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Will The EU Fine Canon

July 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

EU regulators said they might fine Canon up to 10 percent of annual revenue for jumping the gun in its acquisition of Toshiba Medical unit.

The EU Commission said Canon breached rules by using a so-called “warehousing” two-step transaction structure involving an interim buyer to buy the company prior to obtaining relevant approvals.

Ten percent of Canon’s annual revenue would be roughly equivalent to $2.9 billion.

The $6 billion deal, completed late last year, raised eyebrows at the time due to the unorthodox method which allowed Toshiba, which was struggling for cash after an accounting scandal, to book proceeds in time for the financial year-end in March.

Rival bidder Fujifilm slammed the deal as a “mockery of the law”.

Canon said in a statement that it would respond appropriately, but declined further comment before regulators make their final decision.

Last month, EU antitrust regulators hit Google with a record 2.4-billion-euro fine for favouring its own shopping service so it is proving a lucrative month.

Courtesy-Fud

With The Success Of The Switch Has Nintendo Changed It’s Gaming Strategy

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Two years ago, Nintendo looked like a company faced with a common dilemma; change, or die. Its strategy of sticking firmly to the traditional platform holder business model while trying to skirt around the Teraflop arms-race between Sony and Microsoft had gone magnificently in the Wii era, but as Sony fixed a generation’s mistakes and reclaimed its crown with the launch of PS4, Nintendo faltered.

The Wii U had perhaps the most disappointing commercial performance of any console from a major player in the industry’s history; meanwhile, assessments of the 3DS could not ignore the fact that, while selling very well in its own right, the handheld significantly underperformed its forebear, the DS.

This happened against a background of Nintendo’s actual creative output firing on all cylinders. Critics and (diminished) audiences loved the company’s games; indeed, it was clear from the output on the Wii U and the 3DS that the firm’s long-term future as a creative powerhouse was secure, with big, bold titles from new young creators taking centre stage and wiping away any fears raised by Shigeru Miyamoto’s musings about retirement plans. The problem wasn’t software quality; the problem was that the platforms on which that software was appearing seemed to be in terminal decline.

It’s a little early to announce the halting of that decline just yet – if the Switch really does end up beating the Wii U’s lifetime sales in its first year on the market, then we can talk about that – but the narrative has certainly changed since Switch stormed onto the market. Between the success of the new console and the voracious demand (matched to anaemic supply) for the NES Classic and its just-announced SNES successor, the story of Nintendo now isn’t about decline at all. Rather, some of the more excitable commentators are already wondering aloud about the return of the Wii boom years, and even the more moderate voices are being swept along in the enthusiasm.

The call for Nintendo to “change or die” has largely disappeared, since the company seems to be on track to prove that it can survive without changing very much at all, thank you very much. Without the “or die” clause, it’s an exhortation that loses much of its power, and with the loss of that power goes all of the attention that was formerly being paid to Nintendo’s most tangible effort to change: its commitment to smartphone games, through a long-term deal with Japanese mobile game firm DeNA.

Last year, that was all anyone wanted to talk about in relation to Nintendo. Pokemon Go, although not a Nintendo title, was the phenomenon of last summer and seen as proof of the incredible prospects for Nintendo IP on smartphones. The arrival of the firm’s own games on mobile was so hotly anticipated that notorious videogame curmudgeons Apple even changed the way the iOS App Store worked especially to allow “pre-orders” of Super Mario Run. A success in downloads but a poor performer in revenue terms, Mario Run was soon followed by a well-received successor, Fire Emblem Heroes, which performed much better commercially, though still without troubling any of the big beasts of mobile gaming in their roosts atop the revenue charts.

Then Switch launched, and it felt like the whole world lost interest in Nintendo on smartphones. The company has at least two smartphone games in the pipeline this year, and on paper they should be generating a lot of buzz; Animal Crossing is arguably the company’s best-loved casual franchise and its ‘play a little every day’ structure is a perfect fit for mobile, and it’s reportedly to be followed by a Zelda mobile title later this year. Yet you could hear a pin drop in coverage of these upcoming games, while the appearance of even a logo for a resurrected franchise in the company’s E3 broadcast has generated acres of coverage and discussion.

This is not, in itself, surprising. The games media has struggled for a decade with the fact that the huge audience that plays mobile games simply isn’t interested in reading about or discussing games in the same way as the console and PC audience. What’s a little more concerning, though, is that Nintendo itself hasn’t had much to say about mobile games of late. Audiences are fascinated by the Switch and the Classic consoles right now; the billion-dollar question (quite literally) is whether Nintendo itself has also lost some of its interest in smartphones as its more traditional business has returned to health.

To be clear, I’m not implying that Nintendo is about to abandon its deal with DeNA or stop working on mobile titles. The toothpaste is out of the tube and can’t be squeezed back in; Nintendo is a smartphone developer now, and it will remain such in future. This is, rather, a question of focus and priorities – and corollary to that, a question of how much flexibility and latitude Nintendo’s mobile teams will have to play with its IP.

It wouldn’t be entirely surprising if the success of Switch had rekindled opposition to mobile within Nintendo to some degree. The business approach of Super Mario Run, which was more like a classic Shareware game than a modern F2P title, spoke not just to a desire to experiment in the space, but also to a deep-rooted suspicion and dislike of the F2P mechanics which dominate mobile games. That Fire Emblem Heroes ended up using F2P systems was partially down to being a game more suited to those systems, but it also suggested that Nintendo was learning from its mistakes in this new arena.

It seems probable, however, that many of Nintendo’s designers (who are unusually powerful within the company, compared to most other firms in the industry) were not terribly enamoured of the lessons they were having to learn. When it was a matter of ‘do this or the company is finished’, they might have begrudgingly worked within the confines of the F2P model that has proven so successful elsewhere; with Switch selling faster than the firm can produce consoles, the argument that this is not necessary will have welled up again.

This is more than just the old “but I don’t like F2P” argument, which is tired and dull and has done the rounds so very many times. In Nintendo’s situation, there’s a genuine case to be made regarding how much they’re willing to risk the future to secure the present. The resistance to F2P within the company comes in part from discomfort with the sharper practices that are clear in the business models of some other mobile gaming firms, but also from a genuine desire to protect the value of its IP.

Nintendo, after all, is essentially a vault of extremely valuable IP which both provides the secure foundation for the firm’s existing business, and relies on that business to maintain its value and relevance. Safeguarding that IP – perhaps the second most valuable library in the world, after the Walt Disney Company’s vast holdings – is absolutely crucial to Nintendo’s long-term future. The responsibility to pass the IP library on to the next set of hands in better condition than it was received is something that senior staff at the company take extremely seriously.

If Nintendo really has improved its fortunes in the console market, and the mobile space is now seen as an interesting new venture rather than a lifeline from drowning, the calculation changes entirely. Mobile may not lose focus (not much, anyway; a little is perhaps inevitable), but the push to accept F2P systems with which its designers aren’t entirely comfortable has lost its inexorable nature. How Nintendo engages with mobile in general and F2P in particular is now going to be on its own terms.

One consequence of that is likely to be that Nintendo’s games, while successful and profitable, never really challenge the top of the mobile revenue charts – which tend to be occupied by games that take an approach to F2P that, in Nintendo’s eyes at least, is likely to damage the IP by association. (It’s notable that for all the revenue flowing through mobile gaming, the only IP created in the space that seems to have any broad value beyond fuelling direct sequels is Angry Birds, a game that wasn’t F2P in its original incarnation.)

Nintendo’s experiment with mobile isn’t over by any means, and in the long term it remains a hugely important. It still wants to succeed, but the parameters of the experiment have changed. For the resurgent Nintendo, mobile must now match the company’s needs, and not the other way around.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Amazon Announces Return Of ‘Prime Day’ Sales Bonanza

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

If you missed last year’s sales extravaganza, Amazon has good news for you.

The e-commerce titan has officially announced its third annual Prime Day will be July 11. The sales day will include hundreds of thousands of deals worldwide and run for 30 hours, starting at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on July 10. As usual, these deals will be available only to Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year in the US and can sign up for £59 in the UK until July 3, for unlimited two-day shipping and other perks.

The sale will also expand to more countries to include Mexico, China and India, where Amazon launched its Prime membership program over the past year. The US, UK, Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Belgium and Austria are also included.

Amazon has found huge success creating the sales holiday in 2015 to mark its 20th anniversary. The company even broke its single-day sales record during Prime Day last year. But, as Amazon’s dominance continues to grow, Prime Day serves as another example of the online seller gobbling up more market share as traditional retailers file for bankruptcy or close stores. The company last year accounted for 43 percent of all online sales in the US, according to researcher Slice Intelligence.

Perhaps aware of its increased influence, Amazon mentioned in its announcement Wednesday that 40 percent of its “Lightning Deals” promotions on Prime Day will come from small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Since its first year, Prime Day has also gotten knocked for offering undesirable deals along with low inventories of the most popular items. Responding to that criticism, the company increased its stocks of big-name items last year and decided to embrace the sometimes oddball or unexpected nature of the deals offered. These changed seemed to work, with Adobe Digital Insights reporting that customer sentiments on social media was more positive last year than during the first Prime Day.

The company is also doing more this year to better organize deals and make it easier for customers to track and shop for sales.

Amazon will be continuing its “countdown deals” in the run-up to Prime Day, offering sales starting today. Those include discounts on memberships for Amazon Music Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited and Audible.

Western Digital Re-submits 11th Hour Bid For Toshiba’s Chip Unit

June 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Western Digital Corp and U.S. private equity firm KKR & Co LP have resubmitted an offer for Toshiba Corp’s  flash memory chip unit, in an eleventh hour effort to stop the conglomerate from signing a deal with its preferred bidder.

Western Digital, which jointly runs Toshiba’s main semiconductor plant, has been at loggerheads with its Japanese partner over the sale of the world’s No. 2 producer of NAND chips, and is seeking a U.S. court injunction to prevent any deal that does not have its consent.

The resubmission adds to uncertainty about whether Toshiba will sign a pact by Wednesday with the firm’s preferred bidder – a group led by Japanese government investors and including Bain Capital that has offered around 2 trillion yen ($18 billion).

The crisis-wracked Japanese conglomerate is rushing to sell the unit to cover billions of dollars in cost overruns at its bankrupt Westinghouse nuclear unit and had set itself a deadline of Wednesday to sign what it has called a definitive agreement.

Wednesday is the day of Toshiba’s annual shareholders meeting and while an announcement of an agreement would look better at the meeting, the deadline is self-imposed.

Western Digital will provide debt financing to facilitate a sale as part of the resubmitted bid, the U.S. firm said in a brief statement on Tuesday.

Sources with knowledge of the matter said a state-backed fund, the Innovation Network Corp of Japan (INCJ), and the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ) which are currently part of preferred bidder consortium – would be invited to join the resubmitted offer.

The sources declined to be identified as the talks were confidential. It was not immediately clear if terms of the offer had significantly changed from one tabled earlier this month that Western Digital has said met Toshiba’s minimum requirement of 2 trillion yen.

An INCJ spokesman declined to comment. Representatives for KKR and DBJ were not immediately available for comment.

In response to Western Digital’s resubmission, Toshiba released a statement reiterating that it has reviewed all proposals and is currently finalizing an agreement with the preferred bidder.

Nissan-Renault Planning Driverless Ride-hailing Service

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Renault SA alliance plan to launch driverless ride-hailing and ride-sharing services in coming years, as the car makers place their focus beyond making and selling cars to survive an industry being quickly transformed by new services.

Automakers are leveraging expertise in automated driving functions for mass-market cars to develop mobility services, as they compete with tech firms such as Alphabet Inc and Uber Technologies Inc  in the fast-growing “pay-per-ride” market which threatens to hit demand for car ownership.

Ogi Redzic, head of Nissan-Renault’s Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services division, said the alliance would begin self-driving services based on its electric cars “certainly within 10 years,” though not likely before 2020.

“We think that the big opportunity for us is in automation, electric vehicles and ride-sharing and hailing together,” Redzic said in an interview on Thursday.

Nissan and Renault join a small group of automakers aiming to enter the ride-hailing market, which Goldman Sachs last month estimated would grow eightfold by 2030 to be five times the size of the taxi market.

Redzic said the Japanese and French partners were testing self-driving vehicles, and that any service would run on pre-mapped courses with predetermined pick-up and drop-off points.

The two automakers are developing the system with Japanese game software maker DeNA Co Ltd and French public transport operator Transdev SA.

German rival BMW AG is also testing autonomous vehicles for use in ride-hailing services, while Uber has been developing self-driving technology.

U.S. tech firm nuTonomy Inc and ride services company Lyft Inc, which counts General Motors Co as a major shareholder, this month announced they would begin piloting an autonomous vehicle ride-hailing service in Boston.

Redzic said to market a self-driving service, regulations need to change to allow driverless cars on roads. At the moment, most global jurisdictions do not expressly authorise vehicles to operate on regular roads without a driver.

“It doesn’t just depend on us,” he said. “To become fully driverless you need laws to change.”

Honda Factory Hit By WannaCry Ransomware

June 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Honda Motor Co confirmed that it halted production at a domestic vehicle plant for a day this week after finding the WannaCry ransomware that struck globally last month in its computer network.

The automaker shut production on Monday at its Sayama plant, northwest of Tokyo, which produces models including the Accord sedan, Odyssey Minivan and Step Wagon compact multipurpose vehicle and has a daily output of around 1,000 vehicles.

Honda discovered on Sunday that the virus had affected networks across Japan, North America, Europe, China and other regions, a spokeswoman said, despite efforts to secure its systems in mid-May when the virus caused widespread disruption at plants, hospitals and shops worldwide.

Production at other plants operated by the automaker had not been affected, and regular operations had resumed at the Sayama plant on Tuesday, she said.

The spread of the WannaCry ransomware which locked up more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries has slowed since last month, but security experts have warned that new versions of the worm may strike.

Rival automakers Renault SA  and Nissan Motor Co were also affected by the virus last month, when the automaking alliance companies stopped production at plants in Japan, Britain, France, Romania and India.

Mayer Resigns As Verizon Officially Take Control Of Yahoo

June 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Verizon Communications Inc announced that it has officially closed its $4.48 billion acquisition of Yahoo Inc’s core business and that Marissa Mayer, chief executive of the internet company, had resigned.

The completion of the acquisition marks the end of the line for Yahoo as a standalone internet company, a storied tech pioneer once valued at more than $100 billion.

Verizon, the No. 1 U.S. wireless operator, is combining Yahoo with AOL, which it bought two years ago, to form a new venture called Oath, led by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. Oath’s more than 50 brands include HuffPost, TechCrunch and Tumblr.

“Given the inherent changes to my role, I’ll be leaving the company,” Mayer wrote in an email to employees on Tuesday that she also posted on Tumblr. “However, I want all of you to know that I’m brimming with nostalgia, gratitude, and optimism.”

The closing of the deal, announced in July, had been delayed as the companies assessed the fallout from two data breaches that Yahoo disclosed last year.

Reuters reported last week that Verizon plans to cut about 2,000 jobs, or 15 percent, of the 14,000 employees at its Yahoo and AOL units. Verizon is expected to make cuts as early as Wednesday. Yahoo cut 15 percent of its workforce last year and AOL cut 500 jobs.

On June 16, the remainder of Yahoo not acquired by Verizon will be renamed Altaba Inc, a holding company whose primary assets will be its 15.5 percent stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and a 35.5 percent holding in Yahoo Japan Corp.

Thomas McInerney, a Yahoo board member, will become Altaba’s chief executive officer.

Apple, Dell Said To Be Joining Bid For Toshiba’s Chip Unit

June 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Tech titans Apple and Dell Inc will join a Foxconn-led consortium bidding for Toshiba Corp’s highly prized chip unit, the CEO of the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer told Reuters on Monday.

Terry Gou, Foxconn’s founder and chief executive, said U.S.-based Kingston Technology Co, a maker of memory products, would also be part of the bidding group, while Amazon.com Inc was close to joining.

The Taiwanese firm is also in discussions with Alphabet Inc’s Google, Microsoft Corp and Cisco Systems Inc  about their participation in the bid, he said.

He declined to comment on the total size of the offer or say how much Apple and other U.S. firms planned to invest.

“I can tell you Apple is in for sure,” Gou said in an interview, adding that its participation had been approved by the Chief Executive Tim Cook and Apple’s board of directors.

Toshiba is rushing to find a buyer for the world’s second-largest producer of NAND chips, which it values at $18 billion or more, to cover billions of dollars in cost overruns at its now-bankrupt U.S. nuclear business Westinghouse Electric Corp.

Foxconn, however, has not been seen as a frontrunner for the unit due to its deep ties with China, where it manufactures much of its products. The Japanese government has said it will block any deal that would risk the transfer of key chip technology out of the country.

But Gou said that Foxconn-led consortium contained no Chinese capital and had the advantage of not inviting as much antitrust scrutiny as other suitors.

“The key is that we are all customers, we are users,” he said.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, and its Japanese unit Sharp Corp would have a combined stake of not more than 40 percent, he added.

Representatives for Apple and the other U.S. firms named by Gou could not be immediately reached for comment outside of regular business hours. Sharp declined to comment.

Google Sells Robotics Business Units To SoftBank

June 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

SoftBank Group Corp announced that it has agreed to acquire two firms that build walking robots from Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc, adding to the Japanese company’s growing artificial intelligence portfolio.

SoftBank said it would buy Boston Dynamics and Tokyo-based Schaft, which design and manufacture robots that simulate human movement, but did not disclose the terms of the transactions.

Shares of the company rose as much as 7.9 percent after the deal was announced, hitting a 17-year high.

“Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the information revolution, and Marc (Raibert) and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots,” SoftBank Group Chairman Masayoshi Son said in a statement on Friday.

Raibert is CEO and founder of Boston Dynamics.

SoftBank has embarked on an aggressive acquisition campaign to boost its research and development capabilities. The group is backing the $93 billion Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund that seeks to invest in technologies expected to grow significantly in the near future, such as robotics and artificial intelligence.

Son, Japan’s richest man, describes the fund as essential for setting up SoftBank for a data “gold rush” which he expects to happen as the global economy becomes increasingly digitized.

Boston Dynamics and Schaft could eventually be vested with the Vision Fund, a person familiar with the deal told Reuters

Schaft, a University of Tokyo spinoff, develops bipedal robots designed to negotiate uneven terrain.

“Robotics as a field has great potential, and we’re happy to see Boston Dynamics and Schaft join the SoftBank team to continue contributing to the next generation of robotics,” an Alphabet spokesperson said.

Boston Dynamics has produced a number of robots that mimic human and animal movement, including Atlas, a humanoid model that co-ordinates motion and balance using its arms and legs and can pick itself up off the ground when knocked over.

It is best known for building robots that look as if they belong in science-fiction movies and are often co-developed or funded by the U.S. military. Its military projects would mean the acquisition is likely to be subject to regulatory approval from Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

The company was acquired by Google in 2013 during a robotics shopping spree led by Android creator Andy Rubin, but the team struggled to find its place within the tech giant after Rubin’s departure, former Boston Dynamics employees said.

“They’re advancing the state of the art in independent robotics. They are probably the leader in the U.S.,” said Arnis Mangolds, a robotics expert who has worked with Boston Dynamics.

“But the problem is it’s not ready for prime time, and very few people have a tolerance for that.”

Western Digital To Raise Bid Offer For Toshiba’s Chip Business

June 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Western Digital Corp will increase its offer for Toshiba Corp’s prized semiconductor unit to $18 billion or more, a person familiar with the matter said, in a last-ditch effort to clinch a deal both companies consider vital.

The U.S. chipmaker is part of a consortium led by a Japanese government-backed fund. The group will present the new offer of 2 trillion yen or more by Thursday, when the struggling Japanese conglomerate is due to choose a preferred bidder for its Toshiba Memory Corp unit, the world’s second-largest producer of NAND memory chips, the person told Reuters on Saturday.

Toshiba has been favoring a rival bid from U.S. chipmaker Broadcom Ltd, which has partnered with U.S. private equity firm Silver Lake to offer 2.2 trillion yen, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

A spokesman for Western Digital had no comment. Toshiba could not immediately be reached for comment.

Toshiba had set a 2 trillion yen threshold for the sale as it rushes to find a buyer to cover billions of dollars in cost overruns at its now-bankrupt U.S. nuclear business Westinghouse Electric Corp.

The offer by Western Digital, a long-time partner of the laptops-to-nuclear conglomerate’s lucrative chips division, comes as uncertainty about the make-up of the groups bidding for Toshiba’s crown jewel has increased.

Western Digital has been seen by some sources as crucial to successful deal, as it jointly operates a key flash-memory chip plant with Toshiba in western Japan.

Honda Spells Out Its Strategy For Self-driving Cars

June 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co has detailed for the first time its plans to develop autonomous cars which can drive on city streets by 2025, building on its strategy to take on rivals in the auto market of the future.

Unveiling its mid-term Vision 2030 strategy plan, Honda said it would boost coordination between R&D, procurement and manufacturing to tame development costs as it acknowledged it must look beyond conventional vehicles to survive in an industry which is moving rapidly into electric and self-driving cars.

Honda has already spelled out plans to market a vehicle which can drive itself on highways by 2020, and the new target for city-capable self-driving cars puts its progress slightly behind rivals like BMW.

“We’re going to place utmost priority on electrification and advanced safety technologies going forward,” Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said.

Developing new driving technologies, robotics- and artificial intelligence-driven services and new energy solutions also would be key priorities for Honda in the years ahead, the company said.

Honda established a division late last year to develop electric vehicles (EVs) as part of its long-held goal for lower-emission gasoline hybrids, plug-in hybrids, EVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) to account for two-thirds of its line-up by 2030, from about 5 percent now.

By 2025, Honda plans to come up with cars with “level 4” standard automated driving functions, meaning they can drive themselves on highways and city roads under most situations.

Achieving such capabilities will require artificial intelligence to detect traffic movements, along with a battery of cameras and sensors to help avoid accidents.

BMW has said it would launch a fully autonomous car by 2021, while Ford Motor Co has said it will introduce a vehicle with similar capabilities for ride-sharing purposes in the same year. Nissan Motor Co is planning to launch a car which can drive automatically on city streets by 2020.

Honda has been ramping up R&D spending, earmarking a record 750 billion yen ($6.84 billion) for the year to March.

IBM & Samsung Developing ‘Nanosheets’ To Shrink Processors, Expand Performance

June 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

If you’re disappointed that your smartwatch isn’t that smart or your mobile phone lacks sufficient power, IBM and Samsung have some good news for you.

The allies have announced a technology they call nanosheets that should help shrink chip electronics by another notch, a move that’s necessary to squeeze more computing power into a smaller processor. Compared with today’s chips, they expect a 40 percent performance boost at the same level of power consumption or, alternatively, the same performance but using only a quarter the power.

The development is important, as chipmakers for decades have driven progress in the technology industry, with miniaturization that enabled first personal computers and then powerful phones. But it’s been hard to maintain the rate of progress, charted by Moore’s Law, that for years meant a steady doubling every two years of the number of tiny switches called transistors that would fit on a chip. Even chipmaking powerhouse Intel, whose co-founder Gordon Moore came up with Moore’s Law, has slowed down its cadence.

Today’s chips are built with transistors whose dimensions measure 10 nanometers, which means about 1,000 fit end-to-end across the diameter of a human hair. The next generation will shrink that dimension to 7nm, and the IBM-Samsung development goes one generation beyond that to 5nm.

That means transistors can be packed four times as densely on a chip compared with today’s technology. All that circuitry can help computing jobs like combining multiple photos into a single panorama, recognizing a voice command or stabilizing shaky videos.

“A nanosheet-based 5nm chip will deliver performance and power, together with density,” said Huiming Bu, IBM’s director of silicon integration and device research.

Take all those numbers with a nanograin of salt, though, because chipmakers no longer agree on what exactly they’re measuring about transistors. And there’s also a long road between this research announcement and actual commercial manufacturing. IBM believes this new process won’t cost any more than chips with today’s transistor designs, but its approach requires an expensive shift that chipmakers have put off for years: the use of extreme ultraviolet light to etch chip features onto silicon wafers.

The IBM research alliance with Samsung and chipmaker GlobalFoundries disclosed the development Monday at a Japanese processor conference.

Does The Nintendo Switch Represent The Future Of Consoles?

May 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

It’s a fact often stated, but no less true for the repetition, that videogames as a whole owe a great deal to Nintendo.

Time and again over the past 30-odd years, Nintendo has defined and redefined core parts of what a game, or a games console, is meant to be. It hasn’t always been the first to invent an idea, but so often it has been the first company to take a rough idea and turn it into something so accessible, so useful and so necessary that, in hindsight, it ends up feeling obvious.

The D-pad, the analogue stick, the handheld console, the 3D platformer, the often copied but never equalled Mario Kart formula… Even when Nintendo’s innovations haven’t been immediately well-received, as was the case with the Wii’s motion controls, they’ve still had the power to shift the course of the industry. Thus, when Nintendo launches something that appears to have inertia behind it, it’s best to pay attention.

It’s fairly certain that some of the touches that made Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so magical will start showing up in other open-world games over the coming years, for example. Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the debt that BOTW itself owes to many other open world titles; Nintendo is a very productive part of an ongoing discourse within games, both receiving and creating ideas, not some wizened sage on a hilltop passing down gems of insight to the unwashed masses. Often its greatest innovations have been built upon foundations laid down by others; it’s just that Nintendo turns out to be a pretty damned fine architect, given such foundations upon which to work.

Few would deny that Breath of the Wild has been a landmark software release; quite a number of you, though, will likely consider it a bit too early to consider Switch to have earned a place in Nintendo’s grand hall of hugely influential products. The console is off to a roaring start, with its second month sales (and ongoing stock shortages) demonstrating very high demand. While next month’s big title, ARMS, is an unknown quantity – it could be an amazing driver of console sales or a damp squib – July’s Splatoon 2, a sequel to the company’s biggest new IP in years, is absolutely certain to drive demand for Switch further into the stratosphere.

That’s all well and good; but yes, it is still early days. The console is yet to complete its first quarter, let alone its first Christmas; projections are good and anticipation is high, but talking about the influence of Switch at this point feels a bit like counting chickens and planning an extensive chicken dinner menu based on eggs still far from hatching. There is, however, one further factor to take into account – the word of mouth around Switch, which is almost uniformly positive and which has a characteristic I’m not sure I’ve ever seen with a console launch before.

The unique thing about the way in which people discuss Switch is this; people who have played games on the console are frequently and vocally adamant that this is now their preferred way to play games. There’s a bizarre level of clamour for games from other systems to be ported to Switch, because the console offers a preferable way to play for so many people. Nobody is actively dumping on PS4 or Xbox One in these comments; rather they tend to be wistful “oh, how I wish Persona 5 (or whatever) was on Switch, I’d much rather play it on that.”

There is, no doubt, some degree – however small – of simple excitement with a new shiny thing reflected in these comments. However, combined with the strong market demand for the console, it does make one wonder: is Nintendo on to something quite revolutionary here?

It’s clearly struck a chord with a pretty wide audience, and the appeal of the Switch form factor is playing a major role in its early success. It’s absolutely true that, as a general rule, games sell consoles, with the hardware itself being of (distant) secondary importance, but with Switch representing such a major overhaul of the whole console paradigm, there’s certainly some extent to which the hardware is selling itself.

A couple of months before Switch launched, I argued that one of the reasons for the console’s design – and for the much less successful attempt at executing a similar concept with the Wii U – is that the number of young people who have a large TV in their home is declining, most notably in Japan, as people turn to smart devices and laptops for a large portion of their media consumption. This limits the market for consoles, especially for those which are concerned largely with ultra high fidelity graphics on very large, up-to-date TV screens. This trend is less advanced in other territories, but it does exist, and may catch up with Japan.

That may explain part of the appeal of Switch, but I don’t think that market is the one getting excited about the console right now; early adopters are largely going to be people who own a high-end console (or consoles) and a high-end TV, with those who don’t own a TV being a market Nintendo may tap later as its success grows. What I think we’re seeing instead is a slightly different, albeit related trend; people are used to their media being mobile, and that makes the existing console paradigm a little frustrating.

Many of us rolled our eyes slightly at Nintendo’s painfully lifestyle-marketing-agency videos of people turning up to parties with Switch consoles, but in truth we have all become accustomed to bringing our media experiences with us, sharing them easily (often by simply handing over a phone or tablet to someone) and never feeling tethered by them. That applies within the home as much as outside; watching an episode of something on Netflix on your TV until you feel a bit tired and decide to finish out the episode on your smartphone, curled up in bed, is pretty much how a whole generation finishes its weeknights right now.

In tapping into that, Nintendo may have created something that’s going to change our expectations about how we interact with games. That capacity to treat games as being just as untethered and portable as other media is a bigger change than many give it credit for, as is the capacity to link the undocked consoles together easily for local multiplayer – an absolutely enormous part of the appeal and success of the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable consoles in Japan, where school and college kids getting together to play Pokemon or Monster Hunter in public social spaces was a pretty huge thing for many years.

The question is, if Nintendo is really on to something massive here – and if it is, then those slightly eyebrow-raising projections showing the Switch selling in volumes comparable to the Wii might not actually be so crazy after all – what is the impact on the wider market going to be? How do Microsoft and Sony react to this?

If Switch is as big a success as many people seem to expect, it’s quite likely that it’ll precipitate a major internal change of direction in its competitors’ plans for the future – just as previous successful innovations by Nintendo have done. There are various models a future Xbox or PlayStation could pursue in order to give a comparable experience to Switch without sacrificing their cutting edge performance; a tablet-style console with a dock housing a much more powerful GPU is perhaps the most obvious example.

The crucial thing is to deliver a console that has a portable experience on a par with its tethered-to-the-TV experience; a lower pixel count and perhaps some toned down graphic effects, but essentially the same game, just as playable and fully featured, available to pick up and play anywhere you want, whenever you want to be away from the TV.

It’s a model that’s likely to make sense to more and more consumers as behaviours shift away from the monolithic television-centric media experiences of previous decades, and if Switch is a breakout hit (and perhaps even if it’s only a moderate success), it’s a model to which both Sony and Microsoft will need to think very carefully about their response.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Bitcoin Hits Yet Another Record In Value

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Digital currency bitcoin blew past yet another record high this week, surging above $2,400, as demand for crypto-assets soared with the creation of new tokens to raise funding for start-ups using blockchain technology.

Blockchain, the underlying technology behind bitcoin, is a financial ledger maintained by a network of computers that can track the movement of any asset without the need for a central regulator.

Bitcoin hit a record of $2,409 BTC=BTSP on the BitStamp platform and was last up 4.3 percent at $2,363. So far this year, the price of bitcoin has more than doubled.

A key reason for bitcoin’s dominance in the nefarious online underworld, say technologists and cybercrime experts, is its size – the total value of all bitcoins in circulation is more than twice that of the nearest of hundreds of rivals.

Also, a big part of bitcoin’s recent surge is the increase in demand for other digital currencies being sold in so-called “initial coin offerings”, or ICOs. Under ICOs, blockchain start-ups sell their tokens directly to the public to raise capital without any regulatory oversight.

“Bitcoin up 100 percent in under 2 months. Shanghai down almost 10 percent same timeframe, compared to most global stocks up. Probably not a coincidence!”, Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive at DoubleLine Capital tweeted on Tuesday.

Strong demand for bitcoins in Japan has also fueled the rise of the virtual currency that can be moved like money around the world quickly and anonymously without the need for a central authority.

Is Nintendo’s Zelda Going Mobile?

May 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Zelda will be the next Nintendo IP to get the mobile treatment, according to sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal, with the new title expected to follow the Animal Crossing later this year.

The WSJ’s sources indicated that Animal Crossing is expected to launch in the second half of calendar 2017, with The Legend of Zelda to follow. However, the sources said that the order of the releases could still change, with Zelda arriving first.

With games based on Fire Emblem and Super Mario Bros. already released and Animal Crossing on the way, a version of Zelda was arguably inevitable. However, the success of Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch has bolstered public interest in the IP; in its recent financial results, Nintendo said that Breath of the Wild had sold 2.76 million units on Switch by March 31, despite the console only selling 2.74 million units.

One crucial detail that remains unclear is how the Zelda mobile game will be sold. Nintendo has talked openly about its reluctance to implement a traditional free-to-play model with its iconic franchises, opting for a free-to-try approach with Super Mario Run that ultimately carried a $10 in-app purchase to unlock the full game.

However, in March this year Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said the company was disappointed with the revenue earned from Super Mario Run. Fire Emblem Heroes uses a more typical version of the free-to-play model, but a Nintendo representative described it as “an outlier.”

“We honestly prefer the Super Mario Run model,” the company said. Whether that holds true for Zelda on mobile remains to be seen.

Nintendo and DeNA, which is involved with the game’s development, both resisted the WSJ’s request for comment.

Courtesy-Fud

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