Skype over Alexa; Apple Cuts iPhone Production Orders; Space-X Approved for 7,000 Com Satellites

Microsoft has enabled Skype to work on Amazon’s Alexa devices. The rollout should be complete this week. Theverge.com reports that Echo-type hardware will be able to handle basic calling, and the Echo Show will include video support for Skype. Users will also be able to call mobile and land lines using SkypeOut, and call their contacts by simply asking Alexa to ‘Call Siri on Skype.’ OK, not really Siri…unless maybe you have a friend with that name, which would be nearly as confusing as having a pal named Alexa.

Apple has pared back production orders for the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and XR, due to ‘lower than expected demand,’ according to a Wall Street Journal report picked up by macrumors.com. Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest cuts are for the XR, which has been whacked by a third of the original 70 million units originally scheduled. Some suppliers are calling the handsets a flop, but with Apple reporting record breaking revenue of $61.5 billion on iPhones during the launch quarter, that’s a stretch. Since Apple is going to quit reporting unit numbers for iPhone sales going forward it will make it even harder to track sales…but competitor Samsung hasn’t reported unit numbers in some time.

SpaceX has gotten FCC approval to launch over 7,000 satellites. Cnet.com says they will be in very low earth orbit, and will give the company the ability to provide global satellite broadband service. The FCC has also signed off on requests from Kepler Communications, Telesat Canada, and LeoSat MA to offer broadband in the US by satellite.

Advertisements

Honda to Make Autonomous Cars with GM’s Cruise; Apple Vets Build New Lidar; Feds Can’t Stop California’s Net Neutrality Law;

Honda has committed to $2.75 billion in a deal with GM’s subsidiary Cruise to develop and produce a new kind of autonomous vehicle. Techcrunch.com reports that the vehicles are being designed from the ground up, but will be ‘space efficient’ and ‘multipurpose.’ GM, their Cruise subsidiary, and Honda said they expect to ‘explore global opportunities for commercial deployment of the Cruise network.’

A couple of refugees from Apple’s still secret Project Titan self driving car project started a company called Aeva, that hat developed a better lidar for self-driving vehicles. According to arstechinica.com, the new lidar can measure the velocity of objects in addition to their distance. Aeva’s version uses frequency modulated carrier wave lidar. If that makes your eyes cross, it basically means they send out a continuous laser beam with steadily changing frequency. The new lidar is nearly immune from interference, too. So far, no word on when they will market these to car makers or how much the cost will be.

The ink from Jerry Brown’s pen wasn’t even dry on California’s new net neutrality bill when the federal government sued to block it. The Department of Justice calls it a strong case, but theverge.com points out that most legal experts say the suit is on shaky legal ground. When the FCC ruled in favor of carriers last year, they included language that the Commission didn’t have authority to regulate the broadband ISPs. To put it succinctly, “An agency that has no power to regulate has no power to preempt the states, according to case law,” Stanford Law professor Barbara van Schewick said in a statement to The Verge.

“When the FCC repealed the 2015 Open Internet Order, it said it had no power to regulate broadband internet access providers,” van Schewick said. “That means the FCC cannot prevent the states from adopting net neutrality protections because the FCC’s repeal order removed its authority to adopt such protections.” So far, court decisions support California’s right to protect consumers rights.


Magic Leap Unveals AR Headset; Apple Allowing Universal Apps-Mac and iOS; UK Deems High Speed Internet a Legal Right

We’ve been hearing whispers for years, and now Google-backed Magic Leap has taken the wraps off their augmented reality headset’s Creator Edition. 9to5google.com says they will be shipping in 2018, too! The setup consists of a ‘Lightwear’ headset connected to a circular ‘Lightpack’ via a couple cords…the Lightpack contains the processing and graphics, in a mid-sized disk that hangs off a belt or pocket…and a Control’ remote (smaller than most TV remotes) that provides for 6 degrees of freedom and movement. The headset has tech that detects and stores the exact location of walls, surfaces, and physical objects, and also what they are calling ‘360 degree sound field audio.’ The interface accepts inputs from voice, gestures, head poses, and eye tracking. No word on pricing for the Creator Edition yet, but their SDK should be released along with it, in addition to other tools for web and game developers.

Apple is readying to let developers release universal apps that will work across iPhones, iPads, and Macs early next year. In a Bloomberg News writeup picked up by macrumors.com, the official announcement and details could come in June at WWDC 2018. So far, it’s not known if Apple will merge the Mac App Store with the vastly more popular App Store for iOS, but that seems logical. The move would mean better apps for the Mac, since developers put a lot more time and energy into making apps for the more widely used iPhones and iPads.

In the wake of the FCC killing net neutrality here in the US, Britain has taken the opposite position. According to rawstory.com, the UK has deemed high speed internet a legal right for all citizens, and will require that never household is wired for it by 2020.. Communications company BT has pledged to drop around $788 million to connect about a million and a half rural homes to the net. Right now, about 95% of homes in the UK have broadband connections with 24 Mbps or higher speed.


iPhone May Have Smart Connector for AR; Minecraft Getting It’s Own Money; Comcast Plans Netflix Rival, No In-Flight Cell Phone Use; Radiation Blocking Undies

Yes, all the buzz is that the iPhone 8 gets and OLED screen and catches up with Samsung, but the ‘one more thing’ may be connecting to an AR or VR headset via a Smart Connector like the iPad Pro has. The connector could also be used for wireless charging, although that can be done through the back inductively. If Apple is finally ready to jump into AR, that would be huge!

Microsoft is rolling out a new marketplace and currency for Minecraft. According to bloomberg.com, businesses will be able to sell content and creations to the millions of Minecraft players. The rollout…which is due yet this spring….will have feature packs including new story lines, in-game activities, and landscapes, and they will run anywhere from a buck to $10 each. The literal ‘coin of the realm’ will be Minecraft Coins! Up to now, you could only buy items created by the Minecraft development team. 10 third party sellers will kickoff the new Minecraft store. The coins can be bought by any supported device running iOS, Android, or Windows. Microsoft didn’t disclose how much developers will get as a cut, but did say it’s over half.

Comcast is going to create its own rival to Netflix in the next 12-18 months, using NBC shows. Theverge.com says it may also include material from Comcast cable channels SyFy, USA, and Bravo. Yet to be decided is whether or not it will feature a live sports feed. Comcast has owned NBC Universal since 2011.

The new Republican FCC Chairman may have done something you will actually love. The Friendly Candy Company, as broadcasters have called it for decades, plans to kill proceedings that would relax rules and allow people to use cell phones while airborne. Macrumors.com reports that the Chairman calls the plan ‘ill-conceived’ and called tabling cell phones on airliners ‘a victory for Americans all across the country.’ Next time you’re trying to snooze or watch a flick on your mobile device in airplane mode, without some jerk shouting into their phone, thank the FCC!

For guys who carry their cell phone in their pocket that are worried about damaging their little swimmers, check out Spartan boxers and briefs. Mashable.com says they have silver woven into the fabric to protect your boys from electromagnetic radiation from the phone, The maker adds that the silver is also naturally anti-bacterial. Oh…did we mention they’re $45 per PAIR. They should last 300 wash cycles at any rate.


Chevy Bolt Will Break the 200 Mi Ceiling; Netflix-Caps Are Dumb; T-Mobile iPhone Preorders Explode, Longer Tweets in Days

Chevrolet has announced that the Bolt…the smaller, all electric sibling to the hybrid Volt….will have a range of 238 miles. Engadget.com notes that 200 miles is the ‘sweet spot,’ and cars having range exceeding that seem to ease driver fear of being stranded. Chevy says the Bolt will be in showrooms before the end of the year. The Tesla Model 3 is still about a year away from hitting the roads.

Days ago, Netflix wrote the FCC, imploring the Federal Cookie Company…as broadcasters have loved to call it…to disallow data caps. Bgr.com reports that Netflix argues caps serve no legitimate purpose and ‘are an ineffective management tool,’ really serving as a way for Comcast and TWC to stifle competition…primarily from services like Netflix. The Federal Communications Commission…which generally moves with the speed of an elderly snail…has yet to respond.

For months, the tech media has whined that the iPhone 7 would be SO boring with not changing the case design that sales would tank. According to appleinsider.com, T-Mobile’s CEO says sales of the iPhone 7 are quadruple that of the iPhone 6. So far on T-Mobile, Matte Black is the most popular color…that’s what I have coming. CEO Legere has a Jet Black one on the way.

The wait is nearly over…next Monday, Twitter’s longer Tweets will finally be live. Theverge.com reminds us that media attachments…including images, videos, polls, etc, as well as quoted Tweets, will no longer count towards the 140 character limit. Usernames at the beginning of Tweets will also no longer be counted. Go crazy, Twitterati!


Not Quite a Facebook ‘Dislike’ Button

Marketingland.com says that while Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said the social network is working on something like a ‘Dislike’ button, it’s not exactly that. They are very close to shipping a test of the new feature, but Zuckerberg has reiterated his opinion that Facebook doesn’t want to create a situation where people are downvoting other people’s posts. He gave no specifics about what the button or buttons would be called but said the idea is to give people a way to express empathy. He says the real trick is to make something that fits this criteria, but still keep it simple enough for a button.

AT&T has kicked up it’s so-called ‘unlimited’ plan to a ceiling of 22 gigs of downloads a month before getting throttled. The old policy was 5 gigabytes. The move wasn’t due to their great altruism…it was the threat of a 100 million dollar FCC fine that did the trick. Throttling is actually prohibited under the new net neutrality rules, according to theverge.com, but the federal agency does allow for ‘reasonable network management.’