Apple buys Canadian AI startup: Hashtag Trending for Monday March 18, 2024

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Apple buys a Canadian artificial intelligence startup, a new chip could promises to decrease costs and reduce the environmental footprint of AI, Citrix angers its partners and clients as rumours of new pricing and product bundling hit the street and are tech layoffs the “new normal?”

All this and more on the “how to lose friends and influence people” edition of Hashtag Trending. I’m your host, Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US.

Apple has acquired DarwinAI, a Canadian artificial intelligence startup focused on using AI for quality inspections in manufacturing. The acquisition highlights Apple’s growing investments in generative AI technology, an area the iPhone maker has said will be a major focus area.

While Apple has been tight-lipped about its specific plans, CEO Tim Cook recently teased that the company will share more details on its generative AI initiatives later this year. Cook described generative AI as a “huge opportunity” for Apple.

The DarwinAI deal follows Apple researchers publishing an academic paper just yesterday exploring multimodal large language models – focusing on computer vision and pattern recognition – Apples clearly has some deep research going on.

Though the financial terms were not disclosed, Apple confirmed the acquisition with its standard statement about buying smaller tech firms from time to time. But the move signals Apple is ramping up its AI capabilities, likely to integrate generative AI across its hardware, software and services offerings.

As one of the world’s most valuable companies, Apple’s moves in the generative AI space are worth watching.

Sources include Axios and Cornell University

While tech giants like Nvidia and Intel dominate the headlines in artificial intelligence hardware, a startup called Groq  is quietly positioning itself as a powerful new player in this chip design and manufacturing for AI.

This is not Elon Musk’s AI chat bot, which is spelled G R O K.  This is G R O Q – the names are similar, but this is a totally different company.

Based in Mountain View, California, Groq has developed specialized AI chips it calls “language processing units” or LPUs. The company, backed by investors like Tiger Global and Lee Fixel’s Addition, claims these LPU chips can run AI models 10 times faster than conventional hardware at just one-tenth the cost.

As the recent explosion in generative AI drives skyrocketing demand for computing power, Groq’s founder and CEO Jonathan Ross says his startup’s technology could reshape the economics of the industry. He estimates that while OpenAI has projected needing $7 trillion for a new chip business, Groq could achieve similar capabilities for just $700 billion thanks to its more efficient chips.

With about 4,500 LPU chips already deployed and plans for 1.5 million by the end of next year, Groq is betting big that its technology will be a key enabler as AI goes mainstream across industries. The company is not only selling cloud access to developers, but also pitching its hardware directly to enterprises running their own data centers.

So while Nvidia’s annual conference next week will likely capture outsized attention, this Silicon Valley startup could emerge as an unexpected disruption in AI’s critical chips race.

As concerns grow over the technology’s immense capital requirements and carbon footprint, Groq represents a tantalizing prospect – bringing the same cutting-edge AI capabilities at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact.

There are emerging reports that Citrix has made sweeping changes to its partner program that have left many in the channel stunned and outraged.

According to sources briefed on the new arrangements, Citrix plans to double the price for monthly partner licenses starting September 1st, unless partners commit to paying for an entire year upfront. The impacted products will be bundled into a new “Citrix Universal for CSP” offering.

Citrix has reportedly justified the price hike by claiming a flexible monthly model introduces too much cost uncertainty. But partners who were present at the unveiling described the atmosphere as “stunned silence followed by anger and disbelief” over the changes.

Not only will monthly licenses essentially double in price, but Citrix is also alleged to be slashing rebates paid to its channel partners. This one-two punch could force many to raise prices for customers or shift focus to rival services like Microsoft’s Windows 365 Cloud PCs.

And if those two weren’t enough, Citrix is  also rumoured to be unveiling a new “Platform License” that many see as adopting the same controversial bundling strategy employed by semiconductor giant Broadcom after their takeover of VMWare

The Platform License is reported to be an invitation-only offering that bundles all of Citrix’s existing products like its virtual desktop infrastructure, application delivery controllers, analytics tools and more.

This mirrors the recent moves by Broadcom after acquiring VMware, where it stopped selling certain VMware offerings individually in order to drive adoption of more comprehensive bundles.

The reported moves come as Citrix’s parent Cloud Software Group is facing intensified competition, including VMware’s desktop virtualization products potentially being spun out under new Broadcom ownership.

With over 2 million active Citrix subscribers, the pricing shakeup could trigger a significant disruption across the virtual desktop infrastructure space.

Citrix has so far declined to confirm or deny these changes, leaving partners anxiously awaiting official word on the controversial new program.

One thing is for certain. If you are dependent on partner support and Citrix is a critical part of your technology stack, it would be worth having a discussion with your support partner and also looking at your alternatives – not as a panic decision, but to take the time to educate yourself in advance of potential cost and support impacts.

Sources include:  The Register (Story 1 and Story 2)

The tech industry is facing a harsh new reality – mass layoffs may becoming the norm, not the exception.

According to an article in TechSpot in this first quarter of 2024, an astonishing 209 tech companies have already cut over 50,000 employees, according to data tracked by Layoffs.fyi. This comes on the heels of nearly 270,000 tech workers losing their jobs in 2023.

And it’s not just startups feeling the squeeze. Industry giants like Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft and Meta have all implemented major workforce reductions in recent months. If these numbers are correct, this is second only to the dot-com bust of 2001.

While companies initially blamed over-hiring during the pandemic and inflation, that story is wearing thin this year as many of the big tech companies sit on significant cash reserves. Experts suggest the real reason for the layoffs is that it props up stock prices.

Not only are jobs insecure, but generous tech salaries and benefits appear to be stagnating after years of increases. According to compensation data, an entry-level AI role still commands six figures, but raises are no longer a given.

For tech workers accustomed to being heavily recruited, the landscape has shifted drastically. Some are leaving the industry entirely or settling for less lucrative positions with fewer perks.

With companies continuing to prioritize cost-cutting to please Wall Street, the new normal of cyclical layoffs looks poised to persist across Silicon Valley and beyond. As one professor warns – tech employees and investors have largely accepted this harsh reality, so the job cuts are likely here to stay for some time.

We did a story on the weekend edition where we talked about how some cybersecurity pros are now moonlighting on the dark web to find new employment or to make up for what they feel are inadequate wages.

I want to stress that I’ve had to let people go not so our shareholders could make more, but to try to ensure the survival of the company. It’s been agonizing and I think, no matter how we tried to handle it, it angered employees – even when I explained I hadn’t taken a salary in a year.

Imagine the resentment that is building in companies that have huge cash reserves, but are letting people go for no other reason that a few percentage points on their stock price in the short run. This is not a recipe for employee engagement and, while we don’t condone it in any circumstance, it’s also causing employees to take actions which might ultimately damage the tech industry.

We are smart people. There has to be a better way to handle this.

That’s our show for today.

Thank you to all of the people who got back to me in my attempt to do a census of our listeners. I have to say that Western Canada rocks! We got twice the response from the West and I answered every email that had a question or a comment personally. If I somehow missed you, my apologies, but you folks were great!

And if listeners in Toronto and Montreal and the east coast would like to redeem yourselves, here’s how to do it. Simply send me an email with hashtag yes in the subject line, include your position and the city you are in. The results are confidential, will never be shared except as a summary to report to potential sponsors so we can get the funding we need to continue the podcast.

Send it to jlove@itwc.ca

Subject line hashtag yes.  Job title. City.

jlove@itwc.ca

That’s all it takes to help ensure that we can keep bringing you this podcast.

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with a daily news show and on the weekends we have an interview show we creatively named the Weekend Edition.

We love your comments you can also send those to jlove@itwc.ca

Thanks for listening and have a Marvelous Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The post Apple buys Canadian AI startup: Hashtag Trending for Monday March 18, 2024 first appeared on IT World Canada.

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