Technologizer posts about Best Buy

Whatever Happened to Radios?

By  |  Posted at 9:06 am on Monday, February 6, 2012

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Everyone knows that certain technology products are endangered species. Film cameras, for instance. Turntables. Payphones. Odds are pretty good that you haven’t used any of them recently. If you’re young enough, you might never have used them.

I never thought of pocket-sized AM/FM radios–the sort with built-in radios and telescoping antennae–as falling into this category of obviously-doomed products. I assumed that any store that sold electronic gadgets of any sort still stocked them.

But last week, my mother, who I’ve been visiting in Boston, asked for one. And boy, was I surprised by how tough it was to find one for sale locally.

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Roku is Going Beyond the Box With…a Stick

By  |  Posted at 7:00 am on Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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Apple TV, Apple keeps saying, is just a hobby. Google TV, to date, is a disappointment. But for tiny Roku, Internet TV is a success story. The company has moved more than 2.5 million of its little streaming boxes since 2008, founder/CEO Anthony Wood tells me, and sales were up by 300% in 2011. It now offers more than 400 channels, including biggies such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and HBO GO, as well as many more offbeat options.

And now Roku is getting ready to release a version of its service that doesn’t require a box. If you think that means it’ll be built right into TVs–well, you’re on the right track, but that’s not quite it.

Building Internet services into a TV, Wood says, has some issues. For one thing, most TV makers don’t have as many major content deals as Roku does, and their user interfaces aren’t as simple. And even if they did have great content and great software, streaming technology is moving a lot more quickly than TV technology in general is: Unless you plan to upgrade your TV every couple of years, any embedded Internet technology it sports will start looking long in the tooth long long before the rest of the set feels obsolete.

So Wood’s company is creating a Roku that’s almost built into TVs. It’s a thumb-drive sized gizmo called the Roku Streaming Stick, and it incorporates the Roku software, service, and Wi-Fi connectivity, just like the boxes do.

The stick also has a connector that uses a new standard called Mobile High-Definition Link. MHL connectors, which are compatible with standard HDMI ones, are mostly meant to let you hook up a smart phone to a TV and watch video. But Roku is using the standard to put its streaming channels onto MHL-equipped TVs. (MHL provides power to the stick, so there’s no need to plug a brick into the wall.)

Roku wants to work with TV makers to offer the Streaming Stick as their Internet TV solution–either included with sets in the first place, as a “soft bundle” available at retail, or as an option. It’s signed up one big partner already: Best Buy, which will offer the Streaming Stick for its house-brand Insignia TVs. These sets will come with remotes that can control Roku as well as the TVs’ other functions.

Once you’ve popped the stick into a slot on the back of a TV, Wood told me, it’ll offer all the advantages of embedded Internet capability. But because it’s actually a self-contained add-on, you can replace it with improved models as they become available. (Over time, Roku plans to offer several versions, at prices from $50 to $100.)

The Streaming Stick won’t go on sale until the second half of 2012; Roku hopes to have other hardware partnerships lined up by then, and will also offer it in standalone form for use with any MHL-capable TV. It sounds like a clever way to bring the best single way to watch Internet TV on a TV to even more people.

 

 



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Best Buy’s New Insignia TVs: TiVo Goes Beyond the DVR

By  |  Posted at 10:08 am on Monday, August 1, 2011

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For more than a decade, TiVo has been one thing: a DVR. And while it’s been a really good one, an awful lot has changed about the way we find and watch TV since the first TiVo box debuted in 1999. And now the company is involved in its first non-DVR project. It’s designed the on-screen interface for two new Internet-connected LCD TVs from Insignia, one of Best Buy’s four “exclusive brands” (along with Dynex, Init, and Rocketfish).

Insignia’s TVs don’t have any DVR features, and doesn’t offer an on-screen programming guide for over-the-air or cable programming. So they’re missing the aspects of the TiVo interface most closely identified with, will, TiVo. But when Best Buy demoed one of the sets for me last week, the interface did look like it has some of TiVo’s approachable DNA. That’s a major plus: TV companies don’t tend to be very good at at coming up with user interfaces when left to their own devices.

The sets come with CinemaNow and Napster–two services owned by Best Buy–as well as Netflix, YouTube, and Pandora. They use Chumby widgets to provide access to more than 1500 applets with information on subjects such as weather. And they’re the first TVs with built-in support for Rocketboost, a Best Buy technology for sending audio to speaker systems wirelessly.

They don’t, however, include DLNA compatibility, which would let you stream content off PCs and hard drives on your network: Best Buy says that its goal with these TVs was to keep things simple, and DLNA still isn’t straightforward enough.

The 32″ TV is $499; the 42″ one is $699. Best Buy says they’re available now, and that it plans both to upgrade their software with new features over time and to introduce new connected TVs and other devices based on the software in these TVs.

The Best Buy-TiVo partnership was announced more than two years ago; I was excited at the time, then so much time passed that I’d forgotten about it. Now I’m curious what other Internet-centric products TiVo might be working on. A Roku-style TiVo box could be nifty. And TiVo might be able to do a better job than Google TV has done so far at imposing a decent interface on over-the-air and cable TV. I hope that the company is furiously working on some of this stuff, and just hasn’t announced it yet…

 



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Roku Hits Retail

By  |  Posted at 10:54 am on Wednesday, March 30, 2011

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For essentially just being available online, Roku’s been doing pretty darn good. The company says it has sold about one million of its media players this way, and now its ready for it’s next big move — retail. Beginning today the devices will be available from most Best Buy, BJs, Fry’s Electronics, and Radio Shack locations.

Different retailers will be stocking different models. Best Buy and Radio Shack will carry the XD, the company’s standard 1080p HD capable unit that retails for $79.99. BJ’s on the other hand will carry the XD|S, which adds dual-band wireless and retails for $99.99. Fry’s plans to carry both models. (The cheapest Roku, the $59.99 HD, remains an online-only item.)

Roku had kind-sorta been available through retail before, through a Netgear-branded box, which was available from Best Buy. The way Engadget words it seems to suggest that these devices would be phased out as the Roku branded units themselves are brought in and would become the defacto unit sold at retail.

I have to say I’ve had my eyes on one of these units for quite a while now, and with it easier than ever to get one, I just may end up breaking down and picking one up. After all, it would be nice to watch Al Jazeera on my HDTV versus my laptop.



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Motorola’s Xoom Looks Good, But I’m Not So Sure About the Price. Or the Advertising

By  |  Posted at 9:23 am on Monday, February 7, 2011

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Engadget has uncovered what seems to be a Best Buy ad that lists Motorola’s upcoming Xoom tablet at $799.99. The price doesn’t come as a stunner–it appears to confirm an earlier rumor–but it’s disappointing, at least if you’re rooting for at least one an Android tablet to emerge as a best-selling archrival to the iPad.

Don’t get me wrong–$800 isn’t an absurd price for a device with the Xoom’s specs. It’s got a dual-core CPU, a 10.1″ display at 1280-by-800 resolution, 1GB of RAM, two cameras, and an SD slot, and will get 4G wireless soon after release. All those features make it an upgrade from the current iPad, at least on a purely technical level. If you were contemplating buying the priciest version of the iPad–the $829 model that has 3G wireless and 64GB of RAM, but a slower CPU, a smaller and lower-resolution display, 256MB of RAM, no cameras, and no SD slot–an $800 Xoom is a plausible alternative.

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Best Buy’s Buy Back Bonanza

By  |  Posted at 3:49 pm on Monday, January 3, 2011

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BGR is reporting on apparent plans by Best Buy to launch a program called Buy Back. It doesn’t have all the details, but the basic idea is this: You pay an up-front fee–supposedly $59.99, at least in the case of phones–when you buy a phone, laptop, netbook, tablet, phone, or TV. That gets you the right to sell the device back to Best Buy for a gift card that covers part of the original cost–50% in the first six months, for instance, and 20% during months 18-24.

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Nexus S: In a World of Adulterated Google, a Pure Google Experience

By  |  Posted at 9:21 am on Monday, December 6, 2010

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It’s a busy day for long-rumored Google developments turning into official announcements: The company has announced the Nexus S, the first Android phone to run Android 2.3 “Gingerbread.” The phone is made by Samsung and has an interesting-sounding curved 4″ AMOLED display, a 1-GHz Hummingbird CPU, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and two cameras; It’ll be sold unlocked starting on December 16th, and is intended to run on T-Mobile in the US.

Gingerbread doesn’t sound like a massive update, but Google says it’s the fastest version of Android to date. It features tweaks to the on-screen keyboard, status updates, text selection, and cut-and-paste. And as Eric Schmidt recently teased, it supports Near-Field Communications, an emerging technology that will enable activities like easily using your phone to make payments at retail stores.

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It’s hard to judge an e-reader without seeing and touching it in person. And Best Buy may be the best place to do that-with the news that it’s going to sell Amazon’s Kindle, it now stocks nearly every major contender.

Posted by Harry at 3:45 pm

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Thank you, Best Buy, for selling a $199.99 (w/contract) phone for $199.99–no rebate paperwork or gift card involved.

Posted by Harry at 11:30 am

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Best Buy and TiVo Developing Non-DVR HDTV(s)

By  |  Posted at 5:49 pm on Tuesday, May 25, 2010

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For years, I’ve pined for a TiVo-fied television. In fact, Humax was set to deliver a TiVo solution way back in 2005. Unfortunately, the 26″ LCD TV with TiVo DVR capabilities and integrated DVD recorder never made it to market. Last summer, when TiVo and Best Buy hooked up with a pretty expansive dealio, it looked might we might see another attempt at an integrated TiVo+television solution:

As part of the deal, the companies also said that Best Buy would finance an effort to bring TiVo’s software and search tools to Best Buy’s own brand of consumer electronics, like its Insignia high-definition TVs.

And now we have confirmation that development is underway. However, somewhat surprisingly, the Best Buy TiVo product will not include DVR functionality. Which may not be an entirely bad thing. For example, my favorite DVD player of all time was actually a TiVo (the Toshiba SD-H400). This is obviously Best Buy’s method of competing within the connected television space while is provides TiVo a platform to expand their brand and market. But I’m hopeful the companies choose to support streaming multi-room viewing (MRV) from TiVo DVRs and enable basic trick play functionality, in addition to the other connected features and UI. If so, I could see this easily being a killer kitchen or den television and DVR extender. Otherwise, meh?

From the press release:

TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO) and Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE: BBY) today announced that development is underway to integrate TiVo’s software and advanced television services into broadband-connected Insignia televisions. The new Insignia televisions will provide Best Buy customers with an exceptional, intuitive user experience for accessing online content by utilizing the latest TiVo non-DVR software and advanced television service. TiVo’s easy-to-use platform will give the viewer a one-stop-shop for delivering and searching content right on the television.

(This post is republished from Zatz Not Funny.)



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Best Buy, Wal-Mart End Used Game Kiosk Flirtation

By  |  Posted at 5:33 pm on Thursday, February 4, 2010

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When it comes to trading in used games, there really is no stopping Gamestop.

Best Buy and Wal-Mart, who both experimented with used game kiosks last year, are pulling out, according to IndustryGamers. Both companies relied on a third-party, E-Play, to run the kiosks, and will remove the machines over the next few weeks. E-Play’s Web site has a sombre little message saying they’ve suspended operations, and thanking customers.

In addition to offering credit or debit card credit in exchange for used games, the kiosks rented DVDs (as long as there wasn’t a Redbox machine in the store as well), Blu-ray discs and video games.

A couple guesses why the pilot programs failed: Unlike Gamestop, where you can call to find out a game’s trade-in value, a kiosk is unpredictable, and the prices E-Play offered — $25 for new titles down to 50 cents for throwaways — isn’t better than anywhere else.  Marketing and awareness could’ve come into play as well. If you call Gamestop, you’ll likely hear, “Thank you for calling Gamestop, where we buy and sell used games” on the other end. Somehow, “Welcome to Wal-Mart, check out that kiosk over there” doesn’t have the same ring.

All’s not lost for trading games outside of GameStop. Toys R’ Us, which began buying used games in select markets last year, expanded the program nationwide in September. Amazon will buy your old games in exchange for online store credit, and Wal-Mart still sells used games online, but does not buy them. Still, none of these competitors offer the whole package of buying and selling used games. Local stores and smaller chains, such as Game Crazy, are still around (barely), and thrifty gamers will still rely on Craigslist, eBay and Goozex.

But for most of the United States, for quickly unloading a used game and getting another one in its place, GameStop’s got it locked down.



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The Consumerist has conducted a superb, important investigation into a Best Buy “optimization” service that involves the Geek Squad pre-tweaking PCs on sale for alleged performance and usability benefits, for a  $40 surcharge. The investigation’s conclusion: The service can make it hard to buy a computer for the advertised price, and the benefits, if there are any, aren’t worth forty bucks.

It’s certainly true that many new Windows PCs aren’t as well configured as they could be–some, in fact, are so laden with demoware and other stuff that it’s downright annoying. Here’s an idea: Why doesn’t Best Buy, a tremendously powerful company in the industry, use the leverage it has to convince PC makers to do a better job in the first place, rather than trying to squeeze an extra $40 out of consumers?

Posted by Harry at 7:31 am

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Best Buy Does Digital Movies

By  |  Posted at 11:05 pm on Monday, November 2, 2009

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Best Buy CinemaNowWhat happens to Best Buy when all of the content we rent and buy comes to us via the Internet rather than on shiny discs we buy in stores? The company won’t go the way of Tower Records or the Virgin Megastores, but it’ll surely miss the money it made selling CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray. And it’s clearly girding itself for the day when those racks of discs go away. Last year, it bought music subscription service Napster–and now it’s announcing a partnership with Sonic’s Roxio CinemaNow service to get into the digital movie business.

More details on Best Buy’s plans are yet to come, but Sonic told me that the retailing giant will create a Best Buy-branded version of CinemaNow, and will work with hardware manufacturers to build it into gadgets such as HDTVs and Blu-Ray players. A Best Buy representative told the New York Times’ Steve Lohr that the service will be available early next year, and that the goal is to let us pay for a movie once and then watch it on an array of devices: not just TVs and PCs but also media players and phones.

Sounds good to me. I’ve bought Walt Disney’s Pinocchio so often over the past twenty-four years, in so many slight variants, that I’ve lost track. I’d love to think that I could buy it just one more time and be done with it–if not for life then at least for a long, long time to come…



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Best Buy to Lump E-Readers With Other Random Stuff

By  |  Posted at 11:53 am on Friday, October 9, 2009

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Sony E-ReaderClearly, Best Buy doesn’t know what to do with all those e-readers that it plans to stock, because they’ll soon be thrown into a section that contains electronic Rubik’s Cubes, digital pens and — wait for it — Sharper Image products.

Dealerscope reports that Best Buy’s creating a new retail section called “Gadgets and eReaders,” located near the movies and music, and will soon launch a corresponding page on its Web site. Along with Sony’s Reader Daily and Touch Editions and the new iRex e-reader, you’ll find the Livescribe Smartpen and the Rubik’s Touchcube, among other things.

I understand where Best Buy is coming from. E-readers are hard to categorize. They’re not quite tablet computers, nor are they full-blown media players. They are their own category, but right now there just aren’t enough e-readers (or enough interest in them) to warrant a dedicated section of the store.

But lumping e-readers in with “Funky Gadgets You Don’t Need” (my terminology, not Best Buy’s) isn’t really the best way to foster market growth. Granted, someone who’s going to Best Buy with the intent of buying an e-reader won’t care where it’s located as long as it can be found, but to the casual shopper, e-readers’ placement in an obscure gadget section is just going to make them seem frivolous.

What to do then? Put the e-readers near the iPods and Zunes. After all, e-readers are high end entertainment devices, and they share some common features with media players, such as wireless connectivity, digital content and, in some cases, touch screens. Sony’s Reader Touch Edition can even play music.

The gimmicky gadgets can have their own section, but Best Buy should think a little harder about which devices earn the dubious distinction.



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Best Buy, Verizon Team on New E-Book Reader

By  |  Posted at 11:00 am on Wednesday, September 23, 2009

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Move over, Amazon Kindle. Best Buy and Verizon have unveiled a new e-book reader Wednesday that will sell for $399 and is built by iRex Technologies. The reader like the Kindle would be able to purchase content over the 3G network, and will be sold in about 100 of Best Buy’s locations by October.

Barnes and Noble’s e-bookstore would be used to supply the device with content, the companies said.

Verizon stands to benefit from this new device as it would receive a portion of the revenue to pay for the use of bandwidth by these devices over the network. Best Buy benefits from a device that is a direct revenue stream for them: the company is so serious about e-readers that it is specifically training its associates on how to sell the devices.

The two companies may be getting on the bandwagon at the right time. After only selling around a million of these devices in 2008, over five million are expected to be sold this year according to research firm iSuppli. Much of this increase has to do with the success of the Kindle, which has continued to sell very well by all accounts.

Regardless, the issue of price still looms large. As we reported here on Technologizer at the beginning of this month, e-readers are still too expensive for most consumers. At $400, iRex’s new reader seems to be more than twice what consumers would consider paying for a device.

These companies still need to address this issue if they plan to continue growing sales of these devices well into the future.



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Microsoft to Best Buy Salespeople: Windows Good, Macs Bad!

By  |  Posted at 3:04 pm on Wednesday, September 9, 2009

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Over at Ars Technica, there’s an interesting piece on training materials prepared by Microsoft for Best Buy staffers making the case that Windows 7 PCs are preferable to Macs. Most of the points in Windows’ favor that the materials raise are true; it’s just that anything that might tend to favor the Mac is left out. I guess that’s an improvement over earlier Microsoft PC/Mac comparisons that involved both truth-stretching and errors.

If I ran Best Buy, I’d do my darndest to keep anyone with an agenda other than serving the customer out of the selling process. Pretty much by definition, that would prohibit companies from doing these sorts of comparisons of their own products with those of competitors. I mean, if Macs are so crummy, why does Best Buy sell them?

It reminds me of an experience I had at CompUSA years ago: I was eyeing a Canon inkjet printer when a salesguy strolled up and gravely warned me that Canon printers’ ink cartridges had an alarming tendency to dry up–unlike those in HP printers. I couldn’t figure out why a CompUSA rep would care whether I bought a Canon or HP product–until I realized that he was actually an HP employee who CompUSA had allowed to troll for customers in its aisles…



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