Microsoft Plans Cheaper iPad Rival; Apple Vein Face Scan; New Whole Foods Discount for Prime Members

Microsoft is gearing up to release a line of lower cost Surface tablets by later this year that would compete with the hot selling cheaper iPad. Bloomberg.com reports that the last (somewhat) cheaper Surface kind of bombed at $499 back in 2012, but the pricey Pro has sold well. Of course the cheaper iPad is just over $300, so that may be a sweet spot. The cheaper Surface would have a 10 inch screen…just above the 9.7 inch size of the iPad. It is expected to sell for $400, will have USB-C, and be lighter than present Surface tablets. That comes at the cost of battery life…only 4 hours! The Surface Pro can make 13.5 hours on a charge. Again look for these the 2nd half of the year.

As if Apple’s Face ID and the fact that Ticketmaster is testing out facial recognition for concert admission wasn’t enough, now Apple may be going deeper…literally. According to appleinsider.com, Apple is are looking at taking biometrics to the next level…scanning the veins in a user’s face! In a patent just published called ‘Vein imaging using detection of pulsed radiation,’ Apple can scan the blood vessel patterns below the skin in your face. They claim it can even tell identical twins apart. By the way, ‘radiation’ is relative…you won’t glow in the dark…it’s from infrared light, not radioactive material! As with all Apple patents, this may or may not make it into a phone.

In an effort to build business, Amazon has dangled two new discounts for Prime members at Whole Foods. Arstechnica.com says one is an additional 10% off sale items, and another is ‘deep discounts’ on select best-selling items (or what grocers have called ‘loss leaders’ for decades.’) The deep discounts at Whole Foods will include meat and fish, however. The first deep discount items include organic strawberries, wild-caught halibut, cold brew coffee, and granola.

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Apple Cheaper iPad Freshen; Apple Watch Rumors, Foxconn Buys Belkin

Apple rolled out the expected updated cheaper iPad at their educational event in Chicago today, as they look to regain ground in the education market they once owned. The updated 9.7 inch tablet has Apple Pencil support, TouchID, and weighs a pound. Apple also announced new versions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that support the Pencil, noting that with Pages, a report could be written collaboratively…and later, teachers will be able to grade and mark them up right in the Pages document. Theverge.com notes that the iPad is priced at $329 for consumers, $299 for schools and is available today, shipping this week. In something of a preemptive strike, Google showed the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 yesterday. That tablet runs the Chrome OS natively and sells for…wait for it…$329!

With all the attention on the freshened up iPad, a new rumor has slipped out…this from KGI Securities about the Series 4 Apple Watch. 9to5mac.com reports the upcoming Watch will have a larger display, enhanced health monitoring, and longer battery life. According to Ming-Chi Kuo at KGI, the new Watch will have a 15% larger display. Up to now, all Apple watches have either been 38 or 42mm. So far, we don’t know if this will increase the size of the watch, or just make the display larger by reducing the bezels. The increase in battery capacity points to the actual Watch growing in size. This will be the first major re-design since the 1st Apple Watch came out.

Foxconn, which produces the bulk of Apple’s iPhones, in addition to numerous other electronic devices for Apple and for other brands, is buying peripheral maker Belkin for $866 million. You have probably bought Belkin accessories like chargers, cables, and screen protectors, and perhaps a Lynksys modem, which they also sell. This gives Foxconn more than a toehold…more like a large footprint…in the peripheral market. Chet Pipkin, founder and CEO of Belkin since starting it 35 years ago, will remain and run Belkin as a wholly owned subsidiary, and may join the Foxconn management team as well.


Upcoming iPad & iPad Pros; Twitch Extensions Now on Mobile; Send Money Via Google Assistant; Microsoft Cuts Biggest Corporate Solar Deal

Apple has an event coming up March 27th, and a lot of people expect a new or freshened iPad to drop. Since the Pro hasn’t been out a year yet, the refresh to it may not show up, but other iPads have been rumored to get something akin to a new coat of paint…including a rumor of a price cut on the entry level 9.7 inch model. A more robust upgrade to the Mini may be part of it, and there’s also a rumor of Apple Pencil being added to the feature set. The Pros may be updated at WWDC this summer…it’s widely expected they will get FaceID like the iPhone X.

The Game Developers Conference is going on in San Francisco, and Twitch has announced that extensions have been made available on Mobile. Techcrunch.com reports that the tools that allow streamers to customize pages with leaderboards, polls, schedules, and the like have been widely sought on mobile by streamers…and now, they’re here. Extensions have been available on the desktop since last year.

Google is bowing the ability to send peer to peer payments with Google Assistant in the US. According to theverge.com, you will be able to use it on either Android or iOS and just tell it to send whatever friend on your contacts list the cash, and it will transmit it via Google Pay. If you are wondering what a hassle it is to set up, if you have used the little $ button in Gmail, your are already set! I’ll be waiting on my cash, LOL!

In an effort to power its global data centers with renewable energy, Microsoft has announced the biggest corporate buy of solar energy ever in the US….315 megawatts. Geekwire.com says the panels, etc., will go into two new solar projects in Virginia, and will cover 2,000 acres. When installed, they will give Microsoft 1.2 gigawatts of renewable power worldwide…which they say would light 100 million LED bulbs!


iPad Refresh Imminent; New Air Pods; Whole Foods Break for Amazon Prime Shoppers; 5G Coming to Intel Laptops

A reliable tip-off that Apple is about to release new devices has popped up. Macrumors.com says Cupertino has registered new tablets with the Eurasian Economic Commission. This points to new iPads in just weeks. Most prognosticators are looking for a refresh of the current lower cost 9.7 inch iPad, and then either a cheaper yet version of it, or possibly an iPad Mini, which hasn’t gotten updated in a while. It’s thought that the updated iPad Pro with FaceID will bow at WWDC in June. Apple has dropped either an iPad or other new piece of hardware in March every year for the last 4 years.

While we’re in the Apple orchard, plucking rumors from the trees, there’s also one from Bloomberg that Apple is working on new models of AirPods. Apple is apparently developing a new wireless chip that helps better manage Bluetooth connections. An expected feature is a touch less Siri model…the present ones require a press in order to activate the Apple assistant, but a new model may allow for a voice only command of ‘Hey Siri’ to give total hands free use to people wanting to access the feature. A water resistant design is also thought to be in the works for at least one model of new Air Pods.

Amazon has added another perk for Amazon Prime. According to bgr.com, Prime members with an Amazon Rewards Visa card will now get 5% back on Whole Foods purchases, in addition to the 5% back on amazon.com purchases. Most such programs don’t offer as high as 5%, and almost all others restrict purchases, so having it available on all of Amazon and Whole Foods could really add up fast.

We just covered the 1st 3 cities that AT&T will wire for 5G service later this year. Now, word comes from reuters.com that Intel’s upcoming XMM 8000 modem chips will power laptops with 5G connectivity starting in the 2nd half of 2019. Blazing fast, always-connected internet could be a killer feature to push a lot more people into trading for a new laptop!


Apple Talking to Goldman About Financing Your iStuff; Mercedes Building an E-Sprinter Van; UK Government Looks to Bolster Gig Workers’ Rights

Apple is in talks with Goldman Sachs to offer consumer financing for people buying iPhones, Apple Watches, iPads, etc. 9to5mac.com reports that it is a type of loan or finance deal, not a credit card. It would allow people buying an iPhone X for a grand to finance it with Goldman instead of charging to a high interest credit card. It’s possible that any deal Apple makes with Goldman would also roll up the iPhone Upgrade Program. There are no further details, and it’s not a done deal…stay tuned.

You see Mercedes Sprinter delivery vans on the freeways and streets all the time…even more so in Europe. Now, according to engadget.com, Mercedes is planning an -Sprinter version. It looks like it would be geared at city deliveries, where short hauls wouldn’t need a huge range and the accompanying huge battery packs. Mercedes says the costs are on par with running diesel vans, but without the smog issues. The e-version will be much more connected…allowing fleet managers to schedule maintenance and order parts, and consumers…with a camper van, for example…to be able to turn the heat on in the van while returning from a hike. The e-Sprinter should debut in 2019.

The ‘gig’ economy is a two edged sword…it allows work flexibility, albeit without the benefits of a regular job. Now, the government in the UK is looking at a plan to get and improve benefits for gig workers like sick pay, holiday pay, and stable contracts. Cnet.com says such regulations will provide a much more stable workforce without continued fights, as with Uber, over whether the workers are employees or not.


1st Phone With Diamond Screen Coming; Intel Smart Non-Glasshole Glasses; Galaxy S9 to Get Price Jump; iPad Crushed Competing Tablets Last Year

Cracked screens are a constant worry…even if low level…for everyone who carries a smartphone. Now, cnet.com says something better than either Gorilla Glass or sapphire crystal is on the way. It’s Akhan Semiconductor’s Mirage Diamond Glass. It can be layered on top of screens, much like Gorilla Glass, but is of course, stronger…being made from lab grown diamonds. Akhan will initially work with just one smartphone maker in each category. They are still working on minimizing glare, and pricing, but again…if all works out, we would have the much less breakable screens on phones by next year.

Two of the bigger complaints of GoogleGlass were the way they looked and the fact that ‘Glassholes’ could have the video on at any given time, which was way creepy. Now, theverge.com reports that Intel has a prototype called the Vaunt that may be what we all would have liked in smart glasses in the first place. They use a very low power laser to project the images right into your eyes…it looks like what’s on a screen, but the plus is, the glasses look just like regular…albeit….nerdy…black glasses. According to a Verge reporter who tried them out, they are comfortable enough to wear all day, and Intel says they will come in several styles and work with prescriptions. The electronics and batteries are built into the stems and frames of the glasses. Basically, they are more simple than GoogleGlass. They just display a small heads up display with simple messages or notifications, transmitted by Bluetooth from and Android or iPhone…a lot like how the Apple Watch works. Intel will launch an ‘early access’ program this year. No details yet on getting in that or cost yet.

Another rumor about the imminent Samsung Galaxy S9, and this one is about pricing. According to a leak in Britain, it will sell for £100 more than the S8. The S9 will be £789 in the UK, while the S8 was £689. converting currency, that’s $1114 in the US, with the S8 at $973. Of course, checking actual pricing in the US, the retail is $750, so expect the S9 to be set at more like $850 in the US. Still, a $100 (or £100) bump is not insignificant. It will bet interesting to watch and see how preorders are affected by this increase.

Apple’s decision to release a lower cost but upgraded iPad last year apparently hit the public’s sweet spot. Macrumors.com says Apple’s tablet sold more than Samsung and Amazon’s offerings combined in 2017! Apple pumped out 43.8 million iPads, while Samsung sold 24.9 million and Amazon 16.7 million…even put together, that’s 2.2 million less than Apple’s iPads. Apple grabbed 26.8% of the tablet market last year.


Apple Plans Cheaper 9.7 Inch iPad; Samsung Patents Palm-Reading Phone; Google Home Bug; Facebook ‘Messenger Kids’ Launches

This Spring, Apple rolled out a $329 9.7 inch iPad, and got a nice bump in sales. Now, it looks like they are working on hitting a lower price point yet…around $260. 9to5mac.com says it’s not clear if it will replace the $329 tablet or be an additional model, and what, if any, downgrade to performance there might be. The low line model would be aimed at industrial enterprise users and ‘price-sensitive’ consumers, i.e. cheapskates.

Samsung has been working on a foldable smartphone for some time, and Apple has copied them for once, patenting such a phone. Both companies may have them out in a couple years. Now, engadget.com reports that Samsung has patented a phone that reads your palm. No, it’s not going to be called ‘the Medium’ as far as we know…and this kind of palm reader would be for biometric security! The function is primarily one that uses the lines in your hand and provides hints based on them for passwords…although it could be an additional biometric sign in should Samsung decide to go that route.

Last week was terrible for Apple security, with a couple major bugs…one of which they patched within a day, since it enabled someone with physical access to get root control of your computer. Google has had bug issues too, particularly with the new Pixel 2 series. Add to that a new bug in the Google Home Mini. According to bgr.com, a reviewer found one during testing that made the Home record virtually everything he said, and another that made the thing reboot when you turn the volume up too loud! It might be a great idea for these big firms to hit pause, and bulk up their quality control a bit, even if it means not getting software updates out quite so quickly!!

Facebook has dropped ‘Messenger Kids,’ and app available on iOS that lets kids under 13 chat with safety in mind. Techcrunch.com says parents can download the app onto the kid’s tablet or phone and create a profile for them, then approve friends and family they can text and video chat with using the app and the main Messenger App. Tweens don’t get a Facebook account and don’t have to provide a phone number. Facebook says it’s been working closely with the FTC on the app, and it has detection filters to block sharing nudity, sexual content, and violence. Paso, they have put in a dedicated support team for the youth app. The app has plenty of stickers and reality masks to keep them engaged. An Android version will be released soon, according to Facebook.