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.

Advertisements

iPhone 8 Will Not Go to USB-C; Chevy to Offer Cheap, Unlimited In-Car Data; Lyric Thermostat Talks to Alexa and Siri

After reports that Apple would ditch the Lightening port on iPhone 8, now comes a new report from KGI Securities disputing that. 9to5mac.com says the new iPhone will have internal upgrades that will support fast charging over lightening. Apparently, Apple didn’t want to go to the larger form factor if the USB-C connector…at least not yet.

Chevrolet has announced that it will offer unlimited in-car data for just $20 per month. According to thenextweb.com, it will be available on any vehicle with OnStar, and will be LTE. The system will support up to 7 devices. It will apply to cars sold in the US starting tomorrow. Ford is working on something similar which will include Europe, as more people clamor for fast connectivity in vehicles.

The Nest Learning thermostat got the ball rolling for smart thermostats and in-home smart devices, but is still pricey at $200 to $250. Now, bgr.com reports that Honeywell has rolled out the Lyric T5, a smart thermostat that can talk to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri via HomeKit for half the price of a Nest. It’s $114.95, and great if you’re too lazy to pick up your phone to adjust the thermostat upstairs…now, you can just ask your virtual assistant to do it!


Apple May Switch iPhone to USB-C; Mozilla Buys Pocket

In something of an unusual move for them, Apple may ditch their proprietary Lightening port for USB-C on upcoming iPhones. Arstechnica.com says that since the switch to USB-C on the MacBook Pro, it makes sense, as then Apple devices could settle on an industry standard in all their devices that can do all the Lightening port can do and more. Apple has used Lightening for some 5 years. Get ready to buy yet more dongles and converters!

Theverge.com reports that Mozilla has bought Pocket, a sort of DVR for the internet. Pocket saves articles and videos for viewing and reading later. It’s something of a Back to the Future moment, since Pocket first bowed as a Firefox extension. It has already been Firefox’s default read later service for a couple years. This should help Mozilla grab more eyeballs on mobile, where they have lagged as desktop use has been declining.


More Galaxy S8 Leaks; Netflix Will Have 20 Originals in 2017; Toys Pulled From Stores for Spying; Google Hits 100% Renewable Energy in 2017

SamMobile often has accurate tips about upcoming Samsung products, and according to the latest, they say the Galaxy S8 will lose both the headphone jack and physical home button. 9to5google.com reports it will have a USB-C port like the Note 7, and won’t jump to 4K screen resolution. There should be an optical fingerprint sensor in the display, too.

Netflix will debut 20 original unscripted shows in 2017. Arstechnica.com says they will be competition and reality shows. One will be ‘Ultimate Beastmaster,’ 10 episodes that will follow athletes over obstacle courses, with the winner in the finale being dubbed ‘The Ultimate Beast!’

Some high tech toys are being pulled from some store shelves, and a consumer council in Norway is demanding that the Federal Trade Commission and the European counterpart to it clear all of them from shelves. According to thenextweb.com, ‘My Friend Cayla’ and i-Que from Genesis Toys let kids communicate with the toys via a smartphone app. The company claims all communication is between the app and product, but apparently it really gets sent to the company’s Nuance server. Nuance underpins Siri for Apple and Dragon Naturally speaking. The data can apparently be used for marketing and shared with third parties. Not cool for toys that tout a ‘safe internet’ for kids.

Google has announced that it will power its entire worldwide operations with 100% renewable energy in 2017. According to techcrunch.com, they will be able to claim to be world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, and will be twice as large in that respect as Amazon. Some of the power comes from energy credits, but Google says it plans to further diversify into renewables…particularly to get away from as much reliance on wind power.


On the New MacBook Pro; Galaxy S8 Getting Enhanced AI Assistant

Apple showed off the new MacBook Pros yesterday, with lots of ooh-ing and aah-ing about the Touch Bar that replaces the function key row. Macrumors.com points out that there are a number of other notable changes, including Touch ID, and a much larger trackpad. It’s thinner (of course), and weighs less, but ships with only 4 combo Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports…and the headphone jack we lost on the iPhone. Delivery dates have already slipped to a month for preorders, with the 13 inch model starting at $1799 and the 15 inch model at $2399…or, you can opt for the ‘cheapie’ 13 inch model without TouchBar and only 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports for $1499. The lost ports? You’re going to need a bag full of hated dongles. TechCrunch.com crunched the numbers, and it’ll set you back a little over $250 for all of them! Although Apple has said they would never make a MacBook that runs iOS, this one does…sort of. There’s an ARM chip in it running a version of Watch OS to power the TouchBar and Touch ID, as well as the camera…utilizing the ARM chip’s secure area like on the iPhone.

We expect to see the Samsung Galaxy S8’s to hit in late February, hopefully along a non-exploding Note 8. Thenextweb.com reports that the S8 will feature an upgraded AI assistant courtesy of Viv, which Samsung acquired. They are also touting an even better camera…and Samsungs already have had some of the best of those in any mobile devices.


Galaxy S8 Rumors; iPhone 7 Models Sold Out in Stores

Battery fire issues on the Note 7 aside, Samsung is pressing ahead with the Galaxy S8 series. According to 9to5google.com, there are now official code names of Dream and Dream2, and it looks like the whole Galaxy line will go to wraparound Edge screens. On the down side, Samsung is probably going to not only ditch the headphone jack like Apple, but roll out their own proprietary port like Apple’s Lightening. That would allow them to charge accessory makers a licensing fee…and irritate all of us, who will now have to carry around Lightening, USB-C, and Samsung adapters everywhere. Since the Note 7 battery fire issue, it’s looking like Samsung will move the rollout up a week or two…maybe even to a month ahead of Mobile World Congress.

Yes, there’s very slim inventory of iPhone 7 models for stores tomorrow. TechCrunch.com says no Jet Black phones are available, and iPhone 7 Plus models are completely sold out. Your best bet is to order online and wait. If you really want one tomorrow, try a phone carrier store or other non-Apple store…they sometimes have a few phones early in the morning.


Updated MacBooks Reveal This Month; Facebook Testing Out Twitter-Like Posts

It may not happen at the World Wide Developers Conference, but Apple will announce updated MacBooks this month, according to macrumors.com. A report from Mac Otakara cites a reliable supplier, and supports the earlier stories that Apple will drop he 11 inch MacBook Air, but continue with a slimmer 13 inch and a new 15 inch model. All the MacBooks will have Thunderbolt3/USB-C ports, and will drop USB-A, MagSafe, and Thunderbolt 2 ports. This rumor has them all out in August, although most other reports point to later in the year. The Pros will be thinner and lighter, have Touch ID, and the OLED touch bar we’ve reported previously.

Facebook is experimenting with a new type of post that is more like a Tweet. According to theverge.com, it is only visible in the News Feed, and doesn’t appear in your Timeline. Because these won’t show on the Timeline, and will be pushed down quickly on the newsfeed, the thinking is they might be used for quick or lighthearted updates. The selection is done by the individual post…with a ‘Hide from your Timeline’ option when you hit the post button. Right now, the feature is only showing up for some users, so may or may not be rolled out to everyone. Facebook is also working on a ‘notify a few friends’ feature you could use instead of tagging.