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Is FitBit King Of Wearables?

December 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

You might not be aware of it, because the Tame Apple Press is going on an offensive, but Apple is losing the wearable’s market to Fitbit.

Today the tech press was full if a bizarre story claiming that Apple was going to clean up this Christmas with its iWatch. This is news to use because we knew that sales in the iWatch were falling. Nevertheless, Tim Cook was being quoted on Reuters as saying this would be the best Christmas ever for Jobs’ Mob’s iWatch.

We wondered how the story even got printed but it turned out it was because another report came out from IDC which revealed that not only were Smartwatch shipments down 51.6 percent in the third quarter of 2016 but Apple’s iWatch sales had fallen by 71 percent.

The IDC report show that the overall wearables market is up 3.1 percent year over year, but the winner is Fitbit and not Apple.

Fitbit saw a year on year growth of 11 percent. It shipped 5.3 million units in Q3 2016, representing a 23 percent share of the market. The company looks set to acquire Pebble and eventually offer a true smartwatch of its own, cementing its position at the top of the pile.

Chinese giant Xiaomi sits in second place with a 16.5 percent market share and 3.8 million units shipped in Q3, while fitness brand Garmin is in third position with a 5.7 percent market share and device shipment volumes of 1.3 million.

Apple is in fourth place and Samsung is the last manufacturer on the list. It may only have a 4.5 percent market share thanks to its 1 million shipped units, but that still represents YoY growth of almost 90 percent.

Courtesy-Fud

Sony Plans To Release Six Smartphone Games Next Year

December 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

sony-smartphone-games-150x150Japan’s Sony Corp  will release as many as six mobile phone games in the next year, looking to build on its own gaming franchises success off of console rival Nintendo Co’s Pokemon GO.

The upcoming titles will free up some of Sony’s popular gaming franchises, such as Everybody’s Golf, from PlayStation consoles to make them available on Apple Inc’s  iOS and Google’s Android mobile platforms.

An aggressive push into the rapidly growing segment is seen as a necessity for Sony as its games unit has emerged as the group’s largest profit contributor following an overhaul of the group’s consumer electronics business.

Sony revealed on Wednesday a total of 10 mobile gaming titles it is working on, including those to be released in the financial year starting in April. The 10 titles include PaRappa the Rapper and Arc The Lad.

They will be available initially in Japan and eventually in other Asian countries, Tomoki Kawaguchi, executive director of Sony’s mobile gaming unit, told reporters.

The announcement comes before Nintendo debuts its game franchise Super Mario Bros on Apple’s iPhone next week.

While disappointing sales of Wii U consoles helped push Nintendo into mobile gaming, Sony has been a decisive winner in console gaming with over 40 million PlayStation 4 sales, almost double the sales of Microsoft Corp’s XBox One.

But Sony is facing the increasing threat from mobile in countries such as Japan, the world’s third largest game market where mobile gaming accounts for more than half of the $12.4 billion market, according to games research firm Newzoo.

Sony has launched some games for smartphones through its music entertainment unit but failed to fully introduce mobile gaming to its PlayStation business.

Analysts doubt Sony’s chances of major success in mobile gaming, citing a lack of powerful characters like Nintendo’s Super Mario and Donkey Kong, which have achieved widespread appeal globally.

Will EA Copy Activision’s Gaming Strategy With Battlefield?

December 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

According to the announcement made by EA earlier this week, it appears that there won’t be any new Battlefield game for a “couple of years”.

The announcement, which says that there are no plans for a new Battlefield game for another “couple of years”, was made during EA’s Investor Program by EA’s chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen and came as a rather big surprise, especially considering that the latest Battlefield 1 was a big success.

It appears that EA will be rather focusing on Battlefront, the Star Wars themed game, and the next one will be both “much bigger” and “much more exciting”, which was something that was a big drawback of the first Battlefront.

Of course, EA still plans to release those four expansion packs but we do not know any future plans for the franchise.

Hopefully, this also means that EA will have something special in store for future Battlefield titles as they certainly both surprised everyone and made a great hit by using the World War I.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Watch Sales Off To A Strong Start During Holiday Season

December 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

apple-watch-2-150x150Sales of the Apple Watch to consumers racked up an impressive record during the first week of holiday shopping, and the current quarter is on track to be the best ever for the product, Apple Inc  Chief Executive Tim Cook told Reuters.

Cook said the gadget’s sell-through – a measure of how many units are sold to consumers, rather than simply stocked on retailers’ shelves – reached a new high.

Cook’s comments followed a report on Monday from technology research firm IDC estimating that the tech giant sold 1.1 million units of the Apple Watch during the third quarter of 2016, down 71 percent from the year-ago quarter. The comments offer a glimpse of the gadget’s performance during the holiday quarter, which is typically Apple’s strongest.

 “Our data shows that Apple Watch is doing great and looks to be one of the most popular holiday gifts this year,” Cook wrote.

“Sales growth is off the charts. In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history. And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch,” he said.

Cook did not respond to a request for specific sales figures for the gadget.

Apple has disclosed few details about the performance of the Apple Watch, its first new product released under Cook. The company has not broken out sales of the gadget in its earnings, instead lumping it into an “other products” category that includes devices such as the iPod and Apple TV.

Strong sales of the Apple Watch are to be expected during the holiday quarter as the gadget is a more natural gift than some of the company’s other products such as the iPhone or Mac computer, said analyst Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research. Apple also lowered the price of the gadget this year, potentially helping the holiday sales comparison, O’Donnell noted.

 

Will The TeraHertz Band Help Increase Wi-Fi Speeds

December 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

teraResearchers have worked out a way to push Wi-Fi speeds to 34 Gbps using the TeraHertz band.

While greater bandwidth in the 300GHz and above band has been known for a while it is pointless because the range makes it a chocolate teapot.

Some researchers have managed to hit 100 Gbps but when it only works for a few centimetres it is not commercially viable.

Now boffins at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have got the technology to provide a great 34 Gbps speed with a decent range.

Naoto Oshimo, one of the scientists behind this latest test, said that “device performance is almost sufficient for short-distance wireless communication such as KIOSK downloads, which might be its first application”. By that they mean that they have managed 10 metres, almost OK for home use.

Oshimo believes that this technology will scale hugely in terms of the speed as well, and we could eventually be looking at topping the 1Tbps mark.

Courtesy-Fud

Helio Finally Launches X27 And The X23 SoCs

December 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

MediaTek has announced two more Helio X20 series products – a Helio X27 and an X23 and as you can figure out from the names; Helio X27 is faster than the X25 while X23 is a bit slower. 

Helio X25 was the fastest deca-core 20nm SoC from MediaTek with three cluster designs and this SoC ended up in quite a few prominent China higher end phones including a few Meizu devices. But it looks like customers wanted a bit faster camera, SoC and GPU performance for its late 2016 early 2017 phones, the ones that will launch before the Helio X30 comes to market.

Jeffrey Ju, Executive Vice President and Co-Chief Operating Officer at MediaTek said: “The MediaTek Helio platform fulfills the diverse needs of device makers. Based on the success of MediaTek Helio X20 and X25, we are introducing the upgraded MediaTek Helio X23 and X27. The new SoCs support premium dual camera photography and provide best in-class performance and power consumption,”

The Helio X25 has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.5 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 2.00 GHz and last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.55GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 850 MHz.

The Helio X20 has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.1 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.85 GHz and last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.4GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 780 MHz.

The newcomer, Helio X27, has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.6 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 2.00 GHz and the last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.6 GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 875 MHz. The rest of the specification is identical to the Helio X25.

The Helio X23 has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.85 GHz and the last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.4GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 780 MHz. As you can see, this is just a slightly faster version of Helio X20 and it sits just below Helio X25 with its specs.

Thanks to MediaTek-engineered advancements in the CPU/GPU heterogeneous computing scheduling algorithm, both products deliver more than a 20 percent overall processing improvement and significant increases in web browsing and application launching speeds. This definitely sounds promising but you should bear in mind that MediaTek had enough time to optimize these designs of the new and updated SoCs.  

Phones based on the Helio X27 and X23 will be available soon.

Courtesy-Fud

Mozilla’s Search Deal With Yahoo Appears To Be Paying Off

December 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

mozilla-logo-2-150x150Mozilla has reported that revenue for 2015 was up 28% over the year before, the biggest increase in three years.

Nearly all the $421 million booked by the Mozilla Foundation came from royalty payments, the bulk of which originated, as always, from search deals that set defaults in the Firefox browser.

Mozilla Foundation is the nonprofit organization that oversees Mozilla Corp., the commercial arm which builds and maintains Firefox for personal computers and smartphones.

According to a financial statement, $417 million, or 99% of all revenue, came from royalty payments. The percentage of revenue derived from royalties has never dipped below 91% — Mozilla’s fortunes have always been tightly linked to the Firefox search deals — but 2015’s portion was the highest since 2010.

 Although Mozilla has tried to diversify its revenue sources, notably in early 2014 when it experimented with in-browser advertising, those attempts have not succeeded. Mozilla dropped the in-Firefox ad idea in December 2015, for example.

Nor has it been able to monetize mobile to any extent: Its Android and iOS versions of Firefox — the latter is actually just a wrapper around Apple’s Safari browser — have never been able to collect more than a minuscule portion of the market. Mozilla’s revenues, then, largely rely on the desktop Firefox, which runs on Windows, macOS and Linux.

Search-based revenue was approximately $410 million, representing 98% of all royalty income and 97% of Mozilla’s total revenue. The $410 million was $119 million more than in 2014, representing a 41% increase.

Mozilla was able to squeeze more out of its Firefox search deals because of two decisions it made in late 2014. First, it dumped the global arrangement it had with Google — whereby Google’s search engine was the default for virtually all copies of Firefox — and instead struck country-specific or regional deals with a dozen different search and information providers. Secondly, it negotiated a lucrative deal with Yahoo, which was made the default search provider for U.S. Firefox users.

The second deal was the more important of the two. Yahoo paid Mozilla about $375 million in 2015 — and is contracted to continue payments of that size until 2019 — or approximately $100 million more than Google laid out in 2013, the last full year of its Firefox arrangement. Other search contracts contributed $35 million to Mozilla’s coffers, Computerworldcalculated from the organization’s financial statement and tax return.

Mozilla trumpeted the change in search strategy even as it declined to point out the positive impact to its bottom line. “We decided that one global default search partner was no longer the right choice for our users or the web,” the organization said in a “State of Mozilla” report. “Instead, we adopted a more local and flexible approach by country to control our own destiny and to diversify the user experience and competitive landscape of web search globally.”

PC Shipments Expected To Finally Rise In 2017

December 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

While PC shipments are set to decline in 2016, beancounters at IDC think that the drop will be better than expected and there will be an improvement in 2017.

IDC expects PC vendors to ship a total of 258.2 million units this year, a figure which would be 6.4 percent lower than last year. It had been expected that there would be a 7.2 percent fall. Now IDC is saying that growth will still be negative in 2017, but shipments are expected to decrease by just 2.6 percent compared to this year.

Commercial shipments of notebooks will grow this year, while desktops should stay flat in terms of growth. The pressure from mobile devices is said to decrease as the markets mature. The tablet market in particular is not as big of a concern or threat to PCs as it is declining too.

IDC Worldwide Tracker Forecasting and PC research vice president Loren Loverde said that the PC market continues to perform close to expectations.

“Some volatility in emerging regions is being offset by incremental gains in larger mature markets while the interaction with tablets and phones is stabilizing. We continue to see steady progression toward smaller desktops and notebooks as replacement buying helps stabilize overall shipments in the coming years”.

Looking towards 2020, IDC claims that the market will still face a decline in terms of unit shipments, but only a small one at 0.8 percent. In 2020, PC vendors are expected to move 250 million units.

IDC Devices and Displays senior research analyst Neha Mahajan said:

“Despite continued weakness in the consumer segment, the US PC market is showing some signs of stability in the near future with some sources of optimism for the long haul. Backed by early Windows 10 transitions that are expected to boost commercial PC shipments in the next couple of years, and steady growth of PCaaS (PC as a Service) which should help shorten refresh cycles of commercial systems in the long-term, the overall US PC market sentiment certainly seems to be improving”.

Courtesy-Fud

Researcher Prove iOS Activation Lock Can Be Bypassed

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

ios-screen-lock-150x150Two researchers report that they have discovered a way to bypass the activation lock feature in iOS that’s supposed to prevent anyone from using an iPhone or iPad marked as lost by its owner.

The first report came Sunday from an Indian security researcher named Hemanth Joseph, who started investigating possible bypasses after being confronted with a locked iPad he acquired from eBay.

The activation lock gets enabled automatically when users turn on the Find My iPhone feature via iCloud. It links the device to their Apple IDs and prevents anyone else from accessing the device without entering the associated password.

One of the few things allowed from the activation lock screen is connecting the device to a Wi-Fi network, including manually configuring one. Hemanth had the idea of trying to crash the service that enforces the lock screen by entering very long strings of characters in the WPA2-Enterprise username and password fields.

The researcher claims that, after awhile, the screen froze, and he used the iPad smart cover sold by Apple to put the tablet to sleep and then reopen it. This is supposed to restore the state of the tablet from where it was left off, in this case, loading the WPA2 screen again with the long strings of characters filled in.

“After 20-25 seconds the Add Wifi Connection screen crashed to the iPad home screen, thereby bypassing the so-called Find My iPhone Activation Lock,” he said in a blog post.

Hemanth said he reported the issue to Apple on Nov. 4, and the company is investigating it. He tested the bypass on iOS 10.1, which was released on Oct. 24.

Last week, a researcher named Benjamin Kunz Mejri, from German outfit Vulnerability Lab, posted a video showing the same bypass, but on the newer iOS 10.1.1 version.

Kunz Mejri’s method is similar and also involves overflowing the Add Wi-Fi form fields with long strings of characters but also requires rotating the tablet’s screen in order to trigger the crash after the smart cover trick.

Apple has not yet confirmed that issue and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

Is More ZEN Information Coming This Month?

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

While waiting for Zen is remarkably like waiting for Godot, we have just been told that AMD will be holding a sneak peek of its high-performance Zen CPU on 13 December.

The preview will be streamed at 1 p.m. PST on December 13. You can sign up at AMD’s website to have a shifty. The host of the event will be the video gamer hack, Geoff Keighley and it will be called “Watch New Horizon.”

According to the email the event will be an “ exclusive advance preview of our new ‘Zen’ CPU ahead of its 2017 Q1 launch”.

“See eSports & Evil Geniuses legend PPD put ‘Zen’ through its paces. There’ll be appearances from special guests and giveaways. This is the first time the public will be able to try it themselves and see its capabilities. If you’re serious about gaming, this is an event you do not want to miss.”

What we are expecting is that AMD will show off the quad-core version of Zen. AMD will have four Zen-based CPUs in the “Summit Ridge” family launching early next year.

The top end will probably include two eight-core chips with Simultaneous Multi-Threading, and an SR5 with six cores, and a quad-core SR3.

What we are curious about is if the pricing rumors are correct. The highest-end 8-core will be $500, while a second, slower eight-core chip could be as low as $350. This will really scare the bejesus out of Intel as it is promising better performance for half the price.

Other rumors say that the six-core SR5 will hit the shops for $250 and the quad-core SR3 will be $150. Intel gear will set you back $320 for its quad-core Core i7-6700K chip, and the cheapest six-core costs $380.

Courtesy-Fud

Nokia Smartphones Poised For A Comeback

December 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

nokia-hq-150x150Nokia smartphones are gearing up for a comeback after former managers at the Finnish company licensed the handset brand from Microsoft and struck up partnerships with Google and phone manufacturer Foxconn.

Nokia was once the world’s dominant cellphone maker but missed the shift to smartphones and then chose Microsoft’s unpopular Windows operating system for its “Lumia” range.

Nokia quit smartphones in 2014 by selling its handset activities to Microsoft to focus on mobile network equipment. Microsoft continued selling Lumia smartphones under its own name but this year largely abandoned that business, too.

 HMD Global, led by Nokia veteran Arto Nummela, wants to launch its first Nokia smartphone in the early part of next year using Google’s Android operating system.

Success will require a dash for scale by stealing business from Apple, Samsung and dozens of other players in a cut-throat industry.

“Consumers may be carrying different smartphones now, but are they really in love and loyal to those brands?” said Nummela in an interview.

The Nokia consumer brand lives on as the badge on cheaper, entry-level “feature phones” sold mainly in Asia, India and Eastern Europe, though Microsoft invested little to market the name in recent years. Smartphones typically cost anywhere from ten to 30 times as much as these basic phones, which sell for as little as $20.

“For a new entrant, having an established brand provides it with an instant on-ramp,” said mobile phone analyst Ben Wood of CCS Insight, who suggested that phone vendors with weaker brands should not take the new challenge lightly.

“The barriers to entry for the Android phone space are low,” said Wood. “What HMD has is the Nokia brand and management experience. The key to its success will be driving scale.”

CEO Nummela, who was once responsible for Nokia’s sales and product development, does not lack ambition.

“We want to be one of the key competitive players in the smartphone business,” he told Reuters.

HMD President Florian Seiche previously worked at Siemens, Orange, HTC and Nokia. Chief Marketing Officer Pekka Rantala is a former CEO of Rovio, the maker of the Angry Birds game, as well as a Nokia veteran.

“We are not going to skip any markets in the long term,” Seiche said, adding that HMD had already set up offices in 40 locations around the world.

Facebook Adds Popular Games To Messenger App

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

fb-messenger-app-150x150For users who enjoy the popular Facebook Messenger app, it’s game time.

The social network has rolled out a feature that allows users to play hugely popular games such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders, the company’s latest attempt to get users spend more time on its messaging app.

The new feature, initially rolled out in 30 countries with 17 games, will be available on the latest versions of iOS and Android operating systems.

A user, in the midst of a conversation, can tap on a game controller icon to choose a game and start playing. The feature also allows user to challenge their friends for a game.

Facebook made Messenger a standalone app in 2014, a move that initially irked many users. The app, however, gained popularity after the company added a host of features to it.

The social network has also added instant video and payment facilities to the app.

Facebook boasts of having more than one billion users for its messaging app, making it one top three apps in the world.

Its main Facebook app is the most popular, followed by Messenger and WhatsApp, the messaging service it bought in 2014.

AT&T Launches New Video Streaming Service

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

directv-now-150x147If you’re looking ditch cable TV, a new video streaming service from AT&T will be available starting today.

DirecTV Now is a flexible pay-as-you-go streaming service that starts at US$35 per month. DirectTV’s conventional satellite service is the foundation, but the content will be streamed over the internet.

Traditionally, users needed a two-year commitment and credit check to get DirecTV, but those requirements are not needed for the new service. The streaming service will work on the Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices, as well as mobile devices with Android and iOS and PCs.

There are four pricing bundles, AT&T said at a press event in New York City. Users will be able to get more than 60 channels for $35, more than 80 for $50, more than 100 for $60, and more than 120 for $70. As an introductory promotion, AT&T will offer 100 channels for $35.

The programming lineup includes Disney channels, ESPN, AMC, Turner Broadcasting, NBC Universal, Fox, and many more channels. HBO and Cinemax can be added for $5 each. A deal to add CBS and Showtime is being negotiated.

NFL Sunday Ticket won’t be available with the service, but AT&T is also negotiating to add the service. NFL content will still be available on the games broadcast on NBC, Fox, and ESPN. When CBS is added, its NFL games will be available, too.

AT&T also plans to add a cloud DVR service in the coming years. Subscribers will be able to watch two streams simultaneously on separate devices.

The interface is key to the success of a streaming TV service. DirecTV Now will be able to track the programs users are watching and provide recommendations based on categories. The content is categorized as TV shows, movies, and networks. The interface will list shows people are watching, and users will be able to search content.

DirecTV Now is the third major streaming TV option after Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Dish’s Sling TV. It’s competitive on price with PlayStation Vue, which starts at $40, but not as cheap as Sling, which has fewer channels for $20.

For AT&T, DirecTV Now is a big deal and a new way to deliver programming. It’s also a way to say goodbye to the ubiquitous DirecTV satellite receivers.

“This is the foundation for how we’ll do things in the future,” said John Stankey, CEO of AT&T Entertainment Group.

Can Virtual Reality Find A Voice?

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

As we near the end of a pivotal year for virtual reality, it’s clear there is still a lot of work to be done. With the arrival of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, consumers finally have access to the technology that has commanded much of the industry’s attention and excitement for the past four years but only now can we gauge how popular it may become.

That’s according to Aki Järvinen, founder of research and consulting initiative Game Futures, currently working at Sheffield Hallam University. Järvinen will be speaking about trends in virtual reality development at this week’s Develop:VR conference in London. We caught up with him ahead of the event to find out his thoughts on the industry’s next step after this year’s long-awaited hardware launches.

“There is a definite need for VR to find its own voice,” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “We know very little about user habits with the headsets, for example. How does the isolating, solitary nature of current VR tech affect the frequency of use and thus retention with games? Early data shows that game time spent on VR titles is nowhere close to PC titles in the same genres.

“Kevin Kelly, the former editor of Wired, has talked about how the Internet has proceeded to its current form as streams and flows, from its ‘newspapery’ web origins. I expect something similar to happen with VR games; currently, it’s about imitating existing genres with the added value of VR-enhanced sense of presence, but developers and designers should experiment with other paradigms.

“2016 has been the first proper year for developers to test the waters on if the market is profitable yet and learn about releasing games for the actual retail platforms. Strategic product decisions are being made as we speak, based on these early experiences.”

Many developers have said that virtual reality tears up the game design rulebook, requiring completely new theories and practices when it comes to game creation. By now, studios have poured years into experimenting with VR games and it would be fair to argue that the early pages of that rulebook have been written – but Järvinen believes the conventions and best practices established so far are largely temporary.

“There is a definite need for VR to find its own voice. We know very little about user habits with the headsets, for example.”

Aki Järvinen, Game Futures

With more changes expected from the headsets themselves, plus the accessories and controllers supporting them, Järvinen argues that the time span has been “too short for [findings] to stick” and that gameplay design solutions in use now will be almost irrelevant in just a few years.

“If one looks at games like Batman: Arkham VR, for example, the designers have clearly tried to turn the current constraints of the platform – lack of movement in particular – to their advantage, and design gameplay around the constraints,” he says. “They’ve done this with very deliberately crafted, static setpieces that leverage VR’s other strengths, such as experiencing the scope and scale of things in a more startling, life-like way. Yet, once those movement constraints go away, it’s hard to see anyone designing in that paradigm anymore. So it’s an agile rulebook in constant change.”

The future of virtual reality will, therefore, be defined by its hardware rather than its software, and the Game Futures founder predicts significant evolution from the devices people are picking up in stores this Christmas.

“VR has enough momentum now that it will go along the typical development path of similar technologies,” says Järvinen. “Headsets will become smaller, untethered, of higher resolution, trackers invisible, and so on. When these developments are able to coincide with lower production costs to the degree that retail price points become truly affordable, then we are on the cusp of a real breakthrough. Parallel to this, software has to evolve.”

It’s easy to argue that virtual reality software is already quite unevolved. With a handful of more ambitious or high-production projects being the exceptions, the vast majority of launch software for Oculus, Vive and PSVR is limited. Most current virtual reality titles offer a more immersive first-person perspective for long-established gameplay genres, with little more than the novelty of viewing the action through the headset to differentiate it from what has come before. Perhaps the most blatant examples are the waves of shooting gallery-style VR games, where players are restricted to either an on-rails experience, a gun turret or standing on the spot, blasting away at waves of enemies that appear in often scripted patterns.

Järvinen says the prominence of these games so far is “a concern” but believes that as the market evolves, both in terms of hardware and software, “the lesser formulas will wither out”.

He adds: “So far developers have benefited from the rush of early adopters who basically purchase or download everything. This might lead to vanity metrics, such as bloated download figures, or bloated revenue estimates, as there has been lots of free promotions, bundles, and so on. But the VR market cannot be sustained with spikes from early adopters and therefore the more inherently ‘VR’ titles and game design aspects will eventually prevail.

“VR in its current form still has too many disabling contexts in play, such as retail price, PC requirements, and the fact that many people experience nausea. While finding the new genres is important, they do not matter much if enough enabling contexts are not yet in place, and that means also cultural ones – such as social acceptability in a living room, or in public places with mobile VR – rather than just technical ones.”

The cultural challenges that virtual reality faces are by far the most significant. 2016 has seen VR find the audience it was originally intended for and would inevitably appeal to the most (that is, avid consumers of video games and emerging technology) but hopes remain high that the tech will grow to have mainstream appeal. Certainly, that seems to be the intention of Facebook, which acquired Oculus back in 2014 and earlier this year showed off new social communication functions such as virtual chat rooms at September’s Connect event.

“While finding the new genres is important, they do not matter much if enough enabling contexts are not yet in place, and that means also cultural ones – such as social acceptability in a living room, or in public places with mobile VR – rather than just technical ones.”

Aki Järvinen, Game Futures

Järvinen believes the social network has spent enough effort and money on virtual reality that “they’ve gone past the point of abandoning creating its mass-market appeal” but suggests future forms of the hardware will have more impact on the technology’s attractiveness than the companies backing it.

“True mainstream appeal would require technological developments, such as miniaturisation, but also use cases where users see obvious benefits. Facebook seems to bet on the social dimension being the latter. Creating accessible tools for VR content creation could be the home run.”

As such, we can expect to see more companies from beyond the games industry investing in the technology and those developing for it. While it might not reach the headline-grabbing heights of Facebook’s $2bn Oculus acquisition, there is little danger of funding for virtual reality projects drying up any time soon.

“The wow factor with VR is strong enough that, when executed innovatively by a capable team, investors will get on board,” Järvinen says. “Therefore I believe investments will stay steady but perhaps we won’t see news about the more exuberant sums before the market finds its own Supercell.”

Järvinen concludes by stressing that the non-games, even non-entertainment, applications for virtual reality will go a long way to not only broadening the technology’s appeal, but writing more pages of that agile rulebook.

“We should not forget applications of VR beyond games and entertainment,” he says. “I believe journalism can use similar aspirations for a heightened feeling of empathy, achieved by leveraging that sense of presence VR can produce. We are already seeing signs of this with 360 video pieces distributed via VR platforms.

“Lots of interesting stuff is also going on in medical applications and research, such as burn victim therapy via VR. Real estate market could benefit in a big way from virtual viewings. So VR will not have one end goal, but many.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is AMD’s ZEN Launching With Extremely Competitive Pricing?

November 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

zenOver the past few days, more information has been revealed regarding AMD’s pricing and performance configurations for its Zen desktop processors, codenamed Summit Ridge.

Four SKUs ranging between $150 and $500

A new pricing document originating from China indicates that AMD initially plans to release four Zen desktop SKUs in four, six and eight-core variants. Just like Intel’s high-end desktop lineups, none of these chips will feature integrated graphics.

At the top of the list is the Zen SR7 “Special” featuring eight cores, sixteen threads and priced at $500, followed by a standard Zen SR7 in the same core configuration for $350. In the mid-range segment is the Zen SR5, featuring six cores, twelve threads and priced at $250. In the entry-level segment is the Zen SR3, featuring four cores and eight threads and priced at $150.

Last week in a Maxsun email posted on Baidu, there were indications that high-end Zen chips would be priced up to ¥2,000 ($290), yet the latest leak now says they will go as high as ¥3,999 ($500) for the SR7 Special Edition, while the mid-range SR5 will be priced closer to the initial estimate.

As for specifications, the email also mentioned that Zen chips should have base frequencies between 3.15 to 3.30GHz with 3.5GHz Boost clocks.

Zen SR7 engineering sample runs at 3.2GHz

Now, a new engineering sample of an eight-core Zen SR7 has been spotted by reliable AMD blogger DresdenBoy, who shared that the part number (1D3201A2M88F3_35/32_N) indicates a 3.2GHz chip with 3.5GHz Boost. Back in August, two eight-core Zen engineering samples appeared in a benchmark database with part numbers ending with “32/28_N,” indicating that they were running at 2.8GHz with 3.2GHz Boost.

Performs like Core i7 6950X at half the price

Even taking these price points into consideration, an eight-core Zen SR7 at $500 may still perform similarly to Intel’s eight-core Core i7 5960X at $1,000, given Zen’s more competitively-focused IPC design. The company’s switch back to Simultaneous Multi-Threading (hyperthreading) allows each core to run two threads just like Intel chips, so even the ten-core Core i7 6950X with a 3GHz base and 3.5GHz Turbo is a benchmark to consider.

The folks at Guru3D say Zen chips should have four integer units, two address generation units and four FP units, while decoding four instructions per clock. Compared to Bulldozer, bandwidth for L1 and L2 cache should be almost twice as fast, with each Zen core featuring the same amount of L3 cache per core as Intel.

Zen Summit Ridge series processors are currently expected to launch on January 17th following a CES announcement during the first week.

Courtesy-Fud

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