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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/21/2017 8:34:46 PM
   of 518
 
Google Paid Htc $1.1 Billion To Turn Itself Into A Phone Maker



After years of half-heartedly and occasionally hamfistedly building gadgets, Google's finally all-in on the hardware game. Google will announce a number of new products on October 4, reportedly including two new phones, a smaller version of the Google Home, and a high-end laptop. And on Wednesday, the company announced an agreement with struggling manufacturer HTC that will import a team of engineers over to Google, to help close the gap between Mountain View's hardware ambitions and its present reality.

The tie-up's not quite the acquisition that had been rumored, but rather a "cooperation agreement." Google is hiring a team of HTC employees—about 2,000 people in all, members of HTC's "Powered by HTC" division—most of whom have already been working on Google's Pixel phones. Those employees will stay in Taipei, Taiwan, where HTC is headquartered, but they'll become full-on Googlers. In exchange for those workers and a non-exclusive license for some of HTC's intellectual property, Google's paying HTC $1.1 billion. Both sides hope to close the deal by early 2018. Even after the arrangement is finalized, HTC will continue making its own phones, and building Vive VR products.

According to one source, the agreement essentially shortcuts the acquisition process. Google doesn't need an entire company; it just needs engineers that can help it tightly integrate Pixel hardware with its homegrown software. So rather than deal with enveloping HTC whole cloth, it can simply pay for and quickly get the team it needs. A team which, again, already makes Google hardware. In some ways, all that changes is the ID badge.



To read the entire article, select the following:

wired.com


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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/30/2017 6:11:12 AM
   of 518
 
Tesla Semi Truck Hauls Heavy Disruptive Potential



Tesla’s announcement of an electric semi-truck is a big deal – not only does it have the potential to disrupt one the nation’s largest industries, but it marks another leap forward in making Tesla’s grand vision a reality. That said, we caution that it will take years for the Tesla Semi to come to market.

Based on Tesla’s history, the most logical go-to-market approach would be staggered: Within about 3 years, Tesla could target short haul trucking (think of UPS or Fedex trucks that return to a depot to be charged at night). Then in about 5 years, Tesla could target long haul trucking, and, in 6-10 years, offer a fleet of trucks as a service. We expect the Oct 26th event will be short on details (we don’t expect details on pricing or delivery date) and long on the opportunity. That opportunity is ripe for Tesla’s taking, considering legacy truck manufacturers’ past struggles with innovation.

In his 2016 memo, Master Plan, Part Deux, Musk elaborates on this vision (which we detail here) and explains Tesla’s ambition to “expand to cover the major forms of terrestrial transport.” This includes heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport, among others. By electrifying more forms of transportation (roughly 30% of our energy consumption), Tesla would advance their vision of accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Although many of the details surrounding the truck have yet to surface, the implications are clear – and they are widespread.

The trucking industry is downright massive. Upending an industry with such deep roots that touches a sizable portion of our economic activity is not a simple or a swift process, but its core elements are ripe for today’s disruptive forces. Let’s put the industry into perspective:

Trucks move roughly 70% of the nation’s freight by weight, and 82% of it by value. It takes 54.3 billion gallons of fuel to move this freight each year. It employs 7.3 million people, 6% of the U.S. working population, or 1 in 17 workers. Truck driver is the most common profession in 29 of 50 states. As of 2016 there were 1.5 million trucking companies in the country, 97% of which operate fewer than 20 trucks.

To read the entire article select the following URL:

http://loupventures.com/tesla-semi-truck-hauls-heavy-disruptive-potential/


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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/30/2017 6:30:06 AM
   of 518
 
To Compete with New Rivals, Chipmaker Nvidia Shares Its Secrets

Five years ago, Nvidia was best known as a maker of chips to power videogame graphics in PCs. Then researchers found its graphics chips were also good at powering deep learning, the software technique behind recent enthusiasm for artificial intelligence.

The discovery made Nvidia into the preferred seller of shovels for the AI gold rush that’s propelling dreams of self-driving cars, delivery drones and software that plays doctor. The company’s stock-market value has risen 10-fold in three years, to more than $100 billion.

That’s made Nvidia and the market it more-or-less stumbled into an attractive target. Longtime chip kingpin Intel and a stampede of startups are building and offering chips to power smart machines. Further competition comes from large tech companies designing their own AI chips. Google’s voice recognition and image search now run on in-house chips dubbed “tensor processing units,” while the face-unlock feature in Apple’s new iPhone is powered by a home-grown chip with a “neural engine”.

Nvidia’s latest countermove is counterintuitive. This week the company released as open source the designs to a chip module it made to power deep learning in cars, robots, and smaller connected devices such as cameras. That module, the DLA for deep learning accelerator, is somewhat analogous to Apple’s neural engine. Nvidia plans to start shipping it next year in a chip built into a new version of its Drive PX computer for self-driving cars, which Toyota plans to use in its autonomous-vehicle program.

Why give away this valuable intellectual property for free? Deepu Talla, Nvidia’s vice president for autonomous machines, says he wants to help AI chips reach more markets than Nvidia can accommodate itself. While his unit works to put the DLA in cars, robots, and drones, he expects others to build chips that put it into diverse markets ranging from security cameras to kitchen gadgets to medical devices. “There are going to be hundreds of billions of internet of things devices in the future,” says Talla. “We cannot address all the markets out there.”

To read the entire article, select the following URL:

https://www.wired.com/story/to-compete-with-new-rivals-chipmaker-nvidia-shares-its-secrets?mbid=nl_092917_daily&CNDID=%25%25CUST_ID%25%25


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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/30/2017 6:43:13 AM
   of 518
 
Why Futurist Ray Kurzweil Isn’t Worried About Technology Stealing Your Job

You know a topic is trending when the likes of Tesla’s Elon Musk and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg publicly bicker about its potential risks and rewards. In this case, Musk says he fears artificial intelligence will lead to World War III because nations will compete for A.I. superiority. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has called such doomsday scenarios “irresponsible” and says he is optimistic about A.I.

But another tech visionary sees the future as more nuanced. Ray Kurzweil, an author and director of engineering at Google, thinks, in the long run, that A.I. will do far more good than harm. Despite some potential downsides, he welcomes the day that computers surpass human intelligence—a tipping point otherwise known as “the singularity.” That’s partly why, in 2008, he cofounded the aptly named Singularity University, an institute that focuses on world-changing technologies. We caught up with the longtime futurist to get his take on the A.I. debate and, well, to ask what the future holds for us all.

Fortune: Has the rate of change in technology been in line with your predictions?

Kurzweil: Many futurists borrow from the imagination of science-fiction writers, but they don’t have a really good methodology for predicting when things will happen. Early on, I realized that timing is important to everything, from stock investing to romance—you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time. And so I started studying technology trends. If you Google how my predictions have fared, you’ll get a 150-page paper analyzing 147 predictions I made about the year 2009, which I wrote in the late ’90s—86% were correct, 78% were exactly to the year.

What’s one prediction that didn’t come to fruition?

That we’d have self-driving cars by 2009. It’s not completely wrong. There actually were some self-driving cars back then, but they were very experimental.

Why are we so bad at predicting certain things? For example, Donald Trump winning the presidency?

He’s not technology.

Have you tried to build models for predicting politics or world events?

The power and influence of governments is decreasing because of the tremendous power of social networks and economic trends. There’s some problem in the pension funds in Spain, and the whole world feels it. I think these kinds of trends affect us much more than the decisions made in Washington and other capitals. That’s not to say they’re not important, but they actually have no impact on the basic trends I’m talking about. Things that happened in the 20th century like World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and the Great Depression had no effect on these very smooth trajectories for technology.

What do you think about the current debate about artificial intelligence? Elon Musk has said it poses an existential threat to humanity.

Technology has always been a double-edged sword, since fire kept us warm but burned down our houses. It’s very clear that overall human life has gotten better, although technology amplifies both our creative and destructive impulses. A lot of people think things are getting worse, partly because that’s actually an evolutionary adaptation: It’s very important for your survival to be sensitive to bad news. A little rustling in the leaves may be a predator, and you better pay attention to that. All of these technologies are a risk. And the powerful ones—biotechnology, nanotechnology, and A.I.—are potentially existential risks. I think if you look at history, though, we’re being helped more than we’re being hurt.

To read the entire article, select the following URL:

fortune.com


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From: Paul H. Christiansen10/3/2017 10:43:33 PM
   of 518
 
GENERAL MOTORS IS GOING ALL ELECTRIC



After more than a century peddling vehicles that pollute the atmosphere, General Motors is ending its relationship with gasoline and diesel. This morning, the American automotive giant announced that it is working toward an all-electric, zero-emissions future. That starts with two new, fully electric models next year—then at least 18 more by 2023.

That product onslaught puts the company at the forefront of an increasingly large crowd of automakers proclaiming the age of electricity and promising to move away from gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. In recent months, Volvo, Aston Martin, and Jaguar Land Rover have announced similar moves. GM’s declaration, though, is particularly noteworthy because it’s among the very largest automakers on the planet. It sold 10 million cars last year, ranging from pickups to SUVs to urban runabouts.

“General Motors believes the future is all-electric,” says Mark Reuss, the company’s head of product. “We are far along in our plan to lead the way to that future world.”

Reuss did not give a date for the death knell of the GM gas- or diesel-powered car, saying the transition will happen at different speeds in different markets and regions. The new all-electric models will be a mix of battery electric cars and fuel cell-powered vehicles.

To be sure, GM’s sudden jolt of electricity is planned with its shareholders in mind. The Trump Administration may be moving to roll back fuel efficiency requirements in the US, but the rest of the world is insisting on an electric age. France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Norway have all said they plan to ban the sale of gas and diesel cars in the coming decades. More importantly, China—the world’s largest car market—and India, a rising star, plan to join them. No automaker can compete globally without a compelling stable of electric cars.\

To read the entire article, select the following URL:

https://www.wired.com/story/general-motors-electric-cars-plan-gm/


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From: Paul H. Christiansen10/3/2017 10:49:54 PM
   of 518
 
WHY GOOGLE NEEDS GADGETS

You'd think having dominated search and email, created Chrome and YouTube, plus a self-driving car project, a handful of save-the-world enterprises, and the greatest advertising business in the history of the universe would be enough to keep Google busy. You certainly wouldn't think the folks in Mountain View would suddenly feel the urge to get into the smartphone game, a remarkably mature market where nobody but Samsung and Apple makes any money, and where Google's already ubiquitous thanks to Android.

And yet, tomorrow, Google will reportedly launch the next generation of its smartphone with the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. At the same time, the company will reportedly introduce a new Chrome OS-based laptop called the Pixelbook, a small smart speaker called the Google Home Mini, and new hardware for the Daydream VR platform. The announcements come on the heels of Google's $1.1 billion acqui-hire of 2,000 HTC engineers, who will help Google make more hardware, more quickly. Right or wrong, smart or stupid, Google's a hardware company now.

Of course, Google's made hardware for a long time. The Nexus team built phones; the Pixel team worked on Chromebooks, tablets, and then also phones. The Ara team, within Google's ATAP division, built its own sort of phones. Another team worked on Chromecast, another on Google Wi-Fi, another on the Daydream View. Remember the Nexus Q set-top-box-doorstep thing? That was Google. All these products had the same goal: to show developers and users how good Google's software could be, running on the right hardware. But they were small-time, limited-run products that rarely led to market-wide innovation. In 2016, something finally clicked, and Google took its fate more firmly into its own hands.

To read the entire article, select the following URL:

https://www.wired.com/story/why-google-needs-gadgets/


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From: Paul H. Christiansen10/7/2017 3:54:29 PM
   of 518
 
Happy Thanksgiving? Amazon Controls the Fate of Pharmacy Benefit Managers



Amazon.com ( AMZN) could decide very soon whether it wants to get into the business of selling prescription drugs online, a move that could threaten big pharmacy chains and some pharmacy benefit managers.

Wall Street has debated the likelihood of such a move for months. Earlier today, this very blog reported that analysts from Leerink, a health-care investment bank, were convinced that the e-commerce giant would enter the market in the next two years.

Now, CNBC.com’s Christina Farr reports that Amazon will make a decision by Thanksgiving, citing an email viewed by CNBC.com and a source familiar with the situation.

In the past year, Amazon has ramped up its hiring and consulted with dozens of people about a potential move into the pharmacy market. The consumables team, which includes groceries, kicked off the research, with the division's vice president, Eric French, taking the lead.

It brought on Mark Lyons from Premera Blue Cross to build an internal pharmacy benefits manager for its own employees, say multiple people familiar. According to one of the people, it's possible that the push into the broader drug supply chain hinges on its success with this effort.

In May, the company kicked off its search for a general manager to lead its pharmacy push, externally dubbed "healthcare."

Leerink analyst Ana Gupte also reported that Amazon has been hiring talent. She also says it is "in active discussions with mid-market PBMs and possibly even with large players such as Prime Therapeutics.”

What form Amazon’s business model might take remains to be seen. Leerink’s David Larsen says there are a variety of options, including a partnership with Express Scripts ( ESRX)

...AMZN has several options with regards to entering the space including: (1) AMZN may partner with middle market PBMs and become the mail fulfillment and on-line customer facing solution for those plans; (2) AMZN could buy a middle-market PBM or specialty pharmacy and sell its services direct to employer or plan; (3) AMZN could become a hub that lists prices of different pharmacies on its website, offering upfront and immediate discounts which could appeal to cash-pay or high-deductible plan members; or (4) AMZN could partner with ESRX (MP) in an effort to try and capture retail volumes. We believe that AMZN is in discussions with middle market PBMs now, including Prime, to try and assess how it can fit into the overall market. We also believe that AMZN has been hiring pharmacy services talent, who have expertise in pricing, and we suspect that AMZN has an internal group, operating in secrecy, to explore strategies in healthcare.

Gupte speculates that Amazon’s arrival in the market would most threaten Walgreens Boots Alliance( WBA), CVS ( CVS) and Wal-Mart Stores ( WMT), each of which operates a major pharmacy chain in the U.S.

Shares of Walgreens and CVS are both down sharply today, falling 4.5% and 3.6% respectively. Wal-Mart, meanwhile, has edged 0.7% lower.

barrons.com


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From: pharma-rebel10/7/2017 7:30:07 PM
   of 518
 
Paul,
I can’t wait to see how it plays out after Amazon enters the PBM (Pharmaceutical Benefit Manager) business. With (30% plus) gross margins involved, it’s about time that someone comes in and disrupts this market.

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From: Paul H. Christiansen10/11/2017 10:48:45 AM
   of 518
 
Quantum Inside: Intel Manufactures an Exotic New Chip



Intel has begun manufacturing chips for quantum computers.

The new hardware is too feeble to do much real work, but it offers a strong signal that the technology is inching closer to real-world applications. “We’re [moving] quantum computing from the academic space to the semiconductor space,” says Jim Clarke, director of quantum hardware at Intel.

While regular computers store and manipulate data by representing binary 1s and 0s, a quantum computer uses quantum bits or “qubits,” exploiting quantum phenomena to represent data in more than one state at once. This makes it possible to compute information in a fundamentally different way, and to perform some parallel calculations in the same time it would take to perform a single one.

Quantum computing has long been an academic curiosity, and there are enormous challenges to handling quantum information reliably. The sense is now growing, however, that the technology could emerge from research labs within a matter of years.

Intel’s quantum chip uses superconducting qubits. The approach builds on an existing electrical circuit design but uses a fundamentally different electronic phenomenon that only works at very low temperatures. The chip, which can handle 17 qubits, was developed over the past 18 months by researchers at a lab in Oregon and is being manufactured at an Intel facility in Arizona.

The work was done in collaboration with QuTech, a Dutch company spun out of the University of Delft that specializes in quantum computing. QuTech has made significant progress in recent years toward developing more stable qubits. Intel invested $50 million in QuTech in 2015.

The Intel researchers adapted the company’s existing 300-nanometer “flip chip” processor design to support the delicacy of quantum processing. This means the processors have to work at super-low temperatures and must be impervious to radio frequency interference. The qubits are stable only in extreme cold, and the researchers modified the materials, the circuit design, and the connections between different components.

Intel isn’t the only company working to make quantum computing practical. Google, IBM, Microsoft, and others are also pushing to develop the first quantum machine capable of performing real work.

Intel is relatively late to the game, but the company is betting that its fabrication expertise can help it catch up with or surpass its rivals. Clarke says the company chose to focus on quantum computing in 2014, figuring that it could accelerate progress using existing manufacturing methods. “Intel is the only player that has advanced manufacturing and packaging technologies,” he says.

As the capabilities of quantum chips scale up, these devices should reach a tipping point where certain kinds of calculations can get much faster. This should most immediately affect fields such as chemistry and materials science by enabling immensely complex molecular modeling. But the new capabilities could also spawn a range of new ideas.

Of late, there has been some hope that quantum computing could be used to accelerate machine learning. Several new algorithms have been proposed for “ quantum machine learning,” but with each, significant challenges persist.

Jim Held, director of emerging hardware at Intel Labs, says the company is exploring algorithms alongside its research on hardware. “We think there are major developments in having hybrid algorithms that can use the best of classical capabilities with quantum computers’ strengths,” he says.

Hartmut Neven, who leads Google’s quantum computing project, has said that the company will build a 49-qubit system by next year. At that point the machine would be able to perform calculations that could not be simulated on a conventional supercomputer, a benchmark referred to as “ quantum supremacy.”

technologyreview.com


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From: Paul H. Christiansen10/11/2017 10:52:07 AM
   of 518
 
Driverless Cars Are Giving Engineers a Fuel Economy Headache

Judging from General Motors Co.’s test cars and Elon Musk’s predictions, the world is headed toward a future that’s both driverless and all-electric. In reality, autonomy and battery power could end up being at odds.

That’s because self-driving technology is a huge power drain. Some of today’s prototypes for fully autonomous systems consume two to four kilowatts of electricity -- the equivalent of having 50 to 100 laptops continuously running in the trunk, according to BorgWarner Inc. The supplier of vehicle propulsion systems expects the first autonomous cars -- likely robotaxis that are constantly on the road -- will be too energy-hungry to run on battery power alone.

In an industry where the number of LEDs in a brake light are scrutinized for their impact on gas mileage, processing data from laser, radar and camera sensors will be an enormous challenge -- not just for coders working on machine learning, but for engineers trying to power vehicles efficiently. As major markets from California to China ratchet up pressure to curb pollution, automakers and their suppliers will have to find creative new ways to offset emissions produced by feeding the car’s increasingly intelligent brain.

“We’ve been battling all the time because the governments are always pushing for a few percent improvement every year,” Scott Gallett, vice president of marketing at BorgWarner, said of fuel-economy standards. “This just amplifies that challenge.”

The autonomous features on a Level 4 or 5 vehicle, which can operate without human intervention, devour so much power that it makes meeting fuel economy and carbon emissions targets five to 10 percent harder, according to Chris Thomas, BorgWarner’s chief technology officer.

To be sure, those calculations are based on prototype cars with sensors rigged on the roof, and the power demands of electronics inside the car will inevitably fall as the technology improves. But even if chipmakers pull off promises to reduce power consumption by as much as 90 percent, automakers will still need to make fuel efficiency gains elsewhere in the vehicles to compensate for all that computing, Thomas said.

“They’re worried about one watt, and now you’re adding a couple thousand,” Thomas said. “It’s not trivial.”

bloomberg.com


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