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Without A Touchscreen Is Nintendo’s Switch DoA?

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-switchNow that Nintendo has finally teased the world with its Switch hardware reveal, everyone of course wants to know more and bigger questions about Nintendo’s strategy have become top of mind.  Analysts have brought up a number of potential issues facing Nintendo as it moves forward. Most importantly, who is Nintendo really targeting with its new product and how is the company positioning the Switch against powerful consoles like next year’s Xbox Scorpio or this year’s PS4 Pro?

“Nintendo’s Switch reveal trailer unveiled a product positioning which aims to defend against the increasingly robust encroachment of the smartphone and tablet gaming opportunity yet still appeal to traditional console gamers that are looking for a big-screen gaming solution in the home. It has designed the Switch to deliver a flexible solution to cover multiple types of usage, but must avoid delivering a substandard experience by trying to be all things to all users,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games research at IHS, which is now forecasting that Switch will sell 2.85 million units globally next March when it launches.

“Interestingly, the Switch reveal trailer was squarely targeted at young adults, which suggests that Nintendo is refocusing its early marketing on more traditional console gamers and those that also increasingly like gaming on the move. To build success with these buyers the offering must include third-party titles that are supported on other platforms,” Harding-Rolls continued. “Nintendo looks to have killed off its motion controllers with the Switch and opted for a more traditional form of gaming experience. This suggests the company is serious about getting third-party publishers to support the platform with multi-platform titles. Potentially, this will help Nintendo’s ambition to target young adult gamers.”

Third-party support does seem to be better already. Wii U had a list of just 21 publishers and developers at its launch while Switch has close to 50. Support, of course, is something that’s always in flux, but it’s crucial for Nintendo to get its messaging right with consumers if it wants to maintain that support from third parties. “They need a proper message. Right now I am concerned they are pitching it as just another tablet with controllers,” said DFC Intelligence’s David Cole.

“Nintendo’s ability to market a clear use case message to the audience [will be key]. Nintendo failed to do this with the Wii U and paid the price,” added Harding-Rolls.

SuperData’s Joost van Dreunen believes Nintendo needs to do a better job in defining its audience. “I have my reservations with regards to the breadth of the audience it targets. The Switch will likely be most popular among a younger audience: its functionality is uniquely geared toward pre-teens and teenagers. While the device seems much less like a toy than we’re used to from Nintendo, its features like backseat multi-player and the ability to have several people play using a single piece of the controller target Nintendo’s traditional audience. The reveal video makes a lot more sense to me if you swap out all the adults in it with kids,” he noted.

It’s clear that the widespread adoption of gaming on smartphones has had an impact on Nintendo, and indeed the company is pushing out its own mobile titles like Super Mario Run this holiday, but will that approach truly serve as a stepping stone to the Switch, or will it ultimately cannibalize Nintendo’s new hardware?

Dr. Serkan Toto, an analyst who specializes in the mobile market in Asia, remains skeptical. “Sorry, but is a portable/home console approach really that innovative in 2016? I am most concerned about the target group of the device: who else but die-hard Nintendo fans will buy the Switch? The Switch lacks a killer feature, and I think it will be very difficult for Nintendo to win back the casual gamers that are mostly on mobile now,” he commented. “In Japan, for example, the mobile gaming sector is already 2-3 times bigger than consoles. Even the PS4 struggles over here. It’s going to be a huge challenge to try to reverse that trend.”

So will Super Mario Run make a difference? “I find it very difficult to picture a scenario where a critical number of mobile, free-to-play users converts to console and buy hard- and software for several hundred dollars upfront. Different markets, very difficult to bridge,” Toto continued.

As ever, the biggest factor in the Switch launch and its chances for success could be its price. “Price pretty much depends on specs, and success depends on both price and specs. If the specs are close to PS4, I think they can price around the same ($249), and at most $299. If specs are weaker, price could be lower,” noted Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter.

“Assuming they are close to PS4, they are making porting of games easy for developers (and inexpensive), and I think they will get a lot of third party support. If the specs are weaker, porting will be costly and less likely to occur. So my ‘prediction’ is that if specs and pricing are similar to PS4, the Switch will get a lot of third party support and will be immensely successful. If specs are weaker or if pricing is too high, sales will suffer because of lack of third-party support or because of uncompetitive pricing.”

Analysts agreed that $299 really is the highest Nintendo could acceptably go. “They must find a way to release the Switch at US$299 to stand a chance, that’s the threshold,” said Toto. “It’s not impossible by offering the device in multiple versions, i.e. without the home dock. ‘Hardcore’ video game fans can, at US$299, already get fantastic devices from Sony and Microsoft. The portable gaming use case, at scale, has been taken over by smart devices.”

SuperData’s van Dreunen added that a high profile bundle, like Zelda, which we know is a launch title, could play an important role in incentivizing consumers. “I’m hoping they’ll keep it under $300, ideally bundled with a Zelda or Mario Kart. Anything over that will severely limit its market potential,” he said.

Harding-Rolls sees $300 as the max as well, commenting, “The reveal suggests it is competing more significantly with traditional home consoles, but with the edge of mobility. Pricing will need to be competitive in this context and anything over $300 may not be a convincing proposition.” He pointed to similarities with Nvidia’s Shield as evidence that Nintendo may very well end up in that price range.

“The new console shares a number of design, positioning and component similarities with Nvidia’s Shield tablet. As such it is likely that Switch will be capable of displaying 4K video content and judging by the pricing of the original Shield tablet is likely to sit in the $250-$300 range,” he said.

Excitement is currently sky high for the Switch. In fact, as noted by Bloomberg yesterday, right after Nintendo said it would unveil the console, its shares climbed almost 5% leading to a market value gain of $1 billion (the stock is up 3.34% as of this writing today). The company’s stock is up more than 50% in 2016 in large part because of its embrace of smartphone gaming, but how Nintendo balances its portfolio and its message on mobile and Switch will be fascinating to watch in the next 6-12 months and it will reveal a lot about the future of the firm.


Are Intel Processors Have A Security Issue?

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Researchers claim that they have discovered a bug in Intel chips that could compromise system securities.

According to IOActive, which describes itself as an ethical hacking company, researchers there can bypass address space layout randomization (ASLR), which is often used as a defense against malware.

The ASLR function randomizes code locations which is intended to cause systems to crash rather than be completely compromised.

Alfredo Pironti, a senior security consultant at IOActive, said that the flaw means that hardware security is important in preventing hacks.

Pironti said: “This is an interesting case as it shows that software isn’t always the easiest point of entry, particularly for those hackers that have a deeper knowledge of hardware and its vulnerabilities. But this is not the first case of something like this happening, and hardware side-channel attacks are something we have been aware of for a while.”

He continued: “It is worth noting that these attacks are often more expensive and time consuming to conduct, compared to classical software attacks. Usually they also have stricter conditions, such as running a specific software on the victim’s machine and being able to collect CPU metrics. However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be vigilant. Cybercriminals are more sophisticated, well-funded and – worst of all – patient than ever before, and are always looking for new and surprising ways to infiltrate. This is why it is vital that companies have their chips pen tested during the development stage, as the cost and complexity of remediating an attack of this kind is enormous.”


Google Signs Deal With CBS For Web TV Service

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

google-web-tv-150x150Alphabet Inc unit Google has inked a deal with CBS Corp to carry the network on its planned web TV service and is in advanced negotiations with 21st Century Fox and Viacom Inc to distribute its channels, three sources told Reuters.

The service, which will be part of Google’s YouTube Platform, is expected to launch in the first quarter and will include all of CBS’ content, including live NFL games, one of the sources said.

Google’s so-called “skinny bundle,” with fewer channels than a typical cable subscription, will cost $30 to $40 a month, the source said. It was unclear which Fox and Viacom networks would be part of the Google service, two of the sources said.

The sources requested anonymity because the discussions are confidential. A spokesperson for YouTube declined to comment.

Google will be launching into an increasingly crowded market. Dish Network Corp and Sony Corp, which in the past year have launched skinny bundles to appeal to younger viewers who do not want to pay for cable.

And both AT&T Inc and Hulu, the online video service owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast Corp and Time Warner Inc, have streaming television offerings that are expected to go live in the next few months.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, said Google was also in advanced talks with Walt Disney Co.

A representative at Disney was not immediately available for comment. CBS, Viacom and Fox declined to comment.

Google has been talking to media companies about its web TV for years, but its plans have just ramped up over the past few months, one of the sources said. Apple Inc had looked at a similar service but has shelved that plan for the time being, sources had previously told Reuters.


Facebook Continues To Lose Younger Users To Snapchat, Instagram

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

facebook-teens-150x150Facebook has been having a hard time attracting  younger users for several years now and it looks like the problem is getting worse.

According to Piper Jaffray Companies, a recent survey of 10,000 U.S. teenagers showed that 52% used Facebook at least once a month this fall, compared to 60% who used it monthly in the spring.

“Factoring out shifts in the population surveyed, core Facebook usage likely declined by three basis points, which indicates Facebook is gradually becoming less relevant versus Instagram and Snapchat,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research note to investors.

The same survey, however, showed that teen use of Facebook-owned Instagram has gone from 70% to 74% in the same time frame — and rose from 75% to 80% for rival Snapchat.

When asked what their favorite social network was this fall, 35% said Snapchat; 24% said Instagram; and 13% said Twitter and Facebook (which tied for third place).

While older users – say anywhere from 35 to 65 years old – have shown to be loyal Facebook users, the site isn’t pulling in enough users 24 and younger to offset losses as older users die off.

“Well, think about it,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “If Facebook just lost 8% of all teens, that’s millions of users…. Over time, they need to keep the funnel of users coming in on the younger side. I think it creates a huge issue down the road. It’s not likely they can add users that are of older generations. They probably have all they will get from anyone 30 and older.”

Facebook certainly has been working to draw in younger users.

In August, Facebook unveiled its Lifestage stand-alone app. Designed for iOS devices, the app enables teen users to share videos with other people in their schools.

Lifestage was born as a rival to Snapchat and basically a video version of an early stage Facebook.

Also, in March, the company bought face-swapping app Masquerade or MSQRD. The app enables users to dress up their photos and selfies with an Iron Man helmet or a panda outfit.

Facebook hoped that by being able to add special effects to their pics, teens and young adults would be pulled onto Facebook — or at least one of the apps. But so far, at least, those efforts don’t appear to be panning out.

Qualcomm Plans To Ship 5G Modems In 2018

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

qualcom-bldg-150x1505G networks will be five times as fast as the quickest LTE technology by taking advantage of the highest cellular frequencies ever, according to Qualcomm.

The X50 modem won’t ship until the first half of 2018, and 5G networks aren’t expected to go commercial until 2020. But Qualcomm will have a lot to say about the new technology at its 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong. At the same event, it’s announcing plans around its gigabit-speed X16 LTE modem.

The X50 will offer download speeds as high as 5Gbps (bits per second), where networks support them, using millimeter-wave frequencies and futuristic techniques for beaming signals to devices, according to slides prepared for the 4G/5G Summit. Qualcomm shared the materials in advance.

The X50 initially will use the 28GHz band, which is also the focus of 5G development work at the Verizon 5G Technology Forum and Korea Telecom 5G Special Interest Group. It’s one of several millimeter-wave bands that are widely expected to be used for 5G.

Cellular networks up to now have stayed below 6GHz, because higher frequencies don’t naturally travel as far or go through objects as easily. But a lot more bandwidth is expected to become available in millimeter-wave bands in the coming years. Qualcomm says the X50 will be able to use a combined 800MHz of spectrum, compared with up to 80MHz for the X16.

The future modem will use several emerging techniques to make this work. Key tools are beam-forming and beam-tracking, in which a cell can focus its signal to reach a specific mobile device and then follow that device as it moves around. The X50 will even be able to bounce its signal off hard surfaces in order to get around objects between the cell and the user.

Qualcomm expects the X50 modem to ship to system makers in sample quantities starting in the second half of next year. Combined with a gigabit-speed LTE modem, the X50 will form the basis of dual-mode 4G/5G devices. LTE and 5G are expected to coexist for many years.

Meanwhile, the X16 LTE modem will be coming out in a consumer device in the next few months. The NetGear Mobile Router MR1100, a mobile hotspot that provides a Wi-Fi connection on the go, will be sold by Australian carrier Telstra, Qualcomm announced Tuesday.

Netflix Enjoying A Boom As Subscribers Grows

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

netflix-new-deal-150x150Netflix Inc added over 50 percent more subscribers than expected in the third quarter as original shows such as “Stranger Things” attracted new international viewers and kept U.S. customers despite a price hike.

The company’s performance represented a turnaround from the previous quarter of disappointing subscription growth. Netflix, which has spent heavily to expand outside its home market, also said that it was on track to start harvesting “material global profits” next year, even as it raised spending on original programming.

Netflix added about 3.20 million subscribers internationally in the third quarter, higher than the 2.01 million average analyst estimate.

In the United States, Netflix added 370,000 subscriptions, compared with analysts’ estimate of 309,000, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

“Investors appear laser focused on subscriber growth, and so long as Netflix delivers on that metric, investors will bid its shares up,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. However, Pachter said he thought the continuing cost of developing new shows would undermine plans to deliver material profits in 2017.

Netflix has expanded into more than 130 markets worldwide, including most major countries, except China. It said on Monday it was dropping plans to launch a service in China in the near term, opting instead to license its shows for “modest” revenue.

The company said it still hopes to launch service in China “eventually.”

In the meantime, Netflix plans to keep pouring money into building its stable of original and licensed TV shows and movies. Content spending will rise to $6 billion next year, a $1 billion increase from 2016, the company said.”We will keep investing in growing the content spend, even domestically, for quite a long time,” Chief Executive Reed Hastings said on webcast.

Netflix has been facing a slowdown in subscription growth in the United States as the market matures and a planned U.S. price hike raised concerns it would not hit its targets. It also faces competition from the likes of Hulu and Inc.

But the company, whose other popular original shows include “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards”, said it expects to add 1.45 million subscribers in the United States in the current quarter.

Analysts on average were expecting 1.27 million additions, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.


Facebook Plays Prominently In Voter Registration Surge

October 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net


fb-voter-registration-150x150Social media is more than banal tweets and political rants as Facebook showed by getting hundreds of thousands of people to register to vote this fall.

“Facebook has demonstrated the power of social media to engage more people to register to vote, helping thousands take a big step to casting a ballot this November,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla in a statement. “For many who may be new to the political process, an invitation to register can be a powerful nudge to get involved.”

Facebook dove into the voter registration process this fall. On Sept. 23, Facebook sent reminders to its U.S. users, who were at least 18 years old, about registering to vote. The effort, which ran through Sept. 26, provided a link to voter registration sites at the top of Facebook’s News Feed.

According to Padilla, it caused a “major surge” in online voter registrations in California.

The state reported that on Sept. 23 alone, 123,279 Californians completed registrations or updates of their registration information on the Secretary of State’s online voter registration site. The next day another 43,888 registrations were completed online, and on the 25th, there were 29,256 more registrations or updates.

Padilla said that before the Facebook reminder went up, there was an average of 9,307 completed registrations or registration updates per day in September, and many of those registering were younger voters.

California reported that 23.8% of these registrations and updates were from people between 17 and 25 years old. Another 29.7% were between ages 26 and 35.

Facebook, which has provided users with Election Day reminders for the past eight years, wanted to do more this year to encourage voter registrations.

“Going back to 2008, we’ve been reminding people on Facebook to vote on Election Day and directing them to information on where to vote,” Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement said in an email to Computerworld. “This is the natural next step. We want people to have a voice in the process, and getting registered means that there’s one less hurdle for them.”

IBM, Partners To Take On Intel With Introduction Of OpenCAPI

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

ibm-opencapi-150x150Technology heavyweights IBM Corp, Google and seven others have teamed up to launch an open specification that can boost data center server performance by up to ten times, to take on Intel Corp.

The new standard, called Open Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (OpenCAPI), is an open forum to provide a high bandwidth, low latency open interface design specification.

The open interface will help corporate and cloud data centers to speed up big data, machine learning, analytics and other emerging workloads.

The consortium plans to make the OpenCAPI specification available to the public before the end of the year and expects servers and related products based on the new standard in the second half of 2017, it said in a statement.

Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, is known to protect its server technologies and has chosen to sit out of the new consortium. In the past also, it had stayed away from prominent open standards technology groups such as CCIX and Gen-Z.

“As artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytics become the price of doing business in today’s digital era, huge volumes of data are now the norm,” Doug Balog, general manager for IBM Power, told Reuters.

“It’s clear that today’s data centers can no longer rely on one company alone to drive innovation,” Balog said.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co, Mellanox Technologies Ltd, Micron Technology Inc, NVIDIA Corp and Xilinx Inc are also members of the OpenCAPI consortium.


Amazon Launches $3.99/Monthly Music Streaming Service

October 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net Inc has officially launched a full-fledged music streaming service with subscriptions as low as $3.99 per month for owners of its Amazon Echo speaker, accelerating the industry trend toward more flexible pricing after years of sticking to $9.99 subscriptions.

The new streaming service, called “Amazon Music Unlimited,” lets users access a vast catalog of songs on demand, similar to Spotify and Apple Music. Subscriptions to play music on the Echo cost $3.99 per month; for access beyond that device, subscriptions cost $7.99 a month for members of Amazon’s Prime shipping and video service and $9.99 for non-members. Amazon will continue to offer Prime members a limited streaming service for free.

As it plunges deeper into the crowded streaming field, Amazon is counting on the Echo, a smart speaker that responds to voice commands, to set it apart. Released broadly last year, the Echo has become a surprise hit, prompting many to predict that voice will become a key way users interact with technology – and music is central to the device’s appeal.

Amazon has built an elaborate system of voice controls for listening on the Echo. The company believes such smart home devices will be a key source of growth for the music industry, said Steve Boom, vice president of Amazon Music.

“The first phase of growth (in music streaming) was driven almost entirely by smartphones,” he said in an interview. “We believe pretty strongly that the next phase of growth in streaming is going to come from the home.”

The low price for Amazon’s streaming service is consistent with the company’s reputation for undercutting the competition and signals the music industry is beginning to accommodate consumers who are unwilling to pay $9.99 per month. Having watched revenues plummet from the CD era, label executives have been reluctant to budge on price, but they have come under pressure as streaming accounts for more of the pie.

Boom said he is optimistic that the new prices will expand the market.

“We’re moving music away from a one-size-fits-all approach,” Boom said. “We are the ones who have been pushing this the hardest.”

Streaming services must pay a majority of their revenues to rights holders, a business model that has left Pandora and Spotify struggling to turn a profit. But Amazon can afford to take a loss on music streaming, and the boost to Prime is well worth it, analysts say.

The premium music service, following the release of a standalone video service, suggests Amazon will increasingly offer basic media options through Prime while selling additional subscriptions for consumers who want to go deeper, said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research.


Sony Joins The Virtual Reality Race With New VR Headset

October 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

sony-vr-headset-150x150Sony Corp jumped into the race for virtual reality (VR) dominance with the $399 PlayStation VR, a headset the Japanese electronics group hopes will beat pricier rivals and revive its reputation as a maker of must-have gadgets.

Emerging from years of restructuring, Sony is reshaping itself to focus on lucrative areas such as video games, entertainment and camera sensors – rather than televisions or smartphones where demand is flat, competition acute and margins thin. The games unit is now the single largest profit contributor for the group.

The PlayStation VR headset, Sony’s first major product launch since it declared its turnaround complete in June, will put the company back on the offensive and test its ability to compete in one of the most talked-about spaces in the industry.

Rival offerings in virtual reality headsets include Facebook Inc’s $599 Oculus Rift and HTC Corp’s $799 Vive.

Sony hopes to lure in customers with its more modest price tag and by tapping the 40 million existing users of its flagship consoles – the headset is designed to plug into PlayStation 4, rather than requiring new equipment.

“Sony is well-positioned to build an early lead in the high-end VR headset race,” market researcher IHS Technology said in a report, forecasting sales of 1.4 million units in 2016.

Sony, developer of the Walkman portable cassette player and maker of the first compact disc player, hopes the headset will be a springboard to pull ahead of rivals in VR, gelling with the content portion of its business, specifically music and film.

In an interview with Reuters in September, Andrew House, Sony’s gaming division chief, said he was already in talks with media production companies to explore possibilities for Sony’s VR headset.

“We are talking about years into the future, but these are interesting conversations to start having now,” House said.

Sony, however, will compete in a crowded market. Nomura analysts expect cumulative shipments of all VR headsets to expand more than 20 times to 40 million by 2020, which along with accessories and other non-game content could be worth $10 billion.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said last week the Oculus business will spend $500 million to fund VR content development and is working on an affordable standalone VR headset not tethered to personal computers or consoles.

Japanese Firm Develops Stretchable Electrical Cable

October 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

roboden-cables-150x150A Japanese firm has developed an electrical cable that has stretchable capabilities. Asahi Kasei says the cable, called Roboden, will expand by up to 40 percent of its length before hitting its limit.

It was originally developed for use in robotics, where cables sometimes need to snake around joints that pivot or extend. Typically, spare cable has to be built into the wiring to accommodate this movement, and that can get snagged. Roboden can closely follow the robot’s body and stretch as needed.

Asahi Kasei is demonstrating the cable at this week’s Ceatec electronics show in Japan, where it is looking for additional uses for Roboden.

It works like this: The inside of the Roboden cable has an elastic core and wire is wound around the core in a spiral. A second stretchy sheath covers the entire thing. The spiraled wire means there is enough inside the cable to allow it to be stretched without incident.

One potential use is in gadget cables. Anyone who has pulled a cable by accident and sent a gadget crashing to the floor will attest that current USB cables don’t stretch at all.

It could also have a use in portable gadget cabling for devices like power adapters and headphones. No matter how well the cables are coiled on devices, a day inside a backpack always manages to unravel the wire and leave a mess of digital sphaghetti. With Roboden, the cable will remain coiled up if a little stretch is put in when winding it tidily.


Calls For U.S. Government To Disclose Orders On Yahoo Email Search

October 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

yahoo-search-logo-150x150A U.S. senator and civil groups critical of surveillance practices is demanding the government to release a 2015 order by a secret court directing Yahoo to scan all its users’ incoming email, saying it appeared to involve new interpretations of at least two important legal issues.

Their concerns center on the nature of the technical assistance the court required Yahoo to provide and the scope of the search that legal experts said appeared to cover the Silicon Valley internet company’s entire network.

Yahoo installed a custom software program to search messages to hundreds of millions of accounts at the behest of U.S. intelligence officials with an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret tribunal, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

They were looking for messages containing a single piece of digital content, three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events told Reuters.

Intelligence officials told Reuters that all Yahoo had to do was modify existing systems for stopping child pornography from being sent through its email or filtering spam messages.

But the pornography filters are aimed only at video and still images and cannot search text, as the Yahoo program did. The spam filters, meanwhile, are viewable by many employees who curate them, and there is no confusion about where they sit in the software stack and how they operate.

The court-ordered search Yahoo conducted, on the other hand, was done by a module attached to the Linux kernel – in other words, it was deeply buried near the core of the email server operating system, far below where mail sorting was handled, according to three former Yahoo employees.

They said that made it hard to detect and also made it hard to figure out what the program was doing.

How much companies can be forced to do to comply with government orders for searching data is being debated in the courts. Companies have successfully argued that changes that would degrade users’ experience or force them to write new code, essentially a form of speech, would violate basic rights.

Most famously, Apple refused to write code that would unlock an iPhone belonging to a gunman in last year’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. The FBI later dropped its demand.

In the case of Yahoo, company security staff discovered a software program that was scanning email but ended an investigation when they found it had been approved by Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer, the sources said.

Lawmakers are concerned about the request and whether information about it is being properly disclosed to the public.

“Recent reports of a mass-email scanning program have alleged that federal law is being interpreted in ways that many Americans would find surprising and troubling,” said Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a member of the intelligence committee and frequent critic of government surveillance programs.

Amazon Partners With MediaTek

October 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The first-generation Echo device is a voice-activated household digital assistant that can be used to play music, read audiobooks, answer questions about the weather, traffic and latest news, or control IoT-connected light switches and thermostats, among other useful utilities. The device launched in November 2014 and features a Texas Instruments single-core ARM Cortex A8, along with 256MB of LPDDR1 memory and 4GB of storage capacity.

The new Echo Dot will be launching later this month with a MediaTek SoC, while the report suggests shipments of the chip are expected to peak between October and November. The chip is expected to improve the device’s ability to hear a user ask a question from any direction, though this will likely be tested when reviews are posted in a couple weeks. Meanwhile, Amazon will continue sourcing from Texas Instruments to produce Cortex A8 chips for its existing Echo device.

Amazon been purchasing chips from MediaTek since at least 2014 for use in Kindle Fire HD tablets and OTT devices, and now wants them to be part of the smart home device market as well.

In September, the company announced it would release a software update to support Echo Spatial Perception between existing Echo and newer Dot devices, allowing a single device to answer a voice command based on nearest proximity to the user. Of course, Amazon wants its customers to buy at least half a dozen of these assistants to scatter around the house, with bulk discounts available on six and twelve packs at $49 and $99 price reductions, respectively.

The Echo Dot will go on sale October 20th and is currently available for pre-order on the product page for $49.


Intel Does 14nm for Spreadtrum

October 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has announced that it is making 14nm application processors for Spreadtrum and the pair might have Samsung as a client.

Spreadtrum thinks its Intel chips will just be what Samsung wants for its mid-range smartphone series for 2017.

According to Digitimes, Spreadtrum is also contracting TSMC to build chips using the foundry’s 16nm process technology. LG has signed up Intel to make its 10nm process technology for its ARM-based mobile SoCs. LGE is also TSMC’s 16nm and 28nm clients.

Intel only has a workforce of 2,000 people, but it is targeting fabless customers based mainly in China, South Korea, Japan and other countries of Asia. In addition, a team of Intel employees stationed in Shanghai is working with local Chinese manufacturers.


Is The Pressure Really Off UbiSoft?

October 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

At its annual general meeting, Ubisoft claimed victory over Vivendi for now. A spokesperson commented, “Today during our Annual General Meeting, Ubisoft shareholders expressed massive support for Ubisoft’s strategy and management. We remain focused on the execution of our strategic roadmap, which has already proven successful and which we are confident will continue to deliver great results and value for all of Ubisoft’s stakeholders. We’re also very happy to welcome two new independent directors, Frederique Dame and Florence Naviner, who will bring their expertise and know-how to Ubisoft’s Board.”

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot and Ubisoft Motion Picture CEO Gerard Guillemot were both reelected to the board as well, meaning that the board now has five founding members and five independent directors. Vivendi had hoped to exert its influence on Ubisoft by getting its board members elected, but now the hostile takeover route seems like an option to pursue if the French conglomerate is adamant about gaining control. Citing “company insiders,” Polygon is reporting that Vivendi is still likely to pursue a takeover. Meanwhile, Ubisoft is said to be in talks with other game publishers to seek potential support.

Original story:

Yves Guillemot is not only unhappy with Vivendi seeking a potential takeover of Ubisoft; he doesn’t want the French conglomerate to own a single share of the company’s stock.

Ubisoft’s annual general meeting is today, and the company expects Vivendi to make a bid for representation on its board of directors – another step in a strategy that could lead to Vivendi turning its 23% stake into a full takeover. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, that is what Ubisoft’s executives fear, and CEO Yves Guillemot is taking an unequivocal stance on how he wants the matter to be resolved.

“We won’t relax until they sell their shares,” Guillemot said. “The creeping control strategy implemented by Vivendi is dangerous. We think that there’s a great risk of shareholders losing value.”

For Ubisoft, today’s AGM is clearly just one skirmish within a larger battle. An anonymous source within Ubisoft said that, “we knew last year that we would have to win the [annual general meeting] and to do that we had to get shareholder support.”

Guillemot and Ubisoft’s executive team have been doing just that ever since Vivendi started raising its stake in the company last year. Gameloft, which was also founded by the Guillemot family, was the focus of similar attention, and Vivendi successfully took over the mobile publisher in June this year.

Beyond appealing to its shareholders, Ubisoft has been strengthening its position in other ways. This week alone, it purchased another 3.2% of its own stock for €122.5 million, and also acquired the mobile publisher Ketchapp.

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