Amazon Working On 1st Home Robot; iPhone Price Rumor; Streaming Music Growth Exploding; Google And (Lots of) Your Data

It was bound to happen, and of course Amazon is involved. Theverge.com reports that Amazon is working on a robot for homes…code named ‘Vesta.’ The development is happening in Lab126, the Amazon ‘Skunk Works’ that cranked out the Kindle, Fire Phone, and Echo. Apparently, the device is something of a ‘mobile Alexa,’ that would follow you around the house, awaiting your commands. It could be out for the public…at least in beta…by next year!

There’s been talk for months about Apple bringing out 3 phones this fall….successors to the iPhone X and X Plus with OLED screens (and a budget-busting price), and a less expensive 6.1 inch LED screen phone. According to businessinsider.com, KGI Securities…probably the most reliable leaker about things Apple on the planet…says it could be priced starting at $550! But wait….there’s more! This more reasonably priced iPhone could also have a $650 version with TWO sim cards for 2 different numbers! This is not only a plus for travelers or for having both a home and business number, but it’s a really big deal inAsia, where people like to be able to easily switch between carriers and data plans. If these rumors pan out, KGI says the phone could account for 65-75% of iPhone sales next year.

The death of the recorded music business has apparently been ‘highly exaggerated!’ After dropping for the last 10 years, the music biz is being buoyed by…of all things…streaming music. 9to5mac.com says streaming music now makes up some 43% of total revenues, but it grew a full 39% last year! On top of that, the combined revenue of indie artists was nearly as big as that for Universal Music, the biggest label. Apple Music now boasts 40 million subscribers, and some analysts think it may grow another 40% a year for the next 3 years!

Facebook has been getting pounded for the Cambridge Analytica scandal involving the data of millions. Meanwhile…amazingly under the radar….Google rolls merrily along, Hoovering up even more of your data! Bgr.com is reporting that Google is able to track you even better than Facebook can, and has vast information on people…especially people who use Google services like gmail. A report finds that Google collects enough data on some users to fill a stack of pages 8 feet high every two weeks! The European Union is cracking down on such data grabs, and Google is working to change their policies to comply…but be aware that even if you don’t use their services and opt out of ad targeting, Google still has plenty of info on you! They know what you want and where you go, and even what you read. Again…even if you don’t use anything but the web, and no services but Google search, they have piles of info about you!

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Intel Buys Mobileye; Google’s Smart Commuter Jacket; Pandora Finally Starts On-Demand Streaming

Mobileye, which makes the chips that help guide vision-based self-driving cars, has been snapped up by Intel for $15 billion. According to theverge.com, the chip making giant had already announced dropping $250 million the next couple years on self-driving car tech, so this is an enormous jump in investment in that sector. Previously, Intel, Mobileye, and BMW had partnered on 40 autonomous vehicles that will be tested on public roads later this year.

Google’s Jacquard showed off their Levi’s commuter jacket at SXSW South by SouthWest over the weekend. 9to5google.com reports the wearable looks like a classic Levi’s trucker jacket, but with a touch sensitive strip on the sleeve for controlling music, checking time, or taking phone calls. The plastic tag on the cuff with the electronics is removable from its USB port on the sleeve, so it does’t walk away when you’re not wearing the jacket. It all works through a smartphone app. It’s cool, but an eye-watering $350 when it drops this fall…compared to a normal Trucker jacket that runs less than $100…but hey, you can talk into your sleeve, like a Secret Service agent or Dick Tracy!

In what may be a ‘better late than never’ move, Pandora has rolled out Pandora Premium for 10 bucks a month, hoping to compete with Spotify and Apple Music in the on-demand streaming space. Geekwire.com says they feel their recommendation engine, continuously updated since 2000, should give them a leg up. The service initially will be invitation only…it will also be available free for 6 months for subscribers to the ad free radio service Pandora Plus.


Amazon’s Music Unlimited Service; Apple Really Magic Keyboard

Amazon has kicked off its new Music Unlimited service. Geekwire.com says it starts at $4 a month to use on a single Echo smart speaker, Echo Dot, or Amazon Tap. The Echo works well, and getting millions of songs for half the price of Apple Music or Spotify Premium should be a heck of a draw. To use it on unlimited devices, it’s $7.99 a month for Prime members, $9.99 otherwise. Prime members already have access to a couple million songs with their membership.

There’s been plenty of reporting about Apple adding a smart touchscreen strip above the keyboard on the upcoming MacBooks to replace the function keys. Apparently, morphing function keys isn’t the only thing like that they are working on. A leak out of China picked up by bgr.com says Apple is working on an even more magical Magic Keyboard…one with a changing, color E ink display on the keys that can change up depending on the user’s needs or application in use. Apple is apparently working with a startup called Sonder on this, and is working to buy Sonder. The Really Magic Keyboard could be out in 2018.


Apple Music Getting Much-Needed Makeover; Flexible Brighter e-Paper May Be Coming

Apple will show a revamp of it’s Apple Music streaming service at WWDC in June, according to a Bloomberg report picked up by macrumors.com. The interface will allegedly be more intuitive and easier to use. The service has grown to more than 13 million subscribers in the past year, but has also taken considerable criticism on it’s clunkiness and artists have griped that the social aspect….Connect….has failed miserably.

A Chinese company has figured out a way to use graphene to make e-paper that’s brighter and more flexible that the present screen material. Geek.com reports that the company- Guangzhou OED Technologies- already markets e-paper displays under the O-paper brand. They are promising that production will start yet this year, so the next generation Kindles from Amazon in 2017 may be not only much more readable, but ‘bendy,’ or there could even possibly be a roll up e-paper device.


Nexus 6 for $250 at Amazon; Hi-Res Music May be coming to iTunes & Apple Music

If you are in the market for a phablet at a great deal, or for a last minute gift for someone you REALLY like, Amazon has a 32 gig Nexus 6 for $249.99 shipped in Cloud White or Midnight Blue. With Amazon Prime, it can be under the tree by the 23rd. 9to5toys.com says the 64 gig model is $299.99, and both come with Android Marshmallow.

A rumor is afoot again that hi-resolution audio is on the way to iTunes and Apple Music. This one is from Japanese blog Macotakara, picked up by 9to5mac.com. The blog claims Apple will have better than CD quality for iTunes sometime next year. The leak is from some manufacturers that make Lightening based headphones, which would support the higher res format.


Amazon Rolling Own in Air Cargo; Messenger Fastest Growing App

AmazonAir

In a move that should strike terror in the hearts…or at least indigestion in the bellies…of competitors, Amazon is talking to Boeing about acquiring 20 767 freighter jets. Geekwire.com reports that as of last month, some unknown firm, now presumed to be Amazon, was flying 4 cargo flights a day out of Ohio’s Wilmington Air Park…which was a DHL facility until 2008. They were bound for Allentown, PA, Ontario CA, Tampa, and Oakland…all close to Amazon distribution centers. DHL previously had 7500 employees at the air park. Earlier this month, Amazon bought thousands of truck trailers. They are getting ready to disrupt shipping and logistics….look out FedEX, UPS, and Post Office.

A lot of people questioned Facebook calving off Messenger into a separate app, bout according to Nielsen research picked up by techcrunch.com, it was a brilliant move. Facebook remains the top app of 2015, but Messenger is now the fastest growing app installed on smartphones. It’s not up as much as last year, when Facebook split it off and growth was 242%, but still up 31% from 2014. Now, Facebook has broken off its private photo-sharing feature into the Moments app. The second fastest growing app was Apple Music, at 26% increase year over year.


Medical Pot App, DNA Data Storage, & Apple Music Quadruples Library Size

So you really need medical weed, but just can’t get yourself to a doctor? There’s an app for that, dude! Gizmodo.com reports that EazeMD, which works only in California so far, will hook you up with a board certified physician that will look at your medical history and do the evaluation. Once a recommendation is issued, you can order weed right on the spot from Eaze, and you will also get a recommendation in the mail you can take to a physical dispensary. The fee for the recommendation is billed directly by the doctor, and runs about $30.

We just reported on a 10 TB hard drive you can buy…if 6 or 8 isn’t enough, but storage limits may become a punchline if research on DNA pans out. Teams from Microsoft and the University of Washington, and a separate group at University of Illinois have published results that indicate all human knowledge could be stored in about 9 liters of solution. A speck of DNA the size of a grain of sand could store a million terabytes. According to geek.com, DNA storage stability is measured in centuries, so no worries about losing your data. It could be happening in just the next few years!

On the topic of enormous storage, great news for people with insanely large music collections. Appleinsider.com says Apple has finally increased the iTunes Match/Apple Music upload limits from 25,000 to 100,000 songs. Thank goodness, huh? Who has the time to upload, then listen to, 100,000 songs? I’ve been in broadcasting for a long time and only have 6369 as of today. A colleague has close to 15,000, and basically uploaded every track he’s ever come across. On behalf of the minuscule number of crazy people with this size library….thanks, Apple! Maybe in a few years we can store it in our DNA and won’t need a cloud.