iPhone 14 Pro-48 MP Cam; Oracle Picks up Cerner; Microsoft Buys Xander from AT&T; EV Challenge- Building Enough Chargers

Apple is reportedly joining the high megapixel club with their iPhone cameras. Samsung has featured 48 and even over 100 MP cams for a few years now. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, cited in macrumors.com, looks for Apple to add a 48 MP lens to the top iPhone 14 Pro models this coming fall. That will be followed by a so-called periscope lens in 2023. the 48 MP lens will shoot at that output, except in low light conditions, when they will use ‘pixel binning’ to drop back to 12 MP to preserve quality. the periscope lens, which has been out several years on some competing phones like one from Huawei, utilizes folded camera optics to dramatically increase optical zoom…getting up to 10x. iPhone 13 models only have a 3x optical zoom. You can get to 10 with the electronic zoom, but the pics are not nearly as clear, and if you are shooting video, it tends to ‘smear.’ 

Oracle has picked up electronic health records company Cerner in a $28.3 billion deal. According to techcrunch.com, this will help Oracle to move into the healthcare vertical market in a major way, and should bulk up their cloud infrastructure business. The deal is being reported as the biggest acquisition in Oracle history. Microsoft had already dived into this area earlier this year, when it bought Nuance Communications. 

Microsoft is bulking up in the ad space area, snapping up Xandr ad marketplace from AT&T for an undisclosed price (which usually means someone is paying a bundle!) Zdnet.com says Xander is a ‘data-enabled technology platform powering a global marketplace for premium advertising.’ Expect Microsoft to continue to operate its own Microsoft Audience Network, PromoteIQ, and Microsoft Customer Experience platforms as they work to hoover up more and more ad dollars. In their 1st quarter earnings report, MS said ad revenue, minus acquisition costs, was up 40% over the prior year’s quarter.

We’ve reported on the uptake in sales of new EVs like the Hummer and the Mustang e. It appears that EVs are increasing fairly rapidly as a percentage of vehicle sales. Now comes the next challenge…enough charging stations to handle all of them. Theverge.com notes that there was a blast of cash in the Build Back Better bill that is now on hold to put in a substantial number of them. There are more and more stations along the interstates, but in towns, cities, and neighborhoods…not so much. As we reported yesterday, Waze is now showing charging stations on their mapping app….but a quick check of it shows precious few chargers in EV friendly San Francisco…so figure other less progressive cities and towns will really be short. Right now, there are 46,000 public charging stations in the country. Most analysts say we will need at least 100,000 by 2030!


Facebook Gets Dubious Honor; New Apple Displays; GM Delivering Hummer EV PUs; Chip Could Extend Battery Life; Waze Adds EV Charge Stations

In something akin to getting a Razzy, Facebook (Meta) is worst company of the year, in a survey from Yahoo Finance. Yahoo.com reports that the best company title went to Microsoft for 2021. The survey was conducted for Yahoo Finance by Survey Monkey, and there were some 1541 participants. This all goes to show that when you have a lot of bad PR, even a name change doesn’t really fake people out these days. Facebook got 50% more thumbs down votes than the #2 bad company, Alibaba out of China.

It’s been years since Apple has marketed its own monitors…save for the five grand Pro Display EDR. Now, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says he ‘strongly believes’ Apple will launch a new line of monitors for its latest Macs. It appears that both 24 and 27 inch ones are in development right now (which will be made for Apple by LG.) LG currently has the only Apple-approved monitors in the UltraFine 4K and LG UltraFine 5K.

The first electric Hummers are on the roads and in the garages of the first buyers, according to General Motors. The 1,000 horsepower EVs that feature 329 miles of range are the ones you might have seen in videos that can ‘crab walk’ sideways a bit to avoid big rocks, and can raise the suspension 6 inches to clear objects in rough terrain. The first Hummer EV Edition 1 models cost an eye-watering $110,295, and have GM’s advanced Super Cruise. There will be a cheaper model (relatively…$79,995) by Spring of 2024. The Edition 1 is already sold out.

It’s not imminent, but IBM and Samsung are working on a new chip tech that could dramatically extend smartphone battery life. Bgr.com says the so-called VTFET chip stacks transistors vertically in increase the number of them in a chip. This not only increases performance, but cuts down on power use. IBM and Samsung say the chips could offer twice the performance of current designs and use 85% less energy. They would be based on 2 nanometer tech, a level no one has quite reached yet. Besides making its own smartphone chips, Samsung also produces chips for Google. Imagine only having to charge your smartphone once a week, and getting more blazing performance than ever from it! With this going on between IBM and Samsung, you can bet that Apple is not asleep at the switch with this type of tech. We could see it in actual phones in the next few years. 

Google’s Waze navigation app has now picked up a new feature…it will show EV charging stations. Mashable.com notes that as more EVs hit the road, this will eventually become as important as gas station locations. The move is in partnership with VW, which has a slew of EVs on the way, and now has the ID.4 on the highways. Putting the charging stations on the app does make one think that Google might be getting closer to rolling out commercially its long-tested self-driving cars as EVs sooner not later. 

Meta Expands Bug Bounties; Googlers Not Vaxxed-Borrowed Time; More Harassment Suits vs Tesla; Apple Pulls CSAM Mentions From Child Safety Page

Meta is beefing up its bug bounty program to reward researchers who report data scraping. Techcrunch.com reports that researchers will be able to report scraping activity as well as previously scraped data that has already appeared online. Meta believes its the first bug bounty program particularly targeted to scraping. Under the new bug bounty program, researchers will be rewarded for finding “unprotected or openly public databases containing at least 100,000 unique Facebook user records with PII [personally identifiable information] or sensitive data (e.g. email, phone number, physical address, religious or political affiliation).” Instead of its usual payouts though, Meta says it will donate to a charity chosen by the researcher in order not to incentivize the publishing of scraped data.For reports of bugs that can lead to data scraping, researchers can choose between a donation or a direct payout. Meta says each bug or dataset is eligible for at least a $500 award.

Google had previously given employees until December third to upload vaccination documentation or apply for a medical or religious exemption. Now, according to CNBC, employees who haven’t complied by January 18th will be placed on ‘paid administrative leave’ for 30 days, followed by ‘unpaid personal leave’ for up to 6 months. After that, they will be fired. Since the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Google has tabled its January 10th return to work 3 days a week plan. Now, the return-to-office plan is on hold indefinitely. 

Tesla has been hit with more lawsuits that allege sexual harassment at the Fremont plant. CNET.com says 6 women are accusing the carmaker of creating an environment where it is normal for women to deal with sexual comments and inappropriate touching. Some of the things the women have complained about in the 6 separate suits include ongoing catcalling, inappropriate touching, sexual comments and other harassment by colleagues and supervisors. “Tesla has failed to take sexual harassment seriously, from the top of the company down,” said attorney David Lowe, a partner at Rudy Exelrod Zieff & Lowe who represents the women, in a release. “Elon Musk tweeting a lewd comment about women’s bodies or a taunt toward employees who report misconduct reflects an attitude at the top that enables the pattern of pervasive sexual harassment and retaliation at the heart of these cases.” Tesla foolishly still has not re-established a public relations department…so there is no comment from the car maker.

Apple got a considerable blowback from a number of individuals and organizations when they announced a suite of new child safety features last summer. According to macrumors.com, most revolved about Apple’s planned on-device CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material) detection…which a number of researchers objected to as relying on dangerous tech that bordered on surveillance, and which at any rate, was ineffective at identifying images of child sex abuse. The Communication Safety features for Messages was launched this week, but Apple has delayed the CSAM rollout. Now, all mentions of it have been dropped, with just a statement on the company’s Child Safety page saying “based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers and others… we have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features.”  Reading between the lines, it looks like it has been either dropped entirely or pushed way out into the future…when better software or methods are available. 

Nike Buys Co That Makes NFT Sneakers; Labor Dept. Opens Apple Investigation; Amazon Will Expand Grocery Delivery; Google Working on ‘Augmented Reality OS’

Not to be satisfied with selling the world overpriced sneakers, now Nike can sell you overpriced sneakers that don’t even exist! The giant shoe maker has snapped up RTFKT Studios, which ‘makes’ NFT sneakers, and claims to be “a leading brand that leverages cutting edge innovation to deliver next generation collectibles that merge culture and gaming.” Back in February, the brand sold 600 pairs of NFTs in 6 minutes, and made $3.1 million, according to theverge.com. For those wondering what the hell NFTs are, NFTs allow you to buy and sell ownership of unique digital items and keep track of who owns them using the blockchain. NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” and it can technically contain anything digital, including drawings, animated GIFs, songs, or items in video games. An NFT can either be one-of-a-kind, like a real-life painting, or one copy of many, like trading cards, but the blockchain keeps track of who has ownership of the file. No price was disclosed by Nike for their acquisition of RTFKT.

The Labor Department has opened an investigation into Apple’s treatment of employees and workplace conduct. Cnet.com reports that the department didn’t say what prompted the inquiry, but former Apple engineering manager Ashley Gjovik had complained about a hostile working environment in August, and had told the NY Times she filed a complaint “to ensure Apple knows they cannot get away with retaliating against me for exercising my federally and state-protected rights.” The Labor Department hasn’t responded to requests for comments, and of course, neither has famously tight-lipped Apple.

Instacart had better be preparing to take on Goliath. Amazon may soon be directly competing with them in the grocery delivery game. Engadget.com says Amazon has been trialing Amazon Fresh Marketplace in the UK for about a year now. In a statement, Amazon said “Our focus is on providing Amazon customers the best possible experience when it comes to grocery delivery whether that is from Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, or one of our local stores like Bartell’s in Seattle, Morrison’s in London, or Monoprix in Paris. Partnerships with other grocers enable more customers to shop online and allow us to provide Amazon Prime members with more choice, value and convenience while our partners benefit from increased visibility for their selection and service.” 

After the bust and backlash of Google Glass (i.e. the wearers in public quickly being branded ‘Glassholes,’ Google has been pretty quiet about augmented reality lately…as plenty has leaked out or been released about Apple and Facebook AR future products. Now, 9to5google.com reports that Google is actively hiring to create an ‘Augmented Reality OS for an innovative AR device.’ They have already put into place Mark Lucovsky as heading up the Operating System team for Augmented Reality at Google. Lucovsky previously was General Manager for Operating Systems at Oculus VR (Facebook/Meta.) Before that, he had a 16 year stint at Microsoft, and was at Google previously….back from 2004 to 2009. One of the jobs listed gives a pretty big hint at what’s in store: ‘Our team is building the software components that control and manage the hardware on our Augmented Reality (AR) products. These are the software components that run on the AR devices and are the closest to the hardware. As Google adds products to the AR portfolio, the OS Foundations team is the very first software team to work with new hardware.’

Android with MS Teams? Update NOW!; TSMC Looking to Build Chip Plant in Germany; Twitter Asks Court to Toss Trump Lawsuit; Ford to Triple Production of Mustang Mach E EV

This is a RED ALERT if you are using Microsoft Teams on an Android phone. Hit the Google Play store now, and update the app! Mashable.com reports that a weird combo of bugs in the Teams app will keep Android phones with OS version 10 or later at risk of not being able to make 911 calls! The issue happens when you have Teams installed but you are not logged in. Note that if you call 911, it appears to go through…even rings once…but NEVER connects with emergency services. You can uninstall the Teams app, then re-install and log in as a work around, but its best to just download the Microsoft update. Do it now!

Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) is in talks to build a new chip plant in Germany. The chip maker already has a plant in the works in Arizona. According to appleinsider.com, talks are in progress with the German Government. As yet, they haven’t decided where in the country such a plant might be built. Besides this potential plant, and the one they are building in the US, TSMC is also building a factory in Japan. The US one is furthest along…it should be cranking out chips for Apple and other say early 2024. 

Twitter has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Ex-President Trump over free speech. Engadget.com says the suit misinterprets and threatens the company’s First Amendment free speech rights. The company notes that it is a private company and is NOT obligated to host speech it doesn’t like or that violates its rules. Letting the suit continue would challenge ‘bedrock principles of Constitutional Law.’ The Trump legal team paints Twitter as a ‘state actor,’ citing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The Department of Justice has stated that such interpretation is misplaced, and that Section 230 only is intended to protect against liability, not regulate speech like the Trump legal team has claimed.

Ford is claiming ‘incredible demand’ for its new Mustang Mach E EV, and will triple production. Techcrunch.com reports that Dearborn will boost worldwide production of EVs to 600,000 units by 2023. That includes not only the Mustang, but also the F-150 Lightening and commercial E-transit vans. For the Mustang Mach E alone, Ford says they expect to sell 200,000+ units a year in North American and Europe by 2023, which is triple the current travel rate.

Facebook ‘Professional Mode’; Twitter Tests Revised Reporting System; Over 200 Newspapers Seeing Google & Facebook; Razer’s MagSafe iPhone Cooling Fan

Facebook has rolled out a new ‘professional mode’ for profiles that allows what they term ‘eligible creators’ to earn money without the need to create a separate Page. Engadget.com reports that the feature is part of the company’s parent Meta’s billion dollars investment in creators. That fund also includes bonuses for Instagram influencers…and and expansion of the Stars program. The biggest feature of professional mode profiles is the addition of the Reels Play bonus program that allows creators to earn up to $35,000 a month based on views of qualifying reels (videos). Previously, that program was only open to users with Pages. It’ll be invitation-only for professional profiles to start with. Facebook is planning to add the ability to create longer, 60 second reels, save drafts mid-creation and create compositions from multiple clips. No time frame has been given for those features yet. NOTE: Once you turn on professional mode, anyone can follow you and see your public content in their feed. However, you’ll still be able to limit specific posts or updates to friends only.

Twitter is testing out a new system affecting how users report Tweets that they think might break Twitter’s rules. According to techcrunch.com, one of the biggest changes is that users won’t be asked to specify what policy they think is being violated. The user gives Twitter info, and Twitter uses automated systems to determine what, if any, rule is being broken by the Tweet. One objective is to try to eliminate harassment by some trolls who have used Twitter’s reporting feature to hassle legitimate journalists and commentators that they just disagree with.

For years, platforms like Google and Facebook have republished material reported by newspapers and organizations worldwide with no compensation or even credit to the sources. Now, axios.com says over 200 newspapers…some of which are part of large media groups…have sued, alleging that Facebook and Google have monopolized the digital ad market for ad revenue that would otherwise go to local news. Some heavy hitter antitrust litigators are involved, and taking the cases on contingent fees, so this could get interesting. They intend to ‘recover past damages to newspapers,’ and ‘establish a new system going forward in which newspapers aren’t just competitive again, but can thrive.’ The lawyers point to a law in Australia that makes tech firms pay publishers for their content. 

The ‘have to have’ item for mobile gamers os out from Razer. Ok, I kid, but check this out….it’s the Phone Cooler Chroma. The gadget is a $60 Mag Safe cooling fan that attaches to an iPhone, and keeps it cool while you are gaming. Engadget.com notes that in true Razer form, it also features RGB lighting you can control via Bluetooth. The cooling comes via a high powered 7 blade fan, which runs at a somewhat quiet 30dB. Note that you will need to plug the thing into a USB-C charger while using. 

Twitter Buys & Closes Quill; Samsung Merges Mobile & Consumer electronics; Apple Had Secret Deal With China; WhatsApp Beefs Up Disappearing Messages; Instagram Unveils Tools for Teens & Parents

Twitter has bought Slack competitor Quill and effectively shut it down. 9to5mac.com reports that Quill users will have a few days to export team messages before December 11th..when the server gets wiped. They are providing support to help export those messages, but Direct Messages won’t be exportable. In a cryptic close to the announcement, Quill said ‘We can’t with to show you what we’ll be working on next.’

Samsung is reorganizing internally, and is now combining and narrowing down. Previously, 3 divisions had CEOs, and they will now be cut down to two: Device solutions, which is the semiconductor business, and the new SET division, which includes mobile, TVs, and consumer electronics. According to theverge.com, Samsung has also appointed heads of their North American offices for those two divisions, in an effort to streamline what has been a sprawling organizational structure. 

Apple apparently cut a secret deal with China 5 years ago, pledging to put money into helping developing the Chinese economy. Appleinsider.com says Tom Cook personally lobbied to get the deal done. Cook signed an agreement with the Chinese government in 2016, pumping $275 million into the economy there. The deal has been kept under wraps all this time by both Apple and the Chinese government…with Apple not wanting to be seen as groveling to the government there. As part of the agreement, Apple pledged to work with Chinese manufacturers to create “the most advanced manufacturing technologies” and “support the training of high-quality Chinese talents.” This was accompanied by promises to increase its use of Chinese suppliers for device components, to work with Chinese software firms and invest in tech companies, and to work with Chinese universities on new technologies. 

In a move to expand flexibility in making messages disappear, WhatsApp will now let users turn on disappearing messages by default for all new conversations. Bgr.com reports that you can set the length of time before the messages disappear, too. You will also have the option to set this as default for group messages. WhatsApp has added 24 hours and 90 days to the options to make messages go ‘poof!’

In a likely related move by another Meta (Facebook) owned messaging platform, Instagram has bowed tools for teens and parents…convieniently announced right before a Senate hearing. Cnet.com notes that parents or guardians will be able to set limits on how much time teens are spending on the app, with an option to notify parents if a teen reports someone on Instagram. The new controls will be active by March 2022. In addition, Instagram is launching its ‘Take a Break’ feature, which nudges teens to get off the app after they have been scrolling for a period of time. The Senate hearing is tomorrow. 

Clearview AI Getting Facial Recognition Patent; Twitter Suspends Accounts ‘By Mistake’; Feds Let Debt Collectors Harass via DMs; Apple AR & VR Headset Focus on Gaming, Media

The US Patent and Trademark Office has issued a ‘notice of allowance’ to Clearview AI, which indicates that Clearview will get a patent for their controversial facial recognition tech. Engadget.com reports that numerous critics of Clearview’s tech are very concerned that the company is building a giant image database without the targets’ knowledge or permission. Multiple other governments, including the UK and Australia believe Clearview’s facial recognition violates data laws, and could be used to stifle political dissent…or even to stalk people. For their part, Clearview has stated that it has no plans to sell to anyone besides government clients…so that ought to help you to sleep much easier (cover your home cams, or they could well have facial captures of you while you sleep!

Twitter suspended a number of account ‘by mistake’ after far right extremists started exploiting the social platform’s new private media policy. According to theverge.com, Twitter has started an internal review and has made corrections. The ludicrous thing is, the rule change was instituted “curb the misuse of media to harass, intimate, and reveal the identities of private individuals,” which Twitter says disproportionately affects “women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.” What still isn’t clear is what Twitter will do to correct the policy to prevent future abuses.

In an ugly decision, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will allow debt collectors to bug you via text, email, and DMs via social media. PCMag reports that the bureau still says its illegal for collection agencies to actively harass someone over a debt you owe. Good luck with that! Up to now, you could only be pestered by phone or mail, and you couldn’t be called more than 7 times in 7 days…or have relatives or an employer get contacted (again…yeah, right.) The hours for new contact methods remain 8am to 9pm, so there’s that. The collectors supposedly have to state, ‘in each message, a simple way to opt out of receiving further communications from them on that social medial platform.’

Rumors continue to fly about Apple’s AR and VR headset. It’s been widely rumored to bow in the last quarter of 2022, and now Bloomberg’s Mark German says it will focus on gaming, media consumption, and communication. The gadget will allegedly have a lightweight design, two 4K micro LED displays, 15 optical modules, eye-tracking, and WiFi 6E connectivity. Better talk to your banker…several usually accurate Apple watchers think it will drain about $3,000 from your wallet!

Qualcomm Latest-Snapdragon 8 Gen 1; Apple Looks to Pass Samsung This Quarter; Browser Extension- Brands That Are Actually Just Amazon; Verizon Launches Android TV Soundbars with B&O Audio

Qualcomm has bowed its latest flagship chipset, and has changed naming for their chips. According to engadget.com, it’s the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. The company will be moving away from 3 digit numbers like 865 and 888. The latest system on a chip includes Qualcomm’s X65 5 G modem. Qualcomm says it can theoretically download at speeds up to 10 GBPS. The new chip also features an 18-bit image signal processor. The chip can process data from 3 36Mp cams simultaneously without shutter lag. You will probably see it hitting the market in phones in the next few months.

Apple pulled back into the #2 slot in smartphone manufacturing in third quarter, and is poised to reclaim the top spot in the 4th quarter from leader Samsung. Appleinsider.com reports that Cupertino had 15.9% of the market in the third quarter. Comparing quarter to quarter from 2020 and 2021, iPhone production is up 22.6%. Trendforce estimates that Apple will overtake Samsung during the holiday season 4th quarter, claiming 23.2% of the market. Samsung had 21.2% in third quarter. Besides the two top makers, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Vivo round out the top 5. 

A handy new browser extension claims to show you which products in Amazon search results are sold by brands that are either owned or exclusive to Amazon. Theverge.com says the Amazon Brand Detector uses a list of Amazon brands created by the Markup, and has additional filters to detect Amazon owned or controlled brands. Private label brands aren’t exactly new…every major grocery chain has had them since the 60’s. Amazon even has a page that lists a lot of them, if you want to hunt for it. The browser tool works on Chrome, Chrome-like browsers, and Firefox.

Verizon has launched a couple of new soundbars running the Android TV OS. Dubbed the Soundbar and Soundbar Pro, they will run Android TV 11, according to 9to5google.com. They should sound fantastic, as Verizon has partnered with Bang and Olufsen. The bars support Dolby Atmos ‘virtually.’ The standard model is $399, and has 5 built in speakers, while the pricier Pro ($999) rocks 9 speakers. Both should ship starting December 14th.