Waymo Public Self-Driving Service Imminent; Facebook Patches Nasty Bug; Amazon Formalizes 2nd HQ (two of them); Apple XR Estimates Cut, but Sells Big on Singles’ Day

Waymo is apparently going to go live with their first commercial driverless car service in December. No name has been leaked yet, but cnet.com reports that the service will be a direct competitor for Uber and Lyft. Waymo will field its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica vans for the service, which will NOT be free. Expect to us an app to hail the car and pay for the ride. An article over the weekend speculated that, in a few years, we might see self-driving vehicles used for quick sex romps…but we will leave that to your imagination.

The engineers at Facebook have squashed a nasty bug in their code base that could have allowed hackers to collect highly personal info on Facebook users. According to zdnet.com, a security researcher found the bug and notified Facebook. He was browsing their online search results, and in the HTML saw iframe elements. By simple queries of yes and no, a lot could be determined about user interests and those of their friends. The researcher believes the iframe was used by Facebook itself. The bug was discovered in May, and the platform patched it shortly after being notified. The researchers, Ron Masas, points out that Facebook has become such a large and complicated platform, that there will always be bugs and hacks…even with their relatively generous bounty for people that spot problems and notify them.

It was reported here and elsewhere last week that Amazon was likely going to settle on two locations for it’s HQ2, and today they made it official. Theverge.com says Long Island City in Queens, NY, and Crystal City in Arlington, VA will share the HQ2 duties. Amazon already employs more people in these two locations than anywhere else outside of its Seattle HQ and the San Francisco Bay Area. An additional announcement was that Nashville will host a new East Coast operations hub, which will handle customer fulfillment and transportation. That facility will employ some 5,000.

The iPhone is doomed…long live the iPhone. A report from Ming-Chi Kuo cuts shipment estimates for the new iPhone XR from 100 million to 70 million, and that…coupled with the announcement last week that Apple won’t be releasing iPhone sales numbers moving forward, have whacked the stock. Nonetheless, 9to5mac.com says Apple had a huge day during Alibaba’s Singles’ Day on Sunday. Apple was the top selling mobile phone brand…one of 237 brands that pulled in over $14.36 million in sales on that one day (yes, it’s a funny number…but a nice, round 100 million yuan.) Apple even beat Chinese makers Xiaomi and Huawei. Huawei did come in 2nd, and Xiaomi was third in sales, though. Neither Alibaba nor Apple broke out what iPhone models sold the most during the giant online one-day event.

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Huawei Passes Apple to be the Avis of Smartphones; Facebook-100% Renewable Energy by 2020; Oculus Studies VR in Classrooms; Toyota Invests in Uber; Trump- Google is RIGGED

Chinese smartphone maker Huawei has slipped past Apple to grab the #2 spot in smartphone sales. TechCrunch.com reports that a Gartner figure puts Huawei ahead in sales for the 2nd quarter. Huawei came in at 13.3%, up from 9.8% in the prior year, while Apple got 11.9%, off slightly from the 12.1% they had in 2017’s Q2. Samsung still stands tall as #1, at 19.3% this year, and 22.6% in 2017.

Facebook has announced they will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75% and be running on 100% renewable energy by the end of 2020. According to theverge.com, Facebook has signed contracts for more than 3 gigawatts of new solar and wind energy since 2013. Those projects are all on the same grids as Facebook data centers in Oregon, Virginia, New Mexico, and Sweden. Samsung has also pledged to be on 100% renewable by 2020 in the US, Europe, and China. Apple and Google have also purchased enough renewable energy to offset their global energy consumption since April.

Oculus is getting ready to study how virtual reality can be used in education. Cnet.com says they have kicked off a pilot program called Oculus Education, which will distribute Oculus Go and Rift headsets to schools, libraries, and museums in Taiwan, Japan, and Seattle. The first phase will center around training teachers and other instructors in the use of VR and gathering feedback, and how VR can fill unique needs in those institutions. In conjunction with the headset program, Oculus is releasing 3 new VR experiences centered around history, science, and culture. They are all available at the Oculus store.

Toyota is pumping $500 million into Uber as part of a self-driving car partnership. Businessinsider.com reports that Toyota had previously invested in Uber a couple years ago as part of an auto leasing deal. Uber is reportedly selling self-driving tech to Toyota, while Toyota is promising to collaborate with Uber in moving self-driving tech forward. We may be seeing a Toyota self-driving Prius Hybrid sooner, not later.

Donald Trump fired off another angry Tweet from the White House…this time accusing Google of rigging search results against conservatives. According to gizmodo.com, the Chief Executive Tweeted “Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?” He is claiming that ’96% of the results on ‘Trump News’ are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous.’ He went on to rail that it was a very serious situation and it will be addressed. It might help if he adjusted his view of ‘Fake News.’


Galaxy Note 9 ‘Unpacked’; NYC Whacks Uber and Lyft; Facebook May Drop From #2 Website; Apple Considers Subwoofer for iMacs

Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Note 9 at their Unpacked event. 9to5google.com notes that it bows with up to 512 gigs of storage, a Bluetooth S-Pen, and has a base price of $999. It’s not a revolutionary update, but has some nice adds…the Bluetooth connected S-Pen, for one. The connection lets you use the pen as a remote shutter for the camera, and a remote for presentations. The Note 9 still rolls with dual cams and the dual aperture primary sensor like the S9 family. It does have a built in AI camera mode that adjusts settings to get the best possible shot. Besides the Bluetooth pen, another notable advance is the 4000 mAh battery, which is up 20% from the Note 8. It should give virtually everyone an all day battery, and has USB-C fast charging as well as wireless charging (with charging pad.) You’ll drop the $999 for the 128 gig model, and a wallet crushing $1249 for the 512 gig memory rig.

New York City’s Council voted to cap the number of for-hire delivery and transportation vehicles yesterday, in a kneecap to Uber and Lyft. According to theverge.com, the city will halt new for-hire licenses for 12 months while it studies the industry. The council made an exception to vehicles that are wheelchair accessible…those can still be licensed. Exceptions can also be had for particular neighborhoods that are low on ride-hail vehicles. The council also passed a bill that establishes a $15 living wage for drivers. Both bills head for Mayor de Blasio’s desk, and he’s likely to sign them. Uber already has 80,000 vehicles in NYC.

Facebook has taken some real hits lately, but may be about to get another body blow. Businessinsider.com reports that SimilarWeb has released a study showing that Facebook is about to be passed up as the number two website in America by YouTube. YouTube is projected to blow past Facebook in traffic in the next 3 months, making it #2 to parent Google. Facebook’s monthly visits have dropped from 8.5 billion two years ago to 4.7 billion this past July. YouTube is up to 4.5 billion in July, and on an upswing.

Apple may be getting ready to improve the tinny sound of the built in speakers in their iMac. They have patented a way of putting in a subwoofer that would double as a cooling device. Without getting into the weeds technically, Apple would use sub-audible air flow to reduce the amount of noise the computer makes in addition to providing cooling and sub-woofer thump for music. Geek.com points out it may be another great idea that never sees the light of day, but a very interesting combination that would go well into Apple’s impossibly skinny computers.


Facebook Messenger Autoroll Ads; Disney Sweetens Fox Offer; Uber EV Incentive; EU Internet Copyright Vote

 Well, people are going to love this. Facebook is starting to put autoplay video ads in Messenger.. Recode.net says they appear in the inbox right next to messages from friends and family.  The company has complained of late that they were running out of room in the main Facebook app for ads, so are moving on to Messenger and also Marketplace, their quasi-Craigslist. Facebook does say they will be monitoring how the ads are received, and peoples’ behavior, to see if they turn people off. Note to Facebook…you’re not Stan Freeberg or a major creative ad shop, so they probably will! 

 The battle over content and eyeballs has heated up. Disney is making a $70.3 billion counterbid for Fox’s entertainment businesses following Comcast’s $65 billion offer for the company. The fight for Twenty-First Century Fox reflects a new imperative among entertainment and telecommunications firms. They are building up ever more programming to better compete with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers’ attention – and dollars. The deal would include Fox film and TV studios, some cable networks and international assets, but not Fox News Channel or the Fox television network.  AT&T just bought Time Warner for $81 billion, after a federal judge rejected the government’s antitrust concerns.  Disney had made a $52.5 billion all-stock offer in December. It’s now offering $38 per Twenty-First Century Fox share, up from $28 per share. Who knows if Disney or Comcast will win, but we can definitively say that Rupert Murdoch will be the real winner!

 Uber has launched a pilot program to encourage drivers to start using electric vehicles. the program runs in 8 cities in the US and Canada, including San Francisco. According to mashable.com, the EV Champions Initiative includes a number of features…including one in the driver app that helps combat range anxiety, a key issue with electric cars. Uber has already alerted drivers of rides that will run over 45 minutes before they accept…for EVs, that will be dropped to 30 minutes. Other incentives include a buck or $1.50 back per electric ride, and free access to fast charging networks. Earlier this year, arch competitor Lyft set its EV and environmental goals, including a billion carbon neutral rides by 2025. 

 While Wall Street and the world worry about trade war, now there’s another issue creeping up that may drastically change the internet as we know it. AN EU Parliament committee has voted to make content providers to filter for copyright infringement. While the Article 13 rule still has to be agreed on by representatives from the EU’s 28 governments before becoming law, this vote reduces the chances of serious changes. Over 70 experts…including Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have said this will turn the internet into’a tool for the automated surveillance and control’ of it’s users. Theverge.com notes that such talk sounds like hype, but the rule would essentially be something of a YouTube Content ID for the entire internet. Internet platforms would have to filter uploads for copyright infringement.


Microsoft Works on New Xbox Consoles, Tesla Greenlights Full Self-Driving Features in August; Ads Bolt Facebook for Cheaper Traditional Media; Uber-Drunk Detecting Patent

The gaming console is far from dead, according to Microsoft. Geekwire.com reports that in the keynote at E3, Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer said there will be new generations of the Xbox console. Spencer says the team is ‘deep into architecting’ the next generation Xboxes. On Sunday, Microsoft also announced that they had picked up 4 gaming studios, and have created their own called The Initiative….and they plan more first-party titles. They will continue to work on AI and cloud resources as applied to gaming, too.

Elon Musk Tweeted over the weekend that Tesla is on track to begin enabling full self-driving features starting in August. That’s when Autopilot 9 will arrive for owners, according to engadget.com. Keep in mind that this won’t mean they will activate so much that you’ll be able to climb into the back seat and take a nap…the full features may only operate at low speed….like allowing you to let go of the wheel only in a parking lot…for now.

In a twist a lot of people didn’t see coming, direct marketers are cutting back on Facebook ads for….traditional media like Radio, TV, and even print! Digiday.com reports that they surveyed 10 good sized direct to consumer companies, and every one had cut back on Facebook and Instagram ads in favor of traditional media. Clutter of feeds was mentioned, but the primary motivator: Facebook ads have gotten too high for the audience segments they target. Apparently since January, CPMs on Facebook’s platform have rocketed up 122% over last year, while impression rate had dropped. This was confirmed by AdStage. Pricing on the other hand has eased on traditional media like Radio, TV, and print.

Uber has applied for a patent that detects drunk passengers. Techcrunch.com says it measures behavior via their phone against usual behavior…including data on location, data input accuracy and speed, speed of walking. The system would alert drivers, and indicates that riders in a particularly ‘unusual’ state might be matched with drivers with special expertise or not be allowed rides at all. WHAT? Won’t that put a serious dent in their business? Isn’t being tipsy at night one of the main reasons people even CALL an Uber? Stay tuned and we’ll see if they actually start using this system.


Uber Wants Waymo Self-Drivers On Network; WWDC Apple Watch Leak; Reddit Passes Up Facebook; WeChat China-Divorce by Button

At the Code Conference, Uber CEO Dara Khosroshahi revealed that Uber has been in discussions to have Waymo self-driving cars added to its network. This is somewhat remarkable considering the two companies are just coming off a legal battle over alleged trade-secret theft. Theverge.com reports that the Uber CEO also forces self driving tech as ‘a horizontal technology that should be available to everybody.’ He believes that it will be open to all via third party licensing. What about the drivers? Khosrowshahi says they think ‘machines augment humans’ and that ultimately their network will be a machine network and a human network together.

A cool little nugget has been revealed ahead of time that Apple had planned for WWDC. June is Pride Month, and Apple will unveil a special Pride watch face at noon Pacific right at the end of the World Wide Developers Conference keynote. Mashable.com reports that the colors of the rainbow flag are strings on the watch face, and you can interact with them, like strumming a guitar. The special face has two complication spots.

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytics may be hurting the social media platform more than first thought. According to thenextweb.com, Amazon’s Alexa web traffic analyzing platform has determined that Reddit has passed up Facebook as third most visited site in the US. This is probably as scientific as a Survey Monkey poll, but it still gives pause. Google is the top site, with YouTube second, then Reddit, Facebook, and Amazon. Interestingly, average Reddit users spend over 15 minutes a day on the platform, compared to Google with about 7 and a quarter minutes, YouTube 8-1/2 minutes, Facebook at almost 11 minutes, and Amazon just over 7-1/2 minutes.

In what may be the ultimate for a no-deposit, no-return society, people in China can now file for divorce with a button on the WeChat app! Businessinsider.com says the trial divorce function is available right now in th eGuangdong Province, home to cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Just click, enter info, and make an appointment for the local divorce registrar. Payments can also be handled through WeChat, but so far they haven’t opened it up to spousal support payments! WeChat has a billion active users globally.


ARM Based MacBook; Uber Panic Button; Cali Digital License Plates; Pixel 3 XL May Get ‘Notch’

Reports were out earlier this year that Apple will be releasing a new 13 inch entry level MacBook to take the place of the Air in the latter half of 2018. Now, macrumors.com says that Pegatron will be making ARM chips for the laptop…ditching Intel silicon as has been rumored. Using the ARM chips not only reduces Apple’s dependence on Intel, but the chips require less power and fewer transistors and are smaller…which is why they power iPhones and iPads. If another rumor holds, Apple may be trying to get a MacBook out with an entry level price of $799.

Because being able to call 911 on your phone isn’t enough, and because Uber wants to buff up its tarnished image for safety, you can now call 911 directly from the Uber app in the US. Theverge.com reports that Uber has been testing this out in as part of its ‘safety center.’ You can press the 911 button, and it will ask you if you really want to call 911…then puts the call through. It does send the rider’s location and trip details to the dispatchers when the app is used. Uber plans to add a panic button to the driver app soon, too.

From the ‘what could possibly go wrong’ department, California is rolling out a pilot project for digital license plates. According to the Sacramento Bee, the connected plates will have to be installed at a dealership for a pricey $699 PLUS installation. After that, owners will have to pay $7 a month. The plates have their own chip and battery, and can notify authorities if the car is stolen and give the location (at least of the plates…smart thieves will probably pitch them immediately.) If DMV decides to allow it, the plates can display a message as well as the tag number. Also, when you renew, it just changes the year…no stickers need be attached. It goes without saying that hackers should have a field day with these!

Some leaked images of new screen protectors indicate that Google’s Pixel 3 phones may get the dreaded Appleesque ‘notch.’ 9to5google.com says that the Pixel 3 appears to have somewhat thicker bezels than the XL, but could match features of the bigger phone. The cut outs in the notch may be for an ambient light sensor and front cam, or could be for dual front cameras. The notch on the 3XL doesn’t take up as much screen real estate as Apple’s. We’ll have to wait a few months to see if this turns out to be the real deal (or at least for more leaks.)