Apple Invests in Laser Chips for iPhone; T-Mobile Launching TV Service; Amazon Expands Same and One Day Delivery Service; Target Enters Same Day Delivery Biz

Apple has plowed $390 million into laser chip maker Finisar. Cnet.com says they will use the money to refurbish a plant in Texas to make chips designed for iPhones, running features like Face ID, animojis, and portrait photography. The plant is in Sherman Texas, and will employ 500 skilled workers…Finisar expects to start shipping by the 2nd half of 2018.

Oft times renegade wireless provider T-Mobile is launching a TV service in 2018, with the purchase of Layer4 TV. According to geekwire.com, T-Mobile CEO John Legere says will take on cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Frontier and Fox with the same competitive zeal that he has applied to Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. Legere made the announcement in a video, noting about cable and satellite providers ‘It’s no secret that these guys are the absolute worst”

Amazon has announced that it is expanding same day and one day delivery service to thousands more cities for Prime members. Now, the rapid deliveries will be available in some 8,000 cities! Faster delivery has been a major selling point for Prime, and lately Walmart has been getting into Amazon’s jeans with their 2 day delivery service. Now, techcrunch.com reports that Target is buying same day delivery service Shipt for $550 million. Shipt will run as an independent division of Target, and work to expand partnerships with other retailers in addition to serving Target. Target customers will need to sign up to be able to use Shipt. The first products available for same-day delivery will include groceries, non-perishable essentials, home and electronics equipment, and will expand over time to include all of Target’s wares by 2019.

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Apple Supplier Cuts Deal to Make Lenses for AR Glasses; Self-Driving Nissan Leaf Taxi Test; Amazon Handmade in Hand in 2 Hours

It’s an open secret that Apple has been working on AR smart glasses. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that Apple supplier Quanta has inked a deal to start making lenses for augmented reality smart glasses. This deal isn’t apparently specific to Apple, but it sure opens the door for Cupertino to bring such a wearable to market. Last year, Quanta poured $45 million into Lumus, which makes AR lenses, and they now have apparently struck a licensing agreement that will make AR glasses much more affordable. Quanta has indicated that full AR headsets could be priced at less than the cost of a high end cell phone, or under $1000. Quanta says an AR product may be out in 2019, but maybe not from Apple, which is shooting for 2020.

Nissan has fired up 2018 Leaf production in the US, with the promise of battery packs coming that will get drivers 150 miles between charges…and down the road 225 miles. Now, according to techcrunch.com, the company is working with Japanese software maker DeNA to test an autonomous ride-hailing service. They expect to start testing the self-driving cabs in Japan this March. The interesting wrinkle about Nissan’s project is not just getting from point A to point B…you can apparently put in a general written inquiry such as wanting a specific kind of food, and the car will find and take you to a restaurant that serves it!

Stepping things up a notch for people using Amazon Handmade so they can better compete with Etsy, Amazon will start offering Prime Now 2 hour delivery for handmade artisan products. According to geekwire.com, customers in select Prime Now cities will be able to buy handmade items between now and Christmas Eve for the 2 hour delivery. The cities include: Austin, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh, San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle.


Alexa for Business; Automation vs Jobs; iPhone Batteries Getting Apple Power Management; Smart Wearables Starting to Take Off

Amazon is apparently gearing up to release a version of Alexa for business. More could be out later today at the Amazon Web Services re:Invent meetings. A CNBC report picked up by Geekwire.com says the release would focus on features and skills for workers and businesses. One tricky issue still being navigated is how to authenticate who is speaking so access can be granted based on their permissions.

On a related topic, there’s a new report out that sees up to 375 million workers displaced by AI, robots, or some other form of automation by 2030! The report was produced by the McKinsey Global Institute, which notes that displaced doesn’t mean REplaced. Some will be, but many will add new job skills…others will need to switch occupations. Full employment will be more difficult to attain. The report says what it calls ‘predictable physical work,’ including dish washing, food preparation, and protective services, will take the biggest hit. Demand will increase in India and Mexico, but the US might see 31% less jobs!

Apple is busily working on its own power management chips for iPhone batteries. According to macrumors.com, they could be out in phones in 2 years, and will give users better battery life. Cupertino could replace half the main power management chips in iPhones as soon as next year, but it might be 2019 before they are being built into all Apple mobile devices.

After a very slow start, smart wearables are beginning to take off. Cnet.com reports that global shipments of wearables hit 26.3 million devices in the third quarter of this year, up 7.3%. Most of the growth is in smart wearables…those that can run third party apps. In fact, basic wearables actually declined, but smart watches like the Apple Watch and Android Wear increased by 60%. Fitbit and Xiaomi tied for 1st place in the market, with the Apple Watch third.


New Samsung & LG Hero Phones Out in January; Amazon Jumps into VR & AR, Lyft Gets Self-Driving Permit

We were expecting Samsung to show off the new Galaxy S9 in January. Now, it looks like it will be launched at CES 2018, and according to bgr.com, LG will also show its latest and greatest, the G7. Last year, the LG G6 was overshadowed by Apple and Samsung, and with the runaway success of the iPhone X and a strong Samsung Galaxy S9, they will need the new G7 to have some ‘wow’ factor. The G7 is rumored to have and OLED display, like the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, but does add its own wrinkle…the fingerprint sensor will be under the screen, not on the back like the S9’s. For those leery of the iPhone X’s facial recognition scheme, this might be a real draw.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft are busily working on VR and AR products, so it was only a matter of time. Geekwire.com reports that Amazon is jumping in with its new ‘Sumerian’ service for Amazon Web Services. Sumerian will allow creation of VR, AR, and 3D scenes for Oculus, Vive, iOS, and Android. Sumerian has a web based editor for creating interactive 3D scenes, and a library of objects and templates. It launches in preview today on all but Android, which Amazon says is coming soon.

Another company has a permit to test self-driving cars in California, and this one is a biggie. Cnet.com says Lyft was granted a permit, and now brings to 45 the number of companies testing or getting ready to roll driverless cars on public roads. They join VW, General Motors, Tesla, Google’s Waymo, Uber, and Apple. You’ll be able to spot them by the apparatus on top, but don’t expect to see no one in the driver’s seat…all the permits require a driver on board, just in case.


Samsung Making Galaxy X; Apple HomePod Started as Side Project; Keystroke Logging and Location Tracking-Paranoid yet?

Samsung has been at work on a Galaxy X, and surprisingly, they didn’t steal the name from Apple. Bgr.com says they’ve had it in the works since back when the iPhone X was still just called ‘8’ in rumors. The X is even more radical than the iPhone though…it’s Samsung’s long rumored bendable smartphone. They have ben doing demos at trade shows, but up to now, nothing. A sharp Dutch site has now noted that a support page has gone up online for the X family. It is expected that if and when the Galaxy X launches, it will be in very limited numbers.

Apple’s HomePod apparently started out 5 years ago as a side project for some audio engineers. According to 9to5mac.com, they wanted to build an audiophile speaker, and some versions were 3 feet tall! The project was cancelled and revived a few times. When Amazon brought out the Echo, the team was shocked at how it caught on and how much it did. Even now, some of the team has lobbied to have the HomePod do more than just music and controlling smart devices, and only running iPhone apps. Perhaps some of this is the reason for the delay in rollout…maybe they are going to bulk up HomePod’s abilities..for that, we’re going to need ‘Super-Siri!’

Not to rile you up going into the holiday shopping season, but if you think you’re being watched…you’re not paranoid, you ARE. Arstechnica.com reports that numerous sites have been running scripts that log your keystrokes, mouse moves, and wait times…even before that input is submitted or later deleted. They even grab the number of characters typed into password fields and the last 4 digits of credit cards. According to a study out last week, 482 of the 50,000 highest traffic sites are key logging you. One more thing….and not the cool kind like Steve Jobs used to tout…gizmodo.com says your Android phone has been sending location data to Google, even if you have opted out. Happy Holidays!


Next iPad Pro Gets Face ID; Microsoft Joins AirDrop Party; Amazon Makes Sub-$100 Sound Bar

Apple is going all-in on Face ID. The iPad Pro will get it in 2018, according to a Bloomberg report picked up by 9to5mac.com. The top line Apple tablet will also get an improved Apple Pencil, and smaller top and bottom bezels, but no OLED screen, which could be quite pricey on a 12.9 inch device.

Just a couple days ago, there was a report that Google was working on an answer to Apple’s AirDrop over Android, which allows sharing between devices nearby that are connected via WiFi or Bluetooth. Now, theverge.com reports that Microsoft has begun testing its own similar system called ‘Near Share’ for Windows 10 devices. It’s available now on the latest Insider build of Windows 10, and makes sharing documents or photos to nearby PCs virtually seamless over Bluetooth. Redmond is also adding a mute tab to the Edge Browser.

Amazon has brought out its own sound bar for under $100 under the AmazonBasics line. Bgr.com says the $94.99 system works over Bluetooth, and has a built in subwoofer. It has 3 sound modes: Standard, News, & Movie, plus its own remote (it’s not compatible with universal or TV remotes.) If you want to spring for a few bucks more, and get a sound bar with a REAL, 6” subwoofer, check Amazon’s deal on the Klipsch Reference Series R-4B, for just under $150 while supplies last.


Amazon Augmented Reality Shopping for iPhone; Google ‘Advanced Protection System’; New Entry Level GoPro Next Year

IKEA has it, not Amazon joins the party in a big way. The party is the augmented reality shopping party. Geekwire.com reports that the latest Amazon app update for iPhone 6S and above running iOS 11 includes an augmented reality feature. We tried it out yesterday, and noted a couple ways it works. One, you can open the app, point the cam at an object…I used my coffee table…and Amazon will show you a slew of other tables. You can also pick an item and use the app to virtually place it in your room…I tried a lamp, and it was pretty cool to see it virtually appear on my messy coffee table on top of the books and magazines! Hey, just in time for the holidays, a way to spend more….and with Amazon’s countdown to Black Friday in full swing, enjoy your augmented shopping!

Most any true techie will tell you that any passwords can be hacked with time and trouble. Now, Google is rolling out a solution…a tried and true system that will work, but some will hate. Yep, it’s a DONGLE. According to zenet.com, the $20 solution, which is made like a key fob you can put your physical keys on, will be made available first to politicians and lawmakers, business leaders, activists, and reporters…the people most likely to be hacked. There are two keys involved as part of two factor ID…a Feitian key to wirelessly authenticate your computer or phone over Bluetooth and a Yubikey that can be used in a USB port. They only work with real Google pages, so phishing sites are out of luck. If you lose the dongle, you will be locked out for a few days while Google determines that you are really you and unlocks your account. One catch…besides having to plug in and push a button…the system only works directly with Google accounts, so you won’t be able to get your gmail over Apple’s mail on an iPhone or Microsoft Outlook.

GoPro has had a rough couple years, with layoffs, dropped products, and closed departments in an effort to turn a profit. Now, theverge.com says that corner has been turned, and GoPro made money third quarter. In addition to rolling out a new flagship cam, the Hero 6 Black this fall, GoPro will be unveiling a new entry level cam to replace the original Hero Session in 2018. The cam maker said there will be additional products, but wouldn’t specify what they were.