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March 2017

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Apple has been secretly working on an electric car project called Project Titan

It is one of the worst kept secrets that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been working on a self-driving electric car, as numerous rumors and reports regarding the tech giant’s Project Titan have surfaced online. The latest report has suggested that Apple might just have given its project Titan a massive boost as the tech giant has recruited renown hardware expert Bob Mansfield to lead its secret project.

The move provides plenty of reasons to believe that Apple is pressing the pedal on the medal and accelerating the development of its Project Titan. Here is The Country Caller’s take on Apple’s Project Titan kicking into full gear.

Bob Mansfield has previously been associated with Apple as both an executive and a highly regarded engineer, as he helped develop revolutionary hardware projects like the Retina Display for the iPhone 4. Previously, it was believed that Bob Mansfield had stepped away from the tech industry to enjoy his well-earned retirement. However, the Journal has recently reported that every senior engineer and manager related to Apple’s Project Titan has been directly reporting to Bob Mansfield. This latest development suggests that Apple intends to take its Project Titan past the finish line very soon.

In Bob Mansfield, Apple has acquired a leader who strives on delivering challenging and complex products to the market. Even though Apple has yet to confirm that it has been working on an electric car, it has been proven that the tech giant is recruiting hundreds of engineers and workers to perfect its Project Titan. Furthermore, reports suggest that Apple has recently been recruiting veteran engineers from the automobile industry in an effort to speed up the completion of its Project Titan.

It is important to understand that developing a self-driving electric car is no easy task. We need to look at the years of hard work and dedication that was required to make Tesla a possibility. Apple is ensuring that it gives itself the best possible platform of developing a near perfect electric car to cement a strong foothold in the automobile industry.

Boeing Co (BA) stock has mostly shown increasing pattern amid reduction in headcount

Deutsche bank recently published a research note covering Boeing Co (NYSE:BA) stock, in which it reaffirmed its buy rating with a price target of $160 for company’s stock. The research analyst drew attention of investors towards the patteof Boeing stock in relation to variation in company’s headcount. The analyst highlighted that Boeing stock has mostly outperformed the market when the headcount at Boeing has reduced except for in the year 2001 when it underperformed the market despite of headcount reduction amid the year.

After the McDonnell Douglas merger 18 years ago, Boeing has been increasing its headcount in half of that time, out of which the company’s stock underperformed the market in five years and outperformed in the rest. However, in rest of the nine years when Boeing reduced the headcount, company’s stock outperformed S&P 500 index in eight years.

In the current year, Boeing management intends to cut down headcount by 4,000 employees until June, out of which 1,500 heads are already reduced. In the view of the research analyst, the reduction in headcount will continue in later half of the year as well due to decline in production of 747 and 777. Moreover, there is pressure on the company to reduce its cost due to lower pricing. The research analyst believes that this year is again going to be an exception when BA stock underperforms the market despite the decline in headcount.

Will US shale reserves become costly in the future affecting energy companies?

Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) is one of the energy giants tapping into the US shale reserves and will be greatly affected if the operating costs rises for these projects. The collapse of the oil prices had led US shale producers to reduce costs. The industry has used different approaches to achieve the task of lower breakeven costs. These producers have improved the techniques and technologies for extracting the reserves, started focusing on drilling of sweet spots and demanded lower prices from the oilfield services providers.

The post Carbon institute has highlighted that tapping into the sweet spots has been prioritized and the efficiency gains are less impressive once a detailed analysis is performed. The report also highlighted various facts regarding these shale reserves.

“Longer horizontal laterals with higher volume treatments drain more area and reduce the ultimate number of wells that can be drilled without interference.”  In other words the oil which would have been taken out from a high number of wells is currently being extracted from a lesser number of areas through this technique. This ultimately results in a mirage that the oil supply has increased from using better technologies.

The oil in the reserves is finite and by implying these methods, the reserves are getting extracted at a much faster rate, reducing the extraction period. In the long run, the supply from these reserves will reduce and a higher cost will be required to get additional output from these areas.

Exxon along with other companies tapping these reserves will be able to benefit in the short run if the oil prices continue to lie on the higher side. However, in the future, shale reserves are expected to become costly and have a massive impact on these companies.

On Friday, the XOM stock closed in at $89, rising 0.77% for the day. In related news, Saudi Arab has announced to further reduce its production levels, indicating that oil prices will mark another climb soon. If that is the case, we can expect Exxon’s shares to follow the rising trend in the upcoming session.

Microsoft aims to reach the pinnacle of the world of VR with Cortana and lead the market

Based on Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas, year 2017 could be the year where tech giants go all out with their VR-powered devices. Although there is immense competition in the world of virtual reality but Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has strongly indicated how it intends to reach the pinnacle of success in the midst of such a cutthroat competition.

In order to achieve such a feat, the Redmond-based tech giant will heavily rely on its Windows 10 powered personal assistant, also known as Cortana. Interestingly, Microsoft has already rolled a new set of tools for leading developers, allowing them to incorporate Cortana into their upcoming applications and hardware devices. This resulted in Harman Kardon recently announcing a new smart speaker system, which will be powered by Microsoft’s flagship virtual reality assistant.

Likewise, Nissan announced during CES 2017 that Cortana would power its future-generation car projects. Hence, it is evident that Microsoft’s revolution in the world of virtual reality has already been initiated. General Manager Ryan Gavin stated that the company is relying on its entire eco-system in order to achieve its personal goals set in the virtual reality industry. Mr. Ryan Gavin strongly believes that the incorporation of Cortana in the company’s other offerings, such as Microsoft Office, Azure Cloud, and also the recent multi-billion-dollar purchase of LinkedIn, could be backed by the capabilities of Cortana.

Although this might just be the start but the Redmond-based company has already hinted big plans for Cortana, which means that the likes of Amazon, Google, and Apple should start watching their backs. Stay tuned for more updates regarding Microsoft’s efforts to reach the pinnacle in the world of virtual reality.

The new Apple iPhone SE could result in losses for the company

There have been a lot of rumors about Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) revealing the iPhone SE at its event today. The phone is designed to replace the iPhone 5S, and will come equipped with the same hardware as the iPhone 6S. However, it will have a 4-inch screen instead of a larger one.

That being said, the iPhone SE could quite possibly put the company at risk. Taking all rumors into account, the phone does not have a lot to offer. Moreover, if it is in fact released, it will be at a time when the company and its flagship phones are being criticized for their performance.

For starters, it is important to note that the iPhone SE might not necessarily do that well. Seeing how sales have already dropped as seen in the company’s January earnings call, it is possible that the iPhone SE may fail to help the company perform better for its second quarter.

There was a time when people would look forward to the next iPhone, and the surprise on its own was worth the wait. But seeing how people already know about the next iPhone, like the SE in this case, the target audience will not get their ‘wow’ moment, which in tumakes the iPhone SE seem like nothing more than a formality.

On the other hand, the iPhone SE cannot be taken as the next big thing from the company; it simply has nothing innovative to offer. Suffice to say, the device looks to be simply a replacement for the iPhone 5S.

In conclusion, whether the iPhone SE will be released or not, Apple will need to raise its game and change strategies if it is to stay ahead of the curve. The company has become rather predictable, which was not the case when it was being headed by Steve Jobs. If the iPhone manufacturer is to maintain its presence in the very market it is leading, it will need to do much more than release a new iPhone every year. 

Them and the majority of the gaming community in fact

Rumors of upgraded versions of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox One and Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 4 have been going strong for some time now. The idea has caused outcry in the gaming community and fans have expressed their disagreement with the approach as it eliminates the very definition and purpose of a gaming console.

Apart from fans, even the developers are not finding this particularly exciting. Gamespot had the chance to catch up with Bioware’s co-founder Greg Zeschuk who expressed  the idea of mid-cycle console revisions to be a “gigantic pain in the ass.” He believes that doing so is “dipping your toe back in the PC pool” in the sense that the simplicity of a fixed hardware will be taken away.

Consoles have by nature been closed boxes that developers are fully informed about. This works as an absolute advantage during game development when the target machine is not variable like the PC. Greg Zeschuk believes that straying away from this route will be “complete lunacy”.

He believes that Microsoft felt like they needed to catch up with Sony whose PlayStation 4 has been comfortably besting the Xbox One in both games and hardware performance. Microsoft was indeed the first one to announce this bold move and while Sony has not come forward to even hint at such a possibility, the strong rumors over the past weeks from credible sources have made it a likelihood.

That being said, Microsoft’s intentions remain unclear. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer went back on his comments and expressed that he is interested in building the next box instead of doing a mid-cycle upgrade.

If either of them decide to go forward with this plan, they are certainly going to upset a lot of fans and developers.

The recent launch of the slim and light MacBook Pro has made the release of the next MacBook Air doubtful

Apple Inc. (NASADQ:AAPL) might have recently updated its MacBook Pro offering but users are still wondering if the tech giant intends to refresh its popular line of MacBook Air. However, recent developments have suggested that the Cupertino-based company might just have other plans for its current line of MacBook Air offering.

For those who don’t know this already, the entry-level variant of the 2016 MacBook Pro is designed to be both lighter and slimmer compared to the popular 11-inch variant of the MacBook Air. Although the former is a few hundred bucks costlier compared to its counterpart notebook offering, Apple has incorporated a host of performance enhancements in its 2016 MacBook Pro models. So, the tech giant has no reason to refresh its current line of MacBook Air.

Moreover, Apple has already confirmed that it is not currently planning on updating its current line of MacBook Air offering. This led to speculation that the company could potentially be gearing up to end its current line of MacBook Air and shift its focus toward its Pro line of notebook offering. Similarly, the Cupertino-based company has been tipped to end its current line of iPad Air and iPad Mini, and effectively focus on its Pro model of tablet offering.

Recent rumors have also suggested that Apple could look to launch an updated version of its MacBook Pro due to the recent release of Intel’s new Kaby Lake processor. There’s no doubt that majority of tech giants will look to incorporate Intel’s seventh-generation processing chipset in their devices, so it is likely that the recently-released models of the MacBook Pro are set to receive a major performance boost. This should make up for an inevitable death of Apple’s current line of MacBook Air.

Datadog has set up IsPokemonGoDownOrNot.com to indicate if servers are functioning properly or not

Are you a Pokémon Go user? Of course you are! If we asked you what is the most frustrating part about being a Pokémon Go user, then there is a high probability that your answer will be the unexpected servers that frequently crash. Pokémon Go has quickly gone on to become the most talked about and most frequently used augmented reality application around the world but its massive popularity has also brought consequences for its millions of users. Pokémon Go will often crash due to the overload provided by the millions of users that cannot seem to get enough of the augmented reality application. Thanks to the developers at cloud monitoring firm Datadog, Pokémon Go users can check if servers for Pokémon Go are properly functioning in their respective region or not. Here is The Country Caller’s take on the easiest way to tell if Pokémon Go servers are on the verge of crashing.

Datadog is a cloud monitoring firm situated in New York which has set up IsPokemonGoDownOrNot.com to indicate the status of the augmented reality game. The site has been specifically set up to let Pokémon Go users know if servers in their area are properly running or expected to crash. How the website works is that the tracker on the website uses a unique Pokémon Go trainer account to check servers’ real-time response rate. If the website takes more than 15 seconds to login, then this is a big sign that the servers are operating at full capacity which will cause unwanted lagging and sudden crashes.

Datadog have done a brilliant job at setting up a website that will greatly benefit Pokémon Go users in the long term. The agony of finding slow servers and unwanted crashes is far too much for many Pokémon Go users. Hence, this website will greatly serve Pokémon Go users to determine if the time is right to step out of their homes to embark on their Pokémon Go adventure. We would highly recommend you check out the website and see if the Pokémon Go servers in your region are operating at full capacity. If they are then you will know exactly why you’ve been experiencing such trouble to play the biggest augmented reality application in the world at the moment.

Samsung’s upcoming smartphone, the Galaxy S8 could have the 90% OLED display screen as its best feature, making it bezel-less like Xiaomi’s Mi Mix

Samsung Electronics’ (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) upcoming smartphone, the Galaxy S8, is going to have some very obvious changes including the 90% OLED display screen making it almost bezel-less. A spokesperson for Samsung displays, Park Won-Sang, said that the company plans to release a full-screen display with a ratio of almost 90% in 2017. This recent development confirms which device is going to have the full-screen display.

It is no surprise that companies such as Samsung and Xiaomi are adopting full-screen display as other tech companies manufacture bendable displays. However, keeping the phone up and running without catching fire is one of the major issues Samsung should focus on preventing after the Note 7 debacle.

Samsung’s aim to attain the edge-to-edge OLED display on its Galaxy S8 will start with a prototype to test the technology and see if it can really make heads roll. Samsung needs to push limits for Galaxy S8 so that users can forget the Note 7 fiasco and the company could recover from the blow.

This time around, the display will not only be bezel-less, but would even come without buttons since bezels will not be there to support them. The sensors, including the fingerprint scanner, will be constructed underneath the screen. Even the sensors which are on the side of the handset would be constructed under the screen. Samsung will have to work hard to redesign the product.

If the Galaxy S8 actually comes with a bezel-less display, it will only make the device eye-catching and stylish but even enhance the VR experience of the users due to the larger display. The Galaxy S8 is going to be released by the end of February 2017. All eyes will be on this device as the company has no plans to reveal any other phone this time but only the S8 and S8 Edge.