PC & Mac Sales; Smart Speaker Market Booming, Wireless Earbuds-‘Assistive Hearing’ Coming

It’s easy, especially when covering tech, to be all over the latest mobile devices, and lose track of what’s happening with the venerable PC…which most of us still have and use. Bgr.com has the numbers as tracked by IDC, and here’s where computer brands stood in 2017: #1 was H-P with 22.7% of the market. Lenovo came in 2nd with 21.1%. In third place was Dell with 16.1% market share, and 4th was Apple at 7.6%. Acer was in 5th place with 6.8%, and ASUS grabbed 6th with 6.6%, hot on their trail. The other 19.1% of computer sales was ‘everybody else.’ Of all of them, Apple had the most growth in the 4th quarter covering the holidays.

While Apple fanboys and fangirls breathlessly await the Apple HomePod, the smart speaker market is absolutely booming. According to 9to5mac.com, it’s up 128% since a year ago. Research from Edison Research and NPR indicates one in 6 Americans own a smart speaker of one type or another. 65% of owners say they would never want to go back to not having one! Of the 16% of us that have smart speakers, 11% are Amazon Alexa powered, while 4% use Google Home.

Since Congress passed a law allowing some hearing aid tech without prescription, wireless earbud makers are looking to that as a new market. Engadget.com reports that wireless earbud pioneer Bragi announced at CES that they would be diving into personalized hearing enhancement for their Dash earbuds. On top of that, they are working to develop personalized fitting for hearing loss using the so-called ‘Earprint’ test….pointing out that correcting for hearing loss needs to be as personalized as fitting for glasses. Another company called Nuheara showed off their updated product called IQBuds Boost.

New Voice Assistant Shames Siri and Google Now; PS4 Game Play Coming to PCs and Macs

Soundhound has rolled out what they’re calling their original concept, which has been 9 years in the making. Businessinsider.com says their new assistant app…Hound…blows both Siri and Google Now into the weeds with both speed and accuracy. SoundHound has been around a while. It recognizes and identifies music that’s playing around you. Instead of converting your voice to text, then trying to decipher what you are inquiring about, Hound’s proprietary engine does it all at once…like a human brain. Hound can replace Google Now as default voice assistant on Android, but Apple doesn’t allow replacing Siri on iOS. Hound has 110 data partners, while Siri started with 12 5 years ago, and even now only have 25.

The next system software update for Sony’s PS4 will be out in beta this week. Bgr.com reports that Sony has announced Remote Play. Remote Play won’t work in the beta, but by late this year, the final version of update 3.50 will be released to the public, and with it, and everyone with a PS4 will be able to stream games directly to their PC or Mac. Best of all, the PS4 controller is basically plug-and-play on computers, so gamers won’t have to fiddle around with the controls to make everything work.

When Will That ‘Baby Tesla’ Be Available?

Elon Musk Tweeted yesterday that the Model 3, the smallest Tesla, will go into production in 2017. Silicon Valley Business Journal reports that pre-orders will start next March when the car is unveiled. It’s expected that the Model 3 will sell for around $35,000, nearly half the price of the current top line Model S, and have a 200 mile cruising range. Musk said the 2017 date is because demand for the cars will mean the giant battery producing factory will have to be up and running. It will come in both sedan and crossover suv models.

Intel has rolled out it’s new 6th generation core processor, Skylake. The advanced chip has 2-1/2 times better speed, 3 times the battery life, and 30 times the graphics power of an average 5 year old PC. According to businessinsider.com, it will enable cutting the weight and thickness of a PC in half, and for some laptops to go fanless…great news if you’re looking at a laptop, but a blow to the struggling tablet market. Expect the Skylake chips to start showing up in laptops late this year.

Galaxy S6 Presales Are Encouraging to Samsung

It’s no secret that the Galaxy S5 has been disappointing to Samsung. Bgr.com says early signs show the S6 may be the smash hit they badly need. The reviews are good, but more importantly, preorders are already almost double those of the S5 on T-Mobile. The other carriers haven’t weighed in yet on sales of the upcoming Samsung hero phone.

Overall PC shipments have dropped 5.2 percent worldwide first quarter of 2015, but Apple’s Mac has handily bucked that trend. Appleinsider.com reports that Mac sales were up 9% in the US, based on figures from Gartner. That gives Apple 12 % of the US market.

With the upcoming Windows 10 system from Microsoft, Redmond will be merging apps, movies, TV shows, and music into a single location. According to the verge.com, Microsoft will introduce a unified store, and will ensure apps and content can work across PCs, tablets, phones, and the Xbox One. They plan to reveal more about the store at their Build developer conference later this month.

Amazon Prime Adds Free Photo Storage

You can never have too many backups, and now if you have Amazon Prime, you get unlimited photo storage in the cloud, according to theverge.com. Note that this will work on PCs, Android, and iOS, but not yet on Macs. Amazon says that’s coming. Keep in mind that cloud storage is great for convieninece, but do keep a local backup or 3 of your pictures.

Apple Pay has grabbed a big chunk of the pay with your phone market, even though Google Wallet was already available. Now, gigaom.com reports that Windows phone users can make payments at NFC retail terminals with the Softcard app.

HP is taking orders for a new gaming laptop to compete with Alienware models. Engadget.com says the big plus for the $1500, 15.6 inch touch screen rig is that it’s noticeably thinner than Alienware machines. It will ship this month.