Facebook Messenger Autoroll Ads; Disney Sweetens Fox Offer; Uber EV Incentive; EU Internet Copyright Vote

 Well, people are going to love this. Facebook is starting to put autoplay video ads in Messenger.. Recode.net says they appear in the inbox right next to messages from friends and family.  The company has complained of late that they were running out of room in the main Facebook app for ads, so are moving on to Messenger and also Marketplace, their quasi-Craigslist. Facebook does say they will be monitoring how the ads are received, and peoples’ behavior, to see if they turn people off. Note to Facebook…you’re not Stan Freeberg or a major creative ad shop, so they probably will! 

 The battle over content and eyeballs has heated up. Disney is making a $70.3 billion counterbid for Fox’s entertainment businesses following Comcast’s $65 billion offer for the company. The fight for Twenty-First Century Fox reflects a new imperative among entertainment and telecommunications firms. They are building up ever more programming to better compete with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers’ attention – and dollars. The deal would include Fox film and TV studios, some cable networks and international assets, but not Fox News Channel or the Fox television network.  AT&T just bought Time Warner for $81 billion, after a federal judge rejected the government’s antitrust concerns.  Disney had made a $52.5 billion all-stock offer in December. It’s now offering $38 per Twenty-First Century Fox share, up from $28 per share. Who knows if Disney or Comcast will win, but we can definitively say that Rupert Murdoch will be the real winner!

 Uber has launched a pilot program to encourage drivers to start using electric vehicles. the program runs in 8 cities in the US and Canada, including San Francisco. According to mashable.com, the EV Champions Initiative includes a number of features…including one in the driver app that helps combat range anxiety, a key issue with electric cars. Uber has already alerted drivers of rides that will run over 45 minutes before they accept…for EVs, that will be dropped to 30 minutes. Other incentives include a buck or $1.50 back per electric ride, and free access to fast charging networks. Earlier this year, arch competitor Lyft set its EV and environmental goals, including a billion carbon neutral rides by 2025. 

 While Wall Street and the world worry about trade war, now there’s another issue creeping up that may drastically change the internet as we know it. AN EU Parliament committee has voted to make content providers to filter for copyright infringement. While the Article 13 rule still has to be agreed on by representatives from the EU’s 28 governments before becoming law, this vote reduces the chances of serious changes. Over 70 experts…including Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have said this will turn the internet into’a tool for the automated surveillance and control’ of it’s users. Theverge.com notes that such talk sounds like hype, but the rule would essentially be something of a YouTube Content ID for the entire internet. Internet platforms would have to filter uploads for copyright infringement.

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Apple HomePod Launch Date & Feature Delay; iPhone X Discontinued When Successor Debuts; Amazon Discounts Echo Spot; Netflix Exceeds Growth Estimates

They didn’t have it ready for the holidays, but Apple’s HomePod goes on pre-order this Friday, and will finally launch February 9th. The premium smart speaker isn’t the priciest, but it’s close at $349. The initial launch is just in the US, UK, and Australia. Macrumors.com reports that the device will launch later in Germany and France, and also will launch without the multi-room connectivity or the ability to set up two in a room for stereo…those features will come in a software update later this year. It probably won’t hurt sales…at $700 for a pair, a lot of Apple fans will probably want to hear how just one sounds before springing for another $350!

Apple is apparently going to try a different tack with the launch of the successor to the iPhone X. The present iPhone X will be dropped. Apple hasn’t done this before, but accroding to reports from KGI Securities, Cupertino doesn’t want to drop the price since they already have a new lower-priced model coming out, and it would spit sales. KGI says they will probably price the 2nd gen iPhone X at $999, like the present one, and the larger 6.5 inch screen model (iPhone X Plus) should start at $100 more. Then, the new mid-range 6.1 inch screen iPhone will be $649 or $749…this is the one with Face ID and a full screen front, but has the LCD screen instead of OLED. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will remain at $549 and $669, and the 7 and 7 Plus will come in at $449 and $569. The entry level iPhone SE will be $349. Even with the original iPhone X as a single year orphan, there will be a wider range of iPhones than ever to pick from.

The Amazon Echo Spot is a cool little gadget…the small smart speaker sports a little color display, in addition to Alexa taking verbal commands. It’s been $130, but if you order a pair of them now, Amazon will knock off $40 bucks for the price of the pair.

Netflix picked up a lot more viewers through the holidays than analysts had predicted. According to bgr.com, they signed up enough to hit 8.33 million, blowing past the anticipated 6.3 million. The company hit the expected financials, and is now raising estimates for early 2018…but will have more competition ahead, as Disney will be rolling out its streaming service soon, and has poured cash into Hulu as well.


iMac Pro Ordering Open; Samsung Galaxy S9 Leak; Disney Buys Fox Film & TV Divisions

The new iMac Pro can be ordered online today from Apple. It’s a beast, aimed at audio and video pros, and as we told you earlier starts at $4999. Now, macrumors.com lets us know that it tops out at an eye-watering and wallet melting $13,199. Geek number crunchers have determined that the $4999 base is a reasonably fair price…a similarly equipped PC costs around $5100. The mid-range version of the iMac Pro completely smokes a 2013 Mac Pro…it’s 45% faster! Do you need one? Unless you ar doing advanced video and graphics editing, recording and editing an album, creating virtual reality content or doing real-time 3D rendering, probably not. For now, until the modular updated Mac Pro comes out, this may be the go to machine for video and audio pros.

Some renderings and specs have leaked out about the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+. Bgr.com describes is as an ’S’ generation of the Galaxy S8…quite similar in design and features, with some improvements. One bump up is reputed to be better cameras. Taking a page from Apple’s book (again), Samsung will, for the first time, put a better dual lens camera in the S9+…the S9 will just have a single lens cam on the back. Samsung has apparently moved the fingerprint sensor on the back a bit, too…it’s under the camera.

The Walt Disney Company has acquired the film and TV divisions of 21st Century Fox, as has been rumored. TechCrunch.com reports the price is over $52 billion in stock. Disney will get enough of Hulu to be majority shareholder, and also pick up Nat Geo, Star TV, Fox’s movie and TV studios, and Sky. Fox News and national sports channels will be spun off into a new company. With the film studio comes ownership of the original Star Wars film, the X-Men franchise, the Deadpool franchise, as well as Avatar. The mega deal will probably take 12-18 months to close, pending government approvals.


Amazon Doorbell To Let Delivery People in Once; Amazon Prime ‘Really Valuable’ to Whole Foods Shoppers; Google Mini Bug Left Mics On; Movie Studios Band Together For Easier Film Downloads

The battle of grocery home delivery has heated up, with Amazon matching Walmart with in home, right to the fridge deliveries. Amazon, however, may have an ace up its sleeve…theverge.com says they are working on a smart doorbell device that could allow delivery drivers one-time access to enter a home and drop off a package or groceries to the fridge! Amazon has been talking to Phrame, which makes smart license plate frames that secure an emergency key.

If, like a lot of people, grocery shopping means running to the store, Amazon is also touting Prime membership further…according to geekwire.com, Amazon is promising to make Prime membership ‘really valuable’ to Whole Foods shoppers, essentially making Amazon Prime the customer rewards program at Whole Foods. Amazon says that so far, the merger is going well enough they are thinking about shutting down their own grocery services and doing everything through the Whole Foods subsidiary.

Google is working on a fix for the Google Home Mini. Some of the pre-production ones don’t wait for you to address them….they have been listening and recording every word. 9to5google.com says it’s because the devices think they are getting a touch to activate. They have put out a patch to make them respond only to the verbal ‘OK Google’ command, and are working on a fix for the hardware gesture.

In a move that’s amazing for Hollywood, Disney, Fox, Warner, & Universal may team up on downloadable movies. Engadget.com reports that they have signed up to make flicks available through Disney’s new film service. The studios hope people will just buy more movies directly through the service instead of going through iTunes, Amazon, etc. to get links to download. It isn’t known if the studios will continue to support Ultraviolet to provide cross platform links.


Disney Launching Own Streaming Service; Google Pixel’s Cool Storage Feature; Super Cheap Chromebook

Netflix cut a deal with Disney back in 2012 to stream the Mouse’s library of movies and shows. According to theverge.com, it just kicked in last year, and now Disney is announcing they will end the deal in 2019 in favor of their own streaming service. Interestingly, Marvel and Star Wars aren’t mentioned in the new Disney streaming service. Apparently, they are kicking around freestanding streaming services for each. At any rate, by 2019, Disney’s amazing library of shows and movies, including their LucasFilm and Marvel material, will be available on stream from a new Disney streaming service.

If you don’t always buy the maxed out memory on your smartphone, you probably have hit the point where you’re deleting songs or pictures to keep from running out of storage. THEN, when you try to update the operating system, you don’t even have room to do that. Bgr.com reports that Google has solved that part of the problem with the new Pixel. Starting with Android 8.0, the phones have a dual partition system for faster streaming updates. Basically, you keep using the system on the phone while a second system updates in the background. After download and restart, the second one becomes the normal OS. With this partition, the phone only needs 100 KB of free space to update instead of a gig. Thanks, Google!

Acer has just bowed its updated Chromebook C771. 9to5google.com says there are two models, one with touch display and one without. The laptop has an 11.6 inch screen and features a spill resistant keyboard. The cheaper version is $279.99. If you don’t mind the chrome ‘all in cloud’ system, it’s practically a disposable laptop at this price.


New Galaxy ‘Bomb’ 7; Salesforce May Be Last Suitor Standing for Twitter; Stealth Job-Hunting Mode from LinkedIn

Samsung had a terrible turn of events when Galaxy Note 7’s began catching fire and exploding just days before the iPhone 7 rolled out. Having recalled and replaced all those phones…some 2 million… in record time, the Note 7 was again flying off the shelves…until now. Yesterday, one of the new ones with the supposedly ‘good’ battery exploded and caught fire on a Southwest flight getting ready to take off. Bgr.com, which had, among others, touted it as the best ever Android phone, is now saying don’t buy one under any circumstances…and the executive editor has one! Word to the wise…wait!

It’s far from a secret that Twitter has been trying to sell itself. Now, according to recode.net, Google, Apple, and Disney have all signaled that they won’t be making an offer on the social media platform. This leaves Salesforce as the last one standing that’s known to be interested. Let’s all hope that Salesforce or some unknown white knight rescues the popular but financially disappointing social media company.

If you are wanting or needing to look for a new gig, but…like pretty much everybody…don’t want the boss to know….LinkedIn has just made it a little easier. Engadget.com reports that the widely-used site has launched Open Candidates, to let job hunters let recruiters know on the down low that they’re looking. Click on the Jobs tab at the top, then preferences, and slide the big button that says ‘let recruiters know you’re open.’ Wait for inquiries to start rolling in. That’s all there is too it!


Disney Releases Kid-Focused Messaging App; Company Gets Pokemons (and players) Off Businesses Lawns

Disney has rolled out Disney Mix, a new messaging app for kids as young as 4. 9to5google.com says the tag line is ‘chat, share, play.’ The free app has stickers from virtually every Disney movie you can think of, custom cartoon avatars, built-in games, and safety features to keep it all family friendly. A whistle icon at the top of the app will cause an adult moderator to jump in in the event of bullying or the like. It’s available at the Google Play Store and on iOS, too.

We’ve all heard and read stories about people basically yelling at Pokemon Go players to ‘get off their lawn,’ but now a cybersecurity company is actually working to have the Pokemon removed from maps in certain places. Thenextweb.com reports that LookingGlass is working with at least 8 companies to get Niantic Labs to pull them out of certain areas to help players to avoid dangerous situations. Apparently, most of the locations were pulled from the game company’s earlier AR game Ingress, that they released in 2013. LookingGlass and others are also trying to get Niantic to build in a way to notify them to remove Pokemon from dangerous areas.