Makers Partner Promoting e-Cars; Google Assistant & Multi-Room Audio; LinkedIn Gets Auto-Roll Ads; Facebook Limiting 3rd Party Ad Targeting Data

While there’s already a fair amount of interest in electric cars, now 16 auto makers have teamed up with several states in a campaign called ‘’Drive Change. Drive Electric.’  BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, VW, & Volvo are involved. The goal is to educate and inform consumers about the variety of zero-emission vehicles. Mashable.com says There will be a new website, ads, social media campaigns and events, designed to get more people into electric cars.

Google is rolling out an extension that lets you pair Assistant devices to Bluetooth speakers allowing voice control of multi-room audio. You could already stream music from a phone, tablet, or computer to Google Home over Bluetooth, but now, you can stream music to other Bluetooth speakers around your house, including in multiple rooms. According to 9to5google.com, you will still need a Google Home device to control them. The companion app will let you set a default speaker or set of speakers, and the pairing works on all Google Home devices, including the Mini and Max.

Microsoft has added what’s a feature to advertisers but probably a bug to you to its LinkedIn platform. Techcruhch.com reports that Video ads will now appear and auto roll in your feed. The good news? At least the audio is muted initially, so you won’t be jarred by something playing right after the site loads. The ads will contain links that can point to the advertisers’ sites, and that can be used to collect leads. Microsoft says the feature is rolling out over the next several weeks, and has been tested by over 700 advertisers since October. Now, you can look forward to LinkedIn acting even more like a social network site…although it seems unlikely people bailing on Facebook will be posting cat or food pictures on LinkedIn.

Facebook has announced that it will limit how much data it makes available to advertisers buying hyper-targeted ads. The embattled social media giant says in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal,  it will stop using data from third-party data aggregators — companies like Experian and Acxiom — to help supplement its own data set for ad targeting. Recode.net notes that Facebook previously let advertisers target people using data from a number of sources: Facebook’s own data they had collected, info from the advertiser itself, and data from 3rd party sources like credit reporting firm Experian. Facebook hasn’t said it will quit using third party firms for ad measurement help, but is reevaluating that practice.

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Waymo’s Jaguar Deal; Facebook Speaker Delayed; President Criticizes Amazon

When you call a self-driving e-car, sometimes you may want to go posh. At least Waymo thinks so. Apparently, their latest partner for their autonomous taxi fleet is Jaguar. Jag’s new BEV–…battery electric vehicle, goes on sale later this year, and Waymo has ordered a whopping 20,000 of the classy e-cars with their I-Pace self driving system. The sensors will be built right into the Jags at the factory in Graz, Austria. Waymo says they want to give users a choice…, so will continue to run the Chrysler Pacifica vans, and add in the Jaguar I-Pace BEVs in 2020, with the full fleet of Jags on the roads by 2022. 

In the aftermath of Facebook’s frankly terrible couple of weeks with the Cambridge Analytica data mis-use disclosure, followed by the discovery that they had been logging call and text data from Android phones for years, Facebook has postponed release of their connected speaker. Originally, it was thought that the new gadget would roll out at their developer conference F8 May 1st, and be available to buyers this fall, but now the connected speaker will debut late in the year. The Facebook speaker will reportedly not only have voice control, but also video chat capability.  Continuing damage control, Facebook has now introduced a new privacy shortcuts menu, simplified shortcuts menu on mobile, and tools to find, download, and delete your Facebook data. 

While Congress is digging into Facebook and their data use or mis-use,  the president is more obsessed with Amazon. Axios is reporting that he is concerned with both the online giant’s tax treatment, and the fact that they are hurting brick and mortar stores and malls. Another thing that disturbs the Chief Executive is Amazon’s so-called ‘cushy deal’ with the US Postal Service. There has been some pushback on the latter, as the Post Office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon. There isn’t much question that Amazon has taken a big bite out of brick and mortar retailers, and that the US Treasury would benefit if Amazon collected and paid in sales tax the way physical stores all do. So far, there’s no plan from the White House dealing with these issues, but they are on Trump’s radar. Amazon stock was down as much as 7%, or 52 billion, after this report came out. In other words, it dropped 5 times more than than the president has claimed he was worth.


Apple Cheaper iPad Freshen; Apple Watch Rumors, Foxconn Buys Belkin

Apple rolled out the expected updated cheaper iPad at their educational event in Chicago today, as they look to regain ground in the education market they once owned. The updated 9.7 inch tablet has Apple Pencil support, TouchID, and weighs a pound. Apple also announced new versions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that support the Pencil, noting that with Pages, a report could be written collaboratively…and later, teachers will be able to grade and mark them up right in the Pages document. Theverge.com notes that the iPad is priced at $329 for consumers, $299 for schools and is available today, shipping this week. In something of a preemptive strike, Google showed the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 yesterday. That tablet runs the Chrome OS natively and sells for…wait for it…$329!

With all the attention on the freshened up iPad, a new rumor has slipped out…this from KGI Securities about the Series 4 Apple Watch. 9to5mac.com reports the upcoming Watch will have a larger display, enhanced health monitoring, and longer battery life. According to Ming-Chi Kuo at KGI, the new Watch will have a 15% larger display. Up to now, all Apple watches have either been 38 or 42mm. So far, we don’t know if this will increase the size of the watch, or just make the display larger by reducing the bezels. The increase in battery capacity points to the actual Watch growing in size. This will be the first major re-design since the 1st Apple Watch came out.

Foxconn, which produces the bulk of Apple’s iPhones, in addition to numerous other electronic devices for Apple and for other brands, is buying peripheral maker Belkin for $866 million. You have probably bought Belkin accessories like chargers, cables, and screen protectors, and perhaps a Lynksys modem, which they also sell. This gives Foxconn more than a toehold…more like a large footprint…in the peripheral market. Chet Pipkin, founder and CEO of Belkin since starting it 35 years ago, will remain and run Belkin as a wholly owned subsidiary, and may join the Foxconn management team as well.


Facebook Privacy Issues Multiply & Their Damage Control; iPhone X Will Add a Color; FedEX Orders Tesla e-Big Rigs; Google Assistant Gets Philips Hue Scene Support

Over the weekend, Facebook ran full page ads in several US and British newspapers, with an apology from Mark Zuckerberg for the recent data privacy scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. Since the ads ran, a new report from arstechnica.com says in some cases, Facebook’s Android apps will keep logs of the names of people you called and texted, how long the convos were, and the other person’s phone number. Users are now madder than ever. Facebook claims it got permission to scrape the call and text data, but that likely won’t help. A Reuters/Ipsos poll came out Sunday indicating less than half of Americans trust the social media giant to obey US privacy laws. It’s 41% that trust Facebook, compared to 66% trusting Amazon, 62% trust Google, 60% trust Microsoft, and 47% Yahoo. The Federal Trade Commission has an investigation underway into Facebook now.

After production problems limited the iPhone X to two colors, it looks like Apple will add another color to try to boost sales of the successor phones out this fall. According to 9to5mac.com, it will be a ‘blush gold’ tone. A more iffy rumor also has a (Product)Red iPhone in the mix. Apple’s education event in Chicago is Tuesday…we’ll cover what they bow there…a cheaper iPad is expected.

FedEx has preordered 20 electric big rigs from Tesla. The rigs go into production next year, and rival UPS has preordered 125 of the e-rigs. Techcrunch.com says each of these orders is a pretty small pilot fleet, but will jump start the Tesla truck production. Tesla is already running test rigs between the Gigafactory in Reno, Nev. and the production factory in Fremont, CA.

Google Assistant has picked up a handy feature…native support for Philips Hue scenes. 9to5google.com reports that Assistant has been supporting Hue lights since it came out, but that support didn’t extend to the preset ‘scenes’…which the Hue app and Amazon Alexa could control. Now, Assistant can use them, too. One note…you may have to delete and re-add your Hue lights to Assistant, or at least sync before the new feature works. A lot of users find it quite handy to be able to adjust colors on several lights or in multiple rooms with just a voice command.


Upcoming iPad & iPad Pros; Twitch Extensions Now on Mobile; Send Money Via Google Assistant; Microsoft Cuts Biggest Corporate Solar Deal

Apple has an event coming up March 27th, and a lot of people expect a new or freshened iPad to drop. Since the Pro hasn’t been out a year yet, the refresh to it may not show up, but other iPads have been rumored to get something akin to a new coat of paint…including a rumor of a price cut on the entry level 9.7 inch model. A more robust upgrade to the Mini may be part of it, and there’s also a rumor of Apple Pencil being added to the feature set. The Pros may be updated at WWDC this summer…it’s widely expected they will get FaceID like the iPhone X.

The Game Developers Conference is going on in San Francisco, and Twitch has announced that extensions have been made available on Mobile. Techcrunch.com reports that the tools that allow streamers to customize pages with leaderboards, polls, schedules, and the like have been widely sought on mobile by streamers…and now, they’re here. Extensions have been available on the desktop since last year.

Google is bowing the ability to send peer to peer payments with Google Assistant in the US. According to theverge.com, you will be able to use it on either Android or iOS and just tell it to send whatever friend on your contacts list the cash, and it will transmit it via Google Pay. If you are wondering what a hassle it is to set up, if you have used the little $ button in Gmail, your are already set! I’ll be waiting on my cash, LOL!

In an effort to power its global data centers with renewable energy, Microsoft has announced the biggest corporate buy of solar energy ever in the US….315 megawatts. Geekwire.com says the panels, etc., will go into two new solar projects in Virginia, and will cover 2,000 acres. When installed, they will give Microsoft 1.2 gigawatts of renewable power worldwide…which they say would light 100 million LED bulbs!


Zuckerberg Will Respond to Cambridge Scandal; Latest On Upcoming iPhones; Google Buying Lytro

So far, there has been no response at Facebook from CEO Mark Zuckerberg or COO Cheryl Sandburg. The head of internet security is leaving. Now, it’s being reported by cnet.com and others that Zuckerberg will respond publicly about ‘rebuilding trust’ within 24 hours. There is also an all-hands meeting scheduled for Friday at 10am Pacific, and both Zuck and Sandburg are supposed to talk then. The hashtag #wheresZuck has been appearing on Twitter.

Most rumors point to 3 new iPhone models this fall, and most have also said that there will be 5.8, 6.1, and a 6.5 inch model. A fresh report from 9to5mac.com says Digitimes is now hearing that Apple has been able to slash materials costs by 10%. Now, it looks like the cheapest of the 3 will be the 5.8 inch OLED screen model, not the 6.1 inch LCD screen one. This is apparently because they have cut a better deal on the OLED screens with Samsung and will have cheaper memory costs. It’s unclear if that means less RAM or crummier RAM. At any rate, it’s possible the bottom end phone will start at around $800, which might reel in more customers than the $999 price point, which has apparently put off a significant number of prospective buyers.

Google is buying the assets of Lytro, the makers of the light field camera. You may recall the odd, rectangular cams that allowed you to take a picture, then adjust the focus after the fact. 9to5google.com reports that Google could incorporate the tech in their Pixel phones, already arguably the best cameras in smartphones, but more interestingly, Google is wanting to use the tech in virtual and augmented reality. The asset sale means not all Lytro employees will be picked up by google, but Lytro’s 59 patents for light fields and digital imaging will be.


Google Pumps $300 Million into Saving Online Journalism; IBM Rolls Out Watson Assistant; 100 TB SSD Drive; IoT Mousetrap-Wait, What?

Google has announced that they are launching the Google News Initiative with $300 million. According to mashable.com, the intent is to fight fake news by providing publishers online tools. No list of the publishers was released at the announcement. Facebook started a similar initiative last January, but so far, not much impact has been felt the past 14 months.

In an effort to build an assistant for the business world, IBM has showed off Watson Assistant. Big Blue has been working on the project for a year, and hopes to get established in the business world before Amazon can with Alexa. Cnet.com reports that Watson won’t be for asking what the weather or a sports score is, but more of a behind the scenes brain. It is already in use in the airport in Munich, Germany for a robot that can give directions and gate info. IBM is also working with BMW for an in car voice helper. No, it doesn’t look like you will be able to use it to play Jeopardy if you’re bored in your cube, but it will be great, according to IBM, for crunching sensitive info companies may not want being bounced out into the world to Amazon, Google, Apple, or Microsoft servers.

Bigger is better, right? Now, a company in Irvine, CA, Nimbus Data, has showed the biggest SSD drive ever, a 100 Terabyte job. To give you an idea of how insanely big that is, thenextweb.com says it would hold half of Spotify’s catalog…in something that fits in a pocket!! Its not really designed for home for office use, actually…more for enterprise customers that need to cram more storage into their space that requires less cooling expense. Speaking of expense, no price is out yet, but as a comparison, Samsung has a 15TB drive that came out in 2016 for 10 grand!

A company named Victor has claimed to have built a better mousetrap…it’s connected to the Internet of Things. If this seems silly and massive overkill for way more than you’d spend on a mousetrap, you’re right. According to zdnet.com, it’s really aimed at restaurants and businesses where traps need to be set in attics and cellars that are not very accessible….because seeing visible rodents can be a sure fire business killer. The IoT mousetrap runs on Comcast’s MachineQ platform, and has a dashboard for monitoring. Victor claims they have improved battery life and WiFi range to the point that they can be left unattended for long periods, saving on labor for pest control in larger facilities. Finally….a trap that catches mice and ‘rats them out.’