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Microsoft’s ‘smallest ever’ Xbox Series S to sell at budget £249 | Games

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Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox will come in two flavours, the company confirmed today, with the stripped-back Xbox Series S joining the previously announced Xbox Series X this November.

Unexpectedly revealed due to a series of leaks, which have given the launch date for both machines as 10 November, the Xbox Series S will be priced at just £249 ($299), compared to the Series X which is expected to come in around £399. It will also be the company’s “smallest Xbox ever”, Microsoft said, well under half the size of the larger Series X.

The low price and slim profile come with trade-offs, of course. According to the same flurry of leaks that forced Microsoft to prematurely confirm the existence of the console, the Series S has significantly less powerful internals, which are likely to render it incapable of playing games at (native) 4K resolution. It will also lack a disc drive altogether, forcing users to rely on downloaded or streamed games and movies, and dispense with their physical media collections.

That restriction could sting less for users given a second push revealed by the recent leaks: a subscription model for the consoles that provides fixed-cost access to the machines themselves, as well as Microsoft’s all-access Game Pass, marketed as a sort of Netflix for video games, which provides free access to every first-party game developed by the company, as well as an increasing number of licensed third party titles.

The Series S will reportedly cost $25 a month in the US under the Xbox All Access scheme, with the Series X costing $35; international pricing has not yet been revealed, but is likely to start at £21.99 for the Series S. The current generation of consoles, which can also be bought under the scheme, cost from $19.99 to $24.99 a month, with the console fully paid off after two years.

Both consoles will launch to a crowded market. Sony’s PlayStation 5 is also arriving in two versions this Christmas, one with a disc drive and one without. Both editions will be otherwise identical, however, leaving the low-end of the market free for Microsoft to pitch for, and Sony is reportedly targeting a higher price for the console than even the Series X.

Nintendo is also rumoured to be working on a successor to its phenomenally successful Switch console, featuring more powerful internal hardware that can output 4K video to a supported TV.

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Best quarter in the history of the smartphone

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Apple reported blowout earnings on Wednesday. Even during a global pandemic, every single product line was up, leading to the company’s first quarter with over $100 billion in sales.

But Apple is still best known for the iPhone, which accounted for nearly 59% of the company’s revenue during the holiday quarter. The iPhone is booming, too: Sales were up 17% year-over-year to a whopping $65.6 billion in a single quarter. That’s a big improvement from last year’s holiday quarter, when sales were up only 7.6% from the year ago.

Apple doesn’t provide unit sales for its products anymore, but according to an estimate from research firm IDC, Apple shipped 90.1 million phones during the quarter. That’s the largest number in any single quarter since IDC started tracking smartphones, analyst Francisco Jeronimo said.

Apple’s dominant quarter is adding fuel to the so-called “super cycle” investor thesis, where must-have updates combine with the natural customer upgrade cycle to drive a spike in sales growth. Analysts saw this year’s iPhone 12 models as a good candidate for a super-cycle because they sported a new design and added 5G, which enables the devices to connect to faster wireless networks.

In a note on Wednesday, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives predicted that the current cycle “should eclipse the previous iPhone record set in FY15, an achievement for the ages in our opinion.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook also said in an interview with CNBC that the company’s iPhone results could have been better if not for store closures caused by the ongoing pandemic.

“Taking the stores out of the equation, particularly for iPhones and wearables, there’s a drag on sales,” Cook told CNBC’s Josh Lipton.  

In a conference call with analysts, Cook said that the new iPhones were not only getting current iPhone users to open up their wallets and upgrade, but also convincing people who had previously used competitor phones to get their first iPhone.

“Looking at the iPhone 12 family, we saw both switchers and upgraders increase on a year over year basis. And in fact, we saw the largest number of upgraders, that we’ve ever seen in a quarter,” Cook said.

5G remains a potential tailwind for iPhone sales through the rest of the year, Apple signaled on Wednesday. Cook said that while 5G in China was well established, leading to strong iPhone sales, 5G cellular networks in other regions aren’t as built-out yet, especially in Europe.

“I think most of that growth is probably in front of us there as well,” Cook said.


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Elon Musk explains how self-driving robotaxis justify Tesla valuation

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Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., arrives at the Axel Springer Award ceremony in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.

Johannessen-Koppitz | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Don’t count Elon Musk among the investors who think Tesla is overvalued, even with the stock up almost 700% in the past year and the company valued at 213 times projected 2021 earnings, according to FactSet.

In the car maker’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, Tesla’s CEO said there is a “roadmap to potentially justify” its market cap, which has topped $800 billion, making it the fifth-most valuable U.S. company. Musk is now the world’s wealthiest person, with a net worth over $200 billion.

Musk’s valuation math goes like this: Assume the company soon reaches $50 billion to $60 billion in annual car sales (the company generated $9.31 billion in automotive revenue in Q4 and said that vehicle deliveries would increase an average of 50% a year going forward). As Tesla’s self-driving technology continues to improve, those vehicles will become self-driving robotaxis, allowing usage to go from 12 hours a week to 60 hours a week. Tesla could charge additional fees for those robotaxis, allowing the company to generate much more revenue per car. Basically, it would be like bringing software economics to the manufacturing-intensive car business.

Musk also announced that Tesla’s Full Self Driving package will be available on a subscription basis starting in Q1, rather than as a one-time $10,000 add-on, which will allow Tesla to begin adding recurring revenue as it works on improving its self-driving technology.

Even if usage only doubles, a $1 trillion valuation can make sense, according to Musk.

“If you made $50 billion worth of cars, it would be like having $50 billion of incremental profit, basically because it’s just software,” Musk said in the introductory part of the call. Based on that formula, Musk says a multiple of 20 times earnings would lead to $1 trillion in market cap — “and the company’s still in high-growth mode.”

Less than nine months ago, Musk had a very different perspective on the company’s valuation. In a tweet on May 1, he said “Tesla stock price is too high,” a comment that sent the shares down 10%. Since then, the company’s market cap has jumped by more than 450%.

It’s possible that investors are already presuming Tesla’s cars will eventually turn into revenue-generating robotaxis. But the company isn’t close to having those capabilities yet, and Musk has a history of over-promising when it comes to technological innovation.

For instance, when Tesla began to discuss self-driving technology in 2016, Musk said the company would complete a hands-free trip across the U.S. by late 2017. The company has yet to complete that mission.

Currently, Tesla’s Full Self Driving features include Smart Summon, which lets a driver call their Tesla to roll out from a parking spot to where they are standing, and Navigate on Autopilot, which can pilot the car from a highway on-ramp to an off-ramp, making necessary lane changes along the way.

But despite its name, the Full Self Driving package still requires drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and remain attentive at all times. A Munich court ruled last year that Tesla misled consumers on the abilities of its automated driving systems, and banned the company from including “full potential for autonomous driving” and “Autopilot inclusive” in its advertising materials.

While Tesla has missed many of its own projections for self-driving technology, Musk continues to insist that it’s coming. “I really do not see any obstacles here,” he told an analyst on the call who asked about the company’s progress.

Tesla shares fell 5.5% in extended trading on Wednesday after the company reported earnings that missed analysts’ estimates, even as revenue was better than expected.

WATCH: Tesla misses on earnings

Nominations are open for the 2021 CNBC Disruptor 50, a list of private start-ups using breakthrough technology to become the next generation of great public companies. Submit by Friday, Feb. 12, at 3 pm EST.


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Reddit group WallStreetBets behind massive GameStop, AMC run-ups goes private, invitation required

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Rafael Henrique | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

“Wallstreetbets” Reddit chat room, where retail investors marshal against short sellers, went private on Wednesday evening, limiting access to outsiders.

“You must be invited to visit this community,” the page now states. The forum’s members topped three million as of Wednesday. The community gathered an army of rookie day traders who go after heavily shorted stocks, pushing share prices higher and squeezing out short-selling hedge funds.

GameStop, a popular target in “wallstreetbets,” saw its shares soaring more than 400% this week alone. The brick-and-mortar video game retailer has skyrocketed a whopping 1,700% as retail traders continued to encourage each other to pile on.

AMC Entertainment, another hot topic in the chat room, surged more than 300% Wednesday alone, experiencing its highest volume ever.

A Reddit spokesperson said “wallstreetbets” moderators set the community to private.

“Reddit’s site-wide policies prohibit posting illegal content or soliciting or facilitating illegal transaction,” the spokesperson said. “We will review and cooperate with valid law enforcement investigations or actions as needed.”

Social platform Discord banned the “wallstreetbets” chat room on Wednesday.

“The WallStreetBets server has been on our Trust & Safety team’s radar for some time due to occasional content that violates our Community Guidelines, including hate speech, glorifying violence, and spreading misinformation,” a Discord spokesperson said in a statement.

“Over the past few months, we have issued multiple warnings to the server admin.Today, we decided to remove the server and its owner from Discord for continuing to allow hateful and discriminatory content after repeated warnings,” the spokesperson added.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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