Apple iMac Pro Out This Week; AmEx Drops Signatures; Switch Passes 10 million in As Many Months; Clapboss Wins the Irritating War

As Jobs used to say, ‘One more thing’…yes, Apple kicked the HomePod down the road into next year, but today announced that the iMac Pro will go on sale Thursday. Businessinsider.com reports that the pricey and powerful (starting at $4999) iMac sports a 27 inch Retina display, and can be upgraded (pushing up the nosebleed price even further) to 128 gigs of RAM, 4TB of storage, and an 18 core Intel Xeon processor. The Pro is really made for pros…audio and video pros who need all that power. Unlike the MacBook Pro, which has irritated Pros with only USB C ports and not even a Mag Safe connector, the iMac Pro rocks 4 USB ports, 4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, and a wired ethernet port. Did I mention it starts at almost 5 grand? My eyes are still watering!

American Express has announced that it will stop requiring signatures for purchases. Engadget.com notes that in the last few months, both MasterCard and Discover had announced the same, but only in the US and Canada starting in April. AmEx is dropping signatures globally. All say that tech advances have made signatures obsolete. In some regions people will still have to sign where required by law. This should move lines at check stands faster and increase the spread of cardless transaction systems like ApplePay.

Gaming is more than alive and well! Nintendo has announced that it has pumped out 10 million Switch consoles in 10 months! Variety.com says they are on track to pass up the Wii U soon, which took 5 years to sell 13.6 million! Three games account for over half of game sales: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Odyssey, and Splatoon 2.

If you’ve ever been irritated by thos obnoxious TV ads with the guy clapping to turn lights and Christmas trees on and off…or worse, been to Grandma’s and she actually bought and uses one, get ready for the ultimate annoyance….the Clapboss! Techcrunch.com says it’s a net connected dongle that lets you clap to turn things off and on. The Kickstarter is $39, and the irritating little dongle…which has a smug, smiley face on it…will be $80 retail. It supports 6 different clap patterns so you can turn on and off 6 different devices….and annoy the hell out of anyone living with you nearly to the point of justifiable homicide.


No MacBookTouch Bar Use for Bar Exams; Baby Monitor Tracks Breathing Wirelessly

In the ‘Dark Ages,’ law students couldn’t even take a typewriter with memory into bar exams. Now, many states that allow laptops will require MacBooks with Touch Bars to have that feature disabled in order to be used. Thenextweb.com says it’s because of the ‘predictive text’ feature built in. Assessment software maker ExamSoft notes that this will work in some states, although others….like New York….flatly ban Touch Bar laptops. In the past, California Bar Examiners have required that a device be brought in a week ahead and left with them prior to the exam to prevent un-permitted ‘assistance.’

After an engineer saw a friend’s premature infant hooked up to monitoring equipment at home, an idea was hatched. The engineer and a couple colleagues have come up with Raybaby. According to engadget.com, it is launching on Kickstarter. Raybaby looks like a regular baby monitor, with a camera that picks up movements and connects with smartphone apps. The difference with Raybaby is that it uses wideband radar tech, which can pick up the slightest movement…less than a millimeter…so can detect breathing from up to 15 feet away…even if baby is wrapped in a blanket. The monitor will sell for $250, but it you are an early backer, you can score one for $99.


Galaxy S8 Goes Stereo; iPhone 7s Will See Red; Fitbit Buys and Kills Pebble

Samsung has had some of it’s best successes borrowing things from Apple, so one would think they’d poach the dual cameras of the iPhone 7 Plus for the Galaxy S8. Well, according to bgr.com, the feature they are thinking about grabbing and highlighting is actually stereo speakers. This rumor comes from Fone Arena, and Samsung will not only pick up on iPhone’s stereo speakers, but look to HTC for the marketing. HTC has featured a stereo setup they called BoomSound, and Samsung will be cooking up a flashy name for theirs. Sadly, it won’t be Harman. Although they bought the upscale audio company, they won’t be able to integrate Harman luxury tech into the Galaxy series until 2018.

Apple iPhones are going to see red next year….and we’re not talking about Product (Red.) 9to5mac.com reports they will actually have a red chassis color to add to Black, Jet Black, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. 9to5mac.com picked up the rumor from Macotakara, which correctly touted the demise of the headphone jack. They do differ with KGI Securities, though on the upcoming iPhones. The Japanese site says there will be a high line iPhone 8 with wireless charging and the glass case, but the other two models will be named iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, and will keep metal cases without wireless charging, but will get upgraded internals.

Fitbit has officially bought Pebble. Thenextweb.com says, they also took about 40% of the employees…virtually all from the software side, and they are killing off the smartwatches and Pebble OS. They will be doing more to develop apps for Fitbit products, and haven’t decided if they will even use the Pebble brand. People who contributed to Kickstarter for upcoming Pebble products will get refunds.


Samsung Gains Smartphone Share As Apple Slips; Amazon’s Seen on Kickstarter Section

Samsung has extended its reach in the smartphone market, according to 9to5mac.com, citing numbers from Strategy Analytics. Worldwide, Samsung was up from 21.3% to 22.8 from 2nd quarter 2015 to 2nd quarter of this year. Apple Dipped from 14.1% to 11.9%. The overall smartphone market ticked up .7% to 340 million units, and should be up more this year with the rollout of new Samsung and Apple smartphones. Apple did hit a milestone this week, delivering it’s one billionth iPhone!

Amazon started its Launchpad program last year, for startups and innovative products. Now, thenextweb.com reports that they have added a new section with crowdfunded products from Kickstarter. The section is already stocked up with over 300 items. It’s available today.


How Lyft Sees It’s (and Your) Driverless Future; Cup of Joe on the Go

Lyft thinks that by 2030, they’ll be offering you driverless rides. That’s not so surprising, but what they will be IN may well be. As we’ve reported, Lyft has partnered with General Motors, with the latter pumping a half billion into the ride sharing service. According to buzzfeed.com, Lyft plans to furnish different types of vehicles to customize your ride. The vehicles will be like pods, according to the ride share service…not built around a driver as with present day vehicles. For a longer trip, you might call a napping pod, or you could hail one that offers a mani-pedi for a little spiffing up. Some may be all glass at the top for scenic routes. Other options considered may be carriage seating, where people face one another, or single pods for a quick trip across town. As predicted by others, individual car ownership may dwindle to a tiny number of hardcore driving enthusiasts. It’s only 15 years away…tech has a way of disrupting industries at warp speed.

A Kickstarter that every commuting coffee drinker will love, and Starbuck’s will hate is on the way by May. Mashable.com reports that the MoJoe mobile coffee system, which had shot for $20,000, has raised over $73,000, and will be on the way to backers by May. It looks like a Thermos, but you pour water into it, and a battery heats the water and pushes it up at 200 degrees through a mini filter full of grounds. Presto! Freshly brewed coffee in 6 to 10 minutes, depending on the temperature of water you pour in! The coffee is held in a separate chamber. The battery is rechargeable, and you can plug it in…the Thermos is designed to fit regular cup holders.


Facebook Enters Crowdfunding; Ford Sees Self-Driving Cars in 4 Years

A lot of projects have been launched on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Now, it appears that Facebook is dipping its toe into the crowdfunding pool. According to techcrunch.com, they’ve just released something called Fundraiser, which lets non-profits set up a campaign page where they can roll a video, collect cash, and let people share on their newsfeed. As it stands, Fundraiser competes with Crowdrise, but it wouldn’t take much for Facebook to drop the ‘non’ from nonprofit. With people able to donate and never leave Facebook, it will be easier than ever to fund nonprofit projects…and perhaps in the near future, FOR profit ones.

The race is really on…figuratively, at least…to autonomous cars. Recode.net reports that Ford’s CEO Mark Fields said this week that he sees completely self-driving cars on the streets within 4 years. That’s even quicker than Google’s prediction of 5 years. Ford has started testing autonomous cars at Mcity, the 30 plus acre test layout operated by the University of Michigan. Mcity has a full scale urban streets test layout. The Ford CEO also said they have plans to include Apple Car Play and Google’s Android Auto in some of the Ford line, but he didn’t specify what models or the timetable.


Local TV News for Cord Cutters; Kickstarter Hits Major Milestone

One downside for some of cutting the cord is you generally lose local TV news…something handy to have access to, since local events may affect you more than national or international ones. According to techrunch.com, that drought ends today. A company called NewsON, which unsurprisingly is backed by TV stations, gets you local news on your iOS and Android devices, as well as Roku. It makes available video content from 118 stations in 90 markets. You choose local news from where you live or where you are with an interactive map, and can even post real time Tweets about news coverage. The interface is a little kludgy, but the app is free now on iTunes, Google Play, and the Roku Channel Store.

Despite the occasional scam or big delays in getting products, Kickstarter’s 9.5 million users have now pledged over 2 billion dollars to projects. So far, there have been 260,000 campaigns since 2009. Engadget.com reports that the crowdfunder is simplifying its rules for submission, too. Gaming projects have raised the most money, $412 million, with tech related ones #2 at $360 million. I’ve backed several, and only been burned once…for less than 50 bucks. Just this week, two new products I backed..including the Sherlybox private cloud and VPN arrived–it worked as pitched. I’m jazzed about it!