Google is quietly working on a competitor to the Amazon Echo, a wireless speaker controlled by voice command, according to a report in The Information.
Google has not replied to a request for comment.
The Echo, which has proven to be a popular and well-reviewed product for Amazon, plays music and podcasts, sets alarms and to-do lists, and offers weather and traffic reports on demand.
Google, which dominates the online search market and owns the popular Android platform, has the pieces necessary to put together its own version of Echo, according to industry analysts.
And, they say, it would be a smart move for the company.
“Google has all the capabilities that Amazon Echo has,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. However, Google’s been focused on smartphones and tablets right now. “I believe Google will build a plugged-in device that does what Echo can do — and more,” Moorhead added.
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, noted that while it makes sense for mobile device users to be able to control their systems by voice, it also makes sense to do the same with home devices.
“Why not be able to do that when your hands are full of food or baby or puppy?” he asked. “Whatever Google builds will have to be better than Echo, but I don’t think that will be hard. Google’s current voice-based product, Google Voice Search, is available in a bunch of languages, while Echo is English-only. Echo does interface with Gmail but I would be surprised if Google can’t come up with deeper integration.”
While Gottheil said it wouldn’t actually hurt Google to not have an Echo-like product for a while, launching one would contribute to the company’s core business.
Contract prices of NAND flash memory chips fell by nine to 10 per cent in the fourth quarter due to oversupply conditions.
Beancounters at analyst outfit TrendForce report that the prices of eMMC and SSD products also fell by 10 to 11 per cent quarterly due to weaker-than-expected shipments of OEM devices such as smartphones, tablets and notebooks.
Overall fourth-quarter worldwide NAND flash sales were down 2.3% sequentially, the research group added.
Sean Yang, research director at DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce said that besides facing rapidly falling prices, the manufacturers have also reached a bottleneck in their process technology migration.
Memory makers that are developing or producing 3D-NAND flash are encountering yield rate issues, with Samsung being the sole exception. As the cost reduction advantage associated with technology migration diminishes, branded NAND flash suppliers posted significant quarterly declines in both their revenues and operating margins for the fourth quarter of last year.
Samsung was one of the few manufacturers that experienced revenue growth in the fourth quarter of 2015 on account of its lead in 3D-NAND flash development and the rising sales of its high-density eMMC, eMCP and SSD products. In the fourth quarter, Samsung’s NAND flash business registered a quarterly bit shipment growth of 15% and a 10 to15% quarterly slide in the average selling price. The memory maker thus saw a quarterly revenue growth of 4.2 per cent as well as a slight decrease in its operating margin.
Toshiba’s NAND flash business was affected by market oversupply as well. Compared with the prior quarter, the memory maker’s average selling price was 13 to 14 per cent lower in the fourth quarter of last year. Toshiba only recently began the trial production of 3D-NAND flash. Moreover, the Japanese memory maker has found that its 15nm process offers limited cost reduction advantage. Thus, the company’s NAND flash business registered a decline in its operating margin for the fourth quarter.
SanDisk’s product mix adjustments have paid off as client and enterprise grade SSD sales make up an increasing share of the company’s total revenue. SanDisk also saw a 10 per cent quarterly drop in both the average selling price and the average unit cost of its NAND flash chips in the fourth quarter of 2015. As a result, SanDisk’s gross margin reached 43% in the fourth quarter – on par with the previous quarter.
Compared with the third quarter, SK Hynix’s fourth-quarter NAND flash revenue fell by 9.3 per cent to $841 million. The South Korean memory supplier also saw a 4 per cent bit shipment growth and a 15 oer cent slide in the average selling price. As tablet and smartphone shipments from strategic clients are expected to suffer a huge drop in the first quarter, DRAMeXchange projects SK Hynix to post a 10 per cent quarterly decline in bit shipments as well.
Set against the previous fiscal period, Micron’s bit shipments for the first fiscal quarter of 2016 (from September to November last year) registered a 6% quarterly increase, while its average selling price dropped by 7 per cent and unit cost fell by 6 per cent. Micron’s revenue for the first fiscal quarter of 2016 therefore arrived at $1.15 billion, up 1.9 per cent from the prior fiscal quarter.
Intel’s major Enterprise-SSD customers pulled inventory in advance during the third quarter. Consequently, Intel’s bit sales grew 10 per cent quarterly in the fourth quarter of 2015. However, the oversupply in the fourth quarter resulted in a steeper decrease in the average selling price, causing Intel’s revenue fall slightly by 0.2 per cent quarterly to $662 million.
Besides the fact that chip is pretty good, since the Qualcomm has been seen at all the fashionable places and all the right people promoting the chip heavily. As a result it will be adopted by Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC, Xiaomi, Vivo and LeTV.
Qualcomm senior vice president for global marketing Tim McDonough has confirmed that more than 100 mobile devices powered by Snapdragon 820 chips are currently under development.
But mobile is only the tip of the iceberg for the Snapdragon 820 platform. It has been earmarked for VR (virtual reality) devices, robots and commercial drones. There will also be a Snapdragon 820A to enable automakers to develop driving assistance systems and telematics/entertainment systems for connected car applications.
All up this means that this year will be Qualcomm’s and more than make up for the embarrassment of last year’s over heating 810 fiasco.
The Cortex-A32 is a 32-bit processor built on the ARMv8-A architecture, and the company claims that it’s 25% more efficient than the Cortex-A7, the firm’s current leader in terms of the embedded 32-bit core.
Not only could the new Cortex-A32 could well usher in more efficient and perhaps even smaller boards for enthusiasts who love to tinker but also the power requirement could put it in the front row of the much hyped Internet of things revolution. In its smallest configuration with a 100MHz single-core version it uses less than 4mW, and takes up less than 0.25 mm2 of silicon. ARM claims its Cortex-A32 is highly scalable and can be used in single-core or up to quad-core configurations.
In short it is a more compact Cortex-A35 without the 64-bit support. James McNiven, general manager, CPU group at ARM, told Ars Technica:
“The Cortex-A32 processor, enabled with secure ARM TrustZone technology, builds on the trail blazed by the Cortex-A5 and Cortex-A7 processors in embedded applications such as single-board computing, IoT edge nodes and wearables. “It brings greater performance, efficiency and other benefits of the ARMv8-A architecture for ARM’s silicon partners to innovate on for richer, more secure embedded systems.”
ARM has released the new Cortex-R8 processor design which it says can provide low latency and high performance for modem and storage device chips.
The press release claims that the Cortex chip delivers twice the performance of its predecessor. The Cortex-R7 was released in 2011 so twice the performance over five years is not that impressive, but better than a poke in the eye with a short stick.
The company is targeting the CPU for 5G and LTE modems, as well as next-gen storage devices.
The ARM Cortex-R8 is a quad-core with low-latency memory which can manage 2MB per core. This should make mobile downloading and data transfers faster.
Four cores have superscalar out-of-order execution capabilities to allow code being crunched by the cores to react to interrupts deterministically.
The Cortex-R8 works with existing software which makes it easy for developers to integrate it into single CPU real-time processing products and reduce design cycles.
More than 1.4 billion Cortex-R processors have found their way into data storage devices and on system-on-chip (SoC) hardware used by major hard disk drive and solid state drive makers.
ARM that a few chipmakers have already started using the chip in their SoC.
The Mozilla Foundation has confirmed details of its shift in strategy for Firefox OS which will see it abandon future phone development in favour of using the software as (yet another) IoT platform.
In an announcement to the developer community by John Bernard, director of collaboration for Connected Devices at Mozilla, and George Roter, head of core contributors, it was confirmed that Firefox OS for smartphones will be canned at version 2.6.
“The circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up, and the conditions were not there for Mozilla to win on commercial smartphones,” they said in a statement.
Meh. Could have told you that one two years ago.
In addition, the Firefox OS Marketplace will no longer accept submissions for Android, desktop and tablet apps. Apps for Firefox OS itself will remain accepted until sometime in 2017.
At the moment, the new emphasis on connected devices is in the internal testing phase with three products ‘past the first gate’ and more in the pipeline. It is expected that this process will be opened to outsiders before the end of the second quarter.
The foxfooding (think dogfooding, or insider programme) will continue, turning its focus to connected products, and by the end of March, Mozilla intends to identify how the existing Sony Z3 Compact devices used for testing so far will figure going forwards.
The statement continued “Obviously, these decisions are substantial. The main reason they are being made is to ensure we are focusing our energies and resources on bringing the power of the web to IoT. And let’s remember why we’re doing this: we’re entering this exciting, fragmented space to ensure users have choice through interoperable, open solutions, and for us to act as their advocates for data privacy and security.”
This seems to suggest that Mozilla wants to help the fragmentation issue by fragmenting it further. This is the ongoing problem with connected devices – everyone wants to be the one to end the fragmentation with their solution.
One of the solutions through the internal tests early doors is the Firefox Smart TV platform, an already fragmented market that should still be licking its wounds from the Matchstick debacle.
Roter adds, “Our push into the Connected Devices space will absolutely necessitate strong community support for our initiatives to be successful – and that means hacking on and testing new product innovations coming through the pipeline.”
Toshiba is getting out the processor business so that it can concentrate on making memory as it tries to recover from its $1.3 billion accounting scandal.
The Japanese press has suggested that Toshiba has interest in part of its chip making business from the Development Bank of Japan. The state-owned bank has already invested in Seiko’s semiconductor operations.
Toshiba is keeping its NAND flash memory operations and will chuck some of the money it has not got into improving production.
What will be sold is its LSI and discrete chips, which are widely used in cars, home appliances and industrial machinery. In fact it is one of the few companies trying to get out of the automotive industry. Some of this is because Tosh has not made much money out of it. This division lost $2.78 billion in the year ended March 2015.
Following the accounting scandal, Toshiba has been focusing on nuclear and other energy operations, as well as its storage business, which centers on NAND flash memory chips.
Project Tango is an ongoing effort by Google to allow a mobile device like a smartphone to measure spaces and provide information to a user that can be useful for navigating indoor locations. Lenovo also envisions adding augmented reality apps that can be used in games or in shopping for furniture and sizing up how the furniture fits in a room. The apps rely on the physical space around a smartphone user as detected by the 3D Project Tango technology.
The phone’s display will be smaller than 6.5-in. and the body very thin, although Lenovo hasn’t yet come up with a name, Jeff Meredith, Lenovo vice president of development, said during a press conference. It will use a Snapdragon processor and run Android, no surprise given the phone’s connection to Google.
Adding Project Tango to a smartphone is a “fundamental shift,” Meredith said. “This has significant capability of changing how we interact with smartphones.”
The device will feature three cameras in addition to the two traditional cameras used on modern smartphones. The three are a depth sensor, a fisheye camera for wide angle views and an RGB (red, green, blue) camera for acquiring very accurate color images.
Google Project Tango’s head of development, Johnny Lee, used a special 7-in. tablet developed by Google to show off how Tango will work. He measured the length and width of a small stage where he stood, calculated the size of a box onstage and played a virtual game of Jenga.
Lee was also able to show how he could fit a virtual couch and a refrigerator into the space on the stage, as depicted on the tablet screen.
Lenovo didn’t offer many details about the phone and showed photos that only offered a glimpse of what it will look like.
IPv6 is 20 years old and the milestone has been celebrated with 10 percent adoption across the world for the first time.
The idea that IPv6 remains so far behind its saturated incumbent, IPv4, is horrifying given that three continents ran out of IPv4 addresses in 2015. Unfortunately, because the product isn’t ‘end of life’ most internet providers have been working on a ‘not broken, don’t fix it’ basis.
But 2016 looks to be the year when IPv6 makes its great leap to the mainstream, in Britain at least. BT, the UK’s biggest broadband provider, has already committed to switch on IPv6 support by the end of the year, and most premises will be IPv6-capable by April. Most companies use the same lines, but it will be up to each individual supplier to switch over. Plusnet, a part of BT, is a likely second.
IPv6 has a number of advantages over IPv4, most notably that it is virtually infinite, meaning that the capacity problems that the expanded network is facing shouldn’t come back to haunt us again. It will also pave the way for ever faster, more secure networks.
Some private corporate networks have already made the switch. Before Christmas we reported that the UK Ministry of Defence was already using the protocol, leaving thousands of unused IPv4 addresses lying idle in its wake.
IPv6 is also incredibly adaptable for the Internet of Things. Version 4.2 of the Bluetooth protocol includes IPv6 connectivity as standard, making it a lot easier for tiny nodes to make up a larger internet-connected grid.
Google’s latest figures suggest that more than 10 percent of users are running IPv6 connections at the weekend, while the number drops to eight percent on weekdays. This suggests that the majority of movement towards IPv6 is happening in the residential broadband market.
That said, it is imperative that businesses begin to make the leap. As Infoblox IPv6 evangelist Tom Coffeen told us last year, it could start to affect the speed at which you are able to trade.
“If someone surfs onto your site and its only available in IPv4, but they are using IPv6, there has to be some translation, which puts your site at a disadvantage. If I’ve not made my site available in IPv6, I’m no longer in control over where that translation occurs.”
In other words, if you don’t catch up, you will soon get left behind. It was ever thus.
Samsung has reportedly bagged exclusivity on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chip until April, adding further weight to the rumors that it will feature inside the Galaxy S7.
A report from China said that Samsung has signed a deal with Qualcomm that will give it exclusive rights to the firm’s next-gen chip until April next year.
If true, this means that, for the first three months of 2016, no other manufacturer will be able to launch a device sporting the next-gen SoC, while Samsung is widely expected to launch the Snapdragon 820-equipped Galaxy S7 at Mobile World Congress at the end of February.
Samsung hasn’t yet responded to our request for comment, but these latest rumors follow reports that the firm has been optimizing Qualcomm’s latest chip ahead of the upcoming launch to ensure it doesn’t suffer the same overheating problems as the Snapdragon 810 before it.
Qualcomm has been quick to debunk talk of potential overheating, though, saying in a statement: “The rumors circulating in the media regarding Snapdragon 820 performance are false. The Snapdragon 820 improves on all IP blocks and is fabricated in the second generation of the 14nm process technology.
“It is meeting all of our specifications, but more importantly, it is satisfying the thermal and performance specifications from our OEMs.”
Alongside the Snapdragon-packing Galaxy S7, Samsung is also reportedly planning to launch a version that features its own Exynos 8890 processor.
We don’t yet know what is likely to feature inside Samsung’s next smartphone, but a report in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week claimed that the Galaxy S7 will launch with a pressure-sensitive display, offering similar functionality to the 3D Touch technology that debuted on the iPhone 6S earlier this year.
The same report also said that the smartphone looks set to arrive with a USB Type-C port, retina scanning functionality and a microSD slot, unlike the Galaxy S6.
Troubled Japanese outfit Toshiba is considering splitting off part of its chip business in a bid to help it raise the cash it lost on its accounting scandal.
Toshiba needs a restructuring after revealing a number of unprofitable businesses which were hidden by some creative accounting. It agreed in October to sell its image sensor business to Sony. However it has been placed on a Tokyo Stock Exchange watch list and the outfit faces difficulty raising funds through the sale of shares or bonds.
Chief executive Masashi Muromachi told a news conference he was considering flogging every asset possible. NAND flash memory chips was a core business and would not be sold, which effectively leaves system LSI and discrete chips as options to split off.
The semiconductor business requires continuous investment to maintain its competitiveness against rivals such as Samsung Electronics and the thought is that when the bank manager is not returning your calls it is best to cut back on it. Some of Toshiba’s chips end up under the bonnet of the smartphones designed by the fruity cargo cult Apple.
Tosh already announced that it was flogging of its Malaysian chip assembly unit to US-based Amkor Technology as part of its strategy to consolidate chip operations. At the time it hinted of a big restructuring, but not an actual sell off its chipmaking empire.
Facebook is adding to its benevolence jar with a thing called TechPrep that it expects will help the poor and disadvantaged to embrace and master technology.
The cynics among us would link this to Facebook and the drive for more members, because members mean money, but fortunately they are out of the office.
This has been a good week for Facebook in terms of positive things, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg being crowned the industry’s biggest LGBT Ally, an award that he welcomed.
TechPrep is part of this inclusive side of Facebook, and fittingly it has been introduced by Maxine Williams, global director of diversity at the firm. TechPrep is pitched at technological learners, parents and guardians who need better computer skills, and Facebook is working with the McKinsey Institute on the initiative.
“At Facebook, we’re working on a number of initiatives to widen the pipeline and build an inclusive culture. After looking closely at the data, we realised that one challenge is a lack of exposure to computer science and careers in technology, as well as a lack of resources for parents, guardians and others who want to learn more,” she said.
“In the US, this lack of access is prevalent in a number of under-represented groups, including black and Hispanic communities. Today, we’re excited to introduce TechPrep, a resource hub where under-represented people and their parents and guardians can learn more about computer science and programming and find resources to get them started.”
Facebook will curate training packages to suit needs. The firm also referred to research which found that computer science education can empower people, and that parts of the community are easily disillusioned by training and teaching.
“77 percent of parents say they do not know how to help their child pursue computer science. This increases to approximately 83 percent for lower income and non-college graduate parents or guardians,” added Williams.
“Yet being encouraged to pursue computer science by a parent or guardian is a primary motivator for women, blacks and Hispanics. Lower awareness of computer science in blacks and Hispanics is driven by less access to people in computer science and computer science programs, and is a major driver of black and Hispanic drop-off when pursuing programming as a career path.”
Facebook is already in the process of boosting its in-house diversity, as are many of its peers. The technology industry is currently white man heavy, and this is not a good thing.
Instagram, a five-year-old site for posting and photos and video online, has solidly surpassed rival Twitter to claim the No. 2 spot in the social networking world – behind parent company Facebook.
“Given that Facebook owns Instagram, that certainly makes them the king of the social networking mountain,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “Instagram is aimed squarely at mobile devices, and that makes it very easy for users to shoot and post very quickly. It also has the patina of ‘cool’ with hip users — mainly arising from young users adopting it as their own.”
Instagram is gaining momentum. In December of last year, the company said it reached the 300 million monthly user mark. Less than a year later, the site has added another 100 million active users.
Despite the surge in monthly users, Instagram is still far behind Facebook, the world’s largest social network with more than 1 billion worldwide users.
However, the numbers put Instagram beyond Twitter, which in June reported316 million active monthly users. Instagram is also well ahead of Google+, which reportedly has about 300 million active monthly users.
“While milestones like this are important, what really excites us is the way that visual communication makes the world feel a little bit smaller to every one of us,” Instagram wrote in a blog post. “Our community has evolved to be even more global, with more than 75% living outside of the U.S. To all the new Instagrammers: welcome!”
Among the last 100 million to join, more than half live in Europe and Asia, the company noted. The countries that added the most Instagram users include Brazil, Japan and Indonesia.
A security researcher was investigating the safety measures implemented by the suppliers of autonomous driving tech. What he found ain’t pretty. There is hope, however.
We’ve given this topic a bit of breathing room before we decided to weigh in with the Fudzilla two cents as well. It’s funny how the Internet jumps from topic to topic, mostly focusing on the scandalous aspects of the story, that generate the all-important flood of clicks, before moving on to the next big thing. Well, it’s not a bad idea to pause, take a deep breath and look at the issue from several angles.
The story is definitely an interesting one: The technology that’s behind the amazing development of the autonomous driving vehicles isn’t safe. It isn’t hardened to withstand attacks from malicious people. The key word in our mind, though, is “yet”.
As Mr. Jonathan Petit, the Principal Scientist at Security Innovation discovered, it’s actually incredibly easy and very cheap to confuse an autonomous vehicle to the point of it just stopping in its tracks. All you need is an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi board, a simple laser, all of it together costing barely more than $50, and you can bring a self driving car to a screeching halt.
As it turns out, the LIDAR systems (those humps you see on self driving cars’ roofs) aren’t very reliable. They will take almost any laser echo and interpret it as objects in their surroundings. So all you have to do to confuse one is to record actual echo from vehicles, pedestrians, or any other type of obstacle, and play it back at the autonomous car.
A few journalists are almost spelling doom for the entire industry based on this. But we say, hold your horses girls and boys. This is a nascent technology. It works amazingly well in a huge range of scenarios. Fortification of the technology will surely come, and sooner than most expect.
While LIDARs are a key component of the self driving equation, they are by no means the only one. First of all, the developers of the systems can and surely will introduce cross-referencing of various sensor systems into the software. If a LIDAR says there’s a car in front of you, but radar and the 3D cameras say there is none, the software can just ignore the input from the LIDAR. And LIDAR itself can be made more resilient by addition of signal encription, frequency changes and a host of other techniques.
The conclusion is underwhelming in some respects and very promising in others. One, there is no big scandal here, so move along. Two, there is no big scandal here, so we can expect to be driven in safety and comfort in only a few years. I for one can’t wait.
Facebook has nearly 20 million users in major African markets Nigeria and Kenya, statistics released by the social network revealed on Thursday, with the majority using mobile devices to access their profiles.
Facebook opened its first African office in Johannesburg in June as the continent’s growing population and relatively low levels of internet access present a large untapped market for the social network to earn advertising revenue.
The numbers, the first Facebook has published for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and Kenya, East Africa’s most developed, show the two nations as important entry points on a continent of nearly one billion people.
Nigeria had 15 million monthly active users as of June 30 this year, all of them using mobiles to like, share and upload content on the social network. In Kenya, 95 percent of the 4.5 million monthly active users did so via mobiles.
“Mobile is not a trend; it’s the fastest adoption of disruptive technology in history of communication,” said Nunu Ntshingila, Facebook’s head of Africa, in a statement.
South Africa has 12 million monthly active Facebook users, the data showed, and Facebook says with its strong advertising partnerships in Africa it would use the new office in Johannesburg to expand its business across the continent.
Facebook said its active user population in Africa grew 20 percent to 120 million in June from 100 million in September last year. A large portion of these users were in North Africa.