Earlier this year, Andy Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, was happily building a new company called Essential and working on a “high-end smartphone with a large edge-to-edge screen that lacks a surrounding bezel.”
Much was riding on a $100 million investment from Softbank. Rubin’s company, Essential Products, was to release a new high-end smartphone this spring, and SoftBank planned to market the phone in Japan
However suddenly it appears that Softbank has withdrawn the investment and no longer wants to market the phone on its home turf. The reason appears to be that the fruity cargo cult Apple has suddenly developed an interest in working with Softbank.
Apple has written a $1 billion cheque to SoftBank’s Vision Fund, and according to the Wall Street Journal that deal “complicated” SoftBank’s investment in Essential Products.
Jobs’ Mob did not directly block the deal but the Journal claims but Rubin’s premium phone would be released ahead of the 10th anniversary iPhone and it would have been happy to see it not in the shops.
Foxconn is considering setting up a display making plant in the United States in an investment that will cost $7 billion.
Company chairman and chief executive Terry Gou said the move was to attempt to get around US President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump’s planned protectionism and a trend for politics to underpin economic development.
Foxconn’s proposal to build a display plant, which would be planned with its Sharp unit, will depend on many factors, such as investment conditions, that would have to be negotiated at the U.S. state and federal levels, Gou said.
Gou said that Foxconn had been considering such a move for years but the issue came up when Foxconn business partner Masayoshi Son, head of Japan’s SoftBank talked to Gou before a December meeting Son had with Trump.
Son pledged a $50 billion of investment in the United States and inadvertently disclosed information showing Foxconn’s logo and an unspecified additional $7 billion investment. At the time, Foxconn issued a brief statement saying it was in preliminary discussions to expand its U.S. operations, without elaborating.
The United States has no panel-making industry but it is the second-largest market for televisions. An investment for a display plant would exceed $7 billion and could create about 30,000-50,000 jobs.
“I thought it was a private conversation, but then the next morning it was exposed,” Gou said. “There is such a plan, but it is not a promise. It is a wish.”
This is also a long way from manufacturing iPhones in the US.
If any deal goes ahead it will likely not provide many US jobs either. Foxconn is keen on creating heavily robotised plants with limited human staff.
SoftBank has completed the purchase of British chip designer ARM Holdings for $31.4 billion back in July.
After less than two months, SoftBank is announcing today that the transaction is complete. ARM will be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange tomorrow.
SoftBank’s purchase of ARM is the latest in a line of acquisitions in recent years for the Japanese company, including the $20 billion Sprint acquisition, and a $15 billion investment in Vodafone’s Japanese division.
SoftBank is expected to use the ARM deal to bolster its Internet of Things plans. While ARM only made around $1.5 billion in revenue last year, its low-power and efficient chips are one of the key parts of the mobile world.
Many analysts were surprised by the move, which was the most expensive buy for a European tech company ever. Many thought that SoftBank had lost its marbles with the deal as it had very little to do with that part of the tech industry.
A few weeks after Japanese company Softbank said it would buy ARM for $32 billion. ARM is expected to announce a design to crash into the server and Internet of Things market.
The chip design is being detailed at the Hot Chips conference in Cupertino, California today.
It looks like ARM has got the nod to build a new supercomputer based on the new chip design which will be installed in Japan. The Post-K supercomputer will be developed by Fujitsu, which dropped SPARC architecture for ARM for high-performance computers. Fujitsu helped ARM develop the new chip.
Post-K will be 50 to 100 times speedier than its predecessor, the K Computer, which is currently the fifth fastest computer in the world.
The new ARM processor design will be based on the 64-bit ARM-v8A architecture and have vector processing extensions called Scalable Vector Extension. Vector processors drove early supercomputers, which then shifted over to less expensive IBM RISC chips in the early 1990s, and on to general-purpose x86 processors, which are in most high-performance servers today.
Giant Asian manufacturer Hon Hai’s chairman has said that the company is to turn its gaze on the internet of things (IoT).
And he also told Chinese media that industrial robots are the key to the future.
The Taipei Times quotes Terry Gou as saying that Hon Hai will cooperate with Alibaba and Japanese company Softbank to offer “robotic services”.
Gou doesn’t think that these industrial robots will replace people any time real soon. Hon Hai is a major employer in mainland China, and makes Apple products and others.
It has already installed 48,000 industrial robotic arms in its factories.
Soft bank’s famous Pepper robot was made by Hon Hai and sold out in minutes when it was launched last June.
Chinese phone manufacturer ZTE said it has signed a memorandum of understand with Japanese giant Softbank for joint research and development on 5G networks.
ZTE has technology called Pre5G which includes multiple input, multiple outlet (MIMO) technology. The two companies have already worked together including ultra dense networks and multi user shared access.
ZTE said MIMO base stations are able to support over 100 antenna elements and give higher space division multiplexing gains than traditional eight antenna base stations.
Softbank believes this technology will define standards for future mobile internet communications.
ZTE said that it already has formed alliances with other partners around the world on 5G research and wants to build a system based on open collaboration.
Softbank already has ambitions to dominate a future 5G network and said it will be the industry leader worldwide.
People craving for a pet robot that recognises human emotions and even mimics emotions itself, have another chance to buy the Pepper bot at the end of this month.
Japanese giant Softbank and Taiwanese manufacturer Hon Hai are preparing another batch for release in Japan at the end of this month.
When the 28KG Pepper robot was released first on June 20th, it immediately sold out.
Only 1,000 Peppers can be manufactured a month and they are not cheap at over $1,500 – the big obstacle has been lack of apps for the device but now there are as many as 200 available.
Softbank is also renting Pepper robots for companies to peddle their goods.
Softbank is developing additional abilities for Pepper including 12 hours of battery life and collision detection censors. Pepper can trundle along at three kilometres per hour, and so you don’t have to feel anxious if you let your magic Pepper tortoise go.
Manufacturing costs in mainland China are rising so fast that they’re almost as much as the US and higher than South East Asia, India, and Eastern Europe.
And that’s causing the Chinese government to sponsor robot development in a 10 year plan called Made in China 2025.
According to Taiwanese research company Trendforce, rising labour costs mean that it’s not only China but Germany, Japan and the USA that are putting money into the development of “smart” robots.
Germany is encouraging the development of factories making robots in a state of the art fabrication plant using the internet of things, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.
There are already a number of “smart” robots which, are, however not yet quite smart enough. Softbank launched its Pepper robot last week and it sold out on the first day. And, said Trendforce, Japan is pushing the adoption of nursing care robots because of a shortage of humans wanting to do the jobs.
Trendforce believes that “rapid advances” in artificial intelligence and cloud computing will speed the development of more clever robots in the future.
Mobile phone operator Softbank has started selling smartphones with radiation detectors.
Apparently people are so concerned that radiation is spreading out along Japan’s eastern coast more than a year after the Fukushima crisis that they need re-assuring.
Parts of north-eastern Japan are still off-limits due to high radiation levels after the Fukushima nuclear plant and anti-nuclear sentiment is high.
According to Reuters, groups in Tokyo and other cities are calling for radiation monitoring at schools and other public facilities.
Softbank thinks that the threat from the nuclear accident is a concern for particularly for those with small children.
Softbank founder and president, Masayoshi Son, standing in front of an aerial photo of the crippled plant thinks that this means that people will want a smartphone which tells them if radiation levels are too high.
The smartphone in the company’s “Pantone” series will come in eight bright radiative colours. In each will be customised IC chips made by Sharp that measure radiation levels in microsieverts per hour.
The phone will hit the shops in summer will keep track of each location a user tests for radiation levels.
Son is a critic of nuclear power and advocate of renewable energy sources. He told hacks that the smartphone was more portable and user-friendly than conventional Geiger counters.
An advert by Oracle claiming that Exadata is better than Teradata has caused the latter company to explode in anger and put slated performance benefits down to Intel rather than clever software.
A Teradata blog lashes out at Oracle, even though it says that it’s flattered by the attention.
“It’s also entirely specious – and if you’re concerned that the philosophical parts of this post will either bore you, or represent a pointless exercise in self-justification, then feel free to skip straight to the penultimate section of this essay in order to cut straight to the chase,” the bog says.
The advert in question mentions a Japanese company, which Teradata’s bog says is Softbank.
“So is it true? Did Softbank Mobile (the company described in the advert and referenced elsewhere in Oracle’s marketing literature) really migrate from Teradata to Exadata – and see improved performance, plus a reduction in data centre space, power and cooling requirements into the bargain?
“Yes. All true, just as Oracle says it is,” the bog continues. It explains this by saying that Softbank’s existing Teradata system was obsolete. It claims that the improved performance was down to Intel, “not any advance in Oracle’s software technology”.
Teradata concludes by saying the Softbank design win came in 2009, and it’s surprised that Oracle keeps repeating the story two years on.
There’s more of the unseemly scrap, here.