Is SpaceX the model for a private Tesla?

FILE PHOTO: SpaceX founder Elon Musk speaks at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo In a letter here on Tesla's website, Musk said that taking the company private would shield Tesla from the scrutiny of Wall Street and its demand for positive quarterly results.

10m cash call rescues payday lender Wonga from insolvency

Wonga, one of Britain's largest short-term money-lenders, has been saved from going bust by an emergency A 10m cash injection from a consortium of high-profile technology investors. Sky News a Zcan exclusively reveal that Wonga, which was among the pioneers of the UK's online payday lending sector, has been rescued in the last few weeks after its chief executive warned shareholders that it was in danger of becoming insolvent.

GoPro sees revenue above estimates, plans three new cameras

GoPro sees revenue above estimates, plans three new camerasGoPro’s new low-priced models of its flagship Hero camera follow a $200 (153.55 pounds) model launched in March and builds on efforts to bring back action enthusiasts who have switched to pocket-friendly smartphones with powerful cameras. “Launching a new entry-level camera this holiday season is a benefit to the consumer and to GoPro’s margin as well,” Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Woodman said on a post-earnings call, adding that he believed the company will be profitable in the second half of 2018. GoPro, which said it would launch the three cameras at a price point of $199 and $299, forecast third-quarter revenue of $260 million to $280 million.

India’s answer to WeWork raises $20M

WeWork rivals are in the money this year. India’s biggest rival to the U.S. co-working giant, a Mumbai-headquartered startup called Awfis, announced that it has raised $20 million in new capital for expansion. The news comes just after Hong Kong-based Campfire pulled in $18 million.

Awfis raised its new funds, which are a Series C round, from Sequoia India, Innoven Capital — the fund connected with Singapore sovereign fund Temasek — and TTS:IO, The Three Sisters, a family fund run by the three daughters of banking billionaire Rana Kapoor.

TTS:IO jointly incubated the project in 2015, while Sequoia India led its $20 Series B round last year.

CEO Amit Ramani stressed that his company is taking a different route to WeWork, which entered India last year and currently has eight locations. Awfis claims 55 centers which house 25,000 seats — it says it has a membership base of 15,000. The startup is aiming to scale to 90-100 centers and 40,000 seats over the next year.

“We had a big headstart and we have a massive lead right now,” Ramani told TechCrunch. “We’re really very different [to WeWork] from a commercial real estate perspective and we have built knowledge of micro-markets across India and are expanding beyond CBDs in our cities and into new locations.”

While WeWork shoots for a premium offering for startups, Ramani said Awfis is happy taking a more value-focused approach and also looking to the meat of the market, SMEs and corporates. Awfis has its halo-style locations, but the company is opening to turning any vacant real estate into co-working. Case in point, it has taken over unused retail space in malls and even one floor of a hotel while it offers traditional-style office rentals to some customers.

It also adopts a more collaborative approach with land-owners. While we work offers ‘Powered By We’ — a service that redesigns existing office space for companies — Awfis takes a pragmatic approach to selecting space.

“It’s more of a JV. We run the whole show but the space owner brings in the capex and there’s no minimum guarantee but they take a percentage of profits,” Ramani explained.

Right now, he said, around 55 percent of Awfis’ capacity is managed, but he intends to raise that figure to 60 percent.

Aside from that, he said also that Awfis reaches more enterprise and SME driven customers who he believes appreciate the focus on value. In some cases, he said, expansion into new cities is preempted by a request from an existing customer, while Awfis offers a service for SMEs that effectively gives them their own office within a designated “co-working space.”

“We can set up head offices and customize our product for them with personalized space and services,” Ramani explained.

As a capital intensive market, Ramani said fundraising will be “very regular,” with this next round likely to come in seven to eight months. WeWork has bought up competitors in Greater China (Naked Hub) and Southeast Asia (Spacemob) to grow its footprint in Asia, but so far it hasn’t been in touch with Awfis, its CEO said. He’s not expecting a call, however, as he believes there’s enough room for “four to five” companies operating at scale in India.

“The market is huge and there’s a place for multiple players to exist. [WeWork] are bit more premier range and we are more value driven, but we’re betting on that for a much larger market share.”

Qualcomm says it will drop its massive $44B offer to acquire NXP

Qualcomm today said it wouldn’t extend its offer to buy NXP for $44 billion today as part of its release for its quarterly earnings, and instead be returning $30 billion to investors in the form of a share buy-back.

So, barring any last-second changes in the approval process in China or “other material developments”, the deal is basically dead after failing to clear China’s SAMR. As the tariff battle between the U.S. and China has heated up, it appears the Qualcomm/NXP deal — one of the largest in the semiconductor industry ever — may be one of its casualties. The White House announced it would impose tariffs on Chinese tech products in May earlier this year, kicking off an extended delay in the deal between Qualcomm and NXP even after Qualcomm tried to close the deal in an expedient fashion. Qualcomm issued the announcement this afternoon, and the company’s shares rose more than 5% when its earnings report came out.

“We reported results significantly above our prior expectations for our fiscal third quarter, driven by solid execution across the company, including very strong results in our licensing business,” Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said in a statement with the report. “We intend to terminate our purchase agreement to acquire NXP when the agreement expires at the end of the day today, pending any new material developments. In addition, as previously indicated, upon termination of the agreement, we intend to pursue a stock repurchase program of up to $30 billion to deliver significant value to our stockholders.”

Today’s termination also marks the end of another chapter for a tumultuous couple of months for Qualcomm. The White House blocked Broadcom’s massive takeover attempt of Qualcomm in March earlier this year, and there’s the still-looming specter of its patent spat with Apple. Now Qualcomm will instead be returning an enormous amount of capital to investors instead of tacking on NXP in the largest ever consolidation deal in the semiconductor industry.

LG Display losses mount on falling panel prices

LG Display losses mount on falling panel pricesThe Apple Inc (AAPL.O) supplier posted an operating loss of 228 billion won (153.72 million pounds), compared with an average forecast of a 247 billion won loss derived from a Thomson Reuters survey of 11 analysts. It was LG Display’s second consecutive quarterly loss amid an uncertain time for the global panel industry, with Chinese manufacturers ramping up capacity and a glut of LCD output crimping prices and profit margins.

U.S. trade tariffs set to leave Mnuchin in cold at G20 meeting

U.S. trade tariffs set to leave Mnuchin in cold at G20 meetingWASHINGTON/BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – The financial leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies meet in Buenos Aires this weekend for the first time since long-simmering trade tensions burst into the open when China and the United States put tariffs on $34 billion of each other’s goods. The United States will seek to convince Japan and the European Union to join it in a more aggressive stance against Chinese trade practices at the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank presidents, according to a senior U.S. Treasury Department official, who spoke on condition on anonymity.

Apple’s Shortcuts will flip the switch on Siri’s potential

At WWDC, Apple pitched Shortcuts as a way to ”take advantage of the power of apps” and ”expose quick actions to Siri.” These will be suggested by the OS, can be given unique voice commands, and will even be customizable with a dedicated Shortcuts app.

But since this new feature won’t let Siri interpret everything, many have been lamenting that Siri didn’t get much better — and is still lacking compared to Google Assistant or Amazon Echo.

But to ignore Shortcuts would be missing out on the bigger picture. Apple’s strengths have always been the device ecosystem and the apps that run on them.

With Shortcuts, both play a major role in how Siri will prove to be a truly useful assistant and not just a digital voice to talk to.

Your Apple devices just got better

For many, voice assistants are a nice-to-have, but not a need-to-have.

It’s undeniably convenient to get facts by speaking to the air, turning on the lights without lifting a finger, or triggering a timer or text message – but so far, studies have shown people don’t use much more than these on a regular basis.

People don’t often do more than that because the assistants aren’t really ready for complex tasks yet, and when your assistant is limited to tasks inside your home or commands spoken inton your phone, the drawbacks prevent you from going deep.

If you prefer Alexa, you get more devices, better reliability, and a breadth of skills, but there’s not a great phone or tablet experience you can use alongside your Echo. If you prefer to have Google’s Assistant everywhere, you must be all in on the Android and Home ecosystem to get the full experience too.

Plus, with either option, there are privacy concerns baked into how both work on a fundamental level – over the web.

In Apple’s ecosystem, you have Siri on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod, CarPlay, and any Mac. Add in Shortcuts on each of those devices (except Mac, but they still have Automator) and suddenly you have a plethora of places to execute these all your commands entirely by voice.

Each accessory that Apple users own will get upgraded, giving Siri new ways to fulfill the 10 billion and counting requests people make each month (according to Craig Federighi’s statement on-stage at WWDC).

But even more important than all the places where you can use your assistant is how – with Shortcuts, Siri gets even better with each new app that people download. There’s the other key difference: the App Store.

Actions are the most important part of your apps

iOS has always had a vibrant community of developers who create powerful, top-notch applications that push the system to its limits and take advantage of the ever-increasing power these mobile devices have.

Shortcuts opens up those capabilities to Siri – every action you take in an app can be shared out with Siri, letting people interact right there inline or using only their voice, with the app running everything smoothly in the background.

Plus, the functional approach that Apple is taking with Siri creates new opportunities for developers provide utility to people instead of requiring their attention. The suggestions feature of Shortcuts rewards “acceleration”, showing the apps that provide the most time savings and use for the user more often.

This opens the door to more specialized types of apps that don’t necessarily have to grow a huge audience and serve them ads – if you can make something that helps people, Shortcuts can help them use your app more than ever before (and without as much effort). Developers can make a great experience for when people visit the app, but also focus on actually doing something useful too.

This isn’t a virtual assistant that lives in the cloud, but a digital helper that can pair up with the apps uniquely taking advantage of Apple’s hardware and software capabilities to truly improve your use of the device.

In the most groan-inducing way possible, “there’s an app for that” is back and more important than ever. Not only are apps the centerpiece of the Siri experience, but it’s their capabilities that extend Siri’s – the better the apps you have, the better Siri can be.

Control is at your fingertips

Importantly, Siri gets all of this Shortcuts power while keeping the control in each person’s hands.

All of the information provided to the system is securely passed along by individual apps – if something doesn’t look right, you can just delete the corresponding app and the information is gone.

Siri will make recommendations based on activities deemed relevant by the apps themselves as well, so over-active suggestions shouldn’t be common (unless you’re way too active in some apps, in which case they added Screen Time for you too).

Each of the voice commands is custom per user as well, so people can ignore their apps suggestions and set up the phrases to their own liking. This means nothing is already “taken” because somebody signed up for the skill first (unless you’ve already used it yourself, of course).

Also, Shortcuts don’t require the web to work – the voice triggers might not work, but the suggestions and Shortcuts app give you a place to use your assistant voicelessly. And importantly, Shortcuts can use the full power of the web when they need to.

This user-centric approach paired with the technical aspects of how Shortcuts works gives Apple’s assistant a leg up for any consumers who find privacy important. Essentially, Apple devices are only listening for “Hey Siri”, then the available Siri domains + your own custom trigger phrases.

Without exposing your information to the world or teaching a robot to understand everything, Apple gave Siri a slew of capabilities that in many ways can’t be matched. With Shortcuts, it’s the apps, the operating system, and the variety of hardware that will make Siri uniquely qualified come this fall.

Plus, the Shortcuts app will provide a deeper experience for those who want to chain together actions and customize their own shortcuts.

There’s lots more under the hood to experiment with, but this will allow anyone to tweak & prod their Siri commands until they have a small army of custom assistant tasks at the ready.

Hey Siri, let’s get started

Siri doesn’t know all, Can’t perform any task you bestow upon it, and won’t make somewhat uncanny phone calls on your behalf.

But instead of spending time conversing with a somewhat faked “artificial intelligence”, Shortcuts will help people use Siri as an actual digital assistant – a computer to help them get things done better than they might’ve otherwise.

With Siri’s new skills extendeding to each of your Apple products (except for Apple TV and the Mac, but maybe one day?), every new device you get and every new app you download can reveal another way to take advantage of what this technology can offer.

This broadening of Siri may take some time to get used to – it will be about finding the right place for it in your life.

As you go about your apps, you’ll start seeing and using suggestions. You’ll set up a few voice commands, then you’ll do something like kick off a truly useful shortcut from your Apple Watch without your phone connected and you’ll realize the potential.

This is a real digital assistant, your apps know how to work with it, and it’s already on many of your Apple devices. Now, it’s time to actually make use of it.