Weekend Roundup: Apple Has ‘Knives Out’; Layoffs Looming

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From rising chatter about layoffs to the Apple iPhone’s stringent product placement to the new Xbox specs, this week had something for pretty much everyone. Let’s jump in!

Layoffs Looming?

Dozens of startups are laying off thousands of workers,
according to a new analysis by The New
York Times
. At the same time, startups are struggling to raise money—a
notable contrast to a few years ago, when banks and venture-capital firms
seemed only too happy to pour millions of dollars into tiny and unproven firms.

According to the Times calculations, some 30 startups have cut 8,000 jobs over the past four months. Some of these layoffs have been high profile: In November, for example, a beleaguered WeWork began winding down a significant portion of its workforce in the wake of a failed IPO attempt. In January, e-scooter rental firm Lime slammed the brakes on a few years of explosive growth, laying off 14 percent of its workforce and pulling out of 12 markets—and it wasn’t the only scooter company to retreat.

The big question, of course, is whether this burst of
layoffs is restricted to startups that grew too big too fast, or if there’s a
broader rot within the tech industry. Certainly there have been layoffs at
larger and mature firms—for example, Google Cloud recently laid off a “small”
number of employees
, and VMware will
reportedly dismiss a selection
. But bigger companies semi-routinely
“adjust” their workforces, so reports of relatively small-scale employee
departures aren’t necessarily an indicator that we’re on the verge of a massive
implosion.

Throw something like the coronavirus into the mix—with its potentially catastrophic effects on the economy and available funding—and there’s a chance that other tech companies could decide to tighten the belt in coming months. We’ll have to wait and see.

X Marks the (Xbox)
Spot

If you’re interested in video games (either playing them,
developing them, or both), you’re no doubt aware that Microsoft has a new Xbox
in the works. This next-generation device, the Xbox Series X (go ahead, say
that five times fast), features some big firepower for rendering games,
including a custom-designed processor that leverages AMD’s Zen 2 and RDNA 2
architectures.

“Delivering
four times the processing power of an Xbox One and enabling developers to
leverage 12 TFLOPS of GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) performance—twice that of
an Xbox One X and more than eight times the original Xbox One” is how the Xbox
corporate team’s recent blog post summed up that processing power.

There are also reported upgrades to everything from SSD
storage to support for 120 fps. For game-players, there’s supposedly a good
deal of backward compatibility with older Xbox platforms. For developers, it
will be interesting to see how Microsoft approaches the tools and portals for
building and distributing Xbox games; with Sony poised to unleash a new
PlayStation, and Nintendo’s Switch still going strong, a healthy game and
developer ecosystem will be a necessary precondition for any kind of market
victory.

Apple Has Its Knives Out

Source: Vanity Fair/YouTube

Hollywood has a long, proud tradition of allowing product placement in films and television shows—sometimes it’s E.T. eating Reese’s Pieces, and every so often, you get something like 2013’s “The Internship,” which was essentially a two-hour advertisement for Google (and a very serious contender for the un-funniest “comedy” of the decade).  

What’s interesting is when companies don’t want their products featured in certain contexts. According
to Rian Johnson, director of the mystery film “Knives Out” (as well as “The
Last Jedi,” arguably the best “Star Wars” film), Apple really doesn’t want
cinematic villains using an iPhone. Ever.

“Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies, but—and this is
very pivotal if you’re ever watching a mystery movie—bad guys cannot have
iPhones on camera,” Johnson told Vanity
Fair
(hat tip to Ars
Technica
for the link). He added: “Every single filmmaker that has a
bad guy in their movie that’s supposed to be a secret wants to murder me right
now.”

If Apple gives filmmakers free iPhones as product placement, the company can almost certainly dictate how those phones are used. But if the filmmakers buy the devices on their own, it’s hard to see how Apple could determine their use. In any case, who’s shocked that Apple might potentially be super, ah, prickly detail-oriented about product placement? Not us!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

The post Weekend Roundup: Apple Has ‘Knives Out’; Layoffs Looming appeared first on Dice Insights.



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