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Will PC Sales Ever Make A Comeback

October 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Beancounters at Gartner have been adding up some numbers and reached the conclusion that sales of traditional PCs are still falling.

Things might pick up next year, but PC sales have continued to fall and analyst always say “things will get better next year.”

Gartner said that PC shipments will drop by nearly eight percent this year, and another 4.4 percent in 2018. By 2019, 16 million fewer traditional PCs and notebooks will be sold than were shipped this year.

However, much of this will be offset by the rise in spending on high-end notebooks so that the overall PC market will by 2019 be at pretty much the same level it was last year.

Tablets — defined by Gartner as basic and utility ultramobile devices — will also decline over the period to 2019.

But despite the declines in traditional PC sales, Gartner said it was a misconception that everyone has gone mobile, noting that its own research found that users depend just as much on PCs or tablets as they do on smartphones. One big difference between smartphones and PCs is that people are replacing their handsets much more regularly.

Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner Atwal said: “Users holding onto their PCs for longer remains a major issue for the PC market. In contrast, users continue to replace their smartphone quite frequently.”

Business PC shipments could return to growth by the end of this year, driven by faster Windows 10 replacement in many regions — especially in Western Europe.

“Despite the fact that prices have been rising due to higher component costs, Windows 10 replacements have kept the PC market relatively stable through 2017,” said Atwal. “We estimate that the PC market (desk-based, notebook and ultramobiles) is set to return to 0.8 percent growth in 2018,” he continued. According to Gartner, this trend would be driven by growth in Russia and China.

Courtesy-Fud

Are Rising Game Development Cost Hurting Some Studios

October 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Making games is expensive. Let me rephrase that: making games is really, really expensive.

Obviously, that’s no secret, but the numbers involved are even surprising to those of us who follow the industry every day. Last month, Kotaku reported many studios budget around $10,000 per person per month to cover salaries plus overhead. Considering that many of the more polished games on the market can take years to create, budgets can spiral out of control very easily and this has a impact on the entire ecosystem.

Moreover, that $10,000 figure is actually lower than many studios spend, industry veterans Brian Fargo (inXile Entertainment) and Jeff Pobst (Hidden Path Entertainment) tell me.

“I used $10,000 per man-month [for budgets] when I was a producer for Sierra online in 2000,” Pobst notes.

Fargo concurs: “I would say [$10,000 is] on the low side. I think Tim Schafer pointed out a couple of years ago that this is why these things cost so much to make. There’s a big difference between small developers cutting their teeth that have no overhead versus a team of people who’ve been in the business for two decades. They have families and expect medical insurance, and so it’s not going to be something that costs less than $10,000 on average for my people.

“That’s on the low end by maybe 20% or 30%. I don’t think we’re seeing double that, but certainly it’s the trajectory we’re all going towards. I think that’s a fair number. It’s always been a funny disparity. We talk about making a game with a budget of, say, $10 million and the smaller developers tend to look at it and go, ‘How do they waste so much money?’ And then the triple-A guys say, ‘How do they do it for so cheap?’

“That seems to be the perpetual argument on these budgets when you want to do something that is ambitious, and that’s ultimately what we get rewarded for. Any title that comes out that is ambitious in some way is more likely to be rewarded than one that isn’t.”

Ambition is a wonderful thing, and most developers have ambitious visions for their games, but then they meet the reality of what ambition costs. The double-A space is now having to invest more than is reasonable for small or mid-sized studios.

“The industry continues to get more binary between the haves and have nots,” Fargo continues. “When I see something like salaries going to as high as $20,000 per man-month in San Francisco, that really only affects the smaller to mid-size companies. The big companies – take Blizzard, for example – they can drop $70 million on a project, kill it and then start all over again. Rockstar can spend five years on a game.

“The extra salaries really don’t affect them, in my opinion, as much as it does the smaller to the mid-size companies. So yeah, it definitely puts pressure on us.

“Also, what I’m seeing recently is that there was the single-A and double-A indie space that was sort of ripe for opportunity for a while – us included, and we’ve been doing well – but that’s getting more competitive. And the budgets of the double-A products are starting to approach triple-A budgets of 10 years ago.”

Citing Ninja Theory’s Hellblade and Larian’s Divinity: Original Sin 2 as recent examples, Fargo laments that expectations for games coming out of the double-A space are rising too rapidly.

“All of a sudden double-A developers are spending in excess of $10 million,” he says. “And it’s only a matter of time before this rises to $20 million. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some at those values already. So now what you’ve got is the triple-A people who are unaffected by the salaries and they’re going to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars between production and marketing, and then you’ve got the double-A companies now starting to spend significant money. What that’s going to do is to create an expectation from a user’s perspective of what the visuals should look like.

“It creates a harder dynamic for even the smaller companies, because some product is at $39 or $44.95 that doesn’t have a multi-million dollar marketing budget. It’s still going to have production values that are incredible, and so what will people expect out of a smaller developer? That’s the cascading effect of all these different things, and of course you layer on top of that the discoverability issue we’ve all got with an un-curated platform and it makes it very tricky.”

While the major publishers like Activision or EA still manage to reap massive profits, other studios are certainly not getting wealthy by making games. California, where so much of the industry is based, makes the cost equation even more difficult.

“Consumers don’t fully understand how truly expensive it is to put out a AAA game now,” says Turtle Rock GM Steve Goldstein. “If you start looking at what it costs for someone to be employed in southern California, working in the knowledge industry, it’s a lot. And the most frustrating thing actually, and it’s something I complain about at the studio all the time, is that we got people here that are working their butts off, who do well, but still can’t afford to buy a house in southern California. It’s ridiculous. The cost of doing business in tech is so high, especially in California, [that] unless you are the biggest of the biggest, there’s a real risk of being able to continue in this medium.

“For us to make a new IP that’s AAA and that’s a boxed product just doesn’t make sense. Because the publisher’s going to have to spend $50 to $100 million, which, as your math just points out, isn’t making anybody rich over in development. They’re going to make that investment… They’ll release [that IP] during the holiday season so they can get that additional sales push, but it’s going to be coming out amidst a ton of other titles and established franchises, so you have to try to get above the noise level just to get the IP known – it just doesn’t pencil out.”

When you combine the continued escalation of costs with the challenge of getting above the noise upon release, it can feel like a Sisyphean task for a small or mid-sized games studio.

Fargo offers, “It feels like the budgets for the double-A products have doubled to tripled just in the last five years. Back in 2012 when Broken Age and Pillars [of Eternity] came out, I know what our budgets were then [for Wasteland 2] and I know what the budgets are going to now. I have a sense of what Larian and Obsidian are spending, and I know these numbers have gone up significantly.

“Curation has always been a hot topic. One might argue there’s a greater risk of a game being lost in a sea of products, than that of a great game not making it through the quality bar to be in the store. The stats of more and more and more games hitting Steam have not been favorable for any of us… You’ve got kind of a one, two, three-punch against the smaller publishers/developers.”

The shift to digital storefronts and the rise in the sheer number of titles flooding those digital shelves is not ideal, Pobst agrees, and it’s making life hard for the really small indies out there.

“For a period of time… we could sell games that were not $60 top price games, and we could make good money… and we could get the opportunity to make more games,” he says. “That opportunity is being challenged because there is such a large number of games at low prices in the marketplace. That takes the market, which gives lots of people choice and is really good for gamers in the one sense, and it splits the amount of money against a large number of people.

“I know a large number of individual indies who are closing up shop because they aren’t now even making enough money to pay for their own well-being. And that used to be a pretty sure thing. If you had a three-person shop or a four-person shop, you could sell enough to actually make a living. Now that’s becoming challenging with so many games available for purchase.”

One way to alleviate the sting of rising costs has been to use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, and while that has been a boon for the mid-size studios like Double Fine or inXile, in some ways the crowdfunding phenomenon has been a double-edged sword when it comes to setting expectations on budgets, says Pobst.

“If there’s a financial pressure, it’s really hard for people to get together and actually make great entertainment. So this is hard; this is really hard. And the only reason I think that there is a surprise is in part because of the Kickstarter phenomenon, where people were looking to raise the last $500,000 of a $2 million game, and people thought the game was made for $500,000… Games are really expensive to make, especially the kind that the consumer really desires.

“What we saw with the crowdfunding experience, that we went through ourselves as well as many others, is that the average experience where you get a certain amount of money or you just make your minimum, becomes an expectation of what it takes to actually create product, and that’s pretty much not true. You’re typically investing some of your own money or another investor’s money into the product and, often, people are using crowdfunding to complement that so that they can have enough to make the whole thing.”

The $10,000 man-month figure, while scary, is not necessarily universally applicable. Location of your studio and cost of living certainly is a factor in how much employees get paid, and smaller indies aren’t going to have the same overhead as double-A teams filled with veterans. Beyond that, there are different approaches to what kind of team to build.

Pobst explains: “If you visit a development studio there are going to be several different models. The model we [use] at Hidden Path, and I’ve heard places like Crystal Dynamics, is to try and favor a smaller staff with more highly compensated people… The philosophy is that, if you have people who know each other really well and work together really well, their output is going to exceed what the other model [yields].

“The other model is a few highly experienced people that you compensate very highly because they’re your leadership, and then [you hire] a larger number of younger and more inexpensive people. You tend to have more of those people to do the same amount of work, and there’s a lot more management overhead. That can work, and there are many companies that use that model. In fact, if you start looking at successful titles, you’re going to find examples of both. There is no one right model.”

While the cost per head may not compare perfectly on a project-to-project or company-to-company basis, the budgets for games continue to go up no matter what. What can the mid-size studios do to compensate for this worrying fact?

“It depends on the genre you’re in, but the scope and scale of the thing is what you really need to keep an eye on,” Fargo advises. “The visual and audio expectations are rising as the budgets for the double-A games has risen… I would tell developers to keep a really close eye on the scope of the product; better to have something that’s very small and tight and polished than something that’s overly large… and hits a lot of different things but don’t quite visually hold up to the others.”

The other issue to contend with is how games are transforming to games-as-a-service, which could be a positive in terms of generating more revenue or a negative because of the need to support staff year-round.

“As I look out towards the future, we are most definitely looking to incorporate aspects of that business model,” Fargo notes. “The plus sides of it, of course, is that there’s no piracy, and you’re able to do better business in some territories where piracy is extremely high. But also it allows you to build a community and have a live-ops team and do [fewer] products, but keep people on it everyday and make it better – doing tournaments and all of those things… It’s a very compelling thing to have [but] it does put pressure on a single-player experience game.”

Turtle Rock’s Goldstein sees the games-as-a-service model going one step further, effectively becoming Netflix-like subscriptions to access content; something big publishers like Ubisoft and EA have predicted is on the horizon. Subscription revenue could be a way to help mitigate rising costs.

“I can absolutely see something like that happening down the line,” he says. “Netflix is now playing with budgets that are approaching blockbuster films, so I could see those numbers working for each of the publishers, where they have their users paying a subscription and they release a certain number of really high-end titles as well as a bunch of indie titles… I could see that in five years.”

Rising costs have been putting the squeeze on mid-sized studios, but that’s not to say triple-A developers and publishers are immune. As Pobst points out, “There used to be a lot more publishers than there are now.” As the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and smaller companies have a chance to succeed by being more nimble.

“Adapting is part of the game industry,” Pobst continues. “You try and find the areas to adapt to that match your skill set. If you’re a great narrative designer and your team makes great narrative games, you probably don’t go into mobile and focus on free-to-play monetization. It’s not really playing to your strengths.”

Being nimble allows a studio to try new things. VR is the perfect example of that. Both Hidden Path and Turtle Rock are taking a chance on the emerging medium in the hope that it does become a growth market, and their respective experience should set them up well for the future if VR truly goes mainstream.

And if a studio manages to create a hit, suddenly you have a built-in audience that’s more likely to purchase your next title, based on studio reputation alone.

“You’ve got to give Bungie credit for creating Halo after several other games before that, and then creating Destiny after Halo – that’s a big challenge to do,” Pobst says. “And then the folks as Blizzard, they’ve created multiple different hits, which is fairly rare in our industry. If you can build trust with an audience and they can really buy into the anticipation of whatever you’re going to do, your ability to spend more to get it right is there.

“Once you do cross over that threshold, Bungie or Blizzard, their budgets are going to be much, much larger than anything you or I have talked about. Their per head rate or the amount of money they’ll put into a game is much, much higher for two reasons: one, they know that if they deliver something quality, people will buy it because of the reputation they have. And two, by spending more money, they are putting a greater distance between them and the next competitor. And that greater distance will pay off in the long run.”

If a studio does manage to cross that threshold, a huge advantage is unlocked. Suddenly, you’re not worried as much about the money to achieve your creative vision, Pobst says.

“If I’m really focused on the dollars…then I’m not actually focused on the best entertainment I can possibly create. If you know that the audience is going to come in a disproportionate way to what you spend, spending stops becoming the problem. A lot of these [bigger] studios are really focused on: ‘How do I execute the best? How do I have my team work well? How do I know exactly which features to invest in and which features not to invest in?’ You get to a whole set of problems that are far beyond the money problems.”

Some have made comparisons to Hollywood and the drastic divide between indie film labels and behemoth studios like Universal, but for all the talk of haves and have nots, Fargo concedes that game creators have a chance at success for lower investments – for now, at least.

“You look at PUBG, that would be considered a smaller Hollywood film and it sells 15 million copies, but that’s more profitable than most of the Hollywood blockbusters,” he says. “I don’t know that there’s a parallel in the film business where people on a semi-regular basis are spending under $10 million on a movie yet it’s producing blockbuster Hollywood profits. The games business does continue to do that – Rocket League, for example.

“There’s enough cases where these smaller titles have just nailed it, but the effect of that is their next ones are going to see a huge difference in budget.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Samsung Chips Help Profit Margins

October 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Samsung Electronics  is expected to forecast a record third-quarter profit on Friday thanks to the strong market for memory chips, and as mobile earnings make a killing as rival Apple drops the ball.

The world’s biggest maker of memory chips and mobile phones has been the chief beneficiary of the semiconductor market, as mobile devices and servers demand ever greater processing power.

Brisk sales of the latest Galaxy Note 8 smartphone, launched in mid-September, also are likely to further boost its performance, analysts said.

Doh Hyun-woo, analyst at Mirae Asset Daewoo Securities said: “Samsung’s valuation is still comparatively lower than global competitors and fourth-quarter earnings will improve across the board and keep improving in 2018.”

Samsung’s July-September operating profit is expected to rise to $12.51 billion, according to a Thomson Reuters survey of 19 analysts. That is nearly three times ta year earlier and slightly better than the previous quarter.

Strong global demand for DRAM chips will continue to outpace supply in 2018, while demand for NAND flash chips exceeded supply for six straight quarters as of last month, DRAMeXchange, a division of data provider TrendForce, said.

Samsung’s mobile division is seen posting operating profit of about 3 trillion won, compared to just 100 billion won in the third quarter of 2016. Pre-orders for the Note 8 hit the highest-ever for the Note series.

Lower liquid-crystal display (LCD) panel prices as well as one-off costs are expected to weigh on Samsung’s display business during the third quarter, analysts said.

However, the display business could improve in the fourth quarter on the back of sales of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels for new Apple smartphones. However there are signs that Apple might be forced to reduce orders for these as fewer people are interested in its current “popping” iPhone range.

Samsung will only provide estimates for July-September revenue and operating profit on Friday, and will disclose detailed results in late October.

Courtesy-Fud

Will RISC-V Finally Hit Linux Next Year

October 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Linux fanboys tend to announce a lot of “year of” events. There is the year of the desktop which appears to be every year and still never happens and now there is the year of RISC V Linux processor.

SiFive has declared that 2018 will be the year of RISC V Linux processor, so mark your penguin diaries accordingly.  In the UK there will be all sorts of events planned, including guess the weight of Linus Torvalds competitions, there will be penguin tossing at Slough, The over 80s Linux nudist club will be holding a bring and buy sale and there will be the open sauce bob sleigh event down the escalators of Covent Garden tube station.

SiFive released its first open-source system on a chip, the Freeform Everywhere 310, last year. At the time it said it was aiming to push the RISC-V architecture to transform the hardware industry in the way that Linux transformed the software industry.

This year it released its U54-MC Coreplex, the first RISC-V-based chip that supports Linux, Unix, and FreeBSD. This latest opens up a whole new world of use cases for the architecture and paves the way for RISC-V processors to compete with ARM cores and similar offerings in the enterprise and consumer space.

The outfit claims that next year companies looking to build SoC’s around RISC-V will throng to the new developments.

Andrew Waterman co-founder and chief engineer at SiFive said the forthcoming silicon is going to enable much better software development for RISC-V.

Waterman said that, while SiFive had developed low-level software such as compilers for RISC-V the company really hopes that the open-source community will be taking a much broader role going forward and really pushing the technology forward.

“No matter how big of a role we would want to have we can’t make a dent. But what we can do is make sure the army of engineers out there are empowered.”

Courtesy-Fud

Did The Latest Final Fantasy Save Franchise

October 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Square Enix’ Final Fantasy franchise is arguably in the rudest health it’s ever been right now. The main series latest title, FFXV, launched to critical and commercial success and is being supported by a string of fine content updates; the MMO, FFXIV, is closing in on the peak players record set by World of Warcraft; and across mobile and other platforms, the franchise is enjoying success both with entirely new titles (such as Final Fantasy Brave Exvius on mobile) and with those tapping into nostalgia for the series’ past (mobile and console re-releases of classic games, or remixes like the mobile title Final Fantasy Record Keeper). The public’s appetite for the venerable franchise seems limitless, and Square Enix’ capacity to meet that demand is firing on all cylinders.

It wasn’t always like this. In fact, the state of Final Fantasy right now represents one of the most dramatic turnarounds by a major franchise in the history of the industry. Turn the clock back five years and the whole brand looked like it was bound for disaster. Final Fantasy XV was deep in development hell with no end in sight, and few held much hope for whatever game would eventually crawl out of the car crash. Final Fantasy XIV had endured almost two years of critical lashings and subscriber discontent, and was on the verge of shutting down. The franchise’s mobile efforts, too, were underwhelming, largely made up of ports of old games and re-developed titles from Japan’s long-in-the-tooth, pre-smartphone iMode service.

Had anyone at that point stood up to predict that Final Fantasy XIV and XV would both be not only immensely successful in their own right, but tentpole titles for one of the most commercially successful console generations ever, the most likely reaction would have been laughter. The sheer depth and breadth of Final Fantasy’s legacy meant that few would have been confident in writing off the series’ capacity for reinvention or resurrection; but for the franchise’s current iterations to be turned around so utterly would have been dismissed as impossible.

Such a feat bears closer scrutiny; not just because Final Fantasy is a beloved franchise whose resuscitation is interesting in its own right, but because it holds important lessons for other franchises that hit rocky patches. It’s worth noting also that the decline hadn’t started with the issues with instalments XIV and XV; rather, it dates back right to the outset of the PlayStation 3 era, when an ambitious plan to expand the franchise ended up delivering, instead, the poorly received FFXIII games and the eternally locked in development hell FFXV, originally planned as a companion piece to, rather than a distant successor for, the thirteenth game.

This is a franchise, then, whose development and critical reception really hadn’t been on solid ground since the PlayStation 2 era, and arguably one in much more trouble (though with a far deeper wellspring of goodwill and nostalgia at its disposal) than recently indisposed franchises like Mass Effect.

How Square Enix approached turning the entire franchise around is a lesson in bold steps and confidence. It took the unprecedented step of shutting down FFXIV and launching an entirely revamped version with a new creative boss at the helm; A Realm Reborn, the relaunched game, carries on from the story of the original (there was actually a creatively fascinating in-game narrative event wherein the shutdown of the old servers was accompanied by the actual destruction of the world, with the new game’s story commencing five years after those events) but is in almost every other respect a new game.

Consider the extraordinary effort Blizzard undertook to rework and modernise all of its original World of Warcraft content when it released the Cataclysm expansion at the peak of the game’s popularity; now consider that Square Enix took the decision to do precisely that with a game which was loathed critically and drooping commercially. That such a wild gambit has succeeded is a testament to the talent and vision of Yoshida Naoki and his team; that it was taken at all speaks to a confidence and willingness to take risks that is to the credit of Square Enix’ executive team.

What happened to FFXIV happened in public, of necessity; the original game had already launched when it became clear that it needed to be reworked from the ground up. Yet it is apparent that no less dramatic a transformation happened to FFXV as it finally hit the home stretch in its development (a home stretch, incidentally, longer than the entire development process of many other major titles).

The FFXV that eventually launched is a game that’s easy to like, but also a curious beast, one that clearly bears the marks and scars of dramatic surgery during its development. It’s a game whose sprawling scope belies a remarkably tight and stripped down core. There are moments where strange scars across the game’s design speaks to the excising of huge, ambitious ideas, or where the game’s systems curiously seem to try to flex phantom limbs; ideas and mechanisms amputated years ago in favour of a mostly streamlined story of four boys on a road-trip at the end of the world.

That the process of killing FFXV’s darlings happened behind closed doors does not make it any less dramatic than what happened to FFXIV in public; and while the creative teams responsible for the decisions were different, the solutions they hit upon are quite similar. Both teams found ways to use what had gone before, balancing a willingness to discard even very expensively developed content that just wasn’t working with a deft hand at ensuring the baby stayed firmly in place while disposing of the bathwater.

Often in the games industry, there’s a kind of masochistic satisfaction taken in talking firmly about how good a company is at throwing out ideas that aren’t working, or how quick they are to can games that don’t look like they’re up to scratch. That’s absolutely an important skill, but while vital in fast-moving and still (relatively) cheap fields like mobile, it’s one that’s increasingly irrelevant to AAA development. There, it’s been superceded by the more economically sensible task of actually figuring out how expensively developed assets, code and systems can be recycled into things that actually work.

That’s obviously a much tougher and more skilled job than simply canning something and tossing a casual reference to “sunk cost fallacy” over your shoulder as you walk away from the ensuing explosion. As development costs soar, however, the kind of highly skilled salvage work Square Enix has demonstrated on both FFXV and FFXIV is already becoming economically essential. There comes a point where so much money has gone bad that figuring out how to strategically, intelligently throw good money after it to claw back some value becomes a vital survival skill for a studio or publisher.

That Square Enix has become so proficient at this task is very much to its credit. It had little choice, in ways; allowing Final Fantasy games to fail in succession would have been an indelible stain on the company’s most valuable IP, after all. Still, it has achieved what few other companies have managed – bringing games back from the brink of disaster to become enormous hit titles, and charting a future course for a major franchise in the process.

The stature of Final Fantasy may be unique, but the challenges Square Enix faced in bringing about its resurgence were not. What those studios did, and what they do next, should be watched closely by anyone in the industry with an interest in how to sustain a major franchise or turn around a troubled game.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Nintendo Stock Hits A High Road

October 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo shares have hit a ten-year high following the announcement that Switch production is being increased to two million units per month.

As reported by Digitimes, the Switch is upping production from a previous undisclosed number, estimated to be between 800,000 and one million.

Nintendo shares are now trading at their highest value since March 2008 after rising 2.66% in Tokyo on Friday, gaining a total 77% since the beginning of 2017.

The Switch, which was already Nintendo’s fastest selling console, is expected to sell 20 million units by the end of the year, a source told Digitimes, far exceeding the 13 million predicted earlier this year.

The news comes amid speculation that the Switch could soon be released in China following the announcement that the smash-hit mobile game Honour of Kings was coming to western markets via the Switch.

Honour of Kings reportedly accounts for around 50% of publisher Tencent’s mobile revenue and has over 200 million users in the region. By managing to strike a deal with Tencent, Nintendo could be well positioned to release in China, and the portable format of the Switch plays into the handheld dominated market where the Xbox One and Playstation 4 enjoy little success initially.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Can UbiSoft’s Latest Move Successfully Fend Off Vivendi

October 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Ubisoft will repurchase up to 4m of its own shares in order to delay a potential takeover from French media conglomerate Vivendi.

In an short statement to investors, the Assassin’s Creed publisher said it had mandated an unnamed investment services provider to handle the share buyback program – something that was authorised at the firm’s general meeting for shareholders last month.

The aforementioned meeting saw shareholders supporting Yves Guillemot and his current strategy, highlighting the backing the CEO has in his ongoing fight against Vivendi’s impending takeover bid. Vivendi currently holds 27% of Ubisoft’s capital share and will be required by French law to make an offer it it gains 30%.

The share repurchasing program should stall this somewhat. Ubisoft is aiming to buy back up to 4m shares, equating to 10% of the firm’s capital. These repurchased shares will then be cancelled – in this way, the stock is retired and cannot be purchased later by Vivendi or any other interested party.

The buyback begins today and should be concluded by December 29th.

Vivendi has spent the past few years gradually increasing its grasp on Ubisoft, seemingly in order to purchase the publisher. It has already taken over another Guillemot family business: mobile games giant Gameloft.

Oddly, Bloomberg reports that in a recent AGM, the company claims it has not decided whether to make a bid for Ubisoft or simply sell the stock it has accrued.

We spoke to Yves Guillemot earlier this year about Vivendi’s aggressive tactics.

“We live in a dangerous world,” he told us. “There are challenges, and the best will remain. We are under attack, we are trying to fight against it. We think we are ready to fight against those problems.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Will Microsoft Put The Surface To Rest

October 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft will drop its Surface laptop line-up by 2019, if remarks made by Canalys CEO Steve Brazier are to be believed.

As reported by The Register, which attended the Canalys Channels Forum, Brazier said that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a “software guy, a cloud guy”, hinting that the firm’s bork-ridden Surface laptops and tablets are likely to go the same way as the firm’s all-but-defunct smartphone division.

“The Surface performance is choppy; there are good quarters and bad quarters, overall they are not making money. It doesn’t make sense for them to be in this business,” Brazier remarked.

“When the capital expenditure challenge that Satya Nadella has taken Microsoft down becomes visible to Wall Street, everyone will ask him ‘Why have you gone to a low margin business?'”

Brazier has a point. Last quarter, Microsoft’s Surface revenue was down 2 per cent, and dropped a massive 26 per cent year-on-year in the previous quarter. The devices have been plagued with issues, too, which Microsoft has blamed on Intel’s Skylake chips.

Passing the buck didn’t stop Consumer Reports yanking its “recommended” label from the Surface line-up, though. It slammed the hardware “significantly less reliable than most other brands” after finding that one in four Surface owners were being plagued with  “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.”

Brazier’s predictions were backed up by Gianfranco Lanci, corporate VP and COO of Lenovo, who joined the Canalys CEO on stage.

“Microsoft is making a lot of money on cloud, making a lot of money on Windows and Office, but losing a lot of money on devices,” he said.

“Frankly speaking, it is difficult to see why they should keep losing money. For them it is a very difficult exercise to run hardware products business, they need to be careful about every single detail as the margin on this is so thin.”

Courtesy-Fud

Is The Ryzen 5 Falling

October 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The price of AMD’s top-of-the-line AMD Ryzen 5 microprocessor has fallen to below $265.00 and is cheaper than the cut-price Ryzen 5 1600.

Apparently, it is all due to the fact that the cheaper 3.2GHz Ryzen 5 1600, which can be overclocked to similar speeds to the 1600X, and has a Wraith Spire CPU cooler is super popular. Those who get a 3.6GHz 1600X will need to splash out on a cooler.

The Ryzen 5 1600X was first cut to less than £200 over the weekend by Aria PC, as a  “super special price” of $197.94, plus £6.95 for postage and packing. A day later, eBuyer slashed the price  to $225.98, the lowest that the Ryzen 5 1600X has been since it was launched just six months ago.

There are some other cool bargains – the price of the Ryzen 7 1800X is down by more than £90 to$388.98 at eBuyer, $11 cheaper at Aria PC and at $400.00 on Amazon – almost $150 less than its original list price.

All this happens as Itel unveiled its Coffee Lake codenamed CPUs in Intel’s first real response to AMD’s Ryzen launches and AMD promises Pinnacle for those who can wait until next year.

AMD is soon to launch Ryzen APUs, with Ryzen CPUs integrated with Vega-based GPUs for use in laptops and other mobile devices.

Courtesy-Fud

Windows Phone Appears To Meet Its End

October 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Bill Gates ditched his Windows phone. HP is halting production of its flagship Windows handset. Now Microsoft has finally seen the writing on the wall — there aren’t enough people using Windows 10 Mobile or enough apps to make it viable.

Corporate vice president of Windows 10 and head of Microsoft’s “PC-Tablet-Phone” division, Joe Belfiore, said on Twitter Sunday that Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 Mobile with bug fixes and security updates, but new features and hardware are no longer front and center.

Microsoft is no upstart in the mobile space. It produced versions of its software for mobile devices for more than 20 years — starting with Windows CE for personal digital assistants in 1996, and later with Windows Mobile in 2000.

But the ecosystem has struggled since the launch of Apple’s iOs in 2007 and Google’s Android operating system (launched in 2008). According to the most recent sales figures from Kantar Worldpanel, Windows phones account for just 1.3 percent of the market in the US, bested only by BlackBerry at 0.3 percent. Compare that with Android’s 64 percent share of new phone sales and 34 percent for iOS (figures that are closely matched in the UK and Australia).

Microsoft has attempted to leverage its legacy in the PC space to push further into mobile — Windows 10 Mobile was billed as the “everywhere OS” that would let users shift seamlessly between desktop, tablet and mobile.

But users have long complained that the lack of apps on Windows Mobile devices is a deal breaker.

While Belfiore said Microsoft has tried “very hard” to provide incentives for app developers to get apps onto Windows Mobile, the “volume of users is too low for most companies to invest” in the ecosystem.

Is TSMC Going 3nm

October 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

As predicted, TSMC will build the ‘world’s first’ semiconductor plant to support the creation of 3nm node silicon chips in Taiwan.

This will be news to the US which thought the plant would be built in the US.  According to DigiTimes, 3nm TSMC will be staying in Taiwan at the Tainan Science Park to “fully leverage the company’s existing cluster advantage” and see the benefit of a “comprehensive supply chain”.

The company has a 5nm fab in the same location even if it has not started producing 5nm chips yet. These are “scheduled to start risk production in the second quarter of 2019″.

However, last year TSMC said that there was not enough space at the park for the new fab and it was lobbying the government.

TSMC needed 50 to 80 hectares of land and was pushing the Taiwan government to have land and supplies of electricity ready in time for the new project. TSMC has complained   of shortages of water and power in Taiwan, where the company still does most of its production. 

TSMC said it was thinking of setting up its 3nm wafer fab in the US due mainly to the availability of stable power supply there. For any 12-inch wafer plant, more advanced process requires higher power consumption, with electricity consumed by 3nm process likely to double that by 5nm process. Accordingly, after a massive power outage occurred on August 15, 2017 around Taiwan, doubts had deepened over whether Taiwan’s power supply could secure normal operation of a 3nm wafer fab in the country.

It is unclear now what TSMC will build in the US. In January, TSMC Chairman Morris Chang had said the company did not rule out the idea of building a US foundry, joining a slew of global firms from automakers to luggage makers that are considering manufacturing in the United States amid President Donald Trump’s push to create more jobs.

“We won’t decide until next year”, TSMC spokesperson Michael Kramer said. The company currently gets about 65 percent of its total revenue from the United States.  However, it might be that the US talk was simply to get the Tawain authorities to pull finger and approve the land, water and sort out the power issues.

Courtesy-Fud

Does Virtual Reality Devices Have A Future

October 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Analyst at IDC have been shuffling their tarot decks and reached the conclusion that AR and VR are going to continue to grow like crazy – despite the fact that other analysts are not so sure.

IDC is forecasting the combined augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headset market to reach 13.7 million units in 2017, growing to 81.2 million units by 2021 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56.1 percent. VR headsets will account for more than 90 percent of the market until 2019 while AR will account for the rest. In the final two years of forecast, IDC expects AR headsets to experience exponential growth as they capture a quarter of the market by the end of the forecast.

Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers said that AR headset shipments today are a fraction of where IDC expects them to be in the next five years, both in terms of volume and functionality. “AR headsets are also on track to account for over US$30 billion in revenues by 2021, almost double that of VR, as most of the AR headsets will carry much higher average selling prices with earlier adopters being the commercial segment. Meanwhile, most consumers will experience AR on mobile devices, although it’s only a matter of time before Apple’s ARKit- and Google’s ARCore-enabled apps make their way into the market.

“AR headsets are also on track to account for over US$30 billion in revenues by 2021, almost double that of VR, as most of the AR headsets will carry much higher average selling prices with earlier adopters being the commercial segment. Meanwhile, most consumers will experience AR on mobile devices, although it’s only a matter of time before Apple’s ARKit- and Google’s ARCore-enabled apps make their way into consumer grade headsets.”

While AR headsets are poised for long-term growth along with a profound impact on the way businesses and consumers compute, VR headsets will drive a near-term shift in computing. Recent price reductions across all the major platforms, plus new entrants appearing in the next month, should drive growth in the second half of 2017 and will help to offset a slow start to the year. Screenless viewers such as the Gear VR will continue to maintain a majority share throughout the forecast, although the category’s share will continue to decline as lower-priced tethered head-mounted displays (HMDs) gain share over the course of the next two years. Meanwhile, IDC is predicting that standalone HMDs will gain share in the outer years of the forecast.

Tom Mainelli, vice president, Devices and AR/VR at IDC said: “Virtual reality has suffered from some unrealistic growth expectations in 2017, but overall the market is still growing at a reasonable rate and new products from Microsoft and its partners should help drive additional interest in the final quarter of this year. As we head into 2018 we’ll see additional new products appearing, including standalone headsets from major players, and we expect to see a growing number of companies embracing the technology to enable new business processes and training opportunities.”

Courtesy-Fud

Did AMD Optimize The RX Vega For Forza

October 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

AMD has apparently done a hell of a job optimizing its drivers for Forza Motorsport 7 game as its Radeon RX Vega 64 and Vega 56 graphics cards managed to beat Nvidia’s GTX 1080 Ti and GTX 1080.

According to benchmarks done by Computerbase.de, using Intel’s Core i7-6850K CPU, 16GB of DDR4-3000 memory and latest Radeon and Geforce drivers, AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 64 managed to beat Nvidia’s GTX 1080 Ti by quite a margin.

The RX Vega lineup managed to beat the Nvidia counterparts at both 1080p and 1440p resolutions while the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti managed to regain its lead on the higher 2160p resolution, but only in average FPS, whereas both RX Vega 64 and RX Vega 56 were high up in the table in 99th Percentile.

To make things even more interesting, AMD’s Radeon RX 580 and the R9 Fury X both exceeded the GTX 1080 Ti in those 99th Percentile results at lower 1080p resolution.

Computerbase.de also gave a heads up to Nvidia, which said that this is the correct performance of its graphics cards on DirectX 12 and Forza Motorsport 7, which means that AMD is certainly doing something right when it comes to driver optimizations, as those RX Vega graphics cards were nowhere near Nvidia’s GTX 1080/1080 Ti in earlier benchmarks.

Hopefully, AMD will be able to push more developers and optimize its RX Vega lineup for future and the rest of the current games.

Courtesy-Fud

Can The Latest Version Of Internet Explorer Be Exploted

October 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The latest version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) browser carries a serious bug that leaks whatever you type into the address bar.

The bug, disclosed by security researcher Manuel Caballero earlier this week, allows the website the user is currently visiting to view any text they type into the browser’ address bar, with that text becoming readable as soon as they hit the enter key.

“When a script is executed inside an object-HTML tag, the location object will get confused and return the main location instead of its own,” Caballero wrote. “To be precise, it will return the text written in the address bar so whatever the user types there will be accessible by the attacker.”

As noted by Ars Technica, as well as web addresses, this flaw could also expose search queries, since IE allows them to be typed into the address bar and then retrieved from Bing or other search services.

Caballero, in his damning exposé, said it’s likely that Microsoft is trying to get users off of Internet Explorer and onto its Edge web browser, hence why it’s making the latter more secure. 

“Imagine what black hats can do right now: they can stay in your browser even if you navigate to a different site, which gives them plenty of time to do ugly stuff like mining digital currencies while abusing of users CPUs,” he wrote. “Also, IE has its popUp blocker is completely broken and nobody seems to care.”

However, Internet Explorer remains the most popular version of Microsoft’s browser, with 17 per cent of the global market compared to Edge’s six.

Microsoft acknowledged the bug and said that it a fix likely will arrive in its next Patch Tuesday release.

“Windows has a customer commitment to investigate reported security issues, and proactively update impacted devices as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said. “Our standard policy is to provide solutions via our current Update Tuesday schedule.”

Courtesy-TheInq

FireFox Quantum Browser Coming In November

October 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

After being stuck in the slow lane for ages, Mozilla’s new Quantum browser is starting to look like it might be faster than Chrome.

A beta version of Firefox Quatum lets you test whether Mozilla’s newly named web browser, replete with changes built over more than a year, is a match for Google. We had a quick look and it managed to make Fudzilla’s esoteric CMS machine go like the clappers. Opera on the other hand keeps on insisting that it needs a password for every screen.

Mozilla CEO Chris Beard claims that the new browser is a “big bang” although we suggest that probably means he needs to get out more. Company executives have acknowledged they let Firefox languish but now it is ready to do better with its life.

Firefox 57 is faster at starting up and loading web pages, judged on page-load speed, “Firefox Quantum is often perceivably faster” while using 30 percent less memory, Nguyen said in a blog post Tuesday. And it’s twice as fast as Firefox a year ago.

The new Firefox revamp includes Quantum Flow, which stamps out dozens of performance bugs, and Quantum CSS, aka Stylo, which speeds up website formatting. Photon that kills Firefox’s rounded tabs and adds a “page action” menu into the address bar. It also builds in the Pocket bookmarking service Mozilla acquired and uses it to recommend sites.

All up, it does not appear too bad. The phrase “at bloody last” crosses my mind. It still needs its acid test – whether or not it can handle Mrs Farrell’s shopping, which for some reason requires 105 open tabs which must never be closed unless you want to be divorced.

Firefox Quantum will arrive in its final form on November the 14th.

Courtesy-Fud

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