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Will HTC Ever Return To Profitability

May 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

HTC, the original equipment manufacturer that designs its own mobile devices and Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, has announced net losses of $66.12 million for the first quarter of 2017. The company’s latest financials are the latest in a series – it’s had eight consecutive losses over the past two years.

Like many smartphone and VR headset manufacturing companies, HTC had hoped that 2017 would turn out to be a much better year than 2016. The Taiwanese company’s earnings report for Q1 2017 gives mixed results this quarter. Revenues were $NT14.5 billion ($480.2 million), which is down 33 percent from the NT$22.2 billion ($720.7 million) it posted in Q4 2016. However, losses of NT$2 billion ($66.2 million) aren’t as bad as the NT$3.09 billion ($102.4 million) it posted the previous quarter, or about 55 percent. These are also up from NT$2.61 billion ($86.5 million) in the previous year.

HTC plans to streamline operations, reduce operating losses

In Q1 2017, HTC says it continued to realign its organizational structure to help reduce overhead expenses by nearly 20 percent. This is similar to what Sprint has been doing since October 2015, when it announced a $2.5 billion cost cutting plan to streamline company operations. HTC’s gross margins climbed to 16.3 percent versus 10.45 percent in Q4 2016, and 9.36 percent year-over-year.

The company worked to lower its operating costs to $NT12.2 billion ($403 million) from NT$13.4 billion ($444.9 million) a year earlier. Given that the company has not turned a profit in over a year, the plan is to continue lowering operating costs to reduce its operating losses. HTC launched two smartphones in the first quarter – the HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play – but only the first device is available in the US. Then there was a report in February stating the company plans to exit the entry-level smartphone business in 2017 as it begins to focus on “high-margin” and “high-profit” devices. The company has been notorious for announcing products at its own events that aren’t necessarily in line with usual CES and MWC unveils from manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Huawei, Motorola and others. While this strategy can work well in some circumstances, it only works when people are made aware of the announcements.

Opinion: HTC U 11, Pixel shipments may return profitability for second half of 2017

The company now wants to introduce an additional four to five high margin smartphone devices over the course of the next year, starting with the long-awaited HTC U 11 that will be announced on May 16th. The device’s flagship feature, Sense Touch, is a new concept that allows using the side frame as an input method. However, it is unclear whether the HTC U 11 will be available in the second or third quarter, and whether it will be available internationally.

Within six weeks of the HTC U Ultra’s release in the US, the company slashed its price from $749 down to $599 after reviewing outlets had a hard time recommending the device over similar Android Nougat counterparts. This move did not speak well of the device’s sales, though it has been able to make some profit from Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL sales since their October debut from much higher consumer demand. Google managed to sell an estimated 552,000 units before the end of 2016, and FierceWireless reported those devices accounting for 9.5 percent of smartphone sales at Verizon in January.

Google is not expected to announce refreshed Pixel devices until later this fall, but those sales will certainly aide HTC’s path to becoming a premium-focused smartphone brand and hopefully reduce its operating losses.

Courtesy-Fud

Peugeot, nuTonomy Team Up On Self-Driving Cars

May 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

French auto maker Peugeot is teaming up with Boston, Massachusetts-based tech firm nuTonomy to test self-driving cars in Singapore.

NuTonomy’s software, sensors and computing platforms will be installed in Peugeot 3008 models as part of plans to develop the technology needed for large fleets of autonomous cars, PSA and nuTonomy said in a statement on Wednesday.

The latest PSA Group project seeks to work on “level 5” autonomous capable vehicles, which require no driver input, and will allow both companies to study how an “on-demand autonomous vehicle mobility service” performs, they said.

The combination is the latest between technology and automotive companies after Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, last month unveiled an autonomous cars development partnership with supplier Robert Bosch, while BMW has announced an alliance with chip maker Intel and Israel’s Mobileye.

Autonomous driving in urban areas requires a more radical approach to vehicle design, particularly for software and sensors, to help a car navigate inner city obstacles, said Anne Laliron, Head of the Business Lab at PSA Group.

“That is the reason we jump on the opportunity to work with nuTonomy,” Laliron told Reuters.

PSA Group will use the project to learn about what components make sense, and which suppliers are available, Laliron said.

Following the initial phase of this partnership, the companies will consider expanding their on-road AV testing initiative to other major cities.

nuTonomy, a software company founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) academics and McKinsey management consultants was the first to begin on the road testing of driverless taxi services in Singapore last year.

It raised $16 million last May in a funding round led by Highland Capital Partners and has backing from Singapore government authorities and Samsung Ventures, among others.

Self-driving Safety To Improve With New Laser Sensors By Luminar

April 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Luminar, a Silicon Valley start-up, is gearing up to begin production of its laser-based sensor for self-driving cars, a key component that would improve vehicle safety, the company said on Thursday.

Founded in 2012 by two photonics experts, Luminar has kept a low profile in the race between automakers, startups and major technology companies to roll out self-driving cars for the masses.

Luminar is ramping up a manufacturing facility in Orlando, Florida, for its first run of 10,000 Lidar sensors later this year, Chief Executive Austin Russell said in an interview.

Lidar, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, shoots out light pulses that are reflected off objects, allowing self-driving cars to “see” their environment. Many self-driving experts regard it as a crucial component, along with other sensors such as cameras and radars.

Lidar has been the subject of an ongoing trade secrets lawsuit between Alphabet Inc unit Waymo and Uber.

Waymo alleges that a former employee stole intellectual property about its Lidar system that was later copied by Uber.

Russell said Lidars for self-driving cars on the market were developed from hardware that existed before autonomous cars. Their limitations in range and resolution make them unfit for the safe rollout of self-driving cars, he noted.

Luminar addresses those shortfalls by using a 1550 nanometer wavelength that provides 50 times greater resolution and 10 times the range of the best rival Lidars, Russell said.

That means a car can “see” a black object with reflectivity of 10 percent clearly from 200 meters away, he said. By contrast, the so-called “Puck” Lidar from Velodyne, a company that makes most of the Lidar used in self-driving prototypes today, has a range of 100 meters.

Russell said four companies, including automakers and technology firms which he did not identify, were testing their products on prototype driverless cars.

Russell said manufacturers should focus on perfecting Lidar’s capabilities instead of lowering prices to make self-driving cars more affordable for the public.

“As price comes down, performance comes down with it,” he said.

Is Facebook Really Trying To Compete Against Nintendo’s Switch?

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

In a move that positions the social giant against video platforms like Twitch and YouTube, Facebook today has announced that people can now live broadcast from a PC or laptop – something that was only possible via mobile devices since last year. More importantly to the game industry and the world of online influencers, this expansion of Facebook Live also extends to live streaming of PC software.

“If you’re a gamer, this new feature makes it easier than ever to stream your PC gameplay to friends and followers and engage with them while you play,” the company stated. “If you’re giving your friends or followers a tutorial or how-to guide, you can incorporate on-screen graphics, titles, and overlays. Or if you’re an artist, you can go live and switch seamlessly between cameras as you narrate the process.”

It’ll be interesting to see how much of the market Facebook will be able to wrangle away from rivals Google (YouTube) and Amazon (Twitch) as the rise of streaming and influencers continues. It’ll also be important for developers to keep a close eye on how Facebook Live streaming fares, as it could be another valuable marketing tool – for both AAAs and indies, as Innervate consultant Becky Taylor observed during the Game Developers Conference.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Intel Shows Off Optane SSD

March 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Over the weekend, Intel pushed ahead with the release of its first consumer and enterprise SSD based on 3D XPoint technology, with latency rates roughly one hundred times lower than NAND flash alternatives that have dominated the market since 2007.

The first Optane-branded storage device is called the Optane SSD DC P4800X, which the company says is designed to be used either as high-performance storage or as a caching device in data centers. The card features a capacity of 375GB, with latency of under 10 microseconds (10µs), along with 550,000 random 4K reads, 500,000 random 4K writes, and an overall endurance rating of 12.3 petabytes written (PBW).

3D XPoint memory is about 100 times lower latency than NAND flash, sits right under DRAM (faster), but really puts some pressure on the data center market in terms of access times and endurance ratings. Intel claims that the low latency and high endurance can yield between eight and 40 times faster responses under large workloads, especially for database applications, while consistently outperforming NAND-based technologies.

Originally, the company’s plan was to release 16GB and 32GB Optane storage products under the Intel Optane Memory 8000p series. These units were capable of reaching up to 300,000 random 4K reads and 120,000 random 4K writes, and up to 1,600MB/s sequential reads and 500MB/s sequential writes. The release date for these smaller configurations is currently unknown but are still scheduled for release sometime later this year.

The first noticeable benefit to using Optane as a storage product for enterprise users is the option to significantly upgrade the overall capacity of onboard RAM. For instance, Intel’s dual-socket Xeon systems can support up to 3TB of DRAM but are able to accommodate an additional 24TB of Optane storage. Quad-socket systems, on the other hand, can accommodate 12TB of DRAM and an additional 48TB of Optane storage.

Not cheap – $1,520 at launch, compatible with Kaby Lake

The Intel Optane P4800X 375GB PCI-E add-in card will initially be a very application-specific product for “creative professionals” and enterprise users who need low-latency caching at every point in their systems – from onboard CPU cache, to storage, to DRAM. The other usage model will be for enterprise users who need substantially more memory available to their systems, even at a slightly higher latency cost. The company will initially release the 375GB PCI-E model at $1,520 with limited availability, followed by 375GB and 750GB U.2 models in Q2, and a 1.5TB PCI-E add-in card in the second half of the year.

We expect these modules to be compatible with current Z270 chipsets along with upcoming X299 chipsets due in fall.

Optane DIMMs come next year

This year, Intel is sticking to Optane products in the PCI-Express form factor, but next year plans to make the technology more flexible to performance and enterprise users in the form of individual Optane DIMMs. Pricing and spec options on such modules has yet to be discussed, though the technology available in both formats is expected to significantly boost applications that require large amounts of raw memory consumption.

Courtesy-Fud

Facebook VR Ambitions Threatened By Fight With ZeniMax Media

March 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc’s big ambitions in the ever expanding virtual reality industry could be threatened by a court order that would prevent it from using critical software code another company is laying claims to, according to legal and industry experts.

Video game publisher ZeniMax Media Inc has requested that a Dallas federal judge issue an order barring Facebook unit Oculus from using or distributing the disputed code, part of the software development kit that Oculus provides to outside companies creating games for its Rift VR headset.

A decision is likely a few months away, but intellectual property lawyers said ZeniMax has a decent chance of getting the order, which would mean Facebook faces a tough choice between paying a possibly hefty settlement or fighting on at risk of jeopardizing its position in the sector.

For now, Facebook is fighting on. Oculus spokeswoman Tera Randall said last Thursday the company would challenge a $500 million jury verdict on Feb. 1 against Oculus and its co-founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe for infringing ZeniMax’s copyrighted code and violating a non-disclosure agreement.

Randall said Oculus would possibly file an appeal that would “allow us to put this litigation behind us.”

An injunction would require Oculus, which Facebook acquired for $3 billion in 2014, to stop distributing the code to developers or selling those games that use it.

Such a court order “would put a huge stumbling block in front” of Oculus, said Stephanie Llamas, an analyst with gaming market research firm SuperData. It would offer the company’s rivals in the new market, which include HTC, Sony Corp, Alphabet Inc and others an “important opportunity for them to become first movers.”

Sales of the Rift itself would not be barred, but Llamas, said a lack of available titles could hinder Facebook’s offering relative to HTC’s Vive headset and Sony’s Playstation VR.

That market is relatively small at the moment – sales of VR hardware and software totaled $2.7 billion in 2016 – and mainly limited to gaming. But Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has predicted the technology “will become a part of daily life for billions of people,” revolutionizing social media, entertainment and medicine.

SuperData says the VR market will be worth $37 billion by 2020. Likewise, investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald last year issued a report predicting VR would account for 10 percent of Facebook revenue in four years’ time.

Snapchat Wants In On Hardware Development Too

February 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap Inc hit the roads of London on Monday promoting its initial public offering with a daring proposition: that it can build hot-selling hardware gadgets and ad-friendly software features fast enough to stay one step ahead of Facebook.

No longer just a purveyor of a smartphone app for disappearing messages, Snap has hired hundreds of hardware engineers, built a secretive product development lab and scoured the landscape for acquisitions as it pursues its newly stated ambition to be “a camera company.”

These efforts, which are aimed at developing hardware and so-called augmented reality technologies, are central to the strategy of a company that is seeking a valuation of up to $22 billion in its early March IPO despite heavy losses and the specter of stiff competition for advertising dollars with a far-larger Facebook.

It is a big gamble and the odds against Snap are long.

There is little precedent for a company with its roots in software and social networking succeeding in the notoriously difficult consumer hardware business. Few U.S. firms aside from Apple have made big profits on hardware, and camera and wearable gadget makers have much lower valuations than Snap is seeking. Once-hot camera start-up GoPro  is a cautionary tale: its stock sits 61 percent below its 2014 IPO price.

More broadly, creating new products and features that have mass-market appeal and cannot be readily mimicked is a huge challenge, analysts say.

“It’s worrisome,” said Paul Meeks, chief investment officer at Sloy, Dahl & Holst, which manages more than $1 billion in assets. “Snapchat is going to have to continue to be really innovative and distinctive. It’s going to be very tough to trump Facebook.”

Snap declined to comment for this story.

Snap first signaled its new focus with the September reveal of Spectacles, funky sunglasses with an embedded video camera for posting to the Snapchat app. The company spent $184 million on research and development last year, nearly half its revenue.

 

Is Facebook’s Oculus Losing Steam?

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus Rift virtual-reality demo stations at Best Buy locations across the US.

Apparently the move is because of poor “store performance” which is spin for the fact that few people are even trying the technology out.

Business Insider claims it is common for them to go days without giving a single demonstration.

Oculus spokeswoman Andrea Schubert insisted that the closings were due to “seasonal changes”.

“You can still request Rift demos at hundreds of Best Buy stores in the US and Canada. We still believe the best way to learn about VR is through a live demo,” she enthused.

Best Buy said stores that no longer offer demos will continue to sell the Oculus Rift headset and accompanying touch controllers. But it apparently interests in the headsets dried up after Christmas.

Another worker from California said that Oculus software bugs would often render his demo headsets unusable.

Courtesy-Fud

Slack Unveils New Messaging Product Targeting Big Businesses

February 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Slack Technologies Inc, a Silicon Valley messaging and collaboration software company, is making a strong push to expand its business by offering technology to some of the largest businesses in the country.

Slack has unveiled a new product designed for big companies such as International Business Machines Corp, Capital One Financial Corp and PayPal Holdings Inc. The Slack Enterprise Grid is set up for companies with hundreds of thousands of employees and strict compliance requirements.

The development marks a striking evolution for a four-year-old messaging platform that started out as a tool used by a handful of entrepreneurs and was quickly adopted by media companies and startups.

Slack is a platform where employees can send messages, collaborate, organize and share files. The technology also integrates with a wide variety of business software – such as Salesforce.com Inc and Skype – so employees can do all their work within Slack.

The technology had been designed for teams or small groups of employees. But with additional security and regulatory approvals, Slack can sell its enterprise product to big financial and health care companies, said Noah Weiss, who heads Slack’s search, learning, and intelligence group. IBM, Capital One and PayPal have been using it for months.

Andrew Braccia, a partner at Accel Partners who provided Slack’s first venture investment, said Slack’s big-business strategy is “just a very natural progression of the company.”

“It worked for 50 people, and it scaled up to working for thousands if not tens of thousands of people,” Braccia said.

The new product provides another line of revenue for Slack, which was valued at $3.8 billion at its last private financing round a year ago. The company has raised more than $500 million from venture capitalists.

Slack is projecting about $150 million in annual revenue, Weiss said, based on its most recent monthly revenue. Its customers include 38,000 paying companies.

Slack started as a messaging system that co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield used to collaborate with colleagues as they built a gaming company, Glitch, which never took off.

 

Is Microsoft Planning To Boot More People

January 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Software king of the world is rumored to be announcing 700 more job cuts next week when it announces its quarterly earnings.

To be fair Vole has been saying it was going to liberate 2,850 Voles from its global Vole hills for a while now. These 700 will be the first wave to go.

Microsoft is not saying anything about the cuts but it appears that the rumours are accurate. The company’s previous job cuts have come in areas including its smartphone business and global sales team.

The new lay-offs are general and across a variety of job functions inside the company.

The staff reductions are nowhere near as bad as the cuts carried out in July 2014, where 18,000 Voles were released into the wild to fend for themselves. That was 14 percent of the company at the time. The difference is that Microsoft has been doing rather better of late so one has to wonder what is in the results which will make Vole so keen to reduce costs.

Courtesy-Fud

Is HTC Committed To Virtual Reality?

January 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The company behind HTC Vive is setting up a new program to fund VR projects centred around improving lives around the world – with $10m to be shared among the successful applicants.

Announced at the World Economic Forum, the VR For Impact initiative will shared the same objectives as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 platform, Upload VR reports. These goals include no poverty, zero hunger, quality education and gender equality.

Vive is looking for experiences that will “improve awareness, education and lead to action”, whether that’s through virtual reality games, films or other cotnent.

“HTC Vive will fund the best ideas using Virtual Reality that truly drive awareness and positive change in our world,” said Cher Wang, the company’s CEO and chairwoman. “We encourage all players in the VR eco-system to join as only together can we drive real impact.”

Vive is now calling for ideas that could become part of VR For Impact, with plans to announce the chosen projects on April 22nd, Earth Day. Developers can apply at www.vr4impact.com. The initiative has already gained the interest of other organisations, such as the World Food Progam.

The power of virtual reality to immerse users in someone else’s story or situation is a major driver for the technology, and exploring the medium’s abilities to convey some of the world’s biggest crises to more people can only be a good thing.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Will Apple Release Three New Tablets This Year?

January 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple has decided that the reason that people are not buying its tablets is because they don’t have enough over-priced versions available.

To fix this problem Apple is planning to release three more tablets which contain all the same features you can find in cheaper Chinese Tablets at half the price.

According to Digitimes Apple will release three new tablets for 2017, a 9.7-inch iPad, a 10.5-inch iPad, and an upgraded 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The 9.7-inch model expected to enter mass production in the first quarter followed by the other two in the second.

It is odd really as Apple was thought to want to kill off the 9.7 inch pad and replace it with the 10.5-inch iPad. However not it seems that it wants to make the 9.7-inch iPad become an entry-level device. It can then flog these to corrupt or stupid school managers who don’t know that they can save their schools cash by going elsewhere .

There will be a few supply changes too. Apple will also procure components from its secondary suppliers for its new 9.7-inch iPad and Korea-based Seoul Semiconductor will supply LED for the device instead of the existing 9.7-inch iPad’s supplier Nichia.

The 10.5-inch iPad and 12.9-inch iPad Pro will get an A10X processor, but that is pretty much anyone knows for now. Our guess is that it will look pretty much like a tablet, have a similar price tag and be even more ignored than the current batch.

Courtesy-Fud

Nissan Chooses London For Self-driving Car Tests

January 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Japanese automaker Nissan said it will conduct its first European real-world trials of self-driving vehicles in London, choosing Britain just months after it said it would build two new models in the country despite concerns over Brexit.

The government has said it wants to encourage the development and testing of autonomous driving technology in Britain, helping build an industry to serve a worldwide market it reckons could be worth around 900 billion pounds ($1.1 trillion) by 2025.

On Friday Nissan said a modified version of its compact electric LEAF car equipped with autonomous driving technology will be tested in the capital next month, the first such demonstrations on European public roads.

 “With future models secured and cutting-edge innovation being developed right here in the UK, we’re looking forward to a strong future of designing, engineering and manufacturing in the country for customers right across the world,” said Nissan Europe Chairman Paul Willcox.

In October the firm, which builds around a third of Britain’s total car output, said it would expand production at its plant in northeast England with what a source described as a government promise of extra support to counter any loss of competitiveness caused by Britain’s EU exit.

Microsoft, Intel Working On ‘Far-field Speech Recognition’ For Cortana

December 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

cortana-and-intel-150x150Intel and Microsoft are currently fine tuning the technology that allows you to shout out commands to Cortana or activate a Windows 10 PC from sleep mode without being all that close to it.

The chipmaker is working with Microsoft to add “far-field speech recognition” technology, where the user can shout out Cortana commands to a Windows PC from longer distances.

“Soon, you’ll be able to speak to your PC from a distance and access all of your information on the device and in the cloud,” said Navin Shenoy, senior vice president and general manager for the Client Computing Group for Intel, in a blog entry this week.

The range isn’t available yet.

Users also will be able to use Cortana to start a PC from standby. Users will have to say, “Hey Cortana.”

For now, Cortana works best if the user is close to the PC. This development is more in the vein of Amazon Echo, which can recognize commands from a distance.

The ability to shout commands to Cortana from a longer distance also has Amazon Echo-like benefits. Users will be able to tell a PC to play music or ask about the weather. The feature will be even more useful when Microsoft completes a plan to make Windows 10 PCs hubs for smart homes, with users being able to use Cortana to operate electrical appliances.

That’s just one of many developments Intel is planning for PCs. Intel is working with Microsoft on its wire-free PC initiative, with a high-speed WiGig wireless connection being used to connect PCs to peripherals. Intel also said it would bring its Optane premium memory to PCs by the end of 2017.

Intel is also aggressively pushing for LTE receivers to be installed in laptops and hybrid tablet devices, with the ultimate goal to bring 5G to all devices. The new 5G deployments are expected by 2020 and could bring new forms of long and short-distance communications to devices. Intel is developing modems for 5G connectivity.

BMW To Launch New Version Of i3 Electric Car Next Year

November 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

bmw-i3-150x150German luxury automobile maker BMW plans to roll out a new version of its i3 electric car next year with a longer range and revamped design, German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported, citing company sources.

BMW will rework the front and rear of the i3 and equip the car with a new battery to increase its range substantially beyond the current 300 km maximum, the paper said, adding that the increase would be below 50 percent.

BMW has been torn about whether to accelerate development of new electric cars given its expensive early investment has only resulted in lackluster sales, with 25,000 i3s delivered last year.

 To help improve sales, BMW has already increased the battery range of its i3 city car by 50 percent this year.

BMW was not immediately available for comment on the newspaper report.

 

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