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Australia Wants More Access To Encrypted Messages

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Australia has announce that it will seek greater powers to tackle the use of encrypted messaging services used by terrorists and criminals at an upcoming meeting of ministers from the “Five Eyes” intelligence network.

The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, will meet in the Canadian city of Ottawa next week, where they will discuss tactics to combat terrorism and border protection, two senior Australian ministers said.

Australia has made it clear it wants tech companies to do much more to give intelligence and law enforcement agencies access to encrypted communications.

“I will raise the need to address ongoing challenges posed by terrorists and criminals using encryption,” Australian Attorney General Senator Brandis said in a joint statement.

“These discussions will focus on the need to cooperate with service providers to ensure reasonable assistance is provided to law enforcement and security agencies.”

Tech firms such as Apple and Facebook, which owns encrypted messaging service WhatsApp, have been criticized in the United Kingdom and United States for not doing enough to crackdown on so-called dark spaces where extremists can communicate.

Industry involvement in thwarting the encryption of terrorist messaging will be a priority for Australia at the gathering, Senator Brandis said.

Facebook Looks To Enter Original Content TV Market

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is holding discussions with Hollywood studios about producing scripted, TV-quality shows, with an aim of launching original programming by late summer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The social networking giant has indicated that it was willing to commit to production budgets as high as $3 million per episode, in meetings with Hollywood talent agencies, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Facebook is hoping to target audiences from ages 13 to 34, with a focus on the 17 to 30 range. The company has already lined up “Strangers”, a relationship drama, and a game show, “Last State Standing”, the report said.

Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment.

The company is expected to release episodes in a traditional manner, instead of dropping an entire season in one go like Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc, WSJ reported.

The company is also willing to share its viewership data with Hollywood, the report said.

Apple Inc hired co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, earlier this month, to lead its video-programming efforts.

Apple began its long-awaited move into original television series last week, with a reality show called “Planet of the Apps”, an unscripted show about developers trying to interest celebrity mentors with a 60-second pitch on an escalator.

The company’s future programming plans include an adaptation of comedian James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment from his CBS Corp  show that will begin airing in August.

 

Young Star Helps Astronomers Solve Stellar Mystery

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Astronomers using the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have precisely measured the rotating fountains of gas flowing out from a massive newborn star, revealing the complex interplay between the star’s magnetism and centrifugal forces.

Astronomers are still puzzled by the way massive stars form in interstellar space, the new study’s researchers said in a statement. When a massive rotating cloud of gas collapses under gravity, stellar fusion becomes possible, and a baby star is born. As angular momentum is conserved while the cloud shrinks, the resulting baby star should be spinning very fast, according to the laws of physics. 

To get a better idea of the conservation of angular (or rotational) momentum, imagine a spinning ice-skater. As ice-skaters spin with their arms outstretched, they spin slowly; when they bring their arms close to their bodies, they spin faster. Physics dictates that this concept should hold true for a shrinking cloud of star-forming gas: As it shrinks, it should spin faster.

But astronomers have found that stars in our galaxy spin much more slowly than the laws of physics predict they should. Therefore, there must be some mechanism that’s dissipating angular momentum from stars soon after they are born, the researchers said.

In the new work, published online June 12 in the journal Nature Astronomy, astronomers observed a massive newborn star called Orion KL Source I in the Orion Nebula and used ALMA to reveal the rotation of its powerful stellar winds. 

“We have clearly imaged the rotation of the outflow,” Tomoya Hirota, an assistant professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and SOKENDAI (the Graduate University for Advanced Studies) and lead author on the paper, said in the statement. “In addition, the result gives us important insight into the launching mechanism of the outflow.”

Hirota’s team noticed that the outflow of stellar gases is rotating in the same direction as the star and that it emanates from Source I’s hot gas disk, and not from the star itself. This finding agrees with a theoretical “magnetocentrifugal disk wind model,” the researchers said.

In this model, gas is ejected from the rotating disk and is forced to move outward. Like a spinning lawn sprinkler, propelled by centrifugal forces, the water spirals outward, away from the sprinkler head, siphoning some of the star’s angular momentum. But in the case of this star, the spinning gases leaving the disk are also directed up and down along magnetic-field lines to create the spinning outflows that ALMA has detected. And the researchers believe that these flows are dissipating rotational energy from the baby star, slowing down its rotation, and therefore possibly explaining why stars in our galaxy rotate more slowly than expected.

“In addition to high sensitivity and fidelity, high resolution submillimeter-wave observation is essential to our study, which ALMA made possible for the first time,” Hirota said. “Submillimeter waves are a unique diagnostic tool for the dense innermost region of the outflow, and at that exact place, we detected the rotation.

“ALMA’s resolution will become even higher in the future,” Hirota added. “We would like to observe other objects, to improve our understanding of the launching mechanism of outflows and the formation scenario of massive stars with the assistance of theoretical research.”

Courtesy-Space

Will Tesla Be Next To Join The Already Crowded Music Streaming Business?

June 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Move over, Spotify. Eat it, Apple. Later, Tidal. Tesla wants to join the club.

That’s at least the latest from Recode, which cites music industry sources saying Tesla has held talks with all the major labels about licensing for a proprietary music streaming service.

What isn’t clear is when and if Tesla will rev this effort up, so to speak, or how broad it will be. Will this be just for its cars or for anyone with a phone?

Tesla, in a statement, didn’t address the rumor directly, but instead said its goal is, “to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers.”

“We believe it’s important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose,” the company said.

Sony Music Entertainment, one of the industry’s major record labels, declined to comment. Meanwhile Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Of course, Tesla has a long history of going it alone. The all-electric car company created special software and chargers, despite already existing options. The company even created its own software to manage its manufacturing centers.

Intel Kaby Lake With AMD GPU Expected Later This Year

June 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

A few days ago, Videocards had an update on the engineering samples that got leaked. 

One thing caught our attention, the Intel(R) HD Graphics Gen9 with 694C:C0 graphics. It took us some time to ask round, and it turns out that a Kaby Lake with AMD graphics combination might be the right lead.

We already told you that Apple is likely to be the customer who nicely asked Intel to make such a Frankenstein chip. What Apple wants, Apple gets is the mantra and it is very hard to say no to hundreds of thousand sales guaranteed by the Apple logo used on any of their products.

It is clear that the platform has two separate GPUs, the Intel HD Graphics Gen9 and 694C:C0. The latter is probably one of AMD’s GPUs and it’s hard to tell if this is all integrated solution sitting in the same package, or rather two separate chip platform. We would go for the all integrated solution, as it makes more sense and saves a lot of space and BOM cost.

Sysoft goes one step forward calling the platform “Intel Kaby lake Client platform Kaby lake Client System (Intel Kaby lake DDR4 RVP17)”. It is listed as a desktop platform too.

GFX data base is very certain that 694C:C0 is an AMD device. This is not by any means a confirmation but it is the first time that we saw an Intel Kaby Lake CPU matched with both Intel Gen 9 graphics and AMD GPU. If you are an investor and looking for ways to make money, bear in mind that we are a news service and not any kind of advisory board. You do it at your own risk and leave us out of it.  

We would expect this Kaby Lake with 694C:C0 solution to ship later this year. 

Courtesy-Fud

Virgin Mobile Dropping Android Phones, Focusing On iPhones Only

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Virgin, one of the prepaid providers of Sprint, announced at an event in San Francisco that it would cease to sell Android phones and exclusively focus on iPhones. To sweeten the deal, Virgin said the first year of unlimited talk, text messages and data will cost $1, and customers will get perks like a free companion ticket for a round-trip flight to the UK on Virgin Atlantic.

The service, dubbed Inner Circle, begins next Tuesday, but preorders are being accepted immediately.

The move marks a radical shift for what had been a ho-hum prepaid carrier steamrolled by similar competitors like T-Mobile’s MetroPCS and AT&T’s Cricket Wireless. By going all-in on iPhones, Virgin Mobile is trying to lift its reputation and go after wealthier customers. The move also gets Virgin Mobile into Apple’s retail stores, the first time a prepaid carrier has had a presence there.

Virgin’s $1 offer is less jaw-dropping after parent Sprint offered a year of free service. But the key difference is the Sprint offer is a low-key, limited experiment, while Virgin’s deal is the new norm, according to Dow Draper, CEO of Virgin Mobile USA.

“It’s not often as a brand you get a chance to reposition yourself,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “We know you gotta have a compelling offer.”

To qualify for the service, you need to buy an iPhone from an Apple store or through the Virgin Mobile site. After the year is up, the service reverts to $50 a month. After two years of service, Virgin will offer six months for $1 if customers buy a new iPhone.

The iPhone-only model could be an impediment to many of Virgin’s traditionally budget-conscious customers. The iPhone SE starts at $279, while the cheapest phone previously available at Virgin was an $80 LG phone (which ended up being $50 with a discount). In the fall, Virgin will begin selling used iPhones that range from $199 to $449, Draper said.

Virgin’s national retail partners will continue to sell Android phones under an existing agreement, but Draper said he’s working to phase that out.

Sprint’s “free” offer did include a number of fees, and Virgin’s is no different. The $1 annual fee is broken up into 12 monthly payments, and there’s a tax on that amount. In addition, customers are responsible for local, state and federal taxes typically associated with phone service.

Electronics Makers Scrambling For Memory Chips As iPhone 8 Looms

June 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Global electronics makers are making a last dash to secure a stock memory chips to keep production lines running as Apple Inc’s  new iPhone 8 launch later this year threatens to worsen a global squeeze on supply.

While heavyweights such as Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd- which is also the world’s top memory chip maker – will not be seriously hit, industry sources and analysts say some electronics makers are paying a premium to lock into longer-term contracts.

Others are placing orders earlier than before to ensure their perilously low inventories do no dry up completely.

“After the supply shortages emerged we brought forward our procurement decisions … to ensure a stable supply,” smartphone and personal computer maker LG Electronics Inc said in a statement, adding it had pushed up quarterly purchase decisions by about a month.

Chip manufacturing technologies are growing increasingly complex, raising investment costs yet providing less output growth as some suppliers struggle to improve yields. This has caused some chip prices to double or triple from a year earlier.

Some analysts say device makers could be forced to cut down on the amount of DRAM chips, which help devices perform multiple tasks at once, or NAND chips that are used for long-term data storage, on new products if the cannot get enough chips.

A chip supplier source told Reuters a handful of clients have moved to 6-month supply agreements, accepting higher prices than the customary quarterly or monthly deals, to make sure they get enough memory chips for their products.

“The problem will be more acute for the NAND market, where the iPhone remains a critical source of demand given the huge sales volumes and recent moves to increase storage capacity on the device,” said the source, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Apple And Ikea Team Up On Virtual Furniture

June 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Ikea, the famous flat-pack furniture manufacturer, is developing an app that will digitally overlay true-to-size furniture using Apple’s new ARKit technology. Looking through the window of an iPhone or iPad, you’ll be able to see how Ikea’s furniture could look in your home before you have to buy or assemble anything.

Apple unveiled ARKit at its WWDC conference earlier this month, naming the Swedish furniture company as one of its partners, but other details were scarce. Now, thanks to an interview with Ikea digital transformation manager Michael Valdsgaard at Di Digital, we’re getting a little more information on the fruits of that partnership.

According to Valdsgaard, the app will have realistic 3D renders of 500-600 pieces of furniture upon its launch, with items added sporadically. Ikea also hopes to add a feature that lets you buy furniture from the app after you virtually map it out in your house.

Just don’t be surprised if the app doesn’t have the exact rocking chair you want at launch — Ikea’s full catalog includes tens of thousands of items.

We already knew that Apple CEO Tim Cook is a big fan of AR, calling the technology “huge” and claiming it has more potential than VR. But in order to get behind Cook’s excitement, we’ll need to see some real world applications of the technology, besides just catching Pokemon. The Ikea app, which is reportedly aiming to launch in the autumn when iOS 11 is available, could be a good example.

Ikea did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple Snags Sony Pictures Television Execs For Original Content Ambitions

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

In what is the clearest sign to date about creating its own TV shows and movies, Apple has hired highly respected Sony Pictures Television executives Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to run video programming.

The duo, co-presidents at Sony who helped create AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and ABC’s “Shark Tank,” will report to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services.

Apple has long been expected to make a big push into creating original video content. Earlier this year, Apple execs said the company would become more aggressive about creating original video to help distinguish Apple Music from competitors such as Spotify.

A push toward creating TV shows and movies marks a break from Apple’s traditional business of selling iPhones and Macs. The company is increasingly looking to take on Netflix and Amazon, both of which have a growing roster of original programming, including full-length movies and award-winning series. Apple potentially sees its content as another way to tie you into its growing universe of products and services.

It has two shows in development: “Carpool Karaoke” and “Planet of the Apps,” which recently made its debut.

Carpool Karaoke,” a spinoff of a segment from “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” was supposed to arrive in April but has now been rescheduled for August.

“Jamie and Zack are two of the most talented TV executives in the world and have been instrumental in making this the golden age of television,” Cue said in a statement. “We have exciting plans in store for customers and can’t wait for them to bring their expertise to Apple — there is much more to come.”

 

Mozilla Rolls Out Improved Version Of Firefox

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla continued its years-long campaign to make Firefox more technologically competitive with the competition, Google’s Chrome in particular, by boosting performance, increasing stability and reining in memory consumption.

The open-source developer also patched 31 security vulnerabilities, three of them rated “Critical,” the firm’s most serious ranking.

Firefox 54, released June 13, expanded on Mozilla’s multi-process project, code-named “Electrolysis” (shortened to “e10s”), that since 2009 has tried to mimic Chrome, and separate the browser’s operation into more than one CPU process. Previously, Firefox split its user interface (UI) and all content into separate processes — running all tabs in one of those processes — to prevent the browser from completely crashing when a website or web app failed. Firefox 54 uses up to four processes to run the browser’s tabs, assigning each to one of the CPU buckets.

“By separating the tabs into separate processes, we make better use of the hardware on your computer, so Firefox can deliver you more of the web you love, with less waiting,” assured Nick Nguyen, the product lead for Firefox, in a post to a company blog. In the same piece, Nguyen bragged that version 54 was “the best release of Firefox ever.”

Because operating multiple processes bloats a browser’s memory consumption, and also because Firefox pre-e10s was extensively criticized as a RAM pig, Nguyen asserted that version 54 uses “significantly less RAM” than rivals such as Chrome, Apple’s Safari and Microsoft’s Edge. Elsewhere, Ryan Pollack, a product marketing manager at Mozilla, argued that the four-process limit is the correct compromise between low and high memory use. He even cited the Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairy tale to declare that the balance between performance (lots of processes) and memory consumption (few processes) is perfect.

“Firefox uses four content processes because it’s the ‘just right’ number for many Firefox users,” said Pollack. “With four content processes, your computer should have plenty of memory left to run apps besides Firefox.”

Chrome has relied on a multi-process model since its 2008 launch. Because it devotes a separate process to each tab, and each process requires memory, Chrome generally consumes much more memory than other browsers. (Safari uses a similar, but not identical, multi-process model that ultimately eats less RAM than Chrome. Edge, too, uses multiple processes.) So, it wasn’t surprising that Pollack compared Firefox 54’s memory appetite primarily to Chrome’s, and charged that in a 30-tab test the latter required up to 2.4 times the RAM of Firefox.

Users with devices boasting larger amounts of RAM — more than 8GB, Pollack said — can boost the number of processes Firefox 54 consumes by typing about:config in the browser’s address bar, then changing the number for the dom.ipc.processCount setting.

While e10s has been a focus of Mozilla engineers for two years, the project also illustrated how far Firefox had fallen behind other browsers, notably Chrome but even, in areas, Edge. Mozilla has suffered several massive defeats in recent years, including a drubbing over mobile operating systems and a lesser beating from a stab at in-browser advertising. Lately, it has rededicated itself to Firefox, but the jury remains undecided, with some, including a former CTO, maintaining that the browser has no chance of unseating Chrome.

Last month, Firefox accounted for 12% of all browsers used worldwide, about a fifth of the share owned by Chrome and half that of a combined Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge. That May number was the highest of the year so far, but it was also nearly identical to Firefox’s share of 24 months earlier, showing how mired the browser had become.

Was Apple’s “Planet Of The Apps” A Good Idea

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple’s debut into the world of original television programming shows that its self-obsession and lack of self-awareness make for dire telly.

Apple felt that the world was ready for it to show off its skills and make some original content. It had to be “Apple friendly” and still interest those users that it really does not like. What could go wrong?

Well according to even the most sympathetic reviewers in the Tame Apple press, the show is really dire.

The idea is to bring app developers in a competition to try to get mentoring and assistance from hosts Jessica Alba, will.i.am, Gwyneth Paltrow and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. Now call me odd but I really would not think Gwyneth and Jessica know that much about programming and, try as I may, I have not ever been able to find the point of will.i.am.

Contestants describe their proposals as they ride an escalator down onto a stage where the judges sit, and then fire questions at the app developer.

Variety said the “Planet of the Apps” feels like something that was developed at a cocktail party, and not given much more rigorous thought or attention after the pitcher of mojitos was drained. It’s it’s a bland, tepid, barely competent knock-off of ” Shark Tank,” moaned the magazine.

“Apple made its name on game-changing innovations, but this show is decidedly not one of them. The program’s one slick innovation is the escalator pitch,” it added.

The show makes too many assumptions. The first one is that you will know who everyone is, when they are only famous for supporting Apple to the point of naming their own children after the company. The second assuming is that you will care about  Apple’s development process and believe it is a way to make money. Most developers of Apps for the fruity cargo cult would rather be doing something else like gouging their own eyes out with spoons. Apple does not make the creation process that easy and takes a way a big chunk of money for its lack of co-operation.

All up this shows the arrogance and narcissism of Apple in its rotting corpse glory. A sensible outfit would have spent the money having someone who knew what they were doing product a show.  Apple gets more positive publicity from its product placement on shows like Grim than it would ever get for this pile of tosh.

Courtesy-Fud

Will Samsung’s Bixby Compete With Apple’s HomePod

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The as-yet-unnamed speaker will be powered by the Samsung’s Bixby AI assistant, according to the Korea Herald, which the firm has already confirmed will be coming to IoT gadgets as well as smartphones and tablets.

However, this is likely a sign that the speaker won’t be arriving any time soon, as Samsung last week announced plans to delay the rollout of Bixby to Galaxy S8 handsets in the US, because it’s, er, struggling to understand English. 

We don’t yet know much else about Samsung’s smart speaker, although the report notes that the firm has been granted patents for the mooted device in South Korea. 

News of Samsung building its own AI-powered speaker comes, unsurprisingly, just days after Apple took the wraps off its first stab at the Amazon and Google-dominated market. The speaker, called the Apple HomePod for some God-forsaken reason, is a 7in tall bin-like device

The speaker, called the HomePod for some godforsaken reason, is a 7in tall bin-like device, which can be controlled using Apple’s Siri AI assistant. 

Inside you’ll find Apple’s A8 processor, which the company claims is “the biggest brain inside of a speaker”. This sits alongside a 4in Apple-built subwoofer and a seven tweeter array with precision acoustic horns and directional control. We don’t really know what that means, either, but Apple claims it will “rock the house”. Er. 

The speaker also features “spatial awareness,” which allows it to automatically tune the sound to the space that the speaker is in.

“Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

“HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion-free music and be a helpful assistant around your home.”

The Apple HomePod will be available from December, priced at $349. UK pricing has not yet been announced.

Courtesy-TheInq

Is The Wearable Market Growing?

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The worldwide market for wearable devices, including smartwatches, smart clothing, and fitness trackers, has increased 17.9 percent from the total number of units shipped in 2016, according to a report from IDC.

Back in December, we wrote that the wearables market in the US was experiencing a significant decline in Q3 due to a lack of new hardware. By the end of 2016, the total number of wearables shipped was 20.9 million units, thanks to a 16.9 percent increase in growth in the fourth quarter that pivoted Fitbit and Xiaomi as top sellers followed by Apple and Garmin. Then, in Q1, another shift happened where Fitbit lost its leadership due to slowing demand for fitness bands and a late entry into the smartwatch market. Apple emerged as a leader at the beginning of 2017 thanks to a relatively solid nine million sales of its Watch Series 2, followed by Xiaomi which shipped 3.4 million total wearables that quarter.

In the final tally, IDC now reports that wearable device shipments totaled 24.7 million units in the first quarter of 2017, a market where Apple and Xaomi are now tied for the top position. Each vendor shipped 3.6 million units and gained a 14.7 percent share each, respectively. For Beijing-based Xiaomi, more than 96 percent of shipments remained within mainland China, with many of those included in smartphone bundles sold at discounted rates. For the Cupertino-based fruity toymaker, a relatively “sustained” demand for both Series 1 and Series 2 smartwatches have resulted in its second highest year-over-year growth among the top global wearable vendors.

Fitbit, on the other hand, has been placed under careful observation for investors since March as market researchers suggest it will need to prepare for a “major recovery this year”. The company’s shipments reached three million units in Q1 2017 as it regained third place at a 12.3 percent share. Since its “mixed” Q3 2016 earnings report, the company has suffered from higher inventory levels as a result of “significantly understated consumer demand.” Company CEO James Park said in a press release yesterday that “while 2017 remains a transition year, we have executed on our restructuring plan”. The company is working on reducing its channel inventory levels in Q2 and hopes to enter the second half of the year with a relatively clean channel.

Courtesy-Fud

Is the FinFET Market Ripe for Growth?

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The global FinFET-technology market to grow by 41.89 per cent during 2017-2021, according a new report.

Beancounters at Research and Markets have added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked dashed out a report with the racey title “Global FinFET Technology Market 2017-2021.”

The report considers the sales of FinFET technology process node in different sizes across applications. It covers the market landscape and its growth prospects over the coming years. The report also includes a discussion of the key vendors operating in this market.

For those who came in late, FinFET is a 3D transistor and is integral for the design and development of processors. FinFET technology is a nonplanar, double gate transistor, built on a silicon on insulator substrate. FinFET is a 3D structure that has subdivided resistance and capacitance when compared to a planar structure. FinFETs have better device optimisation in comparison with planar technology.

One trend in the market is innovation in channel materials for development of 10nm and beyond FinFET chips. The 14nm FinFET-based chips use silicon channels that are not stable beyond this scale. With the 10nm technology, SiGe-based FinFET technology demonstrated enhanced performance, providing elegant solutions for CMOS technology.

According to the report, one driver in the market is strategic collaborations and M&A.

The strategic collaborations between the top players in the market are driving the global FinFET technology market. Strategic collaborations and M&A allow vendors to gain access to new technologies. This enables vendors to develop the ecosystem and design novel products with innovative technologies.

The report states that one challenge in the market is fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rate. Fluctuations in the foreign currency exchange rate have a huge impact on the revenue realized by companies.

Vendors in the global FinFET technology market have their presence in several countries. Therefore, the fluctuations in the exchange rate do affect not only the selling price of the product but also the costs and expenses of the company and its foreign subsidiaries.

Courtesy-Fud

Can Apple’s HomePod Compete With Amazon’s Alexa

June 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Back in May, we wrote that Apple was preparing to release a Siri-based smart home speaker that would take on competition from Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo series, Google Home, and Harmon Kardon’s recently announced Cortana-based smart speaker.

On Monday during the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller took the stage and introduced the device as the Apple HomePod. On the surface, the name sounds almost nothing like a high-fidelity music device, but under the hood the unit features a number of multitasking commands all natively powered by Siri’s voice control algorithms.

Based on reports from the WWDC show floor, the HomePod’s audio output has been described as “full, wide, and heavily sculpted” and “amazingly loud for such a small speaker”. The company has tuned its speaker profile to provide deep thumping bass, bright vocals, and absent of any flats or distortions. We are guessing that Apple has tuned into the expertise it gained from its acquisition of Beats back in May 2014, which was intended to raise its competitive outlook in the music streaming business. This time around, it has developed a smart hub speaker that will not only raise the stakes in the voice assistant category, but seems to perform in the upper tier category for an audio product.

“It’ll sound right to lots of people,” says Wired’s David Pierce.

As it stands, Microsoft is the only company in the voice assistant market that has placed an emphasis on balanced, richer sound with the Invoke, manufactured by Harmon Kardon. That device is likely to include a propriatory DSP audio technology that delivers a similar 360 degrees of room filling sound, complete with echo and noise cancellation features.

Spatial awareness, Apple Music integration, daisy-chaining support

The HomePod measures under seven inches tall and features a large, Apple-designed woofer, a custom array of seven beamforming tweeters. Just as Amazon supports daisy-chaining multiple Echo devices together in multiple rooms, Apple will let users wirelessly connect multiple HomePods together to create a whole home surround system, only using Siri instead of Alexa. Each HomePod uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjust the audio levels, providing more directional control that doesn’t require repositioning several times to hear every tonal pitch from an originally mastered audio track.

The speaker, it’s claimed,  is  compatible with the entire Apple Music library and will be able to answer advanced Siri questions, including the ability to look up drummers and pianists. Of course, the device’s Echo-like features will allow users to send text messages, access sports and weather, and close the curtains without any music interruptions.

HomeKit compatibility

The HomePod is compatible with Apple’s smart home platform HomeKit, which lets users operate their thermostats, dim the lights, set sprinkler timers, and perform routine appliance switching functions. To make this possible, however, all connected HomeKit devices will need to have a special MFi (Made for iDevices) chip installed for machine-to-machine security. This is Apple’s way of not only getting partners to stump up royalty fees, but ensuring that any home automation products can’t be tampered with from the neighbor’s smart hub device a few blocks down the street.

Apple’s HomePod will not come cheap, with a price of $349 (£270 / AU$465) when it releases it later in December in the US, UK and Australia. By contrast, Amazon’s Echo has been selling at $180 since its introduction in 2014, while Google’ Home sells for $130 and the Harmon Kardon Invoke will likely debut at or below $200 to stay competitive with Google and Amazon. Now that Apple has made its announcement, however, Microsoft may change its price structure, depending on how it views the HomePod in relation to its own premium audio offering.

Courtesy-Fud

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