VMware By Broadcom Plots Pair of Cloud Foundation Releases

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: VMware by Broadcom will deliver a significant update to its flagship Cloud Foundation bundle in the middle of this year and follow it up with a major update early in 2025. Both releases will show off Broadcom’s plan to make the package easier to implement and operate, and hopefully assuage customer concerns about price rises. More on that later. First, the updates. One release is currently scheduled to debut in July, according to Paul Turner, vice-president of product management and the leader of the VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) team. The release will allow use of a single license key for all the components of Cloud Foundation, improve OAuth support as a step towards single sign-on across the VMware range, and add an NSX overlay that will allow implementation of software-defined networks without requiring IP address changes.

Turner explained those features as exemplifying the sort of simplification VMware by Broadcom thinks is needed to make Cloud Foundation easier to implement. A bigger release Turner hopes will debut in early 2025 — though he would commit to only a H1 launch — will be a “unified” release in which more of VCF is better integrated. Today, Turner admitted, VMware customers may have implemented vSphere and the Aria management suite, but might still need or choose discrete storage for each. Future VCF releases will increasingly unify the products so that silos aren’t needed. Prashanth Shenoy, vice president for VMware by Broadcom’s cloud platform, infrastructure, and solutions marketing, told The Register the release will be called VCF 9 and will represent “the fullest expression of Broadcom’s vision for product integration.” “When customers deploy VCF there are seams — when they deploy networking and storage, they feel like they do not have a unified developer or operator experience,” Shenoy admitted. VCF 9 will tidy that sort of thing up and make the process “seamless.” Buyers can also expect improved log file analysis, the ability to acquire templates from a marketplace and adopt them as PaaS, and plenty more.

Turner and Shenoy told The Register that the two releases are hoped to make VCF adoption easier, and by doing so demonstrate the value of the bundle. Today, they argue, would-be hybrid cloud adopters using VCF are in reality integrating siloed products — which doesn’t prove the value of the vStack well. VCF 9’s planned integrations, they argue, should demonstrate the power of the stack and the wisdom of Broadcom’s decision to create a VMware unit dedicated to VCF. That team, they explained, means developers for each of the bundle’s components work together on a unified experience, rather than to create their own product. It may also demonstrate the value of VMware by Broadcom’s new licenses – which some users have complained are considerably more expensive now that subscriptions are required, and products are only sold in bundles. Sylvain Cazard, president of Broadcom Software for Asia-Pacific, told The Register that complaints about higher prices are unwarranted since customers using at least two components of VMware’s flagship Cloud Foundation will end up paying less. He also noted that the new pricing includes support, which VMware didn’t include previously.

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Amazon Fined In Poland For Dark Pattern Design Tricks

Poland has fined Amazon close to $8 million for misleading consumers about the conclusion of sales contracts on its online marketplace. The sanction “also calls out the e-commerce giant for deceptive design elements which may inject a false sense of urgency into the purchasing process and mislead shoppers about elements like product availability and delivery dates,” reports TechCrunch. From the report: The country’s consumer and competition watchdog, the UOKiK, has been looking into complaints about Amazon’s sales practices since September 2021, following complaints from shoppers, including some who did not receive their purchases. The authority opened a formal investigation into Amazon’s practices in February 2023. Wednesday’s sanction is the conclusion of that probe. The UOKiK found consumers who ordered products on Amazon could have their purchases subsequently cancelled by the tech giant as it does not treat the moment of purchase as the conclusion of a sales contract, despite sending consumers confirmation of their order — even after consumers have paid for the product. For Amazon, the conclusion of a sales contract only occurs once it has sent information about the actual shipment. […]

Its enforcement also calls out Amazon for using deceptive design to encourage shoppers to click buy by presenting misleading information about product availability and delivery windows — such as by listing how many items were in stock to be purchased and providing a countdown clock to order an item in order to get it on a particular delivery date. Its investigation found Amazon does not always meet these deadlines for orders, nor ship products immediately as they may be out of stock despite claims to the contrary shown to consumers. “Amazon treats the data it provides on availability and shipping date as indicative but the way it is presented does not indicate this,” the UOKiK noted, adding: “Consumers can only find out about this in the terms of sale on the platform.”

While Amazon does offer a delivery guarantee — offering a refund if items do not ship within the stated time — the authority found it failed to provide consumers with information about the rules of this service before placing an order. It only offers details at the order summary stage. And then only “if the consumer decides to read the subsequent links specifying delivery details.” Shoppers who did not follow the link to read more may not have been aware of their right to apply for and receive a refund from Amazon if there is a delay in shipment. It also found the e-commerce giant failed to provide information about the “Delivery Guarantee” in the purchase confirmation sent to shoppers. Amazon said it will appeal the fine. The company also writes: “Fast and reliable delivery across a wide selection of products is a top priority for us, and Amazon.pl has millions of items available with fast and free Prime delivery. Since launching Amazon.pl in 2021, we have continuously invested and worked hard to provide customers with a clear, reliable delivery promise at check out, and while the vast majority of our deliveries arrive on time, customers can contact us in the rare event that they experience a delay or order cancellation, and we will make it right.

Over the last year, we have collaborated with the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK), and proposed multiple voluntary amendments to continue to improve the customer experience on Amazon.pl. We strictly follow legal standards in all countries where we operate and we strongly disagree with the assessment and penalty issued by the UOKiK. We will appeal this decision.”

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Why the US Could Be On the Cusp of a Productivity Boom

Neil Irwin reports via Axios: The dearth of productivity growth over the last couple of decades has held back incomes in the U.S. and other rich countries, according to a report out Wednesday from the McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the global consultancy. Productivity growth has been weak in the U.S. and Western Europe since the 2008 global financial crisis, but things looked better among many emerging markets. The McKinsey report finds that global labor productivity growth was 2.3% a year from 1997 to 2022, a rapid rate that has increased incomes and quality of life in large parts of the world. China and India account for the largest portion of that surge — half of overall global productivity improvement, with other emerging markets accounting for another 25%, led by Central and Eastern Europe and emerging Asian economies.

In the U.S., the report finds that the decline in capital investment following the 2008 financial crisis has resulted in a $4,500 lower per-capita GDP in 2022 than it would have if pre-crisis trends had continued. Rapid advances in manufacturing technology, especially for electronics, petered out in the same time period, subtracting another $5,000 from per-capita GDP. “Digitization was much discussed as the main candidate to rev up productivity again, but its impact failed to spread beyond” the tech sector, the authors write. The authors are optimistic that a confluence of factors will make the years ahead different.

The rise in global interest rates and inflation are evidence of stronger global demand. Many countries are experiencing labor shortages that may incentivize more productivity-enhancing investment. And artificial intelligence and related technologies create big opportunities. “Inflationary pressure and rising interest rates could be signs that we are leaving behind secular stagnation and entering an era of higher demand and investment,” the report finds. “In corporate boardrooms around the world right now, there’s a tremendous amount of conversation associated with [generative] AI, and I think there’s a broad acknowledgment that this could very much transform productivity at the company level,” Olivia White, a McKinsey senior partner and co-author of the report, tells Axios. “Another thing that’s happening right now is the conversation about labor. Labor markets in all advanced economies, and the U.S. is really sort of top of the heap, are very, very tight right now. So there’s a lot of conversation around what do we do to make the people that we have as productive as they can be?”

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Job Boards Are Rife With ‘Ghost Jobs’

“Job openings across the country are seemingly endless,” writes longtime Slashdot reader smooth wombat. “Millions of jobs are listed, but are they real? Companies may post job openings with no intent to ever fill it. These are known as ghost jobs and there are more than most people realize. The BBC reports: Clarify Capital, a New York-based business loan provider, surveyed 1,000 hiring managers, and found nearly seven in 10 jobs stay open for more than 30 days, with 10% unfilled for more than half a year. Half the respondents reported they keep job listings open indefinitely because they “always open to new people.” More than one in three respondents said they kept the listings active to build a pool of applicants in case of turnover — not because a role needs to be filled in a timely manner.

The posted roles are more than just a talent vacuum sucking up resumes from applicants. They are also a tool for shaping perception inside and outside of the company. More than 40% of hiring managers said they list jobs they aren’t actively trying to fill to give the impression that the company is growing. A similar share said the job listings are made to motivate employees, while 34% said the jobs are posted to placate overworked staff who may be hoping for additional help to be brought on.

“Ghost jobs are everywhere,” says Geoffrey Scott, senior content manager and hiring manager at Resume Genius, a US company that helps workers design their resumes. “We discovered a massive 1.7 million potential ghost job openings on LinkedIn just in the US,” says Scott. In the UK, StandOut CV, a London-based career resources company, found more than a third of job listings in 2023 were ghost jobs, defined as listings posted for more than 30 days. “Experts caution not every posting that seems like a ghost job is one,” notes the report. “Still, whether these postings are ghost jobs — or simply look and feel like them — the result is similar. Jobseekers end up discouraged and burnt out.”

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Hertz CEO Resigns After Blowing Big Gamble On EVs

Press2ToContinue quotes a report from the Gateway Pundit: Stephen Scherr, chief executive officer of Hertz Global Holdings Inc. and a member of its board of directors, will step down on March 31, following the car rental company’s largest quarterly loss since 2020 after a risky bet on electric vehicles. According to Fox Business, Scherr is working with Gil West, former chief operating officer of Delta Airlines and General Motors’ Cruise unit, to ensure a smooth transition. West will officially start his new role at Hertz on April 1.

Scherr, 59, joined Hertz two years ago as the company was emerging from bankruptcy and putting a big focus on EVs during that time. Hertz soon discovered that EVs are more expensive to maintain than they had initially thought. Scherr reportedly told investors that Hertz’s profits experienced a $348 million loss, which he blamed EVs for. In January, Hertz announced its plan to offload 20,000 electric vehicles from its U.S. fleet throughout 2024, and switch back to gas cars.

In November, the Associated Press reported on a Consumer Reports survey that found EVs from the 2021 to 2023 model years are significantly less reliable than gasoline-powered vehicles. A whopping eighty percent less reliable, according to the AP, particularly with battery and charging systems, as well as fit issues with body panels and interiors. Car dealers and manufacturers are reportedly also struggling to sell EVs despite using deep discounts and promotional tactics. In 2021, Hertz announced plans to order 100,000 Tesla vehicles by the end of 2022. It later said it would buy “up to” 65,000 Polestar EVs for its rental fleet over the next five years.

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Does Reddit Represent the Return of the Junk Stock IPO?

An article in Inc notes a “wild projection” in Reddit’s SEC filing that Reddit’s global market opportunity by 2027 is $1.4 trillion.”
Some of the numbers lead back to a single individual: Sam Altman. The co-founder and chief executive of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI owns an 8.7 percent stake in Reddit, more than its co-founder and CEO, Steve Huffman, who owns 3.3 percent… Altman, through various funds and holding companies he owns or manages, controls more than a million shares of Reddit at $60 million in aggregate purchase price — and holds more than 9 percent of voting rights…
Discussing Reddit’s future, financial analyst and journalist Herb Greenberg recently told CNBC, “This is an AI play.”

But the senior investing editor for Kiplinger.com argues that retail investors “may want to hold tight before rushing out to buy the Reddit IPO.”
While IPO stocks tend to have strong first-day showings, returns for the first year are generally weak, says the team of analysts at Trivariate Research, a market research firm based in New York. And since 2020, “the average IPO has lagged its industry average by 30% over the subsequent three years following its first closing price…”

Other commenters have noted that Reddit’s allotment of shares to select Redditors could lower demand on the first day of trading, which would work against any IPO pop.

“Over the past few years, there have been a bunch of IPOs in the U.S. in which overhyped names enjoyed flashy stock-market debuts only to drop sharply soon after,” notes the Street.
Notable examples include Coinbase, which plummeted by almost 90% after its debut, Robinhood, still down 53% since its IPO, and Rivian, down over 91% since its debut. However, it’s crucial to note that all of these IPOs occurred in 2021 amid market euphoria fueled by low interest rates, significant economic stimulus, and the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the current macroeconomic landscape differs from three years ago, valuations of tech and growth stocks remain stretched.

Kiplingers.com concludes it “boils down to your own personal investing goals and risk tolerance. If you do decide to buy Reddit stock when it first begins trading, do so in a small amount that you can afford to lose.”

But they also cite analysis from David Trainer, CEO of New Constructs, a research firm powered by artificial intelligence. “Reddit’s IPO marks the return of the junk IPO,” Trainer wrote in Forbes. “[The valuation] implies that Reddit will grow its user base to 26 times current levels, which would be nearly five times the size of [Snapchat-maker] Snap, and a highly unlikely feat. Reddit looks overvalued, and we think investors should pass on this IPO.”
Trainer writes:
[T]he company has never been profitable and should not be a publicly traded company… I think the company may never monetize its platform without angering its users and the entire premise of Reddit is user-generated content. This business model is inescapably built on a catch-22: make money or please users… Reddit looks overvalued, and I think investors should pass on this IPO.

Buyers and analysts told the site Marketing Brew “that they see the platform as nice-to-have, but that it is not an essential part of their media plans, like Meta or Google are.”

“They’ve always been solidly in the second or third tier of social networks,” alongside Snap, Pinterest, and X, Brian Wieser, a former GroupM exec who’s now author of the industry newsletter Madison and Wall, told Marketing Brew.

Yet Trainer notes that “98% of Reddit’s revenue in 2023 came from third-party advertising on the site and 28% of all revenue came from ten customers,” and “Reddit’s cost of revenue, sales & marketing, general & administrative, and research & development costs were 117% of revenue in 2023.”

Trainer concludes “Reddit is nowhere near breakeven. Reddit is an unprofitable social media company fighting for users.”

Bloomberg adds that the subreddit r/WallStreetBets “has threatened to bet against the stock, with many people noting that the company still loses money two decades into its existence. (Reddit lost $90.8 million last year, down from $158.6 million the year before.)”

Some have complained that the invitation to invest fails to make up for the unpaid labor they’ve invested making the site work… In 2021 the platform’s WallStreetBets forum ignited a meme-stock frenzy, propelling skyward the stocks of nostalgic but struggling companies like GameStop Corp. and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and sending shockwaves through the financial industry… When it goes public, the platform that invented meme stocks runs the risk of becoming one itself.

Reddit noted the possibility as a risk in its IPO filing. “Given the broad awareness and brand recognition of Reddit, including as a result of the popularity of r/wallstreetbets among retail investors,” the company warned that its stock could “experience extreme volatility … which could cause you to lose all or part of your investment if you are unable to sell your shares at or above the initial offering price.”
Users on WallStreetBets got a kick out of the fact that the company listed the forum as a risk factor, posting about it with a sly smiling emoji…

Meanwhile, reports that marketers are infiltrating subreddits have been confirmed. Over 200 businesses have “integrated Reddit Pro into their digital strategies,” reports Search Engine Land, including “well-known names such as Taco Bell, the NFL, and The Wall Street Journal…
“During the initial alpha testing phase with approximately 20 businesses, Reddit reported its Pro partners, on average, generated 11 additional posts and comments per month.”

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Rising Temperatures and Heat Shocks Prompt Job Relocations, Study Finds

dcblogs writes: A recent study in the National Bureau of Economic Research has found that companies are quietly adapting to rising temperatures by shifting operations from hotter to cooler locations. The researchers analyzed data from 50,000 companies between 2009 and 2020. “To illustrate the economic impact, the researchers found that when a company with equal employment across two counties experiences a heat shock in one county, there is a subsequent 0.7% increase in employment growth in the unaffected county over a three-year horizon,” reports TechTarget. “The finding is significant, given that the mean employment growth for the sample of businesses in the study is 2.4%.”

Heat shocks are characterized by their severe impact on health, energy grids, and increased fire risks, influencing companies with multiple locations to reconsider their geographical distribution of operations. Despite this trend, states like Arizona and Nevada, which have some of the highest heat-related death tolls, continue to experience rapid business expansion. Experts believe that factors such as labor pool, taxes, and regulations still outweigh environmental climate risks when it comes to business site selection. But heat associated deaths are on the rise. In the Phoenix area alone, it experienced 425 heat related deaths in 2022 and a similar number in 2023 — record highs for this region.
The study suggests that the implications of climate change on business operations are becoming more apparent. Companies are beginning to evaluate climate risks as part of their regular risk assessment process.

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Yelp Says Remote-First Policy Boosted Job Apps By 43%, Led To a More Satisfied Workforce

Since implementing a remote-first policy in 2021, Yelp says it’s experienced a surge in job applications and a more satisfied workforce. Fortune reports: Last year, the total number of job applicants was 43% higher compared to 2021, according to Yelp’s 2024 Remote Work Report released earlier this month. The number of applicants for sales roles skyrocketed by 103%, and prospects for its general and administrative (G&A) positions shot up 52% over the same time period. Those increases fall in line with data that shows a tidal wave of applicants clamoring for remote jobs. “It’s rewarding to see both the level of interest and the quality of our applicants,” Carmen Amara, chief people officer at Yelp, told Fortune. “Remote work has allowed us to attract a number of candidates who previously would not have applied to Yelp due to their location.”

Despite arguments that remote work weakens workers’ connections and growth opportunities, Yelp says it has found the opposite to be true. About 90% of the company’s more than 4,700 employees say they have found effective ways to collaborate remotely, and 91% say they are confident in upward career mobility while working out of the office. Flexible schedules have also facilitated a healthy work-life balance — about 89% of the company’s workers say they can manage personal and professional demands, and the same amount say that the remote model has allowed them to make positive changes for their wellbeing.

Notably, Yelp’s global tenure has increased to 3.5 years in 2023, compared to 2.8 years the year prior. The company says it’s using the money it saved from shutting down its underutilized offices in New York City, Chicago, and Washington D.C., to funnel back into employee benefits, professional development, and wellness reimbursements.

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Reddit Files To Go Public

Reddit has filed its initial public offering (IPO) with the SEC on Thursday. “The company plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol ‘RDDT,'” reports CNBC. From the report: Its market debut, expected in March, will be the first major tech initial public offering of the year. It’s the first social media IPO since Pinterest went public in 2019. Reddit said it had $804 million in annual sales for 2023, up 20% from the $666.7 million it brought in the previous year, according to the filing. The social networking company’s core business is reliant on online advertising sales stemming from its website and mobile app.

The company, founded in 2005 by technology entrepreneurs Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman, said it has incurred net losses since its inception. It reported a net loss of $90.8 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2023, compared with a net loss of $158.6 million the year prior. […] Reddit said it plans to use artificial intelligence to improve its ad business and that it expects to open new revenue channels by offering tools and incentives to “drive continued creation, improvements, and commerce.” It’s also in the early stages of developing and monetizing a data-licensing business in which third parties would be allowed to access and search data on its platform.

For example, Google on Thursday announced an expanded partnership with Reddit that will give the search giant access to the company’s data to, among other uses, train its AI models. “In January 2024, we entered into certain data licensing arrangements with an aggregate contract value of $203.0 million and terms ranging from two to three years,” Reddit said, regarding its data-licensing business. “We expect a minimum of $66.4 million of revenue to be recognized during the year ending December 31, 2024 and the remaining thereafter.” On Wednesday, Reddit said it plans to sell a chunk of its IPO shares to 75,000 of its most loyal users.

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