At The Gadget Show: Intel CEO issues diversity challenge

AP News
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Posted: Jan 06, 2015 11:30 PM
At The Gadget Show: Intel CEO issues diversity challenge

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The tech industry says it wants more diversity in its workforce, but the actual hiring doesn't reflect that. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich challenged his own company and the entire industry to do more.

Meanwhile, the future of driverless cars was the background for a Ford Motor Co. keynote address at the International CES. The carmaker hopes to cure the world's transportation ills by delivering everything from a quicker trip down the Las Vegas Strip and helping drivers more easily finding a parking spot, to improving access to medical services in remote areas of West Africa.

The gadget show opened to the public Tuesday.

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A MORE INCLUSIVE WORKFORCE

Krzanich on Tuesday challenged the tech industry to increase the hiring of women and minorities, and he set a goal of full representation in his company's workforce by 2020.

He said the company will hold its managers accountable by tying their pay to progress. The company also is investing $300 million to improve diversity, including initiatives to create a pipeline of women and minorities entering the technology field.

"This isn't just good business," he said. "It's the right thing to do. When we all come together and commit, we can make the impossible possible."

He said it was no longer enough to talk about valuing diversity and still "have our workplaces and our industry not reflect the full availability and talent pool of women and underrepresented minorities."

According to a report on Intel's website, women made up 24 percent of Intel's workforce in 2013. Non-Asian minorities made up 14 percent.

The challenge comes as tech companies have begun releasing employment-diversity reports and women have faced harassment and threats in the video-gaming community. Krzanich cited both developments and said his company will regularly release progress reports on hiring.

Krzanich also used a keynote Tuesday to show off the company's RealSense technology for seeing and understanding depth. With that, Intel showed the ability to use hand gestures to scroll a recipe on a tablet while cooking. Drones thought for themselves and maneuvered an obstacle course without human intervention. One man with visual problems showed how RealSense sensors on his clothing let him know what's around him through vibrations.

It's all part of Intel's efforts to free machines from acting in just two dimensions, defined by the interaction between the screen and input device.

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CONNECTED CARS

Ford CEO Mark Fields said the company isn't racing to have the first driverless car on roads but is taking a thoughtful approach to creating an autonomous car for the masses. And with an eye on congested city hubs and a connected generation more keen on car-sharing, mass transit and cycling, the carmaker is getting involved in those avenues, too.

Fields said Ford is conducting 25 worldwide experiments to study driver habits, test ride-sharing and research whether a person's entire driving history could follow them from car to car regardless of brand in order to get personalized insurance quotes.

Want to try a Mustang for the weekend or need a truck for a move? The company's employees in Michigan are testing an app-based program where they can trade cars among themselves.

"We'll learn something from each of these experiments," Fields said.

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PRIVACY CHALLENGE

While consumer electronics companies are celebrating a coming bonanza of health trackers, connected cars and "smart" home appliances, the head of the Federal Trade Commission is pressing the tech industry to protect consumer privacy.

Powerful networks of data sensors and connected devices, dubbed the "Internet of Things," will collect a vast trove of user information that represents "a deeply personal and startlingly complete picture of each of us" - including our finances, health and even religious leanings, said Edith Ramirez, the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission.

Ramirez urged the global electronics companies, Internet giants and tech startups at CES to make data security a priority as they build new products. She also called on companies to give consumers more control over how their data is used, and to collect only the data that's necessary for a product to perform its function.

Ramirez didn't propose specific regulations, but her remarks underscore the Obama administration's concerns over consumer privacy.

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SPECIAL CASES LINK TABLETS TO DATA NETWORKS

It's often tempting to buy a Wi-Fi-only model of a tablet computer because it's cheaper - by $130 in the case of the iPad. But what if you decide later you want connectivity on the go?

AT&T will soon sell cases to connect your Wi-Fi tablet to its network. You'll need to buy data service, of course, and it's not immediately clear whether the cases will work with service from rival carriers.

The Modio cases will initially work with recent iPad models. AT&T didn't announce prices or release dates. The cases also will allow users to expand battery and storage capacity.

Many Android tablets have already slots for microSD storage cards, but iPads do not.

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CONSUMERS SEEK MORE AFFORDABLE SMARTPHONES

The smartphone is no longer a premium product, as consumers buy them more frequently and increasingly look for more affordable prices, Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Speaking at AquaKnox, a restaurant at the Venetian hotel and casino that his company converted into a glitzy temporary showroom, the Lenovo boss said the smartphone has become such a mainstream item in the U.S. that consumers are looking for ways to replace them more frequently, so they can keep up with the latest features and fashions.

Meanwhile, companies are also selling more smartphones in developing regions, where people can't afford the higher-end models. That's consistent with figures released this week by organizers of the International CES that show the average selling price of smartphones worldwide is expected to fall from around $440 in 2010 to about $275 this year.

Yang said Lenovo is looking to compete both on price and features in the United States market. He also said the Motorola smartphone business, which Lenovo bought from Google last year, is on track to become profitable in the next year or so.

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AP Technology Writer Brandon Bailey contributed to this report.