x5: Walmart Offers Movie Streaming and Tesla Improves Its Gear


AT&T looking to buy Time Warner

According to the Wall Street Journal, the carrier is said to be in advanced talks about purchasing Time Warner. The deal could happen as early as next week.

Why This Matters

We’re seeing the US make moves similar to what we have here in Canada. Part of the reason why Canadian consumers can’t access on-demand stand-alone TV services such as HBO NOW is because our giant carriers (Rogers or Bell) own the rights to them. This news marks the start of US carriers looking to do the same; carriers owning the content that they serve to their customers. This consolidation isn’t necessarily good for consumers because it typically means that access to content becomes more exclusive and expensive. If this deal goes through, it could be the beginning of several more like it, which would put more power and control into the hands of the carriers.


Tesla cars will come with gear for autonomous driving

Elon Musk announced that going forward, all Tesla vehicles (including the new Model 3) would come equipped with the hardware necessary for full autonomous driving. The kit will cost $8,000 extra to activate, but once the autonomous software component is up to par, a simple update will allow owners to enjoy it.

Why This Matters

This indicates that we are much closer to the self-driving future than one might think. With this announcement, Tesla have told us that the hardware needed to achieve safe and reliable autonomous driving already exists and can be mass produced into vehicles. If history tell us anything, the software won’t take long to catch up. When that happens, we will start to see the Telsa plan for an autonomous fleet of vehicles in action. The announcement will also undoubtedly drive even more demand for the new Tesla Model 3.


Walmart offers free movie streaming with Vudu

Vudu, owned by Walmart, has historically offered rentals or purchases of movies and TV shows. The company has introduced a new service, Vudu Movies on Us, which offers free movie streaming supported by ads.

Why This Matters

Walmart has made several moves lately to keep up with the rest of the retail world, namely Amazon. They made the massive purchase of Jet.com to bolster their eCommerce capabilities, and now they are going head-to-head with Amazon Prime Video (as well as Netflix and iTunes) to compete for users of video streaming. This new ad-supported service will provide ad revenue, while the free videos will draw users to their platform. However, Vudu does not plan on having any original content, which puts them a step behind competitors.


Microsoft’s speech recognition system hears as well as you do

According to TechCrunch, a team of researchers at Microsoft have developed a  voice recognition system that is as accurate as human transcribers (a word accuracy rate of 94%). Microsoft has not yet  released any news as to when this  new system might be available in its products.

Why This Matters

The system will have trouble with high levels of ambient noise, but other than that – this is a breakthrough. One of the biggest roadblocks to the progression of the voice-controlled world that Google, Apple, and Amazon are all trying to create is the ability to understand what users say when they speak. Having a system that is accurate will allow people to speak much more naturally to their devices, and as the semantic artificial intelligence improves, the more natural it will feel for consumers to use AI assistants and programs (think Tony Stark speaking to Jarvis).


Walgreens introduces ‘ship-to-store’ app

The application allows consumers to buy products that are not available in Walgreens and have them shipped to the nearest Walgreens store. The app has no minimum order amount and is free of charge to use.

Why This Matters

Consumers can pay through the app, making it a very fast and efficient process when picking up their items. The convenience factor, and the fact that it’s free to use, could drive a lot of users to use Walgreens on a regular basis. Given that they have to come to the store to pick up their orders, Walgreens is also counting on increased foot traffic to drive additional purchases in-store. This could give the company a big leg up on competitors like Amazon and Walmart, especially in residential areas where delivered packages are often left on doorsteps and sometimes stolen.


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