Samsung Electronics to Invest $230 Bln Through 2042 in South Korea Chipmaking Base

A Samsung sign is displayed, during the GSMA's 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain March 1, 2023. (Reuters)
A Samsung sign is displayed, during the GSMA's 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain March 1, 2023. (Reuters)
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Samsung Electronics to Invest $230 Bln Through 2042 in South Korea Chipmaking Base

A Samsung sign is displayed, during the GSMA's 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain March 1, 2023. (Reuters)
A Samsung sign is displayed, during the GSMA's 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain March 1, 2023. (Reuters)

South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics expects to invest $230 billion over the next 20 years to develop what the country's government called the world's largest chip-making base, in line with efforts to boost the national chip industry.

Samsung's around 300 trillion won project is part of a 550 trillion won private-sector investment plan unveiled by the government on Wednesday. Seoul's strategy aims to expand tax breaks and support to raise competitiveness of high-tech sectors including those involving chips, displays and batteries.

The plans come as other countries introduce steps to bolster domestic chip industries, including the United States which last month released details of its CHIPS Act, offering billions of dollars in subsidies for chipmakers that invest in the country.

"The economic battlefield, which recently began with chips, has expanded ... countries are providing large-scale subsidies and tax support," said President Yoon Suk Yeol on Wednesday.

"(We) must support private investments to ensure further growth ... the government must provide location, R&D, manpower, and tax support."

Samsung's manufacturing additions will include five chip factories and attract up to 150 materials, parts and equipment makers, fabless chipmakers and semiconductor research-and-development organizations near Seoul, the industry ministry said in a statement.

In addition to private-sector investment, the government will budget 25 trillion won or more over five years for R&D in strategic technologies such as artificial intelligence. It will provide about 360 billion won to develop chip packaging, and about 100 billion won in electricity and water infrastructure this year for industrial complexes.

In January, the government proposed raising the tax deduction rate for facility investments in chips and other strategic technologies from 8% to 15% for large corporations.

Separately, Samsung Electronics, unit Samsung Display, affiliates Samsung SDI and Samsung Electro-Mechanics said they plan to invest 60.1 trillion won in the next 10 years in regions outside the Seoul metropolitan area to develop chip packaging, displays and battery technology.

South Korea, home to the world's two biggest memory chip makers, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix Inc, is seeking to improve supply-chain stability to become a major player in the non-memory chip field, currently dominated by chipmakers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd and Intel Corp.



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.


Nintendo Shares Slide on Reports of Delayed Switch Successor Release 

A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)
A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)
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Nintendo Shares Slide on Reports of Delayed Switch Successor Release 

A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)
A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)

Nintendo shares fell 6% on Monday after reports by games media and Bloomberg that its next-generation console will be delayed until early 2025 from later this year.

While Nintendo has not commented on plans for a successor device beyond saying that it is always working on new hardware and software, the Kyoto-based gaming firm is widely expected to be planning to launch a new device to succeed its aging Switch console.

The company raised the full-year sales forecast for the Switch earlier this month as the hybrid home-portable device continues to attract consumers even as it nears its eighth year on the market.

"We want to maintain the momentum of the Switch business," Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa told an earnings briefing at the time.


AI-Operated Robots Assist Visitors to the Grand Mosque

The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
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AI-Operated Robots Assist Visitors to the Grand Mosque

The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)

The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, SPA said on Sunday.
The robots provide information and guidance on a variety of topics, including how to perform the Hajj and Umrah rituals, Islamic rulings and fatwas, directions to different locations within the mosque, and translations in multiple languages.
Each robot is equipped with a touchscreen display, a high-definition camera, and a powerful speaker system. It can also connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, thus able to access real-time information, in 11 languages: Arabic, English, French, Russian, Persian, Turkish, Malay, Urdu, Chinese, Bengali, and Hausa.


OpenAI Reveals Sora, a Tool to Make Instant Videos from Written Prompts 

The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
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OpenAI Reveals Sora, a Tool to Make Instant Videos from Written Prompts 

The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)

The maker of ChatGPT on Thursday unveiled its next leap into generative artificial intelligence with a tool that instantly makes short videos in response to written commands.

San Francisco-based OpenAI’s new text-to-video generator, called Sora, isn’t the first of its kind. Google, Meta and the startup Runway ML are among the other companies to have demonstrated similar technology.

But the high quality of videos displayed by OpenAI — some after CEO Sam Altman asked social media users to send in ideas for written prompts — astounded observers while also raising fears about the ethical and societal implications.

“An instructional cooking session for homemade gnocchi hosted by a grandmother social media influencer set in a rustic Tuscan country kitchen with cinematic lighting,” was a prompt suggested on X by a freelance photographer from New Hampshire. Altman responded a short time later with a realistic video that depicted what the prompt described.

The tool isn’t yet publicly available and OpenAI has revealed limited information about how it was built. The company, which has been sued by some authors and The New York Times over its use of copyrighted works of writing to train ChatGPT, also hasn’t disclosed what imagery and video sources were used to train Sora. (OpenAI pays an undisclosed fee to The Associated Press to license its text news archive).

OpenAI said in a blog post that it’s engaging with artists, policymakers and others before releasing the new tool to the public.

“We are working with red teamers  —  domain experts in areas like misinformation, hateful content, and bias  —  who will be adversarially testing the model,” the company said. “We’re also building tools to help detect misleading content such as a detection classifier that can tell when a video was generated by Sora.”


Microsoft Is Making 4 Exclusive Xbox Video Games Available to Rival Consoles 

The Xbox logo is pictured at the Paris Games Week in Paris, Nov. 3, 2017. (AP)
The Xbox logo is pictured at the Paris Games Week in Paris, Nov. 3, 2017. (AP)
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Microsoft Is Making 4 Exclusive Xbox Video Games Available to Rival Consoles 

The Xbox logo is pictured at the Paris Games Week in Paris, Nov. 3, 2017. (AP)
The Xbox logo is pictured at the Paris Games Week in Paris, Nov. 3, 2017. (AP)

Several exclusive Xbox games will be soon making their way to rival consoles, the video gaming brand and its parent company, Microsoft, announced Thursday.

In a special edition of the Official Xbox Podcast, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer confirmed that four Xbox games will no longer be exclusive. That means players should be able to access them on other companies’ platforms.

Spencer did not provide a firm timeframe or identify the four games but said that two will be “community-driven” games and two will be smaller titles.

“The teams that are building those games have announced plans that are not too far away,” he said. “I won’t be talking about the titles specifically, but I think when they come out, it’ll make sense.”

He did say that Microsoft-owned Bethesda titles Starfield and Indiana Jones were not among them.

Makers of gaming hardware often license popular video games in hopes of getting consumers to buy the devices that hold their exclusive rights.

Xbox’s Thursday announcement suggests that the brand is rethinking that strategy. While Microsoft maintained that there was no fundamental change to its exclusivity approach, Spencer noted that he believes games that are exclusive to one piece of hardware “are going to be a smaller and smaller part of the game industry” within the next five or 10 years.

Microsoft has already been moving away from this through its “Game Pass” subscription service that works something like a Netflix for video games.

The tech giant’s recent acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard allows that service to grow even further. On Thursday, Xbox President Sarah Bond announced that the first Activision Blizzard game on Xbox Game Pass will be Diablo IV, starting March 28.

“It’s all part of our commitment to make Xbox, the Xbox experience, and the games that we build as widely available as possible,” Bond said.

Xbox, which has previously ranked third in sales behind PlayStation and Nintendo, is expected to see a significant boost from the Activision Blizzard roster — which, beyond Diablo, also includes blockbuster games like Call of Duty and Overwatch.

Revenue for Microsoft’s Windows-led personal computing business, which includes Xbox games and services, already grew 19% to $16.89 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023 — largely reflecting Activision Blizzard’s impact. Microsoft’s Xbox-related revenues grew by 61% for the period, although the company attributed 55 points of that figure to the addition of Activision Blizzard.

Microsoft completed its purchase of Activision Blizzard for $69 billion back in October, nearly two years after announcing the deal. The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant had to fend off ample global opposition from antitrust regulators and rivals over competition concerns.

Sony, for example, told regulators that it feared Microsoft will deprive its dominant PlayStation game console of popular Activision games or offer subpar versions. But as it sought to persuade regulators and judges to approve the Activision purchase, Microsoft repeatedly defended its approach as good for gaming, saying its goal was to get Activision games to more people on more platforms rather than trying to deprive those games from rival console-makers.