Two Wild TVs From CES; iOT-Everything Including the Kitchen Sink; Alexa Baked into Some New Windows 10 PCs; Sony Bows 3 New Phones

It’s CES week, the BIG Show for consumer electronics, and you can always count on some off the wall, ‘wow’ items. Theverge.com reports there are a couple of TVs that won’t disappoint in that department. Samsung has rolled out a 146 inch TV called The Wall. It uses Micro LED, which has a lot of the same benefits of OLED, and is ‘module based.’ The modules can be assembled to make a TV just the size to fit your needs…although 146 inch would probably be perfect for a man cave. You have to think the price will exceed that of many houses, though! The Wall launches this spring.

If a wall sized TV isn’t to your liking, how about a 65 inch screen that rolls up like a piece of paper? LG is showing their updated roll-up TV. It’s a 4K model that rolls down into a base when not in use. No word from LG when this marvel might be available.

The old joke is something has ‘everything but the kitchen sink.’ Well now, the Internet of Things can even control that! According to mashable.com, Delta is showing a sink that can be controlled by Alexa. They plan to have these in model homes to show the tech off by later this year, with the sinks hitting the market sometime in 2018.

Speaking of Alexa…and I realize you know what I did there, last year Amazon and Microsoft announced plans to let Cortana and Alexa talk to each other on Windows 10 PCs. Now, arstechnica.com says Acer, Asus, and HP have all announced that Alexa will be baked into some of their notebooks that will be coming out this year. All will apparently use the Alexa Windows 10 app that will be released later this year. It should be just about like using an Echo.

Sony has unveiled 3 new smartphones at CES. According to bgr.com, they are mid-range phones, not flagship type devices. Nothing spectacular about them, with one exception….the Xperia XA2 Ultra has two FRONT facing cams, and a 23 megapixel rear cam! The phones should be out late this month, giving people a chance to see if the buzz over the cam setup is worth it, or just a cool gimmick.

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Next iPad Pro Gets Face ID; Microsoft Joins AirDrop Party; Amazon Makes Sub-$100 Sound Bar

Apple is going all-in on Face ID. The iPad Pro will get it in 2018, according to a Bloomberg report picked up by 9to5mac.com. The top line Apple tablet will also get an improved Apple Pencil, and smaller top and bottom bezels, but no OLED screen, which could be quite pricey on a 12.9 inch device.

Just a couple days ago, there was a report that Google was working on an answer to Apple’s AirDrop over Android, which allows sharing between devices nearby that are connected via WiFi or Bluetooth. Now, theverge.com reports that Microsoft has begun testing its own similar system called ‘Near Share’ for Windows 10 devices. It’s available now on the latest Insider build of Windows 10, and makes sharing documents or photos to nearby PCs virtually seamless over Bluetooth. Redmond is also adding a mute tab to the Edge Browser.

Amazon has brought out its own sound bar for under $100 under the AmazonBasics line. Bgr.com says the $94.99 system works over Bluetooth, and has a built in subwoofer. It has 3 sound modes: Standard, News, & Movie, plus its own remote (it’s not compatible with universal or TV remotes.) If you want to spring for a few bucks more, and get a sound bar with a REAL, 6” subwoofer, check Amazon’s deal on the Klipsch Reference Series R-4B, for just under $150 while supplies last.


Microsoft Win 10 Update & Microsoft Windows Story Remix; iPhone Facial Recognition & Release Timing

Some very cool things coming in the Windows 10 update later this year. According to businessinsider.com, Windows Story Remix will take your photos and videos and stitch them into a story, including a soundtrack and transitions. It seems to echo a similar function to Google Photos. Also, Win 10 will keep track of a timeline of your apps and sites, so you can go back to where you were…AND pick up on your PC, or your mobile device running iOS or Android. It’s a lot like Apple’s “Handoff”, but that only works between Macs, iPhones, and iPads. (Disclosure: I use Handoff, and it works great, but only on Apple devices.) The Microsoft version will work across platforms, which is very cool. Redmond is also working on a universal clipboard that will cut and past across platforms.

LG will supply Apple 3D facial recognition modules for the iPhone 8. Macrumors.com says LG already builds the dual lens cams for the iPhone 7 Plus, and will be building a $238 million dollar plant to crank out the 3D modules for Cupertino’s anniversary flagship phone. According to KGI Securities, the system runs tech from PrimeSense, which Apple bought 4 years ago, and can also do iris scanning, and a combination of augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality.

A number of reports have warned that the iPhone 8 will be out later in the Fall due to problems with the embedded fingerprint sensor under the screen. According to bgr.com, a reliable leaker has said hiring and training at Foxconn has started, and they will begin building iPhone 8 in August for a September launch.


HBO NOW Premieres on Google Daydream; Microsoft Turning Phones into Real PCs

If you are lucky and well healed enough to have a Google Daydream View headset, you know there hasn’t exactly been a flood of material for the VR platform. Well brace yourself…techcrunch.com says HBO’s standalone subscription app HBO NOW is available for the Daydream platform. Google also announced that Netflix will be available soon as well. Keep in mind that the 2D shows will still not be in 3D, but HBO has movies in its library with 3D versions, and Netflix will be able to offer its 3D content up, too.

Microsoft is bringing a full version of Windows 10 to mobile, including desktop app support for ARM chips. According to theverge.com, Redmond demoed running Win 10 on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip today, including HD video playback, Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Office. Microsoft put out Continuum for phones last year which emulates a PC, but you can’t run Chrome or Photoshop on it. It’s been tried unsuccessfully before, but maybe this will be the one that actually gives you a full blown PC in your pocket. Stay tuned.


Samsung Gets Laptop That Converts to Tablet; Repositioned Sensors on iPhone 7 Mean New Cases

Samsung is getting in on the growing market for laptops that convert to a tablet, thanks to a bendy hinge. Lenovo has had success with their convertibles, and Mashable.com reports that now Samsung had dropped the Notebook 7 Spin in 13.3 and 15.6 screen sizes. They run Windows 10 with Intel’s Core i5 or i7 processors, and start at $800 for the 13 incher and a grand for the 15. The Notebook 7 Spins should be in Best Buy stores the 26th.

Besides moving the antenna bands, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus should be indistinguishable from the 6S models…that is, unless you are a case or screen protector maker. According to appleinsider.com, Apple has moved the ambient light and proximity sensors, on the front panel. Those, in addition to the larger camera openings needed will make present case models and screen protectors obsolete. I will probably go for the larger phone model anyway, but for those who aren’t…thanks a lot, Apple….you’ll have to buy new cases when you upgrade.


Thoughts On The Coming Apple Electric Car

It was all over the tech news yesterday, and first reported by the Wall St. Journal, that Apple had put it’s Project Titan…their car project…on the front burner, and want an Apple car on the road by 2019. Google has spoken out couple times, underscoring that they are NOT planning to actually build a Google self-driving car, but will partner with car makers. Apple’s electric car project, by the way, will apparently not be self-driving. Apple will not be building their own car. As bgr.com snarked, who is going to build it…it won’t be Foxconn! I predict that Apple will have to partner with one or more actual car maker. Right now, it takes a car maker a minimum of 4 years to get a model out, and they have the actual plants and equipment to build cars at scale. Apple doesn’t, and can’t possibly be ready to produce them by 2019. Even an electric with no EPA emission requirements will still have to meet federal standards in various countries for safety. Which manufacturer or manufacturers will they partner with, and will it be sold from present dealerships or out of Apple branded car stores, like Tesla is doing? Stay tuned.

From Microsoft’s Office blog, comes something that’s NOT vaporware…Office 2016 for Windows and Office 2016 for Mac are available now to everyone. The Windows version is more tightly integrated with both Windows 10 and Office 365, and subscribers can get more frequent updates with new features and improvements. Microsoft says the Mac version had been out since July for 365 subscribers, but now is a one-time purchase option open to all with several new and enhanced Office 365 services. As is typical for Office and Microsoft products, the features and even pricing are beyond the time constraints we have here.


Uber Partners With University of Arizona on Self-Driving Cars

Theverge.com says Uber is setting up a new self-driving car project at the University of Arizona. The new project will focus on self-driving car technology, particularly the mapping and optics challenges involved in developing a fully autonomous vehicle. Earlier this year, Uber went on a major hiring binge for their Pittsburgh center, which many complained had hired so many experts away from the local robotics lab that they had effectively gutted competing projects. The Arizona partnership will focus on the optics systems necessary for mapping and safety. It appears that Tucson will be a new hub for much of Uber’s ongoing research into autonomous vehicles.

It’s gotten some knocks, but in a testament to how hated Windows 8 was more than anything else, Windows 10 is now up and running on over 75 million devices in less than a month after it was rolled out. zdnet.com reports that Microsoft’s goal is to have the latest OS installed on a billion devices by this time in 2018. Some of the heat surrounding Windows 10 has come from their new privacy policy, and Redmond has now published a ‘Windows 10 and Privacy’ page which details their policies.