Apple Hikes Japan Price of iPhone by Nearly a 5th

A woman walks past an Apple logo in front of an Apple store in Saint-Herblain near Nantes, France, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/Files
A woman walks past an Apple logo in front of an Apple store in Saint-Herblain near Nantes, France, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/Files
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Apple Hikes Japan Price of iPhone by Nearly a 5th

A woman walks past an Apple logo in front of an Apple store in Saint-Herblain near Nantes, France, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/Files
A woman walks past an Apple logo in front of an Apple store in Saint-Herblain near Nantes, France, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/Files

Apple Inc has hiked by nearly a fifth the cost of its flagship iPhone phone in Japan, which is battling a weakening yen currency and rising inflation.

The Cupertino, California-based manufacturer's entry level iPhone 13 now costs 117,800 yen ($870), Apple's website showed, compared to 99,800 yen previously.

With the dollar up 18% against the yen year-to-date, the higher cost of the iPhone, which dominates Japan's smartphone market, comes as consumers' wallets are being squeezed by price hikes for daily necessities.

Such widespread hikes are a change for most Japanese following years of stable prices for many products.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



Microsoft Announces Principles to Foster Innovation, Competition in AI

 Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft, speaks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain February 26, 2024. (Reuters)
Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft, speaks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain February 26, 2024. (Reuters)
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Microsoft Announces Principles to Foster Innovation, Competition in AI

 Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft, speaks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain February 26, 2024. (Reuters)
Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft, speaks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain February 26, 2024. (Reuters)

Microsoft President Brad Smith on Monday announced a set of principles to foster innovation and competition in artificial intelligence in recognition of its role as a market leader in this technology, a move that could stave off worries about its dominance.

The move by the US tech giant came amid concerns from rivals and antitrust regulators about Microsoft's market power, boosted recently by its collaboration with ChatGPT creator OpenAI.

Microsoft has pushed chatbots into its core products such as its Office software and Bing search engine over the past year, attracting business customers eager to try the tech industry's next breakthrough.

"As we enter a new era based on artificial intelligence, we believe this is the best time to articulate principles that will govern how we will operate our AI datacenter infrastructure and other important AI assets around the world," Smith said in a speech to be delivered at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The AI Access Principles aim "in part to address Microsoft's growing role and responsibility as an AI innovator and a market leader", he said.

"By publishing these principles, we are committing ourselves to providing the broad technology access needed to empower organizations and individuals around the world to develop and use AI in ways that will serve the public good," Smith said.

The principles include providing access and support for AI developers, making AI models and development tools broadly available to software applications developers around the world, and making available public APIs (Application Programming Interface) to enable developers to access and use AI models on Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft will also not use non-public information or data from the building and deployment of developers' AI models in Microsoft Azure to compete with those models, and also allow Microsoft Azure customers to easily export and transfer their data to another cloud provider.


Top Tech Investors to Participate in 3rd Edition of LEAP in Riyadh

The event will feature more than 1,000 top speakers at 10 different stages. SPA
The event will feature more than 1,000 top speakers at 10 different stages. SPA
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Top Tech Investors to Participate in 3rd Edition of LEAP in Riyadh

The event will feature more than 1,000 top speakers at 10 different stages. SPA
The event will feature more than 1,000 top speakers at 10 different stages. SPA

LEAP is slated to hold its third edition, from March 4 to 7 at Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Center, Malham, under the theme “Into New Worlds”.
Organized by the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones, and Tahaluf company, the event will feature more than 1,000 top speakers at 10 different stages, according to a statement from the organizing committee.
LEAP will host the Investor Stage, in which world’s top investors will discuss innovative investment opportunities. This stage will also address topics such as the intersection of technology with government policies and innovation, and successful financing strategies.
It will also feature the Startup Stage, in which expert speakers such as Blossom Accelerator CEO & Founder Emon Shakoor, Raiven Capital Founding Partner Supreet Singh Manchanda, and Adaverse Founding Partner Vincent Li will discuss startup growth and innovation.
Sessions will address topics such as business planning and strategies, nurturing concepts into viable startup ideas, and the importance of enhancing user experience.
According to the statement, the Rocket Fuel Pitch competition returns at the third edition of LEAP, with total prizes exceeding $1,000,000 in six categories: LEAP Award $250,000 for the strongest, most outstanding startup across the whole competition, Shooting Star Award $150,000 for the early stage startup beginning its journey, the Aviatrix Award $150,000 for the best, most innovative startup pioneered by women founders, Technology for Humanity Award $150,000 for the startup that best embodies the “tech for humanity” spirit of LEAP, the Into New Worlds Award $150,000 for the most impressive startup occupying the Metaverse and Web 3.0 space, and the Artificial Intelligence Award $150,000 for the startup that presents the most exciting, ground-breaking usage of artificial intelligence.
The third edition of LEAP, held in partnership with the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha'at), and strategic partner STC, will be attended by world leading tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Dell, Cisco, Avaya, SAP, ServiceNow, Ericsson, Amazon Web Services, IBM, Alibaba Group, and Huawei.


'Haunted' ChatGPT Cranks out Gibberish for Hours

ChatGPT creator OpenAI said a software tweak had introduced a bug that caused its generative AI tool to malfunction. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
ChatGPT creator OpenAI said a software tweak had introduced a bug that caused its generative AI tool to malfunction. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
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'Haunted' ChatGPT Cranks out Gibberish for Hours

ChatGPT creator OpenAI said a software tweak had introduced a bug that caused its generative AI tool to malfunction. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
ChatGPT creator OpenAI said a software tweak had introduced a bug that caused its generative AI tool to malfunction. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

ChatGPT spewed nonsensical answers to users' queries for hours Tuesday into Wednesday before eventually returning to its senses.
OpenAI, which makes the world-leading generative artificial intelligence (AI) tool, said a software tweak had "introduced a bug with how the model processes language", AFP said.
"Upon identifying the cause of this incident, we rolled out a fix and confirmed that the incident was resolved," it added.
ChatGPT was giving "peculiar" responses, generating non-existent words, incomplete sentences and general gobbledygook, developers using the tool said in a discussion forum on the OpenAI website.
"It gives me meaningless words followed by a bizarre list," one developer lamented.
"It feels as if my GPT is haunted or something has been compromised, either on my end or at OpenAI's (end)."
It wasn't until more than 16 hours had passed that OpenAI updated the page with a message that ChatGPT was operating normally.

The San Francisco-based technology firm replied to an AFP query by directing it to the ChatGPT status page.
OpenAI recently concluded a deal with investors that reportedly valued the start-up at $80 billion or more after a roller-coaster year for the tech firm.
The agreement, reported by The New York Times but not yet confirmed by OpenAI, would mean the value of the company -- a world leader in generative AI -- would have nearly tripled in under 10 months.
OpenAI led a revolution in AI when it placed its ChatGPT program online in late 2022.
The immediate success of the interface sparked tremendous interest in the cutting-edge technology, capable of producing text, sounds and images upon demand.
OpenAI -- which also makes the image-generating DALL-E -- recently released a new tool named Sora, which can create realistic videos of up to a minute long via simple user prompts.
Microsoft has invested around $13 billion in OpenAI, using the start-up's technology in its search engine Bing and other services.
Microsoft is locked in fierce competition with Google to roll out new AI-infused tools, to the point that the US Federal Trade Commission in January launched an investigation into the enormous investments by Microsoft, Google and Amazon in such specialized start-ups.


Nvidia Hits $2 Trillion Valuation as AI Frenzy Grips Wall Street

 This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)
This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)
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Nvidia Hits $2 Trillion Valuation as AI Frenzy Grips Wall Street

 This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)
This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)

Nvidia hit $2 trillion in market value for the first time on Friday, riding on an insatiable demand for its chips that made the Silicon Valley firm the pioneer of the generative artificial intelligence boom.

The milestone followed another bumper revenue forecast from the chip designer that drove up its market value by $277 billion on Thursday - Wall Street's largest one-day gain on record.

Its rapid ascent in the past year has led analysts to draw parallels to the picks and shovels providers during the gold rush of 1800s as Nvidia's chips are used by almost all generative AI players from chatGPT-maker OpenAI to Google.

That has helped the company vault from $1 trillion to $2 trillion market value in around eight months - the fastest among US companies and in less than half the time it took tech giants Apple and Microsoft.

"For AI companies today - the leaders of the sector - what's going to be binding for them is not going to be demand. It's just going to be their capacity to answer the surging demand," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

Nvidia's shares were last trading up about 2%. They had risen as much as 4.9% to a record high $823.9 earlier in the session, giving the world's fourth most valuable company a market capitalization of $2.05 trillion.

Its shares have surged nearly 60% this year, after more than tripling in value in 2023. The chip designer's 2024 share surge has been crucial to the S&P 500's gains, contributing to more than a quarter of the stock index's rise this year.

Its latest market-beating forecast of a whopping 233% growth in first-quarter revenue helped global markets notch record highs on Thursday.

The breakneck growth has drawn analysts and investors from far and wide to Nvidia.

"I'm a European fund manager, but I must have had more emails about their results than I've had about any other set. There have been calls, every broker doing 10-minute debriefs, it's been mind boggling," said one investor, who declined to be named.

Despite the share surge, Nvidia's valuation has fallen due to rapid increases in analysts' estimates. It has a 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 31, down from 49 times a year ago, according to LSEG data.

"Leading cloud computing companies plan to boost their capital expenditure to satisfy demand for AI training and inference, and it appears that virtually all this spending will fall into Nvidia's pockets," said Brian Colello, a strategist at Morningstar.

"We anticipate revenue will rise by a couple of billion each quarter throughout fiscal 2025 for Nvidia as more chip supply comes online."


Tech Titans Yield to New EU Rules before March Deadline

The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
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Tech Titans Yield to New EU Rules before March Deadline

The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File

2024 will be a year of change for the world's biggest tech companies as they bow to EU rules that come into force next month, shaking up how Europeans use vastly popular platforms from Google to Instagram.
The European Union long ago set its sights on big tech, aiming to rein in globally dominant companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft.
The landmark law known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA) breaks new ground because, rather than acting after the fact, it seeks to prevent companies from becoming powerful enough to edge out rivals, AFP said.
"This is really a big, big intervention in markets that affect people's lives every day," said Fiona Scott Morton, senior fellow at think tank Bruegel.
Brussels in September named six so-called "gatekeepers" that face tougher curbs: Google's Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, TikTok parent ByteDance, Meta and Microsoft.
It singles out 22 "core" platform services by the big six, including Amazon Marketplace, Apple's App Store, Facebook, Instagram and Google's Chrome browser.
"The point of the law is to open up these platforms and make the interface widely accessible so that there can be competition," Scott Morton told AFP.
The firms have until March 7 to comply, with a flurry of changes announced since the start of the year -- even as Apple, TikTok and Meta pursue challenges to aspects of the law.
"We'll get some of the benefits of the opening up of these markets pretty quickly," Scott Morton predicted.
Wind of change
One of the biggest changes announced so far came from Apple, which said in January it would allow alternative app stores on the iPhone for the first time.
The firm has moved grudgingly to comply, while also legally contesting that its app stores across all products including the iPhone should count as one.
Google's EU users are seeing banners asking if they want to keep their Google services, like YouTube and Chrome, linked -- and therefore allow data sharing.
Another big change will be choice screens: the EU wants firms to make it easier for users to choose their default search engine or browser, in an attempt to challenge Google search's dominance.
Google has promised to overhaul its results page, with a group of links to price comparison websites and removing some features such as Google Flights.
Microsoft has also announced steps to comply -- including letting Windows users in the European Economic Area (EEA) -- uninstall its Edge browser from their computers, and scrapping pop-ups urging new users to try the interface.
The EEA includes the bloc plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Advertising services by Amazon, Google and Meta must also adjust to the new rules, and Amazon last month detailed changes to its ad service, including providing more information about pricing.
Letting users decide how much of their data should be shared between the biggest companies' various platforms is one of the headline changes sought by the EU.
Meta said last month that users in the EU, in the EEA and in Switzerland will be able to create a separate Facebook Messenger account if they do not want it linked to their Facebook account.
Individuals will also be able to access Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Gaming without using their main account information.
At the same time, Meta is contesting the law's application to Facebook's Messenger and Marketplace services.
Likewise, Chinese-owned TikTok, the only non-US business on the EU's list, says it does not meet various thresholds for the law to apply and has been wrongly designated.
Core Apple issues
Of all the giants it targets, the DMA has perhaps the greatest potential to alter Apple's closed ecosystem.
Apple has not hidden its contempt for the DMA, which it says creates privacy and security risks.
Inside the industry, Apple has been accused of acting in bad faith -- including by Meta's Mark Zuckerberg who suggested its changes made it no easier to create alternative app stores on the iPhone.
"Apple clearly has no intention to comply with the DMA," said Rick VanMeter, executive director of the more than 70-member Coalition for App Fairness, which has long called for Apple to open up its marketplace.
"Apple is introducing new fees on direct downloads and payments they do nothing to process, which violates the law," he said.
Apple has said that its changes comply with the DMA.
One vocal critic is Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, which is part of the app coalition and called Apple's announced changes "a new low" for the firm.
Echoing a rising chorus among Apple's competitors, Spotify voiced hope that the DMA will end "unfair stifling of innovation disguised by Apple as security protections".


Google to Pause Gemini AI Model's Image Generation of People

A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024.  EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
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Google to Pause Gemini AI Model's Image Generation of People

A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024.  EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

Alphabet's Google said on Thursday it is pausing AI model Gemini's image generation of people and will release an improved version soon.

"We're aware that Gemini is offering inaccuracies in some historical image generation depictions," Google had said on Wednesday.

Google started offering image generation through its Gemini AI models earlier this month, but over the past few days some users on social media had flagged that the model returns historical images which are sometimes inaccurate.


US Smartphone Sales Slump in January on Fewer Device Upgrades, Counterpoint Finds

Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
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US Smartphone Sales Slump in January on Fewer Device Upgrades, Counterpoint Finds

Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)

US smartphone sales plunged 10% in January on weak demand for cheaper Android devices and as customers delayed upgrades ahead of the launch of Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S24 series, according to data from Counterpoint Research.

The research firm said U.S. smartphone sales last month were nearly half of the record levels seen in the same period in 2017, underscoring fears that the market may have peaked.

"Tough times in the volume-driven low-end coupled with delayed upgrades in anticipation of new products drove the market lower," said Maurice Klaehne, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research.

Smartphone sales have waned after the pandemic-driven boom, as an uncertain economic outlook and lack of major new features led consumers to stick with their existing devices.

Samsung has tried to drum up interest for its new Galaxy smartphones, which went on sale on Jan. 17, by offering multiple artificial intelligence (AI) functions including a two-way voice translation in real-time.

Counterpoint said the S24 series has performed well in the US market during the initial 1-2 weeks of launch, and that it could spark a rebound in smartphone sales in February.

Apple, meanwhile, continued to gain market share in the US last month, thanks to promotional offers for its iPhone 15 series, and as cost-conscious consumers sought its older iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 devices, whose prices have come down.

"This combination is enabling Apple to maintain stability in a market experiencing double-digit declines," Counterpoint said.


White House Wades into Debate on 'Open' Versus 'Closed' Artificial Intelligence Systems

FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
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White House Wades into Debate on 'Open' Versus 'Closed' Artificial Intelligence Systems

FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

The Biden administration is wading into a contentious debate about whether the most powerful artificial intelligence systems should be “open-source” or closed.
The White House said Wednesday it is seeking public comment on the risks and benefits of having an AI system's key components publicly available for anyone to use and modify. The inquiry is one piece of the broader executive order that President Joe Biden signed in October to manage the fast-evolving technology, The Associated Press said.
Tech companies are divided on how open they make their AI models, with some emphasizing the dangers of widely accessible AI model components and others stressing that open science is important for researchers and startups. Among the most vocal promoters of an open approach have been Facebook parent Meta Platforms and IBM.
Biden’s order described open models with the technical name of “dual-use foundation models with widely available weights” and said they needed further study. Weights are numerical values that influence how an AI model performs.
When those weights are publicly posted on the internet, “there can be substantial benefits to innovation, but also substantial security risks, such as the removal of safeguards within the model,” Biden’s order said. He gave Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo until July to talk to experts and come back with recommendations on how to manage the potential benefits and risks.
Now the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration says it is also opening a 30-day comment period to field ideas that will be included in a report to the president.
“One piece of encouraging news is that it’s clear to the experts that this is not a binary issue. There are gradients of openness,” said Alan Davidson, an assistant Commerce secretary and the NTIA's administrator. Davidson told reporters Tuesday that it's possible to find solutions that promote both innovation and safety.


Nvidia’s Stock Rally Sputters Ahead of Quarterly Report

A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)
A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)
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Nvidia’s Stock Rally Sputters Ahead of Quarterly Report

A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)
A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)

A scorching rally in Nvidia's shares this year came to a halt on Tuesday as investors worried if the high-flying chip designer's quarterly results would justify its towering valuation.

The stock fell 5.3% to $687.91. If losses hold, it could be the biggest percentage drop in more than eight months.

Nvidia has been at the heart of the frenzy around artificial intelligence (AI). A more than 40% surge in its stock this year helped it replace Alphabet as the third most valuable US company, behind Microsoft and Apple.

The market capitalization of Nvidia was $1.79 trillion on Friday.

"The market is maybe a little bit hesitant whether they (Nvidia) can deliver a strong enough guidance to reinvigorate the market even higher," said Frank Lee, head of technology research at HSBC.

The company will report quarterly results on Feb. 21. Analysts expect earnings of $4.56 a share and revenue to rise to $20.378 billion from $6.05 billion a year earlier, according to LSEG estimates.

Still, Nvidia's eye-popping run this year that pushed it to new peaks and powered gains in US stock markets could make the stock vulnerable if earnings are less than stunning.

"You can't come out and simply meet or slightly beat for the stock to go higher, Nvidia's going to need to blow it away," said Dennis Dick, a trader at Triple D Trading.

Nvidia options are pricing a swing of about 11% in either direction following results, according to data from options analytics service ORATS.

Other AI-focused stocks such as Super Micro Computer fell 11.6% and Arm Holdings dropped 7.3%.

Advanced Micro Devices was down nearly 6%, having recorded double-digit gains on a year-to-date basis.

Nvidia's shares are trading at 32 times its forward earnings estimates compared with the industry median of 25.4.


Saudi Media Minister, SDAIA President Launch AI Center for Media

The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)
The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)
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Saudi Media Minister, SDAIA President Launch AI Center for Media

The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)
The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)

Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Yousef Al-Dosary and Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) President Dr. Abdullah bin Sharaf Al-Ghamdi launched on Tuesday the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Center for Media and the Future Camp of Generative Artificial Intelligence for Media.

The two launches, at the start of the Saudi Media Forum 3 held in Riyadh, aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media in a way that enhances the Kingdom's position as a leading country in the AI data field to achieve the goals of the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

The projects aim to boost the national media competencies' benefits of AI to ensure a competitive environment in the media sector's advancement by utilizing advanced technologies.

The launches come within the cooperation framework between the Ministry of Media and SDAIA to achieve integration in the services of the two sectors to meet the aspirations of the wise leadership that aim to achieve the benefit of advanced technologies and reflect them on various government sectors.