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.
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.
Dell has become the first major PC OEM to join the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) group, joining over 80 existing members Broadcom, Gill Electronics, IDT, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung.
Dell’s membership means it could soon be developing mobile devices that do not require a wired power adapter to charge.
The A4WP aims to standardise wireless power transfer using near-field magnetic resonance technology called “rezence”, which seeks to liberate mobile devices from wired chargers, charging multiple devices simultaneously without the need to dock the devices.
“Power levels and charging speed will meet the expectations of today’s ‘always on, always connected’ user,” the A4WP said. “Users can simply ‘drop and go’ their devices onto a charging surface without the hassle of accurate positioning or alignment.”
Along with the news that Dell will jump on board to unshackle users from the curse of wired chargers, A4WP is also introducing a secondary, higher-powered project focusing on wirelessly charging electronic products from 20 to 50 watts, like ultrabooks, laptops, and mid-powered appliances.
“Dell’s addition to the Alliance signifies the importance of defining a wireless power standard that spans these higher power levels thus expanding the range of electronics beyond smartphones,” the group added.
A4WP said it believes the development of magnetic resonance technology will improve the customer experience when it comes to charging and will bring the capability into more homes and businesses over the next few years.
It also said that its development of wireless charging technology will help benefit both industry and consumers as the specification powers broadly adopted wireless technologies such as Bluetooth Smart, “which simplifies development and manufacturing”.
Oxide Games’ Dan Baker is getting all excited about Mantle in the upcoming game Star Swarm. He told Maximum PC that Mantle isn’t just a low-level API that’s close to the metal. But when compared to DirectX, Mantle is lower in the overall software stack.
Baker said that Mantle still abstracts the details of the shader cores themselves, so that it is not clear if it is running on a vector machine or a scalar machine. However, what isn’t abstracted is the basic way a GPU operates, he said. The GPU is another processor, just like any other, that reads and writes memory. One thing that has happened is that GPUs are now general in terms of functionality. They can read memory anywhere. They can write memory anywhere.”
Mantle puts the responsibility onto the developer. Some feel that is too much, but this really is not any different from managing multiple CPUs on a system, which Oxide have gotten good at. Oxide does not program multiple CPUs with an API, it just does it itself. Mantle gives us a similar capability for the GPU, he said. When asked about the performance in Star Swarm, Baker indicated that the performance will depend on how exploitative you are, and the specifics of the engine. In the case of Star Swarm, the team was limited in what they could do by driver overhead problems. There have been decisions made where the team traded GPU performance for CPU.
Baker said that the Direct3D performance for the game absolutely outstanding. We have spent a huge amount of time optimising around D3D, and are biased in D3D’s favor. “Mantle, on the other hand, we’ve spent far less time with and currently have only pretty basic optimizations. But Mantle is such an elegant API that it still dwarfs our D3D performance,” Baker said.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Taiwanese contract manufacturer, which has built a lot of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, has struck a deal with Google to build robotics for the company.
Google declined to comment this afternoon and Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Andy Rubin, Google’s former Android lead and now the head of the company’s robotics efforts, recently went to Taipei to meet with Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou about the deal, reported the Journal, citing unnamed sources.
The deal would benefit both companies, giving Google a robotics manufacturer and giving robotics technology to Foxconn for its manufacturing business.
“Well, that should speed up development cycles for Google,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “Foxconn is one of the industry’s largest contract manufacturers and what they do best is build things. Google, on the other hand, invents things but its core competency isn’t building things, particularly hardware, quickly and efficiently.”
The pact, he added, would bring hardware manufacturing scale to Google — a must, if Google wants to mass produce robots at an affordable price.
“Pretty soon we’ll have an army of Google robots, like in Star Wars II,” said Kerravala.
Google, a company known worldwide for search, Android and its ubiquitous Maps service, has been taking a deep dive into robotics in the past six months or so. The company announced late last month that it was acquiring DeepMind Technologies, a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company.
In December, Google bought Boston Dynamics, a robotics company known for its four-legged BigDog robot, as well as six-foot-tall, 330-pound humanoid robot, Atlas.
Those acquisitions came on the heels of a six-month buying spree in which Google bought seven other robotics businesses.
In addition, Google has been working for the last several years to develop autonomous automobiles. The self-driving car effort has logged thousands of miles on the road and even had Google executives approaching Detroit car makers in the hopes of finding business partners.
ARM has signed an agreement with SMIC to offer the Artisan platform for the China-based foundry’s (PS) process. Under the deal, ARM will provide a physical IP platform for SoCs targeting the smartphone, tablet, wireless and digital home markets.
The physical IP platform has a set of memory compilers, standard cells and logic, and general-purpose interface products. According to an SMIC press release the deal will mean that the outfit gets access to the popular ARM Artisan standard cells and next-generation memory compilers. ARM’s standard cell libraries and memory compilers incorporate multi-channel and mixed Vt features for power efficient designs.
Dipesh Patel, executive vice president and general manager, Physical Design Group, ARM said that the Artisan standard cells and memory compilers deliver the features, quality and rigorous silicon validation that customers demand to achieve fast time-to-market.
LinkedIn launched Intro last October, as part of a larger push into becoming a “mobile first” company. The service was made for the iPhone, and was designed to grab LinkedIn profile information and insert it into emails received on phones. The service displayed that information to the recipient from the email’s sender if the sender was also on LinkedIn.
Intro was meant to add more professional context to email and draw more users to LinkedIn.
But it quickly sparked questions from security experts, who were concerned about the way the service routed emails through LinkedIn’s servers. The security consulting firm Bishop Fox said that the service essentially amounted to a “man-in-the-middle attack,” and that it was only a matter of time before someone used it to launch a phishing attack.
LinkedIn, in its announcement Friday of Intro’s closure, did not say anything about security. The decision was about “focus,” LinkedIn said. “We are making large, long-term investments on a few big bets, and in order to ensure their success, we need to concentrate on fewer things,” wrote Deep Nishar, senior VP of products and user experience.
Intro will be shut down as of March 7, LinkedIn said. The company did not say what it would be doing with Intro users’ email data that it might have stored on its servers. LinkedIn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Upon receiving word of LinkedIn’s announcement, Bishop Fox said that it was unlikely that LinkedIn shut down the service for security reasons alone. “Tech products come and go these days and many have short lifespans,” said Vincent Liu, a partner at the firm, via email.
“But this app exemplifies why it’s important to pay attention to privacy and security when installing features, whether short lived or not, on your mobile devices,” he said.
LinkedIn also said it would be shutting down some other services. Slidecast, which let people upload digital presentations with audio, is going away as of April 30. Support for the LinkedIn iPad app on iOS versions older than 6.0 will also be eliminated as of Feb. 18, the company said.
AMD revealed Mantle to the world at its Hawaii launch event and at the time it promised support for the new API would come to Battlefield 4 sometime in December. In December, AMD said the API would show up in January.
Now though, it appears that the delay may be somewhat longer. Late yesterday Extremetech reported BF4 support would finally land in February. AMD’s Robert Hallock denied the patch is coming in February, but he didn’t say it is coming in January, either. If it is, it’s coming by Thursday. If it is not, that’s very bad news for AMD given the scale of its PR onslaught.
Back at CES the company talked up Mantle in an elaborate demonstration, featuring Oxide Games and DICE products. AMD claimed Mantle would deliver a significant performance boost over DirectX, up to 45 percent in certain scenarios. Since Mantle is not available yet, it is impossible to put these very optimistic claims to the test.
Mantle won’t be a game changer, but if it is embraced by major developers, it could give AMD a competitive edge both in discrete and integrated graphics. Intel has been making headway in the graphics department and it is closing the gap with AMD APUs with its latest Iris series GPUs.
Mantle could be AMD’s trump card, a cheap way of making its APUs more competitive without wasting silicon, but for this to happen Mantle needs to be embraced by developers. It is very promising, but at this point there are quite a few “ifs” associated with Mantle.
The tame Apple Press has enthusiastically been running storied about how well Apple is doing in China. Reuters for example has been saying that the one million pre-orders that Jobs’ Mob has just collected is a triumph for Tim Cook’s negotiating ability. Getting a deal out of China Mobile was something the sainted Steve Jobs could not manage.
However saner heads are urging caution, While it is true that launching its iPhone on China Mobile vast network on Friday, opening the door to the world’s largest carrier’s 763 million subscribers and giving its China sales a short-term jolt, it is not likely to last. For a start the deal could start a war which China Mobile would not want. Some analysts predicting a costly subsidy war as rival carriers compete to lure customers. If China Mobile does not make its targets on sales for these phones, they are going to increase the subsidies.
China Mobile’s iPhone sales are expected to reach 12 million in its 2014 fiscal year, but its subsidies will leap 57 percent to $7 billion. In addition, the prices are still really high for the Chinese market. For the basic 16GB iPhone 5S, with no subscriber contract, China Mobile is charging $870.
China Unicom and China Telecom slashed their iPhone prices by as much as $210 following the announcement that a deal had been struck between Apple and China Mobile. The pair have also offered a range of cut-price deals on contracts. But there are also some problems with the pre-orders. Reuters checks showed that there were multiple registrations using fake ID numbers which means that people are buying up hoping to make a swift buck on resales.
All this is the least of Apple’s Chinese worries. The outfit has fallen out of favour with consumers who are increasingly opting for domestic products. Those who want an iPhone do not need to pay excessively to get one through China mobile either. In China, you can buy handsets typically smuggled from Hong Kong and then sign up for a China Mobile contract. This is a swings and roundabouts for Apple. If people buy from China Mobile, they will not buy from Hong Kong so it will lose sales there. If they don’t then the China Mobile contract is rubbish.
As we reported earlier, AMD scored a major coup with the new Mac Pro. The lovely bucket from Cupertino features AMD graphics, which came as a surprise in many circles, as Nvidia is the dominant player in the professional graphics market.
The high-profile design win is expected to generate quite a bit of cash for AMD’s professional graphics business and it will also help boost its unimpressive market share. AMD currently holds about a fifth of the market, so for every FirePro card sold Nvidia manages to ship about four Quadros.
According to Digitimes, this will change next year. AMD could bump its share up to 30 percent by the end of 2014, thanks to Apple. Since we are talking about high-margin products, they should also boost AMD’s overall profitability in 2014.
AMD’s new FirePro S10000 and Sky series server products are competitive, too. They use PCI Express Gen 3, while Nvidia’s Tesla K20C is on PCI Express Gen 2. AMD uses OpenCL, while Nvidia uses its own proprietary CUDA platform.
In addition, AMD has a habit of pricing its professional products more aggressively than Nvidia. Earlier this year we were told by some AMD reps that the company hopes to gain ground in the professional space, but then again AMD has been saying that for years. This time around AMD seems to have a good chance of eroding Nvidia’s lead. However, Nvidia won’t take this lying down.
Sales of Chromebooks enjoyed rapid growth,going from basically nothing in 2012 to more than 20 percent of the U.S. commercial PC market, analyst firm NPD reported, while Windows PCs and Macs remained flat at best.
NPD estimated that, throughout all of 2013, 14.4 million desktops, notebooks, and tablets were sold through U.S. commercial channels, typically resellers. That compares to 16.4 million PCs, overall, sold in the U.S. during the third quarter alone–excluding tablets, according to IDC. All told, about 46.2 million PCs have been sold in the U.S. during 2013, IDC found.
Within that segment, however, NPD reported some intriguing findings. Chromebooks, once largely the province of Acer and Samsung, have been embraced by Dell, HP, and others–not the least of which are paying customers. In 2012, Chromebook sales were “negligible,” NPD reported. But in the space of a single year, they climbed to 21 percent, NPD found, helping push overall notebook PC growth up by 28.9 percent.
Windows notebooks, however, contributed nothing to that, as NPD found that growth was flat. Worse still, Macs actually declined, with combined sales of desktops and notebooks falling by 7 percent. Windows tablet sales tripled, albeit off what NPD called “a very small base”.
The message? Businesses are turning to the Web, which Chromebooks almost exclusively run. And those low-cost, Net-focused devices are becoming engines of productivity. As a result, they’re receiving validation from traditional PC vendors including Acer, Asus, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard, plus Google’s own Pixel.
“The market for personal computing devices in commercial markets continues to shift and change,” saidA Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, in a statement.A “New products like Chromebooks, and reimagined items like Windows tablets, are now supplementing the revitalization that iPads started in personal computing devices. It is no accident that we are seeing the fruits of this change in the commercial markets as business and institutional buyers exploit the flexibility inherent in the new range of choices now open to them.”
Naturally, tablet sales continued to explode, capturing 22 percent(or about 3.16 million units) of all the computing device sales sold through the U.S. channel. Of all tablets sold commercially, iPads dominated with 59 percent of all unit sales, leaving the rest to Android (which grew more than 160 percent) and Windows.
Baker said that diversity will be key to the future success of hardware makers, a signpost for what vendors might release at 2014 and the weeks and months following.
San Mateo, Calif.-based Fixya mined 10,000 user-generated reports related to Apple’s iPad Air and Retina-equipped iPad Mini, Amazon’s Fire HDX and Microsoft’s Surface 2, the second-generation tablet that replaced the poorly-received Surface RT of 2012, to come up with its conclusions.
Browser gripes topped the charts of the iPad Air and the 8.9-in. Fire HDX, said Fixya, while the surfing app tied for second on the iPad Mini’s top-five-beef list.
Nearly a third — 30% — of the reported problems with the Air and 25% of those with the Fire stemmed from the tablets’ bundled browsers, Safari and Silk, respectively. On the Retina iPad Mini, 20% of complaints targeted Safari, the same percentage as aimed ire at the paucity of storage space on the least expensive model.
“A relatively common issue with mobile Apple devices, especially those using Safari — the browser that comes pre-packaged with the device — is a crashing browser,” said Fixya. “Users report that opening certain Web pages (most likely those that use [Adobe's] Flash [Player]) and opening multiple tabs on the browser can cause the browser to crash and kicks users onto the home [screen].”
Famously, Apple has never supported Flash Player on iOS, the mobile operating system that drives the iPad. Before his death, co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was adamant about banning Flash, going as far as to publicly trash the media software in a 2010 diatribe.
But Safari on iOS is not supposed to crash when it encounters a website that calls on the Adobe software.
Fire HDX owners pummeled Silk with similar laments. “Silk … has a variety of issues, most notably choppy performance and tendency to crash,” Fixya noted.
Only the Surface 2 escaped owners’ disgust with their device’s mobile browser. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) is bundled with Windows RT 8.1, the OS that powers the tablet.
Instead, Microsoft customers tapped a shortage of quality apps as their No. 1 complaint, with 25% of the reports focused on the issue. Users’ gripes matched those of analysts who have cited the app issue as the platform’s weakest link since long before Microsoft started selling Windows 8.
Fixya recommended that iPad and Fire HDX owners regularly clear their browser’s history and delete cookies to keep Safari or Silk as stable as possible. But it had no answer for the Surface 2′s app problem. “App support is an issue with the device that … users can’t fix on their own,” Fixya pointed out.
The Samsung Gamepad is compatible with all Android phones running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and above, though Samsung said that it is specifically optimized for Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and above. It features an eight-way D-Pad, two analogue sticks, four action buttons, two trigger buttons, a Select button and a Play button.
The Play button is a link to the Samsung App Store selling console optimized games at “reasonable prices”. The Gamepad uses Bluetooth 3.0, but can also pair via NFC and even cast gaming onto the big screen using Samsung Allshare. Although there are a number of Chinese imports available, this is the first time a major player has brought an Android game controller to the table.
Samsung said 35 games are available through the Play button at launch with more to come in 2014. Launch titles include Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Asphalt 8, Modern Combat 4, Virtua Tennis Challenge, and Prince of Persia. These are in addition to existing games from Google Play.
Samsung is keen to tout this new device as an alternative to buying a more expensive console such as an Xbox One or Playstation 4 (PS4), and while we’re not really sure if it can match them, we can certainly see the advantages of a device like this over Android game consoles such as the Ouya or Gamestick.
The device is already available for pre-order at Expansys for $125.99. At present there is no date attached to it, and Samsung is only committing to “the coming weeks” as the time-frame for availability.
As it’s a device with a steel casing, Samsung clearly is not aiming this at the budget market, and if its functionality matches its specifications, it could be one to watch in 2014.
The messaging service is now displayed prominently in the navigation bar at the bottom of the home screen, so it’s only one tap away. Previously, users had to navigate to the “Me” screen and from there open the messaging service.
Twitter has also added the ability to send and view photos in direct messages. Those photos can also be viewed in messages on the desktop at twitter.com.
Mobile-to-mobile messaging is a hot area right now. Facebook recently updated its own Messenger service to let people message each other even if they’re not Facebook friends. Other services like SnapChat, WhatsApp and WeChat are also attracting users.
The changes to Twitter could make it more widely used for messaging and reduce the time people spend using those other apps. It doesn’t yet offer some of the extra features, though, like SnapChat’s vanishing photos.
Overseas, Twitter has identified South Korea’s Kakao, a messaging service, and Line, a calling and messaging app popular in Japan, as among its biggest competitors. So Twitter’s expanded messaging features could help it compete better there too.
The update also lets users swipe between different screens in Twitter. From the Home screen, you can now swipe to the Discover page to see trending topics and popular tweets, and the Activity page to see tweets and accounts that are popular among the people you follow.
There are also new features specific to different platforms. In the iOS app, in-app notifications now alert people when they receive a direct message or a tweet gets favorited or replied to. And on Android, people can turn on notifications for specific users.
Apple started serving iOS 7 on Sept. 18, and shipped the operating system on its fall wave of new products, including the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C — which went on sale later that month — and the iPad Air and Retina-equipped iPad Mini that reached retail last month.
According to Apple’s iOS developer support site, 74% of the devices tapping the App Store for seven days prior to Dec. 1 ran iOS 7, more than three times the next-most-popular edition, last year’s iOS 6.
Apple’s number closely matched those of third-party firms that have also measured iOS version traffic.
On Tuesday, for instance, mobile advertising company Chitika, of Westborough, Mass., pegged iOS 7 iPhone trafficthrough its network at 74%. iPad owners have upgraded at a slower pace, with 64% of the tablets running iOS 7. Chitika’s tally was generated between Oct. 25 and Nov. 18.
Mixpanel, a San Francisco-based mobile app analytics vendor, has also tracked iOS 7 uptake. As of Friday, the new operating system accounted for79% of the Apple devices accessing Mixpanel clients’ apps or websites. That was up from 61% in late September, and a slight increase from the 76% of one month ago.
iOS 7 uptake has slowed dramatically since first few days and weeks of the upgrade’s availability –Chitika measured iOS 7′s penetration at 52% just a week after release — but it remains above levels set by its predecessor.
“[It is] very likely that iOS 7 will continue to substantially outpace iOS 6 adoption, which reached 83% close to six months following its release in September 2012,” Chitika said on its blog earlier this week.
A rapid uptake tempo is worth more than bragging rights by Apple partisans, as the faster an operating system is adopted, the more willing developers are to take advantage of its features and refresh their apps. That has special significance with iOS 7, since it was the first design overhaul since the OS’s 2007 debut and boasts a radically different look and feel.
iOS 7 can be installed as an upgrade on the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5; the iPad 2, the third- and fourth-generation iPads with Retina screens, and 2012′s first-generation iPad Mini; and the fifth-generation iPod Touch that debuted, with different storage sizes, in October 2012 and May 2013.