4K Android TV Dongle May Be Coming; Spotify & Hulu Discount Bundle; Amazon Post Office Use; Passwordless Authentication Via WebAuthn

There is a patent application at the FCC that seems to indicate that Google is getting ready to bring Android TV to a set near you. Thenextweb.com reports that the 4K dongle, which is from Shenzhen SEI Robotics, has an HDMI cable, micro USB port for charging, and Google branding. There’s also a remote with a built in mic and dedicated button so you can use voice commands via Assistant. Google already has 3 Chromecast gadgets that can stream fun HD video, 4K and audio to speakers from your mobile device, so a jump to the TV set is plausible.

Spotify and Hulu teamed up last fall, and now, they’re back. A bundle of services from the pair is being offered for $12.99 a month, according to techcrunch.com. Last fall, it was a students-only deal…this one is open to all Spotify Premium users. The $12.99 gets you Spotify’s on-demand Premium music service plus Hulu’s Limited Commercials plan. Sometime this summer, the deal will be opened up to all Spotify users, and new customers as well.

After the president came out a couple weeks ago and ranted that Amazon was fleecing the post office, numerous sources noted that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon. So how much business does the online giant do with the post office? ZDNet.com says a report commissioned by Jefferies estimates that 62% of Amazon shipments flow through the US Postal Service.

It seems to always be on the horizon, but always ends up being a mirage. Now, arstechnica.com reports that we may actually be closer to passwordless authentication with a new spec from the World Wide Web Consortium and FIDO Alliance called WebAuthn. The spec allows browsers to expose hardware authentication devices, be then USB, Bluetooth, or NFC, to sites on the web. The hardware allows users to prove their identity without requiring usernames or passwords. With the WebAuthn standard, your credentials, whether biometric like fingerprints and face recognitions or a USB YubiKey, never leave the browser. This gives stronger protection against phishing, man in the middle attacks, and replay attacks than we have presently. WebAuthn has commitments for support from Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla. Chrome 67 and Firefox 60, both due out in May, will have WebAuthn baked in by default.It may not kill the dreaded password overnight, but now, that merciful death may be coming.

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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.


Google Assistant Now Controls Smart Appliances; App to Download Streamed Netflix & HBO Shows to Watch Offline; BMW Charging Pad..for Cars; Microsoft Dives Into Quantum Computing

Google Assistant can now control more smart devices, including appliances from LG. 9to5google.com reports that included are fridges, AC, ovens, washers & dryers…almost 90 different appliances. There are also some new headphone models that utilize Google Assistant. LG is even offering a deal…get an LG smart Wi-Fi appliance between October 8th and October 25th, and you’re eligible for a free Google Home unit.

When you’re binge watching a show from Netflix. Amazon, Hulu, or HBO, sometimes things get glitchy. Now, there’s an app on Android and iOS that lets you download the shows for later viewing OFFLINE! According to thenextweb.com the app, PlayOn Cloud, also supports YouTube, Yahoo Views, CBS, PBS CW, ABC, NBC, & Fox. There is an extra charge, though. It’s $0.99 per recording, or there are bundles for $0.20 each. Netflix has offered offline downloads as has Amazon, but they expire. With PlayOn, the videos are deleted from the cloud after 30 days, but anything you have downloaded stays on your device.

We’ve all been in places like Starbucks and seen the wireless charging pads, and of course Apple has made a big deal about joining the wireless charging smartphone club now with Qi charging…pads are already available from Mophie and Kensington. Theverge.com says BMW is getting ready to roll out one for their 530e iPerformance plug in hybrid. They claim 3.5 hour charging without a cable. The pad requires a 22o volt outlet, and is still awaiting final testing and UL approval, so it may be a year or more away, but faster, hassle free charging for cars will only accelerate the move to electric vehicles.

On Monday, Microsoft announced that it is going to be moving into the next big thing in computing….quantum computing. According to arstechnica.com, this should allow computers to do absolutely amazing things in the future. Redmond plans to release a new quantum computing programming language late this year, with full Visual Studio integration. If quantum computing sounds like Greek to you, don’t feel bad. In a Wall St. Journal interview, Bill Gates noted that while he was good at math and physics…probably an understatement….when the quantum computing slides came up in a presentation, it looked like hieroglyphics to HIM!


Next Gen HoloLens will Use Custom AI Silicon; Apple Working to Roll Their Own OLED Tech

Microsoft is working on their own AI coprocessor for the next iteration of the HoloLens. Engadget.com says it will give the headset object and voice recognition ability in real time, without any cloud connection. They intend to bake in assistance to blind folks by recognizing objects and describing them. This will also work without a data connection. There isn’t a HoloLens 2, but we will see a HoloLens 3 in late 2018 or early 2019.

Here’s a number that will bring indigestion to cable and satellite providers…Netflix was the top grossing app in the 2nd quarter of this year, with mobile revenue up 233% year over year! According to techcrunch.com, Netflix hauled in $153 million, compared with $46 million a year ago. Average app revenue growth on both the Apple App Store and Google Play is 56%! In the same period, Hulu grew by just 22%.

The new iPhone 8 will feature OLED screens made by Samsung. Apple, like other major manufacturers, is not keen on having a single supplier, and has reportedly bought CVD machines and has set up an R&D line in Taiwan to make OLED screens. 9to5mac.com notes that Apple almost never does actual manufacturing, but has developed the processes and bought the equipment for suppliers in the past. Besides having multiple manufacturers for their own security, Apple may need the production ability….they are planning to make 3 OLED iPhone models next year, and that would require better yields than Samsung has been getting from its process.


Facebook to Add 3000 Moderators Over Live Streaming of Crimes; Hulu Live TV Drops in App Stores

Facebook is hiring 3,000 moderators to intercept deaths and crimes before they can stream live. Businessinsider.com says these moderators will be in addition to 4500 content reviewers that Facebook already employs around the world. They will also monitor hate speech and child exploitation according to a post by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The Hulu Live TV app is now available in beta in app stores. Techcrunch.com reports that it will be useable on Xbox One, Apple TV (4th generation), and Android mobile devices, as well as Chromecast. The old Hulu app won’t work with the live programming, but if you download the new one, it will still get your on demand content, too. It’s $39.95 a month for over 50 channels, and includes a cloud DVR feature. A premium version gets you Showtime, more DVR storage, and unlimited in-home screens.


Hulu Working on $40 Skinny Bundle Cable Competitor; LG In-Screen Fingerprint Reader

Just as traditional cable companies are trying to win back cord cutters with so-called ‘skinny bundles’ that feature less content and a lower price, Hulu is building a cable-like TV package that will go for around $40 a month. According to businessinsider.com, it would give viewers live channels, and Hulu hopes to have it out first quarter of next year. So far, it would have Disney Channel, ABC, ESPN, Fox Broadcast, News, FX, and the Fox national and regional sports channels. Comcast hasn’t agreed to license NBCUniversal or it’s other channels so far, as they likely view the new Hulu service as a direct competitor.

A division of LG-LG Innotek, has revealed a fingerprint sensor module that lives under the glass cover or screen of your smart phone. 9to5google.com says this would allow for more waterproof models and a sleeker design….without the physical button below the screen. It reportedly has an accuracy of .002%! LG thinks they can have it out in a phone by next year.