Walmart to Acquire Smart TV Maker Vizio for $2.3 Billion

Walmart (NYSE: WMT) announced it will acquire smart TV maker Vizio (NYSE: VZIO) for $2.3 billion in cash, representing $11.50 per share. Walmart said Vizio's SmartCast Operating System (OS) would enable the retailer to connect with and deliver "innovative" in-home TV entertainment offerings, including new opportunities for advertisers to engage with customers. “We believe VIZIO’s customer-centric operating system provides great viewing experiences at attractive price points. We also believe it enables a profitable advertising business that is rapidly scaling,” said Seth Dallaire, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of Walmart U.S., in a statement. Dallarie added that Walmart Connect, the company's media business, is looking to expand its ad business and believes the combination of the two companies "wold be impactful as we redefine the intersection of retail and entertainment."

U.S. Patent Office Denies OpenAI's Attempt to Trademark 'GPT'

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has denied OpenAI's filing to trademark "GPT," ruling that the term is descriptive and therefore does not meet the standards required to register for a protective trademark. "Registration is refused because the applied-for mark merely describes a feature, function, or characteristic of applicant's goods and services," the federal agency said in its ruling. This is the USPTO's second and final denial of this request, meaning that more artificial intelligence companies will be able to use GPT to name their products in the future. OpenAI argued that GPT, which is an acronym for Generative Pre-trained Transformer, was popularized by the company with its groundbreaking ChatGPT chatbot. However, the patent office noted that GPT was already a known descriptor in other contexts and by other companies within the same industry, thus making it more of a concept than a new term that could be protected under trademark.

Ford CEO Says Pro Segment is Future of Auto Industry, to Surpass Tesla

Ford (NYSE: F) CEO Jim Farley on Thursday touted that the legacy Detroit automaker's "Pro" fleet will top Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) and it's FSD driver assistance systems as the future of the auto industry, comparing the fleet with where Deere (NYSE: DE) was several years ago -- the company's stock has skyrocketed over 200% during that period. "If you're looking for the future of the automotive industry, stop looking at FSD and Tesla. Look at Pord Pro. It's got half a million subscribers with 50% gross margin," Farley said during a conference held by Wolfe Research, quoted by CNBC. Ford Pro includes both the company's traditional consumer and commercial businesses, as well as its telematics, logistics, consumer connective and parts and services businesses. Ford expects its Pro segments pretax earnings to grow to between $8 billion and $9 billion this year, CNBC reports.

SpaceX to De-Orbit 100 Starlink Satellites Due to Common Flaw in Older Model

SpaceX announced on Wednesday it will de-orbit about 100 Starlink satellites after a common flaw was identified what could impact their operation in the future, prompting the space company to send the "early-version 1" satellites into early retirement. "These satellites are currently maneuverable and serving users effectively, but the Starlink team identified a common issue in this small population of satellites that could increase the probability of failure in the future," the company said in a statement. SpaceX did not provide more details on the issue, but said all de-orbiting satellites will "maintain maneuverability and collision avoidance capabilities during the descent." Of the nearly 6,000 satellites that have been launched by the company to date, only about 400 have been de-orbited.

Instacart to Layoff 7% of Staff in New Restructuring Effort

Instacart (NASDAQ: CART) announced Tuesday it will lay off about 250 employees, or 7% of its total staff, as part of a restructuring plan, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The job cuts will impact middle management, according to Instacart, and will focus on teams apart of larger projects like advertising. The company estimates it will incur about $19 million to $24 million in restructuring costs in the first-quarter of 2024, mostly related to employee severance payouts. Several leaders are also departing, including Chief Operating Officer Asha Sharma, Chief Technology Officer Varouj Chitilian and Chief Architect JJ Zhuang, with the company replacing the CTO role. In a letter to shareholders, CEO Fidji Simo said the layoffs will allow Instacart to "reshape the company and flatten the organization so we can focus on our most promising initiatives that we believe will transform our company and industry over the long-term." Separately, Instacart reported fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday that roughly matched market expectations.

General Motors Robotaxi Company Cruise Hires Chief Safety Officer

General Motor's (NYSE: GM) autonomous vehicle division Cruise has hired Steve Kenner, who has held top automotive and technology safety positions at multiple companies including Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Ford (NYSE: F) and Uber (NYSE: UBER), to be the company's new Chief Safety Officer on Monday. His addition to Cruise follows an incident where a company robotaxi dragged a pedestrian roughly 20 feat at about 7 miles per hour to a curb after the victim was hit by another human-driven vehicle in San Francisco, prompted probes from multiple government regulators. "Safety requires that every team within a company work together to put passengers and other road users first," Kenner said in a statement. "That partnership must include regulators, and I look forward to earning their trust. At the end of the day we have the same goal as regulators: to make our roadways safer and establish public confidence in the AV industry."

Super Bowl Tickets Surge to $8,600 Each Ahead of Sunday's Game, Says StubHub

Super Bowl tickets are experiencing a price surge ahead of Sunday's game, with ticket resale platform StubHub predicting it could be the most expensive championship game ever as the San Francisco 49ers face off against the Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas. "The average ticket price sold is right around $8,600, which is in line and slightly above the LA Super Bowl two years ago," said Adam Budelli, spokesperson for StubHub, in a statement to Reuters on Thursday. "So currently, we are on the pace that this may end up being the most expensive ever." Budelli added that nearly 40% of the sales have come from the state of California, Reuters reports, compared with 10% from Missouri and Kansas. The game is also receiving much hype from the attendance of Taylor Swift, as well as the rivalry between the two teams following the 49ers' loss to the Chiefs in the 2020 Super Bowl.

Google Rebrands AI Chatbot Bard to Gemini, Launches Ultra 1.0 Subscription Model

Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) announced a major rebrand of its generative AI chatbot and assistant Bard on Thursday, offering a new app and subscription options under the new name Gemini. "Our mission with Bard has always been to give [users] direct access to our AI models, and Gemini represents our most capable family of models. To reflect this, Bard will now simply be known as Gemini," wrote Sissie Hsiao, VP and general manager of Gemini and Google Assistant, in a blogpost. As of Thursday, Android users can download the company's new Gemini app, while Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone users can access Gemini via the Google app. The AI's new subscription option, called Gemini Ulta 1.0, offers Google's most powerful AI model for $19.99 per month through Google One.

Disney Invests $1.5 Billion Stake in Epic Games to Create Brand Games

Disney (NYSE: DIS) announced Wednesday it is investing $1.5 billion for a stake in Epic Games, marking its biggest move into the video game market as streaming giants like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) host a library of mobile games alongside traditional content offerings. The entertainment giant will collaborate with Fortnite studio to develop new games where consumers can "play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar and more," Disney said in a press release. “Disney was one of the first companies to believe in the potential of bringing their worlds together with ours in Fortnite, and they use Unreal Engine across their portfolio,” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said in a statement. “Now we’re collaborating on something entirely new to build a persistent, open and interoperable ecosystem that will bring together the Disney and Fortnite communities.”

Toyota Invests Additional $1.3 Billion in Kentucky Plant for Electric SUV

Toyota (NYSE: TM) announced an additional $1.3 billion investment in its Kentucky factory to produce its new three-row all-electric SUV for U.S. consumers, the company said Tuesday, bringing its total investment to nearly $10 billion factory since 2021. The additional funds will support assembly of the new SUV and add a battery pack assembly line to the plant. The Kentucky facility is the company's largest manufacturing site, employing nearly 9,400 workers and has the capacity to manufacture up to 550,000 vehicles per year, including the Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, Camry, Camry Hybrid and the Lexus ES 350 models. Toyota's EV investments come as the carmaker has been criticized in recent years for falling behind other leading automakers in its EV offerings. The company currently has two EV models in the U.S. market -- the Toyota bZ4X and the Lexus RZ 4503 -- both of which are manufactured in Japan.

Snap Plans to Layoff 10% of Workforce to "Best Position Our Business"

Snap (NYSE: SNAP) announced plans to layoff 10% of its global workforce, the company said Monday, representing about 500 employees based on recent headcount figures from the social media company. “In order to best position our business to execute on our highest priorities, and to ensure we have the capacity to invest incrementally to support our growth over time, we have made the difficult decision to restructure our team,” the company in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). “As a result, we currently estimate that we will incur pre-tax charges in the range of $55 million to $75 million, primarily consisting of severance and related costs, and other charges, of which $45 million to $55 million are expected to be future cash expenditures.” Snap said the majority of those costs will be incurred in the first quarter of 2024. The company is set to deliver its fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday.

Apple Launches Vision Pro VR Headset in U.S., Offering Over 600 Apps and Games

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) officially launched its Vision Pro virtual reality headset in the United States on Friday, with customers now having access to more than 600 apps and games designed to be experienced in VR. The tech giant said Vision Pro has an "infinite canvas" for apps to be used within a three-dimensional interface that users can navigate using their eyes, hands, and voice. “With more than 600 new spatial experiences to explore in the all-new App Store, alongside more than 1 million compatible apps across iOS and iPadOS, users can discover a wide array of apps that expand the boundaries of what’s possible," said Susan Prescott, VP of Worldwide Developer Relations at Apple, in a statement. "These incredible apps will change how we experience entertainment, music, and games; spark our imaginations with new ways to learn and explore; unlock productivity like never before; and so much more. Developers are already capturing the promise of spatial computing, and we can’t wait to see what they create next.”

Amazon Launches Rufus, its New AI-Powered Shopping Assistant on Mobile App

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) on Thursday announced the launch of its new AI shopping assistant named Rufus to the e-commerce giant's mobile shopping app, offering consumers a new tool to help find products, compare reviews and prices and receive recommendations on what to buy all in one place. The generative AI was trained using Amazon's product catalog, customer reviews, community questions and answers, and other information sourced from around the web relevant to shoppers' needs. “It’s still early days for generative AI, and the technology won’t always get it exactly right,” Amazon said in a blog post. “We will keep improving our AI models and fine-tune responses to continuously make Rufus more helpful over time. Customers are encouraged to leave feedback by rating their answers with a thumbs up or thumbs down, and they have the option to provide freeform feedback as well."

Walmart Announced 3-for-1 Stock Split, 150 Store Expansion in United States

Walmart (NYSE: WMT) announced a three-for-one stock split and plans to add more than 150 large-format locations across the United States in recent news as the retail giant's shares rise near their all-time high. The company said on Tuesday the additional shares will be payable after market close on Friday, Feb. 23 to shareholders of record as of Thursday, Feb. 22, with CEO Doug McMillon saying in a statement that Walmart "felt it was a good time to split the stock and encourage our associates to participate in the years to come." On Wednesday, the company unveiled plans to build or convert more than 150 brick-and-mortar storefronts over the next five years in the U.S. Walmart is currently the country's largest private employer, with about 1.6 million employees working at its more than 4,600 stores. Moreover, about 90% of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart. The stock closed at $165.59 on Tuesday, slightly below of its all-time high of $169.94 reached in November.

UPS Says Domestic and International Shipping Volumes Fell in Q4, Cuts 12,000 Jobs

United Parcel Service (NYSE: UPS) shares fell on Tuesday after the company reported declines in both international and domestic shipping volumes in its fourth-quarter earnings reports. The company also announced 12,000 layoffs, which will save the company about $1 billion in costs. "2023 was a unique, and quite candidly, difficult and disappointing year. We experienced declines in volume, revenue and operating profits and all three of our business segments," CEO Carol Tomé said during the company's earnings call on Tuesday. The package delivery giant reported a 7.4% decline in average daily volume in the United States and a 8.3% in international shipping last quarter, with global shipping impacted in-part by freight supply chain issues in the Red Sea region, as well as the Panama and Suez canals, Tomé said. For its full year 2024, UPS expects revenue in a range of $92 billion to $94.5 billion, alongside an adjusted operating margin of between 10% and 10.6%.

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