Subscribe to:

Subscribe to :: ::

Will Virtual Reality Go The Way Of 3D?

October 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-virtual-re-reVR startup Survios proudly announced last month that its futuristic co-op shooter Raw Data became the first VR title to generate revenues of $1 million in the span of a month. Steam Spy data showed that more than 33,000 people had purchased the $40 game, which is still in Early Access. That $1 million in revenues, however, brings up the million-dollar question: When $1 million represents the peak of success, how can VR developers actually make a living in this VR ecosystem?

Survios is in the enviable position of having raised $4 million from Shasta Ventures a couple years ago, when the studio was working on Project Holodeck. Without that money, working towards AAA on VR platforms like HTC Vive would be infinitely harder. That said, with claims of an attach rate of more than 20% for Raw Data, Survios believes it’s in a prime position to thrive in a AAA VR market as the installed base grows.

“The attach rate that we’ve had to the installed base, if we look 12 months down the road, 18 months down the road, where we believe the installed base will be, if the attach rate is even a fraction of what we currently have then we have a very sustainable business,” Hewish says.

“Price and reviews puts everything on the consumers’ shoulders but if there was some sort of designation, some way for the stores to designate that this is a full game or an experience, it would help the industry avoid consumer frustration”

“For us, we’re really taking a bit of a longer view when it comes to the business. We’re very fortunate that we have great backers, that we’re funded well enough to take a longer view. Our goal, if you’re looking at the existing console business or PC business or mobile business, those are all mature businesses where the objective for any developer or studio is revenue because you can have a fairly predictable outcome. If you put X amount of funding in and you can have a certain quality bar, you’re going to recoup your costs. It becomes much more important about being on time, on budget – it’s much more of a mature business model. With VR my point of view is it’s a new market and we are not at a point yet where it can sustain AAA development but we will get there.”

With that in mind, Hewish believes that it’s critical for Survios to “stake its claim” as a AAA VR studio now. He says that a lot of studios have struggled with having to make what are essentially demos, or more casual experiential titles instead of full-game efforts, because of the economics of VR. “There definitely is a tug and pull between those two ends of the spectrum and initially a lot of the discussion and a lot of the awareness was around experiential and short demo experiences. So for me the question was could the market go in that [AAA] direction? [If not] personally I believe the market would peter out,” he continues. “While there are a lot of cool experiences, I don’t think that’s enough to sustain a market or an industry. Being able to see that, while the market’s super nascent, we’re beginning to see AAA games come out and people do want them [is encouraging].”

Survios is eager to see the VR market evolve and hopes it’s part of the developer community that pushes it in exciting and new directions. The studio has a core tenet that it calls “Active VR,” and I can tell while talking to Hewish that he’s quite passionate about it.

“That is certainly central to our thesis. We really want the user to have a very active experience. It’s a key differentiator between this platform and others and it also touches on another thing, which is a soapbox item for me… VR and Active VR, this is an opportunity for the user to really feel heroic and to do things that you could never do in real life. It just kills me that there are games out there just recreating what you can do in real life; to me that’s just a missed opportunity,” he comments.

“I’m not bagging on anybody, I don’t have a specific developer in mind, and this is just an example since I don’t know if anyone’s done this, but why would I want to play chess in VR? I can do that in real life. I want to be heroic, with bad ass abilities and go into environments I could never see in real life and be extremely active in those environments. To me that’s the holy grail of VR, that’s what it offers. Getting that into consumers’ hands is the win for the medium.”

Hewish definitely sees eye-to-eye with Oculus CTO John Carmack on that front. The former id executive recently commented during Oculus Connect that too many VR developers are simply “coasting on novelty,” putting games into VR that don’t necessarily bring any additional value to players for being in VR.

“What he said definitely resonates a lot with me. At the same time, I agree from a business perspective. I saw this when I was working at Dreamworks Animation, when we were working on 3D movies. We were making movies specifically made for 3D so the entire pipeline and production process was different than a traditional 2D animated film, yet a lot of studios across the industry would turn films into 3D in post-production, which really soured the audience because there was a premium price to go view those films. If it wasn’t really made from the get-go for 3D it was a little underwhelming. So from a market and business standpoint that really scares me because we all saw how that played out for film and there’s the potential in VR for that same problem where the consumer gets a little bit burned and walks away from the medium,” Hewish warns.

That being said, Hewish is fully aware of how tough it can be on VR developers at the moment. He doesn’t believe studios are taking shortcuts out of greed, but he would like to see better curation and discoverability on storefronts so that consumer fully understand what they’re downloading, whether a short demo-like experience or a full AAA game.

“I’m not ignorant of the reality that a lot of the developers are in. A lot of people are bootstrapping themselves; it’s a passion play to work with the technology and they just aren’t resourced to build larger games. It’s that tinkerer sort of approach – it’s not that these people hate VR and are trying to destroy the medium, but they are doing what they can with what they have. What I would love to see, which would be on the platform and store holder side, something that would allow the consumer to identify the difference not just solely based on price and reviews. Price and reviews puts everything on the consumers’ shoulders but if there was some sort of designation, some way for the stores to designate that this is a full game or an experience, it would help the industry avoid consumer frustration,” he notes.

Steam has already announced that it’s looking to improve its platform with more targeted surfacing of new releases. That’s a good first step, at least. “It’s just scary – having gone through the mobile days, the moniker the App Store got was the Crap Store and how do we avoid that [with VR]?” Hewish wonders.

Getting back to that million-dollar question, though, what Survios and other VR startups should be encouraged by is that it actually is possible to build compelling VR games without breaking the bank, compared to say the budgets needed for a Call of Duty or GTA.

“One thing that gives me real confidence in VR, which is different from what happened with 3D movies and even more so 3D television… neither one of those mediums had really good content to drive adoption. The content was expensive to create and the size of the market to recoup against that content creation was much, much larger than what we’re looking at with VR. With VR if you can confidently sell even a few hundred thousand units of a premium price point game, you’re going to be able to recoup your money because we’re not talking about productions on the scale of a movie or even a AAA console game like Call of Duty where they’re north of $100 million in development costs let alone marketing,” Hewish says.

That’s all well and good, but what advice does Hewish have for the VR startups that can’t get much if any funding currently? “First and foremost, just be very clear and upfront with the audience when you do release something. There’s nothing wrong [with AA content]… And of course you don’t want the industry to be in a situation where innovation is killed because people feel like if they don’t launch AAA they shouldn’t launch anything,” he says.

Hewish adds that one approach is to actually build your way up towards a full AAA release: “Say in your mind you have a AAA game you want to make and it’s got five core key features but you can’t fund it all at once, so maybe one approach is you release one mechanic at a time as an experience at a lower price point and along the way you’re getting enough income to sustain yourself and you’re building your core engine essentially. So you release five experiences, each one is a low price point, enough to keep you going and allow you to build the next experience and then when you’re done with all of those you’ve got your mechanics to build a bigger game. It’s sort of amortizing your costs across different SKUs. Then lastly, if you’ve got a really great idea and a great demo, there’s no harm in going to someone who might be able to help fund it further and help turn it into a AAA game. We’re going to start seeing the evolution and we already are seeing studios out there that are funding content and publishing.”

Indeed, Survios could become one of those publishers in addition to evolving into a multi-project VR studio. “Something that we’re looking at ourselves is looking at doing third-party publishing across all platforms,” Hewish tells me. “We definitely are working on additional games,” he adds. “The way that we’re built we have our core game studio and then we have our prototype team that’s part of the studio that works on rapid prototypes and iterations of different ideas and mechanics and we have a couple that have really hit and we are ramping up to get into full production on some of those to launch some additional games next year. We absolutely are looking at a portfolio approach to the business.”

Publishing deals and funding exclusives has been one way that Oculus has helped to grow the VR market, enabling some developers to build out more robust games than would have been possible otherwise. Oculus boasted during Oculus Connect that it’s invested $250 million into the ecosystem already and will invest another $250 million on top of that. And while there are many positives around this infusion of capital, Hewish cautions that developers have to think carefully about their studio approach.

“I think it’s one leg of the stool, and it’s important. It certainly doesn’t come without its risks, but I think it can be important in sustaining studios through the initial growth curve of the market. The risk is that as a studio if you’re given a big wad of cash to develop exclusively for one platform and you spend all of that on developing that game, then you don’t have an ongoing revenue stream to get you into the next game, and once the market matures those funds for exclusive content may be harder to get or may shift to go to developers that are proven in AAA, so it’s just a risk,” he advises.

“I would say any studio that does that should be planning, how do they survive after that? Where are they going to get funding next? Or have they put enough aside out of that investment to sustain into the next game when they aren’t getting funded for exclusives? Conversely, they could look to studios that are not doing platform exclusives,” he continues, hinting at Survios’ potential future in publishing. “With an Oculus or someone it might be more a straight work for hire model, fully funding an exclusive title, whereas for us it would be more a publisher model we’re looking at so there would be an ongoing revenue stream for the developer to help them grow.”

“The one thing we know looking back at history, within a couple years the hit genres and the hit content on VR may not be what we think it is currently or there’ll be something new that evolves”

Aside from the economics of development, one critical component that Survios has learned about from being in Early Access is optimization. “Being a startup, we are still trying to play catchup when it comes to having a robust compatibility lab and being able to test across multiple configurations. I hearken back to the day of making games for PCs and you really had to worry about the different configurations and drivers people had running on their machines and that’s really important in VR. We kind of developed on the hardware we had at the time so we’re playing catchup in that regard in terms of getting the performance and the optimization equal across all configurations. I would say going forward for any VR developer, really budgeting extra time for that and communicating to your audience that you’re working on it and engage them to give you feedback so you can optimize properly is pretty important. So we’re now budgeting extra time for optimization and performance into each of our spreads even if it means pushing content out a bit further,” Hewish notes.

Speaking of optimization, while Survios built Raw Data for Vive, the studio is platform agnostic and is working on bringing the game to other VR platforms, but they will have to be optimized against the strengths and weaknesses of each.

“I’ve been in the industry long enough where I’ve seen people just develop for a lead platform and port it across everything and it’s just a crap experience because they just simply get it to run and that kind of approach is not a AAA approach and could kill the market before it even gets going,” Hewish warns.

With that in mind, Raw Data will need special attention for something like PSVR, which doesn’t have the precise tracking of Vive. “We’ll take as long as we need to take to make sure that the experience is great on that platform,” Hewish stresses. “So what you’re saying about the Move and PS4, maybe we’ll do things like adjust the intensity of how quickly the enemies spawn or where they spawn from, or maybe we work on some of the haptics and some of the controls, or maybe we rewrite a little bit of stuff so the motion doesn’t need to be as precise… I’m just throwing stuff out there, not saying we’re actively doing these things. On the Vive we’re trying to get closer to 1:1 movement but maybe on Sony we go for a pattern movement that triggers an animation or something – so to the PSVR player it feels great.”

In the end, Hewish is just excited to be part of the VR revolution. “The one thing we know looking back at history, within a couple years the hit genres and the hit content on VR may not be what we think it is currently or there’ll be something new that evolves,” he says. “Like on mobile, it really brought back strategy games and iterated on those, and puzzle games, which had been around but they evolved to match the medium. VR has that same potential.”

Is Sharp Making A Comeback?

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Troubled Japanese television manufacturer Sharp is expecting significant improvement in annual profit due to restructuring with its new owner Foxconn.

Shares in the outfit soared more than 10 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that Sharp forecasts operating profit of about $385 million for the business year through March which was much better than expected.

Meeting the forecast would mark the first operating profit in three years for Sharp, which is rebuilding under Taiwan’s Foxconn which bought two-thirds of the telly maker in August.

Sharp slashed about 6,000 jobs in the last financial year through early retirement and an operations overhaul including withdrawal from its money-losing North American TV set business.

Sharp said it expected profit to improve but revenue to fall. Its shares subsequently jumped nearly 11 percent to their highest price in about six months, far outperforming the benchmark Nikkei average share price index.

However the prospects of Sharp’s mainstay display panel business are not that hot. The global panel market is on the cusp of improvement as a production cutback resolved a supply glut.

But Sharp still has to find ways to compete with Chinese peers rapidly expanding capacity, and with South Korean makers far ahead in next-generation technology.

Sharp said it would provide a full-year earnings forecast on 1 November when it announces its second-quarter results.


Will EA’s Battlefield 1 Be A Hit?

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

The conventional wisdom said that military first-person shooters avoided World War I because it wasn’t a “fun” war. EA DICE set out to prove the conventional wisdom wrong with Battlefield 1, and the initial wave of reviews suggests they succeeded.

As Polygon’s Arthur Gies noted in his 9 out of 10 review of the game, one of the ways DICE accomplished that was by using its single-player War Stories mode as a way to convey just how horrific the war really was.

“Battlefield 1 navigates the tonal challenges of the awful human cost of WWI well, in part by not ignoring them,” Gies said. “There’s a consistent acknowledgment of the abject terror and hopelessness that sat atop the people involved in the conflict on all sides, in part thanks to a grimly effective prologue. There’s also less explicit demonetization of the ‘enemy’ – something that feels like a real relief in the military shooter space, which seems hell-bent on giving players something they can feel good about shooting at.”

War Stories is a mostly unconnected series of short campaigns that total about six hours of playtime in total. The anthology puts players in the roles of different individuals in different combat zones, each one with their own distinct motivations and skill sets.

“Battlefield 1 feels like a move away from military shooter doctrine in plenty of ways,” Gies said. “But the biggest departure is in how little shooting there can be, at least compared to the game’s contemporaries. From tank pilot to fighter ace, from Italian shock trooper to Bedouin horse-back resistance fighter, I was never bored, because I was never doing the same thing for long.”

The change in setting also impacted the multiplayer portion of the game, which Gies appreciated. While DICE made some changes in player classes that Gies seemed to think unnecessary but “mostly fine,” he was particularly taken with the way the series’ signature physics-driven chaos and destruction felt fresh in a new (old) setting.

“Small issues aside, Battlefield 1 marks an impressive, risk-taking reinvention for the series,” Gies said. “That the multiplayer is as good and distinctive as it is is less surprising than a campaign that takes a difficult setting and navigates it with skill and invention. The end result is a shooter than succeeded far beyond my expectations, and one that exists as the best, most complete Battlefield package since 2010.”

Like Gies, GameSpot’s Miguel Concepcion gave the game a 9 out of 10. Also like Gies, Concepcion labelled the game as the best Battlefield since Bad Company 2, praising the War Stories single-player mode and its novel approach to entertaining while also attempting to inform players as to the horrors of the war.

“Beyond these heartfelt tales of brotherhood and solemn reflection, War Stories gracefully complements the multiplayer scenarios as a glorified yet effective training mode,” Concepcion said. “Along with practice time commanding vehicles and heavy artillery, it provides an opportunity to learn melee combat, as well as how to survive against high concentrations of enemy forces.”

Concepcion was also taken with the audiovisual impact of the game, long a selling point for the Battlefield franchise.

“However accurate or inaccurate Battlefield 1 is–lite J.J. Abrams lens effects notwithstanding–the immersive production values superbly amplify the sights and sounds that have previously existed in other war shooters,” Concepcion said. “Examples include the distinct clatter of empty shells dropping on the metal floor of a tank and the delayed sound of an exploding balloon from far away. The brushed metal on a specific part of a revolver is the kind of eye-catching distraction that can get you killed. Beyond the usual cacophony of a 64-player match, salvos from tanks and artillery guns add bombast and bass to the large map match. And many vistas are accentuated with weather-affected lighting with dramatic results, like the blinding white sunlight that reflects off a lake after a rainstorm.

“With Battlefield 1, EA and DICE have proven the viability of World War 1 as a time period worth revisiting in first-person shooters. It brings into focus countries and nationalities that do not exist today while also shedding light on how the outcome of that war has shaped our lives.”

In giving the game four stars out of five, Games Radar’s David Roberts also lauded the way DICE balanced a fun shooter with the horror of war.

“Even though Battlefield 1 skews toward fun rather than realism whenever it gets the chance, it’s as much about the reflection on the real history of these battles and the people who fought in them as it is about the gleeful embrace of ridiculous virtual combat,” Roberts said.

Like his peers, Roberts was impressed by the game’s War Stories single-player mode, but found the anthology format slightly restricting.

“As much as I enjoyed the narratives these missions tell, I wished each one had a little more time to breathe,” Roberts said. “Each chapter is about an hour long, and just when you get invested, they’re over. Battlefield 1’s War Stories barely skim the surface of the history, but – to be fair – this is in-line with the game’s focus on fun over fastidious accuracy.”

As for the multiplayer, Roberts said its “as good here as it’s ever been” for the Battlefield franchise. Even though the setting meant trading in the modern assault rifles of previous Battlefield games for more antiquated rifles and iron sights, Roberts said the overall impact has been an improvement on the game’s online modes.

He also found the franchise focus on destruction was given new meaning by its fresh context.

“When all’s said and done, when the matches end and the dust settles, you’ll see that large portions of the maps have transformed, their buildings pockmarked by blasts, their fortifications turned into piles of rubble,” Roberts said. “Even though bloody entertainment is at Battlefield 1’s heart, the post-game wasteland is a reminder of the toll that conflict takes on the people it consumes. Whether in single or multiplayer Battlefield 1 absolutely nails the historical sense of adventure and expectation before swiftly giving way to dread as the war takes a physical and mental toll on its participants. And this – as much as the intimate, brutal virtual warfare – is the game’s most impressive feat.”

While EGM’s Nick Plessas gave the game an 8 out of 10, he included slightly more critical comments than some other reviewers doling out equivalent scores. He was generally upbeat about the War Stories approach, but said it “misses the forest for the trees somewhat by not giving any story enough time for effectual investment.” He also identified two other issues that hamper the gameplay segments of the single-player mode.

“First, enemy AI leaves much to be desired, so that even on Hard difficulty your foes’ failure to react, flank, or recognize you as a threat syphons some of the fun out of fights,” Plessas said. “Second, the game adds a focus on stealth with a collection of mechanics like enemy awareness levels and distraction tools. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, the Battlefield games’ fast pace and stiff controls don’t suit stealth very well, and the enemies’ recurring AI deficiencies makes these sections a slog.”

As for online, Plessas said new features like Behemoth vehicles (zeppelins, trains, and warships) were well-handled, as were “elite” classes like flamethrower troops. The addition of cavalry troops and era-appropriate weapons and planes will also require players to adjust the tactics they might have relied on in previous Battlefield games. However, the adjustment may not be as drastic as one might expect.

“These comparisons are integral because they represent the crux of what is truly new in Battlefield 1,” Plessas said. “A World War I setting is novel indeed, but this installment in the franchise is fundamentally the Battlefield game we have played before-and returning players may fall into a familiar groove quicker than expected. This isn’t necessarily bad for those in love with Battlefield, however, and while the setting may be the most significant shift, those invested in the series will find Battlefield 1 as another terrific reason to load up.”


Facebook Continues To Lose Younger Users To Snapchat, Instagram

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

facebook-teens-150x150Facebook has been having a hard time attracting  younger users for several years now and it looks like the problem is getting worse.

According to Piper Jaffray Companies, a recent survey of 10,000 U.S. teenagers showed that 52% used Facebook at least once a month this fall, compared to 60% who used it monthly in the spring.

“Factoring out shifts in the population surveyed, core Facebook usage likely declined by three basis points, which indicates Facebook is gradually becoming less relevant versus Instagram and Snapchat,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research note to investors.

The same survey, however, showed that teen use of Facebook-owned Instagram has gone from 70% to 74% in the same time frame — and rose from 75% to 80% for rival Snapchat.

When asked what their favorite social network was this fall, 35% said Snapchat; 24% said Instagram; and 13% said Twitter and Facebook (which tied for third place).

While older users – say anywhere from 35 to 65 years old – have shown to be loyal Facebook users, the site isn’t pulling in enough users 24 and younger to offset losses as older users die off.

“Well, think about it,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “If Facebook just lost 8% of all teens, that’s millions of users…. Over time, they need to keep the funnel of users coming in on the younger side. I think it creates a huge issue down the road. It’s not likely they can add users that are of older generations. They probably have all they will get from anyone 30 and older.”

Facebook certainly has been working to draw in younger users.

In August, Facebook unveiled its Lifestage stand-alone app. Designed for iOS devices, the app enables teen users to share videos with other people in their schools.

Lifestage was born as a rival to Snapchat and basically a video version of an early stage Facebook.

Also, in March, the company bought face-swapping app Masquerade or MSQRD. The app enables users to dress up their photos and selfies with an Iron Man helmet or a panda outfit.

Facebook hoped that by being able to add special effects to their pics, teens and young adults would be pulled onto Facebook — or at least one of the apps. But so far, at least, those efforts don’t appear to be panning out.

AMD’s Zen To Add More Secure Enterprise Features

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel had been working to bake in security into the chip, but it seems that effort has drawn to a close with the selloff of its security division into a revamped McAfee company. Now AMD appears to be taking up the idea.

AMD has a cunning plan to push its Zen chips into the Enterprise market on the back of its new Secure Memory Encryption (SME) and Secure Encrypted Virtualisation (SEV) security features.

These new functions will help enterprises protect their databases that run on Zen servers and this could be just the edge required to get AMD back onto the corporate buy list.

This sort of tech is really useful on virtualised servers which are used through cloud hosts. This makes them affordable and flexible compared to hosting on a physical server. The virtual servers adjust accordingly the load it receives and no bandwidth is wasted.

Normally virtual servers are insecure because the data can be hacked, but the SME and SEV features will help servers protect the data.

So far Intel has not come up with any of this sort of function for its processors, despite the fact that was predicted when it wrote a big cheque for McAfee. What we are still waiting for is the information as to how the Zen chips will help consumer gamers who are leaning on discrete GPUs.


Is Qualcomm Moving Toward Iris And Retina World?

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm’s Sy Choundhury, Senior Director of Product Management, talked to the media audience in Hong Kong at the 4G and 5G summit about the security mechanisms and machine learning capabilities of Snapdragon processors. 

He came up with a nice reference when talking about security, saying it is comparable with talking about hygiene. You don’t know where it starts and where it stops and this topic doesn’t get a lot of traffic unless one gets hacked / compromised.

Sy talked about security beyond fingerprint and predicts that eye-based security will happen with a lot of OEM devices next year.

Fingerprint sounds secure and it is good enough for most customers, but it looks like eye-based technologies will take over in more devices over the next year.

Microsoft and HP launched rather low volume Windows-based phones, first with iris-based recognition last year. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was the high volume phone that got positive reviews on iris recognition and security performance.

Unfortunately, Samsung canned the Note 7 due the battery issues but there will be more phones with iris security in the near future. Some companies chose to use the retina recognition, which is interesting as it doesn’t require any additional hardware. While iris recognition needs additional hardware that adds a few dollars to the Bill of Materials (BOM), retina scanning uses the RGB camera that you already have on your phone.

The downside is that you need a lot of computation power on both the CPU and GPU side, but since the SoCs are getting better and faster this should be a matter of software optimization to really make good use of the mobile chipsets.

Iris scanning seems to be an industry leader, and it will coexist with retina scanning, but it can take up to 4 years for both iris and retina sensors to be as widely used as fingerprint sensors are used now. Not to mention, security experts will love the fact that with iris and fingerprint sensors, you can get a two-factor authentication.

Companies like AliPay are investing a lot of money and they acquired EyeVerify, the company that was working on a retina-based verification solution. AliPay naturally works on a secured payment and as many of you know Apple Pay, along with Android Pay and Samsung Pay do rely on a fingerprint and with that authentication they do quite a good job.

Face recognition is also something that might be used by some devices and there is a lot of research about it as apparently your face has enough distinctive features to make it work reliably.

The future will bring some additional ways of security, and should be viewed as a good thing. Despite the whole fuss, most computers still use passwords, and most homes still use a physical key to unlock.


Qualcomm’s First 5G Modem Coming In 2017

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Qualcomm has surprised the audience at the 4G/5G summit this week in Hong Kong by launching the world’s first 5G modem. The Snapdragon X50, as it is called, supports operations in the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum in the 28GHz band.

It will employ Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques. Before we get you any additional details, we want to let you know that with 800 MHz bandwidth support, you get to peak download speeds of 5Gbps. That translates to about  625MB/s maximum download speed.

Qualcomm’s X16 modem is the world’s first gigabit-class modem that can theoretically get you to 1000Mbps, or 125MB/s maximal speed.

One of the limitations of the mmWave spectrum is that it doesn’t really penetrate walls, but with the help of beam forming and beam tracking the signal can propagate off walls and get you the desired speeds.

Snapdragon X50, on the other hand, is a chip that works together with Snapdragon 4G modems. Since Snapdragon X50 is launching in the second part of 2017, it should launch in devices in 2018. Fudzilla wrote before that 2018 is the year when real life trials of 5G networks will start around the world. The real deployment is expected by 2020 by at least major telecoms, but you got to start somewhere.

“The Snapdragon X50 5G modem heralds the arrival of 5G as operators and OEMs reach the cellular network and device testing phase,” says Cristiano Amon, Executive Vice President, QTI and President, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies. “Utilizing our long history of LTE and Wi-Fi leadership, we are thrilled to deliver a product that will help play a critical role in bringing 5G devices and networks to reality. This shows that we’re not just talking about 5G, we’re truly committed to it.”

The 5G modem will need a 4G modem to use the standard LTE 1 Gbps class services. The Snapdragon X80 is designed to be used for multi-mode 4G/5G mobile broadband via dual connectivity.

The Snapdragon X50 will provide 5G services while Snapdragon X16 will provide traditional 4G LTE-A services. Naturally with times we can see that the 4G part will get integrated in the 5G modem, but this is a bit down the road from now.

If you have any doubts that 5Gbps peak speeds are too much, you think about 360 videos, 4K and 8K video, virtual reality streaming, and you will quickly realize that we will one again be able to eat up the data.

The data caps will largely increase, but just give it some time. T-Mobile in the US has a sort of unlimited data plan today, and things will only get better from this point.


Is Mobile Virtual Reality A Novelty?

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Chief technology officer at Oculus, John Carmack, says mobile VR is currently “coasting on novelty” and developers need to be harder on themselves.

According to CNET, Carmack told the assorted throngs at the Oculus Connect event that developers need to pull their socks up and create experiences on par with non-VR applications and games.

“We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before But we need to start judging ourselves. Not on a curve, but in an absolute sense. Can you do something in VR that has the same value, or more value, than what these other [non-VR] things have done?”

Carmack moaned about the higher loading times in mobile VR games as a key area in need of improvement. Users should not have to sit through 30 seconds given the brevity of most currently available VR experiences. Although he has clearly never tried to play Total War II whose screens take ages to load.

Still Carmack said that 30 second loads are acceptable if you’re going to sit down and play for an hour “…but in VR initial startup time really is poisonous. If your phone took 30 seconds to unlock every time you wanted to use it. You’d use it a lot less.”

That is true, the daft screen saver/adware/alleged resource saving software makes turning on my wife’s phone an exercise in futility.

He added: “There are apps that I wanted to play, that I thought looked great, that I stopped playing because they had too long of a load time. I would say 20 seconds should be an absolute limit on load times, and even then I’m pushing people to get it much, much lower.”


Is Samsung Ready For The Galaxy S8

October 14, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Just moments after Samsung officially confirmed that it is stopping  production of Note 7 and halting all  sales, the first realistic Galaxy S8 rumors have emerged. 

According to a leak on the Weibo social network there will be two variants of the Galaxy S8 – the 5.1-inch and 5.5 inch. We are quite sure that the 5.5-inch version comes with an edge shaped screen and it is likely to be imaginatively called the Samsung Galaxy S8 Edge.

According to the leak, both versions of the S8 will use Super Amoled screens. The 5.1 version comes with a QHD (2560×1440) while the 5.5 version might have a 4K display.

As we indicated before, there will be two processers powering the Galaxy S8 phones. One is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 830 while the other is the Exynos 8895. The Snapdragon 830 can be safely called the 10nm successor of Snapdragon 820. The Exynos 8895 will likely use the same processor.

It is likely that Samsung will offer Exynos powered phones in the European market and leave us with a less attractive modem. The US and some other markets will end up with the better Qualcomm variant.

The Galaxy S8 comes with two main cameras, that is the current trend for high end phones and it will incorporate the UFS 2.1 flash storage.

One not so surprising announcement is that the Samsung’s S Voice might be replaced by the Viv assistant. Samsung just bought  Viv – the digital assistant that was created by one of the people who gave the world  Siri.

Most of the leaked information make sense, but again, we will have to wait and see if the information is really accurate. It would make a lot of sense to see Galaxy S8 phones with the specifications mentioned above. Some colleagues are confident that the phone may launch on February 26 2017. We are confident the launch might take place a day or two before the Mobile World Congress 2017, that takes place in Barcelona and starts on 27 February.


Can Google Sell 4 Million Overpriced Pixels By Years End?

October 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-over-pixelAccording to new estimates from Digitimes Research, the recently announced Google Pixel smartphone is expected to reach 3 to 4 million shipments in the second half of this year, giving a 10 percent increase in HTC’s total smartphone shipments from the first half.

Google’s latest Pixel and Pixel XL devices come in 5-inch and 5.2-inch display sizes and feature a quad-core Snapdragon 821 processor, a 12.3-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front camera and look very similar to Apple’s iPhone from an aesthetic perspective. Pricing is also very similar, as the Pixel starts at $649 for 32GB and the Pixel XL starts at $769, while the iPhone 7 is also $649 for 32GB and the iPhone 7 Plus is $769 for 32GB.

Performance similar to Snapdragon 820 devices

Recently, the performance of the latest Snapdragon 821-powered flagship Android devices has become a recent site of investigation, When averaging the top eight Geekbench 4.0.1 scores sorted by multi-core performance, the results show the Pixel and Pixel XL receiving scores of around 1,603 single-core and 4,106 multi-core, still lower on average than the iPhone 6S (2,506 / 4,320). Meanwhile, the A10-powered iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus manage scores of around 3,473 single-core and 5,707 multi-core.

For the most part, the Pixel and Pixel XL seem more in line with the HTC 10 (1,745 / 3,961) and LG G5 (1,699 / 4,108), both of which feature the Snapdragon 820 with 2.15GHz high-performance cores and 1.6GHz power-efficient cores. The Snapdragon 821 features two 2.4GHz high-performance cores and two 2GHz power-efficient cores, meaning Google’s Pixel smartphones should be at least 10 percent faster than these devices, but this does not seem to be the case in this benchmarking utility for now.

Battery life is another story entirely, and this is where the Snapdragon 821 shows improvement over Snapdragon 820 devices including the previous Nexus 5X and 6P. Internet browsing over LTE improves by 60.2 percent over the Nexus 5X and 30 percent over the 6P, while talk time improves about 30 percent over the Nexus 5X and 13 percent over the 6P, according to a list compiled independently by Reddit user TyGamer125.

Pixel, Pixel XL will be 40 to 50 percent of HTC shipments

Meanwhile, Google’s launch of the HTC-manufactured Pixel smartphones is projected to increase HTC’s total handset shipments to around 6.5 and 7 million units by the end of the year, up from between 5.8 and 6.1 million units in the first half.

According to Luke Lin, a senior analyst at Digitimes Research, Pixel shipments should account for around 40 to 50 percent of HTC’s total smartphone shipments in the second half of this year.


Shipments Of Apple, Microsoft Devices To End 2016 Down

October 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

apple-and-microsoft-devices-150x150Shipments of devices ran by Apple’s and Microsoft’s operating systems will end 2016 down from the year before. But Apple’s will recover next year, while Microsoft’s will continue with growth challenges, research firm Gartner said this week.

In 2017, Apple’s combination of iOS and macOS — the former powering iPhones, the latter Macs — will have taken second place from Windows on the devices shipped during the year. The gap between the two will widen slightly in 2018.

According to Gartner, which provided Computerworld with its forecast broken out by operating system, Windows will power about 260 million devices shipped in 2016, a 12% decline year-over-year. The 260 million represents 11.2% of the total of 2.3 billion total devices, which overwhelmingly run Google’s Android.

Gartner has progressively downsized its estimates of total devices shipped and Windows’ portion of those shipments, throughout 2015 and 2016. In March 2016, for example, the research firm projected that more than 2.4 billion devices would ship this year, and that Windows would power 283 million, or 11.7% of the total.

Microsoft’s shrinking share of the operating system market has been both ongoing and well documented. This year, however, Windows took a new hit as Microsoft quit the battle with Apple and Google when it walked away from the smartphone business.

But Windows now has company: Gartner also downgraded its 2016 forecast for Apple’s operating systems.

In 2016, iOS and macOS will account for 259 million of the year’s shipped devices, or 11.1% of the total. The 259 million represents a 7% decline from 2015’s 276 million, and is down 14% from the March 2016 forecast. The cause: Soft sales of the iPhone, Apple’s dominant device, by far.

iOS and macOS, however, will recover in 2017, Gartner predicted, climbing 9% to 280 million — admittedly only a few million more than during 2015 — and adding 3% in 2018 to reach 290 million.

Under the latest Gartner forecast, Windows should drop another 3%, to 253 million, in 2017, then claw back a half a percentage point to 254 million in 2018.

Overall, Gartner’s latest forecast was gloomier for almost every device category than earlier estimates.

Apple’s $120 M Patent Infringement Award Reinstated Against Samsung

October 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

apple-vs-samsung-3-150x150A federal appeals court has reinstated a $120 million jury award granted to Apple Inc against Samsung, marking the latest twist in the fierce patent battles between the world’s top smartphone makers.

The court said that there was substantial evidence for the jury verdict related to Samsung’s infringement of Apple patents on its slide-to-unlock and auto-correct features, as well as quick links, which automatically turn information like addresses and phone numbers into links.

Friday’s decision was made by the full slate of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. In an 8-3 ruling, the judges said that a previous panel of the same court should not have overturned the verdict last February.

The three-judge panel did not follow U.S. Supreme Court limits on the scope of its review, because it examined evidence outside the record of the case, the decision said.

Representatives for Samsung and Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

The appeal stems from a May 2014 verdict from a federal court in San Jose, California, which ordered Samsung to pay $119.6 million for using the Apple features without permission.

Infringement of the quick links feature accounted for nearly $99 million of the damages.

The jury had also found that Apple infringed a Samsung patent on digital photo technology and awarded $158,400 in damages. Friday’s decision upholds that award.

The two companies have been battling over mobile device technology patents for years, with Apple mostly prevailing.

In December, Samsung paid Apple $548.2 million stemming from a separate patent case. Part of that dispute has been appealed to the Supreme Court, which will hear it on Tuesday.

The case is Apple Inc v. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd et al, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, No. 15-1171.


Micron’s Profits Looking Good

October 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Memory-chip maker Micron Technology reported better-than-expected fourth quarter revenue, which saw its smallest decline in a year, as pricing improves and the personal computer market starts to make its big comeback.

Micron ‘s accountants said that there would be a first-quarter adjusted profit of 13-21 cents per share, while analysts were expecting a profit of only nine cents. This means that the company ahs made its first profit in three quarters.

The maker of DRAM chips used in PCs and NAND flash memory chips has enjoyed a recovery in the last six months as the PC market picks up.Micron CEO Mark Durcan said:

“We are seeing improving market conditions in terms of both slowing supply growth and improving demand across a number of key segments,”

With DRAM prices rebounding to seven month highs, Micron is seeing the supply glut in the market has dried up following aggressive cut backs in production amid signs of a bounce back in demand.

Prices of both DRAM and NAND chips are expected to rise in the fourth quarter. The latest quarter included a $58 million charge related to a restructuring program the company announced in the third quarter. Micron’s net sales fell 10.6 percent to $3.22 billion in the fourth quarter. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $3.15 billion.


MediaTek Goes 2.5 GHz With The Helio P25

October 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-heli-mediatekJust as it did with Helio X20, Mediatek is about to release a faster than the base original of the P20 called the P25. 

MediaTek already spilled the beans about the Helio P20 at the Mobile World Congress in February and revealed a few key details. Helio P20 is an octa-core FinFET processor manufactured using the 16nm TSMC process.  It has eight Cortex A53 cores clocked up to 2.3GHz. It supports a 24-megapixel camera, full HD resolution 1920×1080 screen and a Cat 6 LTE modem with 2×20 carrier aggregation at 300/50Mbps data speed. We are sure that Helip P20 will put a lot of pressure on the Snapdragon 652 or its sucessor whenever Qualcomm announces it. 

The new Mali T880 graphics unit is clocked at a speedy 900MHz and the new SoC might be the world’s first to use the LPDDR4X. MediaTek invested a lot of time improving its MediaTek Imagiq Image Signal Processor (ISP) by adding advanced 12bit Dual ISP supports Bayer and Mono sensors. These elevates picture quality by reducing noise and capturing three times more light than conventional Bayer + Bayer sensors. It also has dual phase-detection autofocus which achieves real-time auto focus that is four times faster than traditional autofocus systems. The 3A HW engine upgrades for more natural, responsive and detailed photographs and powerful multi-scale temporal de-noising technologies which renders videos and photography more accurately, with less noise, even in low light.

The Helio P25 is faster because of its Cortex A53 cores clocked to 2.5GHz. It might have a faster GPU too but this was not revealed. Helio P25.

Helio P10 secured lots of design wins and the Helio P20 / P25 should continue that tradition when it is launched later this year. MediaTek promised Helio P20 in the second half of 2016 and so far, the only phone we could find announced and listed is the Elephone P20. This phone didn’t ship despite the fact we have entered the last quarter of this year.

Manufacturing a phone takes quite some time despite the fact that MediaTek is shipping Helio P20 to manufacturers as we speak.


Sharp Goes All-In On OLED

October 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Japan’s Sharp is to spend $570 million on its OLED screen business in one of the first major investments since it was taken over by Foxconn.

While the figure sounds large, if you have ever tried to get a mortage, it is actually rather small compared to what Sharp’s South Korean rivals are spending on OLED development.

Sharp said it will invest in pilot production lines at its plants in Osaka and in Mie prefecture, western Japan, which are due to start between April and June 2018.

New CEO Tai Jeng-wu has previously said that Sharp will work with Japan Display on OLED displays. Foxconn took control of Sharp last month in a deal that gives its access to the Japanese firm’s advanced screen technology. That move was probably to squeeze more cash out of its major client Apple. But it is pretty clear that something has to be done with OLEDs.

Research firm IHS has forecast that shipments of OLED smartphone panels will overtake LCDs in 2020.


Next Page »