Skype over Alexa; Apple Cuts iPhone Production Orders; Space-X Approved for 7,000 Com Satellites

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.

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Jag Claims Tech Will Greenlight Your Commute; Lyft Offering Automatic Tips & Driver Ratings; Boeing Division-Solar Powered Drone

A lot of people are excited about self-driving tech, and some are skeptical of it ever becoming commonplace. Now, Jaguar-Land Rover may have something that will win skeptics over to assisted or autonomous driving…all green lights! Cnet.com reports that Jag is saying their V2X tech includes something called Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory, and it’s capable of suggesting a speed for the driver. If the driver maintains the speed, they should be able to hit a series of green lights without stopping. The system is being test run in London right now…interestingly, the home of the first ever traffic lights. Hitting a series of green lights is not necessarily new…back in the day, Dad figured out if you drove either 18 or 38, you could hit every green light on the Main Street in our town between 1st Street and 17th Street! You can guess which speed he generally took!

Lyft is doing a limited launch to test out default tipping and mid-ride tipping. According to engadget.com, only select customers will see this at first, but it should be widely available in 2019 if all goes well. Also, Lyft is testing out a default on driver rating. Starting in December, if you don’t leave a rating, the default will be a 5-star rating. Lyft says a lot of people don’t bother with ratings if the ride went well. If you do ding the driver, the app will ask you to justify it. It nullifies ratings where circumstances were out of the driver’s control…like bad traffic.

Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences says its high altitude, long endurance Odysseus solar drone will take its maiden flight next spring. Geekwire.com says that first flight will happen next April 23rd in Puerto Rico. The wide-winged drone can be deployed at a fraction the cost of a satellite, and can spend far more time airborne than a conventional drone…in fact, for months! Right now, climate and atmospheric research are the first claimed applications. (Nope…no spying…we’d never use science for cover for that.)


Netflix Tests Cheaper Mobile-Only Plan; Uber Launches Loyalty Program; Benioff Says Facebook = Cigarettes

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’ Day

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 Stadiums

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 Nest

LiveWire 2018. Spain

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.


Google Announces Native Android ‘Foldables’ Support; Coming-Facebook 10 Minute Grace Period to Unsend Messages; Mercedes’ AI Package Delivery Tech

With a maker in China already having released a folding smartphone, Samsung releasing more about their Galaxy F, and LG on the verge of unveiling one, Google today announced Android support for a ‘foldables’ category. 9to5google.com reports that the new category of phone that unfolds into a tablet will have native Android support, allowing for makers to give you a phone with a screen like we all have, but unfolding to reveal a larger, phablet screen on the inside that is double the size of the ‘outside’ screen. Google’s ‘screen continuity’ will allow you to start with an app on the outside screen, then unfold and seamlessly continue on the bigger inner screen without a hitch. Samsung has been working closely with Google on this Android category, and is expected to release the Actual Galaxy F model early next year. The internal screen is said to be 7.3 inches.

If you have sent a Facebook private message, and instantly regretted it, you will like this. For some time, Facebook has had an ‘unsend’ feature for their top brass. Now, according to engaeget.com, the social media giant may be getting set to release the feature to everyone. It’s not an hour to change your mind like What’sApp, but a 10 minute grace period ought to be enough for people who hit send, and have nearly instant remorse. Of course, even with this feature, if the recipient has already seen the message within the 10 minute period, the deletion won’t undo whatever damage has been done to your relationship with them!

The engineers and programmers at Mercedes have been experimenting with a number of different ways to help automate delivery vehicles, so the driver/delivery person can get packages to you more quickly and efficiently. Some have ended hilariously…like one with a Ferris wheel and baskets…that one ended when a gallon of milk basically exploded all over a van. Now, the German conglomerate is trialing its latest idea. Cams and sensors light up shelves, and show the driver which shelf and spot is best for a package…lighting up green. On arrival at a drop off, it lights up green again…and everything flashes red if the person grabs the wrong item. The built in sensors also allow for less hand scanning, which should shave additional time off deliveries. AI not only helps figure out the best spot in the truck for the packages, but plots out the delivery route based on what packages are loaded and their destination addresses. Mercedes thinks this system will help the likes of FedEx and UPS, but will be even more beneficial to smaller delivery company, like those indie operators contracted by Amazon.