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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Makers Partner Promoting e-Cars; Google Assistant & Multi-Room Audio; LinkedIn Gets Auto-Roll Ads; Facebook Limiting 3rd Party Ad Targeting Data

While there’s already a fair amount of interest in electric cars, now 16 auto makers have teamed up with several states in a campaign called ‘’Drive Change. Drive Electric.’  BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, VW, & Volvo are involved. The goal is to educate and inform consumers about the variety of zero-emission vehicles. Mashable.com says There will be a new website, ads, social media campaigns and events, designed to get more people into electric cars.

Google is rolling out an extension that lets you pair Assistant devices to Bluetooth speakers allowing voice control of multi-room audio. You could already stream music from a phone, tablet, or computer to Google Home over Bluetooth, but now, you can stream music to other Bluetooth speakers around your house, including in multiple rooms. According to 9to5google.com, you will still need a Google Home device to control them. The companion app will let you set a default speaker or set of speakers, and the pairing works on all Google Home devices, including the Mini and Max.

Microsoft has added what’s a feature to advertisers but probably a bug to you to its LinkedIn platform. Techcruhch.com reports that Video ads will now appear and auto roll in your feed. The good news? At least the audio is muted initially, so you won’t be jarred by something playing right after the site loads. The ads will contain links that can point to the advertisers’ sites, and that can be used to collect leads. Microsoft says the feature is rolling out over the next several weeks, and has been tested by over 700 advertisers since October. Now, you can look forward to LinkedIn acting even more like a social network site…although it seems unlikely people bailing on Facebook will be posting cat or food pictures on LinkedIn.

Facebook has announced that it will limit how much data it makes available to advertisers buying hyper-targeted ads. The embattled social media giant says in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal,  it will stop using data from third-party data aggregators — companies like Experian and Acxiom — to help supplement its own data set for ad targeting. Recode.net notes that Facebook previously let advertisers target people using data from a number of sources: Facebook’s own data they had collected, info from the advertiser itself, and data from 3rd party sources like credit reporting firm Experian. Facebook hasn’t said it will quit using third party firms for ad measurement help, but is reevaluating that practice.


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!


Segway Scooter; Dyson’s New Gorilla V10 Cordless Vac; Outlook Cortana for iOS & Android; Whole Foods Amazon Delivery Expands

You see a few Segways around, but they never caught on as anticipated. Now, businessinsider.com reports the company has launched an Indiegogo preorder for the Loomo, a robotic platform that you can ride, or park a bag or briefcase on and it will follow you around. It’s kind of a mashup of a hoverboard and a personal robot with a personal assistant…like if you could ride R2D2 and it responded like Alexa. The Loomo is $1300, not cheap, but it not only will carry you or your stuff, or follow you around like a puppy, but will also shoot pics or video on command. It takes about 3 hours to charge, and has a range of 22 miles. It runs on a customized version of Android. BTW, if you think the $1300 pre-order price is a bit steep, it will be $1800 later at retail!

Dyson’s vacuums suck like no others. That’s a good thing when it comes to vacuums, of course. Now, they’ve rolled out the Cyclone V10, the most powerful cordless one yet, which they claim can completely replace a corded canister vac. TechCrunch.com says the suction is 20% better than the V8 model it replaces, and the new canister holds 40% more dirt and dust. It also is lighter due to some ceramics used in place of metal. The vac charges in 3.5 hours, and will run an hour on normal, or 10 minutes on super suction. There’s also an in-between setting for semi-super suction and more battery life. The new rig sports LEDs that tell you when to clean the filters, which has been kind of a guess up to now. Being a Dyson, it’s $499…of course, and on the market in April.

A huge number of businesses use Microsoft Outlook for their email and calendaring, and now Redmond is testing out using Cortana with Outlook over iOS and Android to read you your emails while commuting. According to arstechnica.com, Google Assistant doesn’t offer that functionality with Outlook. Siri will, but only if you have the email poured into the Apple Mail app, not with the Outlook app. Right now, the Cortana for email is only being internally testing, but if it works well enough, they plan to roll it out for a public test before long.

Amazon continues to eat the world, and is making it a bit easier for you to eat, too…at least in San Francisco and Atlanta. Geekwire.com says those cities are getting the expansion of Amazon’s Whole Foods grocery delivery service. The service is already available in Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Virginia Beach. You will be able to get 5% back on purchases on the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, just like in store purchases in these Whole Foods delivery cities.


Amazon Go is a Go; Alexa for Business; Microsoft Goes For School Market; Moderating Kids’ Screen Time

The first Amazon Go convenience store is now open to the public in Seattle. Geekwire.com says anyone with an Amazon account and the Amazon Go app can now enter the world of checkout free shopping. The online giant originally planned to go live a year ago, but has been test running the concept on their own employees. You scan in a QR code when you go in, then sensors and cams detect what has been taken off shelves, and kept…they know what you put back…then, your account is charged when you exit. There are only a couple of people in the store to help, with more in the back that restock, and a crew making fresh food…that’s it. The draw of a no-checkout-line convenience store, and perhaps grocery and other retail stores, may eventually be irresistible. The only location so far is at 2131 7th Ave in Seattle, and it’s open 7am to 9pm, if you happen to be in the area and want to check it out…so to speak!

Amazon is getting into the smart office market with Alexa for Business. Zdnet.com reports that they plan to leverage it with giant Amazon Web Services, and custom Echo devices. This could eat up a lot of the smart office assistant market, at the expense of Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Echo. One thing that immediately comes to mind…what about the security of business and trade secrets when there are always on, internet connected microphones, and speakers listening in…allegedly for commands?

For a generation, the education market was the domain of Apple…then along came Google with the Chromebook. Now, Microsoft is going after it and Google with $189 Windows 10 laptops for schools. According to theverge.com, the machines are built by Lenovo, and are called the 100e. There is also a 300e model for $279…it’s a 2-in-one, that has pen support. Microsoft is also putting out content, such as a new Chemistry Update for Minecraft: Education Edition, and they plan to put out some Mixed Reality content for the education market, too.

Some academics at University of St Thomas have offered a new theory on kids and smart devices….instead of limiting screen time to 1-2 hours, moderate it. 9to5google.com says it may work better to divide time into ‘passive’ screen time like viewing videos, and ‘active’ time such as (parent approved) video games. The professor types aren’t the only ones who have come to believe this. The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, saying alternating between consuming and acting appears to work better than a hard limit of an hour or two.


New Google Smart Display; Microsoft Meltdown Updates Brick Some AMD PCs, Samsung’s Foldable Galaxy X Phone; LimeBike eBikes to Select Cities; Robot Strippers Hit Vegas

Google has made a big splash at CES in Las Vegas. From wrapping the trams, to their giant ‘Hey Google’ booth, they are hard to miss. They are going for smart assistant market share in a big way, too. Theverge.com says the list of smart speakers that use Google Assistant has expanded rather dramatically. Altec Lansing, Anker Innovations, Bang & Olufsen, Braven, iHome, JBL, Jensen, LG, Lenovo, Klipsch, Knit Audio, Memorex, RIVA Audio, SōLIS, and Sony will all feature speakers with Google Assistant. Of those, JBL, Lenovo, LG, and Sony will make smart speakers with screens. They should be out by summer. The smart-screen speakers will apparently run Android Things, a version of Android tailored for Internet of Things devices. One obvious leg up on Amazon’s Alexa devices….the Google smart speakers with screens will play YouTube videos! They will also let you access you Nest cam security cams.

Public service message: Apparently Microsoft’s updates to stop ‘Meltdown’ have been pulled, because they bricked some AMD computers. Engadget.com reports that Redmond blames AMD’s documentation, but at any rate, it primarily affects Athlon and Sempron equipped computers. Apple released patches for Meltdown and Spectre on both the Mac OS and iOS yesterday, and they work fine. If you have a Windows machine you know doesn’t have AMD processors, go ahead and install the patch.

Another tease about the folding Galaxy X phone. Samsung is now saying it might enter production by November, and be out by this coming December. Bgr.com notes that CEO of mobile DJ Koh has been teasing this handset for a while now, but we’ve never even gotten a tentative date up to now. The premium handset would be a smartphone while folded, then open up for use as a tablet. No price range, but Samsung calling it ‘premium’ gives you the idea that it will be over a grand like the iPhone X.

There are already bike rental set ups in a number of major cities…even Ford has entered the fray with those. Now, LimeBike is rolling out electric bicycles, or e-bikes in several cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Scottsdale, and Miami. Geekwire.com says the e-bikes debuted at CES, and 3ill cost $1 to unlock and and additional buck for each 10 minutes of riding time. LimeBike already has a fleet of garish green bikes with no electric assistance that rent for a dollar per 30 minutes of riding time. The new e-bikes should be available in a couple weeks. They are restricted to 14.5 mph, due to many cities having 15mph bike speed limits. The thought is that with certain cities that have a fair amount of hills, the e-bikes will give riders a break in trying to negotiate those. OK, no Idea about Miami, though…

The most off the wall thing at CES…or maybe ‘off the pole’, isn’t at the show, but at a strip club. According to businessinsider.com, the Sapphire has flown in robot strippers with large security cameras for heads from London! If that isn’t crazy enough, the club claims…claims that the idea is to attract women to the club! So far, no ‘thumbs up’ from either Robocop or Lt Cmdr. Data.


Two Wild TVs From CES; iOT-Everything Including the Kitchen Sink; Alexa Baked into Some New Windows 10 PCs; Sony Bows 3 New Phones

It’s CES week, the BIG Show for consumer electronics, and you can always count on some off the wall, ‘wow’ items. Theverge.com reports there are a couple of TVs that won’t disappoint in that department. Samsung has rolled out a 146 inch TV called The Wall. It uses Micro LED, which has a lot of the same benefits of OLED, and is ‘module based.’ The modules can be assembled to make a TV just the size to fit your needs…although 146 inch would probably be perfect for a man cave. You have to think the price will exceed that of many houses, though! The Wall launches this spring.

If a wall sized TV isn’t to your liking, how about a 65 inch screen that rolls up like a piece of paper? LG is showing their updated roll-up TV. It’s a 4K model that rolls down into a base when not in use. No word from LG when this marvel might be available.

The old joke is something has ‘everything but the kitchen sink.’ Well now, the Internet of Things can even control that! According to mashable.com, Delta is showing a sink that can be controlled by Alexa. They plan to have these in model homes to show the tech off by later this year, with the sinks hitting the market sometime in 2018.

Speaking of Alexa…and I realize you know what I did there, last year Amazon and Microsoft announced plans to let Cortana and Alexa talk to each other on Windows 10 PCs. Now, arstechnica.com says Acer, Asus, and HP have all announced that Alexa will be baked into some of their notebooks that will be coming out this year. All will apparently use the Alexa Windows 10 app that will be released later this year. It should be just about like using an Echo.

Sony has unveiled 3 new smartphones at CES. According to bgr.com, they are mid-range phones, not flagship type devices. Nothing spectacular about them, with one exception….the Xperia XA2 Ultra has two FRONT facing cams, and a 23 megapixel rear cam! The phones should be out late this month, giving people a chance to see if the buzz over the cam setup is worth it, or just a cool gimmick.