Say goodbye to Redbox

It's the end of the line for Redbox and its DVD rental kiosks. The movie rental service's parent company, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late June. But it apparently shifted its filing from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, which means it intends to liquidate its business altogether instead of putting the company through a reorganization. According to Deadline, the company was initially looking to raise funds by selling some assets and keeping around 100 employees. However, in the end, it decided that the best course of action was to let all 1,000 Redbox employees go and to shut down all 24,000 Redbox kiosks. 

"There is no means to continue to pay employees, pay any bills, otherwise finance this case," US bankruptcy judge Thomas Horan said, according to Lowpass. Horan also said that there's "at least the possibility of misappropriation of funds that were held in trust for employees." Redbox couldn't pay its people for nearly a month, and its parent company had to secure a loan of $8 million for their salaries and to be able to restore their medical benefits that haven't been active since mid-May. 

Redbox kiosks, which are typically located in groceries and convenience stores, used to rent out movie DVDs and Blu-ray discs, as well as video games. In 2019, however, it stopped renting out video games to focus on movie rentals and its on-demand streaming service. The company is long past its prime, and its rental service is nowhere near as appealing these days with all the streaming services out there. In fact, the bankruptcy proceedings have revealed that Redbox's payroll obligations were higher than it earnings. Still, the kiosks continued to serve people with no access to a strong and steady internet connection, who'll now have to say goodbye to being able to rent a DVD or two whenever they step out to run errands. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/say-goodbye-to-redbox-130044411.html?src=rss

Microsoft and Apple give up their OpenAI board seats

Microsoft has withdrawn from OpenAI's board of directors a couple of weeks after the European Commission revealed that it's taking another look at the terms of their partnership, according to the Financial Times. The company has reportedly sent OpenAI a letter, announcing that it was giving up its seat "effective immediately." Microsoft took on an observer, non-voting role within OpenAI's board following an internal upheaval that led to the firing (and eventual reinstatement) of the latter's CEO, Sam Altman. 

According to previous reports, Apple was also supposed to get an observer seat at the board following its announcement that it will integrate ChatGPT into its devices. The Times says that will no longer be the case. Instead, OpenAI will take on a new approach and hold regular meetings with key partners, including the two Big Tech companies. In the letter, Microsoft reportedly told OpenAI that it's confident in the direction the company is taking, so its seat on the board is no longer necessary. 

The company also wrote that its seat "provided insights into the board's activities without compromising its independence," but the European Commission wants to take a closer look at their relationship before deciding if it agrees. "We’re grateful to Microsoft for voicing confidence in the board and the direction of the company, and we look forward to continuing our successful partnership," an OpenAI spokesperson told The Times.

Microsoft initially invested $1 billion into OpenAI in 2019. Since then, the company has poured more money into the AI company until it has reached $13 billion in investments. The European Commission started investigating their partnership to figure out if it breaks the bloc's merger rules last year, but it ultimately concluded that Microsoft didn't gain control of OpenAI. It didn't drop the probe altogether, however — Margrethe Vestager, the commission's executive vice-president for competition policy, revealed in June that European authorities asked Microsoft for additional information regarding their agreement "to understand whether certain exclusivity clauses could have a negative effect on competitors."

The commission is looking into the Microsoft-OpenAI agreement as part of a bigger antitrust investigation. It also sent information requests to other big players in the industry that are also working on artificial intelligence technologies, including Meta, Google and TikTok. The commission intends to ensure fairness in consumer choices and to examine acqui-hires to "make sure these practices don’t slip through [its] merger control rules if they basically lead to a concentration."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-and-apple-give-up-their-openai-board-seats-120022867.html?src=rss

Tesla’s year-over-year deliveries decreased for the second quarter in a row

Tesla has announced its second quarter figures, with the company producing 410,831 and delivering 443,956 EVs in Q2. Production decreased by a little over 20,000 units compared to quarter one, but deliveries increased by nearly 15 percent. However, its distribution numbers are 4.8 percent lower than the same period in 2023. Tesla notes it "deployed 9.4 GWh of energy storage products in Q2, the highest quarterly deployment yet."

The car manufacturer's first quarter of 2024 was the first time since 2020 that the company reported a year-over-year sales drop. The car manufacturer blamed the decrease partly on "the early phase of the production ramp of the updated Model 3 at our Fremont factory and factory shutdowns resulting from shipping diversions caused by the Red Sea conflict and an arson attack at Gigafactory Berlin." A group of people called "Volcano Group" claimed responsibility for cutting the power to Tesla's factory outside Berlin. The plant is Tesla's only one in Europe and had to close for a week while power was restored.

Notably, on April 1 Tesla increased the price of every Model Y in the US by $1,000, but we'll have to wait until July 23 to see if it impacted the company's Q2 financial results. Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that a lower-cost EV should arrive in the second half of 2025, but that its production might lower sales growth this year. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/teslas-year-over-year-deliveries-decreased-for-the-second-quarter-in-a-row-144057024.html?src=rss

Tesla’s year-over-year deliveries decreased for the second quarter in a row

Tesla has announced its second quarter figures, with the company producing 410,831 and delivering 443,956 EVs in Q2. Production decreased by a little over 20,000 units compared to quarter one, but deliveries increased by nearly 15 percent. However, its distribution numbers are 4.8 percent lower than the same period in 2023. Tesla notes it "deployed 9.4 GWh of energy storage products in Q2, the highest quarterly deployment yet."

The car manufacturer's first quarter of 2024 was the first time since 2020 that the company reported a year-over-year sales drop. The car manufacturer blamed the decrease partly on "the early phase of the production ramp of the updated Model 3 at our Fremont factory and factory shutdowns resulting from shipping diversions caused by the Red Sea conflict and an arson attack at Gigafactory Berlin." A group of people called "Volcano Group" claimed responsibility for cutting the power to Tesla's factory outside Berlin. The plant is Tesla's only one in Europe and had to close for a week while power was restored.

Notably, on April 1 Tesla increased the price of every Model Y in the US by $1,000, but we'll have to wait until July 23 to see if it impacted the company's Q2 financial results. Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that a lower-cost EV should arrive in the second half of 2025, but that its production might lower sales growth this year. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/teslas-year-over-year-deliveries-decreased-for-the-second-quarter-in-a-row-144057024.html?src=rss

The owner of Redbox has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, which acquired the movie rental service Redbox in 2022, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Deadline reports. The company recently disclosed net losses of $636.6 million for 2023 in a SEC filing, and Deadline reported just a few days ago that it had suspended medical benefits and missed payroll, leaving employees without their paychecks for a week already. In a message to employees on Saturday, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment said it had applied for a debtor-in-possession loan in an attempt to remedy the situation.

“Upon court approval, we expect payroll to be funded early in the week and funding for this upcoming week’s payroll to also be secured,” the message said, per Deadline. “We also expect to have the funds to reinstate medical benefits back to May 14, 2024 and going forward.” The $375 million deal to acquire Redbox brought with it a ton of debt, and according to The Verge, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment owes money to a slew of retailers, studios, and streaming platforms — including Walmart, Universal and Sony — as well as other creditors.

Its total debts come to about $970 million. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment also owns the streaming service Crackle and a few other film and TV brands, in addition to selling the long-running self-help books it’s best known for.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-owner-of-redbox-has-filed-for-chapter-11-bankruptcy-172124081.html?src=rss

US Treasury finalizes crypto rules to prevent tax evasion

While people who own and sell cryptocurrency have always had to pay taxes on their earnings, a new rule finalized by the US Treasury Department can ensure that they're paying the proper amount on their sales. The new rule will require cryptocurrency platforms like exchanges and payment processors to report their users' transactions to the Internal Revenue Service. According to The Wall Street Journal, authorities are hoping that the measure can deter tax evasion, seeing as the IRS would know exactly how much a taxpayer owes. 

At the same time, the rule will make it much easier for people for declare their earnings because their brokers will now have to provide them with a 1099 form. The IRS released a draft form of 1099-DA (Digital Asset Proceeds From Broker Transaction) made especially to track crypto transactions last year and will make the final version available soon. To note, the rule sets a threshold of $10,000 to report on transactions involving stablecoin, which are cryptocurrencies that track fiat money like the US dollar. 

"[I]nvestors in digital assets and the IRS will have better access to the documentation they need to easily file and review tax returns,” Aviva Aron-Dine, the Treasury’s acting assistant secretary for tax policy, said in a statement. “By implementing the law’s reporting requirements, these final regulations will help taxpayers more easily pay taxes owed under current law, while reducing tax evasion by wealthy investors.”

The new rule will only apply to platforms that take possession of digital assets, such as Coinbase or Binance. It doesn't cover decentralized ones, which will have to comply with a separate rule that's expected to be finalized later this year. Brokers will have to start reporting sales proceeds on digital assets in 2026 for all transactions accomplished in 2025, which means crypto traders are still on their own for 2024. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/us-treasury-finalizes-crypto-rules-to-prevent-tax-evasion-143051676.html?src=rss

China is plowing $11 billion into a solar, wind and coal energy project

A Chinese state-owned power company is splashing out 80 billion yuan ($11 billion) on an energy base that will generate electricity from solar, wind and coal sources. China Three Gorges Renewables Group, a subsidiary of the country’s largest hydropower company, plans to build a plant with a 16-gigawatt capacity and a five-gigawatt storage facility, Bloomberg reports.

This is part of China’s aim to build 455 gigawatts worth of renewable energy projects in the desert by 2030. This plant is being constructed in Inner Mongolia, which will get 135 gigawatts of the total planned output.

The China Three Gorges Corporation is looking to diversify its energy sources as building large hydro dams is becoming less feasible. According to Three Gorges, wind and solar generation from the plant will depend on grid accessibility. The coal plant is set to start operations in three years.

It’s somewhat disappointing that the new plant will have a coal power element, though it's not fully surprising given the way China has bristled at renewable energy commitments during climate summit talks with other countries. As Bloomberg notes, China has been struggling to put all of its clean energy into the power grid. It often relies on coal when renewable sources like solar and wind aren’t available.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/china-is-plowing-11-billion-into-a-solar-wind-and-coal-energy-project-120007712.html?src=rss

Volkswagen and Rivian agree to $5 billion partnership

Volkswagen and EV company Rivian have entered a new partnership, and the total price tag for the collaboration could reach an eye-popping $5 billion. The businesses are launching a joint venture to develop platforms for “software-defined vehicles.” According to the press release announcing the deal, the joint venture's work will focus on Rivian's zone-based approach to electric vehicles, which significantly reduces the complexity of the wiring and electronics. Both Rivian and Volkswagen are expected to debut vehicles using their combined forces as a result of the partnership; the release notes that each of the brands will continue operating their vehicle businesses separately.

The massive dollar figure for this collaboration is broken up into components. Volkswagen is making a baseline $1 billion investment in Rivian the EV company, followed by two more expected investments of the same amount in 2025 and 2026. The car brand also anticipates putting a total of $2 billion into the joint venture, some at the launch and some as a loan in 2026.

This work will see Volkswagen adopting Rivian's signature zonal architecture for its own future machines. Today's announcement follows hot on the heels of the brand integrating ChatGPT into many of its car models.

Rivian has seen some financial struggles this year, leading the company to abandon plans for a plant in Georgia and to cut 10 percent of its salaried staff. A deal of this size with a leading traditional automaker should help the company to stabilize as it works towards its next generation of electric vehicles.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/volkswagen-and-rivian-agree-to-5-billion-partnership-230421407.html?src=rss

Fisker is the latest EV startup to declare bankruptcy

Another EV manufacturer bites the dust with Fisker officially declaring bankruptcy. The US-based startup filed for Chapter 11 protections late Monday, June 17, with plans to restructure its debt and sell its assets. Unfortunately, this means the Alaska EV with a designated cowboy hat space will likely never come to fruition. 

"We are proud of our achievements, and we have put thousands of Fisker Ocean SUVs in customers' hands," a Fisker spokesperson stated. "But like other companies in the electric vehicle industry, we have faced various market and macroeconomic headwinds that have impacted our ability to operate efficiently."

The news is not exactly surprising, as Fisker had already halted investments in future models, like the Alaska EV. That decision came alongside concerning figures in Fisker's February release of its preliminary Q4 and 2023 earnings. Among them was its plan to lay off 15 percent of its employees — about 200 people — as it attempted a switch to a Dealer Partner model. The startup had claimed it was in talks with "a large automaker" for an influx of cash and production support.

Fisker also revealed in the report that it had produced 10,193 units of its sole EV available, the Ocean SUV, in 2023 but only delivered 4,929 vehicles. Plus, there was the fact that, despite Fisker's fourth-quarter revenue increasing to $200.1 million from the previous quarter's $128.3 million, the company still had a gross margin of negative 35 percent. 

The decision to file for Chapter 11 protections adds Fisker to the ranks of other EV startups, such as Volta Trucks and Lordstown Motors. The two companies filed for bankruptcy last year in Sweden and the United States, respectively. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/fisker-is-the-latest-ev-startup-to-declare-bankruptcy-123056157.html?src=rss

Apple Pay Later is dead, long live Affirm loans

Apple Pay Later is kaput. The company confirmed to TechCrunch on Monday that it’s killing the service only two years after first announcing it at WWDC 2022 — and only seven months after it became available to everyone in the US.

The company said at its developer conference last week that loans through third-party service Affirm are coming to Apple Pay later this year, so the two would have been redundant. “Users in the U.S. will also be able to apply for loans directly through Affirm when they check out with Apple Pay,” the company wrote in a newsroom post after its WWDC keynote.

According to TechCrunch, Pay Later is already disabled as an option when checking out with Apple Pay, and it won’t accept any new loans moving forward. However, those with current payment plans can still access those through the Wallet app.

“Starting later this year, users across the globe will be able to access installment loans offered through credit and debit cards, as well as lenders, when checking out with Apple Pay,” Apple wrote in a statement to TechCrunch. “With the introduction of this new global installment loan offering, we will no longer offer Apple Pay Later in the U.S.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-pay-later-is-dead-long-live-affirm-loans-202524989.html?src=rss