Wireless Networking

Apple Discontinues Its AirPort Router Line (9to5mac.com) 189

9to5Mac reports that Apple is officially exiting the wireless router business and selling off its remaining inventory of AirPort products. This includes the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and both models of the AirPort Time Capsule. "We're discontinuing the Apple AirPort base station products," Apple said in a statement to 9to5Mac. "They will be available through Apple.com, Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last." From the report: While the news is disappointing for fans of Apple's routers, the end of the AirPort line is no surprise either. Bloomberg reported back in November 2016 that Apple had disbanded the team responsible for developing Apple's routers, and in January 9to5Mac was first to report that Apple Stores started selling third-party. At the time, Apple told us that its AirPort line would remain -- with the mesh Wi-Fi routers adding a solution for larger homes: "People love our AirPort products and we continue to sell them. Connectivity is important in the home and we are giving customers yet another option that is well suited for larger homes."
Businesses

The Smartphone Sales Slowdown is Real (axios.com) 182

Earnings reports from Samsung and Qualcomm on Wednesday suggest a serious industrywide slowdown in smartphone sales. Samsung's report is especially telling, since it also makes displays and other components for Apple. From a report: The smartphone business is an incredibly crowded space, so a slowdown could lead to even steeper price competition. That's a potential short-term boon for consumers, but could put the hurt on a whole host of technology companies. Samsung's take: Its written outlook was terse and brief, but damning. Of its own phones, it said "[p]rofitability in the mobile business is expected to decline quarter-over-quarter due to stagnant sales of flagship models amid weak demand and an increase in marketing expenses to address the situation." Similarly, it cautioned of weak demand in its display and chip businesses, which supply components for both Samsung and its phone rivals, including Apple. Qualcomm's take: The phone chip giant also predicted a slowdown, cutting its forecast for 3G and 4G smartphones.
Robotics

Robot-Launched Weather Balloons in Alaska Hasten Demise of Remote Stations (sciencemag.org) 52

The National Weather Service is choosing automated launchers over human employees to deploy weather balloons in Alaska. From a report: Last Thursday, just before 3 p.m., things began stirring inside the truck-size box that sat among melting piles of snow at the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska. Inside, software ran checks on instruments to measure atmospheric temperature, humidity, and pressure; a tray slid into place; and a nozzle began filling a large balloon with gas. Finally, the roof of the box yawned open and a weather balloon took off into the sunny afternoon, instruments dangling. The entire launch was triggered with the touch of a button, 5 kilometers away at an office of the National Weather Service (NWS).

The flight was smooth, just one of hundreds of twice-daily balloon launches around the world that radio back crucial data for weather forecasts. But most of those balloons are launched by people; the robotic launchers, which are rolling out across Alaska, are proving to be controversial. NWS says the autolaunchers will save money and free up staff to work on more pressing matters. But representatives of the employee union question their reliability, and say they will hasten the end of Alaska's remote weather offices, where forecasting duties and hours have already been slashed. "The autolauncher is just another nail in their coffin," says Kimberly Vaughan, a union steward in Juneau.

Once deployed across the state, the $1.2 million machines, built by Finnish company Vaisala, will save about 8 hours of forecaster time a day -- and about $1 million a year at NWS, Susan Buchanan, an NWS spokesperson says.

Portables (Apple)

As More Users Complain About Poor Keyboard in Current MacBook Pro Lineup, Critics Say Apple Should Consider Recalling the Device (theoutline.com) 212

Last year, a report outlining what it described as a major flaw in Apple's current MacBook Pro lineup became a talking point in the industry. The issue was that a piece of dust could render keys on the MacBook Pro lineup useless, and that Apple had no idea how to fix it. Casey Johnston, writing for The Outline: MacBook Pro's keyboard keys stopped working if a single piece of dust slipped under there, and more importantly, that neither Apple nor its Geniuses would acknowledge that this was actually a problem. Today, Best Buy announced it is having a significant sale on these computers, marking them hundreds of dollars off. Interesting. Still, I'd suggest you do not buy them. Since I wrote about my experience, many have asked me what happened with the new top half of the computer that the Apple Geniuses installed, with its pristine keyboard and maybe-different key switches. The answer is that after a couple of months, I started to get temporarily dead keys for seemingly no reason. Again. Longtime widely respected commentator Jason Snell says, "I know that we Apple-watchers sit around wondering if Apple will release new laptops with new keyboards that don't have these issues, but Apple's relative silence on this issue for existing customers is deafening. If these problems are remotely as common as they seem to be, this is an altogether defective product that should be recalled."
Businesses

Snapchat Takes a Second Try at Spectacles (cnbc.com) 43

Snapchat is launching an updated version of Spectacles, its glasses with an embedded camera, and says its first version of the smart glasses sold over 220,000 units. From a report: That first version also caused the company to take a nearly $40 million write-down in the third quarter due to excess inventory. But instead of scrapping its hardware unit, the company is pressing ahead. Snap "listened to our customers and our community and incorporated every part of their feedback," said Mark Randall, Snapchat's vice president of hardware. The new version costs $150 -- $20 more than the prior version. They come in three new colors (onyx, ruby, and sapphire), are water resistant and can take photos and videos in high definition. Plus the content transfers much faster.

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