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Microsoft has withdrawn from OpenAI's board of directors a couple of weeks after the European Commission revealed that it's taking another look at the terms of their partnership,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

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

So long, Jabra earbuds, it’s not your fault

Jabra has been a mainstay in the true wireless earbuds category since 2018, but it won’t be any longer. Shortly after revealing two new products in its Elite lineup this week, parent company GN announced that it was shutting down its consumer earbud business to focus on other audio devices. The news was a shock given the timing and quickly put a damper on any excitement around the second-generation Elite 10 and Elite 8 Active.

“This announcement by GN is in an effort to concentrate resources and efforts on Jabra's enterprise products within audio, including enterprise-grade true wireless earbuds, as well as video and OTC hearing devices,” a Jabra spokesperson told Engadget. “While this puts a stop to the long-term development of the Elite and Talk product lines, it does not mean product names will cease to exist and the existing products will continue to be available. Customers will be able to buy them in the usual online and retail channels, as well as Jabra.com, and products will be supported throughout their lifetime, as normal.”

Jabra wasn’t the first company to make true wireless earbuds, but it was among the first to make a lasting impression. In 2018, it debuted the Elite 65t, the first set of its kind that I felt was truly compelling. Jabra’s version was smaller and therefore more comfortable than its rivals. They also offered better sound quality and more reliable connectivity than a lot of their existing competition.

With subsequent releases, the company revised its formula, assisted consistently by its parent company. GN’s decades of expertise in hearing aids provided helpful insights for Jabra’s true wireless products, especially when it came to ergonomic design. Jabra was among the first to drastically reduce the size of its buds, while some of the competition still struggles to balance size and fit even today.

A much-improved follow-up to last year’s great Elite 65t true wireless earbuds.
Jabra Elite 75t and Elite 65t.
Billy Steele for Engadget

Jabra seemed to carve out a niche for itself with earbuds that offered a full set of features at prices below its main rivals like Apple, Bose and Sony. And until around 2020, the company was successful in offering a compelling alternative to the big-name brands. At that time, many earbud companies were still trying to fine-tune their formulas to offer the most complete set of buds with the best performance. Jabra’s follow-up, the Elite 75t, was what I described as “the leap from good to great.” But even then, the 75t lacked active noise cancellation (ANC) despite a smaller, more comfortable design, improved sound and longer battery life.

Ultimately, Jabra could never quite match the likes of Bose and Sony on ANC performance and overall audio quality. Despite this, Jabra was positioned fourth in the earbud market at the end of 2023, according to Global Market Insights. This put it behind Apple, Samsung and Sony in terms of overall market share.

Jabra continued to expand its lineup with affordable alternatives that went as low as $80. Perhaps this extension contributed to its downfall: the company currently offers five different models as part of its lineup with significant overlap between some of them.

GN explained this week that its “re-focusing” towards more premium true wireless products in 2023 with the Elite 10 and Elite 8 Active had led to “a stronger profitability than before.” However, it saw the writing on the wall: the earbud market is becoming increasingly crowded and competitive. The company knows that the investment required to develop enough “future innovation” that would maintain its position wasn’t sustainable. So, even on the heels of its latest Elite product launch, Jabra is bowing out.

“We have demonstrated that we can compete in even the most challenging categories,” CEO of GN Store Nord Peter Karlstromer said in a statement. “The markets, though, have changed over time, and it is today our assessment that we cannot generate a fair return on investment compared to the many other opportunities we have within our hearing, enterprise, and gaming businesses.”

Jabra's second-gen Elite 10 earbuds come with a wireless transmitting charging case that will come in handy on flights.
Jabra Elite 10 (2nd gen)
Jabra

In what should be an exciting time for the company following the introduction of new models, Jabra is instead heading towards the end. The company has committed to supporting the products “for several years,” but I wouldn’t expect any new features. Instead, we’re likely to see subtle updates aimed at maintenance rather than significant improvements. It’s going to be a tough sell for your newly announced product when you’re already packing up shop.

Now, the company will focus on enterprise, over-the-counter hearing assistance and gaming devices. But that doesn’t mean Jabra will stop making earbuds entirely. The company still believes in true wireless earbuds, even though it has realized the consumer market isn’t a sustainable area for future investment. “True wireless innovation is still at the core of many of Jabra's products, so the company will remain in the earbuds market through other product lines,” a spokesperson explained.

But, it’s time for the company to move on. Several releases after the Elite 65t, Jabra still isn’t on par with Bose and Sony when it comes to noise-canceling abilities or overall sound quality. Not that it was ever far off, but it wasn’t nipping at their heels either. 

Jabra may have been one of the first to actually deliver a reliable set of true wireless earbuds, but it squandered that lead by failing to surpass the competition. It introduced conveniences like multipoint Bluetooth connectivity way ahead of its rivals, a feature that is now common among new products. Even its latest two models come with an LE Audio-transmitting case that will allow you to send sound from devices with a USB-C or 3.5mm jack. Not an industry first, but another area where the company is an early adopter.

At some point along the way though, Jabra’s earbuds went from great to good. Not because they actually declined in quality, but because they just no longer stand out from the competition.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/so-long-jabra-earbuds-it-wasnt-your-fault-190039565.html?src=rss

Jabra says it’s exiting the consumer headphones business just as it announces new earbuds

Jabra is exiting the consumer earbuds business. The move is shocking, as Jabra's parent company made the announcement at the same time it unveiled new models of its Elite earbuds. Peter Karlstromer, CEO of parent company GN, said the decision is “part of our commitment to focus on attractive markets where we can deliver profitable growth and strong returns.”

The company will discontinue the Jabra Elite (consumer earbuds) and Talk (mono Bluetooth) product lines. In late 2023, it pivoted the Elite line towards the premium segment in a move designed to compete with industry heavyweights Apple, Sony and Bose. However, the company lamented that its target markets “have changed over time.” Its current assessment is that “we cannot generate a fair return on investment compared to the many other opportunities we have within our Hearing, Enterprise, and Gaming businesses.”

Jabra will reduce the inventory of the to-be-discontinued products, and it expects to complete the wind-down by the end of the year. However, GN says it will service and support its devices “for several years.”

Although a bit farther under the radar than obvious competitors like AirPods, Jabra made some high-quality audio gear. Engadget’s audio expert Billy Steele called the 2021 Jabra Elite 3 “the new standard for affordable wireless earbuds,” as the company struck an alluring balance between quality and value.

Now, who’s pumped for the new Jabra Elite 10 and Elite 8 Active earbuds coming later this month?

Update, June 12 2024, 1:15PM ET: This story and headline have been updated to note that Jabra's parent company made the announcement it was exiting the headphone business the same day it released new earbuds, not the day after.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/jabra-says-its-exiting-the-consumer-headphones-business-a-day-after-launching-new-earbuds-164518215.html?src=rss

General Motors revives its robotaxi service Cruise in Houston, with human drivers

Cruise, General Motors’ beleaguered driverless taxi service, announced Tuesday that it will start testing again around Houston. Cruise announced that they would start with human taxi drivers behind the wheels of its cars before moving to “supervised autonomous driving with a safety driver behind the wheel in the coming weeks.”

The announcement from Cruise landed around the same time that General Motors’ chief financial officer Paul Jacobson announced at Deutsche Bank’s Global Auto Industry Conference in New York City that the carmaker would inject another $850 million into the robotaxi company to cover operational costs.

Cruise has been nothing but a huge money pit for GM. Last year, the company plugged the plug on its driverless taxis when one of its cars in its San Francisco fleet hit a pedestrian who was hurled into the driverless taxi’s path by another vehicle and dragged them approximately 20 feet after getting pinned under its tire. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspended the company’s permits less than a month later. Cruise laid off nearly a quarter of its workforce and dismissed nine of its executives including the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Kyle Vogy following an investigation into the accident.

Since then, Cruise has slowly but surely started showing new signs of life. In April, the company announced it would start redeploying its services in Phoenix. Just as in Houston, Cruise’s cars will still be monitored and operated by humans. The autonomous taxi company also plans to expand its services to other cities by engaging “with officials and community leaders,” according to the company’s blog,but gave no timeline on when an extension might happen.

Update June 11, 5:45PM ET: This article was updated after publishing to clarify that Cruise's return to Houston is currently limited to testing, rather than picking up fares.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/general-motors-revives-its-robotaxi-service-cruise-in-houston-with-human-drivers-205002639.html?src=rss

OpenAI’s board allegedly learned about ChatGPT launch on Twitter

Helen Toner, one of OpenAI’s former board members who was responsible for firing CEO Sam Altman last year, revealed that the company’s board didn’t know about the launch of ChatGPT until it was released in November 2022. “[The] board was not informed in advance of that,” Toner said on Tuesday on a podcast called The Ted AI Show. “We learned about ChatGPT on Twitter.”

Toner’s comments came just two days after she criticized the way OpenAI was governed in an Economist piece that she co-wrote with Tasha McCauley, another former OpenAI board member. This is the first time that Toner has spoken openly about the circumstances that led to Altman’s dramatic ouster from the company he co-founded in 2015, and his quick reinstatement following protests from employees.

In the podcast, Toner, who is current a director of strategy at the Centre for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown, said that Altman had made it hard for OpenAI’s board to do its job by withholding information, misrepresenting things, and, “in some cases outright lying to the board.” She added that Altman also hid the company’s ownership structure from the board. “Sam didn’t inform the board that he owned the OpenAI startup fund, even though he constantly was claiming to be an independent board member with no financial interest in the company,” Toner said. Altman’s actions “really damaged our ability to trust him,” she said, and by October 2023, the board was “already talking pretty seriously about whether we needed to fire him.”

She criticized Altman’s leadership on safety concerns around AI, saying that he often gave the board inaccurate information on the company’s safety processes, “meaning that it was basically impossible for the board to know how well those safety processes were working or what might need to change.”

When asked for comment, an OpenAI spokesperson referred Engadget to the statement the company provided to The TED AI Show. “We are disappointed that Ms. Toner continues to revisit these issues,” Bret Taylor, OpenAI’s current board chief and co-CEO of Salesforce told the podcast. An independent review of Altman’s firing, he added, “concluded that the prior board’s decision was not based on concerns regarding product safety or security, the pace of development, OpenAI’s finances, or its statements to investors, customers, or business partners.”

The exact reasons for Altman’s abrupt ouster last year were still unclear and have been a source of intense speculation in Silicon Valley. In March, Altman was reinstated to the board by a group of temporary board members which included Taylor, economist Larry Summers, OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, Instacart CEO and former Meta executive Fiji Simo, former Sony executive Nicole Seligman, and former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann. In an independent investigation, law firm WilmerHale found that Toner’s decision to fire Altman along with the rest of OpenAI’s previous Board “was a consequence of a breakdown in the relationship and loss of trust between the prior Board and Mr. Altman.” WilmerHale also found that OpenAI’s previous board had fired Altman “abruptly” and without giving him a chance to respond to its concerns.

Toner’s revelations are the latest controversy that OpenAI, company that sparked off the modern AI revolution, has been involved in. Over the last few days, multiple safety researchers left the company, publicly criticizing its leadership on their way out. OpenAI also backtracked on non-disparagement agreements it had required departing employees to sign after a Vox investigation, and forced to explain itself after actor Scarlet Johansson accused the company of copying her voice for ChatGPT despite denying permission.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/openais-board-allegedly-learned-about-chatgpt-launch-on-twitter-235643014.html?src=rss

OpenAI’s board allegedly learned about ChatGPT launch on Twitter

Helen Toner, one of OpenAI’s former board members who was responsible for firing CEO Sam Altman last year, revealed that the company’s board didn’t know about the launch of ChatGPT until it was released in November 2022. “[The] board was not informed in advance of that,” Toner said on Tuesday on a podcast called The Ted AI Show. “We learned about ChatGPT on Twitter.”

Toner’s comments came just two days after she criticized the way OpenAI was governed in an Economist piece that she co-wrote with Tasha McCauley, another former OpenAI board member. This is the first time that Toner has spoken openly about the circumstances that led to Altman’s dramatic ouster from the company he co-founded in 2015, and his quick reinstatement following protests from employees.

In the podcast, Toner, who is current a director of strategy at the Centre for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown, said that Altman had made it hard for OpenAI’s board to do its job by withholding information, misrepresenting things, and, “in some cases outright lying to the board.” She added that Altman also hid the company’s ownership structure from the board. “Sam didn’t inform the board that he owned the OpenAI startup fund, even though he constantly was claiming to be an independent board member with no financial interest in the company,” Toner said. Altman’s actions “really damaged our ability to trust him,” she said, and by October 2023, the board was “already talking pretty seriously about whether we needed to fire him.”

She criticized Altman’s leadership on safety concerns around AI, saying that he often gave the board inaccurate information on the company’s safety processes, “meaning that it was basically impossible for the board to know how well those safety processes were working or what might need to change.”

When asked for comment, an OpenAI spokesperson referred Engadget to the statement the company provided to The TED AI Show. “We are disappointed that Ms. Toner continues to revisit these issues,” Bret Taylor, OpenAI’s current board chief and co-CEO of Salesforce told the podcast. An independent review of Altman’s firing, he added, “concluded that the prior board’s decision was not based on concerns regarding product safety or security, the pace of development, OpenAI’s finances, or its statements to investors, customers, or business partners.”

The exact reasons for Altman’s abrupt ouster last year were still unclear and have been a source of intense speculation in Silicon Valley. In March, Altman was reinstated to the board by a group of temporary board members which included Taylor, economist Larry Summers, OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, Instacart CEO and former Meta executive Fiji Simo, former Sony executive Nicole Seligman, and former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann. In an independent investigation, law firm WilmerHale found that Toner’s decision to fire Altman along with the rest of OpenAI’s previous Board “was a consequence of a breakdown in the relationship and loss of trust between the prior Board and Mr. Altman.” WilmerHale also found that OpenAI’s previous board had fired Altman “abruptly” and without giving him a chance to respond to its concerns.

Toner’s revelations are the latest controversy that OpenAI, company that sparked off the modern AI revolution, has been involved in. Over the last few days, multiple safety researchers left the company, publicly criticizing its leadership on their way out. OpenAI also backtracked on non-disparagement agreements it had required departing employees to sign after a Vox investigation, and forced to explain itself after actor Scarlet Johansson accused the company of copying her voice for ChatGPT despite denying permission.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/openais-board-allegedly-learned-about-chatgpt-launch-on-twitter-235643014.html?src=rss