SiriusXM Buying Pandora; Walmart Using Oculus Go For Employee Training; A Stake in Airbnb for Hosts; Apple Adding Depth Control During Photo Shooting

SiriusXM is to buy Pandora via an all stock deal, with the value set at $3.5 billion. According to cnbc.com, the deal includes a provision where Pandora can potentially enter into a better deal if they can find it. Pandora claims about 6 million premium subscribers. It’s possible another deal could come in for more, but Apple and Spotify have looked at the streamer already, and didn’t bite. Barring an angel stepping in, the deal with SiriusXM will close the first quarter of 2019.

Walmart is putting Oculus Go VR headsets in all its stores nationwide, to be used in employee training programs. Zdnet.com reports that there should be around 17,000 of the virtual reality headsets deployed in Walmarts around the country by the end of the year. Walmart plans to train on new technology, compliance, and ’soft skills’ like empathy and customer service.

Airbnb has reportedly sent a letter to the SEC asking the government agency to allow offering equity in the company to hosts. Engadget.com says basically this would allow shares to go to gig economy workers, not just investors and staff. Uber has asked for this kind of deal more than once, but in Airbnb’s case, they are asking for a rule change to allow it, not just an exception. So far, the SEC has not responded.

The new iPhone Xs and Xs Max have a cool feature for the bokeh portrait effect. When the phones rolled out, Apple announced that users could adjust the depth of field on an image after shooting it. Now, according to 9to5mac.com, Apple may add to this in an upcoming software update. Apparently, they are testing letting users adjust the depth of field while shooting a picture. The feature may come later this year in iOS 12.1 or 12.2, according to reports.


Intel Buys Mobileye; Google’s Smart Commuter Jacket; Pandora Finally Starts On-Demand Streaming

Mobileye, which makes the chips that help guide vision-based self-driving cars, has been snapped up by Intel for $15 billion. According to theverge.com, the chip making giant had already announced dropping $250 million the next couple years on self-driving car tech, so this is an enormous jump in investment in that sector. Previously, Intel, Mobileye, and BMW had partnered on 40 autonomous vehicles that will be tested on public roads later this year.

Google’s Jacquard showed off their Levi’s commuter jacket at SXSW South by SouthWest over the weekend. 9to5google.com reports the wearable looks like a classic Levi’s trucker jacket, but with a touch sensitive strip on the sleeve for controlling music, checking time, or taking phone calls. The plastic tag on the cuff with the electronics is removable from its USB port on the sleeve, so it does’t walk away when you’re not wearing the jacket. It all works through a smartphone app. It’s cool, but an eye-watering $350 when it drops this fall…compared to a normal Trucker jacket that runs less than $100…but hey, you can talk into your sleeve, like a Secret Service agent or Dick Tracy!

In what may be a ‘better late than never’ move, Pandora has rolled out Pandora Premium for 10 bucks a month, hoping to compete with Spotify and Apple Music in the on-demand streaming space. Geekwire.com says they feel their recommendation engine, continuously updated since 2000, should give them a leg up. The service initially will be invitation only…it will also be available free for 6 months for subscribers to the ad free radio service Pandora Plus.


Google & Chrysler Pairing for Android Powered Infotainment System; Theatre Mode for iOS; Tesla Autopilot Update

Google and Chrysler are partnering on more than just self-driving tech. 9to5google.com says they are also working on an Android powered infotainment system. This is not Android Auto…it’s built on the Android Open Source Platform, and should provide full access to Google Assistant, Maps, and other resources like Pandora, Spotify, NPR One, and Pocket Casts. It will probably live within the Uconnect system on rollout.

Bgr.com reports that Apple’s iOS 10.3 is getting something called ‘Theatre mode.’ It’s not clear what it is….a popcorn icon denotes it on the screen….but it’s thought to be a Dark Mode something like ‘Do Not Disturb’ where all sounds are muted, and many apps display white text on a black screen. Twitter already has a dark mode for its iOS app, and it works well…easy on the eyes and discreet.

Tesla has started rolling out what they call HW2 Autopilot updates to cars made since October. By next week, according to techcrunch.com, the rest of the Tesla fleet will start seeing the updates. The rewrite of the Autopilot software will eventually enable full self driving mode in Tesla cars. Tesla wants to test complete autonomy by the end of 2017!


Future Fuel Cell Powered Macbook Could Run Days or Weeks

We just reported about 10 days ago about a British company called Intelligent Energy working with Apple on a fuel cell battery case that can keep your iPhone going for a week. Now, businessinsider.com says Apple has a patent for a fuel cell battery that could run some of its devices for days or even weeks. This one describes a “portable and cost-effective fuel cell system for a portable computing device,” and it joins others Apple already had on the books. This one seems to be aimed at MacBooks…the filing mentions the ‘MagSafe’ connector, but not the Lightening connectors used on iPhones and iPads. Apparently, you would just replace a fuel cartridge ‘detachably affixed to the fuel cell system’ when the fuel runs out.

It seems like everyone has a smartphone now…and that perception isn’t far from reality. According to an analysis by ComScore picked up by marketingland.com, US smartphone penetration hit 77% in July. In the social media race on smartphones, Facebook dominates more than ever. They stay #1, and Facebook’s freestanding Messenger app is now #2, bumping YouTube to third place. Don’t shed a tear for Google though…their apps hold down slots 3, 4, 5, and 6! Pandora radio, Gmail, Instagram, and Yahoo stocks round out the top 10.


HP Jumps In To The Giant Tablet Market

With a possible giant iPad widely rumored, HP jumped in with a 12.3 inch Android tablet. The verge.com says it looks like a giant HTC One M8, but does match iPad’s screen resolution. It starts at $569, with a 7.9 inch model setting you back $449.

Marriott is testing offering Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Pandora directly through the TVs in their rooms. Androidcentral.com reports that the services will end up being tacked on as a ‘premium’ internet tier.

Gigaom.com reports that Facebook is testing voice to text in their Messenger app. Facebook is a little late to the party with this, but hopes to add features to grow its Messenger app active user base.