customers, possibly at a discount.

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  Monday, 14 Jul 2014 | 6:04 PM ET

Yahoo's earnings: It's all about the Alibaba purse

Posted By: Cadie Thompson

Yahoo is scheduled to report its second-quarter fiscal earnings after the bell on Tuesday, but investors will likely be more interested in what the company has to say about the Alibaba IPO during its earnings call.

"Very little that Yahoo reports will matter. What will matter for the stock is if there is any commentary on the call about the tax plans for the proceeds from the Alibaba IPO," said Brian Wieser, a senior research analyst at Pivotal Research. "I'll be looking to see how they will prevent paying 35 percent in taxes. And then the next question is what are they going to do with the cash that is left after taxes."

Read More Top Alibaba execs, investors may expand board after IPO: Filing

In 2012, Yahoo got hit with a pretty hefty tax bill when it sold half of its 40 percent stake in Alibaba back to the company for $7.6 billion. The company ended up paying more than $2 billion in taxes in the deal.

Read More Alibaba's first trade could be in August: Sources

The company is required to sell about 40 percent of its remaining Alibaba stake—or 208 million shares—when the Chinese business goes public later this year. That could leave Yahoo with a windfall of $10 billion or more, but it could also give Yahoo another major tax headache, Wieser said.

Read More Windfall means 'moment of reckoning' for Yahoo CEO

»Read more
  Monday, 14 Jul 2014 | 1:32 PM ET

App outrage: Reservations, parking at what cost?

Posted By: Christina Medici Scolaro and Mark Berniker

There's finally a way in to the trendy restaurant that's been booked for months, but it'll cost you.

Reservation Hop is an app that makes restaurant reservations under false names and then sells them for $10 to $12. It's also at the center of a huge debate, and one writer at Wired magazine has called the app "irresponsible and sleazy."

Reservation Hop is igniting outrage because the company is trying to make money off of something that's free: making a dinner reservation. If people don't show up for their Reservation Hop, then restaurants lose out on the money that they could make if they gave the table to another customer.

"The biggest challenge in the restaurant industry are no-shows because you hold the table and expect them to turn every 90 minutes," said Gwyneth Borden, executive director of Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a bay area group that represents restaurant owners.

"When you hold the table off for a reservation that doesn't show up, it's a huge economic impact," she said.

Apps that charge for items that are open domain, or don't actually belong to anyone, are being called illegal, immoral and sleazy.

"I think these apps are really taking advantage of the market place. They're giving incentives and advantages to the rich people," said Jill Duffy, analyst at PC Mag.com.

»Read more

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  • Tech Yeah! zeros in on the biggest trends, hottest issues and coolest gadgets making waves in the ever-changing world of technology.