Chromebook Sales Explode, Facebook Keeps Trump Ban; Facebook Blocks Signal Ads Exposing Facebook’s Targeting; Peloton Problems Increase-Data Leak

Chromebook sales grew a stunning 275% in the first quarter of the year! Geekwire.com reports that Amazon tablet shipments grew by almost 200%! The record Chromebook sales were spread over HP, Lenovo, Acer, Samsung, and Dell. HP scooped up 36.4% of Chromebook sales, with the education market accounting for the majority of Chromebook shipments. 

The Facebook Oversight Board released the promised decision about Donald Trump’s ban from the platform today. According to arstechnica.com, they have recommended to Facebook that the ban stay in place. The Board did say that Facebook should review the ban again within the next 6 months. In the meantime, Trump has launched a blog (no comments) and is posting things that his followers can re-post on Facebook and Twitter. He still claims he will launch his own social media platform in the future.

It’s no secret that Facebook has highly targeted ads…we’ve all noticed it. You look at something somewhere online, and presto! Facebook or Instagram serves up an ad to you about the fool item. Engadget.com says Signal has raised Facebook’s ire by running ads of their own on Instagram which exposes the intimate categories that facebook uses to classify users and serve up such micro-targeted ads. An example: “You got this ad because you’re a certified public accountant in an open relationship. This ad used your location to see you’re in South Atlanta. You’re into natural skin care and you’ve supported Cardi B since day one.” Facebook temporarily shut down Signal’s ad account…allegedly to an unrelated payments issue…but called the ads a ‘stunt.’ Facebook is also battling Apple, which in the latest version of iOS, forces iPhone app makers to explicitly ask users for permission to collect their data to use in ads. 

Under pressure, Peloton has recalled the treadmills that caused the death of a child and injuries to others. Now, TechCrunch.com reports that the company has another PR problem. Apparently, their ‘leaky’ API lets anyone grab a rider’s private data! The data leak works EVEN if your profile is set to private and friends list is set to zero. Many well-heeled and/or famous people ride their bikes, right up to President Biden (who’s is off line by Secret Service decree.) A researcher-Jan Masters, a security researcher at Pen Test Partners- told Peloton about the issue in January, and gave them 90 days to fix it…but they didn’t, so he has outed the problem. 


Seattle Airport Tests Virtual Security Screening Line; Twitter Expands Spaces; Disney Shows ‘Real’ Lightsaber; UAW Wants EV Subsidies Exclusive to US Made Cars

Seattle’s airport is testing out something that will be cheered by travelers…allowing travelers to wait in virtual lines for security screening. According to geekwire.com, with SEA Spot Saver, users can reserve a spot in advance and will be notified when to proceed to a TSA checkpoint. They are also road testing electric screens at kiosks that will detect fingers hovering over the virtual buttons, and you won’t have to press the screen. The tech is being used on check-in kiosks available to various airline passengers, including jetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Korean Air, Volaris, Air Canada and Frontier. Let’s hope this all pans out and spreads soon to all airports!

Twitter has expanded Spaces to anyone with 600 or more followers. Techcrunch.com reports that the feature will be available on both iOS and Android. along with it will come features like Ticketed Spaces, scheduling features, reminders, support for co-hosting, accessibility improvements, and more. The Spaces feature will be denoted by a purple bubble around someone’s profile picture in the Home timeline. A limited group of users will be getting access to Ticketed Spaces in the coming months. Twitter says it will take a small cut, but that the ‘majority’ of revenue will go to the creators themselves. 

After a brief glimpse for shareholders in April, Disney has revealed a first peek at their ‘real’ retractable lightsaber. Theverge.com says it indeed looks very cool. This one doesn’t have a goofy, lit up plastic blade you have to attach. You hear the sound effect and the bad appears to extend from the hilt, like in the films…with appropriate crackling sounds and whirrs when you move it. The new saber is expected to be out in time for the Galactic star cruiser hotel experience when that launches in 2022. As with all things Disney, just cry a little and hand over your credit card. The present lightsabers you build are $200, so you can count on this rascal being even more pricey. 

The United Autoworkers are pressing the Biden administration to apply electric vehicle subsidies only to cars built in the US. According to cnet.com, the union’s vice president Terry Dittes said in a statement. “US taxpayer money should never subsidize products assembled in Mexico or any other country.” President Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan calls for $100 billion in direct point-of-sale rebates for EV buyers, which would reduce the cost of the car while signing paperwork at the dealer, as opposed to a subsidy to the manufacturers. The previous plan, reintroduced in the Green Act in Congress, allows a $7000 tax credit to anyone who buys an EV. 


Verizon Sells Yahoo, AOL, Etc.; Apple 8” Folder iPhone in 2023; iPhone Blood Sugar & Pressure Monitoring; Neuralink President Leaves

Verizon is spinning off its media assets including Yahoo and the various AOL sites…Huff Post, TechCrunch, & Engadget…to Apollo Global Management for $5 billion. According to techcrunch.com (one of the aforementioned properties being spun off), Verizon will keep 10% of the company. When the deal closes, it will be branded just as Yahoo. Verizon originally paid a combined $9 billion for the properties when they bought AOL in 2015 and Yahoo in 2017. That sounds like quite a hit…but the media companies…particularly Yahoo Sports, have thrown off good income. The media division generated $1.9 billion in sales in just the first 3 months of 2021, a 10% gain over 2020. 

A little more info on Apple’s rumored folding phone. Ming-Chi Kuo had aid the gadget would have a screen of 7.5 to 8 inches. Now, he says you can plan on an 8 inch (unfolded) screen. It will be OLED, and will be out in 2023. 9to5mac.com says that, although others have already plowed the folding phone ground to mixed results, Apple’s robust cross-product ecosystem should make the handset a hit. He predicts they will sell between 15-20 million of them. 

Another Apple update involves what we reported a couple weeks ago regarding Cupertino looking at making an Apple Watch that will check blood sugar without skin pricks. Some sleuthing by both The Telegraph and Forbes indicates that UK health tech Rockley Photonics has had Apple as their biggest customer for the past two years. Rockley is not only working on blood sugar monitoring sensors, but also blood pressure and blood alcohol level monitoring. It’s unlikely we will see all three by September, but it’s quite possible at least one will make it into the next Watch.

Max Hodak said in a Tweet over the weekend that he’s out as prudent of Neuralink, the company he co-founded with Elon Musk. Theverge.com reports that he didn’t say if he quit or not, but said “I learned a ton there and remain a huge cheerleader for the company! Onward to new things.” The firm was working on brain-machine interfaces. Lately, some scientific and medical communities have criticized the company and expressed skepticism regarding its claims. MIT Technology Review called the company “neuroscience theater,” and said “most of the company’s medical claims remain highly speculative.”


Netflix Releases Shuffle Play Feature; Ford- EV Battery Center in S.E. Michigan; Google Rakes in Cash in Q1; Microsoft Teams-Big Boost in Daily Use

Netflix has rolled out a shuffle play feature. Engadget.com reports it should be a boon to people who are just plain overwhelmed by the thousands of possible shows to watch on the platform. The feature is simply called ‘Play Something.’ It isn’t available on mobile yet, but Netflix says it will be soon. As you watch, Netflix should learn from the choices…like on normal Netflix, and it will try to play something it determines you like. 

Ford will build a new EV battery center in Southeast Michigan which they are dubbing ‘Ion Park.’ The center will encompass all aspects of battery tech development…manufacturing, mining, and recycling, according to Ford. The center will have a staff of 150 when it is up and running next year. It will join Ford’s new Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory in Allen Park, Michigan. That site, which opened in 2020, is where the company tests new battery cell types. Ford claims to have tested over 150 different types of cells with various chemistries. Besides the Mustang EV, Ford will bow an electric transit van next year, and a fully electric version of the F-150 pickup. 

After a small drop off of 2% when the pandemic first raged last year, Google has come roaring back. Theverge.com says that at the end of the 1st quarter, Google pulled down $55.3 million…compared to $56.9 million in the final quarter of 2020. It’s a stunning 34% increase year over year. YouTube was a $15 billion per year business in 2020, and $6 billion in the quarter just ended alone!

It’s not a big shock as so many continue to work from home, but Microsoft Teams has now amassed 145 million daily active users. Zdnet.com reports that its up from 115 daily just last October. A year ago, Teams only had 75 million active daily active users. Considering that more people are trickling back to offices, Teams seems to have gotten a pretty huge foothold in the video meeting area…and Microsoft has been working on turning it into nearly an operating system like product as they add features. 


Spotify Bows Podcast Subscriptions; Lift Sells Self-Driving Division to Toyota; Apple’s M1 Chip Successor in Production; Microsoft on Cusp of $2 Trillion Market Cap

Spotify has rolled out podcast subscriptions. Theverge.com reports that Podcasters won’t have to pay Spotify anything for the first two years. Creators will, however, have to cover the cost of transaction fees through Spotify’s payment partner Stripe. In 2023, Spotify will begin taking a 5 percent cut of total subscription revenue. That’s significantly less than Apple will charge; its new subscription service will take 15 to 30 percent of revenue. Podcasters have three monthly pricing options to choose from: $2.99, $4.99, or $7.99. Within Spotify, paid content will be indicated by a padlock icon where you would normally find a play button. You can’t subscribe in-app, but will have to head to the program’s dedicated Anchor landing page. This is kludgy, but what it does is avoids Spotify having to pay Apple for subscriptions old under the App Store terms.

Lyft has sold off its self-driving division to Toyota’s Woven Planet for a tidy $550 million. According to techcrunch.com, around 300 people from the Lyft Level 5 division will go to the Toyota subsidiary. As of early 2020, there were 400 people around the world that worked in Level 5. Those staying will continue to work out of the office in Palo Alto, CA. Besides cash, Lyft expects to save some $100 million in operating expenses. Lyft is shooting to become profitable by the third quarter of this year. 

The successor generation to Apple’s M1 system on a chip is now in production. Asia.kikkei.com says the chip is presumed to be dubbed the M2, and could be shipping by July…and in Apple MacBooks in the second half of the year. The chipset is made by TSMC, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. one of Apple’s prime suppliers. Apple is now the world’s #4 PC maker, behind Lenovo, HP, and Dell. Mac shipments were up 111% last year, mainly due to working from home because of the pandemic.

Microsoft is knocking on the door of the very exclusive $2 trillion dollar valuation club for companies. Right now, geekwire.com reports that MS is at $1.97 trillion market capitalization. Companies that already exceed the $2 trillion benchmark are Apple and Saudi Aramco. A lot of Microsoft’s gain is being powered by the Azure cloud division. Microsoft shares have increased by 20% this year. 


Facebook’s Mini-Player; Apple Will Drop $430 Billion on North Carolina Campus; Zoom Rolls Out ‘Immersive View’; Clubhouse NFL Draft Deal

One of the things Facebook had announced last week was ‘Project Boombox,’ which would allow listening to music and podcasts right inside the Facebook App…including Spotify. Now, techcurnch.com reports that the platform has rolled out a ‘miniplayer’ that will allow Facebook users to stream Spotify via the Facebook app on iOS and Android. The feature is available to both free Spotify users and Premium subscribers. Now, when Spotify users are listening to content they want to share to Facebook, they’ll be able to tap the existing “Share” menu (the three dot-menu at the upper right of the screen) and then tap either “Facebook” or “Facebook News Feed.” In order to use the feature, users will have to have the Spotify mobile app on their phone and a Spotify account. 

Apple has announced a step making good on adding additional facilities here in the US…a $430 billion dollar campus and research hub in North Carolina’s Research Triangle area. According to zdnet.com, it should mean about 3,0000 new jobs in machine learning, AI, software engineering, and other tech fields. Apple will also kicking $100 million to support local schools and community initiatives in the Raleigh-Durham area. Overall, Apple has set a goal of creating an additional 20,000 jobs in states across the US.

Zoom has talked about it, and today rolled out its immersive video feature, claiming it will help businesses to hold more engaging and collaborative virtual meetings. Venturebeat.com says the feature will allow Zoom meeting participants to appear as if they are in the same room together. Immersive View is really pretty much the same as Microsoft Teams’ Together Mode, which has been out for months. The host gets to choose where each participant ‘sits’ in the virtual room. Right now, Immersive view can hold up to 25 participants, and the backgrounds include a boardroom, auditorium, or a classroom. It is activated by default for all free and Individual Pro accounts. 

Clubhouse has announced a deal getting users access to chat rooms during NFL Draft Week. Engadget.com reports that its invitation only, as other Clubhouse connections, and only on iPhone…a Clubhouse Android app is weeks off. For draft fanatics, a chance to be in a Clubhouse chat with athletes, coaches, and network stars could be quite a draw. It’s a big win for Clubhouse, but the NFL may just be doing a test drive to see how it goes, and could expand to Facebook and Twitter if it does well.


Instagram-Tool Filters DM’s; Whole Foods Launches Palm Reader Payments; VW’s ID4-World Car of Year; Netflix Sags on Subscriber Miss

Instagram has rolled out a new tool, primarily aimed at celebs, that will automatically filter out abusive DMs. It can be set to filter offensive words, phrases, and emojis. Again, it is mainly intended for celebrities and public figures, who receive large numbers of unwanted direct messages. The message requests filter can be toggled on or off in a new section of the app called “hidden words.” When it’s on, offensive messages will be pushed to a separate folder. DMs in this folder are concealed, allowing users to browse messages without needing to read what they say. If a user taps into a message, they can read, delete, or report it.

Giving a whole new meaning to ‘palm reading,’ Whole Foods has Launched the Amazon palm reader payment system at its Madison Broadway location in Seattle. According to gizmodo.com, they plan to roll out the biometric system in 7 more stores over the next few months. The palm reader is dubbed Amazon One, and it lets a customer pay for everything with a swipe of the hand, as long as they are registered for the service with Amazon. The tech has been trialed at Amazon’s small brick and mortar stores before the rollout to their Whole Foods division. You can enroll with just one palm, or both, by the way.

The World Car Awards have been announced, and Volkswagen takes top honors with their new 2021 electric ID 4. Cnet.com says the award is after voting from 93 jurors spread over 28 countries. In subcategories, the World Luxury Car is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Performance Car is the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo, Urban Car the 2021 Honda E, and World Car Design goes to the 2021 Land Rover Defender. VW’s new electric crossover edged out the Honda E and Toyota Yaris for the top spot.

Netflix beat the Street’s expectations in revenue and profit for the 1st quarter, but still tool an 11% hit on the stock, as they missed their subscriber target by a fair amount. Zdnet.com reports that Netflix ended with 208 million paid memberships, but had predict4ed 210 million. They were still up 14% year over year, and the revenue was up 24% year over year to $7.16 billion. 


Apple iPad & Mac Spring Loaded Event Recap

Apple crammed a lot of announcements into today’s event, streamed from Apple Park. The expected upgrade to the iPad Pro saw the introduction of new models that feature the M1 chip, like the Macs and MacBooks run on. Highlights include a 8 core CPU that’s 50% faster than before, and 40% faster graphics from the system on a chip. Apple claims all-day battery life, and an available 2TB version. The Pro gets 5 G and LiDAR, and a new ultra wide camera with 12MP that pans to keep you centered in frame. The 12.9 inch Mini-LED display makes a debut, after several years of rumors. The 11 inch iPad Pro stays $799 and the 12.9 inch one starts at $1099..BUT…brace yourself…a maxed out one with the 2TB memory and all will set you back $2400! Preorders open April 30th, they will ship the second half of May.

New iMacs were unveiled…impossibly thin, and in a rainbow of colors (shades of the old days…you can sue me for the pun, but good luck.) The new iMacs also rock the M1 system on a chip that the Macs, MacBooks, and MacBook Pros have been moving to. The iMac has an all glass front, the base model features a 24 inch screen in nearly the same size as the prior 21.5 incher, and there is (finally!) a 1080p cam. A three mic array is included, that minimizes background noise and clarifies your voice on the likes of Zoom calls. The new iMacs get 4 tiny woofers and two tweeters, for better sound. Apple claims they are 85% faster than the previous iMac, with 2X faster graphics. You can run iOS on them, too. There are 4 USB-C ports (two of which are also Thunderbolt), and a version of the Mag Safe power connector. There are three different keyboards to choose from…two of which have TouchID. The mouse and trackpad are mainly changed cosmetically. New iMacs start at $1299 and $1499, and will be out the 2nd half of May.

Apple TV+ gets a new aluminum remote and can be used in conjunction with an iPhone to adjust color on your TV to cinema standards automatically. 

Air Tags finally make their debut. They are small round discs, which can be used with the Find My app to track your stuff…keys, wallet, or whatever. Air Tags will sell for $29 each, or 4 for $99. Preorders open Friday, and out next month. Apple has a number of key fobs, etc. to hold them and as I was writing this, I ALREADY got a third party email about them, LOL! The Air Tags use a readily available button battery that is user replaceable….a refreshing change from most everything else Apple sells.

iPhone (I know, they will be out in September) gets a mid-season refresh, with the addition of a purple color. You can preorder your new purple iPhone this Friday, and they will be out next month.

A cool announcement about Apple Card. Unlike most every credit card and credit vehicle, the Apple Card is now not only sharable with your spouse or partner, but they will get credit for your score on their credit report as you will. This is a change long overdue in the finance world! You can also add kids over 13 with limits.


Facebook Audio Announcements; WordPress Will Disable Google FLoC-Security Concerns; Apple App Store Re-Admits Parler; Mastercard Acquiring Identity Verification Co

In a virtual event today, Facebook made a series of announcements, including the expected answer to audio platform Clubhouse. Facebook will be testing Live Audio Rooms in Groups, and expects to roll the feature out to all users of the Facebook app by summer. Facebook will allow users to charge for access to their Live Audio rooms via a single purchase or a subscription, which will allow content creators to monetize the feature. The social network is also working on a short-form audio clip feature called Soundbites, that will let users upload brief audio (they gave jokes as an example). Facebook will provide audio editing tools to edit the Soundbites. According to cnbc.com, Facebook is also working on an integration with Spotify that could let musicians more easily reach potential audience. That feature is being called Project Boombox internally. 

WordPress will automatically disable Google FLoC by default on WordPress sites. Bleepingcomputer.com reports that WordPress sees the tracking tech as a security concern. Google has been testing out the tech as an alternative to cookies, which are blocked more and more by sites. In a statement, they “said WordPress powers approximately 41% of the web – and this community can help combat racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and discrimination against those with mental illness with four lines of code.” WordPress plans to disable FLoC using the following four lines of code, which will cause the blogging platform to issue a HTTP request header tells the browser that FLoC should be disabled for the site.

After getting what they claim are improvements to the platform’s detection and moderation of hate speech and incitement, Apple is letting Parler back into its App Store. CNN says Apple notified Congress via a letter. Parler should be downloadable again shortly. A number of conservatives who left the app may not come back, after the massive leak of personal data that occurred last year. Parler is continuing to slug it out in court with Amazon, after being booted from Amazon Web Services, and being off line for a period of time. 

Mastercard is picking up Ekata, an identity verification company, for $850 million. According to techcrunch.com, the tech allows identifying the online identity of a person making a transaction in real time…using various elements that can indicate if the transaction is true or fraudulent as the party opens and account or transacts business. Ekta provides a score and other data that they claim predicts the likelihood that the person is who they say they are. Barring regulatory hold ups, the deal should close this Fall.


2022 iPhone Rumors; Samsung April Unpacked; Gaming Exercise Bike; Hundreds of Companies Oppose Voter Restrictions

It’s been previously rumored that Apple would roll out a major camera upgrade to next year’s iPhones. Now, apple insider reports that Ming-Chi Kuo has dropped some specifics. In the past, Apple has focused on other elements besides ‘megapixel escalation.’ Well, the 2022 iPhone shooters will have a huge 48 megapixel wide angle cam. Previously, Apple has introduced upgrades to the wide angle cam first, and added it later to the telephoto and ultra-wide one. The camera assemblies will come from Sony as in the past. There will be a tilt control plus a more complicated cam module. Besides the camera, Kuo says Cupertino will drop the iPhone Mini in 2022. The 6.1 inch base iPhone, 6.1 inch Pro, and 6.7 inch Pro Max will continue. 

Get ready for another Samsung Unpacked…the third in 4 months! According to cnet.com, rumors are that this one will reveal new laptops. The event is virtual, and will be held at 7AM Pacific on April 28th. All the invite says is that ‘the most powerful Galaxy is coming.’ Besides upgraded Galaxy Books, there may be new Chromebooks, too. The Pro models could have 5G built in and feature OLED screens. While some sectors have suffered during the pandemic, laptops have been burning things up as more people snap up better ones to more easily work from hime. 

If you just need some more motivation to get off the couch or your chair and exercise, and are a gamer or web surfer, you’re in luck…but bring some cash. Businessinsider.com says Playpulse’s new indoor exercise bike lets you play virtual bumper cars and a racing game called ‘Heat Street, and a couple other games, as well as accessing streaming services including Netflix , HBO Now, Hulu , Amazon Prime Video, and Twitch , along with YouTube. The bike is delivered to your home and set up, and there is a free trial and return policy. Before you wave a fistful of cash and yell ‘Take my money!’ you should know it runs $1999. You do get 6 months of the Playpulse Live service, which is regularly $19.99 a month. If you don’t want to be locked into their games, advanced data tracking, and workouts, you can still access the streaming services. There are delivery delays, though. It could be December, but they have a sale on right now…if you buy now for later delivery, 40% off…Which is $1199, and still includes the Playpulse Live service. 

The opposition to restrictive voting laws has spilled over from the political sphere into the world of business. First, we had around 100 major corporations sign on in opposition to the flood of voter restriction laws in the states. Then, 60 major law firms joined in. Now, according to the New York Times, there are hundreds of companies who have joined the opposition to the newly minted and proposed laws…including Amazon, BlackRock, Google, Warren Buffett, American Express, Merck, Microsoft, Starbuck’s, General Motors, Facebook, Apple, and Google. The push was organized by Kenneth Frazier, Chief Executive of Merck, and former chief of American Express Kenneth Chenault.