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Is e3 Leaving Los Angeles

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The organizers behind the Electronic Entertainment Expo are considering taking the show away from its traditional home at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

During a roundtable interview, ESA CEO Mike Gallagher said his organisation might explore other possible locations if the center fails to upgrade and modernise its facilities, GameSpot reports.

The exec specifically hopes to see increased floor space and a smoother route between the West and South halls, currently separated by a length corridor. If these expectations are not met, E3 may be hosted in another venue – and, by extension, away from Los Angeles.

E3 2018 is already booked in for June 12th to 14th next year, once again at the convention center. The venue will also host E3 2019, but no decision has been made for 2020.

The ESA has previously attempted to hold E3 at an alternative location. In 2007, the show became the E3 Media and Business Summit and was around Santa Monica. This was part of an attempt to make it more industry focused, capping the attendance to shut out bloggers and non-industry professionals, as well as bringing the costs down for exhibitors.

However, the experiment proved to be unpopular and E3 has been held in the LA Convention Center ever since 2008.

In stark contrast to its 2007 decision, E3 officially opened its doors to the public for the first time this year, selling 15,000 tickets to consumers who wanted to attend the show.

GameSpot reports the ESA has now revealed attendance for this year’s event came in at 68,400 – boosted in part by those public tickets. The 30% increase over last year’s 50,300 brings attendance figures close to the 70,000 peak seen in 1998 and 2005, according to IGN.

The ESA has yet to confirm whether it will sell public tickets for E3 2018. Gallagher said his team is gathering feedback from attendees – both industry and consumer – before confirming how the show will be structured next year.

Courtesy-GI.bz

Young Star Helps Astronomers Solve Stellar Mystery

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Astronomers using the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have precisely measured the rotating fountains of gas flowing out from a massive newborn star, revealing the complex interplay between the star’s magnetism and centrifugal forces.

Astronomers are still puzzled by the way massive stars form in interstellar space, the new study’s researchers said in a statement. When a massive rotating cloud of gas collapses under gravity, stellar fusion becomes possible, and a baby star is born. As angular momentum is conserved while the cloud shrinks, the resulting baby star should be spinning very fast, according to the laws of physics. 

To get a better idea of the conservation of angular (or rotational) momentum, imagine a spinning ice-skater. As ice-skaters spin with their arms outstretched, they spin slowly; when they bring their arms close to their bodies, they spin faster. Physics dictates that this concept should hold true for a shrinking cloud of star-forming gas: As it shrinks, it should spin faster.

But astronomers have found that stars in our galaxy spin much more slowly than the laws of physics predict they should. Therefore, there must be some mechanism that’s dissipating angular momentum from stars soon after they are born, the researchers said.

In the new work, published online June 12 in the journal Nature Astronomy, astronomers observed a massive newborn star called Orion KL Source I in the Orion Nebula and used ALMA to reveal the rotation of its powerful stellar winds. 

“We have clearly imaged the rotation of the outflow,” Tomoya Hirota, an assistant professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and SOKENDAI (the Graduate University for Advanced Studies) and lead author on the paper, said in the statement. “In addition, the result gives us important insight into the launching mechanism of the outflow.”

Hirota’s team noticed that the outflow of stellar gases is rotating in the same direction as the star and that it emanates from Source I’s hot gas disk, and not from the star itself. This finding agrees with a theoretical “magnetocentrifugal disk wind model,” the researchers said.

In this model, gas is ejected from the rotating disk and is forced to move outward. Like a spinning lawn sprinkler, propelled by centrifugal forces, the water spirals outward, away from the sprinkler head, siphoning some of the star’s angular momentum. But in the case of this star, the spinning gases leaving the disk are also directed up and down along magnetic-field lines to create the spinning outflows that ALMA has detected. And the researchers believe that these flows are dissipating rotational energy from the baby star, slowing down its rotation, and therefore possibly explaining why stars in our galaxy rotate more slowly than expected.

“In addition to high sensitivity and fidelity, high resolution submillimeter-wave observation is essential to our study, which ALMA made possible for the first time,” Hirota said. “Submillimeter waves are a unique diagnostic tool for the dense innermost region of the outflow, and at that exact place, we detected the rotation.

“ALMA’s resolution will become even higher in the future,” Hirota added. “We would like to observe other objects, to improve our understanding of the launching mechanism of outflows and the formation scenario of massive stars with the assistance of theoretical research.”

Courtesy-Space

Is AMD’s Ryzen 1950X Ready To Hit The Market

June 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s Ryzen ThreadRipper 1950X CPU engineering sample, a 16-core/32-thread SKU, has been spotted on Geekbench running at 3.4GHz base clock.

This should be the flagship SKU and it appears it won’t have the 1998X model number, as previously rumored. The engineering sample works at 3.4GHz base clock and was running on an ASRock X399 Professional Gaming motherboard with 16GB of DDR4-2133 memory.

The ThreadRipper 1950X, as it is currently called, packs a massive 32MB of L3 cache and 8MB of L2 cache. Since this is an engineering sample, bear in mind that the performance figures are far from final as AMD will probably further optimize the performance and the sample was not running with lower clocked memory, with no details on the quad- or dual-channel setting.

According to the results posted on Geekbench and spotted by Wccftech.com, the ThreadRipper 1950X managed to get a 4,167 score in the single-thread benchmark and 24,539 points in multi-thread benchmark.

The CPU was compared to Intel’s Xeon E5-2697A 4 CPU, which is also a 16-core/32-thread CPU based on Broadwell architecture and which scores 3,651 in single-thread and 30,450 points in multi-thread performance.

Courtesy-Fud

Will Doom VR Be A Successful Game

June 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Doom is getting a virtual reality (VR) mode that will up the frights and will probably have you clawing at your face.

You know Doom, everyone knows Doom and people are always trying to play it on things that it was never meant to go on, like cash machines and cars, for example.

Doom was born for VR. The facefirst run and shoot game will lend itself very well to the format, and we can admit to wanting a go on it.

There is a reveal trailer, and Doom VFR certainly looks, smells and bleeds like the Doom we have come to know and love. The trailer is marked as unsuitable for some viewers which if you ask us, makes it sound like a perfect trailer for Doom. It is quite a bloody thing, it is certainly exciting, action-packed and violent.

“If you flinched the first time you saw a meaty Mancubus charging at you in last year’s critically acclaimed Doom, wait till you get up close and even more personal with rampaging demons in Doom VFR,” says Bethesda Softworks. “Doom VFR is a new virtual reality game from legendary developer id Software, coming to PlayStation VR and Vive platforms.”

Bethesda and ID Software, the companies behind Doom, said that VR has opened up fresh opportunities for both them and the games that they are aiming it at.

“Developing a Doom game specifically for virtual reality has provided an exciting opportunity to not only surround players with the world of Doom like never before, but also let them experience and explore the UAC and Hell in new ways, playing as new characters with totally unique tools and abilities,” said Robert Duffy, CTO at id Software.

The game’s director, Marty Stratton, explained that Doom VFR gives the fans what they want. “Since the hallmark of any Doom game is combat, we’ve made it our top priority to ensure moving, shooting and killing demons with overwhelming force in virtual reality is as brutal and rewarding as it is in the Doom experience that fans have been enjoying for the past year.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Amazon’s Acquisition Of Slack Could Mean Deeper Enterprise Presence

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Online retail giant Amazon is rumored to be interested in purchasing collaboration firm Slack Technologies — a possibility that could give Amazon a more direct entry into the enterprise.

“Bottom line: this could be a good move for Amazon in terms of upping their game in the enterprise collaboration market, but the devil is in the details of staying power and execution versus competitors like Google, Microsoft and Facebook,” said Forrester analyst Art Schoeller.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Amazon is considering the move in a deal that could be valued at $9 billion.

A Slack official declined to comment on the report. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Slack has more than 5 million daily users, and has seen widespread adoption since its inception three years ago. More recently, Microsoft was thought to be eyeing the company, but backed away from a deal when it determined the price — possibly as much as $8 billion — was too high, Schoeller said.

Microsoft eventually shifted tactics and formed Microsoft Teams, which launched in November 2016.

The Amazon interest in Slack is noteworthy, given that in February it released a video and audio conference service named Amazon Chime. Schoeller also noted that Amazon’s WorkMail offering has not put much of dent in the popularity of Microsoft’s well-established Exchange/Outlook combo or Google Gmail.

Acquiring Slack would help boost Amazon’s market position, Schoeller said, but it would need to follow through with more investment after any purchase if it hopes to take on the major collaboration rivals. He also noted there could be spillover effects on Amazon’s cloud operations.

“If Amazon continues to add business applications on top of Amazon Web Services, it will give other partners pause because they would now operate on a competitor’s platform,” Schoeller said.

Although Amazon Chime already has a Chat Room capability, Schoeller expects Slack would displace that as instant messaging gives way to similar team messaging apps.

Chime competes with online web conferencing services such as Zoom, Uber Conference and Join.me. Alan Lepofsky, vice president at Constellation Research, noted that besides WorkMail, Amazon also offers Amazon Docs which is a file-sharing service.

“It will be interesting to see if Amazon and Slack make a good combination,” Lepofsky said. “Amazon has been trying to improve their reach inside corporate accounts, outside of just developers. They have their Workspaces virtual desktop, WorkMail and WorkDocs, Chime and Do…, but we don’t hear much about corporate customers adopting these tools.

“Perhaps Slack would provide them a foot in the door, kick starting the opportunity for more of their platform,” he said.

Slack could also act as a front end to many of Amazon’s A.I. services, Lepofsky added. The company could wind up with an Echo product line and the Slack platform for software.

Mozilla Rolls Out Improved Version Of Firefox

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla continued its years-long campaign to make Firefox more technologically competitive with the competition, Google’s Chrome in particular, by boosting performance, increasing stability and reining in memory consumption.

The open-source developer also patched 31 security vulnerabilities, three of them rated “Critical,” the firm’s most serious ranking.

Firefox 54, released June 13, expanded on Mozilla’s multi-process project, code-named “Electrolysis” (shortened to “e10s”), that since 2009 has tried to mimic Chrome, and separate the browser’s operation into more than one CPU process. Previously, Firefox split its user interface (UI) and all content into separate processes — running all tabs in one of those processes — to prevent the browser from completely crashing when a website or web app failed. Firefox 54 uses up to four processes to run the browser’s tabs, assigning each to one of the CPU buckets.

“By separating the tabs into separate processes, we make better use of the hardware on your computer, so Firefox can deliver you more of the web you love, with less waiting,” assured Nick Nguyen, the product lead for Firefox, in a post to a company blog. In the same piece, Nguyen bragged that version 54 was “the best release of Firefox ever.”

Because operating multiple processes bloats a browser’s memory consumption, and also because Firefox pre-e10s was extensively criticized as a RAM pig, Nguyen asserted that version 54 uses “significantly less RAM” than rivals such as Chrome, Apple’s Safari and Microsoft’s Edge. Elsewhere, Ryan Pollack, a product marketing manager at Mozilla, argued that the four-process limit is the correct compromise between low and high memory use. He even cited the Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairy tale to declare that the balance between performance (lots of processes) and memory consumption (few processes) is perfect.

“Firefox uses four content processes because it’s the ‘just right’ number for many Firefox users,” said Pollack. “With four content processes, your computer should have plenty of memory left to run apps besides Firefox.”

Chrome has relied on a multi-process model since its 2008 launch. Because it devotes a separate process to each tab, and each process requires memory, Chrome generally consumes much more memory than other browsers. (Safari uses a similar, but not identical, multi-process model that ultimately eats less RAM than Chrome. Edge, too, uses multiple processes.) So, it wasn’t surprising that Pollack compared Firefox 54’s memory appetite primarily to Chrome’s, and charged that in a 30-tab test the latter required up to 2.4 times the RAM of Firefox.

Users with devices boasting larger amounts of RAM — more than 8GB, Pollack said — can boost the number of processes Firefox 54 consumes by typing about:config in the browser’s address bar, then changing the number for the dom.ipc.processCount setting.

While e10s has been a focus of Mozilla engineers for two years, the project also illustrated how far Firefox had fallen behind other browsers, notably Chrome but even, in areas, Edge. Mozilla has suffered several massive defeats in recent years, including a drubbing over mobile operating systems and a lesser beating from a stab at in-browser advertising. Lately, it has rededicated itself to Firefox, but the jury remains undecided, with some, including a former CTO, maintaining that the browser has no chance of unseating Chrome.

Last month, Firefox accounted for 12% of all browsers used worldwide, about a fifth of the share owned by Chrome and half that of a combined Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge. That May number was the highest of the year so far, but it was also nearly identical to Firefox’s share of 24 months earlier, showing how mired the browser had become.

After Acquiring Whole Foods Is Slack The Next Amazon Target?

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Online retail giant Amazon is said t be interested in snapping up collaboration firm Slack Technologies — a possibility that could give Amazon a more direct entry into the enterprise.

“Bottom line: this could be a good move for Amazon in terms of upping their game in the enterprise collaboration market, but the devil is in the details of staying power and execution versus competitors like Google, Microsoft and Facebook,” said Forrester analyst Art Schoeller.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Amazon is considering the move in a deal that could be valued at $9 billion.

A Slack official declined to comment on the report. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Slack has more than 5 million daily users, and has seen widespread adoption since its inception three years ago. More recently, Microsoft was thought to be eyeing the company, but backed away from a deal when it determined the price — possibly as much as $8 billion — was too high, Schoeller said.

Microsoft eventually shifted tactics and formed Microsoft Teams, which launched in November 2016.

The Amazon interest in Slack is noteworthy, given that in February it released a video and audio conference service named Amazon Chime. Schoeller also noted that Amazon’s WorkMail offering has not put much of dent in the popularity of Microsoft’s well-established Exchange/Outlook combo or Google Gmail.

Acquiring Slack would help boost Amazon’s market position, Schoeller said, but it would need to follow through with more investment after any purchase if it hopes to take on the major collaboration rivals. He also noted there could be spillover effects on Amazon’s cloud operations.

“If Amazon continues to add business applications on top of Amazon Web Services, it will give other partners pause because they would now operate on a competitor’s platform,” Schoeller said.

Although Amazon Chime already has a Chat Room capability, Schoeller expects Slack would displace that as instant messaging gives way to similar team messaging apps.

Slack Technologies Piques Amazon’s Interest, Potential Acquisition Target

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Slack Technologies Inc, a corporate messaging and collaboration software startup, has received inquiries about being potentially acquired by technology companies including Amazon.com Inc , Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

A deal could value the company at at least $9 billion, Bloomberg reported citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Slack is a platform where employees can send messages, collaborate, organize and share files. The technology also integrates with a wide variety of business software – such as Salesforce.com Inc and Microsoft Corp’s Skype – so employees can do all their work within Slack.

San Francisco-based Slack has raised more than $500 million from venture capitalists and was valued at $3.8 billion at its last private financing round a year ago.

Both, Amazon and Slack were not immediately available to comment outside of regular U.S. business hours.

Is the FinFET Market Ripe for Growth?

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The global FinFET-technology market to grow by 41.89 per cent during 2017-2021, according a new report.

Beancounters at Research and Markets have added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked dashed out a report with the racey title “Global FinFET Technology Market 2017-2021.”

The report considers the sales of FinFET technology process node in different sizes across applications. It covers the market landscape and its growth prospects over the coming years. The report also includes a discussion of the key vendors operating in this market.

For those who came in late, FinFET is a 3D transistor and is integral for the design and development of processors. FinFET technology is a nonplanar, double gate transistor, built on a silicon on insulator substrate. FinFET is a 3D structure that has subdivided resistance and capacitance when compared to a planar structure. FinFETs have better device optimisation in comparison with planar technology.

One trend in the market is innovation in channel materials for development of 10nm and beyond FinFET chips. The 14nm FinFET-based chips use silicon channels that are not stable beyond this scale. With the 10nm technology, SiGe-based FinFET technology demonstrated enhanced performance, providing elegant solutions for CMOS technology.

According to the report, one driver in the market is strategic collaborations and M&A.

The strategic collaborations between the top players in the market are driving the global FinFET technology market. Strategic collaborations and M&A allow vendors to gain access to new technologies. This enables vendors to develop the ecosystem and design novel products with innovative technologies.

The report states that one challenge in the market is fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rate. Fluctuations in the foreign currency exchange rate have a huge impact on the revenue realized by companies.

Vendors in the global FinFET technology market have their presence in several countries. Therefore, the fluctuations in the exchange rate do affect not only the selling price of the product but also the costs and expenses of the company and its foreign subsidiaries.

Courtesy-Fud

Will The US Video Game Industry Grow To A 28 Billion Dollar Market

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

According to the 18th PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2017-2021, which covers a number of major industries (not just games), the total video games revenue in the US is expected to grow at a 6.3% CAGR rate to reach more than $28.5 billion by 2021. The research firm notes that the PC games sector looks a bit rosier than consoles in the next few years in terms of growth. While total PC games revenue in the US is set to grow from $3.7bn in 2016 to $5.0bn in 2021, at a 6.6% CAGR, consoles will only grow at a 2.8% CAGR, hitting $9.4bn in 2021.

Consoles’ slowed growth “can be attributed to the increase in digital full game downloads which is mostly offset by a decline of physical console game sell-through revenue, which is set to drop by a 4.3% CAGR during the forecast period,” PwC noted. At the same time, the PC sector is seeing “healthy growth” in the online/microtransactions department – online PC revenue is expected to climb at a 7.0% CAGR to $4.2bn by 2021. PwC said that much of this can be attributed to the ongoing success of F2P, more subscription services and the rise of eSports. Digital sales on consoles are getting stronger and stronger as well, expected to grow at a 9.8% CAGR to hit $3.7bn by 2021 – but as noted above, the decline in physical is still offsetting much of this growth.

Virtual reality continues to draw lots of attention across the industry, and according to PwC, the segment should grow at an impressive 64% CAGR to reach $5bn by 2021, or roughly 17% of the entire US games business revenue total. The firm estimates that dedicated high-end VR (Rift, Vive, PSVR) should climb to an installed base of 13 million by 2021, while the overall VR headset installed base will reach 68 million. Additionally, “Portable dedicated headsets – a new category of self-contained headset that will emerge from 2017 designed exclusively to render VR experiences – will have an installed base of 5.3mn by 2021 (CAGR of 87.5%) because of their superior capabilities compared to smartphone-based devices, and ease of use,” the firm said.

While games as a technology have been the driver of VR, PwC expects VR content revenues to be driven by non-gaming experiences like VR video, which will “grow at a CAGR of 87.8% to represent 58.3% of overall content spending in 2021. It will surpass interactive experiences and games revenue…in 2019.” PwC remarked that established media like Netflix, HBO and ESPN, would play a big part in driving VR content along with major game publishers; that said, “expect smaller developers like Jaunt to get an increasing share of this content revenue as they act as the technical partners for both the big studios and non-specialist start-ups.”

The other smaller, but quickly growing segment that should boost total industry revenues in the US is, of course, eSports. PwC expects the sector to grow at a 22% CAGR to reach almost $300 million in 2021. Streaming advertising is the lion’s share of that total at $149 million, but sponsorships, voluntary consumer contributions and ticket sales all add to the pie as well.

“The US is the largest market in revenue terms, having overtaken South Korea in 2015, although the latter will stay far ahead in terms of per-capita revenue,” PwC explained. “The development of eSports has grown at a breakneck pace in the US over recent years, receiving perhaps its biggest boost into the mainstream when ESPN began covering major events on both its streaming and regular channels – most notably the August 2015 final of The International, a tournament for Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2). In September 2015 the company even advertised for an eSports general editor, in recognition of the specialist knowledge required to cover the discipline comprehensively.”

Streaming sites are still the dominant medium for eSports viewing, however. Amazon-owned Twitch is said to rank behind Netflix, Google (YouTube) and Apple in terms of peak internet traffic, PwC noted. There’s no doubt that eSports is capturing the attention of major corporations and advertisers. “Companies are moving in swiftly to sponsor both teams and events, with fast-moving consumer goods companies like Coca-Cola, Doritos and Snickers all forging a niche…

“Notably, in September 2016 the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers bought the long-time franchise Dignitas and Apex, which offers a guaranteed spot in the League of Legends circuit. For the 76ers, the purchase offers an opportunity to diversify into a market that is particularly popular with the protean 18-24-year-old market and get a named presence at eSsports tournaments, while their newly signed-up players can also live-stream and create content under their parent owner’s banner. If the space continues to grow exponentially, sports teams such as the 76ers that become early movers will have the upper hand – as well as a usefully sized stadium for hosting tournaments. Certainly signs are positive here, with the NBA in February 2017 announcing plans to create a new league based around the game NBA 2K.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Microsoft Continues Windows XP Patches Over ‘WannaCry’ Concerns

June 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is following May’s unprecedented release of security updates for expired operating systems, including Windows XP, by issuing another dozen patches for the aged OS.

The Redmond, Wash. company cited fears of possible attacks by “nation-states,” a label for government-sponsored hackers or foreign intelligence services, for the updates’ release. “In reviewing the updates for this month, some vulnerabilities were identified that pose elevated risk of cyberattacks by government organizations, sometimes referred to as nation-state actors, or other copycat organizations,” said Adrianne Hall, general manager, issues and crisis management, for Microsoft.

The updates for Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003 — which were retired from support in April 2014, June 2016, and July 2015, respectively — made it two months running that Microsoft has delivered fixes for bugs in obsolete software.

In May, Microsoft broke with policy and practice by offering patches to protect the same trio of operating system versions from the fast-spreading “WannaCry” ransomware campaign. This month’s move was taken for a reason less concrete.

“As part of our regular Update Tuesday schedule, we have taken action to provide additional critical security updates to address vulnerabilities that are at [heightened] risk of exploitation due to past nation-state activity and disclosures,” wrote Eric Doerr, general manager of the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), in a post to a company blog.

Hall was somewhat more explicit. “Due to the elevated risk for destructive cyber-attacks at this time, we made the decision [to issue updates for older versions] because applying these updates provides further protection against potential attacks with characteristics similar to WannaCrypt,” she wrote in a separate post to a company blog. Hall also noted that the additional updates were distributed to all versions of Windows, not just those previously retired.

Microsoft tagged last month’s malware as “WannaCrypt;” most settled on the alternate “WannaCry” as the name.

Although owners of unmanaged Windows XP and Windows 8 systems must manually retrieve the updates from Microsoft’s download website or the cumbersome Update Catalog, enterprises and organizations using WSUS (Windows Server Update Services), SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) or another patch management platform can automate the downloading and installation of the older editions’ updates as if they were for editions still in support.

Could AMD’s Threadripper Undercut Intel’s 7900X

June 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

According to a fresh report, AMD’s entry-level 16-core Threadripper CPU could cost as low as US $849.

According to the report coming from eTeknix.com, the reported that the entry-level 16-core/32-threads Threadripper SKU, also known as the Threadripper 1998, which works at 3.2GHz base and 3.6GHz Turbo clock, lacks eXtended Frequency Range (XFR) feature and has a 155W TDP, could launch with a US $849 price.

If this rumor turns out to be true, AMD will significantly hurt Intel as this Threadripper will end up cheaper than Intel’s 10-core 7900X, which has a US $999 price tag (tray 1KU).

Although it could end up being slower than Intel’s 10-core chip in some scenarios, like gaming, the sheer number of cores and threads it offers would make it a great CPU for some CPU intensive tasks.

Hopefully, AMD will manage to bring more competition to the CPU market as it would both drive the prices down as well as most likely bring better CPUs in the future.

Courtesy-Fud

Can Apple’s HomePod Compete With Amazon’s Alexa

June 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Back in May, we wrote that Apple was preparing to release a Siri-based smart home speaker that would take on competition from Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo series, Google Home, and Harmon Kardon’s recently announced Cortana-based smart speaker.

On Monday during the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller took the stage and introduced the device as the Apple HomePod. On the surface, the name sounds almost nothing like a high-fidelity music device, but under the hood the unit features a number of multitasking commands all natively powered by Siri’s voice control algorithms.

Based on reports from the WWDC show floor, the HomePod’s audio output has been described as “full, wide, and heavily sculpted” and “amazingly loud for such a small speaker”. The company has tuned its speaker profile to provide deep thumping bass, bright vocals, and absent of any flats or distortions. We are guessing that Apple has tuned into the expertise it gained from its acquisition of Beats back in May 2014, which was intended to raise its competitive outlook in the music streaming business. This time around, it has developed a smart hub speaker that will not only raise the stakes in the voice assistant category, but seems to perform in the upper tier category for an audio product.

“It’ll sound right to lots of people,” says Wired’s David Pierce.

As it stands, Microsoft is the only company in the voice assistant market that has placed an emphasis on balanced, richer sound with the Invoke, manufactured by Harmon Kardon. That device is likely to include a propriatory DSP audio technology that delivers a similar 360 degrees of room filling sound, complete with echo and noise cancellation features.

Spatial awareness, Apple Music integration, daisy-chaining support

The HomePod measures under seven inches tall and features a large, Apple-designed woofer, a custom array of seven beamforming tweeters. Just as Amazon supports daisy-chaining multiple Echo devices together in multiple rooms, Apple will let users wirelessly connect multiple HomePods together to create a whole home surround system, only using Siri instead of Alexa. Each HomePod uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjust the audio levels, providing more directional control that doesn’t require repositioning several times to hear every tonal pitch from an originally mastered audio track.

The speaker, it’s claimed,  is  compatible with the entire Apple Music library and will be able to answer advanced Siri questions, including the ability to look up drummers and pianists. Of course, the device’s Echo-like features will allow users to send text messages, access sports and weather, and close the curtains without any music interruptions.

HomeKit compatibility

The HomePod is compatible with Apple’s smart home platform HomeKit, which lets users operate their thermostats, dim the lights, set sprinkler timers, and perform routine appliance switching functions. To make this possible, however, all connected HomeKit devices will need to have a special MFi (Made for iDevices) chip installed for machine-to-machine security. This is Apple’s way of not only getting partners to stump up royalty fees, but ensuring that any home automation products can’t be tampered with from the neighbor’s smart hub device a few blocks down the street.

Apple’s HomePod will not come cheap, with a price of $349 (£270 / AU$465) when it releases it later in December in the US, UK and Australia. By contrast, Amazon’s Echo has been selling at $180 since its introduction in 2014, while Google’ Home sells for $130 and the Harmon Kardon Invoke will likely debut at or below $200 to stay competitive with Google and Amazon. Now that Apple has made its announcement, however, Microsoft may change its price structure, depending on how it views the HomePod in relation to its own premium audio offering.

Courtesy-Fud

Is China The Hot Spot For Mobile Gaming

June 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

To Western mobile developers, the Chinese market may seem as daunting as it is distant.

Every aspect of the landscape is different to anything seen in regions closer to home: the publishers, the distribution channels, player tastes, player behaviours, spending habits and, of course, the language. Even simple things like use of colour will be unfamiliar; red, traditionally used to depict danger or damage in games, is actually associated with good fortune and joy in China.

However, a report this week from investment firm Atomico notes the market value for games in China is $24.4bn, accounting for 25% of the global market. It also observers there are 600m gamers in China – twice the population of the US – and with the well-documented dominance of smartphones in the region, it appears to be a prime opportunity for mobile developers.

A mere ‘opportunity’?  No, says Joost van Dreunen, co-founder and CEO of SuperData Research – it’s much more than that.

“The Chinese mobile games market is the largest market in the world,” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “Releasing your game in China is not just an advantage, it is an absolute necessity.”

Of course, it’s no easy task. The market is incredibly challenging for outside companies to enter – in no small part to new regulations introduced last summer designed to root out certain kinds of content, not just in games but in any kind of foreign media. Story-based games are under particular scrutiny as they are more likely to contain political and military topics, or other material the Chinese government disapproves of.

Even the world-conquering Pokémon Go was denied a Chinese launch, when the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television deemed to investigate the game and whether it endangered people’s lives and property, or even national security. Fortunately, Superdata reported back in December that this approval process sped up significantly towards the end of the year.

A new law also came into effect last month that demands developers reveal the percentage rates for items yielded by any random system. Given how many free-to-play titles – a business model that dominates the Chinese market – rely on such mechanics to monetise their players, this requires careful consideration when moving for a release in the region.

Another challenge is the number of different platforms available. Fortunately, Android and iOS both have a healthy presence in China, although back in December 2016, Superdata revealed Android players in China were worth eight times more (in terms of revenue generated) than those on iOS. That said, this week’s Atomico report notes that $5.5bn was still spent on iOS games in 2016, showing significant growth over the past four years.

“There are certainly several obvious challenges to releasing your game in China,” van Dreunen observes. “Getting approval, the relatively high risk of being cloned, and the fact that this is now a deep red ocean.

“But the biggest challenge in releasing your game in China is being unable to meet demand. I’ve seen medium-sized developers struggle to keep up and churn out enough content at regular intervals to keep players engaged. You have to understand that Chinese gamers are ravenous and demand a lot of content to satisfy their appetite. So while it may initially seem like a great decision to release in China, studios run the risk of getting crushed under the necessary workload. Many developers are not set up to release content at that scale.”

To that end, he urges developers to find a publisher in the region. There are plenty available, and in recent weeks we’ve seen several Western studios choose exactly this strategy to tap into China’s lucrative market. Zynga partnered with Chinese publisher NetEase to bring its real-time strategy title Dawn of War to the region, as did Peter Molyneux and the 22cans team for their survival adventure The Trail.

Even the mighty Ubisoft secured a deal with Tencent, who will publish a new Might & Magic Heroes game for mobile, developed by local studio Playcrab. With so many partnerships already established with Western games firms, any studios looking East would be ill-advised to attempt to enter the market themselves.

“From a practical standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to go it alone,” he warns. “Partnering helps to lower the barriers to entry significantly and in some cases is mandatory. It’s a bit of an upside-down universe where you have one of the top publishers like Activision forced to work with a direct competitor like Tencent.”

The revenues available and the larger audience, as van Dreunen says, makes it a “necessity” for developers to be investigating routes into China – although the SuperData CEO is quick to remind that efforts should be spread across other territories as well.

“Don’t get stuck on only China,” he warns. “If you’re a mobile game company you should also consider the Nordics, for example, which has a more affluent consumer base.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

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.

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