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Don’t expect any more big Apple events until WWDC, unless…

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(Image: CNET)

OK. So, that finally happened. Apple actually updated nearly the entire Mac product line. Yep. There’s a new Mac mini. There’s a new MacBook Air. There’s a new iPad Pro (two, actually). And three new iPhones.

What’s left?

Don’t expect more Macs

It’s almost a year since Apple introduced the iMac Pro. While a processor bump is possible, it’s unlikely that alone would justify an event of Apple scale.

It has been almost 18 months since the iMac itself had a spec boost. And as I mentioned in my iMac fantasy article, it’s been years since Apple’s changed the form factor. But is Apple likely to do a major change for a product that’s worked so well? Unlikely, at least to the extent that a big event would be justified.

The MacBooks Pro and Air have had very recent upgrades, as has the Mac mini. How great is it that I can finally say that? So, the “it’s hanging out there and needs an upgrade” meme isn’t valid anymore.

Also: Apple’s new iPad Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini: Can features, specs retain business momentum?

Of course, there’s the promised Mac Pro. It was promised for 2019. But it’s aimed at pros and developers, and since Apple does have a regular event aimed at pros and developers in June, that’s most likely when it will be unveiled.

Don’t expect much in the way of iOS

OK, fine. The iPad mini might need some love. It’s been three years since that device has got an upgrade. But with the iPhone XS Max coming in at 6.5 inches diagonally, is there really a need for a 7.3 inch iPad mini? Yes, the iPad mini could be upgraded with the new home buttonless iPad design, but would that justify a major event? I think not.

Also: Apple’s iPhone XS Max price tops out at $1,449 — and 8 other keynote takeaways

iPhones? Well, we know that’s always in September. So don’t even think about new iPhones for a while. Same with the Apple Watch. That just got a ginormous update, and while we’re still waiting for EKG, it’s unlikely to be a major event driver, at least until September.

iPads just had a major update, and while the base $329 iPad might get a bump, it, too, isn’t worth an event.

Home and audio

There is one theme that might justify a spring event, and that’s home and audio. With the big surges Amazon is making with Alexa and Google is making with Google Home, Apple might want to give the home and audio its own focus.

HomePod: This Alexa-wannabe was released just last February, but Apple might want to bump it again this coming spring. This would make more sense if Apple has some sort of unified home strategy it’s going to want to show.

Apple TV: The fifth-generation Apple TV is now over a year old. Again, with the huge growth of Alexa, Roku, and even Google in TV interfaces as well as home control, Apple TV is ripe for a major home hub update.

AirPods: AirPods are a bonafide winner, but they’re now growing a little long in the ear. As of next month, they will have gone two years without an update. Given how many devices no longer have a headphone jack and how tremendously popular the AirPods are, Apple is well overdue in offering an update.

AirPower: This charger, announced years ago, is missing in action.

iPod touch: Hey, I had no idea Apple was still selling this thing, but it is. Last updated in 2015, the current iPod touch might justify an upgrade as part of an overall home and audio strategy.

There you go

That’s what we’re looking at. Unless Apple comes out with its own VR goggles, a car, or something else unexpected, there’s a slim chance you’ll see a home and audio event in the spring (but don’t get your hopes up). Otherwise, just settle in for the winter, enjoy the spring, and wait until June for the new Mac Pro at WWDC.

Also: Your old $99 Apple Pencil is now junk

Whether pros and developers collectively let out a sigh of relief, gasp in horror (think 2013 Mac Pro), or choke on price points, we’ll all know at WWDC.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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Fortnite’s mystery ‘superstar’ virtual music tour kicks off next week – TechCrunch

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Epic Games is teasing the biggest in-game event since Travis Scott psychedelically stomped through Fortnite’s virtual meadows.

The mysterious new event, which Fortnite-maker Epic is calling the “Rift Tour,” will kick off on Friday, August 6 and run through Sunday, August 8. In the teaser announcement, Epic invites players to “take a musical journey into magical new realities where Fortnite and a record-breaking superstar collide.”

In-game events building up to the mystery show series will run from July 29 through August 8, so players can hop into Fortnite to check out new Rift Tour-themed quests and rewards now. The cotton-candy-colored event will offer a custom loading screen and a fluffy cloud kitty emoticon, among other digital prizes.

The Rift Tour isn’t a one-and-done event. Like the Travis Scott event, Fortnite will host five different show times across three days to make it easier for players to catch. Epic says they’ll have more details to share on Monday, August 2, so Fortnite players will have to wait for more hints or an official announcement about who’s performing.

So … who’s performing? So far, all signs point to Ariana Grande. Leakers have been saying as much for more than a week, and the documents revealed through Epic’s court battle with Apple also detailed plans for in-game events with both Grande and Lady Gaga.

Image Credits: Epic Games

At Forbes, Paul Tassi also connected the dots on how recent leaks point to Grande, including some visual themes from her music videos and a reference to her pet pig Piggy Smalls.

Since Epic is calling its latest virtual event a tour, that suggests Grande won’t be alone, if she is indeed the mystery superstar. A Lady Gaga appearance could also be in the cards, since Epic apparently had plans for Gaga to appear in a December 2020 concert that never materialized. Kanye West is also releasing his newest album on August 6, but it seems less likely that Epic would be willing to partner with West given his myriad recent controversies. And “Donda,” West’s latest album, was originally scheduled for a different date before being delayed.

Whoever it winds up being, we’ll likely know more on Monday. Even if you’re not a Grande fan or a regular gamer, Fortnite’s in-game concerts are some of the most creative and visually exciting virtual events to date.

Everyone should fall through the metaverse with their friends while a skyscraper-sized virtual rapper shoots neon lightning bolts at least once.

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Why companies and brands need to tune in – TechCrunch

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What comes to mind when you think of livestreaming? In the U.S., most people would name their favorite celebrity leading a Q&A on Instagram or a gamer doing a speedrun on Twitch.

In China, it’s shopping, streamed live.

Livestream e-commerce has taken off in China in the last few years and is expected to yield more than $60 billion this year. In 2019, 37% of online shoppers in China (a cool 265 million people) made purchases on livestreams — and that was well before quarantine. In 2020, it’s estimated to have reached around 560 million people.

During Taobao’s annual Single’s Day Global Shopping Festival in 2020 (China’s Black Friday), livestreams accounted for $6 billion in sales — nearly doubled from a year earlier.

Starting to see a trend? The big U.S. companies have noticed, and they’re jumping on the bandwagon faster than you can say, “Swipe up to buy now!”

Last December, Walmart livestreamed shopping events on TikTok. Amazon released a live platform where influencers promote items and chat with customers. Instagram launched a Shop feature that encourages users to browse and buy within the app. Facebook also kicked off Live Shopping Fridays for the beauty and fashion categories.

“It’s an entertaining way for shops to tell the story behind their products. It brings buyers closer than ever to their favorite creators and allows them to have a voice in the conversation.”

Startups are growing fast to keep up with the heavy hitters — PopShop.Live raised $20 million to let people buy everything from books and toys to jewelry from sellers who livestream their offerings, and Whatnot raised a $50 million Series B, largely to expand its livestream commerce infrastructure. There’s also a burgeoning category of SaaS tools such as Bambuser, which is working with brands like Klarna to test native livestream shopping directly within branded apps.

At this pace, retailers will all welcome livestream commerce teams like they have influencer partnerships in recent years. It’ll just be part of the digital equation to stay competitive and relevant in the future of marketplaces and e-commerce.

From B.C. to 5G: The evolution of shopping

What is old is new again. Your grandparents spent years watching QVC because it balanced the experience of speaking with an associate with the convenience of their retirement community’s TV room. Livestream is today’s version of “shoptainment,” where hosts showcase products dynamically, interact with their audiences and build urgency with short-term offers, giveaways and limited-edition items.

Now, with livestream commerce, hosts can form deeper customer connections and answer questions in real time. It’s a new standard of communication that holds a longstanding truth from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to smartphones: People shop to kill time and are more likely to buy when they feel connected with a salesperson.

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Twitter shuttering NY, SF offices in response to new CDC guidelines – TechCrunch

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Just two weeks after reopening its New York and San Francisco offices, social media giant Twitter said Wednesday that it will be closing those offices “immediately.”

The decision came “after careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions,” a spokesperson said.

“Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately. We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps,” the spokesperson added.

The company initially just reopened those offices on July 12. It declined to reveal headcount per office.

The CDC this week recommended that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates amid concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant.

Earlier today, TechCrunch’s Brian Heater reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to work on-site. It was part of a larger letter sent to Google/Alphabet staff that also noted the company will be extending its work-from-home policy through October 18, as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to sweep through the global population.

In a message to TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of People, Lori Goler, confirmed a similar policy for the social media behemoth.

Amazon also responded to TechCrunch’s inquiry on the matter, noting, “We strongly encourage Amazon employees and contractors to be vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 vaccines are available to them.”

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