The next Apple special event has been announced for next Monday, October 18. Here’s what we think is happening.
When and where?
This is a broadcast keynote, not an in-person event, like all Apple’s events have been for the last two years, almost. Expect high production values, slick presentations and lots of product. You’ll be able to watch it on YouTube and the Apple TV app.
The date is Monday, the time 10AM Pacific, 1PM Eastern, 6PM U.K.
What to expect
The invite always gives us clues, even if they really only become clear after the event, when looking back at the invite makes you say, “Oh yes, of course that’s what they meant.”
This year’s invite has just one word on it: “Unleashed.” It’s accompanied by the Apple logo made up of those kind of bright flashes of light that resemble space surrounding the Starship Enterprise just when it went to Warp speed.
Which is the big clue, I’d say.
Rumors have suggested that the event will feature the next Mac devices to switch from Intel to Apple Silicon processors. And, if nothing else, we’ve learnt that the Apple M1 chip is supposedly a super speed increase, perhaps like switching from Impulse Drive to Warp Drive on a fictional spaceship.
And, after all, those rumors specify that the second-generation Apple Silicon will be on board the next Macs, called M1X, so that’ll be even faster, right?
The current M1 chip is limited in its RAM support to 16GB. It’s expected that the support on the M1X will support 32GB RAM, which will also make for a much faster experience. Unleashed, indeed.
Of course, those lights could also signify that punchy brightness of miniLED found on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be found on the screens of the new Mac laptops that are expected to launch.
Since it’s also thought that one of these will be a Mac laptop in a size not seen before—with a 14-inch display as well as an updated version of a 16-inch one—unleashed seems appropriate for that, too.
How about AirPods 3?
I’ll be honest, I can’t actually see anything that looks like AirPods on this invite, but that doesn’t mean the long-awaited AirPods 3 won’t be there. Rumored to launch with the iPhone 13 last month, and indeed on several occasions before then, the entry-level AirPods are arguably long overdue for a refresh.
If earlier reports are to be believed, they’ll have a new design that is much more like the AirPods Pro, though without noise-cancelling capabilities. Still, they’re possibly going to be compatible with Spatial Audio. Oh, and they’ll probably be fully integrated with the Find My app, as AirPods Pro suddenly are.
There are no other products expected just yet, but with Apple you never know.
Less than a week until all is revealed.
Facebook ‘planning to rebrand company’ with new name – Al Jazeera English
CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at its annual conference on October 28, but it could be sooner.
Social media giant Facebook Inc is planning to rebrand itself with a new name next week, American technology blog the Verge reported on Tuesday, citing a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28, but it could be unveiled sooner, the Verge reported.
In response, Facebook said it does not comment on “rumour or speculation”.
The news comes at a time when the company is facing increasing government scrutiny in the United States over its business practices.
Legislators from both parties have excoriated the company, illustrating the rising anger in Congress with Facebook.
‘A metaverse company’
The rebranding would position Facebook’s social media app as one of many products under a parent company, which will also oversee groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus and more, the Verge report added.
It is not uncommon in Silicon Valley for companies to change their names as they bid to expand their services.
Google established Alphabet Inc as a holding company in 2015 to expand beyond its search and advertising businesses, to oversee various other ventures ranging from its autonomous vehicle unit and health technology to providing internet services in remote areas.
The move to rebrand will also reflect Facebook’s focus on building the so-called metaverse, an online world where people can use different devices to move and communicate in a virtual environment, according to the report.
Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and intends to connect its nearly three billion users through several devices and apps. On Tuesday, the company announced plans to create 10,000 jobs in the European Union over the next five years to help build the metaverse.
Zuckerberg has been talking up metaverse since July when he said that the key to Facebook’s future lies with the metaverse concept – the idea that users will live, work and exercise inside a virtual universe. The company’s Oculus virtual reality headsets and service are an instrumental part of realizing that vision.
“In the coming years, I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company,” Zuckerberg said at the time. “In many ways, the metaverse is the ultimate expression of social technology.”
The buzzy word, first coined in a dystopian novel three decades earlier, has been referenced by other tech firms such as Microsoft.
The Verge report said a possible name for the company could have something to do with Horizon. Recently, Facebook renamed its in-development VR gaming platform named ‘Horizon’’to “Horizon Worlds”.
Apple's voice-only Music subscription could boost Siri's accent understanding – TechCrunch
Apple had a slew of interesting announcements at its event on Monday. But one that stood out to me — and I feel didn’t get as much attention — is the new pricing tier of Apple Music. A new “Voice” tier will offer the entire Apple Music library to subscribers at a reduced rate of just $5 per month: The catch is you have to use Siri to access it, eschewing the standard Apple Music visual and typing-friendly in-app user interface.
Apple didn’t share why it is launching this plan, but I think it’s reasonable to speculate that the iPhone-maker is lowering the price barrier and persuading more people to use Siri because it wants to gather more voice data to train and improve its voice assistant.
“We’re excited that even more people will be able to enjoy Apple Music simply with their voice,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said at the event.
I can’t imagine any other compelling reason why the Apple Music Voice plan exists, especially since Apple is likely offering the new service with much lower margins than the standard plan, as the licensing agreements with labels remain the same to offer up the entire Apple Music catalog.
Again, this is just speculation, but I think given the stiff competition between Apple and Spotify, if the Swedish firm could offer its streaming service at $7-8 a month to beat Apple Music at price, it would. And Apple is taking some loss with the new subscription tier because it really wants to gather vast amounts of data. When I tweeted this theory, my colleague Alex wondered aloud why wouldn’t Apple just make the subscription free? I suppose Apple, a $2.5 trillion company, can technically swallow that much of a hit on the balance sheet, but it doesn’t want to attract more criticism from standalone music streaming firms such as Spotify. It’s already facing scrutiny for anti-competitive behavior on a number of fronts.
Tech firms feed their AI models with vast amounts of data to improve the services’ capabilities. Even as Siri has considerably improved over the years, the general consensus among many people who work in tech and the masses alike is that Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant are far superior.
It’s likely that Apple has already been gleaning such voice data from existing Apple Music users, but as a friend suggested, “the point is this — this feature always existed. It’s just that they’d put a high paywall. They’ve lowered that wall now.” In addition to lowering the barrier to entry, making Music voice-only via the new plan means people have to engage with Siri to make use of it; Siri is a feature for standard Apple Music subscribers, but it’s highly likely that most users primarily or exclusively access the content via the app’s UI.
If you want an example of what can happen to voice-powered assistants when you require that users treat it as a voice-first or voice-only service, look at Amazon’s Alexa. Out of the gate, Alexa had to be accessed by voice. This allowed Amazon to not only collect massive amounts of training data for its Alexa algorithms, but also helped train users about how to use it to maximum effect.
Understanding accents and dialects
Another reason why I think my theory works is the markets where Apple plans to offer this new subscription tier first: Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Having India, Spain, Ireland and France in the first wave of nations suggests that Apple is looking to amass a wide-range of dialects and accents from across the globe. On a side note, voice search is very popular in many markets, including developing nations such as India, and in markets like China and Japan where text input can sometimes be unnecessarily complex versus spoken word. (A Google executive told me once that the surprising mass adoption of voice searches in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market and where Android commands about 98% of the pie, helped the company improve Google Assistant and prompted more aggressive approach to innovate on the voice front.)
Siri is often framed as a bit of a laggard in terms of its competence versus the rest of the voice assistant competition, and Apple’s latest move in services could be an attempt to help it close the perceived gap, while offering customers a discounted way to onboard to its music streaming service.
PSA: the MacBook Pro 14-inch’s $20 power brick upsell is probably worth it – The Verge
If you’re looking at buying the $1,999 base model MacBook Pro 14-inch, there’s one upgrade that you may really want to make — the $20 one that gets you the 96W power adapter instead of the 67W included power adapter. That’s because, according to some wording on Apple’s MacBook Pro configuration page (spotted by MacRumors), you’ll need the more powerful charger if you want to take advantage of the computer’s fast charging feature, which can charge the laptop up to 50 percent in half an hour.
Is it ridiculous that Apple is basically taxing the people who want to buy its least expensive (but still very pricey!) new MacBook Pro? Yes, absolutely — but you should still probably pay it if you want to charge your laptop up quickly. The exception is if you already have a charging brick capable of 100W USB-PD power delivery: Apple tells The Verge that you can fast charge via Thunderbolt as long as your power brick provides enough power. If you already have a beefy power brick, you can skip the upsell.
I know it probably doesn’t feel great to encourage Apple’s nickel-and-diming, but if you want fast charging, this will likely be the best way to get it. There may be, somewhere in the world, a 100W USB-PD charging brick that sells for $20, but there’s no way I would trust it enough to charge a very expensive computer. (If it was $20, I might not even trust it not to burn down my house). I’d pick the upsell.
The one silver lining is that this is only a problem on the base 8 CPU core / 14 GPU core model — if you do any processor upgrades, you’ll get the 96W brick for “free.” Please note, though, that upgrading just the RAM and/or storage on the base MacBook Pro won’t get you that upgrade, but if you’re in the configuration screen anyways, you should absolutely check that box unless you hate fast charging.
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