The company released a statement that said Bixby will be available in the U.S. on the Galaxy S8 “later in the spring.” Samsung didn’t explain the delay.
The Bixby will join a pack of artificial intelligence assistants that includes Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant that are changing the way people interact with their devices.
Some U.S.-based reviewers and analysts had noticed that the Bixby feature wasn’t fully demonstrated when the S8 was announced March 29.
Also, some news reports said Bixby encountered voice recognition problems in English compared to its performance with the Korean language.
The shipment delay applies only to the voice feature in Bixby, while Samsung said other key features of Bixby, like Vision, Home and Reminder will be available in the global launch of Galaxy S8 on April 21.
Samsung went out of its way to promote Bixby well in advance of the Galaxy S8 launch. It was announced in a blog on March 20, nine days before the phone’s launch, by Injong Rhee, executive vice president of software and services for Samsung Electronics.
Rhee pointed out a physical button on the side of the phone that would activate Bixby, differentiating it from Alexa or Siri and others that are activated by a spoken trigger word. Bixby would offer a “deeper experience” than some others, including support for touch commands. Also, Bixby is designed to know the current state of an app to allow users to carry out work in progress without further explanation. Rhee said the Bixby interface is “much more natural and easier to use.”
Bixby was already two years behind those digital assistants as well as Google Assistant, analysts said. “Bixby is going to be playing catch up,” said Gartner analyst Werner Goertz in March.
One analyst forgave the Bixby delay. “I commend Samsung for trying to get it right rather than just launching and hoping for the best,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.
“It’s never a good idea to put out less than great software on a consumer device. So in this case, if Samsung can delay a few weeks and get a better product, it makes sense to do so. That said, voice recognition generally is not all that easy to do. It’s not just the recognition software itself, but the whole voice chain that has to be tailored. That includes everything from the microphone through the audio channel on the phone to the recognition algorithms and the user interface. If they tested and it wasn’t at their expected level of accuracy, then it’s better to get it right than to get it out fast.”
This is not an extremely late April 1st, and we admit that it is a little early given that its replacement has not shown up yet, but we predict that it will go the way of the dodo, the Norwegian Blue, the bleeper and the Crackberry.
OK it is probably a few years off, but the technology is so persuasive that its death will be longer than the exit of a hero in a South American soap opera.
For a while now smartphone sales have slowed. Basically the structure developed by Nokia and stolen by Apple and copied everywhere has run out of places to go. There is no more innovation in smartphones any longer, despite what is claimed particularly by the Tame Apple Press. Chip speeds have increased slightly and are about as fast as they are going to get. Even if someone gets a chip to the speeds of a PC it is not going to make a hell of a lot of difference.
What is coming next is being sorted out by the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Google along with Elon Musk. Apple of course is waiting for the next biggest thing to be developed by others before it takes a risk.
So what will get rid of it? While the Tame Apple Press think it will be something more like the Amazon Echo, Sony PlayStation VR, and the SmartWatch that is mostly because that is pretty much Apple’s current agenda.
No doubt AR and VR could be the way it is going. Certainly some sort of interface which projects detailed 3D images straight into your eyes while you interact with your environment. So instead of typing this on a screen I will be typing it on a nice egonomic bit of rubber while the words are appearing before my eyes. A more portable version would put a keyboard onto any surface.
Microsoft thinks that is the way things will go and the tech will replace the smartphone, the TV, and sex, and anything else with a screen with sounds going in through a headphone.
As artificial intelligence systems like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby, and Microsoft’s Cortana get smarter, there is going to be a rise not just in talking to computers, but having them talk back.
All this makes the smartphone redundant and limited. Sure it will be a good decade before this brave new world takes off and it will be a slow slide rather than anything great, but we are seeing the change start happening now. The world is bored with smartphones and they are just not having the impact they used to.
Parents with children who racked up bills, sometimes huge, through in-app purchases will receive some or all of that money back. Amazon could have to refund more than $70 million to affected consumers, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC and Amazon have agreed to end their legal battle over whether the U.S. company unlawfully charged its customers for the purchases.
A year ago, a court found that Amazon had.
The company’s app store can be downloaded to Android devices and it runs on certain Kindle tablets. However, parents had complained that Amazon’s system had made it all too easy for their children to buy virtual items in the apps, without their consent.
Both the FTC and Amazon had filed appeals related to the case, but on Tuesday, they dropped them. That opens the way for the refund process to begin shortly, according to the FTC.
More than $70 million in in-app charges made from 2011 to 2016 may be eligible for refunds, the U.S. regulator said.
Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, so it’s unclear how the company will reimburse its customers. Amazon had taken a 30 percent cut from the in-app purchases, according to the FTC.
In 2014, Apple and Google settled similar cases over in-app purchases with the FTC, which resulted in a combined $51 million in refunds to customers.
In Apple’s case, the company emailed and sent postcards to every customer who might have been affected. Apple eventually received 37,000 claims, and made refunds to them all.
Over the weekend, Intel pushed ahead with the release of its first consumer and enterprise SSD based on 3D XPoint technology, with latency rates roughly one hundred times lower than NAND flash alternatives that have dominated the market since 2007.
The first Optane-branded storage device is called the Optane SSD DC P4800X, which the company says is designed to be used either as high-performance storage or as a caching device in data centers. The card features a capacity of 375GB, with latency of under 10 microseconds (10µs), along with 550,000 random 4K reads, 500,000 random 4K writes, and an overall endurance rating of 12.3 petabytes written (PBW).
3D XPoint memory is about 100 times lower latency than NAND flash, sits right under DRAM (faster), but really puts some pressure on the data center market in terms of access times and endurance ratings. Intel claims that the low latency and high endurance can yield between eight and 40 times faster responses under large workloads, especially for database applications, while consistently outperforming NAND-based technologies.
Originally, the company’s plan was to release 16GB and 32GB Optane storage products under the Intel Optane Memory 8000p series. These units were capable of reaching up to 300,000 random 4K reads and 120,000 random 4K writes, and up to 1,600MB/s sequential reads and 500MB/s sequential writes. The release date for these smaller configurations is currently unknown but are still scheduled for release sometime later this year.
The first noticeable benefit to using Optane as a storage product for enterprise users is the option to significantly upgrade the overall capacity of onboard RAM. For instance, Intel’s dual-socket Xeon systems can support up to 3TB of DRAM but are able to accommodate an additional 24TB of Optane storage. Quad-socket systems, on the other hand, can accommodate 12TB of DRAM and an additional 48TB of Optane storage.
Not cheap – $1,520 at launch, compatible with Kaby Lake
The Intel Optane P4800X 375GB PCI-E add-in card will initially be a very application-specific product for “creative professionals” and enterprise users who need low-latency caching at every point in their systems – from onboard CPU cache, to storage, to DRAM. The other usage model will be for enterprise users who need substantially more memory available to their systems, even at a slightly higher latency cost. The company will initially release the 375GB PCI-E model at $1,520 with limited availability, followed by 375GB and 750GB U.2 models in Q2, and a 1.5TB PCI-E add-in card in the second half of the year.
We expect these modules to be compatible with current Z270 chipsets along with upcoming X299 chipsets due in fall.
Optane DIMMs come next year
This year, Intel is sticking to Optane products in the PCI-Express form factor, but next year plans to make the technology more flexible to performance and enterprise users in the form of individual Optane DIMMs. Pricing and spec options on such modules has yet to be discussed, though the technology available in both formats is expected to significantly boost applications that require large amounts of raw memory consumption.
Emaar Malls’ bid has so far not been accepted by Souq.com shareholders, the Dubai-listed firm said in a stock exchange announcement on Monday.
Reuters reported last week that Amazon had agreed in principle to buy Souq.com, which was founded 12 years ago by Syrian-born entrepreneur Ronaldo Mouchawar.
Amazon declined to comment, and Souq.com did not respond to an emailed request for further comment.
However, Emaar Malls’ offer is higher than Amazon’s $580 million bid, a source familiar with the matter said. The Financial Times reported Amazon would pay between $650 and $750 million, quoting two sources familiar with the matter.
However, Souq.com will have to break an exclusivity agreement with Amazon if it is to accept the Emaar Malls offer at this stage, the source said.
The Emaar Malls bid includes a $500 million up-front payment and a guaranteed 15 per cent internal rate of return for Souq.com shareholders, the source said.
A successful bid would give Emaar “a firmer footing in retail and consumer behavior,” said Sanyalaksna Manibhandu, head of research at NBAD Securities.
The offer is not the first move online to be made by Dubai billionaire Mohamed Alabbar, who made his name as chairman of Emaar Properties, the Dubai-government linked-developer of the world’s tallest building. Emaar Malls is the retail unit of Emaar Properties.
Last year Alabbar raised $1 billion from regional investors including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to set up his own Middle East e-commerce firm Noon.
Days before announcing Noon, Alabbar and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos met in Dubai, leading to speculation that they would forge some sort of partnership in the region.
Originally set to open for business with 20 million products, Noon quietly missed its January launch date. The company has yet to comment on the delay.
Emaar Malls bid is independent of Noon, the source said, aimed at complementing the retail unit’s brick-and-mortar sales by introducing services such as “click and collect”. Shoppers in the Arab world prefer to make purchases in-store despite a young and tech-savvy population.
Emaar Malls is the operator of the Dubai Mall, which accounts for around 50 percent of the emirate’s luxury goods spending and is one of the Middle East’s largest shopping centers.
“Emaar’s retail division will strengthen the case for online retail for traditional brick and mortar retailers, by providing an avenue of online retail,” Euromonitor research analyst Rabia Yasmeen said in an email.
Bixby will be activated using a special physical button on the side of the phone, differentiating it from some other assistants that rely on a trigger word, like “Alexa” or “Siri.” Samsung also said Bixby will eventually work on millions of Samsung-made devices, potentially including TVs and washing machines.
The S8 will come with a subset of preinstalled apps that are Bixby-enabled, according to Injong Rhee, executive vice president of software and services for Samsung Electronics. Over time, this set of apps will expand; Samsung will release a software toolkit to allow third-party developers to Bixby enable their apps and services.
“Bixby will be our first step on a journey to completely open up new ways of interacting with your phone,” Rhee said.
Gartner analyst Werner Goertz said Bixby is a late-comer to the digital assistant game, arriving two years after Amazon’s Alexa and behind Google Assistant, which already have rich databases of voice inquiries and searches to add context to queries.
Alexa is well known for working with Echo room units. However, just last week, Amazon announced that Alexa works in its Amazon app on iOS devices.
Bixby is going to be playing catch up,” Goertz said. “Samsung faces a complete greenfield with its knowledge base.”
Even Alexa is in its “very early stages” in terms of how well a user can get an answer to a complicated question. “Everybody has a good time trying to trick these digital assistants, but if you bring in Bixby it’s going to be even easier to trip up Bixby.”
The functions of converting speech to text with digital assistants “works relatively well unless you trip it up with accents and background noise,” he said. The more critical issue is the knowledge base needed to find accurate information.
Still, Samsung argued that Bixby will offer a “deeper experience.” The company said that the feature in a Bixby-enabled app will support almost every task the app is capable of performing, including touch commands. By comparison, most agents currently only support a few selected tasks, which can confuse users about what works by voice command in an app.
Samsung also said Bixby will know the current context and state of an app to allow users to carry out work in progress. Users will be able to weave touch with voice interactions, depending on what they like.
And Bixby will also be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information to the best of its knowledge, then ask for more information. “This makes the interface much more natural and easier to use,” Rhee added.
Even though Samsung is getting a late start with Bixby, Goertz said it stands to gain traction quickly, partly because Samsung is so large.
The app now features Quick Actions, so that users can tap a couple of buttons and get Cortana to create an alarm, set a reminder, or tell them a joke. That means users can get at key features without having to talk or type queries, and it also gives them a framework for what they can do with the app, without them having to discover it on their own.
The virtual assistant market is a crowded one, between Cortana, Siri, Alexa and the Google Assistant all competing for users’ time and interest. Microsoft’s assistant is built deeply into PCs with Windows 10, but the company also needs to keep its apps for other mobile platforms up to date in order to meet users where they are.
In addition, the app’s phone call and messaging functionality got a facelift, so users who want to text using Cortana can do so, in a move that makes it even more competitive with Apple’s Siri.
Cortana’s messaging and calling capabilities got a redesign as well. When users ask Cortana to make a call, the app will fire up the iPhone’s dialer. Sending a message pulls up a view of the built-in messaging app.
The redesign is similar to one that the company gave Cortana’s Android app in December of last year.
According to details provided over at EA’s Origin site, those looking to play the new Mass Effect game will need at least an Intel Core i5-3570 or AMD FX-6350 CPU, 8GB of RAM and Nvidia Geforce GTX 660 2GB or AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB graphics card.
The recommended system requirements rise up to an Intel Core i7-4790 or AMD FX-8350 CPU, 16GB of RAM and either an Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB or AMD RX 480 4GB graphics card.
Both minimum and recommended system requirements include at least 55GB of storage space as well as a 64-bit version of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 OS.
The official release for the game is set for March 21st in the US and March 23rd in Europe and it will be coming to PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Those with EA Access and Origin Access should get the game five days earlier.
The new thumb drives now match the top-capacity offered in iPhones and iPads and retail for $280 ($199 Amazon price).
The new iXpand Flash Drive can automatically back up an iPhone or iPad camera roll and lets users watch popular video formats (WMV, AVI, MKV, MP4, MOV) straight from the drive.
The drive has both a flexible Lightning connector that works with most cases and a USB 3.0 connector to plug into a newer Mac laptop or a PC.
The iXpand Flash Drive also includes encryption software that allows users to password-protect files, so content can be shared while more sensitive files are kept secure across devices.
As part of the device update, users can now cast content from the SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive to their television via Chromecast or Amazon Fire directly from the iXpand app. The app is available for download from the App Store for iPhone and iPad, and launches when the SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive is plugged into one of those devices — allowing for access to the user’s content and easy file management.
The SanDisk Wireless Connect Stick wirelessly streams data via Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n); no Internet connection or router is required. The Connect Wireless Flash Drive also has a slide-out USB 2.0 connector that works like any thumb drive.
The SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick can stream music, videos or HD movies to three devices at a time via the SanDisk Connect app and is designed to make it easy to share and stream content between multiple devices and computers.
The Connect app also supports streaming on large displays via AirPlay with Apple TV.
The partners will first focus on developing an Alexa “Mod,” a block that will attach to a Moto Z modular handset. The companies will then integrate Alexa directly into a variety of Moto handsets and devices, Lenovo said during a press conference in Barcelona on Sunday.
The Moto Z is much like Google’s Project Ara, where individual parts like speakers and projectors can be added to boost the functionality of the handset.
The exact details of the Alexa Mod for Moto Z weren’t provided, but an onstage image showed a speaker that could hook up to the handset. It looked like a flatter and curved version of Amazon’s Echo or Echo Dot.
After the press conference, a spokesman clarified that the image was just a conceptual design, not a product. The final Alexa Mods for Moto Z will be announced and shipped later this year.
A blog entry on Moto’s website gives an idea of how Alexa will work on Moto Z. Users will be able to use Alexa to control a smart home, check news or request a cab from Uber.
As the year progresses, there will be deeper integration of Alexa into a broader range of Moto smartphones. Users won’t need to press keys or unlock screens to speak or ask Alexa questions.
Essentially, the voice assistant will be continuously active, waiting to hear commands, for which the Moto phones will always need to be listening, much like the Echo or Echo Dot. That gives Alexa a distinct advantage over Google Now, for which phones need to be unlocked. The always-listening nature of Echo Dot, however, has disadvantages including privacy concerns.
Google Now will still be available on Moto smartphones, which run Android. But companies are now taking sides in the Alexa versus Google Assistant battle. For example, Nvidia has turned to Google Assistant as the voice assistant in its Shield TV boxes, introduced at CES.
Lenovo has already integrated Alexa into Smart Assistant, a prototype device it showed at CES that looked and functioned like Echo. Alexa was also integrated in a broad range of other gadgets and smart devices at CES. In addition, Amazon has integrated Alexa into its Fire TV products.
While research groups like IDC and Gartner have shown an overall 15.6 decrease in worldwide tablet shipments in 2016, the market has not gone entirely belly-up, as Amazon continues to pull ahead with a phenomenal 99.4 percent increase in annual tablet growth during the same period.
According to a report by the folks at TrendForce, Amazon managed to ship 11 million Fire-series tablets over the course of 2016 even as global tablet shipments fell by 6.6 percent from the previous year. While the sales numbers were impressive, the company still fell behind Apple at 27 percent of the market and Samsung at 17.2 percent, yet managed to beat expectations as a result of strong year-end holiday sales.
Apple also pulled ahead with strong tablet sales last year and retained its top spot, selling 42 million devices to Samsung’s 27 million. A few weeks ago, we wrote that IDC may have regretted telling the media to rely on expectations that the fruit-themed device company would allegedly oversee the decline of traditional PC sales by 2015. While traditional PC sales dropped 5.7 percent to 260.2 million in 2016, they still remain an impressive part of the overall device market and have not fallen as quickly as tablets have over the past year.
TrendForce expects tablet sales to continue declining from 157.4 million units in 2016 to around 147.8 million units 2017. While Amazon nearly doubled its annual shipments and Apple enjoyed strong iPad sales over the holiday season, other brands such as Microsoft are expected to fall into 7th place as the company experiences panel shortages for its Surface Pro series.
For a limited time, Amazon will occasionally offer its 7-inch 8GB Fire Essentials bundle and its 16GB Fire Essentials Bundle at discounted prices. For instance, the former had been available for $33.33 in November and $49.99 until earlier this month, along with free Prime shipping. The company is expected to offer similar deals throughout the year in an effort to strengthen its sales base from loyal Prime customers.
IDC has added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked out that they really cocked up when they believed Apple’s propaganda that tablets were “game changers”.
After telling everyone that tablets were to blame for declining PC sales, IDC famously claimed that tablets would overtake traditional PC sales by 2015. Now, it is really regretting believing the Tame Apple Press and supping on Steve Jobs’ Coolaid.
Today they have issued a report saying that there had been a 15.6 percent decline in tablet sales for 2016.
Shipments of tablets – defined to cover both dedicated tablet devices and convertibles like the Surface family of half-tablet half-laptop portables – flopped from 207.2 million in 2015 to 174.8 million in 2016. Traditional PC sales might have been miserable but they still sold 275.8 million in 2015 and 260.2 million in 2016.
It was the high-end tablets that suffered the most. Apple which started the whole thing off by stealing a Microsoft design which was not going anywhere and claiming it invented it saw its shipments drop 14.2 percent. Samsung saw a 20.5 percent decline over the same period. However cheap and cheerful tablets did rather well. Huawei’s shipments jumped nearly 50 percent, though it still holds a minority 5.6 percent share of the overall market, while Amazon’s Fire family of tablets shipped nearly double in 2016 compared with 2015 at a 98.8 percent growth rate.
Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers division said that the tablet market continues to grow stale and not even talk of the detachable segment doing well is helping.
Typical tablets without a dedicated keyboard, which IDC refers to as slate tablets, are continuing to lose relevancy across all regions.
“We do see future growth in some emerging markets like the Middle East & Africa as well as Central & Eastern Europe with the sole catalysts being simplicity and low cost. Unfortunately for the industry these are the devices that don’t equate to large revenues.”
Still no apology for helping to lead the market astray by claiming that an Apple marketing fad change everything in the long term.
Snap has revealed in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it signed a five-year contract to pay Google at least $400 million a year for cloud services. That’s a steep figure, considering that Snap made roughly $404 million last year.
In return for the massive commitment, Snap will receive reduced pricing, though it’s not clear how deep the company’s discounts will be. Sinking a bunch of money into Google Cloud makes sense, because Snapchat began its life built on top of Google’s AppEngine platform-as-a-service offering.
Furthermore, Snap’s commitment to Google is a massive vote of confidence in the latter’s cloud capabilities, at a time when there’s heavy competition in the cloud market.
Right now, Google’s cloud is an underdog compared to Microsoft and Amazon. But being tied to a rising star in the social media landscape like Snapchat could help draw other companies to at least give Google’s platform a chance.
However, the contract is not without risk. If Snap doesn’t use $400 million worth of Google Cloud services in a year, it’s still on the hook for the full value of the contract. What’s more, the company said in the filing that it uses Google for the “vast majority” of its “computing, storage, bandwidth, and other services.” If something goes wrong with Google Cloud, or if the tech titan gets out of the public cloud business, it could be bad news for Snap.
That last scenario seems highly unlikely, considering that Google continues increasing its investment in its cloud platform. Urs Hölzle, Google’s vice president of technical infrastructure, said last year that the company plans to launch new cloud data centers at the rate of roughly one each month this year.
All of this is tied to Snap’s plans to pursue an initial public offering in the near future. The filing released on Thursday is one of the company’s steps along that path. Snap’s IPO is being closely observed by the tech industry because of the company’s high-flying status.
It remains to be seen how Wall Street will receive the company, especially since it’s far from profitable and its losses have widened year over year. Plus, the deal with Google means that Snap will be saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars in liabilities for the foreseeable future.
After months of collaborating, Apple is joining the Partnership on A.I., with other founding members including Google, IBM, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon.
The Partnership on A.I. was founded in September last year to also steer debate on best practices on A.I. The group believes A.I. could help in the areas of health care, transportation, and automation in factories.
Apple’s most visible A.I. technology is Siri, a voice assistant that can answer questions. But a larger A.I. strategy is still a subject of speculation. Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, Amazon, and Google have well established A.I. strategies.
Speech and recognition are well-known use cases for A.I. Apple will likely implement A.I. in its mysterious autonomous car project so self-driving vehicles can navigate and cruise the roads safely without a human at the wheel.
Beyond the Alexa voice assistant, Amazon uses A.I. to provide buying recommendations. Google this week said it was providing TensorFlow tools so users can build a wide variety of A.I. capabilities into Raspberry Pi 3 and IBM’s high-powered cognitive computers.
The group believes A.I. holds tremendous promise and will lead to a big societal impact. A.I.’s impact needs to be discussed, and companies need to establish ground rules on how the technology is developed and deployed, according to the group.
The Partnership on A.I. is establishing a diverse board to bring in a variety of opinions. The board includes personnel from the top companies and members from universities and organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
There is a lot of cooperation among organizations pursuing A.I. research. Tesla co-founder Elon Musk has poured $1 billion into OpenAI, which is also a member of the Partnership on A.I.
Hard-drive maker Seagate has done better than the cocaine nose-jobs of Wall Street predicted this quarter.
Apparently Seagate’s bottom line was augmented by strong demand for its cloud-based storage products.
Seagate has been focusing on cloud-based products as businesses cut spending on traditional storage systems.
Chief Executive Officer Steve Luczo said: “From a macro perspective, we remain cautiously optimistic about the current macroeconomic environment and IT spending trends,” on a post-earnings conference call.”
The company forecast third quarter revenue of about $2.7 billion, above estimates of $2.61 billion.
Seagate said it expects to achieve revenue growth this year. This is a bit of a turnaround from July where the outfit slashed 6,500 jobs, or 14 percent of its workforce, by the end of fiscal 2017, as part of a major restructuring.
The company’s net income rose to $297 million in the second quarter ended December 30, from $165 million.
Its rival Western Digital will report its second-quarter results today.