Lululemon Looks to Ride Mirror; Uber Makes Play for Postmates; Amazon Bonuses; Spotify Real Time LyricsPosted: June 30, 2020
Yahoo notes that shares of Lululemon rose in early trading after announcing it would be acquiring the home fitness startup Mirror for $500 million, putting it in competition with indoor cycling company Peloton. Shares of Peloton fell, though the stock had more than doubled for the year to date through Monday’s close as Wall Street bet on the resilience of the workout-from-home phenomenon in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Lululemon is shooting to close the deal by the end of its 2nd fiscal quarter this year.
Uber has made a takeover offer to buy Postmates, the upstart delivery service, according to three people familiar with the matter, as the on-demand food delivery market consolidates and Uber looks for new ways to make money. New York Times reports that a tie-up could bolster Uber’s delivery business, Uber Eats, and help it compensate for the cratering of its core ride-hailing business, which has collapsed in many cities because of the coronavirus pandemic. Food delivery is not profitable, but demand has soared while restaurants are closed and people are staying at home.
Amazon will pay $500 million in bonuses to frontline workers and delivery partners confronting risks and high demand during the pandemic. According to geekwire.com, The payout comes amid intense pressure on Amazon to mitigate risks its warehouse employees and other frontline workers are facing due to the coronavirus. The payments range from $150 to $3000, and will go to members of Amazon’s logistics network who worked with the company during the month of June. The bonuses come after Amazon ended hazard pay for warehouse and delivery workers confronting the coronavirus crisis in June.
Last November, Spotify confirmed it was testing real-time lyrics synced to music in select markets. Now, the company is announcing the launch of its new lyrics feature in 26 worldwide markets across Southeast Asia, India and Latin America. Techcrunch.com says the launch is being made possible by a new agreement with lyrics provider Musixmatch, which was also the source for the tests seen last year. The streamer had worked with Musixmatch in the past, but cut ties with the provider in 2016 before teaming up with lyrics provider Genius for its “Behind the Lyrics” feature.
Starbucks is the latest company to say it will pause advertising on “all social media platforms” and promises to have discussions internally and with media partners and civil rights organizations to stop the spread of hate speech. The company will continue to post on social media without paid promotion, it announced Sunday. CNBC notes the boycott that began with Facebook is now hitting other social media platforms. Coca Cola on Friday also said it would pause advertising on all social media platforms globally, while Unilever is halting advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S. through Dec. 31. Last year, Facebook brought in $69.7 billion in ad revenue globally through its millions of advertisers.
Apple is set to be significantly slimming its packaging for its upcoming iPhone line. Noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo previously said that Apple will no longer include wired earbuds with the iPhone 12, and today reports that he also expects the power adapter to now be sold separately too. Kuo says that Apple wants to keep selling the iPhone 12 at a similar price to the iPhone 11 and removing in-box accessories will offset the cost of the 5G networking components. This will presumably reduce the size of the iPhone packaging considerably, helping lower Apple’s freight costs and be better for the environment. It’s not clear if the Lightning cable is still included.
The California Air Resources Board adopted a new electric standard for cargo truck manufacturing at the end of June. Mashable.com says by 2035, the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Rule will require zero-emissions trucks, meaning large pickups, delivery, and semi trucks, make up a majority of big-rig truck sales. Starting in 2024, truck makers have to start producing electric or other no-emission trucks in some capacity. This should boost interest in electric trucks and vans. There are over 70 in the works, from Tesla and Nikola and other makers.
Google Meet is working on several new features that will match its competitors, including allowing users to add images or a blur effect to backgrounds on video calls, 9to5 Google reported. Now, Meet features will match rival videoconferencing platforms Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and users will be able to either choose their own image or pick from several default options. Google confirmed that in addition to background blur and background replacement images, real-time captioning, low-light mode, hand-raising, and a tile view of up to 49 meeting participants will be rolled out to the consumer version of Meet.
iPhone 12 In Box Rumors; Google Will Pay SOME for News Content; AWS Launches Amazon Honeycode; Lyft Settles with DOJ over AccessibilityPosted: June 25, 2020
A new rumor from British bank Barclays picked up by macrumors.com has no EarPods in the box, and possibly no power adapter….only a USB to Lightening cable. The basic 5W Apple power adapter is $19, and while there will be some whining, most people probably have a drawer full of these by now who have prior iPhones. Also, there are multi-cord chargers such as those from Anker that charge much faster…in fact, faster than the 18W adapter that has shipped with the iPhone 11 Pro models (which run $29.) The Barclays report also says production is about 4 weeks behind, and they confirmed earlier rumors of a triple lens cam system AND a LiDAR Scanner on the Pro models, as the latest iPad Pro got. That would allow for AR on the iPhone Pro models.
Ever since news started popping up on web platforms like Google and Yahoo, most, or all of it was stolen from news sources that employ actual reporters, writers, and editors. Now, according to cnet.com, Google is starting a licensing program to pay publishers for some content. The search platform says it will pay publishers for ‘high quality content’ for a news eater it will launch later this year. The licensing program will also pay for free access to some paywalled articles on a punisher’s site. Google claims that will give publishers an opportunity to grow their audience. Publishers have railed against Google and Facebook and others for years, claiming the giant tech platforms have distributed their content, but undermined their advertising business model.
Amazon has rolled out the beta of Amazon Honeycode, a new, fully managed low-code/no code development tool that attempts to make it easy for anyone in a company to build their own apps. Techcrunch.com reports that Developers can build apps for up to 20 users for free. After that they pay per user and for the storage their apps take up. The system comes with a set of templates for common uses like to-do list applications, customer trackers, surveys, schedules and inventory management. Using Honeycode will eliminate the need to create these and share them via spreadsheets. Honeycode databases can easily scale up to 100,000 rows per workbook, so businesses can just produce them and go, without having to worry about scale.
Lyft has settled with the US Department of Justice over allegations that the ride sharing program discriminated against people who use foldable walkers and wheelchairs…a blatant violation of the ADA. According to theverge.com, as part of the settlement, Lyft will be required to update its policy to make it clear that drivers have to assist people with wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters and to include details about its accessibility policies as part of its onboarding for new drivers. Drivers who fail to comply with the policy could face possible termination from the platform.
Salesforce Teams With Siemens on Workplace Environment; Facebook Grabs Ready at Dawn Studios; NVIDIA Partners with Mercedes on Next Gen Car Computer; Tesla Roadster Concept-Beyond Ludicrous SpeedPosted: June 24, 2020
Salesforce and Siemens are partnering on a new workplace tech suite to facilitate a more touch-less office environment, for when more workers return to offices…at least those who don’t just say “I’ll work from home from now on and will quit otherwise!” Zdnet.com reports that they will combine Salesforce’s Work.com products with Siemens’ smart infrastructure services, including its Comfy and Enlightened IoT apps. Key products will include mobile boarding passes for employee to access office buildings and elevators, and an occupancy management system that allows employees to reserve conference rooms and desks through the Comfy app. Also- occupancy and location data provided by Enlightened and aggregated in Comfy will allow for opt in contact tracing.
Facebook has snapped up a VR studio behind ‘Lone Echo.’ According to techcrunch.com, the social media platform has acquired Ready at Dawn Studios. The Lone Echo games have been one of the most successful series one Facebook’s Oculus VR headsets. Facebook says they will bring the entire team from Ready at Dawn on board. They will continue to work independently from their Irvine office in Southern California and in Portland, Oregon.
Just this week, Mercedes and BMW dissolved their partnership on self-driving tech…which both seem to think will take longer than originally planned. Yesterday, Mercedes and NVIDIA announced that they are partnering on cooking up a “revolutionary in-vehicle computing system” for the automakers next generation of luxury automobiles in 2024. Engadget.com says the brain is touted in and NVIDIA press blurb as “the most sophisticated and advanced computing architecture ever deployed in an automobile.” It will allow for Level 2 and 3 driving autonomy…which exceeds Tesla’s current Autopilot. It will also allow Level 4 parking autonomy. This will allow the car to pretty well park itself in a stall without any help from the driver. Another plus: the platform will automate driving of regular routes from address to address. For the Apple-esque one more thing— it will be upgradable continuously via over the air updates!
Way back in 2017, Elon Musk revealed the still to be released Tesla Roadster, and claimed that it would do 0-60 in 1.9 seconds, and have a 620 mile range. Now, electrek.co reports that a CGI artist named Steve Popovsky has built a render showing what the roadster would look like with the Space X cold thrusters…making 0-60 in 1.1 seconds. It almost makes ‘ludicrous speed’ look like you’re tromping the brake! Hit this link for the video and check it out! https://electrek.co/2020/06/23/tesla-roadster-concept-video-acceleration-spacex-thruster/
New Form Factor iMac in 4th Quarter; Amazon’s $2 Billion Green Energy Fund; Hyundai Kona EV; Rad Power Cheaper e-BikePosted: June 23, 2020
Apple will roll out a 24 inch iMac in the 4th quarter, with the rumored new form factor. In addition to that, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, it will be one of the first 2 Macs to sport the new Apple ARM processor touted at WWDC yesterday. According to macrumors.com, the other machine that will rock the new ARM processor will be a 13 inch MacBook Pro. As we noted yesterday, Apple has said it will take 2 years to switch over completely to the ARM silicon from Intel. Apple has promised to provide full backward compatibility for the Intel-based Macs for years to come.
Amazon is creating a $2 billion dollar venture capital fund intended to invest in companies working to build a carbon-free future. Businessinsider.com reports that the online giant is also accelerating its timeline for its operations to be fully carbon neutral by 2025. Amazon has already invested in almost 100 clean energy products so far, including solar power on its huge warehouses, and the Rivian electric delivery vehicles Rivian is preparing to produce. Research at NYU has shown more consumer interest in sustainably marketed products. Sales of them are up from 14.3% in 2013 to 16.6% of sales in 2018.
Having just seen one of these in the wild (specifically on West 80 then Eastbound 780 in Vallejo and Benicia, CA), I was curious about this new EV. A piece on thenextweb.com says the 2020 Hyundai Kona has a very competitive range of 250+ miles, more than I would have guessed. It is a crossover SUV, only comes as front whee drive for now…no all-wheel drive, and has 201 horsepower. The EV hits 60 from zero in 6.5 seconds, a very respectable time that will get you up a freeway ramp and onto the road easily. The battery pack is liquid cooled, and does have regenerative charging. As far as Charging, there are three plug-in charge levels that can be controlled manually, or by the Blue Link connected car system, to set the day and time of recharging. From near empty to a full charge, times are:
• 120V (Level 1) – 17 hours (using the 7.2 kW onboard charger)
• 240V (Level 2) – 9.5 hours (using the 7.2 kW onboard charger)
• 480V DC 50 kW Quick Charging – 75 minutes
• 480V DC 100 kW Quick Charging – 54 minutes
One thing it doesn’t have….a significantly cheaper price as we have come to love with Hyundai. The Kona EV has 3 trim levels:
At least in some states like California, there is still some tax credit to be had, but it would really be great if the federal one was put back into place!
There are a number of cool e-bikes out now. If you have lusted for one, but hit the brakes when you saw the price, here’s some good news. Rad Power has announced a lighter weight e-bike for $999. Most entry level e-bikes start at about twice that amount. According to engadget.com, it lacks some whistles and bells, but the battery back keeps the power of pricier models, but is smaller and lighter. In addition, it has a 500W geared hub motor, and a top speed of 20 mph. It tips the scale at just under 50 lbs…not near as light as my Dahon folding bike which is in the upper 20’s, but 15 lbs less than the more tricked out and expensive Rad Power Bike. Rad is hoping this lower price point will be a real game changer in getting people into e-bikes, and they may well be right!
Some WWDC Highlights; Google-Suit Over Pixel 3 Issues; Tesla Autopilot Price Changes & Battery Day DelayPosted: June 22, 2020
Among many software announcements today at Apple’s WWDC, an overshadowing announcement was the rumored one about hardware…Apple will be transitioning to its own silicon and away from Intel chips. According to theverge.com, the Apple system on a chip Macs should be out by the end of the year. Developers got access to the upcoming Mac OS- Big Sur- and can apply to get a Mac Mini with the new system in it to develop apps and software. This will be version 11.0, marking the end of OS 10 (or X). Apple claims blinding speed improvements (of course) and other advances, but a couple noted items are that present apps for Intel Macs will be automatically converted to run on the new Macs, and the new system will run iOS apps natively…as well as allow running of Linux in a window on the Macs. the new MacOS will have a freshened look, a new control center, and a number of other changes. Siri now appears at the bottom of the screen, instead of taking over the whole damned thing. Apple also touted their coming version of Google’s Transate, with 11 languages to start off.
iOS 14 was also shown off, and gets a new home screen with widgets, an ‘App Library’ that organizes your apps into groups and lists…kind of like the present folders, but automatic and much more elegant. You can also hide apps on the main screen. iOs 14 will run on all iPhones from 6s and 6s Plus forward. A bonus: phone calls will no longer hog your entire screen! Bonus #2: you will FINALLY be able to set 3rd party browsers and mail apps as your default!
WatchOS 7 gets sleep tracking, and adds a ‘wind down’ feature that minimizes features for an evening winding down routine.
Apple also spent a significant amount of time during the keynote touting improvements across their software and hardware to strengthen privacy for users.
A class action suit is looming against Google over Pixel 3 issues that some have had since 2018. 9to5google.com reports that a law firm, Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith LLP is looking into alleged defects like one which causes the phone to quickly and unexpectedly drain battery power and then immediately shut down. There have also been reports that the phone’s camera app shakes and vibrates, resulting in poor quality videos and photos. Other consumers report that the camera app will crash altogether. If it determines that the issues are hardware related, the class action may be filed. If you have had any such issues, you can fill out a form at their website: https://chimicles.com/google-pixel-3-class-action-investigation/
Elon Musk Tweeted yesterday about some pricing changes for Autopilot, and also confirmed a rumor that the feature may one day be subscription based. CNET.com says Tesla owners that don’t have Autopilot can add it for the discounted price of $2000 until July 1st. The Full Self-Driving option can be obtained at a discount until July 1st also. It has been $7000, and will bet a bump to $8000 after July. Musk did confirm that Autopilot will eventually be offered as a subscription, but said ‘it will be economically better to have bought FSD.’ Musk also said Battery Day and the shareholders meeting scheduled for July 7th has been pushed back until maybe a month later….depending on if large gatherings are to be allowed by then or not. Musk plans to hold it in Fremont whenever it finally happens.
Zoom- Encryption for All; Lyft-100% EVs by 2030; UK Switches to Google/Apple Contact Tracing App; Stanford Wizards Re-Engineer Facemasks for COVID-19Posted: June 18, 2020
Zoom has backpedaled, and will now bring end to end encryption to all users. 9to5mac.com notes that previously, they had said it wouldn’t be offered to free users. At that time the platform claimed they wanted to prevent ‘illegal use.’ Free users will get the E2EE in a beaty release coming in July, along with paid accounts. Zoom will use AES 256 GCM transport encryption as the default…one of the strongest encryption standards in use right now.
Lyft has announced that every vehicle on its ride-hailing and rental car platform will be and EV by 2030….but unbelievably, they won’t be providing direct financial support to drivers to switch from gas to electric. Reuters.com reports that the company will push competitors, lawmakers, and automakers to make it easier for drivers to switch to EVs by creating financial incentives. Right now, the Lyft fleet is less than 1% electric cars. Lyft claims that if policy makers ‘do their part,’ over the next few years, EVs should reach parity with gas vehicles by mid-decade.
The UK has had a change of heart on contact tracing for the coronavirus, and will now use the Apple and Google API. According to engadget.com, the Brits had planned to use a centralized model so that researchers could get more data, that could be better used to fight the virus. the decentralized method used in the Google/Apple API protects the users’ identities. No word yet on when the updated app will be released in Britain. So far, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have not signed on to the initiative.
A couple of bright minds at Stanford have come up with an advancement that will make wearing N95 masks over long hours, as many pros have been doing, safer and healthier. Research Scientist John Xu has teamed with mechanical engineer Friedrich Prinz on a mask that is fed through a tube with oxygen gleaned in a waist mounted device. the N95 masks filter out 95% or more of small particulate matter, including the COVID-19 virus…but it’s a trade off. In a piece from stanford.edu,
it is pointed out that in filtering those particles, the mask also makes it harder to breathe. N95 masks are estimated to reduce oxygen intake by anywhere from 5 to 20 percent. That’s significant, even for a healthy person. It can cause dizziness and lightheadedness. If you wear a mask long enough, it can damage the lungs. For a patient in respiratory distress, it can even be life threatening. The device generates clean, pure oxygen via an electrochemical process to supplement loss of oxygen caused by wearing the mask over long hours. They hope to get the mask and generator into the hands of first responders doctors, nurses, and the like as soon as possible.
Twitter Voice Tweets; Samsung Wild New Smartphone Cam Design; Facebook/Insta Will Allow Opt Out-Political Ads; Fitbit Enterprise May Promote Workplace Safety; Amazon Teams With Zynga-Alexa-Enabled Words With FriendsPosted: June 17, 2020
Twitter has announced a new feature…the ability to Tweet with your voice…sending voice-based messages instead of text. According to macrumors.com, to use the feature, open the Tweet composer, and tap the new wavelengths icon. That will open up aa screen that can be tapped to begin recording. You can record up to 140 seconds of audio, but continuous recording is possible, and the longer recording is broken up into multiple voice Tweets. the voice Tweets will appear on the Twitter timeline just like text tweets. You listen by tapping the image. The feature is initially open to a limited number of people on IOS, but the company says in coming weeks, everyone using iOS will be able to send voice Tweets.
Samsung has patented a smartphone camera design for a 6 camera array! Bgr.com reports that it has 5 wide angle lenses and a zoom camera. That’s not all….the wide angle cams are moveable sensor. This allows for a panoramic image with a ‘bokeh’ effect. The setup will also produce better photos in low light situations and higher dynamic range. The setup will likely show up in future Galaxy models.
Facebook has announced that the social net will allow users to turn off seeing political ads. According to cnbc.com, Mark Zuckerberg wrote in an USA Today op-ed “For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads,” Zuckerberg wrote in an op-ed published on USA Today. “We’ll still remind you to vote.” Initially, the feature will be in the US, but will be expanded to other countries. The feature will also apply to Facebook owned Instagram.
Fitbit has launched Ready for Work, an enterprise health-tracking platform that monitors employee health, aiming towards a safe return to offices in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic. Businessinsider.com says Ready for Work will gather body temperature, exposure to sick individuals, self-reported symptoms, and heart rate. The Fitbit devices worn by employees can measure an individual’s quality of sleep, distance traveled, and heart rate. Fitbit analyzes the reported data to recommend whether or not employees should report for work or not on a given day. Fitbit thinks the platform will appeal to smaller businesses that, unlike giants such as Amazon, don’t have the resources to develop and in-house monitoring solution.
Amazon is partnering with Zynga on an Alexa Voice-enabled version of Words With Friends. Geekwire.com reports that it can be accessed by saying, ‘Alexa, open Word Pop.’ It is a different version than what folks are used to…Alexa offers up six letters, and gives players one minute to come up with as many words as possible…either saying or spelling out the words. It’s a built-in feature, so you don’t need to install a third-party Alexa Skill.
Instagram Will Overtake Twitter as News Source; EU Opens Antitrust Probes on Apple’s App Store & Apple Pay; Tesla Increases Range on Model S Long Range Plus; DocuSign Bumps United from Nasdaq 100Posted: June 16, 2020
Although it has become scary what is considered a ‘news source’ these days, the 2020 Reuters Institute Digital News report finds that the use of Instagram for news has doubled since 2018. Now, according to the BBC, Instagram is poised to overtake Twitter as a news source. (It should be pointed out that only 26% of people actually trust social media as a source of information about the likes of the coronavirus.) National governments and news organizations, on the other hand, were both considered trusted by 59% of respondents to the survey by the report. Still, almost aa quarter of 18-24 year olds in the UK have used Instagram as a source of news about the coronavirus. The Facebook-owned platform and its big brother Facebook now reach 85% of people weekly.
Ever vigilant, as the present US administration ruthlessly cuts regulation, the European Commission is opening two antitrust investigations into the App Store and Apple Pay practices. Theverge.com reports that the first investigation will look into whether Apple has broken EU competition rules with its App Store policies, after complaints by Spotify and Rakuten over Apple’s 30% cut on subscriptions. the 2nd investigation revolves around Apple Pay, and Apple’s limiting access to its NFC (Near Field Communications), which cuts out competing financial service providers that can’t offer NFC payments through their own apps. German lawmakers already voted several months ago to make Apple give access to iPhone and Apple Watch NFC chips.
We have previously reported that Tesla had cut prices, including on the model S. Now, Elon Musk says the range of the top Model S Long Range Plus is 400 miles. The actual EPA test came in at 392, but Tesla says a door was left open and key in the car, so the car went into waiting mode, and lost 2% of its range waiting. The EPA disputes this. Apparently, another test will be scheduled. CNBC says Tesla has boosted range by using lighter weight materials in the battery pack and drive units, and by using other lighter weight components. The company also announced a ‘hill hold’ or HOLD feature, which allows drivers to remain stopped on a hill without having to keep the brake pressed down. (NOTE: Studebaker had this feature in the 1950’s, so it’s not exactly a breakthrough, Elon.)
DocuSign jumped 7% yesterday, after the announcement that the company will join the Nasdaq 100, bumping United Airlines. According to geekwire.com, Nasdaq 100 has been described as “one of the world’s preeminent large-cap growth indexes.” Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Expedia, Starbucks, Adobe, Workday and Zoom Video Communications also are on the Nasdaq 100. The stock has more than doubled this year, with all the extra demand from the shelter in place. Last quarter, DocuSign revenue was $297 million, up 39% over the prior year.
Protests Boost Scanner & Secure Message Apps; Walmart Teams With Shopify; Tesla Model 3 Getting Standard Wireless Charging; Molds Indicate Next iPhones Have Flat Sides…Like Old iPhone 4Posted: June 15, 2020
As the protests have continued across the country, there has been a surge in downloads for scanner apps and secure messaging apps. According to to cnet.com, secure message app Signal had downloads jump 185%. Citizen and Neighbors were also up, with Citizen up 325%. Scanner apps like 5-0 Radio Police Scanner were up 311%. Police Scanner Radio and Fire was also up similarly. (If you are thinking about one of these, they do have a lot of ads in the free versions. You can get a paid, ad-free version.)
Walmart has teamed up with Shopify to open up their platform to Shopify’s over one million businesses. Techcrunch.com reports it should be a big boost in access to customers for businesses to appear on Walmart Marketplace, which has 120 million monthly visitors. Walmart is eyeing Amazon, with their over 300 million customers worldwide. Walmart describes growing Marketplace as a ‘strategic priority.’ The giant retailer saw its US e-commerce business grow by 74% last quarter, thanks to the pandemic.
The US version of Tesla’s Model 3 will now come standard with wireless charging at no extra charge. Engadget.com says if you already own one, you will be out $125 to add it. The new models will also come with standard USB-C ports. For that, if you already have a Model 3, you will have to resort to adapters from 3rd parties. The Model Y had already been equipped with both, as had the Chinese Model 3. Tesla is a little slow on the uptake on the charging pad…I’ve had one in my 2 year old Honda Hybrid. USB-C adapters aren’t quite a dime a dozen, but that’s a cheap fix- at least for charging devices.
Pics of molds have showed up on Twitter, along with CAD drawings, that show the iPhone 12 models with the predicted flat edges, like the old iPhone 4 & 5 had. 9to5mac.com notes that such molds, which are used by case makers to make cases that fit, may not be exactly like the finished phones. The molds don’t show a smaller notch on the front, nor added space on the back for the Time of Flight sensor. Most leaks show that sensor in the square camera bump on the existing phone, with the same number of cameras. The flat sides were revived earlier on the new iPad Pro, so Apple seems to be moving toward an integrated ‘corporate look’ to their mobile devices.