Apple today announced the Mac Mini will ship with more standard storage space. Starting at $799, the base model Mac Mini now ships with a 256GB SSD, up from 128GB previously. The CPU, GPU and system memory remains the same from the previous model.
This refresh is a slight but welcomed bump to Apple’s least expensive Mac. With the updated specs, the Mac Mini offers a bit more bang for the buck but the specs still lags sorely behind similarly priced pre-packaged Windows PCs.
The $799 Mac Mini runs an Intel Core i3 CPU with a clock-speed of 3.6Ghz. It also sports an Intel HD Graphics 630 GPU and 8 GB of RAM. The $1,099 package ups the specs to a 3.0GHz Intel Core i5 CPU and a 512GB SSD hard drive.
Both of the new models ship on March 20. Apple Store pickup is currently unavailable as Apple closed all its stores outside of mainland China in response to the coronavirus.
Apple appears to be expecting a longer disruption to shopping at its physical retail stores as a result of the public health crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, in a press release, the iPhone maker said it would be closing retail stores outside China until March 27. A note on its website now says the shutdown is open-ended. Apple writes that the bricks-and-mortar stores “are closed until further notice” — so at the very least it’s signalling to customers to expect ongoing disruption to its retail business as usual.
Those looking to buy Apple products are told to shop on the website. Service and support is also offered online or via telephone.
We’ve reached out to Apple to ask for confirmation on a policy change.
In its March 13 missive, the company wrote that it is committed to paying all its hourly workers as if the stores remained open, and also said it was expanding its leave policies to “accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19.”
Late yesterday six Bay Area counties issued a “shelter in place” order to restrict the potential spread of the novel coronavirus. Additional measures seem likely in the coming days.
Multiple countries in the European Union have already ordered the closure of non-essential shops — instructing residents to stay at home unless they need to venture out to obtain essential supplies or are required to work and cannot work from home.
Smart rings are still a relatively young category in the wearable hardware world, but the Oura Ring seems to be a standout in terms of early success. The Oura Ring hardware is sleek and packed with sensors, allowing it to measure a user’s sleep patterns, take your body temperature and track activity, and now Oura has raised $28 million in Series B funding to bring on new key hires and product updates.
In a Medium post announcing the raise, Oura CEO Harpreet Singh Rai revealed that to date, the company has sold over 150,000 of its rings since launch (which was in early 2018) and that its team has grown to over 100 people globally. The Series B funding comes from Forerunner Ventures, which has a strong track record when it comes to direct-to-consumer product company investments, as well as from Gradient Ventures and Square.
Along with the investment, Oura gains two new board members, and one new board observer all with expertise in different aspects of the startup’s business: Forerunner’s Eurie Kim and Square’s hardware lead Jesse Dorogusker are the new board members, and Gradient partner (and former VP of engineering at Google) Anna Patterson joins as the observer.
Oura will be revamping its website and adding a new web-based portal for Oura Ring users that offers “actionable insights,” the company says, and it’s going to be doing more in terms of collaborating with academic researchers on ensuring its products measurements and guidance remain as accurate and useful as possible.
Oura prioritizes the role of sleep in terms of its contribution to health, and has also recently ventured into the realm of meditation, but it acts as a general fitness tracking device as well. It has attracted a number of fans among the plugged-in tech elite, too, including Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey. The company deserves kudos for delivering a solid, attractive and feature-rich gadget in a category that seemed like a tough sell in the early offing, and this new funding is a good vote of confidence.
It’s no secret I’m a fan of the reMarkable, a tablet with a paper-like display that’s focused on text and sketching rather than rich media and games. The sequel to the original, announced today, looks to make a good thing even better.
Designed for the creation and consumption of monochromatic content like long documents, e-books, notes and sketches, the reMarkable set itself apart as a more minimalist alternative (or complement) to the likes of the iPad or Surface. The device was crowdfunded and has sold more than 100,000 units; meanwhile, the company has grown and attracted a $15 million A round. One sees in retrospect that the money helped launch this successor.
The most obvious change is to the design. It has a bold asymmetrical look with a chrome band along the left side, indicating the tablet’s main use as an alternative to a paper notebook: Hold it with your left hand and write with your right. Sorry, lefties.
The new tablet is just 4.7 mm (0.19 in) thick, thinner than the iPad Pro and Sony’s competing Digital Paper tablets, both of which are 5.9 mm. Let’s be honest — at these levels of thinness it’s getting hard to tell the difference, but it’s an accomplishment nevertheless.
Probably the best thing about the original reMarkable, however, was how good it felt to write and draw on, and the company has spent the last few years improving that wherever they can. For one thing, the already very small delay of about 40 ms between touching the screen with the stylus and a line appearing has been nearly cut in half.
That’s an area where every milli-unit counts. The lag on a real pen and paper is zero, of course, and while the reMarkable was good, there was still a very slight lag, especially when making large gestures or lines. As the company explained to me:
The hardware to further push the latency down further did not exist, so we decided to invent the technology ourselves. We redesigned both the hardware and software architecture that controls the display through a completely new display controller that changes how the display itself is electrically controlled, down to the voltages and electrical currents applied in complex waveforms to each individual pixel, millions at a time. The result is a 20ms latency, smoother ink flow with less jitter, and a completely uncontested digital writing experience perfected.
I intend to investigate this myself once I get my hands on one of the new devices. The company worked with E Ink, the main manufacturer and investor in e-paper type displays, to accomplish the new display, which has the same specs as the previous one otherwise: 10.3 inches, monochrome, 1872×1404 resolution for 226 DPI.
Here’s the inevitable, yet well-executed, aspirational promo video:
The software running on the reMarkable has received several major updates since the product made its debut, adding things like handwriting recognition, a new interface, better performance and so on. But one of the most requested features is finally coming with the new device: saving articles from the web.
Unfortunately they didn’t answer my specific request of adding Pocket integration, deciding instead to roll their own with a Chrome plugin that sends a reformatted web page to the device. Unfortunately I use Firefox, but I can make an exception for this.
The company is claiming a 3x boost to battery life, using the same 3,000 mAh battery, based on performance improvements throughout and a more efficient (but more powerful) dual-core ARM processor. That means two weeks of use and 90 days of standby. This is welcome news, because frankly the battery life and power management on the last one were not great.
Lastly, the “Marker” itself is getting an upgrade I’ve desperately wanted since the first day I tried the tablet: an eraser. You could always erase by selecting that tool, of course, but now one of the tips of the stylus will activate it automatically, a feature borrowed from Wacom and accomplished in collaboration with them. Of course, the eraser-enabled “Marker Plus” costs $99, $50 more than the plain one. They both stick onto the tablet via magnet, though.
“We’ve worked closely with Wacom the last two years to create Marker Plus, the most beautiful pen we have ever made,” reMarkable co-founder and CEO Magnus Wanberg told TechCrunch. “In addition to premium materials and design, it features an end-cap eraser that works seamlessly with the reMarkable software. We’ve fined-tuned the eraser sensor in collaboration with Wacom’s engineering team to make sure it looks and feels like just a real eraser on paper.”
But overall you’re looking at a much cheaper package. The reMarkable, for all its merits, was not cheap at $700. The reMarkable 2 will sell for $399 if you pre-order, and comes with a Marker and a nice folio case. For anyone who was on the fence about the first one, the sequel may prove irresistible.
Remote collaboration tools like Zoom are gathering massive amounts of attention as people begin working from home en masse. But, as with most trends, virtual reality seems to be sitting out this boom.
This should be surprising to absolutely no one, but the lack of widespread adoption is not for lack of trying.
Virtual reality has already had a rough couple of years. Though a handful of startups in the space have continued to raise and find customers, most have done so by either committing to tight niches or opening up their services and minimizing their reliance on VR-only audiences. All the while, investors and founders have been left to wonder whether the “presence” offered by immersing yourself wholly in a digital environment is undone by crude avatars, clunky hardware and lackluster integrations with popular work software tools.
Enterprise VR hasn’t been completely quiet. A number of startups have raised funding in recent months on the premise that the future of work has a space carved out for virtual reality applications. In the collaboration space, VR startups argue that existing platforms are static, dated and leave employees feeling disconnected. VR’s oft-espoused mantra is that inhabiting a virtual space allows people to communicate more naturally.
I recently met with Anand Agarawala, CEO of Spatial, an AR/VR collaboration tool that locked down a $14 million round of funding earlier this year. VR startups haven’t been raising rounds this large lately, but Agarawala has ambitious plans for how his collaboration platform can outdo Zoom.