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HipChat Adds Videocalling Feature

August 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Hipchat-video-calls-150x150It just became easier for HipChat customers to see one another whenever they want it. The company launched new group video calling and screen sharing functionality that lets up to 10 other people share a virtual face-to-face meeting.

Users can spin up a call in a HipChat channel, or bring additional people into a one-on-one video call. That way, people who work in far-flung teams can get onto the same page face-to-face, using the same software that they count on for text chat during the day.

HipChat’s announcement Thursday is a move to compete with both consumer services like Skype and Google Hangouts, as well as workplace videoconferencing systems like Lifesize and Skype for Business. The launch is particularly important for HipChat’s competition with Slack, which recently added group voice calls and has video calling on its roadmap.

Group video calls are only available for teams that pay for HipChat Plus, which costs $2 per user per month.

The new video calling features are based on technology HipChat vendor Atlassian acquired with the JitSi open source video-conferencing product. The company still makes the open source version available, but this integration brings video calling into HipChat natively.

Right now, group video calling is only available on HipChat’s desktop apps, but it will make its way to mobile in some form in the future.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Slack can answer with video calling features of its own, after the high-flying productivity startup acquired screen sharing company Screenhero in January 2015.

Some teams may still find themselves in need of dedicated videoconferencing services, if they use specialized hardware for video meetings or if their needs exceed what HipChat can offer. For example, meetings in HipChat can’t have moderators with special privileges, and are limited to 10 participants at launch.


Apple Finally Jumps On The AR Bandwagon

August 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple is trying to convince the world it is “coming up with something new” by talking a lot about Artificial Reality.

It is a fairly logical development, the company has operated a reality distortion field to create an alternative universe where its products are new and revolutionary and light years ahead of everyone else’s. It will be curious to see how Apple integrates its reality with the real world, given that it is having a problem with that.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been doing his best to convince the world that Apple really is working on something. He needs to do this as the iPhone cash cow starts to dry up and Jobs Mob appears to have no products to replace it.

In an interview with The Washington Post published Sunday, Cook said Apple is “doing a lot of things” with augmented reality (AR), the technology that puts digital images on top of the real world.
He said:

“I think AR is extremely interesting and sort of a core technology. So, yes, it’s something we’re doing a lot of things on behind that curtain we talked about.”

However Apple is light years behind working being done by Microsoft with its Microsoft’s HoloLens headset and the startup Magic Leap’s so-called cinematic reality that’s being developed now.

Cook appears to retreat to AR whenever he is under pressure. But so far he has never actually said that the company is developing any.

Appple has also snapped up several companies and experts in the AR space. And in January, the Financial Times claimed that the company has a division of hundreds of people researching the technology.
But AR would be a hard fit to get a product out which fits Apple’s ethos and certainly not one for years. Meanwhile it is unlikely we will see anything new before Microsoft and Google get their products out.



Intel Goes Deeper Into A.I. With Nervana

August 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has acquired artificial intelligence (AI) startup Nervana Systems in a bid to future-proof its data centre business and shift focus away from the flailing PC market.

Intel hasn’t revealed the financial details of the deal, but Recode reported that the company paid “more than $400m”, citing an anonymous source.

Nervana, a 48-person firm based in San Diego, California led by co-founder Naveen Rao, a former Qualcomm researcher, was founded in 2014 and offers a fully optimized software and hardware stack for deep learning.

The firm’s cloud-based service allows businesses to build and deploy applications that make use of deep learning, and Nervana has developed a custom processor, known as an ASIC, especially for deep learning.

Intel is looking to the firm to bolster its own deep learning credentials, betting big on the fact that AI represents the next big shift in corporate data centres. The purchase also sees the firm moving away from the PC market, which hasn’t been going too well for Intel lately.

Diane Bryant, executive vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Centre Group, said: “I’m excited to announce that Intel signed a definitive agreement to acquire Nervana Systems, a recognized leader in deep learning.

“Their IP and expertise in accelerating deep learning algorithms will expand Intel’s capabilities in the field of AI. We will apply Nervana’s software expertise to further optimise the Intel Math Kernel Library and its integration into industry-standard frameworks.

“Nervana’s engine and silicon expertise will advance Intel’s AI portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance and TCO of Intel Xeon and Xeon Phi processors.”

Rao added: “The semiconductor integrated circuit is one of humanity’s crowning achievements and Intel has the best semiconductor technology in the world.

“Nervana’s AI expertise combined with Intel’s capabilities and huge market reach will allow us to realize our vision and create something truly special.”

Intel’s acquisition of Nervana comes just days after Apple scooped up an AI startup called Turi. The firm handed over £150m for the Seattle-based firm, according to reports.



IoT Growth Outpacing Smartphones Now

August 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

For the first time, U.S. mobile carriers are adding IoT connections to their networks faster than they’re adding smartphones.

In fact, cars alone are getting connected to cellular networks faster than anything else, according to statistics compiled by Chetan Sharma Consulting for the second quarter of this year. Counting all U.S. carriers, about 1.4 million cars got connected to cellular networks in the quarter, compared with 1.2 million phones and less than 900,000 tablets.

The second quarter, between April and June, isn’t a high point for new phone sales like the fourth quarter, when holiday shopping hits and new iPhone models roll out. But IoT growth has been a long-term trend.

AT&T, the carrier that’s led in connected cars, has already been adding them faster than phones and tablets combined for seven consecutive quarters, says Sharma, a longtime mobile industry analyst. AT&T’s on track to reach 10 million car connections soon, he said.

For now, most of those cars have been tuning in without their drivers lifting a finger, Sharma said. It’s the car companies that are rolling out vehicles with live cellular connections, which can help them do things like monitor the condition of their cars, update the software on board, and learn things that could help them improve future models. Keeping vehicles online may also reduce the need for expensive recalls where cars have to come back into the shop.

It’s taking a little longer for consumers to start using the cell services in their cars. One reason is that people already drive around with a network connection through their cell phones, which can even provide a pipeline for vehicle data through IoT device-and-app combinations like Automatic.

Sharma’s quarterly report also showed how successful mobile data as a whole has become in the U.S. In the second quarter, it accounted for more than three-quarters of mobile carriers’ revenue for the first time. It helps that the U.S. is No. 3 in the world for mobile data consumption per subscriber, per month, according to Sharma.



Seagate Announces 60TB SSD, Aims To Ship In 2017

August 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Seagate has announced a 60TB SSD that it hopes to make available to the public as early as next year.

Seagate showed the drive at the Flash Memory Summit in Silicon Valley on Tuesday. It called it a “technology demonstration,” which means there could still be a few kinks to work out.

But if Seagate can deliver as planned, the drive would have close to four times the capacity of the largest SSD available currently, Samsung’s PM1633a SSD.

The drive will be aimed at servers and flash arrays, where it could help meet the growing demand for storage fueled by mobile devices, online video and the emerging internet of things.

The SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) drive fits into a standard enterprise hard disk drive 3.5-inch storage slot, Seagate says.

It didn’t provide technical details in its announcement, but it said the drive is based on a “flexible architecture” that could eventually scale to 100TB in the same form factor.



U.S. Marines Tests Minitiature-Sized Helicopter Drone

August 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Marine Corps is testing out a pocket-sized drone that can stream live video feeds from three cameras and is tiny enough that it’s almost invisible from the ground.

The Black Hornet PD-100 can stay aloft for 25 minutes and has a range of 1.6 km (1 mile). That means Marines can use it for surveillance far beyond their current position.

It can fly missions guided by GPS, yet fits in a pocket. The cable hanging out the back in this image is an antenna, not a cord for power or data.

The three cameras can be used to send live video or take pictures. One camera points ahead, one directly down and one at 45 degrees to the ground.

The tests took place in California recently during an exercise called MIX-16, held to evaluate new technologies and how they might be used by the Marines.

The Black Hornet has already been used in Afghanistan by the British military, and the U.K. Ministry of Defence was sufficiently impressed to make it an ongoing part of the country’s military kit.

It’s made by Norway’s Prox Dynamics, and the Norwegian Special Forces have ordered a version with night-flying capability. The drone is also used by a handful of other countries.





New Allwinner Chipset Could Usher In Price Drop For VR Headsets

August 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Most virtual reality headsets must be connected to PCs or smartphones; few are self-contained. A new VR chipset from Allwinner could change that, and also drive down headset prices.

Allwinner’s H8VR chipset could free VR headsets from being attached to smartphones or PCs. The H8VR can fit in a plastic or cardboard VR headset. It also has a CPU, 4K video-processing capabilities, memory and storage.

The H8VR is targeted at low-cost VR headsets. Allwinner’s chips are already being used in low-cost smartphones and tablets, and the company played a big role in driving down mobile-device prices. The H8VR could do the same for VR headsets.

One VR headset with the chip, the V3 All In One, is selling for $109.99 on Geekbuying’s website and is available for $129.99 on Aliexpress.

VR headsets like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive need to be attached to PCs due to heavy computing and power requirements. Mobile devices can also be plugged into headsets for VR.

Top chip makers aren’t developing specialized processors for independent VR or augmented reality headsets, with Qualcomm being an exception.

One popular stand-alone AR headset is Microsoft’s HoloLens, which uses Intel’s Cherry Trail processor. That chip, however, was made for tablets, not specifically for VR or AR.  The VR strategies for Nvidia and AMD rely on their PC GPUs.

Meanwhile, Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 7 can be used for VR with a companion Gear VR headset. One of the chips used in Note 7 is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820, which is also being targeted at VR headsets. The chip has digital signal processors and a powerful GPU to amplify sounds, scenes and to recognize images, all of which improve VR.

That leads to a larger question: like Allwinner and Qualcomm, will the top chip makers consider a specialized VR chip, much like they do for tablets and smartphones? It’s a possibility, if VR headset shipments explodes. IDC projects9.6 million headsets to ship this year, reaching 64.8 million by 2020.




Will Ubisoft Succeed In The VR Space?

August 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

While 2016 has seen heaps of praise thrown at virtual reality technology, the market itself has yet to be proven. The headsets and PC hardware needed to run high-end VR games are prohibitively expensive, and the installed bases will remain somewhat small because of that. Enthusiasm from developers isn’t matched by investors or publishers, but that hasn’t scared away Ubisoft from jumping onto the VR train early on.

While Bethesda is pursuing Fallout 4 in VR and Electronic Arts has a Star Wars Battlefront VR experience, the fact is that Ubisoft is the only major third-party publisher that will be releasing several brand-new VR games during 2016. But how can the company justify the investment?

Ubisoft has always supported new technology from the get go (Wii, Kinect, Wii U) and the publisher’s head of EMEA, Alain Corre, simply believes the creative possibilities that the new VR technology affords would be too important to pass up.

“For us, when we see VR and the capacity and possibilities of this technology it gives our creative teams new possibilities of expressing themselves and innovating and bringing something fresh, because the immersion you have when you play a VR game is second to none. When you play a good VR game you will never forget it. It will remain in your mind forever. And that’s something we were feeling from the beginning when we were presented with the technology. At Ubisoft there are a lot of teams that always want to take a crack at new technology and put their know-how creation into it. That’s why we have four games coming this year for VR and we have many more prototypes on the way,” Corre tells me at E3.

“We feel there will be a spark and it will really explode – it’s still very early days but we want to put some seeds in the soil and we don’t necessarily know which ones will explode and create a new franchise for us. It’s an opportunity for us to create new brands,” he adds.

Before the year is up Ubisoft will have shipped Eagle Flight, Trackmania Turbo, Werewolves Within and Star Trek: Bridge Crew for the three major VR platforms (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PS VR) and the company is betting on the fact that its titles will benefit from early word of mouth among VR enthusiasts. Corre fully admits that it’s unlikely Ubisoft will earn back its investments on VR projects in the near future, but he sees a bright future ahead where a game like Star Trek could enjoy healthy catalogue sales for a few years.


“Even with Eagle Flight or with Star Trek VR we think that ultimately during the life of the game that they will be profitable. Because we’re very early on… with good quality products they will sell to a certain level based on the installed base within the first year, so there’s a limitation but if the games are good they will remain [in the charts]. The first games that come out for a new technology are associated with this technology and it remains in the mind of the people moving forward so we can imagine that these games will last 2-3 years and will become interesting back catalogue titles for future adopters of VR technology,” he notes.

I ask Corre how much Ubisoft’s VR games cost to build, and while the publisher isn’t disclosing budgets, it’s clear that a title like Star Trek VR costs far less to build than a AAA blockbuster like Assassin’s Creed. That certainly makes it easier to take a risk.

“It’s less risky but it’s also, at the moment, less rewarding if the game is super successful because there’s a limitation in the installed base. But all in all we feel it’s important for us to learn and to try to understand what we can do in terms of creation. What are the limits of [VR] and what will the fans enjoy and want and prefer? So we have to invest, not massive amounts of money yet, but on certain franchises and to build new franchises and new gameplay so that we’re ready when this market will explode and we believe it will explode at some point,” Corre continues.

“We want to keep on growing the community to make sure we keep the energy behind eSports because we believe eSports is super important for Rainbow Six and for the fans to compete together. We’re going to invest and expand…”

Another new technology that Ubisoft is excited to support is the Nintendo NX. Of course, Nintendo has yet to say anything at all about its new hardware while the rumor mill continues to present plenty of plausible possibilities, but Corre assures me that Ubisoft is gearing up for a slate of titles beyond Just Dance.

NX portfolio aside, Ubisoft is immensely proud of the progress it’s made with its own product slate. The publisher continues to create new IP like Watch Dogs, The Division, and Steep while pushing boundaries in its existing franchises.

“I want to emphasize that for Ubisoft one of the unique things is the variety of our portfolio. We were speaking about Steep and Watch Dogs 2 but we also have South Park which is completely unique, coming at the end of the year, and we also are bringing For Honor – the feedback we’re getting is very positive, showing that we can excel in different genres,” Corre remarks. “For Honor will be a unique game when it comes out. We haven’t seen that type of game for many, many years. That’s also the beauty of Ubisoft, trying to innovate each time. If I can take the example of Ghost Recon Wildlands, this is the very first time that we will have a military shooter in an open world with co-op and multiplayer… We have to surprise and push the boundaries of creativity so that we can put smiles on the faces of our fans.”

For Honor is not only another stab at creating successful new IP, but Ubisoft believes it can become a franchise to allow the company to dive deeper into the eSports market. So far, Ubisoft’s biggest eSports presence has been with Rainbow Six, but the team-based nature and co-op gameplay of For Honor lends itself to eSports, Corre believes.

“You need to have the right products to be able to participate in eSports. We have started with Rainbow Six, we have a championship running with Rainbow Six that we signed with ESL. We started with competition on Rainbow Six in January and it’s an ongoing set of competition, coming regularly every quarter in America and Europe. We want to keep on growing the community to make sure we keep the energy behind eSports because we believe eSports is super important for Rainbow Six and for the fans to compete together. We’re going to invest and expand – it’s a long-term franchise moving forward and the fans are very much reacting to any added content we put out. Each time we bring something fresh and new we see the DAU going up like crazy, so it shows us that our fans are there and they want to participate. We expect Rainbow Six momentum and the community to grow in the months and years to come,” Corre says.

Because Ubisoft has succeeded in building a stable portfolio of franchises, the publisher finally feels a bit more comfortable breaking up its release schedule. While big games like Assassin’s Creed were once guaranteed to ship every single year, that’s no longer the case. Indeed, this is the first year in some time that Ubisoft won’t be releasing any Assassin’s Creed.

“It’s important that the fans are happy with what we are producing, and also what we were thinking is that this year we have the movie for Assassin’s Creed, so that gives fans the possibility to be in contact with a beloved brand since they can go and see the movie,” Corre says. “And the movie is very true to the DNA of the game. It was very important for us to make sure that the DNA of the game was respected in the movie. So we controlled a lot, the script, etc…

“What we want is that our games are perfect when we release them and we are showing that all the time, so we are giving them the time they need to blow away everybody. That’s our mission. The beauty of Ubisoft also is to be able to give time to games when we feel they are not completely polished. We are trying to respect the dates of course, but sometimes we have to make the decision to [push a project back], like with The Division for example, which we had to postpone twice because we felt it was not completely polished yet. Quality for us is super important – everyday we work to make sure the worlds we create are as perfect as possible before we release them to the fans because ultimately they decide if the game is good and if they will help with word of mouth.”

“This year we have five AAA franchises to come. Watch Dogs 2 is coming and we think that can be a super good game at the end of this year. We’ve listened to all the feedback people were sending us after Watch Dogs 1 and we’ve ticked all the boxes for improving the game and making the size of the game twice as big, and the hacking system lets you now hack anybody, all the vehicles and drones and so on. We’ve also added more multiplayer and co-op. For us, now we can count on all these franchises, which is great because it allows us to let some of our brands breathe,” he adds.

While Assassin’s Creed “breathes,” it’s getting the Hollywood treatment, and Ubisoft has already made it clear that it expects Watch Dogs to become a major movie IP as well. Can we expect Ubisoft to leverage even more of its brands in Hollywood?

“Well it needs to make sense,” Corre says. “We are a video game company and we have the chance to have many fans of our franchises and that’s our core business – we really want to protect the DNA of our brands. With Assassin’s Creed we’ve waited many, many years before being able to green light this movie because we were not happy with the way this franchise would have been treated. Because we’ve been able to have our influence into the script, the story, the actors, so we became comfortable that an Assassin’s Creed fan going to see the movie would feel at home and it’s a new experience for the fan but it’s in line with the values of the brand.

“With Watch Dogs it’s exactly the same way – we want the movie to respect the values of the video game brand; it takes more time because you have to rewrite the script and so on but it’s necessary for us to protect our IPs. It all starts with the video game – if we can find some opportunities in other entertainment worlds to create something new and to permit a certain number of new persons to enjoy our worlds and to one day also buy a video game that would be good. It’s on a case by case basis, though.”


Microsoft Expands Sales Of HoloLens

August 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft has opened up sales of the HoloLens development kit to anyone with $3,000 to spare, a move designed to significantly expand the community of developers building apps for the augmented reality headset.

Until now, HoloLens was available only to developers and companies through Microsoft sales reps, but as of Tuesday, anyone in the U.S. or Canada can purchase up to five headsets online through the Microsoft Store. There was no word about availability in other countries.

HoloLens can overlay three-dimensional images onto the real world. By tracking the user’s movements, the 3D images can be continually redrawn to match the user’s perspective, making them appear like objects in real space.

One such application was demonstrated at last month’s Worldwide Developer Conference in Toronto. Japan Airlines showed a HoloLens app that lets engineers get up close with a full scale, computerized model of a jet engine. The app can highlight engine parts and show how different components work together in a way not possible with a real engine.

he HoloLens now on sale is the same developer edition that has been offered to Microsoft partners, and buyers are asked to acknowledge before completing purchase that they understand it’s not a finished product intended for consumers.

Microsoft also asks buyers to agree not to resell the product and acknowledge that no refunds are available.

Difficulty in obtaining the HoloLens has led to a healthy markup on the device on Ebay. On Tuesday afternoon, units were selling for up to $5,000.

In June, Microsoft said it was opening up the HoloLens platform, allowing other device makers to build their own versions of the product.


Twitter Still Struggling To Add New User, Grow Revenue

July 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc reported its slowest revenue growth since its IPO in 2013 and set a rather grim forecast, fanning concerns that faster growing social media services will make it a niche product.

The microblogging service operator’s shares fell 11 percent in extended trading to $16.40. While Twitter struggles to find a way to boost user growth and win over advertisers, social media services such as Instagram and Snapchat are expanding their footprints.

Co-founder Jack Dorsey returned to the company as chief executive a year ago, but his plan for reviving Twitter is at best seen as unfinished.

The company’s second quarter revenue missed Wall Street estimates and the revenue forecast for the current quarter of $590 million to $610 million was well below the average analyst estimate of $678.18 million.

Twitter’s user base increased about 1 percent to 313 million average monthly active users in the second quarter from 310 million in the first quarter.

“Clearly, the turnaround is still a work in progress and the question of whether being a platform for a mass audience versus a niche audience needs to be answered,” said James Cakmak, analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co.

Earlier this year, Twitter laid out a long-term strategy to turn around its business, focusing on five areas: its core service, live-streaming video, the site’s “creators and influencers,” safety and developers.

In live video, the company has signed deals with Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association to revive user growth and attract more advertising dollars. Executives also said Twitter was investing more in user safety as the company continues to grapple with high-profile instances of abuse and harassment.

Struggling with flat user growth and lower spending by advertisers, Twitter has doubled down on attracting more people and encouraging existing advertisers to spend more as it tries to shape its stagnating business.

“We are a year into Dorsey coming back and there is really no end in sight of when it is going to start picking up to where investors are going to be happy,” said Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Twitter is also working to better define its role in the social media landscape. This week it rolled out a video ad that showed it as the place to go for live news, updates and discussion about current events, which executives also emphasized on a call with analysts.


Intel Developing Remote EyeSight Augmented Reality Smart Glasses

July 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

All signs indicated that Intel is developing a pair of augmented reality (AR) smart glasses, and we may see them at the company’s developer show next month.

The Intel Remote EyeSight, a set of head-worn AR smart glasses, is built around the idea of remote collaboration. The company will offer details at a technical session during next month’s Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

Further information about the AR smart glasses wasn’t immediately available, but they seem like a cross between Microsoft’s HoloLens and Google Glass.

The technical session page describes the AR smart glasses as a product that uses Intel’s Collaboration Suite for WebRTC video capabilities to “transform Intel’s enterprise collaboration experiences with secure, cost-effective, hands-free and augmented reality technologies.”

An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment on Remote EyeSight, but said AR and virtual reality (VR) will be a big focus at IDF.

The smart glasses give a fascinating clue into Intel’s AR strategy. Augmented reality blends real and virtual worlds, and can be used to build 3D objects, chat on Skype, or even play 3D games with the real world as a background.

Intel’s Remote EyeSight could enable interactive remote communication on smart glasses, kind of like having Skype on a wearable. That could promote freedom of movement and communication, and blend in real and virtual world scenes into video chats. In the enterprise, it could be used in areas like repair, medicine, and education.

Bulky headsets like Microsoft HoloLens restrict movement, a problem Intel’s smart glasses could alleviate if they are the right size. But like Google Glass, they may not be welcome in areas like bars and restaurants, so they could be limited to use in specific areas.

Intel also has good CPU technology for AR and VR but lacks good graphics technology, which is important for visual computing.

It’s also unclear how Intel will lay out its AR and VR vision at IDF. The company’s PC, server and internet of things groups have different ideas on how AR and VR fit into their operations, and it remains to be seen if they can unite to provide a common vision.




Intel’s Knights Landing Thwarting nVidia Plans

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Comments Off on Intel’s Knights Landing Thwarting nVidia Plans

Bad news for Nvidia as supercomputer maker Cray said that that Intel’s Knights Landing giving Nvidia a run for its money.

Cray’s boss Peter Ungaro whose outfit makes supercomputers based around both Knights Landing and Nvidia gear has hinted that Intel gear is gaining traction.

The second generation Xeon Phi product, codenamed Knights Landing, comes as a stand-alone processor and another one which will be released as a co-processor later on. All this stands in the way of Nvidia’s cunning plans in the market.

Ungaro, the company has a “substantial amount of business” that relies on both Intel’s Knights Landing Xeon Phi part as well as Nvidia Tesla P100. He says he has significant orders for both.
But, he added that orders for systems based on Knights Landing actually exceed the orders for systems that use the Tesla P100. In other words, Knights Landing is already cleaning Tesla’s clock.

Motley Fool thinks that at the moment the market is big enough for both of them Nvidia has reported that its datacentre related sales were up 63 per cent year-over-year. But we can expect Intel to start getting more Chipzillish as it start’s bumping into Nvidia’s sales teams.

It might also start getting interesting when ARM chips start making an impact.



Is The Apple Watch Dragging The Smartwatch Industry Down?

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

After dragging up the smart watch industry thanks to its legions of fanboys who will buy any old rubbish provided it has an Apply logo, Jobs’ Mob is causing it all to crash again.

For those who came in late, after Apple invented the smartwatch two years later than its rivals, it was supposed to sell millions of them. To be fair it did reasonably well considering its product was out-of-date and pretty much useless. It sold about six million of them to the loyal fanboys base who would buy a dog turd if it had an Apple logo. Smartwatches were a small market and six million was rather a lot.

But this figure was well below the 40 million that some analysts claimed it would sell. The smartwatch got bad reviews and lacked most of the functionality that its rivals had. It was also expensive.

Apple appears to have lost interest in the devices It fails to mention them in polite company and rumours of “innovations” of the tech are few and far between. This has resulted in the smartwatch industry which was propped by Apple’s interest taking a battering.

Vendors shipped a total of 3.5 million smartwatches worldwide last quarter. This Q2 2016 figure is down 32 percent from the 5.1 million units shipped in Q2 2016, marking the first decline on record.

The figures don’t count basic bands sold by companies like Fitbit so Apple is the undisputed leader. The latest quarterly figures come from IDC, which said that Apple’s market share decreased 25 percentage points (from 72 percent to 47 percent) and it shipped less than half the smartwatches (1.6 million). But the company still holds almost half the market, with every other vendor shipping fewer than a million units.

Samsung gained 9 percentage points (from 7 percent to 16 percent), thanks to shipping 200,000 more units compared to the same quarter last year. IDC attributes the gain to solid distribution though American carriers. The Gear S2 lineup is Samsung’s biggest success and doesn’t appear to depend on the company’s smartphones.

Lenovo gained 6 percentage points (from 3 percent to 9 percent), shipping 100,000 more units and jumping into third place. IDC believes this is thanks to the company’s Motorola brand moving quickly into smartwatches and becoming the de facto Android Wear choice for round form factors.

LG gained 4 percentage points (from 4 percent to 8 percent), also shipping 100,000 more units but slipping to fourth place.

Garmin gained 2 percentage points (from 2 percent to 4 percent), despite flat shipments. Its Connect IQ-enabled devices remain niche, as they mainly only target athletes.

Of course the Tame Apple press claims all that will change when Apple releases its refresh of the watch which has all the features that were missing when the Smart Watch launched before. However even if it does happen this time, the technology is still two years too late and fanboys are going to find it hard justifying an upgrade to their parents. They might have to take on another paper rounded to pay for it.

All this indicates that after a period of Apple bloat, some sanity is being restored to the smartwatch industry which is, and will always be, niche.



Will Nokia Succeed With Android Smartphones?

July 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Nokia is reportedly getting ready to make a smartphone comeback with two high-end Android 7.0 Nougat devices.

We already know that Nokia is plotting a return to the mobile market. The company revealed in May that it has signed an exclusive agreement with HMD Global, a new company also based in Finland, to create Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets for the next 10 years.

Nokia’s comeback might happen in just a few months’ time, as NokiaPowerUser has heard that the firm is plotting the launch of two high-end Android 7.0 smartphones at the end of this year, or Q1 2017 if things don’t go exactly to plan.

The website’s “trusted sources” explained that the two unnamed devices will have premium metal designs complete with IP68 certification, which means they’ll be as water resistant as the Galaxy S7.

The report also claimed that the devices will offer “the famous Nokia feel”, which we guess points to brightly coloured options.

Expect 5.2in and 5.5in QHD screens, according to the anonymous sources, along with fingerprint scanners and “innovations” in the camera department.

“We hear that sensors on these two smartphones may be the most sensitive ever and will be based on Nokia’s extensive research on wonder material graphene,” the report said.

The two smartphones also look set to run Google’s Android 7.0 Nougat software, providing features such as split-screen mode, enhanced notifications and improved gaming thanks to support for the Vulkan API.

Nougat will reportedly come topped with Nokia’s Z-Launcher software, as seen on the Nokia N1 tablet. Improvements to the skin could bring “elements of touch and hover interaction”, hinting that the devices could offer 3D Touch-like technology.

We don’t know much else yet, but Gizmodo China reported that the smartphones will use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chip.

There’s no word on prices yet, but Gizmodo’s report claimed that the bigger, and presumably more expensive, model will cost around $500 SIM-free.



Online Video Streaming Biting Into Dish Network Customer Base

July 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

U.S. satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp reported an unexpected loss in pay-TV subscribers as more consumers increasingly opt for online video-streaming services.

Dish said it lost 281,000 net pay-TV subscribers in the second quarter ended June 30, missing the average analyst estimate of a loss of 91,000 subscribers, according to market research firm FactSet StreetEstimate.

However, average revenue per user rose to $89.98 from $87.91, helped by price increases for its video service.

Dish raised its 2016 video service rates in January.

To offset losses in its core pay-TV business, the company last year launched a cheaper $20-per-month Sling TV online streaming service that offers a slim bundle of channels, including live programming from networks such as ESPN.

Net income attributable to Dish rose to $410 million, or 88 cents per share, in the three months ended June 30, from $324 million, or 70 cents per share, a year earlier.

Net revenue rose to $3.84 billion from $3.83 billion.


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