Facebook Warned About Russia in 2014; Shopping on Phones Explodes, Top 5 Amazon Items; 10% iPhone Tariff ThreatPosted: November 27, 2018
Things just keep looking worse for Facebook when it comes to protecting user data. Businessinsider.com says a Facebook engineer warned the company in 2014 about a potential giant data issue involving Russia. This info is coming out after the British Parliament got hold of a cache of sealed Facebook documents. UK politician Damian Collins, who reviewed the documents, made the disclosure today at a hearing in front of the International Grand Committee. Mark Zuckerberg refused to show for the hearing, sending policy chief Richard Allen. Allen if this information had been given to an external body (like an agency of the US government) at the time. Allen refused to answer. The documents are sealed under court order in California, but they were published in the United Kingdom under UK parliamentary privilege.
A couple months back, a panicked friend told me ‘My phone is my life,’ as it was temporarily missing. That is more true that ever now. Cnet.com reports that total sales on smartphones through Cyber Monday was $2.2 billion, up from $1.4 billion last year! On Cyber Monday, phones accounted for 47% of traffic to online stores and 36% of actual sales. Overall Cyber Monday sales were $7.9 million, so the mobile component was substantial. Since the 1st of November $50.6 billion has been spent online, up 20% from last year!
Amazon has announced its 5 best sellers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Topping the list, according to bgr.com, the Amazon Echo Dot at $29.99 instead of $50 In the #2 spot, AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing Ethnicity (still on sale at $59 btw). The third place seller was the adored Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Programmable Pressure Cooker…still at $30 bucks off. Bose Quiet Comfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones bagged the 4th place spot…and those are now sold out. #5 was Michelle Obama’s new book Becoming, which is still available at a $20 discount.
Yesterday, Donald Trump threatened to slap a 10% tariff on iPhones and MacBooks imported from China, and the stock acted accordingly. Today, Tim Cook is visiting an Idaho school district with Ivanka Trump to talk tech. Coincidence? I doubt it. So far, Cook has gotten Trump to lay off Apple products. Macrumors.com says in 2016 Apple donated an iPad to every student, a Mac and iPad to every teacher, and an Apple TV to each classroom via its ConnectED initiative. Will a ‘charm trip’ with Ivanka keep tariffs off Apple products again? Stay tuned.
Scammers Edit Google Maps; Logitech Looks to Buy Plantronics; Video Game Spending Breaks Record; Disney Spend-More on Parks than All Movie Divisions TogetherPosted: November 26, 2018
Scammers have figured out a new way to separate you from your money, and this one is particularly sneaky. Businessinsider.com reports that Google Maps has let users submit changes and corrections to listings. The hackers change contact info for banks listed via Google Maps, and when customers call what they think is their financial institution, the scammers confirm banking details from the unsuspecting customer and then drain their account! The scam is apparently hottest in India right now, but Google has previously advised that if you need to talk to your bank, get the number off the bank’s website, not from the Maps app!
You may well have or have had a Plantronics Bluetooth earpiece. I’ve had several over the years. Now, cnet.com says Swiss computer accessories giant Logitech has been in discussions about acquiring Santa Cruz, Ca based Plantronics…which was founded by a couple of pilots. The latest as of this morning is that those talks have ended, but it’s been known that the earpiece maker had put itself up for sale. Logitech had apparently offered $2.2 billion before the talks were called off. Plantronics just bought video conferencing equipment maker Polycom for $2 billion in July, so they probably thought the offer was pretty light.
Movies cost a lot to make, but rake in big bucks. Ralph Breaks the Internet pulled down $55.6 million opening weekend. Black Panther is the third highest grossing movie of all time, making $700 million just in the US. Movies pale at the revenue from video games and gaming systems nowadays, though. According to geekwire.com, video game spending hit a new record of $1.5 billion in October, up 75%. The Nintendo Switch and re-release of the NES Classic and a number of hot games raked in the cash. With the holiday quarter still in progress, game and game system makers have to be smiling broadly. 2019 should be big, too…with the remake of Resident Evil 2, Crackdown 3, Dead or Alive 6, and Jump Force all on the way…not to mention Kingdom Hearts 3, which will drop in January.
Disney has dropped a pretty penny to buy Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm, and they make good money on the products. The investments in movie companies pales on what the House of Mouse is pumping into its 6 theme parks around the world, though. Bgr.com reports that Disney is spending or about to spend $24 billion on the parks and new ships for Disney Cruise Line. By comparison, buying Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm only cost Disney $15.4 billion combined! They are finishing up on the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, and will also complete one at Walt Disney World. The media nets and movies still make more…counting ESPN and ABC, Disney pulled in $6.6 billion for the fiscal year…but that’s down 3%. The parks made $4.5 billion, and that’s up over 100% from 5 years ago!
Smartphones..even from Samsung and Apple…have reached something of a saturation point. The market isn’t really growing as top line phones have broken the $1000 barrier and all have amazing features. Now, Samsung is really going for the ‘wow’ factor on the Galaxy S10, hoping to bump up their market. Engadget.com reports that the upcoming S10 may be equipped with 6 cameras and have 5G capability. There also may be 4 different versions of Samsung’s flagship phone, including one with a 6.7 inch screen. That would be the one with all the cams…4 rear cams and 2 selfie cams. The other models would range in size from 5.8 to 6.4 inch screens and have anywhere from 3 to 5 cameras. Another ‘wow’ feature that might make it is the ability to wirelessly charge other phones. With more people keeping phones for two to four years, all the eye-popping features may be needed to jump start sales again.
There are some nasty little bugs that show up in software, then there are the really ugly ones that produce a ‘fatal error.’ Apparently, one has surfaced that affects cameras on Google’s Pixel 3 phones. According to 9to5google.com, a lot of people using 3rd party camera apps have gotten a ‘can’t connect to camera’ message. The cams stay disconnected from then on, and so far, Google hasn’t done anything about it besides acknowledging the issue. They are refusing to replace phones with the error, and basically have said developers are ‘working on a fix’ or there ‘might be an update.’ It’s kind of tough to wait it out, when cameras are probably the most used feature on a smartphone. For now…best to steer clear of 3rd party cam apps all together until this bug is squashed. [[Google has now said that this is a known issue and that an update will roll out to fix the problem in the coming weeks.]]
So you want to walk or run through your VR world, but you’d rather not run into the walls in your real world room…what to do? Here comes Google, with a patent that could well do the trick. Arstechnica.com says Google has patented shoes that are akin to motorized roller skates. The kicks let you walk normally while the wheels work to keep you inside the VR safe zone…without running into walls or knocking over the big screen. Although they aren’t omnidirectional…so just work backwards and forwards, they will act to give you a nearly endless virtual world, according to Google. No time frame yet on when these may be out and ready for your VR play.
Microsoft has enabled Skype to work on Amazon’s Alexa devices. The rollout should be complete this week. Theverge.com reports that Echo-type hardware will be able to handle basic calling, and the Echo Show will include video support for Skype. Users will also be able to call mobile and land lines using SkypeOut, and call their contacts by simply asking Alexa to ‘Call Siri on Skype.’ OK, not really Siri…unless maybe you have a friend with that name, which would be nearly as confusing as having a pal named Alexa.
Apple has pared back production orders for the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and XR, due to ‘lower than expected demand,’ according to a Wall Street Journal report picked up by macrumors.com. Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest cuts are for the XR, which has been whacked by a third of the original 70 million units originally scheduled. Some suppliers are calling the handsets a flop, but with Apple reporting record breaking revenue of $61.5 billion on iPhones during the launch quarter, that’s a stretch. Since Apple is going to quit reporting unit numbers for iPhone sales going forward it will make it even harder to track sales…but competitor Samsung hasn’t reported unit numbers in some time.
SpaceX has gotten FCC approval to launch over 7,000 satellites. Cnet.com says they will be in very low earth orbit, and will give the company the ability to provide global satellite broadband service. The FCC has also signed off on requests from Kepler Communications, Telesat Canada, and LeoSat MA to offer broadband in the US by satellite.
Netflix Tests Cheaper Mobile-Only Plan; Uber Launches Loyalty Program; Benioff Says Facebook = CigarettesPosted: November 14, 2018
Netflix is testing out a cheaper mobile only plan in Malaysia. Engadget.com says the plan is priced at $4 a month, and limits viewing to either a phone or tablet. Also, only SD viewing is available. In Malaysia, the next cheapest plan is around $8. The mobile only plan is expected to spread around Asia first to ‘a few countries.’ Netflix is currently developing more than 100 films and TV shows around Asia as well.
Nothing says someone is getting into your business, like giving an incentive to customers NOT to check you against your competitor! Apparently, Uber’s new loyalty program does just that. Techcrunch.com reports that Uber Rewards, which launches today in 9 cities, incentivizes you not to check Lyft or other local competitors. With Rewards, riders earn points for all the money they spend on Uber and Uber Eats. There are $5 credits, upgrades to nicer cars, access to premium support, and even flexible cancellations that waive the fee if a ride is rebooked within 15 minutes. The initial launch is in Miami, Denver, Tampa, New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego, or anywhere in New Jersey…with the rest of the country to follow in the next few months.
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, has hit Facebook again…this time saying they are the new cigarettes. The attack came in an interview with Kara Swisher on NBC News, according to business insider.com. Benioff called for tighter regulation of the social network, saying: “The government needs to step in, the government needs to really regulate what’s happening.” He said this was particularly urgent because Facebook targets children as users. Did you think about nodding your head in agreement? I recall a few years ago, a woman friend asked me “How much of a time suck is Facebook?” Her hubby…who was in sales, was trying to get her into it. I said that it was pretty much a black hole for your time…and that hasn’t changed. The lady made an account to keep peace in the family, but never uses it!
Waymo Public Self-Driving Service Imminent; Facebook Patches Nasty Bug; Amazon Formalizes 2nd HQ (two of them); Apple XR Estimates Cut, but Sells Big on Singles’ DayPosted: November 13, 2018
Waymo is apparently going to go live with their first commercial driverless car service in December. No name has been leaked yet, but cnet.com reports that the service will be a direct competitor for Uber and Lyft. Waymo will field its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica vans for the service, which will NOT be free. Expect to us an app to hail the car and pay for the ride. An article over the weekend speculated that, in a few years, we might see self-driving vehicles used for quick sex romps…but we will leave that to your imagination.
The engineers at Facebook have squashed a nasty bug in their code base that could have allowed hackers to collect highly personal info on Facebook users. According to zdnet.com, a security researcher found the bug and notified Facebook. He was browsing their online search results, and in the HTML saw iframe elements. By simple queries of yes and no, a lot could be determined about user interests and those of their friends. The researcher believes the iframe was used by Facebook itself. The bug was discovered in May, and the platform patched it shortly after being notified. The researchers, Ron Masas, points out that Facebook has become such a large and complicated platform, that there will always be bugs and hacks…even with their relatively generous bounty for people that spot problems and notify them.
It was reported here and elsewhere last week that Amazon was likely going to settle on two locations for it’s HQ2, and today they made it official. Theverge.com says Long Island City in Queens, NY, and Crystal City in Arlington, VA will share the HQ2 duties. Amazon already employs more people in these two locations than anywhere else outside of its Seattle HQ and the San Francisco Bay Area. An additional announcement was that Nashville will host a new East Coast operations hub, which will handle customer fulfillment and transportation. That facility will employ some 5,000.
The iPhone is doomed…long live the iPhone. A report from Ming-Chi Kuo cuts shipment estimates for the new iPhone XR from 100 million to 70 million, and that…coupled with the announcement last week that Apple won’t be releasing iPhone sales numbers moving forward, have whacked the stock. Nonetheless, 9to5mac.com says Apple had a huge day during Alibaba’s Singles’ Day on Sunday. Apple was the top selling mobile phone brand…one of 237 brands that pulled in over $14.36 million in sales on that one day (yes, it’s a funny number…but a nice, round 100 million yuan.) Apple even beat Chinese makers Xiaomi and Huawei. Huawei did come in 2nd, and Xiaomi was third in sales, though. Neither Alibaba nor Apple broke out what iPhone models sold the most during the giant online one-day event.
Alibaba Singles’ Day-Biggest Online Shopping Day; French Will Look at Facebook Moderation Processes, Samsung Folder Could Cost…Gulp… $1790; CLEAR Tech Moves From Airports to StadiumsPosted: November 12, 2018
This year on Singles’ Day, a huge day in China, Alibaba absolutely blew up online shopping. They took in $30.8 billion in sales in 24 hours Sunday, according to businessinsider.com. As a point of reference, total online sales last year on Black Friday were $5 billion, and Cyber Monday hit $6.6 billion! Alibaba sold as much in 5 minutes Sunday as Amazon does on an entire Prime Day (which was 36 hours long last year, and it’s estimated to have taken in $4.2 billion.) Singles’ Day sales for Alibaba were across its main Alibaba site as well as Taobao.com and Tmall.com, two other sites it owns and operates.
Facebook continues to get heat for doing too little with regards to protecting user rights and policing fake news and other political manipulation. Now, techcrunch.com reports that the company will cooperate with the French government as they look into FB’s moderation…including Facebook giving ‘unprecedented access’ to their internal processes. France is looking for a third way to regulate tech…not the hands off of the US nor the locked down, repressed system China has in place.
We’ve now seen a glimpse of the Samsung folding phone at their developers’ conference, and now hear it should be hitting the streets by next March. 9to5google also notes that the phone/phablet with the Infinity Flex display will retail for $1790!! It will be known as the Samsung Galaxy F, as predicted. Folded, you have a 4.6 inch outside display, but unfolded, you get a nice, phablet-sized 7.4 inches. A cool tech that has taken a long time to come into being, but at nearly $1800, it may remain a boutique gadget, and not a top seller.
CLEAR…the folks that charge $179 a year to get you more quickly through airport lines using biometrics…is now up and running in stadiums. Geekwire.com says the service is free for sports events…besides handing over your fingerprints and taking about 5 minutes to make an account. Both CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field have implemented the service, which gets you in via a shorter line AND it enables you to both age verify and pay with your prints when buying a beer at concession stands! There are currently 4 stands at Seahawks games with the CLEAR scanners, so you can grab that brewski a little faster and get back to the game!
Storied Harley Readies e-Bike; Comcast Cord Cutter Stream Box; BigBox Building Online VR Games; Google to Rebrand NestPosted: November 8, 2018
Every early morning it’s not pouring rain, I can hear a number of roaring Harley-Davidson bikes thunder nearby on a freeway I’m close to. That thunder may be fading as H-D will be releasing details of their new electric bike in January. Engadget.com says range, acceleration, price, and other specs will be announced then. Right now, we know all H-D dealers will have Level 2 fast chargers, and will be selling Level 1 chargers for home. The bike is called the Live Wire, and it comes with 7 different riding modes you can program, and has an adjustable color touchscreen. Oh…and as pictured….it looks awesome!
Comcast can see the writing on the wall…or at least on screen. The big cable provider is working on a streaming set top box for cord cutters. Theverge.com reports that the box would be able to offer streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube, and include a voice control remote for navigation. If you think this sounds a lot like their X-1 system without the cable, you’re right. Will it be able to compete with Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku for cord cutters? That remains to be seen…a lot may hinge on what they price it at. The cord cutter box should be out next year.
Several refugees from Valve and Disney have now raised 5 million to supercharge BigBox. The company is building online VR games. According to geekwire.com, BigBox has been around since 2016, but the new round of funding will help them build out more online VR games and the ecosystems that support them. Their first title is positioned as something of a ‘Counter-Strike meets Mario Kart.’ It’s called ‘Population: One,’ and lets gamers climb, fly, and shoot like they were doing so in real life, but without some of the discomfort from earlier VR tech. The biggest challenge with BigBox and others…getting more headsets into homes. The devices have been selling well for commercial training purposes, but need to be penetrating homes closer to the level of traditional gaming systems to really take off.
Google has been looking to expand its line of smart home devices, and now may be considering a rebrand of Nest. 9to5google.com says after moving the Nest line back under more direct Google control, they are angling for a way to tie the Nest hardware products more closely with Google’s other hardware and software products.