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.

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Smarter, Thinner, Always-On Smartwatches; Apple Dumps Samsung for Next Gen iPhone Chips; Tesla Model 3 Deposit News

Qualcomm has developed a new processor it has dubbed the Snapdragon Wear 2100 that it says will enable ‘always on’ smartwatches that are smarter and thinner than the current ones…and don’t need to be tethered to phones. 9to5google.com reports that there are actually 2 versions…one for tethered and one free range, so to speak. The chips are much more efficient and 30% smaller. Look for them in the next generation of Android Wear smartwatches.

Speaking of chips, Apple has finally jilted frenemy Samsung. TSMC of Taiwan will build all the A10 chips for the upcoming iPhone 7. 9to5mac.com says TSMC made all the chips for the iPhone 6 series, but Samsung was brought back in to produce part of the chips for the 6S and 6S Plus. Benchmarks have showed that the TSMC chip ran cooler and had better batter life than the Samsung version of the A9.

Elon Musk tweeted last night that the Tesla Model 3 won’t have a Signature Edition, and that you can preorder (with $1000 deposit) at Tesla stores starting March 31st and online starting April 1st.


Apple Owns Smartwatch Market; Skype Adds Mobile Group Video Calling

Most of 2015, we heard about Apple’s big fail with the Apple Watch, and it’s lackluster sales…all the while Apple claimed it was doing fine. A Juniper Research report picked up by mashable.com shows that Apple was right…fine doesn’t even describe it…Apple grabbed 51.5% of the world smartwatch market in 2015. The numbers aren’t large compared to the 10s of millions of iPhones…only 8.8 million shipped, but over half the market is nothing to sneeze at. Android Wear watches were just 10%. Note that the smartwatch category does NOT count Fitbits.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve had 10 years of free video calling over Skype. Now, the verge.com says Skype has added mobile group video calling to the mix over iOS, Android, and Windows 10 Mobile. Look for it in the coming weeks, but you can preregister now on the company’s dedicated 10th anniversary website to check out an early version. Google Hangouts has had the feature for a while that handles up to 10 friends, but Skype says their group calling can handle up to 25.


Amazon Prime Music Now Available Off Line; Google Merging Chrome OS into Android

Amazon has dropped a small but significant update to their Prime Music app. According to 9to5google.com, you will now be able to store offline music on a device’s SD card for playback when you’re not connected to the web. The update also adds support for Android Wear smartwatches. With SD cards becoming less ubiquitous in smartphones, no word on whether Amazon will extend the feature to the main memory of smartphones. At any rate, the updated app is available free at the Google Play Store.

Speaking of Google, it appears that they’re moving towards merging Chrome OS into Android. Theverge.com says to look for a demo of the combined system at Google I/O next year. It will take some serious changes under the hood to get Android to run everything on laptops, and when the final new system is rolled out in 2017, Chromebooks will obviously get a new name…Androidbooks, perhaps? Google has noted that they are not exactly ‘killing’ Chrome, so there may actually be 3 different systems moving forward.


The Next Updates to Android Wear

With all the frenzy about the Apple Watch, Google hasn’t been standing still. The verge.com says Android Wear for those OTHER wearables will be getting Wi-Fi support and gesture control in the next update. Most Android Wear smart watches already have Wi-Fi baked in, the update will just activate it.

First it was their signature learning thermostat, then Nest had the shake start with the Nest Protect smoke alarm. Now techcrunch.com reports they are advertising for a head of Nest Audio, in a move to integrate control of your audio and video system.

That takes care of sight and sound, what about smell? According to geek.com, FeelReel has a new virtual reality accessory that simulates 7 different ‘smellscapes!’ Fire, ocean, jungle, grass, and flowers are among them, and there are heat and water mist ports too. It’s $249 PLUS a VR headset!


No Mega iPad Until Fall

Apple is delaying production of the reported 12.9 inch iPad until September according to bloomberg.com. In addition to business tools from IBM, it’s rumored to have a USB port, a first for an iPad.

T-Mobile has spilled the beans about the pricing of the new Samsung Galaxy S6…and bgr.com reports that it’s more expensive than an iPhone! The base 32Gb model will start at $699, 50 bucks more than the cheapest iPhone 6. It’s still expected to be $199 with a contract.

The Blue Link app is out for Hyundai owners. Engadget.com says the app, previewed at CES, will let owners of Hyundais as old as 2012 use Android Wear smart watches to lock and unlock their cars, start and stop the engine, honk the horn, and flash the lights.


New Blazingly Fast Set Top Box/Game System Coming

Nvidia, known for their video cards, is bringing out a set top box called The Shield. TechCrunch.com says the $199 box runs Android, and will be out in May. It’s also a gaming console, and supports 4K video. They claim double the performance of an Xbox 360.

According to appleinsider.com, Google is planning to develop an Android Wear app for iOS. This would allow owners of Moto 360 and LG G Watches and other Android Wear devices to use them with iPhones and iPads. Look for it at the I/O Conference in May.

Apple has patented using wireless signal data for vehicle navigation. Gigaom.com reports this would let you plan a route with strong cell signals and no dead spots…it might take longer, but with no dropped calls.