HP’s Leather Laptop; Google Pixel Slate Rumors; Google Maps Gets Commute Tab; US Internet & Social Media Flattens; California Presses for Electric & Hydrogen Vehicles

HP has rolled out the Spectre Folio, and is claiming they are ‘reinventing the PC.’ While some would love it if they’d reinvent their printers to not take expensive ink cartridges so often, the Spectre Folio does have a cool and interesting set of features. Theverge.com reports that it has a skeletal magnesium frame that attaches to a leather skin, and that HP has shrunk down to tiny size the convertible laptop’s motherboard to maximize battery size. HP claims 18 hours of battery life. It runs on an 8th gen. Intel Core i7, with 8 gigs of RAM and a 256 Gig solid state drive. The display is 13.3 inches, and a 4 K display is coming by year’s end. With the mag frame and leather skin, it folds down almost like a magazine or thin book. You can use it in laptop mode, or slide the display forward to slot it in media mode when the keyboard is covered by the display. A Core i5 version is $1299, the Core i7 starts at $1399, and one with LTE connectivity and i7 runs $1499….all available at Best Buy or HP.com.

Meanwhile, over at Google, the Pixel Slate is rumored to be able to run Windows 10 as well as the Chrome OS. 9to5google.com says that other Chromebooks may be getting dual boot capability later, but we’ll probably see it exclusively on the Pixel Slate first. The Slate should roll out at Google’s October 9th event.

Here’s a Google update that’s rolling out right now…a new version of Google Maps will have a ‘Commute’ tab. Google is claiming it will give you one tap access to live traffic and transit info, and introduces support for mixed mode commutes…like driving to a park and ride lot then taking mass transit. According to engadget.com, you can also listen to streaming over Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play music within the app! The Maps update should be available everywhere by week’s end.

After years of growth, US internet, social media, and device use has flattened out. It’s stayed basically the same since 2016, according to Pew Research Center. 65% say they have broadband internet, down a couple ticks from the 67% in 2015. Similarly, laptop ownership is off slightly…from 78% in 2016 to 73% today…possibly due to the increased capability of tablets. Pew points out the obvious that growth has slowed because a lot of the population has reached near saturation level. 9 out of 10 adults under 50 report that they go online or use a smartphone. The use and confidence level in electronics is notably lower among the elderly. One growth area….digital voice assistants. Right now, about 46% of adults use them.

California is often in the vanguard of progress, and the Golden State is increasing its push towards electric and hydrogen vehicles. Arstechnica.com says the California Air Resourses Board has announced tighter restrictions on transportation fuels, calling for a 10% reduction in ‘carbon intensity’ for all fuels sold by 2020. This buzzy expression basically means lower lifetime carbon emissions…including from processing oil into gas, or feedstock into ethanol, or transporting fuel from a refinery to a point of sale (gas station.) The CARB mandates that carbon intensity drop by 20% by 2030. They are allowing the state to issue credits to utilities for installing electric vehicle charging stations. the utilities can then sell those credits to fuel producers who can’t hit the 20% reduction number.

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Google Home Max Out; Big Apple Watch Series 3 Sales Uptick Coming; Deactivated Keylogger in Some HP Laptops

Google Home Max is rolling out to stores….it should be available in limited numbers today in Best Buy and Verizon stores, according to arstechnica.com. The $399 Home Has has dual 4.5 inch woofers and custom tweeters, and Google says it’s 20 times more powerful than the original Home. You can set it up either horizontally or vertically, and it has an aux input jack. Google’s ‘smart sound’ measures the room and it adjusts itself sonically to fit. With the delay of Apples HomePod, this gives Google a head start now in the premium home smart speaker market.

Number crunchers scouring supply lines are predicting that the Apple Watch Series 3, which was up in record territory for a wearable in November, will grow by 20% in 2018. 9to5mac.com reports that the Series 3 will hit 25 to 35 million units sold next year. The addition of health tracking, Gym Kit, Apple Pay Cash, and of course LTE connectivity seem to have been the magic combination that are propelling Watch sales now.

It’s bad enough that the FCC may be voting to allow paid fast lanes on the internet this week. Now, here’s a chilling nugget: Some HP laptops have a deactivated key logger on them. Techcrunch.com says the software has been found on over 460 HP laptop models. It’s deactivated by default, but could be turned on by any hacker getting physical access to the laptop. Upon raising the issue to HP, they have responded that it is a debug trace, that that there’s a software update out to remove it. Here’s a link to download the update: https://support.hp.com/us-en/document/c05827409


HP Education Chromebook is Out; Sprint & T-Mobile Merger Talks; iOS 11 is Out for iPhone & iPad; Microsoft Mixed Reality Event

HP has released their touted Chromebook x360. It had been only available as an education edition, but now is on sale to the public. According to theverge.com, it has a 1.1 Gig processor, 4 Gigs of RAM, and 32 Gigs of storage. The touch screen is Gorilla Glass, and it has 2 USB-C ports and two USB 3.0 ports. The rugged laptop will make it 11 hours on a charge. Best of all, it’s $299….and on sale at Amazon, Walmart, and Costco.

We’ve heard this story before, but now, it appears that Sprint and T-Mobile are actually in serious talks about a merger. Engadget.com reports that CNBC has picked up on the scent that the two are in active talks about a merger. This was a story back in 2014 too, but now the regulatory environment may have loosened enough that they think it will work. While less competition is usually not great for customers, it can be a boon to investors…or not. Sometimes, it’s like tying two bricks together and seeing if they’ll float. Time will tell…stay tuned.

Today is iOS 11 release day…10 am is the usual time Apple makes operating system updates like this live. Cnet.com notes that this upgrade really shines on the iPad. The iPad gets a dock much like the Mac OS has on laptops and desktops, and a Files App keeps files and folders handy…much like on a regular desktop. Also, the App switcher supports drag and drop…text, images, and more. Apple has said that the send money feature to friends via Apple Pay won’t go live until later…maybe when the iPhone X comes out in November.

Microsoft has invited a small number of journalists to a ‘mixed reality’ event in San Francisco October 3rd. Mashable.com says they don’t expect a huge reveal of gear, but more about Microsoft’s mixed reality strategy and Redmond has teased the opportunity to ‘experience Windows Mixed Reality for yourself.’


More Cortana Driven Smart Speakers; Waymo Logs Millions of Miles; Apple Buys Sleep Tracker; iPhone 8 Leaked CAD Drawings

Earlier this week, Harman Kardon unveiled Invoke, their Cortana powered Amazon Echo competitor. Now, techcrunch.com says HP is also jumping into the smart speaker market. Instead of following their rather successful Surface marketing effort of rolling their own, Microsoft seems to be using the formerly wildly successful PC model of licensing to numerous makers. The speakers will reportedly use Skype for calling. The Amazon Alexa device can take and make calls, and Apple’s is expected to as well.

Waymo, the self-driving car people from Alphabet/Google, says they have now logged 3 million miles on public roads. According to 9to5google.com, a million of those self-driven miles have been in the last 7 months! In March, Waymo greatly expanded their fleet with 500 Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Apple has bought Beddit, a company that tracks sleep. According to business insider.com, they make a $150 sleep monitoring pad that goes between the sheets. The monitor tracks a person’s heart rate, awake time, and snoring, then the companion app calculates a ‘sleep score’ and can wake users at an ‘optimal’ time with a smart alarm. The page linked to the Watch App Store is gone from their website, but the app is still live there as of today.

Some CAD drawings have leaked out from a manufacturer of the upcoming iPhone 8. 9to5mac.com says that these show no fingerprint sensor on the back, but do depict the all glass front and back with stainless steel edges and the vertical dual cams on the back. The phone appears to be thicker than the current iPhone 7 and Plus. It’s still possible the 8 will have an ugly and clumsy fingerprint sensor on the back like the Samsung Galaxy S8, but we probably won’t know that until Fall.


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.


HP Goes Big for Gaming With Omen Line; Apple Drilling Down into Charging Electric Cars

HP is bringing the Omen name to all it’s gaming hardware, with a new lineup of laptops and desktops. In the laptop arena, according to engadget.com, they’ll lead off with an $899 model sporting a 15.6 inch screen, and in desktops, they say they’re VR ready with enough power to run HTC Vive and Oculus Rift VR setups. A tradeoff to power up and stay cheaper…cheaper plastic cases on the laptops instead of aluminum. The laptops will bow July 10th, with the desktop and 32 inch monitor shipping in August.

One of the biggest silver bullets for electric cars is range…battery life. Another is getting recharged when and where you need to. According to theverge.com, Apple is diving into charging electric cars. A Reuters report says Cupertino is reaching out to charging station companies about their ‘underlying technology’ and has staffed up with engineers having experience in vehicle charging. If they are indeed working on an electric car with Project Titan, a network of charging stations will be critical to their success….as will cruising range.


New Ultra Thin HP Chromebook; iPhone 7 ‘Pro’ Drawings Leaked

HP showed off it’s new 13 inch screen, ultra thin Chromebook today. It sports a QHD Display, has a slick all-metal case, and weighs in at 2.86 lbs. According to venturebeat.com, it’s packed with 16 gigs of memory, runs on an Intel Core M processor, and the battery should last 11.5 hours. It’s available now for pre-order, ships May 6th, and starts at $499.

Drawings and diagrams leaked show a 5.5 inch iPhone 7, and as rumored, there is no 3.5 mm audio jack, and it sports a dual camera. Bgr.com reports that the leak came from Macotakara, which leaked accurate diagrams of the iPad Pro. It does have a Smart Connector port on the back, and still has a single speaker. Surprisingly, it’s no thinner than the present model, and doesn’t have a larger battery…which had previously been given as the reason Apple wanted to drop the audio jack.