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Death of the Car Salesman? BMW Makes AI App To Sell Electric Cars 168

cartechboy writes "You thought Willy Loman had it bad. BMW is launching an artificial intelligence app allowing consumers to ask questions about its new BMW i3 electric car without the hassle of having to pick up the phone or go into a dealership. Potential customers can text a simple question about the i3 and the system builds an appropriate response in real-time using AI — interpreting words, sentiment, and context. The futuristic robo-car salesman was developed by 19-year-old entrepreneur Dmitry Aksenov and operates around the clock. No word on whether the app says, 'Wait here — I'll check with my sales manager,' like human car dealers often do."

Hostess To Close; No More Twinkies 674

RenderSeven writes "In a press release issued today, baker Hostess Brands asked a bankruptcy court for permission to close all of its plants and sell off their assets, immediately laying off 18,500 workers. Citing high labor and rising health care costs, increasing competition and growing consumer awareness of healthy foods, Hostess says it can no longer operate without union concessions. A crippling strike has already shut down operations at all facilities, and while the Teamsters Union has ratified a new contract to keep Hostess in business, the Bakers Union has refused saying they would rather see the company closed than accept pension cuts. The Teamsters union is urging the bakers union to hold a secret ballot on whether to continue striking; citing its financial experts who had access to the company's books, the Teamsters say that Hostess' warning of liquidation is 'not an empty threat or a negotiating tactic' but a certain outcome if workers keep striking. If your late-night programming is fueled by Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Zingers, better stock up now." [Editor's note: A whole bunch of users submitted this news. I worry about our readership's cholesterol levels.]
Social Networks

Facebook Shares Retreat Below IPO Price 471

First time accepted submitter gtirloni writes "Just days after wrapping up the biggest initial public offering in Silicon Valley history, shares of Facebook slumped 6% and tumbled below their issue price on Monday, a troubling signal for the newly-public social network. Facebook broke below its $38-a-share issue IPO price in the wake of a highly-anticipated offering that raised more than $16 billion, the second-largest domestic IPO after Visa's 2008 debut. Shares of Facebook were recently off 6.44% to $35.72."

Facebook IPO Stumbles Out of the Gate 423

Facebook's much-hyped IPO kicked off today, but an anonymous reader points out that things didn't go quite as smoothly as investors hoped. "Public trading didn't get underway until about 11:30 a.m. ET, half an hour after it was supposed to. The delay was likely caused by the huge amount of interest in the stock – especially by retail investors. In the first few minutes of trading, Facebook shares were only up between 5 and 10 per cent and by noon were essentially back down to the IPO price of $38. Many observers had expected the stock to double in price by the end of the day, if not sooner." The NY Times has a data visualization showing how Facebook's IPO compares to other tech IPOs throughout the years, and how the first day of trading treated all of those companies. Meanwhile, the debate is lively over whether the social networking giant will be a good investment. "The banks helping take Facebook public want us to value this 8-year-old upstart at as much as $104 billion, more than Disney or Kraft Foods, though those companies earn three and four times more. That top valuation is also more than 100 times Facebook's earnings last year, versus 13 times for the average company. At such a high price, it will take years for this so-called earnings multiple to fall to a more reasonable level, and that's assuming the company can maintain its torrid earnings growth."

Google Pulls Support For CDMA Devices 272

An anonymous reader writes "Google has just made some interesting changes to their developer pages. As of today, all of the documentation, source code, and firmware images pertaining to CDMA Android devices (including the Verizon Galaxy Nexus) have been removed. A statement from Google explains that the proprietary software required to make these devices fully functional got in the way of Android's open source nature, so CDMA devices are no longer supported as developer hardware. What does this mean for the Galaxy Nexus, which is only available as CDMA in the U.S.?"

Nokia Killing Symbian and S40 In North America 148

In an interview with AllthingsD, the head of Nokia's US operations declared that Nokia will be focusing exclusively on Windows Phone devices in North America. Reasons cited include the low profit margins of the ubiquitous low-end Series 40 devices and lackluster sales of Symbian based devices. This also means that the N9 won't be making it to North America either.

Apple Removes MySQL From Lion Server 303

sfcrazy also noticed that Apple has officially removed MySQL from Lion Server, opting instead to include PostgreSQL, albeit in command line only form. The article speculates that the change is because MySQL is now Oracle property, and Apple is concerned about IP issues following all the legal issues surrounding Java.
The Media

Replacing Sports Bloggers With an Algorithm 120

tesmar tips a report up at TechCrunch that begins "Here come the robo sports journalists. While people in the media biz worry about content mills like Demand Media and Associated Content spitting out endless SEO-targeted articles written by low-paid Internet writers, at least those articles are still written by humans. We may no longer need the humans, at least for data-driven stories. A startup in North Carolina, StatSheet, today is launching a remarkable network of 345 sports sites, one dedicated to each Division 1 college basketball team in the US. For instance, there is a site for the Michigan State Spartans, North Carolina Tar Heels, and Ohio Buckeyes. Every story on each site was written by a robot, or to put it more precisely, by StatSheet's content algorithms. 'The posts are completely auto-generated,' says founder Robbie Allen. 'The only human involvement is with creating the algorithms that generate the posts.'"

The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made. -- Jean Giraudoux