Tencent Said to Form ‘Extended Reality’ Unit, Steps Into Metaverse World
By Reuters | Updated: 21 June 2022
China’s Tencent announced to its staff on Monday the official formation of an ‘extended reality’ (XR) unit, three people familiar with the matter said, formally placing its bets on the metaverse concept of virtual worlds.
The unit is tasked with building up the extended reality business for Tencent including both software and hardware, the sources said, adding that it will be led by Tencent Games Global’s Chief Technology Officer Li Shen and will be part of the company’s Interactive Entertainment business group.
Two of the sources said the unit will eventually have over 300 staff, a generous figure given how Tencent has been cost cutting and slowing down hiring. However, they also cautioned that the hiring plans are still fluid, as the company will adjust the unit’s headcount based on its performance.
The unit was first formed earlier this year but remained shrouded in secrecy, the three sources said.
Extended reality is a term that refers to immersive technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality, which are seen to be the building blocks of the metaverse.
Tencent, China’s most valuable company, declined to comment.
Investors, entrepreneurs, and established tech giants around the world have latched on to the concept of the metaverse, ever since Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook which recently changed its name to Meta Platforms, announced that he would devote the future of his company to building a metaverse.
Companies from Microsoft to Disney have announced they are also working on their own metaverses, with Chinese and US firms from TikTok owner ByteDance to Apple also building up their headset units involving XR technologies.
The XR unit will mark a rare foray into hardware for Tencent, which is mostly known for its software such as its suite of games as well as social media applications.
One of the sources said the unit was viewed internally as a passion project of Tencent founder and chief executive Pony Ma who first highlighted the importance of the metaverse, or what he called an “all-real internet”, in late 2020.
The introduction of the new team stands in contrast to downsizing happening in other parts of Tencent, which has been implementing cost control measures and scaling back non-core businesses, such as the shuttering of its Penguin Esports unit, to cope with the fall-out from a regulatory crackdown.
Tencent has remained largely coy, publicly, about its metaverse plans. Last November, it told analysts it had a lot of “tech and capability building blocks” to approach the metaverse opportunity but did not go into details.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
HP Misses Quarterly Revenue Estimates as PC, Laptop Sales Drop 29 Percent
By Reuters | Updated: 31 May 2023
HP on Tuesday missed Wall Street targets for second-quarter revenue, hurt by a slowdown in the personal computer market as inflation-hit customers tightened their budgets.
Companies such as HP, Lenovo and Dell Technologies have seen demand ease from peaks hit during the pandemic, when work-from-home trends had driven up sales of laptops and other electronic devices.
Global PC shipments declined nearly 30 percent in the January-March period to levels lower than before the pandemic, according to data from research firm IDC.
Sales for HP’s Personal Systems segment — home to its desktop and notebook PCs — dropped 29 percent in the reported quarter, while the company’s printing segment recorded a 5 percent fall.
HP said it expects second-half revenue to be higher than the first half, even though the year-on-year comparison will still be negative.
“From a demand perspective, especially on the consumer side, the second half is stronger,” said CEO Enrique Lores in an interview with Reuters.
The PC maker now expects annual adjusted profit between $3.30 (roughly Rs. 300) per share and $3.50 (roughly Rs. 350) per share, compared with $3.20 (roughly Rs. 330) to $3.60 (roughly Rs. 360) forecast earlier.
California-based HP’s second-quarter revenue was $12.91 billion (roughly Rs. 1,06,697 crore). Analysts were expecting $13.07 billion (roughly Rs. 1,08,017 crore), according to Refinitiv data.
Net income for the quarter ended April 30 rose to $1.1 billion (roughly Rs. 9,091 crore), or $1.07 (roughly Rs. 90) per share, compared with $1.0 billion (roughly Rs. 8,266 crore), or 94 cents per share, a year ago.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Apple’s $50 Million ‘Butterfly’ Keyboard Class-Action Lawsuit Settlement Approved by US Court
By Reuters | Updated: 27 May 2023
A US judge on Thursday approved Apple’s $50 million (roughly Rs. 412 crore) class-action settlement resolving consumer claims over certain defective MacBook keyboards, in a ruling that spurned challenges to the deal.
US District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, federal court in his ruling called the settlement “fair, adequate and reasonable.”
Eleven consumers from New York, Florida, California, Michigan and several other states were the lead plaintiffs in the national class action alleging consumer protection and warranty claims.
The lawsuit accused Apple of failing to provide sufficient repairs or troubleshooting help for certain MacBook “butterfly” keyboards made between 2015 and 2019.
An Apple spokesperson on Friday did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers announced the deal a year ago. Apple denied any wrongdoing.
Class members will receive $50 (roughly Rs. 400) up to $395 (roughly Rs. 32,600) based on the number and nature of repairs made to a keyboard.
More than 86,000 claims for class member payments were submitted as of early March, Davila’s order showed.
One challenge to the settlement said $125 (roughly Rs. 10,300) — the compensation for members of one group in the class — was not enough, because keyboard repairs can cost more than $300 (roughly Rs. 25,000).
“[T]he possibility that a better settlement may have been reached — or that the benefits provided under the settlement will not make class members ‘whole’ — are insufficient grounds to deny approval,” Davila wrote in his order.
Other challenges argued it was unfair to deny any compensation to MacBook owners who experienced keyboard failures but who did not get them repaired.
Davila said that “while not all who were purportedly injured will receive compensation, the settlement compromise benefits a significant number of individuals.”
The court’s ruling approved a request from the plaintiffs’ lawyers for $15 million (roughly Rs. 123 crore) in legal fees.
Two lead plaintiffs’ lawyers at Girard Sharp and Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith in a statement said they “look forward to getting the money out to our clients.”
The case is In re: MacBook Keyboard Litigation, US District Court, Northern District of California, No. 5:18-cv-02813-EJD.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Cabinet Approves Rs. 17,000 Crore-PLI Scheme to Boost Local Production of Laptops, Tablets
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 18 May 2023
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a Rs. 17,000 crore incentive to boost local manufacturing of IT hardware like tablets and laptops, and the scheme is projected to generate an incremental production worth Rs. 3.35 lakh crore over a period of six years.
IT and Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that companies having high volume sales are interested, and iPad maker Apple is also seriously evaluating the scheme.
The Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme 2.0 for IT hardware covers laptops, tablets, all-in-one PCs, servers and ultra-small form factor devices. The scheme was earlier introduced in 2021 but did not get the expected traction.
“For IT PLI, the budgetary outlay is Rs. 17,000 crore. The tenure of the programme is six years… we will accept first set of applications by October,” Vaishnaw told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.
The scheme is expected to lead to incremental production of Rs. 3.35 lakh crore, incremental investment of Rs. 2,430 crore and create incremental direct employment for 75,000 people during the six-year period, he said.
Further, Vaishnaw said that investments under various PLI schemes, especially those for telecom and mobile phones, have been higher compared to the government estimates.
Under the new scheme, companies will get an incentive of up to 5 percent and an optional incentive of 4 percent if they use domestically-produced components compared to just 2 percent incentive offered under the old scheme.
To a question about which companies are interested in the scheme, Vaishnaw said, “those who have high volumes. You know their names — HP, Dell, Acer, and Asus have high volumes. Apple is niche. They are also very seriously evaluating it.” In February 2021, the government approved the PLI scheme for IT hardware, covering the production of laptops, tablets, All-in-One PCs and servers with an outlay of Rs. 7,350 crore.
However, industry players had requested the government to enhance outlay for the segment.
The global electronics manufacturing ecosystem is coming to India, and it is emerging as a major electronics manufacturing country, the minister said.
When asked about the eligibility of investment from Chinese companies under the scheme, Vaishnaw said there is the well-defined trusted source norms in the country and any company that complies with the rules can invest under PLI Scheme 2.0 for IT hardware.
Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that after the successes in building a rapidly growing and world’s second largest base and a trusted base for smartphone manufacturing, the focus is now on broadening and deepening India’s electronics ecosystem.
“Today’s Cabinet approval of IT hardware PLI 2.0 is focussed on expanding India’s production and presence in global value chains of IT hardware, servers, laptops,” he said.
He also said the scheme will play a key role in catalysing India’s Techade and in achieving $1 trillion digital economy goal, including $300 billion of electronics manufacturing by 2025-26.
Electronics manufacturing in the country has witnessed a 17 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) in the last eight years to cross $105 billion worth of production this year.
The PLI scheme, launched in April 2020 with a focus on mobile phone production, has given a massive boost to electronics manufacturing in the country.
India has become the world’s second-largest manufacturer of mobile phones. Exports of mobile phones crossed $11 billion in March.
Samsung Faces $303 Million Jury Verdict for Patent Infringement
By Reuters | Updated: 22 April 2023
Computer-memory company Netlist convinced a federal jury in Texas on Friday to award it more than $303 million (roughly Rs. 2,500 crore) for Samsung Electronics’s infringement of several patents related to improvements in data processing.
The jury in Marshall, Texas determined after a six-day trial that Samsung’s “memory modules” for high-performance computing willfully infringed all five patents that Netlist accused the Korean tech giant of violating.
Representatives for the companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Netlist stock was up 21 percent following the verdict on Friday afternoon.
Irvine, California-based Netlist sued Samsung in 2021, alleging Samsung memory products used in cloud-computing servers and other data-intensive technology infringe its patents. Netlist said its innovations increase the power efficiency of memory modules and allow users to “derive useful information from vast amounts of data in a shorter period of time.”
A Netlist attorney told the jury that Samsung took its patented module technology after the companies had collaborated on another project, according to a court transcript.
Netlist had asked the jury for $404 million (roughly Rs. 3,300 crore) in damages.
Samsung had argued that the patents were invalid and that its technology worked in a different way than Netlist’s inventions.
The case is Netlist v. Samsung Electronics, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, No. 2:21-cv-00463.
In another news, it was reported that Samsung Electronics was considering replacing Google with Microsoft-owned Bing as the default search engine on its devices. The report, published by the New York Times over the weekend, underscores the growing challenges Google’s $162-billion (roughly Rs. 13,29,477 crore) a-year search engine business face from Bing — a minor player that has risen in prominence recently after the integration of the artificial intelligence tech behind ChatGPT.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Broadcom Jericho3-AI Chip to Wire AI Supercomputers Together Launched
By Reuters | Updated: 19 April 2023
Broadcom on Tuesday released a new chip for wiring together supercomputers for artificial intelligence (AI) work using networking technology that is already in wide use.
Broadcom is a major supplier of chips for Ethernet switches, which are the primary way the computers inside conventional data centers are connected to one another.
But the rise of AI applications like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Alphabet’s Bard have presented new challenges for the networks inside data centers. In order to respond to questions with human-like answers, such systems must be trained using huge amounts of data.
That job is far too big for one computer chip to handle. Instead, the job must be split up over thousands of chips called graphics processing units (GPUs), which then have to function like one giant computer to work on the job for weeks or even months at a time. That makes the speed at which the individual chips can communicate important.
Broadcom on Tuesday announced a new chip, Jericho3-AI, which can connect up to 32,000 GPU chips together. The Jericho3-AI chip will compete with another supercomputer networking technology called InfiniBand.
The biggest maker for InfiniBand gear is now Nvidia, which purchased InfiniBand leader Mellanox for $6.9 billion (roughly Rs. 566 crore) in 2019.
Nvidia is also the market leader in GPUs. While Nvidia-Mellanox systems are some of the fastest supercomputers in the world, many companies are reluctant to give up Ethernet, which is sold by a variety of companies, to buy both their GPUs and networking gear from the same supplier, said Ram Velaga, senior vice president and general manager of the core switching group at Broadcom.
“Ethernet, you can get it from multiple vendors – there’s a lot of competition,” Velaga said. “If we don’t come out with the best Ethernet switch, somebody else will. InfiniBand is a proprietary, single-source, vertically integrated kind of a solution.”
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Apple in Talks With Suppliers to Make MacBook Models in Thailand as Company Looks Beyond China: Report
By Reuters | Updated: 13 April 2023
Apple is in talks with suppliers to make MacBooks in Thailand as the company continues to expand its manufacturing footprint outside of China, Nikkei reported on Thursday.
Suppliers who are participating in these talks have existing manufacturing complexes in Thailand for other clients and are discussing possible assembly and production of components and modules for MacBooks, sources from three suppliers directly involved in the conversations with Apple told Nikkei.
Apple did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Apple and its key suppliers have been shifting production away from China as they seek to avoid a potential hit to business from mounting Sino-US trade frictions.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Apple took the largest hit as global shipments of personal computers (PCs) fell by 29 percent in the first quarter of 2023 due to weak demand, excess inventory and a deteriorating macroeconomic climate.
In the report published Sunday, the International Data Corporation (IDC) said global PC shipments numbered 56.9 million in the first quarter of this year, down from 80.2 million in the same period last year.
Of the top five PC companies analysed in the report, Apple’s Q1 shipments saw the largest drop of 40.5 percent from the same period in 2022, with Dell Technologies coming in second with a drop of 31 percent.
In February, Apple reported that sales of its Mac computers, which had boomed during the wave of working from home during the pandemic, declined 29 percent YoY to $7.7 billion (roughly Rs. 63,083 crore) in their most recent quarter.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
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