AMD’s Mantle has been a hot topic for quite some time and despite its delayed birth, it has finally came delivered performance in Battlefield 4. Microsoft is not sleeping it has its own answer to Mantle that we mentioned here.
Oddly enough we heard some industry people calling it DirectX 12 or DirectX Next but it looks like Microsoft is getting ready to finally update the next generation DirectX. From what we heard the next generation DirectX will fix some of the driver overhead problems that were addressed by Mantle, which is a good thing for the whole industry and of course gamers.
AMD got back to us officially stating that “AMD would like you to know that it supports and celebrates a direction for game development that is aligned with AMD’s vision of lower-level, ‘closer to the metal’ graphics APIs for PC gaming. While industry experts expect this to take some time, developers can immediately leverage efficient API design using Mantle. “
AMD also told us that we can expect some information about this at the Game Developers Conference that starts on March 17th, or in less than two weeks from now.
We have a feeling that Microsoft is finally ready to talk about DirectX Next, DirectX 11.X, DirectX 12 or whatever they end up calling it, and we would not be surprised to see Nvidia 20nm Maxwell chips to support this API, as well as future GPUs from AMD, possibly again 20nm parts.
The deal would mirror a first-of-its kind agreement that Disney and satellite rival Dish Network Corp announced earlier this week.
The Internet rights being discussed are part of a large-scale programming agreement that would replace a deal between the companies that expires in late December. Disney and Dish are in negotiations but the timing of the new deal could be not be learned.
“The deal and terms are not unexpected as the Dish contract was the most recent in the Disney timeline to expire,” DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri said on Wednesday. “The DirecTV contract is up next and we’re in the process of working with Disney on a similar long-term agreement of our own.”
A Disney spokesman declined to comment.
A new pact could give both Disney and DirecTV, the No. 1 satellite operator, an additional revenue source as consumers gravitate toward online video services such as Netflix Inc and watch more television online.
The agreement between Dish and Disney marked the first time that a U.S. pay TV operator has been given the flexibility to offer its content over the Web through smartphones, tablets and computers outside of a pay TV subscription.
In that agreement, Disney allows for Dish to stream linear and on-demand content from ABC broadcast stations as well as cable channels, ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN and ESPN2. Dish has not revealed plans for its streaming service.
DirecTV, which has 20.3 million subscribers, is expected to secure better rates on programming than Dish, which has 14.1 million subscribers, because of its size. Both companies have complained about the rising cost of programming and have been involved in high-profile blackouts over the past few years.
DirecTV Chief Executive Mike White has previously said the company is working on an “over-the-top” video package to suit niche audiences featuring Hispanic or kids programming, but has not yet given details on that offering.
Analysts speculate that Facebook may want to use the drones to bring Internet connectivity to the two-thirds of the world that are not connected.
The social networking company is reportedly paying $60 million for Titan Aerospace, according to TechCrunch, which cited unnamed sources.
Neither Titan Aerospace nor Facebook responded to requests for confirmation.
The aerospace company builds light-weight, high-flying drones that can take off at 20 mph and remain aloft for five years. The company’s Solara 50 drone, for instance, can fly as high as 65,000 feet above Earth.
“Drones are the latest rage with tech companies these days,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “Amazon, Google and Facebook, plus a whole lot more seem to be looking for ways they can shoehorn drones into their business plans. And what young geek didn’t dream of having a remote control flying machine that could do anything they wanted it to do?”
But could Facebook use these drones to bring Internet connectivity to remote areas? Sure, but it’s not the only way they could go about it.
Last June, Google’s research arm, Google X, announced that it was working on affordable Internet connectivity through the use of a fleet of high-altitude balloons. The company tested its plan by launching 30 balloons that flew twice as high as commercial airplanes with 50 users trying to connect to the Internet from below.
Amazon.com had another use for drones, and in December announced plans to use the machines to deliver merchandise to customers. Possibly taking a page from Domino’s old promise of delivering pizzas in 30 minutes or less, Amazon said with drones, some customers could get their purchases within half an hour.
“Could drones be the way to provide net connections in Third World countries?” asked Olds. “Yeah, maybe, but wouldn’t a set of non-sexy, long-range cell towers or low-power, cost-optimized microwave repeaters be a better solution? Sure, there are some drawbacks to physical infrastructure on the ground, but they can be worked around.”
He reiterated that drones simply are the cool new tech tool. How could a tech company with very deep pockets resist?
Verizon Communications is engaged in discussions with content providers to deliver web-based TV services to mobile platforms, chief executive Lowell McAdam, said at an investor conference earlier in the week.
Just recently, Dish Network Corp and Walt Disney Co announced a landmark deal that will allow the No. 2 satellite TV provider to deliver Disney-owned network content online, outside of a traditional TV subscription.
Verizon’s goal “is to work with the content providers,” said
McAdam at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference.
“I have personally had discussions with the CEOs of the large content companies, and we would love to partner with them to see how we can take FiOS contact mobilely across the country.” he said.
McAdam said the company could also look at providing a service delivered over wireless airwaves and not just broadband.
According to PwC’s annual entertainment and media forecast, North American consumers will spend $6 billion in 2014 on entertainment from services such as Netflix that are offered over the top, meaning they are utilized over a network but not offered by the network operator.
“I think you can actually get a virtuous cycle where broadcast viewing goes up and over-the-top viewing goes up, if you time this properly,” McAdam said.
In January, Verizon acquired Intel Corp’s OnCue service for an undisclosed sum to accelerate its push into next-generation video services, including integrating it with Verizon’s FiOS fiber-based Internet and TV service that has more than 5 million video subscribers, about 5 percent of pay TV households. The company said it was open to providing over-the-top content to any device.
McAdam also stressed that Verizon expects Netflix to pay for faster video delivery as part of a so-called interconnect deal, in an arrangement similar to the one the video provider has made with Comcast Corp.
“I have spoken live and via email with (Netflix CEO) Reed Hastings, and I believe that we will get some sort of an arrangement with them as well,” said McAdam.
We already knew that Android was the mobile operating systems most targeted by malware, and that isn’t about to change any time soon.
Security firm F-Secure has reported that malicious activity on Android accounted for 97 per cent of all detected mobile threats for 2013.
The figures were revealed in F-Secure’s latest Threat Report for the second half of 2013, finding that there were 566 more Android malware variants found last year than during the previous year.
“97 percent of the mobile threats in 2013 were directed at the Android platform, which racked up 804 new families and variants,” F-Secure said in its report (pdf). “The other three percent (23) were directed at Symbian. No other platforms had any threats. In contrast, 2012 saw 238 new Android threats.”
F-Secure found that the top 10 countries reporting Android threats saw a little over 140,000 Android malware detections, with 42 percent of the reported detections coming from Saudia Arabia and 33 percent from India. European countries accounted for 15 percent of the total and the US just five percent.
F-Secure said that due to Android itself having relatively few vulnerabilities, the main distribution method is still through shady apps downloaded from third-party app stores.
“For mobile platforms, the continued dominance of the Android operating system makes it almost the exclusive target for mobile threats we’ve seen this period,” F-Secure’s report explained.
“Though the relatively low number of vulnerabilities found in Android makes the operating system itself difficult to attack, this security is largely circumvented by the relative ease with which malware authors can provide their ‘products’ and dupe users into installing it on their own devices, with the necessary permissions to straightforwardly use the device (and the user’s data) for the attacker’s own benefit.”
The Android malware families most commonly reported in that period were Ginmaster, Fakeinst and Smssend, which either harvest data from the device or send premium-rate SMS messages.
The F-Secure report also found that web based attacks, which typically involve techniques that redirect the browser to malicious websites, were the most commonly reported type of attack for the period, making up 26 percent of malware detections, followed by the Conficker worm with 20 percent.
“The three most common exploits detected during the period were all Java-related,” the report said. “Java exploits, however, declined compared to [the first half of] 2013. Mac malware continues a slight but steady increase, with 51 new families and variants detected in 2013.”
The change, which will be rolled out gradually according to a Yahoo spokeswoman, will require users to register for a Yahoo ID in order to use any of the Internet portal’s services.
The move marks the latest change to Yahoo by Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, who is striving to spark fresh interest in the company’s Web products and to revive its stagnant revenue.
“Yahoo is continually working on improving the user experience,” the company said in a statement, noting that the new process “will allow us to offer the best personalized experience to everyone”.
The first Yahoo service to require the new sign-in process is Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick’Em, a service focused on the NCAA college basketball tournament which begins later this month. News of the change to Yahoo’s Tourney Pick’Em sign-in process was first reported by the technology blog Betanews.
Since Mayer took the reins in 2012, the company has rolled out new versions of many of its key products, including Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Finance. Last year, Yahoo announced a program to recycle inactive Yahoo user IDs, letting new users claim email addresses that have not been used for more than 12 months.
In eliminating the Facebook and Google sign-in features, Mayer, a former Google executive, is effectively reversing a strategy that Yahoo adopted in 2010 and 2011 under then CEO Carol Bartz.
The change to the Tourney Pick’Em sign-in process began on Monday, the Yahoo spokeswoman said, noting that users could still access other services with Google or Facebook IDs.
The sign-in buttons for Facebook and Google will eventually be removed from all Yahoo properties, the Yahoo spokeswoman, though she declined to provide a timeframe.
Worldwide sales of tablets to end users totaled 195.4 million units, fueled by sales of low-end, smaller screen devices, and purchases by first time buyers, the company reported.
Android has become the biggest tablet operating system with 62% of the market. In 2012, Google’s OS trailed Apple’s iOS by a margin of about 8 million tablets, but by the end of last year had turned that into a 50 million-unit lead.
The Android camp led by Samsung sold almost 121 million tablets, for a 61.9% share, compared to 53.3 million units and a 45.8% share in 2012. Apple’s tablet sales increased from 61.5 to 70.4 million units, but because the overall market grew faster, the company’s share dropped from 52.8% to 36%.
Microsoft’s Windows tablet sales improved but the share remained small at 2.1%, with shipments growing from 1.2 million to 4 million units. To compete, Microsoft needs to create a more compelling ecosystem for consumers as well as developers across all mobile devices, Gartner said.
Apple’s strong fourth quarter helped it maintain the top position among the manufacturers. Samsung, ranked in second place, had the biggest growth of the worldwide tablet vendors, at 336 %. The expansion and improvement of its Galaxy tablet portfolio, together with a lot of marketing, helped Samsung shrink the gap with Apple.
Samsung sold 37.4 million tablets for a 19.1% slice of the market.
The rest of the top 5 was made up of Asus, Amazon.com and Lenovo. Of those three companies, Lenovo did particularly well with tablet sales growing by 198% to 6.5 million units, or a 3.3% market share. The company’s success was due to a combination of new tablet models launched during the second half of last year, and sales of its Yoga model and its Windows tablets doing particularly well, Gartner said.
However, Lenovo is still behind Asus, with 11 million units sold, and Amazon, with 9.4 million. Asus’ market share grew from 5.4% to 5.6%, while Amazon’s share declined from 6.6% to 4.8%.
As the tablet market becomes even more competitive, this year it will be critical for vendors to improve user experience, technology and ecosystem value beyond just hardware and cost, Gartner said.
Sprint Corp and the federal government both agreed to fight in court over how much money law enforcement agencies owe the wireless provider for help the company was required to give investigators who wanted to tap phone calls.
The Obama administration filed a suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Monday, alleging that Sprint overcharged the government $21 million for expenses it incurred while complying with court-ordered wiretaps and other surveillance help.
Sprint said it plans to defend the matter “vigorously.”
Telecommunications companies, including Sprint, are routinely asked to assist with investigations by helping facilitate phone surveillance such as wiretaps or so-called “pen registers,” which record data about phone calls, though not their content.
The companies are required to maintain equipment and facilities to be ready to assist. They are allowed to request reimbursements for related “reasonable expenses.”
In the case, San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag alleged that Sprint “knowingly submitted false claims” to the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Marshals Service and other law enforcement agencies from January 1, 2007 to July 31, 2010, inflating costs by about 58 percent.
The lawsuit said Sprint violated the anti-fraud law known as the False Claims Act and went against the federal regulations that prohibit carriers from using the reimbursements for wiretap cooperation to pay for updates to their equipment, facilities and services.
“Because Sprint’s invoices for intercept charges did not identify the particular expenses for which it sought reimbursement, federal law enforcement agencies were unable to detect that Sprint was requesting reimbursement of these unallowable costs,” the Justice Department said in the lawsuit.
Sprint, however, said its invoices to the federal agencies fully complied with the law that requires the government to reimburse reasonable costs incurred in assisting law enforcement agencies with electronic surveillance.
“We have fully cooperated with this investigation and intend to defend this matter vigorously,” said Sprint spokesman John Taylor.
The False Claims Act is the U.S. government’s main tool for recovering money when it think it has been defrauded, usually by a contractor such as an arms maker or hospital chain.
The site, which enables strangers to meet for shared-interest activities ranging from parents’ groups to software development, was back online but still being attacked , Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman told Reuters.
Meetup has refused to pay the small ransom as it believes doing so would make the perpetrators of the attacks demand more money.
“It’s a cat and mouse game,” Heiferman said, adding he was not yet sure how long it would take to keep the site reliably online.
A Meetup blog had earlier said the company was a victim of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) campaign, a type of attack that knocks websites offline by overwhelming them with incoming traffic. It said that no personal data, including credit card information, had been accessed.
Heiferman said he was open to the possibility of some financial relief for members who pay between $12 and $17 a month to organize Meetup groups in their geographic and thematic areas of interest. He said his first priority was to resume the service of creating communities wholly via an Internet connection.
“we’re going to come out of this much stronger. And I don’t mean that as just a trite euphemism, I mean it literally. Like, we are going to be much more secure,” he said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating the attack since late last week when the assumed criminal group first offered to withhold it if Meetup paid $300.
The attack was the first in the site’s 12-year history, and Heiferman defended the move not to pay the paltry ransom.
“We made a decision not to negotiate with criminals,” he said in the post. “Payment could make us (and all well-meaning organizations like us) a target for further extortion demands as word spread in the criminal world.”
Meetup has almost 17 million members and, when online, was signing up between 15,000 and 20,000 people every day.
The site represents a soft target for online criminals, who often attempt to extort companies in return for calling off DDoS attacks, said Kevin Johnson, chief executive of cybersecurity consultancy Secure Ideas.
“It’s very common for this sort of attack to start off with a small demand,” Johnson said. “It’s not like Meetup can write a check for a million dollars.”
Heiferman’s blog post said the site should be able to protect itself over time, even though it has struggled to stay online since the attacks began on Thursday morning. He said Meetup spent millions of dollars a year to secure its systems.
The Meetup site and related mobile apps have been intermittently unavailable since Thursday.
Cisco has leant its support to the Internet of Things (IoT) with a security competition.
The “Internet of Things Grand Security Challenge” will be offering prizes of up to $300,000 for innovations designed to close security loopholes surrounding internet-connected objects.
Because the IoT is a loose concept rather than a standard or protocol, the criteria for the solutions are quite far reaching, with a Cisco blog post citing that it will evaluate entries based on:
Feasibility, scalability, performance, and ease-of-use
Applicability to address multiple IoT verticals (manufacturing, mass transportation, healthcare, oil and gas, smart grid, etc.)
Technical maturity/viability of proposed approach
Proposers’ expertise and ability to feasibly create a successful outcome
We now live in a world where even the most benign objects are hackable and the numbers of devices involved will only increase, so it therefore will become imperative that the interconnectivity involved does not overstep boundaries of safety or privacy.
Sierra Wireless recently launched Legato, a Linux distro specifically engineered for the IoT, which actually plays up its capacity for gathering Big Data. Meanwhile the IT industry continues to be excited about the IoT with Intel claiming it will be the next major disrupter in tech.
Winners of Cisco’s security challenge will be announced this Autumn at the Internet of Things World Forum, with six prizes of between $50,000-$75,000 up for grabs, as well as the overall winner’s $300,000 bounty.
The U.S. company’s CarPlay makes its debut in Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles at the show, demonstrating the software system that allows drivers to control their iPhones via touch and voice, Apple revealed on Monday.
Carmakers have already enabled some access to smartphones via Bluetooth technology, but Apple’s latest offering aims to integrate iPhone functionality more seamlessly with dashboard-mounted display and speaker systems.
CarPlay enables drivers to access to contacts stored on the iPhone, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands from the steering wheel.
Drivers can also use maps, listen to music and access messages “with just a word or a touch”, Apple said. Drivers will also be able to read messages and dictate responses via Apple’s voice-activated Siri software.
Apple said that CarPlay will also be available in cars from manufacturers including BMW,Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp.
It is, for the moment, just a conspiracy theory, and it goes something like this: Microsoft wants to get out of the games console business. It’s planning to package up the Xbox part of the Devices & Studios division and separate it off from the rest of the company, so it can be sold as a going concern. Who’s buying? Amazon, which views acquiring Xbox as a step towards dominance of the living room. If there’s anything to this theory at all, the coming year or two could see the end of Microsoft Xbox and a warm welcome for Amazon Xbox.
Let’s lay all the cards on the table. The evidence is sketchy and circumstantial. We know that Microsoft is looking at some pretty major strategic changes in the wake of the appointment of new CEO Satya Nadella. Nadella’s focus throughout his career has been on the business end of Microsoft – servers, cloud services and enterprise tools – which remains in robust health compared to the troubled state of the firm’s consumer divisions. Choosing him as CEO could suggest that the company is aiming for a future focused on enterprise tools and platforms, not consumer products.
Then there’s the man who wasn’t chosen as CEO, Stephen Elop. Elop used to work at Microsoft, then became CEO of Nokia. Now that Nokia is selling its mobile phone division to Microsoft, Elop is back where he started. Moreover, he saw himself as a strong candidate for the CEO job when Steve Ballmer resigned. With Nadella in the CEO’s chair, Elop’s consolation prize is that he’s taking over as head of Devices & Studios. That’s a logical choice, since Devices & Studios will include Nokia under its umbrella, at least to some extent, so Elop will continue running his old Nokia team alongside the Xbox and Surface teams at Microsoft.
Given that, it would perhaps be more surprising if Elop wasn’t put in charge of Devices & Studios. His presence ought to ease the transition as Nokia is absorbed into Microsoft, a major acquisition that’s likely to cause some indigestion along the way. However, during the CEO selection process, while Elop was still in the running, Bloomberg reported that he had some very interesting plans for the company if he was running it. The reported plans included, notably, a willingness to sell off business units Elop viewed as distractions from Microsoft’s main goals – business units including the Bing search engine and the Xbox. As logical as his new job at Devices & Studios may seem, you can’t blame people for raising an eyebrow when a man who supposedly wanted to sell off the Xbox division is put in charge of the Xbox division.
It takes two to tango, so how about the Amazon side of the deal? Well, whispers of Amazon’s keen interest in the games market have flown around for months now, including rumours that the company has discreetly hired a number of veterans from the games industry while keeping their involvement quiet – for now. Last month, Amazon bought games studio Double Helix, fresh from working closely with Microsoft to prepare Killer Instinct as a launch title for Xbox One. Something is afoot. Occam’s Razor suggests a “Kindle” console, an Ouya-style box under the TV linked to Amazon’s digital content platform, but given the plethora of Android consoles currently underwhelming the market and failing to gain a foothold, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Amazon would want to make a much bolder move into the console space. Plus, Amazon certainly isn’t scared of making big acquisitions when it wants to open up a new market opportunity for itself – it’s hard to conceive of a cash value for Xbox, not least given how obfuscated the financials of the console business are, but I don’t doubt that Amazon could afford it if it really wanted to.
That’s it – that’s the conspiracy theory. I don’t deny for a second that the evidence, if you can call it that, is pretty thin. Microsoft is probably going to refocus on enterprise; a guy who wanted to sell Xbox is the new boss of that division, but he’s also the most logical choice for the job. Amazon is setting itself up for a big move into the games space and may (or may not) have hired some senior games people on the down-low. That’s the sum total of the evidence, and we should all bear that in mind. Even this article exists not to promote this theory, which I view as interesting but unsupported by the available information, but rather to evaluate, hypothetically, whether there is any real possibility of an Xbox spin-off and sale. In short, there’s no real evidence that Microsoft is going to do this thing, but it’s an interesting academic exercise to evaluate whether they could do it if they wanted, and whether a motivation to do so might exist.
So how hard, in theory, would it be to spin off and sell Xbox? The answer to that depends on what exactly Microsoft is proposing to sell. Xbox, as mentioned earlier, is part of the Devices & Studios division, which also houses Surface and will shortly be joined by Nokia. Some other odd things are rolled into this division, apparently. It was claimed last year that the patents which force Android device makers to cough up a fee to Microsoft for every handset they sell are held, for financial purposes, in Devices & Studios, thus accounting for a big chunk of the division’s revenue.
If Microsoft’s new management had come to view Xbox as a distraction that doesn’t fit with their new enterprise focus, one might reasonably ask if they’ll take the same view of Surface. That product which hasn’t performed well and has reportedly soured relationships between Microsoft and other hardware vendors, who aren’t terribly happy with the company from whom they license the Windows operating system suddenly being in direct competition with them. The company wouldn’t be happy about losing the patents related to Android, not least since Windows and Windows Phone presumably use the technology described by those patents as well, so that probably wouldn’t be included in any sale, but aside from that it’s plausible that Microsoft could sell the entire Devices & Studios operation, thus putting itself out of the hardware business entirely.
Alternatively, Microsoft could decide to hold on to Surface and simply divest itself of Xbox and the various Microsoft Game Studios operations. Surface would then be joined by Nokia in the much-reduced Devices division (no more studios!), which would be entirely focused on tablets and smartphones without the “distraction” of games. Such a disentanglement wouldn’t be terribly difficult, either. Xbox is actually fairly well divorced from the rest of Microsoft’s operations. Its operating system shares a visual language with the “Metro” interface of Windows 8 and Windows Phone, while various game-related elements of Microsoft’s other operating systems have also been given the “Xbox” and “Live” monikers. Bing, of course, runs on the Xbox dashboard. By and large, though, the technology and services which drive Xbox are divorced from the rest of Microsoft – although it’s worth noting that the much-vaunted Cloud functionality of Xbox One relies in part on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud services platform. Any buyout of Xbox would include various contracts ensuring that any Microsoft technologies or services upon which the console relies would continue to be provided to the new owner, so this would not be a major stumbling block.
A bigger question might be, would Microsoft even want to do this? That really depends how seriously you take the idea of “distraction”. Xbox One has had its thunder stolen by PS4, but is still selling well – and Xbox 360 was a major success. In fact, it’s the only success Microsoft has ever had in the consumer hardware space. Xbox proved Microsoft’s ability to create a great consumer brand and sell hardware to people. It’s a real bright spot in a few tough years for the company – especially compared to everything else it has attempted in the consumer space, from Zune and Surface to its latest operating system, Windows 8.
Why would you get rid of that? Well, you probably wouldn’t – but let’s brainstorm a motive. You could argue that Xbox is a bright spot that doesn’t have any real relevance to the rest of the company. Microsoft in the early 2000s wanted to reinvent itself as a consumer-facing company, but with Xbox being the only success in a small sea of failures, Satya Nadella is likely to try to bring the firm back to focusing on the enterprise market. As the oil tanker slowly turns around to head into more corporate seas, Xbox will be more and more at odds with the culture and mission of the rest of the company. It will arguably be a distraction both internally, where it won’t fit with Microsoft’s culture, and externally, where it will detract from a brand message that promotes Microsoft as a serious, corporate, business-focused partner for enterprise (as distinct from the more consumer-led branding of rivals Apple and Google). Selling off Xbox would generate cash (not that Microsoft needs it), streamline the company and start the new CEO’s tenure with a dramatic gesture that sets out his vision more clearly than any speech or press release.
In short, Microsoft could do this and, if we assume that upper management take the notion of “distraction” seriously and are genuinely willing to abandon the firm’s ambitions in the consumer devices space, there’s a motive for doing it. How about Amazon’s side of the table? This deal would cost billions; would Amazon stand to gain enough to justify that kind of outlay? After all, aren’t consoles a dying space? Plenty of pundits seem to expect that PS4 and XB1 will be the last generation of consoles. Would a company as smart as Amazon get sucked into a market that’s about to collapse?
Amazon, like Microsoft a decade ago, has major ambitions in the consumer devices space. The company built itself on the back of selling physical goods but has neatly sidestepped the so-called “innovator’s dilemma” by being more than willing to disrupt its own business. The world’s biggest seller of physical books became the world’s biggest promoter of ebook readers. Music downloads, streaming video, cloud services; Amazon has taken an active and enthusiastic interest in every field that might disrupt its existing businesses, seeking not to shut down threats but to be the biggest player in whatever comes next. It supplemented the Kindle e-reader with Kindle tablet devices whose market performance is largely unknown, but is thought by analysts to be one of the only genuine competitors to the iPad’s sales dominance. Anyone who owns a Kindle device knows that they are designed from the ground up to be a great interface to accessing and buying content from Amazon’s ecosystem. That’s Amazon’s play; own the media ecosystem, building the devices themselves if that’s what it takes.
That ambition is a pretty solid fit for the console business. Moreover, it can’t have escaped Amazon’s notice that Steam, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live together make up a big area of digital content provision in which it has no involvement right now. Amazon will also be paying careful attention to the interest around set-top boxes (like AppleTV and Google’s TV efforts) and Smart TVs. Here there’s huge potential for consumers to be accessing media ecosystems directly from their TVs and connected devices – again, a game in which Amazon has no skin. For Amazon, the ideal would be that when you want to watch or play something on your TV, you do so through Kindle interface that links right into Amazon’s digital library, just like the Kindle tablets work. Of course, an Android microconsole would achieve that goal, but it wouldn’t be of much interest to gamers – at best, it would capture a fringe of the market who engage with Kindle tablets.
Is appealing to gamers important? This comes back to the question of whether consoles are really dying – and honestly, who knows better about that question than Amazon? Amazon is the largest retailer in many countries. Not only does it see how many consoles and console games are sold, it also sees loads of connected information which is hidden from even game publishers. It knows how high-spending gamers are in other areas – whether they’re likely to buy a lot of gadgets, a lot of books, a lot of movies or albums. It knows how much they engage with the brands they love, whether they cross-promote to friends resulting in more sales, whether they leave reviews and promote products on social media. Amazon can make an estimation of the actual value of the core gamer market more accurately than any other company.
What is that estimate looking like? I don’t know, of course, but Amazon’s actions in the coming months are going to tell us a lot about it. Regardless of whether the Xbox conspiracy theory pans out, Amazon is going to make some kind of game-related move relatively soon. It will be interesting to see how much importance and focus the company places on the games space at that time.
Until we see more evidence, though, it’s impossible to construct a fully credible argument which places the future of Xbox anywhere but Microsoft. There’s simply not enough information out there to support that kind of conclusion. That said, there is a possible motive to sell on the part of Microsoft, and a possible motive to buy for Amazon. If I had to pin my colours to a mast on this, I’d say Microsoft is probably discussing a sale with interested parties, including Amazon, but hasn’t made a final decision on whether to start sale proceedings as yet. I also wouldn’t read too much into that, given that it’s the responsibility of management to consider such possibilities as part of their duty to the shareholders. Then again, under Microsoft’s new management, perhaps such things are being considered rather more seriously than before.
As in-vehicle electronics become more sophisticated to support autonomous driving, cameras, and infotainment systems, Ethernet has become a top contender for connecting them.
For example, the BMW X5 automobile, released last year, used single-pair twisted wire, 100Mbps Ethernet to connect its driver-assistance cameras.
Paris-based Parrot, which supplies mobile accessories to automakers BMW, Hyundai and others, has developed in-car Ethernet. Its first Ethernet-connected systems could hit the market as soon as 2015, says Eric Riyahi, executive vice president of global operations.
Parrot’s new Ethernet-based Audio Video Bridging (AVB) technology uses Broadcom’s BroadR-Reach automotive Ethernet controller chips.
The AVB technology’s network management capabilities allows automakers to control the timing of data streams between specific network nodes in a vehicle and controls the bandwidth in order to manage competing data traffic.
Ethernet’s greater bandwidth could provide drivers with turn-by-turn navigation while a front-seat passenger streams music from the Internet, and each back-seat passenger watches streaming videos on separate displays.
“In-car Ethernet is seen as a very promising way to provide the needed bandwidth for coming new applications within the fields of connectivity, infotainment and safety,” said Hans Alminger, senior manager for Diagnostics & ECU Platform at Volvo, in a statement.
Ethernet was initially used by automakers only for on-board diagnostics. But as automotive electronics advanced, the technology has found a place in advanced driver assistance systems and infotainment platforms.
Many manufacturers also use Ethernet to connect rear vision cameras to a car’s infotainment or safety system, said Patrick Popp, chief technology officer of Automotive at TE Connectivity, a maker of car antennas and other automobile communications parts.
Currently, however, there are as many as nine proprietary auto networking specifications, including LIN, CAN/CAN-FD, MOST and FlexRay. FlexRay, for example, has a 10Mbps transmission rate. Ethernet could increase that 10 fold or more.
The effort to create a single vehicle Ethernet standard is being lead by Open Alliance and the IEEE 802.3 working group. The groups are working to establish 100Mbps and 1Gbps Ethernet as de facto standards.
The first automotive Ethernet standard draft is expected this year.
The Open Alliance claims more than 200 members, including General Motors, Ford, Daimler, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Toyota, Volkswagen. Jaguar Land Rover, Renault, Volvo, Bosch, Freescale and Harman.
Broadcom, which makes electronic control unit chips for automobiles, is a member of the Open Alliance and is working on the effort to standardize automotive Ethernet.
The change was initially published to Steam’s private developer forums, but was ultimately leaked by a Reddit user known as “Sharkiller.”
The new Steamworks tools cover both fixed weeklong promotions, which developers can decide to join and then set a percentage discount, and custom promotions, where the price and duration can be decided up to a two-week maximum. Prior to this change, pricing in Steam sales was worked out in collaboration with Valve.
“As with the addition of a ‘Recently Updated’ section to Steam, this is another effort to shorten the distance between developers and customers,” Valve’s Alden Kroll said in a statement issued to Ars Technica.
“This new Steamworks tool allows developers to configure discounts for their own products, on their own schedules. They can define custom sale periods or opt in to regularly scheduled sales. This will enable developers to better coordinate their promotions with events, announcements, or major updates they are planning for their products.”
While there have been arguments both for and against the short, deeply discounted sales on Valve’s digital distribution platform, from a consumer perspective they have been instrumental in allowing Steam to become such a force in retail.
These new tools, and the freedom they give developers to control their own inventories, represent another bold step from Valve.
Gartner claims that the with all this big data swimming around, companies are headed for a huge crisis. No doubt the answer of course is to hire analysts to help out, and Gartner happens to know at least one firm that could do the job for a fee.
In a report issued this morning Gartner predicts that, by 2017, 33 percent of Fortune 100 organizations will experience an information crisis, due to their inability to effectively value, govern and trust their enterprise information. Andrew White, research vice president at Gartner said that there is an overall lack of maturity when it comes to governing information as an enterprise asset. Organisations, unable to organize themselves effectively for 2020 are unwilling to focus on capabilities rather than tools, and not ready to revise their information strategy, will suffer the consequences, he said.
Business leaders need to manage information, rather than just maintain it. “When we say ‘manage,’ we mean ‘manage information for business advantage,’ as opposed to just maintaining data and its physical or virtual storage needs,” said White.
“In a digital economy, information is becoming the competitive asset to drive business advantage, and it is the critical connection that links the value chain of organisations.”
The discipline of exploiting the various types of information created and managed inside and outside organizations is called enterprise information management (EIM). IT leaders must design EIM initiatives so that sharing and reusing information creates business value, and the value created must contribute to enterprise goals.
Ultimately, an EIM program must help an organization identify which information is important to its success — not all information is. It must evaluate a great deal of information and determine what qualifies as enterprise information. Gartner analysts said that, at present, over three-quarters of individual information management initiatives are isolated from each other within the same organisation. This leads to EIM not being realized, sustained or fully exploited.
“We recommend that IT leaders identify the crucial business outcomes that need improvement or that are being held by poor information management,” White said.
Companies need to determine the business processes and leaders most impacted by those outcomes, and use their findings to start setting priorities for a new EIM program. Finally, they need to adopt a program management approach for EIM, to identify work efforts, resource commitments, stakeholder expectations and metrics for success.