Skype over Alexa; Apple Cuts iPhone Production Orders; Space-X Approved for 7,000 Com Satellites

Microsoft has enabled Skype to work on Amazon’s Alexa devices. The rollout should be complete this week. Theverge.com reports that Echo-type hardware will be able to handle basic calling, and the Echo Show will include video support for Skype. Users will also be able to call mobile and land lines using SkypeOut, and call their contacts by simply asking Alexa to ‘Call Siri on Skype.’ OK, not really Siri…unless maybe you have a friend with that name, which would be nearly as confusing as having a pal named Alexa.

Apple has pared back production orders for the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and XR, due to ‘lower than expected demand,’ according to a Wall Street Journal report picked up by macrumors.com. Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest cuts are for the XR, which has been whacked by a third of the original 70 million units originally scheduled. Some suppliers are calling the handsets a flop, but with Apple reporting record breaking revenue of $61.5 billion on iPhones during the launch quarter, that’s a stretch. Since Apple is going to quit reporting unit numbers for iPhone sales going forward it will make it even harder to track sales…but competitor Samsung hasn’t reported unit numbers in some time.

SpaceX has gotten FCC approval to launch over 7,000 satellites. Cnet.com says they will be in very low earth orbit, and will give the company the ability to provide global satellite broadband service. The FCC has also signed off on requests from Kepler Communications, Telesat Canada, and LeoSat MA to offer broadband in the US by satellite.


Samsung Galaxy S10 Rumors; Netflix Misses Growth; Boeing Drone Traffic System; Skype Updates Desktop App; Apple Store Crushes Google Play

The fabled in-screen fingerprint scanner may come to the Samsung Galaxy S10 in 2019. Businessinsider.com reports that the FOD, or fingerprint on display will let users get their finger scanned by putting int on the screen. The two larger, more high-end Galaxy S10 handsets will have an ultrasonic version of this…but the smaller Galaxy S10 will keep the fingerprint scanner on the side. The S9 phones have a reader on the back. Apple ditched fingerprint scanning last Fall for its Face ID. Samsung may ship 40 million Galaxy S10 phones in 2019 according to well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Netflix stubbed its toe in added subscribers for the first time in 5 quarters, and the stock took a plunge of over 13 percent. According to CNBC.com, they only added 5.15 million subscribers, down about a million from what was projected. Revenue also missed a bit…it was $3.91 billion instead of the predicted $3.94 billion. Analysts have worried that Netflix couldn’t sustain their growth, which has been over 100% year to date. They are also eyeing competition in streaming by Disney and AT&T. For next quarter, Netflix has just projected 5 million new subscribers, about what they did this quarter.

Some people need to be thinking ahead in order to plan for problems that most of us haven’t thought of yet. One of those is drone traffic. Right now, the only time there is an issue is with fires, when numerous media outlets and others try to fly drones over the scene to capture video, but the problem will only grow in the future. Boeing is starting to develop a drone traffic management system now to be ready. Geekwire.com says the system will use artificial intelligence and blockchain tech. A Texas AI company called SparkCognition is partnering with Boeing on the AI portion, as the aircraft company has formed a new business group called Boeing NeXt. Other companies are also looking into drone traffic management, including AT&T, Amazon, and Alphabet’s Wing.

Skype has rolled out a new desktop version, 8.0. TechCrunch.com reports that version 7 will be killed by September 1st. New features include HD video and screen sharing in calls, support for @mentions in chats, a chat media gallery, and file and media sharing up to 300 MB. Encrypted audio calls and texts are coming later, as is built in call recording.

Apple continues to find ways to coin money in addition to selling hardware. Appleinsider.com reports that an analytics firm called Sensor Tower just did a study, and Apple’s App Store doubles the revenue of Google’s Play with just half the number of downloads. From January to June of 2018, the App store raked in $22.6 billion while Google Play took in $11.8 billion. Both stores are showing big time growth….year over year, first half of this year compared to last, the two app stores grew combined by 27.8%!


Apple Watch May Not Make Voice Calls at Launch; PayPal & Apple Pay Cut off White Supremacists; Nokia 8 Boasts Dubious ‘Bothie’ Photos

Despite the very strong rumors that Apple Watch will launch with an LTE capable model, it looks like it won’t initially make voice calls. Appleinsider.com says the LTE capability will initially just work for faster data. Voice calling will likely be activated later in the year. In the meantime, the Watch will support FaceTime, Skype, and other apps that make calls, so it will still be pretty Dick Tracy. KGI Securities says it might even be early 2018 before the Watch will make cell calls over the regular carrier networks.

Apple Pay and PayPal have both cut off websites that sell Nazi apparel and materials. According to buzzfeed.com, white supremacist merch will be banned. Uber, Facebook, Twitter, MailChimp, and WordPress have also taken some live of action against the groups. Earlier, Airbnb had cancelled lodging attempts by white supremicist groups trying to book in Charlottesville.

In a sign that feature creep has gotten to the point of ridiculousness, the new Nokia 8, an otherwise good hero smartphone, has introduced the ‘bothie.’ Mashable.com reports that the phone has a feature called Dual Sight, that lets you view the back and front cams on a split screen, and shoot simultaneous photos with them. The ‘bothie’ feature works on both photos and video, and can be live streamed to social media. It’s $701, and rolls out in September. If you buy one…and it’s a nice phone…PLEASE don’t post ‘bothies!’


Apple’s Siri Speaker in Production; Skype Gets Major Makeover With ‘Me Too’ Features

Apple’s smart speaker, powered by Siri, is apparently in production and will be showed off at WWDC, according to bloomberg.com. In an effort to outshine Amazon and Google offerings, it will feature virtual surround sound, be louder and reproduce sound more ‘crisply’ than others, and (of course) have deep integration with other Apple products. It will also serve as a hub for Apple HomeKit connected devices. The device will be built by the Taiwanese company Inventec, which produces AirPods for Apple. It is expected to be out later this year.

Microsoft is giving Skype yet another makeover, but this one is much more than a fresh coat of paint. The latest iteration takes on the look of Snapchat. Theverge.com reports that although Skype has done well for video and audio calls, it hasn’t made much of a dent in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage, or Snapchat….and messaging is where the growth in conversations live. The new interface includes 3 sections in a conversation: find, chat, and capture. Chat is what is sounds like, but the other two allow you to search a convo, or find images, restaurants, or content to drop into a message. Capture is where Microsoft has added the Snapchat like capabilities….the cam opens so you can shoot pics or video, then you can add stickers, text, or annotate the shot. There’s also a Highlights feature so friends can stream pics and videos of yours and react with emoji.


More Cortana Driven Smart Speakers; Waymo Logs Millions of Miles; Apple Buys Sleep Tracker; iPhone 8 Leaked CAD Drawings

Earlier this week, Harman Kardon unveiled Invoke, their Cortana powered Amazon Echo competitor. Now, techcrunch.com says HP is also jumping into the smart speaker market. Instead of following their rather successful Surface marketing effort of rolling their own, Microsoft seems to be using the formerly wildly successful PC model of licensing to numerous makers. The speakers will reportedly use Skype for calling. The Amazon Alexa device can take and make calls, and Apple’s is expected to as well.

Waymo, the self-driving car people from Alphabet/Google, says they have now logged 3 million miles on public roads. According to 9to5google.com, a million of those self-driven miles have been in the last 7 months! In March, Waymo greatly expanded their fleet with 500 Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Apple has bought Beddit, a company that tracks sleep. According to business insider.com, they make a $150 sleep monitoring pad that goes between the sheets. The monitor tracks a person’s heart rate, awake time, and snoring, then the companion app calculates a ‘sleep score’ and can wake users at an ‘optimal’ time with a smart alarm. The page linked to the Watch App Store is gone from their website, but the app is still live there as of today.

Some CAD drawings have leaked out from a manufacturer of the upcoming iPhone 8. 9to5mac.com says that these show no fingerprint sensor on the back, but do depict the all glass front and back with stainless steel edges and the vertical dual cams on the back. The phone appears to be thicker than the current iPhone 7 and Plus. It’s still possible the 8 will have an ugly and clumsy fingerprint sensor on the back like the Samsung Galaxy S8, but we probably won’t know that until Fall.


Bendable, Foldable Samsung Smartphone by Next Year; In-Flight Wi-Fi to Become Much More Useable

Samsung has developed the tech for folding screens to the point they may roll out smartphones with it next year. Engadget.com picked up a story from Bloomberg saying that a couple of devices will have flexible OLED screens- one folding like a cosmetic compact and another that transforms from a 5-inch smartphone-sized screen to a roughly eight inch screen …basically, converting from a phablet to a tablet. If the rumors hold up, we could see these by Mobile World Congress next February!

If you’ve tried it, you know in-flight Wi-Fi is more like in-flight dial up…but that’s about to change. According to bgr.com, American has signed a deal with Viasat, and is ditching Gogo. Where Gogo has relied on ground stations, Viasat use satellite tech to get Wi-Fi to travelers. They are claiming 12Mbps to every passenger, which would be enough to stream movies, make Skype calls (with some lag) or surf the web without feeling like you want to commit homicide. Gogo is also rolling out a satellite system, but it only gives 70 Mbps to the entire plane to share, which won’t be much better than what they already offer. American’s fleet should be equipped with the Viasat faster internet by September 2017.


Tesla Planning Name Change & Wireless Charging; Texting to Get Another Makeover?

Tesla Motors has acquired the tesla.com site from a fan of the scientist that’s owned it since the 90’s. Businessinsider.com says right now, it redirects to teslamotors.com. It looks like Tesla is about to drop motors and just become Tesla…as Apple Computer became Apple years ago. They will fold their Tesla energy brand under this umbrella…the division that makes the Powerwall and Powerpack batteries, as well as the auto operation. The storage division is expected to be a third of their battery factory production by 2020.

Meanwhile, the Tesla Model S is on the way to getting wireless charging. According to mashable.com, a supplier called Plugless is taking $244 deposits on a wireless charger they plan to introduce late this spring. It will cost $2440 if you order now…more later. The wireless rig can run off any 50 amp circuit, and only needs pro installation for outdoors. It will give a Model S 20 miles of range per hour charge. Right now, no system is available for the all wheel drive Model S, the Model X, Roadster, or upcoming Model 3.

Text…the most old-school thing besides voice available on mobile phones…may be getting a makeover. Theverge.com reports that Google has partnered with 19 phone carriers to update SMS and MMS messages. The new moniker? RCS, or Rich Communications Service. It would allow for sending higher quality photos, starting group chats, and video. T-Mobile has already used it for video calling. If it ends up being baked into Android, it would simplify contacting people…in fact, a simple text could seamlessly start a video chat without choosing Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts, etc.


Apple Owns Smartwatch Market; Skype Adds Mobile Group Video Calling

Most of 2015, we heard about Apple’s big fail with the Apple Watch, and it’s lackluster sales…all the while Apple claimed it was doing fine. A Juniper Research report picked up by mashable.com shows that Apple was right…fine doesn’t even describe it…Apple grabbed 51.5% of the world smartwatch market in 2015. The numbers aren’t large compared to the 10s of millions of iPhones…only 8.8 million shipped, but over half the market is nothing to sneeze at. Android Wear watches were just 10%. Note that the smartwatch category does NOT count Fitbits.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve had 10 years of free video calling over Skype. Now, the verge.com says Skype has added mobile group video calling to the mix over iOS, Android, and Windows 10 Mobile. Look for it in the coming weeks, but you can preregister now on the company’s dedicated 10th anniversary website to check out an early version. Google Hangouts has had the feature for a while that handles up to 10 friends, but Skype says their group calling can handle up to 25.


Skype Getting Real Time Language Translation on PCs

Microsoft has announced that Skype Translator, which has been freestanding and Spanish to English only, will be coming to Windows PCs in the next few weeks. Geekwire.com reports that it will be a baked in feature to PC based Skype, and will also add French, German, Italian, and Mandarin for voice, plus 50 written languages. They won’t have it out for smartphones, at least for a while. Microsoft admits it’s not perfect, but early tests indicated people can carry on a conversation with it.

Battery life just sucks, and virtually every gadget we use runs by battery power. Something better may be on the way, at least for the smaller devices. According to engadget.com, scientists in Canada and France have come up with a micro-supercapacitor with the same energy density of most lithium ion batteries. Even Elon Musk has lusted for capacitors as a replacement for batteries, since you can recharge them infinitely without loss of capacity. The rub with the micro-supercapacitor is it’s built from exotic materials like gold and ruthenium oxide, so crazy expensive when you scale up in size. The scientists say for replacing micro batteries, though, the capacitors can store 1000 times the energy of those tiny batteries. They may be showing up in wearables before long, but we’ll have to wait a while for instant charging cell phones and electric cars.


Motorola Testing Next Gen Moto 360 ‘Smelt’

Motorola is testing a possible successor to the Moto 360 smart watch. 9to5google.com says it’s code named Smelt (the present watch was ‘Minnow’.) The prototype is running Android 5.1, and has 360×360 screen resolution. The prototype looks to have a different case, and is rumored to be released in September.

Thenextweb.com reports that Microsoft has announced updates to the Skype and Skype Qik apps. Both get a new layout, 8 new video effects, support for 12 new languages, and most importantly…more emoji!

Sad news for netizens…the internet doesn’t make you smarter, you only think it does! According to arstechnica.com, research from Yale published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology shows that we are blurring the boundary between our own internal knowledge, and material easily looked up with search engines. Transactive memory was already known when people share information and memories between roommates, family, and the like…now we can add the computer to the equation.