Angela Lang/CNET Apple’s new lineup of iPhones didn’t have a happy holiday. And a rare sales forecast slash may bode poorly for the rest of the year.In a letter to investors on Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned that the company’s fiscal first-quarter revenue would be weaker than previously expected. It now sees sales of $84 billion, well below the range of $89 billion to $94 billion that it forecast in November. Its gross margin is now expected to be approximately 38 percent, a tick below the range of 38 percent to 38.5 percent range it previously forecast, suggesting a shift to lower-priced, less profitable products.A warning from Apple, one of the most valuable and profitable companies in the world, is a rare occurrence that hasn’t happened in at least 15 years. The weaker holiday season — a critical period in which most of Apple’s iPhones are sold — will fan growing belief that the company is struggling with consumer fatigue for its popular smartphone and that sales may be on a downward slide. The company raised a red flag in November when it said it would stop disclosing how many units it sells each quarter. “iPhone units are likely down, and I believe prices on the more premium, higher-priced phones are down due to holiday discounting,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights. The warning prompted concerns similar to those Apple endured more than a decade ago, when it missed its fiscal fourth-quarter numbers amid an economic downturn. Then-CEO Steve Jobs broke his practice of skipping analyst calls in order to quell investor fear, reiterating that Apple would be fine. (He was right.)That hasn’t stopped detractors from jumping on the warning. On Wednesday, law firm Bernstein Liebhard said it was investigating whether Apple mislead investors and committed securities fraud. An Apple spokesman wasn’t immediately available to comment on the law firm’s actions.Apple shares fell 7 percent to $147 in trading after the market close on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, shares fell another 9.5 percent to $142.88, before rebounding 1.6 percent to $144.52 in early Friday trading.Blame ChinaThis time, the economic downturn isn’t in the US. Cook blamed much of the shortfall on China, where the company underestimated a decelerating economy. The company saw a decline in sales of iPhones, Macs and iPads in the country.Cook cited macro factors like trade friction between the US and China, the world’s two biggest economies.”We believe the economic environment in China has been further impacted by rising trade tensions with the United States,” Cook said. See It $999 CNET may get a commission from retail offers. Aug 31 • Your phone screen is gross. Here’s how to clean it Apple Aug 31 • iPhone XR vs. iPhone 8 Plus: Which iPhone should you buy? 7:35 See All Comments See It Apple iPhone XS What to expect from Apple in 2019 $999 Beyond demand in China, Cook also blamed a decrease in carrier subsidies, price increases in foreign markets caused by a strong US dollar and customers taking advantage of cheaper battery replacements. Cook pointed the finger as well at a slowing smartphone market, which has taken a toll on other big players, like Samsung. But Avi Greengart, an analyst at Global Data, says Apple’s not taking into account the rise of players like China’s Huawei, the second-largest phone maker in the world. Or Oppo, which owns the hot upstart player OnePlus. “Apple does have a strong franchise in China, but it is not immune from competition,” Greengart said.In an interview with CNBC, Cook said a host of new products introduced in the quarter contributed to the sales miss.”We had an unprecedented number of new products during the quarter. We had new watches, we had new iPad Pros,” Cook told the financial network. “Both of these were constrained for all or most of the quarter.”Still, he remains bullish.”We had sort of a collection of items going on.” Cook told CNBC. “Some that are macroeconomic and some that are Apple-specific. And we’re not going to sit around waiting for the macro to change — I hope that it does and I’m actually optimistic — but we’re going to focus really deeply on the things we can control.”Questions about demandApple was already facing questions about demand for its next lineup of iPhones. In the latter months of 2018, Apple introduced the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, which offered modest upgrades like a faster processor and, in the case of the Max, a big size increase. The other new product was the lower-priced iPhone XR, which came in different colors and cost less than the iPhone XS because of its cheaper components. Addressing concerns that the new iPhones weren’t selling well, Apple said the iPhone XR has been its top-selling iPhone since its launch, which came a month after that of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. But the iPhone XR sits in an awkward position. It doesn’t have the latest and greatest specs to satisfy the hardcore Apple fanboy, but at $750, it is still an expensive upgrade for consumers used to a baseline $650 for a new iPhone. In the meantime, Apple’s older iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models remain available for consumers who don’t want to break the bank for a new smartphone. Apple has been shifting its strategy so it’s less reliant on the iPhone and generating more of its revenue from services like iTunes, the App Store and its upcoming streaming video service. “The services business will have a longer impact than hardware sales,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies.First published Jan. 2 at 1:42 p.m. PT. Update 1:57 p.m.: To include further detailsUpdate 2:14 p.m.: To include further details, stock market price and background.Update 2:55 p.m.: To include analyst comments.Update 3:10 p.m.: To include further comment from Tim Cook from a CNBC interview.Update 4:40 p.m.: To include more Tim Cook comments.Update Jan. 3 at 6:40 a.m.: To include a new stock quote and analyst comment.Update Jan. 4 at 6:42 a.m.: To include new stock quote and detail about law firm investigation. Apple: See what’s up with the tech giant as it releases new iPhones and more.Does the Mac still matter? Apple execs explain why the MacBook Pro was over four years in the making, and why we should care. Now playing: Watch this: Tags Aug 31 • Best places to sell your used electronics in 2019 See it Review • iPhone XS review, updated: A few luxury upgrades over the XR Boost Mobile $999 $999 See It Sep 1 • iPhone 11, Apple Watch 5 and more: The final rumors Share your voice reading • Apple’s rare sales warning sparks iPhone fatigue fears • Mentioned Above Apple iPhone XS (64GB, space gray) Phones 77 Sprint Best Buy Preview • iPhone XS is the new $1,000 iPhone X Apple
Share your voice Online Mobile Apps Gaming Mobile Digital Media CNET Apps Today Google Maps for Android Tags 1 Comment Review • The rebuilt Google Maps for Android is better than ever Carmen Sandiego is back, again. Google Earth Paperstar, a dastardly VILE operative and master origami maker, is making trouble on Google Earth. The Keys to the Kremlin have been stolen from Russia. Your job: investigate the scene of the crime in Moscow, track down the criminals and recover the loot.The Keys to the Kremlin Caper is the third and final Carmen Sandiego game to come to Google Earth this year. In March, the ’90s star of children’s educational television first visited Google Earth with The Crown Jewels Caper. In May, the globetrotter returned with The Tutankhamun’s Mask Caper.Like in the previous two games, you’ll use the magnifying glass to interview witnesses in different cities and gather clues. When you think you’ve figured out the next step, click the airplane icon to fly to the next city. Google said that its focusing on new partnerships, but there’s a possibility that it will work with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt again. Gumshoes can find the previous Carmen Sandiego mysteries in the Games category on Google Earth. Google also said it’s working on more geography-based games. Netflix released a Carmen Sandiego animated show earlier this year and is making a live-action Carmen Sandiego movie starring Gina Rodriguez, who also voices the character in the Netflix show.Originally published June 18.Update, June 19: Adds comment from Google. Google
No-frills airline SpiceJet is expected to receive ₹400-crore as investment by Wednesday, as part of the second tranche of a deal brokered by Ajay Singh, who has retaken ownership and management control from the Maran brothers.The deal is structured on an infusion of ₹1,500 crore by Singh, backed up by issuance of fresh securities. “One tranche [of ₹100 crore] has already been invested. The second tranche, ₹400 crore, should happen tomorrow or day after,” Singh told PTI. A SpiceJet Airlines aircraft flies past newly-constructed hotels on the way to landing at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi April 1, 2013.ReutersQuestioned on the financial position of the airline compared to last year, the original promoter said, “much better, it is much more stable now”.Under the terms of the turnaround plan, the third tranche of ₹500 crore would be transferred to SpiceJet by March, followed by the final tranche of ₹500 crore by April-end.With the Competition Commission of India (CCI) giving its nod, Singh is awaiting the home ministry’s approval to be appointed as a director to the board of the airline.
Enroll Now for Free An IP telephony (IPT) system can provide small businesses with many tangible benefits. One small-business owner I know said staff productivity went up 65 percent after installing an IPT system, because workers weren’t wasting time tracking down colleagues or manually transferring calls from one desk to another.If you’re considering an upgrade to your phone system, read on. I’ll be taking a look at which business functions you should consider in an IPT solution and how you can successfully and cost-effectively deploy such a system. For more background on IPT, check out last month’s column, ” Building a Better Communications System ,” which provided an overview of small-business phone systems, including IPT solutions, with an eye toward helping you decide which one is right for your company.Determining Your ObjectivesBefore making any changes to your existing phone system, you should answer two key questions:1. What are the limitations and “pain points” of your current phone system? How does your existing phone system limit your employees and your business? For instance, are employees spending too much time transferring calls or playing voice-mail tag? Are you losing potential customers because they tire of being on hold?2. What are your company’s primary business goals, and is your phone system helping you achieve them? Does your phone system help you serve your customers better? Are you getting the best phone service at the lowest cost possible? Will your phone system grow as your business does?Knowing the answers to these questions will help you coordinate your needs and goals, both current and future, with your IPT system. You’ll know what features and capabilities the phone system needs from the start, and what you’ll likely need down the road. The inherent flexibility of an IP network means you can quickly add new functionality as needed. This will help prevent you from deploying more capabilities than you need–or not enough.Phasing the RolloutTo ensure a smooth transition to an IPT system, it’s best to phase the rollout. Here’s the approach I suggest:Phase 1: Build the foundation. An IPT system requires a converged IP network at its foundation. On a converged IP network, phone calls travel over the internet as data, just like e-mail, instant messages, video and other traffic. Having one network for multiple purposes simplifies your administrative burden and reduces costs, because you no longer need to maintain multiple networks. You’ll also save on telecommunications costs and long-distance charges.An IP network connects a variety of equipment (including computers and phones) using intelligent network devices such as routers and switches. Your data network probably is already connected by routers and/or switches. You just have to make sure that your current network can support your new IPT system. Your routers and switches should have built-in security and the ability to support increased traffic and additional functionality as your company grows.Your IP network also should have “high availability,” meaning there’s minimum downtime. Consider adding a second, redundant IPT server to provide continuity should your phone system’s primary server go down. Your business goals will help you determine what level of redundancy your system needs.Quality of service is important as well. QoS, as it’s often called, simply means that voice and video traffic on the IP network are given a higher priority than data. No one cares if an e-mail message arrives a few seconds late. But frequent delays in relaying your voice after you finish speaking would certainly be noticeable. The more advanced routers for small businesses include QoS as a feature that can be turned on when needed. No equipment upgrade is necessary.In phase 1, you’ll likely have a basic IPT system that provides multiple direct-dial extensions along with voice mail that you can access using a phone, computer or other device. The system also will provide automated messaging and greeting services that perform tasks, such as routing incoming callers to the appropriate extensions.To take full advantage of your IPT system, you should have IP phones. They look similar to traditional business phones, with buttons, handset and cradle. But they connect directly to the IP network, have large screens, and put many of an IP communications system’s features and functionality at the user’s fingertips. Going Beyond the Basics Free Workshop | August 28: Get Better Engagement and Build Trust With Customers Now Phase 2: Add more functionality. Once your basic IPT system is up and running smoothly, it may be time to consider enhancing its functionality with new tools and features. Some possibilities include the following:A virtual private network. VPN connectivity allows employees to connect securely over the internet to your business’s IP network from home, a hotel room, a client’s office or other location. With a VPN, workers have mobile, highly secure access to your company’s network for all communications including data, voice, video and fax.Softphones. A softphone is software that allows you to make and receive voice calls on your computer using a connected headset and microphone. You can use your IPT system for voice on your laptop anywhere you’ve got a broadband internet connection.Wireless networking and wireless IP phones. Your IPT system could also include wireless access points, which create a wireless network. Together with wireless IP phones, mobile workers have secure anytime, anywhere access to the IPT system. For example, using a wireless IP phone, a store clerk assisting a customer on the floor could quickly access the store’s database to see if an item the customer wants is in the stockroom, on order or discontinued.Video. On a converged IP network, it’s easier and more affordable than you’d think to add video-enabled applications, because support for video is built into the network. Also, advanced routers for small businesses enable you to add video applications to the network without an expensive equipment upgrade. Even though you may assume you don’t need video, you might be surprised how effective it can be at improving operations, sales, customer relations and other areas. With a video conference, for example, you could demonstrate a new product in development to the far-flung members of your remote sales force. Video on your IPT system could also allow you to monitor a remote site, such as a small store, to assess staff performance.Applications that support integrated voice and data. Some applications developed for IPT systems integrate applications, such as instant messaging, calendaring and presence (the ability to see if an individual in your organization is online) with audio or video conferencing. By quickly identifying which members of your team are at their desks through a presence application, you can easily set up ad hoc conference calls with remote staff and exchange information via instant messaging during the conference.Contact centers. An IPT system can provide the foundation for creating a contact center to streamline communications with customers. Contact center technology provides sophisticated call routing and the ability to have online chats with customers and to deliver messages to callers informing them of expected hold time, among other features.Advanced security. In phase 1, your IP network routers provide the security you need. But as you add functionality, you should also add security appliances, such as dedicated firewall devices that provide even more layers of protection.Phase 3: Tie in business applications. In phase 3, you might consider integrating business applications into your IPT system. It’s easy and inexpensive to accomplish and can help make your small business look big to outsiders.For example, you could tie integrated voice response (IVR) software to your IPT system. IVR technology provides voice prompts to incoming callers. A caller responds to the prompts either by speaking or using the telephone keypad. The responses provide valuable information about the caller’s reasons for contacting the company, which is delivered to a contact center operator before he or she even answers the call.Many small businesses have connected a customer relationship management (CRM) system to their IPT solution to better understand their customers’ habits and needs. CRM software provides a database for capturing and analyzing information about your customers. Linking CRM and IPT can enhance customer satisfaction–and that often leads to increased sales. For instance, when a call comes in, a pop-up window of the customer contact record appears on a contact center representative’s IP phone screen, computer display or both. Before the second ring, the representative has access to information about the customer who’s calling, such as orders pending and recent returns. Having instant access to an incoming caller’s record can lead to faster problem resolution as well as increased sales. For instance, the call center representative may notice the caller hasn’t ordered a particular product lately and could provide the caller with a discount on the spot.As with phase 2, you should increase security on your network in phase 3–especially if you link a CRM solution to your IPT system. In fact, for some industries, such as health care, retail and financial services, there are strict regulations regarding the security of computerized customer records.Managing the IPT SystemIf any of this seems daunting to you, don’t worry. A small-business IPT system can provide plug-and-play functionality, which helps reduce setup time and optimize network settings. Look for a system with an intuitive interface that allows for quick configurations of telephony, messaging, switching, wireless LAN, firewall, security services and other elements. Many value-added resellers specializing in IPT systems can help you implement the system that’s right for your business.Also, keep in mind you don’t need to spend thousands upfront or add an IPT specialist to your payroll. A hosted or managed IPT system will provide you with IPT equipment and expertise at affordable monthly rates.The bottom line: An IPT system is easier than you might think to acquire, deploy and maintain. And it can go a long way toward making your small business look–and become–big. This hands-on workshop will give you the tools to authentically connect with an increasingly skeptical online audience. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Deep Reinforcement Learning (Deep RL) is the new buzzword in the machine learning world. Deep RL is an approach which combines reinforcement learning and deep learning in order to achieve human-level performance. It brings together the self-learning approach to learn successful strategies that lead to the greatest long-term rewards and allows the agents to construct and learn their own knowledge directly from raw inputs. With the fusion of these two approaches, we saw the introduction of many algorithms, starting with DeepMind’s Deep Q Network (DQN). It is a deep variant of the Q-learning algorithm. This algorithm reached human-level performance in playing Atari games. Combining Q-learning with reasonably sized neural networks and some optimization tricks, you can achieve human or superhuman performance in several Atari games. Deep RL resulted in one of the notable advancements in the game of AlphaGo.The AI agent by DeepMind was able to beat the human world champions Lee Sedol (4-1) and Fan Hui (5-0). DeepMind then further released advanced versions of their Agent called AlphaGO Zero and AlphaZero. Many recent works from the researchers at UC Berkeley have shown how both reinforcement learning and deep reinforcement learning have enabled the control of complex robots, both for locomotion and navigation. Despite these successes, it is quite difficult to find cases where deep RL has added any practical real-world value. The current status is that it is still a research topic. One of its limitations is that it assumes the existence of a reward function, which is either given or is hand-tuned offline. To get the desired results, your reward function must capture exactly what you want. RL has an annoying tendency to overfit to your reward, resulting in things you haven’t expected. This is the reason why Atari is a benchmark, as it is not only easy to get a lot of samples, but the goal is fairly straightforward i.e to maximize score. With so many researchers working towards introducing improved Deep RL algorithms, it surely is a treat. Read Next AlphaZero: The genesis of machine intuition DeepMind open sources TRFL, a new library of reinforcement learning building blocks Understanding Deep Reinforcement Learning by understanding the Markov Decision Process [Tutorial]
TORONTO — TravelBrands is partnering with MSC to give away a free cruise on the TravelBrands BDM Facebook page.From March 13 – 31 agents have the opportunity to win a seven-night cruise in a balcony cabin onboard the new MSC Seaside.Here’s how the promotion works:1. Facebook members will automatically receive one ballot2. Facebook members will receive one ballot for every MSC booking made during the contest window3. Answer fun MSC Trivia questions throughout the contest and receive one ballot, plus one agent will receive $50 bonus Loyalty Points.During the last week of the promotion period TravelBrands says it will open the promotion up to the rest of its travel agent partners to earn a great free cruise. Facebook members will receive two ballots for every MSC booking during the last week.“We encourage all our agents to join our Facebook page as it provides you with exclusive incentives, invites and up to date constant assistance and information,” says the company. “We are making waves with the benefits of joining ‘Your TravelBrands BDM’ Facebook page and it just keeps getting better.”More news: Sunwing to further boost Mazatlán service with new flights from OttawaTravelBrands says it wants to show the industry “just how much there is to offer with the cruise line and we have a lot in store over the next few weeks to keep our agents informed, engaged and motivated to sell MSC product.”For more details and information, click on travelbrandsagent.com.TravelBrands also has a client incentive: an exclusive onboard credit deal to help close the sale. The OBC is worth up to $300 and applicable on select departures and staterooms. Win an MSC cruise through TravelBrands’ BDM Facebook page Tuesday, March 14, 2017 Travelweek Group Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: TravelBrands Share