All posts in “Business”

Lack of domestic battery production could short German automakers’ EV plans

BMW X5 eDrive concept front three quarter plugged in
As automakers ramp up efforts to produce more electric and hybrid vehicles in their lineups for the near future, this ultimately has increased the demand for battery production. However, analysts fear some companies could struggle with this demand, specifically German car companies — and that is because none of them currently build and produce their own batteries. Instead, they have to rely on third-party supplies, mainly from Asia. This has German car companies in a bind, not just with themselves, but the German government as well.

According to The Verge,  Germany’s automobile industry is incapable of producing its own batteries. That’s because none of the automakers and parts suppliers in Deutschland prepared for this electric vehicle and hybrid boom. Instead, they’re relying on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean battery production, which has German chancellor, Angela Merkel, frustrated and worried about Germany’s economy.

Merkel openly pressured German automakers and expressed discomfort with how the car companies — the biggest commercial sector for the country’s whole economy — are relying on Asian companies for its batteries. Ultimately, Merkel and her government simply don’t like the idea that its most crucial industry is depending on foreign suppliers — especially since they’re not European companies. Further, some of the automakers have already run into complications with negotiating public contracts.

Up until 2015, Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, had a battery cell production facility in Saxony. The plan was to win contracts from its fellow German competitors and to build the business together and make it profitable. However, that fell through, particularly since at the time, none of the German automakers had an attractive hybrid and electric vehicles to sell, so the project was canned for failing as a business plan.

This apparently led to a ripple effect where other suppliers and companies, like Bosch and Continental, also pulled back on any plans to produce battery cells because of a lack of confidence in the business model. This lack of confidence has the entire German auto industry apprehensive about getting into battery production because of the high costs associated with building the facilities, and even producing the batteries and further developing the technology.

For these reasons, the companies said that relying on the Asian companies currently is not an issue and it doesn’t make sense for German automakers or suppliers to build batteries with today’s technology just yet.

The situation is also partially caused by Asian companies having more expertise in the technology of the lithium-ion cell business, due to its superiority in the consumer electronics industry. It’s also further likely that the Asian companies favor their domestic automaker partners, giving them the advantage in electric and hybrid vehicles.

But as electric vehicle and hybrid demand continues to grow and German automakers keep promising to build more, analysts say the need for a battery production facility on home turf will continue to rise.

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Vitamix recalls 100,000 blender containers after multiple ‘lacerations’

Ease up on that margarita — or you may cut a finger or two. Vitamix, maker of high-end blenders, has voluntarily recalled some 105,000 blender containers after nearly a dozen customers reported lacerations due to an exposed blade, according a recent announcement by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The recall also covers more than 100,000 Ascent and Venturist 8-ounce and 20-ounce containers manufactured before March 2018. These containers were sold at Costco, Williams-Sonoma, and on Vitamix’s website between April 2017 and July 2018. The blending cups and bowls are clear containers with a black base that features an integrated blade that attaches to the blender base to operate.

Vitamix has received 11 reports of lacerations when consumers’ hands came in contact with exposed blades, although nothing more serious than that. The cuts occur when the blade separates from its case, causing a cut.

If you believe your Vitamix containers are affected by the recall, look for the product manufacture date that is etched on the blade in MM-YY format. If the container is listed in the recall, and the manufacture date is before March 2018, you should stop using the container until it is repaired.

Additionally, a Vitamix Recall Landing Page was created to help owners check their Vitamix blender against the recall request and request a repair kit. You can also contact Vitamix at 888-847-8842 to request a repair kit, however there’s a good chance your repair kit is already on its way, as the company has begun mailing kits to customers they have on file as purchasing one of the faulty blenders.

“For those customers who own 20-ounce cups or 8-ounce bowls manufactured prior to the design change, we will send free of charge an easy-to-use repair kit,” Scott Tennant, Vitamix’s director of communications, told Consumer Reports. “We implemented a new gasket into the design. You’ll replace the orange gasket, no tools needed, with a new gasket. That’s it.”

If you’ve decided to mix up your kitchen accouterment, you can check out our comparisons of the best blenders on the market.

Updated on August 17: We updated this story to clarify the Vitamix models and containers affected by the recall.

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Lack of domestic battery production could short German auto EV plans

BMW X5 eDrive concept front three quarter plugged in
As automakers ramp up efforts to produce more electric and hybrid vehicles in their lineups for the near future, this ultimately has increased the demand for battery production. However, analysts fear some companies could struggle with this demand, specifically German car companies — and that is because none of them currently build and produce their own batteries. Instead, they have to rely on third-party supplies, mainly from Asia. This has German car companies in a bind, not just with themselves, but the German government as well.

According to The Verge,  Germany’s automobile industry is incapable of producing its own batteries. That’s because none of the automakers and parts suppliers in Deutschland prepared for this electric vehicle and hybrid boom. Instead, they’re relying on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean battery production, which has German chancellor, Angela Merkel, frustrated and worried about Germany’s economy.

Merkel openly pressured German automakers and expressed discomfort with how the car companies — the biggest commercial sector for the country’s whole economy — are relying on Asian companies for its batteries. Ultimately, Merkel and her government simply don’t like the idea that its most crucial industry is depending on foreign suppliers — especially since they’re not European companies. Further, some of the automakers have already run into complications with negotiating public contracts.

Up until 2015, Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, had a battery cell production facility in Saxony. The plan was to win contracts from its fellow German competitors and to build the business together and make it profitable. However, that fell through, particularly since at the time, none of the German automakers had an attractive hybrid and electric vehicles to sell, so the project was canned for failing as a business plan.

This apparently led to a ripple effect where other suppliers and companies, like Bosch and Continental, also pulled back on any plans to produce battery cells because of a lack of confidence in the business model. This lack of confidence has the entire German auto industry apprehensive about getting into battery production because of the high costs associated with building the facilities, and even producing the batteries and further developing the technology.

For these reasons, the companies said that relying on the Asian companies currently is not an issue and it doesn’t make sense for German automakers or suppliers to build batteries with today’s technology just yet.

The situation is also partially caused by Asian companies having more expertise in the technology of the lithium-ion cell business, due to its superiority in the consumer electronics industry. It’s also further likely that the Asian companies favor their domestic automaker partners, giving them the advantage in electric and hybrid vehicles.

But as electric vehicle and hybrid demand continues to grow and German automakers keep promising to build more, analysts say the need for a battery production facility on home turf will continue to rise.

Google One Paid Storage Now Open to All US Users

Google on Wednesday announced the availability of Google One as a storage upgrade option for people in the United States.

The option will become available in other countries within the next few weeks.

Users with paid Google Drive storage plans automatically were upgraded to Google One in the past few months, noted Pavni Diwanji, VP of Google One.

Google One plans begin at US$1.99 for 100 GB. For $2.99, users can get 200 GB, and for $9.99, Google One provides 2 TB. Existing 1-TB plans will be upgraded to 2 TB for free. Pricing for plans that provide more than 2 TB is unchanged.

Google Drive offered the first 15 GB for free. An additional 100 GB cost $1.99, and users could get 1 TB for $9.99, 10 TB for $99.99, and additional storage in 10 TB increments at the same price.

Google One works with Drive and Gmail as well as original quality photos and videos in Google Photos.

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The original quality stipulation “probably means lower resolution,” said Michael Jude, program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“A conventional resolution photo is about 3 MB, but the sky’s the limit for high-res photos,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “The same considerations apply to video SD versus HD.”

Users can share their Google One plan with up to five additional family members, and they will get a breakdown of how much storage each family member uses.

However, that may not be much of a bargain, Jude suggested, because the storage will have to be shared. For example, a 100-GB family plan, at about $24 a year, will cost each person in a family of six $4.

That “seems like a deal until you realize that they each aren’t getting 100GB,” Jude pointed out.

“It’s likely not as good a deal as it appears,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, “because we often focus on the users and not the capacity — or how Google will mine the data.”

Google One Features

Google One gives users a breakdown of their storage use. Categories shown in the example on the Google One app page are Google Drive, Gmail, Google Photos, Family and Family Storage.

Members can get in touch with Google Experts 24×7 by tapping their device screen once. They can choose to communicate via chat, phone or email.

Google One offers users extra benefits, beginning with credits on Google Play and deals on hotels found in Google Search. Google Store and Google benefits will be offered in the next few months.

Those member benefits can be accessed from within the app.

The benefits “might be attractive to some users,” Jude said. “Google Play has music, apps and so forth. It’s the Android equivalent of Apple iTunes and the App Store combined.”

The benefits are “about tying people more into the Google ecosystem and giving some reason for app developers to see more spend,” noted Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“It’s a good move,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Google Drive’s Impending Swan Song

It’s possible that Google will push all Google Drive users to Google One at some point.

“That appears to be the goal, though it looks more like a heavily encouraged upgrade along the lines of a freemium model than a forced march,” Enderle told the E-Commerce Times.

“This is the ‘nice’ period,” Constellation’s Mueller suggested. “At some point, Google will set a deadline. It’s not efficient to have two products around.”

Google will want to offer “one product or platform that’s newer and has more synergies with the rest or with other Google products,” he said.

Google “isn’t in this for the money, but for ecosystem buildout, synergies and long-term lockin,” Mueller pointed out.

“The two most common levers for cloud storage have traditionally been cost and quantity,” said Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“I believe the next battleground needs to be around purpose,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

How people use content is the key, Lepofsky said. “Vendors like Google and Microsoft need to integrate their cloud storage deeper into workflows, starting with the home and then extending into business use cases. As the content becomes more infused into processes, the value of those files increases, and the reliance on the vendor becomes more stable.”

Privacy or the Lack of It

Google’s privacy policy lets it scan content uploaded to Google storage to collect information about that content and the people involved, among other things.

It uses the data collected for several purposes, including serving up personalized content and ads.

Google likely will continue collecting data from content uploaded to its storage because “mining the data is likely the way they’ll make a profit on this,” Enderle said.

“The fundamental controlling principle of everything Google does is related to advertising,” noted Frost’s Jude. “Google will claim that access to customer data helps it defray the cost of the service through targeted advertising.”

What Google One Offers Users

Google One “is a comprehensive, inexpensive data storage service” for consumers, Enderle said, but “I think businesses should avoid it because of privacy concerns.”

The service “gives businesses another, consumer-grade option that isn’t tech-heavy,” Mueller observed. However businesses would still need a separate backup strategy.

It also gives businesses another way to target advertising, Jude pointed out, while consumers would “get access to a lot more storage plus use incentives.”

Google One vs. Competitors

Among competitors, “only Microsoft has a comparable portfolio and mindshare,” Mueller said. “AWS has an offering but not the apps.”

Amazon does offer cloud storage for photos, videos, music, documents and more, however, through Amazon Drive, which lets users access content from nearly any device, and via iOS and Android apps.

IBM and Oracle “offer generic storage and are not competitors, except for offering the option for non-cloud backup for an enterprise,” Mueller noted.

Google One “comes across as more of a consumer-focused, data mining subsidized service,” said Enderle, “and is thus largely unacceptable for most mature and very large businesses.”


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

No one’s buying EA’s flagship game ‘Battlefield V’

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Battlefield V will be one of the largest games Electronic Arts releases in 2018 — 2016’s Battlefield 1 attracted more than 25 million players — but the latest shooter could be in trouble. According to industry analysts, pre-order numbers should have the publisher worried about the World War II shooter.

According to Wall Street Journal reporter Sarah Needleman, the analysis firm Cowen stated that pre-orders for Battlefield V have thus far been “weak,” possibly because of its launch positioning between heavyweights Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2.

“Cowen says Battlefield could suffer the same fate as EA’s Titanfall 2,” Needleman added.

Titanfall 2 sold far below EA’s expectations when it launched in 2016, but some of the sales disappointment likely came from EA itself; the publisher chose to release Battlefield 1 just a week earlier, forcing many players to pick between the two. As the original Titanfall hadn’t released on PlayStation 4, its name recognition was certainly not as strong as Battlefield, and it sold several million fewer copies than predicted. It was an especially unfortunate case because Titanfall 2 happens to be one of the best shooters of the generation, and it has received quite a bit of free downloadable content over the last few years, including new modes and maps.

There is likely another reason for the lower-than-expected pre-order numbers on Battlefield V. Last year’s Star Wars: Battlefront II was a public relations nightmare for EA, as its initial loot box system was criticized as being pay-to-win. Though the system was completely overhauled and EA promised that a similar system won’t appear in Battlefield V, the company has a long way to go toward restoring players’ faith that it will do the right thing. That being said, the decision to make all multiplayer maps free will likely keep the community together for a longer period of time than it did in Battlefield 1.

Battlefield V releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 19. Those who pre-order the Deluxe Edition will get access on October 16, and there will be a free trial available to EA Access members on Xbox One and Origin Access members on PC on October 11.

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