Cheaper MacBook Air; YouTube Trials Green Screen Tech; Google Sells Zagat; Amazon Looking at Branded Checking Accounts

One of the biggest knocks on Apple gear is that it is pricey. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that a KGI Securities analysis points to a lower priced, 13-inch MacBook Air rolling out sometime in the 2nd quarter of this year. Usually reliable Ming-Chi Kuo says a cheaper MB Air would bump MacBook shipments anywhere from 10 to 15% this year. The present entry level MacBook Air starts at $999, so maybe we can expect a cheaper entry level one for $700 or $800. A cheaper iPad certainly jump started sales of that device for Apple!

The wizards at Google have developed a new tool that uses AI and machine learning to filter out and replace the background in videos in the manner of a green screen. According to mashable.com, it’s being trialed in limited beta Stories. If all goes well, Google will port the tech to their broader Augmented Reality services. No idea on when this may be released into the wild, but it could be a game changer in many ways!

Google is also spinning off Zagat to The Infatuation. No price given, but they bought the restaurant guide in 2011 for $151 million. Theverge.com says that although the ratings and such were integrated into Google Maps, Google let things slide, and Yelp has come to dominate. The Infatuation will keep Zagat as a separate brand from its own curated guides.

Amazon is apparently looking to have its own branded checking accounts. A report from engadget.com has them in talks with J.P. Morgan Chase and other big banks about the accounts. Amazon would be targeting younger shoppers and people who don’t have checking accounts.

Advertisements

Samsung Rolls Out Galaxy S8s; Congress Passes Bill Allowing ISPs to Sell Your Browsing History; Facebook Rolling Out Snapchat Clone in Main App

Samsung officially rolled out the Galaxy S8 and S8+ in New York today. Bgr.com says the beautiful new phones will be on preorder tomorrow, the 30th, and on sale Friday, April 21st. As predicted, it has the assistant Bixby with a dedicated virtual button that responds instantly, and DeX, a desktop interface…you plug the phone into it and can connect peripherals and a display via the USB and HDMI ports. The edge to edge screen is stunning. Your bank account may be stunned too, as the pricing has crept past the one grand barrier, as is also rumored to be the case for Apple’s iPhone 8 this Fall.

The House voted to eliminate ISP privacy rules yesterday, allowing them to sell your browsing and app usage history to advertisers and other companies. According to arstechinca.com, it was pretty much a party line vote, with the Republicans supporting sale and sharing of your info. It had already cleared the Senate 50-48, also on straight party lines. Look for the use of private VPNs and other measures to increase, as users move to protect their own privacy however they can.

Facebook is now putting a full-on Snapchat clone front and center inside the main Facebook app. Mashable.com says The update not only pushes you to use Facebook’s new camera feature but puts friends’ stories — yes, it’s called Facebook Stories — at the top of your News Feed. The update, which is rolling out now, consists of three features: Facebook Camera, Facebook Stories, and Direct, a dedicated space for messages exchanged via the new in-app camera that lets you can decorate your photos and videos with filters, “masks” (Facebook’s version of lenses), and other animated effects. If you use the Direct feature, the story is sent via direct message, and disappears after it’s seen.


Galaxy Note 7 Debuts; Instagram Rolls Out Stories; Poke-Phenom Continues

Samsung has showed off the Galaxy Note 7 at their unpacked event in New York. It looks like a mix of the Note 5 and the S6 edge+…a sleek, attractive phablet. Bgr.com says the 5.7 inch screened handset has the usual improved innards, including 4 gigs of RAM, a 3500 mAh battery, is water and dust resistant, and carries a 12 megapixel Dual Pixel rear cam and 5 mp front selfie cam. (Why aren’t phone makers giving us selfie cams that are as good as back cams?) It has a fingerprint scanner, iris scanner, and improved S Pen stylus. Price will vary by carrier, but the Note 7 will be available August 19th.

Instagram has added Stories to the app on both Android and iOS. According to tech crunch.com it’s pretty much a direct ripoff of Snapchat Stories. letting you to post 24-hour ephemeral photo and video slideshows that disappear. They appear at the top of your feed, so followers won’t miss them…even if they wanted to. In a rare moment of candor, Instagram’s CEO admitted it’s basically a clone of the snapchat feature.

Pokemon Go has hit 100 million downloads now. 9to5mac.com says App Annie is reporting that the still hot game is hauling in $10 million a day for maker Niantic after 3 weeks! Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be stealing players from other games. This may be a huge break in getting people into augmented reality.