Broadcom makes final offer in Qualcomm takeover bid


Broadcom Ltd. today made its final offer for beleaguered rival Qualcomm. The new amount, $120 billion, comes as Qualcomm faces legal battles with Apple and a portfolio of antiquated revenue streams. As far as takeovers go this one’s hostile enough to enjoy with popcorn. Broadcom is angling to buy Qualcomm in time for the impending 5G rollout and is now declaring itself all-in on a boardroom buyout. The new bid is worth $82 a share and comes pretty close to current valuations, but Qualcomm wasn’t a seller in November at $70. Things may have changed, however, as legal battles with…

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Elon Musk explains why SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is risky – and revolutionary

Falcon Heavy separation
The Falcon Heavy rocket’s side-booster separation procedure is one of the riskiest parts of the ascent. (SpaceX via YouTube)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Launching the Falcon Heavy rocket is arguably one of the riskiest operations that SpaceX has ever taken on, but billionaire CEO Elon Musk says he’s made his peace with the risks.

“Normally I feel super-stressed out the day before,” he told reporters today, on the eve of Tuesday’s first planned countdown for the massive, 230-foot-tall rocket. “This time I don’t. That may be a bad sign, I’m not sure. I feel quite giddy and happy, actually. … I’m sure we’ve done everything we could do to maximize the chance of success with this mission.”

If all goes well, SpaceX will demonstrate its ability to put hefty payloads into high Earth orbits, and potentially go well beyond Earth orbit. This time around, Musk is sending out a red Tesla Roadster with a dummy in the driver’s seat — but the same rocket power could be applied to more serious payloads such as spy satellites.

But all might not go well: Musk weighs the chances of complete success this first time around at about 50-50. During today’s teleconference, he listed five risky moments he’d be watching for during the flight.

  • That 27-engine liftoff: The Falcon Heavy consists of three separate Falcon 9 rocket cores yoked together, and that means three sets of nine Merlin rocket engines have to work in concert. Musk said he worried about “the relative interaction of the three core boosters” — and the chance that resonant forces might knock them together with catastrophic results. “I would consider it a win if it just clears the pad and doesn’t blow the pad to smithereens,” he said.
  • Going through Max-Q: A little more than a minute after launch, the rocket goes through maximum aerodynamic pressure, or Max-Q — when the forces acting on the rocket are the greatest. “That’s possibly where it could fail as well,” Musk said.
  • Watch out for falling ice: The rocket’s three-part structure also raises the risk that ice knocked loose from the cryogenically chilled upper stage could strike the tops of the two side cores. “That would be like coming like a cannonball through the nose cone,” Musk said.
  • Booster separation: Musk noted that the three-core booster separation system has been tested extensively on the ground, but never in flight. Separation should be complete a little more than three minutes after launch. “Once the second stage separates from the center booster, we are in much more known territory,” he said.
  • Coasting through the radiation belt: The trajectory for this test flight is unusual in that it calls for a six-hour coast phase through the Van Allen radiation belt that encircles Earth. “It’s actually a radiation environment significantly worse than deep space,” Musk said. There’s a chance that the upper stage’s systems might not survive for the crucial engine burn that sends the Tesla out of Earth orbit. “It’s going to get whacked pretty hard,” Musk said.

On the plus side, Falcon Heavy’s success could revolutionize the heavy-lift launch market as much as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has revolutionized more down-to-earth space missions.

The current base list price for a Falcon Heavy launch is $90 million, compared with $62 million for the Falcon 9. But Musk pointed out that if all three rocket cores can be recovered, the cost of flying the Falcon Heavy may end up being not that much more than the Falcon 9.

“If we are successful in that, then it’s ‘Game Over’ for all other heavy-lift rockets,” Musk said. “It would be like trying to sell an aircraft where one aircraft company had reusable aircraft, and all the other aircraft companies had aircraft that were single-use, and you parachuted out at your destination and the plane would crash-land randomly somewhere.”

Based on SpaceX’s production rate, Musk said Falcon Heavy rockets could be launched every three to six months. “Whatever the demand is, we’ll be able to meet it,” he said.

But Musk has come around to see the Falcon Heavy primarily as a transitional step to an even more powerful launch vehicle, known as the BFR (which stands for Big Falcon Rocket or Big F***ing Rocket, depending on how nasty you want to get).

“If we wanted to, we could actually add more two more side boosters and make it ‘Falcon Super-Heavy,’ and probably get thrust upwards of maybe 9 million pounds of thrust … but we think that the new BFR architecture is a better way to go,” he said.

Musk said the BFR is being designed with a reusable first-stage booster plus a reusable upper-stage spaceship, making it more economical than the Falcon Heavy. What’s more, the turnaround time for launches could be measured in terms of hours rather than days.

For that reason, SpaceX is putting an increasing amount of effort into the BFR.

“Our focus is on the ship,” Musk said, “and we expect to do, hopefully, short flights with the ship next year. That’s aspirational.”

Because of the timeline and the advantages of the BFR architecture, Musk is no longer expecting to send passengers on a trip around the moon using a Falcon Heavy. “That was our plan until last year, and then we thought, ‘Well, maybe we can make this BFR development go faster than we thought,’” he said.

If Musk’s vision becomes a reality as quickly as he hopes it does — which is always an iffy proposition — the next humans to get an up-close look at Musk’s Tesla Roadster in orbit may well be passengers following its tracks to Mars, but on a BFR spaceship.

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Alexa gives weather for Austin in Super Bowl ad — and a nation speculates about Amazon HQ2 clues

Amazon Super Bowl
Amazon’s Alexa Super Bowl ad opened with a weather report for one Texas city. (Amazon image via YouTube)

Ask Amazon’s Alexa which city in Texas is her favorite, and she replies, “Definitely Austin.”

Ask the voice-integrated artificial intelligence where Amazon will locate its second headquarters, and Alexa replies more coyly, “Somewhere in North America.”

But some viewers of the tech giant’s Super Bowl ad, which just happened to be a fan favorite Sunday night, are speculating that Alexa knows more than she is letting on, and by mentioning Austin in the spot called “Alexa Loses Her Voice,” Amazon planted an HQ2 Easter egg for millions to find.

In the teaser released in the run up before the big game, a woman is shown brushing her teeth as she talks to an Echo Dot on her bathroom counter. “Alexa, what’s the weather like today?”

That question was trimmed from Sunday’s ad, which started with Alexa’s answer.

“In Austin, it’s 60 degrees with a chance …” Alexa says, before she starts coughing.

National publications such as USA Today and Business Insider both rounded up tweets from people who are probably reading way too much into an ad from a company that is way too smart to tip its hand.

But Austin is at least a final-20 city when it comes to the competition for HQ2. And GeekWire’s own John Cook has previously ranked Austin as the No. 4 city on that list — behind only Washington, D.C., and the Maryland and Virginia areas that join the capital as his top three.

Texas Monthly magazine is also in on the ad game, saying, “it’s a big ol’ clue, as far as we’re concerned. Alexa didn’t announce the temperature in Indianapolis, Newark, Atlanta, or Dallas.” The mag also says Alexa is clearly suffering from cedar fever, a seasonal allergy brought on by a reaction to mountain cedar trees in Central Texas. And, by golly, later in the ad a man asks Alexa to play some country music.

Ding! Three clues for Austin.

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Why is GeekWire in Pittsburgh? Here’s the story behind all these stories you’ve been seeing lately

GeekWire reporter Taylor Soper and editor Todd Bishop wait for reporter Monica Nickelsburg to arrive at Pittsburgh International Airport to join them at GeekWire HQ2.

PITTSBURGH — What the heck is with all the coverage from this place all of a sudden?

We know that many GeekWire readers have been asking this question over the past week. If you haven’t been following the details of our GeekWire HQ2 project, it is understandably confusing to suddenly see a bunch of in-depth coverage from Pittsburgh, of all places.

So here’s an FAQ for everyone who has been asking, including answers to some of the more off-the-wall questions we’ve been getting.

What are you doing, exactly? GeekWire HQ2 is an editorial project in which our editors and reporters are embedding ourselves in a new city for the month of February 2018. Our goal is to cover Pittsburgh in much the same way as we’ve covered Seattle for the past seven years, telling the stories of the region and its tech community, innovators, startups, hopes, dreams, and, yes, its problems.

Why are you doing this? One of our favorite traditions is something we like to call “GeekWire Adventures.” These are stories where we go out and do fun and interesting things and report back on what we experience — everything from a multimodal transportation race across Seattle to delivering holiday packages. We love these adventures, and we hear from many readers that you love them, too. GeekWire HQ2 is our biggest adventure yet.

Are you putting an office in Pittsburgh for good? No, GeekWire HQ2 is a temporary project. We do love it here, and we wouldn’t rule out establishing a permanent official outpost in a city outside of the Pacific Northwest at some point in the future. But as hard as it will be for us to leave this wonderful city, we will be closing the doors on GeekWire HQ2 in Pittsburgh at the end of February.

How did you come up with this idea? As with most of our best ideas, this one was born at happy hour. We were talking about Amazon’s HQ2 project, and we asked ourselves, why not us? GeekWire was founded with the premise that Seattle needed a national (and global) tech news site, and we have held firm to this singular vision, looking at the world of technology and innovation through the lens of the Pacific Northwest. But a fresh perspective is always a good thing, and we’ve already experienced this in a variety of ways. (More on this below.)

How did you pick Pittsburgh? In the spirit of Amazon’s HQ2 search, we put out our own request for proposals, and received them from 10 cities and regions across the country: Washington, D.C.; St. Petersburg; Sacramento; Raleigh; Pittsburgh; Phoenix; Philadelphia; Madison; Denver; and Cincinnati. We narrowed it down to four finalists. Pittsburgh was the favorite among our team and in a vote among GeekWire readers.

Is this about Amazon’s HQ2? Yes and no. Pittsburgh is one of 20 finalists for the tech giant’s second headquarters, and we are using our stay in the city, in part, as a window into Amazon’s search, using Pittsburgh as an example. Pittsburgh has a lot going for it in the HQ2 competition, but it is still a long shot. Really there’s no down side here for us. If this city doesn’t land Amazon HQ2, it will be what people expected. And if it does land Amazon HQ2, we’re going to look like geniuses! Joking aside, it would be pretty awesome if the company picked a city that we’ve come to know well as embedded journalists.

Are you spies for Amazon? No. (Someone actually asked us this.) The company is based in our backyard, and we do cover it closely — the good, the bad and the Treasure Truck. However, we have no affiliation with Amazon or anyone associated with the company.

Pittsburgh, really? Yes! We had a matrix of factors that we considered, from the food scene to the level of interest from each city, but the biggest factor in selecting Pittsburgh was all the fascinating stuff to cover here: robotics and artificial intelligence, interesting startups, Uber’s self-driving cars, and engineering centers for major tech companies including Microsoft and Google. There are also lots of challenges to document as this city continues its transition from steel to technology, everything from transportation and infrastructure problems to the labor shortage and economic disparity.

GeekWire’s Todd Bishop, Taylor Soper and John Cook at the welcome party for GeekWire HQ2, hosted by Bessemer Venture Partners in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. (GeekWire Photo / Elan Mizrahi)

How many people are at GeekWire HQ2? We are fulfilling the promise in our original RFP to bring “up to three jobs” to the selected city. GeekWire co-founder John Cook, reporter Taylor Soper and I opened the office last week. John flew back on Saturday, and reporter Monica Nickelsburg joined us Sunday. Reporters Nat Levy and Kurt Schlosser are arriving for stints later this month. Taylor is here for the duration, and some of us will be returning for the final week, as well. Several of our reporters are contributing stories about Pittsburgh from back in Seattle, informed in part by the experiences of those of us in the Steel City.

Where are you staying? We are in Pittsburgh’s dynamic Lawrenceville neighborhood, at the Beauty Shoppe co-working space. This place is amazing. Frankly, HQ2 is a lot nicer than HQ1, although we will be returning home to a slightly expanded and renovated office in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.

Is the city paying you to do this? (Someone asked this, as well.) No. We are independent journalists, and we always strive to be balanced and objective in our reporting. Examples include our interview last week with Mayor Bill Peduto, when we pushed back against some of his perceptions of Amazon and explained how the company actually operates in its hometown. In addition to learning from the people of Pittsburgh, we hope to add value by bringing our perspective and experience to this city.

So how does this work financially? GeekWire’s HQ2 project is made possible by sponsors K&L Gates and DQE Communications. We’re grateful for their support! We maintain a traditional editorial/advertising divide at GeekWire, and our sponsors aren’t involved in our news coverage or editorial decisions.

What have you been doing? We’ve been spending time talking with residents and reporting in places from Robotics Row to Trinity Cathedral, Hazelwood Green to the Hill District. We’re looking to meet with and learn from as many people as possible, from all parts of this dynamic community. We have many more stories in the works over the next few weeks, and we welcome your suggestions and tips at hq2@geekwire.com, although our biggest challenge right now is keeping up with all the great stories we’re finding here. One month really isn’t even close to enough to capture it all.

How has your perspective changed? We’ve learned so much in our short time here, and we can already tell this experience will change how we approach our jobs and our roles in the community when we return to Seattle. We’re starting from scratch in Pittsburgh, proving ourselves to a new community without any of the reputation or institutional knowledge we’ve established over the years in our hometown. It has been a good reminder that we can’t take our positions in the community for granted, either here or at home, and we need to prove ourselves to our readers every day.

Who are you, anyway? GeekWire is an independent technology news site, based in Seattle. We bring the community together through conferences and events, and offer resources including a job board, membership program and community calendar.

Read more about us here, and follow our GeekWire HQ2 adventure here.

Any more questions, yinzers? Ask them in the comments below or email us at hq2@geekwire.com. Thanks for following our GeekWire HQ2 adventure.

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Here’s how tech companies fared in today’s historic stock market plunge

The New York Stock Exchange. (Bigstock Photo)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average just experienced the worst single-day decline in its history, and other stock markets dropped as well, leaving tech stocks reeling.

The Dow Jones dropped 1,175 points Monday, after declining 666 points Friday. The Nasdaq Composite, home to many top tech stocks, dropped 273 points, or close to 3 percent.

The Dow Jones lost 4.6 percent of its value Monday. The biggest single-day drop prior to today came in 2008, when a 777-point plunge shaved 7 percent off the stock market.

Stock markets have been on fire in recent years, buoyed by tech giants like Amazon and Google, both of which crossed the threshold of $1,000 per share in recent years. The world’s top tech giants reported strong earnings again last week, setting up  for another strong week on Wall Street.

But instead, markets dropped sharply Friday, and that trend continued Monday. Here is a look at how today’s market crater affected the tech industry, as well as other Seattle public companies.

  • Amazon: Down 39.90 points (2.8 percent) to $1,390
  • Microsoft: Down 3.78 points (4.1 percent) to $88
  • Google: Down 56.81 points (5.1 percent) to $1,062.39
  • Apple: Down 4.01 points (2.5 percent) to $156.49
  • Facebook: Down 9.02 points (4.7 percent) to $181.26
  • T-Mobile: Down 2.05 points (3.2 percent) to $61.54
  • Expedia: Down 1.59 points (1.3 percent) to $125.05
  • Zillow Group: Down 0.42 points (0.9 percent) to $44.14
  • Tableau Software: Down 3.89 points (4.6 percent) to $80.12
  • Starbucks: Down 1.08 points (1.9 percent) to $54.69
  • Boeing: Down 20.03 points (5.7 percent) to $328.88
  • F5 Networks: Down 7.95 points (5.5 percent) to $136.18
  • Apptio: Up 0.45 points (1.7 percent) to $26.37
  • Impinj: Down 0.22 points (1.8 percent) to $11.94
  • Redfin: Down 0.1 points (0.5 percent) to $19.66
  • RealNetworks: Down 0.26 points (8.6 percent) to $2.77
  • Weyerhaeuser: Down 0.89 points (2.49 percent) to $34.79

The market turned, CNBC reports, not because of a single calamitous piece of news, but a combination of factors. Murmurs of inflation from the Federal Reserve, along with rising wages, appear to have frightened investors.

During this boom period, automated investing became popular, with some investors preferring to perform their transactions online, rather than through a traditional stock broker. Several of these services went down Monday, one of the first times they’ve come up against adversity in the stock market, as Bloomberg notes. 

It remains unclear if this two-day drop is a temporary blip or a sign the historic stock market run of the last few years is coming to an end.

“The market simply did not take into account that you can’t go up like this that long,” Michael Yoshikami, CEO of Destination Wealth Management told CNBC.

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Meet the TrashBot: CleanRobotics is using machine learning to keep recycling from going to waste

TrashBot uses sensors, cameras, and machine learning to ensure waste ends up in the right bin. (CleanRobotics Photo)

PITTSBURGH — At a mall in Sydney, Australia, “the world’s first smart trash can” is fastidiously photographing, weighing, and sorting garbage. The industrious TrashBot is a long way from home.

Trashbot was born in Pittsburgh at the AlphaLab Gear startup accelerator. There, the CleanRobotics team has been developing a machine that uses cameras, sensors, and machine learning to ensure that garbage ends up in the landfill and recyclables don’t. They’re tackling a problem that most environmentalists would agree needs to be solved: only about 20 percent of what goes in those blue bins actually ends up recycled, according to CleanRobotics co-founder Tanner Cook.

“That’s super pathetic, if you ask us,” he said. “That’s due to contamination and confusion and multiple different reasons. You can’t always blame it on the person. You drive 100 miles and what’s recyclable changes”

Here’s how it works: A piece of garbage is thrown into the TrashBot, then a small door slides closed over the opening. Under that door is a camera that analyzes the type of waste. The item is also weighed on a Teflon-coated plastic shelf that drains off liquid if there is any. CleanRobotics software determines whether the item is destined for the landfill or recycling facility and directs it into the appropriate bin below.

CleanRobotics is targeting big facilities that produce a lot of waste: airports, malls, stadiums, etc. The company is also starting to market TrashBot to office buildings and other businesses that handle large quantities of garbage.

In addition to the smart trash bin, CleanRobotics offers a monthly software service that allows waste management facilities to track the types of materials they throw away and the amount of garbage they produce. The metrics are valuable because trash isn’t cheap.

“In Australia, it costs $350 per ton of landfill versus getting a tax credit for recycling,” Cook said. “When you have a facility that’s going through 10,000 tons of trash every year, it makes sense for them to try and divert as much of it into that high-quality recycling space as possible.”

Cook serves as CleanRobotics’s VP of engineering. It’s his second startup aimed at reducing our carbon footprint. Before launching CleanRobotics, he co-founded Higea Technologies to clean up oil spills using nanotechnology. Cook co-founded CleanRobotics with CEO Charles Yhap, who previously led a non-profit dedicated to fighting human trafficking.

CleanRobotics VP of Product Aakash Pathak (left) and VP of Engineering Tanner Cook. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

CleanRobotics is an alumnus of AlphaLab, an influential accelerator in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood that helps early-stage startups get off the ground with a four-month mentorship program. Pittsburgh has become a hub for robotics and machine learning, with startups using the technology to tackle everything from self-driving cars to eco-cleanup.

With an undisclosed amount of funding from AlphaLab and angel investors, CleanRobotics is prototyping TrashBot and selling the system to early customers, including Pittsburgh International Airport.

“Our early adopters are buildings that are located in municipalities that have heavily waste conscious laws put into place,” Cook said. “Seattle, Boulder, North Carolina, Australia. A lot of these places, they’ll actually give you a tax credit for having recyclables. So instead of paying you’re getting a tax credit.”

TrashBot uses machine learning to improve its ability to detect and sort garbage over time. CleanRobotics custom codes the brains of TrashBot depending on the recycling rules and regulations in each market. Cook says Trashbot is comparable in price to the bespoke garbage bins you see at airports and stadiums.

TrashBot is a finalist in the $5 million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, an international competition for AI innovations tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges.

CleanRobotics is also planning to develop a personal garbage sorting device for homes. The startup doesn’t plan to stop there.

“We all started this company because we care about the environment and the impact that we’re having on it,” Cook said. “We also see ourselves branching out into other sorting spaces and applying our technology to other sorting applications … We definitely tackled one of the messiest and most difficult things first.”

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In the Super Bowl, Lessons in Football and Faith

Among the many wonders we witnessed last night—Tom Brady fumbling the football, Nick Foles becoming the first man in history to both throw and catch a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl—the greatest, perhaps, was watching the transformative power of true faith.

It’s easy to mock athletes for thanking God, as if the Almighty had little more on His mind than guiding the hands of Corey Clement as he struggled to grip the pigskin, and as if all human efforts—all that skill, all that training—are dwarfed by the Lord’s mysterious predilections. But what we saw on display last night wasn’t that facile sort of faith that rankles us when we see a player glibly point towards heavens during a touchdown. Instead, we witnessed belief at its best, a mighty engine that can drive even the meekest among us to transform their lives and their circumstances.

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Palestinian Man Admits to Murdering Pregnant Israeli Girlfriend in Act of Terrorism

Last May, Michal Halimi, a 29-year-old Israeli woman, went missing. She was eight months pregnant. Two months later, in July, her body was discovered in Holon. An autopsy found that she had been strangled and beaten to death with a blunt object, and then buried in a nearby sand dune.

Investigating the murder, the police discovered that Halimi was having an affair with Muhammad Kharoff, a resident of the Palestinian Authority-run city of Nablus. Posting on social media, Halimi and Kharoff both professed their love, with the pregnant woman announcing her intention to leave her husband and marry her boyfriend. Halimi visited Kharoff in his home several times, even living there for short periods.

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Germany to Compensate Algerian Jewish Holocaust Survivors

Germany announced earlier this week that it will compensate Algerian Jews persecuted by France’s Vichy regime. The decision, a first, entitles approximately 25,000 to a payment of $3,184, according to the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany.

Under the Nazi-collaborating French regime, Algerian Jews were barred from holding jobs in finance, education, and other sectors, were prohibited from owning their own businesses, and were ejected from public schools.

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