HP’s Leather Laptop; Google Pixel Slate Rumors; Google Maps Gets Commute Tab; US Internet & Social Media Flattens; California Presses for Electric & Hydrogen Vehicles

HP has rolled out the Spectre Folio, and is claiming they are ‘reinventing the PC.’ While some would love it if they’d reinvent their printers to not take expensive ink cartridges so often, the Spectre Folio does have a cool and interesting set of features. Theverge.com reports that it has a skeletal magnesium frame that attaches to a leather skin, and that HP has shrunk down to tiny size the convertible laptop’s motherboard to maximize battery size. HP claims 18 hours of battery life. It runs on an 8th gen. Intel Core i7, with 8 gigs of RAM and a 256 Gig solid state drive. The display is 13.3 inches, and a 4 K display is coming by year’s end. With the mag frame and leather skin, it folds down almost like a magazine or thin book. You can use it in laptop mode, or slide the display forward to slot it in media mode when the keyboard is covered by the display. A Core i5 version is $1299, the Core i7 starts at $1399, and one with LTE connectivity and i7 runs $1499….all available at Best Buy or HP.com.

Meanwhile, over at Google, the Pixel Slate is rumored to be able to run Windows 10 as well as the Chrome OS. 9to5google.com says that other Chromebooks may be getting dual boot capability later, but we’ll probably see it exclusively on the Pixel Slate first. The Slate should roll out at Google’s October 9th event.

Here’s a Google update that’s rolling out right now…a new version of Google Maps will have a ‘Commute’ tab. Google is claiming it will give you one tap access to live traffic and transit info, and introduces support for mixed mode commutes…like driving to a park and ride lot then taking mass transit. According to engadget.com, you can also listen to streaming over Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play music within the app! The Maps update should be available everywhere by week’s end.

After years of growth, US internet, social media, and device use has flattened out. It’s stayed basically the same since 2016, according to Pew Research Center. 65% say they have broadband internet, down a couple ticks from the 67% in 2015. Similarly, laptop ownership is off slightly…from 78% in 2016 to 73% today…possibly due to the increased capability of tablets. Pew points out the obvious that growth has slowed because a lot of the population has reached near saturation level. 9 out of 10 adults under 50 report that they go online or use a smartphone. The use and confidence level in electronics is notably lower among the elderly. One growth area….digital voice assistants. Right now, about 46% of adults use them.

California is often in the vanguard of progress, and the Golden State is increasing its push towards electric and hydrogen vehicles. Arstechnica.com says the California Air Resourses Board has announced tighter restrictions on transportation fuels, calling for a 10% reduction in ‘carbon intensity’ for all fuels sold by 2020. This buzzy expression basically means lower lifetime carbon emissions…including from processing oil into gas, or feedstock into ethanol, or transporting fuel from a refinery to a point of sale (gas station.) The CARB mandates that carbon intensity drop by 20% by 2030. They are allowing the state to issue credits to utilities for installing electric vehicle charging stations. the utilities can then sell those credits to fuel producers who can’t hit the 20% reduction number.


Corning Gorilla Glass 6; Prime Day Lost Hour; Netflix Improves TV Interface

Another year, another Gorilla Glass. Corning has announced Gorilla Glass 6, and according to macrumors.com, Corning claims it’s engineered to sustain multiple drops. They say the average person drops their smartphone 7 times a year (who ARE these clumsy people….7….really???) Gorilla Glass 6 will allegedly sustain 15 drops from one meter without breakage, which is twice as good as Gorilla Glass 5. The product has already been in testing by phone producers, so it’s possible it will be on the new iPhones coming out in September.

Here are some big numbers to wrap your head around: $72 to $99 million dollars. (Digital Commerce 360 Says $72, Love the Sales says $99.) That’s the range they are estimating of the loss Amazon incurred with the hour of downtime they experienced on Prime Day. Businessinsider.com reports that the fallout may be even more, as some people have threatened to cancel their Prime subscriptions over the mess. Amazon is laughing all the way to the bank….it appears they hauled in about $3.4 billion in the 36-ish hours of Prime Day…a record!

Next time you chill with Netflix, you may find a more pleasing, easy to use interface on TV. Mashable.com says Netflix has revised its interface as of today…but it will take some time to get pushed out to smart TVs, streaming boxes, cable boxes, gaming consoles, etc. The new look is designed to make content easier to find and help you to get binging….er…watching faster. A prime feature is a new sidebar on the left side that accesses Search, Home, Series, Movies, My List, and New. The streaming service says there will be more improvements rolled out over coming months, too.


Disney Launching Own Streaming Service; Google Pixel’s Cool Storage Feature; Super Cheap Chromebook

Netflix cut a deal with Disney back in 2012 to stream the Mouse’s library of movies and shows. According to theverge.com, it just kicked in last year, and now Disney is announcing they will end the deal in 2019 in favor of their own streaming service. Interestingly, Marvel and Star Wars aren’t mentioned in the new Disney streaming service. Apparently, they are kicking around freestanding streaming services for each. At any rate, by 2019, Disney’s amazing library of shows and movies, including their LucasFilm and Marvel material, will be available on stream from a new Disney streaming service.

If you don’t always buy the maxed out memory on your smartphone, you probably have hit the point where you’re deleting songs or pictures to keep from running out of storage. THEN, when you try to update the operating system, you don’t even have room to do that. Bgr.com reports that Google has solved that part of the problem with the new Pixel. Starting with Android 8.0, the phones have a dual partition system for faster streaming updates. Basically, you keep using the system on the phone while a second system updates in the background. After download and restart, the second one becomes the normal OS. With this partition, the phone only needs 100 KB of free space to update instead of a gig. Thanks, Google!

Acer has just bowed its updated Chromebook C771. 9to5google.com says there are two models, one with touch display and one without. The laptop has an 11.6 inch screen and features a spill resistant keyboard. The cheaper version is $279.99. If you don’t mind the chrome ‘all in cloud’ system, it’s practically a disposable laptop at this price.


Apple Considers iPhone Powered Apple Laptop; iPhone Owners Have More Smart Home Gear; App Converts Your DVDs Into a Personal Netflix

A patent just revealed that Apple is thinking about eventually making laptops that basically just run via your iPhone. According to cnet.com, the filing shows a cavity where the touchpad normally goes that holds an iPhone.The phone not only powers the laptop, but doubles as the touchpad. As always, keep in mind Apple patents lots of things that never see the light of day.

On the topic of iPhones, JD Power says iPhone owners have more smart home devices and are more satisfied with their phones. 9to5mac.com reports that- for example- 13% of iPhone owners have a smart thermostat, compared to 11% for Android owners. While Apple is still winning the satisfaction beauty contest, it’s just by a whisker now. Power says Apple’s average score is 840 out of 1000, but Samsung is just 1% behind at 839.

If you have a cabinet full of DVDs you rarely watch (raising hand here), there’s an app you may love. Businessinsider.com says Walmart’s Vudu will now let you scan the barcode of your DVDs and it will unlock the ability to watch that movie on the Vudu app for $2 each…and it works across all your devices that have the app. You can also upgrade from DVD to HDX for 5 bucks each. Right now, it works on about 8000 titles, but they are working to expand it…Vudu has around 100,000 total titles. Vudu says the average movie collector has about 100 DVDs and Blu Rays. Some of us have a lot more.


VW Unveils First Fully-Autonomous Vehicle; Netflix Passes The Venerable DVR

Volkswagen has shown their first fully autonomous car, a ‘Level 5’ vehicle, which means no driver required at all. Arstechnica.com says the concept vehicle has opposing sliding doors like a commuter train, couch like seating that faces the middle inside, and NO steering wheel or controls. VW says the vehicle, called Sedric, is designed as either a shared mobility system or could be privately owned like most present cars. It’s controlled by a remote control called the Button…the device summons the car, and identifies the user when the car arrives. It’s electric…with a flat battery back under the floor between the sets of wheels. VW hopes to have some version in service by 2025.

In a huge milestone for cord-cutting, Netflix subscribers have passed up the number of people that have a DVR. Arstechnica.com says 54% of US adults have Netflix now, with 53% having a DVR in home. If you throw in other video on demand subscribers, it’s 64% that have either Netflix, Amazon Prime, and/or Hulu. Of those 51% stream shows at least monthly. Your cable company needs some heartburn medicine.


Nearby Tracker for Pokemon Go; Apple Killer Health Device; Amazon Video Pilots to Air on Twitch

After some stumbles with the Nearby feature, Niantic is testing out a variation of ‘nearby Pokemon’ with a subset of users now. There are a couple of tabs…Nearby and Sightings. The Nearby feature allows you to pan around a PokeStop for the little critter, while the Sightings tab doesn’t even give you the distance to the Pokemon…at least in the beta that’s out to the subset of users. Bgr.com reports that they have also restored the battery saving mode that had vanished from the last version of the iOS app.

In a big, but vague, rumor, Apple could be looking to launch a killer new product in the health area in 2017. According to appleinsider.com, who picked it up form Taiwan’s Economic Daily News, the product will ”accurately collect users’ personal daily life including heart rate, pulse, blood sugar changes and other information.” It’s apparently been in development for 2 years.

Amazon is going to stream a few of its original pilot programs on Twitch, which has been trying to expand beyond content for gamers. Twitch had dipped its toes into other content with old Julia Child and Bob Ross shows, but Techcrunch.com says Amazon will air 3 new pilots on the platform for 24 hours. They will still break on Amazon Prime Video first…on August 19th, but then will stream on Twitch for 24 hours on August 31st. Two of the pilots are ‘The Tick,’ and ‘I Love Dick.’ The third show wasn’t named.


Netflix Offers Selectable Stream Quality on Cells; Periscope Tests Save Feature

Last month, it was revealed that Netflix was quietly throttling video quality over Verizon and AT&T cellular systems. Since the word got out, theverge.com says Netflix has responded by offering users the choice of upping the quality and gobbling up more data…and the inevitable hit to your cell bill…or staying with a lower quality and saving a few bucks on your cell bill. You have to dig through the settings to find it, and the default is set to automatic. The app jumps back to higher quality automatically whenever you’re on Wi-Fi. It’s activated as of now.

Periscope is beta testing a feature to save your live streams. Up to now, they only save for 24 hours, but in the beta, you can save them indefinitely by putting hashtag save (#save) in the title. Up to now, you had to save the video to your camera roll, then upload it to YouTube or Vimeo. Thenextweb.com reports that the feature is partly because Facebook live saves closed streams on your timeline unless you delete them.


Musk: Coast to Coast Driverless in 2 Years; State of Union Streams on Amazon

On the heels of showing the ability to summon your car from its parking spot and dispatch it to park, the other shoe dropped yesterday. Engadget.com reports that Elon Musk predicts that the Summon feature on Teslas will work anywhere by 2018. Musk says you could summon your car from New York City to pick you up in Los Angeles…provided you have a couple days to wait around. Tesla’s snake-like automatic chargers would keep the car juiced up for the trip. It remains to be seen if states coast to coast will allow self-driving cars…right now, only a handful do. Musk did concede the cars will need a lot of redundancy to be able to do this.

From the tech right now department, Tuesday’s State of the Union speech will be streamed by Amazon. With more and more cord-cutters, the White House wants to reach people where they are, according to gizmodo.com. The stream should work with any Amazon product like the Fire TV stick. It probably won’t pick up millions of views, but it’s nice to see the White House embracing the tech.


Build a Virtual Store From Your Phone; Comcast $15 Stream Service Cord Cutters Might Actually Want

Consumer non-favorite Comcast has kicked off a $15 a month streaming service with the original name ‘The Stream,’ that includes local networks, HBO, and on-demand movies and TV shows. Thenextweb.com reports it’s just out in Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire so far. It will be in Chicago and Seattle soon, and nationwide early next year. Naturally, there’s a catch…you have to be an Xfinity…or Comcast internet…customer. Even if it doesn’t lure you back to Comcast, it will certainly force other ISPs to look at making similar deals available.

Shopify has dropped a new app called Sello for iOS and Android that lets anyone create an online store from their phone. According to techcrunch.com, you just put up a photo of the item you plan to sell, add a price and description, and off you go! Through the app, you can accept credit card and PayPal payments, and share product listings on social networks. Shopify expects most products will be found on social nets, and not through the app. The Sello app is free, and there are no transaction fees…they make the money on payment processing.


Apple TV May Be Coming—As Streaming, Not a Box

Now that Cupertino has jumped into music streaming with both feet, Apple is working on a ‘cable-killer TV app,’ according to theverge.com. There are several reports that they are working to cut deals with ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, among others. One sticking point has been the fragmentation of local affiliate feeds, but apparently the networks are close to having rights to negotiate with Apple on behalf of their affiliates. As with apps and music, Apple is looking for a 30% cut of any subscription revenue. Disney and CBS could be first to sign, and ESPN may be included. Rates are rumored to be $10 to $40 a month. No time frame on when it might roll out.

A creepy discovery about Google Photos was uncovered by a reporter. Bgr.com reports that after trying the app, and deleting it, the reporter found his pictures were still being uploaded to Google servers. The uploading apparently takes place independently of the app on your phone, and it’s a feature to Google, not a bug. If you want to stop it, you have to go into Google Play Services and disable automatic uploads.