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Apple to join the fiercely competitive race to design Self-driving Cars

The California Department of Motor Vehicles had awarded a permit for the company to start testing its self-driving car technology on public roads in the state.

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The Apple logo is shown above a store location entrance, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, in Dallas. Apple is schedule to release their iPhone 5S on Friday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez), VOA

San Francisco, April 15, 2017: Apple is joining the fiercely competitive race to design self-driving cars, raising the possibility that a company that has already re-shaped culture with its iPhone may try to transform transportation, too.

Ending years of speculation, Apple’s late entry into a crowded field was made official Friday with the disclosure that the California Department of Motor Vehicles had awarded a permit for the company to start testing its self-driving car technology on public roads in the state.

The permit covers three vehicles — all 2015 Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUVs — and six individual drivers. California law requires people to be in a self-driving car who can take control if something goes wrong.

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Apple Goes Mobile … In a New Way

Apple confirmed its arrival in the self-driving car market, but wouldn’t discuss its intentions. Its interest in autonomous vehicle technology, however, has long been clear .

The Cupertino, California, company pointed to a statement that it issued in December. “Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems,” the company said then. “There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation.”

Apple released that statement after Steve Kenner, a former Ford Motor executive who is now Apple’s director of product integrity, notified federal regulators of the company’s interest in self-driving cars in a letter.

Like others, Apple believes self-driving cars could ease congestion and save millions of people who die annually in traffic accidents often caused by drunk or distracted motorists.

Self-driving cars could also be a lucrative new market. And Apple has been searching for its next act for a while, one that will take it beyond its mainstay phones, tablets and personal computers.

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A Next Big Thing

Although iPhone’s ongoing popularity has helped Apple remain the world’s most valuable company, the company hasn’t had a breakthrough product since the 2010 debut of the iPad, currently in the throes of a three-year sales slump. The dry spell has raised doubts as to whether Apple lost some of its trend-setting magic with the death of co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011.

Apple will be vying against 29 other companies that already have California permits to test self-driving cars. The list includes major automakers, including Ford, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen and Tesla, as well as one of its biggest rivals in technology, Google, whose testing of self-driving cars has been spun off into an affiliate called Waymo.

Since Google began its work on self-driving vehicles eight years ago, Waymo’s fleet of self-driving cars has logged more than 2 million miles on the road.

That means Apple has a long way to catch up in self-driving technology. But it has often been a follower in markets that it eventually revolutionized. It wasn’t the first to introduce a digital music player, smartphone, or tablet before its iPod, iPhone and iPad came out.

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Deep Pockets

With $246 billion in cash, Apple also could easily afford to buy technology that accelerates its development of self-driving cars. There has been recurring speculation that Apple might eventually acquire Tesla, which has a market value of about $50 billion. Neither Apple nor Tesla has given any inkling that they’re interested in joining forces, though.

Speculation about Apple’s interest in expanding into automobiles began swirling in 2015 amid media reports that the company had begun secretly working on building its own electric car under the name project “Titan.” Apple never confirmed the existence of Titan, which is now believed to be dead. (VOA)

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World Get Ready! iPhone ‘X’, iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3 are Finally Here! Apple Products’ Launch on the 10th Anniversary of iPhone Live Updates

The event was hosted for the first time at the opulent Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California

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iPhone 'X'
The Apple launch event celebrating the 10th anniversary of iPhone. IANS

San Francisco, September 13, 2017 : Living up to the hype it generated on the 10th anniversary of iPhone, Apple on Tuesday unveiled iPhone ‘X’ with facial recognition system, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, new Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple TV 4K.

The device can be pre-ordered from October 27 will be available from November 3 for Rs 89,000 in India.

Hosting the event for the first time at the opulent Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California, the tech giant introduced iPhone ‘X’ – an ultra-premium model.

iPhone ‘X’ sports a unique “FaceID” facial recognition system to unlock the device. Just look at your phone to unlock it. The feature is enabled by a ‘True Depth’ camera system in the A11 neural engine.

iPhone 'X'
Apple iPhone ‘X’ mockup. Wikimedia

Wearing a hat, glasses or new hairstyle will not fool the FaceID system that also works with Apple Pay.

The device with 2046 X 1125 resolution supports HDR in Dolby Vision, HDR10 and True Tone and comes in Space Grey and Silver colours with ‘Super Retina’ display.

Users can tap on the screen to wake up iPhone X that has 12MP dual-camera system with deeper pixels and dual optical image stablisation at the rear. iPhone ‘X’ does wireless charging via Qi technology.

The iPhone 8 features a new 6-core A11 Bionic processor which is 70 per cent faster than the previous A10.

Apple also introduced Animoji where users can animate an emoji and share it on social media.

Apple also showcased a charging mat called ‘AirPower’ that charges iPhone, Watch and AirPods. The mat would be available from next year.

The tech giant also introduced iPhone 8 and 8 Plus (in Silver, Space Grey and Rose Gold colours) that house wireless charging technology with an improved retina displays.

iPhone 8 64GB price costs Rs 64,000 while 256GB variant will be available for Rs 77,000.

iPhone 8 Plus starts at Rs 73,000 for 64GB. The 256GB variant will cost Indian users Rs 86,000. People can pre-order the devices from September 15 and the phones will be available from September 29.

The iPhone 8 features a new 6-core A11 Bionic processor which is 70 per cent faster than the previous A10.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus – both still have home button intact — feature new sensors. The lenses feature f1.8 and f2.8 apertures (which is brighter than the 7 Plus telephoto) in the iPhone 8 Plus.

According to Philip W. Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, the iPhone 8 cameras and the A11 Bionic chip have been calibrated for Augmented Reality (AR).

Jeff Williams, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, unveiled Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular connectivity built in.

Apple Watch Series 3 will cost Rs 29,900 with cellular connectivity. Series 1 is now priced at 21,900.

“You can keep the same number as your iPhone to make and receive calls. Maps will work on Series 3. Location will switch over to your watch automatically,” Williams told the gathering.

Apple Music will come to Apple Watch, allowing you to stream directly 40 million songs. Ask Siri to find your favourite track.

“With 50 per cent year-on-year growth, Apple Watch is the number one watch brand in the world, eclipsing Rolex, with 97 per cent customer satisfaction,” CEO Tim Cook announced.

Cook also introduced the new Apple TV 4K, designed to deliver a stunning cinematic experience at home.

iPhone 'X'
Apple CEO Time Cook. Wikimedia

With support for both 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR), Apple TV 4K features unbelievably sharp, crisp images.

With Apple TV 4K, viewers can enjoy a growing selection of 4K HDR movies on iTunes.

“Bring the magic of the cinema straight to your living room with the new Apple TV 4K,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services.

Netflix and Amazon Prime 4K videos are coming to Apple TV as well.

Apple TV 4K starts Rs 15,900 for 32GB or Rs 17,900 for 64GB, joining Apple TV (4th generation) 32GB at Rs 12,900, available through select Apple Authorised Resellers.

Customers will be able to order both Apple TV 4K models beginning September 15, with availability beginning September 22 in the US and 21 additional countries and regions, and worldwide soon after.

Earlier, dedicating the theatre to Jobs “because we loved him and because he loved days like this,” Cook said: “Jobs’ vision and passion lives here on Apple Park and everywhere around us”. (IANS)

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Apple is soon coming up with a Video Streaming service like Netflix

Netflix launched its groundbreaking video streaming service in 2007

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A man walks past the Apple logo during a product display for Apple TV following an Apple event in San Francisco, Sept. 9, 2015
A man walks past the Apple logo during a product display for Apple TV following an Apple event in San Francisco, Sept. 9, 2015. VOA
  • Netflix beat Apple to the punch with its groundbreaking video streaming service
  • Follow-on rivals of Netflix- and Hulu also boast of popular video streaming services
  • Apple has periodically upgraded its Apple TV, which isn’t a television, just a video streaming player that connects to TVs

San Francisco, USA, September 9, 2017: Television is one of the few screens that has Apple hasn’t conquered, but that may soon change. The world’s richest company appears ready to aim for its own Emmy-worthy programming along the lines of HBO’s Game of Thrones and Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Apple lured longtime TV executives Jaime Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg away from Sony Corp. in June and has given them $1 billion to spend on original shows during the next year, according to a Wall Street Journal report quoting unnamed people.

The programming would be available only on a subscription channel, most likely bundled with the company’s existing Apple Music streaming service. Apple declined to comment.

While $1 billion is a lot of money, it’s a drop in the bucket for Apple and its $262 billion cash hoard. But it’s still enough to vault Apple into the top tier of tech-industry outsiders producing their own slates of television shows.

iTunes came first

Hollywood has long shuddered at the thought of Apple training its sights on TV the way it once did on the music business.

Almost 15 years ago, Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs convinced record labels to let the company sell digital music on its iTunes store for 99 cents a single, a deal the music industry was happy to take in the face of growing music piracy enabled by Napster. Over time, though, Apple’s dominance in digital music chafed music executives, who saw the company siphoning off a chunk of their profits.

Movies and television have proven much harder for Apple to crack. The company’s interest in transforming television has been an open secret for years, but Hollywood has so far spurned Apple’s efforts to make itself an indispensable digital middle man for video.

In a way, Netflix beat Apple to the punch with its groundbreaking video streaming service. Launched in 2007, that service pioneered “binge watching” of entire TV seasons on any device with an internet connection. That gave new life to existing shows such as Breaking Bad, whose creator credits Netflix with its survival, and spawned the creation of other series tailor-made for bingeing.

Netflix also helped unleash a crescendo of creativity in Hollywood. Follow-on rivals Amazon and Hulu also boast popular video streaming services, and mainstream broadcasters such as CBS and Walt Disney Co. — the owner of ABC and ESPN, among other networks — are also jumping in.

Pressure to act

All of that has increased the pressure on Apple to step up its game in TV — not least because the increasing popularity of streaming is hurting its business of renting and selling video from iTunes.

Apple “doesn’t want to be left behind,” said Debby Ruth, senior vice president of consumer research firm Magid. “This is a way for them to put a stake in the ground.”

This year, the company released its first two original series, Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke, on its Apple Music service, which has 27 million subscribers. But neither show has generated much buzz or critical acclaim.

The recent hiring of Erlicht and Van Amburg signaled Apple’s intent to make a bigger splash. The executives have helped orchestrate several TV hits, including AMC’s Breaking Bad, and more recently branched out into video streaming with The Crown, which landed on Netflix last year and is up for 13 Emmy nominations in this Sunday’s ceremony.

Apple also has a not-so-secret weapon: hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads already in the hands of faithful fans. It could easily transform those into a marketing platform to lure users to its TV service.

But the company has a steep hill to climb.

Bigger players

Netflix has more than 100 million worldwide subscribers and a video library that will add 1,000 hours of original programming this year alone. And HBO has become the Emmys’ pacesetter since branching into original programming 20 years ago.

Both companies vastly outspend Apple’s reported $1 billion production budget. HBO spends about $2 billion annually on its programming, which garnered 111 nominations in this year’s Emmy Awards, more than any other network. Netflix, which boasts the second most Emmy nominations with 91, expects to spend $6 billion on programming this year.

Apple is still experimenting in TV, said Gene Munster, a longtime Apple watcher and managing partner with the research and venture capital firm Loup Ventures.

“In five years, I bet Apple will either be investing $10 billion a year in content or zero,” said Munster. “It’s going to be one or the other.”

Jobs’ legacy

Jobs discussed his ambitions to shake up TV with his biographer, Walter Isaacson, shortly before his death in 2011.

 “He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: Make them simple and elegant,” Isaacson wrote.

 

But no Apple television ever materialized. Instead, Apple has periodically upgraded its Apple TV, which isn’t a television, just a video streaming player that connects to TVs. That device has been losing market share to other streaming players made by Roku, Amazon, and Google, according to the research firm Park Associates.

Building a successful programming lineup could give Apple more leverage to license shows from other Hollywood production houses. It might even embolden the company to finally release its own streaming TV set.

Apple will presumably also want to emulate Netflix’s ability to exploit usage data to determine what it thinks audiences want to watch. Netflix’s data analysis has helped it attract 25.5 million more subscribers in the U.S. alone since the February 2013 debut of its first original series, House of Cards.

But if Apple decides it needs a little more help in video streaming, Munster thinks there’s a 1-in-3 chance that it will buy Netflix to instantly gain the cachet and expertise in TV programming that it craves. (VOA)

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‘Humans Have Caused Pollution and Humans Can Fix It too’, Says UN Environment Head; Asserts Asia Must Lead Efforts for a Pollution-Free Earth

World Health Organization figures show Asia has 25 of the world's 30 most-polluted cities in terms of fine particles in the air that pose the greatest risks to human health

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Asia-Pacific
People wear protective masks during a polluted day in Shanghai (VOA)

Bangkok, September 9, 2017 : Asia-Pacific — home to more than half the world’s population and some of its fastest-growing economies — is a key battleground in the fight against pollution, one of the biggest threats to the planet and its people, the U.N. environment chief said.

An estimated 12 million people die prematurely each year because of unhealthy environments, 7 million of them due to air pollution alone, making pollution “the biggest killer of humanity,” Erik Solheim told the first Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment in Bangkok this week.

ALSO READ Air Pollution expected to Cause 60,000 Deaths in 2030 and 2,60,000 in 2100 Globally: Study

Humans have caused pollution and humans can fix it, said Solheim, executive director of UN Environment, in an interview with Reuters at the four-day summit.

“The struggle for a pollution-free planet will be won or lost in Asia — nowhere else,” said the former Norwegian minister for environment and international development.

The sheer size of Asia-Pacific, as well as its continued economic growth, put it at the heart of the challenge, he added.

The region’s development has been accompanied by worsening pollution of its air, water and soil. Its emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide doubled between 1990 and 2012, and the use of resources such as minerals, metals and biomass has tripled, according to the United Nations.

Asia-Pacific
A man carries a sack of vegetables as he walks past a polluted canal littered with plastic bags and other garbage, in Mumbai. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) (VOA)

World Health Organization figures also show Asia has 25 of the world’s 30 most-polluted cities in terms of fine particles in the air that pose the greatest risks to human health. The pollution comes largely from the combustion of fossil fuels, mostly for transport and electricity generation.

Solheim said Asia is also a major contributor of plastic polluting the world’s oceans — and solutions can be found in the region. He pointed to a huge beach cleanup campaign in Mumbai that inspired Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to overhaul the country’s waste management system.

“There’s enormous environmental opportunity,” Solheim said. “Asia has by and large strong governments, and they have the ability to fix problems.”

Coal no longer king?

Solheim said fighting pollution by moving toward renewable energy sources such as wind and solar would also benefit efforts to curb climate change, which scientists say is stoking more deadly heatwaves, floods and sea-level rise around the world.

But environmentalists worry that Asia’s demand for coal, the most polluting of the major fossil fuels, is likely to grow for years to come.

Figures from a forum organized by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Singapore earlier this year show that some 273 gigawatts of coal power are still being built, although much more has been put on hold.

In July, analysts told Reuters that Japan, China and South Korea are bank-rolling coal-fired power plants in Indonesia despite their pledges to reduce planet-warming emissions under the Paris climate deal.

Asia-Pacific
Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

The landmark 2015 Paris Agreement seeks to limit the rise in average world temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Experts say curbing or ending the use of coal is required if this goal is to be reached.

Globally, many countries — including China — are shutting down or suspending plans for coal-fired power plants as costs for wind and solar power plummet.

Solheim is optimistic, noting that the International Energy Agency significantly raised its five-year growth forecast for renewables led by China, India, the United States and Mexico.

“There are very, very few people in the world who believe that the future is coal,” he said. “I think we will see the shift [to renewables] happening much faster than people tend to believe.”

ALSO READ Paris climate pact: The play of words

On U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull his nation out of the Paris Agreement, Solheim sees a silver lining.

“The surprising judgment of history may be that Donald Trump did a lot of service to this fight against climate change by withdrawing, because he galvanized the reaction of everyone else,” said Solheim.

“All the big, iconic companies of modern capitalism — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon — they immediately said, ‘We will move into the green economy.'” (VOA)