Two ’21 MacBook Pros Getting mini-LEDs; GPU Shipments Up; Waymo’s New Mock City; 5 Tech Firms’ Employees Rate Them

Noted Apple watcher analyst Ming-Chi-Kuo predicts that Cupertino will roll out 2 MacBook Pro models next year that will use mini LED screens. According to appleinsider.com, one will be the new 14 inch MacBook Pro, which will also have a redesigned form factor. Kuo also sees a new, ‘more affordable’ MacBook Air in 2022. The advantage to mini LED screens is they can be located all through the backlight layer of the screen….giving a more even lighting and higher level of contrast, but at a price point lower than OLEDs. While they DO cost more than the present LEDs, Kuo says Apple will make up the difference with savings from using their own silicon. Kuo also makes a rather amazing prediction that apple will be shipping some 30 million MacBook Pro and Air models by 2023. 

With the work from home boom due to the pandemic, consumers have been snapping up new computers, and that has pushed demand for GPUs way up. Nvidia, Intel, and AMD are reporting a 10.8% increase in shipments during third quarter, year over year. Venturebeat.com reports that the overall PC market increased 9.47% year over year. Discrete GPUs from AMD and Nvidia were up 13.44% quarter to quarter. 

Waymo is opening a couple of new autonomous vehicle facilities, which include a dense, simulated urban area to test out the self-driving abilities of their cars. Slashgear.com says a new R&D facility for self-driving trucks will open in Menlo Park, CA some time next year. They are also working with Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio. That one will be primarily for cars. Waymo already has a 91 acre city mock up at Castle Air Force Base in Merced, CA. 

Anonymous professional network Blind used it’s BlindHub data analysis tool to see what employees thought of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, and Google. Zdnet.com reports how things stacked up, considering best leadership teams and companies with most equal opportunities. In the top slot…Los Gatos based Netflix. 67% of Netflix employees said they would recommend it as a great place to work. #2 was Facebook, where 42% said that about the social net firm. Apple, Google, and Amazon following along behind. 


Salesforce Buys Slack; Samsung May Drop High End Galaxy Notes; Nikola Cancels Badger PU; Zoom Revenue Quadruples

In a deal that’s been rumored for at least a week, Salesforce has announced it is picking up Slack for a whopping $27.7 billion! Techcrunch.com reports that Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s CEO is saying “This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world.” This will put Salesforce in direct competition with rival and frenemy Microsoft, as it will allow Salesforce to compete directly with Teams…which Slack has been doing, but now with the financial muscle of Salesforce. 

Samsung appears poised to drop its premium Galaxy Note phone next year. According to Reuters, it’s due to a sharp drop in demand for high end smart phones due to the coronavirus pandemic. Samsung will still offer its top line Galaxy S phone, but will no longer have a phablet with a large screen and stylus as a separate product. The Galaxy S21 will have a stylus instead, and apparently the company will also add a stylus to their big foldable phone. 

In a move that has hit their stock hard, Nikola has announced that the deal they tentatively had with General Motors won’t happen. Arstechnica.com says GM won’t take a position in Nikola as previously indicated, but will furnish fuel cells to Nikola’s future big rig trucks. Nikola had planned on having GM build the Badger for them, but the General decided not to allow a re-badged GM vehicle be sold by the fledgling alternate fuel vehicle firm. In a controversy earlier, the CEO of Nikola, Trevor Milton, had to leave when it was disclosed that the big rig the company had showed off as being an actual prototype was a fake, and was filmed rolling down hill….not moving on its own. 

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin asked in song years ago, ‘Who’s Zooming Who,’ and it turned out it’s all of us! Zoom continues to mint money as people work from home during the pandemic. Theverge.com reports that Zoom has again quadrupled revenue year over year. The third quarter haul was $777 million in revenue. Zoom says they expect to quadruple revenue year over year again in the 4th quarter. The company claims 433,700 subscribers with over 10 employees…up from 370,000 last quarter. 


Tesla Sentry Expansion; China Leads Data Flows; Apple Fitness+; Facebook & Looted Goods

Tesla’s Sentry Mode is about to bring things to a whole new level by enabling Tesla owners to remotely see what their cars can see through Autopilot cameras. Electrek.co reports that Tesla is planning a big software update, to be pushed to its fleet around the holidays. The rumor is that the automaker is working on letting owners remote livestream what their cars’ see with their Autopilot cameras. Everything is apparently going to be handled through the app.Tesla owners can already have an extensive look at the status of their vehicles, including the doors open or close, same for windows, charge port, and more.

Back in 2001, the U.S. was the dominant country when it came to cross-border data flows. But the global data order is changing rapidly. Nikkei.com says China now accounts for 23% of cross-border data flows, nearly twice the share of the U.S., which ranks a distant second with 12%. And the Chinese lead could turn into a dominant advantage as the formerly world-spanning internet shatters into the “splinternet”: a balkanized mosaic of information networks marked off by national borders. The source of Beijing’s power lies in its connections with the rest of Asia. While the U.S. accounted for 45% of data flows in and out of China in 2001, that figure dropped to just 25% last year.

Promotion for Apple Fitness+ is ramping up, with advertising initiatives and teases from instructors being spotted on social media, indicating that the new subscription service may be launching imminently. Macrumors.com notes that Best Buy has started advertising six-month free trials of Apple Fitness+ with Apple Watch purchases. As retailers have started to actively promote Apple Fitness+, the service’s launch is likely to follow soon. In addition, Apple Fitness+ instructors have begun promoting their workout videos on Instagram.  Priced at $9.99 per month, Fitness+ is designed to help Apple Watch users keep fit through a series of guided workouts.

The black market for looted goods is flourishing on Facebook. While the company banned the sale of historical artifacts in June, many of the posts are in Arabic, and Facebook lacks the expertise to properly enforce its new policy. According to theverge.com, when Facebook is able to identify groups that flout its guidelines, experts say the company simply deletes them, expunging crucial documentation for researchers studying stolen art. Facebook has effectively created a problem and rather than turning that into something they could contribute to, they are making it worse. Facebook had no comment about this situation.


Netflix, Amazon, Electrify America, Apple, & American Express

Ho, ho, ho! Now that Netflix did another round of price increases, Hulu has gifted its Live TV customers with an 18% price increase just ahead of Christmas— on December 18. Reported by TechCrunch, the company confirmed that its Hulu + Live plans will be jumping about 18% for both existing and new customers.The Hulu + Live plan that was $54.99 is increasing to $64.99 and the ad-free version is going from $60.99 to $70.99. The price changes only appear to be affecting the Hulu plans with Live TV. 

A little over two years after its $753 million acquisition of the prescription medicine delivery service Pillpack, Amazon has finally launched Amazon Pharmacy, its online and mobile prescription medication ordering and fulfillment service. Techcrunch.com says that through Amazon’s portal, you can even speak to pharmacists either via web or over the phone, for advice…24/7! Online pharmacy services are projected to hit revenues of $131 billion by 2025 worldwide. 

A big plus of Tesla’s Superchargers has been ease of use. Now, fast charging at an Electrify America station just got a lot more seamless. Arstechnica.com reports the company has now implemented Plug&Charge, which enables an electric car to talk to the charger and handle authentication and billing. So far, 2021 Porsche Taycans, Lucid Airs, and Ford Mustang Mach-Es will all support Plug&Charge, and expect more cars to add the feature soon. 

Apple has announced a reduction to its longstanding App Store commission rate, as part of a new program for small businesses. According to theverge.com, the new App Store Small Business Program will allow any developer who earns less than $1 million in annual sales per year from all of their apps to qualify for a reduced App Store cut of 15 percent, half of Apple’s standard 30 percent fee, on all paid app revenue and in-app purchases.

American Express is deepening its integration with Apple Pay. The company has announced today that when you’re approved for a new American Express credit card, you can now instantly add that card to Apple Pay and begin using it immediately. According to 9to5mac.com, once you’ve added your new American Express Card to Apple Pay, you can use it in retail stores, online, and in-app, just like you can do with any other card via Apple Pay. There’s more info at Amex’s website. 


Older MacBook Pro? Wait On Update to Big Sur; 1.4 Million Dumped from Airbnb-Wouldn’t Sign No-Bigotry Agreement; Samsung Galaxy S21 Leak; Hyundai Looks to Flying Cars

Last week, Apple released the latest update to the macOS, Big Sur. Macrumors.com and others have reported that a substantial numbers of late 2013 and mid 2014 13-inch MacBook Pros have had their laptops bricked when they tried to update to the new OS. Reports have popped up in the Apple Support communities, on Reddit, and have reportedly hit a large enough numbers that things have been escalated to Apple’s engineering team. Until this issue is resolved, and an update to Big Sur comes out, stay away from updating if you are running an older Mac…or you are running complex software that the developer recommends holding off for now…as is true of Universal Audio, Avid, and others. 

Bigotry is alive and well in a segment of the hospitality industry, calling into question the hospitality of some. According to gizmodo.com, Airbnb had to ban 1.4 million individuals because they declined to click ‘accept’ on the company’s non-discrimination agreement. Black guests have shared numerous instances of being denied bookings based on their avatars, which has resulted in multiple lawsuits. Although 1.4 million is a substantial number, Airbnb hosts some 7 million rentals worldwide. 

Android Police has seen an official press blurb, which has now been confirmed by multiple sources. They say there will be 3 models of the S21, like the S20…a regular, a Plus, and an Ultra. You will have a choice of Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom White, and Phantom Pink for the S21. The S21+ will feature Phantom Sliver, Phantom Black, and Phantom Violet. For the Ultra, it’s only Phantom Silver and Phantom Black. The handsets will run on Snapdragon 875 (yet to be released), and Exynos 2100. It appears they will all be 5G compatable, but only the Ultra will have WiFi 6E support…which Samsung claims is 2X faster than standard WiFi 6. Cameras appear to be the same on the S21 and + models as on the 20, but the Ultra will have an improved 108MP sensor. There will be two telephoto sensors…a 3x optical telephoto, and a 10x optical ‘super’ telephoto. 

Hyundai is high on flying cars. In fact, they are planning a full lineup of airborne vehicles. Bloomberg.com reports that they will offer models that will carry 5-6 people and flit around metro areas, as well ass bigger ones to fly between cities. A Morgan Stanley analysis finds that this sector of flying vehicles could lead to a $2.9 trillion dollar industry by 2040…a pessimistic view even shows a value of $615 billion. Airbus, Boeing, and startup Lilium, and Chinese maker XPeng are hot on the path to the skies. Happy landings!


Apple’s New Macs With ARM Chips EU Charges Amazon With Breaking Competition Law; Uber- Users Can book 30 Days Ahead and Pick Drivers

Apple showed off their previously announced Arm chips for Macs today in a record short online presentation…only 45 minutes! Theverge.com reports that the new M1 chip will give the upgraded Macs the longest battery life ever in a Mac…by a considerable amount. The new chip will power the MacBook Air, the entry level 13 inch MacBook Pro, and the Mac Mini for now. All other Macs will continue to use Intel silicon. Power efficiency gets a huge boost…the Arm chips are noted fr that. It is also faster Apple plans to move all Macs over to the new processors in the next couple years. The new MacBook Air will stay at $999, and the Pro at $1299. The Mac Mini starts at $699. Preorders are open now, and the new Macs ship next week.

The European Union’s top competition regulator filed charges against Amazon today, claiming that the online giant has abused its size, position, and access to data to gain unfair advantages over competitors. According to arstechinca.com, the EU’s statement of objections flows from Amazon’s ‘dual role’ in e-commerce..i.e. as both a retailer and a platform for third-party retailers. As a platform, Amazon has access to proprietary data about all those other merchants’ online business, which it then gathers and uses anticompetitively to get a leg up in its own retail operations, the EU alleges. In the US, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission have been investigating Amazon for similar reasons. 

Uber is bowing a new feature this week. Techcrunch.com says users will be able to reserve a ride up to 30 days in advance, and can pick a favorite driver. The feature is intended to try to bring in new customers during the ongoing pandemic. It’s called Uber Reserve, and should show up on your app this week. 


Apple’s Imminent 3rd Special Event; Trump Loses Twitter “Public Interest” Shield in January; Google ‘Device Lock’ Controller-Wheel Lock for Your Phone; Car Makers Look to Dropping Battery Packs for Body Based Storage

Apple’s 3rd event since September is tomorrow at 10 am Pacific. 9to5mac.com reports that it will feature the new Apple silicon powered MacBook Air and Pro, the release of the latest Mac OS Big Sur update, and we may get get the delayed AirPods Studio headphones, and the AirTags (Tile clone) trackers, too. We will post a recap/overview of the announcements here tomorrow. 

After January 20th, Donald Trump will lose his so-called ‘public interest’ protection on his Twitter account. According to theverge.com, his account will be subject to the same rules as any other user…including bans on inciting violence and posting false information (such as about voting and the pandemic.) Twitter said in a statement “Twitter’s approach to world leaders, candidates, and public officials is based on the principle that people should be able to choose to see what their leaders are saying with clear context. This means that we may apply warnings and labels, and limit engagement to certain tweets. This policy framework applies to current world leaders and candidates for office, and not private citizens when they no longer hold these positions.” Position related accounts like @POTUS transfer to the new administration upon the inauguration of the new president. 

In a notice published under the radar this year, Google noted a Play Store app called ‘Device Lock Controller.’ 9to5google.com says the app allows creditors to take action on smartphones that users buy on time, and don’t pay or pay slow. Ultimately, you can get locked out of the phone if you don’t pay your bill. It happens in stages. 

  1. On the fourth (4th) day after the repayment deadline, (carrier) will lock the device, limiting your use.
  2. Should you continue to default, on the 7th day, you will be barred from all outgoing calls and SMS.
  3. Should you default for 30 days, you will be blacklisted and disqualified for subsequent device loan facilities and your details will be forwarded to the CRB.

Note that if your device is restricted, basic functionality, such as emergency calling and access to settings, will still be available. Best course…pay your bill!

A potential game changer for electric cars is being experimented with. It would allow ditching battery packs completely! Arstechnica.com reports that a team of European scientists headed by Lief Asp from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, is working on using the bodies of cars for electric storage. The so-called ‘structural batteries’ would mean a large section of the vehicle would be freed up, to say nothing of a huge amount of weight could be removed. One experiment so far involved using a trunk lid as a huge supercapacitor. They have also been running cells integrated right into body and frame members, protected by a layer of carbon fiber. It is years away, but could be a huge game changer down the road.


VOTE

Just vote….no tech report today or tomorrow. Vote! If you have, thanks. Now, urge your friends that may not have to do so! See you after the election.


Amazon Putting on 100K for Seasonal Work; Microsoft Teams Milestone; Tesla Owns the Electric Top 10 for Mileage; Jon Stewart Heads to Apple TV+

Heading into the holiday season, Amazon is looking to add another 100,000 seasonal workers, as they expect a healthy bump in online ordering with the pandemic continuing to rage. Geekwire.com reports that while this is a big number, its about half what they did in 2019. That said, Amazon has already put on an extra 175,000 workers since COVID! Amazon later converted 125,000 of those seasonal positions from spring into full time positions. 

Microsoft released financials, but notable in addition was the growth in Microsoft Teams. According to venturebeat.com, Teams has passed 115 million daily active users. That’s a bump of 53% since April. Only 13 months ago, Teams just barely had 13 million daily active users. Comparing the big video conferencing platforms, Google Meet has seen a peak of 100 million meeting participants in a day, Teams has had over 200 million, and Zoom is still tops with 300 million. 

Nearly every auto maker is getting into the EV game, but for now…when it comes to mileage…Tesla still rules. The EPA’s tests of 2021 models have the EV maker holding down 7 of the top 10 spots for electric vehicle mileage. The Mini Cooper SE is 5th, Polestar 2 is 8th, and Volvo XC40 EV is 10th. Engadget.com says the Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD was the topper, with 134 MPGe, or 25kWh perf 100 miles. Tesla’s build quality may be iffy at times, and GM bested them with Super Cruise over Tesla’s ‘Auto Pilot,’ but their battery tech is still ahead of the curve. 

Jon Stewart will host a new Apple TV+ series. According to theverge.com, the shows “will feature focused looks at his advocacy work and “topics that are currently part of the national conversation.”  The episodes will run an hour, and feature a single topic. There is also a companion podcast planned. Apple hasn’t given a start date nor a name to the show ass yet. If it is half as successful as the Daily Show, it should be a big boost to Apple TV+.


UK Will Ban Locked iPhones in 2021; SpaceX’s Starlink Net Service Price Revealed; Zoom Rolls Out End to End Encryption; Twitter to Preemptively Debunk Election Misinformation

In a move that will be cheered by users, and cause gnashing of teeth by carriers, the UK Ofcom regulatory body has used that ALL phones will have to be sold unlocked from late 2021. Appleinsider.com reports that the agency had given intention to institute the ban about 11 months ago in a published report. The Brits want to eliminate the intense frustration of switching carriers. It should save people time, effort, and money. With any luck, and a possible new administration in the USA, perhaps this type of ban will come to the US. The carriers have argued that locked phones help prevent fraud. Right now, 4 of them already sell unlocked phones, though…as that is required by existing EU rules.

SpaceX is expanding it’s beta test of its Starlink satellite internet service. According to cnbc.com, they call it the ‘Better Than Nothing Beta.’ The initial service is priced at $99 a month, with a $499 up front cost to cover ordering the Starlink Kit. The kit includes a user terminal to connect to the satellites, a mounting tripod, and a wifi router. There is also now a Starlink app listed by SpaceX on the Google Play Store and iOS App Store. They are touting speeds varying from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, with 20 ms to 40ms latency. They will be working to enhance these parameters over the next several months. 

Zoom has started rolling out end-to-end encryption. That’s the good news. The bad? 9to5mac.com says some features get dropped. Those include: join before host, cloud recording, streaming, live transcription, Breakout Rooms, polling, 1:1 private chat, and meeting reactions. The E2EE encryption can be activated on Mac and Windows now, and is coming to iPhone and iPad as soon as Apple approves the pending update. No word on when, or if, the lost features might be restored in a future update. 

Twitter has previewed a series of public service messages it will put atop US users’ timelines to preemptively debunk falsehoods about voting and election results. Engadget.com reports that they will be slated with things like “you might encounter misleading information about voting by mail,” and “election results may be delayed.” Both messages will link to a Twitter Moment with more details. The PSA messages are slated to appear starting next Monday. Twitter hopes they will slow the spread of misinformation ahead of the election. They will also be more aggressively be labeling Tweets that contain false or misleading election info.