Boxee Box price drops to $180

Sarah Tew/CNET)

The Boxee Box has always seemed overpriced at $200, but D-Link is about to make it slightly more palatable. Effective September 4, D-Link is dropping the price of the Boxee Box to $180, down from $200.

Pricing was definitely one of our major hangups when the Boxee Box was first released, and Boxee has also made some strides to fill in its content gaps, now supporting Netflix, Vudu, Pandora, and MLB.TV. (Still no update on when Hulu Plus support is coming.) We’ll be re-reviewing the Boxee Box this month in light of all the changes that have been made this year.

While the new $180 price helps, the Boxee Box still has an uphill fight against more affordable rivals like the Roku 2 or Apple TV. Boxee’s big advantage has always been superior support for a wide range of different file types, but that won’t be enough to transcend its enthusiast-only appeal.

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Five devices to make your folks techno-comfy

The Apple iPad is manageable and intuitive, making it one of the favorite tech devices for senior citizens.


The following statement will not qualify as the biggest news scoop ever published on CNET: Older folks are often uncomfortable with modern technology and gadgets.

It’s too easy to look at the senior citizens around you and roll your eyes at their techno-hostility or seeming incompetence when it comes to using gadgets or adjusting to a world seemingly ruled more by gadgets every day. But, that’s unfair when you consider the ever-increasing speed of gadget evolution we see now and how hard it is to keep up if you weren’t born into the techno stream.

To give you a simple example of what your senior friends are up against, what we understand as the motor
car (four wheels, internal combustion engine, etc.) emerged into public view around 1888 and was destined to change the world. But, the first successful mass-produced assembly line car in the U.S. (the Model T) didn’t come along until about 20 years later. So, that’s about two decades for folks to get used to the idea of motorized transport.

Comparatively, the
iPhone–the first big salvo in the age of elite touch-screen smartphones that changed how we communicate, work, and socialize–was released in 2007. In just four years, we’ve had to get caught up on the concepts of the App Store, FaceTime, airplane mode, and Angry Birds.

So, why not nudge our silver-haired friends in getting up to speed by introducing them to gadgets that are easier–even fun–to use? While these five items are not intended as the only possible contenders, they were evaluated for ease of use, reliability, and a sort of general friendliness that will help encourage older users to pick up other gadgets not mentioned here. In no particular order:


? Cobra PhoneLynx: For those older users who might not be thrilled by the world of cell phones, the PhoneLynx connects a cell phone to any traditional landline phone.

It “lets you make and receive cell phone calls on any phone in a home or small office using Bluetooth wireless technology” and pairing your cell phone to your home phone. It allows users to have a cell as their only phone while keeping that big button, touch-tone home phone operational. Cost: $39.99.

? The Zomm: This tiny key chain device resembles a flying saucer, but it prevents the owner from flying away without their cell phone. After pairing with a smartphone, if the user and his or her keys get 20 to 40 feet (owner’s choice) from the phone, the Zomm sounds an alarm, reminding the forgetful would-be caller to take the cell phone along.


It also fills in as a one-touch speaker phone and (in case of emergency) can send an alarm tone to local authorities–a la that old “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up…” gizmo.

Finally, with its MyZomm feature, the user will never lose his or her keys again as the Zomm Web site can track down any Zomm in use. So, no senior moment will cost the owner a set of keys. Cost: $89.99.

? Archos 3s Home Connect: Anything with a big, friendly touch screen can help older users settle in to your crazy hyper-tech world. Fortunately, the
Android-powered Archos 3s has the interface down pat with big, easy to read icons.


Essentially, a high-tech clock radio, the Archos 3s, with its 3.5-inch touch screen, serves up more than 50,000 Web radio stations and an Archos app offering weather, traffic, and news personalized for use. The Archos is a good idea to introduce older folks to Internet radio because it’s a good bet they already know how to use a clock radio. This just ups the ante a bit. Cost: $75.

? SuperTooth: Most new cars in showrooms these days have an in-car speakerphone that pairs up with the driver’s device. But, an older gadget user might have an older car. Fortunately, the SuperTooth puts full speakerphone capability into any car.


The SuperTooth also allows the user to compose text messages and e-mails from the driver’s seat using voice commands, but you might want to keep that feature to yourself. We’re looking to keep all of this user-friendly and accessible. Cost: $45.

? The iPad: What can I say about the iPad that would be new or ground-shaking? Nothing. It’s massively popular because it works. But, it’s also proved very popular with seniors because of its intuitive, user-friendly interface, manageable size, and massively flexible list of functions.

When it came time for me to buy my 67-year-old mother a computer to send brag e-mails about her grandchildren, I snagged her an iPad. She loves it. That’s hardly the most scientific proof of the iPad’s effectiveness with older users, but I guess it’s the only proof I care about, personally. Cost: starts at $499.

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This week in Crave: The head-mounted edition

Too busy griping about rumored changes to the original trilogy in the Star Wars Blu-ray collection to keep up with Crave this week? Here’s what you missed while you were cursing George Lucas.

Sony’s 3D OLED head-mounted display: Tron-esque backdrops not included.


? Jeff and Scott tackled Madden 12.

? Sony’s 3D OLED head-mounted display not for the weak-necked.

? Showdown: Apple TV vs. Roku 2.

? Sketchers got an Inkling of the future.

? Physicist confirms nonphysicists’ observation that plane boarding sucks.

? Being HP’s social-media manager: Not so fun this week.

? Insults fly during chatbot-to-chatbot chat.

? Even cremation’s getting greener these days.

? You won’t care about Vance Hines–unless you’re into speed, world records, and elite precision engineering.

? Poll: ATT + T-Mobile = what, in your view?

? Two words: Donald and Eric (OK, that’s three):

Got something you want to tell us? Write to us at crave at cnet dot com. And be sure to follow us on Twitter at @crave.

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Why Amazon’s will be the first successful Android tablet

Let’s just get one thing out of the way–Amazon’s mysterious and still officially unannounced
tablet is NOT an
iPad killer. The iPad can look forward to living a long and prosperous life, at least in tech terms. But today, the first report came down of someone actually seeing and using the Amazon tablet, which is actually the next Kindle, according to TechCrunch’s MG Seigler, who was not allowed to photograph the device.

As ZDNet’s Larry Dignan points out, the new Kindle (or Kindles–CNET also reported as early as May that Amazon was working on both 7- and 10-inch tablets) is Amazon’s worst-kept secret, which is why we think we know so much about it.

And now that at least one human appears to have handled one of the devices, I’m suddenly feeling confident enough to make a declaration that may seem foolish given the HP TouchPad’s recent demise and strange life after death. Here it is anyway in case you missed the headline: This new Amazon Kindle/tablet thing, if the majority of what we’ve heard about it is true, will be the first
Android tablet to actually sell.

Forrester has already said that Amazon could sell 5 million tablets next quarter, and I think that’s more than just blowing smoke. Here’re five reasons why:

Value: Rumors about the price of an Amazon tablet have been consistently heading downward since the beginning of the summer. Much of this could be wishful thinking following the TouchPad fire sale, but Amazon is nothing if not shrewd about pricing and also has no fear of launching a loss leader. The $249 price point sounds about right, if not even a bit lower. Throwing in Amazon Prime for free also makes perfect sense to get customers streaming and shopping from their new device right away. Such a total package would blow all other Android offerings out of the water and give some Apple fans pause as well.

Whispernet: This hasn’t been widely reported because it isn’t widely understood, but the new Amazon tablet will come with a free 3G data plan built in. Whispernet is Amazon’s wireless network that up until now has been used only by 3G Kindles to keep track of your reading progress and highlighting on your eBooks via Whispersync. Whispersync would become much more dynamic on an Amazon tablet, providing on-demand data without any additional plan. Take your Amazon tablet out of the box, charge it up, turn it on, and if you’re in range of a 3G signal, you’re automatically online and ready to start streaming from Prime or Cloud Drive, or (Amazon hopes) to start shopping.

Amazon doesn’t have to replace Apple: For every time someone put out the extra money to buy an iMac or a Macbook, there were always a handful of other consumers just as happy to spend half as much on the latest from HP, Lenovo, Acer, or a number of others. The smartphone market is beginning to look the same with the iPhone and its competitors, and the same will eventually happen with the iPad and tablets. More economically minded consumers are just waiting for a tab that offers enough value, and Amazon has the resources to deliver.

The power of e-ink: While the Techcrunch report says the tablet Siegler handled was backlit-only, there are reports that the other of the possible two models will be dual-mode, operating as a backlit color tablet with the option to switch to the easy-on-the-eye e-Ink mode familiar to Kindle users. This is another key differentiating factor that could push Amazon forward.

Brand: It takes more than low price to create value, which is why the cheapo no-name Android tabs haven’t taken off. But the Amazon and Kindle brands have the power to recruit new tablet users, just as the Amazon brand did with the original Kindle.

Whatever Amazon comes out with, it’s not likely to be as pretty as an iPad–word is it actually looks like RIM’s PlayBook–but it’s almost guaranteed to be cheaper, and will probably leave many new TouchPad owners feeling a little buyer’s remorse.

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iPhone 5 cases evidence of thinner new phone?

Will the iPhone 5 be thinner than the iPhone 4?

Will the iPhone 5 be thinner than the iPhone 4?

Verizon Wireless)

iPhone 5 cases flooding the Chinese market reportedly reveal a thin design for Apple’s new Phone, as thin as an
iPod Touch.

Pointing to products being sold by online vendor Alibaba and other Chinese retailers, tech enthusiast site M.I.C. Gadget claims that the new cases are everywhere and that “only an
iPhone that is as thin as an iPod touch could fit in these cases perfectly.”

Beyond offering the thinner design, the new cases also point to the new iPhone being wider and longer, the mute switch moved to the other side, and the overall form factor tapered with rounded edges more similar to that of the iPod Touch.

Though this sounds like yet another iPhone rumor to be taken with a heaping grain of salt, The Next Web says that the cases have a similar design but come from different manufacturers and sources, so they could be based on “accurate patterns” that have already been sent to
iPhone 5 accessory makers.

Similar case designs leaked back in July uncovered a thinner design for the new iPhone. And in June, drawings based on reports at This is My Next showed similar “big” changes.

Related stories:
? iPhone 5 rumor roundup
? Alleged iPhone 5 case design points to big changes
? Is this what the iPhone 5 looks like? MacRumors says yes
? iPhone 5 to stick with smaller screen size?
? iPhone 5 now rumored to launch October 7

And in yet another potential clue that the iPhone 5 might sport a brand new design, an icon of the iPhone found in the latest beta of Apple’s Photo Stream product shows a bigger screen and an elongated home button, according to 9to5Mac. The design of the icon follows earlier rumors that the new iPhone would come equipped with a larger screen and elongated home button.

This clue definitely sounds like a stretch, though, since the icon’s description mentions the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. So the icon could be designed to try to generically represent all three devices, and not just the iPhone 5.

Taken together or separately, both the new Chinese iPhone cases and the revamped icon aren’t exactly substantial evidence of a new design for the iPhone. Some reports have insisted that the next iPhone will launch as a minor upgrade to the iPhone 4 with a few changes but the same basic features. However, as The Next Web points out, it seems unlikely Apple would wait 18 months to release a new iPhone, only to introduce one that is “basically identical to the current model.”

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DirecTV partners with Miso to deliver social TV to living rooms

When news of Beyonce’s pregnancy broke on MTV’s VMAs this week, Twitter traffic hit a record 8,868 tweets per second, suggesting that even passive TV watching is becoming a social event. That convergence could get a kick-start via a partnership announced today between satellite TV giant DirecTV and a social-media startup called Miso.

Miso has developed an
iPhone app that has the capability to “know” what you are watching on TV and to automatically check in to shows and share or follow comments about the show on Facebook and Twitter.

“TV itself is a one-way medium–content is shouted at you. What we will be able to do is enable an experience that you can customize and personalize,” Miso CEO Somrat Niyogi said.

The iPhone app facilitates sharing by automatically recognizing what you’re watching. For instance, you can chat with other fans and rate your favorite shows without having to search for specific hash tags on Twitter or fan pages on Facebook.

Last year, the company raised seed funding from Google Ventures and angels such as Square’s Keith Rabois. It is by no means alone in this space, facing competition from GetClue, IntoNow, and Foursquare. But Miso, which has 250,000 users who use the app to follow shows, could get gain an edge by tying up with a company with millions of installed set-top boxes.

Eventually Niyogi wants to partner with other cable providers and plans to expand the type of content that is delivered to its users through various devices. An earlier version of the app is available to
Android and iPad users, but unlike the latest iPhone version, users have to type in the name of the TV show they are watching before any of the social-sharing features are available. With DirecTV that step is eliminated, making it easy for chatty channel surfers to keep up with social commentary.

Once the app is downloaded, the setup involves three steps: Connect the iPhone’s Wi-Fi to the same network DirecTV is on; open Miso, and it will locate your remote; and tap the sync button so the phone knows to use the receiver you’re holding. That way, even when you change the channel with your remote, the show that appears on your phone’s screen changes with the TV screen.

Miso follows Foursquare’s check-in model of offering rewards and badges but also gives fans a place to talk to other fans checked in to the same episode.

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