Facebook is rolling out a new feature that lets you listen along to a song with any friend. Called “Listen With Friends,” the feature is available to friends who both listen to music using Spotify and Rdio. Over the next few weeks, you’ll begin to the see the new option in your chat menu. In other news, Amazon released free software that lets Windows users send documents from their computer to their Kindle. In just a click, Send to Kindle lets you share word documents, PDFs, pictures and more. You can even save documents straight to your Kindle Archive. A Mac version is coming soon. And finally, Target is testing store-within-a-store boutiques, selling exclusive merchandise from other retailers in dozens of locations. Target is also adding 25 prominent Apple displays, potentially expanding the variety of Apple products it currently offers.
Intel’s chips power every type of computer, but until now have never cracked the smartphone industry. Lenovo is making the first Intel-powered smartphone, while Motorola works on a future smartphone and tablet. Devices powered by Intel’s Atom chip will be available later this year. In other news, after much speculation, Sony announced it wouldn’t unveil the PlayStation 4 at this year’s E3 Expo. The PlayStation 3 was built to have a 10-year shelf life and Sony won’t rush out a new console any time soon. PS3 is still wildly popular, selling millions of units worldwide. And finally, Ford’s SYNC AppLink lets drivers use voice activated smartphone apps in their car. Ford announced that now, SYNC owners can download iHeartRadio and listen to over 800 radio broadcasts in their car. You can download the app from the iTunes, BlackBerry and soon, Android marketplaces.
Google is making its search results more personalized for anyone using Google+. The new search feature called “Search, plus Your World” incorporates Google+ photos and posts that are relevant to your search. Looking up a topic also brings up results for others who frequently discuss that subject. In other news, Comcast announced a new service called AnyPlay that lets Xfinity Triple Play subscribers stream cable TV to their iPad. AnyPlay only works within your home’s network but is currently only available in Denver and Nashville. Full coverage will roll out over the next few months. And finally, Kodak is suing Apple for infringing on four patents related to digital imaging. The patents in violation relate to sharing photos online and would require Apple to stop selling the infringing devices like iPhones and iPods. A similar lawsuit was also filed against HTC.
Dish Network announced a series of major updates to its product offerings, including satellite broadband Internet. The company also showed off a new DVR system called Hopper that can record up to six shows at once, and hold 250 hours of HD with its two terabyte hard drive. In other news, the first 4G LTE Windows Phones were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show. HTC and Nokia are manufacturing a few devices running Windows Phone Mango that will be made available on AT&T later this year. HTC’s Titan II Windows Phone touts an insane 16-megapixel camera. And finally, Intel is launching its biggest ad campaign since 2003 to push what it believes is the future of computing: the Ultrabook. There are 75 Intel-powered Ultrabooks already making their way to market. These super thin and lightweight computers are definitely here to stay.
This week is the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Over 140,000 people will come to see more than 2,700 exhibitors, showing off everything from microchips to television sets. Despite fewer companies using the expo for product announcements, we’re sure to see some exciting technology. In other news, a report found that iPhone 4S users are consuming twice as much data as those using previous models. Apple’s Siri virtual assistant has consumers using the smartphone’s functions way more often. Siri relies on the phone’s data connection, putting even more pressure on wireless carriers’ networks. And finally, Vizio, the company known for making low priced HDTVs and Blu-Ray players, announced that it would start manufacturing computers. Vizio has spent the past two years designing sleek models to rival Apple’s, while working to keep the price as low as possible.
AT&T officially launched its 4G LTE network in multiple markets, including New York City. If you already own a 4G device and live in a coverage area, AT&T promises blazingly fast download speeds. AT&T’s 4G network will reach over 70 million people by year’s end. In other news, Kodak, a staple of the consumer electronics industry, is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection. Unless Kodak can sell off some of its patents for cash, the 131-year-old company may have to file for bankruptcy. Despite inventing the digital camera in 1975, Kodak has had a hard time competing. And finally, a new threat on Facebook has stolen over 45,000 usernames and passwords. Hackers are targeting users with a piece of malicious software called Ramnit, which compromises your account just by clicking on a link. You can protect your account by avoiding links that look suspicious.
Yahoo hired PayPal’s Scott Thompson to be its newest CEO. Thompson will take over for Tim Morse who filled in after Yahoo fired Carol Bartz back in September. Hiring Thompson is a sign that Yahoo’s board is unlikely to sell the struggling Internet company. In other news, iPhone 4S users are reporting issues of randomly muted audio while making outgoing calls, but only on the caller’s end of the line. Apple has yet to address the issue despite over 100 pages of complaints on its message boards. And finally, set-top box maker Roku’s newest device is so small it fits in your pocket. The Roku Streaming Stick is the size of a USB thumb drive and connects to any TV using only an HDMI port. The device accesses over 400 entertainment channels and will be available in the second half of 2012.
The Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that runs Wikipedia, managed to raise $20 million in its recent fundraising campaign. Thanks to donations from over one million worldwide, the volunteer-run Wikipedia raised more money than it ever has in a single year. In other news, Google acquired over 200 patents from IBM including patents for voice search, near field communication and mobile web browsing. Google has been acquiring mobile device patents at rapid pace, including nearly 25,000 from its recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility. And finally, more Android and iOS apps were downloaded between this past Christmas and New Years than any other week in history. The total number of combined apps downloaded reached 1.2 billon. With over 60% of 18-24 year olds owning smartphones, the rate of apps being downloaded in 2012 will certainly be greater.
Google launched a website dedicated to providing information for the 2012 U.S. elections. If you visit google.com/elections you can find articles sorted by candidates, issues and trends. The site also provides links to the 2012 political calendar and YouTube’s politics channel which curates election coverage. In other news, British Police believe that several newspapers hacked into potentially hundreds of email accounts including Gordon Brown, during his tenure as finance minister. The Scotland Yard police headquarters is investigating newspapers for potentially hiring private detectives to access peoples’ computers. And finally, despite more people activating Android phones, over 52% of mobile Web browsing is done on an iOS device. Even if you take iPads out of the equation, Apple has nearly 10% more people using iOS to browse the web. However, Apple’s success in mobile browsing has yet to translate to the PC.
After failing to compromise over new rates, Time Warner Cable pulled the MSG Network and MSG+ from subscribers’ cable TV line-up. If you’re a fan of the New York Knicks or a local NHL team, you’ll miss many of this year’s games. In other news, Verizon is dropping its plan to charge customers for one-time bill payments. The convenience charge would have cost customers $2 each time they used a credit or debit card over the phone or online. Over 100,000 people signed an online petition against the proposed fee. And finally, 2012 begins a new era of energy efficiency for the most basic item in your home: the light bulb. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act finally goes into effect, requiring manufacturers to offer light bulbs that are 25% more efficient than the traditional 100-watt bulb.