DircTV Price Hike; Dell Reverse Merger; Chinese Laser; Tesla Builds 5000 Model 3’s

Fresh on the heels of AT&T’s Time Warner buyout approval, the company has announced a $5 a month across the board increase starting August 1st on DirecTV. Saying it will help provide ‘the best streaming experience’ and that it will keep their rates ‘in line with the market,’ the price hike will hit everyone from the $40 basic package to the $75 ‘gotta have it’ one. Engadget.com says the increase does put the base price on par with what you’d get from the likes of YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue, or Sling TV’s combined Orange and Blue package.

Dell Computer has announced a deal that would get them back to trading publicly again. Bloomberg.com reports that by combining with a stock that tracks its VMWare software unit, it brings them back to being a publicly traded stock. The DVMT share swap is valued at $17 billion. Founder and CEO Michael Dell had taken Dell Computer private back in 2013, but is wanting to streamline his multi-company tech empire and get a better handle on a massive debt load, which has been running around $50 billion. The reverse merger with VMWare fills that bill.

Elon Musk made a big splash with his ‘not a Flamethrower,’ but now something out of China is alleged to be a handheld laser. A report in the South China Morning Post says that they have developed a laser weapon dubbed the ZKZM-500, which is something of a laser AK-47. The laser gun can supposedly burn clothes and skin at 500 feet away, and is alleged to be capable of hundreds of shots. Skeptics point out that as described, it pretty badly bends the laws of physics. Also, no tests have been shown or written about. Western scientists say it would take at least a 200 lb backpack battery to power such a weapon. Still, Doctor Evil is salivating at the thought.

Tesla managed to crank out the promised 5,000 model 3’s in a week, but actually did it a few hours past the midnight deadline Sunday. According to Reuters.com, Elon Musk Tweeted about the success and also sent an all-hands email to staff that the company cleared the 5,000 Model 3’s goal and produced a total of 7,000 cars, counting the Model S and Model X production. Musk told employees that they were on track to make 6,000 Model 3’s by the end of July, and quipped ‘I think we just became a real car company!’

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Apple Picks Up Waymo Wheel; Facebook Limits Weapon Ad Views to Teens; Foxconn N.A. HQ to Milwaukee; Google Pumps Half Billion into Chinese e-commerce Firm

Although Apple has been seen as withdrawing from the self-driving car race, they have continued to busily work on software and hardware integration they could license to others for self-driving cars. Now, Apple’s secretive autopilot Project Titan has picked up a biggie from Alphabet’s Waymo…Jaime Waydo. Before Waymo, she worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Waydo was responsible at Waymo for checking prototype safety and had a big hand on giving the ok for them to start real-world tests in Phoenix. At NASA, she worked on the Mars rovers. Appleinsider.com points out that Apple has continued to build up its test fleet, and may well need to beef up quality control. 

Facebook has announced that they will begin preventing minors from seeing ads for gun accessories like magazines and holsters. According to theverge.com, ads were already banned for guns and modifications, but now such items as above, and also including gun mounted scopes, flashlights, slings, etc. will be restricted to those over 18. Facebook’s rationale is to age-limit accessories that might make guns seem cooler to teens. The change comes in the aftermath of school shootings in Santa Fe, Texas, Parkland, Florida, and others. Some have grumbled that it’s a baby step, but it’s a start. The new policy is effective June 21st.

It’s been promised for some time, and now main Apple supplier Foxconn has announced that their North American headquarters will be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The firm has bought a seven story building in the city’s downtown area, and reuters.com says will eventually be staffed with some 500 employees. Foxconn had also previously promised to pump $10 billion over 4 years into a 20 million square foot LCD panel plant in Wisconsin. That operation is slated to eventually employ up to 13,000 people. Foxconn is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, employing over a million people worldwide.

Google will pour $550 million in cash into China’s second largest e-commerce operator, JD.com. According to CNBC, Google and JD will work together to develop retail infrastructure that can better personalize the shopping experience and reduce friction in many markets, including Southeast Asia. JD.com will also make a selection of items available for customers in the US and Europe via Google Shopping…a service that lets people search for products on e-commerce sites and compare prices between sellers. Google hopes to win back product searches from Amazon with the beefed up selection from JD.com.  In another case of synergy between Google and JD, JD has been testing drone deliveries to reach rural customers in China.


Uber Wants Waymo Self-Drivers On Network; WWDC Apple Watch Leak; Reddit Passes Up Facebook; WeChat China-Divorce by Button

At the Code Conference, Uber CEO Dara Khosroshahi revealed that Uber has been in discussions to have Waymo self-driving cars added to its network. This is somewhat remarkable considering the two companies are just coming off a legal battle over alleged trade-secret theft. Theverge.com reports that the Uber CEO also forces self driving tech as ‘a horizontal technology that should be available to everybody.’ He believes that it will be open to all via third party licensing. What about the drivers? Khosrowshahi says they think ‘machines augment humans’ and that ultimately their network will be a machine network and a human network together.

A cool little nugget has been revealed ahead of time that Apple had planned for WWDC. June is Pride Month, and Apple will unveil a special Pride watch face at noon Pacific right at the end of the World Wide Developers Conference keynote. Mashable.com reports that the colors of the rainbow flag are strings on the watch face, and you can interact with them, like strumming a guitar. The special face has two complication spots.

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytics may be hurting the social media platform more than first thought. According to thenextweb.com, Amazon’s Alexa web traffic analyzing platform has determined that Reddit has passed up Facebook as third most visited site in the US. This is probably as scientific as a Survey Monkey poll, but it still gives pause. Google is the top site, with YouTube second, then Reddit, Facebook, and Amazon. Interestingly, average Reddit users spend over 15 minutes a day on the platform, compared to Google with about 7 and a quarter minutes, YouTube 8-1/2 minutes, Facebook at almost 11 minutes, and Amazon just over 7-1/2 minutes.

In what may be the ultimate for a no-deposit, no-return society, people in China can now file for divorce with a button on the WeChat app! Businessinsider.com says the trial divorce function is available right now in th eGuangdong Province, home to cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Just click, enter info, and make an appointment for the local divorce registrar. Payments can also be handled through WeChat, but so far they haven’t opened it up to spousal support payments! WeChat has a billion active users globally.


iPhone 8 Sales Sluggish; Google Addressing Pixel 2 Screen Issues; India Passes Up US

It appears LOTS of people have been holding out for this morning’s preorder of iPhone X. 9to5mac.com reports that purchase data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners shows the iPhone 8 is selling less than an S model has in the past. iPhone 8 and Plus models were only 16% of all iPhone sales last quarter, compared with 24% for the 6S and 6S Plus models. We won’t know for a while how iPhone X is selling or will sell, but it basically sold out immediately earlier this morning, with shipping estimates not at 5 to 6 weeks wait time. There will be a very limited number in stores next Friday, November 3, if you love standing in line and taking your chances. **Update: iPhone X reportedly sold out in 38 minutes early this morning.

Complaints have been flying about screens on the new Google Pixel 2 models…colors faded, screen burn of previous images, strange shades of blue at off-axis viewing angles, and on top of those, a high pitched ‘clicking’ during calls. Google says, they are investigating all, and a Google forum post says they are addressing them in an Android update. For the colors, they are adding a ‘saturated’ mode to the ‘vivid’ mode already included. To eliminate the burn effect, they are dropping the screen brightness by 50 nits…an amount that is nearly undetectable to the naked eye. A software fix is coming for the clicking, but you can turn off NFC to fix in the meantime. To ease fears of the bugs, Google has extended the warranty of all Pixel 2 and 2 XL models to two years.

‘We’re number…three?’ Yep, India has passed the US, and is now the world’s #2 smartphone market, behind China. According to techcrunch.com, India exceeded 40 million phones in the 3rd quarter. Looking at India’s 1.3 billion population compared to the US with 320 million, it seems unlikely that the US will regain the slot. China remains far and away the leader with 110 million shipped per quarter.


Apple-stravaganza; Electrifying Car News; GM’s 1st Self-Driver Ready For Production

Apple Watch will have cellular, and use the same # as your phone, as predicted. It will stream music starting in October. It sports a faster processor, Bluetooth and WiFi, and an improved heart monitor. The screen is the antenna! Orders open on September 15th, it’s available September 22nd. Starting price with cellular is $399! WiFi only starts at $329, and the Series 1 stays at $249.

iPhone 8 will be the name of the two incremental upgrades, as leaked. Glass backed reinforced by steel. They are adding True Tone (from iPad) to the Retina displays. The chip is A11 ‘Bionic.’ Ok, go ahead and laugh…I did. 2 performance cores and 4 high efficiency cores, all 6 can run at once, making the phone blazingly fast. They have the 1st Apple designed GPU. Cameras have been upgraded, as expected. The Portrait mode gets special lighting for the iPhone 8 Plus. The video has been upgraded, too. The 8 will be calibrated for AR. The 6 processors will come in handy for augmented reality. Apple iPhones FINALLY gets wireless charging, with the Qi standard. They will be 64 and 256 gigs. They will start at $699 for the 8 and $799 for the Plus.

The iPhone X (which they pronounce ten) looks essentially exactly like the leaks. Surgical grade stainless steel bands, with glass back like the 8. Two colors only….Space Gray and Silver. They are calling it the Super Retina display. It’s edge to edge, 5.8” diagonally. 458 ppi, highest pixel count ever for iPhone, and the predicted OLED screen. They have managed to get True Tone color into it, and it will continue 3D Touch for the screen.

The phone will raise to wake, but you can also just tap the screen to wake it. Swipe up from the bottom, and you go from lock screen to home screen. Swipe up and pause for a second, and it goes to multitasking. You can activate Siri with ‘Hey, Siri,’ or the longer power button. It will have Face ID…it unlocks by just looking at it, again, as predicted. 6 sensors in the band that intrudes into the top of the screen calculate that it’s you. A dot projector puts 30,000 little points on your face to ascertain that it’s actually you…it won’t be fooled by a picture or statue. They call the chip that runs this the A11 Bionic Neural engine. They claim Touch ID could be spoofed 1 in 50,000, and that with Face ID that goes to 1 in 100,000. For Apple Pay, double tap side button and look at phone, then hold by the terminal.

They demoed the Animoji which were rumored…emoji you control with your facial expressions. Very cool demo. The 1st release will have a dozen Animoji. With apps, when you close it, just swipe up, and it dissolves and parks back in the icon. Swipe down from the top and bring up your control center.

Dual 12MP camera on the X Plus. The f2.4 is faster on the X. It also has dual image stabilization, which will be cool, and Portrait Mode on the front cam as well as the back. It has a Quad LED True Tone flash. They claim zero shutter lag. The cams are tuned for augmented reality. They have increased battery life 2 hours over the 7. The X will have Qi charging like the 8 models. They are bringing out a bigger wireless charging pad that will charge the iPhone 8 or X, Apple Watch, and AirPods at the same time. They call it Air Power…the charger is out next year.

Like the 8 models, the X will come in 64 and 256 gigs. Pricing starts at $999. Available for preorder on October 27th, and the X ships on November 3rd.

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No, Apple hasn’t sucked quite ALL the air out of the room today!

Yesterday, Mercedes-Benz revealed they would have an electric or hybrid available in eery model by 2022. Now, according to arstechnica.com, Volkswagen Group will electrify ALL 12 brands by 2030! Like Mercedes, Volvo, and Jaguar-Land Rover, this doesn’t mean they will quit making internal combustion engine cars all together by that date, but VW is the biggest volume auto maker to commit to this. The CEO says they’ve seen the future, it’s electric, and they are driving us there! 30 will be plug in hybrids and 50 will will be battery EVs…that’s 80 different electrified models.

There’s a BIG reason so many car makers are looking to electrics. While France and Britain are indicating an endtime for internal combustion vehicles by 2040, the big reason is China… the biggest vehicle market in the world. The Guardian says China is poised to ban gas and diesel cars ‘in the near future.’

Meanwhile, General Motors has thrown down the self-driving gauntlet. According to businessinsider.com, their first self-driving car is ready for production. The GM owned Cruise automation says as soon as federal and state regulators get things together, they can start cranking out the cars…in the hundreds of thousands! The first model is based around the electric Chevy Bolt.


iPhone Claws Back Market Share from Android; Tesla’s Gigafactory Will Be Solar Powered; Amazon Prime Bows Cashback Rewards Visa Card

According to the latest data, Apple’s iPhone picked up 6.4% in market share in the US for the 3 months ending last November. 9to5mac.com also says that Apple did the same in 7 of 9 other key markets. The iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and 6s were the 3 most popular phones in the US for the period, combining for 31.3%. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge where next, grabbing 28.9% share. Apple snagged a whopping 9.1% in the UK…mainly crushing the hopes of Windows phones.They did drop 5.4% in China to local brands and lost out 3.2% in Germany, where Android picked up share.

Theverge.com reports that Tesla plans to power its Gigafactory with a 70 megawatt solar installation on the roof! That would make it 7 times larger than the present largest rooftop solar array. Excess power picked up would be stored by Powerpack storage units for use after dark, etc. The solar panels will all come from Solar City of course. Tesla acquired them last year.

If you need a reason to spend even more money with Amazon, have they got a deal for you. TechCrunch.com says Amazon is partnering with Chase to offer Prime members an Amazon Prime Visa card with 5% cash back on Amazon purchases. The card would give 2% back for restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% elsewhere. There’s no annual fee on the card. Amazon is believed to have between 58 and 69 million members, or roughly half of US households. The card is available today.


Samsung Buys Harman for Audio & Car Tech; iOS Finally Gets Twitter Highlights; China Will Block iPhone and Other Imports If Trump Imposes Tariffs

Samsung has dropped a whopping 8 billion buying US automotive and audio maker Harman International. This gives them name audio brands like Harmon Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon and Mark Levinson, and a partnership with British audio specialists Bowers & Wilkins. It also buys them into auto tech. 9to5mac.com says Harman has deals with Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Chrysler, Jeep, Toyota, VW, among others. Along with the Internet of Things, car tech is looked at as one of the big future growth areas.

After almost a year on Android, Twitter finally rolls out Highlights for iOS users. Highlights is kind of a ‘While You Were Away’ on steroids. According to thenextweb.com, it’s a great way to catch the best Tweets while you weren’t checking the app…this is especially helpful if you follow people or accounts that are halfway around the world that may be Tweeting while you’re sleeping.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump often spoke of putting in massive tariffs on US imports. Now, arstechnica.com reports that China has threatened a tit for tat response if he does so…including batch of Boeing orders—replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China would suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports would be halted. China might also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US. There are 131 million iPhones in China…more than any other non-Chinese maker has in that market. China is a huge market for General Motors, which killed better selling Pontiac a few years ago because the Buick brand was better liked in China. It’s actually unlikely that Trump will follow through on tariffs, which were a big part of US revenue over 100 years ago, but haven’t worked well in the global economy.