The iPhone is enormously underpriced – Warren Buffett

The Oracle of Omaha is adding to his already large stake in Apple Inc.

Warren Buffett, 88, likes the technology giant because of its devoted customers, and has built up his stake in the company by “just a little” since his last regulatory filing, he said Thursday in an interview with CNBC. The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman and chief executive officer said his firm has also bought back some of its own stock recently.

“They’ve got to keep having the product that this huge clientele regards as indispensable,” Buffett said of Apple. For customers, “the iPhone is enormously underpriced” compared with the utility it offers, he said.

Berkshire has been piling more money into Apple, increasing that stake to 252 million shares as of June 30. The investment is worth more than $50 billion and makes Berkshire the third-biggest shareholder in Cupertino, California-based Apple, with a more-than 5 percent stake, according to data compiled by

Buffett has expanded his company into a conglomerate with a $520 billion market cap and footholds in the railroad business, insurance industry and energy sector. With the help of deputies Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, the billionaire investor also oversees a $180 billion stock portfolio that includes stakes in Wells Fargo & Co.

Earlier this year, Buffett teamed up with JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon and Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos to create a venture that’s aiming to change how health care is provided to the three companies’ employees. In June, the group named Atul Gawande to lead the initiative, which will be based in Boston. While exact details on the venture are scant, Buffett has previously said that the goal is to go beyond just squeezing middlemen and actually lower costs and deliver better care.

Gawande is in the process of adding staff now.

“He’s hiring people,” Buffett said in a subsequent interview with Bloomberg Television Thursday. “Not very many people, but he will be hiring people.”

The initiative won’t succeed if it’s just a cost-cutting measure, Buffett said. “We’d like to be in a hurry but we’re not going to try and do something faster than it can be done,” he said.

Buffett was in New York Thursday to dine with the winner of his annual lunch auction, which benefits San Francisco-based charity Glide. The winner paid $3.3 million for the opportunity to bring guests to eat with Buffett at Smith & Wollensky.

Apple acquires augmented reality startup

Apple Inc. has acquired Akonia Holographics LLC, a six-year-old maker of displays for augmented-reality glasses, as the iPhone-maker explores a foray into the burgeoning field.

Apple, seeking a breakthrough product to succeed the iPhone, is said to be prepping to ship an AR headset or device as early as 2020. Akonia’s “HoloMirror” technology is designed to project full-color images onto the transparent glass lenses of augmented-reality headsets, according to its website, a capability that will dovetail with the U.S. giant’s own efforts. Apple confirmed the deal, first reported by Reuters, via the typical statement it uses to verify acquisitions of smaller startups.

While virtual reality immerses the user in a digital world, augmented reality is intended to overlay visuals and data onto the real one — allowing users for instance to look up details on objects and buildings in their field of view, or a mechanic to scan repair instructions. It’s been touted as having wider mass-market appeal than VR, and Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has talked up its prospects on several occasions.

Julia 1.0 – the programming language with the ease of Python and the speed of C++

After years of tinkering, the dynamic programming language Julia 1.0 was officially released to the public during JuliaCon, an annual conference of Julia users held recently in London.

The release of Julia 1.0 is a huge Julia milestone since MIT Professor Alan Edelman, Jeff Bezanson, Stefan Karpinski, and Viral Shah released Julia to developers in 2012, says Edelman.

“Julia has been revolutionizing scientific and technical computing since 2009,” says Edelman, the year the creators started working on a new language that combined the best features of Ruby, MatLab, C, Python, R, and others. Edelman is director of the Julia Lab at MIT and one of the co-creators of the language at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL).

Julia, which was developed and incubated at MIT, is free and open source, with more than 700 active open source contributors, 1,900 registered packages, 41,000 GitHub stars, 2 million downloads, and a reported 101 percent annual rate of download growth. It is used at more than 700 universities and research institutions and by companies such as Aviva, BlackRock, Capital One, and Netflix.

At MIT, Julia users and developers include professors Steven Johnson, Juan Pablo Vielma, Gilbert Strang, Robin Deits, Twan Koolen, and Robert Moss. Julia is also used by MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop the Next-Generation Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS-X), by the MIT Operations Research Center to optimize school bus routing for Boston Public Schools, and by the MIT Robot Locomotion Group for robot navigation and movement.

Julia is the only high-level dynamic programming language in the “petaflop club,” having achieved 1.5 petaflop/s using 1.3 million threads, 650,000 cores and 9,300 Knights Landing (KNL) nodes to catalogue 188 million stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects in 14.6 minutes on the world’s sixth-most powerful supercomputer.

Julia is also used to power self-driving cars and 3-D printers, as well as applications in precision medicine, augmented reality, genomics, machine learning, and risk management.

“The release of Julia 1.0 signals that Julia is now ready to change the technical world by combining the high-level productivity and ease of use of Python and R with the lightning-fast speed of C++,” Edelman says.

MIT News

Amazon closes in on $1 trillion

Amazon.com Inc. is headed for its biggest gain in four months, pulling within $26 billion of becoming America’s second trillion-dollar company, after Morgan Stanley said sales growth remains strong.

The rally extends a run in which Jeff Bezos’ online superstore has surged almost 550 percent since the end of 2014, adding roughly $800 billion to its market value. Apple became the first U.S. company with a 13-digit capitalization this month, crossing over for the first time on Aug. 2.

Morgan Stanley lifted its price targets on Amazon and FAANG peer Alphabet Inc. by 35 percent and 14 percent respectively on Wednesday, to the highest levels among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Investors took notice, sending Amazon up as much as 3.4 percent and Alphabet up as much as 1.7 percent.

Amazon closed at $1,998.10, rising for a fourth straight day. Up 71 percent in 2018, it’s the fifth-best performer in the S&P 500 this year.

Amazon’s high-margin revenue from advertising, cloud and subscription services like Prime are growing at such a rapid pace that the Seattle-based firm’s profits should increase even further, analyst Brian Nowak wrote in a note to clients earlier. Meanwhile, Google parent Alphabet is only in the early stages of monetizing its seven platforms with more than a billion users. The launch of a ride-hailing service by Alphabet’s self-driving technology unit Waymo could also spur further share gains, Nowak said.

Both companies had already garnered a slew of price target increases after surpassing expectations for second-quarter earnings last month, and not a single analyst tracked by Bloomberg recommends selling either stock.

Amazon’s stock price has doubled over the past 12 months, trailing only Align Technology Inc., the maker of Invisalign orthodontics equipment, and Netflix Inc. in terms of percentage gains for a Nasdaq 100 index member. Alphabet has rallied about 35 percent, a bit ahead of the benchmark.

Netflix does not want to use the term “binge watching” anymore

Netflix has reportedly started distancing itself from the term “binge watching”, due to its negative health connotations.

In a report from Engadget, it was stated that during an interview with Guy Pearce, the actor said Netflix does not like the term “binge” or its use.

His statement was in reply to a question about the Netflix show The Innocents being “binge-worthy”.

The report comes at a time when companies like Google are putting new features into their software and platforms to ensure users can track how much time they spend online and on their devices.

The latest move from Google is “Digital Wellbeing” functionality in YouTube, which lets users track how many hours of videos they have watched.

White Xbox One X bundle includes Fallout 76 and a 1TB hard drive By Nick Pino 11 hours ago Gaming

Microsoft announced that it will release the Xbox One X in a new white color scheme as part of an Xbox One X Robot White Special Edition Fallout 76 bundle. The bundle – set to launch on November 14 – includes a 1TB console, a white controller and a download of the game for $499 (about £376, AU$668).

To coincide with the launch of the new console, Microsoft also announced that it will release the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller in a special white variant for $149 (£119, AU$199) a bit sooner, starting on October 16.

To round-out the all-white aesthetic is Turtle Beach’s new Elite Pro 2 Wireless Chat Headset that will be available in – you guessed it – white starting on September 16 in the US and October 8 in the UK and Europe.

The three were all announced simultaneously this morning via a post on Major Nelson’s website along with US pricing and release date information.

How’s the new Xbox One X color? It’s all-white

Disappointingly, however, besides the difference in aesthetics, there is no major difference between the Xbox One X in Robot White and the Space Gray console that released last year. The same goes for the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller that released back in 2016 and the new Robot White edition of the controller unveiled today.

That said, at least the Elite Pro 2 is totally new.

The headset will sport Turtle Beach’s Elite SuperAmp and support Windows Sonic for Headphones surround sound on Xbox One and DTS Headphone:X 7.1 channel surround sound on PS4. The Elite Pro 2 is a successor to the original Turtle Beach Elite Pro and will be available for $149 (£229, around AU$200).

If the absence of color is what you’re after, keep your eyes peeled for this albino trio when it becomes available starting in September.

Nokia phones with amazing cameras could be coming soon

Remember when a 5MP smartphone camera was high-end, and Nokia used to lead the way in mobile imaging? Well, (half of) those days could be coming back.

HMD Global, the brand making phones bearing the Nokia moniker, has registered the PureView trademark, the label attached to the powerful cameras on the back of smartphones starting in 2012.

TechRadar was in attendance when the first smartphone to use the branding, the Nokia 808 PureView, was announced – a stunning 41MP snapper bolted onto the back of a huge Symbian-powered handset.

The pictures were indeed impressive, with Nokia extolling the virtues of the technology through its ability to magnify the images without the need for an optical zoom. The technology was then used on the slimmer, Windows Phone-powered Nokia Lumia 1020, bringing powerful imaging technology to the Microsoft platform.

This was used on multiple models, even through the Microsoft acquisition of Nokia, and became the label used to denote a high-end camera on a handset, even when megapixel counts fell from 41MP to 8MP, showing the lack of need for high MP counts weren’t always necessary in a smartphone.

Battle recommenced

Fast forward to 2018, and we’re seeing those megapixel wars cranking into life again – Huawei’s 40MP sensor (one of three) on the impressive P20 Pro are yielding some of the best photos from a smartphone of 2018, and HMD Global looks like it wants to join the fray.

The trademark could mean nothing, of course – HMD also has the rights to the Asha and Xpress-On names from Nokia, which it’s not done anything with yet. Nor do we know if the brand has licensed the underlying PureView technology that made Nokia’s previous cameras so successful.

TechRadar has spoken to HMD Global about the trademark acquisition, but was told “there’s nothing more we can say at this time”.

That said, Nokia phones have been drenched with retro value – see the Nokia 3310 and Nokia 8110 as proof of that – and re-using powerful branding could help remind the public that the once-great Finnish brand is back in business.

From EUIPO via NokiaMob

Be Bold With Customer Communication

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 27 August 2018 – Imparting a message that’s clear and enticing for potential customers has been key in marketing for decades. Signage is one aspect of branding and communication that has changed over time – from hand-drawn store-front displays, billboards and street pole posters. As technology has advanced, specifically in the digital arena, numerous opportunities have become available for businesses to get their message across to potential customers in more dynamic and creative ways.

In today’s fast-paced world, standing in a queue just doesn’t cut it anymore. But, there are numerous places where queues simply can’t be done away with, especially in retail spaces. That’s where digital in-store displays become so important. Not only does good content help appease waiting customers, it is also a highly targeted and interesting way to inform, educate and entertain.

With innovative technology, display screens can be as large or small as required and can be positioned in just about any space – even outdoors. Sensors can adjust to lighting conditions, ensuring that the picture remains vivid and clear.

Justin Hume, Chief Marketing Officer at Samsung South Africa says, “Samsung’s transformation of Pretoria’s Time Square Casino into a digital paradise with its technologically advanced video walls, displays that are larger than life and iconic LED screens is a key example that the scalability of Samsung’s signage solutions is limitless. It’s with this technology that Samsung is striving to create a future that is not only streamlined for business, but also for the consumer.”

Digital in-store content is quick and easy to edit, enabling marketers to update and change data and imagery making it instantly relevant. Looking at a grocery store, the information and content can include ingredients, nutritional details and allergens, or in a pharmacy, the information can be geared towards healthy living or side-effects when choosing medication. The same innovation can be implemented in other sectors, showcasing targeted and tailored facts that will benefit consumers across the board.

“Many retail outlets now offer engaging content at their check-out queues, not only informing customers as they line up at the check-out, but also offering advice that is relevant to the store they’re in. By engaging customers when they would normally be bored in a queue, marketers have a captured audience that can both entrench messaging and enhance customer engagement,” concludes Hume.

Customers expect to be informed and using digital displays is a highly effective way to remain relevant and engaging – giving customers the right information at the right time.

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What is responsible innovation, and why should tech giants take it seriously?

Tech firms are now some of the biggest on the planet. Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar company in August, while Amazon, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Microsoft and Facebook make up the rest of the top five companies on the planet by market value.

Most of these companies have grown to their current size in a relatively short time – none of the companies listed above are more than 50 years old, and only two of them existed before the 1990s – thanks to quick thinking, rapid innovation and changing technologies

And each of these companies, along with numerous other, smaller tech firms, have changed the world in different ways.

Without Google, you likely wouldn’t have found this article (the same could be said for Facebook) while Amazon has revolutionized the way we shop. And the chances are you’re reading this article on a Google- or Apple-made, or Microsoft OS toting, device.

The size and reach of these companies inevitably means that the products they make, and the ways in which they behave, have significant environmental and societal effects on the public at large. Whether it’s the use of raw materials to create the next iPhone or Google Pixel device, or Facebook changing the way we interact with each other on a daily basis, these companies have changed the lives of billions of people in many ways.

So who is keeping the biggest businesses in tech in check? It’s a daunting task, but one way of doing it is through an initiative called ‘responsible research and innovation’. You may have heard the team before – it’s a big buzz phrase in tech circles at the moment – but it has a broad definition, and it’s employed to tackle a variety of different issues relating to the ways companies effect our daily lives.

The European Commission, which is working on integrating the concept of responsible innovation into a European Framework Programme, defines it on its official website as follows:

Responsible research and innovation is an approach that anticipates and assesses potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation, with the aim to foster the design of inclusive and sustainable research and innovation.

That’s pretty difficult to break down into plain English, but elsewhere the European Commission has defined the term as covering six key areas that it believes need to be tackled by industries, governing bodies and companies.

  • Engagement: Making sure everyone who should be involved in the discussion, such as society as a whole, other researchers and policy makers have knowledge of innovation.
  • Gender equality: Ensuring equality in gender across all aspects of research and innovation.
  • Science Education: Making sure future researchers have knowledge and tools to engage with the same process.
  • Open Access: Making sure the research and innovation process is both transparent and accessible, usually through the internet.
  • Ethics: To ensure all research and innovation reaches the highest ethical standards to ensure it has high societal relevance.
  • Governance: How responsibility should ultimately lie at policymakers to ensure there aren’t harmful or unethical effects to innovation.

But why exactly is it important for the big tech companies to embrace these principles and work toward responsible research and innovation? There’s no getting away from the fact most companies primarily exist to make money rather than act ethically.

TechRadar spoke to a source the European Commission who told us: “Business practices should also be aligned with the values, needs, and expectations of society. Part of this entails adhering to high levels of ethics, and applying both the letter and the spirit of EU laws.

“We have seen recent examples where big tech companies have failed to adhere to the spirit and potentially also to the letter of the law regarding data protection, privacy, and so on.

“Sometimes this seems to be a result of governance that has not taken public values and expectations into account. Scandals can have a detrimental impact on businesses, meaning that the application of responsible research and innovation should be in the interests not only of society but the companies concerned as well.”

The source didn’t expand on the previous scandals they were referring to, but it’s highly likely that they had in mind the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when that company harvested information from 87 million Facebook users without their consent, and allegedly sold the information on.

This became a huge embarrassment to Facebook, with founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg appearing in front of the US Congress to apologize publicly, and the company undertaking a costly advertising campaign in an attempt to reestablish its reputation.

Could more responsibility in its innovation have helped avoid the issue? We’ll likely never know for certain.

Aside from the reassuring public statements and a few cosmetic changes to their services, it can difficult to know exactly what companies are doing to tackle ethical issues behind the scenes, but we can be sure that Facebook in particular is working hard to make sure nothing like this can happen again.

Anthonie Meijers, scientific director of 4TU.Ethics, told us: “Facebook stood out as a bad example for the way they have given third parties access to their users’ data and ignored the spread of fake news on their platform, but under pressure they currently seem to be changing their ways.

“Good companies really understand the importance of responsible innovation for the company and for society in the long run – they don’t do it just for PR reasons.”

Responsible research and innovation may be an end goal for some of these companies, but the truth is the process won’t ever end. It’s something companies will have to continually tackle.

Ralf Lindner, a senior researcher on the topic of RRI, said: “I see responsible innovation more as an ongoing process. Just like sustainability, which was absent from corporate agendas until the recent past, responsible innovation will have to be gradually taken up by corporate governance schemes and embedded in industrial R&D practices. No doubt, this will be at times challenging and hard work.

“However, once responsible practices are broadly and deeply institutionalized, ensuring a positive impact of innovation on society will be part of companies’ day-to-day routines.”

Responsible research and innovation is a nebulous and complex topic that many companies still need to get to grips with. Much like innovation itself, RRI won’t ever end and it’s an idea that will continue to evolve and adapt, just like the big tech firms that need to embrace it.

New South African rand pricing for Netflix

Netflix in South Africa is dropping US dollar pricing for its subscription plans.

A Netflix spokesperson told MyBroadband that it has released new rand pricing for its packages, which will kick in this week.

The new rand pricing is as follows:

  • Basic – R99 pm
  • Standard – R139 pm
  • Premium – R169 pm

“Netflix, in its ongoing efforts to localise its offering for the South African market, will be billing South African subscribers in rands from Tuesday, 28 August 2018,” said the company.

Previously, local subscribers paid a dollar-based subscription fee, which fluctuated when converted into rands thanks to exchange rate movements.

Netflix also stated that it making a strong push to bring more local content to South Africans.

“Since launching in the country in January 2016, the content library on the Netflix SA service has grown by over 500%, with shows that speak to South African audiences such as Girlboss, Mindhunter, and Troy: Fall of a City.

It added that it will add even more locally-developed content to its library, which will include exclusive series, movies, documentaries, stand-up comedy shows, and kids content.

New Netflix pricing

The table below compares the old dollar prices and the new rand pricing.

Netflix SA Pricing
Plan ZAR Price US Dollar Price
Basic R99 $7.99
Standard R139 $9.99
Premium R169 $11.99