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Self-Driving Car is yet to take a leap from sci-fi to real-world application. With rising debates and discussions at scale regarding the rollout of theWaymo
Investment: US$3 billion Note: Waymo makes its own sensors in-house.Cruise
Investment: US$9+ billion Note: A new vehicle has been developed with Honda—a unit purpose-built for autonomous ride-sharing. General Motors went from laggard to being one of the leaders when it bought the company formerly known as Cruise Automation in 2024. The automaker’s own engineers were trying to figure out how to get a self-driving car to make complicated turns when they discovered that Cruise had made more progress retrofitting founder Kyle Vogt’s Audi A4 with an autonomous system. GM paid more than US$1 billion for Cruise and started developing self-driving electric cars. Today, with more than US$9 billion in capital raised from parent GM and partners Honda Motor Co., SoftBank Vision Fund, and T. Rowe Price, Cruise LLC is trying to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco. GM, the majority owner of Cruise, has remained mum on when the service will launch since the company missed its target in December 2023, but executives say they hope it will happen soon. In preparation, Cruise has hundreds of its cars being tested in San Francisco. Vogt, now the company’s chief technical officer, has said that if a car can navigate San Francisco, it can handle any kind of driving. Cruise is using modified versions of GM’s Chevrolet Bolt electric car.Argo AI
Investment: US$2.6 billion (VW); US$1 billion (Ford) Note: Deep pockets and wide reach from a pairing of two of the world’s largest automakers. Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co. vaulted into the pantheon of self-driving leaders by joining forces in July 2023 to jointly develop autonomous and electric vehicles. VW agreed to contribute US$2.6 billion to Argo AI, Ford’s self-driving partner. That boosted the autonomous startup’s valuation to US$7 billion. The pairing of VW, the world’s largest automaker, with Ford, the sixth-largest, has created a global goliath. Volkswagen could have gone with any number of autonomous players, according to Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst with Navigant Research. “The fact that they’re willing to put their money behind Argo is a vote of confidence that they think Argo is on the right track,” he said. VW is contributing more than just money. In addition to US$1 billion in cash, the German automaker is folding its Autonomous Intelligent Driving unit into Argo’s operations. That gives Argo an additional 200 engineers, bringing its staff total to more than 900. It also adds a European headquarters in Munich. Argo is run by CEO Bryan Salesky, once a leading figure in Google’s self-driving car project—now known as Waymo—and Pete Rander, previously a founder of Uber’s self-driving program. Salesky has said he intends to begin testing autonomous vehicles in Europe as early as this year. In the U.S., Argo already has Robo-taxi and driverless delivery pilot programs in Miami, Washington, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Austin, Texas, and Palo Alto, Calif.Aurora
Investment: US$700+ million Note: Aurora’s brain trust—its co-founders previously led automated driving development for Alphabet, Tesla, and Uber. Aurora Innovation’s biggest claim to fame may be its rock star cast of automated driving nerds. CEO Chris Urmson started Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving project. Co-founder Sterling Anderson led the team that developed Autopilot for Tesla Inc. And Chief Technology Officer Drew Bagnell is a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University who helped found Uber Technologies Inc.’s self-driving center in Pittsburgh. The three-year-old startup also has some big-name investors, including Hyundai Motor Group, chúng tôi Inc., and Sequoia Capital. Aurora is testing its self-driving software on vehicles from several automakers, including Hyundai and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. But it doesn’t share its intellectual property with them, and it has insisted on remaining a neutral player in the race to autonomy. It rebuffed an acquisition overture from Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, in 2023 and later broke off its partnership with the company to maintain its ability to work with multiple carmakers.Aptiv
Investment: Undisclosed Note: Bringing together a supplier and a consumer-facing company could be a formidable combination. No one would have imagined a decade ago that a vestige of bankrupt GM would be a player in the self-driving revolution. But Aptiv Plc, the former Delphi Automotive parts unit that split out its powertrain business, is the rare auto supplier that seems to have successfully transformed itself into a serious autonomous vehicle (AV) player. It did so with a string of tech acquisitions to piece together a self-driving system it’s developing with Intel Corp. The largest was self-driving startup Nutonomy, which had been running tests of driverless cars in Boston and Singapore at city speeds. Since buying the company in late 2023, the team has grown from about 120 people to more than 700 in Boston, Singapore, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, and Shanghai, according to Chief Technology Officer Glen De Vos.
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Digital transformation is disrupting industries and companies with digital expertise or an IT personnel deficit. These companies may need to work with digital transformation consulting companies to facilitate change at work. A typical digital transformation consulting service includes
Formulation of digital strategy by potentially following one of digital transformation frameworks
Identification & implementation of digital solutions (e.g. off-the-shelf solutions)
Building new digital solutions (e.g. custom AI solutions)
Resolving other bottlenecks in the company (e.g. digital transformation requires culture change)
This article outlines the digital transformation consulting industry landscape including an in-depth analysis of digital consulting company types and industry-specific digital consultants:
Emerging digital transformation consulting companies with innovative approaches
There is a new category of consultants that rely on your company’s data to suggest which areas your company should focus on.
Bandwitt is an emerging consultancy that works with local Fortune 500 as well as SMEs to help them identify areas of digitalization and select digitalization partners.
Founded by BCG alumni, chúng tôi works with Fortune 500 and governmental organizations and benchmarks their data to identify areas of digital transformation they should invest in.
Established digital transformation consulting companies
Established management consulting companies are active as digital transformation strategy consulting companies as well. With the increasing interest in digital and new competitors entering the market as digital consultants are making management consulting companies rebrand themselves as digital consultants. For example, we were surprised to see that McKinsey featured Forrester’s, an Industry Analyst, assessment of digital transformation companies on its front page. Normally, companies like McKinsey are reluctant to include any references to competitors on their websites.
Feel free to check our sortable and transparent list on established digital transformation consultants to explore all vendors in this category.Specialized digital transformation companies AI consulting
AI consulting is especially valuable in solving problems that can be solved with clear rules.
Machine learning is different than typical software projects. While most software relies on rules programmed by humans, machine learning/AI software relies on rules identified within data sets. Therefore, AI consulting services require working with consultants experienced in the topic. There are already public companies like Palantir in this area.HR transformation consulting
HR, with its role in shaping a company’s culture and talent, needs to be at the core of an enterprise digital transformation strategy. HR transformation companies mostly focus on implementing digital tools to ease the recruiting and onboarding processes while training existing employees with digital HR best practices. Some consultants are
Flexso for People
Feel free to read our article for more on what digital transformation means in HR and digital HR consulting companies.Financial service transformation consulting
The processes and products of the financial services industry are different than those in other industries. Therefore specialization is necessary to support the transformation of financial services companies.
Digital Disruptions is a strategy and design innovation consulting firm, with a focus on fintech and digital financial services (DFS) in emerging markets. They bring digital tools and methodologies such as lean startup, design thinking, behavioral design, agile, open innovation, and design of experiments, to design, build and launch client solutions. They conduct research based on their client’s requests and build innovative products that increase business ROI.
You can read our comprehensive article for more information on digital transformation for financial institutions.Retail transformation
Applexus Technologies offers business consulting in retail, fashion, and consumer products. They provide digital transformational services such as retail planning, POS systems, retail analytics, omnichannel enablement, application development, and maintenance to their customers. Applexus has been in the retail industry for more than 15 years and they offer their expertise to help businesses make data-driven decisions while delivering enhanced customer experience.
M.X. Data provides retail and IT consulting services to help businesses identify the bottlenecks of their processes. They bring retail IT technologies such as point-of-sale systems and retailers together and help them implement solutions with their 20 years of experience in the retail industry.
You can check out our related article for more information on digital transformation practices in the retail industry.Marketing transformation consulting
Demand Spring is a marketing consulting company that helps marketing teams optimize their demand generation strategies, processes, and technologies. Their services vary from marketing content audit to creating buyer personas. Demand spring is a partner of Marketo services, a marketing automation software. They help businesses during the process of automation tech implementation.
Alpha Efficiency helps businesses build their digital marketing strategies. They focus on technology, content, and digital transformation roadmap. Their expertise and technology offerings include search engine marketing, email marketing, web development, and social media marketing solutions.Insurance transformation
Scyllogis Consulting offers a digital transformation service that specifically focuses on data management and analytics to improve the customer experience insurance companies deliver.
Ninety is an insurance-specialist innovation consultancy firm. They build Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) for insurance companies. Their framework, called 123 Framework, aims to test and learn, iterate MVPs, fail fast on weak ideas, but move to pilot quickly for strong ones. They claim that they can take a new idea to market in 60 days.
You can read our article for more information on digital transformation applications in the insurance industry.Real estate transformation consulting
Wiredhut helps businesses build API-first property technology solutions that aim to improve real estate user experience.
Drees & Sommer is a digital transformation consulting company specialized in the real estate sector. The key services include development and process consulting, infrastructure consulting, project management and engineering as well as real estate consulting.
For more on digital transformation examples and technologies in real estate, you can check our article.
If you still have questions on digital transformation consultants, feel free to contact us:
Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
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Asher Elbein is a freelance journalist and fiction writer based in Austin. This story originally featured on the Texas Observer.
That was when the kudu made their move, disappearing through the fallen perimeter fences on the ranch’s border. Native to Africa, the kudu is a brown-and-white-striped antelope species with long spiraling horns. The Y.O. Ranch population was ready for life on the lam. By the time ranch hands managed to repair the fences and conduct an animal count, virtually the whole herd—20 of 26 kudu—had escaped.
Exotic game ranches like the Y.O. Ranch have spread throughout Texas since the 1950s, providing hunters with homegrown safaris and passing motorists with glimpses of the surreal. According to Charlie Seale, executive director of the Kerrville-based Exotic Wildlife Association (EWA), 5,000 Texas ranches now contain at least one exotic animal species. Some of these are small operations; others are huge, like South Texas’ King Ranch, which is the state’s largest at 825,000 acres. Together, they host a population of more than 2 million “Texotics” representing 135 species. The result is a roughly $1.3 billion industry that generates more than 14,300 jobs annually, largely in otherwise struggling rural areas.
Dama gazelle at the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters. Scott Ball
The Y.O. Ranch headquarters sits amid the scrubby hills of Kerr County, along highways lined with cattle fences. Driving there on a brisk January morning, I passed a butcher’s board of native roadkill, but also a surprising share of dead axis deer from India. Past the ranch’s gates, Thomson’s gazelle and zebra, both with their young, grazed alongside longhorn cattle in patches of dry forest.
Before Europeans arrived in the 1500s, the rangelands of Texas were grazed largely by bison and pronghorn. Cattlemen who arrived in the mid-1700s mostly pushed those species out by 1878, replacing them with the nation’s first widespread exotic ruminants—animals like cattle, sheep, and goats—and later enclosing the vast pasturelands in fencing. The biggest livestock in Texas are cattle—the animals that gave the Y.O. Ranch its start.
In its heyday in the 1880s, the property was 566,000 acres, driving some 300,000 cattle up to East Coast markets, said the ranch’s tourism director, Debbie Hagebusch. But in the late 1950s, droughts and unstable livestock markets began to hit ranchers like Y.O. owner Charles Schreiner III particularly hard. So in the 1950s, Schreiner began introducing excess animals purchased from the San Antonio Zoo—axis deer, blackbuck, aoudad—for hunting. In 1967, he and other ranchers interested in stocking exotic game formed a group that would eventually become the Exotic Wildlife Association, a trade association and lobbying arm of the business.
A tour truck is tall enough for visitors to be able to feed the giraffes. Scott Ball
The Y.O. Ranch changed hands and tacked “Headquarters” to its name in 2024. Along with free-range hunting on the ranchland, the property maintains two fenced-in paddocks for guided game tours, allowing wildlife tourists to observe 25 species. In January, Hagebusch, a cheery woman with graying blond hair, piled a friend and me into an ATV and drove us out into the tour paddocks, rattling off facts about the creatures we passed.
“The giraffes are like our celebrities,” Hagebusch said, gesturing to the youngest animal. “Especially this one. She’s a little cookie monster.”
Debbie Hagebusch checks in with a giraffe at the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters. Scott Ball
Onward we went through the paddock, through winter grass and sun-dappled stretches of white stone. Here were the herds of little blackbuck from Pakistan, dark males ushering around harems of tawny does, keeping a wary eye out for competitors. There by the fence line were dignified groups of shaggy, oil-furred waterbuck, native to Africa, eyeing a bevy of calves. “In a zoo environment, they have a baby and they call in the news media,” Hagebusch said, pointing to the young. “Here, it’s such a natural thing. They breed just like they do in the wild.”
Out on the open lands of the ranch, various species of deer and antelope wander freely, available in hunting packages that range from $2,850 (four-horned sheep) to $18,350 (kudu). Only around 10 percent of the animals on most ranches are killed by hunters, said Eric White, the ranch manager. Most of the animals targeted by trophy seekers are older, past their prime breeding age. For ranches like the Y.O., hunting—for both natives and exotics—is both a source of revenue and a management tool: It keeps populations in check, makes room for new bloodlines, and keeps a healthy amount of competition among breeding males.
As attitudes toward trophy hunting hardened in the 1990s, zoos stopped selling their overstock to private ranches, forcing the exotic game business to sustain itself through private breeding. Today, ranchers sell to other breeders through auctions; they also trade animals privately, mixing and matching bloodlines with scrupulous care. This can be pricey: A breeder zebra can cost up to $5,500; an addax comes in between $4,500 and $6,500.
Zonkey (left) and zebra roam the ranch. Scott Ball
For hunting to be economically sustainable, however, exotic animals need to be able to survive and reproduce on their own, without year-round feeding or special breeding programs. Since it’s also expensive to keep food out year-round, it’s to the ranchers’ benefit to make sure their animals aren’t having a disproportionate impact on native vegetation and that they aren’t in direct competition with other species. Seale, the EWA director, lays it out this way: If you have a large population of grass grazers, like cattle, you stock animals that browse on leafy vegetation and new growth, like white-tailed deer, greater kudu, and aoudad. If you have a whitetail hunting ranch, you stock grazers like blackbuck and oryx. (In the Hill Country, everything eats the acorn crop.)
As a result of these concerted breeding efforts, some endangered species are now much more common in their Texas enclaves than they are in their native lands. Antelope like the scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and the elfin dama gazelle are all virtually extinct in the wild. All are found on the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters. “When I first got here [in 1986], we were actually sending blackbuck back to Pakistan,” White says. “We’d catch them off the ranch and take them to an Air Force base in San Antonio, and they’d fly them back to try and establish breeding populations in parks out there.”
The conservation aspect of wild game ranching is something the EWA heavily emphasizes. “You give the animal an economic value. You give the rancher a reason to raise that animal and help it flourish,” Seale says. “Probably one of our most important species that we had was the scimitar-horned oryx, which haven’t been seen in the wild in decades. Here in Texas, our last population estimate was 15,000. That’s a result of being allowed to freely trade, buy, and sell these animals.”
Once stocked, the inhabitants of exotic game ranches occupy the same liminal existence as the native species they share land with: simultaneously managed and wild, fending for themselves behind the protected barrier of a rancher’s fence. But those barriers are not impenetrable.
The nilgai, the second-largest antelope in the world, was introduced onto the King Ranch in 1930 by Caesar Kleberg, its conservation-minded owner. By the 1970s, herds were grazing wild along the highways outside South Texas towns.
In the 1980s, the King Ranch began selling both nilgai hunts and nilgai meat, partially for profit and partially to control their numbers. A one-day hunt now costs $900 per hunter, plus a harvest fee of $1,200 for a bull or $500 for a cow, says Weston Koehler, King Ranch wildlife manager. Today, between commercial hunts, ranch management, and the activities of private leases, around 1,000 nilgai are harvested on the King Ranch per year.
The herd that moves through King Ranch land numbers around 15,000, part of a larger South Texas population of an estimated 30,000. Females can have a range of up to 50,000 acres, slipping under cattle fences and wandering through countless adjoining ranches, borderland parks like the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Reserve and the Sabal Palm Sanctuary, and possibly into Mexico. “They occupy every habitat type out here that we have,” Koehler says. “A lot of these ranches around here probably got their nilgai from King Ranch.”
Nilgai mostly get media attention now as potential vectors of diseases like cattle fever, a nasty ailment that the USDA managed to eliminate from the United States in the 1940s, except for a permanent quarantine zone along the Texas-Mexico border. Nilgai’s nomadic habits take them in and out of this zone at will, and unlike white-tailed deer or cattle, which can be easily treated at feeding stations laced with the anti-tick chemical ivermectin, nilgai are far too wary to come to bait. In an effort to deal with the problem, the USDA has carried out a spring cull of the nilgai population in Laguna Atascosa.
The discussion of exotics often defaults to economic concerns like agriculture or hunting. Yet the actual ecological impact of nilgai on the landscape remains a mystery. Game cameras show that the passageways nilgai open up under cattle fences are used by a diverse range of wildlife, says David Hewitt, executive director of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, which might help populations separated by fences prevent inbreeding. Beyond that, things get sketchy: Could their grazing on grass and brush influence fire frequency? Could their habit of leaving large piles of droppings in certain spots act as a nutrient-rich nursery to dispersed seeds? And it’s not just the nilgai. The long-term ecological implications of the many new herbivore species in Texas have gone largely unstudied.
One school of thought presents exotics as damaging invaders that crowd out native species. Feral hogs—another animal that got a big boost from hunting ranches—have received plenty of press due to booming numbers and the severe agricultural damage they inflict. In West Texas, ongoing efforts to curtail the aoudad population have been partially driven by a desire to prevent competition when reintroducing native desert bighorn sheep, which were exterminated by hunting and disease in the 1960s. And a 1992 Texas Parks and Wildlife publication warned that species like axis deer and blackbuck could out-compete white-tailed deer when confined to plots of only native vegetation and left unhunted.
Fears of competition between natives and exotics are heightened by the fact that rangelands have been shrinking, not growing. Most of the large Texas ranches have been broken up and sold off, their open spaces nibbled away by development. “That’s the problem we have all over the world with wildlife,” says White, the ranch manager. “When I came to work at the Y.O., it was 62,000 acres. We’re 14,000 acres now. … When you start cutting it up, the ecosystems get cut up.”
Llama at the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters. Scott Ball
But these questions are much more complex than the simple dichotomy of “exotic” and “native” suggests, argues Erick Lundgren, a doctoral student who studies novel ecosystems at the University of Technology Sydney. The discourse around so-called invasive species is relatively new and often functions more as a cultural norm than a scientific metric, Lundgren says. If you choose to ignore where animals come from and study only their practical ecology, there’s often no measurable difference between how they live on the landscape. While introduced species can boom and cause ecosystem-wide changes, so, too, can uncontrolled populations of native species like white-tailed deer, which reshape forests by eating away native vegetation. Both can see massive population declines as well. “We tend to understand those changes by natives as part of structural ecological change, like the loss of apex predators or the habitat fragmentation,” Lundgren says. Why not then extend the same grace to exotic animals?
Modern views of natural systems often overlook the fact that ecology and evolution have a much longer clock than we usually think, says John Rowan, a paleontologist at the University of Massachusetts. Twelve thousand years ago, the North American plains and forests held a megadiversity of herbivores—from the extremely large, like elephants and ground sloths, to those resembling animals found on Texas ranches today, such as deer, pronghorn, elk, horses, camels, llamas, and peccaries. “That large herbivores trample and consume vegetation should come as no surprise to anyone that has spent time on safari in an African savanna,” Rowan says. “In fact, virtually all of Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems were filled with megafauna that did the same. Perhaps the presumed novel effects of introduced herbivores aren’t that novel after all.”
The extinctions that rolled through the continent at the end of the ice age killed off the largest animals and rippled out through the ecosystem. But in a new study, Lundgren, Rowan, and colleagues argue that exotics have the capacity to take on many of the ecological roles once held by vanished beasts. Wild horses, extinct in North America after the ice age, likely dug wells and cleared away old grass, possibly making way for deer and other browsers. Now feral burros do the same; so, perhaps, do the zebras on Texas game ranches. Rooting in the soil by feral hogs or by the wart hogs that are now appearing in South Texas turns over the earth, Lundgren says, helping native plants take up more nutrients—just as enormous, extinct peccaries did in the Pleistocene. In these cases, apparently new species are shaping the landscape in older ways.
But the ice age comparison offers only a vague model, Lundgren says. What’s happening in Texas now is entirely unprecedented: No other ecosystem that we know of in Earth’s history has such a massive assemblage of relatively small-bodied hoofed mammals, without anything larger than a cow. For someone interested in evolution, that’s exciting. “The fact that all these species have started to pop up wild in Texas, and there are these crazy amalgam communities, it’s a really dynamic moment in the evolution of a new North American fauna,” Lundgren says. “It’s just awesome.”
For humans, the cultural line between wilderness and captivity begins and ends at the fence. An exotic inside the fence is contained, an ornament or a potential trophy; to many, an exotic outside is an enigma, a nuisance, a potential invader. But to the animals themselves, the fence barely matters. They’re on the same landscape either way, and subject to the same natural processes. When the rheas raise chicks on the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters, red-tailed hawks and other raptors carry them off. Coyotes—clever, adaptable, and opportunistic—kill a large number of young animals and sometimes adults as well.
And coyotes and suburbanites with ready cash aren’t the only hunters out there. One morning on the King Ranch, Koehler was guiding a hunter toward an open flat amid the thick bushes where they hoped to bag a nilgai. Something bellowed in the distance; brush crashed and tree limbs broke. They set up the guns, assuming a herd was about to break cover. Then five nilgai tore across the flat. A young nilgai the size of a white-tailed deer flew in front of the startled hunters; from behind her a mountain lion darted across and lunged up for her neck. “We watched that mountain lion chase that young nilgai for about 300 yards before they got in the thick brush,” Koehler says. “And there’s no telling what happened after that.”
Trust in autonomous cars is falling
Trust in autonomous vehicles has faded among American drivers, new research suggests, with recent crashes and other incidents blamed for souring potential riders on the developing technology. While a number of companies have closed trials underway involving driverless cars, the general expectation among automakers and others is that it won’t be until 2023 or later before services begin to take off in earnest.
That leaves only a couple of years to convince those who might one day use such self-driving services that the technology is actually safe. According to new research by the AAA, that could be a tougher challenge than previously believed, too. Far from gradually gaining acceptance as the segment matures, things seem to be going in the opposite direction.
In fact, 73-percent of American drivers that the AAA surveyed in its multi-year tracking study said that they would be “too afraid to ride” in a completely autonomous car. In late 2023, however, only 63-percent had said the same thing. One big surprise, beyond that shift away from trusting driverless technologies, is just who is most skeptical about the vehicles.
Indeed it’s Millennials that are most impacted by the new doubts. Back in late 2023, a minority of those questioned – 49-percent – said they’d be too afraid to get into a self-driving car. Now, that has risen to 64-percent. It’s the largest increase across all the generations surveyed, the AAA points out.
It’s not just getting into the autonomous cars that fills some with dread. 63-percent of those surveyed said that they’d feel less safe if, while they were walking or riding a bike, they were sharing the road with a fully driverless vehicle. Only 26-percent said they didn’t think it would make a difference, versus human-piloted vehicles, and just 9-percent thought they’d be safer in that situation.
Women, meanwhile, report feeling less safe than men, with 83-percent of the former voicing doubts compared to 63-percent of the latter. Only 20-percent of US drivers say they’d trust a self-driving vehicle. 7-percent were unsure whether they could.
While industry experts predict that a transition toward autonomous driving will generally reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities, the public perception of the current state of the technology clearly differs from that significantly. Recent high-profile incidents, like the Uber collision in Tempe, AZ back in March which saw a pedestrian killed after a self-driving prototype SUV struck her at night, invariably make headlines. That’s despite the rate of accidents for human-piloted vehicles being considerably higher.
What’s clear, therefore, is that just as the technological side of autonomous vehicles is being developed, so the public-facing aspect must mature too. There’s been some relatively small-scale attempts to do that, like Waymo’s closed beta of its driverless vehicles in Arizona, but most people still have little to no contact with cars where an AI is at the wheel, not another human. Unless that changes, and the public grows to trust the technology, driverless cars may find themselves without an audience when they finally do start rolling out in earnest.
It’s hard to believe that the iPad is now eight years old. I still remember hearing the rumors of the Apple tablet, watching the keynote, and being shocked to see the price at $499. When you go back and watch the original introduction, Steve Jobs asks the question: “Is there room for a third category of device in the middle?”
In order to create this device, Steve said it would need to be “far better at some key things.”
What did he say it would have to be better at over a smartphone and laptop? He mentioned browsing the web, email, photos, video, music, games, and eBooks.
In 2010, when this device launched, iPhone screens were still tiny, and laptops were still heavy. In 2023, iPhone screens can be gigantic, and laptops are lighter and thinner than ever. Is the iPad still better at those key things today? What’s the state of the iPad today? These are the questions I want to answer.Is iPad the best web browser?
Back in June, I wrote about how I felt that mobile Safari was holding the iPad back.
I am constantly asking myself the question: why are certain tasks tedious to do on an iPad compared to on a Mac? It’s certainly not a hardware limitation. In 2023, 9to5Mac reported the iPad Pro even outperformed a MacBook Pro in certain situations. iPad doesn’t have a hardware problem, but rather a software one.
I would argue that the lack of a full web browser is one of the things holding the iPad back the most. Until it can access all websites natively as you would on a Mac, it’s a crippled device. The Mac has a better web browser than the iPad. The iPhone browser is crippled in some ways, but it’s more portable.Is iPad the best email tool?
The iPad is an excellent tool for powering through email, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best tool. I can work through massive amounts of email on my iPhone. But I’d rather process my email on macOS. In my opinion, for email, the iPad brings the worst parts of iPhone email to a larger form factor. The mail app on the iPad needs to be completely rethought in the future.Is iPad the best way to enjoy photos?
Even if you would rather organize your photos on macOS, the iPad has become a fantastic device for photo editing. In fact, the entire iOS ecosystem has become a first-class citizen when it comes to photos (taking, organizing, sharing, editing, etc.). It’s hard to discount the iPad as the best way to enjoy your photos.Is iPad the best way to watch a movie?
Due to its incredible screen, the iPad is my preferred way to watch video on the go. It has all of the apps/services you’d want. You certainly don’t need the iPad Pro to do this, though. The 6th generation iPad will work fine here.Is iPad the best gaming device?
When it comes to gaming, the iPad is undoubtedly better than the iPhone due to the increased screen size. Is it the best portable gaming device? While the iPad is a fine device for basic gaming, the Nintendo Switch is drastically better as a pure gaming device.Is iPad the best eBook reader?
I would argue that the iPad mini is probably the best way to read eBooks using iOS, but it’s hard to justify buying it for this feature alone. A Kindle Paperwhite is a better device for pure reading. On the flip side, an iPhone XS Max has a plenty big enough screen for reading.What’s the state of the iPad in 2023?
The $329 iPad is an incredible value. If you want to use it for much the same things that Steve mentioned in the original iPad keynote, you are getting an incredible device for even less than what it debuted at in 2010. When it comes to the iPad Pro models, the hardware is writing checks that the software can’t cash. If an iPad is going to be at Mac level prices, it needs to be able to do everything a Mac can do.
An iPad that costs as much as a Mac should be able to do all the things a Mac can do, but it just can’t. Often, even if a task can be done, it’s so cumbersome that it takes twice as long on iPad. I shouldn’t have to write a Siri Shortcut to accomplish basic tasks.
Even with the outstanding new iPad Pro models that have just been released, the software is essentially the iPhone software blown up for a larger form factor. Yes, there are some multitasking features, but outside of that, how is it that different than iOS on the iPhone?
When I see people comparing iPad hardware power to Mac hardware in 2023, it reminds me of when PC users would compare the price to specs ratio with Macs in the early 2000s. People that want a Mac want it for the software. In my opinion, most people that want an iPad want it for the form factor. We should be way less concerned with the hardware specs of the iPad, and way more concerned with the software.
So what’s the state of the iPad in 2023? The hardware specs of the iPad stopped mattering around the iPad Air 2. iOS can rarely push the iPad hardware in meaningful ways for most people. It’s way past time for the iPad software to grow up and match the hardware. It’s time for Apple to make a big bet on the next generation of computing devices because right now, they are trying to keep everything at the status quo in terms of iOS and macOS.
There are a number of aspects where the iPad that still frustrates me. Why can’t a photo editing app (or the Files app) open items directly from an attached camera? Why doesn’t iOS have the ability to create a .zip file without using a 3rd party app? Why does “Request Desktop version” of a website rarely work?
Can some people use the iPad to do 100% of their work? Absolutely, but I feel like it’s been the same people for the past five years without much of a change. Why is the iPad not getting better at tasks that the Mac excels at? This tweet sums up my feelings on the iPad perfectly.
I can do 90% of my work on iPad. The problem is that it’s been at 90% for years now.
— Wojtek Pietrusiewicz (@morid1n) November 7, 2023
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The hexacopter, like the fixed wing UAV in front of it, are both used for tactical information gathering by Chinese troops. Oedo Soldier
This display at the Military Museum indicates that the 20-pound CH-901 drone, which can be used as a loitering munition, is in service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Behind it is a smaller recon unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that’s launched from the smaller tubes on the 4X4 launch armored fighting vehicle (AFV).
As part of its celebration of the People’s Liberation Army, the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution in Beijing is showing off a range of exciting exhibitions, offering a peek into the PLA’s new self-propelled artillery, cruise missiles, ballistic missile launchers, and—perhaps most notably—tactical unmanned aerial systems.
First up, there’s official confirmation that the CH-901 “kamikaze” loitering attack munitions (a short-ranged mini-drone) is in use by the PLA. First publicly displayed at the DSA 2024 arms fair, CH-901 is a 20-pound, fixed-wing drone with a flight speed range of 9 to 90 miles per hour. It’s got a 1.2-mile-range electro optical camera for reconnaissance (it can be recovered this way) and/or it can crash into enemy targets, detonating its warhead. It is comparable to the American Aerovironment “Switchblade” used by Special Operations. At the Military Museum, a 4X4 armored fighting vehicle (AFV) is armed with a pop-up hatch that carries eight CH-901 pneumatically launch tubes. The launcher also has four launch tubes for a smaller fixed-wing reconnaissance UAV. The CH-901 launcher is likely to be used by lighter units like Special Operations, or amphibious and airborne troops, which cannot always count on conventional air and artillery support.
Slide and Launch
These tactical hexacopters can be deployed for launch by sliding their rack on the AFV backdoor, and use them to support company/battalion operations.
Another 4X4 AFV had an even more interesting cargo: three large hexacopter drones, with collapsible rotor-housing struts. Carried on a slide-out rack deployed out of the rear infantry exfiltration door of the vehicle, each hexacopter is about 4 feet tall, with a wingspan of about 6 and a half feet and a large dome camera mounted on the main body.
Judging by the performance of other similarly-sized hexacopters—like the 33-pound JSSG hexacopter—this reconnaissance vehicle would have a range of about 6-9 miles, a flight altitude of over 3,000 feet, top speed of 50 miles per hour and enough battery life for 1 hour of flight time. The setting suggests that the hexacopters would likely be deployed at the battalion or company level, and be used for communications and reconnaissance purposes.
The hexacopter, like the fixed wing UAV in front of it, are both used for tactical information gathering by Chinese troops.
Next to the hexacopter carrier display was another tactical unmanned aircraft system of interesting design. The systems is 2 meter wide flying wing with its electric propellers facing down, suggesting that it could be a tilt rotor drone with vertical take off and conventional flight capabilities. The putative tilt rotor tactical drone is also likely to be carried by another 4X4 AFV.
The display fits well within the wider vision of the PLA. The planned integration of unmanned systems into the tactical level—in addition to cutting the total number of ground troops to increase resources per capita—suggests the army is hoping to delegate responsibility and initiatives to lower-level officers, in light of the increasingly chaotic battlefields seen in Iraq and Ukraine.You may also be interested in:
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