Broadcom Bids To Buy Qualcomm In Record-Setting Tech Merger

Broadcom's logo.

Image credit: 360b / Shutterstock

Qualcomm is a world titan when it comes to wireless technology, but we may soon be witnessing a shift of power in the industry.

According to a Reuters report, the Singapore tech giant Broadcom is making a push to buy the U.S. corporation. This week, Broadcom made its “best and final offer” of a whopping $121 billion. Qualcomm’s board of directors is reviewing the offer. If accepted, it would be the biggest acquisition in the history of the technology sector.

The news comes amid an ongoing heated battle for control of the wireless equipment industry. Historically, Qualcomm has made a profit by licensing its technology for the delivery of broadband and data to phone manufacturers, but the company is now in the middle of a patent dispute with Apple involving licensing agreements. Broadcom’s executives believe now would be the right time for Qualcomm to bow out of the industry and sell. 

“Qualcomm got where it did in the last 30 years with a business model hinging on intellectual property licensing that is, at this day and age, not sustainable,” Broadcom chief executive Hock Tan told Reuters.

These latest remarks from Tan are the continuation of a long line of criticism that Broadcom’s leadership has directed at Qualcomm. Tan has been openly critical of Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf in recent years, pointing out that Qualcomm’s total shareholder return since 2005 has been a hideous negative 7 percent. He believes that under Broadcom’s direction, the brand can do better.

Broadcom’s new offer to buy the company consists of $82 per share—$60 in cash and $22 in Broadcom stock. Its previous offer was $70 per share—$60 in cash and $10 in stock. Increasing the amount of stock in the deal means the offer will be contingent upon a Broadcom shareholder vote. So far, investors have been hush on whether or not they support the acquisition. 

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Art Meets Tech In the World of Museum Apps

A person viewing the Google Arts and Culture app on their phone.

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If you haven’t heard of the Google Arts & Culture app, you’ve probably been living under a rock. It’s the #1 most popular educational app in the Google Play store, and enjoying similar popularity in the iTunes store. But there are lots of other art and culture apps, too, often offered by individual museums. Here are several of our favorites.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

This app takes you on a guided tour of SFMOMA’s exhibits. The 15- to 45-minute walks through the galleries and the city’s streets are narrated by a variety of well-known personalities. It even has synced audio that allows social listening, so you can experience the museum with your friends, too. While you’re using the app, check out SFMOMA’s “Erasing the Rules,” featuring the works of Robert Rauschenberg, supported by a variety of generous donors including Thom Weisel, Carol and Lyman Casey, and the Barbra Osher Exhibition Fund. Right now, the SFMOMA app is only available on iOS. Get it here.

Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim’s app can be used in the museum or anywhere you happen to be. It gives you a chance to take a virtual tour of one of the best-known modern art museums in the world. It features detailed information about all the works in the Guggenheim’s collection, and you can even share your favorite pieces of art on social media. The Guggenheim app is only available on iTunes in the U.S.

The great thing about museum apps is that they can take you on virtual tours of museums all around the world. Here are a few international favorites.

The Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum, located in Amsterdam, houses many amazing paintings including Rembrandt’s “Night Watch,” and other artifacts. Using an interactive map with route directions, the app guides you from room to room, and gives you a chance to listen to stories about the works of your choice. You can also access additional commentary by experts and passionate art enthusiasts. The free app is available on iTunes and Google Play.

Museo del Prado

The Prado, located in Madrid, is home to a huge array of masterpieces including “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Bosch and “The Annunciation” by Fra Angelico. Although there aren’t a lot of works available through the app, all of them can be seen in ultra-high resolution, which allows you to discover their hidden details and secrets. The app is currently only available on iTunes (for a cost of $4.50) in the United States.

The Hermitage

The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, is one of the largest museums in the world, home to an amazing number of master works in painting, sculpture jewelry, decorative and applied arts, and unique archaeological finds. The app allows you to enjoy the museum’s masterpieces, learn more about them, and admire the palace interiors of the grand royal residence of Russian emperors. You can even save images you like, start a collection of your favorite art works, or send e-cards featuring those works. The free app is available for Android and iOs.

These are just a few of the many museum apps that are available. Check your device’s store to find apps for other world-renowned museums.

Google Announces Plans To Open Artificial Intelligence Lab in China

A photo of Google's Beijing office.

Google’s Beijing office.
Photo credit: testing / Shutterstock

Google’s business has been largely absent from China since 2010, when the company pulled many of its core businesses out. Now, though, Google is returning to China with the announcement of a new Chinese center devoted to artificial intelligence. This is a small gesture but a strong symbolic move that represents the tech giant returning to the most populous nation on earth.

Google largely pulled out of China seven years ago, citing government controls and surveillance initiatives that ran counter to its guiding philosophy of a free and open internet. Since then, however, China has made a resurgence as one of the world’s leading tech powers. This is why, as The New York Times reported, Google is putting a team of experts in Beijing for further research and development of AI. The office will be led by Fei-Fei Li, who’s currently in charge of the AI lab at Stanford. She will join Jia Li, the head of AI research and development for Google Cloud.

“We have 600-plus employees in China, and we had a similar number in 2010,” Google spokesman Taj Meadows told the Times. “Roughly half of them are engineers working on global products. Work on A.I. will be in a similar vein.”

Google is not the only tech company to capitalize on the progress China has made in recent years. Microsoft and IBM are also hard at work on hiring Chinese staff members. This movement coincides with efforts from the Chinese government to upgrade the country’s tech infrastructure and move away from foreign-made hardware and software.

The relationship between Google and China continues to evolve. In 2010, the company said that it could no longer tolerate China’s stance on censorship, as well as the government’s alleged hacking of some human rights activists’ Gmail accounts. Google never left China entirely, though, and it now looks poised to rebuild its presence among the world’s largest population of internet users.

Meet the iPhone X

An image of a phone without any buttons on the front—it's entirely touch-screen.

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Apple recently released the specs for the new iPhone X (pronounced “iPhone 10”), and technology aficionados are taking notice.

“Over the past decade, we’ve pushed forward with innovation after innovation, bringing us to this moment, when we can create devices that are far more intelligent, far more capable, and far more creative than ever before,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook when he made the announcement.

The iPhone X has glass on both the front and the back, and its surgical-grade stainless steel sides make it water- and dust-resistant. The “Super Retina” display boasts the highest pixel density of any iPhone (458ppi), with a screen 5.8 inches diagonal and a resolution of 2436 x 1125.

The biggest change from previous iPhones is that there’s no home button. Instead, users will have to perform an upward swipe starting at the bottom of the phone.

The swiping is part of Apple’s plan to move away from the Touch ID fingerprint sensor and onto newer technology—in this case, a method called Face ID that is already being used for the Apple Pay app. Face ID is just what it sounds like: it unlocks the phone based on facial recognition. A dedicated neural engine will process facial recognition in real time.

And if you’re still worried about security, don’t be: the company claims there’s only a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of another person being able to unlock the phone via Face ID.

Another change likely to take some getting used to is the requirement for different strokes for different functions. To open the iOS Control Center, for example, a user will have to swipe down from the top right corner. These kinds of interactions have been tried by other phone companies before with varying success, so it’s unclear how well they’ll do for the iPhone X.

For the photography fans, there is a 12-megapixel camera equipped with dual optical image stabilization. According to Apple, the sensors are larger and faster than ever. The main camera has an f/1.8 aperture, and the telephoto lens has an f/2.4 aperture. The phone also has a quad-LED True Tone flash.

The starting price for the iPhone X is more than a little steep at $999, so it’s likely only truly dedicated Apple fans will have the option to purchase at first. Preorders begin on October 27, and shipping will start on November 3.

The New Generation of Tech in Silicon Valley

A word cloud image featuring terms such as "Silicon Valley," "Technology," "Internet," and "California."

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Lest anyone forget, Silicon Valley remains a valuable tech hub. Recent investments, such as the Warriors’ Kevin Durant’s in cloud computing startup Rubrik, show that the tech industry is alive and strong. In the face of potential new policies, the landscape is likely to change, but growth continues.

In some cases, the old guard is providing guidance for the new Silicon Valley tech startups. For 37 years, investment banker Thom Weisel spearheaded investments in companies like Yahoo and Geocities. Post dotcom bubble, he’s expressing great faith in the new wave of social media, commenting that “the big difference is, these companies, in many cases, are enormously profitable out of the gate.”

New tech companies have certainly caught the eyes of up-and-coming investors. The Warriors’ Kevin Durant recently added tech to his portfolio by investing in cloud computing startup Rubrik. Durant is one of many professional athletes increasing their support of the Silicon Valley companies of today.

“Being in Silicon Valley, I play in front of [tech executives] and run into them at restaurants,” Durant said of expanding his tech investments with companies like Rubrik.

Durant’s umbrella corporation, the Durant Company, has also invested in the financial app Acorns and the on-demand delivery service Postmates.

Meanwhile, official policy may or may not support the new wave of Silicon Valley tech. A recent TechNet study found that cooperation between federal, state, and local policymakers could add one million jobs to the US economy each year if they work together to promote pro-startup policies.

In addition to hoping for more relaxed regulation and opportunities for rising tech companies, CEOs are also set to support expanded H-1B programs for highly-skilled workers coming to the US specifically to work in the tech industry.

However, with anti-immigration policies like the recent rescinding of the DACA legislation, Silicon Valley execs may be out of luck when it comes to adding more STEM-focused professionals to their teams.

Nevertheless, the Silicon Valley of today continues to grow, exhibiting more maturity and innovation since the days of the dotcom bust. Whether it’s taking cues from big names of the past or boldly moving forward with new tech opportunities, Silicon Valley is not about to let a few policy setbacks keep it from holding its position as the hotbed of the country’s technology innovations.

Tech Leaders Warn of the Dangers of AI

A human hand touching a robotic hand.

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In one of Elon Musk’s ever-quotable interviews, he mentioned something that has spurred quite a bit of debate online. Should we be afraid of the development of artificial intelligence, also known as AI?

Speaking at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium, Musk warned that we should tread carefully when it comes to AI.

“Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish,” Musk stated. “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.”

Yes, Elon Musk compared working in AI to summoning a demon.

But it’s not just Musk. Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have also issued dire warnings on the topic. But the thing that is interesting about all of these tech leaders is that none of them are actually doing work in AI themselves; they’re merely reacting to the theoretical danger of AI without doing any of the practical work.

While there is a tendency to associate AI with sci-fi movies, in the real world AI is nothing close to the sentient computers shown in blockbuster movies. And while there’s a possibility that we might eventually reach that stage, it’s still quite a long ways off.

Some are so spooked by the idea that they propose federal regulation on this type of technology. But we have to remember that such regulation can often have a chilling effect. Look at the effect that making marijuana a Schedule I drug had on testing its medical capabilities, for example. For a fledgling technology that isn’t anywhere close to being a real danger yet, putting undue restrictions on it could cause the entire industry to be stillborn.

Should we worry? Maybe. But let’s not panic about our space elevators until they’re funded, okay?

The Smart Money is Investing in Tech

A businessman checking his investments on his phone.

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Where is the smart money going when it comes to tech companies? Some leading experts will be exploring that subject at Fortune’s upcoming Brainstorm TECH conference.

Anton Levy of General Atlantic, Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures, and David Trujillo of TPG will share the stage in a panel discussion on what industries, ideas, or trends they’re betting on; what they’re seeing in the tech space; and the changes they’re watching for.

It’s no surprise that technology is on people’s minds, with the June ransomware attacks and Microsoft’s announcement of its new SMB-oriented software-as-a-service bundle. A recent article in Institutional Investor says that tech deals are booming in the PE sector.

Not only that, but 2017 has been a boom year for tech IPOs, with Snap going public in March, and Carvana, Cloudera, Elevate Credit, Mulesoft, Netshoes, Okta, and Yext also making their public trading debut. The aggregate value of these IPOs is a whopping $37.5 billion, with Snap making up the lion’s share at a valuation of approximately $20 billion.

Today’s tech IPOs are already light years ahead of those in 2016. By May of 2016, only two companies had gone public. Between January and May of 2017, more than four times that number went public, and more public offerings may be on the horizon. (Tech companies that have been floated as possible IPOs, despite rigorous denial from some of them, include Airbnb, Dropbox, Pinterest, Spotify, and Uber.)

Because of the growing success and valuation of tech companies, private equity money is now flowing into the sector, accounting for almost 40.1 percent of U.S. buyouts last year. This is the highest proportion on record. Firms with a broad range of investment interest, such as General Atlantic, KKR, and Carlyle, are jumping into the game and are being joined by tech-focused PE firms like Golden Gate Capital and Siris Capital.

“An increasing number of tech-related companies have moved beyond the traditional territory of venture capital funds, and the sector as a whole has increasingly become a target for the wider private equity industry,” Christopher Elvin, Head of Private Equity at Prequin, told Institutional Investor.

China has also become a PE magnet. However, concerns about the possible imposition of U.S. trade tariffs, plus concerns about its credit, real estate, and technology sectors seem to be cooling interest in the nation. However, when risk and potential are calmly weighed, China may be the most promising private equity market in the world.

This echoes sentiments that General Atlantic CEO Bill Ford shared in a recent interview with Bloomberg. “We’ve been bullish on China despite lots of mixed sentiment—the country is succeeding in pivoting its economy from export and manufacturing to services and consumption,” he said. “We’re seeing companies there generating 15 to 20 percent-plus nominal GDP growth.”

With so many potential IPOs on the horizon, and some really promising companies to be found in emerging markets, it’s no wonder that the smart money is betting on tech to be the next private equity profit-maker.

I will be curious to see what Levy, Green, and Trujillo share at Brainstorm TECH about their vision for private equity in the tech sector and if it matches up with what other observers have been saying.

New Self-Healing Polymer in Development

An Asian man running tests in a laboratory.

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Self-healing materials have long been something of a Holy Grail for chemists. For those unfamiliar with the term, self-healing materials are materials that, if say broken into two, can rejoin.

It may sound unrealistic, but that’s how our skin works. The trick is figuring out how to do that with artificial matter.

Believe it or not, self-healing materials have been in the works for a while now. Unfortunately, there are a few kinks that developers need to work out before this kind of technology can be brought to market. Humidity, for example, wreaks havoc on such materials since water gets into them and changes the chemical properties. A self-healing material isn’t all that useful if it only works in the desert.

But according to Dr. Chao Wang, who has been working on self-healing materials for a while now, things are looking brighter. He’s developed a material that is capable of self-healing and can conduct ions in order to generate current. It’s even stretchable, so it has a lot of potential uses, like in smart phones or soft robotics. He says he was inspired by Marvel’s Wolverine, known for his “healing factor” which makes him nearly un-killable.

And although the material doesn’t stand up to humidity (not yet anyway) that’s the next goal on Wang’s list. Wang plans to fix the problem by “tweaking the covalent bonds within the polymer itself.” Once he has that figured out, the polymer will be that much closer to being usable in a variety of real-world applications.

Wang uses the example of a smartphone which can repair itself after being dropped. Since the material in question is transparent, this would make for an ideal use. Of course, there are no doubt countless uses for such a material, in manufacturing or in consumer products, which could no doubt help us reduce waste with longer-lasting products.

Breakthroughs in Understanding Social Hierarchies Lead to Advanced AI

A graphic that illustrates computer chips in a human brain.

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Social hierarchies are important, especially in the workplace where understanding the chain of command is crucial. Workers need to know who they can turn to for help, who they have to watch out for, and who they need to take orders from. This is a learning process that can take a while, but a study by researchers from London College and DeepMind have found that it is a process that makes significant use of the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

Researchers had participants undergo an fMRI while they imagined themselves as employees at a fictional company. Researchers then had the participants watch video interactions between “coworkers” to determine who “won” those interactions. Whoever won the interaction was determined to have more power in the hierarchy. Participants also watched similar videos but this time, they were asked to imagine their friend as an employee there. The findings show that we’re better at understanding the hierarchies to which we belong than those of others, which makes sense.

So what good is this research? Knowing what part of the brain is used in learning something that we pick up more or less “by instinct” may not sound immediately useful, but that’s because it’s part of a long-term project to help develop better artificial intelligence. That’s what DeepMind works on, actually.

DeepMind is trying to develop AI that can be applied to “some of the world’s most intractable problems.” If you’ve ever seen a movie about a robot, you know how hard it is for them to understand humans. By having a better idea of how our brains process human interactions, we can develop AI systems that better understand human interactions. Along the way, perhaps future research in this area will help us to better understand how we interact and maybe get a head start on fixing those problems before the robots are ready to help.

Researchers Discover New Flexible Material with Numerous Applications

A researcher experimenting on a substance in a lab.

Photo courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory at Flickr Creative Commons.

The phrase “near-perfect broadband absorption from hyperbolic metamaterial nanoparticles” sounds like some Star Trek “technobabble.” But believe it or not, it’s actually the title of a real paper. In the paper, researchers from UC San Diego’s Jacob’s School of Engineering describe a new material that is thin, flexible, and transparent, with some pretty cool capabilities.

The material absorbs light and, more than that, can essentially be “programmed” when made to absorb different wavelengths of light. This could allow for “transparent window coatings that keep buildings and cars cool on sunny days,” or “devices that could more than triple solar cell efficiencies.”

Imagine a window that keeps a building cool, cutting down on AC costs, while still allowing through the kinds of radio waves that we use for TV, radio, and broadband. Alternatively, the window could be used to block these radio waves, or to prevent heat generated inside the building from escaping. There are a lot of potential uses for the material, which is still early in the development phase. But for now it’s only being made in very small quantities to test out the various capabilities of the material.

Researchers are still figuring out how to scale up production. Because they’re using complex nanotubes and silicon substrates and other advanced technologies, scaling up will take some effort. While these kinds of techniques are becoming increasingly common, they’ve been limited to nanomaterials, which are called that for a reason.

So far we haven’t used these technologies on anything near so big as a plate glass window, but there’s no reason to think that they wouldn’t work. Most likely, as the researchers figure out how to scale up and make things like windows and such, they’ll run into some production issues, but that’s what research and experimentation is for, to figure out how to make something like this work.

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