Storied Harley Readies e-Bike; Comcast Cord Cutter Stream Box; BigBox Building Online VR Games; Google to Rebrand Nest

LiveWire 2018. Spain

Every early morning it’s not pouring rain, I can hear a number of roaring Harley-Davidson bikes thunder nearby on a freeway I’m close to. That thunder may be fading as H-D will be releasing details of their new electric bike in January. Engadget.com says range, acceleration, price, and other specs will be announced then. Right now, we know all H-D dealers will have Level 2 fast chargers, and will be selling Level 1 chargers for home. The bike is called the Live Wire, and it comes with 7 different riding modes you can program, and has an adjustable color touchscreen. Oh…and as pictured….it looks awesome!

Comcast can see the writing on the wall…or at least on screen. The big cable provider is working on a streaming set top box for cord cutters. Theverge.com reports that the box would be able to offer streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube, and include a voice control remote for navigation. If you think this sounds a lot like their X-1 system without the cable, you’re right. Will it be able to compete with Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku for cord cutters? That remains to be seen…a lot may hinge on what they price it at. The cord cutter box should be out next year.

Several refugees from Valve and Disney have now raised 5 million to supercharge BigBox. The company is building online VR games. According to geekwire.com, BigBox has been around since 2016, but the new round of funding will help them build out more online VR games and the ecosystems that support them. Their first title is positioned as something of a ‘Counter-Strike meets Mario Kart.’ It’s called ‘Population: One,’ and lets gamers climb, fly, and shoot like they were doing so in real life, but without some of the discomfort from earlier VR tech. The biggest challenge with BigBox and others…getting more headsets into homes. The devices have been selling well for commercial training purposes, but need to be penetrating homes closer to the level of traditional gaming systems to really take off.

Google has been looking to expand its line of smart home devices, and now may be considering a rebrand of Nest. 9to5google.com says after moving the Nest line back under more direct Google control, they are angling for a way to tie the Nest hardware products more closely with Google’s other hardware and software products.

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VW Unveils First Fully-Autonomous Vehicle; Netflix Passes The Venerable DVR

Volkswagen has shown their first fully autonomous car, a ‘Level 5’ vehicle, which means no driver required at all. Arstechnica.com says the concept vehicle has opposing sliding doors like a commuter train, couch like seating that faces the middle inside, and NO steering wheel or controls. VW says the vehicle, called Sedric, is designed as either a shared mobility system or could be privately owned like most present cars. It’s controlled by a remote control called the Button…the device summons the car, and identifies the user when the car arrives. It’s electric…with a flat battery back under the floor between the sets of wheels. VW hopes to have some version in service by 2025.

In a huge milestone for cord-cutting, Netflix subscribers have passed up the number of people that have a DVR. Arstechnica.com says 54% of US adults have Netflix now, with 53% having a DVR in home. If you throw in other video on demand subscribers, it’s 64% that have either Netflix, Amazon Prime, and/or Hulu. Of those 51% stream shows at least monthly. Your cable company needs some heartburn medicine.


Will iPhone 8 Bring a ‘Supercycle’ of Upgrades; Amazon Prime Offers HBO & Cinemax for Additional $$

The second half of 2017 may bring what’s being called a ‘supercycle’ of iPhone upgrades. Businessinsider.com reports that KGI Securities has been polling Apple suppliers, and Apple may be gearing up to ship between 90 and 110 million iPhone 8 models the second half of next year. It’s possible that they may even blow past the 113 million iPhone 6’s they sold the back half of 2014. Besides KGI, 3 other analysts believe 2017 could be a banner year as the anniversary iPhone bows.

Just a day after Netflix plays catchup by offering downloads for viewing later, which Amazon has already had, Amazon Prime Video introduces HBO for an additional $15 a month and Cinemax for $10 a month. Venturebeat.com notes that cord cutters could be induced to buy in….but for 30 days, Prime members can try them for free!


BMW Shooting for 2021 For Self-Driving Car; ISPs Remove Data Caps if You Pay For TV

At the annual shareholder meeting in Munich this week, BMW’s CEO Harald Krueger revealed that the i8 will be followed by a car they’re calling the iNext, which will feature quote: ’autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a totally new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road.’ TechCrunch.com reports that BMW claims to already have the technology in place, but is waiting on the legal framework for customers and manufacturers to be decided, not to mention how the vehicles will be treated for insurance purposes when accidents occur.

Some ISPs have come up with a new scheme to keep customers from becoming cord cutters…they drop data caps if you bundle TV and a home phone. BGr.com says both AT&T and Bend are doing this, and it will be no surprise if others follow suit. As has been pointed out previously, broadband data caps are unnecessary. They don’t reduce congestion…carriers have claimed they are about ‘fairness.’ In reality, people streaming Netflix won’t slow down your network. It may sound like a deal, but it’s just a way to squeeze more money out of consumers.


Hulu Working on $40 Skinny Bundle Cable Competitor; LG In-Screen Fingerprint Reader

Just as traditional cable companies are trying to win back cord cutters with so-called ‘skinny bundles’ that feature less content and a lower price, Hulu is building a cable-like TV package that will go for around $40 a month. According to businessinsider.com, it would give viewers live channels, and Hulu hopes to have it out first quarter of next year. So far, it would have Disney Channel, ABC, ESPN, Fox Broadcast, News, FX, and the Fox national and regional sports channels. Comcast hasn’t agreed to license NBCUniversal or it’s other channels so far, as they likely view the new Hulu service as a direct competitor.

A division of LG-LG Innotek, has revealed a fingerprint sensor module that lives under the glass cover or screen of your smart phone. 9to5google.com says this would allow for more waterproof models and a sleeker design….without the physical button below the screen. It reportedly has an accuracy of .002%! LG thinks they can have it out in a phone by next year.