Berkshire Hathaway builds stake in refiner Phillips 66

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett's company has amassed a stake worth nearly $4.5 billion in Phillips 66 more than a year after trading a chunk of its holding in the oil refiner for a chemical business investment. A regulatory filing says Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has accumulated about 58 million shares, which amounts to more than 10 percent of the Houston company's stock.

Berkshire Hathaway builds stake in refiner Phillips 66

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett's company has amassed a stake worth nearly $4.5 billion in Phillips 66 more than a year after trading a chunk of its holding in the oil refiner for a chemical business investment. A regulatory filing says Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has accumulated about 58 million shares, which amounts to more than 10 percent of the Houston company's stock.

New photos reportely show Apple iPhone 6s Force Touch screen and larger front camera

An Apple iPhone 6 is seen on display at the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015.

Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac has acquired some newly leaked photos that show the new camera and screen of the next iPhones — likely called the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

The new phones will be introduced at Apple’s fall event on September 9.

The photo below shows a larger front-facing camera on the new (black) iPhone 6s, compared to the smaller one on the (white) iPhone 6 underneath it.

9to5

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have 1.2 megapixel camera sensors and f/2.2 aperture, which Apple said lets in 81 percent more light than earlier iPhones. The larger sensor on the new iPhone 6s should make for brighter and sharper selfies and FaceTime video.

The 6s will also reportedly have a larger 12-megapixel rear-facing camera that can shoot 4K video. The iPhone 6 has an 8-megapixel camera, and the limitations of that camera can be clearly seen in the washed-out details of images.

As we reported in early June, the new iPhone 6s will get a front screen with Force Touch and haptic feedback. Below is a shot of the rectangle-shaped taptic feedback engine that creates the vibration response under the user’s finger touch.

9to52

9to5Mac’s photos also show the internal design of an upgraded Touch ID fingerprint sensor, Gurman says.

9to55

Apple is under a certain amount of pressure to offer a set of feature improvements in the new iPhone 6s that will tempt consumers to trade up from the current iPhone 6.

More information:

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New photos reportely show Apple iPhone 6s Force Touch screen and larger front camera

An Apple iPhone 6 is seen on display at the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015.

Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac has acquired some newly leaked photos that show the new camera and screen of the next iPhones — likely called the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

The new phones will be introduced at Apple’s fall event on September 9.

The photo below shows a larger front-facing camera on the new (black) iPhone 6s, compared to the smaller one on the (white) iPhone 6 underneath it.

9to5

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have 1.2 megapixel camera sensors and f/2.2 aperture, which Apple said lets in 81 percent more light than earlier iPhones. The larger sensor on the new iPhone 6s should make for brighter and sharper selfies and FaceTime video.

The 6s will also reportedly have a larger 12-megapixel rear-facing camera that can shoot 4K video. The iPhone 6 has an 8-megapixel camera, and the limitations of that camera can be clearly seen in the washed-out details of images.

As we reported in early June, the new iPhone 6s will get a front screen with Force Touch and haptic feedback. Below is a shot of the rectangle-shaped taptic feedback engine that creates the vibration response under the user’s finger touch.

9to52

9to5Mac’s photos also show the internal design of an upgraded Touch ID fingerprint sensor, Gurman says.

9to55

Apple is under a certain amount of pressure to offer a set of feature improvements in the new iPhone 6s that will tempt consumers to trade up from the current iPhone 6.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles


VB's research team is studying web-personalization... Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.









The drone revolution: How unmanned aerial vehicles will transform the economy

Screen capture from Economist Films' "The Drone Pilots Making the World a Better Place"

Tech giant Facebook recently announced plans to bring Internet access to areas where many people have never touched a computer before — using solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles as Wi-Fi hot spots.

The potential of these uniquely mobile hot spots is huge: Drones might be about to open the global economy to billions of individuals living in vast, unconnected parts of the planet.

With more than 1,000 business leaders betting heavily on drones — before the Federal Aviation Administration even debuts official regulations — industries across the board are taking a closer look at drone technology. UAVs are particularly poised to innovate in three industries.


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Renewable Energy

If drones go mainstream, they could lead to a boom in renewable energy due to drastically decreased infrastructure costs, improved worker safety, and decreased outages.

Millions of photovoltaic modules comprise solar power plants, each of which will fail at some point. Skycatch, a Google-backed startup, has created an automated drone that flies over solar arrays at 50 mph to scan for failed modules. Each drone stores 15 gigabytes of data, which it beams to Box after returning to home base and replacing its own battery.

This sector’s investment in UAVs could pave the way for safe, effective monitoring of wind turbines, power plants, and power lines.

Mining

Commercial mining is an industry plagued by steep costs, but drones could significantly reduce overhead for mining companies.

The machinery is massive, sites are expansive, and worker safety requires constant monitoring. Companies often explore sites and supervise operations by helicopter — and whether you’re renting or buying, helicopters don’t come cheap.

So the initial popularity of drones within the industry isn’t surprising. When it comes to exploration, stockpile monitoring, and equipment tracking, drones can do everything helicopters can — but with a $200-per-hour price tag rather than the helicopter’s $2,000 hourly fee.

The industry is also eyeing drone technology to improve complex operations from mine mapping to search and rescue.

Transportation

Deficiencies in the nation’s transportation network will cost almost $1 trillion per year and 3.5 million jobs if they’re not repaired by 2020.

Thankfully, UAVs can help by mapping fine-scale damage that natural disasters do to bridges, roads, and highways to prevent costly, dangerous infrastructure collapses.

We’ve also seen an uptick in train derailments in recent years. These tragedies have cast a harsh light on the state of our rails. To prevent tragedies, companies such as BNSF Railway and Union Pacific have secured FAA authorization to employ drones for regular inspections of tracks, bridges, radio towers, and power lines.

When the public realizes drones are saving lives, expect a major surge in support. Investors would be wise to get in on the ground floor.

Making UAVs a Commercial Reality

While drones are increasingly catching the attention of tech leaders, the changing regulatory environment is hampering widespread use. Business leaders, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (who plans to unleash a fleet of package-delivering drones), have expressed frustration with the FAA for stymying innovation.

With startup leaders, in particular, seeking approval for innovative uses, the FAA is fast-tracking UAV integration. Currently, businesses wishing to use drones may apply to the FAA for a Section 333 exemption. The FAA grants exemptions that prove an equivalent (or greater) level of safety than that of a manned aircraft. Section 333 exemptions, however, are a temporary measure to allow some safe uses of drones.

A more streamlined approval process will spur industry investment, and the FAA likely will debut more permanent, specific regulations by 2017. Expect the new rules to address industrial use must-haves, including long linear operations (such as power line inspection) and beyond-line-of-sight operations (such as those contemplated by Amazon).

To that end, the FAA is partnering with NASA and industry leaders to develop the Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management infrastructure — also known as sky highways for drones. This pivotal development likely will lead to an explosion in commercial drone operations.

Drones can and will transform the business landscape. Understanding drone technology, regulations, and industry trends could give you your next strategic advantage.

William O’Connor is a partner in the San Diego office of Morrison & Foerster, a global law firm with 17 offices throughout the world. O’Connor has represented airlines, aerospace manufacturers, and airports in high-profile cases involving major commercial airline disasters, military and civilian helicopter accidents, and business jet crashes. He is also a licensed private pilot.


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Until Dawn gets its first bug-fix update

Yes, it's time to run. A scene from Until Dawn, where Samantha confronts a creepy guy.

Sony has released an update to fix various bugs that interrupt the gameplay of Until Dawn. These bug fixes could be critical, since Until Dawn is a highly replayable interactive horror game where you try to save as many characters trapped at a mountain lodge, until dawn.

Gamers have complained about some problems from the bugs. I’ve run into a couple of bugs myself in three playthroughs of the game. In one of them, one of the characters fires a gun and the gun doesn’t actually go off. There’s bad consequences for that. In another scene, one character picked up a totem and the game crashed as the video started. After I installed the 46-megabyte update, that problem went away for me.

Here’s our review of Until Dawn, and here’s our tips for surviving it.










U.S. International Trade Commission clears Microsoft of patent infringement

Microsoft Corp avoided a potentially costly setback to its mobile phone business on Friday as the U.S. International Trade Commission declined to block the import of its devices in a longstanding patent dispute. The decision rejected a ruling in April by a U.S. trade judge who found that Microsoft had infringed two InterDigital Inc wireless patents, and recommended an import ban.

ArenaNet makes Guild Wars 2 free as it preps paid Heart of Thorns expansion

Guild Wars 2 is going free, and these royal guard outfits are as well.

Confirming rumors, ArenaNet announced today that the Guild Wars 2 core online game is going to be available for free, starting today. At the same time, ArenaNet is preparing a paid expansion pack, Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, for launch on October 23.

The Seattle-based company announced the changes at the PAX Prime event in Seattle.

The coming expansion for the fantasy role-playing game will include a new system for raids as well as all-new content.

Mike O'Brien, cofounder and president of ArenaNet.

Above: Mike O’Brien, cofounder and president of ArenaNet.

Image Credit: ArenaNet

ArenaNet cofounder and president Mike O’Brien told GamesBeat in an interview that the aim of the company is to offer a simple business model and lots of value for gamers. When NCSoft-owned ArenaNet launched Guild Wars 2 three years ago as a massively multiplayer online game, it took the bold step of selling it for a $60 flat fee. It decided not to charge a monthly subscription as Blizzard Entertainment does for World of Warcraft, and it also declined to make the game free-to-play, where you start out playing for free and then pay real money for virtual goods inside the game. O’Brien calls the company’s model “buy to play.”

“We’ve been championing the simplicity of our business model for years,” O’Brien said. “People questioned our viability, but it has worked out.”


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O’Brien said that the model worked very well, and now the company hopes to stoke demand for the core game by making it free.

“We’re confident that players are going to like it and then will pay for the expansion,” O’Brien said.

When Guild Wars 2 launched, it earned a 90 out of 100 rating on review aggregator Metacritic. It has sold more than 5 million units to date, O’Brien said. And the company has delivered more than 40 content updates for players, fulfilling its pledge of providing additional free content for a long time, he said.

Game director Colin Johanson said in an interview with GamesBeat that the new Heart of Thorns expansion will have a new form of challenges for players. ArenaNet will offer regular updates for its “living world” expansion as well. That means there will be new story-driven releases similar to episodic TV series.

Heart of Thorns will follow a similar model, where updates are available for free for those who paid for the expansion. O’Brien said the company decided not to aggressively monetize the loyal users through microtransactions, as most other online game companies do.

The expansion has a new approach to leveling up called Masteries, which replace traditional number-based progression once players reach level 80 with a system of contextual and skill-based abilities to pursue and earn. There is an entirely new profession, the revenant, for players to master, along with new elite specializations that add new skills, weapons and abilities to every existing profession in the game. The base price of the expansion is $50.

There are also group progression features including guild halls, where players in guilds can claim, explore, and eventually architect and customize giant maps within the game world, and player-versus-player (PvP) Leagues, where teams competing in PvP are given a roadmap to develop their skills and earn status and rewards.

In the raids, players can gather in groups of 10 to attack instanced content, using newly acquired abilities to overcome increasing challenges until a big boss battle ensues. The raids will be action-oriented, and players will have to use active strategies such as weapon changes or ability modifications on the fly. They’ll have to use combos, dodge, roll, and position for attacks.The raids don’t rely on the conventional tank, healer and damage dealer “trinity” to take on challenges. Instead, all players in a group will need to step up and support, control, and do damage in encounters in order for the group to succeed.

The game still has microtransactions, but you never have to “pay to win,” said Johanson.

ArenaNet has more than 300 employees.

Guild Wars 2 expansion

Above: Guild Wars 2 expansion, Spirit Wall

Image Credit: ArenaNet









The SaaS Success Database

unicorn-money What does it take to build a billion-dollar SaaS enterprise-software company? We gave a 30,000-foot answer to this complex — and fascinating — question in a recent TechCrunch post, The SaaS Adventure. To recap: We’ve observed seven key phases in most SaaS companies’ go-to-market success. We dubbed this journey the “SaaS Adventure,” which is broadly how we… Read More