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Will AMD’s RX-460 Be Out Before The Holidays?

October 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing, Gaming

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-amdAccording to a couple of reports, it seems that AMD is working on a couple of  cut down versions of its Polaris 10 Ellesmere GPU that should put additional pressure on Nvidia’s recently released GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050 graphics cards.

According to a report from, AMD’s Polaris 10 GPU with 36 Compute Units (CUs), 2,304 Stream Processors, is the perfect candidate as there is enough room to make a cut-down GPU that should fit between the RX 460 and RX 470.

The cut down Polaris 10 GPU could end up with 28 Compute Units (CUs), which means it should end up with 1,792 Stream Processors. With RX 470 with 32 CUs and 2048 Stream Processors, this new SKU could squeeze in between this graphics card and RX 460. According to a leak from, such graphics card, conveniently named RX 470 SE, could still pack 4GB of GDDR5 7.0GHz clocked memory with the same 256-bit memory interface, leaving it with the same 224GB/s memory bandwidth.

According to leaked 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme and 3DMark Time Spy benchmarks, such graphics cards could be around 11 percent slower than the RX 470 but still end up faster than the GTX 1050 Ti, putting a lot more pressure on AMD in the market segment.

In any case, AMD will have to come up with those graphics cards soon and be ready for the Christmas shopping season if it wants to put a big dent in Nvidia’s Geforce sales.


Did Intel Delay 3DXPoint

October 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel appears to have put the brakes on its 3DXPoint memory modules despite talking up the technology for a while.

For those who came in late 3DXPoint is a next-generation non-volatile memory technology and is supposed to be faster than NAND flash memory while much cheaper than DRAM.

Intel had previously said that these 3DXPoint memory modules would be supported on a “future Intel Xeon processor.” It had thought that Intel was referring to the Skylake-EP and this is expected in the first half of 2017.

However, on Intel’s most recent earnings call, CEO Brian Krzanich indicated that this wouldn’t be the case.

According to this, the “future Xeon processor” that will support 3DXPoint memory modules will not be the upcoming Skylake-EP but instead its successor, known as Cannonlake-EP.

If Intel’s upcoming 3DXPoint memory modules require Cannonlake-EP to work, then investors should realistically expect that Intel won’t be selling those modules until either late 2018.


Twitter Job Cuts Said To Be Coming This Week

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

twitter-logo-150x150Twitter is said t be reducing its workforce by about 300 people or 8 percent of its entire staff, as the company attempts to trim costs in trying times.

The widespread job cuts could come before the company releases its third-quarter earnings on Thursday, according to Bloomberg, which cited people familiar with the matter. It cautioned that the precise number of jobs affected could change.

A Twitter spokeswoman said in an email that the company doesn’t comment on rumor or speculation.

Twitter announced in October last year that it was laying off 336 employees.

Unlike many of its peers, the company has failed to grow significantly the number of its users or adequately monetize through advertising the number of users it already has on the site.

For the second quarter of 2016, the company reported that average monthly active users (MAUs) of the service for the quarter were 313 million, up 3 percent year-over-year and compared to 310 million in the previous quarter. Revenue at $602 million was up 20 percent year-over-year, but the company posted a loss of over $100 million under generally accepted accounting principles.

The company has been trying to give users better ways to express themselves on Twitter, including through streaming video and by not counting @names in replies and media attachments in the 140-character limit for a tweet.

The company had hired bankers to explore a sale, but, The Walt Disney Company and Alphabet, which had shown interest, later backed out from the process, according to reports. The company has seen a steep decline in its share price over the last one year.

Chinese Webcam Maker Recalling Devices After Hacking Uncovered

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

hangzhou-xiongmai-technology-webcams-150x150Up to 10,000 webcams will be recalled following a cyber attack that blocked access last week to some of the world’s biggest websites, Chinese manufacturer Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology Co has announced.

In Washington, a member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence committee asked three federal agencies what steps the government can take to prevent cyber criminals from compromising electronic devices.

In a new type of attack last Friday, hackers harnessed hundreds of thousands of webcams and other connected devices globally to flood U.S.-based internet infrastructure provider Dyn with so much traffic that it could not cope, cutting access to websites including PayPal, Spotify and Twitter.

Hangzhou Xiongmai said it would recall some surveillance cameras sold in the United States after researchers identified they had been targeted in the attack.

Liu Yuexin, Xiongmai’s marketing director, estimated the number of vulnerable devices at fewer than 10,000 to be recalled. He said the company would recall the first few batches of surveillance cameras made in 2014 that monitor rooms or shops for personal, rather than industrial, use.

Xiongmai had now fixed loopholes in earlier products, prompting users to change default passwords and block telnet access, Liu said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it had discussed the attacks with 18 major communications service providers and was working to develop a new set of “strategic principles” for securing internet-connected devices.

Authorities have yet to identify suspects in the attack, but the Director of U.S. National Intelligence, James Clapper, said on Tuesday that an early analysis did not point to a foreign government.

Cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint concurred.

“The evidence that we have strongly suggests it is amateur, attention-motivated hackers,” said Allison Nixon, Flashpoint’s director of security research.

Nixon said the same infrastructure was used on Friday in an unsuccessful attempt to disrupt internet access to a major video game manufacturer, which she declined to identify.

“Nation states generally don’t attack gaming companies,” she said.

U.S. Senate intelligence committee member Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat, sent letters on Tuesday asking DHS, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission if they have adequate tools for combating the threat posed by “bot net” armies of infected electronic devices.

“Manufacturers today are flooding the market with cheap, insecure devices, with few market incentives to design the products with security in mind, or to provide ongoing support,” Warner said.

He asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler if communications providers have authority to deny internet access to electronics devices they deem insecure.

Xiongmai devices were unlikely to suffer similar attacks in China and elsewhere outside the United States, where they are typically used in more secure industrial networks, Liu said.

The company may take further steps to beef up security by migrating to safer operating systems and adding further encryption, Liu said.

Samsung’s 8GB mini-DRAM Going Mobile

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-sdramWe should start seeing 8GB appearing as standard in flagship mobile phones soon thanks to Samsung’s new silicon that packs 8GB of DRAM in a single tiny package.

The RAM uses LPDDR4 technology and the 10 nm process. The arrival of 64-bit processors has allowed phone RAM to increase beyond 4GB but few manufacturers could be bothered. Even Samsung passed on it. However, now it seems that with the new generation of RAM Samsung thinks it is worthwhile and will be jumping directly from 4 to 8GB by next year.

LPDDR4 is currently the fastest type of low power memory in the mobile market. Samsung says it is the same as PC-class DDR4 RAM and has twice the speed, operating at 4,266 Mbps, versus the PC’s 2,133 Mbps.

By using 10 nm processing, the DRAM only takes up 15 x 15 x 1 mm and can be stacked above or under other chips. While we can’t see the point of the technology in mobile phones, it does make a lot of sense in tablets.

While Samsung has hinted that it is going to release the technology on the mobile world, by the end of the year so we should see next year’s flagship models with 8Gb next year.


Is TSMC Going For Qualcomm?

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

TSMC thinks that it can win back Qualcomm’s chip business with its 7nm process technology, but has all but given up expecting it to return for 10nm.

Qualcomm was once TSMC’s biggest customer until 14nm came along and it placed orders with Samsung instead. Qualcomm reportedly reached a deal with Samsung under which Samsung would make the Snapdragon 820 chips in exchange for Samsung using Qualcomm’s chips in its flagship smartphone devices.

Apparently Samsung swung a similar deal with Qualcomm for its 10nm chips in exchange for Qualcomm supplying the chips for Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S8. TSMC worked out it would not get the deal when Qualcomm did not tape out Snapdragon 830 chips on TSMC’s 10nm FinFET process.

TSMC will remain the sole provider of A11 chips for Apple. Other TSMC 10nm customers include MediaTek, HiSilicon and Xilinx.

But according to Digitimes TSMC thinks its 7nm will woo Qualcomm back into the fold, although it is not clear why this would be the case. After all, Samsung only has to negotiate another deal for its next generation of smartphone and assuming it does not catch fire, Qualcomm will be quids in.


Nissan, Renault Targets 2020 To Introduce Autonomous Vehicles

October 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

nissan-and-renault-150x150The Renault-Nissan Alliance has put together a new 300-person division for the purpose of releasing at least 10 vehicles with “significant” autonomous driving capabilities by 2020.

Nissan and Renault’s new Mobility Division will focus on the development of software, cloud engineering and big data analytics for connected-car technologies.

In 2018, Nissan said it expects to unveil a “multiple-lane control” application that can autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes during highway driving. Two years later, it plans to add the capability for a vehicle to navigate city driving and intersections without driver intervention.

The new autonomous models will be released in the U.S., Japan, Europe and China.

In September, the Renault-Nissan Alliance acquired French software company Sylph to accelerate the expansion of its connected vehicle and mobility services programs.

Also in September, the carmakers penned a multiyear agreement with Microsoft to develop next-generation connected services for self-driving cars that will be enabled through Microsoft’s Azure cloud service.

The carmakers said they will also focus on promoting “social acceptance” of autonomous vehicles between now and when they begin to launch them in 2018. Educating the public will “allow consumers as well as involved governments, groups and other agencies, the time to consider the benefits of the new technologies.

“There must be a huge change in government and society,” Nissan stated in a blog. “Once autonomous drive technology reaches a certain level of technological advance, decisions must be made on driving infrastructure and laws to ultimately change society’s mindset.”

While autonomous development announcements are far from new, the Renault-Nissan Alliance is unusual in that past autonomous vehicle efforts have not been taken on solely by automakers, according to research firm IDC.

Artificial intelligence and connected technology are a major focus among some carmakers, who see it as the basis for future human-machine interface development in autonomous vehicles.

Last year, Toyota Motor Corp. spent $1 billion to create an artificial intelligence division. Toyota’s Research Institute is being led by Gill Pratt, who joined Toyota from DARPA, where he ran the Robotics Challenge, an event that promoted work on robots that can work with humans.

China’s Alipay Teams Up With Payment Terminal Maker Verifone On Mobile App

October 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

alipay-150x150China’s Alipay has teamed up with U.S.-based Verifone to integrate its mobile app on Verifone payment terminals at merchants in Europe and North America, the latest such deal to reach Chinese consumers traveling abroad.

Alipay, which counts 450 million active users in China, is the top mobile payments player there. It is a unit of privately held ANT Financial, which is in turn an affiliate of publicly traded Chinese Internet giant

It has begun actively expanding outside Asia this year via partnerships with Western payment providers. Verifone terminals are used by most of the top 200 retailers in the United States, a spokesman said.

Instead of seeking to go head to head with major payments players outside its home market, Alipay targets the fast growing Chinese tourism market, which numbered 117 million travelers in 2014, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and is forecast to double by 2020.

Through the Verifone deal announced on Monday, Alipay is targeting top-tier merchants across retail, luxury goods, health supplement and department stores.

Alipay and rival WeChat, a unit of Tencent,together make up 90 percent of the Chinese mobile payments market, with gross merchandise value estimated at more than $1 trillion last year, dwarfing other mobile payment systems around the world, according to iResearch China estimates.

Sabrina Peng, the president of Alipay International, said in a recent interview that her company’s ambition is to become a global payments provider over the next decade, with 60 percent of its transaction volume coming from outside China. “We are targeting 2 billion users in the next 10 years,” she said.

French payment terminal supplier Ingenico announced in August an expanded deal with Alipay to allow merchants across Europe to use Ingenico’s payment gateway to accept payments from Alipay users visiting the region.

The Alipay service is also being integrated into terminals from Concardis, a payments provider for merchants in German-speaking Europe.

Alipay has a similar deal with mobile payments start-up Zapper in Britain to allow Chinese tourists to use QR codes in more than 1,000 restaurants there.

Will Virtual Reality Go The Way Of 3D?

October 25, 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-virtual-re-reVR startup Survios proudly announced last month that its futuristic co-op shooter Raw Data became the first VR title to generate revenues of $1 million in the span of a month. Steam Spy data showed that more than 33,000 people had purchased the $40 game, which is still in Early Access. That $1 million in revenues, however, brings up the million-dollar question: When $1 million represents the peak of success, how can VR developers actually make a living in this VR ecosystem?

Survios is in the enviable position of having raised $4 million from Shasta Ventures a couple years ago, when the studio was working on Project Holodeck. Without that money, working towards AAA on VR platforms like HTC Vive would be infinitely harder. That said, with claims of an attach rate of more than 20% for Raw Data, Survios believes it’s in a prime position to thrive in a AAA VR market as the installed base grows.

“The attach rate that we’ve had to the installed base, if we look 12 months down the road, 18 months down the road, where we believe the installed base will be, if the attach rate is even a fraction of what we currently have then we have a very sustainable business,” Hewish says.

“Price and reviews puts everything on the consumers’ shoulders but if there was some sort of designation, some way for the stores to designate that this is a full game or an experience, it would help the industry avoid consumer frustration”

“For us, we’re really taking a bit of a longer view when it comes to the business. We’re very fortunate that we have great backers, that we’re funded well enough to take a longer view. Our goal, if you’re looking at the existing console business or PC business or mobile business, those are all mature businesses where the objective for any developer or studio is revenue because you can have a fairly predictable outcome. If you put X amount of funding in and you can have a certain quality bar, you’re going to recoup your costs. It becomes much more important about being on time, on budget – it’s much more of a mature business model. With VR my point of view is it’s a new market and we are not at a point yet where it can sustain AAA development but we will get there.”

With that in mind, Hewish believes that it’s critical for Survios to “stake its claim” as a AAA VR studio now. He says that a lot of studios have struggled with having to make what are essentially demos, or more casual experiential titles instead of full-game efforts, because of the economics of VR. “There definitely is a tug and pull between those two ends of the spectrum and initially a lot of the discussion and a lot of the awareness was around experiential and short demo experiences. So for me the question was could the market go in that [AAA] direction? [If not] personally I believe the market would peter out,” he continues. “While there are a lot of cool experiences, I don’t think that’s enough to sustain a market or an industry. Being able to see that, while the market’s super nascent, we’re beginning to see AAA games come out and people do want them [is encouraging].”

Survios is eager to see the VR market evolve and hopes it’s part of the developer community that pushes it in exciting and new directions. The studio has a core tenet that it calls “Active VR,” and I can tell while talking to Hewish that he’s quite passionate about it.

“That is certainly central to our thesis. We really want the user to have a very active experience. It’s a key differentiator between this platform and others and it also touches on another thing, which is a soapbox item for me… VR and Active VR, this is an opportunity for the user to really feel heroic and to do things that you could never do in real life. It just kills me that there are games out there just recreating what you can do in real life; to me that’s just a missed opportunity,” he comments.

“I’m not bagging on anybody, I don’t have a specific developer in mind, and this is just an example since I don’t know if anyone’s done this, but why would I want to play chess in VR? I can do that in real life. I want to be heroic, with bad ass abilities and go into environments I could never see in real life and be extremely active in those environments. To me that’s the holy grail of VR, that’s what it offers. Getting that into consumers’ hands is the win for the medium.”

Hewish definitely sees eye-to-eye with Oculus CTO John Carmack on that front. The former id executive recently commented during Oculus Connect that too many VR developers are simply “coasting on novelty,” putting games into VR that don’t necessarily bring any additional value to players for being in VR.

“What he said definitely resonates a lot with me. At the same time, I agree from a business perspective. I saw this when I was working at Dreamworks Animation, when we were working on 3D movies. We were making movies specifically made for 3D so the entire pipeline and production process was different than a traditional 2D animated film, yet a lot of studios across the industry would turn films into 3D in post-production, which really soured the audience because there was a premium price to go view those films. If it wasn’t really made from the get-go for 3D it was a little underwhelming. So from a market and business standpoint that really scares me because we all saw how that played out for film and there’s the potential in VR for that same problem where the consumer gets a little bit burned and walks away from the medium,” Hewish warns.

That being said, Hewish is fully aware of how tough it can be on VR developers at the moment. He doesn’t believe studios are taking shortcuts out of greed, but he would like to see better curation and discoverability on storefronts so that consumer fully understand what they’re downloading, whether a short demo-like experience or a full AAA game.

“I’m not ignorant of the reality that a lot of the developers are in. A lot of people are bootstrapping themselves; it’s a passion play to work with the technology and they just aren’t resourced to build larger games. It’s that tinkerer sort of approach – it’s not that these people hate VR and are trying to destroy the medium, but they are doing what they can with what they have. What I would love to see, which would be on the platform and store holder side, something that would allow the consumer to identify the difference not just solely based on price and reviews. Price and reviews puts everything on the consumers’ shoulders but if there was some sort of designation, some way for the stores to designate that this is a full game or an experience, it would help the industry avoid consumer frustration,” he notes.

Steam has already announced that it’s looking to improve its platform with more targeted surfacing of new releases. That’s a good first step, at least. “It’s just scary – having gone through the mobile days, the moniker the App Store got was the Crap Store and how do we avoid that [with VR]?” Hewish wonders.

Getting back to that million-dollar question, though, what Survios and other VR startups should be encouraged by is that it actually is possible to build compelling VR games without breaking the bank, compared to say the budgets needed for a Call of Duty or GTA.

“One thing that gives me real confidence in VR, which is different from what happened with 3D movies and even more so 3D television… neither one of those mediums had really good content to drive adoption. The content was expensive to create and the size of the market to recoup against that content creation was much, much larger than what we’re looking at with VR. With VR if you can confidently sell even a few hundred thousand units of a premium price point game, you’re going to be able to recoup your money because we’re not talking about productions on the scale of a movie or even a AAA console game like Call of Duty where they’re north of $100 million in development costs let alone marketing,” Hewish says.

That’s all well and good, but what advice does Hewish have for the VR startups that can’t get much if any funding currently? “First and foremost, just be very clear and upfront with the audience when you do release something. There’s nothing wrong [with AA content]… And of course you don’t want the industry to be in a situation where innovation is killed because people feel like if they don’t launch AAA they shouldn’t launch anything,” he says.

Hewish adds that one approach is to actually build your way up towards a full AAA release: “Say in your mind you have a AAA game you want to make and it’s got five core key features but you can’t fund it all at once, so maybe one approach is you release one mechanic at a time as an experience at a lower price point and along the way you’re getting enough income to sustain yourself and you’re building your core engine essentially. So you release five experiences, each one is a low price point, enough to keep you going and allow you to build the next experience and then when you’re done with all of those you’ve got your mechanics to build a bigger game. It’s sort of amortizing your costs across different SKUs. Then lastly, if you’ve got a really great idea and a great demo, there’s no harm in going to someone who might be able to help fund it further and help turn it into a AAA game. We’re going to start seeing the evolution and we already are seeing studios out there that are funding content and publishing.”

Indeed, Survios could become one of those publishers in addition to evolving into a multi-project VR studio. “Something that we’re looking at ourselves is looking at doing third-party publishing across all platforms,” Hewish tells me. “We definitely are working on additional games,” he adds. “The way that we’re built we have our core game studio and then we have our prototype team that’s part of the studio that works on rapid prototypes and iterations of different ideas and mechanics and we have a couple that have really hit and we are ramping up to get into full production on some of those to launch some additional games next year. We absolutely are looking at a portfolio approach to the business.”

Publishing deals and funding exclusives has been one way that Oculus has helped to grow the VR market, enabling some developers to build out more robust games than would have been possible otherwise. Oculus boasted during Oculus Connect that it’s invested $250 million into the ecosystem already and will invest another $250 million on top of that. And while there are many positives around this infusion of capital, Hewish cautions that developers have to think carefully about their studio approach.

“I think it’s one leg of the stool, and it’s important. It certainly doesn’t come without its risks, but I think it can be important in sustaining studios through the initial growth curve of the market. The risk is that as a studio if you’re given a big wad of cash to develop exclusively for one platform and you spend all of that on developing that game, then you don’t have an ongoing revenue stream to get you into the next game, and once the market matures those funds for exclusive content may be harder to get or may shift to go to developers that are proven in AAA, so it’s just a risk,” he advises.

“I would say any studio that does that should be planning, how do they survive after that? Where are they going to get funding next? Or have they put enough aside out of that investment to sustain into the next game when they aren’t getting funded for exclusives? Conversely, they could look to studios that are not doing platform exclusives,” he continues, hinting at Survios’ potential future in publishing. “With an Oculus or someone it might be more a straight work for hire model, fully funding an exclusive title, whereas for us it would be more a publisher model we’re looking at so there would be an ongoing revenue stream for the developer to help them grow.”

“The one thing we know looking back at history, within a couple years the hit genres and the hit content on VR may not be what we think it is currently or there’ll be something new that evolves”

Aside from the economics of development, one critical component that Survios has learned about from being in Early Access is optimization. “Being a startup, we are still trying to play catchup when it comes to having a robust compatibility lab and being able to test across multiple configurations. I hearken back to the day of making games for PCs and you really had to worry about the different configurations and drivers people had running on their machines and that’s really important in VR. We kind of developed on the hardware we had at the time so we’re playing catchup in that regard in terms of getting the performance and the optimization equal across all configurations. I would say going forward for any VR developer, really budgeting extra time for that and communicating to your audience that you’re working on it and engage them to give you feedback so you can optimize properly is pretty important. So we’re now budgeting extra time for optimization and performance into each of our spreads even if it means pushing content out a bit further,” Hewish notes.

Speaking of optimization, while Survios built Raw Data for Vive, the studio is platform agnostic and is working on bringing the game to other VR platforms, but they will have to be optimized against the strengths and weaknesses of each.

“I’ve been in the industry long enough where I’ve seen people just develop for a lead platform and port it across everything and it’s just a crap experience because they just simply get it to run and that kind of approach is not a AAA approach and could kill the market before it even gets going,” Hewish warns.

With that in mind, Raw Data will need special attention for something like PSVR, which doesn’t have the precise tracking of Vive. “We’ll take as long as we need to take to make sure that the experience is great on that platform,” Hewish stresses. “So what you’re saying about the Move and PS4, maybe we’ll do things like adjust the intensity of how quickly the enemies spawn or where they spawn from, or maybe we work on some of the haptics and some of the controls, or maybe we rewrite a little bit of stuff so the motion doesn’t need to be as precise… I’m just throwing stuff out there, not saying we’re actively doing these things. On the Vive we’re trying to get closer to 1:1 movement but maybe on Sony we go for a pattern movement that triggers an animation or something – so to the PSVR player it feels great.”

In the end, Hewish is just excited to be part of the VR revolution. “The one thing we know looking back at history, within a couple years the hit genres and the hit content on VR may not be what we think it is currently or there’ll be something new that evolves,” he says. “Like on mobile, it really brought back strategy games and iterated on those, and puzzle games, which had been around but they evolved to match the medium. VR has that same potential.”

Microsoft’s Cloud Business Continues To Be A Success Story

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

microsoft-building-150x150Microsoft’s continued investment in the cloud paid dividends once again over the past quarter, as strong growth from Azure and Office 365 offset declines in the PC market.

The company announced on Thursday that its quarterly revenue for the three-month period ending in September was flat overall at $20.5 billion. The company’s net profit was down 4 percent year-over-year from $4.9 billion to $4.7 billion.

Those results were driven by quarterly revenue from the company’s Intelligent Cloud segment, which includes Azure and Windows Server, and its Productivity and Business Processes segment, which includes Office 365 and Dynamics. Intelligent Cloud revenue grew 8 percent year-over-year to $6.4 billion, while Productivity and Business Processes segment revenue grew 6 percent to $6.7 billion.

It’s another positive sign for the cloud-focused strategy that the company adopted under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella.

Azure revenue grew by 116 percent year over year, and Microsoft revealed for the first time that its profit margin from its cloud platform is 49 percent. The company continues to keep the exact revenue and profit numbers from its public cloud platform under wraps, however.

Office 365 commercial revenue grew 51 percent year-over-year. Microsoft reported it now has more than 85 million commercial monthly active users of its cloud-based productivity suite as a service offering.

Surface sales were another bright spot for Microsoft. The company’s line of tablets and laptops brought in $926 million over the past quarter, compared to $672 million during the same period in 2015. Phone revenue continued to drag the company down for another quarter, however — revenue from that division dropped by 72 percent year-over-year.

Microsoft’s non-GAAP results of $22.3 billion in revenue and earnings of $0.76 a share blew past analyst expectations for the quarter. The consensus of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters was an expected $21.7 billion in revenue and earnings of $0.68 a share. Investors rejoiced at the news, sending the company’s stock to an all-time high above $60 per share, beating a previous high set in 1999.


Is Sharp Making A Comeback?

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Troubled Japanese television manufacturer Sharp is expecting significant improvement in annual profit due to restructuring with its new owner Foxconn.

Shares in the outfit soared more than 10 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that Sharp forecasts operating profit of about $385 million for the business year through March which was much better than expected.

Meeting the forecast would mark the first operating profit in three years for Sharp, which is rebuilding under Taiwan’s Foxconn which bought two-thirds of the telly maker in August.

Sharp slashed about 6,000 jobs in the last financial year through early retirement and an operations overhaul including withdrawal from its money-losing North American TV set business.

Sharp said it expected profit to improve but revenue to fall. Its shares subsequently jumped nearly 11 percent to their highest price in about six months, far outperforming the benchmark Nikkei average share price index.

However the prospects of Sharp’s mainstay display panel business are not that hot. The global panel market is on the cusp of improvement as a production cutback resolved a supply glut.

But Sharp still has to find ways to compete with Chinese peers rapidly expanding capacity, and with South Korean makers far ahead in next-generation technology.

Sharp said it would provide a full-year earnings forecast on 1 November when it announces its second-quarter results.


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.


Will EA’s Battlefield 1 Be A Hit?

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

The conventional wisdom said that military first-person shooters avoided World War I because it wasn’t a “fun” war. EA DICE set out to prove the conventional wisdom wrong with Battlefield 1, and the initial wave of reviews suggests they succeeded.

As Polygon’s Arthur Gies noted in his 9 out of 10 review of the game, one of the ways DICE accomplished that was by using its single-player War Stories mode as a way to convey just how horrific the war really was.

“Battlefield 1 navigates the tonal challenges of the awful human cost of WWI well, in part by not ignoring them,” Gies said. “There’s a consistent acknowledgment of the abject terror and hopelessness that sat atop the people involved in the conflict on all sides, in part thanks to a grimly effective prologue. There’s also less explicit demonetization of the ‘enemy’ – something that feels like a real relief in the military shooter space, which seems hell-bent on giving players something they can feel good about shooting at.”

War Stories is a mostly unconnected series of short campaigns that total about six hours of playtime in total. The anthology puts players in the roles of different individuals in different combat zones, each one with their own distinct motivations and skill sets.

“Battlefield 1 feels like a move away from military shooter doctrine in plenty of ways,” Gies said. “But the biggest departure is in how little shooting there can be, at least compared to the game’s contemporaries. From tank pilot to fighter ace, from Italian shock trooper to Bedouin horse-back resistance fighter, I was never bored, because I was never doing the same thing for long.”

The change in setting also impacted the multiplayer portion of the game, which Gies appreciated. While DICE made some changes in player classes that Gies seemed to think unnecessary but “mostly fine,” he was particularly taken with the way the series’ signature physics-driven chaos and destruction felt fresh in a new (old) setting.

“Small issues aside, Battlefield 1 marks an impressive, risk-taking reinvention for the series,” Gies said. “That the multiplayer is as good and distinctive as it is is less surprising than a campaign that takes a difficult setting and navigates it with skill and invention. The end result is a shooter than succeeded far beyond my expectations, and one that exists as the best, most complete Battlefield package since 2010.”

Like Gies, GameSpot’s Miguel Concepcion gave the game a 9 out of 10. Also like Gies, Concepcion labelled the game as the best Battlefield since Bad Company 2, praising the War Stories single-player mode and its novel approach to entertaining while also attempting to inform players as to the horrors of the war.

“Beyond these heartfelt tales of brotherhood and solemn reflection, War Stories gracefully complements the multiplayer scenarios as a glorified yet effective training mode,” Concepcion said. “Along with practice time commanding vehicles and heavy artillery, it provides an opportunity to learn melee combat, as well as how to survive against high concentrations of enemy forces.”

Concepcion was also taken with the audiovisual impact of the game, long a selling point for the Battlefield franchise.

“However accurate or inaccurate Battlefield 1 is–lite J.J. Abrams lens effects notwithstanding–the immersive production values superbly amplify the sights and sounds that have previously existed in other war shooters,” Concepcion said. “Examples include the distinct clatter of empty shells dropping on the metal floor of a tank and the delayed sound of an exploding balloon from far away. The brushed metal on a specific part of a revolver is the kind of eye-catching distraction that can get you killed. Beyond the usual cacophony of a 64-player match, salvos from tanks and artillery guns add bombast and bass to the large map match. And many vistas are accentuated with weather-affected lighting with dramatic results, like the blinding white sunlight that reflects off a lake after a rainstorm.

“With Battlefield 1, EA and DICE have proven the viability of World War 1 as a time period worth revisiting in first-person shooters. It brings into focus countries and nationalities that do not exist today while also shedding light on how the outcome of that war has shaped our lives.”

In giving the game four stars out of five, Games Radar’s David Roberts also lauded the way DICE balanced a fun shooter with the horror of war.

“Even though Battlefield 1 skews toward fun rather than realism whenever it gets the chance, it’s as much about the reflection on the real history of these battles and the people who fought in them as it is about the gleeful embrace of ridiculous virtual combat,” Roberts said.

Like his peers, Roberts was impressed by the game’s War Stories single-player mode, but found the anthology format slightly restricting.

“As much as I enjoyed the narratives these missions tell, I wished each one had a little more time to breathe,” Roberts said. “Each chapter is about an hour long, and just when you get invested, they’re over. Battlefield 1’s War Stories barely skim the surface of the history, but – to be fair – this is in-line with the game’s focus on fun over fastidious accuracy.”

As for the multiplayer, Roberts said its “as good here as it’s ever been” for the Battlefield franchise. Even though the setting meant trading in the modern assault rifles of previous Battlefield games for more antiquated rifles and iron sights, Roberts said the overall impact has been an improvement on the game’s online modes.

He also found the franchise focus on destruction was given new meaning by its fresh context.

“When all’s said and done, when the matches end and the dust settles, you’ll see that large portions of the maps have transformed, their buildings pockmarked by blasts, their fortifications turned into piles of rubble,” Roberts said. “Even though bloody entertainment is at Battlefield 1’s heart, the post-game wasteland is a reminder of the toll that conflict takes on the people it consumes. Whether in single or multiplayer Battlefield 1 absolutely nails the historical sense of adventure and expectation before swiftly giving way to dread as the war takes a physical and mental toll on its participants. And this – as much as the intimate, brutal virtual warfare – is the game’s most impressive feat.”

While EGM’s Nick Plessas gave the game an 8 out of 10, he included slightly more critical comments than some other reviewers doling out equivalent scores. He was generally upbeat about the War Stories approach, but said it “misses the forest for the trees somewhat by not giving any story enough time for effectual investment.” He also identified two other issues that hamper the gameplay segments of the single-player mode.

“First, enemy AI leaves much to be desired, so that even on Hard difficulty your foes’ failure to react, flank, or recognize you as a threat syphons some of the fun out of fights,” Plessas said. “Second, the game adds a focus on stealth with a collection of mechanics like enemy awareness levels and distraction tools. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, the Battlefield games’ fast pace and stiff controls don’t suit stealth very well, and the enemies’ recurring AI deficiencies makes these sections a slog.”

As for online, Plessas said new features like Behemoth vehicles (zeppelins, trains, and warships) were well-handled, as were “elite” classes like flamethrower troops. The addition of cavalry troops and era-appropriate weapons and planes will also require players to adjust the tactics they might have relied on in previous Battlefield games. However, the adjustment may not be as drastic as one might expect.

“These comparisons are integral because they represent the crux of what is truly new in Battlefield 1,” Plessas said. “A World War I setting is novel indeed, but this installment in the franchise is fundamentally the Battlefield game we have played before-and returning players may fall into a familiar groove quicker than expected. This isn’t necessarily bad for those in love with Battlefield, however, and while the setting may be the most significant shift, those invested in the series will find Battlefield 1 as another terrific reason to load up.”


With Polaris In Mind AMD Has New VR Projects On The Horizon

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

In a bid to push its Polaris chip, AMD has launched several new VR projects.

On the list of cunning plans is a VR GPU certification, enhancements to its software/hardware platform and setting up a new VR supply chain. If this pans out, it should expand its presence in the VR market, and provide a rather nice channel for its Polaris GPUs.

Also included is a cunning plan to pushing VR Internet cafes in China. AMD has been assisting the development of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as well as partnering with content providers to create applications for the gaming, entertainment, education, science, medical care and news sectors.

Other projects include AMD’s LiquidVR project which aims to help simplify and optimise VR content creation. It has started promoting its Radeon Pro technology solution to help VR content creators create movie-like VR content.

This is all about Polaris. The VR solution is based around AMD’s Polaris-based Radeon Pro WX 7100 GPU which is priced at $1,000. We will see it  released at the end of 2016.  Well, when we say we will see it, the day that I am allowed to spend $1000 on a GPU is the day I have won the lottery.

AMD  is also marketing its Loom project to help partners create Ultra HD-standard VR movies. The open source project will also be released at the end of the year.


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