Apple Snags WSJ for News Service; Qualcomm-New Wireless VR Headsets; Race to be ‘Netflix of Gaming’; BMW EVs Up Range Game

The New York Times and Washington Post passed, but the Wall Street Journal agreed, and will join Apple News and the new subscription service…a service that will be announced next Monday, March 25th at Cupertino’s Steve Jobs Theater. According to 9to5mac.com, the big stumbling block for the other publishers has been Apple’s demand for 50% of the revenue and ‘unlimited access to all their content.’ Apple News is expected to run $10 a month.

Qualcomm is apparently working on VR headsets that will work as wireless PC-connected head-mounted displays. Cnet.com reports that the hardware will start arriving later this year, and should be demoed at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The headset will be a stand alone device like the upcoming Oculus Quest, but when in range of a PC it can double as a wireless way to play games and use apps.

Just this week, Google showed off its new streaming service for games and controller. Google would like its Stadia platform to become ‘the Netflix of Games.’ While that sounds cool, there is a fair amount of competition to become Netflix-like when it comes to gaming. Businessinsider.com says Amazon is also working on a Netflix like service for game play, which would allow players to stream games rather than buy and download individual titles.

Verizon is also hard at work on Verizon Gaming, which would do much the same thing. They aren’t sitting on their hands in Cupertino, either…Apple is also working on a subscription based, Netflix of games…although theirs is reportedly in the early stages. Microsoft has said they will be going public later this year with their own streaming service, ‘Project xCloud.’ The difference is, it would be very xBox Centric, since Microsoft already has their own large catalog of games.

Sony has quietly been operating a subscription based video game service in their Playstation Now for 5 years. It hasn’t really gotten much traction so far as it has its limitations…and is pretty pricey for the general gaming public. Who will prevail? Like the old movies and TV series “Highlander,” companies will fall by the wayside until the Netflix of Games is left standing. “In the end, there can be only one.”

Like all manufacturers, BMW is running full speed ahead towards getting an EV fleet on the road. Engadget.com says BMW intends to produce EVs, hybrids, and gas cars on the same assembly lines, and has come up with a couple interesting innovations to do so. First, the EV ‘pack’, or module will bundle the electric motor and variable transmission, making it easy to drop into any car in the line…from the tiny Mini BMW makes to SUVs. It’s built totally in-house, so BMW can quickly upgrade or change it.

The electric motor uses no rare-earth materials…it’s a synchronous electric motor that just uses the copper windings to induce current. That’s cheaper…and doesn’t rely on rare earths that will only become more difficult to source. BMW says all future EVs will support fast charging up to 150Kw…that could give 15-20 minute recharges. Audi is going with 155Kw, but Tesla is upgrading its V3 Superchargers to 200Kw.

BMW says their battery packs will have a potential range of 420 miles, easily outstripping a lot of the competition. Over at Tesla, however, they plan a new model roadster with a 600 mile range. BMW says it will be able to adjust the chemistry of its battery packs, though…giving more torque and power to sports sedans, but more range to crossovers.

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EU Fines Google $1.7 Billion; Apple’s New AirPods Drop; Amazon-New Entry-Level Kindle; Waymo Expands in Arizona

The EU has fined Google $1.69 billion over what they term ‘abusive practices in online advertising.’ This is in addition to the $5 billion and $2.4 billion fines from 2018 and 2017, respectively. Engadget.com reports that the EU competition commissioner says Google has ‘shielded itself from competitive pressure’ by imposing exclusive contractual arrangements on advertiser over a 10 year period. The commission points out that ‘market dominance is, as such, not illegal under EU antitrust rules. However, dominant companies have a special responsibility not to abuse their powerful position by restricting competition, either in the market where they are dominant, or in separate markets.’ Google hasn’t commented, but is likely to appeal.

Apple has rolled out its new AirPods, and they are available now. According to thenextweb.com, the wireless earbuds sport the H1 chip, which gives faster connections and increases talk time by an hour. The upgraded version also features Hey Siri. The case has wireless charging using the Qi standard, so no cable to lose or break. It’s thought Apple will come out with their long-delayed charging pad very shortly. With a wired charging case, the new models remain $159, but if you want the wireless charging case, it will set you back $199.

Amazon has freshened its entry level Kindle and bumped the price up. Theverge.com says the main new feature is a built-in light. The Kindle also has be re-designed a bit to make it easier to hold as well. Amazon has raised the price by 10 bucks…it’s now $89.99 for the ad-supported model. The entry level Kindle still keeps the 167 ppi display, instead of upgrading to the easier to read 300 ppi display like the Paperwhite and Oasis have. If Amazon doesn’t raise prices on the Paperwhite, it was already on sale for $90, so would be a better deal at this point…UNLESS you trade in your old one. they will give you a trade-in amount (to be determined depending on condition) on the old one, plus a 25% discount on the newer Kindle.

Waymo has announced a huge expansion for their Tech Service Center in Mesa, AZ. 9to9mac.com reports that the 85,000 square foot center will more than double Waymo’s ability to service, maintain, and grow the fleet of Waymo One driverless vehicles they run there. They had just opened a 60,000 square foot center in Chandler last year.


Apple Freshens iMacs; Netflix Won’t Join Apple’s Streaming Service; Firefox Mutes Auto-Play Vids; Instagram Adds In-App Check Out

Apple has updated iMacs with up to 8 core, 9th generation Intel processors and Radeon Pro Vega graphics options. Macrumors.com reports that Apple claims a 60% speed boost for the 21.5 inch iMacs, while the 27-inchers are 2.4 times faster…slicing the gap a bit between the high end standard iMac and the iMac Pro. The base 21.5 inch 4K iMac starts at $1299, with the 27 inch model at $1799. Both are available for order today, with availability in Apple stores and reseller locations next week. (The non-4K entry level 21.5 inch iMac was not updated…and is still $1099.)

When Apple rolls out its streaming service next Monday, Netflix won’t be part of the party. According to cnet.com, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says Netflix ‘has chosen not to integrate’ into Apple’s streaming service. He pointed out that Netflix is already competing with a very deep-pocketed rival in Amazon, so they aren’t all that worried about Apple. Netflix remains frozen out of China, after a failed attempt at partnering with a local company there. Hastings said it might be a while before they try cracking that market again.

One of the most annoying things ever is the auto play video. Engadget.com notes that after promising to do so, Firefox has blocked auto-playing videos by default in release 66. Some sites will still auto roll the video, but Firefox will put the audio unless you choose otherwise. another improvement…slow-loading ads and images that yank you out of position on a page. Firefox now includes scroll anchoring that should hold your place even if tardy content pops in.

Instagram continues to push into e-commerce…announcing today it is adding a checkout feature to its mobile apps. Theverge.com reports that you can store your payment info with Instagram to make purchases more quickly. Instagram is charging retailers a selling fee for the feature. Over 20 brands, including Nike, Adidas, Dior, MAC Cosmetics, H&R, Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Uniqlo, Warby Parker, and Zara are in the initial wave of brands ready for you to hit the ‘take my money’ button!


New Apple iPads Bow; Google Gaming Initiative; Tesla Increases Model 3 Power Remotely; Lyft Public Offering Imminent

Apple has rolled out the expected refreshes to the iPad line. According to 9to5mac.com, there is a new iPad Mini, and a new iPad Air with a 10.5 inch screen. the Air has a thinner design and is powered by an A12 Bionic chip. The Mini keeps the 7.9 inch screen, but gets upgraded to the A12 chip. In something of a surprise, both get support for the 1st generation Apple Pencil. The Mini starts at $399 for 64 Gigs, and the Air at $499. Both can be ordered right now from Apple.

Google will be rolling out their gaming initiative March 19th, and if rumors hold, the company is planning to focus on something of a Netflix-like game streaming service. Busionessinsider.com reports that Google did a test run of what was then called ‘Project Stream’ in 2018. There may be a Google gaming console, although it doesn’t appear that it will be as powerful as the Xbox One or Playstation 4….or even an Nintendo Switch. As we reported earlier, the Google controller will have the ability to select different hardware to play on…like a TV, tablet, etc.

Tesla started remotely increasing power output of all Model 3 vehicles via an over the air software update. Electrek.co says this is in conjunction with an update Tesla had already implemented increasing Model 3 range. The power increase is about 5%, ‘improving acceleration and performance.’ In a call, Elon Musk mentioned that the company was more comfortable pushing the battery packs and and motors can be pushed to higher levels after accumulating real world street data for over a year.

Lyft apparently is shooting to go public as soon as next week. The ride hailing company plans to raise more than $2 billion in the IPO, according to engadget.com. This would put the stock at $62 to $68 per share. Like Uber, Lyft has been been burning cash..mainly due to rider and driver subsidies. The company has also been dumping cash into autonomous driving. Last August they hit 5000 paid driverless test rides in Las Vegas since early 2018.


Feds Investigating Facebook; Uber After Funds for Self-Drive Unit; HP Laptop Battery Recall; Tumblr Traffic Whacked After Porn Ban

Federal prosecutors are digging into the data deals Facebook arranged with tech companies. Engadget.com reports that subpoenas went out to get records from 2 or more ‘prominent makers of smartphones.’ Facebook had deals with the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Sony. Facebook has acknowledged the probe, and says says they are ‘cooperating with investigators’ and was taking the probes ‘seriously.’ Most of these deals ended a while back, but the probe may be why Mark Zuckerberg pledged recently to make it a ‘privacy-focused’ social network.

Uber is in late stage talks to pick up a billion dollars for their self-driving car group. Businessinsider.com says the funding would primarily come from Softbank, which has already kicked in $1.25 billion…giving it 15% of the ride hailing company. Toyota may also be involved. This deal would bring the valuation of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group at $5-10 billion dollars.

HP is now recalling 78,500 laptop batteries due to possible fire and burn hazards. According to zdnet.com, there have been 8 new reports of issues including overheating and melting. In January, they had recalled 50,000, and this batch is in addition to those. HP has set up a website so you can check. It affects models sold between April 2015 and 2018. Many of the batteries are non-removable and the laptops will need to be taken in for a free replacement.

After banning porn and adult content in December, Tumblr took a 17% hit in views…100 million sets of eyeballs in 30 days! The nextweb.com says SimilarWeb did the analytics. The platform took the action after temporarily getting kicked off Apple’s App Store over child porn. Unfortunately, Tumblr was also a refuge for folks in the LGBTQ community and others, who have bailed to find other platforms where they can feel safe and like they belong.


Spotify Complains To EU About Apple App Store; Verizon 5G Launches in April, Chrome Extension to Filter Toxic Comments; LG Unicorn Ice Cream Maker

Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the EU over ‘Unfair’ App Store practices. According to macrumors.com, Spotify claims the store’s rules ‘purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience, and slams Apple’s ‘acting as both a player and a referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers.’ They particularly hit Apple for the 30% commission…which Spotify frames as a tax…on App Store purchase. Spotify says this forces them to charge $12.99 a month, while Apple Music can be priced at $9.99 a month. Considering that there are over a billion iOS devices, the revenue gap is substantial. Spotify has launched a ‘Time to Play Fair’ website and video to educate consumers about its complaint.

Verizon has announced that they will roll out 5G in two cities April 11th. Theverge.com reports that the first two cities to get the service will be Chicago and Minneapolis. It will run an extra $10 a month on top of Verizon’s 3 existing unlimited plans. That means if you had the lowest price $85 plan, it will be $95 with 5G. Verizon says they will not be doing any throttling…which is reasonable to believe, since very few phones can actually use 5G right now. T-Mobile has claimed they won’t be raising prices for 5G when they roll theirs out later this year. Initial concentration in the cities will be in the Loop, Gold Coast, River North, and Old Town areas of Chicago. Minneapolis will also focus 5G…starting with Downtown East, Downtown West, and Elliot Park.

A Chrome extension has been announced by Alphabet’s Jigsaw that helps you control what comments you see on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, and Disqus. According to cnet.com, Tune is described as a sort of volume control for toxic comments. Human moderators just become overwhelmed, and the tool was originally built as ‘Perspective’ to help them keep comments under control…now, it will be available to users. You can toggle how many comments you want to see…from zero in ’Zen Mode’, to viewing everything online with no filter. It also allows you to adjust by site. You could see all on Facebook, but screen by terms on Reddit…maybe to screen out threats, sexually explicit attacks, and insults. ‘Filter Mix’ is still very experimental, according to Google, and still produces a lot of false positives. Google hopes the Chrome tool will help tamp down trolls and harassment campaigns. Note that it only blocks your seeing the comments…so the nastiness does continue for the rest of the net that doesn’t have Tune installed and set up!

LG showed off a total unicorn at SXSW, but you will want one anyway. Engadget.com reports it’s called SnowWhite, and it’s like a Keurig for ice cream! The Snow has a pod-based system that lets you choose the base and flavor for various frozen desserts. Besides ice cream, it could make gelato, granita, sorbet, yogurt, and more…all in 2 to 5 minutes! WANT!


Apple- ‘Showtime’ March 25th; Amazon Lets 3rd Parties Sell For Less Elsewhere; PayPal-Instant US Bank Transfers; Debit Card with Fingerprint Sensor

Apple will hold an event March 25th that is widely expected to be the rollout of their rumored TV streaming and Apple News services. Theverge.com reports that Apple may also bow the updated AirPods, and freshened entry level iPad, as well as the oft-delayed AirPower wireless charging pad that can charge your phone, Watch, and AirPods at the same time. Interestingly, Apple used ‘It’s show time’ once before…in 2006 when they added movies to iTunes and unveiled Apple TV (which was dubbed iTV at the time.)

Amazon has dropped its policy of banning 3rd party merchants fro selling products for less on other sites. According to geekwire.com, the change went into effect yesterday. Amazon critics had called the ‘price parity provisions’ a violation of antitrust laws. In December, Senator Richard Blumenthal had asked the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission to investigate the policy.

PayPal has launched an Instant Transfer option in the US that over money directly to your bank account, not just your debit card. It’s much like businesses have had available for some time. Engadget.com says it will work through JPMorgan Chase’s access to The Clearing House, a platform major banks use for faster payment networks. As yet, it’s not available overseas. PayPal is touting it as a nice flexibility option for gig economy and freelance workers. You will have to pay a 1% fee, however.

It’s great to use contactless payments…like with Apple Pay and Google…but what if you just want to drag out some cash? You have to whip out the debit card and poke in the PIN number…and there have been numerous reports of hacking ATM machines, with cams that can read your PIN. Now, NatWest is trialing a debit card in Britain with a fingerprint sensor built in. Bgr.com reports that the cards still use NFC tech, but because they can verify with a fingerprint, they don’t have a payment limit. The only somewhat limiting feature is that you have to go in to a bank branch to set it up. Your actual print is stored on the card, so can’t be hacked in the bank database. It would still be possible to spoof your print, though, if bad guys get hold of your card. If the trial goes well, it may be expanded to Visa and Mastercard for pilot programs.