Netflix Tests Cheaper Mobile-Only Plan; Uber Launches Loyalty Program; Benioff Says Facebook = Cigarettes

Netflix is testing out a cheaper mobile only plan in Malaysia. Engadget.com says the plan is priced at $4 a month, and limits viewing to either a phone or tablet. Also, only SD viewing is available. In Malaysia, the next cheapest plan is around $8. The mobile only plan is expected to spread around Asia first to ‘a few countries.’ Netflix is currently developing more than 100 films and TV shows around Asia as well.

Nothing says someone is getting into your business, like giving an incentive to customers NOT to check you against your competitor! Apparently, Uber’s new loyalty program does just that. Techcrunch.com reports that Uber Rewards, which launches today in 9 cities, incentivizes you not to check Lyft or other local competitors. With Rewards, riders earn points for all the money they spend on Uber and Uber Eats. There are $5 credits, upgrades to nicer cars, access to premium support, and even flexible cancellations that waive the fee if a ride is rebooked within 15 minutes. The initial launch is in Miami, Denver, Tampa, New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego, or anywhere in New Jersey…with the rest of the country to follow in the next few months.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, has hit Facebook again…this time saying they are the new cigarettes. The attack came in an interview with Kara Swisher on NBC News, according to business insider.com. Benioff called for tighter regulation of the social network, saying: “The government needs to step in, the government needs to really regulate what’s happening.” He said this was particularly urgent because Facebook targets children as users. Did you think about nodding your head in agreement? I recall a few years ago, a woman friend asked me “How much of a time suck is Facebook?” Her hubby…who was in sales, was trying to get her into it. I said that it was pretty much a black hole for your time…and that hasn’t changed. The lady made an account to keep peace in the family, but never uses it!

Advertisements

Waymo Public Self-Driving Service Imminent; Facebook Patches Nasty Bug; Amazon Formalizes 2nd HQ (two of them); Apple XR Estimates Cut, but Sells Big on Singles’ Day

Waymo is apparently going to go live with their first commercial driverless car service in December. No name has been leaked yet, but cnet.com reports that the service will be a direct competitor for Uber and Lyft. Waymo will field its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica vans for the service, which will NOT be free. Expect to us an app to hail the car and pay for the ride. An article over the weekend speculated that, in a few years, we might see self-driving vehicles used for quick sex romps…but we will leave that to your imagination.

The engineers at Facebook have squashed a nasty bug in their code base that could have allowed hackers to collect highly personal info on Facebook users. According to zdnet.com, a security researcher found the bug and notified Facebook. He was browsing their online search results, and in the HTML saw iframe elements. By simple queries of yes and no, a lot could be determined about user interests and those of their friends. The researcher believes the iframe was used by Facebook itself. The bug was discovered in May, and the platform patched it shortly after being notified. The researchers, Ron Masas, points out that Facebook has become such a large and complicated platform, that there will always be bugs and hacks…even with their relatively generous bounty for people that spot problems and notify them.

It was reported here and elsewhere last week that Amazon was likely going to settle on two locations for it’s HQ2, and today they made it official. Theverge.com says Long Island City in Queens, NY, and Crystal City in Arlington, VA will share the HQ2 duties. Amazon already employs more people in these two locations than anywhere else outside of its Seattle HQ and the San Francisco Bay Area. An additional announcement was that Nashville will host a new East Coast operations hub, which will handle customer fulfillment and transportation. That facility will employ some 5,000.

The iPhone is doomed…long live the iPhone. A report from Ming-Chi Kuo cuts shipment estimates for the new iPhone XR from 100 million to 70 million, and that…coupled with the announcement last week that Apple won’t be releasing iPhone sales numbers moving forward, have whacked the stock. Nonetheless, 9to5mac.com says Apple had a huge day during Alibaba’s Singles’ Day on Sunday. Apple was the top selling mobile phone brand…one of 237 brands that pulled in over $14.36 million in sales on that one day (yes, it’s a funny number…but a nice, round 100 million yuan.) Apple even beat Chinese makers Xiaomi and Huawei. Huawei did come in 2nd, and Xiaomi was third in sales, though. Neither Alibaba nor Apple broke out what iPhone models sold the most during the giant online one-day event.


Alibaba Singles’ Day-Biggest Online Shopping Day; French Will Look at Facebook Moderation Processes, Samsung Folder Could Cost…Gulp… $1790; CLEAR Tech Moves From Airports to Stadiums

This year on Singles’ Day, a huge day in China, Alibaba absolutely blew up online shopping. They took in $30.8 billion in sales in 24 hours Sunday, according to businessinsider.com. As a point of reference, total online sales last year on Black Friday were $5 billion, and Cyber Monday hit $6.6 billion! Alibaba sold as much in 5 minutes Sunday as Amazon does on an entire Prime Day (which was 36 hours long last year, and it’s estimated to have taken in $4.2 billion.) Singles’ Day sales for Alibaba were across its main Alibaba site as well as Taobao.com and Tmall.com, two other sites it owns and operates.

Facebook continues to get heat for doing too little with regards to protecting user rights and policing fake news and other political manipulation. Now, techcrunch.com reports that the company will cooperate with the French government as they look into FB’s moderation…including Facebook giving ‘unprecedented access’ to their internal processes. France is looking for a third way to regulate tech…not the hands off of the US nor the locked down, repressed system China has in place.

We’ve now seen a glimpse of the Samsung folding phone at their developers’ conference, and now hear it should be hitting the streets by next March. 9to5google also notes that the phone/phablet with the Infinity Flex display will retail for $1790!! It will be known as the Samsung Galaxy F, as predicted. Folded, you have a 4.6 inch outside display, but unfolded, you get a nice, phablet-sized 7.4 inches. A cool tech that has taken a long time to come into being, but at nearly $1800, it may remain a boutique gadget, and not a top seller.

CLEAR…the folks that charge $179 a year to get you more quickly through airport lines using biometrics…is now up and running in stadiums. Geekwire.com says the service is free for sports events…besides handing over your fingerprints and taking about 5 minutes to make an account. Both CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field have implemented the service, which gets you in via a shorter line AND it enables you to both age verify and pay with your prints when buying a beer at concession stands! There are currently 4 stands at Seahawks games with the CLEAR scanners, so you can grab that brewski a little faster and get back to the game!


Storied Harley Readies e-Bike; Comcast Cord Cutter Stream Box; BigBox Building Online VR Games; Google to Rebrand Nest

LiveWire 2018. Spain

Every early morning it’s not pouring rain, I can hear a number of roaring Harley-Davidson bikes thunder nearby on a freeway I’m close to. That thunder may be fading as H-D will be releasing details of their new electric bike in January. Engadget.com says range, acceleration, price, and other specs will be announced then. Right now, we know all H-D dealers will have Level 2 fast chargers, and will be selling Level 1 chargers for home. The bike is called the Live Wire, and it comes with 7 different riding modes you can program, and has an adjustable color touchscreen. Oh…and as pictured….it looks awesome!

Comcast can see the writing on the wall…or at least on screen. The big cable provider is working on a streaming set top box for cord cutters. Theverge.com reports that the box would be able to offer streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube, and include a voice control remote for navigation. If you think this sounds a lot like their X-1 system without the cable, you’re right. Will it be able to compete with Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku for cord cutters? That remains to be seen…a lot may hinge on what they price it at. The cord cutter box should be out next year.

Several refugees from Valve and Disney have now raised 5 million to supercharge BigBox. The company is building online VR games. According to geekwire.com, BigBox has been around since 2016, but the new round of funding will help them build out more online VR games and the ecosystems that support them. Their first title is positioned as something of a ‘Counter-Strike meets Mario Kart.’ It’s called ‘Population: One,’ and lets gamers climb, fly, and shoot like they were doing so in real life, but without some of the discomfort from earlier VR tech. The biggest challenge with BigBox and others…getting more headsets into homes. The devices have been selling well for commercial training purposes, but need to be penetrating homes closer to the level of traditional gaming systems to really take off.

Google has been looking to expand its line of smart home devices, and now may be considering a rebrand of Nest. 9to5google.com says after moving the Nest line back under more direct Google control, they are angling for a way to tie the Nest hardware products more closely with Google’s other hardware and software products.


Google Announces Native Android ‘Foldables’ Support; Coming-Facebook 10 Minute Grace Period to Unsend Messages; Mercedes’ AI Package Delivery Tech

With a maker in China already having released a folding smartphone, Samsung releasing more about their Galaxy F, and LG on the verge of unveiling one, Google today announced Android support for a ‘foldables’ category. 9to5google.com reports that the new category of phone that unfolds into a tablet will have native Android support, allowing for makers to give you a phone with a screen like we all have, but unfolding to reveal a larger, phablet screen on the inside that is double the size of the ‘outside’ screen. Google’s ‘screen continuity’ will allow you to start with an app on the outside screen, then unfold and seamlessly continue on the bigger inner screen without a hitch. Samsung has been working closely with Google on this Android category, and is expected to release the Actual Galaxy F model early next year. The internal screen is said to be 7.3 inches.

If you have sent a Facebook private message, and instantly regretted it, you will like this. For some time, Facebook has had an ‘unsend’ feature for their top brass. Now, according to engaeget.com, the social media giant may be getting set to release the feature to everyone. It’s not an hour to change your mind like What’sApp, but a 10 minute grace period ought to be enough for people who hit send, and have nearly instant remorse. Of course, even with this feature, if the recipient has already seen the message within the 10 minute period, the deletion won’t undo whatever damage has been done to your relationship with them!

The engineers and programmers at Mercedes have been experimenting with a number of different ways to help automate delivery vehicles, so the driver/delivery person can get packages to you more quickly and efficiently. Some have ended hilariously…like one with a Ferris wheel and baskets…that one ended when a gallon of milk basically exploded all over a van. Now, the German conglomerate is trialing its latest idea. Cams and sensors light up shelves, and show the driver which shelf and spot is best for a package…lighting up green. On arrival at a drop off, it lights up green again…and everything flashes red if the person grabs the wrong item. The built in sensors also allow for less hand scanning, which should shave additional time off deliveries. AI not only helps figure out the best spot in the truck for the packages, but plots out the delivery route based on what packages are loaded and their destination addresses. Mercedes thinks this system will help the likes of FedEx and UPS, but will be even more beneficial to smaller delivery company, like those indie operators contracted by Amazon.


Amazon May Have 2 HQ-2’s; Samsung Folder and OS Tomorrow? Google May Help Avoiding Food Poisoning; Bill Gates in the Toilet

After months and months of suspense, lots of wooing by cities to get Amazon to open their HQ2 second headquarters in their town, it now appears that Amazon may split the HQ2…so HQ2a and HQ2b?? According to bloomberg.com, the most likely candidates appear to be Crystal City, part of Arlington, VA, and Long Island City, in the New York borough of Queens. Amazon has had no comment. One of the reasons given for the split is that Amazon hasn’t been able to find sufficient tech talent in a single location. Amazon already has more employees in the two areas than anywhere in the country, except for their main HQ in Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Yesterday, we reported that Samsung is expected to roll out their folding smartphone tomorrow at their developer conference. Now, 9to5google.com says we will also get some information on how Samsung thinks the user experience will change with the foldable phablet with an outside screen for normal smartphone use. For example, how will it handle running an app on the outside screen, when you open it up? Will it deactivate the outside screen so random touches won’t cause actions you hadn’t planned on? One thing we probably won’t see…an actual working model of the phone. That isn’t expected until next year.

If you think lower letter ratings or Yelp reviews got restaurant owners riled up, wait until they get word of this! Google has built a model that identifies restaurants that could give you food poisoning. Engadget.com reports that they worked with researchers from Harvard, and have tested a machine learned model in Chicago and Las Vegas to identify search queries like ‘stomach cramps’ or ‘diarrhea’, then cross-referenced them with saved location history data on smartphones relating to recently visited restaurants. Health inspectors visited restaurants…not being told if due to traditional consumer complaints or the AI model. Unsafe restaurants detected by the model ran 52.3%, while those found with traditional methods were spotted 22.7% of the time. Good news for people who don’t want to eat bad food…and just wait for the outrage from restaurants over this!

Ok, so Gates isn’t really in the toilet…and he could ACTUALLY afford all solid gold ones, better than a certain president who seems to adore gold…and orange. The former CEO of Microsoft opened the ‘Reinvented Toilet Expo’ in China…touting the biggest sanitation advances in 200 years. According to geekwire.com, Mr Gates has been thinking about crappers for the past 10 years…and the poor sanitation in a number of poor countries he traveled too. The Gates Foundation is leading the way in commercialization and adaption of off-grid toilet tech and sanitation systems for 3rd world countries. Discretion being the better part of valor, I will leave it to you to google a pic of Bill Gates holding up a jar of poop at the podium at the Toilet Expo! The latest tech in off-grid toilets can break down waste to the point that clean water and solids left behind can be used as fertilizer or be disposed of safely without any further treatment.


Samsung Revealing Foldable Galaxy F; Amazon Drops Free Ship Minimum for Holidays, Apple- 5G by 2020; 7-11 Test Driving Cashier Free Checkout

The annual Samsung Developer Conference is coming up Wednesday, November 7th. After the last round of top line Galaxy phones only got a slight facelift, and sales have dragged, Samsung is finally going to drop its bombshell folding phone, the Galaxy F this week. Bgr.com says the Samsung folder will have a large 7.3 inch OLED screen when opened up, and a second 4.6 inch OLED screen on the outside that you can use as a regular smartphone. The clamshell design will allow a phablet to be carried in a normal pocket or purse. The actual Galaxy F will probably ship next year, but a lot of details will be revealed Wednesday…stay tuned.

Amazon is giving out an early Christmas present…free shipping without a minimum purchase for everyone…not just Prime members. According to arstechnica.com, you can start making those holiday orders today, and your bargains will all ship free until Christmas. Normally, Amazon requires a $25 minimum for free shipping if you don’t have Prime. Target also has waived its $35 minimum for free shipping over the holidays…Walmart is holding the line so far, still requiring a $35 minimum sale for free shipping.

Apple is shooting for 2020 for its first 5G iPhone. Macrumors.com reports that the 5G phones will use exclusively Intel chips for the higher speed cellular operation. Those chips, the 8161, will be 10 nanometer. Apple is already down to 7 with its latest mobile CPU chips.

It’s one thing for Amazon to open it’s ‘Go’ stores that are cashier and line free. Walmart has been experimenting with it as well, but now, in a major add to the push for no checkout lines, 7-11 is trialing cashier free checkout. Theverge.com says the company is installing scan-and-go tech in 14 Dallas area stores this week. Customers can scan the bar code on their items, then pay with their phone, card, Apple Pay or Google Pay. You’ll need the 7-11 app to skip the cashier lines, and cashiers will still be on hand to handle hot food…and alcohol…which requires an ID check.