Amazon Announces $15 Minimum Wage; Tesla Model 3 Hits Numbers; Universities Go Contactless ID on iPhones; California’s Bot Law

Starting in November, all Amazon US employees will make at least $15 per hour. CNBC.com notes that the amazon announcement will cover some 250,000 staffers, including part time and temp employees, and even 100,000 seasonal employees. The online giant will also bump up some employees who are already making $15 per hour. Amazon is also going to start advocating for a federal minimum wage.

Tesla hit their Model 3 production goals for Q3, and the stock popped up over $300 per share. According to engadget.com, the electric car maker cranked out 80,142 vehicles in the third quarter, and 55,840 were Model 3’s. Most of the Model 3’s produced are dual motor, all-wheel drive…which are harder to produce, but vastly more popular.

In a move previewed at Apple’s WWDC this summer, the company has announced that students at 3 universities in the US can now add their student ID cards to Apple Wallet, and cruise around campus with only their iPhone or Apple Watch. Macrumors.com reports that the schools are Duke, University of Alabama, and University of Oklahoma. The gadgets have to be running iOS 12 in the case of phones, and Watch OS 5 for the Watches. They can use their phone or watch to pay for food or beverages in the student unions and cafeterias, and for access to dorms, the gyms, and libraries. Johns Hopkins, Santa Clara, and Temple will all add their school IDs to the Apple system by the end of this school year, too.

California has a new law that requires ‘bots’ to let you know they aren’t, in fact, people. Whether the automated accounts are trying to sell you stuff, influence you politically, or help you with customer service, NBC says the automated accounts have to disclose with ‘I am a bot’ or ‘Google Assistant, making calls on your behalf,’ or such. The real trick, of course, will be enforcing this against foreign ones like the army of Russian Twitter troll bot accounts. That may be the trick of the year!

Microsoft’s Surface event is at 4 ET, 1 Pacific today. We’ll have a recap later.


Go Pro Hero 7 Bows; Tesla Model 3-Five Star Safety Rating; 3,000 Amazon Go Stores by 2021; Amazon Hardware Event

After a leak, GoPro went ahead and officially announced the Hero 7 line of cams. They are in White, Silver, and Black versions. According to theverge.com, the new cams will be on sale September 27th, and range from $199 to $399. The pricey Black has 4K video at up to 60 fps, super slow motion, and features including live-streaming, a lapse mode, and ‘dramatically improved digital image stabilization.’ They are all the same form factor as previous models, so all your accessories should work with them.

Tesla’s Model 3 has been awarded a 5 star safety rating by the NHTSA in standard car tests. Reuters.com reports that the crash testing includes rollover safety as well as head on and side crashes. Previously, both the Model S and Model X had gotten 5 star ratings. The news bumped Tesla stock back up to $304 a share in early Thursday trading.

Amazon is ratcheting up its Amazon Go cashier-free stores from concept to more markets. Engadget.com says they are planning to have 3,000 of the grab and go stores open by 2021. There should be 10 by the end of this year, including New York and San Francisco, then 50 locations by 2019. Amazon looks to be focusing on dense metro areas for at least the first round of the stores that spare you standing in check out lines.

*Amazon will hold a surprise event at 11a Eastern today in Seattle to announce new hardware. Last year, they rolled out the smaller Echo Spot and Echo Plus. One strong rumor is an Echo subwoofer and a plug that allows you to add Alexa to any appliance you own.


New Google Pixelbook Coming; HomePod Siri Features; Qualcomm Shows 5G Module; Tesla Supplier Cash Ask

The Pixel 2 was a big improvement on the original Google Pixel phone, and the 3 is eagerly anticipated this Fall. Now, 9to5google.com says leaker Evan Blass, who has a pretty decent track record, is touting the release of and updated Pixelbook alongside the Pixel 3 and 3XL handsets. Bless claims the updated Chrome OS Pixelbook will be shipping by the holidays. The fall event is expected to also show off A Pixel Watch and new generation of Pixel Buds.

Apple is testing a private beta version of OS12 for HomePod that includes multiple Siri timers and allows people to make and answer phone calls…in an effort to keep up with Alexa and Google Home. 9to5mac.com reports that corporate and some retail employees are test driving the beta. The multiple timers feature is one Alexa has that allows, for example, someone to put a couple timers on different things they are cooking at the same time. Right now, it’s unclear which, if any, of these features will make it to the final release of OS12 for HomePod this fall.

Qualcomm has showed off the first completely integrated 5G module for smartphones…including 5G mmWave antenna, wave radio, power amp, and antenna array. According to macrumors.com, the whole system has been crammed into a package small enough to sit on your fingertip. It is thin enough to fit the bezel of a phone, and Qualcomm sees up to 4 being put into a handset so if one antenna is covered by a hand or otherwise blocked, the unit will still transmit and receive. The tiny 5G modules are being shipped to phone makers this week.

Tesla has reportedly ask for cash back from suppliers, in order to cut their costs and become profitable in Q4. While it’s not unusual for a company to ask for or demand price cuts from suppliers….Walmart is a past master at this…it IS unusual to ask for money back from previously furnished and paid for items. That’s what electrek.co says Tesla has done. Some of the clawbacks would date back to 2016. It remains to be seen if any suppliers will cooperate, now that Tesla is producing the promised 5,000 Model 3s per week.


DircTV Price Hike; Dell Reverse Merger; Chinese Laser; Tesla Builds 5000 Model 3’s

Fresh on the heels of AT&T’s Time Warner buyout approval, the company has announced a $5 a month across the board increase starting August 1st on DirecTV. Saying it will help provide ‘the best streaming experience’ and that it will keep their rates ‘in line with the market,’ the price hike will hit everyone from the $40 basic package to the $75 ‘gotta have it’ one. Engadget.com says the increase does put the base price on par with what you’d get from the likes of YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue, or Sling TV’s combined Orange and Blue package.

Dell Computer has announced a deal that would get them back to trading publicly again. Bloomberg.com reports that by combining with a stock that tracks its VMWare software unit, it brings them back to being a publicly traded stock. The DVMT share swap is valued at $17 billion. Founder and CEO Michael Dell had taken Dell Computer private back in 2013, but is wanting to streamline his multi-company tech empire and get a better handle on a massive debt load, which has been running around $50 billion. The reverse merger with VMWare fills that bill.

Elon Musk made a big splash with his ‘not a Flamethrower,’ but now something out of China is alleged to be a handheld laser. A report in the South China Morning Post says that they have developed a laser weapon dubbed the ZKZM-500, which is something of a laser AK-47. The laser gun can supposedly burn clothes and skin at 500 feet away, and is alleged to be capable of hundreds of shots. Skeptics point out that as described, it pretty badly bends the laws of physics. Also, no tests have been shown or written about. Western scientists say it would take at least a 200 lb backpack battery to power such a weapon. Still, Doctor Evil is salivating at the thought.

Tesla managed to crank out the promised 5,000 model 3’s in a week, but actually did it a few hours past the midnight deadline Sunday. According to Reuters.com, Elon Musk Tweeted about the success and also sent an all-hands email to staff that the company cleared the 5,000 Model 3’s goal and produced a total of 7,000 cars, counting the Model S and Model X production. Musk told employees that they were on track to make 6,000 Model 3’s by the end of July, and quipped ‘I think we just became a real car company!’


Tesla Model 3 Orders; Facebook-Not Listening; Google Gaming; CIMON Robot to ISS

If you have a reservation and deposit on a Tesla Model 3, you’re in luck….you can start spec’ing out your future car. On the occasion of Elon Musk’s 47th birthday, techcrunch.com says you can now log on to the Tesla website and start configuring your car with the online design studio. For now, only the two higher cost Model 3s are available to be configured, and they aren’t giving an estimated delivery time for some models, but if you pick the dual motor performance version…the most expensive one…Tesla says you should have it in two to four months. For advance order holders that plunked down $1000 to get in line, it will be nice to at least spec out their car.

There was a flurry of reports yesterday that a patent showed that Facebook might be getting ready to switch on your phone’s mic when your TV was on and secretly record you and what you are watching…to better serve you ads. Theverge.com has pointed out that a number of sources saw the title and what’s called the ‘abstract’ of a patent, and got this idea…without actually reading the claims…which are the actual subject matter of the patent.  It’s really a system that receives a user ID and an audio fingerprint, matches that audio fingerprint to some content, sees if that content was played for a certain duration, and then checks a counter to see if that content has been played a specific number of times. No microphone use at all. With all they already know about all of us, they could practically write a conversation in our living room, IMHO!

Earlier this year, there was a rumor that Google might be getting into gaming. Now, further reporting from 9to5google.com indicates that it’s happening. The project apparently involves a streaming platform to offer games from the cloud without presumably having to download large files in the tens of gigabytes, as well as hardware. In other words, you could open a tab on your browser and play a game. Google has been in talks with some major game studios about content. They have also hired some top game developers and marketers lately. Here’s a Google-esque wrinkle they are considering…if you hit a tough level or boss, you could hit a key to activate an overlay on your screen that cues up a YouTube walkthrough of the game you’re playing.

The International Space Station is getting a new crew member. On the SpaceX supply ship that blasted off this morning is a round robot with a flat side for a face dubbed CIMON…for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion. Engadget.com says it can speak, respond to spoken commands using AI, and fly…well, obviously fly…there’s no gravity on the ISS! The helpful robot can display repair instructions on a screen with just a voice command, so astronauts can keep both hands free for doing the repair. It will also be able to display procedures for experiments, and be something of a floating database. The ‘brains’ of the little robot are made by IBM, and the body and flight mechanism are built by Airbus.


Moto Z3 Play; Intel Tech Points to 28 Hour Laptop Batteries; Udacity & Google Partner for Free Career Courses; Dave & Buster’s Gets Multiplayer VR Arcades; Tesla Near Model 3 Goal

Motorola has unveiled the Moto Z3 Play. It is mostly an incremental upgrade according to 9to5google.com. The handset does sport a bigger 6.01 inch display and smaller bezels all around, though. The fingerprint sensor has migrated from the front to a slightly thicker aluminum side rail. The Z3 Play runs a Snapdragon 636 processor, has 4 gigs of ram, and holds either 32 or 64 Gigs of storage. It does have a 3,000 mAh battery with fast charging. It’s $499 and available globally this month.

New tech from Intel may make laptop batteries regularly last up to 28 hours! The chipmaker made the announcement at Computex, and mashable.com says they have developed a low power display tech that can cut LCD power consumption in half. Keep in mind that they get that battery life at 150 nits of screen brightness…which is probably darker than you can really work for very long, so as the saying goes, ‘your mileage will vary.’ So far, the tech will only work with Intel chips, not Nvidia or AMD graphics.

Bringing resume and cover letter help to recent grads and ‘mid-career’ professionals, Udacity has partnered with Google for a number of free courses. According to techcrunch.com, they will not only offer free courses for basics like resumes and cover letters, but also optimizing your GitHub profile and beefing up your LinkedIn network. There are even courses in ‘Data Structures and Algorithms in Python’ as well as a course on Apple’s Swift platform. A total of 12 courses are available.

The Dave and Buster’s chain is in the process of installing multiplayer VR arcades, running HTC Vive hardware. Cnet.com reports that there will be 114 of them when complete, and a total of 500 VR headsets. According to HTC, the setups will be a ‘proprietary, multi participant motion platform’ built custom for Dave & Buster’s. Happy Holodecking, gamers!

Elon Musk says Tesla is going to be hitting their goal of 5,000 Model 3 cars a week by the end of June. As businessinsider.com notes, 5,000 is the ‘magic number’ Musk cites that will put Tesla into the black with the Model 3. Up to now, they have been burning cash like crazy. The company has had to shut down the production line twice to fix and upgrade their systems. Musk even took to sleeping at the factory in a conference room for a while until they got the bugs worked out.


Tesla-Better Financials & Rideshare Net; Google Assistant Adds Many IoT Devices; Amazon Pet Product Brand Launches

Tesla managed to beat Wall Street expectations yesterday, with losses of $3.35 a share on revenue of $3.4 billion. Analysts expected them to lose $3.48 a share. Techcrunch.com reports that they hit 2270 Model 3 cars a week for 3 straight weeks in April. Elon Musk still says they will be cranking out 5000 a week by mid-summer. Musk still says the company will be profitable by 3rd quarter. Musk also said that from a purely technical standpoint, the company would e ready to launch an autonomous vehicle ride sharing network by the end of next year. He noted that it probably wouldn’t happen that fast, considering various government regulations and other issues. Analyst Gene Munster says there’s a 50/50 chance Tesla will field a ride sharing fleet by 2023, though.

On launch, Google Assistant only worked with a handful of Internet of Things devices. In fact, as recently as January…4 months ago…it still just connected with 1500. Now, according to 9to5google.com, Assistant can interface with some 5000 devices, including every major smart brand! Cameras, dishwashers, doorbells, dryers, lights, plugs, thermostats, security systems, switches, vacuums, washers, fans, locks, sensors, heaters, AC units, air purifiers, refrigerators, ovens…go crazy with IoT connected devices….Google can help you talk to them!

Amazon has launched its own line of pet products, called Wag. Bloomberg.com reports the first offering became available yesterday with dry dog food. It’s only available to Prime subscribers. Amazon is on doubt responding to Petco and Petsmart, which bought Chewy.com last year to enter the home delivery biz. Dog food is tough to sell online profitably because it’s heavy and expensive to ship. Having bought name brand dry cat food from Amazon, it’s only a couple bucks cheaper than at a store…but at least comes direct to your door.


Facebook is going to provide some of its data to elections researchers selected by a new panel of experts. Ahead of Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress this week, axios.com says the outside experts will “develop a research agenda about the impact of social media on society — starting with elections.” A group of private, blue chip foundations will pay for the effort. (Frankly, Facebook should reimburse them, with all the money they make!)

As rumored over the weekend, Apple has rolled out Product (RED) iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models today. According to theverge.com, preorders open tomorrow, the 10th, and the phones should start shipping on Friday the 13th…ooh, scary. The price is the same as other colors, starting at $699 for the 8 and $799 for the Plus.

Earlier in the year, Tesla registered new VINs that correspond to dual motor Model 3s. As reported here last week, the company is now producing more than 2000 of the smaller model per week now. Yesterday, Elon Musk Tweeted that they need to hit 5000 per week before adding the complexity of a 2nd motor. He then sent out a follow up Tweet saying ‘So probably July.’ the added motor will increase both the acceleration and extend the range of the Model 3. That is also when they will add white interiors…at the present, only black upholstery is available.

Word is, Spotify has been working on hardware for cars…either an in-car controller or standalone player. Now, engadget.com reports that some people have received offers for such a device, with plan pricing from $12.99 to $14.99 a month…when they clicked on the offer in the Spotify app, an error page popped up. A few sharp eyed users said their offer noted the gadget had built in 4G cellular. Spotify does have an event April 24th…maybe we’ll get more info at that time.


Apple Working On Own CPUs for Macs; Cheaper Google Pixel 3; Tesla Model 3 Production Scramble; Facebook Adds HD Video and 360 Degree Photos to Messenger

Just as Intel is rolling out i9 and updated i7 chips, comes word that Apple is working on Macs that run its own CPUs. Arstechnica.com reports that Apple could be shipping computers running its own processors by 2020, but it will take a serious rewrite of the MacOS. On the plus side, the Apple designed chips will use less juice, increasing battery life on MacBooks, and developers will be able to publish apps that run on both the MacOS and iOS for mobile devices. Apple is thought to be treading carefully in this, and would continue to use Intel CPUs for a time, as developers still need to build apps that run on Intel processors, and they would not want to take a huge hit to the App Store if developers balk at non-intel processors.

Google is apparently going to have 3 models in the Pixel 3 lineup pater this year. According to bgr.com, one will be a more affordable model. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news? The cheap model may only be available in India and similar markets, and not here in the US. As a mid range device, it would also lack features most smartphones offer as standard…specifically, the other two Pixel models. The lower priced Pixel 3 could hit the market in July or August. No date range for the two higher line Pixel 3 phones yet…or pricing.

By now, Tesla was supposed to be cranking out 2500 Model 3s per week. They are still falling short, but are now producing 2000 per week, so at least have gotten into the ballpark after a number of production hiccups. Theverge.com says Elon Musk claims to be sleeping at the factory until they hit the 2500 number. Tesla has promised to be building 5000 per week by later the end of the 2nd quarter, as they try to clear the backlog of orders and deposits still numbering several hundred thousand. The continued misses, have spooked Wall Street and the stock has dropped 22% in March.

Facebook is trying to put on a happy face in the wake of all the negative news about privacy. The social network’s newsroom has announced that Messenger will now be able to handle 360 degree photos and panoramic shots, as well as HD quality, 720p videos right from the camera roll of smartphones. They note you will need to download the latest software update to Messenger to get the new features.


Amazon & Retailer Store Automation; Saudi Prince in the Valley; Cloudflare’s Privacy DNS; Tesla Updates Model 3 Autopilot

Now that Amazon has opened Amazon Go, their checkout-less brick and mortar store, retailers are going into overdrive to automate stores. Some are turning to robots to help assess and maintain stock, but a big push is to eliminate the check out wait, which frustrates shoppers. Of course, that will make it quicker and more convenient for shoppers, who can just scan items with their phone apps, to have the tab hit their debit or credit card upon leaving, but it also endangers between 30 and 50% of the world’’s retail jobs if auto check out were to be fully implemented….that’s according to the World Economic Forum. Another issue to deal with is protection of customer data. There was another reminder of this over the weekend, as Lord and Taylor and Saks disclosed that data for 5 million customers’ cards had been stolen.

What could possibly close one of the toniest hotels in Silicon Valley for a week? The official story says the need to accommodate ‘a large VIP delegation,’ at the request of the State Department. Most observers say is is very likely the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, and his entourage. Through the 7th, neither rooms nor any of the Four Seasons Silicon Valley facilities will be available. In New York last week, a $200 billion memo of understanding was signed with the Prince and SoftBank for investment in solar power in the Saudi Kingdom. Will a giant deal come out of the visit to the Valley this week? Stay tuned, as they say. F

Cloudflare launched what it calls a ‘privacy first’ consumer DNS service yesterday, which they promise will speed up your internet connection, and perhaps more importantly, keep it private. It’s Https://1.1.1.1, and Cloudflare claims it is ‘the internet’s fastest, privacy-first consumer DNS service.  DNS- or Domain Name System- services work behind the scenes to convert the google.com name and all the rest into a real IP address that the routers and switchers of the internet can understand.

Tesla has addressed one of the biggest knocks to the Model 3…the autopilot controls. The automaker has moved the controls to the steering wheel, so drivers don’t have to take eyes off the road for a glance over to the center display, and reach across. With just a software update, however, drivers can now adjust the Autopilot’s cruise speed and follow distance via the steering wheel scroll buttons. The autopilot system can still be accessed through the central display if a driver prefers. The Model 3 is even more software intensive than the bigger Model S.