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As the much-hyped startup Essential runs into troubles, a smaller company called OnePlus shows the right way to compete with Apple and Samsung (AAPL, GOOGL, GOOG)

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 14:00

  • Essential, the smartphone company founded by Android co-creator Andy Rubin, isn't showing many signs of success. 
  • The company reportedly cut 30% of its staff, cancelled its next phone, and paused development on a smart home product.
  • It's easy to see where Essential went wrong.
  • It's possible to succeed as an upstart smartphone manufacturer — OnePlus, a critical darling of a smartphone manufacturer, managed to do it in 2014. But you need the right strategy.

Essential, the smartphone company founded by Android co-creator Andy Rubin , isn't looking too good right now.

The company cancelled its second smartphone, paused development of a smart home device, and had to lay off 30% of its staff, according to Bloomberg.

It's temping to take Essential's troubles as a sign that there's not enough room in the market for a new smartphone manufacturer. But I'd argue that there's always room for new smartphone makers. They just need the right strategy to become successful. 

In most regards, the Essential Phone was actually a great smartphone. But looking back at the way Essential marketed and released the Essential Phone, it's understandable why its approach hasn't quite clicked so far.

Essential burst onto the scene like it owned the place

One contributing factor was the Essential Phone's price at release of $700. That was a similar asking price as high-end devices from well established phone makers like Apple, Samsung, and LG.

The Essential Phone's main differentiators were a unique and admittedly beautiful edge-to-edge display, and a design with high-end materials, like ceramic for its back. It was also the first phone to come with a notch, before the iPhone X. The notch wasn't necessarily made to be pretty, but it allowed the phone to have an edge-to-edge screen.

The thing is, Essential's lack of street cred seems to have hurt its launch. The lackluster sales of the Essential Phone — only 90,000 in its first six months, according to IDC research director Francisco Jeronimo — reflected how consumers were wary of a brand new smartphone company that hadn't proved itself, and yet demanded the same price as the highest-end devices on the market. And remember, the Essential Phone was largely well received by myself and other critics, apart from some complaints about the camera.

And that puts aside a larger issue: Smartphone users may not have even known about the Essential Phone's existence.

Going for the North American markets first was also probably a terrible move, and possibly the Essential Phone's death knell, because carrier stores are where most Americans buy their smartphones. The only carriers that sell the Essential Phone are Sprint, the smallest of the four main carriers in the US, and Telus in Canada. Smartphone users could buy the Essential Phone directly from Essential, sure, but limited availability at carrier stores doesn't bode well, at least in the US. It's incredibly difficult to be a smartphone player in the US without carrier partnerships, and exclusivity with Sprint doesn't seem to cut it. 

There were also promises of Essential accessories like a 360-degree camera and a charging dock that could magnetically clip onto the back of the Essential Phone. The 360-degree camera wasn't very good at all when I tried it, and the charging dock never materialized.

Judging by the Essential Phone's estimated sales, it's clear that ultra-high-end design and a unique-but-flawed accessory system wasn't enough to get smartphone users interested in the Essential Phone. 

In essence, it seems like Essential did everything wrong, when it's perfectly possible for a new smartphone player to peek its head into the smartphone scene. To make that claim, I'm using the small Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus as a reference.

The OnePlus formula

OnePlus today is showing clear signs of success. It has a loyal and growing fan base that's more likely to buy the new OnePlus phone over any other. It's one of the only Android phones that gets scores of people to line up around city blocks to buy the new phone, much like Apple fans do when a new iPhone comes out. 

And yet, the OnePlus isn't available from carrier stores at all.

Right from the beginning, OnePlus chose not to start with the incredibly difficult US market, like Essential did. When it released the OnePlus One, its first phone, in 2014, it began its operations in India, China, and Europe, where there's less reliance on carrier partnerships. Since 2014, OnePlus has expanded worldwide.

There's a three-year gap between the first releases from OnePlus and Essential. But the competition was arguably even fiercer back in 2014, when there were more phone makers competing in the high-end space, including HTC and Motorola. And in Asia, phones from Xiaomi other other Asia-centric phone makers also posed a daunting challenge.

Apart from starting off in easier markets, the formula that worked for OnePlus was to offer a high-end Android phone with great design and similar specs as the high-end competition, but for a significantly lower price tag. The OnePlus One started at $300 and had similar specs as $650 phones. It seems simple enough, but a lower price tag was only part of the allure in the beginning.

OnePlus also used an "invite only" system to sell its phones that created significant hype. You couldn't buy the phone without an invitation, which you could potentially obtain by creating an account on the OnePlus site, or visiting a OnePlus popup location that would temporarily set up shop in certain cities.

As a result of the invite system, OnePlus phones were elusive and the invite system created an air of exclusivity. It's human nature to want something that's difficult to get, especially when "it" was inexpensive compared to flagship phones with way more marketing. The company expected to sell only 30,000 to 50,000 units, but it had sold almost a million in about nine months, by the end of 2014. As a reminder, Essential had only sold 90,000 units six months after the Essential Phone was released. 

Funnily enough, the hype created by the invite system was a side-effect. According to OnePlus, the invite system was always a way to manage how many phones it would make to prevent over-production. It was a lean and efficient operation. And that's perhaps another reason why OnePlus is doing well. It's moving at a nice and comfortable slow pace, whereas Essential was moving very quickly in a lot of directions. 

To be clear, OnePlus isn't selling as many phones as Apple, Samsung, or Xiaomi. But it sure is selling more phones than Essential. And it seems to be hitting less turbulence for the experience.

SEE ALSO: iPhone users thinking of switching to Android should pick Google's Pixel 3 phones for the best Android experience

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Everything we know about Samsung’s foldable phone

Categories: English

How GM went from bankrupt and on the brink of death to being one of the world's best-run car companies (GM)

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 13:57

  • A decade after the financial crisis, General Motors is led by the best management team it's ever had and one of the best C-suites in all of business.
  • CEO Mary Barra, president Dan Ammann, and executive vice-president Mark Reuss have overseen the birth of a New GM that's moving aggressively to define the future of transportation.
  • The turnaround has been impressive, as GM has racked up billions of profits and is preparing to launch 20 new electrified vehicles by 2023.
  • Before its 2009 bankruptcy, GM was known for internal conflict, but the company is now a model of cooperation.

General Motors' president, Dan Ammann, is a bundle of reconciled contradictions. When he laughs, it's like Santa Claus has come to town. When he thinks, the pauses are intense. When he makes a joke or offers a wry observation, his wit is extra dry.

Sitting in a small conference room at GM's downtown Detroit headquarters, the New Zealand native and former Morgan Stanley banker is dressed in a familiar combination of jeans, sport coat, dress shirt, and Pumas, an anti-auto-executive look and evidence of Ammann's role as GM's point man in Silicon Valley.

The bearded 46-year-old, who previously served as GM's chief financial offer, is mid-pause in reconsidering a comment he made about his fellow top executives at the world's second-largest automaker.

"You have three very different personalities," he says of CEO Mary Barra, executive vice-president and global product group president Mark Reuss, and himself. As with so many things about the guy, you understand that he's telling you something rather important without giving away too much.

I wouldn't want to play poker with Ammann. I'd leave the table broke, but enlightened.

The best in the business

Until the recent retirement of Chuck Stevens, 58, as GM's CFO after a four-decade tenure at the company, Ammann was one-quarter of the best management team in the auto industry. And, in the view of many, the best management team the 110-year-old behemoth, with 180,000 employees spread across the globe, has ever had.

GM has been led since 2014 by Barra, the first woman to run a major automaker. Ammann shares the C-suite with Reuss, a GM veteran whose father worked at the company and who oversees the development of dozens of new vehicles, and Dhivya Suryadevara, the new 39-year-old CFO who has garnered an impressive reputation. Barra describes Suryadevara, who will join her in the only female CEO-CFO duo in the industry, as "wicked smart."

Ammann also supervises Kyle Vogt, 33, the CEO of GM's Cruise self-driving-car unit. GM bought Cruise in 2016 for an all-in price of $1 billion; investments this year from Japan's SoftBank Vision Fund and Honda have made it worth almost $15 billion. Asked to characterize Vogt, who has in two years become an advocate for GM's ability to take startup technology and manufacture it at a massive scale, Ammann says he's laser-focused on solving "one of the biggest engineering challenges of our generation."

Barra, 56, and Reuss, 55, are both GM lifers from GM families (she joined in 1980, and he came on as a student intern in 1983). Ammann is the new guy. But in many respects he seems like the oldest member of the team. His studied circumspection stands in contrast to Reuss' gruff cheerfulness, his passion for the culture of the automobile, and Barra's empathic precision, counterbalanced with a usefully intimidating forcefulness.

Different personalities indeed. Amman is the intellectual, Reuss the enthusiast, and Barra the embodiment of the new GM, the giant corporation's post-bailout, post-bankruptcy incarnation.

Organizing GM for collaboration instead of conflict

The generalization is slightly unfair, but the point is that the trio actually isn't divisive. If this were the old GM — the company that thought what was good for America was good for General Motors — that might be the case. That's because the old GM was organized for conflict, with division heads fighting it out for resources and the mothership often lost in a labyrinth of ruinous financial complexity.

Instead, the current team is a model of earnest conflict transmuted into productive collaboration. If you'd quit paying attention to GM a few decades ago, you wouldn't recognize the carmaker these days. If crosstown rival Ford is family, with all the issues that implies, then GM is a country.

Until Barra's arrival, that assessment was true: Chapter 11 has chastened GM, but in 2010 the company still swaggered into the largest initial public offering in US history. The temptation was for GM to stage an imperious return to the corporate stage.

Barra, who had run both entire factories and human resources before being tapped by the board to become CEO in 2014, wasn't going to stick to that script. Before the financial crisis, GM believed itself to be indispensable. Barra, better than anyone, knew that was false. GM wasn't an empire. It was a fragile, if enormous, group of people who had to work together to survive and prosper.

That survival was immediately threatened. As soon as Barra became CEO, GM was embroiled in a massive recall caused by a single, innocuous yet ubiquitous part: an ignition switch whose malfunction led to 124 deaths, 275 injuries, and cost the company in excess of $2 billion. She persevered, however, and luckily she had four years of working with Ammann and Reuss to draw upon.

"The ignition-switch recall permanently changed me," she says. "It was a tragic situation, and if I could roll back the clock, I would. But it made me impatient. When's the best time to solve a problem? The minute you know you have it."

Ammann actually recalls interviewing with Barra in 2010, to assume the treasurer's job at GM. "She was very straightforward, down to business, yet very open," he says. "I felt good about it."

Getting the new GM up and running

While the banking crisis that had triggered the Great Recession had largely been resolved in 2010, the US auto industry was reeling. Annual vehicle sales in 2009 had fallen to a staggering 10 million, a harrowing plunge for a market that had peaked above 17 million in prior years. Chrysler also had to be bailed out, and after its own bankruptcy was rapidly merged with Fiat in a desperate rescue undertaken by the Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, who died unexpectedly this year. Ford had avoided restructuring when then-CEO Alan Mulally had presciently mortgaged the company to raise $24 billion, but its stock value fell below $2 a share.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner had effectively been fired by President Barack Obama when the government took a substantial equity stake in GM and organized bankruptcy financing. A succession of CEOs followed: Fritz Henderson, Ed Whitacre, and Dan Akerson. (The carmaker had just 10 CEOs before the financial crisis).

Externally, it was unclear the car business would recover. But Barra, Ammann, and Reuss weren't panicking.

"Those years set a strong foundation, when we worked together as peers," Ammann recalls. "We were getting the place up and running."

They were also revamping the automaker's byzantine financial system, which Obama administration "car czar" Steven Rattner, head of the Auto Task Force, had labeled as epically disorganized.

"We learned where we were making money and where we weren't," Ammann says, adding that GM also greatly streamlined its internal finances.

That process empowered Barra and Ammann to make long-overdue decisions, such as selling GM's perennially underperforming Opel-Vauxhall division in Europe to Peugeot in 2017. For Barra, return on investment became a mantra. There were no sacred cows, even brands that had been part of GM for decades.

Building a culture of trust

Ammann also spent a lot of time with Reuss as part of a traveling "road show" for investors before the IPO. Reuss for a time had been in charge of GM's Australian and New Zealand operations, so he and Ammann could bond over their common experiences in the Southern Hemisphere. They also shared an arid sense of humor and a love of fast machines. The latter is an affection they both recently indulged when they drove the new 755-horsepower Corvette ZR1 at Germany's famed Nürburgring track. (Reuss is well known for his skill behind the wheel, and if you ask around, people will tell you that Ammann is no slouch).

They might like to go fast, but they're dead set against getting cocky, even as GM has posted over $70 billion in profits since the IPO.

"Not in this business," Ammann says when asked if taking a breather after some good work is an option. "We're wholly dissatisfied."

Dissatisfaction doesn't lead to unresolved disagreement, however.

"We all agree that this device has a telephone," he says, waving his iPhone. "Mary and I never let an issue sit. We'll quickly get to a place where we can talk about it. I have no doubt that we make better decisions because of that. It creates a richer debate and a richer analysis."

The core concept for all three executives is trust, built on a mutual respect for what Barra calls "leveraging diversity of thought." That's critical because GM is huge; it combines manufacturing, financing, and technology on a mass scale, so it's always grappling with what Reuss calls' "big, complex problems." That requires frequent communication.

"If we're all in the office, we talk multiple times a day," Barra tells me while sitting in the same ultramodern talent-acquisition suite where I had interviewed Ammann. "If we're traveling, we speak several times a week, and sometimes on the weekends. We look at things from multiple dimensions and make better decisions."

Their diversity shows up in obvious ways. Ammann obviously prefers a more casual wardrobe, while Barra favors subdued, tasteful ensembles. Reuss is usually wearing a sharp suit, elegant shoes, and a wristwatch from his collection.

Barra has enormous respect for Reuss' vast automotive knowledge and admires Ammann's ferocious ability to learn and learn fast. She considers Reuss the best car guy in the business, recollecting that Dan Akerson called him the soul of the company. And she says that Ammann conducts himself as though he'd been at GM for decades, not just for eight years, thanks to his willingness to go everywhere and meet everybody.

Playing to win

Their views have rubbed off on her and now shape her leadership style.

"One of the words Mark hates is 'compete,'" she says.

A word he likes is "win," and Barra has translated that attitude into something of a mission statement.

"I ask people to give me a reason why we shouldn't be accountable to be the best," she says. "There's no answer for that. So once you get that as a mindset, you can then figure out what it's going to take to solve the issues that preventing you from getting there. Don't tell me why you couldn't do it in 1984. Tell me what it takes to get it done now."

GM has been doing plenty of winning since 2010, but, yet again, when I ask Reuss if it's pat-ourselves-on-the-back time, he looks at me as if I were insane. Being the largest automaker in North America and No. 2 in China — the world's biggest markets, comprising 14 million in new-vehicle sales for GM in 2017 — certainly counts for something in Reuss' book, and he's proud of how far the company has progressed.

But he refuses to relax, and he hasn't given into the temptation to rest on his accomplishments since a tough day over 25 years ago, when his father, Lloyd Reuss, at one point a candidate to become GM's CEO, was fired. The son, then just starting out at the company, had to make a difficult decision: Stay or go?

He stayed, but it wasn't a party. GM struggled through profitless years leading up the bankruptcy. When Reuss was in Australia, he and his team were essentially running GM's business there with whatever money came in the front door each day, as the financial crisis dried up corporate credit.

Post-bankruptcy, as GM shed brands, there were serious questions about whether it would be able to match the Japanese and German automakers, not to mention the upstarts, with innovative new technologies. For a few years, GM's most profitable vehicles, large pickup trucks and SUVs, were out of favor, as rising gas prices sent customers looking for small cars, hybrids, and even Tesla's all-electric vehicles.

The biggest change in GM's history

If Ammann is focused on creating a fleet of cars that can drive themselves and begin ferrying humans around big cities by next year, Reuss' main job now is to make sure that GM doesn't get beaten in the race to build the cars of the future.

The money is flowing from the fat margins thrown off by resurgent pickup and SUV sales, but neither Ammann, Barra, nor Reuss — especially Reuss — have any illusions about the fate of the internal-combustion engine. It might be with us for a bit longer, but GM's destiny is electric.

This isn't exactly news to Reuss, who was around in the 1990s when GM created the EV1. But with China's market expected to surpass 30 million in annual vehicle sales, on the road to as many as 40 million, his challenge now is to execute on the carmaker's plan of rolling out 20 new electrified vehicles by 2023 — the biggest transformation in the company's history.

With the Chevy Bolt, an EV with a 238-miles range that starts at $37,500 and has been on sale for over a year, GM has made an impressive start. But Reuss, in particular, understands that the electric car's hurdles in the marketplace remain as much psychological as technical.

"We've got to take away all the excuses of why people don't think an electric car is a primary car," he says. That means more charging options and faster charging choices. (Shortly after I spoke with Reuss, Barra, and Ammann, GM announced that Pam Fletcher, who had overseen the Bolt launch, would become the company's innovation leader and tackle the charging-infrastructure piece.)

And Reuss doesn't intend to run the new electric portfolio at a loss. "We expect the base case to be profitable," he says. "At all levels and for all brands."

Good times, bad times

Reuss, Ammann, and Barra know that since 2010 the auto industry has enjoyed nearly a decade of expansion, and that booming sales can't last forever. A downturn will arrive, and as skillful as the team has been so far, the real test is over the horizon.

Reuss has seen his share of recessions and is unflinching about what's in store for him and colleagues. He knows they won't find out if they're truly up to the task of running GM until the business gets hard. For her part, Barra, whose father worked at a GM plant, guards against overconfidence and regularly meets with GM's board to review models of downturns both moderate and severe. The worst aspect of this difficult yet important task is uncertainty.

"Every auto recession has been a surprise," she says. "You don't know what will drive it. But I'm confident in the work we've done. We'll figure it out."

According to Reuss, the team isn't locked into a war-room mentality.

"Mary is good at celebrating on the run. But she says, 'Here's where we did a good job, and here's what we need to work on. This is where we're not hitting it.'"

A thornier issue is the question of why GM's stock price has languished for years. Shares are down 30% over the past 12 months, while the S&P is up 10%. Barra has presided over a stock-buyback program that's returned billions to shareholders as GM has raked in cash, and the dividend has remained uncompromised and relatively risk-free at 4%.

Still, Barra has had to fight off two shareholder agitations since 2015, the most recent from Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn. The hedge fund wanted GM to create two classes of stock, one for fixed income, the other for growth. The company argued that the scheme would undermine its investment-grade credit rating, curtailing its financial options in a sales downturn. The proposal was voted down.

Stock prices matter. Ford CEO Mark Fields was ousted in 2016, replaced by former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett. But Ford's shares have continued to slide, and the carmaker's market capitalization has dipped below Tesla's. Wall Street considers the auto industry to be capital-intensive, growth-constrained, and forever vulnerable to market cycles. Since Tesla's 2010 IPO, it's built a few hundred thousand cars and never posted an annual profit. By contrast, GM has, in the same period, built tens of millions of vehicles and made over $70 billion. But Tesla shares are up over 1,000% and GM's are down 5%.

Ammann can point to the almost $15 billion in previously unrealized value that Cruise has added to GM as an enterprise, while Reuss insists that the only way for GM to move the needle on the stock price is to prove to investors that it can do what it says it will do.

"It's frustrating, but I don't think anything but results is going to change that," Reuss says.

"I agree with Mark," Barra says. "We've just got to keep proving ourselves. If we continue to do that over the long term, we'll earn a different reputation with investors."

A decade after the unthinkable happened

Almost 10 years on from the worst episode in GM's history, I was reminded as I spoke to Barra, Ammann, and Reuss about a winter visit I'd made to the Detroit headquarters in the years leading up to the bankruptcy. It was freezing cold and there was ice in the Detroit River. At a restaurant, a group of businessmen I overheard were lamenting their trip to Motown.

"It used to be fun to come here," one of them said.

GM wasn't concerned with fun back then. For a century, it had been loved and feared, admired and resented, praised and attacked. The idea that it could all go away was unthinkable.

But then the unthinkable happened. And when the new guard took over, it was clear from the outset that Barra and her team wouldn't revert to business as usual. But here's the thing: Old GM thought of itself as the toughest company on the planet. If somebody thought it was a fun-free zone, too bad.

But the old GM didn't know tough. And Barra, Ammann, and Reuss have proved that making some of the hardest calls in modern business, while taking some of the biggest risks, means that fun and tough can coexist.

GM has made it through two world wars, drastic shifts in the global economy, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession. But the biggest changes have come since the company rose for the ashes of bankruptcy, and although they won't allow themselves to take credit, Barra, Ammann, and Reuss — and Chuck Stevens, from the comfort of his well-earned retirement — would be forgiven if they did.

SEE ALSO: General Motors CEO Mary Barra: 'We are disrupting ourselves, we’re not trying to preserve a model of yesterday'

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NOW WATCH: Chevy has built a $37.5K all-electric car capable of a 238-mile range

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MIT is giving you control of a real person on Halloween in a dystopian game that sounds like an episode of 'Black Mirror'

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 13:53

  • MIT Media Lab is hosting a mass online social experiment on Halloween at 11 p.m. EDT.
  • Called "BeeMe," the goal of the "dystopian game" is to let participants control an actor and defeat an evil artificial intelligence program.
  • Internet users will program the actor by crowdsourcing commands and then voting on them.
  • BeeMe's creators say they want the project to stoke conversations about privacy, ethics, entertainment, and social interactions.

This Halloween, the creepiest event to attend might be a mass online social experiment hosted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

MIT is famous for churning out some of the world's top engineers, programmers, and scientists. But the university's Media Laboratory is increasingly known for launching experimental projects in October that are designed to make us squirm.

In 2016, researchers at the MIT Media Lab created the artificial-intelligence program Nightmare Machine, which converted normal photos into into macabre images. (The results were predictably creepy.) Then in 2017, a researcher made AI software called "Shelley" that learned how to write its own horror stories. (These were also creepy.)

This year, members of MIT Media Lab are taking their desire to freak us out to the next level with a project called "BeeMe."

BeeMe is described in a press release as a "massive immersive social game" that aims to "shed a new light on human potential in the new digital era." But it also sounds like a choose-your-own-adventure episode of the show "Black Mirror."

"Halloween night at 11 p.m. ET, an actor will give up their free will and let internet users control their every action," Niccolò Pescetelli, who studies collective intelligence at MIT Media Lab, told Business Insider in an email about BeeMe.

Pescetelli added: "The event will follow the story of an evil AI by the name of Zookd, who has accidentally been released online. Internet users will have to coordinate at scale and collectively help the actor (also a character in the story) to defeat Zookd. If they fail, the consequences could be disastrous."

How MIT will let you control a person

The project's slogan is: "See what I see. Hear what I hear. Control my actions. Take my will. Be me."

The full scope of gameplay is not yet public. However, BeeMe's social media accounts and promotional materials reveal a few key details.

The person being controlled will be a trained actor, not a random person off the street. But where that actor will be located, how long the internet will exercise control of their body, and to what extent they will follow through on crowd-generated commands is unknown.

Participants will control the actor through a web browser, in two ways.

One is by writing in and submitting custom commands, like "make coffee," "open the door," "run away," and so on. The second way is by voting up or down on those commands, similar to the system used by Reddit. Once a command is voted to the top, the actor will presumably do that very thing.

This appears to be the origin of the word "bee" in the project's name: Internet users will have to act collectively as a "hive" to progress through the game.

BeeMe's Twitter account shared an eerie teaser video of the game on October 15.

"Many people have played an augmented reality game, but BeeMe is reality augmented," Pescetelli said in a press release. "In BeeMe an agent gives up their free will to save humanity — or perhaps to know whether humanity can be saved at all. This brave individual will agree to let the Internet pilot their every action."

It seems likely the whole event will be broadcast live — possibly on YouTube, based on BeeMe's teaser footage.

Why the researchers created BeeMe

The BeeMe project quietly went public in May 2018, when it joined Twitter as @beeme_mit. The tweets posted by the account appear to capture some of its thinking and evolution.

One tweet quotes philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who famously wrote in 1964 that "the medium is the message" — meaning that any new way to communicate influences what we say, how we say it, and ultimately what we think. McLuhan, who lived until 1980, is described by his estate as "the father of communications and media studies and prophet of the information age."

The account also references other visionaries, including analytical psychologist Carl Jung, social scientist Émile Durkheim, and biologist Charles Darwin.

"[In] the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed," BeeMe tweeted in August, quoting a famous saying of Darwin's (and likely as a tip on how to win the game).

Another tweet highlights a shocking act of performance art called "Come Caress Me," created in 2010 by Amir Mobed. In the installation, Mobed stands before a huge target with a metal bucket on his hed, and volunteers are led into the room to shoot him with a pellet gun. (Many do, not seeming to understand the ammunition is real.)

These and other BeeMe posts seem to reflect what the experiment strives to be on Halloween: Something that is on its surface fun, but reveals some hidden truths about ourselves and our digital society.

In a release sent to Business Insider, the project described itself this way: "BeeMe is a dystopian game that promises to alter the face of digital interactions, by breaking the Internet's fourth wall and bringing it back to reality. BeeMe wants to reopen a serious — yet playful — conversation about privacy, ethics, entertainment, and social interactions."

Whatever the game ends up teaching those who play or watch it, we'll find out on Halloween if humanity can pull together to save itself — or fail in dramatic disarray.

SEE ALSO: Watch a haunting MIT program transform photos into your worst nightmares

DON'T MISS: An MIT startup made a simple device that turns filthy car exhaust into beautiful ink

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Four MIT graduates created a restaurant with a robotic kitchen that cooks your food in three minutes or less

Categories: English

These are the 15 best video games to put your 4K HDR screen to the test

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 13:30

Televisions with 4K and HDR functionality are more affordable than ever, but there's still a lack of actual 4K HDR content to watch. Luckily, video game developers are constantly pushing the boundaries of new visual technology, and there's no shortage of new games to showcase the power of modern displays.

Also known as Ultra HD, or UHD, 4K describes the display resolution. 4K images are 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, making them about about four times the size of an image at 1080p, the highest resolution currently offered by cable broadcasts. HDR is used to describe images with a high-dynamic range. As the name implies, displays with HDR have a higher contrast between lights and darks and a larger overall range of colors than older displays.

Video games are especially good for showing the effect of 4K and HDR due to their wide range of environments, dynamic animations, and dramatic shifts in perspective. From basketball courts and race tracks to ancient tombs and foreign planets, video games give the viewer the greatest control over what appears on their screen. They also have a higher frame rate than movies, meaning more images appear on the screen per second.

To play video games in 4K or with HDR, you'll need a console or PC strong enough to output the high resolution graphics. Gaming PCs capable of 4K and HDR vary in specs, but you can certainly build your own to turn your TV into a full-fledged media center.

For those looking for a more standard 4K solution, there are two main console options: the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. 

The standard PlayStation 4 costs $299 and can output HDR images, but it's not capable of 4K. A more expensive version of the console, the PlayStation 4 Pro, is 4K ready for $399.

The Xbox One has more variations, but both the $299 Xbox One S and the $399 Xbox One X are capable of 4K and HDR output. Certain games on the Xbox One X, even those without 4K or HDR output, will have better visual performance and load times compared to the S model.

Unfortunately some of the best looking games were developed specifically for Xbox One or PlayStation 4, so it's important to choose your console wisely.

Here are 15 of the best games to test your 4K HDR screen:

SEE ALSO: The game developer behind 'Grand Theft Auto' and 'Red Dead Redemption' is embroiled in an ongoing controversy — here's what's been going on

"Shadow of the Tomb Raider" (PS4, X1, PC)

The jungle environments of "Shadow of the Tomb Raider" are great for showing off the effect of HDR. Heroine Lara Croft makes her way through dimly lit caverns, sparkling canopies, and crystal clear water as she searches for ancient artifacts.

The game has added enhancements on Xbox One X, and the developers took great detail in rendering Lara's hair and her acrobatic climbing animations. "Shadow of the Tomb Raider" and many of the other games on this list feature a camera mode to let players capture their favorite visuals from all angles.



"Middle-earth: Shadow of War (X1, PS4, PC)"

"God of War" (PlayStation 4 Exclusive)

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Will anyone want Steve Jobs' old toilet? The town of Woodside is considering selling dozens of items from the Apple CEO's one-time home

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 13:00

  • Next week, the Town of Woodside will discuss what to do with some of the housing fixtures salvaged from a former home of Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
  • Jobs bought the Jackling Estate in 1984 and lived there for a decade. He intended to tear down the home and rebuild but because of litigation the house wasn't destroyed until shortly before his death.
  • Among the 150 items now in the town's possession are a silver-plated ice-tea spoon, a thermostat (circa 1925), and a chandelier. In all, the items have been appraised at $30,285. 

Steve Jobs, cofounder and CEO of Apple, could boast legions of faithful fans and disciples across the globe, referred to frequently as "Apple fan boys."

Will any of them be willing to bid on their guru's old toilet, wall sconces, door handles, chandelier or silver-plated ice-tea spoon? Those are just a few of the items salvaged by the Town of Woodside, Calif. from Jobs' former home there, known as the Jackling Estate. 

Jobs bought the home in 1984 and lived there a decade before renting it out. He intended to tear it down and rebuild on the land, but a group of local preservationists launched a court fight to save the Spanish Colonial style mansion which was built in 1925 for a copper-mining magnate. 

While the case made it way through the courts, the famously obstinate Jobs let the house sit abandoned for years, rotting from neglect and exposure to the natural elements.

Eventually, Job won the right to demolish the home but that didn't occur until eight months before he died in October 2011.  

The city of Woodside took possession of some of 150 items from the home before it was destroyed. The town says on its web site that the items have been appraised at $30,285.

Most of the items appear to have already been part of the home at the time Jobs purchased it. 

Indeed, the toilet may have graced Jobs' derriere, but it's not exactly an example of the Jobs' aesthetic, which favors sleek and simple designs. To judge by the picture featured on the town's website, the ceramic lavatory dates back to the 1920s and looks more antique than airy. The site estimates its marketable cash value at $100. 

A better value may be the brass, 8-inch thermostat, which dates back to 1925 and is described as being in good condition, albeit "functionally obsolete." Its $5 marketable value is a small price to pay for an item that, for all anyone knows, may have inspired the inventor of the iPhone to explore and re-imagine basic elements of consumer product design. 

According to Kevin Bryant, Woodside's town manager, a sale of the items is just one of the possibilities the town council is considering. The council might also decide  to offer the "artifacts" to the owners of a nearby home, which is the "only remaining home in Woodside designed by George Washington Smith," the architect of the Jackling Estate.

Those interested in arguing for a sale, can appear at the council meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday  at at 7:30 p.m PT in Independence Hall, located at 2955 Woodside Road, Woodside, CA.      

SEE ALSO: 39 photos that show how Steve Jobs saved Apple from disaster and set it on the path to a $1 trillion valuation

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Walmart made a game that lets you see what it's like to work at one of their stores — here's how to play (WMT)

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 13:00

If you have ever, for whatever reason, wondered what it'd be like to work at Walmart — well, now's your chance.

The retail giant has released a game for your smartphone that lets you live a day in the life of a Walmart manager. Over the course of your workday, you monitor inventory, stock shelves, adjust prices, and perform tasks to the satisfaction of your boss and customers alike.

The app, which Buzzfeed News first spotted, started out as a training tool for employees, Walmart spokesperson Michelle Malashock told Business Insider. The game, which is called Spark City, was piloted in a dozen Walmart stores over the summer before it was made public in Apple and Android app stores at the start of October. As of Oct. 16, the free app had around 60,000 downloads, Malashock says.

If you've ever played a Diner Dash-type simulation game (Sally's Spa, Cake Mania, Jane's Hotel to name a few), Walmart's Spark City works pretty similarly. I played through a (virtual) week of the game, which took about an hour.

I present to you, the exciting life of a Walmart retail worker in Spark City:

SEE ALSO: This card-sized smartphone may be world's thinnest and lightest ever made

Before you start work, you can customize your character.

The customization options for your avatar may not be as sophisticated as those in Sims, but you can pick your character's gender, skin color, clothing and general hair and face features.



Congrats, you work in Walmart's dry grocery department! Say hello to your boss Cynthia, who will be looking over your shoulder the entire game.

Like any good boss, Cynthia will be there throughout your workday to provide feedback and criticism. She also introduces you to a bunch of complicated acronyms about customer satisfaction, sales and shelf stocks, which are used to measure your success and guide you through your tasks. 

I forgot what Cynthia told me almost as soon as I started to play. You can pick up on the general idea of the terms as you play, although I can't guarantee you'll ever fully understand what's being measured and how you're evaluated.



You're provided with this handy (and useless) floor plan that shows the layout of the store.

You use the map, which sits in the corner of your screen, to switch between the places you need to perform tasks. You start each day in the back room, where you have to complete all your work before you can move into your assigned department.

I played through five workdays in the game, and in that time, the only locations that I needed to toggle between were the back room and the grocery section — so the floor plan seems kind of unnecessary. Walmart's spokesperson says that developers are in the process of adding a new level to the game that would take place in the "lawn and garden" section of the store.

If they really want to put the floor plan to good use though, Walmart's developers should consider adding a "Battle Royale" mode.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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How Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are shaking up healthcare — and what it means for the future of the industry (AAPL, GOOGL, MSFT, AMZN)

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 11:07

  • The US spends over $3 trillion annually in healthcare costs — but providers can’t keep up with growing demand.
  • Health organizations are increasingly turning to tech companies to transform delivery of care and lower health expenditures.
  • Seeing an opportunity to tap into the lucrative healthcare market, four of the largest US tech companies — Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft — are accelerating their health-focused efforts.

Healthcare disruption is no longer looming — it’s here, and it’s necessary. As the population continues aging, health organizations and providers are struggling to keep up with growing demand for care, while consumers are facing astronomical costs — often for subpar service.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare spending in the US has already surpassed $3 trillion annually — a figure expected to grow another 5% this year.

Desperate for ways to cut costs and improve accessibility of patient care, traditional healthcare providers are turning to tech innovations for help. In the last five years alone, healthcare funding among the 10 largest US tech companies jumped from $277 million to $2.7 billion.

New technologies including telehealth, wearables, mobile apps, and AI are facilitating a shift towards preventative medicine and value-based care, in turn reducing claims, improving benefits plans, lowering patients’ premiums, and increasing their lifetime value.

Now, four of the biggest tech companies are ramping up to go all-in on healthcare — but they’re each tackling a different part of the space. Here are the four big tech players shaking up healthcare, and what they’re focusing on:

  • Alphabet: The parent company of Google, Waymo, and a number of subsidiaries is leveraging its extensive cloud platform and data analytics capabilities to hone in on trends in population health. The company plans drive more strategic health system partnerships by identifying issues with electronic health record (EHR) interoperability and currently limited computing infrastructure.
  • Amazon: The e-commerce giant’s recent acquisition of PillPack is another step towards integrating medical supplies and pharmaceuticals into its platform and distribution. The company is also ramping up its AI capabilities to transform Alexa into an in-home health concierge, thereby driving consumers to the website for prescriptions and basic medical supplies.
  • Apple: The pioneer of smartphones and wearables, Apple is looking to turn its popular consumer products into powerful healthcare tools — with monitoring capabilities that benefit both patients and providers.
  • Microsoft: Like Alphabet, Microsoft is leveraging its robust data and analytics capabilities for visibility into population health. The company is tapping into Azure, its intelligent cloud service, to enable providers and payers to target specific pockets of populations with precision medicine for better health outcomes,

Want to Learn More?

This is just a preview of Big Tech in Healthcare, a new report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service. The full report breaks down the different strategies Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are applying to healthcare — and highlights what impact they’ll have on the future of the industry.

In full, the report outlines key themes driving the shift toward digital health, the impact for users and providers, potential barriers to each of the Big Four’s healthcare businesses, and how they can overcome these obstacles to reshape the industry.

Subscribe to a Premium pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More

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Google, Amazon, and Tesla are hurtling into a struggling industry — and it's a sign the bloodbath is just getting started

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 11:05

  • Homebuilder stocks are on pace for their worst year since 2008.
  • Amid the bloodbath, industry analysts are warning that tech giants are growing their ambitions and investments in the housing market. 
  • Amazon, Google, and Tesla have already made some inroads, and could innovate in ways that traditional homebuilders have been unable to. 

In the course of Margaret Whelan's conversations with homebuilders in Europe and Japan, she has noticed a difference between them and their American counterparts.  

"Everyone delivers houses in days, except here," Whelan, CEO of the housing consultant Whelan Advisory, said at a recent conference in New York. The former Morgan Stanley managing director lamented that it often takes months, sometimes years, to build a house in the US.

"The bigger homes, they'll take 14, 15 months to build — who's got time for that?" she asked the crowd.

Building speed is just one area that desperately needs innovation amid the worst year for US housing since the financial crisis. The iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction exchange-traded fund, for example, has plunged 28% in 2018, and is on pace for its worst year since 2008. Shortages of land and labor, coupled with rising interest rates and affordability constraints, have slowed the housing market

And according to investors and industry experts, the players most likely to transform the housing industry are companies well known for disruption elsewhere: tech juggernauts like Amazon, Alphabet, and Tesla

Here are some examples of their meddling: 

  • Last December, local lawmakers approved a bid by Google to build nearly 10,000 housing units close to its future campus in Mountain View, California, amid a shortage of affordable housing.
  • The homebuilder Lennar announced in May that it was working with Amazon to build model homes fitted with Alexa-enabled devices including lights and thermostats.
  • Tesla installed 450% more power-storage batteries in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017. 

There's a pattern here: these companies have a financial incentive to get into building.

Mark Boud, the chief economist of housing consultancy Metrostudy, is already advising them.

"It used to be that my clients were builders and land developers, period," Boud said at the conference. "Now, it's about 70/30, 30% being these non-traditional players ... that share is going to increase dramatically over time." 

Tech companies are poised to embrace more efficient methods of building — including modular and factory-built houses — faster than the traditional players, Boud said.

Their meddling in homebuilding comes at an opportune time: the US housing market is facing a shortage of inventory — especially affordable houses — and is projected to remain under-built through at least 2022. 

Builders don't innovate well 

"When it comes to change and doing things differently, builders are not great at that," said Paige Shipp, the Dallas-Fort Worth regional director at Metrostudy.  

The example she always tells clients about is the US Postal Service, which operated like a monopoly in its heyday. Then UPS and FedEx came on the scene and shook things up. Now, even Amazon is building out its own logistics service to deliver packages faster.

The fear of change, Shipp said, is greatest for public companies who will see their stocks sink if new methods eat into their profits. But even if they wanted to try, she says they don't have the ideal decision makers.  

"We have an industry that's pale, male, and stale," Shipp said, referring to racial, gender, and generational sameness on company boards. 

The HGTV generation

Shipp agreed that it would be wise for builders to lean into the needs of younger clients, including millennials, who are buying roughly one out of every two new homes — more than any generation before them. 

"Yes, they do remodel, but we’ve kind of learned that they really like to watch Chip and Joanna, but they don’t want to necessarily be Chip and Joanna," Shipp said, referring to the hosts of the HGTV show "Fixer Upper."

"They would like to have these homes that are ready for them to move in," she added.

In addition, tech companies know well what the digital generation would want in their homes — perhaps even better than traditional homebuilders. Shipp named some traditional builders at the forefront of technological innovation including Tri Pointe Group, The New Home Company, and Taylor Morrison.

Beyond the supply issue, builders also need to address the crisis of affordability. According to Carl Reichardt, a homebuilding analyst at BTIG, the traditional builders best positioned to address the crisis include Lennar and D.R. Horton — his only buy-rated picks amid the bloodbath in housing stocks this year.

"These companies have an increased focus on changing their mix to more affordable product," he told Business Insider by phone. 

Still, big tech companies are flush with the cash, the flexibility and most importantly, the financial incentive to upend yet another industry.

"The traditional builders need to be a little bit nervous about this," Boud said. "If we don't do it, someone else will, which is why we're seeing the Amazons and the Googles come into the market."

SEE ALSO: The world's most accurate economic forecaster pinpoints the biggest risks investors will face in 2019 — and explains how they can prepare

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Categories: English

THE AI DISRUPTION BUNDLE: The guide to understanding how artificial intelligence is impacting the world (AMZN, AAPL, GOOGL)

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 10:02

This is a preview of a research report bundle from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Intelligence, click here.

Artificial intelligence (AI) isn't a part of the future of technology. AI is the future of technology.

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have even publicly debated whether or not that will turn out to be a good thing.

Voice assistants like Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa have become more and more prominent in our lives, and that will only increase as they learn more skills.

These voice assistants are set to explode as more devices powered by AI enter the market. Most of the major technology players have some sort of smart home hub, usually in the form of a smart speaker. These speakers, like the Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod, are capable of communicating with a majority of WiFi-enabled devices throughout the home.

While AI is having an enormous impact on individuals and the smart home, perhaps its largest impact can be felt in the e-commerce space. In the increasingly cluttered e-commerce space, personalization is one of the key differentiators retailers can turn towards to stand out to consumers. In fact, retailers that have implemented personalization strategies see sales gains of 6-10%, at a rate two to three times faster than other retailers, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group.

This can be accomplished by leveraging machine learning technology to sift through customer data to present the relevant information in front of that consumer as soon as they hit the page.

With hundreds of hours of research condensed into three in-depth reports, Business Intelligence is here to help get you caught up on what you need to know on how AI is disrupting your business or your life.

Below you can find more details on the three reports that make up the AI Disruption Bundle, including proprietary insights from the 16,000-member BI Insiders Panel:

AI in Banking and Payments

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most commonly referenced terms by financial institutions (FIs) and payments firms when describing their vision for the future of financial services.

AI can be applied in almost every area of financial services, but the combination of its potential and complexity has made AI a buzzword, and led to its inclusion in many descriptions of new software, solutions, and systems.

This report cuts through the hype to offer an overview of different types of AI, and where they have potential applications within banking and payments. It also emphasizes which applications are most mature, provides recommendations of how FIs should approach using the technology, and offers examples of where FIs and payments firms are already leveraging AI. The report draws on executive interviews Business Intelligence conducted with leading financial services providers, such as Bank of America, Capital One, and Mastercard, as well as top AI vendors like Feedzai, Expert System, and Kasisto.

AI in Supply Chain and Logistics

Major logistics providers have long relied on analytics and research teams to make sense of the data they generate from their operations.

AI’s ability to streamline so many supply chain and logistics functions is already delivering a competitive advantage for early adopters by cutting shipping times and costs. A cross-industry study on AI adoption conducted in early 2017 by McKinsey found that early adopters with a proactive AI strategy in the transportation and logistics sector enjoyed profit margins greater than 5%. Meanwhile, respondents in the sector that had not adopted AI were in the red.

However, these crucial benefits have yet to drive widespread adoption. Only 21% of the transportation and logistics firms in McKinsey’s survey had moved beyond the initial testing phase to deploy AI solutions at scale or in a core part of their business. The challenges to AI adoption in the field of supply chain and logistics are numerous and require major capital investments and organizational changes to overcome.

explores the vast impact that AI techniques like machine learning will have on the supply chain and logistics space. We detail the myriad applications for these computational techniques in the industry, and the adoption of those different applications. We also share some examples of companies that have demonstrated success with AI in their supply chain and logistics operations. Lastly, we break down the many factors that are holding organizations back from implementing AI projects and gaining the full benefits of this disruptive technology.

AI in E-Commerce Report

One of retailers' top priorities is to figure out how to gain an edge over Amazon. To do this, many retailers are attempting to differentiate themselves by creating highly curated experiences that combine the personal feel of in-store shopping with the convenience of online portals.

These personalized online experiences are powered by artificial intelligence (AI). This is the technology that enables e-commerce websites to recommend products uniquely suited to shoppers, and enables people to search for products using conversational language, or just images, as though they were interacting with a person.

Using AI to personalize the customer journey could be a huge value-add to retailers. Retailers that have implemented personalization strategies see sales gains of 6-10%, a rate two to three times faster than other retailers, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG). It could also boost profitability rates 59% in the wholesale and retail industries by 2035, according to Accenture.

This report illustrates the various applications of AI in retail and use case studies to show how this technology has benefited retailers. It assesses the challenges that retailers may face as they implement AI, specifically focusing on technical and organizational challenges. Finally, the report weighs the pros and cons of strategies retailers can take to successfully execute AI technologies in their organization.

Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More

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A shadowy group spent £257,000 on Facebook ads asking people to drive a knife into Theresa May's Brexit plan

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 09:13

  • Politicians have uncovered evidence of a dark advertising campaign on Facebook, in which Brits were encouraged to lobby against Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan.
  • The Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee said £257,000 was spent on the adverts by an anonymous group called the Mainstream Network.
  • The committee wants Facebook to reveal who is behind the campaign after it released its new political ad transparency tools in the UK this week.

An influential group of politicians has uncovered evidence of a dark advertising campaign on Facebook, in which users were encouraged to lobby against Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan.

In findings published on Saturday, the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee said an anonymous organisation called Mainstream Network spent £257,000 ($335,148) on ads that reached up to 11 million people over a 10-month period.

The "sophisticated" campaign included a direct call to action for users to email their MP asking them to "chuck Chequers," short-hand for May's controversial Brexit negotiating position agreed at her Chequers retreat in July.

Mainstream Network has no known named organisation, UK address, or individual associated with it, the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee said.

"Here we have an example of a clearly sophisticated organisation spending lots of money on a political campaign, and we have absolutely no idea who is behind it. The only people who know who is paying for these adverts is Facebook," said the committee's chairman Damian Collins.

It's the kind of activity that could be made public with Facebook's new political ad transparency tools, which were launched in the UK this week. But they have come too late to capture the Mainstream Network campaign, and a committee chairman said Facebook should release details of who is behind the adverts independently.

In a statement, Facebook did not address whether it would voluntarily release details about who is behind Mainstream Network.

"On November 7, all advertisers will have new requirements before they can place political ads in the UK, including Mainstream Network. These advertisers will need to confirm their identity and location through an authorisations process and accurately represent the organization or person paying for the ad in a disclaimer," said Rob Leathern, director of product management. 

"These steps must happen or the advertiser will be prevented from running ads related to politics on Facebook. We know we can't prevent election interference alone and offering more ad transparency allows journalists, researchers and other interested parties to raise important questions.” 

The Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee uncovered the Mainstream Network with help from communications agency 89up.

Users were targeted with localised ads which clicked through to the Mainstream Network website, 89up said, where they were encouraged to submit a pre-written email to their local MP. The email calls on the MP to "bin the Chequers Deal before it's too late."

Collins and Paul Farrelly, another lawmaker on the committee, were among many MPs whose constituents were targeted. Mainstream Network also carried a number of pro-Brexit news stories on its site, which have had more than 140,000 social media engagements, according to 89up.

The company also said Mainstream Network could be in breach of the EU's new GDPR privacy laws. This is because whenever a user emails their MP from the site, Mainstream's own address is copied, meaning that the user's email address could potentially be being stored by the organisation.

Collins said: "Facebook has recently announced a set of changes to increase transparency around political advertising on its platform. This example offers Facebook an opportunity to show it is committed to making that change happen — if you are targeted with a message or asked to do lobby your MP, you should know exactly who is behind the organisation asking you to do it."

SEE ALSO: Facebook will now show who exactly is paying to swing people's votes through online political advertising

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NOW WATCH: Apple took another subtle jab at Facebook during its iPhone XS event

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Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk made a career out of speaking at events — now he wants to shake up the industry and turn it into a new business

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 08:22

  • Gary Vaynerchuk is launching VaynerSpeakers, a speakers bureau that will help line up guests and program events for companies.
  • Vaynerchuk has poached Zach Nadler from Creative Artists Agency to head up the company.
  • VaynerSpeakers will live under VaynerX, which also includes properties like VaynerMedia and Gallery Media Group.


Gary Vaynerchuk has made a name for himself by speaking at hundreds of keynote talks, conferences, and events that bring in crowds of #Vaynernation fans fascinated with his hustle-and-grind work philosophy.

Now he's making a new business out of it.

Vaynerchuk is launching VaynerSpeakers, which is a standalone company under VaynerX (which also houses companies like ad agency VaynerMedia, Gallery Media Group, and ad-tech firm Tracer). The company will operate as a speakers bureau and help find people to speak at conferences and private events.

The group will be headed up by Zach Nadler, who most recently spent nine years as an agent at Creative Artists Agency and worked with Vaynerchuk on public speaking events. The idea is to create a "modern day model" for speaker bureaus by finding fresh speakers for events — including execs outside of VaynerX.

"We're not necessarily looking to reinvent the wheel — we're just trying to create a better experience for all sides," Nadler said. "We're going to be targeting clients and speakers that appeal to a general audience, folks who have a really solid message and can help individuals grow their brand, whether it's their personal brand or their professional brand."

VaynerSpeakers wants to find the next hit entrepreneur 

According to Nadler, VaynerSpeakers specifically wants to help entrepreneurs and motivational speakers who "have the ability to grow their own businesses and their own careers."

"The days of a motivational speaker giving the same speech at every single event they do is behind us," he said. "One thing I've loved about Gary is that he never gives the same speech twice. We're looking for people who are speakers because they have a message to share, but it's not a singular message or presentation."

VaynerSpeakers already has two events lined up for next month: Vaynerchuk will speak at the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, and at a private event that the company declined to name.

Nadler acknowledged that events can be a tough business to get into because it requires labor-intensive processes and quick turnarounds.

"Prior to being at CAA, I worked in events [and] I know how difficult it can be," he said. "We want to make sure that we're not one of the many headaches that exist when you build an event."

Also read:

After buying PureWow, Gary Vaynerchuk's company is launching a new men's media brand about the collision of entrepreneurship and pop culture.

How a 'brash Jersey boy' grew 2 businesses to tens of millions in revenue and became a social media super star.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Ray Dalio says the economy looks like 1937 and a downturn is coming in about two years

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Disney faces major hurdles as it takes on Netflix, and needs to figure out Hulu fast

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 08:15

  • Barclays analysts think Disney has the assets to deliver a successful streaming service, but it's not a guarantee.
  • The analysts see a number of potential hurdles Disney could face as it launches the service next year that could be issues for investors.
  • Along with the new service, Disney will also be involved with ESPN+ and Hulu, which analysts see as "reductive" until Disney figures out pricing and bundling strategies. 
  • Analysts also see Disney's licensing agreements as a possible problem, as the new service will likely not have Disney's full library of content at launch, particularly old "Star Wars" movies.
  • On top of all of this, Disney will be launching its service during a "complex integration" after the Disney-Fox deal closes.

 

Disney is expected to roll out its own streaming service late next year to compete, primarily, with Netflix. With so much content at its disposal — Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Fox properties — it's bound to be a popular service.

But in a new report distributed Friday, Barclays analysts said those assets don't guarantee a home run.

When Disney launches its streaming service, it will likely be one of three video services Disney is involved with, along with ESPN+ and Hulu. Both Fox and Disney own 30% of Hulu, which means Disney will double its stake in the service once its merger with Fox is complete.

Barclays sees these offerings as "reductive."

"In our opinion, Disney’s approach to OTT in the form of three separate services is reductive and is akin to launching networks for different demographics on television which is now essentially being replicated on the internet," the analysts said. "This is likely to limit its market opportunity and increase its operating and capital costs over time relative to a simplified one service approach (at least for non-sports content)."

The analysts said that Disney will need to clarify its bundling and pricing strategy in the near future for investors, as well as its plans to acquire the 40% of Hulu it will still not own once the Disney-Fox deal is complete.

READ MORE: Morgan Stanley predicted how Disney's Netflix competitor will fare in the streaming wars — and said it could be a $6 billion business

During an earnings call in August, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that "a number of products" will be affected by licensing agreements, particularly "Star Wars," which means that the streaming service will not have Disney's full library of content at launch.

According to an August Bloomberg report, Disney had been trying to buy back the rights to old "Star Wars" movies, but receiving pushback from Turner Broadcasting.

Barclays analysts see that as a risk, and said that Disney will have to work through licensing agreements "in order to have enough critical mass of content." They also said that Disney needs to figure out global distribution, "neither of which are trivial challenges."

But not even a bulk of successful content guarantees success for the service, according to analysts. 

"Success in OTT is more about: (a) content aggregation rather than segmentation, which is Disney’s go to market strategy at present (b) technology skills (such as discovery and recommendation) and data rather than content and (c) experience," analysts said.

They added that legacy media organizations were more oriented to selling wholesale (to pay-TV distributors) rather than retail (to customers directly). "These differences need a big shift in cultural and organization orientation (especially reporting lines), in our opinion, which is not a trivial challenge," the analysts wrote.

On top of all of these possible complications, though, is the Fox deal, which is expected to close on January 1.

"The company’s pivot will happen during what is likely to be a complex integration culturally between Fox and Disney," analysts said.

But even considering the potential issues, Barclays analysts believe Disney has "the key mix of assets to be successful," and think its upcoming Investor Day should act as an opportunity to clarify questions and give investors a sense of the scale of Disney's ambitions.

Read more of Business Insider's coverage on Disney's upcoming streaming service:

SEE ALSO: Warner Bros. triumphed over Disney in public sentiment after hiring James Gunn for 'Suicide Squad 2'

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NOW WATCH: How actors fake fight in movies

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How the Internet of Things will transform consumerism, enterprises, and governments over the next five years

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 04:11
  • The Internet of Things is fueling the data-based economy and bridging the divide between physical and digital worlds.
  • Consumers, companies, and governments will install more than 40 billion IoT devices worldwide through 2023.
  • The next five years will mark a pivotal transformation in how companies and jurisdictions operate, and how consumers live.

Being successful in the digital age doesn’t just require knowing the latest buzzwords; it means identifying the transformational trends – and where they’re heading – before they ever heat up.

Take the Internet of Things (IoT), for example, which now receives not only daily tech news coverage with each new device launch, but also hefty investments from global organizations ushering in worldwide adoption. By 2023, consumers, companies, and governments will install more than 40 billion IoT devices globally. And it’s not just the ones you hear about all the time, like smart speakers and connected cars.

To successfully navigate this changing landscape, individuals and organizations must understand the full extent and functionality of the “Things” included in this network, the key drivers of each market segment, and how it all relates to the work they do every day.

Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has forecasted the start of the IoT’s global proliferation in The IoT Forecast Book 2018 — and the next five years will be transformational for consumers, enterprises, and governments.

  • Consumer IoT: In the US alone, the number of smart home devices is estimated to surpass 1 billion by 2023, with consumers dishing out about $725 per household — a total of over $90 billion in spending on IoT solutions.
  • Enterprise IoT: Comprising the most mature segment of the IoT, companies will continue pouring billions of dollars into connected devices and automation. By 2023, the total industrial robotic system installed base will approach 6 million worldwide, while annual spending on manufacturing IoT solutions will reach about $450 billion.
  • Government IoT: Governments globally are ushering in IoT devices to spur the development of smart cities, which would be equipped with innovations like connected cameras, smart street lights, and connected meters to provide a real-time view of traffic, utilities usage, crime, and environmental factors. Annual investment in this area is expected to reach nearly $900 billion by 2023.

Want to Learn More?

People, companies, and organizations all over the world are racing to adopt the latest IoT solutions and prevent growing pains amidst a technological transformation. The IoT Forecast Book 2018 from Business Insider Intelligence is a detailed three-part slide deck outlining the most important trends impacting consumer, enterprise, and government IoT — and the key drivers propelling each segment forward.

Representing thousands of hours of exhaustive research, our multipart forecast books are considered must-reads by thousands of highly successful business professionals. These informative slide decks are packed with charts and statistics outlining the most influential trends on the leading edge of your industry. Keep them for reference or drop the most valuable data into your own presentations to share with your teams.

Whether you’re newly interested in a topic or you already consider yourself a subject matter expert, The IoT Forecast Book 2018 can provide you with the actionable insights you need to make better decisions.

Get The IoT Forecast Book

 

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OnePlus rescheduled its upcoming smartphone event because Apple just recently announced its own event on the same day (AAPL)

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 01:00

  • OnePlus rescheduled its OnePlus 6T smartphone announcement event because Apple recently announced it's hosting an event on the same day. 
  • OnePlus' launch event is now taking place one day earlier, on October 29, at the same venue as originally planned. 
  • The company says it will cover the costs of travel changes and tickets for those who aren't able to make the new date. 

OnePlus was all set to unveil its new OnePlus 6T smartphone on October 30 in New York City, but then Apple decided to steal the spotlight.

The Mac maker this week announced its own Fall event to be held on October 30, and now OnePlus has rescheduled its event as a result.

The OnePlus event is happening just one day earlier, on October 29, at the original location in New York City. OnePlus founder Pete Lau announced the change in a OnePlus community post, and the company also announced the change over Twitter.

We've got some important news regarding our #OnePlus6T Launch Event in NYC. Find out why we changed our launch to October 29. https://t.co/3pj3PMDEGD pic.twitter.com/GcBDX8xcAY

— OnePlus (@oneplus) October 19, 2018

In his post, Lau said about the Apple event:

"We know the entire industry and all media will be holding their breath. So, imagine how we felt when we learned the date of their latest event. One minute, we were preparing for our greatest and most exciting launch event yet. The next, we were posed with a difficult question: “What do we do now?” "...

"We have only just begun our journey and cannot afford to let one of the most important products in our history be affected by another great product launch. So after deep reflection, we have decided to move the OnePlus 6T Launch Event in New York City to October 29."

Those who were planning to attend the OnePlus event will have their ticket costs covered by the company if they can't make it at the new date, Lau said, and he welcomes those who can make it to the event a day earlier than planned. And for those who made travel arrangements, Lau said the company would even cover the cost of flight and hotel changes. 

It's an incredibly unfortunate situation for OnePlus, but the company is seemingly dealing with its situation well and communicating with its fans. 

During Apple's October 30 event, we expect to hear about new iPad and Mac news, so it's not the same kind of product as OnePlus' smartphone. Still, all of the tech media's eyes will be on Apple that day, which would have absolutely and completely stolen OnePlus' thunder.

SEE ALSO: OnePlus is having some terrible luck with scheduling the launch of its latest smartphone

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Twitter is shutting down bot accounts posting pro-Saudi tweets about missing dissident Khashoggi (TWTR)

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 00:40

  • Twitter has suspended hundreds of bot accounts identified by NBC News as being involved in a coordinated campaign to defend the Saudi government's role in the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • Twitter told Business Insider it had already been aware of the bot accounts, which it said behaved like spam accounts. 
  • Twitter said it could not definitively link the accounts to the Saudi government. 

Twitter is suspending hundreds of bot accounts involved in a coordinated effort to flood the service with political messages about the suspected murder of a prominent Saudi dissident. 

The accounts have unleashed a barrage of messages in recent days that support the Saudi government's account in its role in the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to NBC News which reported  about the situation on Thursday. Twitter began cracking down on the accounts after it was notified, according to NBC News. 

Twitter, however, says it's been aware of such accounts for "some time" and that it was already in the process of shutting them down, a spokesperson told Business Insider on Friday.

Bots are automated accounts that are used by spammers, hackers and other miscreants to launch coordinated social media campaigns and denial of service attacks. They have been credited with spreading misinformation, notoriously during the 2016 presidential election. Ahead of midterm elections in November, Twitter has made an effort to be transparent in steps it's taking to curtail misuse of its platform, especially by foreign agents.   

One of the bot accounts NBC identified (which has since been suspended) posted: "From the very beginning, false statements have tried to link the disappearance or killing of #Jamal_Khashoggi to the kingdom. This is a campaign they are waging against the kingdom."

Twitter told Business Insider that the accounts it had suspended, while "behaving like typical spam accounts," could not be verified as accounts backed by the Saudi government (rather than independently supporting the king).

Twitter's problems with bot accounts is well-known. The platform flags 10 million potential spam accounts every week in an attempt to curb bots, but NBC was able to identify hundreds of accounts that spammed Twitter with identical tweets supporting the Saudi government's position.

The flagged accounts reportedly sent out hundreds of identical tweets in droves that disputed the widely believed notion that Saudi Arabia was involved in the disappearance of Khashoggi, who is feared dead.

SEE ALSO: Facebook is battling a tidal wave of fake news and misinformation on WhatsApp in Brazil

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How advances in edge computing are addressing key problems in the healthcare, telecommunications, and automotive sectors

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 00:08

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

Edge computing solutions are key tools that help companies grapple with rising data volumes across industries. These types of solutions are critical in allowing companies to gain more control over the data their IoT devices create and in reducing their reliance on (and the costs of) cloud computing.

These systems are becoming more sought-after — 40% of companies that provide IoT solutions reported that edge computing came up more in discussion with customers in 2017 than the year before, according to Business Insider Intelligence’s 2017 Global IoT Executive Survey. But companies need to know whether they should look into edge computing solutions, and what in particular they can hope to gain from shifting data processing and analysis from the cloud to the edge.

There are three particular types of problems that edge computing solutions are helping to combat across industries:

  • Security issues. Edge computing can limit the exposure of critical data by minimizing how often it’s transmitted. Further, they pre-process data, so there’s less data to secure overall.
  • Access issues. These systems help to provide live insights regardless of whether there’s a network connection available, greatly expanding where companies and organizations can use connected devices and the data they generate.
  • Transmission efficiency. Edge computing solutions process data where it’s created so less needs to be sent to the cloud, leading to lower cloud storage requirements and reduced transmission cost.

In this report, Business Insider Intelligence examines how edge computing is reducing companies' reliance on cloud computing in three key industries: healthcare, telecommunications, and the automotive space. We explore how these systems mitigate issues in each sector by helping to efficiently process growing troves of data, expanding the potential realms of IoT solutions a company can offer, and bringing enhanced computing capability to remote and mobile platforms.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • In healthcare, companies and organizations are using edge computing to improve telemedicine and remote monitoring capabilities.
  • For telecommunications companies, edge computing is helping to reduce network congestion and enabling a shift toward the IoT platform market.
  • And in the automotive space, edge computing systems are enabling companies to increase the capabilities of connected cars and trucks and approach autonomy.

In full, the report:

  • Explores the key advantages edge computing solutions can provide.
  • Highlights the circumstances when companies should look into edge systems.
  • Identifies key vendors and partners in specific industries while showcasing case studies of successful edge computing programs. Subscribe to a Premium pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More

    Purchase & download the full report from our research store

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Facebook is battling a tidal wave of fake news and misinformation on WhatsApp in Brazil (FB)

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 23:31

  • Facebook is battling a wave of fake news and disinformation in Brazil.
  • Business groups have been spreading hoaxes supporting the far-right candidate in the presidential election, and ones study found half of all political content being shared was false or misleading.
  • It shows how Facebook still struggles to police content on its platforms, and the seismic consequences this can have around the world.

Facebook is currently battling a deluge of digital misinformation and fake news ahead of a contentious election featuring a bombastic, far-right populist candidate. It's like 2016 all over again — but this time, the misinformation is spreading on messaging app WhatsApp, which Facebook owns, and the election is in Brazil. 

Brazil is currently in the middle of its presidential election, which is pitting the far-right Jair Bolsonaro against left-wing Fernando Haddad. Bolsonaro, who came out in front in a first-round vote but failed to win outright, has espoused extreme, nationalistic views, including opposition to equal marriage, support for torture, and more lethal tactics by police

Unlike in the US, WhatsApp is extremely popular and widespread in Brazil as a standard communication app — but hoaxes and false information can spread like wildfire on the platform. Writing in The New York Times recently, researchers found that the majority of the most popular political content shared on the app in Brazil is either false or misleading.

There are coordinated efforts to spread falsehoods, too: Hundreds of entrepreneurs and business groups have been actively pushing pro-Bolsonaro misinformation via WhatsApp via an illegal campaign, according to a report from Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo

There is no easy answer for Facebook. WhatsApp's messages are end-to-end encrypted, meaning the company can't view the content and proactively moderate like it might on Facebook's newsfeed, or on Instagram or Messenger (which can encrypt messages, but doesn't by default). 

But this chaos illustrates how — even as Facebook touts improvements in security and preparedness — it still faces struggles in policing unethical behaviour on its services, and the potentially seismic impact this can have on politics around the world.

Reached for comment, a WhatsApp spokesperson pointed towards a recent column by the app's boss, Chris Daniels, and provided a statement: "WhatsApp has proactively banned hundreds of thousands of accounts during the Brazilian election period. We have best-in-class spam detection technology that spots accounts that engage in abnormal behavior so they can’t be used to spread spam or misinformation. We're also taking immediate legal action to stop companies from sending bulk messages on WhatsApp and have already banned accounts associated with those companies."

The spokesperson did not respond to Business Insider's subsequent questions and requests to talk on the record about the steps WhatsApp is taking.

In Daniels' column, he flags a "forwarding" label, new controls for group admins, and a public education campaign among the measures WhatsApp is taking to try and tackle the problem. 

Do you work at Facebook? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at rprice@businessinsider.com, WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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SEE ALSO: Scammers have started using a fake Spotify email to steal people’s Apple IDs — here are the red flags to watch out for

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The issues with discoverability, monetization, and retention, and how to solve them

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 23:07

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

The voice app ecosystem is booming. In the US, the number of Alexa skills alone surpassed 25,000 in January 2018, up from just 7,000 the previous January, in categories ranging from music streaming services, to games, to connected home tools.

As voice platforms continue to gain footing in homes via smart speakers — connected devices powered primarily by artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled voice assistants — the opportunity for voice apps is becoming more profound. However, as observed with the rise of mobile apps in the late 2000s, any new digital ecosystem will face significant growing pains, and voice apps are no exception. Thanks to the visual-free format of voice apps, discoverability, monetization, and retention are proving particularly problematic in this nascent space. This is creating a problem in the voice assistant market that could hinder greater uptake if not addressed.

In this report, Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, explores the two major viable voice app stores. It identifies the three big issues voice apps are facing — discoverability, monetization, and retention — and presents possible short-term solutions ahead of industry-wide fixes.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • The market for smart speakers and voice platforms is expanding rapidly. The installed base of smart speakers and the volume of voice apps that can be accessed on them each saw significant gains in 2017. But the new format and the emerging voice ecosystems that are making their way into smart speaker-equipped homes is so far failing to align with consumer needs. 
  • Voice app development is a virtuous cycle with several broken components. The addressable consumer market is expanding, which is prompting more brands and developers to developer voice apps, but the ability to monetize and iterate those voice apps is limited, which could inhibit voice app growth. 
  • Monetization is only one broken component of the voice app ecosystem. Discoverability and user retention are equally problematic for voice app development. 
  • While the two major voice app ecosystems — Amazon's and Google's — have some Band-Aid solutions and workarounds, their options for improving monetization, discoverability, and retention for voice apps are currently limited.
  • There are some strategies that developers and brands can employ in the near term ahead of more robust tools and solutions.

In full, the report:

  • Sizes the current voice app ecosystem. 
  • Outlines the most pressing problems in voice app development and evolution in the space by examining the three most damning shortcoming: monetization, discoverability, and retention. 
  • Discusses the solutions being offered up by today's biggest voice platforms. 
  • Presents workaround solutions and alternative approaches that could catalyze development and evolution ahead of wider industry-wide fixes from the platforms.
Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More

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Stephen Hawking warned that machines are getting smarter than ever, and dismissing it could be our worst mistake

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 22:43

  • Stephen Hawking, who died earlier this year, wrote a collection of essays that were released on Tuesday. 
  • The book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, includes a chapter on the potential dangers of artificial intelligence. 
  • Hawking wrote that superhuman intelligence could manipulate financial markets, human leaders, and more without our control.
  • People should invest more in researching the potential effects of artificial intelligence in order to prevent losing control of machines, Hawking said.

Machines with superhuman intelligence have the potential to subdue humans with weapons that "we cannot even understand," Stephen Hawking wrote in a posthumous collection of essays released Tuesday.

The book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, comes seven months after the world-famous scientist's death. It features commentary on a variety of topics, including black holes and time travel, though some of the most dire predictions relate to artificial intelligence.

If computers keep doubling in both speed and memory capacity every 1.5 years, Hawking wrote, they will likely become more intelligent than people in the next 100 years. Such an intelligence "explosion" would require us to make sure that computers do not begin harming people, he said.

"It's tempting to dismiss the notion of highly intelligence machines as mere science fiction, but this would be a mistake, and potentially our worst mistake ever," Hawking wrote. 

Hawking noted that integrating artificial intelligence with neuroscience, statistics, and other fields has yielded many successful inventions — including speech recognition, autonomous vehicles, and machine translation. One day, even diseases and poverty could be eradicated with the help of artificial intelligence, he said.

While technology could benefit humans a great deal, Hawking wrote, researchers need to focus on making sure we avoid the risks that come with it. In the near future, artificial intelligence could increase economic equality and prosperity through job automation. But one day, the same systems could take over our financial markets, manipulate our leaders, and control our weapons, Hawking said.

"Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history," he wrote. "Unfortunately, it might also be our last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks."

Researchers have not focused enough on artificial intelligence-related issues, Hawking said, though some technology leaders are stepping in to change that. Hawking cited Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Steve Wozniak as examples of people who share his concerns, adding that awareness of potential risks is growing in the tech community. 

People should not turn away from exploring artificial intelligence, Hawking wrote. Human intelligence, after all, is the product of natural selection in which generations of people adapted to new circumstances, he said.

"We must not fear change," Hawking wrote. "We need to make it work to our advantage."

When humans invented fire, people struggled with controlling it until they created the fire extinguisher, Hawking wrote. This time around, we cannot afford to make mistakes and respond to them later, he said.

"With more powerful technologies such as nuclear weapons, synthetic biology and strong artificial intelligence, we should instead plan ahead and aim to get things right the first," Hawking wrote. "It may be the only chance we will get."

SEE ALSO: Stephen Hawking warned of future 'superhumans' threatening the end of humanity

SEE ALSO: Stephen Hawking's warning that genetically altered superhumans could wipe out the rest of us doesn't mention a likely characteristic of the future elite

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Google will reportedly charge European phone makers as much as $40 per phone to add popular apps like Gmail and Maps (GOOGL, GOOG)

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 22:01

  • Google will ask for $40 per device in "licensing fees" from Android manufacturers that want their phones to include Google's app bundle, the Verge reports. 
  • The fee will differ by country and device, and will cover Google's Play Store, as well as Gmail, YouTube, and Google Maps.
  • This is one of the many changes Google is making after it was hit with a $5 billion fine for forcing manufacturers that wanted access to the Google Play Store to exclusively install Google apps.

With a $5 billion antitrust fine looming overhead, we now know how much Google thinks its popular apps are worth, and what it wants Android manufacturers to pay for access to them.

Google has put a price tag of $40 on its app bundle, the Verge reports. This isn't a cost that you yourself would have to cough up — it's a "licensing fee" that Google will charge European-based phone makers if they want their devices to run Gmail, Maps, YouTube, and Google Play, Google's app store. 

The introduction of such a fee follows an antitrust ruling earlier this year that found Google had regularly abused its dominance over the smartphone market. Google has always offered a paired-down version of the Android mobile operating system free of charge. But to get access to Google's popular Play store, the company required manufacturers to install Google's bundle, which included the Chrome browser and Google Search. Antitrust regulators in Europe fined Google $5 billion for its illegal practices.

The licensing fees that Google will charge for its apps will vary depending on country and device, but will go as high as $40 per device, the Verge reports. According to documents that the publication obtained, EU countries are divided into three tiers to determine how much they should pay (the tier with the highest fees consists of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands). Fees are then reportedly broken down even further based on each device's pixel density — its resolution and display quality, essentially.

However, the Verge reports that phone manufacturers may be able to escape some — or all — of these costs if they choose to make Google's Chrome web browser and Search engine their device defaults. In theory, separating Search and Chrome from the rest of the Google app bundle will let manufacturers sign deals with other search and browser providers. But Google's deal to cover licensing fees may be too sweet to pass up, given the widespread use of Gmail, Maps, YouTube, and all the other apps consumers want.

These major changes to Google's relationship with European-based phone manufacturers will go into effect October 29.

Here's a breakdown of all the changes Google is making:

  • Phone makers that want to run Android on their devices will no longer be forced to exclusively install a bundle of Google apps (Chrome, Search) in order to access Google's Play Store, the most popular app store for Android
  • The downside is that Google will now charge phone makers licenses for a package of its apps, including the Play Store, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Maps. It will charge separate licenses for Search and Chrome
  • This means phone makers can choose to preinstall apps from Google as well as its competitors
  • Phone makers are also free to create non-compatible "forked" versions of Android and still have access to Google apps — previously, this was not allowed
  • You can read Google's explanation here.

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