NEW YORK, January 15 -- When Apple lowered its revenue guidance for the Christmas quarter a couple of weeks ago, Tim Cook explained Apple’s rare miss in a letter, providing several interesting details about the company’s financial performance for the period.
iPhone sales weren’t as strong as Apple would have hoped, thanks to several reasons. Among them, Cook highlighted the affordable iPhone battery replacement program that Apple offered buyers last year, in response to the iPhone throttling issue that came to light in late 2017. Now we have an idea of how many batteries Apple replaced last year thanks to an insider. Eleven million iPhone batteries were replaced in 2018, compared to the anticipated 1-2 million. At the time some people thought it was strange for Cook to include battery replacements in the letter because the argument could further fuel that crazy conspiracy theory that says Apple intentionally slows down its iPhones so that users buy new gear.
Commenting on the battery replacement program effect on Apple’s Q12019 numbers, Jean-Louis Gassée speculated on the number of replacements Apple performed last year, concluding initially that the $29 battery program may not have been enough to affect iPhone sales. He later updated the post to acknowledge the fact that his estimates might be too low, and that Apple had full knowledge of the battery replacement numbers when it issued its guidance for the first quarter. Looking at Gassée’s take on the matter, Apple insider John Gruber actually provided a figure for the battery program. According to him, Cook explained during the all-hands meeting that took place on January 3rd that 11 million iPhone batteries were serviced under the $29 replacement program, but Apple only anticipated about 1-2 million battery replacements. Gruber says that while the all-hands meeting was reported in the press, the contents of the meeting were secret, except for the number of replacements that he just provided. Gruber also said that the number of battery replacements, even if known to Apple, was significant enough to prevent some iPhone buyers from upgrading to an iPhone XR or iPhone XS, which hurt Apple’s numbers for the holiday quarter.
Recent reports revealed that Apple is already taking steps to improve iPhone sales in key markets, including China, Japan, Europe, and the US. In China, Apple reportedly slashed the iPhone price for retailers. In other major markets, Apple is offering buyers a limited trade-in program that lets them turn in older iPhones for a new iPhone XS or XR.
SHANGHAI, January 15 -- The first batch of new energy taxis are put into operation in Dalian, northeast China's Liaoning Province.
China has pledged to coordinate its efforts of environmental protection and economic development in 2019, an important year for winning the tough battle against pollution. At the annual Central Economic Work Conference earlier this month, authorities called for building on this year's achievement in pollution control, making more efforts and input in 2019. Since the turn of this year, China has made solid efforts to combat pollution and seen constant improvement of the environment. The Central Economic Work Conference made it clear that local governments must avoid past simple and unscrupulous practices in dealing with environmental problems.
TOKYO, January 15 -- Lawyers for Ghosn have appealed the decision and could receive a response within the next day.
Ghosn awaits a lengthy criminal trial that could be as long as six months away, his lawyers have said. It is rare in Japan for defendants who deny their charges to be granted bail ahead of trial. The executive has remained in a detention center in Tokyo since Nov. 19, when he was first arrested on allegations of under-reporting his salary for five years through 2015. The court did not give a reason for denying bail. At a hearing last week, when his lawyers asked for reasons for his continued detention, the court cited concerns that Ghosn would try to flee or tamper with evidence.
Ghosn was indicted on Friday on charges of aggravated breach of trust for temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008, and understating his salary for three additional years through March 2018. He has denied the charges. His arrest sent shockwaves through the auto industry and rocked Nissan’s alliance with Mitsubishi Motors Corp and France’s Renault SA. Ghosn, who masterminded Nissan’s financial turnaround two decades ago, has since been removed from chairmanship positions at Nissan and Mitsubishi, but remains chairman and chief executive at Renault. The French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, said it supports Renault’s decision to keep Ghosn at its helm unless it becomes clear he will be “chronically incapacitated” by the Japanese investigation, officials said on Monday. The prospect of a lengthy detention could increase pressure on the Renault board and shareholders including France’s government to appoint permanent new leadership for the car maker. Tuesday is likely to see “important developments” in relation to that question, one French official said.
The case has also put Japan’s criminal justice system under international scrutiny and sparked criticism for some of its practices, including keeping suspects in detention for long periods and prohibiting defense lawyers from being present during interrogations, which can last eight hours a day. Ghosn’s wife, Carole Ghosn, has complained about her husband’s “harsh treatment” in detention, including being held in a small, unheated room and being pressured by prosecutors to confess, according to a letter she wrote to Human Rights Watch’s Japan director Kanae Doi. She urged the group to “shine a light on the harsh treatment of my husband and the human rights-related inequities inflicted upon him by the Japanese justice system.” Doi said in an e-mail to Reuters that the country’s justice system “certainly warrants the international pressure and attention it is getting now.”
Doi also forwarded a comment from Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams, who in an opinion piece published in the Diplomat magazine on Thursday said, “Ghosn’s case is emblematic of serious and longstanding problems in Japan’s criminal justice system, which affect ordinary Japanese citizens on a daily basis.”
BEIJING, January 13 -- A Chinese man is now bedridden for life after he sold his right kidney as a teenager to the black market to buy the latest Apple products.
Wang Shangkun was 17 years old when he made the fatal decision. Shortly after the illegal surgery he began suffering from a decreased level of kidney function. Eight years on, the 25-year-old is now bedridden for life after his remaining organ failed. Mr Shangkun had sold his kidney to black market organ harvesters in April 2011 where he received AUD$4500 — purchasing a iPhone 4 and iPad 2 with the funds. "Why do I need a second kidney? One is enough," he said in reports at the time. Mr Wang now spends his days in bed and relies on dialysis to survive his kidney failure, local Chinese media recently revealed.
The illegal surgery had caused him to develop renal deficiency which is believed to have led to an infection due to the unsanitary setting of where it took place and the apparent lack of post-operative care, Mirror UK reported. The operation occurred in the central province of Hunan without his parents' consent. It was reportedly undertaken by two doctors who were also employed at local hospitals. At the time Chinese newspaper Xinhua reported that Wang first made contact with the alleged harvesters through internet chat rooms. He Wei, reportedly the leader of the gang, then made arrangements to hire a surgeon who worked at a nearby military hospital.
MOSCOW, January 12 -- Specialists of Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos are trying to fix problems with the Spektr-R space radio telescope.
"Specialists of the Main Operational Group of Spacecraft Control are carrying out work to remove the existing problems," Roscosmos said in a statement. The Spektr-R was launched in 2011 and the warranty period of its active operation expired back in 2014. Before this year, the radio telescope continued tackling targeted tasks, Roscosmos said. "Beginning with January 10, 2019, problems emerged in the operation of the service systems that currently make it impossible to tackle a targeted task," Roscosmos said.
GLASGOW, January 10 -- A pre-construction agreement (PCA) for work on a windfarm off the coast of Scotland has been signed by Dutch-based dredging, offshore contracting and marine services company Boskalis Westminster.
The project is the Inch Cape offshore windfarm project, and the award was made by Inch Cape Offshore Ltd (ICOL), a subsidiary of Red Rock Power. The work will include the transportation and installation of the wind turbine foundations, the offshore substation and cables. The award of the contract is subject to a successful bid by ICOL in the next UK Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction in mid-2019, and financial close in the second half of 2020. The CfD scheme is the UK government’s main mechanism for supporting low-carbon electricity generation. The Inch Cape contract, excluding procurement, is expected to be more than €200 million.
Boskalis said it would, in the coming months, assist with the further engineering and design of the project. The final contract cost, including the amount associated with the supply of the wind turbine foundations and inter-array cables, will be determined during this period. The PCA includes the engineering, supply, transportation and installation of up to 72 pre-piled jacket foundations and up to 84 inter-array cables in addition to the transportation and installation of the offshore substation.
Boskalis said the Bokalift 1 crane vessel would be deployed for the transportation and installation of the foundations, as well as the offshore substation foundation, sub-structure and topside. Also, the company said it would supply and install two 85km export cables to connect the offshore substation to the mainland, in a consortium with NKT. The Inch Cape offshore wind farm will be located in the North Sea, 15km off the Angus Coast in the East of Scotland.
The project is scheduled for 2021 to 2022, in time to enable Inch Cape to meet the CfD 3 delivery windows between 2023 and 2025.
REDWOOD, January 9 -- Microsoft has issued its first Patch Tuesday for this year to address 49 CVE-listed security vulnerabilities in its Windows operating systems and other products, 7 of which are rated critical, 40 important and 2 moderate in severity.
Just one of the security vulnerabilities patched by the tech giant this month has been reported as being publicly known at the time of release, and none are being actively exploited in the wild. All the seven critical-rated vulnerabilities lead to remote code execution and primarily impact various versions of Windows 10 and Server editions. Two of the 7 critical flaws affect Microsoft's Hyper-V host OS that fails to properly validate input from an authenticated user on a guest operating system, three affect the ChakraCore scripting engine that fails to properly handle objects in memory in Edge, one affects Edge directly that occurs when the browser improperly handles objects in memory, and one impacts the Windows DHCP client that fails to properly handle certain DHCP responses.
The publicly disclosed flaw but not exploited in the wild, identified as CVE-2019-0579 and rated as important, concerns a remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in the Windows Jet Database engine that could be exploited to execute arbitrary code on a victim's system by tricking him into opening a specially-crafted file. Other "Important" vulnerabilities are addressed in the .NET framework, MS Exchange Server, Edge, Internet Explorer, SharePoint, the Office suite, Windows Data Sharing Service, Visual Studio, Outlook, and Windows Subsystem for Linux.
One of the MS Office flaws patched this month is an information disclosure bug (CVE-2019-0560) which exists when Microsoft Office improperly discloses the contents of its memory. Attackers can exploit this vulnerability by tricking a user into opening a specially crafted Office document. Successful exploitation could allow an attacker to obtain information from the Office memory that can later be used to compromise a victim's computer or data. Microsoft credited Tal Dery and Menahem Breuer of Mimecast Research Labs for this vulnerability. To know more details about their findings, you can head on to an advisory and a blog post published by Mimecast.
Lock Screen Bypass Flaw in Skype for Android Also Patched
Another notable bug patched by Microsoft this month is a privilege vulnerability (CVE-2019-0622) vulnerability in Skype for Android that could have allowed hackers to bypass the lock screen and access personal data on an Android device—by merely answering a Skype call to that device. The Skype flaw has been rated as 'moderate' and requires an attacker to have physical access to your device. A patch for this vulnerability was included in the December 23 release of Skype, but Skype for Android users need to manually update the app from Google Play. Although Microsoft does not list this as publicly known, the researcher posted a YouTube video demonstrating the vulnerability back on December 31.
Though not part of this months patch update, users are also recommended to download the latest update to patch a memory corruption vulnerability (CVE-2018-8653) in Internet Explorer that Microsoft addressed by releasing an out of band patch in December, as the flaw continues to be exploited in the wild. Users and system administrators are strongly recommended to apply the latest security patches as soon as possible to keep hackers and cybercriminals away from taking control of their systems. For installing the latest security patch updates, head on to Settings → Update & Security → Windows Update → Check for updates, on your computer system or you can install the updates manually.
SEOUL, January 8 -- Samsung Electronics has surprised the market today with an estimated 29% drop in quarterly profit.
The company blamed weak chip demand in a rare commentary issued to "ease confusion" among investors already fretting about a global tech slowdown. The South Korean firm also said profit would remain subdued in the first quarter due to difficult conditions in memory chips. But it added that the market is likely to improve in the second half of the year as customers release new smartphones. Weaker earnings at the world's biggest maker of smartphones and semiconductors adds to worries for investors already on edge after Apple last week took the rare move of cutting its quarterly sales forecast, citing poor iPhone sales in China. China boasts the world's biggest smartphone market, but a slowing economy, exacerbated by a trade war with the US, has seen demand for gadgets drop across the tech sector.
Growing support for domestic champions has also impacted foreign brands, with Samsung's market share falling to 0.9% from a high of 18.2% in 2013. But the South Korean firm's chips still power the handsets of most major makers, including Apple and China's market leader Huawei Technologies. Its memory and processor chips account for over three-quarters of overall profit and about 38% of sales.
For October-December, Samsung estimated operating profit of 10.8 trillion won ($9.67 billion), missing the 13.2 trillion won average of 26 analyst estimates in an I/B/E/S Refinitiv poll. It also estimated an 11% fall in revenue at 59 trillion won.
Samsung routinely releases estimated earnings figures before posting detailed results and elaboration toward the end of the month. For the just-ended quarter, however, it issued its first commentary since late 2014, when mobile phone profits dropped. It said weaker-than-expected demand from data centre customers adjusting inventories drove down chip prices and hurt earnings in the face of rising macro uncertainty. It did not disclose the customers or elaborate on the macro uncertainty. Data centre demand - mostly from the US - currently accounts for as much as nearly 30% of demand for Samsung's DRAM chips compared with 5% five years ago, analysts said. On the whole, analysts expect Samsung's profit to decline during 2019, with a slowing Chinese economy eroding demand.
SHANGHAI, January 7 -- Tesla Inc. broke ground Monday for a factory in Shanghai, its first outside the United States.
CEO Elon Musk said Monday on Twitter that the company will start production in China of its Model 3 and a planned crossover by the end of the year. Tesla announced plans in July to build the Gigafactory 3 facility in China, the biggest electric vehicle market, despite trade tension between Beijing and Washington. That followed Beijing's announcement it would end restrictions this year on foreign ownership of electric vehicle producers in an effort to spur industry development. "Looking forward to breaking ground on the @Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory today!" said Musk on Twitter. "Aiming to finish initial construction this summer, start Model 3 production end of year & reach high volume production next year."
China's state broadcaster CCTV showed Musk and other Tesla and local officials attending a chilly ceremony in the rain Monday in Shanghai's outskirts. The Shanghai factory will produce "affordable versions of 3/Y for greater China," Musk said. The company refers to a planned crossover that has yet to receive a formal name as the Y. Higher-priced models will be built in the United States for export to China, Musk said.
Tesla, based on Palo Alto, California, global automakers including General Motors Co., Volkswagen AG and Nissan Motor Corp. that are pouring billions of dollars into manufacturing electric vehicles in China. Local production would eliminate risks from tariffs and other import controls. It would help Tesla develop parts suppliers to support service and make its vehicles more appealing to mainstream Chinese buyers. Tesla said in October it had signed an agreement for a 210-acre (84-hectare) site in the Lingang district in southeastern Shanghai.
Shanghai is a center of China's auto industry and home to state-owned Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp., the main local manufacturer for GM and VW. Tesla has yet to give a price tag but the Shanghai government said it would be the biggest foreign investment there to date. The company faces competition from Chinese brands including BYD Auto and BAIC Group that already sell tens of thousands of hybrid and pure-electric sedans and SUVs annually. Until now, foreign automakers that wanted to manufacture in China were required to work through state-owned partners. Foreign brands balked at bringing electric vehicle technology into China to avoid having to share it with potential competitors.
The first of the new electric models being developed by global automakers to hit the market, Nissan's Sylphy Zero Emission, began rolling off a production line in southern China in August.
Lower-priced electric models from GM, Volkswagen and other global brands are due to hit the market starting this year, well before Tesla is up and running in Shanghai.
One of the top authors of The Peet Journal is Pete McGea. As a native born Scotsman, Pete
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