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Are AMD’s Ryzen 2 Processors Arriving Next Month

December 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD must be tired of the success it enjoyed with the Ryzen CPUs as its second-gen processors are set to launch early 2018.

The Ryzen 2 lineup, according to WCCTech, will be made up of the Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 2000 chips, and are set to bring in better performance with jacked-up clockspeeds and overclocking capabilities. Bet Intel’s happy about that….

Core specifications for chip fans include the Ryzen 2 family being the first chips AMD will have built using the 12 nanometre fabrication processes to pack in more transistors into small squares of silicone.

The Ryzen 2 familiy will feature AMD’s Zen+ CPU architecture, which is set to offer more power efficiency alongside beefier speeds and support for DDR4 memory running at higher frequencies.

Dubbed Pinnacle Ridge, the wave of second-gen Ryzen chips will start predictably with the flagship Ryzen 7 in February, followed by its less gutsy siblings in March.

With up to eight cores and clock-speeds reckoned to hit up to 4.4GHz, the Ryzen 2 CPUs are not only set to butt heads with Intel’s eighth-generation processors, but also take on Intel’s 9000 series CPUs set to make a splash mid next year.

The first bout of Ryzen CPUs made their debut earlier this year and offered enough performance on tap to give people an alternative to Intel chips, which had for some time offered better performance than AMD’s CPUs.

But the Ryze 2 family demonstrates there’s still more to be had out of AMD’s Zen architecture and that the chip maker wants to build upon its CPU rise with Ryzen.

There’s not a vast amount of extra information about what we can expect from Ryzen 2, but we reckon the chipset will be more of an evolution in performance rather than a massive power hike to annoy people who bought a Ryzen CPU earlier this year.

That being said, later down the line we’d not be surprised to see a new ‘Threadripper’ chip built on the same Zen+ architecture but rocking a serious number or cores, or perhaps a 2000x series chip with 12 cores and 24 threads to really stick two fingers up at Intel. But as ever time will tell.

Courtesy-TheInq

Microsoft Brings ‘Digital Whiteboard’ To Windows 10

December 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is adding its Whiteboard ‘digital canvas’ app to Windows 10, providing a new way for employees to collaborate on creative work and share ideas.

Whiteboard, aimed at Surface owners, makes use of the device’s stylus and touch inputs to share drawings. Users can jot down notes, make precise illustrations or search for images on the web from the app. It can also create tables, diagrams and flowcharts, which are updated in real time and automatically saved to the cloud.

“It’s designed for teams that need to ideate, iterate, and work together both in person and remotely, and across multiple devices,” the Microsoft Whiteboard team wrote in a blog post.

“This is certainly a step in the right direction for a more modern and natural style of collaboration,” said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Whiteboard is specifically tied to Windows 10, “thus limiting its cross-platform appeal,” he said. “Still, I am pleased to see that Microsoft is so highly focused on improving the way people create and share information.

The preview has been available for a few months as a private beta, where it was used by customers for a variety of purposes such as real-time product design collaboration with clients.

The app is free for individual use, but requires an Office 365 subscription for multiple users. The plan is for Whiteboard to also replace a similar app that currently runs on Microsoft’s SurfaceHub digital whiteboard.

Richard Edwards, distinguished analyst at Freeform Dynamics, said that launching Whiteboard on Windows 10 gives Microsoft a number of opportunities: “It gives Surface owners a chance to show off the capabilities of their devices, it gives Whiteboard users a glimpse of what Microsoft Hub can bring to meetings [and] it brings the PC back into the meeting room, offering an alternative to Apple and Google devices,” he said.

“And if we factor in the imminent arrival of Always Connected PCs, then it becomes part of a much bigger come-back programm for the corporate – and maybe consumer – laptop.”

Lepofsky sees the launch as a part of the growth of digital canvas tools, allowing employees to share information easily and collaborate within a single document. “For far too long we have limited ourselves in the digital platforms to constraints from the physical world,” he said. “We don’t need to design for a rectangular piece of paper anymore.”

While he sees Whiteboard as promising, it will be important to see which partners are able to create integrations for the app.

Said Edwards: “How this app works alongside Office apps will determine its value an utility to business users.”

Can EA Learn From Rainbow Six Siege With 25 Million Players

December 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Ubisoft has announced that two years after launch, Rainbow Six Siege has over 25 million registered players.

Now entering its third year, Ubisoft has lined-up more content to prolong the life of the game for another season, proving that games-as-a-service can be done properly in the AAA space.

When Siege launched at the tail end of 2015, critics took the game to task over its threadbare offerings, which featured a single PvP mode, no campaign, and only a handful of maps, not to mention a litany of bugs.

Since then, however, many of the criticisms have been dealt with and Siege has held a regular spot in the UK top 20.

What’s especially interesting about the success of Siege is how quiet it’s been. With each competitor that shambles onto the market, whether that be Star Wars Battlefront II or the latest addition to the monolithic Call of Duty franchise, Siege has rarely attracted the same level of controversy, despite employing the most common games-as-as-service monetization techniques.

With games-as-a-service reportedly having tripled the value of the industry, and EA looking to replace annual sports games with live services, has Ubisoft laid out the framework for how to do it right?

“Player investment has been core to the success of the game with longevity being always very important to us. As the game progressed, we continued to develop it with the community in mind,” said Alexandre Remy, Rainbow Six Siege brand director in a statement.

A community-centric approach is the obvious answer to increasing the longevity of any game. Over recent months, we’ve seen a great deal of discussion around finding the “sweet spot” for monetization techniques, and we’ve also seen the fallout of what happens when communities feel disrespected. Loot boxes and season pass DLC can work, Siege has demonstrated that, but striking that delicate balance is something publishers have long struggled with, and continue to do so.

That said, it’s important to consider the particular niche that Siege operates in. Yes, it’s a competitive online shooter, but unlike many of its contemporaries, it’s a much more strategic and team-focused affair. While there is definitely a crossover between Call of Duty players and Siege players, the latter has a niche appeal the former cannot possibly hope to replicate without disenfranchising its mainstream audience.

The likes of Activision and EA can certainly learn from Ubisoft’s approach to games-as-a-service. With no immediate Siege sequel on the horizon, a further cash investment into the game is a relatively easy thing for consumers to justify.

However, when players know that the life of a game will be artificially shortened by an annual release, rather than extended by DLC, it becomes difficult to rationalize spending anything above the $60 entry price, especially when the monetization techniques are perceived to be so aggressive.

Ubisoft is not the only publisher to have successfully implemented these techniques with minimal backlash. Blizzard, for example, kept its hands relatively clean with Overwatch and only recently got caught-up in the Belgian Gambling Commission’s investigation which mainly cast its attention towards Star Wars Battlefront II.

But with Siege, Ubisoft has employed the delicate and reasoned approach that’s been missing from the industry’s clumsy, heavy-handed adoption of the games-as-a-service model. As a result, the two-year-old game boasts a large, dedicated community that numbers in the millions and is willing to spend.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Amazon’s Alexa For Business Eyes The Enterprise Market

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Much as smartphones did in the late 2000s,voice-activated A.I. assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant appear ready to migrate from homes into the workplace. That’s the the idea behind this month’s launch of Alexa for Business by Amazon’s cloud computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services.

The virtual assistant, unveiled at the company’s Re:Invent conference, is aimed at automating and simplifying a variety of tedious office tasks. It allows users to check calendars, reorder supplies, set up meetings and kick off video conference calls using voice commands directed at its Echo devices.

Amazon is not the first to target its intelligent assistant for workplace uses. Cisco, for example, announced its Spark Assistant last month; it’s designed specifically to take some of the pain out of organizing video conferences.  Microsoft, meanwhile, has integrated Cortana with its Office 365 applications.

All of those moves serve to highlight the emergence of natural language processing and voice recognition and the potential for a new way of interacting with workplace software.

“Voice will very much have a big part to play in how we collaborate and work over the next 10  years,” said IDC research director Wayne Kurtzman. “The Alexa and Cisco announcements are both key indicators of that.”

There are already tens of thousands of Alexa skills available to consumer users that are now accessible with Alexa for Business; beyond that, Amazon expects companies will start to build their own skills for internal purposes.

Capital One, for example, has built a skill that enables IT staff to quickly check the status of corporate systems and receive updates on high-severity incidents.

Another user, WeWork, has placed Amazon Echo devices around offices at its headquarters as part of a pilot project. The WeWork set-up, touted by Amazon. allows employees to reserve meetings rooms, start meetings and file help-desk tickets.

A range of companies, including Salesforce, SAP SuccessFactors, Concur, Ring Central and ServiceNow are also integrating their applications with Alexa for Business. Users can also access corporate applications through their home devices, in effect giving them the ability to ask Alexa what important meetings are lined up on a given day, and make changes to personal work schedule.

All of those moves serve to highlight the emergence of natural language processing and voice recognition and the potential for a new way of interacting with workplace software.

“Voice will very much have a big part to play in how we collaborate and work over the next 10  years,” said IDC research director Wayne Kurtzman. “The Alexa and Cisco announcements are both key indicators of that.”

There are already tens of thousands of Alexa skills available to consumer users that are now accessible with Alexa for Business; beyond that, Amazon expects companies will start to build their own skills for internal purposes.

Capital One, for example, has built a skill that enables IT staff to quickly check the status of corporate systems and receive updates on high-severity incidents.

Another user, WeWork, has placed Amazon Echo devices around offices at its headquarters as part of a pilot project. The WeWork set-up, touted by Amazon. allows employees to reserve meetings rooms, start meetings and file help-desk tickets.

A range of companies, including Salesforce, SAP SuccessFactors, Concur, Ring Central and ServiceNow are also integrating their applications with Alexa for Business. Users can also access corporate applications through their home devices, in effect giving them the ability to ask Alexa what important meetings are lined up on a given day, and make changes to personal work schedule.

Will Windows 10 On Snapdragon Succeed

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

We had a chance to ask Erin Chappelle,  General Manager of the Windows and Device group of Microsoft, and lead player of Windows 10 on Snapdragon about the lack of 64-bit emulation support at launch.

She was the right person to ask why Windows 10 on Snapdragon is missing  64-bit emulation application support. She also leads the team delivering the base components of the operating system including the Kernel, Hypervisor, Containers and Storage and was certainly the right person to address this “elephant in the room”.

64 Bit on ARM in the future

Erin confirmed to Fudzilla that Microsoft is considering 64-bit emulation support in the future, but it was a time to market and executive decision that prevented 64-bit being supported at launch. Microsoft will enable 64-bit SDK for developers and this might be the way to optimize the applications in the future. Our understanding is that if Adobe comes up with an idea that it wants to make a native Photoshop for ARM, Microsoft and its SDK will be there to help.

Erin also said that most X64 applications in the market are high end games. This is not what the Snapdragon platform is tailored for. At the Snapdragon technology summit in beautiful Maui, Hawaii, it was pointed out by Erin as well as Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, that the always connected PC is a completely new market for Microsoft.

Always Connected PC is the new market

Of course Microsoft sees potential here,  as the company has invested a lot of time and resources into the Windows on Snapdragon, always connected PC project. The motivation is very straightforward. Microsoft wants to get into new markets as it realizes that people need the connectivity on modern devices.

HP Envy X2 device comes with 4GB or RAM while Asus NovaGo always connected Snapdragon 835 device comes with up to 8GB memory. While the OS can support 8GB of memory, applications will be limited to 4GB. This might become a problem in some extreme scenarios – but both Qualcomm and Microsoft pointed out that these devices are targeting the casual, every day user market, rather than high end video editing professionals.

You start with a market where you have a good value proposition and in this case this was the consumer market. In the future, Microsoft hopes to bring always connected PC ideas to the enterprise, which will benefit from the security and cloud opportunities for mobility that 4G and 5G offer for enterprises.

Snapdragon 835 devices are, it seems the first of many to come. There is an opportunity for higher as well as lower cost devices. This is what Miguel Nunes, Director of Product management for Windows on Snapdragon and Erin Chapple left us with.

Courtesy-Fud

Is EA Screwing Up The Planned Move To Games As A Service

December 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Every now and then, a major publisher goes through a bit of a rough patch in PR terms; the hits just seem to keep on coming, with company execs and representatives seemingly incapable of opening their mouths without shoving their feet right inside, and every decision being either poorly communicated or simply wrongheaded to begin with. At present it’s EA that can’t seem to put a foot right, from Battlefront 2’s microtransactions to lingering bad feeling over the closure of Visceral; every major company in the industry, though, has had its fair share of turns in the barrel.

These cycles come around for a couple of reasons. Part of it is just down to narrative; once something goes wrong for a company, they are scrutinised more closely for a while, and statements that might have slipped under the radar usually are blown up by the attention. Another part of it, though, is genuinely down to phases that companies go through; common enough periods in which the balance between the two audiences a major company must serve, its consumers and its investors, is not being managed and maintained expertly enough.

Most companies encounter this difficulty from time to time, because the demands and desires of shareholders are often damned near diametrically opposed to those of customers. The biggest problems arise, however, when a firm ends up having to take a Janus-faced approach, presenting a different picture in financial calls and investor conferences to the one it tries to convey in its customer-facing PR and marketing efforts.

That’s broadly speaking the situation EA has found itself in once again; forced to be conciliatory and diplomatic in talking to customers about everything from loot boxes to its commitment (or lack of same) to single-player experiences, while simultaneously being bullish with investors who want to see clear signs of progress in the shift towards a set of business paradigms core consumers volubly dislike.

CFO Blake Jorgensen’s comments at Credit Suisse’s conference earlier this week are archetypal of this genre of corporate communication; from a blunt denial that the company’s microtransaction strategy on Battlefront 2 is changing overall to a throwaway comment about Visceral’s closure being related to declining popularity (by which, being a CFO, he meant revenue) of linear game experiences, Jorgensen spoke to investors in a way that was quite markedly different from how the rest of the company has addressed its actual customers on these issues.

You can argue quite reasonably that this approach is dishonest in spirit if not in substance; even if the words of each statement are chosen carefully so the investor messages don’t technically contradict the consumer messages, the intent is so clearly tangential that consumers have every right to feel rather miffed. I think it’s worthwhile, however, to look beyond that to the motivation and strategy behind this – not just in terms of EA’s month of bad PR, but looking beyond that to the industry as a whole, because pretty much every major publisher is undertaking a similar strategic shift in a direction they know perfectly well is going to annoy many of their core customers, and they’re all going to have their own turn in the barrel as a consequence.

At the heart of this issue lies the fact that for many investors and executives, the business model that has sustained the games industry for decades has started to look frustratingly quaint and backwards. “Games as a Product”, whereby a game is made and sold, perhaps followed up by a handful of add-ons that are also made and sold (essentially smaller add-on products in their own right), is a model beloved of core consumers – but business people point out, not entirely unfairly, that it has many glaring flaws.

Some of those flaws are very real – the product model creates a high barrier to entry (you can’t attract new customers without convincing them through expensive marketing to spend $50 to $60 on trying out your game), hence limiting audience growth, and has not scaled effectively with the rising costs of AAA development. More controversially, they dislike the fact that the product model creates a relatively low cap on spending – after buying a game, there’s only so much money a consumer can spend on DLC packs (each of which has its own associated development costs) before they hit a hard limit on their purchases.

Hence the pressure to move to a “Games as a Service” model, which neatly – if not uncontroversially – solves each of these issues. The service model can be priced as low as zero to create a minimal barrier to entry, though for major titles with a big brand attached publishers still show a preference for having their cake and eating it, charging full AAA pricing for entry to an essentially freemium-style experience. An individual player’s spending may be theoretically limitless, as purchases of cosmetic or consumable items could run to many thousands of dollars in some cases – hence also allowing the game’s revenue to scale up to match the huge AAA development and marketing budgets that went into its creation.

You can “blame” mobile games for this if you wish, but in a sense they were merely the canary in the coalmine; the speed with which the mobile gaming market converged on the F2P model and the aggression with which it was pursued was a clear sign that the rest of the industry would eventually try to move in a similar direction. The reality is that mobile games shone a light on something a few industry types had been saying for years; that there was a massive, largely untapped audience for games out there, who would never climb over the barriers to entry to the traditional market but who could potentially be immensely valuable customers of games with lower barriers to entry.

The correct height for those barriers turned out to be “free games for devices you already own”, and yet this market did turn out to be enormously valuable; and now much of the industry is eyeing up the model that works on smartphones, looking at their own rising costs and shrinking slice of the pie, and wondering how to get from over here to over there.

The problem is that making that crossing – from being a successful creator or publisher of core games to being a successful company in a smartphone-style paradigm – is damned tricky to do when the business model you (and your investors!) want to have is anathema to many of the customers you actually have right now. Not all of them, by any means – plenty of core gamers are actually pretty relaxed about these models, for the most part – but enough of them to make a lot of noise and to potentially put a major dent in the bottom line of a company that genuinely manages to drive them away.

Hence, much of the approach we’ve seen in 2017 (and prior) has really been akin to the parable about putting a frog in cold water and gradually raising the heat; companies have slowly, softly been adding service-style features and approaches to their games, hoping that the slowly warming water won’t startle its occupants too much.

When things spill over as they have done for EA in the past month, it tends to indicate that someone got impatient; that investors were too demanding or executives pushed too hard, and the water started to heat up too rapidly. The course will be corrected, but the destination remains the same. Short of a really major pushback and some serious revenue damage across the board from these approaches – which bluntly seems unlikely to materialise – the move towards games as a service is inexorable, and 2018 will bring far, far more of the same. Whether you view that as the industry’s salvation or its ruin is really a matter of personal perspective, but it’s a new reality for AAA titles that we’re all going to have to make some kind of peace with.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Apple’s iOS 11.2 Adds Apple Pay Cash

December 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple’s new iOS 11.2 software update became available on Saturday, adding Apple Pay Cash and faster wireless charging to supported iPhones.

For anyone with an iPhone 6 or later, the update’s Apple Pay Cash feature opens up the ability to send cash to friends and family over iMessage. While I didn’t see the feature immediately turned on after updating my own iPhone to iOS 11.2, when it does appear it should work similarly to Paypal’s Venmo service.

Anyone with the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X can look forward to faster wireless charging, with the update release specifically noting improvements when using third-party chargers. That’s pretty much every Qi wireless charger currently out, as Apple’s own AirPower charging mat is planned for a 2018 release.

Other improvements and fixes listed by Apple include:

  • Improves video camera stabilization
  • Adds support in Podcasts to automatically advance to the next episode from the same show
  • Adds support in HealthKit for downhill snow sports distance as a data type
  • Fixes an issue that could cause Mail to appear to be checking for new messages even when a download is complete
  • Fixes an issue that could cause cleared Mail notifications from Exchange accounts to reappear
  • Improves stability in Calendar
  • Resolves an issue where Settings could open to a blank screen
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent swiping to Today View or Camera from the Lock Screen
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent Music controls from displaying on the Lock Screen
  • Fixes an issue that could cause app icons to be arranged incorrectly on the Home Screen
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent users from deleting recent photos when iCloud storage is exceeded
  • Addresses an issue where Find My iPhone sometimes wouldn’t display a map
  • Fixes an issue in Messages where the keyboard could overlap the most recent message
  • Fixes an issue in Calculator where typing numbers rapidly could lead to incorrect results
  • Addressed an issue where the keyboard could respond slowly
  • Adds support for real-time text (RTT) phone calls for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Improves VoiceOver stability in Messages, Settings, App Store and Music
  • Resolves an issue that prevented VoiceOver from announcing incoming Notifications

Personal Computers Continue To Drop

December 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Analyst working for IDC have been reading the liver of fat ram and come to the conclusion that global shipments of personal computing devices (PCDs) will decline 2.7 percent on year in 2017.

PCDs are traditional PCs and tablets and while this is a slower contraction compared to the previous year, the shipments will decline further by four percent in 2018.

Looking toward the end of the five-year forecast, volumes are expected to continue declining from 423.3 million in 2017 to 393.9 million in 2021. This represents a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -2.0 percent, said IDC.

Breaking down the PCD market, traditional PC shipments will fall from 260.2 million units in 2016 to 248.1 million in 2021 units, resulting in a five-year CAGR of -0.9 percent .

Out of the five major product categories in the PCD market, desktops and slates will continue to decline over the duration of the forecast, while detachable tablets, workstations, and notebook PCs will show signs of volume improvement.

Adding in detachable tablets such as the Microsoft Surface Pro, the five-year CAGR improves to +0.3 percent. This is good news, but shows that the overall PCD market is still pretty pants.

More than 69 percent of shipments in emerging markets are going toward traditional notebooks and slate tablets in 2021, and price points remain very sensitive in countries once pegged as ripe for growth.

Convertibles and ultraslim notebooks have found increased favour in developed markets, China will be the only developing market among the top 10 markets for these devices in 2021.

IDC’s Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers program vice president Ryan Reith said detachable tablets are expected to see double-digit growth from 2018 through 2021.

“Windows-based detachables already count for close to 50 percent of the volume in this category and this isn’t expected to change much over the duration of the forecast. Apple’s iPad Pro lineup will remain at 30-35 percent of the category with the remainder going to Google-based devices. It is clear this is a category that has the interest and now investments from both PC and smartphone OEMs, but when looking at the overall PCD market it accounts for just five percent of volume in 2017, growing to 9.4 percent in 2021,” he said.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft, Mozilla User Share Falling, Says Recent Report

December 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge browsers fell last month in user share as the once-universal programs ran on just one in every six personal computers worldwide.

According to U.S. analytics vendor Net Applications, the user share of IE and Edge – an estimate of the world’s personal computer owners who ran that browser – plummeted by 3.3 percentage points to end November at 16.3%. The decline was the largest ever for Microsoft’s browsers.

Mozilla’s Firefox also stumbled badly last month, losing nearly 2 of its hard-won percentage points, slipping to 11.4%, its lowest user share since October 2016.

These numbers, and more importantly the fact that IE+Edge’s and Firefox’s numbers sank to such a degree, is striking. But it was as much a data reset by Net Applications as proof of massive user desertions.

As it has periodically, Net Applications has reworked how it tracks browsers, operating systems and other metrics of interest to online businesses. In a message appended to a refreshed analytics display, Net Applications explained that it had rewritten its “entire collection and aggregation infrastructure to address” out-of-whack data.

The culprit? Bots, said Net Applications. These software-based tools often are deployed by criminals, who program their automated scripts to mimic human online behavior, perhaps in an attempt to cash in on an ad click fraud scam.

“Bots can cause significant skewing of data,” admitted Net Applications. “We have seen situations where traffic from certain large countries is almost completely bot traffic. In other countries, ad fraudsters generate traffic that spoofs certain technologies in order to generate high-value clicks. Or, they heavily favor a particular browser or platform.”

While some may want to blame the large shifts in browser user share on Net Applications’ scouring its data of bot traffic, that would be the wrong move. “Please note: This dataset is separate from and replaces the legacy data,” the company said, making clear that it had gone back into past data too, not just November’s, and eradicated the numbers it ascribed to bots.

Under the new methodology, for example, IE+Edge in October was 16%, or 3.6 points lower than Net Applications called the pair using the older, bots-plagued data. Using the new-only data, IE+Edge actually edged up (no pun intended) by about two-tenths of a percentage point. Likewise, Firefox was at 11.7% in October under the new scheme, but 13.1% under the old. (Firefox’s drop, then, was about three-tenths of a percentage point during November.)

Assuming that the new methodology cleaned out all or most of the dodgy bot-driven traffic from Net Application’s data, the bottom line is that the numbers now portray IE+Edge, and to a lesser extent, Firefox, in less flattering lights. Microsoft’s browsers have deteriorated to a point unthinkable just two years ago, when they ran on more than half the world’s personal computers. And Firefox’s climb back from a near-death experience in 2016 has not been as impressive as the data once showed.

Also of interest were the new data points for Edge and IE calculated against only Windows personal computers. Because both browsers run only on Windows devices, it has been possible to surmise their share on that platform alone. Of all Windows 10 users, just 13.2%, a record low, ran Edge in November (Edge only runs on Windows 10). As recently as March, Edge’s share of Windows 10 had been around 22%.

IE’s share of 18.4% of all Windows PCs was slightly better than Edge’s, but like its successor, IE’s November mark was an all-time low. At the start of 2016, IE’s Windows-only share was a more respectable 28.5%.

HDMI v2.1 Standards Finally Set

December 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The HDMI Forum has officially published the latest HDMI v2.1 specification, paving the way for up to 10K resolutions, dynamic HDR, and support for variable refresh rate.

According to details provided by the HDMI Forum, the new HDMI v2.1 specification will be backward compatible with all previous HDMI standards but will also need the new ultra high-speed HDMI cable for those new upgrades.

As for those upgrades, the HDMI v2.1 standard will offer 48Gbps of bandwidth, which is a significant improvement over 18Gbps of bandwidth on the HDMI 2.0. It will also bring higher resolution reaching 8K@60Hz without the Display Stream Compression (DSC) and 10K@120Hz with DSC. It also features the new Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM).

Another big novelty for HDMI is support for Dynamic HDR as well as the Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) technology, which should reduce lag, frame stutter, skipping and freezing as well as deal with that pesky frame tearing. Unfortunately, HDMI Forum did not provide a lot of details regarding the VRR technology and we are not sure how different it is from AMD FreeSync.

In addition, the HDMI v2.1 standard will also include eARC, as well as Quick Media Switching (QMS), which eliminates the delay that can result in a blank screen before content is displayed and the Quick Frame Transport (QFT) feature which also aims to reduce latency in gaming and real-time interactive virtual reality content.

According to the press release, the HDMI v2.1 Compliance Test Specification (CTS) will be published in stages from Q1 to Q3 2018 and will notify the HDMI adopters as it becomes available.

Courtesy-Fud

Disney Very Protective Of IP and Brand

December 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A decade or two ago, a common topic of speculation in the games business was which of its giant publishers would be the one to topple Disney from its position as the world’s most important warehouse of intellectual property. EA, then the industry’s big beast, was comfortably the favorite, especially as it seemed set on weaning itself off its reliance on licensed sports titles in favor of building new IP. Activision was on the radar for some; Nintendo, though the industry’s most obviously ‘Disney-like’ company, seemed slow to produce and capitalize on new IP at the time.

History didn’t play out that way. EA became embroiled in a decade long turnaround and restructuring effort; Activision, though boosted massively by its merger with Blizzard and the success of games like Call of Duty and Destiny, has fumbled in its management of properties outside the high-spending core. Nintendo’s library of IP has grown and thrived, of course – but none of these companies can come close to matching what’s happened at Disney. Since the time when we speculated over when EA might overtake them, Disney has absorbed first Pixar, then Marvel, then Lucasfilm, placing itself beyond any reasonable challenge. It is the world’s most valuable IP holder, and will be for years to come.

Along the way, Disney has largely given up its ambitions of being a game developer or publisher – at least for now. It shuttered studios. It shut down internal projects in favor of licensing its properties to other developers and publishers. There is a slight twist of irony to the fact that, in the process, Disney has gone from being a second- or third-tier publisher to being arguably the most powerful company in the games business; a licensor absolutely aware of the value of its IP, and willing to protect that IP and its development regardless of the cost to any partner company.

This month we’ve seen two examples of Disney flexing that muscle. The company severed ties with Gazillion Entertainment, developer of licensed Diablo-esque RPG Marvel Heroes; what happened behind the scenes to precipitate this is unclear as yet, but there were signs that Disney was dissatisfied with the developer or with its relationship for some time, and the company ultimately pulled the plug on the game. Just a few weeks later, a much bigger firm, Electronic Arts, also got a taste of Disney’s willingness to exercise its power; the controversy over pay-to-win loot box mechanics in Star Wars Battlefront 2 took an abrupt turn when pressure from Disney forced EA to remove premium currency from the game before its launch, pending a re-engineering of the game’s monetization systems.

For Gazillion, the consequences are stark; the firm has shut down, with staff claiming on social media that they are not receiving severance pay or PTO. The chances of refunds for players who bought expensive items in the free-to-play game seem slim. EA, of course, won’t face anything remotely that drastic as a consequence of the changes to Battlefront, but that’s more to do with the scale of EA and its capacity to absorb losses than anything else.

The company’s financial projections for Star Wars Battlefront 2 were based on the assumption of a premium currency and loot box system that worked in a certain way and attracted a certain amount of revenue. It set its development budget based on those projections, spent money on marketing based on those projections; Disney has now unceremoniously dumped those projections in the bin.

Entirely independent of the conversation over whether EA’s monetization model was ill-conceived or not, there can be little doubt that the company’s bottom line for this project will be hit by the removal of premium currency, even temporarily. Without seeing the company’s internal figures it’s hard to say, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that, given high enough costs for licensing, development and marketing, this change could even leave EA struggling to stay in the black on what should have been one of its most profitable titles of the quarter.

For Disney, these decisions no doubt make absolute sense. To a large extent, Disney’s choices about games are based on the same rationale as Nintendo’s have been; an understanding that preservation of the value of the IP needs to come ahead of short-term profitability of any one product based on that IP. Just as Nintendo will severely delay games and leave its release schedule looking anaemic at times in order to ensure quality of its finished products and preserve the value of the IP, Disney will shut down, delay or change games that look like they pose a threat to that value – even at risk of damaging business relationships and thoroughly screwing over partners.

Disney has a dual objective with every licensing deal it signs for a major property, such as a game or a TV show. It wants to make money, of course, but it also wants to support the IP it’s licensing; keeping it relevant and in the public eye, preferably boosting its appeal, and whatever else, no matter what, absolutely not damaging or devaluing it.

This makes working with Disney – even for a company as big and powerful in its own right as EA – into something of a risky and challenging business. It’s natural that any developer or publisher would jump at the chance to work on Star Wars, a property tied in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or something related to a major Pixar movie, but these deals are not the license to print money they may look like at first glance.

Disney’s willingness to aggressively protect its IP and flex its muscle in these arrangements makes it vital to bear in mind that Disney and the companies that license its IP to make games have different objectives; of course both parties want to make money, but for Disney that comes with a powerful and often overruling caveat. It will sacrifice profit for long-term health, and a developer or publisher, with no financial interest in that long-term health, may be hung out to dry as decisions made in service of profitability are reversed.

In a sense, Disney’s position in the games industry has become similar to Apple’s in the hardware business. Apple makes some of the best-selling high-end products in the world, but for a manufacturing firm to join that supply chain is actually a double-edged sword, because the company is famous for micro-managing the processes of its suppliers and shaving their margins down to the knuckle. Working with Apple can mean enormous contracts to supply high-end parts for globally famous products; it can also mean paper-thin margins, constant supervision and tough contract terms from a company whose business objectives do not always align neatly with those of its suppliers.

Of course, the lure of working on Disney IP will not diminish. These are among the world’s most valuable brands, and for game creators they’re a treasure chest. But before diving into those waters, even the biggest of companies would do well to think about whether their intentions actually align with what Disney will permit. This is a company at the peak of its power; the rewards for working with it may be great, but no publisher should fool itself that Disney will ever put a business relationship ahead of its own central interest in the protection of its IP.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Qualcomm Goes 7nm With TSMC

November 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Korean based Etnews has mentioned that Qualcomm 7nm manufacturing has been a big win for TSMC while two other US and China customers chose Samsung’s 7nm. TSMC traditionially have dibs on Nvidia and MediaTek too. 

The Taiwan based foundry and Qualcomm are expected to ship in volume in early 2019 with announcement of the new product in late 2018, no surprises there. This will be the chip that comes after the soon to be announced Snapdragon 845.

The most talked phone after iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy S9, is the first chip to feature the Snapdragon 845 but Samsung will use its own 10nm Exynos 8910 for some markets too. Luckily for Qualcomm no one else will use Exynos, as the majority of the Android high end phones exclusively use the Snapdragon 800 series chips.

Samsung is of course expected to manufacture its chips at its own fabs and we would expect this to happen in 2019 and volume production with some risk production in late 2018.  This is the SoC that comes after Exynos 8910 and if all goes well, it will first ship in the 2019 Galaxy S phone.

Qualcomm and Broadcom, according to the report are designing their next generation chips with TSMC’s7-nano PDK. The reason why Qualcomm went with 7nm with TSMC is the fact that the fab uses normal steppers while Samsung wants to make its 7nm with more bold and riskier EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet) photolithography technology.

Samsung is expected to be later to the 7nm game and early adopters had to go with TSMC. EUV is still technology that is not entirely ready for the mass market and there is a disagreement weather you should need to use Extreme Ultraviolet light manufacturing with 7nm or first with 5nm. Obviously the two main fabs disagree while GlobalFoundries cooperates and shares technology with Samsung, and will have Samsung to rely upon for 7nm.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Warning Customers Free Office Viewer Going Away

November 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is alerting customers that it will retire several Office application viewers in little more than four months, shutting off the spigot to the free document readers used by those without the productivity suite.

“The Excel Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer, PowerPoint 2007 Viewer and the Office Compatibility Pack, will be retired in April 2018,” said a post to a company blog. “At that time, they will no longer be available for download and will no longer receive security updates.”

The announcement followed one a year ago, when the firm said it would put the Word Viewer to pasture in November 2017. That hasn’t happened yet; the Word Viewer was still available as of Monday.

Along with the also-free Office Compatibility Pack – which will be chopped next April, too – the viewers let people not equipped with an actual Office bundle to open, view and read, and print Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint decks and Word documents. The idea was to allow collaboration with as large a workplace population as possible.

Microsoft launched the viewer concept at the end of the 20th century, but essentially halted development with the versions matching Office 2007. They have been patched against security vulnerabilities since then, however. The viewers were made unnecessary for many by the introduction in 2010 of Office Online, and the mobile versions of Office’s applications, which superseded that initial effort.

In view of the impending retirements, customers should seek alternatives. Microsoft suggested the appropriate mobile apps from the Windows Store for Windows 10 devices; the iOS and Android mobile apps for those with iPhones and iPads, and Android or ChromeOS hardware, respectively; an Office 365 subscription for Windows PCs and/or Macs; and OneDrive and its built-in viewer for Windows 7- and 8.1- personal computers.

At their retirement, the viewers and the Compatibility Pack will be removed from Microsoft’s download website, and updates will cease. Existing copies of will continue to work normally.

Until they’re scrubbed from Microsoft’s site, the Excel Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer 2007 and Compatibility Pack can be downloaded free of charge.

There are, of course, other ways to wrangle older Office file formats, or view – or even work with – Office documents without the Microsoft suite itself.

For example, Google Docs lets users open Excel, PowerPoint and Word files in an Office Compatibility Mode (OCM), then save the results as Sheets, Slides or Docs files, respectively, and Office files can be converted to Google’s formats from Google Drive.

A Chrome add-on, Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides, simplifies this further by opening dragged-to-the-browser Office files in the pertinent Google online application.

The open-source OpenOffice and LibreOffice can also open Microsoft Office-formatted files.

Did The Star Wars Battlefront 2 Fiasco Hurt The Franchise

November 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The run-up to launch for Star Wars: Battlefront II has been, to put it bluntly, a fiasco. I would suggest that it has also provided a model for publishers to follow in the future.

When Electronic Arts announced at E3 that it was scrapping the Season Pass model for Battlefront II, the move was met warmly by players. After all, the Season Pass split the player base into people with the DLC and without, preventing them from enjoying new maps and game modes together. At the time, the understanding was that EA would introduce a system for unlocking content within the game, where progress could either be earned through gameplay or purchased through microtransactions. And for the most part, people were fine with that.

But as the company revealed exactly how the system would be implemented, details like how long it would take to unlock things without paying and what sort of advantages paying players could expect in multiplayer matches rankled players. EA’s repeated insistence that it was taking the feedback seriously and changing the system in response did little to appease the angry fans. The uproar seemed to gain more traction as the game’s release approached until, on the literal eve of launch day, EA announced that it was shutting off the game’s microtransactions, reinstating them at a later date when the progression system had been properly fine-tuned.

You could characterize it as a desperate move to salvage the launch of a massive publisher’s holiday lynchpin release, or you could point to it as a new standard, a potential solution to a problem that has dogged the AAA industry since Oblivion’s horse armor first debuted over a decade ago. Why don’t more AAA games launch with a microtransaction-free grace period?

The benefits to the players are fairly clear. By not having microtransactions turned on at launch, publishers know they have to provide an experience that is fun and engaging for non-payers, and ensures that in-game systems won’t be designed around an intolerable grind pushing people into spending more money. It dissuades developers from locking content that players would consider essential (like, say, playing as Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader in a Star Wars game) behind unreasonably high progression walls. In short, it “keeps them honest,” while the early adopters who pay full price (or close to it) for a new release get to enjoy a premium, limited-time experience without the constant pressure to spend more money.

At the same time, it provides publishers with plenty of upside as well. For one, they get to monitor how paying customers are behaving in their game under real-world conditions for a length of time to help with balancing the microtransaction system. And assuming they design the game to be fun without the microtransactions, they’ll almost certainly benefit from better word of mouth and review scores at launch.

And most crucial of all, publishers who adopt a grace period before instituting microtransactions will be mitigating some of the harmful effects of the AAA marketing hype cycle. It’s no coincidence that the backlash to Battlefront II’s microtransactions has grown as the game has neared launch, even though EA has apologized and downgraded the aggressiveness of its approach multiple times in response.

The company’s successful marketing campaign was designed to generate interest and excitement and passion in such a way that would crescendo at launch. And it did. But as we’ve seen too many times in recent years, “passion” in the player base is not an exclusively positive thing. Passion is a multiplier of other emotions. It makes those who love a game get tattoos, and those who hate it lob death threats online. Waiting until after the launch window to turn microtransactions on allows publishers to benefit from the passion they’ve spent so much time and money building, while putting off one obvious source of potential backlash until people have cooled down a bit and the monetization scheme of last holiday’s big shooter release just doesn’t seem like something worth grabbing a pitchfork over. This is especially true given how many members of the pitchfork mob will have purchased the game, played it, and traded it in or redirected their enthusiasm to the next big release in the meantime.

And what would it cost the publishers to do this? A couple months’ worth of microtransaction revenues in games that are designed and intended to be live services. For a successful live service game, the first months of revenue are well worth sacrificing if it might buy you the traction you need for the long run. (Grand Theft Auto Online is four years old and just had its most lucrative quarter ever.)

Microtransactions are a powerful force for the games industry these days, opening up a slew of alternative business models and providing potential answers to many of the problems that have long dogged publishers. EA may have unwittingly showed us a way to finally bring balance to the Force.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Belgian’s Decide Star Wars Loot Boxes Is A Form Of Gambling

November 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The Belgian Gambling Commission has decided that loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront II constitute gambling, and the practice should be banned.

Last week the gambling authority turned its eye towards the issue and since concluded that loot boxes present a danger to children.

VTM News reported that Belgian minister of justice Koen Geens said the gambling commission will take the matter to Europe.

The Dutch authorities joined the recent investigation too, and while a decision has yet to be reached, arriving at the same conclusion as Belgium doesn’t seem unlikely.

Accompanying the news was an announcement that Hawaiian legislators are also considering action against loot boxes in games.

At a press conference, Hawaiian democratic state representative Chris Lee described Battlefront II as a “Star Wars-themed online casino,” warning that it was a “trap” for children.

“We’re looking at legislation this coming year which could prohibit access, or prohibit sale of these games to folks who are under age in order to protect families, as well as prohibiting different kinds of mechanisms within those games,” he said.

“We’ve been talking with several other states as well, with legislators there who are looking at the same thing. I think this is the appropriate time to make sure that these issues are addressed before this becomes the new norm for every game.”

At the same press conference, fellow representative Sean Quinlan draw comparison to ’80s and ’90s cigarette mascot Joe Camel.

“We didn’t allow Joe Camel to encourage our kids to smoke cigarettes, and we shouldn’t allow Star Wars to encourage our kids to gamble,” he said.

Writing recently for GamesIndustry.biz, Rob Fahey warned against interference from legislators if publishers overstepped the mark with loot boxes.

“There’s a real chance that companies involved in this are on the hook for permitting minors access to a gambling platform,” he suggested.

“If the games business doesn’t figure out where the sensible limits to this kind of business model lie, they risk a public outcry leading to regulators stepping in.”

Avoiding a moral panic has never been a strength of games, but with politicians across the world diving into the fray, the industry could find itself facing another assault from the mainstream media and outside pundits.

Courtesy-GI.biz

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