Amazon has announced the Fire TV Cube. It’s a set top box with all the usual suspects: Netflix, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, HBO Go, Sling, And Amazon Prime Video. It also features Alexa…which Engadget.com notes was already available in the Stick and Fire TV box…but the Cube has full-featured Alexa. You can access thousands of third party ‘skills’ on the Cube just like an Echo. The Cube had eight built-in microphones, and can turn on your TV, sound system, cable box. Amazon demoed it by saying ‘Alexa…I’m home,’ and it turned on the entire home theatre system, and brought up the lights in the room. It supports cable boxes from Comcast as well as Dish and DirecTV. There is an IR extension cable for the cable box so the Cube can turn it on and off when the gadgets aren’t line of sight. It ships June 21st for $119. ***UPDATE*** Prime members can preorder and save $30 for a limited time!
Lyft is updating its app for the 1st time in 3 years, and putting more emphasis on shared rides and public transit. Theverge.com reports that it should roll out to everyone by the end of the month. A few changes include Lift Line being rebranded ‘Shared Rides’ and giving that feature a more prominent place in the app. Lyft says it wants shared rides to be 50% of its business by 2020, and has promised to lower its carbon footprint. The updated app will be customized based on a riders’ preferred services and locations. The algorithm considers account fare price, trip time, and more to present the most efficient ride for users, whether a solo rider or shared ride. There is a tweak that encourages riders to get picked up on side streets…which has been piloted in San Francisco (on Valencia Street), and Lyft got 20,000 riders to divert to side street pickup.
Now, more than ever, there’s Google’s Waymo and everyone else when it comes to self-driving cars. According to arstechnica.com, Waymo hit 7 million self-driven miles this week. For reference, they just announced that they had passed up 6 million less than a month ago! Waymo plans to launch commercial driverless taxi service in the Phoenix area before the end of the year.
Instagram is adding support for video of up to an hour in length, with the long form video hub designed to compete with YouTube and Snapchat Discover. According to 9to5google.com, all the videos will be in vertical orientation and 4K resolution. The company has been reportedly meeting with social media stars and content publishers in prep for launching the feature, which is planned for June 20th. No details have gotten out on monetization, but Instagram apparently intends to let creators and publishers earn money from the longer form videos.
Google Home Outships Amazon Echo; Apple-VW Self-Driving Pact; Uber Self-Driving Leaves Arizona; Silicon Valley Longs to Tax Big Tech Like SeattlePosted: May 24, 2018
In a first, Google Home has shipped more smart speakers than Amazon…3.2 million vs 2.5 million first quarter of this year. According to cnet.com, it may be due to retailers prioritizing Google over Amazon because they see Amazon as more of a direct competitor. Alibaba had the third biggest shipping smart speaker, with Xiaomi 4th. Apple’s HomePod was lumped in with the 17% ‘other’ smart speakers.
After lots of back and forth with Mercedes and BMW the last several years that never made it to a deal, Apple has cut a deal with Volkswagen. Macrumors.com reports that Apple will be buying VW vans and converting them to employee shuttles to run between San Francisco Bay Area campuses and buildings. The vans will be fitted with Apple’s self-driving tech. Word is, no deal ever came through with BMW and Mercedes, because Apple insisted on partner companies handing over control of data and design…which no car maker was willing to do.
Uber has canned its self-driving program in Arizona, and along with it, 300 employees. Businessinsider.com says this comes 2 months after a self-driving Uber Volvo (with safety driver behind the wheel) hit and killed a woman in Tempe. The governor had already suspended their ability to test the autonomous cars there. Uber says it will regroup and double check its safety procedures and be back testing somewhere soon.
Since Seattle has dropped an annual head tax on big tech companies, a number of Silicon Valley cities are angling to do the same. Bloomberg.com reports that Seattle intends to use the revenue to help with homeless problems and relieve housing shortages caused by the influx of higher paid tech workers. San Francisco, Mountain View, Cupertino, and East Palo Alto are all looking at similar taxes on large local employers (which are virtually all tech companies) to offset growing inequality and overcrowding. The Bay Area cities have learned from Seattle’s battle with Amazon, and instead of shooting for $500 per head, are looking to extract more like $250-$300 per employee.
Amazon Working On 1st Home Robot; iPhone Price Rumor; Streaming Music Growth Exploding; Google And (Lots of) Your DataPosted: April 23, 2018
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!
Alexa Can Send SMS Messages; Amazon QR ‘Smile’ Codes; Samsung Chip Biz Eclipses Intel; Apple Still Bringing iOS Apps to MacsPosted: January 31, 2018
Bringing us one step closer to a Star Trek future, Amazon just rolled out another skill for Alexa. Thenextweb.com reports that now you can send SMS text messages by voice command over your Echo or other speaker that has Alexa. A couple of notes, though. It doesn’t work for texting 911 or sending group messages or MMS. Should be pretty handy though, if you need to send a text, and your phone’s across the room or across the house!
Yet another trick Amazon has pulled out of its sleeve…they are working with their own version of QR codes…those little boxes with gibberish patterns. TechCrunch.com says they call them ‘SmileCodes.’ In this case, you can open the scanner that is built into the Amazon app, scan the code, and it will take you to that item on Amazon’s site, or play a related movie trailer or product review. Right now, the codes are listed to pop-up shops and Amazon Lockers in Europe, but the test should be over soon, and expect a rollout in the US before long.
After decades as the top dog in chip manufacturing, Intel has been eclipsed by Samsung as of 2017. The numbers have been crunched, and according to theverge.com, Samsung raked in $69.1 billion worth of the little silicon rascals, while Intel’s take was $62.8 billion. To be fair, Samsung produced more memory and flash, while Intel still leads in processor chips. With the demand only set to increase with self-driving vehicles and more AI coming on line, Samsung should be sitting pretty with this segment of their business.
Yesterday, there was a story out that Apple would be holding back some features for iOS 12 in order to focus on security and reliability of the OS. Apparently, one feature that won’t be held back will be the ability to port iOS apps to Macs. Cnet.com says the team developing that is still on track to roll it out this year, which will make the App Store on the Mac a lot more fun and interesting.
3 New Macs Coming; Google Home Catching Up With Amazon Echo; Nationalized 5G Network; Nissan Self-Parking SlippersPosted: January 29, 2018
Apple is reportedly working on 3 new Models (maybe more). They will be integrated with custom co-processors, and Cupertino has both new laptops and desktops in the works, according to macrumors.com. Some could be out yet this year. Apple had already confirmed it was working on an new, modular Mac Pro, but what other models could be refreshed are only an educated guess at this point. The MacBooks and MacBook Pros could use it for sure, as well as the Air, and Mac Mini.
Amazon has held the lion’s share of home speakers with it’s Echo line, powered by Alexa, sitting at 69%. 9to5google.com points out that Google Home has grown from almost nowhere to 31% already, though, and now with the Apple HomePod just out, expect more erosion in that number. Google Home barely registered in June of 2017, but during the holidays grabbed 40% of sales…mainly due to success of the Home Mini! Microsoft’s Cortana speakers haven’t really moved the needle, but Apple could…recall how they jumped into the already going portable music market years ago with the iPod, and virtually took that segment over.
You have to go a ways to freak out and infuriate both the far left and the far right, but it looks like an idea from the Trump Administration has done just that. According to businessinsider.com, they are exploring a form of nationalized 5G wireless network. The government apparently fears a huge cybersecurity threat…mainly from China…if they don’t. Folks on the left and the right are more freaked out by the prospect of the government controlling the wireless network. The administration is looking at a totally government one, or a national network in partnership with the wireless companies. Both AT&T and Verizon have responded, noting that they are ‘already well down the road’ to 5G wireless networks nationwide. In other words…’bug off!’
Self-driving cars? Pfft! Get me some of these self-driving, self-parking slippers. Bgr.com says Nissan has made some for a Japanese hotel, the ProPILOT Ryokan. Little wheels drop out of the bottom, and a small electric motor run by a processor magically returns the slippers to their proper place! Apparently the TV remote will do the same in rooms, and the bedding is wired with tricks of their own. Personally, I bow down to our robot overlords…and request that my slippers head over here to my feet!
Samsung Making Galaxy X; Apple HomePod Started as Side Project; Keystroke Logging and Location Tracking-Paranoid yet?Posted: November 21, 2017
Samsung has been at work on a Galaxy X, and surprisingly, they didn’t steal the name from Apple. Bgr.com says they’ve had it in the works since back when the iPhone X was still just called ‘8’ in rumors. The X is even more radical than the iPhone though…it’s Samsung’s long rumored bendable smartphone. They have ben doing demos at trade shows, but up to now, nothing. A sharp Dutch site has now noted that a support page has gone up online for the X family. It is expected that if and when the Galaxy X launches, it will be in very limited numbers.
Apple’s HomePod apparently started out 5 years ago as a side project for some audio engineers. According to 9to5mac.com, they wanted to build an audiophile speaker, and some versions were 3 feet tall! The project was cancelled and revived a few times. When Amazon brought out the Echo, the team was shocked at how it caught on and how much it did. Even now, some of the team has lobbied to have the HomePod do more than just music and controlling smart devices, and only running iPhone apps. Perhaps some of this is the reason for the delay in rollout…maybe they are going to bulk up HomePod’s abilities..for that, we’re going to need ‘Super-Siri!’
Not to rile you up going into the holiday shopping season, but if you think you’re being watched…you’re not paranoid, you ARE. Arstechnica.com reports that numerous sites have been running scripts that log your keystrokes, mouse moves, and wait times…even before that input is submitted or later deleted. They even grab the number of characters typed into password fields and the last 4 digits of credit cards. According to a study out last week, 482 of the 50,000 highest traffic sites are key logging you. One more thing….and not the cool kind like Steve Jobs used to tout…gizmodo.com says your Android phone has been sending location data to Google, even if you have opted out. Happy Holidays!