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Microsoft to bring Kinect to Windows PCs
by Staff Writers
Las Vegas (AFP) Jan 10, 2012

Televisions getting Siri-style personal assistants
Las Vegas (AFP) Jan 10, 2012 - Startup Vlingo on Tuesday said that it is giving televisions the kind of voice-controlled "virtual assistants" that have been a hit with the latest version of Apple's hot-selling iPhone.

"If you are sitting on your couch you can just use your voice to control your TV, set-top box, cable-box or whatever," Vlingo's Chris Barnett told AFP as the Consumer Electronics Show got underway in Las Vegas.

"The TV will talk back to you in Virtual Assistant mode; ask what you want to see and drill down into what you are looking for," he continued, providing a demonstration. "It is like Apple's Siri, only for your TV, only better."

Apple built sassy Siri personal assistants into iPhone 4S models released in October.

Siri artificial intelligence software was derived from research conducted to make computers more intuitive at understanding and working with soldiers in action.

Siri understands context so people can speak naturally when asking it questions.

It helps make calls, send text messages or email, schedule meetings and reminders, make notes, find local businesses, and get directions. Siri will even perform mathematical calculations if asked.

Vlingo said its Virtual Assistant software lets people tell televisions what they want it to do or find.

Viewers could ask assistants to find shows with particular actors or in preferred genres, or tell televisions to record or rent specific films or television programs.

Microphones will be built into televisions or, more likely, remote controls to let Vlingo software listen to viewers, according to Barnett.

Some television makers are expected to let people chat with Vlingo virtual assistants using smartphone "apps" or build microphones into screens.

The software could also tap into microphones in accessories such as Kinect for Xbox 360 videogame consoles.

"The Vlingo Virtual Assistant for TV is designed to modernize that thing your grandfather once called a 'remote control'," Barnett said.

"Everyone deserves their own assistant and Vlingo will make this a reality on TVs this year."

Massachussetts-based Vlingo, which is being bought by speech recognition specialty firm Nuance, said that it has deals with major electronics makers to put the software into television hardware to be released this year.

It did not disclose names of companies, citing confidentiality agreements.

Microsoft plans to bring its Kinect technology to bear on personal computers following its phenomenal success with the gesture and voice-recognition sensor in the Xbox 360 game console.

"I'm thrilled to announce that Kinect is coming to Windows on February 1," Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said in his final keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which opens in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

"We're already working with over 200 companies on unique Kinect for Windows applications," including American Express, Mattel, Telefonica, Toyota and the United Health Group, he told a packed ballroom at the Venetian hotel on Monday.

"The breadth of what they're doing is mind-blowing," Ballmer said, without providing further details.

Microsoft has shipped more than 18 million Kinects since the Xbox peripheral went on sale just a little over a year ago, Ballmer said.

He said there are currently 66 million Xbox users and more than 40 million subscribers to Xbox Live, which links the game console to the Internet, allowing for real-time game play but also providing access to online content.

Ballmer said the Xbox has evolved into "an entertainment hub for live TV, on demand videos, movies and news, social (networking), music and of course still games."

"Xbox is your all-in-one entertainment device for the living room," he said, adding that a partnership with News Corp. would bring Fox television channels and The Wall Street Journal to the Xbox this year.

Microsoft's plan to integrate the Kinect's voice and gesture recognition capabilities into PCs using the Windows operating system was the highlight of Ballmer's last appearance on stage at the CES.

Ballmer or his predecessor, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, have delivered keynote speeches at CES for the past 15 years, but Microsoft announced last month that this year's gadget extravaganza will be its last.

Microsoft said it will no longer have a booth at the show or deliver a keynote because the January timing of the event does not coincide with its product development calendar.

Ballmer also used his final address to provide a preview of Windows-powered smartphones from Microsoft's new partner, Finland's Nokia, and of Windows 8, the next generation of its personal computer operating system.

Apple, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion and handsets powered by Google's Android software dominate the smartphone market, but Ballmer said he believed that "with Windows Phone, we're clearly on the right track."

Ballmer said Windows 8 "will deliver the best of the PC and the best of the tablet."

Windows chief marketing officer Tami Reller said Windows 8, a test version of which will be available next month, is "designed to work with touch and with a mouse and keyboard."

Ballmer said that PC owners whose machines are running Windows 7 will be able to immediately upgrade to Windows 8 when it becomes available.

"Every Windows 7 PC will be ready for Windows 8 on day one," he said.

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Samsung bringing super-size smartphone to US
Las Vegas (AFP) Jan 9, 2012 - South Korean electronics giant Samsung announced plans Monday to bring its super-size smartphone, the Galaxy Note, which also features a stylus for taking notes, to the United States.

With a 5.3 inch (13.46-centimeter) touchscreen, the Galaxy Note is considerably wider than most smartphones on the market today.

Apple's latest iPhone, the 4S, for example, has a 3.5-inch (8.85-centimeter) display.

In an announcement on the eve of the giant Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Samsung said it will partner with AT&T to sell the Galaxy Note in the United States and it will run on the US telecom carrier's 4G network.

The Galaxy Note, which Samsung describes as a "new category of smartphone," went on sale in Asia and Europe in October. Exact pricing and availability for the US market were not announced.

The Galaxy Note comes with a stylus, called the "S pen," which is housed inside the device and which can be used to write notes on the screen as one would on a piece of paper.

Handwritten notes from the S Pen can also be captured by the device and shared with others.

Samsung is touting the larger, high-resolution screen of the Galaxy Note as superior to standard smartphones for viewing videos, surfing the Web, running applications or reading electronic books.

The Galaxy Note, which is powered by Google's Android software, also comes with front- and rear-facing cameras.

Kodak restructures amid bankruptcy battle
Washington (AFP) Jan 10, 2012 - US photography giant Eastman Kodak, fighting to keep bankruptcy at bay, announced Tuesday a major restructuring to speed up its transformation into a digital company.

Kodak said it had reduced three segments into two on January 1: one focused on the general public and the other on professionals.

Kodak said the new business structure was "designed to increase productivity, reduce cost and accelerate its transformation into a digital company that delivers sustainable profitability and creates value for its stakeholders."

The move involves a reshuffling of top posts in the venerable US company, founded in the late 19th century.

"As we complete Kodak's transformation to a digital company, our future markets will be very different from our past, and we need to organize ourselves in keeping with that evolution," Antonio Perez, Kodak's chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

Investors cheered the news of Kodak's restructuring, sending shares 30.4 percent higher to 52 cents in midday New York trade.

The company did not mention its dire financial difficulties that have spurred speculation it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection soon.

A week ago the New York Stock Exchange told the company, once one of the fabled Dow Jones industrial Average's 30 blue-chip stocks, that it faces delisting from the exchange if it cannot get its stock price back above $1.00 level.

In its heyday, in 1996, Rochester, New York-based company's shares topped $80 -- just at the outset of the digital photo revolution that eventually replaced the need for consumers to buy Kodak film, once a virtual monopoly in the US market.


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Nokia declares war in US smartphone market
Las Vegas (AFP) Jan 10, 2012
Nokia has declared war in the US smartphone market, with a Microsoft-powered handset tailored to take on Apple iPhones and Google-backed Android devices. Microsoft chief executive Steven Ballmer joined Nokia boss Stephen Elop on Monday to unveil the new Lumia 900 smartphone, which will run on Windows mobile software and tap into a growing trove of popular mini-applications. The two firms ... read more

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