Microsoft introduces HoloLens to businesses through Dynamics 365 apps

(Reuters) – Microsoft Corp announced on Tuesday new AI and mixed-reality applications for its Dynamics 365 online business software, putting to use its augmented-reality goggles HoloLens for businesses.

FILE PHOTO: A Microsoft store is pictured in New York City, New York, U.S., August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

The additions to its cloud-based software came two years after HoloLens was launched.

The new AI applications, Dynamics 365 Layout and Dynamics 365 Remote Assistant, help connect live remote colleagues with the use of HoloLens, Microsoft said in a blog. (bit.ly/2NlIfN7)

Citing oil company Chevron Corp’s use of the applications, Microsoft said they help to remotely collaborate with and assist firstline workers and remote experts, reducing travel time.

“Previously it was required to fly in an inspector from Houston to a facility in Singapore once a month to inspect equipment. Now it has in-time inspection using Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and can identify issues or provide approvals immediately,” Microsoft said.

Microsoft also announced the launch of Dynamics 365 AI for sales, customer service and market insights.

Dynamics 365, which posted a 61 percent increase when Microsoft reported its quarterly results in July, competes with San Francisco-based Salesforce’s flagship Sales Cloud.

The new AI applications will be released next month, the company said.

Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru

A DOJ Probe Into Elon's Tweets Could Spell Yet More Trouble for Tesla

The Department of Justice has reportedly opened a criminal fraud investigation into Tesla, after CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter last month that he was considering taking the automaker private and had “funding secured” to do so. Musk later revealed that the funding required to go private at $420 per share, which he had believed would come mostly from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, wasn’t exactly locked down. Seventeen days after that initial tweet, in late August, Tesla declared it would remain a public company after all—but the backtracking hasn’t stemmed the fallout from the incident. Bloomberg’s report of the probe sent Tesla shares down nearly 10 percent early this morning. (Stocks ultimately closed down 3 percent on Tuesday evening.)

While the Justice Department’s probe appears to be at a very early and not yet consequential phase, it’s yet another headache for Tesla and its embattled CEO—along with a reported Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and shareholder lawsuits over the same issue, a libel lawsuit filed against Musk by a man he accused of being a pedophile, and a stream of departures by high-level executives. Most crucially, it would add to ongoing questions about Tesla’s production capacity and profit margins as it works to ramp up the rollout of its Model 3 sedan.

In a statement, a Tesla spokesperson says the DOJ did send Tesla a voluntary request for documents and that the automaker has been cooperating. “We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process. We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received,” the statement said. A DOJ spokesperson declined to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into Tesla.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is also reportedly looking into the “going private” statements and whether the “funding secured” tweet was materially false, or even an attempt to manipulate the company’s stock price. The Fox Business Network initially reported that the federal agency subpoenaed the electric carmaker in mid-August. Many SEC investigations take months or years and end without the agency bringing a civil suit or enforcement action.

If it’s true that the Justice Department has not issued Tesla any subpoenas, it likely indicates that the probe, reportedly being handled in San Francisco, remains in its early stages. “It’s something that happens at the very beginning of the process,” says Jay Dubow, a partner specializing in white-collar litigation at the law firm Pepper Hamilton. “It’s just nosing around.”

It’s common for issues to be investigated by both the Department of Justice and SEC, Dubow notes, because federal securities law violations can be prosecuted criminally or civilly. If federal investigators find that Musk purposely misled investors and the public to goose Tesla’s stock price, then he, the company, and/or other employees involved could face fines or penalties (like being forced to take time-outs from roles in the public company), or possibly even prison time, says Stephen Diamond, who studies securities law and corporate governance at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

“The SEC only has the ability to get monetary relief. The DOJ has the ability to put someone in jail,” Diamond says.

If both the SEC and DOJ find evidence of some sort of violation and decide to move forward with their investigations, the two packs of lawyers would share information, legal experts say. If the DOJ moves forward with its probe, it would impanel a grand jury and issue subpoenas, which could eventually lead to indictments. Again, it’s early. “There are a lot of facts we don’t know here,” says Dubow.

We do know, though, that Tesla has faced a barrage of bad news in recent months—steadily driving down the automaker’s stock price and pushing some shareholders to question Musk’s leadership as Tesla’s CEO and chairman.

On Monday, British diver and cave explorer Vernon Unsworth sued Musk for libel in a California district court. (The filing said another suit, this one to be pursued in the United Kingdom, will follow). The lawsuit comes two months after Musk called Unsworth “pedo guy” on Twitter, following an interview in which the Brit denigrated Musk’s attempt to build a mini-submarine that could rescue a group of Thai boys trapped in a cave. Though Musk later deleted and apologized for the tweet, he doubled down on the pedophilia claim a month later, claiming to BuzzFeed News that Unsworth was a “child rapist” who had married a 12-year-old while living in Thailand. The suit (which notes Unsworth is in a relationship with a 40-year-old woman) cites Musk’s tweets extensively and seeks more than $75,000 in compensatory damages.

However those cases turn out for Musk, the clearest determinant of his company’s near-term future will be Tesla’s quarterly earnings report in October, when the automaker will reveal how many cars it produced and sold in the third quarter of the year. The automaker finally hit its goal of making 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week at the end of the second quarter, a rate it hopes to sustain as it strives toward profitability.

The news of the DOJ’s preliminary investigation, though, compounds questions about whether Musk needs to divide his responsibilities as company chairman and CEO into two roles, or hire a number two to help him steer the electric automaker toward that goal—and whether the current corporate board is willing to make that hard call. “The reported DOJ investigation ramps up the concern about the current governance structure of the company,” says Diamond. “At minimum, it’s a cloud over Tesla.”


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SpaceX's first private passenger is Japanese fashion magnate Maezawa

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (Reuters) – SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space transportation company, on Monday named its first private passenger as Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa, the founder and chief executive of online fashion retailer Zozo.

FILE PHOTO: Yusaku Maezawa, the chief executive of Zozo, which operates Japan’s popular fashion shopping site Zozotown and is officially called Start Today Co, speaks at an event launching the debut of its formal apparel items, in Tokyo, Japan, July 3, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

A former drummer in a punk band, billionaire Maezawa will take a trip around the moon planned for 2023 aboard its forthcoming Big Falcon Rocket spaceship, taking the race to commercialize space travel to new heights.

The first person to travel to the moon since the United States’ Apollo missions ended in 1972, Maezawa’s identity was revealed at an event on Monday evening at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne.

Maezawa, who is most famous outside Japan for his record-breaking $110 million purchase of an untitled 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, said he would invite six to eight artists to join him on the lunar orbit mission.

The billionaire chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc, Musk revealed more details of the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, the super heavy-lift launch vehicle that he promises will shuttle passengers to the moon and eventually fly humans and cargo to Mars. The BFR could be conducting its first orbital flights in about two to three years, he said.

Musk had previously said he wanted the rocket to be ready for an unpiloted trip to Mars in 2022, with a crewed flight in 2024, though his ambitious production targets have been known to slip.

“Its not 100 percent certain we can bring this to flight,” Musk said of the lunar mission.

FILE PHOTO: A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Thom Baur/File Photo

The amount Maezawa is paying for the trip was not disclosed, however, Musk said the businessman outlaid a significant deposit and will have a material impact on the cost of developing the BFR.

The 42-year-old Maezawa is one of Japan’s most colorful executives and is a regular fixture in the country’s gossipy weeklies with his collection of foreign and Japanese art, fast cars and celebrity girlfriend.

Maezawa made his fortune by founding the wildly popular shopping site Zozotown. His company Zozo, officially called Start Today Co Ltd, also offers a made-to-measure service using a polka dot bodysuit, the Zozosuit..

With SpaceX, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic battling it out to launch private-sector spacecraft, Maezawa will join a growing list of celebrities and the ultra-rich who have secured seats on flights offered on the under-development vessels.

Those who have signed up to fly on Virgin Galactic sub-orbital missions include actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber. A 90-minute flight costs $250,000.

Short sightseeing trips to space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket are likely to cost around $200,000 to $300,000, at least to start, Reuters reported in July.

SpaceX has already upended the space industry with its relatively low-cost reusable Falcon 9 rockets. The company has completed more than 50 successful Falcon launches and snagged billions of dollars’ worth of contracts, including deals with NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense.

SpaceX in February transfixed a global audience with the successful test launch of its Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Los Angeles; Writing by Sam Nussey in Tokyo; Editing by Leslie Adler and Richard Pullin

​Linux adds a code of conduct for programmers

If you follow Linux development closely, you know Linux kernel discussions can be very heated. Recently, Linus Torvalds has admitted the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) and other Linux development spaces are hostile to many. Torvalds announced he’d change his behavior and apologized to the “people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development.” It was never just Torvalds. So, the Linux community announced it’s adopting, for the first time, a “Code of Conduct.”

Also: How to choose a Linux distro for your old PC CNET

Linux developers had a code before, but the earlier “Code of Conflict,” failed to make the kernel community a more civil group. As Greg Kroah-Hartman, a leading Linux kernel developer wrote, the “Code of Conflict is not achieving its implicit goal of fostering civility and the spirit of ‘be excellent to each other.’ Explicit guidelines have demonstrated success in other projects and other areas of the kernel.”

This new code is straightforward. It opens:

“In the interest of fostering an open and welcoming environment, we as contributors and maintainers pledge to making participation in our project and our community a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of age, body size, disability, ethnicity, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression, level of experience, education, socio-economic status, nationality, personal appearance, race, religion, or sexual identity and orientation.”

Moving ahead, the Linux code maintainers will be be charged with encouraging welcoming behavior and eliminating sexualized language, trolling, harassment, and other unprofessional behavior. You would think this new code wouldn’t cause too much conflict. You would be wrong.

Also: How to find the right Linux distribution for you TechRepublic

This new code is based on the Contributor Covenant. This open-source code of conduct is already being used by such projects as Eclipse, Kubernetes, and Rails. It was created by Coraline Ada Ehmke, a software developer and open-source advocate.

The use of her Contributor Covenant has caused a bad-tempered outbreak on Twitter and Reddit. There are claims the Linux community is becoming politicized and is being taken over by so-called Social Justice Warriors (SJW). Some examples concerning the new Code of Conduct include: “In practice [will be] abused tools to hunt people SJWs don’t like. And they don’t like a lot of people.” And, “Yes as long as are authoritarian left wing minded, and/or censor your self you can participate.”

Also: Opera is available in a Snap on Linux

For all the ranting about SJWs on Twitter and Reddit, things are quite calm on the LKML Itself. It’s very telling that the people actually working on Linux are not freaking out about the new code of conduct.

As for what happens next? Sage Sharp, a developer who left the Linux community because of its toxic environment, tweeted it best: “The real test here is whether the community that built Linus up and protected his right to be verbally abusive will change. Linus not only needs to change himself, but the Linux kernel community needs to change as well.”

We’ll see what happens.

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The Most Powerful Phrase You Can Use In A Negotiation

Thug Life

I had a high school wrestling coach who loved to throw hypothetical scenarios at us during practice. They had nothing to do with wrestling. Instead they were life lessons that he tried to impart by way of asking us to unravel difficult problems, while we were bordering on passing out from the tenth round of spin drills. 

One that has stuck in my mind for the past 40 years went like this:

You find yourself in backstreet alley with three tugs who want to get into a fight. There’s no way to avoid the altercation. The only way out is through them and it’s inevitable that you will have to take them on. One of them is much bigger and stronger than you, and far more threatening than the other two, who both appear to be easy enough for you to deal with. The question: In order to win who do you take on first, second, and third? 

Think about it for a minute. Got it? Good, read on.

The strategy most likely to result in a “win,”  according to my coach, was to take on the big guy first. Dispatch that threat while you have all of your energy. Why waste time, wear yourself down, and risk injury on the other two who will likely head for the hills when they see how easily you take care of Mr Big. 

The life lesson was that winners take on the big challenges first and let the smaller ones take care of themselves.

Generally speaking, it’s a wonderful life philosophy and it makes great sense in many cases. Why get mired in minutia if you have really big challenges to take on?  

Still, it always struck me as a bit backwards to start with the biggest basest guy. Personally, I’d prefer to buy time by getting rid of the two less threatening thugs, work up a head of steam, get my adrenaline pumping, and build some confidence in my bad-assness–all the while working on ways to outsmart someone I may otherwise not stand a chance against. At the very least, I’d  end up with only one adversary to deal with. My coach would have said, “Koulopoulos you’re overthinking it.”   

Clearly, we can debate the right strategy until the cows come home. 

From Backstreets to Boardrooms

However, years later I’d find myself referring back to that same scenario but in a very different context; one that didn’t involve backstreet brawls in an alley with leather-clad thugs, but rather business negotiations in nicely furnished boardrooms with wingtip shod execs. 

At first my negotiation style was to take on the biggest baddest issues at the outset. After all, if I couldn’t get my way with these, why bother negotiating details. I’d dig in my heels and try to out power my opponent. Sometimes it worked. I’d get my way as long as I was dealing from a position of leverage where I held most of the cards. But often the collateral damage to the relationship or partnership was considerable. And, on more than a few occasions, I’d reach an impasse which stalled or ended the negotiation. 

What I came to realize was that I was focusing on the win as though it were a singular objective and zero-sum, when in virtually every negotiation there are numerous things to be decided and many individual wins. While their may be one central item to negotiate, it’s always surrounded by a constellation of other smaller items that can act as either significant obstacles on the road to getting the negotiation done or be perceived as individual wins for both parties. 

Back to our alleyway. 

The big issue, or the central one, is always your ultimate objective in a negotiation. Which is why we all intuitively want to take it on first. But this is like taking on the largest thug first. You’re starting with the fight that is has the greatest risk of failure. 

The strategy that I’ve found to be invaluable in negotiations that get hung up on the intractability of the central issue, is to take a non-intuitive route.  

  1. First take an inventory of all the items to be negotiated.
  2. Second, identify those issues that you have high confidence in being able to come to an agreement on.
  3. Cluster similar items together so that you have groupings of several smaller issues that you can dispatch with relative ease as a group. (i.e. If we agree on A then we should be able to agree on A1)

I’m not saying that you should willy-nilly give away leverage. (See my earlier Inc article on negotiation) But instead, that focusing on items which are relatively easy to come to an agreement on establishes a positive trajectory for the negotiation.

This may seem like wasted effort since the big issues are still the ones that can kill the deal. However, the smaller issues can be just as destructive if they are left until the end. I’ve seen far too many negotiations sidelined or derailed by a relatively tiny thing that comes up at the very end, just as pens are being picked up to ink the deal. 

In addition, consider that if you are negotiating the toughest issues and making absolutely zero headway both parties will eventually get the impression that there is no possibility of reaching an agreement.  

By taking on the smaller issues and agreeing on them you create a track record of success and proof that a positive outcome is possible. 

Hold That Thought

So, what is the most powerful phrase in this scenario? Simple, when faced with an issue that can cause the negotiation to permanently stall, say, ” Let’s set that aside for now and come back to it later.”

Effectively, what you’re doing is putting our hypothetical Mr. Big on the back burner while you take on the challenges that you know are more easily dealt with. You will come back to Mr. Big, you have to, but you’ll also prove that progress is possible, you’ll develop a dialog that forms the basis for future agreement, and you’ll illustrate a clear intention to move forward. 

By the way, although the strategy I’m describing is typically for setting aside big issues in a negotiation it isn’t limited to them.  You may also end up using it to delay a smaller point in the negotiation that has, for whatever reason, turned into a large stumbling point. 

Using this strategy also doesn’t mean that you will always set aside the central issue. If both parties are ready to to address the central issue, and making progress, the last thing you want to do is switch gears. 

There is nothing magic or manipulative in doing this. It’s simple and utterly transparent. In many ways what you are doing is giving license to both parties to proceed in developing a trajectory that leads to agreement rather than one that gets mired in disagreement. In addition, if the other party does not want to come to an agreement this strategy will make that abundantly clear since they will not agree to setting anything aside but rather look for excuses to impeded progress.

Be sure to make it a point to consciously come back to the issues that were set aside by pointing out that you are now going back to something you had earlier agreed to delay. This shows that you were not being dismissive of the issue and have every intention of working through it.’

Does this work in every negotiation? No. There are clearly other things that may influence a negotiation . However, I can tell you that in my experience, no matter the size of the deal, from negotiating with your child, spouse, or partner, to buying and selling a multimillion dollar company, I’ve used this approach consistently with great success. In fact, I cannot recall a negotiation where it didn’t help.

As for the advice of my wrestling coach. Well, let’s just say that that what works in the boardroom, where everyone wants to walk away a winner, may not necessarily work in a backstreet alley, where someone is always going to lose.  

BMW’s Vision iNEXT SUV Concept Sets a New, Electric Course

Changing notions of what customers want from cars have pushed automakers to do plenty of weird things. They’ve unmoored the driver’s seat from the left side of the car, revived the rotary engine, and turned windshields into screens. BMW, though, is most likely the first to put down carpeting in the cabin of a cargo jet.

Sitting on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport’s cargo facility, the Lufthansa Boeing 777 has been converted into an unusually human-friendly vehicle. Along with the soft blue stuff underfoot, BMW has installed swanky, modern furniture throughout the cabin. The walls, floor, and ceiling of one bit are decked out in screens. And near the front sits the centerpiece of this flying showroom, which has already passed through Munich and New York and will soon set off for Beijing: the Vision iNEXT, a concept car BMW created to lay out its bet on the future.

“This is not just a show car,” says Klaus Fröhlich, a member of BMW’s board and the company’s soothsaying spokesperson, with the SUV, an early view at BMW’s next generation of forward-looking vehicles, behind him. “It’s a promise. In 2021, you will get it.”

Something like it, anyway.

Along with the rest of the auto industry, BMW has been scrambling to prepare itself for a future in which fewer people own and drive their own vehicles. It has dabbled in car sharing and launched an Uber competitor in Seattle. It’s researching autonomous technology and even talks about wild ways to encourage (electric) cycling. And because there’s no doubt that building and selling cars will remain the core of its business for decades to come, it’s adjusting there, too.

BMW has put some muscle into developing hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fully electric models and is on track to sell 140,000 of them in 2018 (it moves about 2 million cars a year). But putting gasoline and diesel in the rearview is an early step on a long and perilous journey. “For us, electromobility is the new normal, it’s understood,” Fröhlich says. “Fine. Therefore, we take up the next challenge.”

So the iNEXT is fully electric, of course, and quite capable of driving itself, though a human can still take the wheel. (We’re far enough into concept-land that you shouldn’t expect any numbers on performance, range, or price.) From the outside, the baby SUV, about the size of BMW’s popular X5, looks roughly believable. The design team swapped the sideview mirrors for cameras that improve aerodynamics (a standard move on concepts, which European regulators have started allowing on production cars.) The narrow headlights resemble sideways apostrophes, and the bow-tie-shaped grille is clearly connected to BMW’s signature kidney design. The 24-inch wheels are likely a bit much for production, Fröhlich says, but otherwise “you will get what you see here.”

The backseat stretches from door to door, a jacquard-fabric-wrapped, sloping thing you could see the Little Mermaid hanging out on.

BMW

Tap the button to swing open the car’s suicide doors, though, and you get the hazier bit of the Vision iNEXT. The microsuede front seats don’t swivel around (an idea that has gone from daring to expected to trope in a few years’ worth of autonomous concepts), but they don’t look like conventional car seats, either. They seem to flow out of the wall, sit on aluminum legs, and don’t force you into looking straight ahead. (They will be a challenge for crash testing, Fröhlich admits, since airbags and crumple zones are designed to work for people sitting in particular positions.)

The backseat marks a new level of bönkers: The bench stretches from door to door, a sloping thing that invites you to curl up with a book, or whatever will entertain future you (your latest phone, presumably). It’s wrapped in blue-green jacquard cloth, a color BMW calls Enlightened Cloudburst and the sort of thing you could see the Little Mermaid hanging out on.

The controls for the two large screens mounted on the dashboard and the ceiling-mounted Intelligent Beam projector are not so much tucked away as hidden in plain sight: Thanks to integrated optic fibers and LEDs, the backseat and the walnut, coffee-table-like center console are themselves control pads. Want to hear your jams? Draw a little music note with your finger. Pinch to adjust the volume, swipe the change the song, and tap with three fingers to return to silence. BMW calls this “shy tech”—advanced but unobtrusive. “You decide where you want to have the interaction,” says UX design lead Olivier Pitrat. It’s a neat, if unnecessary, idea but far from ready for the real world. When someone asks Pitrat how it might handle spilled soda or a dog, he says, “That’s not a use case we have in the concept car.”

So the freeform seats and butt-side controls are unlikely bets for a car you’ll see on the dealer lots, not in 2021, anyway. But Fröhlich insists that the principles of an interior focused on lounging in luxury will make their way onto the production line. And while he also insists that performance will remain important, the iNEXT’s little steering wheel, programmed to slide back and away from the human when the computer’s in charge, looks rather vestigial. This just might be the ultimate riding machine.


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After Massachusetts Explosions, President of Columbia Gas Used One Inconceivable Word in His Apology. Here's What He Should Have Said

The words we use are critically important. Even one word can make a huge difference.

Case in point: This past week, Steve Bryant, the President of Columbia Gas, held a short press conference. As reported by the New York Times, the purpose of the statement was to calm the fears of residents who had lost their homes in explosions presumably caused by high-pressure gas lines around the Massachusetts area, close to Boston.

“We are sorry and deeply concerned about the inconvenience,” he said. “This is the sort of thing that a gas distribution company hopes never happens.”

There’s one word that sticks out in that sentence. If you’ve been following the story, you know that one person died as a result of an explosion, an 18-year-old named Leonel Rondon. He was in his car when a suspected gas explosion caused a fireplace to collapse on top of him. At least 25 people were injured in the blasts, and thousands have been displaced, but so far the response has been inadequate, per officials.

Mayor Dan Rivera from Lawrence, Massachusetts, held a press conference where he blasted Columbia Gas, suggesting that the leadership has mishandled the response.

“There is not 100% knowledge of what the pressure was on those lines,” he said, explaining that the evacuation process was not clearly explained.

“Everything else has been obfuscation,” he said.

The words we use

Can word one set off this type of anger and frustration?

Yes it can. Using the word “inconvenience” was the tip of the iceberg, a poor choice of words by any stretch of the imagination. It’s marketing spin on the actual circumstances.

I can imagine many of the customers repeating this word to themselves. “Are you serious? An inconvenience? That’s the apology?” they might have said. At least two Senators and one Governor toured the area, and the situation still seems out of control.

How should the company have responded? For starters, saying “inconvenience” is a trigger word, a sign that there is a serious problem. Use any other word. Avoid saying words that make it seem like you’re downplaying the seriousness of the problem.

As the Mayor stated, the response has been underwhelming. By issuing an apology that didn’t lay out any clear plan of action, and not accepting responsibility, it makes customers and the general public suspicious.

You might say: Maybe there isn’t enough information yet. That’s possible, but the tone of the press conference should have been one of remorse, regret, and concern. It should have spelled out exactly what the next steps would be–an investigation, a thorough inquiry about who was responsible.

Apologies should always be clearly stated, and explain the next steps involved with as much detail as possible, with as much empathy and emotional intelligence as possible.

The lesson for anyone issuing an apology? Make sure the apology itself does not require a second apology (something residents are still waiting to hear).

​Ansible Tower 3.3 arrives to make DevOps easier than ever

Red Hat‘s Ansible Tower, like other DevOps tools, such as Chef and Puppet, makes it much easier to manage your IT infrastructure without the blood, sweat, and tears of manually setting up servers, containers, and clouds. With the latest edition, Ansible Tower 3.3, you can do all that with an improved user interface and scaling, and you can now run it on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, Red Hat’s Kubernetes container application platform.

Also: Yes, DevOps is all about business growth

Ansible makes it easier to move your resources and applications from platform to platform as needed. In a world where your data and applications are running simultaneously on containers, virtual machines, private and public clouds, this is a must.

As Joe Fitzgerald, Red Hat VP, said in a statement, “As more organizations move toward modernizing their infrastructure, tools that can work seamlessly across environments become a critical part of that equation. Red Hat Ansible Tower can already run anywhere it’s needed across hybrid environments and now with the Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform functionality available in Ansible Tower 3.3 we take that a step further by making the platform consumable in more ways for even easier automation across infrastructures.”

Also: Why 78% of organizations fail to get DevOps right TechRepublic

On OpenShift, Ansible Tower 3.3 is now available as a pod service and configurable directly from Red Hat Container Platform. This enables users to add more capacity to Ansible Tower simply by adding more pods. Simplifying what was previously a multi-step process, users can now scale Ansible Tower up and down at runtime as needed directly through Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform’s user interface, command line and application programming interface (API).

Ansible Tower other new features and improvements include:

  • More granular control: A redesigned user interface puts more information at user’s fingertips. Jobs and job templates now show more information at a glance, including inventory and credentials, enabling users to find information more quickly. Additionally, Ansible Tower 3.3 enables you to save any item on a job that’s configurable at launch. This includes inventory, credentials, and surveys. You can then use this saved configuration in a workflow or on a schedule.
  • Improved scaling: Red Hat Ansible Tower 3.3 builds on instance groups, which allow for reserving Tower cluster capacity for specific organizations, inventory, or jobs. New features in instance groups improve how to manage capacity in Tower without having to restart the cluster.
  • Custom Ansible environment support: Users can now create tailored Ansible environments. These can include custom modules, custom libraries, and even multiple Ansible versions. Application teams can stay on their trusted version of Ansible Engine while other teams can upgrade on their schedules.

Ansible’s developers says it’s “radically simple IT automation platform that makes your applications and systems easier to deploy. Avoid writing scripts or custom code to deploy and update your applications — automate in a language that approaches plain English, using SSH, with no agents to install on remote systems.” They’re right.

Sound interesting? Red Hat Ansible Tower 3.3 is available through Ansible’s main site and the Red Hat Customer Portal.

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AMD: Winter Is Coming

If you walk away with only one thought, it needs to be this – the total addressable market (aka TAM) for servers took a massive leap up. TAM went from $18.5 billion to $22.5 billion. That is a rising tide that will raise all server-related ships, be it AMD (AMD), Nvidia (NVDA), or Intel (INTC) providing the hardware.

EPYC is the Spark, Rome is the Fire, Winter is Coming for Intel

To travel down memory lane, AMD was a much different company before Ryzen was released. The company was struggling to stay alive and selling off various parts. Ryzen changed everything. Let that sink in. Ryzen put AMD back on the road map and gave the company a pulse again. AMD’s server chip EPYC is the spark for AMD. EPYC is starting to ramp.

According to AMD CTO Mark Papermaster, “We expect to be able to end the year at about 5 percent of the market and grow to double digit next year.”
The server followup chip Rome is going to be the fire. Winter is coming for Intel. AMD is going to take its chunk of the server market with time.

Winter Intel

Big Growth in Server TAM

Estimates place the server market at $22.5 billion. According to IDC, the market is broken down as follows:

“Volume server revenue increased by 42.7% to $18.4 billion, while midrange server revenue grew 63.0% to $2.5 billion. High-end systems grew 30.4% to $1.7 billion.” That is quite the TAM for AMD to attack. Assuming AMD takes 4.5% to 5.5% of that market by Q4 with ramping going to 10%-plus by the following Q3… you get the picture.

https://static.seekingalpha.com/uploads/2018/9/12/4206551-15367765571490183.jpg

Looking above, we see some very nice growth in server units sold. Prices are rocketing up. According to Nextplatform.com “our guess is that half of the increase in revenues in Q2 2018 was due to rising component costs.”

This bodes well for AMD since EPYC gives performance at reduced component costs for AMD partners, while providing AMD with very high gross margins. As EPYC ramps, we can expect to see a corresponding rise in margins.

Too Much Demand

Current rumors paint a picture of demand exceeding supply for Intel chips.
Per DRAMeXchange: “TrendForce has adjusted its 2018 global notebook shipments projection downwards due to the worsening shortage of Intel CPUs” and “TrendForce now estimates that this year’s total notebook shipments will drop by 0.2% YoY, and the CPU shortage may further impact the entire memory market as well.” That’s an interesting projection, but if I were a laptop maker such as Dell you can bet I would be considering an alternative CPU supplier such as AMD to replace those chips that Intel is unable to supply.
Supply Gap

Lastly DRAMeXchange leaves us with this paragraph concerning the supply gap:

“The precise reason behind the shortage of Intel CPUs is currently unclear because the problem simultaneously affects the newly arrived CPU product lines and product lines that have been in the market for some time. The affected products include the improved version of 14nm++ and product lines based on the 14nm+ Coffee Lake platform, which has been in mass production for half a year and is one of the solutions for mainstream models in the notebook market. The lack of supply for existing CPU product lines is having a significant impact on the notebook market as a whole. TrendForce estimates that the CPU supply gap in the notebook market has increased from around 5% in August to 5-10% in September. There is a possibility that the supply gap may extend to over 10% in 4Q18, and the shortage is expected to be resolved rather later in 1H19.”

HPE Recommends AMD

Semiaccurate recently published a story that HPE was telling customers to buy AMD EPYC chips since Intel Xeon was MIA due to demand. Why so much demand for Intel? Well, no one ever got fired for buying Intel. AMD is the underdog, but “every dog has its day” and that day gets closer when HPE is recommending clients buy AMDs’ EPYC. Short term, Intel will benefit from the demand but its part of the server pie will shrink given time.

Conclusion

To wrap, the TAM is growing fast and the rising tide bodes well for AMD. AMD has run very fast and we personally consider the stock dangerous, but it’s also dangerous to be on the sidelines missing a spectacular run.

Thus, we are using options to place less capital on the firing line. However, the capital we use has far more risk associated with it. If AMD were to pull back, the options would suffer. Given the time decay things could get rather nasty. The takeaway is that if you want to gamble, gamble smart.

Our Play

While cautious of any fast rise, we do need skin in the game. Currently, we are sitting on our January 2019 $30 calls, February $30 calls, April $30 / $31 calls. We have opened February $35 calls as a very speculative position (in case the run continues).

Do note: These are dangerous positions (due to the nature of options), but in our opinion we prefer this to buying large swaths of common stock. These options should be viewed as simply ideas to explore. Due to the fast nature of options, they should not be viewed as something to mimic (as the data will be stale for the reader). If you require more help, please consult your broker.

Lagniappe
In case you missed it – here’s the interview w/ Dr. Lisa Su.

Disclosure: I am/we are long AMD, NVDA.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Where in the World is Apple AirPower?

Arguably the biggest day of the year for Apple came and went on Wednesday without a single mention of AirPower, the wireless charging mat that the company showed off in 2017 and said would go on sale sometime this year.

It was supposed to free Apple customers from having to plug in their iPhones, Apple Watches and AirPods to charge their batteries. And AirPower would let customers charge several devices at once on the same mat.

That alone brought something new to the technology, which is already available for Android devices. Apple also showed how AirPower could be integrated into Apple software by showing the battery percentage of each charging device on a single screen so users would know how much charge they had.

And yet, a year later iPhone owners are still waiting. The product still has no release date and there is no word on where it is in development.

While it’s not unusual for Apple to keep quiet ahead of any official announcements, AirPower has been missing from the rumor mill despite repeated leaks about other Apple products, including the iPhone and Apple Watch. Apple also removed all mention of AirPower from its website just a few days ago.

AirPower wasn’t the only product left out of Apple’s annual event on Wednesday, where it showed off several new iPhones. The iPad, HomePod and AirPods didn’t see any updates either.