Freshened MacBook Pro; Apple Watch Grows This Fall; Self-Driving Mercedes Test to Silicon Valley; Purple Galaxy Note 9

Apple has freshened it’s top drawer MacBook Pros today. Theverge.com reports that they come with updated processors, more configuration options, True Tone displays, and what Apple claims is a ‘quieter’ keyboard design. The 15 inch model gets a 70 percent performance boost and the 13 incher doubles in speed. The upgrade doesn’t apply to the base 13 inch MacBook Pro (without the Touch Bar), the MacBook, or MacBook Air. It is rumored the lower line MacBooks will be upgraded this fall. There is a beautiful new leather sleeve for the new MacBook Pros, in black, brown, and dark blue. The price is beautiful, to….a whopping $180 for a SLEEVE! OTOH, a fully tricked out 15 inch MacBook Pro will set you back $6699! (Once your heart resumes beating….the base model remains the same at $2399.

Apple Watch gets updated this fall…probably at the iPhone event in September. One strong rumor from Ming-Chi Kuo is that both watches will get screen size increases without the watch getting larger. According to 9to5mac.com, Apple will do this by cutting the bezel size. The screens will go from 1.31 inch and 1.54 inch to 1.57 and 1.78 inch sizes. the Watch will also get better heart rate detection.

Mercedes-Benz will start pilot testing self-driving taxis in Silicon Valley in 2019. Theverge.com reports that Daimler and Bosch have been partnering on the self-driving tech, which uses a custom version of NVIDIA’s autonomous vehicle tech. The cars will only follow preselected routes, and Mercedes hasn’t decided whether it will go with S-class cars (the biggest body Mercedes) or V-class vans, or both. As with all other self-driving cars right now, there will be a safety driver present in the vehicles.

A leaked poster shows the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 9 in a purple color (which they’ve done before, calling it Lilac Purple) but with a twist this time…it comes with a gold S Pen. In addition, 9to5google.com says the phablet will continue to have a headphone jack. All will be revealed at Samsung’s Unpacked event, which is coming up on August 9th.


3 New Macs Coming; Google Home Catching Up With Amazon Echo; Nationalized 5G Network; Nissan Self-Parking Slippers

Apple is reportedly working on 3 new Models (maybe more). They will be integrated with custom co-processors, and Cupertino has both new laptops and desktops in the works, according to macrumors.com. Some could be out yet this year. Apple had already confirmed it was working on an new, modular Mac Pro, but what other models could be refreshed are only an educated guess at this point. The MacBooks and MacBook Pros could use it for sure, as well as the Air, and Mac Mini.

Amazon has held the lion’s share of home speakers with it’s Echo line, powered by Alexa, sitting at 69%. 9to5google.com points out that Google Home has grown from almost nowhere to 31% already, though, and now with the Apple HomePod just out, expect more erosion in that number. Google Home barely registered in June of 2017, but during the holidays grabbed 40% of sales…mainly due to success of the Home Mini! Microsoft’s Cortana speakers haven’t really moved the needle, but Apple could…recall how they jumped into the already going portable music market years ago with the iPod, and virtually took that segment over.

You have to go a ways to freak out and infuriate both the far left and the far right, but it looks like an idea from the Trump Administration has done just that. According to businessinsider.com, they are exploring a form of nationalized 5G wireless network. The government apparently fears a huge cybersecurity threat…mainly from China…if they don’t. Folks on the left and the right are more freaked out by the prospect of the government controlling the wireless network. The administration is looking at a totally government one, or a national network in partnership with the wireless companies. Both AT&T and Verizon have responded, noting that they are ‘already well down the road’ to 5G wireless networks nationwide. In other words…’bug off!’

Self-driving cars? Pfft! Get me some of these self-driving, self-parking slippers. Bgr.com says Nissan has made some for a Japanese hotel, the ProPILOT Ryokan. Little wheels drop out of the bottom, and a small electric motor run by a processor magically returns the slippers to their proper place! Apparently the TV remote will do the same in rooms, and the bedding is wired with tricks of their own. Personally, I bow down to our robot overlords…and request that my slippers head over here to my feet!


Samsung Delays Bixby for the US Again; 5 New Macs & 4 iOS Devices on Horizon

Samsung rolled out its latest Galaxy phones, the S8 models, without the virtual assistant Bixby in the US. It was due by now, but has been delayed a month. The Wall St. Journal reports that they are having trouble getting it to understand English syntax and grammar. Virtual assistants haven’t been the ‘killer app’ on smartphones anyway…only about 9% of users use the AI feature on a regular basis, according to research firm Ovum. Half of smartphone owners either had no interest in the feature or didn’t even know about it. It has been a different story with talking speakers, which the public seems to be accepting more quickly….with Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant in the lead.

There are armies of people digging through regulatory filings around the world to bring you tidbits like this: a Russian filing points to 5 new Macs and 4 new iOS devices on the way from Apple. According to apple insider.com, we could see some rolled out at WWDC. There has already been speculation that Apple would show a new mid-sized iPad Pro at WWDC, fitting in between the 9.7 inch and 12 inch iPad Pros. A recent shortage of MacBooks seems to point to a refresh of MacBook Pros and Airs as well.


Apple May Switch iPhone to USB-C; Mozilla Buys Pocket

In something of an unusual move for them, Apple may ditch their proprietary Lightening port for USB-C on upcoming iPhones. Arstechnica.com says that since the switch to USB-C on the MacBook Pro, it makes sense, as then Apple devices could settle on an industry standard in all their devices that can do all the Lightening port can do and more. Apple has used Lightening for some 5 years. Get ready to buy yet more dongles and converters!

Theverge.com reports that Mozilla has bought Pocket, a sort of DVR for the internet. Pocket saves articles and videos for viewing and reading later. It’s something of a Back to the Future moment, since Pocket first bowed as a Firefox extension. It has already been Firefox’s default read later service for a couple years. This should help Mozilla grab more eyeballs on mobile, where they have lagged as desktop use has been declining.


Verizon Says Demand for Pixel Outstripping Supply; Flying Airbus Taxis by 2017; MacBook Pros Get Updated Again This Year; Caffeine Blocks Inflammation; Smartphone Air Freshener

The buzz on the Google Pixel phone is enough that demand at Verizon is outstripping supply. 9to5google.com says it has accounted for over 12% of smartphone sales at Verizon. Right now, it looks like you won’t be able to score most Pixel models until March!

Forget Uber…which knows nothing about flying. Airbus is shooting for testing self-flying taxis by the end of 2017! Zdnet.com reports that commuters could book an Airbus flying cab with a smartphone app. There are obvious regulatory hurdles before this can happen, but as they point out, it could free up roadways and the cost associated with them enormously. Besides Uber’s flirt with this, you have Terrafugia, Aeromobil, and EHang working on them, but Airbus is really the 800 lb. gorilla for the flying cab future, with their vast aircraft experience.

The new Macbook Pros that dropped this fall have been panned for lack of ports and battery life. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that they will be refreshed again this year, and get Intel Kaby Lake processors, and 32 gigs of ram. The processors are more stingy with power consumption, and the higher ram will ease a knock from actual pro power users who need all that memory. They will probably debut this fall.

Ok, take another big swig of that coffee! There have been numerous studies finding correlation between caffeine, coffee, and better health, but according to a new one from Stanford picked up by theverge.com, we may now know why. Caffeine may apparently be able to block inflammation! The study actually started as one on aging, but it turned out that people who consumed more caffeinated beverages had less inflammation, had lower blood pressure, and were generally healthier. Have another cup!

In the another first world problem department, isn’t it a hassle to have to change that room air freshener cartridge, or grab a can of air freshener? What if you could do it from your phone? Engadget.com says there’s an Indiegogo campaign for a tabletop air freshener called Moodoo. You can put up $139 for one, plus 4 scent capsules, and will be able to control it from your phone…including setting up ‘fragrance playlists.’ Yeah, this is a major first world problem for sure!


Microsoft Thanks ‘MacBook’ Disappointment for Great Sales; Honda Teases Electric Car with AI; Gates & Others Start Alt Energy Venture Fund

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November was a banner month for Microsoft Surface consumer sales. According to techcrunch,com, they credit ‘Macbook disappointment’ for the bump. Apple, on the other hand, says they got more orders for the new Pro with limited ports than any previous Macbook Pro. Of course, Microsoft rolled out a freshened Surface book and the new, high line Surface Studio, which has gotten a lot of buzz.

Honda has dropped a picture of it’s experimental electric vehicle called the NeuV. The verge.com says they will show it at CES January 5th, and are saying it will come equipped with artificial intelligence of some kind built into what Honda calls an ‘emotion engine.’ The engine is a set of technologies that will “enable machines to artificially generate their own emotions.” So, does this mean sometimes your car will act like Grumpy Cat, and other times like an excited puppy? Stay tuned.

Bill Gates, Jack Ma, and other tech giants have formed a billion dollar tech venture fund to back cutting edge energy technologies, with the goal of searching for breakthroughs that they hope will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero. Others involved are John Doerr, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson. Geekwire.com says Gates will be Chairman of the billion dollar Microsoft Ventures fund.


Folding Samsung Smartphone Due Next Year; MacBook Pro Touch Bar out Nov. 17th at Third Party Stores; MacBook Outsold All Competition in 5 Days

Samsung has a trick up its sleeve…or maybe in its pocket…for an upcoming Galaxy model. According to 9to5google.com, they will roll out a foldable smartphone! Some are calling it the ‘Galaxy X’ right now. It sports an accordion hinge much like Microsoft’s Surface Book laptop, so when folded, it’s not completely flat. The display is much larger than usual, and has a different aspect ratio that the 16:9 most phones have. It will retain a home button and capacitive buttons along the bottom, and a camera at the top back. The bottom of the phone will still have a charging port, headphone jack, and speaker. The total screen size hasn’t leaked out yet.

The hot new MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar will be in third party stores November 17th. 9to5mac.com says there’s still a 4-5 week wait time if you order from Apple right now. The non-Touch Bar model is available from Apple, Amazon, and others with no delay. According to Slice Intelligence, the MacBook Pro not only set an online sales record, it outsold every competing laptop in 5 days….including the Dell XPS 13 and 15. In that 5 day period, Apple also hit 80% of 2015 and ’16 year to date MacBook Pro sales.


Panned MacBook Pro Best Selling MacBook Ever; Amazon Black Friday Pre Sales; China’s Alibaba Dwarfs Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Despite all the complaints about the new MacBook Pro models losing ports, and all the rest, macrumors.com says Apple has gotten more online pre-orders for the new generation than any previous MacBook Pros. Marketing chief Phil Schiller said the volume even surprised him. He underscored that Macs and iOS devices are fundamentally different…saying they tried touch screens, but that the ‘L’ shape with a screen facing you, keyboard & trackpad or mouse just work better for productivity. Schiller says they experimented with touch screens on Macs, and decided it wasn’t a great experience.

Black Friday 2016 is almost here, but Amazon has again kicked off the savings a little early, with deals every day until the big day. It looks like the biggest deals on large electronics like TVs will wait ‘till actual Black Friday. Meanwhile, in China, Alibaba is expected to generate $20 billion in sales on Singles’ Day this year, according to the research firm Fung Global Retail and Technology. By comparison, Americans spent $5.8 billion online last year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, the largest sales days in the US!


Next MacBook Pros May Be the Real Deal; Apple Patents Foldable Smartphone; Amazon Rules the Cloud; Mobile Web Passes Desktops; Facebook Extends Longevity

With the continued griping that the new MacBook Pros aren’t all that ‘pro,’ here’s an interesting tidbit…9to5mac.com reports that KGI Securities says Apple was constrained by a late release of new Intel chips that are more powerful but use less juice. If the next Intel chips are more timely, 2017 may see faster, more powerful MacBook Pros with 32 gigs of ram!

Meanwhile, Apple has patented a bendable or foldable smartphone. Patentlyapple.com says this is different than Samsung’s designs…it uses advanced carbon nanotube structures. This could be done with a ceramic case…something the top Apple Watch uses, and rumored for the iPhone 8. the iPhone 9 or 10 could fold up and slip into a shirt pocket if this is put into use.

Synergy Research Group has crunched numbers, and Amazon Web Services is truly the 800 lb. gorilla of public cloud infrastructure…at 45%, they have more than Microsoft, Google, and IBM combined. According to Geekwire.com, this remains true even though Microsoft and Google are growing cloud revenue at over 100% per year. IBM does lead in managed private clouds, however.

Mobile internet use has passed desktop use for the first time, according to techcrunch.com. Mobile is now at 51.2%, with 48.7% of use still on desktops. Mobile is a whopping 75% in emerging markets like India!

Shades of ‘I want to believe’ from “X Files,” thenextweb.com has picked up a report that moderate Facebook use can lead to longer lives. It has been long known that people with strong social networks live longer, but what about online friends? A study of 12 million Facebook users by UC San Diego says yes. One of the researchers has ties to Facebook, but they claim the social media giant didn’t have a hand in determining the results. The average Facebook user is allegedly 12% less likely to die than non-users. Fox Mulder is using Facebook to look for aliens, and thinks you’re one.


New Tesla Powerwall Has Twice the Power; More on New MacBooks

A pleasant surprise from Tesla…the upcoming Powerwall 2 will hold twice the charge as the present model’s 14 kW hours. Elon Musk says that’s enough to run lights, sockets, and fridge in a standard 4 bedroom home for an entire day! According to tech crunch.com, production will start in the next few weeks, and the rig will run $5500. Of course, you will need to add a few thousand to have it installed along with a power converter. Along with solar cells, you could do some serious cord-cutting….or at least unplugging for a good part of the day!

With lots of people up in arms about the new MacBooks losing ports, and the thoughts of buying a bag full of dongles, and other issues…like no physical escape button many programmers use, Apple has apparently thrown a bone to business and power users. 9to5mac.com reports that the SSD drive is replaceable and upgradable, at least in the low end model sans Touch Bar. In the prior models, it was soldered in. We’ll have to wait until some of the Touch Bar models are delivered to see if this is true across the line…if so, it would be welcomed. A couple of other notes…or lack of notes…the F sharp chord at startup is gone. The new Pros start when you open the lid, and it’s almost no difference from the wake when you open the lid of a machine that has already been booted up…except that it obviously takes a little longer. A moment of silence for the venerable Apple chord.