Samsung & Google Partner on New Chromebooks; Batteries Now Rolling off Lines at Tesla Gigafactory; Energous Wireless Charging Debuts This Year; Nvidia Co-Pilot Driving Computer

The Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro have finally bowed from Samsung, in collaboration with Google. Theverge.com says they will be worthy competition for Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro. The Plus is out in February for $449, and sports baked in Android app support, a self-contained stylus, and on-screen inking. It has a 360 degree hinge to allow for both tablet and laptop modes. The Pro will be out later this year, and is basically the same except for a more powerful processor.

It took almost 3 years from the groundbreaking, but batteries are now rolling off the lines at Tesla’s Gigafactory. The first of the custom cells will go into Tesla’s storage products…the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2, but are designed to fit into all Tesla cars according to theverge.com. They will start installing them in the new Model 3s when they start production this year. Tesla says the Gigafactory will eventually crank out enough batteries for 1.5 million cars.

Energous will begin shipping its truly wireless systems by later this year, but is holding off due to a partner. Macrumors.com notes that most believe that partner to be Apple, and that the Watts Up system will debut in the iPhone 8 in September. The difference between Energous and other wireless systems is that theirs is truly over the air, and can charge a device from up to 15 feet away…no need to lay the phone on a charging pad. Energous did show off several devices that use contact charging at CES this week.

Nvidia had teased a powerful AI system earlier, and now has announced Co-Pilot. They are baking the tech into their Xavier drive computers they are making to assist drivers when they are doing the driving. Techcrunch.com reports that the system will utilize data from sensors inside and outside a car, and alert a driver when they need to take action. The system can either operate in self-driving mode, or as the Co-Pilot, continuing to monitor and warn drivers to react…say, should you not spot a pedestrian. They are already partnering with ZF in Europe, and may with Bosch as well.


New Tesla Powerwall Has Twice the Power; More on New MacBooks

A pleasant surprise from Tesla…the upcoming Powerwall 2 will hold twice the charge as the present model’s 14 kW hours. Elon Musk says that’s enough to run lights, sockets, and fridge in a standard 4 bedroom home for an entire day! According to tech crunch.com, production will start in the next few weeks, and the rig will run $5500. Of course, you will need to add a few thousand to have it installed along with a power converter. Along with solar cells, you could do some serious cord-cutting….or at least unplugging for a good part of the day!

With lots of people up in arms about the new MacBooks losing ports, and the thoughts of buying a bag full of dongles, and other issues…like no physical escape button many programmers use, Apple has apparently thrown a bone to business and power users. 9to5mac.com reports that the SSD drive is replaceable and upgradable, at least in the low end model sans Touch Bar. In the prior models, it was soldered in. We’ll have to wait until some of the Touch Bar models are delivered to see if this is true across the line…if so, it would be welcomed. A couple of other notes…or lack of notes…the F sharp chord at startup is gone. The new Pros start when you open the lid, and it’s almost no difference from the wake when you open the lid of a machine that has already been booted up…except that it obviously takes a little longer. A moment of silence for the venerable Apple chord.