In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology news:
- Surveys show techies are driving demand for new Tesla
- Thousands of Verizon workers go on strike
- Facebook beefs up Messenger chat
- HTC unveils a new phone
- Demand for the new Tesla is wild, but limited to tech fans
Demand for Tesla’s new Model 3 has been eye-popping, with consumers pre-ordering about $13.7 billion worth of the electric sedans nearly two years before they go on sale.
Yet experts aren’t yet ready to proclaim it’s a tipping point with mainstream America moving from burning gasoline to charging batteries.
The reason? Most of the 325,000 people worldwide who put down $1,000 deposits are tech-savvy, environmentally conscious early adopters who see Tesla as an innovative brand that meets their needs. The $35,000 price tag and the Model 3’s 215-mile range are important, but the brand’s tech image and CEO Elon Musk’s success in cars, rockets and solar panels are the main drivers.
“We’re tech people. I want integration with my phone,” says Charles Butler, a 40-year-old manager with a cloud computing company in Austin, Texas, who was among the first to make an order. “Musk and Tesla, that’s what they do with their customer experience.”
Researchers say other automakers’ electric cars haven’t caught on because their range is limited to around 100 miles. And even General Motors’ Chevrolet Bolt, which will go more than 200 miles per charge and is priced similarly to the Model 3, won’t attract a frenzy of buyers because Chevy doesn’t have Tesla’s tech image, they say.
Surveys by the University of California Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and by Carnegie Mellon University show that Butler is a pretty typical Tesla buyer. The brand is well-known in the U.S., even among those who don’t plan to buy electrics. Tesla buyers always have rated cutting-edge features — huge touch screens, freeway autopilot and over-the-air software updates — as paramount, said Tom Turrentine, director of electric and hybrid vehicle research at UC Davis.
Early electric cars didn’t have those features, although the new Bolt will have some of them.
- Verizon workers go on strike amid contract dispute
About 39,000 Verizon landline and cable workers on the East Coast walked off the job Wednesday morning after little progress in negotiations since their contract expired nearly eight months ago.
The workers, members of two unions — the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — represent installers, customer service employees, repairmen and other service workers in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., for Verizon’s wireline business, which provides fixed-line phone services and FiOS Internet service.
“We’re on strike to maintain good jobs and maintain our standard of living,” said Keith Purce, president of CWA Local 1101 which represents about 3,500 workers in Manhattan and the Bronx.
Standing on a picket line in Manhattan with hundreds of union workers, Purce said they were prepared to stay out “as long as it takes.”
He said talks broke off last week and no new talks were scheduled.
The workers’ latest contract expired in August and so far, the unions and management say negotiations have been unsuccessful.
Outside a Verizon office in Philadelphia’s Chinatown section, dozens of striking workers gathered. Edward Mooney of the Communications Workers of America said the issue was about keeping jobs from going overseas.
The unions have said Verizon wants to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier and rely more on contract workers. The telecom giant has said there are health care issues that need to be addressed for retirees and current workers because medical costs have grown and the company also wants “greater flexibility” to manage its workers.
Verizon also is pushing to eliminate a rule that would prevent employees from working away from home for extended periods of time. In a television ad, the unions said the company was trying to “force employees to accept a contract sending their jobs to other parts of the country and even oversees.”
- Facebook shows new ways to chat, stream video
Looking for new ways to engage with its audience, Facebook says people who use its Messenger chat service will soon be able to order flowers, shop for shoes and talk with a variety of businesses by sending them direct text messages.
And soon, if you haven’t “chatted” with those businesses on Messenger in a while, they’ll be able to send you a paid message that offers a special deal or encourages you to buy a product you liked before.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg used Facebook’s annual software conference Tuesday to describe its latest initiatives at a time when some reports indicate people may be sharing less personal information on the social network — either because of privacy concerns or the growing appeal of competing apps.
Analysts say that underscores the importance for Facebook of adding more features to its growing chat services: It needs to keep people engaged — and continue to learn about their interests for advertising purposes.
But Zuckerberg also reiterated Facebook’s goals for connecting people around the world, adding a jab that seemed directed at the likes of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and others who have called for cracking down on immigration and rebuffing refugees.
“As I look around the world, I’m starting to see people and nations turning inward,” Zuckerberg said at one point during a keynote speech that mostly focused on newsoftware initiatives. “I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as ‘others.’ I hear them calling for blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, for reducing trade, and in some cases even for cutting access to the Internet.”
Zuckerberg went on to say he prefers optimism over fear and believes technology should be used “to build bridges” instead of walls. The billionaire tech mogul has previously backed efforts to ease U.S. immigration restrictions and provide more Internet access in developing countries.
- HTC’s new phone focuses on camera quality
HTC is promising a better camera — along with refinements in audio and design — as it unveils its latest flagship phone, the HTC 10.
The camera has long a weak point in HTC devices. At first, HTC sacrificed image resolution and made the size of individual pixels larger to capture more light. But the resulting 4 megapixel images were often fuzzy, especially when cropped or enlarged.HTC went with smaller individual pixels in a 20-megapixel camera last year, but it still underperformed in extreme situations, such as indoors and close-ups.
The HTC 10 tries to strike a balance — larger individual pixels, but not as large as before. The camera is now 12 megapixels, the same as the latest iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones.
“What we tried to do … is to get the best of both worlds,” said Nigel Newby-House,HTC’s associate vice president for product planning in North America. In last year’s HTCOne M9 phone, “the imaging performance was not up to the kind of spec of what we really like to see in a flagship.”