Microsoft has enabled Skype to work on Amazon’s Alexa devices. The rollout should be complete this week. Theverge.com reports that Echo-type hardware will be able to handle basic calling, and the Echo Show will include video support for Skype. Users will also be able to call mobile and land lines using SkypeOut, and call their contacts by simply asking Alexa to ‘Call Siri on Skype.’ OK, not really Siri…unless maybe you have a friend with that name, which would be nearly as confusing as having a pal named Alexa.
Apple has pared back production orders for the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and XR, due to ‘lower than expected demand,’ according to a Wall Street Journal report picked up by macrumors.com. Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest cuts are for the XR, which has been whacked by a third of the original 70 million units originally scheduled. Some suppliers are calling the handsets a flop, but with Apple reporting record breaking revenue of $61.5 billion on iPhones during the launch quarter, that’s a stretch. Since Apple is going to quit reporting unit numbers for iPhone sales going forward it will make it even harder to track sales…but competitor Samsung hasn’t reported unit numbers in some time.
SpaceX has gotten FCC approval to launch over 7,000 satellites. Cnet.com says they will be in very low earth orbit, and will give the company the ability to provide global satellite broadband service. The FCC has also signed off on requests from Kepler Communications, Telesat Canada, and LeoSat MA to offer broadband in the US by satellite.
Amazon May Have 2 HQ-2’s; Samsung Folder and OS Tomorrow? Google May Help Avoiding Food Poisoning; Bill Gates in the ToiletPosted: November 6, 2018
After months and months of suspense, lots of wooing by cities to get Amazon to open their HQ2 second headquarters in their town, it now appears that Amazon may split the HQ2…so HQ2a and HQ2b?? According to bloomberg.com, the most likely candidates appear to be Crystal City, part of Arlington, VA, and Long Island City, in the New York borough of Queens. Amazon has had no comment. One of the reasons given for the split is that Amazon hasn’t been able to find sufficient tech talent in a single location. Amazon already has more employees in the two areas than anywhere in the country, except for their main HQ in Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Yesterday, we reported that Samsung is expected to roll out their folding smartphone tomorrow at their developer conference. Now, 9to5google.com says we will also get some information on how Samsung thinks the user experience will change with the foldable phablet with an outside screen for normal smartphone use. For example, how will it handle running an app on the outside screen, when you open it up? Will it deactivate the outside screen so random touches won’t cause actions you hadn’t planned on? One thing we probably won’t see…an actual working model of the phone. That isn’t expected until next year.
If you think lower letter ratings or Yelp reviews got restaurant owners riled up, wait until they get word of this! Google has built a model that identifies restaurants that could give you food poisoning. Engadget.com reports that they worked with researchers from Harvard, and have tested a machine learned model in Chicago and Las Vegas to identify search queries like ‘stomach cramps’ or ‘diarrhea’, then cross-referenced them with saved location history data on smartphones relating to recently visited restaurants. Health inspectors visited restaurants…not being told if due to traditional consumer complaints or the AI model. Unsafe restaurants detected by the model ran 52.3%, while those found with traditional methods were spotted 22.7% of the time. Good news for people who don’t want to eat bad food…and just wait for the outrage from restaurants over this!
Ok, so Gates isn’t really in the toilet…and he could ACTUALLY afford all solid gold ones, better than a certain president who seems to adore gold…and orange. The former CEO of Microsoft opened the ‘Reinvented Toilet Expo’ in China…touting the biggest sanitation advances in 200 years. According to geekwire.com, Mr Gates has been thinking about crappers for the past 10 years…and the poor sanitation in a number of poor countries he traveled too. The Gates Foundation is leading the way in commercialization and adaption of off-grid toilet tech and sanitation systems for 3rd world countries. Discretion being the better part of valor, I will leave it to you to google a pic of Bill Gates holding up a jar of poop at the podium at the Toilet Expo! The latest tech in off-grid toilets can break down waste to the point that clean water and solids left behind can be used as fertilizer or be disposed of safely without any further treatment.
Waze Carpool Goes Nationwide; Tesla Outsold Mercedes Last Quarter; Apple Buys Photo Cutout Spektral; Microsoft Releases Fixed October Win 10 UpdatePosted: October 10, 2018
Google’s Waze has been testing out a carpool app, and now Waze Carpool is going nationwide, as a way to connect drivers and commuters. According to techcrunch.com, they are particularly focusing on 50 Amazon Fulfillment Centers. Was plans to partner with cities, businesses, and transit agencies too. The app has been trialed in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Monterey. Waze points out that 75% of commuters travel solo in a car.
Waze Carpool differs from ride-hailing services. The app lets riders and drivers find their own carpool buddies based on profiles, star ratings, number of mutual friends, and customizable filters such as gender, co-worker or classmate, and proximity to preferred route.. The app is designed to show the best matches, such as those closest to a preferred route or a coworker on the same shift, at the top of the list. Payment is handled within the app. All new riders pay $2 for the 1st 21 days, and the app is on Android and iOS now.
Tesla may actually finally turn a profit before 2019. Apparently…according to Atherton Research…they outsold Mercedes in the uS for the first time ever, and were just 2,000 vehicles short of outselling BMW! Bgr.com reports that according to data crunched by Macquarie Research, Tesla may finally be finished burning through cash and may be profitable by year’s end.
Apple generally buys companies in a low key manner, and they recently picked up Spektral, a Danish startup that makes software that can digitally separate people and objects from the background. 9to5mac.com says the deal went down in December, but word has just leaked out now. The software lets photographers digitally ‘pluck’ a person…right down to stray hairs on the head…from one green screen type background and drop them into another. In fact, even better, it can pull a person right out of a moving picture without even needing a green screen…in real time! This tech can be amazing in Apple’s hands as they push the limits on Portrait mode photos and advance in AI applications.
Better news from Redmond…Microsoft says they have fixed the October Windows 10 update, and will re-release it today. Earlier in the month, some users reported that it deleted mass numbers of their files that couldn’t be recovered. Theverge.com reports that Microsoft claims it only happened to one hundredth of one percent of users, and only those who had activated Known Folder Redirection.
Facebook Launches Portal Video Chat Screens; Google’s Pixel 3 Event; Microsoft Game Streaming Service; Oct Windows 10 Update PulledPosted: October 8, 2018
Facebook has dropped its first hardware product in the Portal line. TechCrunch.com says they are auto-zooming video chat screens ranging in price from $199 to $349. The Portal units will run Alexa and eventually Google Assistant in a countertop video chat screen that zooms to always keep you in frame. The big question will be whether people will want a Facebook cam and microphone in their house, even with a physical clip-on privacy shield. At any rate, the presale starts now. For $199, you get the 10 inch screen Portal, and for $349 you will be the proud owner of a 15.6 inch swiveling screen with a hi-fi audio Portal+. Save $100 if you buy any two Portal devices. The screens come with ‘Hey Portal’ voice navigation, bluetooth and voice activated music, Facebook Messenger for video calls, Spotify and Pandora. More video provers to come. Facebook claims there is built in privacy…no facial recognition but something called 2D pose that runs locally on the device to keep you in picture. They claim the unit only turns on with the wake word, and that it doesn’t save recordings…also they have data encryption. With a tap you can automatically disable the cam and mic, and it does have a plastic privacy shield you can slide over the cam if you still want to chat…without video. They ship in November. You can preorder at Portal.Facebook.com, Amazon, and Best Buy.
Tomorrow, October 9th, Google will be showing their latest at an event scheduled for 11am Eastern, 8 Pacific. Theverge.com reports that the flood of leaks has given us a good idea of what to expect. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL phones top the list…in fact, someone got hold of a working Pixel 3 in Asia a couple days ago from a source…talk about a leak! The phones sport target screens, wireless charging, and a second selfie cam. Also expected is a wireless charging stand for the handsets. There MAY be a Google Home speaker with a smart display to compete with the Amazon Echo Show. An expected item is the Pixel Slate, A Google branded Chrome OS tablet. Rumors have it with a detachable keyboard, and expect it to be fairly high end like the iPad Pro and Surface Pro.There will probably be a Pixelbook update, but probably not a major overhaul there. We’ll have details after the actual event tomorrow.
Look for a beta in 2019 of Microsoft’s game streaming service, Project xCloud. According to engadget.com, the idea behind the cloud system is to allow users to play any video game where they feel the most comfortable or where it’s convenient….on a console, a computer, or mobile device. Of course, Microsoft is most interested in making it as frictionless as possible for users to play their own Xbox One games. Even with the beta out next year, Redmond cautions that this is a complicated project, and may take a while longer to perfect.
Microsoft has pulled the October update to Windows 10 (version 1809) after complaints that it deleted user’s files. ZDnet.com says some users said they couldn’t even recover all files using a recovery product like Recuva. There was a similar issue with the April, 2018 update. In that case, Microsoft delayed the update until the end of the month to squash the bugs.
Microsoft rolled out a number of pieces of gear today in New York, from refreshes to something totally out of the blue. Brand new to Redmond’s offerings is the Surface Headphones. Cnet.com notes the new premium, noise cancelling headphones will be out in time for the holidays at a price of $350. In addition to the ‘Microsoft dial,’ there are other touch controls, and always-on Cortana at your service. Battery life maxes out at 15 hours according to Microsoft. If you turn off Bluetooth and plug in, you can get 50 hours of music. The ‘cans’ are as premium and cushy as you’d expect for $350 bones, and are comparable with Windows, 10, Android, and MacOS. Built in mics for Skype? Of course!
Also shown was the Surface Studio 2, the successor to the original Surface Studio PC. According to businessinsider.com, it will be out November 15th for the handsome price of $3499. It still features at 28 inch touch screen that can swivel down into ‘studio mode’ for sketching and marking documents. The updated model is 50% faster than the original, with a better and brighter screen, and features new SSDs in addition to faster Intel processing. The 2.0 version also has NVIDIA GeForce 1060 or 1070 graphics power, which should allow for reasonable game playing on a non-gaming PC.
The Surface Pro tablet/laptop hybrid gets a refresh after a year and a half. Theverge.com reports that the new machine sports Intel 8th Gen processors and comes in a matte black cover if you like. Microsoft touted improved cooling at their New York event, and says the updated box is 67% faster than the older one. They are claiming 13.5 hours of battery life. The Surface Pro 2 still tips the scales at 1.7 lbs, and still has a 12.3 inch display and 16 Gigs of RAM. Note that it doesn’t have USB-C ports…a bit of a surprise since the Surface Go and Surface Book 2 both have them. The Surface Pro 6 will start at $899 with an Intel Core i5 processor. It should be on shelves and online October 16th.
Amazon Employees Deleting Bad Reviews; Microsoft May Field Black Surface 2; Fire at Tesla Gigafactory; US Leading in 5GPosted: September 17, 2018
Amazon is investigating claims that some employees are deleting bad reviews for cash…from $80 up to $2000. According to arstechnica.com, it’s happening in the US but is ‘rampant’ in China.
Employees are allegedly also selling out info involving keywords used in searches for products and buyer habits. Most of the activity is facilitated by middlemen via WeChat. No comment from Amazon beyond that they are investigating.
Microsoft may have decided that black is the new black. Theverge.com reports that there may be a Black Surface Laptop 2 unveiled at the Surface event October 2nd. The original Surface RT came in a black magnesium alloy, but Redmond rapidly switched to a silver color for the Surface 2. Besides the Surface Laptop 2, Microsoft is expected to show ra refresh of the Surface Pro at their upcoming event in New York City.
There was apparently a fire at the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada late Saturday. Engadget.com sys it was in the cooling tube coating oven area. The factory was evacuated and shut down, but the fire was quickly dispatched. Production resumed early Sunday. It appears that the factory was only down a brief time, and that it shouldn’t seriously impact vehicle production at the plant in Fremont.
For years, the US has lagged in internet speeds while paying more. Now, the US may be leading Europe and Asia in one area of tech infrastructure…we may be getting 5G coverage faster. According to Ericsson’s VP of 5G Commercialization Thomas Noren, via ZDnet.com, the US has been able to iron out tech challenges and is ahead of the pack. South Korea is also further along than most other countries. You still shouldn’t expect 5G coverage to be very widespread much before 2020 in the US.
Fresh Apple Rumors; Microsoft Kills Russian Phishing Domains; Facebook Gives Us Reputation Score; Aston Martin Building 25 ‘Goldfinger’ DB5 ReplicasPosted: August 21, 2018
Several Apple tidbits seeped out yesterday. Businessinsider says Apple will release a new Mac Mini this fall aimed at pro users. The $500 Mini has no screen or keyboard, but you can hook them up and make it into an inexpensive computer. Often, however, they are used in computer rooms as remote computers and storage options for businesses. Also in the wings is a new laptop which will be like a MacBook Air. It’s unclear if it will BE an Air or just called MacBook, but will come with a 13 inch ‘Retina’ display…allegedly with a higher resolution than Apple uses on other products. It will also have thinner bezels around the screen.
In addition, Apple will be dropping new Watch models….they have registered 6 numbers with the EU. The Watch is supposed to get a bigger screen, better health sensors, and longer battery life. The Watch could bow with new iPhones..no date, but thought to be on September 12th if Apple follows previous years.
Finally, from Cupertino, the iPhones may be getting faster wireless charging. Presently, they can be charged at a maximum of 7.5 watts with a software update, but it looks like Apple will jump that up to 15 watts, matching what Samsung phones can do for wireless fast charging.
Microsoft has pulled 6 phishing domains that belong to Russian government hackers. They had been registered to the GRU military intelligence agency….the ones alleged to have stolen and leaked the hacked Clinton emails in 2016. Theverge.com says the domains were aimed at spoofing government targets like ‘senate.group’ and ‘adfs-senate-email.’ Others were aimed at the International Republican Institute and the Hudson Institute…two conservative think tanks which have been critical of President Trump. It appear that these domains had yet to be used, to Microsoft may have prevented more Russian interference into the 2018 election.
In an effort to fight gaming of their systems that has allowed malicious users to post fake news, and false reporting of true items as untrue, Facebook has started assigning users a reputation score ranging from zero to one. According to bloomberg.com, it’s not intended to be an absolute indicator of a person’s credibility, but it’s one of numerous behavioral clues the company is using to try to fight fake news and people who tag items as false just because they disagree with them. Academics are already complaining that Facebook isn’t being transparent about this, but OTOH, if they were, people would be able to more easily game this safeguard.
You may get a chance to buy a copy of one of the most legendary movie cars ever made. Aston Martin is going to build 25 new DB5 cars like the one featured in James Bond’s ‘Goldfinger.’ Arstechnica.com says the cars won’t have an ejection seats, and even though they won’t be street legal, probably won’t have machine guns, oil slick dispensers, or tire flatteners, but will have a rotating license plate. No word on the pop up bulletproof shield. Dust off your checkbook…they will go for $3.51 million bucks EACH!
Apple Car in 5+ Years; OneDrive Auto Backup for All; Fitbit Charge 3-Touchscreen; MoviePass Zombie AccountsPosted: August 15, 2018
A VP of engineering recently left Tesla to go back to Apple. He had previously worked at Ford. This seemed to point to Apple shifting Project Titan back to building an Apple car, not just software they could sell to auto makers. Now, Ming-Chi Kuo, who has one of the most accurate records when it comes to Apple predictions, says Apple will launch an Apple Car between 2023 and 2025, and calls it ‘the next star product.’ According to macrumors.com, Kuo thinks Apple will revolutionize the auto business the way they did the phone market with the iPhone in 2007. Apple’s work in AR could help ‘differentiate the Apple Car from peers’ products.’
If you are on Windows 10 and use Microsoft’s OneDrive, MS has added a great new feature…OneDrive can now automatically back up documents, pictures, and desktop folders. Theverge.com reports that if you use multiple Win 10 PCs, OneDrive folder protection will automatically keep all these folders in sync, too! Business users saw this feature appear available in June, but now it’s coming out for all users. Just hit OneDrive Settings, and go to the Auto Save tab, then click the update folders button.
The upcoming Fitbit Charge 3 will have a full touchscreen, unlike the present Charge 2 with its quasi-touchscreen. TechCrunch.com says that, in addition, Android Authority has discovered that it will be swim-proof down to 50 meters, and have notification reply capability, but on the down side…it won’t have built-in GPS….so you’ll still have to schlep your smartphone along for a jog if you want GPS data. No pricing has leaked out, but the fitness tracker should be out in plenty of time for the holiday season.
MoviePass may be only 3 months from ‘passing away,’ but in the meantime, has a new issue for subscribers…or former subscribers…to deal with. According to engadget.com, people who had cancelled their accounts, then later either checked the app about their account or just to see what movies were available (there were TWO last weekend) got a splash screen with ‘Updates to Your MoviePass Plan’. If you clicked the ‘agree’ button to make it go away, MoviePass reactivated your account! There’s an X in the upper right corner…best to click that and close the screen. Meanwhile, MoviePass will run out of money in 90 days if some movie angel doesn’t show up with lots of cash.
Whole Foods Rolls Out Curbside Delivery; SnapChatting a Bit Less; Magic Leap One; Pixel 3 Leak Shows Apple-esque ‘Notch’Posted: August 8, 2018
Amazon is launching curbside pickup at Whole Foods. Reuters.com reports the service is available starting today in Sacramento, CA and Virginia Beach, VA…other cities should follow later this year. Since pickup is cheaper than delivery, it has been pushed by bigger grocers like Kroger and Walmart. Amazon is gigantic, but Whole Foods actually only has about 1% of the vary fractured grocery market. Pickup in an hour is free for orders of at least $35, while pickup in 30 minutes costs $4.99.
Snapchat has decidedly mixed results the last quarter. They lost 3 million users, a drop of 2%, but is still up 8% year over year. They also lost $353 million, but that’s still 20% less than the previous year’s loss. Their monthly audience is up 3 million for 11 of its Shows, users spend over 30 minutes a day with the platform.
The Magic Leap One Creator Edition AR headset is available….some places…for developers now. It’s a breathtaking $2295. While cnet.com notes that the price is less than the Microsoft HoloLens at 3 grand, you may need to drop another $495 for the ‘professional development edition’, which comes with an extra hub cable and a service called RapidReplace…which gets you a replacement within 24 hours. Another catch: it’s only available in Chicago, LA, Miami, New York, San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle. For the princely price, they deliver it and set it up for you in-home, to ensure a perfect fit. You can’t wear the headset with glasses, but can get prescription pop-in lenses at extra cost…or just get contacts. It does sport a bigger field of view than HoloLens, but not as wide as a regular VR headset. It’s brawn is PC-like, with a powerful system on a chip, 128 gigs of storage, 8 gigs ram.
Pictures of what’s said to be a pre-release final production Google Pixel 3 XL shows a notch at the top like the iPhone X has, and a number of other phones have emulated. Macrumors.com says the pics were put out by a Russian blogger and picked up by Android Police. The display on the 3 XL is not as wide as the iPhone X, but it is noticeably taller. It is supposed to be a 6.2 inch screen. The smaller Pixel 3 apparently does not have the notch…which reportedly holds improved cameras with two lenses.
Alphabet Crushes Estimates; Foxconn Staffs Up For New iPhone; Microsoft Building 2 New Xbox Consoles; YouTube Tests Explore FeaturePosted: July 24, 2018
Google parent Alphabet reported financials yesterday, with a nice beat of Wall Street expectations. According to reuters.com, expenses from Google search didn’t grow as much as expected, which pushed profits up. Their operating margin ticked up from 22 to 24%, excluding the $5 antitrust fine from the EU…which appears like a rounding error. Alphabet hauled in $32.66 billion second quarter, 86% of which came from Google advertising, and beating the estimate of $32.17 billion. Alphabet still trails, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter in valuation, but is in the hunt. Apple still leads in the quest to be the first billion dollar company.
Foxconn is getting ready for the next generation iPhone by offering bonuses to workers who renew their contracts. The $295 bonus and hiring campaign will extend through this November. Macrumors.com reports that Foxconn is expected to assemble the majority of all 3 new iPhone models…the 2nd generation iPhone X, 90% of the iPhone Plus (or whatever Apple ends up calling it), and about 75% of the lower priced 6.1 inch iPhone with the LED screen. All 3 phones are expected to bow in September.
Microsoft is already hard at work on the next iteration of the Xbox console. in addition to the traditional version, Redmond is apparently working on a cheaper ‘streaming box’ designed to work with its previously reported streaming service. The streamer is code named ‘Scarlett Cloud’, and would run games both locally and in the cloud…which has been dubbed slice or splice. The idea is to help reduce latency. Geekwire.com reports that Sony, EA, and Nvidia are also working on cloud based game streaming services.
In the ongoing quest to grab and hold more eyeballs, YouTube is testing out a new feature on around 1% of iOS YouTube app users the next several weeks. Thenextweb.com says it’s an explore feature, similar to the Instagram Explore tab…and the idea is to help users discover more videos and content creators that may be lost in the thousands of others. Personalized recommendations will be based on the user’s previous viewing history.