Alexa Can Send SMS Messages; Amazon QR ‘Smile’ Codes; Samsung Chip Biz Eclipses Intel; Apple Still Bringing iOS Apps to MacsPosted: January 31, 2018
Bringing us one step closer to a Star Trek future, Amazon just rolled out another skill for Alexa. Thenextweb.com reports that now you can send SMS text messages by voice command over your Echo or other speaker that has Alexa. A couple of notes, though. It doesn’t work for texting 911 or sending group messages or MMS. Should be pretty handy though, if you need to send a text, and your phone’s across the room or across the house!
Yet another trick Amazon has pulled out of its sleeve…they are working with their own version of QR codes…those little boxes with gibberish patterns. TechCrunch.com says they call them ‘SmileCodes.’ In this case, you can open the scanner that is built into the Amazon app, scan the code, and it will take you to that item on Amazon’s site, or play a related movie trailer or product review. Right now, the codes are listed to pop-up shops and Amazon Lockers in Europe, but the test should be over soon, and expect a rollout in the US before long.
After decades as the top dog in chip manufacturing, Intel has been eclipsed by Samsung as of 2017. The numbers have been crunched, and according to theverge.com, Samsung raked in $69.1 billion worth of the little silicon rascals, while Intel’s take was $62.8 billion. To be fair, Samsung produced more memory and flash, while Intel still leads in processor chips. With the demand only set to increase with self-driving vehicles and more AI coming on line, Samsung should be sitting pretty with this segment of their business.
Yesterday, there was a story out that Apple would be holding back some features for iOS 12 in order to focus on security and reliability of the OS. Apparently, one feature that won’t be held back will be the ability to port iOS apps to Macs. Cnet.com says the team developing that is still on track to roll it out this year, which will make the App Store on the Mac a lot more fun and interesting.
It’s easy, especially when covering tech, to be all over the latest mobile devices, and lose track of what’s happening with the venerable PC…which most of us still have and use. Bgr.com has the numbers as tracked by IDC, and here’s where computer brands stood in 2017: #1 was H-P with 22.7% of the market. Lenovo came in 2nd with 21.1%. In third place was Dell with 16.1% market share, and 4th was Apple at 7.6%. Acer was in 5th place with 6.8%, and ASUS grabbed 6th with 6.6%, hot on their trail. The other 19.1% of computer sales was ‘everybody else.’ Of all of them, Apple had the most growth in the 4th quarter covering the holidays.
While Apple fanboys and fangirls breathlessly await the Apple HomePod, the smart speaker market is absolutely booming. According to 9to5mac.com, it’s up 128% since a year ago. Research from Edison Research and NPR indicates one in 6 Americans own a smart speaker of one type or another. 65% of owners say they would never want to go back to not having one! Of the 16% of us that have smart speakers, 11% are Amazon Alexa powered, while 4% use Google Home.
Since Congress passed a law allowing some hearing aid tech without prescription, wireless earbud makers are looking to that as a new market. Engadget.com reports that wireless earbud pioneer Bragi announced at CES that they would be diving into personalized hearing enhancement for their Dash earbuds. On top of that, they are working to develop personalized fitting for hearing loss using the so-called ‘Earprint’ test….pointing out that correcting for hearing loss needs to be as personalized as fitting for glasses. Another company called Nuheara showed off their updated product called IQBuds Boost.
Magic Leap Unveals AR Headset; Apple Allowing Universal Apps-Mac and iOS; UK Deems High Speed Internet a Legal RightPosted: December 20, 2017
We’ve been hearing whispers for years, and now Google-backed Magic Leap has taken the wraps off their augmented reality headset’s Creator Edition. 9to5google.com says they will be shipping in 2018, too! The setup consists of a ‘Lightwear’ headset connected to a circular ‘Lightpack’ via a couple cords…the Lightpack contains the processing and graphics, in a mid-sized disk that hangs off a belt or pocket…and a Control’ remote (smaller than most TV remotes) that provides for 6 degrees of freedom and movement. The headset has tech that detects and stores the exact location of walls, surfaces, and physical objects, and also what they are calling ‘360 degree sound field audio.’ The interface accepts inputs from voice, gestures, head poses, and eye tracking. No word on pricing for the Creator Edition yet, but their SDK should be released along with it, in addition to other tools for web and game developers.
Apple is readying to let developers release universal apps that will work across iPhones, iPads, and Macs early next year. In a Bloomberg News writeup picked up by macrumors.com, the official announcement and details could come in June at WWDC 2018. So far, it’s not known if Apple will merge the Mac App Store with the vastly more popular App Store for iOS, but that seems logical. The move would mean better apps for the Mac, since developers put a lot more time and energy into making apps for the more widely used iPhones and iPads.
In the wake of the FCC killing net neutrality here in the US, Britain has taken the opposite position. According to rawstory.com, the UK has deemed high speed internet a legal right for all citizens, and will require that never household is wired for it by 2020.. Communications company BT has pledged to drop around $788 million to connect about a million and a half rural homes to the net. Right now, about 95% of homes in the UK have broadband connections with 24 Mbps or higher speed.
Patent Reveals Striking Future Google Pixel Feature; Survey Shows Way More Switching PC to Mac Than Vice Versa; Best Buy’s Interactive Alexa and Google Home DisplaysPosted: June 28, 2017
Google will continue the unusual glass/metal back with the Pixel 2, and now we may know where they’re going with it. Bgr.com reports on a Discovery by Patently Mobile -a patent that highlights a touch sensitive surface on the back that would let the user control the device without touching with any elements on the screen-instead, touching the back of the handset. This allows commands and selection without obstructing anything you would be viewing on the screen.
A survey of US computer owners indicates that 21% of Windows laptop users will switch to Mac next time, but only 2% of Mac owners will change to Windows. The number switching Windows to Mac is even higher for Windows desktop users. According to 9to5mac.com, the survey is from Verto Analytics. The biggest no shock in the survey— most of the PC to Mac flippers are in higher income brackets, reflecting Apple’s pricey offerings!
Best Buy is rolling out Amazon Alexa and Google Home products in 700 stores, to be highlighted in separate, free standing display areas. Geekwire.com says the setup will allow customers to use Alexa devices and Google Home devices to interact with nearby products like Nest thermostats, Philips Hue lighting, and Insignia Smart Plugs…a way to try before you buy. 80 million smart home devices were delivered worldwide last year according to IHS Markit, up 64% from 2015. They expect 130 million to be sold this year.
After following the lead of Samsung and shamelessly aping Apple’s iPhone in their home country of China, it looks like maker Xiaomi is ready for their US closeup. Bgr.com reports that they have become the fastest growing smartphone maker, and now they’re coming to the US. Their latest crop of phones barely resemble the iPhone now, and they’ve purchased about 1500 patents from Microsoft. Xiaomi is known now for selling affordable smartphones with designs and specs that rival much more expensive ones, so if you’re on a budget but want a top flight phone, this could be the real deal.
We knew it was coming soon, and now we have a date. Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference will kick off in San Francisco Monday, June 13th, with the keynote at the usual 10 am Pacific. Bill Graham Civic Auditorium will be crammed to the rafters with tech reporters and developers. By noon that day, we should have lots more details about the next version of Apple’s iPhone/iPad software — iOS 10 — as well as news on Apple Watch, Apple TV and Macs. Cnet.com says they’ll have live coverage, as will a number of other tech sites. We’ll recap things right here. Stay tuned…
Soundhound has rolled out what they’re calling their original concept, which has been 9 years in the making. Businessinsider.com says their new assistant app…Hound…blows both Siri and Google Now into the weeds with both speed and accuracy. SoundHound has been around a while. It recognizes and identifies music that’s playing around you. Instead of converting your voice to text, then trying to decipher what you are inquiring about, Hound’s proprietary engine does it all at once…like a human brain. Hound can replace Google Now as default voice assistant on Android, but Apple doesn’t allow replacing Siri on iOS. Hound has 110 data partners, while Siri started with 12 5 years ago, and even now only have 25.
The next system software update for Sony’s PS4 will be out in beta this week. Bgr.com reports that Sony has announced Remote Play. Remote Play won’t work in the beta, but by late this year, the final version of update 3.50 will be released to the public, and with it, and everyone with a PS4 will be able to stream games directly to their PC or Mac. Best of all, the PS4 controller is basically plug-and-play on computers, so gamers won’t have to fiddle around with the controls to make everything work.
Apple’s assistant Siri is coming to the Mac in OS X 10.12. 9to5mac.com reports that the feature will live in the Menu Bar like the Spotlight icon…click it, and a little translucent Siri window will pop up below, and voice control will switch on. A keyboard shortcut is also planned, and the ‘Hey, Siri’ feature too, if the Mac is plugged in to power.
Google’s Boston Dynamics company, has shared a peek at what it is calling the “next generation” of its Atlas robot. The new Atlas is designed to can work both indoors and outdoors, the company says, and weighs a solid 180 pounds, according to 9to5google.com. The ‘bot is 5 feet 9 inches tall and has sensors in its legs and body to help it balance, as well as LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, survey surrounding terrain, and aide in seamless navigation.
It was all over the tech news yesterday, and first reported by the Wall St. Journal, that Apple had put it’s Project Titan…their car project…on the front burner, and want an Apple car on the road by 2019. Google has spoken out couple times, underscoring that they are NOT planning to actually build a Google self-driving car, but will partner with car makers. Apple’s electric car project, by the way, will apparently not be self-driving. Apple will not be building their own car. As bgr.com snarked, who is going to build it…it won’t be Foxconn! I predict that Apple will have to partner with one or more actual car maker. Right now, it takes a car maker a minimum of 4 years to get a model out, and they have the actual plants and equipment to build cars at scale. Apple doesn’t, and can’t possibly be ready to produce them by 2019. Even an electric with no EPA emission requirements will still have to meet federal standards in various countries for safety. Which manufacturer or manufacturers will they partner with, and will it be sold from present dealerships or out of Apple branded car stores, like Tesla is doing? Stay tuned.
From Microsoft’s Office blog, comes something that’s NOT vaporware…Office 2016 for Windows and Office 2016 for Mac are available now to everyone. The Windows version is more tightly integrated with both Windows 10 and Office 365, and subscribers can get more frequent updates with new features and improvements. Microsoft says the Mac version had been out since July for 365 subscribers, but now is a one-time purchase option open to all with several new and enhanced Office 365 services. As is typical for Office and Microsoft products, the features and even pricing are beyond the time constraints we have here.
Wednesday looks to be the day that Apple drops new 15 inch Macbook Pros and 27 inch iMacs with Force Touch baked in to the track pads. 9to5mac.com says that otherwise, the update will be a minor one, with upgrades to the CPU and graphics processors.
In a story from tech crunch.com penned by the CEO of Zuora, the present car industry is compared to the early PC industry of the mid 80’s. The auto makers are cast as being as clueless as giant IBM was at that time, and Digital Equipment…remember them…even more out of touch. IBM went on to be clobbered as the platform…like Windows or Mac…became much more important to consumers than the brand itself. With Gartner predicting that there will be 250 million connected cars on the road by 2020, the platform makers, like Google with Android Auto and Apple with Car Play, may become far more important that the actual brand of cars…causing a gigantic shakeup in the auto industry.