Amazon said Wednesday that it was making a $99 set-top box for televisions. The small black device, called Amazon Fire TV, will allow consumers to watch Amazon's video library on their television sets, a first step in the retailer's ambitious plans to merge shopping and entertainment. It will show a range of content from other providers, including Hulu, Netflix and ESPN. With a separate controller, consumers can use Fire TV to play games. The box started shipping Wednesday.
Microsoft offers Siri-like virtual assistant for phones
Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled a new virtual assistant as part of a coming update for Windows phones. The assistant, named Cortana, tries to be chatty like Siri on Apple's iPhones and iPads, while anticipating information you might want, like Google Now on Android devices. Cortana will warn you of conflicts when you add items to your calendar, and it will remind you to ask about the new dog your sister just got the next time you communicate with her, whether that's by phone, chat or email.
Factory orders bounce back
Orders to U.S. factories rose 1.6 percent in February, the most in five months, following declines of 1 percent in January and 2 percent in December, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. The February gain reflected a rebound in orders for commercial aircraft and autos. But demand for core capital goods, considered a good guide to business investment plans, fell 1.4 percent in February, the second decline in three months.
Rise in private payrolls signals recovery from winter weather
Companies boosted payrolls in March by the most in three months, adding to evidence the job market is recovering from a blast of harsh winter weather, a private payrolls report showed. The 191,000 increase in employment followed a revised 178,000 gain in February that was stronger than initially estimated, according to the ADP Research Institute in Roseland, N.J.