Google Pumps $300 Million into Saving Online Journalism; IBM Rolls Out Watson Assistant; 100 TB SSD Drive; IoT Mousetrap-Wait, What?Posted: March 20, 2018
Google has announced that they are launching the Google News Initiative with $300 million. According to mashable.com, the intent is to fight fake news by providing publishers online tools. No list of the publishers was released at the announcement. Facebook started a similar initiative last January, but so far, not much impact has been felt the past 14 months.
In an effort to build an assistant for the business world, IBM has showed off Watson Assistant. Big Blue has been working on the project for a year, and hopes to get established in the business world before Amazon can with Alexa. Cnet.com reports that Watson won’t be for asking what the weather or a sports score is, but more of a behind the scenes brain. It is already in use in the airport in Munich, Germany for a robot that can give directions and gate info. IBM is also working with BMW for an in car voice helper. No, it doesn’t look like you will be able to use it to play Jeopardy if you’re bored in your cube, but it will be great, according to IBM, for crunching sensitive info companies may not want being bounced out into the world to Amazon, Google, Apple, or Microsoft servers.
Bigger is better, right? Now, a company in Irvine, CA, Nimbus Data, has showed the biggest SSD drive ever, a 100 Terabyte job. To give you an idea of how insanely big that is, thenextweb.com says it would hold half of Spotify’s catalog…in something that fits in a pocket!! Its not really designed for home for office use, actually…more for enterprise customers that need to cram more storage into their space that requires less cooling expense. Speaking of expense, no price is out yet, but as a comparison, Samsung has a 15TB drive that came out in 2016 for 10 grand!
A company named Victor has claimed to have built a better mousetrap…it’s connected to the Internet of Things. If this seems silly and massive overkill for way more than you’d spend on a mousetrap, you’re right. According to zdnet.com, it’s really aimed at restaurants and businesses where traps need to be set in attics and cellars that are not very accessible….because seeing visible rodents can be a sure fire business killer. The IoT mousetrap runs on Comcast’s MachineQ platform, and has a dashboard for monitoring. Victor claims they have improved battery life and WiFi range to the point that they can be left unattended for long periods, saving on labor for pest control in larger facilities. Finally….a trap that catches mice and ‘rats them out.’
Samsung In-Person Phone Repairs; Google Bans Crypto Ads; Netflix May Bow Weekly Newsmagazine Show; Walmart Expands Grocery DeliveryPosted: March 14, 2018
A strong plus for Apple’s iPhone line has been the ability to make an appointment, and hit an Apple store when your phone is on the fritz. Now, Samsung has announced they are acting to offer in-person service for Galaxy phones in the US. Engadget.com reports that after March 15th, users will be able to visit one of 300+ uBreakiFix locations around the country and get Samsung authorized repairs in person on late model high end Galaxy phones, from the S6 and Note 5 on up to the new S9’s. Both Samsung and uBreakiFix are promising same day repairs, and in most cases 2 hour fixes. Walk-ins are ok, but appointments are encouraged. The repair chain is also adding 200 more locations, and that is expected by 2019.
Google AdWords has banned all cryptocurrency ads. 9to5google.com says the ban will take effect in June to give advertisers time to wrap up schedules. The ban includes related content in addition to actual cryptocurrencies…initial coin offerings, exchanges, wallets, and trading advice ads will be stopped. The action is no doubt in response to the high volatility in the virtual currency market lately. Google notes the havoc that can wreak in less savvy people.
Word is, Netflix may be dipping its toe into news. According to cnet.com, the streaming programming giant is working on something in the vein of ’60 Minutes’ or ’20/20,’ a newsmagazine type format that will run weekly. In addition to entertainment programming, Netflix has already expanded to documentaries, so this may be another nature extension to position them as a full service program provider.
With Amazon now utilizing their acquisition of Whole Foods to expand their own grocery delivery business, Walmart has reacted with an aggressive lan to expand its own grocery delivery service from the present 6 test markets to 100 metro areas. Geekwire.com says Walmart will be able to leverage its 800 physical stores to reach what they say is over 40 percent of US households. Walmart will charge a $9.95 fee on orders of over $30. Using the Whole Foods grocery delivery service, Amazon Prime Now members can get free delivery in 4 test markets: Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Virginia Beach. If they want delivery in an hour or less, it’s an additional $7.99.
Cheaper MacBook Air; YouTube Trials Green Screen Tech; Google Sells Zagat; Amazon Looking at Branded Checking AccountsPosted: March 5, 2018
One of the biggest knocks on Apple gear is that it is pricey. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that a KGI Securities analysis points to a lower priced, 13-inch MacBook Air rolling out sometime in the 2nd quarter of this year. Usually reliable Ming-Chi Kuo says a cheaper MB Air would bump MacBook shipments anywhere from 10 to 15% this year. The present entry level MacBook Air starts at $999, so maybe we can expect a cheaper entry level one for $700 or $800. A cheaper iPad certainly jump started sales of that device for Apple!
The wizards at Google have developed a new tool that uses AI and machine learning to filter out and replace the background in videos in the manner of a green screen. According to mashable.com, it’s being trialed in limited beta Stories. If all goes well, Google will port the tech to their broader Augmented Reality services. No idea on when this may be released into the wild, but it could be a game changer in many ways!
Google is also spinning off Zagat to The Infatuation. No price given, but they bought the restaurant guide in 2011 for $151 million. Theverge.com says that although the ratings and such were integrated into Google Maps, Google let things slide, and Yelp has come to dominate. The Infatuation will keep Zagat as a separate brand from its own curated guides.
Amazon is apparently looking to have its own branded checking accounts. A report from engadget.com has them in talks with J.P. Morgan Chase and other big banks about the accounts. Amazon would be targeting younger shoppers and people who don’t have checking accounts.
Google Pay Replaces Android Pay; Android P Blocks Unannounced Cam Use; Samsung’s Monster 30TB SSD; Site Tracks Musk’s Space TeslaPosted: February 20, 2018
Google had previously pulled all its payment tools into the Google Pay tent except for Android Pay. Today, that changes. Techcrunch.com says an update to Android Pay brings it into the fold and adds some new functionality….including displaying stores nearby that accept it. Google Wallet now becomes Google Pay Send for sending and requesting money.
Android P should be unveiled at google I/O in a couple months. Meanwhile, it looks like word of a new security feature has gotten out. According to 9to5google.com, it’s to ease users minds about surreptitious camera use by apps (which has happened.) The new feature will block use of cams by any app not actively in use. If the system detects that the app is idle (running in the background), it is blocked from cam access.
We talk about Samsung smartphones all the time, because they are such a high profile, widely used product, but Samsung the company is into enough different businesses to fill a book. Now, cnet.com reports they have started production of a record breaking solid state drive weighing in at 30 TB…you read right, not 30 gigs, terabytes! While it’s unlikely you will need such storage, it will be great for government, health care, and education users that have massive troves of data. To give you a handle on how much that is, it’s enough room to store 5700 HD movies at 5 gigs each!No price has been disclosed, but you probably can’t afford it or justify it at any rate!
Practically the whole world watched as we saw shots of Elon Musk’s red Tesla roadster in space with the dummy in the spacesuit dubbed ‘Starman’ in the driver’s seat. It had been expected that batteries would allow 12 hours of transmission from space, but they died after only 4 hours. No more pictures, but now, bgr.com says at least you can track the little red car and Starman on their journey. A developer named Ben Pearson has built a site called ‘Where is Starman?’ It updates continuously, so you can check obsessively on where they are.
2 Facebook Smart Speakers Coming; HomePod Makes Apple Less than Google and Amazon; Dyson to Make e-CarsPosted: February 15, 2018
Facebook appears to be getting into the hardware business, and it will do it with smart speakers. According to mashable.com, they will launch a couple of models of smart speakers in July. The code names for the gadgets are Fiona and Aloha. Facebook will apparently give them 15 inch touchscreens, but one is expected to have higher quality. They will include both facial recognition and voice control tech.
After a few days to tear into Apple’s HomePod, TechInsight has determined that the device costs Apple about $216 to make, giving them 38% profit. For comparison, Google makes 66% on their smart speakers and Amazon 56%. Businessinsider.com says the difference is due to the higher quality components Apple puts in its smart speaker.
After getting into one mature business and disrupting it, now Dyson looks to do the same with cars…specifically, electric cars. According to theverge,com, Dyson is working on solid state batteries, and hopes to have ‘radically different’ cars out sometime after 2021. Dyson will initially produce a higher end, limited production vehicle…much like Tesla, then move into more mass market vehicles. One advantage for Dyson…they have experience getting products manufactured and out to buyers.
Galaxy S9 Will Clone Apple’s Animojis; Twitch Has Viewer Numbers of Cable News Nets; Amazon Rolling Own AI Chips for Alexa; Facebok Launches ListsPosted: February 13, 2018
Call it practical or insulting, but Samsung has done best with smartphones when they’ve stolen liberally from Apple. Now, macrumors.com says the Galaxy S9 will copy the iPhone X’s Animojis. Samsung teases that theirs will be 3D and be ‘more advanced’ than Apple’s. They will reveal the name of their clone when the phone rolls out on March 16th. The Samsung version, like Apple’s, will be powered by the Galaxy S9’s facial recognition system. Samsung’s facial recognition isn’t expected to be as secure as Apple’s, but Samsung will also include a rear fingerprint sensor and iris scanner.
Twitch has now become as big as the big cable nets in viewership. According to businessinsider.com, the Amazon-owned streaming service had 962,000 average viewers last month (January 2018). ESPN and Fox News have 1.5 million, MSNBC has 885,000, and CNN 783,000. Twitch channels are not all just gaming…there are also IRL streams (in real life) with massive amounts of content covering all sorts of subjects. Find them on the web at Twitch.tv.
Amazon has started designing its own AI chips to work with Alexa devices. Engadget.com says the custom silicon should enable the virtual assistant to respond more quickly by baking speech recognition into the devices that use it, rather than having to bounce to the cloud then back with a response. Alexa would still need to touch base with the cloud for more complex inquiries, but for simple requests, the chips will make it responses quicker.
Because they can never have enough of our information to sell, Facebook has launched ‘Lists.’ The new feature is rolling out today. Techcrunch.com reports that Facebook sees it as a way to get users to share more personal content. The lists can be To Do lists, Resolutions, eateries to try, bucket list travel destinations, or whatever. To entice usage, Facebook has included choices of colored backgrounds and emoji. It will appear in the ‘What’s on your mind’ status update box along with the other options.
Google sold 3.9 million Pixel phones in 2017. If that doesn’t sound like a record shattering number to you, you’re right. According to theverge.com, that’s about what Apple sells in iPhones in a week. The good news is, with the Pixel 2, the sales pace has doubled. If they can keep doubling periodically, it should be a success.