Intel this week unveiled plans to make an upgraded USB Type-C connector that would enable audio input and output, potentially replacing the long-standard 3.5 millimeter headphone jack used in today’s electronic devices.
Intel, which revealed its plans during a lecture at its Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in Shenzhen, China, also believes USB Type-C would simplify connections of multi-channel audio equipment to various devices.
Unlike the traditional 3.5mm analogue audio jack, a USB Type-C interface could charge a device in addition to transmitting sound and data. For example, it could transfer health and fitness data from a mobile device.
The USB Type-C connectors are reversible, so orientation isn’t an issue when plugging something into a device. The USB 3.1 Gen1 specification offers up to 5Gbps of data throughput; the Gen2 specification offers up to 10Gbps.
USB Type-C cables and connectors would replace the last analog receptacles on computers and mobile devices. Intel’s strategy was first reported by AnandTech.
In Intel’s presentation, it described USB C-Type connectors as being able to support both analog and digital musical content. But the upgraded connector would “promote” a changeover from analog to digital as users would see “improved digital headset features.”
A USB Type-C connector that supports audio feeds would also enable new form-factors, improve user experience and “provide a future path for USB technologies,” Intel said in the presentation.
The Gear 360 will initially be available only in South Korea and Singapore, a company representative said. A U.S. shipping date hasn’t been announced. In Korea, it will cost 399,000 won (US$347).
The camera, a bit larger than a golf ball, is Samsung’s bid to get consumers involved in creating virtual-reality content instead of just consuming it.
“We think 2016 is shaping up to be the year of VR,” said Andrew Dickerson, director of software engineering for Samsung VR, in a keynote presentation at the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco.
The camera will have two 180-degree fisheye lenses back to back and will stitch together the video from each for a 360-degree view. With a total of 30 megapixels of resolution, it will provide 4K video quality. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphones will link directly to the Gear 360 to act as live viewfinders.
VR is a key part of Samsung’s combined hardware, software and services strategy. The Gear 360 will join the Gear VR viewer and the recently announced Milk VR service for authoring and sharing content as part of the company’s plan to expand in this area.
In the next few years, Samsung expects to deliver a “holodeck” experience, said Injong Rhee, executive vice president and head of R&D for software and services. He was referring to the virtual environment used on the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
That experience will be truly immersive and allow users to roam around a physical space. It will make use of capabilities like gesture tracking to allow users to feel they are touching virtual objects, he said. To do this, the company is working to overcome problems including poor image quality, insufficient computing power, the heavy weight and restricted mobility of VR headsets, and the dizziness some users experience, Rhee said.
Nintendo has confirmed that its next-gen console, the Nintendo NX, will launch in March 2017.
Causing many to screw up their Christmas lists, the company told shareholders during its earnings call on Tuesday: “For our dedicated video game platform business, Nintendo is currently developing a gaming platform codenamed ‘NX’ with a brand-new concept. NX will be launched in March 2017 globally.”
Probably also causing some to cancel a trip to Los Angeles, Nintendo said that the NX will not be demonstrated at the upcoming E3 video games conference in June, despite speculation that Sony plans to show off its so-called PlayStation 4.5 console.
Nintendo’s keynote at the games show will focus instead on the next Legend of Zelda game, which will launch simultaneously on the Wii U and Nintendo NX in 2017. Rumour has it that Smash Bros 4, Splatoon and Super Mario Maker are all set to receive an NX makeover too.
A launch is now less than a year away, but we still don’t know much about the Nintendo NX, which Nintendo confirmed this week is just a codename for the incoming console. However, rumour claims that it will arrive as a hybrid between a home console and a mobile games console to sit alongside the New Nintendo 3DS.
Nintendo president and CEO Tatsumi Kimishima reiterated in December last year that the company is “not building the next version of Wii or Wii U” and that the device will be something “unique and different”.
News of the Nintendo NX’s launch date no doubt came as the firm looked to play down the fact that its profits fell 61 per cent year over year. Worked, didn’t it?
Twitter Inc disappointed investors once again with first-quarter results that revealed stagnant revenue growth as the microblogging service struggles to grab new users amid efforts to improve its complicated interface with several new features.
Twitter’s user base grew modestly to 310 million monthly active users in the quarter ended March 31 from 305 million in the fourth quarter, above analysts’ expectations. But investors were let down by the revenue miss since outlining a turnaround plan.
“It’s obvious Twitter is having trouble,” said Arvind Bhatia, analyst with CRT Capital. “It’s not growing anywhere close to where people expected a while back.”
On a call with analysts, executives said advertisers, especially in Europe, held back spending ahead of major events, including the Olympics and the European Champions League. They also said users were spending more time watching and sharing video, but that advertisers’ budgets had not yet shifted from legacy advertising products such as promoted tweets.
Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said Twitter’s long-term goal was to have “millions of advertisers like our competitors.” Facebook Inc has more than 3 million advertisers.
Twitter has struggled with stagnant user growth as its complex interface makes it less attractive to new users.
As part of its turnaround plan, the company has emphasized its live offerings, including live commentary and video streaming through its Periscope app, to attract new users. But it faces fierce competition from Facebook Inc which has recently ramped up its live video product, Facebook Live.
Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said that talent recruitment was a top priority for the year, especially on the engineering and product teams. Twitter lost several top executives earlier this year and has since added two new board members and a new chief marketing officer.
The company forecast revenue of $590 million to $610 million for the second quarter. Analysts on average were expecting $677.57 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
First-quarter revenue rose 36 percent from a year earlier to $594.5 million, but widely missed the average analyst estimate of $607.8 million.
After experiencing its first-ever drop in iPhone sales, Apple Inc sought to reassure investors by saying its latest and cheapest model was in strong demand after being launched in late March. Some retailers and suppliers in Asia aren’t so sure.
In a Reuters survey of 10 retailers in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, seven – including four Apple Stores – reported solid early demand, but three third-party retailers said sales were weak. Two suppliers of components for Apple phones, including the new iPhone SE, said they were seeing lower orders.
“I’ve been dealing with iPhones for five to six years now. This current quarter for Apple feels weak,” said an executive at a Taiwan-based company whose components are used in iPhones including the SE model, which markets for $399. “Our current shipment situation for Apple is not like the last two years. There are more iPhone models, but the total volume of iPhones is falling.”
Such a mixed outlook from Greater China, its most important market after the United States and generator of a quarter of the company’s revenue, could be a major cause of concern for Apple.
The company’s revenue from the region, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, dropped 26 percent in the March quarter, making it the weakest region in the world.
“iPhone is still popular but sales have dropped because… there’s no new model and the SE is similar to 5C. So it doesn’t sell well,” said Zhu You Peng, a salesman at Apple product reseller Xiongyu in Shenzhen. The 5C was Apple’s last attempt to produce a cheaper phone, back in 2013.
Zhu said it sold around 300 iPhones per month last year but the number has dropped to around 100-200 this year.
That view contrasts with upbeat comments about the phone from Apple’s Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri on Tuesday.
“The situation right now around the world is that we are supply-constrained,” he told Reuters, referring to the iPhone SE. “The demand has been very, very strong.”
The iPhone SEs are sold out in Apple’s own stores in mainland China and customers have to wait about three weeks to get the product delivered by Apple, according to Apple’s websites. The size of the original supplies to the stores is unclear.
Acer’s boss Jason Chen says his company will not make its own VR devices and will focus on getting its gaming products to work with the existing VR platforms.
Eyebrows were raised when Acer released its new Predator series products which support virtual reality devices. The thought was that Acer might have a device of its own in the works. However Acer CEO Jason Chen said there were no plans and the goal was to get everythink working with the four current major VR platforms Oculus, HTC’s Vive, OSVR and StarVR.
He said that VR was still at a rather early stage and so far still has not yet had any killer apps or software. Although that never stopped the development of tablet which to this day has not got itself a killer app. But Chen said that its demand for high-performance hardware will be a good opportunity for Acer.
Acer is planning to add support for VR devices into all of its future Predator series products and some of its high-end PC products.
Chen told Digitimes that said Acer was investing in two robot projects, the home-care Jibo and the robot arm Kubi in the US, and the company internally has also been developing robot technologies and should achieve some results within two years. Acer’s robot products will target mainly the enterprise market.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has built a new private cloud based on Red Hat’s build of the OpenStack framework to fulfill the growing computing requirements of its space missions, such as the Mars rovers.
The move was announced to coincide with the OpenStack Summit, and means that NASA’s JPL has access to enterprise-scale computing resources that will enable researchers to tap into their own private cloud and maximise the organisation’s server and storage capacity to process flight projects and research data.
The new cloud has been built by JPL’s own engineers, but Red Hat said that its experience from long-term participation in the OpenStack Foundation and key upstream contributions to specific platform projects made it well suited as the partner for this collaboration.
The move is not NASA’s first involvement with OpenStack. In fact, the entire OpenStack project grew out of a collaboration between the space agency and hosting firm Rackspace to develop an open source cloud computing platform to help drive the administration’s next generation of projects.
Red Hat said that by using its Red Hat OpenStack Platform to build their private cloud, the JPL’s engineers managed to save significant time and resources by retooling and consolidating in-house hardware rather than procuring entirely new infrastructure.
“This is a testament to the reliability, availability and scalability offered by a fully open cloud infrastructure built on Red Hat OpenStack Platform. We are proud of the partnership with NASA JPL to meet their needs for an agile infrastructure to meet their projected growth, while helping to reduce the data centre footprint,” said Radhesh Balakrishnan, Red Hat’s general manager for OpenStack.
Red Hat recently released the latest version of its platform, Red Hat OpenStack Platform 8, as well as the Red Hat Cloud Suite which combines its OpenStack build with the OpenShift Enterprise platform-as-a-service layer for running container-based applications and services.
The give-away will run until May 1, or while supplies last, Microsoft said on its e-store.
Last week, Microsoft told Wall Street that sales of its Lumia devices — virtually the only smartphones powered by Windows 10 Mobile — plummeted 73% in the March quarter compared to the year before, falling from 8.8 million in 2015 to 2.3 million in 2016. Revenue from its phone division fell 47%, to $662 million, in the first three months of this year.
More to the point of the two-for-one sale, on Thursday, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Amy Hood, said, “Sell-through of our Lumia products was weak, and we exited the quarter with relatively high channel inventory.” Simply put, poor sales left more than the expected number of devices in stores and warehouses.
The buy-one-get-one-free deal may be Microsoft’s way of flushing out the current overstock.
Buyers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will receive a $549 unlocked Lumia 950 when they purchase an unlocked Lumia 950 XL. The latter is Microsoft’s top-of-the-line Windows 10 Mobile smartphone, which went on sale in November 2015.
The offer is limited to two Lumia pairs per customer.
Microsoft’s smartphone business continued to drag down the Redmond, Wash. firm’s overall revenue outlook. While Hood did not pin a dollar amount to Lumia’s impact on the June quarter, Microsoft’s final in its 2016 fiscal year, she acknowledged that, “We expect year-over-year revenue declines to steepen in Q4 as we work through our Lumia channel position.”
The coalition, which also includes Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft, is “to work with lawmakers, regulators, and the public to realize the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles.”
The group said David Strickland, the former top official of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will serve as the coalition’s counsel and spokesperson.
“The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles,” Strickland said in a statement.
Sweden-based Volvo Cars is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.
T-Mobile US Inc reported a better-than-expected 10.6 percent rise in quarterly revenue and raised its forecast for customer additions in 2016 as popular discounts aided the No.3 U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers attract more business.
T-Mobile has been offering cheaper leasing plans and free music and video streaming to lure customers away from larger rivals Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.
T-Mobile, controlled by Deutsche Telekom, said it added 2.2 million customers on a net basis in the first quarter ended March 31.
That easily topped the average analyst estimate of 1.72 million, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.
The company said it expected to add 3.2 million to 3.6 million postpaid customers on a net basis in 2016, compared with its previous forecast of 2.4 million to 3.4 million.
T-Mobile’s 10.6 percent jump in quarterly revenue to $8.6 billion suggested its strategy to boost revenue was working. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $8.43 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
In comparison, market leader Verizon’s operating revenue rose just 0.6 percent to $32.17 billion.
AT&T is scheduled to report results later on Tuesday.
T-Mobile reported net income of $479 million, or 56 cents per share, for the first quarter, compared with a loss of $63 million, or 9 cents per share, a year earlier.
Virtual reality is, without a doubt, the most exciting thing that’s going to happen to videogames in 2016 – but it’s becoming increasingly clear, in the cold light of day, that it’s only going to be providing thrills to a relatively limited number of consumers. Market research firm Superdata has downgraded its forecast for the size of the VR market this year once more, taking it from a dizzying $5.1 billion projection at the start of the year to a more reasonable sounding $2.9 billion; though I’d argue that even this figure is optimistic, assuming as it does supply-constrained purchases of 7.2 million VR headsets by American consumers alone in 2016.
Yes, supply-constrained; Superdata reckons that some 13 million Americans will want a VR headset this year, but only 7.2 million will ship, of which half will be Samsung’s Gear VR – which is an interesting gadget in some regards, but I can’t help but feel that its toy-like nature and the low-powered hardware which drives it isn’t quite what most proponents of VR have in mind for their revolution. Perhaps the limited selection of content consumers can access on Gear VR will whet their appetite for the real thing; pessimistically, though, there’s also every chance that it will queer the pitch entirely, with 3.5 million low-powered VR gadgets being a pretty likely source of negative word of mouth regarding nausea or headaches, for example.
This is a problem VR needs to tackle; for a great many consumers, without proactive moves from the industry, word of mouth is all they’re going to get regarding VR. It’s a transformative technology, when the experience is good – as it generally is on PSVR, Rift and Vive – but it’s not one you can explain easily in a video, or on a billboard, because the whole point is that it’s a new way of seeing 3D worlds that isn’t possible on existing screens. Worse, when you see someone else using a VR headset in a video or in real life, it just looks weird and a bit silly. The technology only starts to shine for most consumers when they either experience it, or speak to a friend evangelising it on the basis of their own experience; either way, it all comes down to experience.
That’s why it was interesting to hear GameStop talk up its role as a place where consumers can come and try out PlayStation VR headsets this year. That’s precisely what the technology needs; where at the moment, there are a handful of places you can go to try out VR, but it’s utterly insufficient. VR’s objective for 2016 isn’t just to get into the hands of a few million consumers – it’s to become desired, deeply desired, by tens of millions more. The only way that will happen is to create that army of evangelists by creating a large number of easily accessible opportunities to experience VR – and GameStop is right to position itself as the industry’s best chance of doing so in the USA. Pop-up VR booths in trendy spots might excite bloggers, but what this new sector needs in the latter half of 2016 is much more down to earth – it needs as many of America’s malls as possible to be places where shoppers can drop in and try out VR for themselves.
In a sense, what’s happening here is deeply ironic; after years of digital distribution and online shopping making retail all but irrelevant, to the point where it’s practically disappeared in some countries, the industry suddenly needs retail stores again – not to sell games, because those are, in truth, better sold online, but to sell hardware, to sell an experience. How exactly you structure a long-term business model around that – the games retailer as showroom – is something I’m honestly not sure about, but it’s something GameStop and its industry partners need to figure out, because what VR makes clear is that games do sometimes need a way to reach consumers physically, in the real world, and right now only games retail chains are positioned to do that.
This isn’t a one-time thing, either – we know that, because this has happened before, in the not-so-distant past. Nintendo’s Wii enjoyed an extraordinary sales trajectory from its first Christmas post-launch into its first full year on the market, not least because the company did a good job of putting demo units (mostly running Wii Sports, of course) into not only every games store in the world, but also into countless other popular shopping areas. It was nigh-on impossible, in the early months of the Wii, to go out shopping without encountering the brand, seeing people playing the games and having the opportunity to do so yourself – an enormously important thing for a device which, like VR, really needed to be experienced in person for its worth to become apparent. VR, if anything, magnifies that problem; at least with Wii Sports, observers could see people having fun with it. Observing someone using VR, as mentioned above, just looks daft and a bit uncomfortable.
GameStop has weathered the storm rather better than some of its peers in other countries. The United Kingdom has seen its games retail devastated; it’s all but impossible to actually walk into a specialist store and buy a game in many UK city centres, including London. Would a modern-day version of the Wii be able to thrive in an environment lacking these ready-made showrooms for its capabilities on every high street and in every shopping mall? Perhaps, but it would take enormous effort and investment; something that VR firms, especially Sony, are going to have to take very seriously as they plan how to get the broader public interested in their device, and how to break out beyond the early adopter market.
Much of the VR industry’s performance in 2016 is going to be measured in raw sales figures, which is a bit of a shame; Vive and Rift are enormously supply constrained and having fulfillment difficulties, and the numbers we’ve seen floating around for Sony’s intentions suggest that PSVR will also be supply constrained through Christmas. The VR industry – ignoring the slightly worrying, premature offshoot that is mobile VR – is going to sell every headset it can manufacture in 2016. If it doesn’t, then there’s a very serious problem, but every indication says that this year’s key limiter will be supply, not demand.
The real measurement of how VR has performed in 2016, then, should be something else – the purchasing intent and interest level of the rest of the population. If by the time the world is mumbling through the second line of Auld Lang Syne and welcoming in 2017, consumer awareness of VR is low and purchasing intent isn’t skyrocketing – or worse, if the media’s dominant narratives about the technology are all about vomiting and migraines – then the industry will have done itself a grievous disservice. This is the year of VR, but not for the vast majority of consumers – which means that the real task of VR firms in 2016 is to convince the world that a VR headset is something it simply must own in 2017.
That, at least, is the vision of Jia Yueting, a billionaire entrepreneur and one of a new breed of Chinese who see their technology expertise re-engineering the automobile industry, and usurping Tesla Motors, a U.S. pioneer in premium electric vehicle (EV) making.
“Tesla’s a great company and has taken the global car industry to the EV era,” Jia said in an interview at the Beijing headquarters of his Le Holdings Co, or LeEco. “But we’re not just building a car. We consider the car a smart mobile device on four wheels, essentially no different to a cellphone or tablet.
“We hope to surpass Tesla and lead the industry leapfrogging to a new age,” said Jia, wearing a black T-shirt and jeans.
A wave of EV start-ups has emerged in China after the government opened up the auto industry to deep-pocketed technology firms to drive a switch to cleaner electric as an eventual alternative to gasoline cars. Skeptics wonder just how start-ups like LeEco will deliver on their grand visions.
As a sign of intent, 43-year-old Jia last week unveiled the LeSEE electric concept supercar, a rival to Tesla’s Model S. The “smart, connected and self-driving” car will be displayed at this week’s Beijing autoshow.
“People questioned our idea, a small IT company building a car to compete with the BMWs and Teslas of the world, and laughed at us. It wasn’t easy, but here we are,” Jia told Reuters.
LeEco hopes to start producing a version of the LeSEE in a few years at a plant being built near Las Vegas by U.S. strategic partner Faraday Future, in which Jia has invested. Those cars would be sold in the United States and China. Further ahead, the plan is to produce electric cars in China, too, probably through a partnership with BAIC Motor.
The web-connected electric cars will have a “disruptive” pricing model similar to phones and TV sets LeEco markets in China, Jia says. His company, often called China’s Netflix, will sell movies, TV shows, music and other content and services to drivers of its cars. That’s why he says “one day our cars will be free.” Nearer-term, the disruption is more likely to be “double the performance at half the price.”
More than two-thirds of German industrial companies have falling prey to digital crime in the past two years, according to a survey carried out by Bitkom, Germany’s IT, telecoms and new media industry association.
The most common offence was the simple theft of equipment such as computers, smartphones or tablets, but a fifth of companies surveyed reported that sensitive documents, components or designs had been stolen, while 18 percent said their production had been sabotaged with the aim of damaging or paralyzing it.
Such crimes cost German manufacturing industry more than 22 billion euros ($25 billion) a year, Bitkom estimated following its survey of 504 German manufacturing companies with at least 10 employees.
“With the digitization of production and the networking of machines over the Internet, new contact points arise that are vulnerable to attack,” Winfried Holz, a Bitkom executive committee member, said in a statement issued at the Hannover Messe industry trade fair.
“German industry, with its numerous hidden champions, is an attractive target for cybercriminals and foreign intelligence services,” he added. Germany has hundreds of small and medium-sized family-owned manufacturers that are world leaders in their niche.
Bitkom said the 69 percent of manufacturing companies affected by cybercrime was a far higher proportion than the 51 percent average for German companies in general.
About 70 percent of the machinery and equipment manufacturers surveyed said they had been victims, 68 percent of chemicals and pharmaceuticals producers, 65 percent of electronics makers and 61 percent of carmakers.
Cybercriminality was most often found in production or assembly, with 36 percent of reported cases, followed by 30 percent in warehousing and logistics, 29 percent in IT and 23 percent in research and development.
Corning Glass has announced that its already tough Gorilla Glass has evolved into something a bit more colorful.
Dubbed “Vibrant Gorilla Glass” it is a way for Corning to print permanent images onto the glass panels with “outstanding resolution and sharpness.”
Corning hasn’t stated when the Vibrant Gorilla Glass will actually be available to manufacturers. But it shouldn’t be too far out. Vibrant Gorilla Glass could be important. Basically it means that smartphone makers will be able to customize phones to a greater extent.
It means that we might start getting themed phones which are more than just a single colour, but could have images of your favorite TV show. Corning says that the Vibrant Gorilla Glass can be used on “smartphones, tablets or notebooks.” Which means we might soon see tablets and notebooks with their own images pre-stuck on.
Don’t expect to see this on Apple gear though; Corning is in pretty thick with Samsung which signed a deal to ensure its supply until 2023.
Researchers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) have accidentally – yes, accidentally – discovered a nanowire-based technology that could lead to batteries that can be charged hundreds of thousands of times.
Mya Le Thai, a PhD candidate at the university, explained in a paper published this week that she and her colleagues used nanowires, a material that is several thousand times thinner than a human hair, extremely conductive and has a surface area large enough to support the storage and transfer of electrons.
Nanowires are extremely fragile and don’t usually hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging, or cycling. They expand and grow brittle in a typical lithium-ion battery, but Le Thai’s team fixed this by coating a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and then placing it in a Plexiglas-like gel to improve its reliability. All by accident.
The breakthrough could lead to laptop, smartphone and tablet batteries that last forever.
Reginald Penner, chairman of UCI’s chemistry department, said: “Mya was playing around and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it.
“She discovered that just by using this gel she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity. That was crazy, because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most.”
The battery-like structure was tested more than 200,000 times over a three-month span, and the researchers reported no loss of capacity or power.
“The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option,” Thai said. “This research proves that a nanowire-based battery electrode can have a long lifetime and that we can make these kinds of batteries a reality.”
The breakthrough also paves the way for commercial batteries that could last a lifetime in appliances, cars and spacecraft.
British fuel-cell maker Intelligent Energy Holdings announced earlier this year that it is working on a smartphone battery that will need to be charged only once a week.