Google Home Outships Amazon Echo; Apple-VW Self-Driving Pact; Uber Self-Driving Leaves Arizona; Silicon Valley Longs to Tax Big Tech Like Seattle

In a first, Google Home has shipped more smart speakers than Amazon…3.2 million vs 2.5 million first quarter of this year. According to cnet.com, it may be due to retailers prioritizing Google over Amazon because they see Amazon as more of a direct competitor. Alibaba had the third biggest shipping smart speaker, with Xiaomi 4th. Apple’s HomePod was lumped in with the 17% ‘other’ smart speakers.

After lots of back and forth with Mercedes and BMW the last several years that never made it to a deal, Apple has cut a deal with Volkswagen. Macrumors.com reports that Apple will be buying VW vans and converting them to employee shuttles to run between San Francisco Bay Area campuses and buildings. The vans will be fitted with Apple’s self-driving tech. Word is, no deal ever came through with BMW and Mercedes, because Apple insisted on partner companies handing over control of data and design…which no car maker was willing to do.

Uber has canned its self-driving program in Arizona, and along with it, 300 employees. Businessinsider.com says this comes 2 months after a self-driving Uber Volvo (with safety driver behind the wheel) hit and killed a woman in Tempe. The governor had already suspended their ability to test the autonomous cars there. Uber says it will regroup and double check its safety procedures and be back testing somewhere soon.

Since Seattle has dropped an annual head tax on big tech companies, a number of Silicon Valley cities are angling to do the same. Bloomberg.com reports that Seattle intends to use the revenue to help with homeless problems and relieve housing shortages caused by the influx of higher paid tech workers. San Francisco, Mountain View, Cupertino, and East Palo Alto are all looking at similar taxes on large local employers (which are virtually all tech companies) to offset growing inequality and overcrowding. The Bay Area cities have learned from Seattle’s battle with Amazon, and instead of shooting for $500 per head, are looking to extract more like $250-$300 per employee.


Apple-stravaganza; Electrifying Car News; GM’s 1st Self-Driver Ready For Production

Apple Watch will have cellular, and use the same # as your phone, as predicted. It will stream music starting in October. It sports a faster processor, Bluetooth and WiFi, and an improved heart monitor. The screen is the antenna! Orders open on September 15th, it’s available September 22nd. Starting price with cellular is $399! WiFi only starts at $329, and the Series 1 stays at $249.

iPhone 8 will be the name of the two incremental upgrades, as leaked. Glass backed reinforced by steel. They are adding True Tone (from iPad) to the Retina displays. The chip is A11 ‘Bionic.’ Ok, go ahead and laugh…I did. 2 performance cores and 4 high efficiency cores, all 6 can run at once, making the phone blazingly fast. They have the 1st Apple designed GPU. Cameras have been upgraded, as expected. The Portrait mode gets special lighting for the iPhone 8 Plus. The video has been upgraded, too. The 8 will be calibrated for AR. The 6 processors will come in handy for augmented reality. Apple iPhones FINALLY gets wireless charging, with the Qi standard. They will be 64 and 256 gigs. They will start at $699 for the 8 and $799 for the Plus.

The iPhone X (which they pronounce ten) looks essentially exactly like the leaks. Surgical grade stainless steel bands, with glass back like the 8. Two colors only….Space Gray and Silver. They are calling it the Super Retina display. It’s edge to edge, 5.8” diagonally. 458 ppi, highest pixel count ever for iPhone, and the predicted OLED screen. They have managed to get True Tone color into it, and it will continue 3D Touch for the screen.

The phone will raise to wake, but you can also just tap the screen to wake it. Swipe up from the bottom, and you go from lock screen to home screen. Swipe up and pause for a second, and it goes to multitasking. You can activate Siri with ‘Hey, Siri,’ or the longer power button. It will have Face ID…it unlocks by just looking at it, again, as predicted. 6 sensors in the band that intrudes into the top of the screen calculate that it’s you. A dot projector puts 30,000 little points on your face to ascertain that it’s actually you…it won’t be fooled by a picture or statue. They call the chip that runs this the A11 Bionic Neural engine. They claim Touch ID could be spoofed 1 in 50,000, and that with Face ID that goes to 1 in 100,000. For Apple Pay, double tap side button and look at phone, then hold by the terminal.

They demoed the Animoji which were rumored…emoji you control with your facial expressions. Very cool demo. The 1st release will have a dozen Animoji. With apps, when you close it, just swipe up, and it dissolves and parks back in the icon. Swipe down from the top and bring up your control center.

Dual 12MP camera on the X Plus. The f2.4 is faster on the X. It also has dual image stabilization, which will be cool, and Portrait Mode on the front cam as well as the back. It has a Quad LED True Tone flash. They claim zero shutter lag. The cams are tuned for augmented reality. They have increased battery life 2 hours over the 7. The X will have Qi charging like the 8 models. They are bringing out a bigger wireless charging pad that will charge the iPhone 8 or X, Apple Watch, and AirPods at the same time. They call it Air Power…the charger is out next year.

Like the 8 models, the X will come in 64 and 256 gigs. Pricing starts at $999. Available for preorder on October 27th, and the X ships on November 3rd.

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No, Apple hasn’t sucked quite ALL the air out of the room today!

Yesterday, Mercedes-Benz revealed they would have an electric or hybrid available in eery model by 2022. Now, according to arstechnica.com, Volkswagen Group will electrify ALL 12 brands by 2030! Like Mercedes, Volvo, and Jaguar-Land Rover, this doesn’t mean they will quit making internal combustion engine cars all together by that date, but VW is the biggest volume auto maker to commit to this. The CEO says they’ve seen the future, it’s electric, and they are driving us there! 30 will be plug in hybrids and 50 will will be battery EVs…that’s 80 different electrified models.

There’s a BIG reason so many car makers are looking to electrics. While France and Britain are indicating an endtime for internal combustion vehicles by 2040, the big reason is China… the biggest vehicle market in the world. The Guardian says China is poised to ban gas and diesel cars ‘in the near future.’

Meanwhile, General Motors has thrown down the self-driving gauntlet. According to businessinsider.com, their first self-driving car is ready for production. The GM owned Cruise automation says as soon as federal and state regulators get things together, they can start cranking out the cars…in the hundreds of thousands! The first model is based around the electric Chevy Bolt.


Google Looking to Xiaomi to Produce Next Android One; Bay Area Check-Out Free Startup Takes on Amazon; VW WILL Have Electric Microbus in 2022

Xiaomi of China makes an array of gadgets, that are generally high quality and noticeably cheaper than any competition. They have already been producing smartphones, and now may be connecting with Google to make the next Android One. Thenextweb.com reports that they are reworking their 5.5 inch Mi 5X into basically an Android One. It has a dual cam like the iPhone 7 Plus’ Portrait mode, and has good build quality and battery life. If everything pans out, Google could bring an Android One phone to the US by late this year or early next for $200-$300!

We’ve reported on Amazon’s check-out free system they are working on called Amazon Go. Now, Standard Cognition out of Palo Alto is releasing what they call an ‘alternative technology’ to eliminate the checkout process at retailers. According to geekwire.com, the startup is in talks with retailers to set up pilots in stores. Their tech uses machine vision and artificial intelligence to identify each item and detect which ones are picked up, put back, or left elsewhere in the store. They will have two apps…one for shoppers and one for the stores. As a shopper, you just grab your stuff and leave. The bill will be charged to you automatically via the app. ‘Appless’ customers will be directed by store staff to kiosks like self checkouts, where they can pay with cash or credit. Walmart also is testing a similar system they call ‘Scan & Go’

We’ve seen pictures, renders, and teases, now we know that Volkswagen will build the I.D. Buzz electric Microbus by 2022. Mashable.com says it should have a version that can make 300 miles on a charge, and be able to recharge to 80% in 30 minutes with VW’s fast charge system. Since it’s electric, it will have tons of space, and VW plans a commercial version companies can use for deliveries in inner cities that are going to eventually ban gas and diesel vehicles. It will have Level 3 self-driving, so some cruising without full driver participation will be possible. I’m seeing lines of old hippies showing up at VW dealerships looking like Fry from Futurama yelling ‘take my money!’


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.


Across the Board iPad Refresh Coming; Snapchat Starts Selling Spectacles Online; BMW & VW Partner With Mobileye To Crowdsource Info For Self-Driving Cars

Apple will do a top to bottom refresh of iPads next month. Arstechnica.com reports that often reliable site Mac Otakara reaffirms that apple will add a new 10.5 inch iPad to the 7.9, 9.7, and 12.9 inch models. It will be something of a ‘mini’ version of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro, and will sport 4 speakers, Smart Connector, True Tone Display, and a 12 MP rear camera. The biggest iPad will also get True Tone and the better camera.

Snapchat maker Snap has been selling its Spectacles camera glasses in pop up vending machines for a while now, but has put that on hold as they have started selling them online. According to businessinsider.com, anyone in the US can order a pair of the $130 glasses which record 10 second video clips and send them to the Snapchat app.

BMW and Mobileye are partnering to crowdsource traffic data for self-driving cars, starting in 2018. Techcrunch.com says BMW will join Volkswagen in the crowdsourcing of road hazards, traffic delays, weather info, and parking availability. The more cars that provide data to the cloud and then back to other cars, the more accurate it will be.


Samsung Clones ‘Jet Black;’ HTC May Leave Smartphone Biz; Amazon’s Clarkson Show Has Big Debut; Electric VWs to be Made in USA

In the past, when Samsung has just plain poached Apple ideas and designs, it’s been a big hit for them. (It’s also hit them in the wallet sometimes, as Apple has sued and won.) Now, Samsung is going to clone Apple’s hot “Jet Black” color. According to bgr.com, they aren’t even waiting for the Galaxy S8….they will roll out Jet Black S7 models as soon as next month. Hey, it’s hard to get sued for using the same color!

HTC has made some really cool phones, and I have several friends that have had them and loved them. They haven’t really caught fire…figuratively…not in the Galaxy Note 7 way, however. Digitaltrends.com says rumors are flying now that HTC will bail out of smartphones completely by this coming spring. They have quietly been shopping the division around, but nothing so far. It wouldn’t be out of the question for Google to snap them up, since the success of the new Google Pixel phones.

Yesterday, Netflix snarked that Amazon hadn’t really paid $160 million to produce their ‘Top Gear’ type show titled ‘The Grand Tour,’ saying it was more like $250 million. The show, starring Jeremy Clarkson, and his former Top Gear colleagues, debuted Friday. It was the biggest premiere ever on Amazon Prime Video, according to businessinsider.com, eclipsing ‘The Man in the High Castle.’ Not only that, it was the top rated show on IMDB with a 9.6 and got 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Amazon says it got the second most one day sign ups for Prime ever last Friday. Sounds like a hit!

Volkswagen says they will begin building electric vehicle models in North America,and even the US by 2021. Techcrunch.com picked up a report from Automotive news, citing VW brand lead Herbert Diess. Vee Dub will also build large SUVs and limos here. The Mexico factories will also crank out EVs for the North American market.


Apple Will Ditch iPhone Home Button in 2017; VW To Make a 2019 Electric Model that Will Charge in 15 Minutes

iPhone8 Mockup

All the rumors have said Apple plans a radical redesign to the 2017 iPhone. Earlier this year, there were stories about this year’s model losing the home button. That didn’t happen, but according to macrumors.com, the redesigned 2017 phone….which we’ll call iPhone 8…will finally lose the venerable home button, to make way for a flexible edge to edge, curved OLED screen.

Volkswagen is working on a 2019 electric car that will go 300 miles after a 15 minute charge. According to techcrunch.com, they will preview an electric Golf sized model at the Paris motor show this year. It is expected to roll out in late 2018 or early 2019 as a 2019 model. 300 miles on just a 15 minute charge could be a real game changer for electric cars if it’s priced for mass appeal.

Photo: macrumors.com