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iPadOS pushes Apple’s tablet closer to mainstream PC replacement

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WWDC 2019: Everything Apple announced and what really matters to business
TechRepublic’s Karen Roby and Bill Detwiler break down the important news from Apple’s 2019 WWDC, but more importantly, they discuss why certain applications are important to business users. Read more: https://zd.net/2Wb8mpN

Apple once maintained a single operating system. Then came the iPhone, and it became a two-OS company. Apple’s forays into the adjacent categories of TV platforms and smartwatches yielded their own OSes. And if you knew that Apple would launch a fifth OS at this year’s WWDC, the likely candidate would be “AudioOS” to prep the AirPods and HomePod for a range of services or Amazon Echo-like skills based on Siri.

Also: Everything Apple announced at WWDC 2019 and why it matters

But no. Apple’s new OS serves iPads, a category of devices that’s been around for a decade and seen significant volume drops in the past years that have not fazed Apple. They grew and shrunk on the back of a mobile phone operating system, albeit one that was increasingly offering additional features for the iPad. These began to steer the iPad’s identity into a more bona fide alternative to Macs and PCs. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro began offering a MacBook display-rivaling expanse. And Apple made its strongest push ever for desktop-like apps at the launch of the second-generation iPad Pros last year, with the announcement that “real” Adobe Photoshop would be coming to the platform. Those iPads also brought the adoption of USB-C, a functional improvement and symbolic shift away from the iPhone legacy of proprietary connectors.

And at this year’s WWDC, iPadOS pushed its host device even further on its journey to mainstream laptop replacement. Behold the use of flash drives, an improved Files app that offers Finder-like access to drives, and photos loading directly into an app, bypassing the Camera roll! Revel in the ease of copying and pasting with new gestures! Bask in the glory of mouse usage via USB or Bluetooth in your desktop-class browser!

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  • Apple iPad (Wi-Fi, 32GB, Space Gray) at Amazon
  • Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi, 32GB, Gold) at Amazon

The strongest sign of iPadOS’ significance, though, doesn’t even exist within it. Rather, it lives in Project Catalyst, an initiative that will enable developers to create Mac apps from iOS apps, adding some of the desktop niceties in the course of a few days if early results prove typical. While iPhone-only apps will certainly jump to the Mac, the iPad is the natural starting point for such transitions given closer screen size similarities and more similar usage scenarios.

Also: iPadOS is the most exciting thing Apple announced at WWDC 2019

With all these changes, Apple is changing the iPad — once positioned as a subset-PC — into a superset-PC. The platform that was dismissed as a “big iPod touch that nobody wants” is becoming something closer to the “touchscreen Mac that Apple won’t make.” Augmented reality is leading that charge today. But soon, as is becoming clearer, the Mac and iPad will have more in common than ever, as Apple follows Microsoft’s lead and has MacOS running on ARM processors.

The iPad’s advantages are platform versatility and modularity. But there’s also a price range advantage. While Mac pricing begins at $799 for the Mac mini and will soon extend into the luxury car range with the new Mac Pro, iPads start at less than half of that price and feature the touch capabilities and app ecosystems that people increasingly take for granted. That said, if only your cold, dead hands will allow prying your Mac away from you, the Mac and iPad will work together better than ever.

Apple’s commitment to the iPad leaves some nervous about the future of the Mac, with the thought that Project Catalyst will result in a dumbing down and lower level of optimization of apps for Apple’s venerable computer. But it showed through in Apple’s presentation that the company focuses extensively on optimizing its platforms. The Mac Pro, while a far cry from a mainstream device, shows how Apple is tenaciously fighting to keep the Mac attacking the height of demanding processing-intensive tasks well beyond an iPad’s grasp. But if a tablet is to overtake the laptop, Apple wants to ensure that its logo graces that device’s back.

PREVIOUS AND RELATED COVERAGE:

Apple: The iPad is now the best computer for a lot more people
Exclusive: Apple’s Craig Federighi explains why it’s time for the iPad to get its own platform with iPadOS.

iPadOS gives Apple’s tablets their own operating system
Adios, iOS: A new strategy to make the tablet a true laptop replacement.

Apple update lets you use iPad as a second screen
Through the Sidecar app, you can use the iPad as an external monitor for your Mac.

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Geek+ raises another $100M for its warehouse robots – TechCrunch

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Two things are for certain: 1) There continues to be a lot of excitement around warehouse robotics and 2) Geek+ is extremely good at raising money based on that fact. The Beijing-based warehouse robotics firm just raised another $100 million in funding, labeled a “Series E1,” with participation from Intel Capital, Vertex Growth and Qingyue Capital Investment.

The last time we wrote about the company was still fairly early on in the pandemic — June 2020 — when it had just raised a $200 million Series C. Meantime, the company raised an undisclosed Series D last year. Certainly there’s no lack of investor interest in the firm at the moment, with this most recent round valuing Geek+ at somewhere around $2 billion.

I’d say it’s probably a good idea to get funding while the funding’s good. While the space will almost certainly continue to grow, there’s likely to be a bit of a correction here, as investments respond to broader market trends. Meanwhile, Geek+ is posting impressive numbers, including $150 million in revenue last year, coupled with $300 million in orders. As pandemic waves continue to result in shutdowns in China and elsewhere, it’s easy to see why companies continue investing in these technologies.

Geek+ mentions “global expansion” as one of the primary motivators for its seeking additional funding. Notably, fellow Beijing-based firm, ForwardX Robotics expanded into the U.S. earlier this month, on the heels of its own Series C. In July, Geek+ announced deployments in both North and South America. The firm also has multiple partner deals in Europe.

“With the first-mover advantage, Geek+ has already developed a solid competitive advantage in global markets, bringing in a constant driving force for business development,” Geek+ founder and CEO Yong Zheng said in a release. “This, coupled with our three technology pillars of robotics, systems, and algorithms, has not only allowed Geek+ to develop a full product line, but also improve R&D efficiency while reducing R&D costs.”

Of course, stateside expansion finds the companies competing with an already crowded market of domestic warehouse robotics firms that offer a variety of both greenfield and brownfield solutions for automating the warehouse space. Geek+ produces a variety of different robotics systems, though at its core, the company offers a Kiva-style wheeled robot designed to cart around inventory shelves.

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WhatsApp is adding new privacy options, including screenshot blocking and a stealth mode – TechCrunch

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WhatsApp is introducing a small flurry of privacy-minded tweaks into the messaging app, the company announced on Tuesday. The Meta-owned globally ubiquitous messaging service says the changes aim to give users more control over their experience while introducing “added layers” to protect their private communications.

WhatsApp will introduce an option for users to privately use the app without being visibly online, something it calls “online presence control.” The feature, which rolls out to everyone this month, will let WhatsApp users curate which contacts can see their online status while hiding it from others. The list of contacts who can view your online status doesn’t have a cap and you can swap people in and out at any time. The company says that the update will come to both its desktop and mobile app offerings.

The company is also testing screenshot blocking for “view once” messages, which disappear after being opened a single time. WhatsApp introduced a disappearing media option a year ago, reminding users at the time that they wouldn’t be able to know if the recipient was saving any shared photos and videos as screenshots. The feature is in testing for now but the company hopes to get it out to users broadly “soon.” (It’s worth remembering that anyone can still take a photo of their screen with a different device, which should make you think twice about getting too comfy on apps with disappearing messaging.)

The last change is another small quality of life update, but a notable enough one. This month, WhatsApp will allow users to leave groups privately without sending out a mass notification that they bailed. Group admins will still get notified, but generally this change should make moving through groups on the app more fluid and less awkward. This change will also roll out to both the desktop and mobile version of the app.

WhatsApp Head of Product Ami Vora described the additions as a boost to the app’s “interlocking layers of protection,” which aim to bolster its status as a prominent encrypted messaging option.

The company has made other efforts over the years. Last fall, it closed one possible weak spot in its encrypted messaging service, adding end-to-end encryption for backups stored in the cloud.

“We’ll keep building new ways to protect your messages and keep them as private and secure as face-to-face conversation,” Meta Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said of the new features.

The company’s own messaging isn’t always as tight though: A confusing privacy policy update in early 2021 prompted a backlash, sending users to rival apps. That same update is still reverberating more than a year later, and the European Commission launched a formal investigation into its concerns about the app’s consumer protections earlier this year.

 

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Big funds ‘screwing with Series A market but not seed market’ says veteran VC Mike Hirshland – TechCrunch

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Mike Hirshland is enjoying 2022. Despite the market’s zigs and zags, he has spent much of his time this past summer in Rhode Island, where relatives from afar have gathered on and off for an extended family reunion. He and partner Raanan Bar-Cohen were also able to close their fifth fund with $150 million in capital commitments at winter’s end —  ahead of the stock market collapse that would follow. Indeed, the two now have around $375 million in assets under management at their 11-year-old venture firm, Resolute Ventures.

Yet another reason to feel cheery is what’s happening at their stage of the market, where after a rapid run-up, valuations are slowly but surely coming back down to earth, suggests Hirshland. He says that while Resolute’s pace has been “remarkably consistent,” leading to roughly 10 investments each year that draw initial checks from the firm in the $1 million to $1.5 million range, the “biggest departure” in its history was last year. It was then that both round sizes and valuations ballooned, prompting the firm to write bigger checks while also forcing it to walk away from “really big, really pricey seed rounds” with valuations so lofty that Hirshland feared their next round would be problematic.

That’s not to say it’s all been a walk in the park. Some of Resolute’s best-performing portfolio companies, including Opendoor and Bark & Co., have had their struggles since going public through tie-ups with special purpose acquisition companies.

Another of Resolute’s bets, Clutter — which is also backed by Sequoia Capital and SoftBank — has also found it harder to grow its business than it might have imagined earlier. The outfit merged with a rival in February to bolster its odds of succeeding, but Hirshland, who remains “quite bullish” on Clutter, admits that it isn’t always easy to profitably “move atoms.”

What is not a concern for Hirshland, he insists, is competition. He says Resolute backs founders based largely on their vision and the firm’s belief that the team can build something compelling. (“I’m essentially indifferent if it’s day 1 or day 365, when they can show me some code,” he says.) He argues that other firms, no matter their public messaging, aren’t quite as open-minded, especially not right now.

In fact, asked about later-stage firms like Tiger Global and Insight Partners that have been shifting more of their attention to younger startups, Hirshland, talking with TechCrunch over Zoom, shrugs his shoulders. “Big funds are really screwing with the Series A market,” he says, “but in the seed market, we’re not seeing these guys come that far down.”

Even if they did, adds Hirshland, it wouldn’t last long. “You always see firms announce these big seed initiatives because when things get competitive, people move earlier. But when the shit hits the fan, they go back to focusing on their bread and butter and the cycle just continues.”

Resolute has so far invested roughly $10 million in initial checks from its newest fund. Some of its more recent investments include Signl, a startup that sells business intelligence tools to investors and whose founders sold an earlier company, Bitium, to Google in 2017.

Resolute also recently invested in Nobl9, a so-called service level objective platform whose founders also sold a previous company (Orbitera) to Google.

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