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A Resurgent Sony Sees Big Rise In Profits

May 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Japanese consumer electronics maker Sony Corp expects operating profit to more than quadruple this year, as strong sales of camera sensors and cost reductions anchor a much needed turnaround after years of losses on TVs and mobile phones.

Sony said on Thursday it estimates operating profit will jump in the year ending March 2016 to 320 billion yen ($2.7 billion). For the previous fiscal year, operating profit was 68.5 billion, in line with an April 22 forecast.

This year’s earnings would be Sony’s biggest annual operating profit in seven years, though well below an average analyst forecast of 408 billion yen, according to Thomson Reuters. Achieving it would mark another milestone in Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai’s long haul to pull one of Japan’s most iconic technology firms out of heavy losses, squeezed by cheaper and more nimble rivals in mass consumer electronics.

Under Hirai’s direction, Sony has reshaped itself to target expansion in lucrative new areas such as sensors used in cameras for popular devices like Apple Inc’s iPhones. That strategy has vexed some former executives who have urged Hirai to focus on innovation, not cost cuts.

“We are emerging from losses but still recuperating,” Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida told reporters on Thursday, saying Sony was being cautious in forecasting to break with past habits.

“In the past seven years, we revised (earnings guidance) downwards around 15 times,” he said, citing fluctuations in foreign exchange rates as a major concern.

As part of its restructuring, Sony has exited PCs and spun off its TV business. It also plans to split off its audio and video business in an effort to hold subsidiaries more accountable for making a profit.

Investors have welcomed the new-look Sony. Shares have risen more than 30 percent in 2015, and year-on-year, the stock has nearly doubled, hitting 3,827.50 yen earlier this month, its highest since 2008.

 

Sony Unveils New Xperia Smartphone

April 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sony Corp on Monday announced a new high-end Xperia smartphone featuring an aluminium frame and a 5.2-inch screen, showing it is still in the phone race even as it scales down its struggling mobile operations.

The launch of the new flagship model comes amid a painful restructuring at the Japanese consumer electronics giant which has thrown the future of its smartphone division into doubt, with top executives saying an exit cannot be ruled out.

But as the company focuses on cutting costs rather than growing its mobile market, the division still needs investment in new products and marketing to maintain Sony’s brand and hold off a more rapid deterioration.

Sony said the Xperia Z4 would be available in Japan around the middle of the year, though it did not provide a launch date, details on carrier partners or price. The handset would be available in four colours and was slightly thinner than the previous Z3.

Hiroki Totoki, who was appointed last year to turn around the mobile unit, said Sony was targeting the upper end of the market where rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc dominate.

“There’s a broad variety in the prices of smartphones, from around $100 to $1,400 at the upper end,” he told a news conference. “We want to focus in the upper half of that.”

Sony’s mobile division has fallen far behind high-end rivals such as Samsung and Apple, while at the low end it is battling pricing pressure from Asian manufacturers such as China’s Xiaomi Inc.

The company whose Walkman and Trinitron TV once played a critical role in the global entertainment industry has struggled in recent years to come up with trend-setting gadgets.

Sony announced in February that it would scale down its weaker operations such as TVs and mobile phones to focus instead on more successful products such as video games and camera sensors.

 

Qualcomm Gives Snapdragon More Umph

April 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has released a new Trepn Profiler app for Android which will profile Snapdragon processors and tinker with them.

The Trepn Profiler app identifies apps that overwork the CPU or are eating too much data. The app will pinpoint which of the apps drain the battery faster.

All data that will be obtained by this app can provide information you need to know which program is slowing down your phone.

Most Android phone users will not give a damn, but developers will find it useful. Those who are interested in testing roms, custom kernels, and their own apps can use the data gathered by the Trepn Profiler.

Developers can measure optimisation and performance on Snapdragon-powered mobile devices. Data are real-time include network usage, battery power, GPU frequency load, and CPU cores’ load. Key features also include six fast-loading profiling presets, and an advanced mode to manually select data points and save for analysis.

The Advanced Mode allows profiling a single app or device, offline data analysis, and increasing of data collection interval. This special mode also allows longer profiling sessions, displaying two data point in one overlay, and viewing of profile data.

All up this should enable developers to come up with more Snapdragon friendly apps.

Courtesy-Fud

Nissan Says It Will Have Autonomous Vehicle By 2016

April 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Nissan is aiming to have a car that can navigate Japan’s highways on its own next year, and the company plans to have a completely self-driving vehicle for urban areas by 2020.

“There will be a Nissan product in Japan, which will carry autonomous drive,” Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters at the New York International Auto Show. “Obviously when you have this kind of technology, you want also the Japanese market to enjoy it as soon as possible.”

Also, auto parts supplier Delphi announced its autonomous Audi completed a 3,500-mile, cross-country journey.

The Audi traveled from San Francisco to New York in the first coast-to-coast trip ever taken by an automated vehicle. The nine-day trip crossed 15 states and the District of Columbia, passing through complex driving situations such as traffic circles, construction zones, bridges, tunnels, aggressive drivers and a variety of weather conditions.

Yet, 99% of the drive was completed in fully automated mode.

“Our vehicle performed remarkably well during this drive, exceeding our expectations,” Jeff Owens, Delphi chief technology officer, said in a statement. “The knowledge obtained from this trip will help optimize our existing active safety products and accelerate our future product development, which will allow us to deliver unsurpassed automotive grade technologies to our customers.”

Meanwhile, Nissan has partnered with NASA to develop autonomous vehicle systems. The five-year research and development partnership between Nissan’s U.S. Silicon Valley Research Center and NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., will also focus on human-machine interface technology, network-enabled applications, and software analysis and verification, all involving sophisticated hardware and software used in road and space applications.

“The partnership will accelerate Nissan’s development of safe, secure and reliable autonomous drive technology that we will progressively introduce to consumers beginning in 2016 up to 2020,” Chosn said in a statement.

In 2016, Nissan believes its vehicles will use lane guidance systems and adaptive cruise control to automatically steer and brake on highways.

 

 

 

Qualcomm Shuts Down Snapdragon 815 Rumor

April 2, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A lot of rumors regarding an alleged upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 815 SoC have been floating around, and now the chipmaker has informed us that that no such chip exists.

Qualcomm’s Senior Director of Public Relations Jon Carvill said that there is no Snapdragon 815 in the works:

Carvill was clear:

“There are no plans for a Snapdragon 815 processor.”

Snapdragon 815 filed under creative journalism

The Snapdragon 815 rumours spread like wildfire, but since they didn’t make much sense, we decided not to carry them. Basically the alleged Snapdragon 815 was supposed to be a 16nm SoC with four Cortex-A72 and Cortex-A53 cores, but the rest of the spec was hard to swallow.

Long story short, there is no such thing as a Snapdragon 815. The company never had such a product, and if you know a thing of two about SoC development, it takes years to make a new SoC design from scratch – you don’t just design a new one for a new node out of the blue.

It would be very convenient if the company managed to pull off something like this, but it’s simply not possible.

Qualcomm’s next flagship is the Snapdragon 820

Now that we debunked this rumor, we should focus on Qualcomm’s real next generation flagship SoC – the Snapdragon 820.

The company mentioned the Snapdragon 820 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but it looks like that it will be a while before we see this chip shipping in actual devices. Qualcomm expects the new part to sample sometime in the second half of the year, so in the best case scenario we might see the first devices by the end of the year, but most products based on the new chip will start shipping in early 2016.

The 20nm Snapdragon 810 is not overheating, it works just fine, and we tested it inside the HTC One M9. We can confirm that it ends up significantly faster than the Snapdragon 801, which we had a chance to try in a few phones.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Panasonic On The Hunt For Acquisition Targets

March 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corp said it is gearing up to spend 1 trillion yen ($8.4 billion) on acquisitions over the next four years, bolstered by a stronger profit outlook for its automotive and housing technology businesses.

Chief Executive Kazuhiro Tsuga said at a briefing on Thursday that Panasonic doesn’t have specific acquisition targets in mind for now. But he said the firm will spend around 200 billion yen on M&A in the fiscal year that kicks off in April alone, and pledged to improve on Panasonic’s patchy track record on big deals.

“With strategic investments, if there’s an opportunity to accelerate growth, you need funds. That’s the idea behind the 1 trillion yen figure,” he said. Tsuga has spearheaded a radical restructuring at the Osaka-based company that has made it one of the strongest turnaround stories in Japan’s embattled technology sector.

Tsuga previously told Reuters that company was interested in M&A deals in the European white goods market, a sector where Panasonic has comparatively low brand recognition.

The firm said on Thursday it’s targeting operating profit of 430 billion yen in the next fiscal year, up nearly 25 percent from the 350 billion yen it expects for the year ending March 31.

Panasonic’s earnings have been bolstered by moving faster than peers like Sony Corp and Sharp Corp to overhaul business models squeezed by competition from cheaper Asian rivals and caught flat-footed in a smartphone race led by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics. Out has gone reliance on mass consumer goods like TVs and smartphones, and in has come a focus on areas like automotive technology and energy-efficient home appliances.

Tsuga also sought to ease concerns that an expensive acquisition could set back its finances, which took years to recover from the deal agreed in 2008 to buy cross-town rival Sanyo for a sum equal to about $9 billion at the time.

 

 

Microsoft Files Suit Against Kyocera Over Mobile Phones

March 9, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft Corp has filed a lawsuit against Kyocera Corp for patent infringement last Friday, alleging the Japanese company’s Duraforce, Hydro and Brigadier cell phone lines violate seven Microsoft patents.

Microsoft asked a Seattle federal judge to impose a U.S. sales injunction against Kyocera’s infringing products, according to the lawsuit.

A Kyocera representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

“We respect Kyocera but we believe they need to license the patented technology they are using. We’re hopeful this case can be resolved amicably,” said Microsoft deputy general counsel David Howard in a statement.

Kyocera’s phones run on the Android operating system, developed by Google Inc. Microsoft has secured patent licensing deals with numerous Android handset manufacturers in recent years, including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, LG Electronics Inc and HTC Corp.

In its lawsuit, Microsoft accuses Kyocera of using patented technology including location services and text messaging.

The case in U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington is Microsoft Technology Licensing LLC vs. Kyocera and Kyocera Communications Inc., 15-346.

 

Qualcomm Goes Ultrasonic

March 3, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has unveiled what it claims is the world’s first ‘ultrasonic’ fingerprint scanner, in a bid to improve mobile security and further boost Android’s chances in the enterprise space.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon Sense ID 3D Fingerprint technology debuted during the chipmaker’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) press conference on Monday.

The firm claimed that the new feature will outperform the fingerprint scanners found on smartphones such as the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6.

Qualcomm also claimed that, as well as “better protecting user data”, the 3D ultrasonic imaging technology is much more accurate than capacitive solutions currently available, and is not hindered by greasy or sweaty fingers.

Sense ID offers a more “innovative and elegant” design for manufacturers, the firm said, owing to its ability to scan fingerprints through any material, be it glass, metal or sapphire.

This means, in theory, that future fingerprint sensors could be included directly into a smartphone’s display.

Derek Aberle, Qualcomm president, said: “This is another industry first for Qualcomm and has the potential to revolutionise mobile security.

“It’s also another step towards the end of the password, and could mean that you’ll never have to type in a password on your smartphone again.”

No specific details or partners have yet been announced, but Qualcomm said that the Sense ID technology will arrive in devices in the second half of 2015, when the firm’s next-generation Snapdragon 820 processor is also tipped to debut.

The firm didn’t reveal many details about this chip, except that it will feature Kryo 64-bit CPU tech and a new machine learning feature dubbed Zeroth.

Qualcomm also revealed more details about LTE-U during Monday’s press conference, confirming plans to extend LTE to unused spectrum using technology integrated in its latest small-cell solutions and RF transceivers for mobile devices.

“We face many challenges as demand for data constantly grows, and we think the best way to fix this is by taking advantage of unused spectrum,” said Aberle.

Finally, the chipmaker released details about a new a partnership with Cyanogen, the open-source outfit responsible for the CyanogenMod operating system.

Qualcomm said that it will provide support for the best features and UI enhancements of CyanogenMod on Snapdragon processors, which will be available for the release of Qualcomm Reference Design in April.

The MWC announcements follow the launch of the ARM Cortex-based Snapdragon 620 and 618 chips last month, which promise to improve connectivity and user experience on high-end smartphones and tablets.

Aberle said that these chips will begin to show up in devices in mid to late 2015.

Courtesy-TheInq

Was Old Code The Culprit For Security Breaches In 2014?

February 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Nearly half of all security breaches come from vulnerabilities that are between two and four years old, according to this year’s HP Cyber Risk Report entitled The Past Is Prologue.

The annual report found that the most prevalent problems came as a result of server misconfiguration, and that the primary causes of commonly exploited software vulnerabilities are defects, bugs and logic flaws.

But perhaps most disturbing of all was the news that Internet of Things (IoT) devices and mobile malware have introduced a significant extra security risk.

The entire top 10 vulnerabilities exposed in 2014 came from code written years, and in some cases decades, previously.

The news comes in the same week that HP took a swipe at rival Lenovo for knowingly putting Superfish adware into its machines.

“Many of the biggest security risks are issues we’ve known about for decades, leaving organisations unnecessarily exposed,” said Art Gilliland, senior vice president and general manager for enterprise security products at HP.

“We can’t lose sight of defending against these known vulnerabilities by entrusting security to the next silver bullet technology. Rather, organisations must employ fundamental security tactics to address known vulnerabilities and, in turn, eliminate significant amounts of risk.”

The main recommendations of report are that network administrators should employ a comprehensive and timely patching strategy, perform regular penetration testing and variation of configurations, keep equipment up to date to mitigate risk, share collaboration and threat intelligence, and use complementary protection strategies.

The threat to security from the IoT is already well documented by HP, which released a study last summer revealing that 90 percent of IoT devices take at least one item of personal data and 60 percent are vulnerable to common security breaches.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Will Sony Exit TV, Mobile Phone Markets?

February 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp hopes to increase operating profit 25-fold within three years by growing its camera sensors and PlayStation units, its chief executive said, laying out a strategy that could see the company exit the ultra competitive TV and smartphone markets.

CEO Kazuo Hirai said on Wednesday the Japanese consumer electronics firm would no longer pursue sales growth in areas such as smartphones where its has suffered competition from cheaper Asian rivals as well as industry leaders like Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.

Sony would instead focus its spending on more profitable businesses such as camera sensors, videogames and entertainment as it seeks to return to growth after forecasting for this financial year its sixth net loss in seven years.

“The strategy starting from the next business year will be about generating profit and investing for growth,” Hirai told a briefing, adding that Sony’s units would be given greater autonomy to make their own business decisions.

Asked about the TV and mobile phone units, Hirai said he would not “rule out considering an exit strategy”, Sony’s clearest statement to date about the possibility of selling or finding partners for these struggling units.

Sony is in the midst of a restructuring that has so far seen it sell off its personal computer division and spin off the TV business. It has also axed thousands of jobs.

Sony shares have risen more than 80 percent over the past year as investors applauded the restructuring, which accelerated since Hirai appointed Kenichiro Yoshida as his chief strategy officer in late 2013.

 

 

Flip-Phones Oddly Increasing In Popularity In Japan

February 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Japanese shipments of traditional flip-phones picked up pace in 2014 for the first time in seven years while smartphone shipments dropped, highlighting Japanese consumers’ tenacious attachment to the familiar and typically less expensive older models.

Nicknamed “Galapagos” phones because they have evolved to meet unique Japanese standards and tastes, flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 percent to 10.58 million in 2014, data from market researcher MM Research Institute Ltd shows. Smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent to 27.70 million, down for a second year.

Users in Japan pay some of the highest smartphone fees among developed nations, the telecommunications ministry says, while flip-phone rates are among the lowest. Many Japanese accustomed to years of deflation are content with old-style flip-phones offering voice calling, email and in most cases basic Internet services.

Japanese electronics companies Panasonic Corp and NEC Corp have pulled out of the consumer smartphone business, unable to compete with dominant brands Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. They still make flip-phones, though, competing in a crowded market with Fujitsu Ltd and Sharp Corp, among others.

But with a mobile penetration rate of 98.5 percent, or 125 million subscriptions, there is little scope for significant overall growth in Japan’s mobile market, MM Research said. “Smartphones are also peaking in terms of functionality and they tend to last a long time as well, so there are fewer renewals,” said MM Research Executive Analyst Hideaki Yokota. He said 2014 was a particularly strong year for renewals in the subscription cycle for flip-phones, suggesting that last year’s growth may not be repeated this year.

 

 

Is Sharp Selling Off Its Display Division?

February 17, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Technology

A senior Sharp executive has denied that the Japanese company wants to ditch its failing display business, after it warned it will likely book its third annual net loss in four years.

This time Sharp is blaming weak demand from Chinese smartphone makers and it will book a net loss of $256 million this fiscal year through March compared with a previous forecast of a 30 billion net profit.

Rumors abounded that Sharp may need to reconsider its strategy including a possible sale of the display business.

But Sharp Executive Director Kazunori Houshi told reporters that it was “not considering the option” of selling the display business and that he believed the downturn in demand from Chinese smartphone makers would be temporary.

All this means is that Sharp will be a little more patent before it throws in any towel. Besides it might be a little difficult to sell the business at the moment.

Courtesy-Fud

Smartphone Maker ZTE Plans Big Investment In Wireless Charging Technology

February 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Chinese smartphone manufacturer ZTE Corp plans to invest 1.5 billion yuan ($240 million) in wireless charging technology for automobiles in 2015 and more than 2 billion yuan next year.

ZTE’s director of corporate strategy, George Sun, also said the company had signed agreements with more than 20 cities in China to provide wireless charging technology for public transportation, in a significant boost for the country’s electric car industry.

“So far the feedback (from local governments) is very, very positive. We solved the biggest headache of electric car charging for local government,” Sun said.

Chinese drivers have yet to widely adopt the use of electric vehicles despite years of government programs to support their development, although public transportation fleets are a notable exception.

Shenzhen-based ZTE plans to conduct pre-commercial trials of wireless charging for public transportation in 50 to 100 Chinese cities in 2015, Sun said.

ZTE was in talks with several Chinese and foreign carmakers over possible collaboration on wireless charging technology for vehicles, he added, declining to elaborate.

Wireless charging technology saves space, allowing governments to install it in bus terminals or car parks, although the costs for wireless equipment are higher than traditional charging facilities.

In a renewed effort aimed at cutting heavy pollution, China has rolled out aggressive targets for vehicle fuel efficiency that will grow increasingly strict until 2020, at which time its standards will have surpassed the United States and be on roughly equal footing with Japan.

The government has offered tax cuts for green vehicles and proposed extending subsidies, mostly for domestic producers, to aid automakers in meeting these targets.

 

Ready For 8K Screens?

February 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A new standard that supports higher-resolution displays should aid in moving 8K screens from the realm of high-end TV and into laptops, all-in-one PCs and possibly mobile devices.

The Video Electronics Standards Association’s Embedded DisplayPort (eDP) 1.4a will boost image quality on screens through faster video transfer rates. The newer standard is for displays inside computers, and it will replace the older 1.4 standard that was released in early 2013. With 8K, displays will show images at a 7680 x 4320 resolution.

Displays based on the new technology will start appearing in computers and mobile devices by 2016, VESA said.

Screens with 8K resolution could find their way into high-end laptops and all-in-one desktops. Apple has used a modified version of the eDP standard in its iMac with 5K Display. Some high-end gaming and business laptops already have 4K displays.

At the moment, 8K resolution is the province of high-end TVs. Japan’s NHK is testing 8K broadcasts in time for the 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo.

Tablets and smartphones don’t have 4K screens yet, and may not get 8K screens. It’s hard to differentiate pixels on small screens, and 8K screens could be expensive for device makers. For now, mobile devices have powerful graphics processors that are able to process 4K video, which can then be shown on external displays.

Displays are the most power-hungry components in laptops and mobile devices. But the new eDP standard could improve battery life by reducing display circuitry and improving processing of pixels.

 

 

Canon Looking Beyond Camera Market With Latest Acquisition

February 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Canon Inc will acquire network video surveillance leader Axis AB for about 23.6 billion Swedish crowns ($2.83 billion), the biggest purchase ever for the Japanese company that is trying to expand beyond the shrinking camera market.

Canon said it was launching a tender offer to buy all Axis shares for 340 crowns each, a premium of nearly 50 percent.

The Swedish company said its board of directors unanimously supported the offer, and that three of its top shareholders representing around 40 percent of total shares will accept it.

Canon already sells surveillance cameras and sees the sector as a growing market, although it has not disclosed how much it earns from such products.

The deal will make Canon a top player in the video surveillance market, which was worth an estimated $15 billion at the end of last year, according to researcher IHS. Within that market, there is a $3.86 billion segment for network-connected security cameras which is led by Axis with a 17.5 percent share as of 2013.

The deal comes after Canon late last month reported a slight increase in fourth-quarter profit, as a weaker yen and rising sales of office equipment offset weakness in a camera division competing with smartphones capable of high-quality imaging.

The company, which earned over 80 percent of its revenue overseas in 2014, said it would pay in cash.

Axis’ is targeting average annual growth of at least 20 percent and a profit margin of at least 10 percent. The company reported a fourth-quarter operating profit of 199 million crowns, slightly below analyst forecasts but up from 166 million a year earlier.

Around half of its sales come from the Americas, 40 percent from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and the rest from Asia.

Axis said it will remain as a separate legal entity within Canon, and that its current management team will stay.