iPhones May Get USB-C Ports; Microsoft Revamps Office; Tesla Laying Off 9%; Big Names Back Better Battery Quest

After going all-in on USB-C on the MacBook Pro line, it looks like Apple may be getting ready to retire the Lightening connectors on the upcoming iPhones in favor of the more universally used connection. 9to5mac.com reports that Apple may also include an 18 watt charger to take advantage of quick charging…which the current phones are already capable of, but only with 3rd party chargers. It’s worth noting that this rumor comes from Digitimes, which doesn’t have the stellar accurate leak record of the likes of KGI Securities. That said, Apple has run with the Lightening port since 2012, so a change is more likely than not.

Microsoft is porting over its Fluent Design system from Windows 10 to Office, in an effort to simplify them for the some billion users of the productivity suite. According to theverge.com, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook will all get a new, simplified ribbon that is smaller and easier to use. There are new animations, icons that are more accessible, and more. The goal is to modernize Office, and make it more intuitive. The changes will hit the main desktop versions first, but also will be brought over to the web versions. They should appear on the apps for Windows next month, and on Macs by August. Microsoft also promises and increase in speed for the productivity suite.

As first indicated last month, Tesla has begun laying off salaried employees as they move to what Elon Musk calls ‘flattening the management structure’, and a ‘thorough reorganization’ of the company aimed at helping Tesla achieve profitability by the end of this year. Electrek.co notes that as many as 3,500 employees could be let go. No line workers will be involved in the layoffs, as Tesla continues to ramp up Model 3 production, and they will still be hiring ‘mission critical’ people. After the Solar City acquisition, Tesla laid off about 20% of that workforce, cutting duplicate positions and restructuring. They are also not continuing the residential sales agreement with Home Depot…although those employees will have the opportunity to move to Tesla retail locations.

Billion dollar startup Breakthrough Energy Ventures has dived into a couple startups aimed at power storage. Form Energy is working on novel chemistries for low-cost, long-term, high-density batteries, and Quidnet Energy is working on storing energy in highly compressed water. Geekwire.com says Breakthrough is backed by some really big players in tech: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Ma. The fund was started a couple years ago, but the two energy storage tech startups are two of the first investments revealed by Breakthrough. Cheap, efficient energy storage will allow power generated by renewable energy sources to be stored for use 24/7 on the energy grid.

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iPhone Claws Back Market Share from Android; Tesla’s Gigafactory Will Be Solar Powered; Amazon Prime Bows Cashback Rewards Visa Card

According to the latest data, Apple’s iPhone picked up 6.4% in market share in the US for the 3 months ending last November. 9to5mac.com also says that Apple did the same in 7 of 9 other key markets. The iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and 6s were the 3 most popular phones in the US for the period, combining for 31.3%. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge where next, grabbing 28.9% share. Apple snagged a whopping 9.1% in the UK…mainly crushing the hopes of Windows phones.They did drop 5.4% in China to local brands and lost out 3.2% in Germany, where Android picked up share.

Theverge.com reports that Tesla plans to power its Gigafactory with a 70 megawatt solar installation on the roof! That would make it 7 times larger than the present largest rooftop solar array. Excess power picked up would be stored by Powerpack storage units for use after dark, etc. The solar panels will all come from Solar City of course. Tesla acquired them last year.

If you need a reason to spend even more money with Amazon, have they got a deal for you. TechCrunch.com says Amazon is partnering with Chase to offer Prime members an Amazon Prime Visa card with 5% cash back on Amazon purchases. The card would give 2% back for restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% elsewhere. There’s no annual fee on the card. Amazon is believed to have between 58 and 69 million members, or roughly half of US households. The card is available today.


Galaxy Note Nightmare Continues; Two Tesla Launch Events This Month; German Bundesrat Votes to Ban Internal Combustion Engine

After a 4th of the new, supposedly safe replacement Galaxy Note 7’s caught fire, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have stopped selling the phablet, and now Samsung is ‘temporarily’ suspending production of the device. 9to5google.com says Samsung has yet to comment on the suspension of production, which includes a plant in Vietnam that is responsible for global shipments of the Note, aside from saying they are ‘adjusting’ production.

Doing his best Apple impression, Elon Musk has tweeted that the company is planning two product launches in October. According to thenextweb.com, the first will be October 17th, and Musk claims it will be unexpected by most. The second is a joint Tesla/Solar City event scheduled 10 days later for October 28th. There’s some speculation that the first one will be for the Model 3. Musk has already indicated that there would be a joint unveiling of an integrated Powerwall 2.0 and Tesla charging unit. Tesla has recently added land that would allow them to double the size of the Fremont, CA factory.

In something of a shockwave, the German Bundesrat has voted to ban internal combustion engines by 2030. Arstechnica.com reports that it’s a non-binding resolution, but still a hell of a shot over the bow coming from the country where the internal combustion engine was invented, and where Karl Benz built the first ‘patent motorcar.’ Germany produces more cars than any country in Europe and the third most in the world. The Bundesrat is the federal council of all 16 German states.


Delphi Tests Self-Driving Car; Thinner Apple Watch 2; Tesla Buying Solar City

Giant auto parts supplier Delphi is testing a fleet of self-driving cars in Singapore. According to theverge.com, by later this year you should be able to book a ride in a self-driving Audi cab there using your smartphone. Singapore had partnered earlier with MIT to advance self-driving research. There will initially be 3 fixed routes for 6 vehicles, all in the central business district. Delphi has already been testing an autonomous fleet in Silicon Valley, and plans to expand to other US locations and to Europe.

Solar City announced today that they have agreed to be acquired by Tesla for $2.6 billion. The majority shareholder of both is Elon Musk, who says it’s a necessary step in order to build what the companies are calling the world’s only vertically integrated sustainable energy company. Businessinsider.com says the deal may be finalized by the end of the year.

The version 2.0 Apple Watch will use a so-called One Glass Solution, and be thinner and lighter. Bgr.com reports that Apple will drop glass on glass to make more internal space…possibly for more components and bigger battery. Apple also plans to switch from and OLED display to Micro-LED, but that won’t make it into the Apple Watch 2…it’s expected in 2017. Most leaks point to the Apple Watch 2 being rolled out with cellular connectivity and a FaceTime camera along side the iPhone 7 in September.


Elon Musk’s Vision 2.0; Corning Rolls Out Gorilla Glass 5

Last night, Elon Musk revealed his Master Plan part 2.0…it’s been 10 years since his first one. Some of the hi lights as noted by recode.net: Teslas will use solar panels on the roofs that will integrate with batteries (which is the reason behind the Solar City deal), and the company is planning to add a smaller SUV, big rig trucks, and busses. The whole fleet will be self-driving, and Musk sees owners renting out their cars for money when they aren’t needing them, competing with Uber and Lyft…but of course, without needing drivers. One has to think a new level of protection against hacking and car theft would be needed!

Corning has dropped Gorilla Glass 5…so to speak. Actually, according to theverge.com, Corning claims to have improved resistance to breakage when dropped onto a rough surface from between waist and shoulder height. They claim it survives 80% of the time when dropped from 1.6 meters. Corning says 85 percent of smartphone owners have dropped their phones at least once in the past year, and that two-thirds of those drops are from waist height to shoulder height. Note that the test glass was .6 mm thick, and many phones now use .4 mm screens…and also the test drops were face first, and it’s a hit to the corner that usually breaks screens. Corning claims these breaks are more a function of the phone’s construction though, and out of their control.