When Apple Comes Calling, ‘It’s the Kiss of Death’

Aspiring partners accuse Apple of copying their ideas. From a report: It sounded like a dream partnership when Apple reached out to Joe Kiani, the founder of a company that makes blood-oxygen measurement devices. He figured his technology was a perfect fit for the Apple Watch. Soon after meeting him, Apple began hiring employees from his company, Masimo, including engineers and its chief medical officer. Apple offered to double their salaries, Mr. Kiani said. In 2019, Apple published patents under the name of a former Masimo engineer for sensors similar to Masimo’s, documents show. The following year, Apple launched a watch that could measure blood oxygen levels. “When Apple takes an interest in a company, it’s the kiss of death,” said Mr. Kiani. “First, you get all excited. Then you realize that the long-term plan is to do it themselves and take it all.” Mr. Kiani is one of more than two dozen executives, inventors, investors and lawyers who described similar encounters with Apple. First, they said, came discussions about potential partnerships or integration of their technology into Apple products. Then, they said, talks stopped and Apple launched its own similar features.

Apple said that it doesn’t steal technology and that it respects the intellectual property of other companies. It said Masimo and other companies cited in this article are copying Apple, and that it would fight the claims in court. Apple has tried to invalidate hundreds of patents owned by companies that have accused Apple of violating their patents. According to lawyers and executives at some smaller companies, Apple sometimes files multiple petitions on a single patent claim and attempts to invalidate patents unrelated to the initial dispute. Many large companies, particularly in tech, have been known to scoop up employees and technology from smaller potential rivals. Software developers have given a name to what they describe as Apple’s behavior in such cases: sherlocking. The term refers to an episode about two decades ago, when Apple released a software product called “Sherlock” that helped users find files on its Mac computers and perform internet searches.

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The Biggest EV Battery Recycling Plant In the US Is Open For Business

Ascend Elements opened a recycling plant in Covington, Georgia in late March that it says is the largest electric-vehicle battery recycling facility in North America. “It can process 30,000 metric tons of input each year, breaking down old batteries and prepping the most valuable materials inside to be processed and turned into new batteries,” reports Canary Media. “That capacity equates to breaking down the battery packs from 70,000 electric vehicles annually, said Ascend CEO Mike O’Kronley.” From the report: Recycling can deliver new battery materials without the expense and environmental impact of new mining. It is extremely hard to develop new mines in the U.S., but the federal government is lavishing funds on new battery recycling plants. The revamped EV tax credits also call for increasing shares of domestically sourced batteries and battery materials. Those market and policy shifts made recycling sufficiently desirable that Ascend is paying other companies for their old batteries. At the moment, those deals are mostly with EV or battery makers that have high volumes to get rid of.

“Paying for these spent batteries keeps them from going into the landfill,” O’Kronley told Canary Media. “It’s better to get paid for it rather than throw them away.” Ascend also accepts used consumer electronics from battery-collection programs, such as Call2Recycle. That’s not to say there are enough old batteries coming in to fill the factory. Currently, 80 to 90 percent of what’s going into Ascend’s Covington facility is scrap materials from battery factories, including SK Battery America’s plant in Commerce, Georgia.

That relationship influenced Ascend’s choice of location: Covington sits in the emerging “Battery Belt,” a swath of new battery factories and electric-vehicle plants opening up across the Midwest and the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky (look for all the blue icons in this White House map of new industrial investments). Fellow battery-recycling startup Redwood Materials also chose South Carolina for a forthcoming $3.5 billion recycling facility. “There will need to be a recycling plant within about an hour’s drive of every single one of those [new battery gigafactories],” O’Kronley said. “You don’t want to be [long-distance] shipping these very large, heavy EV batteries that are classified as Class 9 hazardous materials.” The report notes that the company’s second commercial-scale facility in Hopkinsville, Kentucky will “introduce a brand-new technique for efficiently extracting cathode materials from black mass, which Ascend has dubbed ‘hydro to cathode.'”

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Walmart US CEO Says Automation At Stores Won’t Displace Workers

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Insider: Walmart will be increasingly relying on automation at its stores in the coming years — but that won’t diminish the country’s largest private employer’s workforce, company leaders said during an investor event this week. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant recently made headlines when it announced that 65% of its stores will be “serviced by automation” by the end of fiscal year 2026. Walmart currently has more than 4,700 stores throughout the US and employs roughly 1.6 million people nationwide.

More specifically, one area where Walmart is seeking to increase investment is in market fulfillment centers (MFCs), which are automated fulfillment centers built within, or added to, a store. Walmart piloted this concept at a store in Salem, New Jersey, in 2019, using automated robot technology from Alert Innovation — a robotics company Walmart acquired in October 2022. Since then, Walmart has built MFCs at several stores, such as in Jacksonville, Florida, and Dallas, Texas. Those include “manual MFCs,” where associates pick items for online orders but in a separate area from the sales floor.

Walmart will still need at least the same level of workers to help in stores even as automation picks up, company leaders say. John Furner, Walmart US president and CEO, told investors this week that automation “helps” employees, as it will result in less manual labor. “Over time, we believe we’ll have the same or more associates and a larger business overall,” Furner said. “There will be new roles emerging that are less manual, better designed to serve customers, and pay more.”

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Apple Suppliers Are Racing To Exit China, AirPods Maker Says

Apple’s Chinese suppliers are likely to move capacity out of the country far faster than many observers anticipate to pre-empt fallout from escalating Beijing-Washington tensions, according to one of the US company’s most important partners. From a report: AirPods maker GoerTek is one of the many manufacturers exploring locations beyond its native China, which today cranks out the bulk of the world’s gadgets from iPhones to PlayStations. It’s investing an initial $280 million in a new Vietnam plant while considering an India expansion, Deputy Chairman Kazuyoshi Yoshinaga said in an interview. US tech companies in particular have been pushing hard for manufacturers like GoerTek to explore alternative locations, said the executive, who oversees GoerTek’s Vietnamese operations from northern Bac Ninh province.

“Starting from last month, so many people from the client side are visiting us almost every day,” Yoshinaga said from his offices at GoerTek’s sprawling industrial complex north of Hanoi. The topic that dominates discussions: “When can you move out?” The expanding conflict between the US and China, which began with a trade war but has since expanded to encompass sweeping bans on the exchange of chips and capital, is spurring a rethink of the electronics industry’s decades-old supply chain. The world’s reliance on the Asian nation became starkly clear during the Covid Zero years, when Beijing’s restrictions choked off the supply of everything from phones to cars.

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Lenovo Posts Worst Revenue Fall In 14 Years As PC Demand Slumps

China’s Lenovo reported a 24% revenue decline for the third quarter, its largest revenue fall in 14 years as global demand for electronics slumped, and said it would look to cut spending and make workforce adjustments. Reuters reports: The world’s largest maker of personal computers (PCs) said on Friday that total revenue during the October-December quarter was $15.3 billion, down 24% from the same quarter a year earlier. The results trailed an average Refinitiv estimate of $16.39 billion drawn from seven analysts. The outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 provided a huge boost in electronic sales for Lenovo and its peers worldwide as many people opted to work remotely and replaced or upgraded their equipment. However, demand has begun to fall and Lenovo’s revenue started contracting in the July-September quarter last year.

Lenovo Chief Executive Officer Yang Yuanqing told an analyst call after its earnings that the entire PC and mobile market experienced a “severe downturn” in the last quarter, and the company was looking to reduce expenses and improve efficiency. Lenovo is aiming to reduce its run rate operational expenses by approximately $150 million to achieve a medium-term goal of doubling net margin, its chief financial officer, Wong Wai Ming, added. “This includes overall reduction in operational spending as well as workforce adjustments where necessary and appropriate.” he said.

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