Also, Taylor Swift hates Spotify, CBSN goes online, Scribd adds audiobooks, and riding the world’s first ice bike.
Amazon Echo Is Listening
Amazon has launched the Amazon Echo, an always-on, smart speaker which owes a considerable nod of appreciation to Siri. Amazon Echo is a small speaker with a big sound, capable of playing music from Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio, as well as any device connected via Bluetooth.
More interesting than the speaker are the virtual assistant elements built into Amazon Echo. As can be seen in the video above, Echo will respond to questions, answering simple queries sourced from the cloud. These features lift Amazon Echo above the competition it faces as a connected speaker.
Amazon Echo costs $199, with a $100 discount currently being offered to Amazon Prime subscribers. Unfortunately, buying one requires being invited to do so by Amazon itself, but this could just be a limited time thing enabling Amazon to cope with demand and iron out any kinks.
Microsoft Office Free On Mobile
Microsoft is releasing a free version of Office for mobile devices, and its comprehensiveness means this free version will be all most people ever need. Office is already available on the iPad, but Microsoft is now bringing the same app to iPhone, Android, and, eventually, Windows 10.
This constitutes a seismic shift for Microsoft, which has always been extremely cautious about opening Office up to devices outside of the Windows ecosystem. Microsoft hopes this will only increase the number of people subscribing to Office 365, so it’s a gamble, but one which Microsoft needed to make in the face of falling PC sales.
Taylor Swift Is The New Lars Ulrich
Taylor Swift recently disappointed her legion of fans by removing all of her music from Spotify. There was speculation at the time that this was designed to add value to her record label, but it turns out she just hates Spotify and the effect she thinks it’s having on the music industry. She explained her reasons for hating Spotify in a recent interview with Yahoo:
Music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music.
I try to stay really open-minded about things, because I do think it’s important to be a part of progress. But I think it’s really still up for debate whether this is actual progress, or whether this is taking the word “music” out of the music industry.
[Spotify] didn’t feel right to me. I felt like I was saying to my fans, “If you create music someday, if you create a painting someday, someone can just walk into a museum, take it off the wall, rip off a corner off it, and it’s theirs now and they don’t have to pay for it.
The museum analogy makes no sense, as an artist’s music remains their property and remains whole no matter how many people listen to it. Swift also ignores the fact Spotify pays the artists and their record labels, whether through advertising or subscription fees, so no one is stealing anything from anyone in this scenario. Unlike music piracy, which is stealing. And which is the way fans will get hold of Taylor Swift’s new album when they discover it isn’t available on Spotify.
CBSN Is Live and Online
— Major Garrett (@MajorCBS) November 6, 2014
CBS has launched CBSN, an online news outlet delivering network-quality broadcasts over the Internet. CBSN, available on CBSNews.com and via selected set-top boxes, is free and supported by advertising, with Microsoft and Amazon being early sponsors. CBSN will also be available via the CBS News mobile apps by the end of 2014.
Scribd Adds 30,000 Audiobooks
— Scribd (@Scribd) November 4, 2014
Scribd has added 30,000 audiobooks to its eBook subscription service. People paying the $9-per-month fee for unlimited access to thousands of eBooks can now listen to those audiobooks as well for no extra charge. Which gives Scribd an obvious advantage over Kindle Unlimited, Oyster, and Entitle, its biggest rivals in this emerging space.
The World’s First Ice Bike Is Cool
And finally, Colin Furze is either a genius or a fool, depending on how you choose to see this eccentric British inventor. His latest creation is a bike which has wheels made out of ice, which is as stupid as it sounds.
The ice bike struggles on steep inclines, obviously, but looks like being a lot of fun when ridden on an ice rink. The wheels made of frozen orange juice look rather tasty, but the bits of grit embedded in them puts me off ever actually eating them.
Your Views On Today’s Tech News
Will you be buying Amazon Echo? Is Microsoft sensible to release Office free on mobile devices? Is Taylor Swift right to hate Spotify?
Let us know your thoughts on the tech news of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.