Freshened MacBook Pro; Apple Watch Grows This Fall; Self-Driving Mercedes Test to Silicon Valley; Purple Galaxy Note 9

Apple has freshened it’s top drawer MacBook Pros today. Theverge.com reports that they come with updated processors, more configuration options, True Tone displays, and what Apple claims is a ‘quieter’ keyboard design. The 15 inch model gets a 70 percent performance boost and the 13 incher doubles in speed. The upgrade doesn’t apply to the base 13 inch MacBook Pro (without the Touch Bar), the MacBook, or MacBook Air. It is rumored the lower line MacBooks will be upgraded this fall. There is a beautiful new leather sleeve for the new MacBook Pros, in black, brown, and dark blue. The price is beautiful, to….a whopping $180 for a SLEEVE! OTOH, a fully tricked out 15 inch MacBook Pro will set you back $6699! (Once your heart resumes beating….the base model remains the same at $2399.

Apple Watch gets updated this fall…probably at the iPhone event in September. One strong rumor from Ming-Chi Kuo is that both watches will get screen size increases without the watch getting larger. According to 9to5mac.com, Apple will do this by cutting the bezel size. The screens will go from 1.31 inch and 1.54 inch to 1.57 and 1.78 inch sizes. the Watch will also get better heart rate detection.

Mercedes-Benz will start pilot testing self-driving taxis in Silicon Valley in 2019. Theverge.com reports that Daimler and Bosch have been partnering on the self-driving tech, which uses a custom version of NVIDIA’s autonomous vehicle tech. The cars will only follow preselected routes, and Mercedes hasn’t decided whether it will go with S-class cars (the biggest body Mercedes) or V-class vans, or both. As with all other self-driving cars right now, there will be a safety driver present in the vehicles.

A leaked poster shows the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 9 in a purple color (which they’ve done before, calling it Lilac Purple) but with a twist this time…it comes with a gold S Pen. In addition, 9to5google.com says the phablet will continue to have a headphone jack. All will be revealed at Samsung’s Unpacked event, which is coming up on August 9th.


Google Home Outships Amazon Echo; Apple-VW Self-Driving Pact; Uber Self-Driving Leaves Arizona; Silicon Valley Longs to Tax Big Tech Like Seattle

In a first, Google Home has shipped more smart speakers than Amazon…3.2 million vs 2.5 million first quarter of this year. According to cnet.com, it may be due to retailers prioritizing Google over Amazon because they see Amazon as more of a direct competitor. Alibaba had the third biggest shipping smart speaker, with Xiaomi 4th. Apple’s HomePod was lumped in with the 17% ‘other’ smart speakers.

After lots of back and forth with Mercedes and BMW the last several years that never made it to a deal, Apple has cut a deal with Volkswagen. Macrumors.com reports that Apple will be buying VW vans and converting them to employee shuttles to run between San Francisco Bay Area campuses and buildings. The vans will be fitted with Apple’s self-driving tech. Word is, no deal ever came through with BMW and Mercedes, because Apple insisted on partner companies handing over control of data and design…which no car maker was willing to do.

Uber has canned its self-driving program in Arizona, and along with it, 300 employees. Businessinsider.com says this comes 2 months after a self-driving Uber Volvo (with safety driver behind the wheel) hit and killed a woman in Tempe. The governor had already suspended their ability to test the autonomous cars there. Uber says it will regroup and double check its safety procedures and be back testing somewhere soon.

Since Seattle has dropped an annual head tax on big tech companies, a number of Silicon Valley cities are angling to do the same. Bloomberg.com reports that Seattle intends to use the revenue to help with homeless problems and relieve housing shortages caused by the influx of higher paid tech workers. San Francisco, Mountain View, Cupertino, and East Palo Alto are all looking at similar taxes on large local employers (which are virtually all tech companies) to offset growing inequality and overcrowding. The Bay Area cities have learned from Seattle’s battle with Amazon, and instead of shooting for $500 per head, are looking to extract more like $250-$300 per employee.


Toyota Pumping a Billion into AI & Robotics in Silicon Valley; One-Touch Google Play Update

Toyota is dropping an eye-popping billion dollars in a research company it’s establishing in Silicon Valley, focusing on artificial intelligence and robotics. The automotive giant is determined to lead the way with top flight self-driving cars, in addition to applying AI and robotics to other areas of life. The AP reports that the initial facility will be near Stanford, with a second one planned later on to be set up near MIT.

Google has released version 8.3 of Google Play Services, with one tap Google sign in, and better wearable sync, according to 9to5google.com. Now, you can just press ‘Sign in with Google,’ and presto…you’re done. The update also makes signing in across devices easier, with a simpler dialog. The new version is supposed to use smarter syncing for wearables, too, improving battery life.