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Businesses

Submission + - Apple's Secret Weapon to Influence Industry Pricin

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Nick Wingfield writes in the NY Times that Apple’s present pricing strategy is a big change from the 1990s, when consumers regarded Apple as a producer of overpriced tech baubles, unable to compete effectively with its Macintosh family of computers against the far cheaper Windows PCs. Now within the premium product categories where Apple is most at home, comparable devices often do no better than match or slightly undercut Apple’s prices. “They’re not cheap, but I don’t think they’re viewed as high-priced anymore,” says Stewart Alsop. Winfield writes that Apple uses its growing manufacturing scale and logistics prowess to deliver Apple products at far more aggressive prices, which in turn gives it more power to influence pricing industrywide, and one of Apple's pricing secrets has been it's willingness to tap into its huge war chest — $82 billion in cash and marketable securities last quarter — to take big gambles by locking up supplies of parts for years. One example is when Apple struck a five-year, $1.25 billion deal in 2005 with manufacturers to secure flash memory chips for its iPods and other devices. By buying up manufacturing capacity ahead of time, Apple forces its competitors to scramble for the parts that are still available, raising costs for their products. “We’ve historically entered into certain agreements with different people to secure supply and other benefits,” says Apple CEO Tim Cook. "We think that was an absolutely fantastic use of Apple’s cash. ""
Patents

Submission + - IBM patents GPU databases (insidehpc.com)

An anonymous reader writes: According to the patent applications, using GPU acceleration for databases "may be written in any combination of one or more programming languages, including an object oriented programming language such as Java, Smalltalk, C++ or the like and conventional procedural programming languages, such as the "C" programming language or similar programming languages." To cover all of its bases, IBM also states that the "program code may execute entirely on the user's computer, partly on the user's computer, as a stand-alone software package, partly on the user's computer and partly on a remote computer or entirely on the remote computer or server."
Science

Submission + - When geeks meet - do they have autistic kids? (nature.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen thinks scientists and engineers could be more likely to have a child with autism, an idea that is fairly common currency in silicon valley. But many reseachers say the proof isn't there yet.
Government

Submission + - EU-US Cyber Excercise Tests SCADA And APT threatss (eweekeurope.co.uk)

judgecorp writes: "The first ever joint EU-US cyber security exercise takes place today. Cyber Atlantic 2011 has chosen to test Europe's readiness against SCADA attacks to infrastructure such as the power grid, and advanced persisten threat (APG) attacks designed to extract secret information. Following almost exactly a year after the Cyber Europe drill in 2010, it looks as if these exercises will be a regular feature."
China

Submission + - China completes first space docking test (bbc.co.uk)

MrSeb writes: "China has joined two space vehicles together in orbit for the first time.

The unmanned Shenzhou 8 craft, launched earlier this week, made contact with the Tiangong-1 space lab at 1729 GMT. The union occurred over China itself.

Being able to dock two space vehicles together is a necessary capability for China if it wants to start building a space station towards the end of the decade."

Technology

Submission + - Inside Bill Gates' Brain (forbes.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A look at how Bill Gates thinks about philanthropy — and why he's once again betting on a cheap technology — this time, it's vaccines — to save millions of lives and end overpopulation at the same time. The cover of the new issue of Forbes.
Japan

Submission + - Spontaneous fission in Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 (japantimes.co.jp)

Kyusaku Natsume writes: Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday that some of the melted fuel in reactor 2 at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant may have triggered a brief criticality event. Tsuyoshi Misawa, a reactor physics and engineering professor at Kyoto University's Research Reactor Institute, said that if Tepco's data are correct, "it's clear that the detection (of xenon-133 and -135) comes from nuclear fission."

Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said the test results suggest that either small-scale fission occurred in the melted fuel, or conditions to trigger criticality were temporarily met for some other reason. He said the same thing could also happen at reactors 1 and 3.

But because the reactor's temperature and pressure level have not changed, the fission would not have been large-scale, Matsumoto said, adding it would not thwart Tepco's schedule for achieving a cold shutdown at the reactors.

In response, boric acid water was injected again in November 2. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency evaluated that the TEPCO's analysis result of the short-half-life radionuclide such as Xe-133 and Xe-135 detection was valid. On the plus side, the concentration of radioactive materials in air is low enough that in some areas inside Fukushima Daiichi for the first time since the accident workers will not use full face masks, starting next week.

Android

Submission + - Siri Gives Apple Two Year Advantage Over Android

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Gary Morgenthaler, a recognized expert in artificial intelligence and a Siri board member, says that Apple now has at least a two-year advantage over Google in the war for best smartphone platform. “What Siri has done is changed people’s expectations about what’s possible,” says Morgenthaler. “Apple has crossed a threshold; people now expect that you should be able to expect to speak ordinary English — and be understood. Siri has cracked the code.” The threshold, from mere speech recognition to natural language input and understanding, is one that Google cannot cross by replicating the technology or making an acquisition adds Morgenthaler. "There’s no company out there they can go buy." Morgenthaler's comments echo the recent article in Forbes Magazine, "Why Siri Is a Google Killer" that says that Apple's biggest advantage over any other voice application out there today is the massive data Siri will collect in the next 2 years — all being stored in Apple’s massive North Carolina data center — that will allow Siri to get better and better. "Siri is a new interface for customers wanting to get information," writes Eric Jackson. "At the moment, most of us still rely on Google for getting at the info we want. But Siri has a foot in the door and it’s trusting that it will win your confidence over time to do basic info gathering.""

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