December 14, 2018
Category archive


Apple plans major US expansion including a new $1 billion campus in Austin

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Apple has announced a major expansion that will see it open a new campus in North Austin and open new offices in Seattle, San Diego and Los Angeles as it bids to increase its workforce in the U.S. The firm said it intends also to significantly expand its presence in Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado over the next three years.

The Austin campus alone will cost the company $1 billion, but Apple said that the 133-acre space will generate an initial 5,000 jobs across a broad range of roles with the potential to add 10,000 more. The company claims to have 6,200 employees in Austin — its largest enclave outside of Cupertino — and it said that the addition of these new roles will make it the largest private employer in the city.

Beyond a lot of new faces, the new campus will include more than 50 acres of open space and — as is standard with Apple’s operations these days — it will run entirely on renewable energy.

Apple already has 6,200 employees in Austin, but its new campus could add up to 15,000 more

The investment was lauded by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

“Their decision to expand operations in our state is a testament to the high-quality workforce and unmatched economic environment that Texas offers. I thank Apple for this tremendous investment in Texas, and I look forward to building upon our strong partnership to create an even brighter future for the Lone Star State,” he said in a statement shared by Apple.

But Austin isn’t the only focal point for Apple growth in the U.S.

Outside of the Austin development, the iPhone-maker plans to expand to over 1,000 staff Seattle, San Diego and LA over the next three years, while adding “hundreds” of staff in Pittsburgh, New York, Boulder, Boston and Portland, Oregon.

More broadly, Apple said it added 6,000 jobs to its U.S. workforce this year to take its total in the country to 90,000. It said it remains on track to create 20,000 new jobs in the U.S. by 2023.

News Source = techcrunch.com

After losing half its value, Nvidia faces reckoning

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Nvidia is a company that has reached the highest highs and the lowest lows, all in the span of a couple of weeks.

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Over the past two months, Nvidia’s stock has dropped from a closing price of $289.36 on Oct. 1 to today’s opening of $148.42, a decline of 48.8%.

It takes a lot for a company to lose nearly half its value in such a short period of time, but Nvidia is proving that an otherwise strong technology business can disappear in a blink of an eye. The company faces an almost perfect barrage of headwinds to its core products that is stalling its plans for long-term chip domination.

To step back a bit first though, Nvidia has traditionally made graphical processing units (GPUs) that are excellent at the kinds of parallel computation required for gaming and applications like computer-assisted design (CAD). It’s a durable and repeatable business, and one that Nvidia has a commanding market share in.

Yet, these markets are also fairly narrow, and so Nvidia has endeavored over the past few years to expand its product offerings to encompass new applications like artificial intelligence / machine learning, autonomous automotive, and crypto hashing. These applications all need strong parallelized processing, which Nvidia specializes in.

At least part of that story has worked well. Nvidia’s chips were extremely popular in the crypto run-up over the past few years, causing widespread shortages of the chips (and annoying its core gaming fans in the process).

This was huge for Nvidia. The company had revenues of $1.05 billion for the quarter ending Oct 31, 2013, and $1.31 billion two years later in 2015 — a fairly slow rate of growth as would be expected for a dominant player in a mature market. As the company expanded its horizons though, Nvidia engorged on growth in new applications like crypto, growing to $3.2 billion in revenue in its last reported quarter. As can be expected, the stock soared.

Now, Nvidia’s growth story is being hammered on multiple fronts. First and foremost, the huge sales of its chips into the crypto space have dried up as crypto prices have crashed in recent months. This is a pattern we are seeing with other companies, namely Bitmain, which has made specialized crypto chips a major part of its business but has lost an enormous amount of its momentum in the crypto bust. It announced it was shuttering its Israel office this week.

That bust is obvious in Nvidia’s revenues this year: they are essentially flat for three quarters now, hovering between $3.1 and $3.2 billion. Some have called this Nvidia’s “crypto hangover.” But crypto is just one facet of the challenges that Nvidia faces.

When it comes to owning next-generation application workflows, Nvidia is facing robust competition from startups and established players who want access to this potentially gigantic market. Even its potential customers are competing with it. Facebook is reportedly designing its own chips, Apple has been doing so for years, Google has been in the game a while, and Amazon is getting into the game fast. Nvidia has the know-how to compete, but these companies also understand the nuances of their applications really, really well. It’s a tough market position to be in.

If the challenges around applications weren’t enough, geopolitical tensions are also causing Nvidia serious harm. As Dan Strumpf and Wenxin Fan wrote in the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago in a deep dive, the company is emblematic of the challenge Silicon Valley firms face in the US / China trade standoff:

Nvidia executives are watching the trade fight with growing unease over whether it will curb its access to Chinese customers, according to a person familiar with the matter. Almost 20% of Nvidia’s $9.7 billion in revenue last year came from China. Many of its chips are used there for assembly into other products, and it has invested heavily to tap China’s burgeoning AI industries.

The company also is concerned that deteriorating relations between the world’s two biggest economies are causing Beijing to double down on efforts to reduce reliance on U.S. suppliers of key hardware such as chips by nurturing homegrown competitors, eating into Nvidia’s long-term business.

Crypto, customers, and China. That’s how you lose half your company’s value in two months.

Quick Bites

Hạ Long Bay, Vietnam. Photo by Andrea Schaffer via Flickr used under Creative Commons.

Google ‘studying steps’ to open headquarters in Vietnam in accordance with cybersecurity laws Following the testimony yesterday from Sundar Pichai on Capitol Hill, it’s interesting to see Google reportedly attempting to open this office in Vietnam, where it faces many of the same challenges as its expansion into China. Vietnam, like many other nations around the world, has recently passed a data sovereignty law that requires that local data be stored locally, forcing Google’s hand. China may be the bogeyman du jour, but the market access challenges posed by China are hardly unique.

Japan’s top 3 telcos to exclude Huawei, ZTE network equipment, according to Japanese news reports – Huawei’s bad news continues, this time with Japanese telcos supposedly vowing not to use the company’s equipment. This is something of a major development if it pans out — so far, the blocks on Huawei equipment have originated from the group of five nations known as the Five Eyes, who share intelligence information. Japan is not a member of that network, and could set the tone for other nations in Asia.

Baidu among 80 plus companies found faking corporate informationBaidu was censured for erroneous information in its Chinese corporate filings. That’s bad news for Baidu, which has hit rock bottom in its share price in the past few days, declining from a 52-week high of $284.22 to today’s opening of $180.50.

What’s next

Arman and I are still investigating the next-generation silicon space. Some good conversations the past few days with investors and supply-chain folks to learn more about this space. Nvidia’s analysis above is the tip of the iceberg. Have thoughts? Give me a ring: danny@techcrunch.com.

This newsletter is written with the assistance of Arman Tabatabai from New York

News Source = techcrunch.com

Move over notch, the hole-punch smartphone camera is coming

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First it was the notch, now the hole-punch has emerged as the latest tech for concealing selfie cameras whilst keeping our smartphones as free of bezel as possible to maximize the screen space.

This week, Samsung and Huawei both unveiled new phones that dispense with the iconic ‘notch’ — pioneered by Apple but popularized by everyone — in favor of positioning the front-facing camera in a small “Infinity-O” hole located on the top left side of the screen.

Dubbed hole-punch, the approach is part of Samsung’s new Galaxy A8s and Huawei’s View 20, which were unveiled hours apart on Tuesday. Huawei was first by just hours, although Samsung has been pretty public with its intention to explore a number notch alternatives including the hole-punch, which makes sense given that it has persistently mocked Apple for the feature.

The Samsung Galaxy S8a will debut in China with a hole-punch spot for the camera [Image via Samsung]

Don’t expect to see any hole-punches just yet though.

The Samsung A8s is just for China right now while the View 20 isn’t being fully unveiled until December 26 in China and, for global audiences, January 22 in Paris. We also don’t have a price for either, but they do represent a new trend that could become widely-adopted across phones from other OEMs in 2019.

That’s certainly Samsung’s plan. The Korea firm is rolling the hole-punch out on the A8s, but it has plans to expand its adoption into other devices and series. The A8s itself is pretty mid-range, but that makes it an ideal candidate to test the potential appeal of a more subtle selfie camera since Samsung’s market share has fallen in China where local rivals have pushed it hard. It starts there, but it could yet be adopted in higher-end devices with global availability.

As the View 20, Huawei has also been pretty global with its ambitions, except in the U.S. where it hasn’t managed to strike a carrier deal despite reports that it has been close before. The current crisis with its CFO — the daughter of the company’s founder who was arrested during a trip to Canada — is another stark reminder that Huawei’s business is unlikely to ever get a break in the U.S. market: so except the View 20 to be a model for Europe and Asia.

Huawei previewed its View 20 with a punch-hole selfie camera lens this week [Image via Huawei]

Samsung hasn’t said a tonne about the hole-punch design, but our sister publication Engadget — which attended the View 20’s early launch event in Hong Kong — said it was mounted below the display “like a diamond” to maintain the structure.

“This hole is not a traditional hole,” Huawei told Engadget.

Huawei will no doubt also talk up the fact that its hole is 4.5mm versus an apparent 6mm from Samsung.

Small details aside, one important upcoming trend from these new devices is the birth of the ‘mega’ megapixel smartphone camera.

The View 20 packs a whopping 48-megapixel lens for a rear camera which something that we’re going to see a lot more of in 2019. Xiaomi, for one, is preparing a January launch for a device that’ll have the 48-megapixels, according to a message on Sina Weibo from company co-founder Bin Lin. There’s no word on what camera enclosure that device will have, though.

Xiaomi teased an upcoming smartphone that’ll sport a 48-megapixel camera [Image via Bin Lin/Weibo]

News Source = techcrunch.com

The Apple Watch’s ECG feature goes live today

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ECG/EKG was easily the new Apple Watch’s most lauded feature. It’s also been the most delayed. Of course, this kind of serious health feature is the sort of thing you need to get exactly right, for reasons that ought to be pretty obvious on their face.

Electrocardiogram finally goes live today for Series 4 owners as part of the watchOS 5.1.2 update. It’s an important feature — and one that will go a ways toward helping establish the wearable as a more serious health monitor.

The new feature builds on a hardware upgrade built into the Series 4: a pair of electrodes built into the larger back crystal on the rear of the watch and the digital crown. Once enabled, the new feature is checking for a couple of key bits of heart health: irregular heart rhythms, which the watch will passively monitor in the background, and ECG, which requires the user to actively engage with by completing the circuit with a finger tip placed on the edge of the watch’s digital crown.

Of course, getting all of this isn’t as simple as just installing a software update. There is, understandably, a pretty long opt-in here. The on-boarding process is several pages long for both of the new features, as Apple collects some vital information and repeatedly reminds you of some important information — like the fact that the watch can’t detect a heart attack. If you feel like you might be having one, call the emergency services.

The Apple Watch isn’t meant to replace a doctor either, of course. Really, it’s just a way to monitor for complications. If the smartwatch can be regarded as a potential lifesaver or even peripheral medical device, it’s due to the fact that it features a kind of always-on monitoring. After all, outside of the proliferation of these sorts of wearables, most of us won’t experience something like constant ECG monitoring until under the care of a doctor. If this feature is capable of isolating that information ahead of time, it could go a ways toward addressing complications before they turn into major issues.

The sign-up process airs on the side of caution, while attempting to not overwhelm the end user with information. It’s a tricky balance, and if TOS have taught us anything, it’s that too much information upfront will ultimately result in the user’s eyes glazing over. In the case of this information, that could potentially lead to serious consequences if not properly adhered to.

Some of the key takeaways:

  • It cannot detect a heart attack (see a doctor)
  • It cannot detect blood clots or a stroke (see a doctor)
  • It cannot detect other heart-related conditions (see a doctor)
  • [It] is not constantly looking for AFib

That last one is particularly important when distinguishing between the new features. While heart rhythm detection is a feature, the Watch isn’t regularly looking for atrial fibrillation. That’s where the ECG app and the finger detection come in. The feature is intended to be used when the heart rhythm monitor detects that something is off — like a skipped or rapid heartbeat. In which case, it will send a notification right to your wrist.

If that happens, fire up the ECG app, rest your arm on your lap or a table and hold your finger to the crown for 30 seconds. Apple will display a real-time graph of your heart rhythm while you wait. It’s strangely soothing, honestly, though Apple doesn’t recommend using the feature with much regularity, unless you have cause to.

Using it just now, I got a “This ECG does not show signs of atrial fibrillation” note, meaning the reading falls within the parameters of a sinus rhythm.

Here’s your old friends at WebMD:

Your heart’s job is to pump blood to your body. When it’s working the way it should, it pumps to a regular, steady beat. This is called a normal sinus rhythm. When it’s not, you could have an irregular heartbeat called AFib.

So, good. No need to call the doctor. If you’re still feeling unwell, however, there’s a quick link to dial emergency services on the screen. There’s also a spot for adding any symptoms you might be having if you’re feeling less than 100 percent. And while Apple promises not to share any of the info collected on-device, you can always export your findings to a PDF for your doctor to take a gander at.

Along with the new feature comes a new White Paper, detailing the technology. It’s an usual bit of transparency from Apple, but the company understandably wants to be as upfront about the technology as possible. The paper details a lot of what went into bringing the feature up to speed for general availability.

Apple started with a pre-clinical study of 2,000 subjects, including ~15 percent who have been diagnosed with heart arrhythmia. Six-hundred subjects were then involved with the clinical trial to validate the AFib.

Per Apple, “Rhythm classification of a 12-lead ECG by a cardiologist was compared to the rhythm classification of a simultaneously collected ECG from the ECG app. The ECG app demonstrated 98.3% sensitivity in classifying AFib and 99.6% specificity in classifying sinus rhythm in classifiable recordings.”

The company employed similar methods to validate the Irregular Rhythm notifications. “Of the participants that wore an Apple Watch and ECG patch at the same time,” the company writes, “almost 80 percent received the notification and showed AFib on the ECG patch, and 98 percent received the notification and showed other clinically relevant arrhythmias on the ECG patch.”

In addition to that testing, the company has also employed a number of medical doctors to help ensure the product meets the sort of exacting standards one would hope from a product like this.

More information on the research can be found in this Stanford partnered paper published earlier this month.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Apple’s HomePod will be available in China starting early next year

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“嘿 Siri!” Apple’s HomePod will be available for sale in China early next year. A listing is already up on Apple’s China site, with the smart speaker priced at RMB 2,799 (about $407), or about 17% more than its $349 price in the United States. Though Apple doesn’t list an exact shipping date for Chinese buyers, it says the HomePod will be available in early 2019.

HomePod rivals Amazon Echo and Google Home haven’t launched in China, but Apple’s smart speakers will compete with a host of homegrown devices including Tencent’s Tingting, which integrates with WeChat, Alibaba’s Tmall Genie, several models by Baidu, Mobvoi’s TicHome Mini, and Xiaomi’s Mi Bluetooth speaker.

Several of these smart speakers are much, much cheaper than the HomePod; for example, the Tmall Genie, Tingting, and Baidu’s Xiaodu have each been offered at a discounted price of about $15. But in spite of its significantly higher price, the HomePod will probably still be an attractive option for iOS users. Despite formidable competition from Samsung, Huawei, and Xiaomi, Apple held an 11.9% market share in China as of the second quarter of 2018, according to Gartner.

The HomePod launched in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia in February before rolling out over the succeeding months in France, Germany, Canada, Mexico, and Spain.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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