Vendor News

Apple Working on Dedicated AI Chip?

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Apple Working on Dedicated AI Chip?

According to Bloomberg future iDevices might get a processor dedicated entirely to AI-related tasks-- an "Apple Neural Engine" handling voice commands and speech recognition.

Artificial Intelligence has long been a topic relevant to Apple interests. After all, it was the first company to integrate a voice-controlled assistant in both its mobile device and computer operating systems. However, as of late rivals have been more aggressive in their AI products, as both Amazon and Google are busy pushing their Echo and Home digital assistants.

As Bloomberg puts it, "an AI-enabled processor would help Apple integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, particularly cars that drive themselves and gadgets that run augmented reality, the technology that superimposes graphics and other information onto a person’s view of the world."

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Apple Buys... Sleep Tracker Maker?

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Apple Buys... Sleep Tracker Maker?

A privacy policy update reveals Apple has bought Beddit, a Finnish maker of sleep-track devices users can connect with iOS and Apple Watch apps.

"Beddit has been acquired by Apple," the policy reads. "Your personal data will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Apple Privacy Policy."

The latest Beddit product is the Beddit 3 Sleep Monitor-- a sensor-equipped strip users install under the bed sheets. It tracks movements using "ballistocardiography," with no need for users to wear an activity tracker (or even remember to switch it on). Once the night is over it pushes collected data to iDevices, with HealthKit compatibility.

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iPhone Sales Down in Apple's Q2

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iPhone Sales Down in Apple's Q2

Apple claims a "strong" fiscal Q2 2017 (ending 1 April 2017), with revenues reaching $52.9 billion and net profit of $11.0bn-- even if it also reports a surprise drop in iPhone sales reaching 50.8 million.

The previous quarter saw iPhone sales reach 51.1m, perhaps a sign of customers holding Apple smartphone purchases back in anticipation of the 10th anniversary model the company should reveal later this year. And while the dip might appear slight it did lead to share prices falling (specifically by -1.9%), although that might be in part due to shareholders wanting more of the company's $250bn-plus cash and investments hoard.

"There is a general softening in phone demand to contend with as well as expectations of a big upgrade, all of which softens the blow of this quarter's miss," Forrester Research tells Reuters. "If we see Apple downplaying expectations before the next upgrade cycle, it might mean that the company isn't confident it will beat those expectations."

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Apple to Invest "Several Billion Dollars" in Toshiba?

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Apple to Invest

According to Japanese public broadcaster NHK Apple might team up with Foxconn to invest in the Toshiba semiconductor business-- specifically by a 20% stake in the company worth "at least several billion dollars."

The broadcaster adds such a plan allays Japanese government concern over the transfer of sensitive technology to investers deemed a "potential risk to national security." It also keeps Toshiba under US and Japanese control, since the Japanese company would maintain a partial stake in the unit.

Bloomberg adds to the story, saying Foxconn (aka Hon Hai) could control as much as 30% of the semiconductor unit should the bid be accepted. Foxconn reportedly already offered $27bn for the company, but its ties with China can sour the deal due to security concerns.

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LeEco-Vizio Merger No More!

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LeEco-Vizio Merger No More!

Internet and CE company LeEco announces its acquisition of TV maker Vizio is no more due to "regulatory headwinds," with rumours suggesting issues with Chinese regulatory authorities.

However, the two companies say they have achieved a new agreement-- one described by LeEco as a "win for both companies," since it involves LeEco bringing Vizio products to China via its content and distribution channels, while Vizio connected appliances get the Le app.

Announced back in August 2016, the $2 billion acquisition of Vizio would have created a combined entity worth $4 billion. Such ambitions were not to be though, since 2016 saw LeEco facing a series of financial woes. Recent examples include failure to pay US employees and lawsuits from multiple vendors accusing the Chinese company of not paying for goods and/or services. This despite an investment worth $2.2 billion from multiple Chinese backers.

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Mad Catz Files Bankruptcy

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Mad Catz Files Bankruptcy

Gaming peripheral maker Mad Catz is out of business, announcing it has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief with plans to liquidate all assets.

All Mad Catz directors and officers have also resigned, effective as of 30 March 2017, and other subsidiaries have filed or will file for liquidation under legislation in their countries of origin.

As CEO Karen McGinnis puts it, “regrettably and notwithstanding that for a significant amount of time the company has been actively pursuing its strategic alternatives, including various near-term financing alternatives such as bank financing and equity infusions, as well as potential sales of certain assets of the company or a sale of the company in its entirety, the company has been unable to find a satisfactory solution to its cash liquidity problems.”

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Apple, Google, Amazon in Bidding War for Toshiba NAND unit?

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Apple, Google, Amazon in Bidding War for Toshiba NAND unit?

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun Daily a number of big names are in a bidding war for the Toshiba NAND memory unit, including the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon.

In total, the Japanese newspaper says, 10 companies are looking to buy the Toshiba semiconductor operation. Among them are US private equity firm Silver Lake, Broadcom (who reportedly offered Toshiba around $18 billion for the unit), Western Digital, SK Hynix, Foxconn and TSMC.

Toshiba accounts for 20% of the NAND market, but apparently plans to sell the lucrative unit to make up for the loss of US nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection.

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Apple Ends Deal With Imagination Tech

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Apple Ends Deal With Imagination Tech

Apple announces it is to stop using graphics technology from British firm Imagination Technologies in consumer devices in up to 2 years' time, since it is working on own graphics processing chips.

Imagination supplies the PowerVR technology behind the GPUs inside all iDevices, be it iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs and the Watch. The royalties received from the sale of each iDevice make around 50% of all Imagination revenues.

"Apple has not presented any evidence to substantiate its assertion that it will no longer require Imagination’s technology, without violating Imagination’s patents, intellectual property and confidential information," the company adds. "This evidence has been requested by Imagination but Apple has declined to provide it."

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Intel Buys Into Self-Driving Cars

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Intel Buys Into Self-Driving Cars

Intel announces the $15.3 billion acquisition of Mobileye, a maker of chips for vision-based self-driving cars. In addition, Chipzilla plans to invest $250bn in autonomous vehicles over the next 2 years.

"The acquisition of Mobileye brings together the assets of Intel’s Xeon processors, FPGAs, 3D XPoint memory, and 5G modems with the world leader in automotive computer vision," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich says. "This acquisition essentially merges the intelligent eyes of the autonomous car with the intelligent brain that actually drives the car."

Mobileye works on systems allowing vehicles to navigate autonomously and provide collision warnings. Tesla used to be a Mobileye partner, but ties were severed after a fatal accident caused by Mobileye technology failing to distinguish between a laterally crossing truck and the sky behind it.

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Post-PC Intel Looks to Drones

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Post-PC Intel Looks to Drones

An ailing PC market drives Intel to look for other product categories in which to prosper-- such as drones, as Chipzilla now offers the Aero Ready to Fly Drone.

The Aero is a full-assembled drone complete with integrated flight controller, remote control receiver and transmitter. Since it is an Chipzilla product it uses an Intel CPU (specifically an Atom x7-Z8750) and a 3D RealSense depth camera, which come in handy when used together with GPS, altimeter and magnetometer to power an auto-pilot mode.

Other details include 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, 802.11ac wifi and a USB 3.0 port. The OS of choice is a version of Linux, meaning programmers can develop apps for the drone. Construction is in carbon fibre, and of course it also includes electronic speed controllers, motors and propellers. Strangely enough the package does not include a power pack-- instead customers need to buy a specific high-capacity lithium-polymer battery separately.

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Bloomberg: Apple "Struggles" With Big Deals

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Bloomberg: Apple

Apple might be one of the biggest companies in the world, but according to Bloomberg it struggles to make big deals due to risk aversion, reluctance to work with external advisers and inexperience with large takeovers.

The iPhone maker arguably needs to make more deals if it wants to expand into new markets and, with a money pile worth $246 billion, it is more than able to pay for them. But why does its 2nd biggest purchase-- following the 2014 acquisition of Beats for $3bn-- remain that of NeXT Computer in 1996, which was worth $400 million? According to Architect Partners managing partner Eric Risley the answer lies in Apple culture, since it feels "very capable of building things," as opposed to buying them.

The company currently focuses on growing its services businesses, namely Apple Music, the App Store and iCloud. Such investments appear to work (Apple forecasts services revenues will total $50bn by 2021), but analysts and investors are urging for at least one big acquisition if it wants to expand and succeed in other market segments.

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