Tech Retrospect: Apple's new Beats and Google's new autonomous ride

Apple made a big acquisition this week. Could Beats possibly be worth $3B? Also, a new driverless car from Google, a new superphone from LG, and mankind's latest great hope for space travel from SpaceX.

It's been expected for what seemed like forever, and frankly at this point we were thinking Apple might just hold off and make the announcement at WWDC. But no, this week Tim Cook & Co. pulled the trigger one one of its biggest acquisitions ever -- or certainly one of its most talked-about acquisition, anyway. The $3 billion deal gives Apple a number of things: a line of overpriced headphones, a powerful new brand partner, and a bunch of new employees.

Most notable among those? Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. It's unclear what role they'll have at the company, but what is known is that Beats is getting rid of its long-time design firm Ammunition, which has certainly had a major hand in making the brand what it is today. Apple's (very capable) design team takes over from here, and what comes next remains to be seen.

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These happy gentlemen just signed a $3 billion deal. From left: Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Beats co-founder Dr. Dre, and Apple SVP Eddy Cue. Apple

In various interviews all the major faces in the deal -- Tim Cook, Eddy Cue, Jimmy Iovine, and Dr. Dre -- were all quite quiet about what comes next, other than the fulfillment of a dream on one end, and a great opportunity on others. Many tech pundits of the world, however, are rather more skeptical about the deal, questioning things like whether Apple really needs a line of oversized headphones, whether the addition of the Beats brand can help the company be more attractive to users, and whether the Beats music service is really going to help Apple. One thing is for sure: as of today, Apple now has apps on both Android and Windows Phone.

Google launches new self-driving car with no steering wheel

Google Self-Driving Car
Google's new prototype. Google

If you're leery about the concept of a car driving itself, you probably won't be assured by the latest turn of wheel from Google. It has unveiled a prototype car that seats two people who will be completely unable to control it beyond giving it a destination, or requesting that it make an emergency stop. The car, you see, lacks a gas pedal, a brake pedal, and a steering wheel. It's not only self-driving, it's truly driverless. It's just a concept for now, and it's unclear whether Google will continue testing its current fleet of self-drivers built on production cars, but I'm a little concerned that this may be taking things a bit too far.

LG's G3 smartphone goes Galaxy hunting

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Ready for a new phone? LG is certainly hoping that you are. It unveiled the LG G3 to the world this week, its new 5.5-inch flagship device. That big display has a whopping resolution of 2,560x1,440, among the highest in a phone, and a 13-megapixel camera. That stat isn't particularly impressive, but LG spent no shortage of time at its event talking up the laser focusing abilities of the thing, supposedly enabling it to capture crisp shots faster than the competition. That, of course, remains to be seen, but it seems to offer enough other features to make the power-hungry Android crowd happy, including microSD storage, a removable battery, and a Snapdragon 801 processor. It's priced at AU$799 in Australia (around $740, £440), but we don't have formal pricing for the US or Europe, only an assurance that it'll hit all four major American carriers "this summer."

SpaceX and Elon Musk unveil Dragon V2 capsule

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Tim Stevens/CNET

The Space Shuttle has been properly mothballed and, with US-Russian relations having something of a retro moment, we will very soon find ourselves in need of some more reliable space transportation. Thank goodness for SpaceX. Elon Musk's startup may be headed for the stars but it's based in Los Angeles, where it unveiled the Dragon V2. It's a larger capsule than the current Dragon, capable of carrying seven passengers in reclined, carbon fiber seats, along with roughly three tons of cargo. The capsule uses a series of far more powerful SuperDraco engines than its predecessor, enabling it to actually land in a controlled manner, "virtually anywhere on the planet," said Musk. It's also able to make as many as 10 flights before needing anything more than refuelling, which could drastically reduce the cost of space travel. Want a ticket? The thing could be carrying human cargo as soon as 2016.

 

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