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As TV Stations Offer Up Wireless Spectrum, 5G Will Be Easier

May 2, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Television stations have agreed to sell off 126MHz of premium wireless spectrum to mobile carriers in an ongoing U.S. Federal Communications Commission auction, potentially bringing higher speeds and more reliable networks to customers.

The 126MHz of spectrum was the highest amount anticipated by the FCC in the so-called incentive auction, agency officials said Friday. In most areas of the country, the agency will be able to auction 10 blocks of 10MHz to mobile carriers and other interested bidders.

This low-band spectrum, in the 600MHz band, is highly coveted by mobile carriers because it can cover long distances and penetrate walls and other obstacles. Mobile carriers have pushed for more spectrum as their customers’ network use keeps growing, and the low-band spectrum will help carriers roll out faster 5G service, supporters say.

FCC officials didn’t release the number of TV stations that agreed to give up their spectrum, but they said the number was significant. Participating TV stations can either move their over-the-air signals to other spectrum or go off the air in exchange for a share of the auction proceeds. The auction could raise $60 billion, according to some estimates.

“Robust broadcaster participation is key to the success” of the auction, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “Today’s announcement reflects the voluntary decision by many broadcasters that this auction truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The auction will lead to “vast economic and consumer benefits,” Wheeler added.

Mobile trade group CTIA applauded the amount of spectrum that will be available. The trade group is “is encouraged to see so much interest in the FCC’s incentive auction, which will play a critical role in making spectrum available for 4G LTE and 5G technologies,” CTIA president and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said in a statement.

The reverse-auction phase, in which TV stations will solicit bids for their available spectrum, begins May 31.

 

Apple’s Mac Slump Continues, Sales Tumble 12%

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Apple revealed that it sold 4 million Macs in the March quarter, a 12% decline from the same period the year before, and a larger contraction than for the personal computer business as a whole.

The year-over-year downturn in Mac sales was the second straight down quarter, and excepting a brutal 22% drop at the end of 2012, the largest since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007.

Analysts at IDC and Gartner earlier this month pegged the continued contraction of the PC industry at 11.5% and 9.6%, respectively. Both also missed the actual Mac number for the quarter in their forecasts for Apple, overestimating by 11% to 13%: IDC had tapped shipments at 4.5 million, while Gartner said it was 4.6 million.

Apple had been on an extended streak of besting the PC average, with sometimes-impressive gains during the four-years-and-counting slump of the overall market. But the March quarter’s results put an end to the years-long run, which the Cupertino, Calif. company often touted.

Neither CEO Tim Cook or CFO Luca Maestri mentioned the end of the streak in Tuesday’s earnings call with Wall Street.

“It was a challenging quarter for personal computer sales across the industry,” said Maestri, stating the obvious.

Cook said that Mac sales “met our sell-in expectations” and added that he remained optimistic about Apple’s computer business, a sentiment a CEO is duty-bound to share. “We’re confident in our Mac business and our ability to continue to innovate and gain share in that area,” Cook said.

But Mac-generated revenue for the quarter was $5.1 billion, 9% lower than the same period in 2015, and the smallest amount recorded for the line in almost three years.

Macs accounted for 10.1% of Apple’s total revenue of $50.1 billion, but the computer group slipped to No. 3 on the company’s list, behind — by a country mile — the iPhone (accounting for 65% of all revenue) and, for the first time, the relatively new Services category, which contributed 11.8% of all incoming dollars.

 

 

 

Samsung’s Gear 360 VR Camera Goes On Sale

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung’s Gear 360 camera for creating virtual reality content went on sale online today, the company announced.

The Gear 360 will initially be available only in South Korea and Singapore, a company representative said. A U.S. shipping date hasn’t been announced. In Korea, it will cost 399,000 won (US$347).

The camera, a bit larger than a golf ball, is Samsung’s bid to get consumers involved in creating virtual-reality content instead of just consuming it.

“We think 2016 is shaping up to be the year of VR,” said Andrew Dickerson, director of software engineering for Samsung VR, in a keynote presentation at the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco.

The camera will have two 180-degree fisheye lenses back to back and will stitch together the video from each for a 360-degree view. With a total of 30 megapixels of resolution, it will provide 4K video quality. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphones will link directly to the Gear 360 to act as live viewfinders.

VR is a key part of Samsung’s combined hardware, software and services strategy. The Gear 360 will join the Gear VR viewer and the recently announced Milk VR service for authoring and sharing content as part of the company’s plan to expand in this area.

In the next few years, Samsung expects to deliver a “holodeck” experience, said Injong Rhee, executive vice president and head of R&D for software and services. He was referring to the virtual environment used on the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

That experience will be truly immersive and allow users to roam around a physical space. It will make use of capabilities like gesture tracking to allow users to feel they are touching virtual objects, he said. To do this, the company is working to overcome problems including poor image quality, insufficient computing power, the heavy weight and restricted mobility of VR headsets, and the dizziness some users experience, Rhee said.

 

 

 

Is Nintendo Making A Mistaking With The NX?

April 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo has confirmed that its next-gen console, the Nintendo NX, will launch in March 2017.

Causing many to screw up their Christmas lists, the company told shareholders during its earnings call on Tuesday: “For our dedicated video game platform business, Nintendo is currently developing a gaming platform codenamed ‘NX’ with a brand-new concept. NX will be launched in March 2017 globally.”

Probably also causing some to cancel a trip to Los Angeles, Nintendo said that the NX will not be demonstrated at the upcoming E3 video games conference in June, despite speculation that Sony plans to show off its so-called PlayStation 4.5 console.

Nintendo’s keynote at the games show will focus instead on the next Legend of Zelda game, which will launch simultaneously on the Wii U and Nintendo NX in 2017. Rumour has it that Smash Bros 4, Splatoon and Super Mario Maker are all set to receive an NX makeover too.

A launch is now less than a year away, but we still don’t know much about the Nintendo NX, which Nintendo confirmed this week is just a codename for the incoming console. However, rumour claims that it will arrive as a hybrid between a home console and a mobile games console to sit alongside the New Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo president and CEO Tatsumi Kimishima reiterated in December last year that the company is “not building the next version of Wii or Wii U” and that the device will be something “unique and different”.

News of the Nintendo NX’s launch date no doubt came as the firm looked to play down the fact that its profits fell 61 per cent year over year. Worked, didn’t it?

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Twitter Troubles Continue, Misses Revenue Estimates

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Twitter Inc  disappointed investors once again with first-quarter results that revealed stagnant revenue growth as the microblogging service struggles to grab new users amid efforts to improve its complicated interface with several new features.

Twitter’s user base grew modestly to 310 million monthly active users in the quarter ended March 31 from 305 million in the fourth quarter, above analysts’ expectations. But investors were let down by the revenue miss since outlining a turnaround plan.

“It’s obvious Twitter is having trouble,” said Arvind Bhatia, analyst with CRT Capital. “It’s not growing anywhere close to where people expected a while back.”

On a call with analysts, executives said advertisers, especially in Europe, held back spending ahead of major events, including the Olympics and the European Champions League. They also said users were spending more time watching and sharing video, but that advertisers’ budgets had not yet shifted from legacy advertising products such as promoted tweets.

Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said Twitter’s long-term goal was to have “millions of advertisers like our competitors.” Facebook Inc has more than 3 million advertisers.

Twitter has struggled with stagnant user growth as its complex interface makes it less attractive to new users.

As part of its turnaround plan, the company has emphasized its live offerings, including live commentary and video streaming through its Periscope app, to attract new users. But it faces fierce competition from Facebook Inc  which has recently ramped up its live video product, Facebook Live.

Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said that talent recruitment was a top priority for the year, especially on the engineering and product teams. Twitter lost several top executives earlier this year and has since added two new board members and a new chief marketing officer.

The company forecast revenue of $590 million to $610 million for the second quarter. Analysts on average were expecting $677.57 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

First-quarter revenue rose 36 percent from a year earlier to $594.5 million, but widely missed the average analyst estimate of $607.8 million.

 

 

Mac Finally Gets Skype For Business App

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft’s new business communication product is finally making its way to the Mac.

The company announced the first technical preview of Skype for Business for Mac on Tuesday, giving users of Apple computers an easy way to connect to meetings they have scheduled through Microsoft’s professional audio and videoconferencing software.

When users sign into the app, they’ll see their Skype for Business meetings for the current day and the following one, and will be able to easily join in with the other people invited.

Skype for Business is the successor to the company’s venerable Lync product, which is still available for Mac during this transition.

The final release of the Mac version of Skype for Business is slated for the third quarter. Between now and then, Microsoft has two additional beta phases planned for the app. The second beta phase will include instant messaging, presence indicators and access to a user’s contacts.

In the third beta phase, Microsoft will bring along support for telephony and other advanced features supported by other versions of the product. That’s important for businesses that have paid for advanced Skype for Business features like the ability to place phone calls from the application over a traditional phone line.

This beta push is part of Microsoft’s ongoing strategy to extend the reach of its products to a wide variety of platforms, including the Mac.

 

Apple Optimistic About iPhone SE Sales

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

After experiencing its first-ever drop in iPhone sales, Apple Inc sought to reassure investors by saying its latest and cheapest model was in strong demand after being launched in late March. Some retailers and suppliers in Asia aren’t so sure.

In a Reuters survey of 10 retailers in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, seven – including four Apple Stores – reported solid early demand, but three third-party retailers said sales were weak. Two suppliers of components for Apple phones, including the new iPhone SE, said they were seeing lower orders.

“I’ve been dealing with iPhones for five to six years now. This current quarter for Apple feels weak,” said an executive at a Taiwan-based company whose components are used in iPhones including the SE model, which markets for $399. “Our current shipment situation for Apple is not like the last two years. There are more iPhone models, but the total volume of iPhones is falling.”

Such a mixed outlook from Greater China, its most important market after the United States and generator of a quarter of the company’s revenue, could be a major cause of concern for Apple.

The company’s revenue from the region, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, dropped 26 percent in the March quarter, making it the weakest region in the world.

“iPhone is still popular but sales have dropped because… there’s no new model and the SE is similar to 5C. So it doesn’t sell well,” said Zhu You Peng, a salesman at Apple product reseller Xiongyu in Shenzhen. The 5C was Apple’s last attempt to produce a cheaper phone, back in 2013.

Zhu said it sold around 300 iPhones per month last year but the number has dropped to around 100-200 this year.

That view contrasts with upbeat comments about the phone from Apple’s Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri on Tuesday.

“The situation right now around the world is that we are supply-constrained,” he told Reuters, referring to the iPhone SE. “The demand has been very, very strong.”

The iPhone SEs are sold out in Apple’s own stores in mainland China and customers have to wait about three weeks to get the product delivered by Apple, according to Apple’s websites. The size of the original supplies to the stores is unclear.

 

 

 

Microsoft Kicks Off Two-for-one Lumia Phone Sale

April 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft announced the launch of a two-for-one deal for its Windows-based smartphones, tossing in a free Lumia 950 when customers buy a $649 unlocked top-tier Lumia 950 XL.

The give-away will run until May 1, or while supplies last, Microsoft said on its e-store.

Last week, Microsoft told Wall Street that sales of its Lumia devices — virtually the only smartphones powered by Windows 10 Mobile — plummeted 73% in the March quarter compared to the year before, falling from 8.8 million in 2015 to 2.3 million in 2016. Revenue from its phone division fell 47%, to $662 million, in the first three months of this year.

More to the point of the two-for-one sale, on Thursday, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Amy Hood, said, “Sell-through of our Lumia products was weak, and we exited the quarter with relatively high channel inventory.” Simply put, poor sales left more than the expected number of devices in stores and warehouses.

The buy-one-get-one-free deal may be Microsoft’s way of flushing out the current overstock.

Buyers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will receive a $549 unlocked Lumia 950 when they purchase an unlocked Lumia 950 XL. The latter is Microsoft’s top-of-the-line Windows 10 Mobile smartphone, which went on sale in November 2015.

The offer is limited to two Lumia pairs per customer.

Microsoft’s smartphone business continued to drag down the Redmond, Wash. firm’s overall revenue outlook. While Hood did not pin a dollar amount to Lumia’s impact on the June quarter, Microsoft’s final in its 2016 fiscal year, she acknowledged that, “We expect year-over-year revenue declines to steepen in Q4 as we work through our Lumia channel position.”

 

 

 

Google Teams With Ford, Uber On Self-driving Car Coalition

April 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google unit, Ford Motor Co, Volvo Cars and two ride-sharing companies announced on Tuesday that they are forming a coalition to urge federal action on self-driving cars.

The coalition, which also includes Uber Technologies Inc  and Lyft, is “to work with lawmakers, regulators, and the public to realize the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles.”

The group said David Strickland, the former top official of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will serve as the coalition’s counsel and spokesperson.

“The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles,” Strickland said in a statement.

Sweden-based Volvo Cars is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.

 

 

T-Mobile Revenue Up, Continues Attracting New Customers

April 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile US Inc reported a better-than-expected 10.6 percent rise in quarterly revenue and raised its forecast for customer additions in 2016 as popular discounts aided the No.3 U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers attract more business.

T-Mobile has been offering cheaper leasing plans and free music and video streaming to lure customers away from larger rivals Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

T-Mobile, controlled by Deutsche Telekom, said it added 2.2 million customers on a net basis in the first quarter ended March 31.

That easily topped the average analyst estimate of 1.72 million, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

The company said it expected to add 3.2 million to 3.6 million postpaid customers on a net basis in 2016, compared with its previous forecast of 2.4 million to 3.4 million.

T-Mobile’s 10.6 percent jump in quarterly revenue to $8.6 billion suggested its strategy to boost revenue was working. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $8.43 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In comparison, market leader Verizon’s operating revenue rose just 0.6 percent to $32.17 billion.

AT&T is scheduled to report results later on Tuesday.

T-Mobile reported net income of $479 million, or 56 cents per share, for the first quarter, compared with a loss of $63 million, or 9 cents per share, a year earlier.

 

Qualcomm and LG Settle Dispute

April 27, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Qualcomm has buried the hatchet with LG after the smartphone vendor agreed to pay more for its chips.

LG said the dispute with Qualcomm has been completely settled, although it did not say how much it had agreed to pay. Earlier it had claimed Qualcomm had overcharged for the chips under a licensing contract.

The news about the lawsuit settlement emerged following Qualcomm’s profit forecast for the second quarter in January, which was below what Wall Street’s tarot readers had predicted.

The company expected its mobile chip shipment to fall by 16-25 per cent in the second quarter. Additionally, it expected 3G and 4G device shipment to decline by 4 to 14 per cent. As for the first quarter of 2016, Qualcomm’s chip shipment fell 10 per cent , with a drop in revenue by 21.6 per cent. Revenue from licensing declined 10.4 per cent, suggests a Reuters report.

An LG spokesperson said that this kind of dispute was “actually nothing” and was similar to the ones that the industries had in the past.

“Qualcomm has lowered its royalty rate to LG in return for LG’s guaranteed purchase of Qualcomm processors, which are currently being used in its flagship handsets and will be used in upcoming flagship models,” added the official.

Qualcomm might have been a little nervy.  LG has invested millions to develop its own chipset, in an attempt to cut down its dependency on Qualcomm for mobile processors.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Chinese Electric Car Maker Looks To Challenge Musk’s Tesla

April 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Future automobiles will be all-electric, self-driving, connected to high-speed communications networks … and free.

That, at least, is the vision of Jia Yueting, a billionaire entrepreneur and one of a new breed of Chinese who see their technology expertise re-engineering the automobile industry, and usurping Tesla Motors, a U.S. pioneer in premium electric vehicle (EV) making.

“Tesla’s a great company and has taken the global car industry to the EV era,” Jia said in an interview at the Beijing headquarters of his Le Holdings Co, or LeEco. “But we’re not just building a car. We consider the car a smart mobile device on four wheels, essentially no different to a cellphone or tablet.

“We hope to surpass Tesla and lead the industry leapfrogging to a new age,” said Jia, wearing a black T-shirt and jeans.

A wave of EV start-ups has emerged in China after the government opened up the auto industry to deep-pocketed technology firms to drive a switch to cleaner electric as an eventual alternative to gasoline cars. Skeptics wonder just how start-ups like LeEco will deliver on their grand visions.

As a sign of intent, 43-year-old Jia last week unveiled the LeSEE electric concept supercar, a rival to Tesla’s Model S. The “smart, connected and self-driving” car will be displayed at this week’s Beijing autoshow.

“People questioned our idea, a small IT company building a car to compete with the BMWs  and Teslas of the world, and laughed at us. It wasn’t easy, but here we are,” Jia told Reuters.

LeEco hopes to start producing a version of the LeSEE in a few years at a plant being built near Las Vegas by U.S. strategic partner Faraday Future, in which Jia has invested. Those cars would be sold in the United States and China. Further ahead, the plan is to produce electric cars in China, too, probably through a partnership with BAIC Motor.

The web-connected electric cars will have a “disruptive” pricing model similar to phones and TV sets LeEco markets in China, Jia says. His company, often called China’s Netflix, will sell movies, TV shows, music and other content and services to drivers of its cars. That’s why he says “one day our cars will be free.” Nearer-term, the disruption is more likely to be “double the performance at half the price.”

 

 

 

Survey Reveals The Depth Of Digital Crime In Germany

April 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

More than two-thirds of German industrial companies have falling prey to digital crime in the past two years, according to a survey carried out by Bitkom, Germany’s IT, telecoms and new media industry association.

The most common offence was the simple theft of equipment such as computers, smartphones or tablets, but a fifth of companies surveyed reported that sensitive documents, components or designs had been stolen, while 18 percent said their production had been sabotaged with the aim of damaging or paralyzing it.

Such crimes cost German manufacturing industry more than 22 billion euros ($25 billion) a year, Bitkom estimated following its survey of 504 German manufacturing companies with at least 10 employees.

“With the digitization of production and the networking of machines over the Internet, new contact points arise that are vulnerable to attack,” Winfried Holz, a Bitkom executive committee member, said in a statement issued at the Hannover Messe industry trade fair.

“German industry, with its numerous hidden champions, is an attractive target for cybercriminals and foreign intelligence services,” he added. Germany has hundreds of small and medium-sized family-owned manufacturers that are world leaders in their niche.

Bitkom said the 69 percent of manufacturing companies affected by cybercrime was a far higher proportion than the 51 percent average for German companies in general.

About 70 percent of the machinery and equipment manufacturers surveyed said they had been victims, 68 percent of chemicals and pharmaceuticals producers, 65 percent of electronics makers and 61 percent of carmakers.

Cybercriminality was most often found in production or assembly, with 36 percent of reported cases, followed by 30 percent in warehousing and logistics, 29 percent in IT and 23 percent in research and development.

 

 

Sirin’s Ultra High-end Smartphone To Retail For $20,000

April 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A British-Israeli start-up is making plans to offer a mobile phone next month that will provide users unprecedented levels of technology and security — and retail for close to $20,000.

Sirin Labs AG said on Monday it had raised $72 million in private funds to launch the device, which would be aimed at executives. It plans to open its first store, in London’s Mayfair, in May.

“(Our) smartphone …brings the most advanced technology available – even if it is not commercially available – and combining it with almost military-grade security,” said Sirin co-founder and president Moshe Hogeg.

The phone will be based on the Android operating system and run otherwise unspecified technology two to three years in advance of the mass market, he said.

Hogeg told Reuters the phone would sell for less than $20,000.

He believes thousands of executives in the United States and Europe will pay that sort of price, since the cost of being hacked could be more expensive in terms of information lost.

Hogeg put the value of the global luxury phone market at about $1.1 billion, a fraction of total mobile phone sales. Most top end phones sold are more for status – regular phones with gold and diamonds.

Britain’s Vertu sells phones in that category from $10,000 to $300,000, while Apple’s iPhone 5 Black Diamond sold for $15.3 million.

Sirin’s financing came from Israeli venture capital fund Singulariteam – which Hogeg co-founded and included backing from Kazakh investor Kenges Rakishev – and Chinese social networking company Renren.

The idea for the start-up came about after Rakishev’s phone was hacked in 2013. He asked Hogeg why he couldn’t find a mobile phone that would ensure privacy and why new technology seen in tech shows and publications was not available in consumer devices.

“There were no good solutions that combined high-end technologies with maximum security,” Hogeg said.

 

Researchers Design Lithium-ion Batteries That Can Last A Lifetime

April 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) said that’s they have discovered how to increase the tensile strength of nanowires that could be used to make lithium-ion batteries last virtually forever.

Researchers have pursued using nanowires in batteries for years because the filaments, thousands of times thinner than a human hair, are highly conductive and have a large surface area for the storage and transfer of electrons.

The problem they have encountered, however, is that nanowires are also extremely fragile and don’t hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging, known as “cycling.” For example, in a typical lithium-ion battery, they expand and grow brittle, which leads to cracking.

UCI doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai solved the brittleness conundrum by coating a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and encasing the assembly in an electrolyte made of a Plexiglas-like gel. The combination, they said, is reliable and resistant to failure.

The findings were published today in the American Chemical Society’s Energy Letters. Hard work combined with serendipity paid off in this case, according to senior author Reginald Penner.

“Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it,” Penner, chair of UCI’s chemistry department, said in a statement. “She discovered that just by using this gel, she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity.”

“That was crazy,” he added, “because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most.”

The researchers believe the gel plasticizes the metal oxide in the battery and gives it flexibility, preventing cracking.

Thai, the study’s leader, cycled the nanowire-enhanced electrode up to 200,000 times over three months without detecting any loss of capacity or power and without fracturing any nanowires.

“All nanowire capacitors can be extended from 2000 to 8000 cycles to more than 100,000 cycles, simply by replacing a liquid electrolyte with a… gel electrolyte,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

The result: commercial batteries that could last a lifetime in computers, smartphones, appliances, cars and spacecraft.