Techio

Tesla might trick out its Supercharger stations like 7/11 stores

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Tesla might be aiming to give its Supercharger locations a makeover, which could be great news for hungry, bored electric car drivers who miss gas stations filled with bathrooms, scratch off lottery tickets, and beef jerky. 

The automaker has a plan to add convenience store-esque amenities to its fast-charging stations, according to a report from Restaurant Business spotted by Grub Street. The new plans would transform Supercharger stops from single-purpose power-up stations to mini rest stops.    

“People are coming and spending 20 to 30 minutes at these stops,” Tesla CTO J.B. Straubel told an audience at foodservice-technology conference FSTEC, referring to the Supercharger’s estimated half hour power-up time. “They want to eat, they want to have a cup of coffee, and they want to use the bathroom.”   

Straubel then showed off an “aerial depiction” of a tricked out Supercharger station outfitted with all the hallmarks of a convenience store, according to the report. A Tesla rep couldn’t send Mashable an image of the rendering when reached for comment, so we can only imagine that it looked like any old rest stop you can find off major highway exits. 

The automaker isn’t going all in and starting up its own chain of Supercharger-adjacent eateries, however. Straubel dismissed the idea of a Tesla-run food management operation, instead shifting the focus to potential partnerships. “We already have been working with restaurants,” he said. “That can only start scaling up.”

Tesla says that it specifically places its Superchargers near amenities like hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas to give drivers something to do while their car is charging up. The company is missing out on a massive potential revenue stream by declining to monetize the areas even more — so there’s no reason it shouldn’t build out its own version of 7/11 stores. 

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Cloud Partner Program Aim to Replace ERP

Brightpearl, which offers a cloud-based retail management system for mid-sized retailers and wholesalers, on Wednesday launched a new Enterprise Partner Program.

The company aims to build out its partner ecosystem to deploy an end-to-end management service for omnichannel retailers as an alternative to traditional enterprise resource planning systems.

Brightpearl is seeking technology providers specializing in commerce, EDI (electronic data interchange), accounting, POS (point of sale), logistics, shipping and inventory, and marketplaces.

Ecosystem partners will offer a customized enterprise-grade end-to-end retail management solution for small and mid-sized retailers with gross merchandise revenues of between US$2.5 million and $50 million.

Such potential customers typically would work with solution providers such as such as ShipStation and Silk Software, which already have partnered with Brightpearl.

“The EPP is a new program that we’re launching, and we’re delighted to include a number of partners from across the retail technology ecosystem from Day One,” said Derek Rosenzweig, Brightpearl’s head of partner business development.

Along with Silk and ShipStation, initial partners include SPS Commerce, SIgnifyd, BigCommerce, Avatar, EY Studios, and PayPal Here.

“We believe we can offer retailers a comprehensive end-to-end solution today,” Rosenzweig told the E-Commerce Times. “We expect the EPP to grow as other vendors with particular expertise seek to join.”

EPP Benefits

The program will offer three tiers of partner support to solution providers and agencies that manage various levels of commerce builds and integrations with traditional ERP systems.

Among Brightpearl’s Enterprise Partner Program benefits:

  • Dedicated business development reps;
  • Co-marketing opportunities and co-branded regional events;
  • Certified Brightpearl training and on-site training for sales, solution design, and
  • professional services; and

  • Access to Brightpearl’s application marketplace.

Participating partners will “be able to build stronger relationships with customers by being able to meet requirements beyond their own capabilities,” Rosenzweig said. “Being able to introduce a trusted partner is a valued service.”

They also will benefit from introductions to new business opportunities.

“Depending on the nature of the partner’s solution, a joint project may result in opportunities to sell additional services to existing customers,” noted Rosenzweig.

Organizations “are looking for new retail suites, but they want more nimble solutions to upgrade or replace existing solutions,” remarked Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“Partners are looking for scale in delivery, sales and IP creation,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Participation in Brightpearl’s Enterprise Partner Program means partners would have “less partnerships and technologies to manage, train and sell for,” Wang said.

Retailers would have “one throat to choke and better integration,” he pointed out. They also would get “the ability to scale out technology platforms over time for economies of scale and agility.”

The average global retailer has “anywhere from 13 to 47 back-office retail and order management systems,” Wang pointed out. “The market’s ripe for replacement.”

Target Markets

Brightpearl’s EPP targets existing customers, customers already working with partners, and new customers, Rosenzweig said.

“In cases where a customer of one of our partners is seeking a back-office retail management solution, the EPP enables a streamlined introduction to Brightpearl,” he noted.

“Similarly, Brightpearl customers looking to extend their capabilities in areas such as e-commerce, EDI, accounting etc., can benefit from easy access to potential providers,” said Rosenzweig.

Helping Retailers Remain Competitive

The EPP “is about adding new capabilities to help retailers be successful in a highly competitive market,” Rosenzweig said.

Despite the troubles faced by large store chains — some of which have reduced the number of their brick-and-mortar locations and others, such as Toys “R” Us, that have filed for bankruptcy — the retail industry is strong, suggests a report from the IHL Group, which notes that retailers have opened more than 4,000 stores so far this year.


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus don’t really support true HDR video playback

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Smartphones like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, LG’s V30, and even Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone X are finally getting HDR (High Dynamic Range) video support, which means any HDR content you play on them will look better. Like, noticeably better. 

HDR content looks better because it has visible improvements like greater dynamic range and brighter highlights that makes the picture quality more realistic and authentic to the director’s original artistic vision.

But something’s not adding up, especially on the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

Apple advertises on its website that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus support “Dolby Vision and HDR10 content.”

From that statement, you’d think that these new iPhones would display HDR in all of its eye-popping glory. But you’d be wrong.

To get the full benefit of HDR content, your device needs to have an HDR display. HDR content requires special display tech to properly render it.

For instance, you’d need a screen with a certain level of brightness (measured in nits), with a certain contrast ratio spec, and wide color gamut display support, to see all the extra improvements.

It’s kind of like watching 4K content. The only way to really appreciably view 4K content is on a 4K TV or monitor.

This is why you need to buy a brand new TV with HDR support in order to view HDR content. Your rinky-dink TV just won’t do if you want all that extra picture quality.

Image: lili sams/mashable

So what’s the big deal? Well, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus don’t have HDR displays. The iPhone X is the only iPhone and Apple device with an HDR screen. Apple says it right there on its iPhone comparison page.

Without the necessary hardware for HDR, then what the heck are you actually seeing on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus when you load up a Dolby Vision movie on Netflix? That’s a good question because the answer wasn’t exactly obvious.

Normally, if your screen doesn’t support HDR, it simply won’t be able to read the signal and you’ll see the standard non-HDR version.

But that’s not the case on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Apple told Mashable that users of these two phones will see visual enhancements to dynamic range, contrast, and wide color gamut when playing Dolby Vision or HDR 10 content from their respective content providers, but it will not be at the full level of HDR visual fidelity as it’ll be on the iPhone X, which does have an HDR screen.

We also reached out to Netflix, but they referred us to Apple. Dolby didn’t immediately respond to our request for clarification on the faux-HDR support for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

I know it’s a little confusing, but you could think about it like this: Many phones have an HDR mode within their camera app. When you take an HDR photo or video, instead of seeing blown-out areas, you see added colors and details.

You’re not technically looking at true HDR content but to the naked eye you’re seeing some discernible differences. Better video quality is better video quality, but if you want to watch HDR the way it was meant to be, you’re going to need to get a device with an HDR screen.

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iPhone 8 and 8 Plus cameras get top marks from testing outfit DxOMark


If our review didn’t convince you that the cameras in the latest iPhones are something special, perhaps DxOMark’s lab-heavy evaluation process will do the trick. The camera testing site unequivocally states that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have the best smartphone cameras it’s ever tested — though they aren’t without their flaws.

Where the cameras stand out is in the everyday situations where you just want to get the shot, and don’t want to have to worry about using “low light mode” or watch helplessly as the camera struggles to focus properly on your puppy’s gambols.

On these occasions, the iPhones excel, offering accurate autofocus, extremely good detail in most lighting situations, and superior performance in the faux-bokeh category everyone is so hot on these days. The zoom in the Plus is also best-in-class, though in smartphones that still remains a bit like a dog walking on its hind legs — it’s amazing that it works at all.

It beat out its nearest competitors, the excellent Pixel and HTC U11, which topped the charts until today in most categories. Low light detail and HDR performance gave the iPhone an edge, and its much more natural background blur function wins handily (especially in the Plus).

DxOMark includes plenty of context and sample pictures that are worth perusing. One in particular stood out to me, however:

Phone cameras have come a long way in just a few years, and there’s plenty more to do.

There’s still plenty to improve. The autofocus, while accurate (which really is the most important thing), isn’t the quickest. Video, while good, is judged to fall behind the Pixel’s. Portrait mode still produces artifacts around the borders of the blur, but far less noticeable ones than the Pixel. And they didn’t mention the studio lighting mode, possibly because like me they think it looks pretty bad most of the time.

It’s a well-earned victory by Apple, but the competition is about to strike back: the new Pixel is set to arrive soon. As Matthew pointed out in the review, smartphone reviews are quickly turning into camera reviews, and Google knows that as well as anyone else. We’ll see what the competition brings to the table on October 4, when it’s set to be unveiled.

Everyone’s waiting for the iPhone X, and that may be bad news for Apple

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Today’s retail launch of the Apple iPhone 8 and 8 Plus is a crucial test for Apple’s riskiest iPhone strategy.

For the first time, Apple introduced its latest iPhone upgrades while simultaneously teasing something better coming soon — what, by Apple’s own admission, is “the future.”

Apple’s iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are, based on my review and what I’ve seen elsewhere on the web (and even in teardowns), “S” series devices in full-number-update clothing. Except for the glass back, the handsets maintain the iPhone 6 design introduced in 2014. Apple swapped out the A10 Fusion chip for the incredibly powerful A11 Bionic CPU, but left the screen and cameras largely unchanged.

I really like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but the changes come directly from Apple’s “S” playbook.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, and I really like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but the changes come directly from Apple’s “S” playbook: Upgrades instead of an overhaul, so the number stays the same to signal the subtler nature of the changes.

Instead of delivering the iPhone 7S (and 7S Plus), though, Apple gave them the full-number update treatment and simultaneously introduced the iPhone X (which, to remind, is pronounced “ten”). With its aggressive redesign and cutting-edge technology like the TrueDepth camera module, edge-to-edge OLED display and retirement of the home button, the iPhone X earns the name. It’s the true apex iPhone and easily the most coveted product in Apple’s iPhone lineup.

On Friday, the day Apple put the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus on sale in retail stores (after a few days of online store pre-sales) I started reading reports of sparse crowds at Apple Stores. In London, there were more Apple employees in the store than queued up iPhone 8 buyers, and it appears to be a very similar picture in the U.S. To be fair, iPhone retail launch events have been in decline since the iPhone 6 launch.

At the same time, I launched a little online poll:

People want the X.

People want the X.

Image: lanc eulanoff

Granted the results aren’t exactly scientific, but the sentiment is clear: More than half the people responding are sitting on their hands and waiting until the sexier iPhone X ships in November, even after numerous reports said supplies could be so low that some people won’t get the smartphone until next year

What if, I wondered, Apple made a terrible mistake?

This strategy of offering the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus first, while the real update, one that some believe is prohibitively expensive, looms just a few weeks later, is an unusual choice. In fact, it could squeeze Apple from both sides. iPhone consumers usually want the shiniest, new thing, but they don’t want to pay an arm and a leg (The argument could be made they they’ve been doing so for ages, but the loss of carrier subsidies and the psychographic impact of a $1,000 price should not be underestimated).

Could iPhone consumers feel caught in the middle between the phone they really want, but can’t afford, and the more reasonably priced device that doesn’t excite them because it’s not Apple’s ultimate iPhone?

Looked at this way, this bold iPhone strategy could be Apple CEO Tim Cook’s first big misstep… or another stroke of brilliance.

One iPhone for all

Ten years ago, we had one iPhone to choose from. Even as Android competitors started introducing a wider array of handsets and the early, large-screen devices that, at the time, few (certainly not Steve Jobs) believed would be successful, Apple maintained its one (small-screen) handset strategy

That strategy persisted until 2013, when Tim Cook unveiled the iPhone 5C alongside the iPhone 5S. Suddenly, Apple’s new phone lineup doubled in size. It set the stage for the company’s first big-screen iPhone, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, which launched in 2014 next to the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. 

Personally, I loved this shift. It acknowledged changing smartphone tastes and started to give people design and price options. 

Today, we have a lineup of eight iPhones that range in price from the $349, 4-inch, iPhone SE to the $999, 5.8-inch, iPhone X. There’s a lot of choice in there and I have no doubt that consumers welcome this. However, the core iPhone user, the person who bought the first iPhone as a status symbol and has upgraded like clockwork to every new device each year is possibly facing a dilemma.

This bold iPhone strategy could be Apple CEO Tim Cook’s first big misstep…or another stroke of brilliance.

If they bought the iPhone 7 last year, are they planning on buying the iPhone 8? Probably not. It certainly wasn’t my recommendation. So that means they wait for the iPhone X.

As Mashable Senior Tech Analyst Raymond Wong pointed out to me: This is potentially a “win-win” for Apple. Consumers who don’t buy the cheaper iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, will just wait for the expensive iPhone X.

He may be right, but what if anemic iPhone X supplies in 2017 mean that most people are waiting or buying their iPhone X in 2018?

“So what?” you might respond. Apple still makes the money, right?

Yes, but what does the Apple’s first quarter look like if demand for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus is low (we have yet to hear about pre-sale numbers, but there have been zero reports of delivery delays on pre-sales, a possible sign of soft demand) and tens of millions of customers wait for iPhone X in 2018?

Apple’s first quarter, the one that includes holiday sales, has looked amazing for almost a decade precisely because of the iPhone, which sells anywhere from 40 to 75 million units in the first three months after launch. Those sales are driven by the Apple’s hottest new device and, in this situation, that isn’t the iPhone 8.

Things could still work out in Apple’s favor, especially if they just collect all the pre-orders for the iPhone X, put those sales on the 2017 Q1 books and then let people wait for delivery until next year when they can make enough of the 5.8-inch handsets.

Alternatively, Apple could benefit from the unusually high number of upgraders ready to buy new phones. Samsung told me earlier this year that some 50 million consumers were at the end of the 18-month smartphone ownership cycle. They hope to sweep a lot of them up in the Galaxy S8/S8+ and Note 8 launches. But they’re up for grabs for Apple, too, which could sell them any one of eight different iPhones.

I’m confident Apple will sell millions of new iPhones, but if most them end up being the iPhone X, the question of when those sales happen starts to look really murky. Will they still be meaningful if many happen after the Samsung Galaxy S9 is a reality? Or iPhone 11/iPhone X2 rumors start to mount?

How the world — and Apple’s customers — respond to a protracted iPhone X launch is anyone’s guess.

Watch: Secrets of the Steve Jobs Theater

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