Third Party Merchants Get Buy With Prime; Microsoft Pours Cash into ChatGPT Maker; Apple Making Own Cell-WiFi-Bluetooth Chip; Facebook Changes Address Ad Discrimination

Amazon is expanding its Buy with Prime service to US based merchants by the end of January. According to TechCrunch.com, the service allows third party merchants to offer Prime benefits like free shipping and returns on their own apps. Up to now, those benefits were only available to merchants using Fulfillment by Amazon for their shipping and logistics. This latest program has been trialed since last spring with a handful of select merchants. In addition to the expansion, the retail giant also introduced another new feature, Reviews from Amazon, which will allow Buy with Prime merchants to showcase reviews on their own online stores to help further increase conversions and consumer trust. 

After announcing that they would be using OpenAI’s Chat GPT text tool in Word, Microsoft is now getting set to dump some $10 billion into OpenAI, to help them accelerate bring artificial intelligence into their productivity software. Appleinsider.com reports that along with other investors, a total of about $29 billion is being funneled into OpenAI. If it goes ahead, the acquisition will value OpenAI at approximately $29 billion. Under the deal, Microsoft would receive 75% of OpenAI’s profits until it recoups the investment, before reverting to a structure where Microsoft owns 49% of OpenAI. Microsoft had previously injected $1 billion into OpenAI back in 2019.

It’s a couple years away, but Apple is designing their own all-in-one cellular, WiFi, and Bluetooth chip. Theverge.com says Cupertino has been wanting for some time to take things in-house like they have with their system on a chip designs in the latest iOS devices and Macs. Apple is shooting for 2025. They have been using Broadcom WiFi and Bluetooth chips, and cellular modems from Qualcomm. Apple has put out several generations of A series chips in their mobile devices, and is on the 2nd generation of the M chips in Macs…all but the Mac Pro, which will get them later this year. 

Facebook settled a suit by the Department of Justice over ad discrimination last year, and now come the changes. According to cnet.com, parent company Meta is altering the ad tools to prevent landlords and home sellers from running ads that exclude some groups of people. The changes are also aimed at blunting discrimination in employment and financial services. Meta claims the changes will limit what characteristics certain advertisers can use to reach potential customers. Facebook allows advertisers to target ads at people based on the interests, demographics and behavior of the social network’s users. The new so-called ‘Variance Reduction System’ will compare the audience of a particular ad, and limit what characteristics certain advertisers can use to reach potential customers.

I’m Clark Reid, and you’re ‘Technified’ for now.

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Apple Mixed Reality Headset Timeline; Heat Pumps for EVs; Virtual Guide Dogs for Visually Impaired; Qualcomm Satellite Plans for Androids 

After years of rumors and delays, it looks like Apple is locked in on releasing their mixed reality headset. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that they will unveil it this spring, ahead of the World Wide Developer’s Conference in June. The actual device should be in the hands of the well-heeled early adaptors by fall. Apple has apparently already shared the device with some high-profile software developers. Most Apple Watchers think it will run about $3,000, and be initially aimed at developers. It remains to be seen whether it will connect to a battery pack on the belt, but given the power demands for AR/VR, it doesn’t seem feasible to have a useful headset with tiny batteries just in the head strap.

It is starting to be more widely known that EVs get a pretty hard hit in range in cold weather. On the plus side, if people are stranded, they can generally keep the cabin warm for a couple days or more. According to the Washington Post, that cabin heat is the issue during cold spells. You draw power to keep warm, and that can steal about 41% of the car’s range. Interestingly, EVs are actually much more efficient than gas cars. Gas cars deliver about 20% of the energy the motor produces to the wheels….EVs push over 75% of their energy to the wheels. Still, you don’t want to lose range. A number of makers are putting in heat pumps to heat the cabin, which cuts the range loss to about 15%! The Jaguar I-PACE and Tesla Model Y come with heat pumps standard. They are an option now on other cars, but could become standard as EVs become more mainstream. 

Guide dogs have been a staple of helping visually impaired folks for decades. Now, tech is stepping in that could be a virtual guide dog for people. TechCrunch.com says a Korean startup called AI Guided showed a belt at CES that incorporates optical and Lidar sensors to help identify obstacles and help with navigation. It gives gentle haptic feedback to assist the sight impaired person. Since it’s on a belt, both hands are free…unlike with a cane or the harness for a guide dog. The company calls the device Guidi, and they are launching an Indiegogo campaign later this month.

Apple surely knew this fall when they launched the emergency satellite connection on iPhone 15s that others would be right on their heels. We reported here that Samsung is working on one that not only works for emergency, but allows simple non-emergency texts, too. Now, theverge.com reports that Qualcomm has announced new processors and modems that will connect with the Iridium satellite network doing exactly that! It’s called Snapdragon Satellite, and will start appearing in phones equipped with Qualcomm’s tech by the second half of this year. You can expect it to just show up in the flagship Android phones, not just Samsung’s. Also….the initial system will be emergency only…like Apple’s, but they will be adding ‘premium messaging’ later. Expect that to be extra cost. The emergency service will reportedly be free of pretty cheap. 

I’m Clark Reid, and you’re ‘Technified’ for now. 


Lenovo’s Dual Screen Laptop; Amazon Cutting 18,000 Jobs; FTC Proposes Ban on Non-Competes; DoorDash Will Return Your Packages

Lenovo is showing off a really cool and interesting dual screen laptop this week. It’s called the YogaBook 9i. Engadget.com reports that it unfolds like a normal laptop, but with two screens instead of a keyboard. You can use the bottom one as a keyboard and trackpad if you like, but the rig comes with a stand and Bluetooth keyboard, as well as a stylus. you can prop the screens up either horizontally or vertically on the folding stand, and use the screens in several modes. You can use them independently…like taking notes on one side while looking at source material on the other. You can also scroll using both screens. Of course, you can use as a single, big screen to give plenty of real estate for your work or viewing. Both displays measure 13.3 inches, and they are 2.8K OLED screens. There are several other modes the software allows you to use…too many to cover here. The YogaBook 9i will be out in April for around $2,000.

Back in the Fall, we reported that Amazon was looking at cutting around 10,000 jobs. According to zdnet.com, that number is now up to 18,000. The earlier cuts were in the devices and books businesses, and also included a cut in new corporate hiring. Now, Amazon will add cuts to its Amazon Stores, and to its People, Experience, and Technology organization. This all follows the rapid, massive hiring that the online giant initiated during the pandemic. The cuts amount to 1.2% of Amazon’s million and a half strong workforce, but 5% of its corporate staff. 

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed a rule completely banning non-compete clauses…those contracts that prevent workers from joining competitive companies when they leave their job. Vice.com says the agency believes that non-compete clauses harm healthy competition in the labor and product markets and block entrepreneurship, and estimated that the rule could increase workers’ earnings by almost $300 billion per year. The new rule will make it fully illegal for employers to enter into or maintain non-compete agreements with their workers, AND require them to actively notify workers that any existing non-compete agreements would no longer be in effect.

If it’s just too big a hassle for you to take a prepaid package to UPS, FedEX, or the Post Office, DoorDash has a deal for you. Techcrunch.com reports that they are rolling out a pickup service. For the nominal fee of $5 for standard users or $3 for DashPass members, you can have them pick up your returns and take them to the appropriate shipping office. You can have up to 5 packages picked up and returned in the same order. If you really have to send 5 back at a time, you may need to rethink your online ordering, though!

I’m Clark Reid, and you’re ‘Technified’ for now.


Samsung Folding Sliding Phone & Galaxy S23 Launch Date Rumor; Microsoft Getting ChatGPT for Bing; Salesforce Cutting Staff 10%; Roku Building its Own TVs. 

Samsung has showed off a crazy prototype as the Consumer Electronics Show is set to get underway. It’s a phone that not only folds, but slides to increase the screen size! Engadget.com reports that Samsung calls it tie Flex Hybrid OLED. It can fold from one side and slide out from the other, changing both the size and aspect ratio of the screen! It is initially just 4.2 inches wide, but opens up on the left to a 10.5 inch 4 to 3 display…THEN, on the right, it can fold out to create a 12.4 inch display with a 16 to 10 ratio…which should be great for entertainment or content creation. The thought of carrying something that opens up to 12.4 inches in a jacket pocket is pretty revolutionary. Back to the real world for a minute…most prognosticators think the new Galaxy S23 phones will roll out around February 9th. That’s about when last year’s S22 models were revealed. Most Samsung watchers expect 3 tiers of pricing again…a base phone at about $800, a Plus model for around $1000, and a top line Ultra for $1200.  

Microsoft is bringing ChatGPT capabilities to its Bing search engine. 9to5google.com notes that Google is said to be at ‘code red’ over the AI tech, which some feel may have the capability of killing traditional search engines. Apparently, Microsoft’s 2019 investment into OpenAI “included an agreement to incorporate some aspects of GPT into Bing.” An older version has already been in use. Microsoft claims that “Bing will still rely on its own technology to produce most search results” as GPT isn’t meant to “continuously scrape the web or provide real-time information like a search engine does.” The ChatGPT addition could be integrated into Bing by March. 

Salesforce is cutting staff by 10%, after hiring what they say was ‘too many people’ during the pandemic. The cutback will affect some 7,000 employees, and will close offices in ‘certain markets,’ according to techcrunch.com. In a letter to employees, CEO Marc Benioff referenced the “challenging” environment in which it’s operating, pointing to the “more measured approach” its customers are making with their purchasing decisions. As of last February, Salesforce has about 79,000 employees, and that was a 30% increase over 2020. Those laid off will get almost 5 months of pay, as well as health insurance and other benefits. 

In a ‘why didn’t they do that sooner’ move, Roku is announcing at CES that they will be launching a TV line. This spring, look for Roku Select and Roku Plus TV’s. Zdnet.com reports that the 4K TVs are the first design built in-house by Roku. Up to now, they have partnered with Amazon and Hisense. The sets will range in size from 24 to 75 inch screen sizes. They will have Roku Voice Remotes, and the Plus Series TVs will expand on the voice controls and offer Roku Voice Remote Pros, presumably with expanded offerings. They haven’t released more specs or pricing as yet.

I’m Clark Reid, and you’re ‘Technified’ for now. 


New Apple Mixed Reality Headset Details; Samsung Grabs Mercedes Designer for Design Chief; Meta Picks Up Lens Maker Luxexcel; Tesla Miss on Q4, Despite Increase

More has leaked out about Apple’s Mixed-reality headset. According to theverge.com, it will sport a digital crown on the right side like the Apple Watch for switching to real-world view. Also, Apple has gone back to a waist mounted battery pack, throwing in the towel for now on trying to power it from the head strap. The units will have multiple, interchangeable head strap designs like the Apple Watch. The headset incorporates small motors to automatically adjust its lenses, and each eye will have at least one cam to track its movement. The Apple headset is built from aluminum, glass, and carbon fiber to reduce size and weight. We say built, because apparently Pegatron has already assembled thousands of prototype units. The headset has a 120 degree field of view…more than Meta Quest Pro and the Valve Index at 106 degrees. It will apparently even be able to run existing iOS apps…albeit in 2D. The down side? It’s still projected to cost about $3000! Yeah, I know…’shut up and take my money!’

Samsung has picked up a former Mercedes-Benz designer to fill their design chief position. Engadget.com reports that Hubert Lee will head up the Mobile eXperience (MX) Design Team. The team is responsible for the flagship Galaxy S line of smartphones. Lee had been chief design officer of Mercedes-Benz China, and also lead Mercedes’ design team in the US. Will he be the ‘Jony Ive of Samsung’ and give the Galaxy line the ‘wow factor’ of Apple products? Stay tuned!

Meta has picked up smart lens maker Luxexcel. The firm specializes in 3D printing prescription lenses for smart glasses. Theverge.com says the tech is pretty exciting, but it will probably be several years before we see the prescription lenses incorporated into mixed reality headsets or glasses…or mixed reality integrated into the smart lenses, depending on how you look at it. Whichever it is, Meta continues to push forward in augmented and mixed reality. 

Tesla delivered 405,278 vehicles the last quarter of 2022, a record number. That’s the good news. The down side…it missed Wall Street expectations of 420,000- 425,000, according to TechCrunch.com. The EV maker actually produced 439,701 vehicles, giving them a total production of 1.37 million in 2022. As we have reported previously, Tesla offered rebates in the US. In addition, they had to offer discounts in Mexico and China. We’ll have to wait a bit to see how that affected the company’s margins.

I’m Clark Reid, and you’re ‘Technified’ for now.


iPhone Pro Max Not Exclusively Foxconn Built; Amazon Started Drone Deliveries; Google Chrome Option Blocking Insecure Downloads; Twitter Meltdown After Musk Server Changes

After losing about a trillion dollars this year due to plant shut downs in China, Apple won’t be having Foxconn as the exclusive maker of the iPhone 15 Pro Max due out in the fall of 2023. According to macrumors.com, Luxshare will also be building the next top of the line iPhone. Luxshare will also join Pegatron in building iPhone 15 Pro models, in addition to Foxconn…which will still built the majority of the phones for Apple. Right now, Foxconn is assembling about 80% of iPhone 14 Pro models. Due to pandemic closures in China, TrendForce says Apple has seen a 22% decline in iPhone shipments for 2022. 

Amazon has started delivering orders by drone in both California and Texas. The plan is to eventually fly orders to a person’s home within an hour. Theverge.com reports that Amazon’s drone delivery service, Amazon Prime Air, dropped a number of packages in the back yards of customers in Lockford, California and College Station, Texas. The rural town of Lockford, California, is located 50 miles southeast of Sacramento and has only about 3,500 residents, while College Station, Texas, is a medium-sized city 100 miles northwest of Houston that’s home to Texas A&M.

Google is readying a security option for Chrome that will let the browser block ‘insecure’ downloads via HTTP. The vast majority of reputable sites use the safer HTTPS protocol. 9to5google.com says Chrome will display ‘Not Secure’ in the address bar, and will block insecure web forms and downloads by default. The feature is still being developed, so don’t expect it until at least March of 2023. 

Twitter had a widespread outage Wednesday after Elon Musk made and crowed about ‘significant’ backend server architecture changes. According to TechCrunch.com, Some users got logged out, others got a blank page, and a number couldn’t post or see replies to posts. The outage mainly hit Canada, Germany, Italy, and India. It also mainly affected desktop use, not mobile apps. 

I’m Clark Reid and you’re ‘Technified’ for now. 


Meta & Alphabet- Less Dominance in Web Ads; YouTube Tests Song Lyrics on TV Screen; Retail Sales up 7.6% for Holidays; LG Unveils True Zoom Lens for Phones

Dating back to at least 2014, Meta and Alphabet have been the 800 pound gorillas of online advertising, but that grip has been gradually slipping. Now, arstechnica.com reports that the two together have droped 2.5% and amount to 48.4% of the ad market…under half for the first time. Who’s getting into their drawers the most? Amazon, TikTok, Microsoft, and Apple. As recently as 4 years ago, TikTok and Amazon weren’t even on anyone’s radar as far as online ads. Amazon has zoomed from under a billion in 2015 to $38 billion this year. TikTok’s ad revenue is up 36%. The total digital ad market is estimated at about $300 billion dollars!

YouTube Music is trying out a new feature….casting lyrics to your TV screen. According to androidpolice.com, the users in the test see album art and track details, as well as the lyrics on screen. It only works with Android 13’s new output switcher and compatible TVs so far. This feature is probably never going to be a Spotify killer, but if you are into karaoke at home, could be a cool feature. No word yet on when it might get wide distribution. 

Despite gloomy predictions of recession and the ongoing worries about inflation, US retail sales were up 7.6% over the holidays. Thehill.com says the year over year increase was tracked by Mastercard’s Spending Pulse Tracker for the period from November 1st to December 24th. Black Friday sales were up 12%, and online up 10.6%. As for online buying taking the lion’s share of spending, the story is still ‘not yet.’ E-commerce grew to 21.6% of total sales. Restaurant dining was up 15% year over year, too. 

Tim Cook recently visited Japan and appeared at Sony’s camera facility. Apple uses Sony cams in iPhones. We have reported for months that Apple may get a periscope type telephoto zoom in the next phones. Now, another Apple supplier is showing off a new periscope telephoto zoom. Engadget.com reports that LG Innotek has revealed a new true optical periscope zoom that has a 4-9 times telephoto range. LG’s zoom lens has actual moveable components, and can zoom in down to the micrometer. They also claim it uses less battery power than lenses that are a hybrid of optical and digital zooms. Whether from LG or Sony, it looks like iPhones could be getting a really cool zoom camera…and area where they have lagged behind Samsung.

I’m Clark Reid, and you’re ‘Technified’ for now. 


T-Mobile Stunts on Comcast; Car Chip Shortage Continues; Meta Doubles Down on Metaverse; Tech Moguls Push Return to Office

T-Mobile stunted in a cute way to draw attention to their 5G service and Comcast’s not-so-cheap service. According to the carrier rented a truck and drove it around Comcast’s headquarters in Philadelphia with the message ‘Make Xfinity your ex!’ Of course, that is a reference to Comcast’s branding of their service as Xfinity (which no one calls it but them.) T-Mobile is trying to lure customers to their 5G home internet service at $25 a month if you have a ‘qualifying voice line.’ Less you think T-Mobile is just clever and making a great deal available, there was a condition the government put on in their acquisition of Sprint…they had to promise to offer inexpensive wireless internet to half the US population by 2025. There’s further intrigue…Comcast’s wireless service runs on Verizon’s network! We might even riff on the old saying ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.’ In this case, be suspicious of any big business who claims they are here to help you…they are really just here to help themselves to some of your money!

As Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor rush to build out chip plants in the US, and with the passage of the CHIPS act last summer, you would think the automotive chip shortage might be easing. Nope. Not yet. Arstechnica.com reports that we are probably facing this situation through 2023. During the pandemic, as car sales dropped off a cliff, makers cancelled chip orders. Chip plants diverted those chips to other customers like internet of things device makers. Even with plants running at full capacity, there isn’t enough production, now that thing have swung back to a more normal situation. General Motors, for example, had planned to crank out 400,000 electric vehicles by the end of 2023…now that goal has been moved 6 months into 2024. 

It appears that the policy over at Meta of MMH…Make Mark Happy..will continue. Engadget.com says that Meta put out a blog post saying that 2022 was ‘harder than we expected,’ yet they are still planing to put 20% of the company’s total spending into Reality Labs in 2023…half of that going directly into augmented reality initiatives. That’s the same amount spent last year and about the same as the year before. In raw cash, it amounts to almost $10 billion dollars! Even though Reality Labs is a money pit right now, Meta believes it is building ‘foundational pieces of technology’ for the future. One big reason behind the push may be the concern that Apple’s AR headset that is coming out next year will be a major rival to the Meta Quest AR headset. Hey, when he has controlling stock votes, you gotta ‘Make Mark Happy!’

Despite the fact that so many people working from home over a couple of years of pandemic were able to be just as productive or more so than when they were toiling away at offices after a commute, more tech CEO’s are starting to demand that staff return to offices. TechCrunch.com notes that the leverage of the Great Resignation and Great Reset may be diminishing as some business leaders thing there will be a recession, which will provide them with leverage in the form of threatened layoffs if people don’t return to cubicles. A major driver of this seems to be Elon Musk’s demand when he took over Twitter that everyone return. Considering that there was never a drop in productivity, this strongly reeks of the need of executives to assert more control. With unemployment at such a low level, it remains to be seen if this will work, and folks will trudge back to offices, or if it will blow up in management’s face. 

I’m Clark Reid, and you’re ‘Technified’ for now.


Elon’s Twitter CEO Poll; Apple-New MacBook Pro Models-Gurman; Google Lens Getting Ability to Read Bad Dr Handwriting-Prescriptions; Tesla Plans $10 Billion Mexican Gigafactory

It’s been widely reported that Elon Musk ran a poll over the weekend asking if he should stay on as CEO of Twitter. CNBC.com reports that 57.5% of the some 17 million voters said he should go. There have been rumblings that Saudi interests, which are one of the largest backers of his Twitter takeover, demanded he step aside. There are also calls by Tesla shareholders for him to step down, as that stock has dropped about 60% this year. Even if Musk appoints a New CEO, that person will report to him, so it remains to be seen if such a move will be meaningful. In the meantime, lots of high profile Twitter users have been popping up on several other new social media platforms that are rubbing their hands together at the thought of picking up a huge mass of users escaping from Twitter.

Apple is on track to roll out new 14 and 16 inch MacBook Pro models ‘early next year,’ according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. They will likely be a relatively minor upgrade, but will get faster processors…the M3 chip to replace the MacBook Pros that came out in the fall of 2021, which feature the M1 chip. Disclosure-this report is written and recorded on an M1 MacBook Pro. It’s very fast, so the M3 should be amazing. Apple is also reportedly working on a couple of monitors. Lots of tech watchers are hoping for something less pricey than their cheapest present model, the Studio Display, which starts at $1599.

Google Lens is getting an interesting feature soon…the ability to decipher prescriptions written in your doctor’s terrible handwriting. 9to5google.com reports that the feature was announced at an event in India. you can either take a picture directly in Google Lens or it can translate from an imported photo, too. An interesting side note—India is the home to the largest number of Google Lens users in the world. 

Tesla has a new $10 billion dollar plant on the drawing board, to be built in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. Reuters says the new Gigafactory would be the most expensive one yet…the one in Berlin coming in at around $5.5 billion. The plant would be just outside the city of Monterrey, and initially would just build components for current vehicles. Tesla plans for it eventually start producing a cheaper Tesla model…something promised for years by Elon Musk. If built, this would be the company’s 6th Gigafactory. 

I’m Clark Reid, and you’re ‘Technified’ for now.


Google Teases Find My Network; Apple’s SOS Already Saves People; Swiss Scientists Master Stopping Glasses from Fogging; Instagram New Hacking Mitigation Tools

Apple’s Find My network has been quite a useful feature…in spite of some issues with stalkers that required Cupertino to make changes to mitigate that sort of creepiness. Personally, I like it, but have only needed it once…when I got several blocks from home and it pinged my phone that I left my wallet behind. Since my building key card was in that, it meant a quick turn around to pick it up. Now, Google is teasing something like Find My for the latest Play System update. According to androidpolice.com, it looks like the long expected Find My Device will be out in the next update. It supports encrypted last known location reports. With the massive number of Android devices, being able to use them as beacons for lost devices will be a huge help to those who have ever lost or misplaced their phone…or had it ripped off. 

It has just been live a matter of weeks, but Apple’s Emergency SOS satellite service has already helped rescue some folks. The service lets owners of the latest iPhones call for help when no cell or WiFi service is available. Techcrunch.com reports a couple was driving through the Angeles National Forest when they went off the road and down about 300 feet. They were 19 miles in to the forest, so no service. Having an iPhone 14, they paged for help. A team got the exact location, and a chopper was able to get in, drop a paramedic down, and rescue them. They were both in their 20’s, and amazingly only had minor injuries. As we have reported here, Samsung is working on an even more comprehensive satellite system that will even allow very basic texting. This is a game changer for anyone who ever gets off the grid!

Glasses fogging up is an age old issue that became even more of an issue during the pandemic, with masking adding substantially to the hassle. Now, thenextweb.com says scientists in Switzerland have developed a special coating that helps keep your lenses from fogging over. It’s been known that heat will clear the fogging…just like defrosting your windshield in the car…but heated glasses are pretty impractical. The brainy Swiss folks have come up with a special gold coating that uses solar energy to produce the heat. No batteries, wires, or other unwieldy stuff. The coating can be used with other coatings, so could go into transition lenses…and even car windshields. It can heat the lenses as much as 46 degrees!  This will be a welcome help to folks who wear glasses, and maybe to drivers, too. 

Instagram has unveiled a new way for folks to try to get their hacked account back. Theverge.com reports the platform has a new all-in-one account support page. Users can get help recovering hacked accounts, report accounts that impersonate them, and get help recovering passwords. The feature for users to appoint a couple friends who can verify their identity is now live, too. 

I’m Clark Reid, and you’re ‘Technified’ for now.