iPhones May Get USB-C Ports; Microsoft Revamps Office; Tesla Laying Off 9%; Big Names Back Better Battery Quest

After going all-in on USB-C on the MacBook Pro line, it looks like Apple may be getting ready to retire the Lightening connectors on the upcoming iPhones in favor of the more universally used connection. 9to5mac.com reports that Apple may also include an 18 watt charger to take advantage of quick charging…which the current phones are already capable of, but only with 3rd party chargers. It’s worth noting that this rumor comes from Digitimes, which doesn’t have the stellar accurate leak record of the likes of KGI Securities. That said, Apple has run with the Lightening port since 2012, so a change is more likely than not.

Microsoft is porting over its Fluent Design system from Windows 10 to Office, in an effort to simplify them for the some billion users of the productivity suite. According to theverge.com, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook will all get a new, simplified ribbon that is smaller and easier to use. There are new animations, icons that are more accessible, and more. The goal is to modernize Office, and make it more intuitive. The changes will hit the main desktop versions first, but also will be brought over to the web versions. They should appear on the apps for Windows next month, and on Macs by August. Microsoft also promises and increase in speed for the productivity suite.

As first indicated last month, Tesla has begun laying off salaried employees as they move to what Elon Musk calls ‘flattening the management structure’, and a ‘thorough reorganization’ of the company aimed at helping Tesla achieve profitability by the end of this year. Electrek.co notes that as many as 3,500 employees could be let go. No line workers will be involved in the layoffs, as Tesla continues to ramp up Model 3 production, and they will still be hiring ‘mission critical’ people. After the Solar City acquisition, Tesla laid off about 20% of that workforce, cutting duplicate positions and restructuring. They are also not continuing the residential sales agreement with Home Depot…although those employees will have the opportunity to move to Tesla retail locations.

Billion dollar startup Breakthrough Energy Ventures has dived into a couple startups aimed at power storage. Form Energy is working on novel chemistries for low-cost, long-term, high-density batteries, and Quidnet Energy is working on storing energy in highly compressed water. Geekwire.com says Breakthrough is backed by some really big players in tech: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Ma. The fund was started a couple years ago, but the two energy storage tech startups are two of the first investments revealed by Breakthrough. Cheap, efficient energy storage will allow power generated by renewable energy sources to be stored for use 24/7 on the energy grid.

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Thoughts On The Coming Apple Electric Car

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.


Microsoft Apps Coming to Android Via Samsung

Microsoft appears to be making a major move to invade Android’s turf. Business insider.com has picked up a report from Sam Mobile that says Redmond may have cut a deal to have apps like Microsoft Office Mobile, OneNote, OneDrive, and Skype pre-loaded on the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S6. We’ll know for sure March 1st when the S6 is introduced.

If you’ve been wanting to use Apple iWork apps on other than your home Mac, you’re in luck. Apple has made Pages, Numbers, and Keynote accessible through iCloud Beta to users without an apple device. Mac rumors.com says you get a gig of storage when you sign up for a free iCloud account.

The contextual home screen for Android called Aviate, which changes through the day to suit your needs, has added search outside the US. Engadget.com reports that the app…which was bought by Yahoo last year…is a free download from Google Play.


Outlook for Mac Gets an Update

Microsoft has put a fresh face on Outlook for Mac. 9to5mac.com says an updated version of Office is coming in 2015. Microsoft claims the latest Outlook gives users a more consistent experience with the iPhone and iPad versions.

The next iteration of Amazon’s Fire phone will be less expensive. Amazon has admitted they considerably overpriced the present model. Gigaom.com reports that future Fire phones will have better software and a lower price, much like Amazon has done with Kindles.

Sprint is expanding its smartphone lease program. Cnet.com says in addition to Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, you can now rent Samsung Galaxy S5 and S5 sport models. The lease is $20 a month for 24 months, then you buy or pick a new phone.