Lenovo plans on rolling out new Yoga tablets and hybrids in time for the end-of-year holiday season, with actor and venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher having a hand in the design and development of the products.
The “innovative and stylish” Yoga products “will become very popular presents for the holiday season,” said Yang Yuanqing, Lenovo’s CEO, during a call on Monday.
Lenovo is holding an event in London on Oct. 9 to announce the new products, with Kutcher joining the announcement by satellite. Kutcher holds the title of “product engineer” with Lenovo.
Product details weren’t shared, but hints have already started popping up on Lenovo’s website. One product on tap could be the Yoga 3 Pro, with a product page saying “Shhh. Can’t talk now.” The Yoga 3 Pro will succeed the Yoga 2 Pro laptop-tablet hybrid, which has a 13.3-inch screen attached to the base. That’s unlike other hybrid designs in which the screens are detachable.
Lenovo offers Yoga tablets and hybrids with screen sizes between 8 and 13.3 inches. The 8- and 10-inch Yoga tablets have Android, while the 11.6- and 13.3-inch hybrids have Windows.
Also on the way could be new Yoga tablets with different screen sizes and upgraded processors. Intel has started shipping new Core M chips based on the Broadwell architecture, which Lenovo has used in the new ThinkPad Helix announced earlier this month. The Yoga tablets with Android have been criticized for poor performance and could use processor upgrades.
Yuanqing’s comments were made on a call about Lenovo’s plans to soon complete the acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business for US$2.1 billion. The transaction is expected to close on Wednesday.
Lenovo is also expected to complete the acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $2.91 billion by the end of the year. Lenovo sells its smartphones mostly in China, Europe and Asia, and the Motorola Mobility acquisition will provide a pathway to the U.S. smartphone market.
Hardware will remain Lenovo’s key focus in the coming years, but the company is also building its software, services and security portfolio to go along with devices, Yuanqing said.
Database management firm Oracle has said that its new cloud service will match the price being offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Oracle confirmed the new competitive pricing strategy for its cloud offering at its OpenWorld conference.
Chairman Larry Ellison said Oracle’s cloud platform will “have the same pricing as Amazon or any other infrastructure provider.” He said the company’s new platform would include analytics, mobile, identity and social features.
Oracle’s switch to cloud services could also see the business improve efficiencies by running everything itself. Oracle’s cloud move has damaged the outfit’s bottom line, but Ellison’s successor as CEO, Safra Catz, believes the company is now in a good position to benefit from the migration.
“As the movement to the cloud grows, we expect this transition will affect our revenue to the positive,” she said. “These customers will essentially replace their software-support payments with a cloud subscription, which will mean substantially more revenue to Oracle.”
Oracle also introduced flash storage and data recovery products and its M7 microprocessor to speed up database software.
ARM-based processor cartridges for its Moonshot servers, including 64-bit modules for high-performance web caching and integrated digital signal processing (DSP) for specialised tasks such as transcoding and telephony applications.
Available immediately, the new server cartridges represent the fourth “leap”, or release of HP’s Moonshot hardware, which is designed to target very specific applications calling for high-density server deployments rather than the general purpose applications met by HP’s existing Proliant line.
The new modules include the m400, which is a 64-bit cartridge based on the Applied Micro X-Gene server on a chip with eight cores running at up to 2.4GHz, and the m800, based on the 32-bit Keystone 66AK2Hx system on a chip (SoC) from Texas Instruments.
Of the two, the m800 was announced at the end of last year along with the cartridges based on Intel’s Avoton Atom and AMD’s Opteron X2150, but is only now shipping.
As with the existing cartridges, the new hardware is designed for the Moonshot 1500 rack-mount enclosure, which can house up to 45 hot-pluggable cartridge modules.
Reflecting their targeting at specific applications, both of the new cartridge options will come with a suitable software package, according to Iain Stephen, Vice President and General Manager for HP Servers in EMEA.
The m400 will thus ship with Ubuntu Linux, which includes the Juju service orchestration tool and Canonical’s Metal-as-a-Service (MaaS) tool for automatically provisioning bare metal servers.
“If you move to a software defined server world, there isn’t a lot of variation in the deployment, so the fastest way to get customers up and running is to have pre-loaded software,” he told The INQUIRER.
The m800 also comes with Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux operating system. This cartridge is a little more exotic, comprising four separate servers, each based on a TI chip with four Cortex-A15 ARM cores and up to eight TMS320C66x high-performance DSPs apiece.
However, it also ships with software for transcoding and voice recognition processing that makes used of the DSP hardware, according to Stephen.
“So it’s a very packaged piece of technology to run a very specific task for the customer,” he said.
HP’s Moonshot platform is aimed at emerging workloads, many of which are identified by customers and partners working with HP in its Discovery Labs, the firm said.
The most popular niche so far has proven to be running hosted desktops, according to Stephen, typically using the m700 cartridge which integrates four separate servers, each based on a quad-core AMD Opteron X2150 SoC.
“This is a completely new way of doing computing, with a chassis with a number of processors in it for specific tasks, and as a customer you’ve got to have a very good understanding of your software stack to take full advantage,” he said.
The technology is still at the “discovery” phase, he added, but HP expects to see growth in 2015 because there is now a broader range of cartridges targeting different applications.
The move, the first announced by a major insurer, allows Humana customers to more easily manage fitness data and other personal health goals, the company said in a statement.
Humana’s wellness program, called HumanaVitality, rewards members for hitting these goals, which include being more active, eating better or losing weight, with items such as movie tickets and fitness equipment.
Apple’s HealthKit gathers data such as blood pressure and weight from various applications, enabling it to be viewed by consumers and doctors in one place. Its ease of use is expected to increase the data sharing between doctors and patients.
Apple delayed the launch of HealthKit earlier this month when it pulled back its iOS 8 operating system for iPhones and iPads. HealthKit and the new Humana application, which has about 3.8 million eligible members, launched lastFriday.
BlackBerry’s new qwerty Passport smartphone quickly sold out just hours after going on sale online last Wednesday, with another 200,000 back orders waiting in line, BlackBerry CEO John Chen proudly announced.
Chen didn’t indicate how many units were sold online, but said ShopBlackBerry.com sold out the Passport in six hours, with Amazon.com selling iout in 10 hours before customers began leaving online orders that had reached 200,000 as the day it debuted. The device has a price tag of $599 unlocked.
“That’s extremely good receptivity” for Passport, Chen said.
But that wasn’t Chen’s only good news in what he called a “very solid” second quarter that ended Aug. 30 with an earnings loss of $11 million, or 2 cents per share, compared to an 11-cent per share loss the previous quarter. Still, revenues were $916 million for the quarter, down from $966 million in the previous quarter, and well below the $1.5 billion reported for the same quarter a year ago.
Chen predicted profitability for BlackBerry by mid-year 2015, possibly in the first fiscal 2016 quarter that starts in March 2015. “You can see a progressively good trend going forward,” Chen said.
Chen said that large companies, especially in banking and government, are coming back to BlackBerry for its smartphones and BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 software for security and management. They are coming for “stability,” he said.
“The product is broader and deeper and has history with most customers,” Chen added. “I have spoken to many executives and people are very interested in working with us. Our technology works and works well. Governments use it and major banks use it. We’re winning them back — knock on wood, I don’t want to be overconfident — and we’re starting to see that with very big companies.”
He also predicted more interest in BlackBerry once it launches its next operating system, BlackBerry 12, on Nov. 13 at an event in San Francisco.
The company posted a number of successes, including what it called a “normalized” use of cash of $36 million in the recent quarter, compared to $255 million in the prior quarter.
PS4 is going gangbusters, 3DS continues to impress, Steam and Kickstarter have between them overseen an extraordinary revitalisation of PC gaming, and mobile gaming goes from strength to strength; yet it’s absolutely clear where the eager eyes of most gamers are turned right now. Virtual reality headsets are, not for the first time, the single most exciting thing in interactive entertainment. At the Tokyo Game Show and its surrounding events, the strongest contrast to the huge number of mobile titles on display was the seemingly boundless enthusiasm for Sony’s Morpheus and Oculus’ Rift headsets; at Oculus’ own conference in California the same week, developers were entranced by the hardware and its promise.
VR is coming; this time, it’s for real. Decades of false starts, disappointments and dodgy Hollywood depictions will finally be left behind. The tech and the know-how have finally caught up with the dreams. Immersion and realism are almost within touching distance, a deep, involved experience that will fulfil the childhood wishes of just about every gamer and SF aficionado while also putting clear blue water between core games and more casual entertainment. The graphical fidelity of mobile devices may be rapidly catching up to consoles, but the sheer gulf between a VR experience and a mobile experience will be unmistakeable.
That’s the promise, anyway. There’s no question that it’s a promise which feels closer to fulfilment than ever before. Even in the absence of a final consumer product or even a release date, let alone a killer app, the prototypes and demos we’ve seen thus far are closer to “true” virtual reality than many of us had dared to hope. Some concerns remain; how mainstream can a product that relies on strapping on a headset to the exclusion of the real world actually become? (I wouldn’t care to guess on this front, but would note that we already use technology in countless ways that would have seemed alien, anti-social or downright weird to people only a generation ago.) Won’t an appreciable portion of people get motion sickness? (Perhaps; only widespread adoption will show us how widespread this problem really is.) There’s plenty to ponder even as the technology marches inexorably closer.
One thing I found myself pondering around TGS and Oculus Connect was the slightly worrying divergence in the strategies of Sony and Oculus. A year or even six months ago, it felt like these companies, although rivals, were broadly marching in lock step. Morpheus and Rift felt like very similar devices – Rift was more “hobbyist” yet a little more technically impressive, while Morpheus was more clearly the product of an experienced consumer products company, but in essence they shared much of the same DNA.
Now, however, there’s a clear divergence in strategy, and it’s something of a concern. Shuhei Yoshida says that Morpheus is 85% complete (although anyone who has worked in product development knows that the last 10% can take a hell of a lot more than 10% of the effort to get right); Sony is seemingly feeling reasonably confident about its device and has worked out various cunning approaches to make it cost effective, from using mobile phone components through to repurposing PlayStation Move as a surprisingly effective VR control mechanism.
By contrast, Oculus Connect showed off a new prototype of Rift which is still clearly in a process of evolution. The new hardware is lighter and more comfortable – closer to being a final product, in short – but it’s also still adding new features and functionality to the basic unit. Oculus, unlike Sony, still doesn’t feel like a company that’s anywhere close to having a consumer product ready to launch. It’s still hunting for the “right” level of hardware capabilities and functionality to make VR really work.
I could be wrong; Oculus could be within a year of shipping something to consumers, but if so, they’ve got a damned funny way of showing it. Based on the tone of Oculus Connect, the firm’s hugely impressive technology is still in a process of evolution and development. It barely feels any closer to being a consumer product this year than it did last year, and its increasingly complex functionality implies a product which, when it finally arrives, will command a premium price point. This is still a tech company in a process of iteration, discovering the product they actually want to launch; for Luckey, Carmack and the rest of the dream team assembled at Oculus, their VR just isn’t good enough yet, even though it’s moving in the right direction fast.
Sony, by contrast, now feels like it’s about to try something disruptive. It’s seemingly pretty happy with where Morpheus stands as a VR device; now the challenge is getting the design and software right, and pushing the price down to a consumer friendly level by doing market-disruptive things like repurposing components from its (actually pretty impressive) smartphones. Again, it’s possible that the mood music from both companies is misleading, but right now it feels like Sony is going to launch a reasonably cost-effective VR headset while Oculus is still in the prototyping phase.
These are two very different strategic approaches to the market. The worrying thing is that they can’t both be right. If Oculus is correct and VR still needs a lot of fine-tuning, prototyping and figuring out before it’s ready for the market, then Sony is rushing in too quickly and risks seriously damaging the market potential of VR as a whole with an underwhelming product. This risk can’t be overstated; if Morpheus launches first and it makes everyone seasick, or is uncomfortable to use for more than a short period of time, or simply doesn’t impress people with its fidelity and immersion, then it could see VR being written off for another decade in spite of Oculus’ best efforts. The public are fickle and VR has cried wolf too many times already.
If, on the other hand, Sony is correct and “good enough” VR tech is pretty much ready to go, then that’s great for VR and for PS4, but potentially very worrying for Oculus, who risk their careful, evolutionary, prototype after prototype approach being upended by an unusually nimble and disruptive challenge from Sony. If this is the case (and I’ve heard little but good things about Morpheus, which suggests Sony’s gamble may indeed pay off) then the Facebook deal could be either a blessing or a curse. A blessing, if it allows Oculus to continue to work on evolving and developing VR tech, shielding them from the impact of losing first-mover advantage to Sony; a curse, if that failure to score a clear win in the first round spooks Facebook’s management and investors and causes them to pull the plug. That’s one that could go either way; given the quality of the innovative work Oculus is doing, even if Sony’s approach proves victorious, everyone should hope that the Oculus team gets an opportunity to keep plugging away.
It’s exciting and interesting to see Sony taking this kind of risk. These gambles don’t always pay off, of course – the company placed bets on 3D TV in the PS3 era which never came to fruition, for example – but that’s the nature of innovation and we should never criticise a company for attempting something truly interesting, innovative and even disruptive, as long as it passes the most basic of Devil’s Advocate tests. Sony has desperately needed a Devil’s Advocate in the past – Rolly, anyone? UMD? – but Morpheus is a clear pass, an interesting and exciting product with the potential to truly turn around the company’s fortunes.
I just hope that in the company’s enthusiasm, it understands the absolute importance of getting this right, not just being first. This is a quality Sony was famed for in the past; rather than trying to be first to market in new sectors, it would ensure that it had by far the best product when it launched. This is one of the things which Steve Jobs, a huge fan of Sony, copied from the company when he created the philosophies which still guide Apple (a company that rarely innovates first, but almost always leapfrogs the competition in quality and usability when it does adopt new technology and features). For an experience as intimate as VR – complete immersion in a headset, screens mere centimetres from your eyes – that’s a philosophy which must be followed. When these headsets reach the market, what will be most important isn’t who is first; it isn’t even who is cheapest. The consumer’s first experience must be excellent – nothing less will do. Oculus seems to get that. Sony, in its enthusiasm to disrupt, must not lose sight of the same goal.
Big public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) players may be on the brink of a crisis and are slashing prices while spending billions on building out and staffing their operations.
Steve Brazier, CEO at Canalys has warned resellers to be careful about the financials of their cloud suppliers because he fears a melt-down. He said that millions of dollars has been spent on building out public cloud infrastructure and yet no one in the world is profitable.
Amazon Web Services lost $2bn in the last four quarters, and the parent is forecasting losses of between $410m and $810m this quarter. Talking to the Channels Forum 2014 he said that the economics of the market is “somewhat like” the classic “pyramid scheme”, with providers launching services, making promises around performance, winning more customers, building more data centres, adding technicians, and cutting prices to beat the competition.
Maintaining that approach was only possible if you are getting new customers to sign up faster than your prices are going down. Rackspace, one of the “early pioneers” of public IaaS is trying to exit the sector and beef up its managed services biz.
Airline passengers traveling on European airline flights will be able to leave their cell phones and other mobile gadgets on throughout the entire flight, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Friday.
European airlines can allow any kind of electronic devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones to remain switched on for the entire trip without having to use the airplane mode. Switching to airplane mode was mandatory until now.
“This is the latest regulatory step towards enabling the ability to offer ‘gate-to-gate’ telecommunication or WiFi services,” EASA said in a news release.
It is up to the airline to decide whether to allow the use of electronic devices. In order to do so, they will have to go through an assessment to ensure the aircraft systems are not affected by device transmission signals in any way.
However, to ensure safety on board, passengers will likely be asked by the cabin crew to stow their devices during taxi on the runway and take-off, an EASA spokesman said, adding that airlines can still set rules on when devices can be used.
RedHat has announced the Fedora 21 Alpha release for Fedora developers and any brave users that want to help test it.
Fedora is the leading edge – some might say bleeding edge – distribution of Linux that is sponsored by Red Hat. That’s where Red Hat and other developers do new development work that eventually appears in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and other Red Hat based Linux distributions, including Centos, Scientific Linux and Mageia, among others. Therefore, what Fedora does might also appear elsewhere eventually.
The Fedora project said the release of Fedora 21 Alpha is meant for testing in order to help it identify and resolve bugs, adding, “Fedora prides itself on bringing cutting-edge technologies to users of open source software around the world, and this release continues that tradition.”
Specifically, Fedora 21 will produce three software products, all built on the same Fedora 21 base, and these will each be a subset of the entire release.
Fedora 21 Cloud will include images for use in private cloud environments like Openstack, as well as AMIs for use on Amazon, and a new image streamlined for running Docker containers called Fedora Atomic Host.
Fedora 21 Server will offer data centre users “a common base platform that is meant to run featured application stacks” for use as a web server, file server, database server, or as a base for offering infrastructure as a service, including advanced server management features.
Fedora 21 Workstation will be “a reliable, user-friendly, and powerful operating system for laptops and PC hardware” for use by developers and other desktop users, and will feature the latest Gnome 3.14 desktop environment.
Those interested in testing the Fedora 21 Alpha release can visit the Fedora project website.
General Motors Co has named an engineer to serve as its first cybersecurity chief as the No. 1 U.S. automaker and its rivals are starting to focus on how to better secure their vehicles against hackers.
The No. 1 U.S. automaker promoted manager Jeff Massimilla to the post as part of an eight-month review of its product design and engineering, said GM Vice President of Global Product Development Mark Reuss.
“If you look at the technology…as we put semi-autonomous and autonomous systems into vehicles, we have to be able to look at this at a very very critical systems level and do it defect-free for the customer,” Reuss said. “So that’s the competitive advantage we’re trying to really put in place for General Motors.”
Vehicles rely on tiny computers to manage everything from engines and brakes to navigation, air conditioning and windshield wipers. Security experts say it is only a matter of time before malicious hackers are able to exploit software glitches and other vulnerabilities to try to harm drivers.
Security researchers in recent years have uncovered vulnerabilities in those systems that they say make cars susceptible to potentially dangerous attacks.
For example, at last year’s Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek exposed methods for attacking the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape. In August of this year they published a list of the world’s “most hackable” cars.
A group of well-known hackers and security professionals in August sent an open letter to GM and other automakers asking them to implement basic guidelines to defend cars from cyber attacks.
The non-profit group, known as “I am the Calvary” has suggested that carmakers adopt a five-part cyber-safety program to make their products less susceptible to attacks by hackers.
Egil Juliussen, an analyst with IHS Automotive, said that the move reflects the increasing importance of cybersecurity to the industry.
ARM has unveiled a 32-bit Cortex-M processor for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, promising to double the compute and digital signal processing (DSP) capability of its present microcontroller units (MCUs).
ARM said that the Cortex-M7 single computer chip will power high-end embedded applications used in next generation vehicles, connected devices, and smart homes and factories.
“The addition of the Cortex-M7 processor to the Cortex-M series allows ARM and its partners to offer the most scalable and software-compatible solutions possible for the connected world,” said ARM CPU group GM Noel Hurley. “The versatility and new memory features of the Cortex-M7 enable more powerful, smarter and reliable microcontrollers that can be used across a multitude of embedded applications.”
The Cortex-M7 processor achieves a performance score of five Coremark/MHz, ARM claims, which the firm says allows the Cortex-M7 to deliver a combination of high performance and digital signal control functionality that will enable MCU silicon makers to use in it highly demanding embedded applications while keeping development costs low.
Launching with early licensees such as Atmel, Freescale and ST Microelectronics, The Corex-M7 is expected to be used in smart control systems employed in a range of applications such as motor control, industrial automation, advanced audio, image processing, a variety of connected vehicle applications and other IoT devices.
Features of the Cortex-M7 include: a six stage, superscalar pipeline delivering 2,000 Coremarks at 400MHz in a 40LP process; AXI interconnect supporting 64-bit transfer and integrated optional caches for instruction and data allowing efficient access to large external memories and powerful peripherals; and tightly coupled memory interfaces for rapid response.
ARM said that the updates in the new chip of faster processing of audio and image data and voice recognition will be immediately apparent to users.
“The core also provides the same C-friendly programmer’s model and is binary compatible with existing Cortex-M processors. Ecosystem and software compatibility enables simple migration from any existing Cortex-M core to the new Cortex-M7,” ARM claimed. “System designers can therefore take advantage of extensive code reuse which in turn offers lower development and maintenance costs.”
ARM said the Cortex-M7 could be available in devices as early as next year.
Earlier this month, ARM announced that it signed 50 licensing agreements with silicon partners to fab chips based on its 64-bit ARMv8-A processor, claiming it has seen growing momentum for the architecture.
A total of 27 companies signed agreements for the company’s ARMv8-A technology in September, including all of the silicon vendors selling application processors for smartphones plus most of those targeting enterprise networking and servers.
That’s the plan that Astro Teller, head of Google’s secretive “moonshot factory” GoogleX, told an audience at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference in Cambridge today. The effort - known as Project Loon — should prove to be a good way to get wireless Internet access to billions of people who don’t have it today, according to a report in MIT Technology Review.
The Review also noted that Teller said Google should soon have enough balloons to prove that the project, which is focused on connecting cell phone users, is feasible. “In the next year or so, we should have a semi-permanent ring of balloons somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere,” he said.
Google, working with local cellular providers, has been testing balloon-powered Internet access for more than a year now.
The company is tackling a huge problem. For two/thirds of the world’s population, a fast and affordable Internet connection is out of reach. Google is trying to solve this problem with a network of balloons that fly above the Earth twice as high as commercial airplanes.
In June 2013, Google launched 30 high-altitude balloons above the Canterbury area of New Zealand as part of a pilot test with 50 users trying to connect to the Internet using them.
Then in April, the company announced that one of its balloons circled the Earth in 22 days.
Google’s vision is to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on stratospheric winds about 12.4 miles high, providing Internet access to remote and underserved areas. The balloons communicate with specially designed antennas on the ground, which in turn connect to ground stations that connect to the local Internet service provider.
Though the concept seems far-fetched, Google X is the division of Google that came up with Glass, wearable computers that are in the prototype stage, and self-driving cars which have been logging miles on highways and city streets.
Fiberlink, an IBM company, manages millions of mobile devices for businesses worldwide through the MaaS360 platform. The company said today that a study of data from 2013 revealed that, on average, businesses wipe 10% to 20% of their entire device population every year.
Everyone wipes. Fiberlink’s data showed businesses from every vertical and size are clearing data from mobile devices to address security concerns.
Remote mobile data wipe capability has become a controversial, if not de facto, standard among corporate privacy policies and is a key feature offered by mobile device management (MDM) platforms. Even cloud storage service providers are offering the capability today.
Corporate attitudes toward bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are often poorly formed and can, in general, fall into one of three categories: There’s no official BYOD policy, devices are banned or no one talks about it.
As more companies embrace BYOD and the lines continue to blur between personal and professional use, companies are finding new ways to balance security concerns with employee productivity. One method is to have employees agree to a remote wipe policy, which can sometimes mean personal data on the phone is lost as well.
One method of dealing with the sensitive personal data that employees don’t want deleted is “dual persona” mobile devices, or smartphones and tablets that run two separate mobile operating systems that allow disparate instances.
Dual-persona capability allows businesses to lock down corporate data on one OS, while allowing users to take advantage of whatever apps they want to run on the other “personal” OS.
According to Fiberlink’s study of its own clients, 63% of devices are partially wiped and 37% are fully wiped.
Additionally, 49% of wipes are done automatically and 51% are done by someone at the organization.
The most common reasons for automatic wipes are because devices have been jailbroken or because companies are enforcing enrollment and application compliance policies, Fiberlink’s data showed.
We attended the first ever Oculus Connect conference, the beats and chatter of a cocktail reception just next door, Max Cohen is being brutally honest about the company’s mobile-based virtual reality headset.
“I can spend ten minutes talking about the problems with this device. We’re not afraid of them,” the VP of mobile says with a smile.
“It overheats if you run it too long. It is 60 Hertz low persistence, which means some people will notice flicker. The graphical quality is obviously a lot less than the PC. Battery life is a concern. There’s no positional tracking.
“We could try to say this is the be-all end-all of VR. We’d be lying. That’s a bad thing. We would hurt where we can get to the be-all end-all of VR. Everyone, Samsung, Facebook, Oculus, we’re all aligned with making a damn good product that we put out in the market and then working on improving it. Really soon, maybe even sooner than you think, we’ll get to that amazing VR experience for everyone.”
“Samsung, Facebook, Oculus, we’re all aligned with making a damn good product”
Cohen’s talking about the Gear VR, the Samsung backed headset that offers a more portable and accessible entry into the virtual reality world for developers and users alike. It’s John Carmack’s passion project at the company and clearly it’s Cohen’s too.
“The first thing they did was to put me in the HD prototype with the Tuscany demo. I was floored, of course,” he remembers.
“Then I got to see the Valve room and then he showed me this mobile project. It was running on a Galaxy S4 at the time. It crashed a little bit. There were a lot of problems with it, but I just thought this was so amazing. I went back and was talking to a friend of mine who’s an entrepreneur. He said it’s rare that you have the opportunity to work on transformational hardware, and that’s really what this was.”
The story of the Gear VR is a simple one; Oculus went to the Korean company hoping to work with them on screens for the PC-based Rift and found Samsung had been working on a headset you could simply slide a Samsung Galaxy phone into to experience virtual reality. Now the companies are working together on both devices, with Samsung fielding calls from Carmack on a regular basis.
“It’s a collaboration. It’s not we tell them what to do or they tell us what to do,” Cohen continues. “We’re the software platform, so when you put that on, you’re in Oculus, but that wouldn’t be possible without maximizing the hardware. Carmack and our team works very closely with their engineering team. They make suggestions about UI as well. We’re working together to make the best possible experience. If it wasn’t collaborative, this thing just honestly wouldn’t function because this is really hard to do.”
The focus of Oculus Connect isn’t the media or sales or even recruitment, but developers. Supporting them, showing them the technology, offering them advice on the new territory that is virtual reality. Cohen, like everyone else I speak to at the weekend, believes developers and their content is absolutely key to the success of the hardware.
“At the end of the day, we want to make the developers’ lives as easy as possible so they can make cool content.”
“Facebook invested in the platform. They didn’t buy it. What they did is they’re also committing money to make sure it’s successful on an ongoing basis”
That content will be supported by an app store, and Cohen wants it to be a place where developers can make a living, rather than just a showcase of free demos. Jason Holtman, former director of business development at Valve, is overseeing its creation.
“We’re going to launch initially with a free store, but maybe a month later, follow along with commerce,” says Cohen.
“At the end of the day, as great as doing the art for free and sharing that is, we will have a hundred times more content when people can actually monetize it. This is a business. There’s nothing wrong with that. People need to be able to feed themselves. Our job is to make the platform as friendly for developers as we can so that it’s painless. You don’t have to worry about a bunch of overhead.”
There’s a sense that the Facebook money, that headline-grabbing $2 billion, has given the team the luxury of time and the chance to recruit the people they need to make sure this time virtual reality lives up to its promises. Other than that, Facebook seems to be letting Oculus just get on with it.
“That’s the thing… a lot of people, with the Facebook acquisition, asked how that would impact us and the answer is it hasn’t, in terms of our culture, and Facebook’s actually supportive of the way Oculus is because we know that content makes or breaks a platform,” says Cohen.
“They invested in the platform. They didn’t buy it. What they did is they’re also committing money to make sure it’s successful on an ongoing basis. We could have continued to raise a lot of venture capital. It would have been very expensive to do it right. Now we have replaced our board of directors with Facebook, but that’s completely fine. They are helping us. They are accelerating our efforts.”
No one at Oculus is talking about release dates for consumer units yet, and Cohen is no different. It’s clear that he and the team are hungry for progress as he talks about skipping minor updates and making major advances. He talks about “awesome” ideas that he’s desperate to get to, and pushing the envelope, but what matters most is getting it right.
“I think everyone understands that with a little bit more magic, VR can be ubiquitous. Everyone needs it. I think a lot of people understand what we need to do to get there, but it takes hard work to actually solve those things. Oculus and Facebook have lined up the right team to do it, but I want us to actually have time to do that,” says Cohen.
“We’re not trying to sell millions now. We’re trying to get people and early adopters, tech enthusiasts and all that interested in it.”
The price for a standalone PlayStation TV (PS TV) is $99.99, the company wrote in a blog. For $139.99, customers can get a wireless controller, an 8 GB memory card and “The Lego Movie” videogame along with the PS TV.
Around 700 games will be available to PS TV users, including “Metal Gear Solid” and the franchise “Killzone: Mercenary”.
PS TV was released in Japan and other Asian countries under the name “PlayStation Vita TV” last fall. Sony is trying to expand its entertainment network services to compete against players like Amazon.com Inc.
Sony did not say when it will launch its online TV service.
The company signed a deal earlier this month to carry 22 Viacom Inc channels, including Comedy Central and MTV, on its planned online TV.
PlayStation boss Shaun Layden told tech blog Re/code in June the company was “on track” to unveil its product some time this year.
Sony’s web TV service will join the ranks of an already crowded market with devices from Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Roku.