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BlackBerry’s KeyOne Android Phone To Launch In May

April 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The BlackBerry KeyOne, an Android-based smartphone with an integrated physical keyboard, will be available in the U.S. and Canada from May 31, the phone’s maker said Thursday.

TCL Communications, the Chinese company that acquired rights to produce BlackBerry-brand handsets, originally had said the phone would go on sale in April, so the delay may disappoint potential users. This could be a bad time to test the patience of potential buyers, as Samsung and LG are both heavily promoting their new flagship handsets, the S8 and G6.

But true BlackBerry fans — and yes, they do exist — probably won’t be put off. The phone includes elements from the heyday of BlackBerry that aren’t available on competing smartphones, including the keyboard.

There’s also the hub, which collects messages from numerous apps, and the keyboard can be used like the trackpad that was a prominent feature in BlackBerry phones. There are also some new features, such as a security dashboard and the ability to assign each key on the keyboard a shortcut.

The KeyOne will be available for pre-order in Canada starting May 18 through Bell, Bell MTS, Rogers, SaskTel and Telus Business. In the U.S., TCL will sell unlocked GSM and CDMA versions that can be used with U.S. carriers. It will be available from Sprint later in the year.

Automakers Urge California To Relax Rules On Self-driving Cars

April 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Automotive manufacturers are urging the state of California to further ease its proposed regulations for autonomous vehicles, saying the state did not respond to their earlier objections by making enough revisions to its planned set of rules for self-driving cars.

At a public hearing in Sacramento monitored via webcast, automakers urged California to drop some additional proposed regulations and leave much of the oversight to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But safety and consumer advocates urged the state to adopt strict oversight, and an official from San Francisco said cities should have more local control.

A number of automakers have said they plan to begin deploying self-driving vehicles, some in commercial fleets, by 2020-2021.

Paul Scullion, a manager at the Association of Global Automakers, said California’s proposed regulations go “too far.”

The group opposes California’s plan to require a permit to deploy autonomous vehicles, which must meet performance and design criteria. “We do not think requiring a permit to deploy is the right approach,” Scullion said.

Global Automakers said it opposes California’s proposal that it could withdraw permits to deploy vehicles even if they met federal requirements.

Ron Medford, director of safety at Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit Waymo, urged California to quickly issue final rules “to provide manufacturers with the certainty that they need.”

Brian Soublet, deputy director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, said the agency will review written comments before unveiling final rules.

Andre Welch, a Ford Motor Co official, asked the state to lift the proposed prohibition on testing self-driving vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds, such as multi-passenger shuttles.

Existing California regulations require self-driving test vehicles to have conventional manual controls such as steering wheels and pedals, as well as a backup driver. California moved to change the rules as many states said they would allow testing of vehicles without conventional controls.

In March, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles revised proposed rules to allow testing by the end of the year of autonomous vehicles without human backup drivers.

After objections from automakers, the proposal was revised to drop requirements that local communities approve testing and that companies generate a year of testing data before being allowed to deploy vehicles on public roads.

Among those who called for strict oversight of self-driving cars were Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. “We do not trust the auto manufacturers or the tech industry to protect the public in the absence of federal motors vehicle safety standards,” said the group’s president Rosemary Shahan.

The group Consumer Watchdog called for stricter state rules, noting that there were not yet any federal standards for self-driving cars. In written comments, the group said relying on federal standards would amount to a “meaningless house of cards.”

In February, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she was reviewing self-driving vehicle guidance issued by the Obama administration. Those guidelines call on automakers to voluntarily submit details of self-driving vehicle systems to regulators in a 15-point “safety assessment.”

California has proposed requiring companies submit a copy of a voluntary assessment submitted to NHTSA. David Strickland, a lawyer representing a group of self-driving advocates including Google, Ford and Uber opposed California’s proposal, saying it effectively makes the assessment mandatory.

Tom Maguire, an official at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said in some cases the proposed rules “rely too heavily on manufacturers’ self certification of their safety technology.” The agency believes cities should have the authority to deny deployment and determine when and how testing occurs.

General Motors Co official Paul Hemmersbaugh said California should drop plans to include separate privacy rules for driverless cars. The company said California’s proposed liability rules could make automakers liable regardless of fault for any crash. He said that would be “unduly punitive” and could have a “chilling effect on testing and deployment of self-driving cars.”

Is Toshiba Out Of The Woods?

April 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Toshiba Corp’s shares finally recovered this week after Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that Apple is considering a multi-billion-dollar investment into the company’s semiconductor chip business.

Back in February, Toshiba revealed that it had been considering a split of its memory chip business into a separate company to help make up for a $6.56 billion write-down of its US nuclear equipment operations. In late December, the company’s shares fell more than 45 percent after revealing that it was balancing a four-part effort to get back to a profitable state.

The following month, Foxconn and TSMC both partnered up to place bids on shares of Toshiba’s memory business in an attempt to challenge Samsung’s dominance of the flash memory market. The collaboration team has been serious about its talks with Toshiba, but is not trying to force anything to happen.

Apple wants 20 percent stake in Toshiba’s chip business

Now, the latest reports from NHK suggests the fruit-themed toymaker also wants more than 20 percent stake in Toshiba’s chip business, while somehow convincing Toshiba to maintain partial stake and keep the business under US and Japanese regulations, according to anonymous sources. Without subverting existing negotiations, the Cupertino company has considered a plan where Foxconn would own around a 30 percent stake of the NAND flash business so as not to interrupt global market competition over Japan’s semiconductor industry.

Prior to Apple’s announcement, Toshiba has so far narrowed down the field of memory unit bidders to four companies, according to sources. They include Broadcom, SK Hynix, Foxconn, and Western Digital.

Attention is now on company auditor, Tokyo Stock Exchange

On Thursday, Toshiba’s shares were down 4.8 percent after declining as much as 8.1 percent during morning trade. Experts have cautioned that the company is now in a warning zone of losing its listed status on the stock exchange, as it faces increased financial risk at its Westinghouse nuclear subsidiary. According to Financial Times, the Tokyo Stock Exchange is now attempting to decide whether the company’s internal controls comply with its listing criteria. Toshiba has proposed several improvements following its $1.3 billion accounting scandal in 2015, but if they are deemed insufficient by the exchange, then its shares could be delisted and the company would ultimately transition into a private entity.

Besides the foreign investor lawsuit that arrived on behalf of its accounting malpractices, Toshiba’s accounts were notable in part because its independent auditor, PwC Aarata, did not certify their accuracy. One analyst at Citigroup claims that Toshiba’s disagreement with its auditor was likely to “heighten concern” about its shares being delisted. Robert Rostan, a former Deloitte auditor, says “It is extremely rare for an independent auditor to not sign off on a client’s accounts, let alone a public industrial giant like Toshiba.”

Despite the financial risk posed by its flagship nuclear projects, Toshiba insists everything on the balance sheets is under control. Aside from a very tangible delisting risk, it will be left to the mercy of Toshiba’s many financial creditors to garner up enough support in solidarity for the weathered company.

Courtesy-Fud

Can nVidia Beat Google?

April 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Google’s internal benchmarks of its own TPU, or tensor processing unit indicated that its purpose built AI board cleaned Nvidia’s clock when it came to number crunching and power consumption.

However this week Nvidia has blogged that Google’s numbers fail to take into account how wonderful its new boards are.

Google compaired its board to the older, Kepler-based, dual-GPU K80 rather than the Pascal based GPUs.

Nvidia moaned that Google’s team released technical information about the benefits of TPUs this past week but did not compare the TPU to the current generation Pascal-based P40.

While the TPU has 13x the performance of K80 is provisionally true, but there’s a snag. That 13x figure is the geometric mean of all the various workloads combined.

Nvidia’s argument is that Pascal has a much higher memory bandwidth and far more resources for inference performance than K80. As a result, the P40 offers 26x more inference performance than one die of a K80.

As Extreme Tech points out there are all sorts of things which are “unclear” about Nivida’s claims.

For example it is unclear if Nvidia’s claim takes Google’s tight latency caps into account. At the small batch sizes Google requires for its 8ms latency threshold, K80 utilization is just 37 percent of maximum theoretical performance. The vagueness of the claims make it difficult to evaluate them for accuracy.

Google’s enormous lead in incremental performance per watt will be difficult to overcome. Google said that its boffins modelled the expected performance improvement of a TPU with GDDR5 instead of DDR3, with more memory bandwidth.

Scaling memory bandwidth up by 4x would improve overall performance by 3x, at the cost of ~10% more die space. So, it is saying that it can boost the TPU side of the equation as well.

While no one is saying that the P40 is slower than the K80, but Google’s data shows a huge advantage for TPU performance-per-watt compared with GPUs, particularly once host server power is subtracted from the equation.

Basically GPU has lots of hardware that a chip like Google’s TPU simply doesn’t need.

Courtesy-Fud

Facebook Gives Preview Of Futuristic Brain-to-text Program

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc has provided a peek inside a secretive unit headed by a former chief of the Pentagon’s research arm, disclosing that the social media company is studying ways for people to communicate by thought and touch.

Facebook launched the research shop, called Building 8, last year to conduct long-term work that might lead to hardware products. In charge of the unit is Regina Dugan, who led a similar group at Alphabet Inc’s Google and was previously director of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Dugan told software developers at Facebook’s annual F8 conference that the company was modeling Building 8 after DARPA, a government office founded in the 1950s that gave the world the internet and the miniaturized GPS receivers used in consumer devices.

Any hardware rollouts are years away, Dugan said in a speech. Potential products could, if successful, be a way for Facebook to diversify beyond its heavy reliance on advertising revenue.

One example of Building 8’s work so far, Dugan said, was an attempt to improve technology that allows people to type words using their minds.

“It sounds impossible, but it’s closer than you may realize,” Dugan said.

Using brain implants, people can already type eight words a minute, she said. Facebook’s goal, working with researchers at several U.S. universities, is to make the system non-invasive, as well as fast enough so that people can type 100 words a minute just by thinking.

Possible uses include helping disabled people and “the ability to text your friend without taking out your phone,” she said.

Another Building 8 project, she said, was trying to advance the ability to communicate through touch only, an idea with roots in Braille, a writing system for the blind and visually impaired.

A video played at the conference showed two Facebook employees talking to each other through touch. As one employee, Frances, wore an electronic device on her arm, the other, Freddy, used a computer program to send pressure changes to her arm.

“If you ask Frances what she feels,” Dugan said, “she’ll tell you that she has learned to feel the acoustic shape of a word on her arm.”

In December, Facebook signed a deal with 17 universities including Harvard and Princeton to allow swifter collaboration on projects with Dugan’s team.

 

Bose Headphones Accused Of Spying On Users

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Bose Corp spies on its wireless headphone owners by using an app that tracks the music, podcasts and other audio they listen to, and violates their privacy rights by selling such data without permission, a lawsuit charged.

The complaint filed by Kyle Zak in federal court in Chicago seeks an injunction to stop Bose’s “wholesale disregard” for the privacy of customers who download its free Bose Connect app from Apple Inc or Google Play stores to their smartphones.

“People should be uncomfortable with it,” Christopher Dore, a lawyer representing Zak, said in an interview. “People put headphones on their head because they think it’s private, but they can be giving out information they don’t want to share.”

Bose did not respond on Wednesday to requests for comment on the proposed class action case. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company has said annual sales top $3.5 billion.

Zak’s lawsuit was the latest to accuse companies of trying to boost profit by quietly amassing customer information, and then selling it or using it to solicit more business.

After paying $350 for his QuietComfort 35 headphones, Zak said he took Bose’s suggestion to “get the most out of your headphones” by downloading its app, and providing his name, email address and headphone serial number in the process.

But the Illinois resident said he was surprised to learn that Bose sent “all available media information” from his smartphone to third parties such as Segment.io, whose website promises to collect customer data and “send it anywhere.”

Audio choices offer “an incredible amount of insight” into customers’ personalities, behavior, politics and religious views, citing as an example that a person who listens to Muslim prayers might “very likely” be a Muslim, the complaint said.

“Defendants’ conduct demonstrates a wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights,” the complaint said.

Zak is seeking millions of dollars of damages for buyers of headphones and speakers, including QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.

He also wants a halt to the data collection, which he said violates the federal Wiretap Act and Illinois laws against eavesdropping and consumer fraud.

Dore, a partner at Edelson PC, said customers do not see the Bose app’s user service and privacy agreements when signing up, and the privacy agreement says nothing about data collection.

Edelson specializes in suing technology companies over alleged privacy violations.

Baidu Wants In On Automonous Vehicles, Plans Launch In July

April 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Baidu Inc has announced plans to launch its self-driving car technology for restricted environment in July before gradually introducing fully autonomous driving capabilities on highways and open city roads by 2020.

The project is named Apollo after the lunar landing program, the Chinese search giant said, adding it would work with partners who provide vehicles, sensors and other components for the new technology.

As part of its push into artificial intelligence (AI), the company in January named former Microsoft Corp executive Qi Lu as chief operating officer.

Two months after the appointment, Baidu’s chief scientist Andrew Ng, who led AI and augmented reality (AR) projects, said he would step down.

The company also launched a $200 million fund in October to focus on AI, AR and deep learning, followed by a $3 billion fund announced in September to target mid- and late- stage start-ups.

“AI has great potential to drive social development, and one of AI’s biggest opportunities is intelligent vehicles,” Qi said in a statement.

In November, Baidu and German automaker BMW AG  said they would end their joint research on self-driving cars due to differences in opinion on how to proceed.

Technology and automotive leaders contend that cars of the future will be capable of completely driving themselves, revolutionizing the transportation industry, with virtually all carmakers as well as companies such as Alphabet’s Google and parts supplier Delphi investing heavily in developing the technology.

Apple Receives Go-Ahead To Test Automous Vehicles In California

April 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc has been granted a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California, increasing the likelihood that it is working on self-driving car technology in a crowded arena of companies hoping to offer those cars to the masses.

The permit allows it to conduct test drives in three vehicles with six drivers, the state Department of Motor Vehicles said on Friday. The vehicles are all 2015 Lexus RX450h, according to the DMV.

Although it has never openly acknowledged it is looking into building an electric car, Apple has recruited dozens of auto experts in recent years, and the permit pulls the curtain back a bit on any possible plan.

“This does confirm what’s long been rumored: that Apple is at least toying with the idea of getting into the autonomous game in some capacity,” said Chris Theodore, president of consultancy Theodore & Associates, and a former vice president at Ford Motor Co and Chrysler.

The permit does not mean Apple is definitely building a car. “This is not necessarily automobiles as initially rumored, but software or possibly hardware associated with autonomous technology,” Theodore said.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment directly on the filing, pointing back to a statement the company made in November when it wrote to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on the subject of regulating self-driving vehicles.

“The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation,” Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, wrote in that five-page letter.

Apple executives have been coy about their interest in cars. Chief Executive Tim Cook has suggested that Apple wants to move beyond integration of Apple smartphones into vehicle infotainment systems.

Apple joins a growing list of traditional carmakers, technology companies, and small start ups to test drive cars in California – all vying to be the first to have commercially viable vehicles on the roads.

Companies that have been issued permits also include Alphabet Inc’s Google unit, Ford Motor Co, Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG, Tesla Motors Inc and General Motors Co.

Many companies have said the first cars will launch in 2020 but some experts believe it may take much longer due to regulatory challenges.

Samsung’s Bixby Digital Voice Assistant Being Delayed

April 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung’s highly promoted Bixby voice assistant will not be available for the Galaxy S8 smartphone on April 21, as previously announced.

The company released a statement that said Bixby will be available in the U.S. on the Galaxy S8 “later in the spring.” Samsung didn’t explain the delay.

The Bixby will join a pack of artificial intelligence assistants that includes Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant that are changing the way people interact with their devices.

Some U.S.-based reviewers and analysts had noticed that the Bixby feature wasn’t fully demonstrated when the S8 was announced March 29.

Also, some news reports said Bixby encountered voice recognition problems in English compared to its performance with the Korean language.

The shipment delay applies only to the voice feature in Bixby, while Samsung said other key features of Bixby, like Vision, Home and Reminder will be available in the global launch of Galaxy S8 on April 21.

Samsung went out of its way to promote Bixby well in advance of the Galaxy S8 launch. It was announced in a blog on March 20, nine days before the phone’s launch, by Injong Rhee, executive vice president of software and services for Samsung Electronics.

Rhee pointed out a physical button on the side of the phone that would activate Bixby, differentiating it from Alexa or  Siri and others that are activated by a spoken trigger word. Bixby would offer a “deeper experience” than some others, including support for touch commands. Also, Bixby is designed to know the current state of an app to allow users to carry out work in progress without further explanation. Rhee said the Bixby interface is “much more natural and easier to use.”

Bixby was already two years behind those digital assistants as well as Google Assistant, analysts said. “Bixby is going to be playing catch up,” said Gartner analyst Werner Goertz in March.

One analyst forgave the Bixby delay. “I commend Samsung for trying to get it right rather than just launching and hoping for the best,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

“It’s never a good idea to put out less than great software on a consumer device. So in this case, if Samsung can delay a few weeks and get a better product, it makes sense to do so. That said, voice recognition generally is not all that easy to do. It’s not just the recognition software itself, but the whole voice chain that has to be tailored. That includes everything from the microphone through the audio channel on the phone to the recognition algorithms and the user interface. If they tested and it wasn’t at their expected level of accuracy, then it’s better to get it right than to get it out fast.”

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.

Samsung Pleased As Galaxy S8 Pre-orders Surpass S7 Launch

April 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Pre-orders for Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s flagship Galaxy S8 smartphone have surpassed those of its predecessor S7, the firm’s mobile chief said on Thursday, which suggests many consumers are undeterred by last year’s Galaxy Note 7 fires.

Strong initial demand for the S8 will be encouraging for a firm recovering from one of the worst product safety failures in tech history, which ended in the Note 7’s swift withdrawal.

The new smartphone has received favorable reviews ahead of the start of sales in South Korea, the United States and Canada on April 21. Some investors and analysts have even predicted a first-year sales record for the South Korean company.

“It’s still a bit early, but initial response to the pre-orders that have begun at various places across the world have been better than expected,” mobile chief Koh Dong-jin said at an S8 media briefing.

He said the S8 will be the safest Galaxy smartphone to date due to measures implemented to avoid the battery failures that caused some Note 7s to spontaneously combust.

Analysts said strong S8 sales are likely to help Samsung to its best-ever quarterly profit in April-June, along with a booming memory chip market that is widely expected to deliver record revenue this year for the industry as a whole.

Samsung has been working to restore investor trust as well as its reputation since the Note 7’s withdrawal in October within two months of being on the market, losing out on $5.4 billion in profit.

Senior executives told foreign media on the sidelines of the briefing that it will take time for Samsung’s brand image to recover. They also said Samsung has seen a rebound in consumer sentiment toward the firm since announcing the results of a probe into the fires and preventative measures on Jan. 23.

Are Smartphones On The Way Out?

April 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

This is not an extremely late April 1st, and we admit that it is a little early given that its replacement has not shown up yet, but we predict that it will go the way of the dodo, the Norwegian Blue, the bleeper and the Crackberry.

OK it is probably a few years off, but the technology is so persuasive that its death will be longer than the exit of a hero in a South American soap opera.

For a while now smartphone sales have slowed. Basically the structure developed by Nokia and stolen by Apple and copied everywhere has run out of places to go. There is no more innovation in smartphones any longer, despite what is claimed particularly by the Tame Apple Press. Chip speeds have increased slightly and are about as fast as they are going to get. Even if someone gets a chip to the speeds of a PC it is not going to make a hell of a lot of difference.

What is coming next is being sorted out by the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Google along with Elon Musk. Apple of course is waiting for the next biggest thing to be developed by others before it takes a risk.

So what will get rid of it? While the Tame Apple Press think it will be something more like the Amazon Echo, Sony PlayStation VR, and the SmartWatch that is mostly because that is pretty much Apple’s current agenda.

No doubt AR and VR could be the way it is going. Certainly some sort of interface which projects detailed 3D images straight into your eyes while you interact with your environment. So instead of typing this on a screen I will be typing it on a nice egonomic bit of rubber while the words are appearing before my eyes. A more portable version would put a keyboard onto any surface.

Microsoft thinks that is the way things will go and the tech will replace the smartphone, the TV, and sex, and anything else with a screen with sounds going in through a headphone.

As artificial intelligence systems like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby, and Microsoft’s Cortana get smarter, there is going to be a rise not just in talking to computers, but having them talk back.

All this makes the smartphone redundant and limited. Sure it will be a good decade before this brave new world takes off and it will be a slow slide rather than anything great, but we are seeing the change start happening now. The world is bored with smartphones and they are just not having the impact they used to.

Courtesy-Fud

U.S. Labor Department Alleges Google Underpays Female Workers

April 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Department of Labor says Google discriminates against women workers in pay at a level that’s even worse than the tech industry as a whole.

The department has found “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” Labor Department Regional Director Janette Wipper testified in a court in San Francisco on Friday, according to a report by The Guardian. Janet Herold, the department’s regional solicitor, told the Guardian that pay discrimination against women was extreme.

Wipper said that the Labor Department found pay disparities in a snapshot of salaries from 2015, according to the Guardian.

Wipper’s testimony was part of a hearing about a lawsuit that the Labor Department brought against Google to force the company to hand over salary information. The department is authorized to conduct audits of Google’s employment practices because the company gets government contracts. It says Google hasn’t been cooperating.

The agency has asked the Office of Administrative Law Judges, a special court for Labor Department programs, to cancel all of Google’s government contracts and keep it from getting future contracts if it doesn’t comply with the request for data.

Google vehemently disagrees with the department’s assertion, the company said in an emailed statement.

“Every year, we do a comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap,” the statement read. “Other than making an unfounded statement which we heard for the first time in court, the DoL hasn’t provided any data, or shared its methodology.”

At the time it filed the lawsuit, the Labor Department characterized the request for information as routine, but Google says the agency has cast too wide a net. (In a statement earlier this year, the company said it provided “hundreds of thousands of records” to the DoL as part of the audit.)

That argument appears to hold some water for Steven Berlin, the administrative law judge overseeing the case.

Last month, Berlin denied the Labor Department’s motion for summary judgment, which would have immediately concluded the case in its favor. He said the department’s request for the data was “unreasonably burdensome, given its extremely limited relevance.”

The reported testimony on Friday came three days after Google said in a tweet that it had “closed the gender pay gap globally.” The company also published a guide to doing the same at other companies.

 

PC, Mobile Device Prices Expected To Rise This Year

April 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

If you plan to purchase a new PC or mobile device this year, you’ll likely spend more cash than in previous years. Prices are trending upwards, and expensive devices are in demand.

On average, the price of PCs and phones will go up by 2 percent this year, Gartner said in a research report released on Thursday. The calculations are based on U.S. dollars and average market sizes.

Breaking down those numbers, PC prices are expected to go up 1.4 percent this year, while mobile phone prices will go up 4.3 percent.

The price increases are largely due to the rising prices of components. Also, more users are upgrading to more expensive and feature-rich mobile handsets.

The days of users preferring to buy the cheapest products are gone, said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.

Buyers are less price sensitive and are instead buying devices “that suit their lifestyles,” Atwal said.

Gartner’s forecast is in line with a projection in February by Lenovo’s chief operating officer, Gianfranco Lanci, who said PC prices would go up this year due to a shortage of DRAM, SSDs, batteries and LCDs.

The cost of components like NAND flash have doubled since June, Gartner said.

The overall cost of purchasing components is going up. Moreover, millennials are willing to spend more on devices.

This year is expected to be big for smartphones. Samsung launched the Galaxy S8 smartphones, and Apple is expected to launch its 10th anniversary iPhone later this year. Premium-priced smartphones will go up by roughly 4 percent, Gartner said.

Android phones will suffer the most from the price increases. In emerging markets like China and India, Android phones are popular because of their affordability, but prices are also going up in those countries.

High-end Android smartphones offer more differentiation on features than generic low-end phones, giving a reason for buyers to spend a bit more to upgrade.

A good barometer for mobile phone pricing is the Chinese market. Global pricing of Chinese-branded smartphones will go up to RMB 2,000 (US$290) by the end of this year from RMB 1,700 (US$246) at the end of last year, analyst firm Trendforce said last month. That’s partly because NAND flash supply is tightening.

According to Gartner, smartphone shipments worldwide this year will total 1.9 billion units, up from 1.89 billion last year.

The PC market has slowed and is being driven by high-priced gaming PCs and 2-in-1s. Buyers of those PCs are willing to spend more money on their computers.

That trend is changing the types of computers shipped by PC makers, which are focused on selling higher-priced products that can deliver larger profit margins.

Low-end laptops and desktops will remain available, but PC makers like Dell and HP are slimming down those offerings. Low-cost laptops like Chromebooks typically have aging components, little storage, low-resolution webcams and limited memory.

Gartner estimates 426 million computing devices, including PCs and tablets, will ship this year, dropping from 439 million last year. PC shipments will total 265 million this year, dropping from 270 million last year. Shipment of tablet devices like the iPad will total 161 million, dropping from 169 million last year, the analyst group predicted.

Google Investing In Another Massive Undersea Fiber-optic Cable

April 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is plans on funding another massive undersea fiber-optic cable as a part of its plans to build out network connectivity around the world. The company announced  that it is investing in a project called Indigo, which will connect Jakarta, Singapore, Perth and Sydney to one another.

The cable will run for approximately 9,000 kilometers (almost 5,600 miles) and provide a capacity of roughly 18Tbps (bits per second). It’s being built to bring users more connectivity in a region that has growing internet needs.

Google has now invested in five submarine cables in the Asia-Pacific region and seven overall. By investing in these cables, the company hopes to better compete with other cloud providers and consumer internet companies.

Alcatel Submarine Networks will build the cable, and Google expects it to be finished by the middle of 2019. Other Indigo investors include cable company SubPartners and ISPs AARNet, Indosat Ooredoo, Singtel and Telstra.

Only Google and the other investors will be able to use Indigo, though Singtel and Telstra will be able to sell capacity to their customers as part of their telecom businesses.

Google and other users of the cable will be able to expand its capacity with future technology to keep up with growing needs. Indigo has two fiber pairs, one-third as many as the trans-Pacific FASTER cable turned on last year, where Google was also an investor.

Interestingly, Indigo’s roughly 9,000-kilometer run puts it on par with the length of FASTER. It’s that long partly because of the curving path it needs to take to connect the four cities along its length.

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