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Strong turnout for world’s first glimpse at Apple Watch

by admin   |   Posted on Friday, April 10th, 2015

SYDNEY/SAN FRANCISCO | BY PAULINE ASKIN AND NOEL RANDEWICH

An Apple Watch is displayed at ‘Apple Watch at Isetan Shinjuku’ inside Isetan Shinjuku department store in Tokyo April 10, 2015.
REUTERS/ISSEI KATO

(Reuters) – Consumers in Australia flocked to Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) store in Sydney on Friday to get the world’s first up-close look at the tech giant’s smartwatch, which the company expects will be its next runaway hit.

The Apple Watch, CEO Tim Cook’s first new major product, was available for pre-order online and to try out in stores – but not take home.

On April 24, consumers will be able to buy it online or by reservation at retail locations including high-end fashion boutiques in Paris, London and Tokyo, part of Apple’s strategy of positioning the wearable computer as a must-have accessory.

On Friday morning Apple’s Australian flagship store in Sydney’s financial district was packed with those hoping to peek at the device, although just around 20 die-hard fans queued out front, modest by the standards of a major Apple launch.

Alexander Bock, a backpacker from Germany, stood outside the shop’s towering glass facade. He hopes to save enough money to buy the sports version of the watch, he said.

The Apple Watch sport starts at $349 while the standard version comes in at $549 in the U.S. High-end “Edition” watches with 18-karat gold alloys are priced from $10,000 and go as high as $17,000.

“I feel naked without a watch. I think I will buy the Apple watch with the sports band … I’m working very hard right now so I can buy this watch,” Bock told Reuters.

The watch marks the Cupertino, California company’s debut in a fledgling wearable technology market.

Based on recent customer interest at its stores, Apple expects demand for the watch, which allows users to check email, listen to music and make phone calls when paired with an iPhone, to exceed availability at launch, it said on Thursday.

Reviewers this week praised the watch, which also helps users monitor their health and exercise, as “beautiful” and “stylish” but gave it poor marks for relatively low battery life and slow-loading apps.

For women, the various sizes and wrist bands make this smartwatch more pleasing than earlier versions from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) and others, said Kantar World Panel market analyst Carolina Milanesi, who has been wearing the watch for a few days.

At the Apple Store in Omotesando, a high-end shopping district in the heart of Tokyo, dozens of shoppers huddled around two glass displays, snapping pictures of the range of options available on the different watch models.

“I actually tried it on briefly, and it’s so light it doesn’t feel like it’s on my wrist,” 26-year-old salesman Yosuke Hosoi told Reuters.

NOT FOR EVERYONE

Sales estimates for 2015 vary widely. Piper Jaffray predicts 8 million units and Global Securities Research forecasts 40 million. By comparison, Apple sold nearly 200 million iPhones last year.

“Is it for everybody? No, but I don’t think any wearables are yet,” Milanesi said.

Apple’s watch is widely expected to outsell those by Samsung, Sony Corp (6758.T) and Fitbit, that have attracted modest interest from consumers. It will likely account for 55 percent of global smartwatch shipments this year, according to Societe Generale.

Underscoring its marketing strategy, Apple is selling the watch through a handful of high-end stores including Selfridges in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Isetan in Tokyo.

Still, experts said Apple’s offering was unlikely to displace the market share of luxury-brand watch makers.

“This is just Apple’s interpretation of the watch, I don’t think watch makers should be worried at all,” Stephen Fenech, editor of the Tech Guide website, told Reuters.

“This is just Apple’s expression where they’ve combined what they are good at with the fact that it’s a watch with style so I think there’s going to be room for everyone.”

JMP analyst Alex Gauna said he and others on Wall Street would be at stores this weekend to gauge consumer reaction.

But the typically long queues at its stores on product launch days could be a thing of the past as the company emphasizes online sales, according to a leaked internal memo from retail chief Angela Ahrendts, reported by Business Insider.

“The days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over for our customers,” she wrote.

“This is a significant change in mindset, and we need your help to make it happen. Tell your customers we have more availability online, and show them how easy it is to order.”

A spokesman for Apple in Sydney declined to comment on the memo, citing company policy.

At an Apple Store in Hong Kong there was no queue, although half a dozen customers gathered near the shop door, cheering when it was opened. Demos were by online registration, after which a Reuters reporter received a demo without having to wait.

“I didn’t know it’s the first day. I am here to buy an iPad,” said a 26-year-old customer who gave her name only as Ms Jian, visiting from China’s Chongqing. “I will take a look at the watch later.”

Apple shares closed 0.76 percent higher at $126.56 on Thursday.

(Writing by Matt Siegel in SYDNEY; Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in Bengaluru and Teppei Kasai in Tokyo; Editing by Bernard Orr, Dean Yates and Christopher Cushing)

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Death toll rises to 12 in southwest China earthquake

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Courtesy: China Central Television (CCTV)

Twelve people died and another 125 were injured as of 08:30 Tuesday after two earthquakes hit southwest China’s Sichuan Province on Monday night, according to China’s Ministry of Emergency Management.

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Changning County of Sichuan’s Yibin City at 22:55 Monday and another 5.1-magnitude earthquake occurred in Yibin’s Gong County at 23:36 Monday, according to local authorities. Ten villages and towns have been severely affected by the earthquakes.

“The earthquakes also damaged some houses, roads, power and communication facilities,” said Secretary General of the Yibin government Li Tinggen at a Tuesday press conference.

Li said Yibin has started an emergency response and 2,016 rescuers have been dispatched to alleviate the disaster.

“The city and counties quickly allocated all kinds of relief supplies from their disaster relief material repositories to affected villages and towns. At the initial stage, 450 tents, 5,300 quilts and 1,500 folding beds have been sent to affected areas,” Li said.

Yibin has started evacuation and relocation of local people and carried out medical aid for injured ones, Li said.

“After the earthquakes, the city and counties quickly dispatched 15 vehicles and 61 medical specialists with first aid equipment to the quake-stricken areas in order to treat the wounded.

All health centers of villages and towns in the epicenters conducted medical treatment for injured ones immediately after preliminary safety check of their buildings,” Li said. (REUTERS)

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More than 150 people killed in apparent inter-ethnic revenge attack

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Displaced families set up camp | Courtesy: Image grabbed from a Reuters video

At least 161 people have been killed in a north-eastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, with survivors who fled to safety saying on Monday (June 17) that people were killed and homes set of fire.

The violence is an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.

Survivors who spoke to Reuters said they had lost members of the families.

Ngorima Bakambu Godefroid, who fled from the village of Kpatsi-Solenyama said his sister-in-law and her five children were all killed.

Others said some people were burned alive inside houses, while others were killed with machetes

A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation, although the exact identity of the assailants remains murky.

Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease. (REUTERS)

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EU calls for independent probe into oil tanker attack in Gulf of Oman

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Fire burning on oil tanker at sea | Courtesy: Image grabbed from a Reuters video

The European Union (EU) Monday called for an independent investigation into two oil tanker attacks in the waters of the Gulf of Oman to avoid any military tension escalations.

It was reported that two oil tankers, identified as Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair and the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous, had burst into flames after being attacked by underwater weapons in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz last Thursday.

The United States blamed Iran for the attacks but failed to submit any evidence while Iran said the U.S. accusations groundless.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last Thursday condemned the attacks on two oil carriers, calling for the establishment of facts.

The foreign ministers and defense ministers of the EU member states said at the EU Foreign Affairs and Security meeting in Luxembourg Monday that they supported Guterres’ call for independent probe to find out who should take responsibilities for the incidents. They said before any conclusion is drawn, solid evidence should be presented.

High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said all the members will focus their diplomatic work on trying to avoid any escalation of tensions.

“What I found among the ministers beyond the assessment and the intelligence sharing, is a very strong element of concern for the risk of miscalculation or unintentional escalations that could occur in a region that is already to the limits of the stress test, I would say, and a common approach that all the member states expressed that of trying to focus all our action, all our diplomatic work to try to avoid an escalation, and actually help de-escalating, because what we would not like to see is a military escalation in the region. We think that would be extremely dangerous, definitely not positive neither for anyone in the region nor for Europe, neither for the rest of the world,” she said.

Tensions in the Gulf have been close to boiling point for weeks as the U.S. puts pressure on Iran in an attempt to force Tehran to reopen talks about the 2015 nuclear deal, which the U.S. pulled out of last year.

In May, four tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

The U.S. blamed those attacks on Iran — an accusation Tehran has denied. (REUTERS)

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