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Bosch to Invest More Than EUR 400 Million in Chip Production in Germany, Malaysia Next Year

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By Reuters | Updated: 29 October 2021

German technology group Robert Bosch has earmarked more than EUR 400 million (roughly Rs. 3,490 crore) for investments in microchip production in Germany and Malaysia next year to ease a global shortage.

A lack of chips for automakers has disrupted vehicle production around the world, with suppliers relying almost exclusively on chips from only a few manufacturers in Asia and the United States.

The largest part of Bosch’s budget will be spent on a faster expansion of its Dresden, Germany factory for 300-millimeter wafers, which the group inaugurated in June, it said in a statement on Friday.

About EUR 50 million (roughly Rs. 436 crore) will be invested at a site in Reutlingen near Stuttgart making 200-millimeter wafers, said the company, which also makes car parts and factory automation systems.

Another project to be funded will be the construction of a semiconductor testing facility in Penang, Malaysia, it added, without specifying the level of investment.

Intel, the biggest maker of processor chips for PCs and data centres, said last month it could invest up to EUR 80 billion (roughly Rs. 698 crore) in Europe over the next decade.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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US Federal Trade Commission Sues to Block Nvidia-Arm Deal

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By Reuters | Updated: 3 December 2021

The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday sued to block US chip company Nvidia’s more than $80 billion (roughly Rs. 5,99,760 crore) planned acquisition of British chip technology provider Arm, adding to already significant global regulatory challenges of the deal.

The FTC said the proposed deal would give one of the largest chip companies control over computing technology and designs that competitors rely on to develop their own competing chips.

The deal has been widely expected to fall apart after facing opposition in the chip industry. British regulators said last month they would launch an in-depth probe of the deal, and it is also under scrutiny in the European Union.

Arm licenses its chip architecture and blueprints to major chipmakers Apple, Qualcomm, and Samsung, underpinning the global smartphone ecosystem. Arm was sold to Japan’s SoftBank in 2016.

Nvidia said it would “work to demonstrate that this transaction will benefit the industry and promote competition.”

Arm declined to comment.

The stock-heavy deal has more than doubled in value since it was announced in September 2020 as Nvidia shares have risen on the performance of its data centre business. Nvidia will owe only a $1.25 billion (roughly Rs. 9,370 crore) breakup fee if the deal does not close, and its shares closed up 2.2 percent at $321.26 (roughly Rs. 24,090) on Thursday.

“Nobody thinks the deal is going to close,” said Stacy Rasgon, an analyst with Bernstein. “The data centre story has been really playing out. The software narrative has become a bigger piece of the story. I would love to see this deal, but I don’t think they need it.”

Before Nvidia’s offer, SoftBank had planned to file for an initial public offering for Arm. While Arm’s revenue is growing briskly, rising 56.3 percent to $1.46 billion (roughly Rs. 10,945 crore) in the six months ended September 30, it is unclear whether Arm, in an IPO, would fetch anything close to the $80 billion (roughly Rs. 5,99,760 crore) in value offered by Nvidia.

That would be a new blow for the Japanese conglomerate whose Vision Fund assets sank by $10 billion (roughly Rs. 74,970 crore) last month, driven by plummeting valuations for investments in Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba and ride-hailing service Didi Global.

The FTC, which is made up of two Republicans and two Democrats, voted 4-0 to approve the challenge to the planned merger.

‘Higher prices and less choice’

The FTC alleged “the proposed merger would give Nvidia the ability and incentive to use its control of this technology to undermine its competitors, reducing competition and ultimately resulting in reduced product quality, reduced innovation, higher prices, and less choice, harming the millions of Americans who benefit from Arm-based products.”

The FTC added the combined firm “would have the means and incentive to stifle innovative next-generation technologies, including those used to run datacentres and driver-assistance systems in cars.”

Some semiconductor firms such as MediaTek and Broadcom have voiced support for the deal. But other firms such as Qualcomm have opposed it over concerns that Nvidia would have a first look at key technologies that they depend on and could then have better insights into their future products.

Qualcomm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nvidia’s chief executive, Jensen Huang, made a biting comment at an industry dinner last month, saying that Qualcomm Chief Executive Cristiano Amon, who recently took the helm of an industry trade group, had proven to be a master advocate in the battle over Arm. Qualcomm had its own extensive battles with global regulators, including the FTC, which Qualcomm prevailed over after the regulator brought an antitrust lawsuit against it.

“He’s the perfect person to advocate for our industry,” Huang said from a stage as Amon sat in the audience. “I was trying to figure out, how is it possible that Cristiano knew every single regulator on the planet, and by the time I got there to tell them about my story on Arm, he was already there advocating against it?” Huang said, to stunned laughter from the crowd.

The FTC said it has cooperated closely with staff of the competition agencies in the European Union, United Kingdom, Japan, and South Korea.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Original Apple Computer Built by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to Be Auctioned

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 9 November 2021

An original Apple computer, hand-built by company founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak 45 years ago, goes under the hammer in the United States on Tuesday.

The functioning Apple-1, the great-great-grandfather of today’s sleek chrome-and-glass Macbooks, is expected to fetch up to $600,000 (roughly Rs. 4.44 crore) at an auction in California.

The so-called “Chaffey College” Apple-1 is one of only 200 made by Jobs and Wozniak at the very start of the company’s odyssey from garage start-up to megalith worth $2 trillion (roughly Rs. 1,48,09,546 crore).

What makes it even rarer is the fact the computer is encased in koa wood — a richly patinated wood native to Hawaii. Only a handful of the original 200 were made in this way.
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Jobs and Wozniak mostly sold Apple-1s as component parts. One computer shop that took a delivery of around 50 units decided to encase some of them in wood, the auction house said.

“This is kind of the holy grail for vintage electronics and computer tech collectors,” Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen told the Los Angeles Times. “That really makes it exciting for a lot of people.”

Auction house John Moran Auctioneers says the device, which comes with a 1986 Panasonic video monitor, has only ever had two owners.

“It was originally purchased by an electronics professor at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, California, who then sold it to his student in 1977,” a listing on the auction house’s website says.

The Los Angeles Times reported the student — who has not been named — paid just $650 (roughly Rs. 48,100) for it at the time.

That student now stands to make a pretty penny: a working Apple-1 that came to the market in 2014 was sold by Bonhams for more than $900,000 (roughly Rs. 6.66 crore).

“A lot of people just want to know what kind of a person collects Apple-1 computers and it’s not just people in the tech industry,” Cohen said.

Apple raced to success in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but foundered after the departure of Jobs and Wozniak.

The company was reinvigorated in the late 1990s, and Jobs was brought back into the fold as the chief executive.

He oversaw the launch of the iPod, and later the world-changing iPhone, before his death in 2011.

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Toshiba to Split Business Into Three Amidst Crises, Buyout Offer: Report

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 9 November 2021

Toshiba plans to split into three companies as early as 2023, a report said Tuesday, after a series of crises at the firm including the ouster of the board’s chairman and a contentious buyout offer.

The Nikkei business daily said the three units would focus on infrastructure, devices and semiconductor memory and are expected to be listed, possibly within two years.

Toshiba told AFP the option of splitting its business up was under consideration but said nothing had been decided yet.

The Nikkei, which did not cite sources, said the move could be announced Friday when Toshiba reports earnings and unveils a new mid-term business plan.

“We are drafting a mid-term business plan to enhance our corporate value, and dividing our businesses is one of the options, but there is nothing officially decided at this point,” Toshiba spokesman Tatsuro Oishi told AFP.

“We will swiftly announce if we decide anything that should be disclosed,” he said.

The decision, if confirmed, would cap a period of enormous upheaval for the firm, once a symbol of Japan’s advanced technology and economic power.

In June, shareholders voted to oust the board’s chairman after a series of scandals and losses, in a rare victory for activist investors in corporate Japan.

The move followed the damaging revelations of an independent probe that concluded Toshiba attempted to block shareholders from exercising their proposal and voting rights.

The investigation’s report detailed how the firm had pursued an intervention from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to help sway a board vote.

The revelations came after an unexpected buyout offer in April from a private equity fund associated with then-CEO Nobuaki Kurumatani.

The offer sparked uproar, with allegations it was intended to blunt the influence of activist investors.

Other offers emerged subsequently, and Kurumatani resigned in April, though he insisted it was not related to the buyout controversy.

The decision to split Toshiba’s businesses “is a consequence of listening to activist shareholders”, said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst with Ace Research Institute.

The move would be seen by proponents as maximising the combined market value of Toshiba’s operations.

But he warned there could be downsides.

“While the market value could be maximised… you can’t cover losses in one business with profits in other businesses,” making individual segments of Toshiba’s operation potentially more vulnerable, he said.

The Nikkei noted that splitting up conglomerates had been a successful strategy for some firms in the United States, including Hewlett-Packard.

But for others, such as chemical giant DuPont, which separated into three firms under shareholder pressure, overall market capitalisation is now lower, the daily pointed out.

The move is relatively rare in Japan, and Toshiba would be the first major conglomerate to split into completely independent listed companies, the Nikkei said.

Yasuda said Toshiba faces unique pressure from its shareholders, putting it in a different position to other major Japanese companies.

But, he added, “if (the split) proves to be successful, others would follow suit”.

Toshiba’s stock shares rose more than two percent in opening Tokyo trade but finished the morning in negative territory.

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Microsoft Rolls Out New Tech to Connect Its Cloud to Rivals

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By Reuters | Updated: 3 November 2021

Microsoft on Tuesday announced a new round of technologies aimed at making its cloud computing services work in data centres it does not own – including the cloud data centres of its rivals.

The strategy, Microsoft executives and analysts say, has been key to the company’s rise in the cloud computing infrastructure market, which research firm Gartner estimates hit $64.3 billion (roughly Rs. 4,79,650 crore) and where Microsoft is second only to market leader Amazon’s Amazon Web Services. Microsoft last week said revenue from Azure, its flagship cloud offering, grew 48 percent, results that helped it overtake Apple as the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.

Microsoft’s strategy has involved constructing its most lucrative cloud software services, such as database tools, so that they can run inside its own data centres, those owned by customers or even those of rivals like Amazon.

Microsoft’s cloud and artificial intelligence chief Scott Guthrie told Reuters that the move has persuaded some customers to use its services when they cannot always use Microsoft’s data centres. Royal Bank of Canada, Guthrie said, faces legal requirements to keep some of its computing work in its own data centres and uses a technology called Azure Arc to connect those facilities to Microsoft’s cloud.

“The challenge with higher-level services historically has been the concern of ‘lock in’ – what happens if I can only use them in your data centre?” Guthrie said. “That freedom of movement causes customers to feel much more comfortable using those services.”

Ed Anderson, a vice president distinguished analyst with Gartner, said the approach does open doors for Microsoft with customers, but it also forces the company to compete on the quality of its software services rather than by packaging them with cheap computing power.

“To be honest, that’s a better way to compete,” Anderson said. “Customers are suspicious of rhetoric. They look for evidence of capabilities and are cautious of things where in principle technology is multi-cloud but maybe the software licensing doesn’t support it.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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iMac Pro With M1 Pro, M1 Max Chips to Launch in 2022: Report

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By ANI | Updated: 1 November 2021

The next-generation iMac, which is currently in the works, could possibly be called the iMac Pro.

As per Mac Rumors, the device will feature the same M1 Pro and M1 Max chips that Apple introduced with the MacBook Pro models, and there could possibly be “an added configuration.”

Apple is said to be using the Pro naming to differentiate the upcoming iMac from the 24-inch iMac that was released earlier this year.

As it will use the M1 Pro and Max chips, Apple considers it a Pro device and is calling it the iMac Pro internally.

As per sources, the iMac will feature a 27-inch mini-LED display with ProMotion technology, though some prior rumours have indicated that the next-generation iMac will have a larger display.

Unlike the 24-inch iMac, the iMac Pro will feature dark bezels, and bezel size could be slimmed down.

Design-wise, it could look similar to the 24-inch iMac and the Pro Display XDR, and Apple has apparently tested Face ID for the machine, but this is not a confirmed feature.

The base model iMac will feature 16GB memory and 512GB of storage, and all models will be equipped with an HDMI port, an SD card slot, and several USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, similar to the MacBook Pro. Apple is also said to be including an Ethernet port on the power adapter.

According to sources, the iMac will have a starting price at or over $2,000 (roughly Rs. 1.5 lakh), and it will be launching in the first half of 2022. The upcoming iMac Pro will replace the current Intel-based 27-inch iMac models.

We haven’t heard much about Apple’s larger iMac, but sources have confirmed that such a machine is in the works. Apple reportedly paused work on the bigger iMac to work on the 24-inch model, but now that the 24-inch iMac is out, development can resume.

According to rumours, Apple is working on a new 27-inch iMac with a mini-LED display and ProMotion display technology.

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Cloud Computing Providers’ Anti-Competitive Practices Should Be Curbed by EU Tech Rules: Study

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By Reuters | Updated: 26 October 2021

Draft EU rules to curb the power of Amazon, Apple, Alphabet unit Google, and Facebook should also tackle providers of cloud computing services for possible anti-competitive practices, a study said on Tuesday. The report comes amid concerns that some EU lawmakers who are reviewing the Digital Markets Act (DMA) proposed by EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager may be lenient towards cloud computing companies.

Amazon’s Amazon Web Services was the leading provider in the second quarter, followed by Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, market research company Statista found. Others include IBM Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, Salesforce, and Oracle.

Frederic Jenny, chairman of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Competition Committee, put together the study, in his personal capacity, for trade body Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe (CISPE).

The new EU rules should also cover software licensing, the report said, with respondents citing unfair terms imposed by some of the big software companies to access their cloud infrastructure.

“The DMA does say that cloud infrastructure can come within the ambit of the DMA but it is not obvious that all the suppliers are covered,” Jenny told Reuters in an interview.

“For example, it doesn’t seem that Google Cloud qualifies under the DMA as a gatekeeper or IBM Cloud or Salesforce.”

Potential anti-competitive practices by some companies could include unfair pricing techniques or efforts to make users’ move to a rival technically difficult, he said.

Jenny said the study interviewed some 25 companies that use cloud computing services, some of which cited issues such as unfair licence terms that force customers to pay again to use software they already own when they move to a competitor.

Respondents were also concerned about providers bundling software products with their cloud infrastructure to make rival products either less attractive or more expensive.

Google, Oracle and SAP declined to comment. Microsoft and Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

EU lawmakers have to thrash out the draft DMA with EU countries before it becomes law, possibly in 2023.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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