Posts with «investment & company information» label

Netflix is done telling us how many people use Netflix

Netflix will stop disclosing the number of people who signed up for its service, as well as the revenue it generates from each subscriber from next year, the company announced on Thursday. It will focus, instead, on highlighting revenue growth and the amount of time spent on its platform.

“In our early days, when we had little revenue or profit, membership growth was a strong indicator of our future potential,” the company said in a letter to shareholders. “But now we’re generating very substantial profit and free cash flow.”

Netflix revealed that the service added 9.33 million subscribers over the last few months, bringing the total number of paying households worldwide to nearly 270 million. Despite its decision to stop reporting user numbers each quarter, Netflix said that the company will “announce major subscriber milestones as we cross them,” which means we’ll probably hear about it when it crosses 300 million.

Netflix estimates that more than half a billion people around the world watch TV shows and movies through its service, an audience it is now figuring out how to squeeze even more money out of through new pricing tiers, a crackdown on password-sharing, and showing ads. Over the last few years, it has also steadily added games like the Grand Theft Auto trilogy, Hades, Dead Cells, Braid, and more, to its catalog.

Subscriber metrics are an important signal to Wall Street because they show how quickly a company is growing. But Netflix’s move to stop reporting these is something that we’ve seen from other companies before. In February, Meta announced that it would no longer break out the number of daily and monthly Facebook users each quarter but only reveal how many people collectively used Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. In 2018, Apple, too, stopped reporting the number of iPhones, iPads, and Macs it sold each quarter, choosing to focus, instead, on how much money it made in each category.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

TSMC will charge more for chips made outside of Taiwan, possibly making devices more expensive

TSMC is the world’s biggest chipmaker and its products are found in everything from phones to game consoles and computers. But devices using TSMC chips could become more expensive if manufacturers opt to buy ones that the company makes outside of its home base of Taiwan.

“If a customer requests to be in a certain geographical area, the customer needs to share the incremental cost,” TSMC CEO CC Wei said on an earnings call. “In today’s fragmented globalization environment, cost will be higher for everyone, including TSMC, our customers and our competitors.”

Talks with customers over price increases have already started. As the Financial Times points out, it’s more expensive for TSMC to manufacture chips outside of Taiwan (where over 90 percent of the planet’s most advanced semiconductors are made). But the company will be passing on those costs amid a push by companies and governments to increase chip supply outside of Taiwan, over which China is attempting to control.

TSMC has plants in Japan and is building several in Arizona, the first of which started operating this month and is expected to go into full production this year. It’s also constructing a plant in Germany.

In addition, the US government last week agreed to provide the company with $6.6 billion in funding under the CHIPS Act, which seeks to bolster semiconductor manufacturing in the country. In return, TSMC pledged to up its US investment by $25 billion to $65 billion. Aligned with that, the company announced plans to build a third US plant by the end of the decade and to start making more advanced 2nm chips by 2028.

Meanwhile, TSMC expects its manufacturing costs to increase in Taiwan. That’s because power prices there are soaring. An earthquake earlier this month is also expected to have a negative effect on the company’s profitability, as is its struggle to make the manufacturing of its most advanced 3nm chips more efficient.

Apple, NVIDIA, AMD and Qualcomm are among TSMC’s more notable customers. So if they end up buying chips from the company’s US, Japan or Germany fabs, their manufacturing costs could go up. Take a wild guess who’d end up having to eat the cost of those increased expenses so device makers can maintain their profit margins.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Samsung is once again the leader in global smartphone shipments

After being briefly overtaken by Apple in 2023, Samsung once again holds the title for most global smartphone shipments. The International Data Corporation (IDC) Mobile Phone Tracker's preliminary data for 2024's first quarter showed Samsung reclaiming the lead it has held since 2010. 

Samsung has reportedly shipped 60.1 million units worldwide in quarter one, representing 20.8 percent of the market share. Apple shipped 50.1 million units for 17.3 percent of the market share. Both companies saw a decrease from 2023's quarter one, though Apple's was much more significant (-9.6 percent) than Samsung's (-0.7 percent). The top five brands remained the same in quarter one as all of 2023, rounded out by Xiaomi with 40.8 million units, Transsion with 28.5 million units and OPPO with 25.2 million units shipped. Transsion overtook OPPO to enter fourth place. 

The IDC points to these numbers as an indication that the smartphone market is strengthening. "Firstly, we continue to see growth in value and average selling prices (ASPs) as consumers opt for more expensive devices knowing they will hold onto their devices longer. Secondly, there is a shift in power among the Top 5 companies, which will likely continue as market players adjust their strategies in a post-recovery world," said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC's Worldwide Tracker team in a statement. "Xiaomi is coming back strong from the large declines experienced over the past two years and Transsion is becoming a stable presence in the Top 5 with aggressive growth in international markets. In contrast, while the Top 2 players both saw negative growth in the first quarter, it seems Samsung is in a stronger position overall than they were in recent quarters."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Tesla is reportedly laying off more than 10 percent of its workforce

Tesla has joined the litany of companies that have conducted sweeping layoffs in recent times. According to Reuters, the company is firing "more than 10 percent" of its workforce; the company had more than 140,000 employees as of December 2023. The publication saw an internal memo noting the percentage, though it didn't state the exact number of jobs affected. A source also told Reuters that some staffers have already been notified, which indicates that the layoffs have already begun.

"As we prepare the company for our next phase of growth, it is extremely important to look at every aspect of the company for cost reductions and increasing productivity," Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly wrote in the memo. "As part of this effort, we have done a thorough review of the organization and made the difficult decision to reduce our headcount by more than 10 percent globally."

It emerged in early February that the company asked managers which employees' positions were essential, suggesting that layoffs were imminent. The automaker also canceled biannual performance reviews for some workers, according to Bloomberg.

Since 2020, Tesla has effectively doubled its headcount and ended 2023 with more than 140,000 employees. Although it has carried out several rounds of layoffs over the years (including dozens of workers on the Autopilot team a year ago), the company's workforce grew by about 10 percent in 2023 alone.

During Tesla's quarterly earnings call in January, CEO Elon Musk noted that the company was between "two major growth waves." The first was the popularity of the Model 3 and Y. The next is a lower-cost EV that the company seems to be pinning its hopes on. That's slated to arrive in late 2025, though reports suggest Tesla may be ditching that lower-cost model to focus on robotaxis. Musk says that the company plans to reveal its robotaxi on August 8.

Musk had warned investors to expect "notably lower" sales growth this year, which may have prompted cost-cutting efforts to appease them. Indeed, Tesla saw a sales slump in the first three months of 2024. Deliveries dropped by eight percent year-over-year and 20 percent from the previous quarter. The company is set to report earnings and sales for the first quarter of 2024 on April 23.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Reddit is now a publicly traded company

Nineteen years after its debut, Reddit is now a publicly traded company. It was listed on the New York Stock Exchange as RDDT for the first time on Thursday, with mascot Snoo on hand to ring the opening bell.

The company aimed to sell 15.3 million shares at $34 a pop to raise around $519.4 million. Stockholders collectively planned to sell 6.7 million shares in the IPO for a total of $228.6 million (Reddit itself wouldn't see any of that money though). The IPO price values Reddit at just under $6.5 billion.

The sale’s underwriters also have the option to buy 3.3 million shares at the IPO price over the next 30 days. So if the stock soars over the next few weeks, the underwriters can pick up shares relatively cheaply. If all those sell, Reddit will pull in another $112.2 million or so. One other interesting aspect of Reddit going public is that it invited long-term users in good standing the chance to snap up shares at the IPO pricing over the last few weeks.

It’s been a long road for Reddit to go public, and it’s doing so long after many of its peers (the last major social media IPO was Pinterest back in 2019). Conde Nast bought Reddit in 2006, just over a year after the platform went live, and spun it back out as an independent subsidiary in 2011. Reddit first filed for an IPO in 2021.

The company has had plenty of controversies to address during its run. Last year, users protested against the company's decision to start charging for API access, effectively killing some third-party apps that hooked into the platform. Thousands of subreddits went private and/or stopped letting users post for a while. Indeed, in its S-1 filing, Reddit notes the importance of its users, stating that if "engagement declines, our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects will be harmed."

Most recently, Reddit signed a deal with Google said to be worth $60 million a year to train the latter’s AI models on user-generated content. Reddit later said the Federal Trade Commission was looking into the arrangement.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Microsoft hires DeepMind cofounder to lead its new consumer AI division

Microsoft now has a lone leader overseeing consumer AI for the first time. DeepMind cofounder Mustafa Suleyman is joining the company from rival Inflection AI. Suleyman will try to push the consumer-facing Copilot assistant into the future, preparing for what may be a long battle with Google for artificial intelligence supremacy among Silicon Valley’s Big Five companies.

Suleyman’s official title will be executive vice president and CEO of a new division called Microsoft AI, reporting directly to CEO Satya Nadella. Joining him will be fellow Inflection AI cofounder Karén Simonyan, who takes the title of chief scientist.

“Messy” could be one way to describe Microsoft’s Copilot rollout. Despite its quick jump out of the starting blocks to take the lead over Google, Bloomberg reported in January that Bing’s market share hardly moved the needle against its search rival. In addition, a Microsoft engineer raised flags earlier this year about the safety of OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 and Copilot, even taking his case to the FTC. Further complicating matters, Google’s AI efforts may be in for an enormous boost as it’s reportedly in talks with Apple to power the iPhone maker’s generative AI tools.

I’m excited to announce that today I’m joining @Microsoft as CEO of Microsoft AI. I’ll be leading all consumer AI products and research, including Copilot, Bing and Edge. My friend and longtime collaborator Karén Simonyan will be Chief Scientist, and several of our amazing…

— Mustafa Suleyman (@mustafasuleyman) March 19, 2024

In announcing his move to Microsoft, Suleyman posted on X (Twitter) that “several of our amazing teammates” from Inflection AI will join him and Simonyan in Microsoft AI. But that may be an understatement. Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Microsoft is instead “hiring most of the staff from his Inflection AI startup.” In a blog post announcing the changes, Inflection said it plans to “lean into our AI studio business” in an apparent pivot into the enterprise and away from its consumer-facing Pi chatbot.

Suleyman cofounded DeepMind in 2010, four years before Google bought the British-American AI startup for a sum reported to be between $400 million and $650 million. Suleyman left DeepMind in 2019 to join Google, and three years later, he left to cofound Inflection AI.

“I’ve known Mustafa for several years and have greatly admired him as a founder of both DeepMind and Inflection, and as a visionary, product maker, and builder of pioneering teams that go after bold missions,” Nadella wrote in a Microsoft blog post. The CEO described the incoming Inflection expats as “some of the most accomplished AI engineers, researchers, and builders in the world.”

Nadella stressed that Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI is still a top priority. The ChatGPT maker provides the underlying generative AI models for Copilot. “Our AI innovation continues to build on our most strategic and important partnership with OpenAI,” he wrote. “We will continue to build AI infrastructure inclusive of custom systems and silicon work in support of OpenAI’s foundation model roadmap, and also innovate and build products on top of their foundation models.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The FTC is probing Reddit’s AI licensing deals

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into Reddit’s AI licensing deals, the company disclosed in paperwork filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company, which is in the midst of its Initial Public Offering, said that the regulator notified Reddit officials that it “intended to request information and documents” about the company’s AI deals.

It’s not clear why the FTC is probing Reddit’s relatively new licensing business, but it seems to be in the early stages of its inquiry. “On March 14, 2024, we received a letter from the FTC advising us that the FTC’s staff is conducting a non-public inquiry focused on our sale, licensing, or sharing of user-generated content with third parties to train AI models,” Reddit wrote in a filing. “Given the novel nature of these technologies and commercial arrangements, we are not surprised that the FTC has expressed interest in this area. We do not believe that we have engaged in any unfair or deceptive trade practice.”

Reddit’s deals to license its catalog of user-generated content are a key part of the company’s strategy to grow its revenue as it gets ready to go public. On the day the company filed for IPO, the company announced it had reached a deal with Google, which will use Reddit data to train its AI models. That arrangement was reportedly worth around $60 million. The company said it was in the early stages of “exploring” these types of deals.

According to Axios, other companies have received similar letters from the FTC. The regulator has previously shown an interest in the current wave of generative AI upstarts and their relationships with large tech companies, The FTC is currently investigating Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon over their investments into prominent AI startups.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Sam Altman is back on the OpenAI board. We still don’t know why he was fired.

Sam Altman is back on the board of OpenAI, nearly four months after the CEO was ousted, and quickly reinstated, from the company he founded. Although Altman had returned as the AI company’s top executive in November, a temporary board oversaw his return and the subsequent investigation into his conduct.

That investigation is now complete, according to the company, which added three new members to its board of directors. The additions include: Instacart CEO and former Meta executive Fidji Simo, former Sony executive Nicole Seligman and Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann, former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor, economist Larry Summers and OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, who served on the temporary three-seat board, will remain in their positions with Taylor continuing as chair.

The announcement caps off a tumultuous several months for the AI company, which was rocked by Altman’s abrupt ouster last fall.

On Friday, OpenAI also published a summary of the findings from WilmerHale, a law firm that the company’s board retained in December 2023 to conduct an independent investigation into the events that led to Altman’s firing. Despite that, however, we’re no closer to finding out exactly why Altman, who rejoined the company as CEO within five days, was fired to begin with.

“WilmerHale [found] that the prior Board’s decision did not arise out of concerns regarding product safety or security, the pace of development, OpenAI’s finances, or its statements to investors, customers, or business partners,” the summary said. “Instead, it was a consequence of a breakdown in the relationship and loss of trust between the prior Board and Mr. Altman.” WilmerHale also concluded that OpenAI’s previous board fired Altman abruptly without giving notice to “key stakeholders”, and without giving Altman an opportunity to respond to its concerns.

To come to this conclusion, the firm reviewed more than 30,000 documents and conducted dozens of interviews with OpenAI staffers including previous board members over the last few months.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Rivian is halting construction of its $5 billion Georgia plant to save money

Rivian generally had a good day yesterday, launching the R2 SUV along with the surprise R3 crossover and dune buggy-esque R3X that were met with general acclaim. Buried in that press release, however, was the news that the automaker is halting production of its $5 billion Georgia plant in order to save money. 

Instead of building the R2 in Georgia as originally planned, the company will start production of the electric SUV at its existing Normal, Illinois plant. "Beyond significantly reducing the amount of capital needed to bring R2 to market, the company believes this approach considerably reduces risk to the launch and associated ram," the company said. 

The move will also allow Rivian to bring the R2 to market sooner, in the first half of 2026, while saving the company $2.25 billion in capital spending in the short term. That's important since it has been burning through cash of late, according to recent reports.

Elliot Ross Studio

Of all the EV startups to come along of late, Rivian has been one of the most promising thanks to significant investments from Amazon, Ford and others. The company's electric R1T pickup and R1S SUV were also widely praised for their attractive designs, healthy range and more. 

Ramping up an automotive startup is no easy feat, though, especially in a market that's been tough on EVs of late — with even stalwart Tesla feeling the pinch. It doesn't help that startup rivals like Fisker are having serious cash flow issues, as it may spook consumers wary of untested EV brands.

Rivian selected Georgia as the site for its second EV factory back in 2021, receiving up to $1.5 billion in state incentives. At the time, the company said it hoped to eventually produce 400,000 electric vehicles there annually. With plant changes, the Normal, Illinois facility will augment capacity to 215,000 units annually across R1T, R1S, EDV, RCV, and R2.

The Georgia location remains in the picture, but Rivian only said it construction would restart later. "Rivian’s Georgia plant remains an extremely important part of its strategy to scale production of R2 and R3," it said in a statement. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Elon Musk sues OpenAI and Sam Altman for allegedly ditching non-profit mission

OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk has sued the company, his fellow co-founders, associated businesses and unidentified others. He claims that, by chasing profits, they’re violating OpenAI’s status as a non-profit and its foundational contractual agreements to develop AI “for the benefit of humanity.”

The suit alleges that OpenAI has become a “closed-source de facto subsidiary” of Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion and holds a 49 percent stake. Microsoft uses OpenAI tech to power generative AI tools such as Copilot.

According to the filing, under OpenAI’s current board, it is allegedly developing and refining an artificial general intelligence (AGI) “to maximize profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity. This was a stark betrayal of the Founding Agreement.”

The suit defines AGI as "a machine having intelligence for a wide variety of tasks like a human." Musk argues in the suit that GPT-4, which is purportedly "better at reasoning than average humans," is tantamount to AGI and is "a de facto Microsoft proprietary algorithm."

Musk has long expressed concerns over AGI. He claims the theoretical tech posits "a grave threat to humanity," particularly "in the hands of a closed, for-profit company like Google."

According to the filing, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and fellow co-founder Greg Brockman persuaded Musk to help them start the non-profit and to fund its early operations in a bid to counter Google's advancements in the AGI space with DeepMind. He noted that their initial agreement called for OpenAI's tech to be "freely available" to the public. Musk claims to have donated $44 million to the non-profit between 2016 and 2020 (he stepped down as an OpenAI board member in 2018). As TechCrunch reports, Musk previously said he was offered a stake in OpenAI's for-profit subsidiary, but rejected it due to "a principled stand."

Muskl, of course, has some skin in the game. Since the public debut of OpenAI's ChatGPT in November 2022, there's been a battle between tech giants to offer the best generative AI tools. Musk joined that rat race when his AI company, xAI, rolled out ChatGPT rival Grok to Premium+ subscribers on his X social network last year.

When Altman swiftly returned to power after OpenAI's board shockingly fired him in November, he's said to have appointed a new group of directors that is less technically minded and more business-focused. Microsoft was appointed as a non-voting observer. “The new board consisted of members with more experience in profit-centric enterprises or politics than in AI ethics and governance,” the lawsuit alleges.

The suit accuses the defendants of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and unfair business practices. Musk is seeking a jury trial and a ruling that forces OpenAI to stick to its original non-profit mission. He also wants it to be banned from monetizing tech it developed as a non-profit for the benefit of OpenAI leadership as well as Microsoft and other partners.

Competition regulators in the US, the UK and European Union are said to be examining OpenAI's partnership with Microsoft. It was reported this week that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether OpenAI misled investors. Several news organizations have sued OpenAI and Microsoft as well, alleging that ChatGPT repurposes their work "verbatim or nearly verbatim" without attribution, infringing upon their copyright in the process.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at