Arabs excited for Apple's latest gadgets, some wary of high price – Arab News

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LONDON: Apple’s latest gadgets have sparked excitement among Arabs, although some are raising eyebrows at the hefty price tags.
Along with an upgraded iOS system, new MacBooks range and its most-powerful chips yet, Apple on Monday unveiled a long-rumored headset that will place its users between the virtual and real world, while also testing the technology trendsetter’s ability to popularize new-fangled devices after others failed to capture the public’s imagination.
Apple chief executive officer, Tim Cook, proudly introduced the sleek Vision Pro goggles at the annual developers’ conference in Cupertino, California, a campus co-designed by the late Steve Jobs.
“This marks the beginning of a journey that will bring a new dimension to powerful personal technology,” Cook said.
The Vision Pro is Apple’s maiden voyage into the mixed reality market, boasting a high-resolution display, eye-tracking technology, and a formidable processor.
For some Arabs, the Vision Pro could revolutionize work, learning, and play with potential applications in remote collaboration, education, and gaming.
Emkwan, a UAE-based tech content creator at the event, said: “I’m actually shocked at all this. There’s so much to take in about Apple Vision Pro. It’s both scary and beautiful. Has Apple killed the iPhone with the Apple Vision Pro?”
I’m actually shocked at all this. Like there’s so much to take in about Apple Vision Pro
Can’t wait to try it today and will share comments once I’ve had a go myself. #WWDC23
— EMKWAN (@emkwan) June 5, 2023
However, with a $3,500 price tag, not everyone is ready to jump on the Vision Pro bandwagon.
One user said: “Not yet. You won’t kill the iPhone with VR until you make it affordable enough to put into the average and above average consumer hands and right now, it’s priced outside of their reach.”
Not yet. You won’t kill the iPhone with VR until you make it affordable enough to put into the average and above average consumer hands and rn, it’s priced outside of their reach.
— Theory (@theorymctv) June 5, 2023
Saudi-based tech influencer Majed Al-Dakhiel recognized the game-changing potential of the goggles, but questioned Apple’s target audience.
“The goggles are truly transformative and open the door of competition between developers. But will they be an entertainment or retail product?” he said on Twitter.
النظارة نقله تقنية ،وتفتح باب منافسة بين شركات للتطوير .
ولكن هل بتكون منتج ترفيه او انتاجي ؟
— ماجد الدخيّل (@majedandroid) June 5, 2023
The Cupertino company is certainly making waves with its new technological offerings and the headset could become another feather in Apple’s cap for releasing industry-altering technology, even if it were not the first to do so.
While analysts are not expecting the Vision Pro to be a big hit right away, the buzz and concerns surrounding the headset suggest it has the potential to become a major contender in the MR market. Only time will tell how Arab consumers will embrace the device.
CUPERTINO: Twitter will now require users to have an account on the social media platform to view tweets, a move that owner Elon Musk on Friday called a “temporary emergency measure.”
Users who try to view content on the platform will be asked to sign up for an account or log into an exiting account to see their favorite tweets.
“We were getting data pillaged so much that it was degrading service for normal users!” Musk said in a tweet.
Temporary emergency measure. We were getting data pillaged so much that it was degrading service for normal users!
Musk has previously expressed displeasure at artificial intelligence firms like OpenAI and others using Twitter’s data to train their large language models.
The company has initiated a range of measures to bring back advertisers who left the platform under Musk’s ownership and to increase subscription revenue by making verification check marks a part of the Twitter Blue program.
Earlier in the month, Twitter had announced plans to focus on video, creator and commerce partnerships to revitalize the social media company’s business beyond digital advertising.
Twitter has also begun charging users to access its application programming interface (API), used by third-party apps and researchers.
DUBAI: Professional services organization Deloitte launched the Deloitte Middle East AI Institute during the Experience Analytics event held on May 18 at The Arena in Riyadh.
Launched in June 2020, the institute focuses on artificial intelligence research and applied innovation across industries. It currently has operations in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, and China, with the latest being in Saudi Arabia.
The first-of-its-kind institute in the region was “introduced with the purpose of advancing the agenda of AI for Deloitte internally, as well as for our clients and our communities,” said Yousef Barkawie, AI and data leader, Deloitte Middle East.
The institute aims to be a “think tank” and a “fountainhead of innovation and advancement of AI” in ways that can “benefit our clients and our societies,” Barkawie told Arab News.
AI is growing exponentially across the world, but its growth in the Middle East region is particularly noteworthy. Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia ranked second globally for societal awareness of AI, according to the 2023 AI Index Report by Stanford University.
The Kingdom has launched several initiatives, including the establishment of the Saudi Arabian Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority and the National Data Management Office (NDMO), to accelerate the implementation of AI in the Kingdom’s various sectors, and announced the investment of billions of dollars into AI projects.
“We decided that it is absolutely imperative for us to think about bringing that kind of talent, capability and entire mindset to our Middle East clients and bring the Deloitte AI Institute right here to our region,” said Barkawie.
“Just like anything, the topic of AI can be highly localized,” he added, explaining that every country has its own unique set of challenges and objectives, which could benefit from the use of AI.
Language, for instance, can be a challenge in the region, as most advancements in AI models have been in English or Latin languages, and the “Arabic language is not getting as much attention as it should on a global scale,” Barkawie said. 
Deloitte’s AI and data team is made up of talent with over 15 nationalities, he said, which “brings in a lot of diversity, and localized experience and knowledge.” This diversity is extremely important, he added, because even though Arabic is one language, it has several dialects.
There are also other societal and cultural considerations as well as market maturity because the adoption of AI is dependent on the maturity of industries such as technology, cloud and data practices, said Barkawie.
The NDMO, for example, has a program for all regulated entities in the Kingdom, which is designed to elevate the quality of data through various means such as better governance and policies around privacy and protection of data, he explained.
“Those programs are extremely important but that tells you something: If we have to establish a program to put those controls in place, it means that the quality of data may not be at the desired level,” he said.
The existence of these programs is “excellent news,” but it also means the region is not “entirely there yet,” Barkawie added.
There is much eagerness to adopt AI at scale — both in government and private sector entities in the region — but “we’re not at scale yet compared to other more mature regions where they’ve gone through that cycle of exploration and experimentation with AI,” he said.
Drawing a timeline on the adoption of AI in the region would be difficult, Barkawie said, as some sectors like banking and digital media will grow faster, while other more traditional sectors would take longer.
One report put the Middle East region about four and a half years behind the US and China in AI adoption. However, Barkawie thinks the gap will be closed much faster.
“Don’t underestimate our willingness and eagerness to make a change in the Middle East. We, as a region, are quite adaptable and we pick up very quickly,” he said.
“The conversations I’m having with my clients are strong indications that we are not that far behind, and operationalizing AI is much closer.”
Deloitte’s AI Institute in Riyadh is already working with a number of clients including NEOM and the Ministry of Finance. Although based in Riyadh, it serves as a “connected hub” for the Middle East, said Barkawie, with plans underway to open a second branch in the UAE.
No conversation about AI is complete without discussing its potential dangers — particularly its threat to humans.
Deloitte’s response to this threat is the slogan — one it coined and trademarked — “The Age of With,” which means, Barkawie explained, that “we are more powerful and effective when we combine humans with machines.”
He added: “We are quite serious about our thought leadership in this space that machines are not here to replace humans, but to augment human abilities.”
Having said that, the way humans work will change. For example, Deloitte has developed a generative AI model, which it presented at the Experience Analytics event, that can develop a targeted and coherent presentation complete with text and images within two days.
“So, I worry about my job as a consultant,” Barkawie joked.
On a more serious note, he added, there is no denying that many industries and jobs will be affected.
Earlier this year, ChatGPT passed law exams in four courses at the University of Minnesota and another exam at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, according to professors at the schools.
Although it did not score very highly, the chatbot did pass the exams, which indicates that “information and knowledge retention is going to change,” said Barkawie.
This, in turn, means that humans are no longer needed to memorize things, but instead understand them better, he added.
“We’re not going to be at risk of losing jobs every day. It’s more about learning newer ways, and the onus is on us, as humans, to focus on value-adding services and capabilities rather than the mundane,” said Barkawie.
Still, some jobs are designed to be mundane and those are perhaps the jobs that will see the biggest learning curve, he added.
“This is where the rescaling and upskilling of resources needs to happen in order to continuously improve and get the most value out of these technologies.”
Generative AI might be able to write this article in a much shorter time, for example, but it will not replace the work that went into it, because ultimately, said Barkawie, “the ability to innovate is not going to come from AI, it will come from humans.”
CANNES: Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG), a leading integrated media group from the MENA region, hosted an inspiring week at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity with insightful talks, a line-up of exciting performances and the launch of Billboard Arabia.
The SRMG Beach Experience represented the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s creative hub at the global festival. From June 19-22, SRMG gathered over 3,000 guests, reaching a global audience of more than 1.65 billion across digital channels.
Industry leaders, trailblazers, entrepreneurs, international media, and advertising and tech companies were given insight into SRMG’s expansion strategy, and the creativity and innovation taking place across the region.
The company brought together some of the best and brightest minds for a series of dynamic discussions on the opportunities and challenges in the MENA media landscape, the impact of AI on creative industries, the power of community in building iconic brands, and the rise of the region as a thriving music and venture capital hub.
Speakers included media, tech and advertising leaders such as SRMG’s CEO Jomana R. Al-Rashid, co-founder and CEO of Brut Guillaume Lacroix, CEO of VaynerMedia Gary Vaynerchuck, CEO of Omnicom Media Group MENA Elda Choucair, co-founder and chief technology officer of Anghami Elie Habib.
Additionally, entertainment and creative titans, such as standup comedian and TV star Mo Amer, the most awarded creative in the Middle East Ali Rez, and co-founder of production house Good People Ali Ali, focused on the importance of captivating storytelling and authenticity in delivering relatable and inspiring content to audiences.
This year, SRMG reached another milestone in its growth strategy through a partnership with Billboard.
The new music platform, Billboard Arabia, is dedicated to celebrating Arab artists and spotlighting their stories, cultures and experiences. Over the next year, Billboard Arabia will introduce several charts, music awards, live events and exclusive content in one centralized location.
To celebrate the announcement, SRMG provided a platform for artists from the region to showcase their talents on a global stage at the festival. The SRMG Beach Experience held live concerts by rising Saudi sensation Mishaal, and regional Khaleeji hip-hop artists, including DJ Outlaw, Moayad, Jeed and Flipperachi. For the second edition of MENA Night, Naïka, Elyanna and DJ Rodge took to the stage for unforgettable performances.
Another key aspect of SRMG’s transformation strategy is to empower the next generation of creators and innovators. Therefore, for the first time, SRMG held the Saudi Young Lions competition, providing an opportunity for the winners to compete in the Global Young Lions competition.
The Saudi Young Lions’ winning team, Reema Ibrahim and Shoug Abdullah, made history by placing in the top seven of over 450 creative participants from around the world.
SRMG’s partnership with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity makes it the first-ever official festival representative of Saudi Arabia. This partnership reflects SRMG’s commitment to elevating the regional media ecosystem by showcasing the opportunities and highlighting the creativity and innovation coming from the MENA region.
LONDON: National Geographic, the iconic yellow-framed monthly magazine, has laid off the last of its staff writers, with media reports and employees saying the company will no longer sell the publication on US newsstands.
CNN reported that the cuts were part of an internal restructure by parent company The Walt Disney Co., which has slashed thousands of staffers across its divisions this year.
“Staffing changes will not change our ability to do this work, but rather give us more flexibility to tell different stories and meet our audiences where they are across our many platforms,” said a spokesperson for the magazine.
“Any insinuation that the recent changes will negatively impact the magazine, or the quality of our storytelling, is simply incorrect.”
The publication dedicated to nature, science, history and geography, is more than 130 years old and had over 1.7 million subscribers at the end of last year.
It said monthly editions would continue to be published, but would be written by either freelancers or staff editors.
However, some media sources reported that copies of the magazine would not be available on US newsstands from next year, adding that the publication had cut back on its photo contracts.
News of the layoffs at the magazine was first reported on Twitter on Tuesday by departing staff writers.
“Today is my last day at National Geographic,” Michael Greshko, a former science writer, tweeted.
“The magazine is parting ways with its staff writers, including me.”
In a November interview with Axios News, National Geographic’s new editor-in-chief Nathan Lump said that the outlet was focused on expanding its digital footprint and planned to invest more in social video as the brand continued to modernize.
The layoffs at National Geographic are the latest in a series of cuts that have shaken the media industry in recent months.
CNN, Buzzfeed and Vice Media have all laid off hundreds of employees in the past year, in a sign of the financial challenges faced by the industry, which is struggling to adapt to the changing landscape of news consumption.

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