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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PC & Mac Sales; Smart Speaker Market Booming, Wireless Earbuds-‘Assistive Hearing’ Coming

It’s easy, especially when covering tech, to be all over the latest mobile devices, and lose track of what’s happening with the venerable PC…which most of us still have and use. Bgr.com has the numbers as tracked by IDC, and here’s where computer brands stood in 2017: #1 was H-P with 22.7% of the market. Lenovo came in 2nd with 21.1%. In third place was Dell with 16.1% market share, and 4th was Apple at 7.6%. Acer was in 5th place with 6.8%, and ASUS grabbed 6th with 6.6%, hot on their trail. The other 19.1% of computer sales was ‘everybody else.’ Of all of them, Apple had the most growth in the 4th quarter covering the holidays.

While Apple fanboys and fangirls breathlessly await the Apple HomePod, the smart speaker market is absolutely booming. According to 9to5mac.com, it’s up 128% since a year ago. Research from Edison Research and NPR indicates one in 6 Americans own a smart speaker of one type or another. 65% of owners say they would never want to go back to not having one! Of the 16% of us that have smart speakers, 11% are Amazon Alexa powered, while 4% use Google Home.

Since Congress passed a law allowing some hearing aid tech without prescription, wireless earbud makers are looking to that as a new market. Engadget.com reports that wireless earbud pioneer Bragi announced at CES that they would be diving into personalized hearing enhancement for their Dash earbuds. On top of that, they are working to develop personalized fitting for hearing loss using the so-called ‘Earprint’ test….pointing out that correcting for hearing loss needs to be as personalized as fitting for glasses. Another company called Nuheara showed off their updated product called IQBuds Boost.


Samsung Will Make a Note 8; New Lenovo Gaming Notebooks; Synaptics Fingerprint & Facial Recognition ID System; 27 Inch Dell Ultrathin Monitor

For the many fans who very reluctantly gave up their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phablets, happy news…there will be a Note 8! According to 9to5google.com, it will roll with a 4K display, and be Gear VR wearable. Presumably, it will have a less ‘explody’ battery, too!

Lenovo is dropping a new line of gaming laptops for CES. They are called Legion, and will optionally have a 4K anti-glare screen, Dolby Atmos sound, and have an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU that will drive your VR headset. Arstechnica.com says they will rock Kaby Lake processors and up to a 2 TB hard drive.

Synaptics has announced a multi-factor biometric engine for smartphones, tablets, & PCs. Macrumors.com reports that they partnered with facial recognition firm KeyLemon, and the new engine will use both fingerprint and facial recognition. Apparently, the user can select either facial or fingerprint, or for the most secure two-factor apps like banking, require both. It has AI anti-spoof technology that can allegedly distinguish between fake and real fingers. The facial recognition engine detects blinking and head movement to weed out fakes, too.

Dell has unveiled a new 27 inch ultra thin monitor. 9to5mac.com says it has USB-C support and will hit the streets in March for $700. It isn’t 4 or 5K, but they claim it’s the world’s thinnest monitor, and it’s a lot less pricey than the LG UltraFine 5K Apple is using since it exited the monitor business.


Folding Samsung Smartphone Due Next Year; MacBook Pro Touch Bar out Nov. 17th at Third Party Stores; MacBook Outsold All Competition in 5 Days

Samsung has a trick up its sleeve…or maybe in its pocket…for an upcoming Galaxy model. According to 9to5google.com, they will roll out a foldable smartphone! Some are calling it the ‘Galaxy X’ right now. It sports an accordion hinge much like Microsoft’s Surface Book laptop, so when folded, it’s not completely flat. The display is much larger than usual, and has a different aspect ratio that the 16:9 most phones have. It will retain a home button and capacitive buttons along the bottom, and a camera at the top back. The bottom of the phone will still have a charging port, headphone jack, and speaker. The total screen size hasn’t leaked out yet.

The hot new MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar will be in third party stores November 17th. 9to5mac.com says there’s still a 4-5 week wait time if you order from Apple right now. The non-Touch Bar model is available from Apple, Amazon, and others with no delay. According to Slice Intelligence, the MacBook Pro not only set an online sales record, it outsold every competing laptop in 5 days….including the Dell XPS 13 and 15. In that 5 day period, Apple also hit 80% of 2015 and ’16 year to date MacBook Pro sales.


Pixel Preorders Outstrip Demand; Microsoft VR Headset Partners; Surface Book i7; Renewables Pass Up Coal

Since the sputtering flameout of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, Apple has increased production of iPhones, expecting to pick up new customers. According to 9to5google,com, they aren’t alone. Google Pixel phone preorder deliveries have now slipped to mid-November. Some phones originally slated for delivery this week will now be shipped November 18th!

At their event today, Microsoft announced they are working with partners to release standalone VR headsets starting at $299. Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus, and Acer are all involved. Thenextweb.com says Redmond also showed off a ‘HoloTour’ app that was initially developed for the HoloLens that lets you take Street View like trips around the globe.

Microsoft adds the Surface Book i7 to the Surface family. It contains a number of internal upgrades according to arstechinca.com, including a welcome 16 hour battery life! More from the Microsoft event-which is going on now-tomorrow.

Noting a major milestone, slashdot.org reports that renewable energy sources like solar and wind have passed up coal as the world’s largest source of power capacity! The International Energy Agency says a million solar panels were installed every day last year, and two wind turbines were added every hour last year in China alone.


Did Google Just Win the Cloud Wars?

According to bgr.com, Google may have won the cloud wars, with the announcement at I/O yesterday that their Photos app will allow for unlimited photos and videos in the cloud for FREE! By comparison, Apple gives you 5 Gigs of free storage on iCloud, then hits users with a buck a month for 20 gigs or $20 a month for a terabyte. If you have a large collection, and switched from Apple to Google, you’d save $240 a year. Google photos runs on Android, iOS, or the web, and syncs across all your devices.

Although that was just one of the things rolled out at Google I/O that caused gnashing of teeth at Apple, they should be smiling about this: Appleinsider.com says Consumer Reports ranked Apple highest for computer tech support in their annual survey. According to Consumer Reports, 4 out of 5 Mac owners using AppleCare said the service was able to solve their problem, compared to 61% for Dell and Lenovo. They were ranked pretty much even with indy stores for retail support, although Best Buy’s Geek Squad and Staples EasyTech both charge, and Apple’s geniuses will diagnose problems for free.


That Nicer Apple Watch Will Be Pricey

If you really want an Apple watch, start saving pennies now…macrumors.com says the stainless steel model may be $500, and the gold version over 4 grand. Senior VP of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts says expect them in the spring.

Google Wallet has gotten a nice boost from all the buzz about Apple Pay. 9to5google.com reports that users have now doubled, and payments have grown by 50% since Apple Pay was introduced.

Dell’s just showed it’s updated Venue Pro 11 tablet, and engadget.com says it’s thinner and lighter than Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet! The Venue pro 11 has a 10.8 inch screen and starts at $699.