Huawei Technologies on Monday showcased a series of new products from a gold smartwatch to a smart car but disappointed viewers by not revealing more details about its new Mate 60 smartphone series, prompting an outpouring of complaints online.
The event, held in a stadium and watched by millions online, was expected to see Huawei break its silence on the smartphone, which has been hailed by Chinese state media as a sign the firm had overcome US sanctions that since 2019 has cut its access to advanced chipmaking tools and crippled its smartphone unit.
The smartphone was launched without any fanfare last month during US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s visit to China. Some users and analysts who bought the Mate 60 Pro say it uses a Chinese-made chip and is capable of 5G speeds.
Huawei has so far not commented on the full capabilities of the Mate 60 series, which is seen as its first major effort since the sanctions to challenge Apple’s dominance in the smartphone market.
Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, however, did nod to the smartphone in his opening remarks when he gave a “special thanks to the whole nation for their tremendous support, especially since the (Mate 60 Pro) Pioneer Program was launched”.
As Yu spoke, members of the audience chanted “far, far ahead” – a phrase that has gone viral on Chinese social media since the Mate 60 Pro’s launch as a take on Huawei’s competitiveness.
“Our products have been well-received and trusted by everyone after hitting the market. We are working overtime urgently to manufacture more so that more people can buy our products,” Yu said.
‘WHY DIDN’T THEY TALK ABOUT IT’
But as the two hour-long event progressed, commentators on the livestream began asking when Yu would talk about Mate 60 as he presented a series of new products ranging from a tablet product to a ultra, high-end brand called ‘Ultimate Design’.
By Monday afternoon, after the event ended, the topic “Huawei’s press conference did not mention smartphones” began trending on the Weibo social media platform and was among the top ten most read hashtags with more than 8 million views.
“Why didn’t they talk about it? Everyone watched it because of the smartphone,” one Weibo user Maniler said.
The event ended with a group of people on stage waving Mate 60 smartphones with flashlights switched on, as they sang “Glorious Years”, a Cantopop hit by Hong Kong rock band Beyond whose lyrics speak to the struggles Nelson Mandela faced in South Africa.
Another Weibo user said such an ending, combined with the lack of discussion of the smartphone, left him baffled.
“What kind of move is this?” he said.
Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its decision to not discuss the Mate 60 Pro during the event and on the social media reaction.
Bryan Ma, a technology analyst at consultancy IDC, said he was not surprised that Huawei avoided the topic “given what a lighting rod” it was.
“After all, Huawei had a lot of other products to cram into a long two-hour launch, whereas the Mate60 has already been on store shelves and in user hands for a few weeks now,” he said.
Huawei updated its official website after the event to add prices for its Mate 60 Pro+, which will start from 8,999 yuan ($1,230), and the Mate 60 RS Ultimate Design version, which is priced from 12,999 yuan. Apple’s new iPhone 15 Pro is priced from 7,999 yuan in China.
ANNIVERSARY OF MENG’S RETURN
The timing of event was also seen as symbolic, as it took place on the two-year anniversary of Huawei rotating Chairwoman Meng Wanzhou’s return to China.
She returned in 2021 after a nearly three-year detention over alleged attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran in breach of U.S. sanctions.
The extradition drama became a source of discord between Beijing and Washington. Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was allowed to return home after reaching an agreement with US prosecutors.
Broadcast live across Huawei stores, 156 local media and Chinese social media platforms, Monday’s product launch event garnered a big audience, with dozens of shoppers at Huawei’s flagship store in Beijing breaking into applause after watching Yu step on to the stage.
One shopper in the Beijing store, 29-year-old engineer Zhang Nianrong, said he saw the Mate 60 Pro as “carrying significance far beyond its value” and planned to buy it.
“The smartphone represents a very important meaning. It means that even the most malicious sanctions can’t impact the development of human technology. It is very meaningful and it inspires us as a younger generation.”
Elon Musk curses out advertisers who left X over antisemitism
Billionaire Elon Musk told advertisers that have fled his social media platform X over antisemitic content to “Go fuck yourself” in a fiery Wednesday interview.
His profanity-laced remarks followed a moment of contrition in a New York Times DealBook Summit interview. Musk said repeatedly he was sorry for publishing a tweet on Nov. 15 that agreed with an anti-Jewish post.
Musk has faced a torrent of criticism ever since he agreed with a user who falsely claimed Jewish people were stoking hatred against white people. Musk in his post said the user, who referenced the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, was speaking “the actual truth.”
On Wednesday Musk said he had “handed a loaded gun” to both detractors and antisemitic people, describing his post as possibly the worst he had made during a history of messages that included many “foolish” ones.
The Tesla CEO bristled at the idea that he was antisemitic and said that advertisers who left X, formerly known as Twitter, should not think they could blackmail him.
“If somebody’s gonna try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money? Go fuck yourself,” he said.
“Go. Fuck. Yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is. Hey, Bob, if you’re in the audience,” he added, in an apparent reference to Robert Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney (DIS.N), which pulled ads on X. Iger spoke earlier at the event and said that Disney felt the association with X following Musk’s move “was not a positive one for us”. A spokesperson from Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“What I care about is the reality of goodness, not the perception of it. And what I see all over the place is people who care about looking good while doing evil. Fuck them,” Musk said.
Musk’s expletives against advertisers is the “closing chapter” for brands doing business with X, said Lou Paskalis, founder of marketing consultancy AJL Advisory and the former head of global media at Bank of America. “They’re not going to forget that,” he said.
Customers who did not like him should consider the products his company make based on their quality, Musk said, pointing to electric cars from Tesla and SpaceX rockets. “I will certainly not pander,” he said.
Musk added that he himself arguably had done more for the environment, at Tesla, than anyone in the world, based on Tesla’s massive sales of electric vehicles.
“It would be fair to say, therefore, as a leader of the company, I’ve done more for the environment than everyone — any single human on Earth.”
Musk’s comments came on the same day that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that the rise in antisemitism since the start of the Israel-Hamas war has reached a crisis point, saying it threatens the safety of Jews worldwide and the future of Israel. “To us, the Jewish people, the rise in antisemitism is a crisis. A five-alarm fire that must be extinguished,” Schumer said in an emotional, 40-minute Senate speech.
Musk’s post drew condemnation from the White House for what it called an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.”
The “Great Replacement” theory falsely claims that Jewish people and leftists are engineering the ethnic and cultural replacement of white populations with non-white immigrants that will lead to a “white genocide.”
Following the post, major US companies including Walt Disney (DIS.N), Warner Bros Discovery and NBCUniversal parent Comcast (CMCSA.O)suspended their ads on X. A report from liberal watchdog group Media Matters precipitated the advertiser exit, which said it found ads next to posts that supported Nazism. The platform filed a lawsuit last week against Media Matters for defamation.
Musk’s comments have put pressure on X overall, including Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino. An executive told Reuters that she would remain at the company.
Musk himself appeared resolved that X could fail financially and blamed advertisers.
“If the company fails because of advertiser boycott, it will fail because of an advertiser boycott. And that will be what bankrupt the company and that’s what everybody on earth will know,” he said. “Let the chips fall where they may.”
In the wake of the condemnation around his post, Musk traveled to Israel and toured the site of Hamas’ assault in the country on Oct. 7. On Monday, he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a live-streamed conversation on X.
Musk on Wednesday said the trip had been planned before his message and was “independent” of the issue.
Musk in Israel said he is against antisemitism and anything that “promotes hate and conflict” and stated that X would not promote hate speech. While there, he received a symbolic dog-tag from the father of an Israeli hostage taken captive by Hamas, which he promised to wear until all the hostages were free. He wore the dog-tag on stage on Wednesday.
“The fact that you came here speaks volumes of your commitment to try to secure a better future,” Netanyahu told Musk during the conversation in Israel.
Musk’s wide-ranging interview on Wednesday included discussions from freedom of speech to the environment to US presidential politics. Musk said he thought he would not vote to re-elect President Joe Biden but did not say he would vote for his likely challenger, Donald Trump.
Microsoft to take non-voting, observer position
Microsoft will take a non-voting, observer position on OpenAI’s board, CEO Sam Altman said in his first official missive after taking back the reins of the company on Wednesday.
The observer position means Microsoft’s representative can attend OpenAI’s board meetings and access confidential information, but it does not have voting rights on matters including electing or choosing directors.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who had recruited Altman to Microsoft after his ouster from OpenAI, had said earlier that governance at the ChatGPT maker needs to change.
OpenAI said last week announced a new initial board that consists of former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor as chair and Larry Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary. Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, who was part of the board who fired Altman, also stayed on for the new one.
The new OpenAI board is on an active search for six new members with expertise in fields from technology to safety and policy. OpenAI investors are unlikely to get a seat on the non-profit board, sources told Reuters.
Microsoft has committed to invest over $10 billion into OpenAI and owns 49% of the company. It did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mira Murati, who had been OpenAI’s chief technology officer and was briefly named interim CEO after Altman’s ouster, is once again the company’s CTO.
Altman’s exit sparked confusion about the future of the startup at the center of an artificial intelligence boom.
His co-founder Greg Brockman, who had followed Altman out of the company, would return as president, Altman said on Wednesday.
“Greg and I are partners in running this company. We have never quite figured out how to communicate that on the org chart, but we will,” Altman said.
OpenAI’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever will no longer be part of the board, Altman said.
Sutskever had joined in the effort to fire Altman but later signed an employee letter demanding his return, expressing regret for his “participation in the board’s actions.”
“I love and respect Ilya, I think he’s a guiding light of the field and a gem of a human being. I harbor zero ill will towards him,” Altman said, adding the company was discussing how Sutskever could continue his work at OpenAI.
Apart from Altman, Brockman, Sutskever, D’Angelo, OpenAI’s previous board consisted of entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
Google DeepMind AI reveals potential for new materials
Google DeepMind has used artificial intelligence (AI) to predict the structure of more than 2 million new materials, a breakthrough it said could soon be used to improve real-world technologies.
In a research paper published in science journal Nature on Wednesday, the Alphabet-owned AI firm said almost 400,000 of its hypothetical material designs could soon be produced in lab conditions.
Potential applications for the research include the production of better-performing batteries, solar panels and computer chips.
The discovery and synthesis of new materials can be a costly and time-consuming process. For example, it took around two decades of research before lithium-ion batteries – today used to power everything from phones and laptops to electric vehicles – were made commercially available.
“We’re hoping that big improvements in experimentation, autonomous synthesis, and machine learning models will significantly shorten that 10 to 20-year timeline to something that’s much more manageable,” said Ekin Dogus Cubuk, a research scientist at DeepMind.
DeepMind’s AI was trained on data from the Materials Project, an international research group founded at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2011, made up of existing research of around 50,000 already-known materials.
The company said it would now share its data with the research community, in the hopes of accelerating further breakthroughs in material discovery.
“Industry tends to be a little risk-averse when it comes to cost increases, and new materials typically take a bit of time before they become cost-effective,” said Kristin Persson, director of the Materials Project.
“If we can shrink that even a bit more, it would be considered a real breakthrough.”
Having used AI to predict the stability of these new materials, DeepMind said it would now turn its focus to predicting how easily they can be synthesised in the lab.
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