Top 3 tech, startup and sustainability stories of the week, 24th – 28th June, 2024

This week’s stories come from Europe and USA

1-Meta opens second AI startup accelerator in Europe

Meta, owner of Facebok, announced its second AI startup accelerator in Europe. I saw this story at The Next Web and it aims startups that want to integrate open-source foundation models (such as Llama and Mistral 7B) into their products. To deliver the program, Meta again teamed up with Hugging Face, a US-based open-source platform that hosts machine learning models and tools, and Scaleway, a European cloud provider for AI infrastructure, the story said. (I have a story here about Meta that it was fined by Turkey)

As a part of the program, five startups in the MVP (minimum viable product) or product stage will be elected. Those startups will get technical mentoring by teams at Meta’s AI research lab, called FAIR. They will access to Hugging Face’s platform (which includes Meta’s own Llama models), and to Scaleway’s cluster of several thousand NVIDIA H100 GPUs. “The startups will also benefit from the resources of the world’s largest startup campus, STATION F in Paris, which will host the accelerator. Applications are open until August 16, and the program will run from September 2024 to February 2025,” emphasized the story.

Meta opens second AI startup accelerator in Europe

2- Microsoft faces fine after EU takes issue with bundling of Teams and Office

Microsoft violated European Union antitrust laws by not bundling Teams with its other popular applications for businesses, EU officials said.

I saw this story at CNN and if confirmed, the findings of an EU investigation could lead to a fine of up to 10% of Microsoft’s global revenue, which totaled $211 billion in its latest financial year, the story said.

Microsoft has been forcing customers to acquire Teams by default including the tool in its Office 365 and Microsoft 365 packages, according European Commission, EU’s executive arm.

The company’s advantage over competitors “may have been further exacerbated by interoperability limitations between Teams’ competitors and Microsoft’s offerings. The conduct may have prevented Teams’ rivals from competing, and in turn innovating, to the detriment of customers,” as the Commission put it.

Let me note that Microsoft announced last year that it would stop the Teams bundling practice in Europe and extended the same commitment globally in April.

Here’s what Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement: “Having unbundled Teams and taken initial interoperability steps, we appreciate the additional clarity provided today and will work to find solutions to address the Commission’s remaining concerns.”

Microsoft faces fine after EU takes issue with bundling of Teams and Office

3- Waymo, San Francisco’s robotaxi, opens to everyone in the city

Waymo announced its autonomous ride-hailing service, Waymo One, is now available to everyone in San Francisco. Waymo’s San Francisco fleet of 300 robotaxis is used within the city limits. Waymo has more than 700 robotaxis in its total fleet, which is spread between commercial markets in Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as testing locations in Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas.

Waymo’s fleet is entirely electric, powered by 100% renewable energy from San Francisco’s CleanPowerSF programme. According to a recent survey, 53% of Waymo’s San Francisco users feel the service has made their travel more environmentally friendly. To date, Waymo has found that about 30% of its trips in the city are to local businesses, including restaurants, music venues, bars, coffee shops, parks, and museums.

Let me add that Waymo has been tested over the 3.8+ million miles in San Francisco.  As a side note, Waymo was born in 2009 as a project inside Google and started its first U.S. driverless taxi service in 2020.

Waymo, San Francisco’s robotaxi, opens to everyone in the city (Photo: San Francsico Chronicle)

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