Category: Business

IBM works on its AI ABBs

Biggish Blue has teamed up with a Swiss engineering company in a cunning plan to ramp up its presence in digital technology and the internet of things.

In a joint statement, ABB said it would combine its digital offering, which gathers information from machinery, with IBM’s expertise in artificial intelligence featured in its Watson data analytics software. The two companies will jointly develop and sell new products.

ABB Chief Executive Ulrich Spiesshofer said in a statement that the glorious alliance was a powerful combination which marks the next level of industrial technology, moving beyond current connected systems that simply gather data, to industrial operations and machines that use data to sense, analyse, optimise and take actions that drive greater uptime, speed and yield for industrial customers.

Instead of manual machinery inspections, ABB and IBM intend to use Watson’s artificial intelligence to help find defects via real-time images collected by an ABB system, and then analysed using IBM Watson.

ABB has identified digital technology as a growth driver. It now gets around 55 percent of sales from digitally enabled products.
It has previously signed a deal with Microsoft to roll out digital products for customers in the robotics, marine and ports, electric vehicles and renewable energy sectors.

Another player signs up for a load of old Tosh

US private equity outfit KKR & Co and Japanese government-backed fund, Innovation Network of Japan (INCJ) have announced that they will send a joint offer for Toshiba’s memory chip unit.

They are the latest to throw their hat into the ring to buy the memory chip unit, which Tosh is flogging off to cover charges at its US nuclear business, Westinghouse.

KKR is expected to take part next month in a second bidding round after performing due diligence on Toshiba’s memory chip business, the Nikkei report said.

INCJ could invest in the Toshiba business if it made sense, Japan’s industry and trade minister had said on Wednesday. The Japanese are concerned about Japanese companies being flogged off overseas.

Toshiba has so far narrowed the field of bidders to four: Western Digital, Broadcom, South Korea’s SK Hynix and Foxconn.

Apple and Facebook spend a fortune lobbying Trump

Facebook and Apple set their record high for spending in a single quarter. Facebook spent $3.2 million lobbying the federal government in the first months of the Trump era.

During the same period last year, Facebook spent $2.8 million which sounds rather a lot but it is actually 15 percent less than it spent this year.

The company lobbied both chambers of Congress, the White House, and six federal agencies on issues including high-tech worker visas, network neutrality, internet privacy, encryption, and international taxation.

Facebook was the 12th-highest spender out of any company and second-highest in tech.

The Fruity cargo cult Apple spent $1.4 million, which is just $50,000 more than during the final months of the Obama presidency, when it set its previous record and the most it has ever spent in a single quarter.

Apple lobbied on issues including government requests for data, the regulation of mobile health apps, and self-driving cars.

Google, once again, outspent every other technology company. It was tenth overall, tallying $3.5 million.

While the search giant decreased its lobbying spending compared with this time last year, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber all boosted their beltway budgets for the first three months of 2017.

Amazon spent $3 million on lobbying, behind only Facebook and Google, and was 17th out of all companies including ones outside of tech. Amazon met with government officials to discuss net neutrality, drone air cargo, drone privacy, and the flow of data across borders, among other issues. Microsoft claimed $2.3 million as the fourth-biggest spender in tech and 27th overall.

Apple forces suppliers to shred gear

Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Report reveals some rather nasty tricks that the company does to kill off the life span of its products.

While the Tame Apple Press has been singing praises of Apple’s environmental record based on the report it is choosing to ignore some very important environmental misses.

While Apple said that its aim is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate, that is mostly a moonshot plan and not as important as Jobs’ Mob actually doing something itself.

The most important is Apple’s current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could to salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap and reuse them.

Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused — instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass.

After sorting, the materials are sold and used for production stock in new products. No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale.

While this is great for Jobs’ Mob, it means that users are forced to buy new gear, which places a strain on the environment.

Tesla settles autopilot lawsuit

Tesla has settled the lawsuit against its former director of Autopilot Programs, Sterling Anderson, for stealing proprietary information about the Autopilot programme and recruiting fellow Tesla engineers to work with him at Aurora Innovation.

The lawsuit was settled with Tesla withdrawing its allegations without damages and Aurora agreeing to make itself available for an audit by a third party to make sure it doen’t have proprietary information from Tesla’s Autopilot program.

Aurora also agreed to cover the cost of the audit for up to $100,000. The startup claims that it had already ordered its own audit, which found no material Tesla confidential information.

As for the allegations of poaching employees, Aurora has agreed not to reach out to Tesla employees for a year and to release the names of former Tesla employees who have joined the startup already.

It seems rather odd that Tesla appears to be backing down having made such a bit noise against the outfit. It does appear as if the whole legal project went off half cocked from the outset.  The tech press did a quite shufty at all the Aurora employees on LinkedIn and it is  clear that Tesla has nothing to moan about.

A handful of Autopilot engineers joined Aurora while almost a dozen former Uber engineers working on self-driving have joined the startup, including Drew Bagnell, a Carnegie Mellon University who was part of Uber’s autonomous driving leadership until last December.

 

Inspector Ballmer investigates government spending

The shy and retired former executive Steve “there’s a kind of hush” Ballmer is apparently not interested in quietly retiring.

Ballmer owns the Los Angeles Clippers, teaches at Stanford and USC and now has created a new start-up called USAFacts.

The start-ups aim is to improve political discourse by making government financial data easier to access.

A small “army” of economists, professors and other professionals will be looking into and publishing data structured similarly to the 10-K filings companies issue each year — expenses, revenues and key metrics pulled from dozens of government data sources and compiled into a single massive collection of tables.

The nonpartisan site will trace $5.4 trillion in government spending under four categories derived from language in the US Constitution.

Défence spending, for example, is categorised under the header “provide for the common defence,” while education spending is under “secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity”. Spending allocation and revenue sources are each mapped out in blue and pink graphics, with detailed breakdowns along federal, state and local lines. Users can also search for specific datasets, such as airport revenue or crime rates, and the site includes a report of “risk factors” that could inhibit economic growth.

Apparently the idea came from a conversation with his missus Connie who was trying to get him interested in some of her philanthropic efforts.

He thought that since he seemed to be paying rather a lot in tax it should be the government who is providing all the aid and health care to the great unwashed.

She pointed out that it does not work like that because there are things government does not get to do in the US and he was missing out on knowing this.

Ballmer is not one to take that sort of comment lying down, or standing up, particularly there is a chair close to hand, so he sought to figure out what the government really does with the money.

He might not like the results. A big chunk of US tax money appears to go on defence and the rest goes to propping up American corporations.

His database will give more detail and answer questions like how many coppers are employed in various parts of the country and compare that against crime rates
Revenue is brought in from parking tickets and the cost to collect. The percentage of Americans suffer from diagnosed depression and how much the government spends on it.

Ballmer calls it “the equivalent of a 10-K for government,” referring to the kind of annual filing that companies make.

“You know, when I really wanted to understand in depth what a company was doing, Amazon or Apple, I’d get their 10-K and read it. It’s wonky, it’s this, it’s that, but it’s the greatest depth you’re going to get, and it’s accurate.”

Vacuum outfits suck on Roomba law suit

IRobot, the maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, is suing its rivals for nicking its patented tech.

iRobot filed lawsuits in federal court in Boston against Hoover, Black & Decker, Bobsweep and Bissell Homecare. IRobot said they infringe on several of its patents covering the idea of an autonomous floor-cleaning robot.

“iRobot will not stand by while others offer products that infringe on our intellectual property,” the company said in a statement.

IRobot launched Roomba in 2002 but has faced increased competition from other appliance makers.

Residential robotic vacuums sucked up $1.5 billion in global revenues in 2016, an amount expected to reach $2.5 billion by the end of 2021. The overall market for household vacuums was $12 billion in 2015.

 

Google opens up Android in Russia

Google will open up Android  to Russian rival search engines as part of a deal to settle a two year dispute with Russian competition authorities.

The deal sets a new precedent for the tech giant, which faces multiple complaints worldwide that it is abusing its dominant position by imposing restrictions on manufacturers of Android-based devices in order to protect its share of the online search market.

Russia’s competition watchdog, FAS, ruled in 2015 that Google was breaking the law by requiring the pre-installation of applications, including its own search tool, on mobile devices using Android, following a complaint by Russia’s Yandex.

Google will no longer demand exclusivity of its applications on Android-based devices in Russia and will not restrict the pre-installation of rival search engines and other applications, as part of a deal with FAS, the regulator said on Monday.

It will also develop a tool allowing users to choose a default search engine on their Android devices.

“Users will be able to change settings at any time and choose the default search engine which suits their needs,” FAS said.

Google confirmed the deal, saying it met the interests of all parties. It also said it had reached a commercial agreement with Yandex that “provides new opportunities for Yandex to promote its search service within Chrome”.

The deal is for a term of six years and nine months and  Google will  have to pay $7.85 million in fines.

Another buyer is kicking Toshiba’s tyres

The state-backed fund Innovation Network of Japan is looking at the auction of Toshiba’s chip unit.

NCJ Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga said the outfit said that it did not participate in first-round bidding, but according to Reuters it might seek to invest in the business as a minority partner.

This is all part of a plan to help the government blocking a sale to bidders it deems risky to national security.

INCJ has confirmed it has set up a team to look at publicly available information regarding the deal but is not conducting due diligence and that it would be unable to bid by itself.

The auction of Toshiba’s prized chips asset is essential to the company’s plans to cover multi-billion dollar write-downs at its US nuclear unit Westinghouse.

Toshiba has narrowed the field of bidders for its chip unit to four suitors, Broadcom partnered with private equity firm Silver Lake; SK Hynix; Western Digital and Foxconn.

Broadcom has put in the highest first-round offer of $23 billion and Taiwan’s Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, offered $18.37 billion.

Intel IDF is No More

Intel has decided to end its annual Intel Developer Forum, including IDF 17 expected in August this year.

Intel posted the following on its webpage;

“Intel has evolved its event portfolio and decided to retire the IDF program moving forward. Thank you for nearly 20 great years with the Intel Developer Forum! Intel has a number of resources available on intel.com, including a Resource and Design Center with documentation, software, and tools for designers, engineers, and developers. As always, our customers, partners, and developers should reach out to their Intel representative with questions.”

Intel announced earlier that it would not be sponsoring an IDF event in China this year. It was still expected in the US with a “new format”.  Prior to today’s announcement, Intel’s IDF page stated:

“We are making changes to the Intel Developer Forum. This fall the event in San Francisco will have a new format and we will not be hosting an event in China. More details to come soon.”

It added to “keep checking this page in the middle of March for updates”.  No update was made in the middle of March, in fact, “keep checking this page” disappeared with today’s announcement permanently cancelling IDF.

IDF was nearly 20 years old and had its origins in the early 1990s as a quarterly update as a service to its PC customers run by sales staff until 1995 when Intel Corporate decided to pick up the venue as an annual industry wide event.

Intel’s business has grown into separate and distinct segments whose management felt that IDF no longer served them as a direct means of communicating their message. The rise of AI, FPGAs, Optane, automotive, IoT, and wireless communications diminished the delivery of any direct message emanating from any one group.

Intel is now deciding how to find new ways of disseminating information to their respective audiences (media, developers and customers). How the company works through this process is still to be determined.

TechEye Take

The fact that Intel’s Data Center Group was not happy over the amount of support it provided to other disparate groups at Intel has been an open secret for a least the last couple of years. It is somewhat of a surprise that the separation did not occur sooner.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that much of what made up IDF is considered to be necessary for the industry financial and strategic technology analysts to understand the company’s Data Center Group’s direction in the Enterprise and Cloud Market segments. But that’s Diane Bryant’s problem now.

What is not clear is what Intel has planned to replace something that was working but not in all the right ways to satisfy certain marketing types in messaging their customers, their investors and the industry at large. Now the entire world+dog is left in the lurch of the wonder gap of what will happen next…,