Hashtag Trending Jan.22-Zuckerberg commits to developing AGI; CIOs worried about Broadcom’s changes to VMware; Apple’s Vision Pro fails to sell out on launch day

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Mark Zuckerberg causes a storm with his commitment to developing Artificial General Intelligence, CIOs are sounding worried about Broadcom’s changes to VMWare, tax changes in the U.S. are having an impact on startups and – in what can only be described as a sign of the apocalypse, a new Apple product failed to sell out on its first day. 

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Welcome to the end of the world as we know in this edition of Hashtag Trending.  I’m your host, Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US. 

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, has stirred controversy with his commitment to developing an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) system, potentially on par with human intelligence. This ambitious project, which he also suggested might be made open source, has raised alarms among experts and academics.

Zuckerberg envisions this next-generation technology as a key driver for tech services, even though the concept of AGI still remains largely theoretical. Even Sam Altman – although he has talked about huge advancements in the upcoming version 5 of ChatGPT – is not yet ready to announce AGI has been achieved.

AGI refers to an AI system capable of performing a wide range of tasks at human-level intelligence or beyond. The prospect of achieving such a breakthrough, and more so, making it publicly accessible, has sparked fears about its potential to escape human control and pose significant threats.

Dame Wendy Hall, a prominent computer science professor and member of the UN’s AI advisory body, labeled the idea of open source AGI as “really very scary” and criticized Zuckerberg’s approach as irresponsible. She emphasized the urgent need for regulatory frameworks to ensure public safety in the face of such powerful technologies.

Meta’s previous decision to open source its Llama 2 AI model was met with criticism, drawing parallels to “giving people a template to build a nuclear bomb.” The debate extends beyond Meta, with other tech giants like OpenAI and Google’s DeepMind also pursuing AGI, each with their own definitions and timelines.

Sources include: The Guardian

Broadcom’s recent acquisition of VMware, a virtualization pioneer, for $69 billion has led to significant changes in VMware’s product and pricing strategies, drawing the attention of chief information officers (CIOs) across various industries.

Since the acquisition’s completion in November, Broadcom has streamlined VMware’s product offerings from nearly 1,000 to just two bundles and shifted from perpetual license sales to a full subscription payment model. This move aligns with Broadcom’s history of acquiring companies and leveraging pricing power but has raised concerns among VMware’s customers. Additionally, Broadcom has laid off hundreds of VMware workers, although the company declined to comment on these layoffs.

With around 330,000 customers, VMware’s changes under Broadcom are closely monitored by CIOs, who are considering alternatives due to potential price increases and concerns about support levels.

CIOs like Todd Florence of Estes Express Lines and Suvajit Basu of Goya Foods express apprehension about their future with VMware, especially given Broadcom’s strategy of focusing on a core base of around 600 business customers. This approach, while successful in Broadcom’s chip business, is less common in software and raises questions about support and pricing for the broader customer base.

Analysts from Forrester Research note that moving away from VMware could be costly and time-consuming for customers, but also see potential benefits in the changes, such as simplified product portfolios and more focused customer engagement.

This overhaul by Broadcom signifies a pivotal shift in VMware’s strategy, impacting the broader IT and cloud computing landscape, with CIOs and companies reevaluating their reliance on VMware’s virtualization services.

Sources include: The Wall Street Journal

American legislators are rushing to clean up a mess created in a 2017 revision to the U.S. tax laws.

Previously, a company with $1.5 million in revenue and $1 million in R&D expenses would pay taxes on $500,000 profit. Now, the same company can only deduct one-fifth of its R&D expenses annually, resulting in a higher taxable profit. This shift is causing some startups to face unsustainable tax bills.

The impact is particularly felt among bootstrapped companies that are being penalized for generating profits sooner. Venture-backed startups, typically pre-revenue, are less affected for now. But even those companies are changing their planning, with some slowing down hiring due to budget constraints.

This taxation change also affects large corporations, especially those with overseas R&D activities. In late 2022, CFOs from major companies like Ford and Netflix appealed to Congress for a repeal of this change.

Currently, there’s bipartisan support to address this issue. The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 proposes to delay the change to Section 174 until January 1, 2026, and apply it retroactively. However, it’s still early in the legislative process, and the outcome remains uncertain.

Meanwhile the Canadian government is moving to…. Just kidding. They’ve got bigger things to do that worry about technical innovation and its impact on the Canadian economy.

Sources include: Axios

 

Apple continues to take a beating from the EU and has proposed to allow third-party mobile wallet and payment providers to access the iPhone’s NFC (Near Field Communication) capabilities. 

This move is a response to a European Commission antitrust investigation, which has been ongoing for nearly four years. The investigation accused Apple of using its iOS policies to unfairly restrict competition in the mobile payments market, benefiting its own solution, Apple Pay.

Previously, while third-party developers could use the iPhone’s NFC features for reading electronic tags, they were restricted from making NFC payments, which was exclusively reserved for Apple Pay. Apple’s new commitment, if accepted, would enable users in the European Economic Area (EEA) to make NFC contactless payments from within third-party iOS apps, separate from Apple Pay and Apple Wallet.

This change marks a shift in Apple’s tightly controlled ecosystem. The proposed commitments would last for 10 years and could lead to a fine of up to 10 per cent of Apple’s worldwide annual turnover if not honored. 

The decision to open up NFC payments to third-party developers could have significant implications for the mobile payments market, particularly in the EU.

Sources include: The Verge

And this wouldn’t be news for any other company, but  Apple’s Vision Pro did not sell out on its launch day, despite limited initial availability estimated between 60,000 and 80,000 units. 

The Vision Pro, priced at $3,500 to $3,899 U.S. depending on storage capacity, saw its 256GB model quickly backordered, but the 512GB and 1TB models remained available for in-store pickup the day after launch. 

For Apple, that’s amazing given its reputation for creating hype around new products and typically seeing rapid sell-outs. 

The Vision Pro, marketed as a device ushering in the “era of spatial computing,” seems to have encountered challenges in gaining immediate traction, similar to competing AR and VR headsets.

Concerns have been raised about the Vision Pro’s weight, comparable to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the limited number of spatialized apps available at launch. Apple developed only 15 stock apps for the device, and major third-party platforms like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify have no immediate plans to create spatialized versions of their apps for it.

This situation suggests that even with Apple’s brand and marketing strength, success in the AR and VR market may not be guaranteed.

Sources include: Notebook 

And finally, two bits of news from OpenAI from last week. Open AI announced its first partnership with a university.  Arizona State University is going to use OpenAI’s Enterprise offering for its coursework and to build a personalized AI tutor for students.  

Enterprise offers a secure environment that will supposedly protect the university and student  data.

It also means that students will no longer have usage caps. Given that the course on AI prompts is one of the most popular courses on the university’s calendar, this could be a bonus in student recruitment. As well as the fact that presumably, there’s no penalty for using AI to assist in your assignments. 

And a second OpenAI story has been circulating on YouTube. Last month one YouTuber showed how he had gotten access to the main prompt for ChatGPT. I didn’t try it, but it looked credible. Now, with the advent of the store, there is at least one more video making the rounds showing how easy it is to expose the prompt that drives any custom GPT.  That one I can tell does work. 

We are moving exceptionally quickly into this new world – but sometimes it makes you wonder if at the speeds we are moving, if we are doing this in the safest and smartest way possible.

And that’s Hashtag Trending for today.  

I’d like to once again thank all of you who are new listeners and all of you that have helped us grow by sending this to a friend or by giving us a great review on the Apple store. While the listener base grew by 20 per cent thanks to you – and I’m keeping to my goal to double our listeners this year, with your help.  So please, invite a friend to join our Hashtag Trending family.

I’m your host, Jim Love, thanks for listening and have a Marvelous Monday.

The post Hashtag Trending Jan.22-Zuckerberg commits to developing AGI; CIOs worried about Broadcom’s changes to VMware; Apple’s Vision Pro fails to sell out on launch day first appeared on IT World Canada.

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