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The Streaming Wars come to CES

The Streaming Wars come to CES


Quibi and Spotify both had big announcements

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Alex Castro/The Verge

The news that dominated consumer tech today wasn’t about gadgets, but about the content you consume on them. Quibi held a big keynote and Spotify promised to bring its ad targeting technology to podcasts. We have big stories on both as well as updates on fight between Sonos and big tech.

The biggest announcements from CES are about done, and so in the next days we’ll bring you some analysis of what it all will actually mean. As I wrote previously, a lot of what we saw here was hazy and conceptual, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t also important new developments.

For now, I’ll admit I’ve hit the inevitable CES wall and so will just give you some links and thoughts below. Thank you again to everybody who has subscribed and thank you especially to everybody who has emailed me their thoughts.


└ Quibi versus the world

Believe it or not, but when we look back on what happened in tech this week, the thing we’re most likely to remember is that Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman finally revealed more details about Quibi, the streaming service funded to the tune of 1.4 billion dollars to create shows you watch on your phone.

Ashley Carman’s story on the launch is so full of double-take-inspiring quotes and weird details that I don’t want to spoil it by recapping too much. But the big takeway is that the scope of Quibi’s ambition is so big that you can’t just write it off.

Quibi’s already made big-name deals for this top tier of programming. Zac Efron, Idris Elba, Kristen Bell, Chrissy Teigen, Kendall Jenner, Tyra Banks, Steph Curry, 50 Cent, and Avengers: Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo all have original Quibi series in the works. (Disclosure: Vox Media, which owns The Verge, has a deal with Quibi to produce a Polygon Daily Essential, and there have been early talks about a Verge show.) “It’s like The Godfather,” Training Day’s Fuqua says of deciding to work with Katzenberg. “You walk into the room, he says, ‘I’ve got this thing I want you to do,’ and you say, ‘Okay.’”

└ Neon CEO explains the tech behind his overhyped ‘artificial humans’

Sam Byford has the whole story on the most hyped thing leading up to CES. And as James Vincent has been predicting, when the time came to make good on its claims, Neon did not.

Mistry speaks at a thousand miles an hour, and one day I would very much like to sit down with him for a longer chat conducted at a less breakneck pace. At various points he invoked Einstein, Sagan, and da Vinci in an attempt to convey the lofty goals he was aiming to achieve with Neon. It was never less than entertaining. My focus, however, was on figuring out how Neon works and what it actually is.

└ Segway’s S-Pod looks weird, but it’s a lot of fun to drive

Eggscruciatingly (sorry not sorry) good video with Sean O’Kane. Overall, he’s very impressed with how nimble and fast this very, very prototype-y prototype is. But, you know:

Alas, this is CES, and things tend to go wrong with even the best prototypes. At the very end of my ride, the joystick came loose, and the Segway egg (and I) crashed into the wall. Thankfully, there was no great fall.

└ Foldable and dual-screen laptops desperately need Windows 10X

I mentioned a couple days ago that companies making foldables don’t know what the software should be. The obvious answer, as Tom Warren points out, is Windows 10X. Microsoft is best positioned to make the right choices — but we don’t know nearly enough about 10X right now to make any judgment calls.

PC makers look set to announce more of these foldable and dual-screen devices this year, but any haste will be met with the realization that these machines desperately need something beyond Windows 10.

└ Sony’s electric car is the best surprise of CES

Sean O’Kane on the Sony car. Again, do not miss the video.

To answer your question: no, you won’t be able to buy the Sony car. Not any time soon, at least. The company has no plans to mass-produce the Vision-S, the car it surprise-announced at the end of its press conference at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, nor does it plan to do a limited run.

Data tracking

└ Smart tech is coming for your last safe space: the bathroom

Justine Calma:

These brands want to start collecting data as they get closer to our crevices. In exchange, they offer detailed information about how much grime is on our teeth — or even how much our poop stinks. In theory, users can have more personalized personal time, and the companies can get some more information as they start building their next iteration of devices. But do we really need any of this? Probably not.

└ Spotify will use everything it knows about you to target podcast ads

Ashley Carman has the other big streaming news of the week:

With technology it’s calling Streaming Ad Insertion, Spotify says it’ll begin inserting ads into its shows in real-time, based on what it knows about its users, like where they’re located, what type of device they use, and their age, similarly to how the broader web operates. Spotify already automates dynamic ad insertion on the music side of its business, it’s now expanding and improving that tech for podcasts.

More CES news

└ Twitter will put options to limit replies directly on the compose screen

You wouldn’t expect Twitter to try to make news at CES, but here we are. Unfortunately, I initially thought these features would be coming sooner than they actually are. The new options are starting in trials now, launching later this year.

└ Amazon’s hardware boss responds to Sonos accusations of stolen technology

Here’s Chris Welch’s interview with Dave Limp.

└ Sonos CEO will testify to lawmakers after suing Google

Told you this story wasn’t going away anytime soon.

└ At CES 2020, the AirPods Pro competitors arrived in droves

Jon Porter has helpfully rounded up all the most important wireless headphones announced at CES.

It’s unfair to label an entire product category as an alternative to a single Apple product, but, like it or not, the AirPods continue to dominate most people’s idea of true wireless earbuds. Those options can offer things that the AirPods don’t — whether you want higher sound quality, a different form factor, or just the interoperability of USB-C charging. The market is already filled with alternatives to Apple’s original AirPods, and after CES 2020, it sounds like the same is going to be true for the AirPods Pro very soon.

More from The Verge

└ Samsung keeps the removable battery alive with new XCover Pro smartphone

I think we, as a species, have forgotten how damn convenient replaceable batteries are. When I’m running around all day I do it with a big chunky battery pack and a dopey cable. Or I spend way too much on a battery case that turns my phone into a stupid chonk.

I don’t know this for a fact, but my last replaceable-battery phone might have been the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013. I bought a couple spare batteries and tossed them in my back pocket if I knew I’d be away from a charger. I could go the entire day and then some, just swapping out the batteries when I needed them.

This argument is long over -- that was seven years ago, after all. But as I fish my Anker battery out of my bag and pray I have the right cable to plug it into my phone, I can’t help but think it didn’t really have to be this way.

Our phones would be thicker, sure. But they’d also last longer.

└ This $3,995 fat-tire electric scooter is totally unique — just don’t pick it up

└ Ring says it has fired four employees for abusing access to user video

Ring is not alone among tech companies in having some employees access data they shouldn’t. But one of the things that makes Ring stories land so hard is that video feels much more intimate (or invasive) than other data.

Correction, Jan 9th, 3:30m ET: clarified to say that the impression that Twitter would release the new compose options soon was my error, not an error in the presentation. Xie characterized it as “a new project that we’re working on.” I regret the error.