Santa Fe, May 11 (AP/UNB) — Billionaire Richard Branson is moving Virgin Galactic's winged passenger rocket and more than 100 employees from California to a remote commercial launch and landing facility in southern New Mexico, bringing his space-tourism dream a step closer to reality.
Branson said Friday at a news conference that Virgin Galactic's development and testing program has advanced enough to make the move to the custom-tailored hangar and runway at the taxpayer-financed Spaceport America facility near the town of Truth or Consequences.
Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said a small number of flight tests are pending. He declined to set a specific deadline for the first commercial flight.
An interior cabin for the company's space rocket is being tested, and pilots and engineers are among the employees relocating from California to New Mexico. The move to New Mexico puts the company in the "home stretch," Whitesides said.
The manufacturing of the space vehicles by a sister enterprise, The Spaceship Company, will remain based in the community of Mojave, California.
Taxpayers invested over $200 million in Spaceport America after Branson and then-Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, pitched the plan for the facility, with Virgin Galactic as the anchor tenant.
Virgin Galactic's spaceship development has taken far longer than expected and had a major setback when the company's first experimental craft broke apart during a 2014 test flight, killing the co-pilot.
Branson thanked New Mexico politicians and residents for their patience over the past decade. He said he believes space tourism — once aloft — is likely to bring about profound change.
"Our future success as a species rests on the planetary perspective," Branson said. "The perspective that we know comes sharply into focus when that planet is viewed from the black sky of space."
Branson described a vision of hotels in space and a network of spaceports allowing supersonic, transcontinental travel anywhere on earth within a few hours. He indicated, however, that building financial viability comes first.
"We need the financial impetus to be able to do all that," he said. "If the space program is successful as I think ... then the sky is the limit."
In February, a new version of Virgin Galactic's winged craft SpaceShipTwo soared at three times the speed of sound to an altitude of nearly 56 miles (99 kilometers) in a test flight over Southern California, as a crew member soaked in the experience.
On Friday, that crew member, Beth Moses, recounted her voyage into weightlessness and the visual spectacle of pitch-black space and the earth below.
"Everything is silent and still and you can unstrap and float about the cabin," she said. "Pictures do not do the view from space justice. ... I will be able to see it forever."
The company's current spaceship doesn't launch from the ground. It is carried under a special plane to an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) before detaching and igniting its rocket engine.
"Release is like freefall at an amusement park, except it keeps going," Moses said. "And then the rocket motor lights. Before you know it, you're supersonic."
The craft coasts to the top of its climb before gradually descending to earth, stabilized by "feathering" technology in which twin tails rotate upward to increase drag on the way to a runway landing.
Branson previously has said he would like to make his first suborbital flight this year as one of the venture's first passengers on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20. But he made no mention of timelines on Friday.
Pressed on the timeframe, Whitesides said he anticipates the first commercial flight within a year.
Three people with future space-flight reservations were in the audience.
"They've been patient too," Branson said. "Space is hard."
Hundreds of potential customers have committed as much as $250,000 up front for rides in Virgin's six-passenger rocket, which is about the size of an executive jet.
Space tourism has not been a complete novelty since millionaire U.S. engineer Dennis Tito in 2001 paid $20 million to join a Russian space mission to the International Space Station. Branson's goal has been to "democratize" space by opening travel up to more and more people.
The endeavor began in 2004 when Branson announced the founding of Virgin Galactic in the heady days after the flights of SpaceShipOne, the first privately financed manned spacecraft that made three flights into space.
Space sector analyst Adam Jonas, a managing director of equity research at Morgan Stanley, said Branson's venture could have an outsized impact in the age of social media on how the public visualizes space as a domain for scientific and commercial exploration.
"You bring them back to earth and they explain what they saw — that's a story, put through the velocity of social media, people want to hear," he said. "Sometimes you need some distance to gain a perspective, seeing the earth from space, seeing how thin that layer of atmosphere is that protects us."
Branson's plans have gradually advanced amid a broader surge in private investment in space technology with cost-saving innovations in reusable rockets and microsatellite technology.
Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos announced Thursday that his space company Blue Origin will send a robotic spaceship to the moon with aspirations for another ship that could bring people there along the same timeframe as NASA's proposed 2024 return. Bezos has provided no details about launch dates.
San Francisco, May 10 (AP/UNB) — Uber is about to embark on a wild ride on Wall Street with the biggest and most hotly debated IPO in years.
The world's leading ride-hailing service set the stage for its long-awaited arrival on the stock market by pricing its initial public offering at $45 per share late Thursday.
The price is at the lower end of its targeted range of $44 to $50 per share, a decision that may have been driven by the escalating doubts about the ability of ride-hailing services to make money since Uber's main rival, Lyft, went public six weeks ago.
Even at the tamped-down price, Uber now has a market value of $82.4 billion — significantly more than century-old automakers General Motors and Ford Motor.
Uber will face its next test Friday when its shares begin trading the New York Stock Exchange.
No matter how the stock swings, the IPO has to be considered a triumph for the company most closely associated with a ride-hailing industry that has changed the way millions of people get around while also transforming the way millions of more people earn a living in the gig economy.
The IPO raised another $8.1 billion for Uber as it tries to fend off rival Lyft in the U.S. and help cover the cost of giving rides to passengers at unprofitable prices. The San Francisco company already has lost about $9 billion since its inception and acknowledges it could still be years before it turns a profit.
That sobering reality is one reason that Uber fell well short of reaching the $120 billion market value that many observers believed its IPO might attain earlier this year.
Another factor working against Uber is the cold shoulder that investors have been giving Lyft's stock after an initial run-up. Lyft's shares closed Thursday 23% below its IPO price of $72 in April.
The jitters about an intensifying U.S. trade war with China also have roiled the stock market this week.
Despite all that, Uber's IPO is the biggest since Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group debuted with a value of $167.6 billion in 2014.
"For the market to give you the value, you've either got to have a lot of profits or potential for huge growth," said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Navigant Research.
And Uber boasts growth galore. Its revenue last year surged 42% to $11.3 billion while its cars completed 5.2 billion trips around the world either giving rides to 91 million passengers or delivering food.
Uber might be even more popular if not for a series of revelations about unsavory behavior that sullied its image and resulted in the ouster of its co-founder, Travis Kalanick, as CEO nearly two years ago.
The self-inflicted wounds included complaints about rampant internal sexual harassment , accusations that it stole self-driving car technology , and a cover-up of a computer break-in that stole personal information about its passengers. What's more, some Uber drivers have been accused of assaulting passengers, and one of its self-driving test vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona last year while a backup driver was behind the wheel.
Uber hired Dara Khosrowshahi as CEO to replace Kalanick and clean up the mess, something that analysts say has been able to do to some extent, although Lyft seized upon the scandals to gain market share.
Kalanick remains on Uber's board, although he isn't expected to be on the podium to help ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to herald the company's debut Friday. Instead, he will be left standing on the sidelines while the spotlight shines on other Uber executives, although Kalanick can still savor his newfound wealth. At $45 per share, his stake in Uber will be worth $5.3 billion. Hundreds, if not thousands, of other Uber employees are expected to become millionaires in the IPO.
Meanwhile, scores of Uber drivers say they have been mistreated by the company as they work long hours and wear out their cars picking up passengers as they struggle to make ends meet. On Wednesday, some of them participated in strikes across the United States to highlight their unhappiness ahead of Uber's IPO but barely caused a ripple. A similar strike was organized ahead of Lyft's IPO to the same effect.
In its latest attempt to make amends, Uber disclosed Thursday that it reached a settlement with tens of thousands of drivers who alleged they had been improperly classified as contractors. The company said the settlement covering most of the 60,000 drivers making claims will cost $146 million to $170 million.
Now, Uber will focus on winning over Wall Street.
Uber may be able to avoid Lyft's post-IPO stock decline because it has a different story to tell other than the potential for growth in ride-hailing, says Alejandro Ortiz, principal analyst with SharesPost. Uber, he said, has plans to be more than a ride-hailing company by being all things transportation to users of its app, offering deliveries, scooters, bicycles and links to other modes of transportation including public mass transit systems.
"Whether or not that pitch will work kind of remains to be seen. It's nearly impossible to tell now," he said. "Obviously the risk to the company now is they have a lot more shareholders that they have to convince."
Dhaka, May 8 (UNB)- Huawei has unveiled its new attraction Y Max phablet in Bangladesh with extra facility for gaming and watching features.
The hybrid fabulous device, combining the size format of smartphone and tablet, is equipped with super large dewdrop display, strong battery support, high-performed processor and powerful RAM.
Huawei Y Max phablet, the new device of the world's leading technology company, is now available in the market of Bangladesh.
On the occasion of the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr, the valuable customers of Huawei can get an attractive headphone free of cost on purchasing the latest device from any authorized brand shop throughout the country.
The subscribers of GP will also enjoy free data bundle offer for purchasing this device.
This easily portable device comes with 7.12-inch large dewdrop display for getting superior viewing experience in Netflix and YouTube. It also provides more than 90% screen ratio, fine details complemented by the comfortable, thin and light feel which brings convenience to portability.
Regarding the device, Huawei Consumer Business Group (Bangladesh) Country Director Kelvin Yang said, “This kind of device gets more attraction for its large display and gaming facilities. Huawei has exposed this device for those who love to watch videos and play games without any lags. Hopefully, all the features of Y Max phablet will satisfy the expectations of all customers like our other devices.”
The design of the new device is aesthetic and attractive. The weight of the 8.4-millimeter thickness slim-designed phablet is only 210 grams. The Y Max phablet with leather finished design is available in Amber Brown and Midnight Black colors.
Huawei uses a 5000 mAh big battery in this device to get longtime battery backup. This device is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor with 128GB of storage. With low-power consumption facility, HUAWEI power-saving technology muses together to make Huawei Y-Max a truly exclusive powerhouse.
As for the cameras, Y Max phablet has 16MP + 2MP module dual camera setup at the rear with AI support. For selfies, there is an 8MP snapper.
Now this long-awaited phablet is available at Huawei’s authorized brand shops throughout the country. This exclusive device is priced at BDT 26,999.
Dhaka, May 8 (UNB)- Grameenphone recently launched Tonic Booth in eight Grameenphone Centers (GPC) in Dhaka and Chattogram.
Tonic Booth services are available in 6 GPCs in Dhaka which are GPC Gulshan, GPC Mirpur, GPC Dhanmondi, GPC Motijheel, GPC Farmgate and GPC GP House. It is also available in Chattagram at GPC GEC and GPC Agrabad.
Grameenphone customers can visit any of these selected GPCs and can receive free check-up of blood pressure, sugar level, pulse and weight from Tonic Booths. They will also be able to buy a special Internet Pack 2GB+2GB (Free) at only TK 129 and receive free gifts upon Tonic package subscription.
All customers visiting GPC at GP House and GPC Dhanmondi, will enjoy free health checkup from Tonic Booths and get free doctor’s consultation every Tuesday.
On the launch event, Michael Foley, CEO, Grameenphone commented, “We believe that all the people of Bangladesh deserve health care services that will meet world class standard for clinical quality. Hence, we are pleased to bring these services to both our customers so that they can easily get check-ups at Tonic Booth for free.
The launch event was attended by the management team from both Grameenphone and Telenor Health includes : Michael Foley, CEO; Yasir Azman, Deputy CEO & CMO ; Mohammad Mollah Nafiz Imtiaz, Circle Business Head, Business Circle Dhaka; Sayma Rahman, Head of Retail Partnership; Mohammed Shahnoor Rahman, Circle Retail Head, Dhaka of Grameenphone along with Andrew Smith, Chief Commercial Officer of Telenor Health.
Mountain View, May 8 (AP/UNB) — Google announced new privacy tools Tuesday intended to give people more control over how they're being tracked on the go or in their own home, part of a broader effort by big tech companies to counter increasing scrutiny of their data collection practices.
The company also announced updates for its artificially intelligent voice assistant as well as a cheaper Pixel phone and a rebranding of his smart-home products.
CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off the company's annual developer conference by noting that the company wants to do more to stay ahead of "constantly evolving user expectations" on privacy.
That focus echoed throughout the day, with the company demonstrating how many of its artificial intelligence capabilities — including some facial recognition and voice searches — are beginning to be processed on devices, rather than by constantly sending information to company servers.
Some critics, however, say Google's privacy updates sidestep more substantial changes that could threaten its ad-driven business model.
"They're sort of marginal improvements," said Jeremy Tillman, president of Ghostery, which provides ad-blocking and anti-tracking software. "They are not bad, but they almost seem like they're designed to give the company a better messaging push instead of making wholesale improvements to user privacy."
Data privacy and security at Google and its Big Tech counterparts have been under the microscope for more than a year now. Facebook dedicated much of its own conference last week to connecting people though more private channels rather than broadly on the social network.
Google announced smaller but tangible changes across many of its products. The company makes billions of dollars annually by selling digital ads that are targeted at the interests people reveal through their search requests and data collected by Google apps and services.
For instance, the company said it will extend an "incognito mode" feature to its Google Maps and search apps. When activated, the app won't record user searches or movements, analogous to how the same feature works in its Chrome browser and YouTube now.
The latest version of Google's Android phone software will also alert users when apps may be exploiting access to phone location data, which Stephanie Cutherbertson, an Android senior director, called "some of your most personal information." Android Q, as the new operating system is currently known, will also let users restrict apps' access to location more generally — for instance, by only allowing apps currently in use to gather the data. (Some apps record location data continuously in the background.)
Location data has been a sore subject for Google. In 2018, an Associated Press investigation found that Google continued storing phone location data even when users turned off a "location history" setting in Android.
The company also revealed plans to overhaul Chrome to let users rein in so-called tracking cookies, which are bits of software that follow people around on the web. The move, which could have major repercussions for the digital advertising industry, would require companies to identify cookies used by third-party websites and advertisers to track users.
In coming months, Google said that change will enable users to clear most of those tracking cookies without disturbing others that keep users logged into sites or that personalize website settings. Chrome currently only allows people to clear all cookies.
Competing browsers such as Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox already build in privacy tools to block sites from tracking online activity.
To Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the privacy measures remain unimpressive. "Unless the Federal Trade Commission is prepared to bring enforcement actions against companies, these promises to protect privacy matter very little," he said.
On the AI front, Google said its digital assistant will get a series of updates this year, including one that lets it book rental cars and movie tickets.
Google says its assistant will be able to make the bookings using online forms on Android phones later this year. The technology behind this, called Duplex, was announced with much fanfare last year when Google demonstrated it making a call to book a restaurant reservation.
The Google Assistant will get shrunk down so that it can work directly on a phone, eliminating the need to communicate with Google's cloud servers to understand and act on certain commands. The phone-only capability will be available on new Pixel phones later this year.
Google also announced a new, cheaper Pixel phone and a larger smart home display called the Nest Hub Max. Both are packed with AI capabilities, including many that take place on-device without sending information to servers.
That might give Google slightly less information about its customers, said Gartner analyst Werner Goertz. But Google collects information across its many products, and it might not even greatly miss the data it foregoes, he said.
The Nest Hub Max signals the integration of Nest into Google. The $229 display screen is similar to last year's Google Home Hub , now renamed the Nest Hub, although the new product adds a camera made for video calling that can be turned on and off.
The hub can also be set to recognize different household members using facial recognition — again all the device itself, not in the cloud.