2 Facebook Smart Speakers Coming; HomePod Makes Apple Less than Google and Amazon; Dyson to Make e-Cars

Facebook appears to be getting into the hardware business, and it will do it with smart speakers. According to mashable.com, they will launch a couple of models of smart speakers in July. The code names for the gadgets are Fiona and Aloha. Facebook will apparently give them 15 inch touchscreens, but one is expected to have higher quality. They will include both facial recognition and voice control tech.

After a few days to tear into Apple’s HomePod, TechInsight has determined that the device costs Apple about $216 to make, giving them 38% profit. For comparison, Google makes 66% on their smart speakers and Amazon 56%. Businessinsider.com says the difference is due to the higher quality components Apple puts in its smart speaker.

After getting into one mature business and disrupting it, now Dyson looks to do the same with cars…specifically, electric cars. According to theverge,com, Dyson is working on solid state batteries, and hopes to have ‘radically different’ cars out sometime after 2021. Dyson will initially produce a higher end, limited production vehicle…much like Tesla, then move into more mass market vehicles. One advantage for Dyson…they have experience getting products manufactured and out to buyers.

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PC & Mac Sales; Smart Speaker Market Booming, Wireless Earbuds-‘Assistive Hearing’ Coming

It’s easy, especially when covering tech, to be all over the latest mobile devices, and lose track of what’s happening with the venerable PC…which most of us still have and use. Bgr.com has the numbers as tracked by IDC, and here’s where computer brands stood in 2017: #1 was H-P with 22.7% of the market. Lenovo came in 2nd with 21.1%. In third place was Dell with 16.1% market share, and 4th was Apple at 7.6%. Acer was in 5th place with 6.8%, and ASUS grabbed 6th with 6.6%, hot on their trail. The other 19.1% of computer sales was ‘everybody else.’ Of all of them, Apple had the most growth in the 4th quarter covering the holidays.

While Apple fanboys and fangirls breathlessly await the Apple HomePod, the smart speaker market is absolutely booming. According to 9to5mac.com, it’s up 128% since a year ago. Research from Edison Research and NPR indicates one in 6 Americans own a smart speaker of one type or another. 65% of owners say they would never want to go back to not having one! Of the 16% of us that have smart speakers, 11% are Amazon Alexa powered, while 4% use Google Home.

Since Congress passed a law allowing some hearing aid tech without prescription, wireless earbud makers are looking to that as a new market. Engadget.com reports that wireless earbud pioneer Bragi announced at CES that they would be diving into personalized hearing enhancement for their Dash earbuds. On top of that, they are working to develop personalized fitting for hearing loss using the so-called ‘Earprint’ test….pointing out that correcting for hearing loss needs to be as personalized as fitting for glasses. Another company called Nuheara showed off their updated product called IQBuds Boost.


New Google Smart Display; Microsoft Meltdown Updates Brick Some AMD PCs, Samsung’s Foldable Galaxy X Phone; LimeBike eBikes to Select Cities; Robot Strippers Hit Vegas

Google has made a big splash at CES in Las Vegas. From wrapping the trams, to their giant ‘Hey Google’ booth, they are hard to miss. They are going for smart assistant market share in a big way, too. Theverge.com says the list of smart speakers that use Google Assistant has expanded rather dramatically. Altec Lansing, Anker Innovations, Bang & Olufsen, Braven, iHome, JBL, Jensen, LG, Lenovo, Klipsch, Knit Audio, Memorex, RIVA Audio, SōLIS, and Sony will all feature speakers with Google Assistant. Of those, JBL, Lenovo, LG, and Sony will make smart speakers with screens. They should be out by summer. The smart-screen speakers will apparently run Android Things, a version of Android tailored for Internet of Things devices. One obvious leg up on Amazon’s Alexa devices….the Google smart speakers with screens will play YouTube videos! They will also let you access you Nest cam security cams.

Public service message: Apparently Microsoft’s updates to stop ‘Meltdown’ have been pulled, because they bricked some AMD computers. Engadget.com reports that Redmond blames AMD’s documentation, but at any rate, it primarily affects Athlon and Sempron equipped computers. Apple released patches for Meltdown and Spectre on both the Mac OS and iOS yesterday, and they work fine. If you have a Windows machine you know doesn’t have AMD processors, go ahead and install the patch.

Another tease about the folding Galaxy X phone. Samsung is now saying it might enter production by November, and be out by this coming December. Bgr.com notes that CEO of mobile DJ Koh has been teasing this handset for a while now, but we’ve never even gotten a tentative date up to now. The premium handset would be a smartphone while folded, then open up for use as a tablet. No price range, but Samsung calling it ‘premium’ gives you the idea that it will be over a grand like the iPhone X.

There are already bike rental set ups in a number of major cities…even Ford has entered the fray with those. Now, LimeBike is rolling out electric bicycles, or e-bikes in several cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Scottsdale, and Miami. Geekwire.com says the e-bikes debuted at CES, and 3ill cost $1 to unlock and and additional buck for each 10 minutes of riding time. LimeBike already has a fleet of garish green bikes with no electric assistance that rent for a dollar per 30 minutes of riding time. The new e-bikes should be available in a couple weeks. They are restricted to 14.5 mph, due to many cities having 15mph bike speed limits. The thought is that with certain cities that have a fair amount of hills, the e-bikes will give riders a break in trying to negotiate those. OK, no Idea about Miami, though…

The most off the wall thing at CES…or maybe ‘off the pole’, isn’t at the show, but at a strip club. According to businessinsider.com, the Sapphire has flown in robot strippers with large security cameras for heads from London! If that isn’t crazy enough, the club claims…claims that the idea is to attract women to the club! So far, no ‘thumbs up’ from either Robocop or Lt Cmdr. Data.


More Next-Gen iPhone Rumors; Amazon & Google vs HomePod; Intel Security Issue

A number of sources point to 3 new iPhones this fall…a refreshed iPhone X, a bigger iPhone X Plus with a 6.5 inch screen…also with an OLED screen, and an in-between model with a 6.1 inch LCD screen. LG will make the 6.5 inch screens, with Samsung continuing to supply the 5.8 inch OLED screen Improvements to Face ID are also touted. Now, according to macrumors.com, there may be a 2nd generation iPhone SE out this spring. It will likely keep the same form factor with a 4 inch screen as the present SE.

Amazon and Google both had sizable discounts on their smart speakers heading into the holidays. 9to5mac.com reports that analysts think they both probably lost money on the units or just broke even, in order to grab market share before Apple releases its HomePod speaker. Not only that…and you probably figured this was coming…Alexa may be soon making suggestions when you are getting ready to shop or are shopping. Yep, product placement. You may suddenly find that Alexa is suggesting specific brands…Proctor & Gamble is one such ‘advertising partner’ being discussed. The thought is, people may just order the suggested brand instead of letting Alexa blather on.

There is apparently a serious security problem with all recent Intel chips…so big a problem, that they won’t really discuss how it works, or what it is, but patches are coming. This will affect virtually all late model Windows and Mac machines. Bgr.com says it will be a crucial patch…but there’s a hitch. The patch may slow down the computers by some 30%, but at least by 5%! Pretty much every computer made in the last 10 years is affected. (90% of servers and laptops.) The fix involves moving the chip’s kernel to a completely separate address space, so every system call will require switching between 2 address spaces to keep the kernel secure…that’s where the speed bump occurs. A later update may restore the speed, but for now…patch those things when the security update comes…otherwise, your machines can be hacked and give the hackers god like power over them…including ability to read all personal info and passwords.


Samsung Backs Away From Smart Speakers; Microsoft Reveals Cortana Controlled Thermostat; Sears Rolls Out Alexa Powered Appliances on Amazon

We had reported, along with numerous others, that Samsung was working on a Bixby powered smart speaker to compete with Amazon’s, Google’s, and the upcoming Apple one. Now, thenextweb.com reports that Samsung has suddenly decided they are not marketable, with the dominance of Amazon, and Apple waiting in the Wings. Meanwhile, Global Market Insights predicts that the smart speaker market will grow to $13 billion by 2024. Almost half of smart speaker owners buy an additional one for their homes.

Microsoft has rolled out a great looking IOT thermostat today called GLAS. It’s made for them by Johnson Controls. According to theverge.com, it runs Windows 10 IoT Core, and has Cortana built in. Microsoft says it will detect if you are in the room or not, and also continuously monitor air quality inside and outside. Microsoft plans to add other appliances that will run their system and use Cortana.

Meanwhile, struggling retail giant Sears, which for decades had huge market share in appliances with its Kenmore brand, has started selling Alexa powered appliances via Amazon. Techcrunch.com says the retailer will bake in Alexa to air conditioners in addition to the expected refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers. You will e able to yell at Alexa to turn the AC up or down from your couch!


Samsung Working on Smart Speaker With Bixby; Valve Founder Raises $$ for New Startup; Texting Makes You Walk Funny

With Apple now getting ready to enter the smart speaker sweepstakes along with Amazon and Google, Samsung appears poised to join the party. The Wall St. Journal says it will use Bixby, the voice assistant that has been late rolling out on the Galaxy S8 due to issues with English! It will be a touch market, with Amazon’s Alexa presently holding 70% of the US market, and Apple not even in the market until the end of the year. Microsoft also has a voice controlled speaker using Cortana called Invoke, which hits this fall. If Samsung can get Bixby working in English like they plan, they could have a edge in the Internet of Things, since they actually produce some appliances like TVs and fridges.

Rick Ellis, who founded Valve’s Steam gaming platform is on to another startup…he’s raised $1.25 million for Sharkbite Games. According to geekwire.com, the new company is already working on two games…the first is a casual mobile game that will be out later this year. The other will bow in 2019, and is an ambitious multiplayer game that will run on PC and mobile, and which Ellis says is aimed at the ‘mid-core’ space. He has hinted that they were looking at virtual reality in the future.

Quick— call the Ministry of Silly Walks! A study from Anglia Ruskin University indicates that people walk funny while texting, reading text, or chatting on phones! Cnet.com reports that phone users spend 61% less time watching out for obstacles, and lift feet ‘higher and slower’ over them while walking…adapting a ‘cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy.’ Or…as most of us call them….smartphone zombies, often shortened to smombies!