Subscribe to:

Subscribe to :: TheGuruReview.net ::

Online Video Streaming Biting Into Dish Network Customer Base

July 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

U.S. satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp reported an unexpected loss in pay-TV subscribers as more consumers increasingly opt for online video-streaming services.

Dish said it lost 281,000 net pay-TV subscribers in the second quarter ended June 30, missing the average analyst estimate of a loss of 91,000 subscribers, according to market research firm FactSet StreetEstimate.

However, average revenue per user rose to $89.98 from $87.91, helped by price increases for its video service.

Dish raised its 2016 video service rates in January.

To offset losses in its core pay-TV business, the company last year launched a cheaper $20-per-month Sling TV online streaming service that offers a slim bundle of channels, including live programming from networks such as ESPN.

Net income attributable to Dish rose to $410 million, or 88 cents per share, in the three months ended June 30, from $324 million, or 70 cents per share, a year earlier.

Net revenue rose to $3.84 billion from $3.83 billion.

 

Was The Rise Of The Machines A.I. Contest A Success?

July 19, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The Winograd Schema Challenge is a competition intended to reward technologists who can build a system that understands the kind of ambiguous sentences humans come out with all the time, but which are simple for other humans, even stupid ones, to understand.

Get it right 90 per cent of the time and $25,000 is up for grabs. And with things like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant, the Winograd Schema Challenge must surely be as good as obsolete by now.

Right? Wrong.

The best two entrants at the event this week achieved correct scores only 48 per cent of the time, little better than randomly guessing the meaning of the sentences they were supposed to crack.

This is despite a decade of advances in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), which has barely shifted since the late 1950s, according to some.

The Challenge posed a series of ambiguously worded sentences to the entrants such as:

The trophy would not fit in the brown suitcase because it was too big (small). What was too big (small)?

The town councillors refused to give the demonstrators a permit because they feared (advocated) violence. Who feared (advocated) violence?

There is an ambiguity in the above examples, read literally, about what is too big (or small) and exactly who is fearing violence, although a semi-intelligent human should be able to work it out with ease.

The problem, according to Gary Marcus, a research psychologist at New York University, who acted as an advisor for the Challenge, is that computers lack common sense, and programming it into them is incredibly difficult.

Indeed, the MIT Technology Review said that most of the entrants in the Challenge used a combination of hand-coded grammatical understanding and a ‘knowledge base’ of facts. It still didn’t help much, though.

However, one of the two best-placed systems, led by Quan Liu, a researcher at the University of Science and Technology of China, together with researchers from York University in Montreal and the National Research Council of Canada, used neural network-based machine learning in a bid to train their computer to recognise the many different contexts in which words can be used.

Liu claimed that after fixing a problem in the AI, he was able to achieve a success rate closer to 60 per cent, which is still a long way from being able to go home with a cheque for $25,000.

The Challenge is deliberately designed to be different from the Turing Test, which tests only whether a human can be fooled into thinking that an AI program is human.

The trouble with this is that there are more than enough idiots who could be fooled into helping an AI system to pass that test. The language test, in contrast, provides a more objective test of genuine AI, argued Marcus.

The failure of the AI programs in the Challenge highlights how far chatbots and other supposedly revolutionary AI-based machines still have to go before humans can clock-off for the last time and leave running the planet to computers.

Some experts have claimed that its development will spark the next industrial revolution, while others, such as Apple co-founder and pontificator Steve Wozniak, suggest that we’ll be adopted as pets by robots.

Google, Microsoft and Facebook didn’t bother entering, perhaps because they feared outright humiliation.  Maybe next year.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Verizon Hikes Plan Rates, Boost Data Limits

July 8, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications Inc, the No. 1 U.S. wireless provider, announced that it would increase plan rates but will also boost data buckets by 30 percent for its customers, who increasingly stream content through mobile devices.

As of July 7, the company rolled out a revamped version of its My Verizon mobile app to let customers control data overages and billing, as well as manage plans, it said. Moreover, emulating moves by some of its rivals such as AT&T Inc and T-Mobile US Inc, it will let customers carry unused data over to the next month and begin offering users on certain plans unlimited text and calling to and from Mexico and Canada.

The redesigned plans and app come as the company, known for its high-quality network, is locked in a battle for subscribers with competitors in the saturated U.S. wireless market.

Smaller rival Sprint Corp has been offering half-off discounts, and T-Mobile has launched free music, video-streaming plans and other customer-friendly offers and free gifts to attract customers away from competitors to their networks.

The new rate plans are meant to help customers tackle data overage costs and “reflect the significant growth in individual data use,” Rob Miller, vice president of consumer pricing at Verizon said in a webcast on Wednesday.

Verizon is hiking rates and increasing data across all its plans. For instance, the basic “S” plan will cost $35, a $5 rise, and offer double the data at 2 gigabytes and the high-end “XXL” plan will cost $10 more at $110 and offer 24 gigabytes as opposed to the previous 16 gigabyte limit.

The company also said it will introduce a “safety mode” that protects customers from data overages by slowing down their speeds. The feature is free for those on the “XL” and “XXL” plans and costs $5 for those on the “S”, “M”, “L” plans, it said.

 

Twitter Takes Stake in SoundCloud

June 16, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc has decided to invest nearly $70 million in Berlin-based music service SoundCloud, technology website Re/code reported citing people familiar with the deal.

Twitter confirmed the investment, but did not provide any financial details.

“Earlier this year we made an investment in SoundCloud through Twitter Ventures to help support some of our efforts with creators,” Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said.

Soundcloud, a platform that enables people to upload and share music and other audio files, also confirmed that Twitter had made the investment.

Twitter’s investment was part of a funding round expected to be in the range of $100 million, which would value SoundCloud at about $700 million, the Re/code report said.

The microblogging site has previously attempted to make a foray into music with the launch of Twitter Music in 2013, which was closed a year later. At the time, the company said that it would look for new ways to bring music based content to the service.

 

Amazon To Get Join The Already Crowded Music Streaming Business

June 13, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is gearing up to launch a standalone music streaming subscription service, placing it squarely in competition with rival offerings from Apple Inc and Spotify, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The service will be offered at $9.99 per month, in line with major rivals, and it will offer a competitive catalog of songs, the sources said. Amazon is finalizing licenses with labels for the service, which likely will be launched in late summer or early fall, the sources said.

Amazon, which offers a free streaming music service with a limited catalog to subscribers of its Prime shipping and video service, did not respond to a request for comment about the new, full-fledged music plan.

Although it will be a late entrant to the crowded streaming space, Amazon believes a comprehensive music service is important to its bid to be a one-stop shop for content and goods, the sources said.

The new music offering also is intended to increase the appeal of the Amazon Echo, its home speaker, which searches the Internet and orders products from the retailer with voice commands.

“A music service will further increase the daily interactions between Amazon and its customer base,” said former music executive Jay Samit when told about the company’s plan.

The new Amazon effort will compete directly with Apple Music and Spotify, which boast more than 30 million songs. Apple launched its service last year in one of the highest profile signs that listeners wanted subscription services, rather than paying for individual songs or albums.

The service also will diversify Amazon’s subscription offerings and be another step away from a single, annual subscription. Amazon recently began allowing subscribers to Prime to pay monthly, for instance.

Silicon Valley titans such as Apple and Alphabet Inc’s Google have muscled into music streaming in recent years, aiming to weave themselves more tightly into their customers’ daily routines and drive device sales.

Amazon similarly hopes its new service’s tight integration with the Echo will help it stand out and reinforce the speaker’s appeal, the sources said.

Released broadly last year, the Echo has become a surprise hit that rival Google is now seeking to emulate with a speaker of its own.

The move suggests that Amazon will increasingly offer basic media options through Prime while selling additional subscriptions for consumers who want to go deeper. The company recently launched a standalone video service.

The new music service is unlikely to steal many customers from Spotify, but it could pose a threat to other players, said David Pakman, a partner at Venrock who headed early Apple music efforts, when informed of the move.

 

 

Apple Rolls Out A Revamped App Store

June 10, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc announced a series of long anticipated enhancements to its App Store, but the new features may not ease concerns of developers and analysts who say that the App Store model – and the very idea of the single-purpose app – has seen its best days.

The revamped App Store will let developers advertise their wares in search results and give developers a bigger cut of revenues on subscription apps, while Apple said it has already dramatically sped up its app-approval process.

The goal is to sustain the virtuous cycle at the heart of the hugely lucrative iPhone business. Software developers make apps for the iPhone because its customers are willing to pay, and those customers, in turn, pay a premium for the device because it has the best apps.

The store is now more strategically important than ever for Apple as sales of the iPhone begin to level off and the company looks to software and services to fill the gap. Apple CEO Tim Cook said on a recent conference call that App Store revenues were up 35 percent over last year.

But the store is also a victim of its own success. Eight years after its launch, it is packed with more than 1.9 million apps, according to analytics firm App Annie, making it almost impossible for developers to find an audience – and increasingly difficult for customers to find what they need, as some 14,000 new apps arrive in the store each week.

“The app space has grown out of control,” said Vint Cerf, one of the inventors of the internet and now a vice president at Alphabet Inc’s Google, who was speaking at a San Francisco conference on the future of the web on Wednesday. “We need to move away from having an individual app for every individual thing you want to do.”

 

 

Spotify Says ‘No’ To Sales Rumor

June 10, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Daniel Ek, co-founder of Swedish music streaming service Spotify which boasts the largest paid subscriber base in the world, said on Thursday he had no intention of selling the company.

While investors believe privately owned Spotify is probably heading for a public listing, some industry analysts see the loss-making company as a takeover target for a larger tech giant with deeper pockets.

“My selfish ambition with Spotify is just trying to show … that we can create one of those super companies here in Europe,” he told journalists at the symposium Brilliant Minds, which aims to bring artists and musicians together with the tech community.

Asked if that meant he was not up for selling the firm, Ek said: “I’m not going to sell, no.”

Spotify, founded in 2006, pays more than 80 percent of its revenue to record labels and artists and has not yet shown a profit as it spends to grow internationally. It competes in a business crowded with formidable rivals such as Apple Music, Google Music and YouTube.

Many other European tech start-ups have been swallowed up by bigger Silicon Valley competitors.

Ek said Silicon Valley got an earlier start in building up its tech giants but that Europe finally has the right conditions to support its own entrepreneurs.

“For the first time now there’s an ecosystem around it with capital and experience that can actually help guide entrepreneurs,” he said.

“The number one advice I tell everyone is ‘don’t sell’, because that’s the biggest problem we have. All these things could grow gigantic if you just kept the course and kept doing what you’re doing,” he added.

Last year Spotify made an operating loss of 184.5 million euros ($205 million), widening from 165.1 million in 2014.

Spotify, whose investors include Northzone, DST Global and Accel, does not disclose details about its ownership but the co-founders no longer own a majority, having sold off stakes.

 

USB Type-C Gaining Traction Over The Standard Audio Jack?

May 31, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Last month at Intel’s 2016 Developer Forum in Shenzhen, China, the chip giant proposed a broad market transition to remove all 3.5mm audio jacks from the phone and tablet industry and gradually replace them with USB-based audio solutions and Conexant has become the first partner company to embrace the standard with its announcement of two new audio chips, the CX20985 and the CX20899.

Conexant is the first company to announce chips designed after Intel’s USB-C Digital Audio standard, according to a recent post by AnandTech. Although the USB Type-C standard traditionally supports up to 10Gbps bidirectional bandwidth, Conexant’s CX20985 and CX20899 chips will start by supporting USB 2.0 bandwidth up to 480Gbps. This bandwidth rate should technically still give plenty of headroom for high-fidelity audio transmissions along the 24-bit range with any additional functionality such as equalizer customization and room correction adjustments.

Intel’s standard was made public in late April and is a result of the company’s ambitions to lead the industry toward a unified digital interconnect for at least three purposes – data transfer, charging (up to 100 watts), and now audio. Of course, USB Type-C is a universal all-in-one format that also supports video signals over DisplayPort Alternate Mode (up to 8.1Gbps per lane) but any video transfer capability over USB-C versus alternative formats such as MHL is ultimately left to the discretion of mobile device manufacturers.

The main premise behind USB-C Digital Audio is that Intel wants to use USB-C as the universal port that it was designed to become. This includes audio transmissions to headphones, docking stations, health-monitoring headsets, car stereos, soundboards, wearables, and many other digital playback devices in the long run of the format. The traditional 3.5mm headphone jack has been around since the 1960s, and while it’s a very reliable and trusted connector, it only serves the purpose of providing 2-channel analog stereo audio signals. There is also no possible conversion into 5.1 or 7.1 formats, with the most advanced option being “matrixed” Dolby Surround with decoding performed on the device side.

Although no one has currently succeeded in replacing the ubiquitous 3.5mm audio standard, Intel hopes that some of the “smart standard” features proposed in its USB-C Digital Audio specification will be enough to convince even the most diehard analog audio purists that there might be a digital alternative finally worth adopting. Of course, the concept is not new. In the early 2000s, Motorola and others used mini USB connectors for data transfers, charging and headset connectivity. In 2016, Intel wants to do the same thing with USB-C, only this time there will be enough bandwidth to drive premium lossless audio content along while allowing headsets to perform digital-to-analog conversions and offload all the amperage to make it possible.

The CX20985 features a 24-bit DAC with sampling rates up to 48kHz and a stereo ADC for music and voice applications, including Skype for Business and Google’s basic Android Wired Audio Headset 1.1 specification. The chip features a five-band parametric equalizer for playback, two-band equalizer for recording, and an integrated capless headphone driver that eliminates the need for AC coupling capacitors. The CX20985 also features very low idle power consumption of just 22.6mA with voltage between 4.35 and 5.25V. Conexant expects its headphone-optimized USB-C digital audio chip to hit mass production in July using a 6 x 6mm 50-pin QFN package.

Conexant CX20899 – designed for high-end headsets and docking stations

The CX20899 features a full-fledged DSP with sampling rates up to 96kHz and a stereo ADC with the same 96KHz sampling rate for playback over differential “line-out” or a capless headphone driver. The DSP supports a variety of more advanced functions including digital room correction, microphone automatic gain control (AGC), acoustic echo cancelling and a programmable equalizer, among others. The CX20899 also supports PCM/I2S and S/PDIF outputs for docking stations and higher-end mobile equipment over USB-C connections. While more power-hungry, this chip also features reasonable idle power consumption of just 1.8mA with voltage between 4.35 and 5.25V. Conexant says this chip is already in mass production and uses a 76-pin QFN package.

Conexant has traditionally been an early adopter of USB audio formats and has released at least eight current USB-based solutions over the past two years, typically costing around $1 per unit. In June 2014 the company announced the CX20562, a USB DSP codec with Class-D amplifier (48-pin QFN package), capable of driving 1.2 watts on a 4-ohm signal through USB host power. In August 2014, it announced the CX2077x, a 24-bit USB DSP codec system-on-chip with integrated PWM LED drivers. Two other interesting products released the same year were the CX2087x and CX20833, featuring USB-based Dolby and DTS headphone decoders with Class-D amplifiers. We expect the company’s new CX20985 and CX20899 USB-C chips to become available for device manufacturers to use sometime towards the end of the year, with initial products being unveiled next January at CES.

Intel’s USB-C Digital Audio specification contains two side-band pins, SBU1 and SBU2, that can transfer analog audio signals when a host device is put into “audio adapter accessory” mode. One journalist from AndroidAuthority.com notes that this solution may not be favored by audio purists as it puts potentially-cleaner analog audio signals next to noisier digital audio pathways. While this can be a concern for some on paper, the results in real-world testing could be drastically different with the migration of multi-function processing units (MPUs) from mobile devices onto headphones and headsets themselves.

Currently, many smartphones and other mobile devices contain MPUs that support features like non-linear processing, acoustic echo cancellation, noise suppression and beamforming, among other things. If Intel is offloading these features onto headphone and headsets, we can definitely expect digital audio accessory prices to rise significantly, with the presumption that they will integrate “smart features” that were previously reserved for on-board smartphone and tablet codecs and DACs.

The other concern is industry-wide adoption. Currently, there is a rather partisan split between Apple and Google (all Android-enabled devices) on mobile industry standards and connection peripherals. In 2012, Apple made a practical yet shameless move of launching its own Lightning standard as an alternative to USB, knowing full well that the market would quickly splinter rather than unify around a single data and charging protocol going forward over the next decade. Three years later, USB-C was announced, albeit three years too late to recover from the observable standards fracture that Apple had willingly placed on the mobile industry.

If Apple and Android smartphone manufacturers choose to replace the 3.5mm headphone jack with a USB-C solution, then they would be obligated to include USB-C to 3.5mm adapters with every new device in order to avoid backlash from users with traditional audio equipment.

It is unlikely that Apple will do this, as the company is known for charging every last penny on adapters that should often be included with new device purchases – $29 for its Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter, $19 for its USB-C to USB adapter and $25 for its USB-C to Lightning Cable. If Apple continues to market Lightning headphones as a viable alternative to USB-C, there is guaranteed to be another format war and one in which Apple’s prospects are considerably outnumbered by Android users.

On the other hand, if Android manufacturers completely remove 3.5mm headphone jacks, replace them with USB-C only solutions and do not provide adapters, then this would only incite users of traditional audio equipment to become angry at purchasers of newer USB-C audio solutions. Traditional 3.5mm users would then be required to purchase adapters at the expense of users purchasing newer USB-C equipment.

The solution, of course, is to gradually phase out the existence of 3.5mm audio jacks rather than immediately replacing them or requiring millions of users to purchase adapters. Intel, AMD, Samsung, Dell, Lenovo and others announced plans to phase out VGA and LVDS connectors as early as Q4 2010, and they eventually were removed from the most device manufacturing processes between 2013 and 2015, respectively.

The only issue with an industry-wide adoption proposal is that Apple would need to plan an exit strategy for its Lightning connector and embrace USB-C in its next-generation mobile products due in a year and a half from now. Whether not the company wants to accept humility for its actions with Lightning in 2012 is a concern that will be left to company executives and investors, among all other private circles involved in the matter.

Intel’s new mobile USB-C digital audio standard is due to be finalized before the end of June and is ultimately designed to support more recent audio formats and features, improve internal power management, and add new discovery and configuration models to enable “simpler” devices. New devices adopting the standard are expected to gain additional features including a thermal sensor for earpieces. This may prove useful for measuring temperature during workouts and providing some in-ear biometric data back to a connected mobile device.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Google Unveils A.I. Challenger To Amazon’s Alexa

May 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Alphabet’s Google Inc  introduced us to its answer to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant along with new messaging and virtual reality products at its annual I/O developer conference on Wednesday, doubling down on artificial intelligence and machine learning as the keys to its future.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai introduced Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant, along with the tabletop speaker appliance Google Home.

He also unveiled Allo, a new messaging service that will compete with Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger products and feature a chatbot powered by the Google Assistant. Allo, like WhatsApp, will also have end-to-end encryption when it is rolled out this summer.

Amazon’s Echo, a surprise hit that has other tech giants racing to match it, uses a virtual assistant called Alexa, a cloud-based system that controls the Echo speaker and responds to voice-controlled commands by users.

Like Alexa, Google Assistant can search the internet and adjust your schedule. However, Pichai said Google Assistant can use images and other information to provide more intuitive results.

“You can be in front of this structure in Chicago and ask Google who designed this and it will understand in this context that the name of that designer is Anish Kapoor,” said Pichai, pointing toward a photo of Chicago’s Cloud Gate sculpture.

For Google Home, the Google Assistant merges with Chromecast and smart home devices to control televisions, thermostats and other products. Google did not offer a specific release date or pricing for Google Home, saying only that it will be available later this year.

 

 

Is There A ‘For Sale’ Sign In Pandora Music’s Future?

May 18, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Corvex Management LP disclosed that it owns 9.9 percent of Pandora Media Inc and urged the internet music streaming company to consider being sold instead of pursuing a “costly and uncertain business plan.”

Corvex, a hedge fund run by Keith Meister, a protégé of billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, said it had met with the company’s management and had withdrawn a plan to replace some of its board members. However, it now believes Pandora should hire an investment bank to help the company explore its strategic options including a sale.

“We believe there is likely to be significant strategic interest in the company at a substantial premium to the company’s recent stock price,” Corvex said, adding that large internet companies, handset makers and media companies could be potential buyers.

Pandora’s shares are down more than 25 percent in 2016 and more than 45 percent year-over-year. Corvex owns about 22.7 million shares in the company, making the hedge fund Pandora’s largest shareholder.

Pandora said in response that it is in constant dialogue with shareholders and committed to achieving long-term value for them.

“Pandora has a profitable core business, combined with a strong balance sheet. We are confidently investing to fully capture the massive opportunity ahead of us,” the company said in a statement.

Oakland, California-based Pandora has faced tough competition from music-streaming rivals such as Spotify, Apple Inc , Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com and has failed to turn an annual profit as a public company.

Analysts have said Pandora, which had a market capitalization of $2.29 billion on Monday, could be an acquisition target for larger media or internet companies looking to beef up their online music offerings.

Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren, a former musician who spearheaded Pandora’s music algorithm technology, returned to the company March 28 to become CEO, squashing some investors’ hopes the company could be sold.

Westergren told Reuters on April 15, “If you want to sell a company, you don’t do that by spending half a billion on acquisitions and hiring a new CEO.”

 

 

VeVo Hits 17 Billion While Calling Goof The Devil

May 3, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Vevo might be the new MTV for millennials, who might not know MTV that played music a few decades ago. Vevo CEO Erik Huggers had an interview at a Hunter Walk blog talking about YouTube, subscription base and the future.

Vevo CEO, ex Intel and ex BBC executive Erik Huggers mentioned that the Vevo will get a subscription based service but for the time being the company will stay with add supported content. Huggers first worked first on the iBBC player and later at Intel OnCue, then Verizon before getting the Vevo CEO.

The company has announced a new Apple TV, iOS and Android applications for people who like to watch the content on the TV console or their tablets and phones. Huggers mentioned that Vevo was getting 17 billion unique views per month. He said that if you are musician you will prefer Spotify for audio streaming and Vevo to YouTube, and here is why.

Peter Mensch, the manager of bands including Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Muse  told a BBC Radio 4 documentary on the music business:

“YouTube, they’re the devil. We don’t get paid at all.”

The BBC quoted him saying that YouTube was killing the record industry.

There is now way you can say it better than this, Mensch obviously knows what he is talking about. When we dug a bit deeper into the issue, bands have issues with complete albums being uploaded to YouTube. The big bands don’t get paid at all, at least according to Peter Mensch.

Vevo might turn its back to YouTube, despite its current business model where the company uses YouTube to distribute its videos. We see a big change coming. Artists are obviously not happy as people are ripping their stuff and not paying.

Online publishing was an area where big mistakes were made 20 + years ago. Online magazines usually rely on marketing, same as YouTube, but it seems that YouTube, Facebook and other big social based website make a lot of money and giving YouTubers and artists pennies.

Huggers believes Vevo can offer a tailored experience which is personalised for individuals who love music videos via various channels including Apple TV or mobile applications. Imagine if Vevo starts offering exclusive concert footage of your favourite bands, this would probably be worth of a few bucks a month, wouldn’t it?

Courtesy-Fud

 

Intel’s Updated USB Type-C Designed To Replace Headphone Jacks

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Intel this week unveiled plans to make an upgraded USB Type-C connector that would enable audio input and output, potentially replacing the long-standard 3.5 millimeter headphone jack used in today’s electronic devices.

Intel, which revealed its plans during a lecture at its Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in Shenzhen, China, also believes USB Type-C would simplify connections of multi-channel audio equipment to various devices.

Unlike the traditional 3.5mm analogue audio jack, a USB Type-C interface could charge a device in addition to transmitting sound and data. For example, it could transfer health and fitness data from a mobile device.

The USB Type-C connectors are reversible, so orientation isn’t an issue when plugging something into a device. The USB 3.1 Gen1 specification offers up to 5Gbps of data throughput; the Gen2 specification offers up to 10Gbps.

USB Type-C cables and connectors would replace the last analog receptacles on computers and mobile devices. Intel’s strategy was first reported by AnandTech.

In Intel’s presentation, it described USB C-Type connectors as being able to support both analog and digital musical content. But the upgraded connector would “promote” a changeover from analog to digital as users would see “improved digital headset features.”

A USB Type-C connector that supports audio feeds would also enable new form-factors, improve user experience and “provide a future path for USB technologies,” Intel said in the presentation.

 

 

 

EU Seeks Greater Transparency In Web Search Results

April 18, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The European Union’s digital chief wants search engines such as Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft’s Bing to be more transparent about paid ads in web search results but ruled out a separate law for web platforms.

European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, who is overseeing a wide-ranging inquiry into how web platforms conduct their business, said on Friday the EU executive would not take a horizontal approach to regulating online services.

“We will take a problem-driven approach,” Ansip said. “It’s practically impossible to regulate all the platforms with one really good single solution.”

That will come as a relief to the web industry, dominated mainly by big U.S. tech firms such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, who lobbied hard against new rules for online platforms and what they saw as an anti-American protectionist backlash.

“We praise the Commission for understanding that a horizontal measure for all platforms is practically impossible,” said Jakob Kucharczyk, director of the Computer & Communications Industry Association which represents the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon.

“While a lot of online platforms enable economic growth, their business models differ widely.”

However Ansip said he was worried about how transparent some search engines are when displaying ads in search results.

The Commission is also looking into the transparency of paid-for reviews as well as the conditions of use of services such as Google Maps, Apple Inc’s IoS mobile operating system and Google’s Android.

“Maybe it’s not too much to ask for more transparency talking about search engines,” Ansip said.

The EU executive is looking into making rules on taking down illegal content clearer and more effective without making hosting websites such as YouTube directly liable.

“Now musicians ask, please, take it down and keep it down,” Ansip said. “We want to make those rules more clear.”

But the Commission will not change a provision where websites such as Amazon, eBay and Google’s YouTube are not held liable for illegal content that is uploaded on to their systems. They do, however, have a responsibility to take it down once they are notified of it.

The Commission will publish a communication detailing its plans on web platforms in June.

 

 

Microsoft Wants Windows 10, Cortana At Center Of Home Automation

April 4, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft’s long term goal is to make home automation a breeze in Windows 10, and the company featured several related Internet-of-things announcements at its ongoing Build conference.

Windows 10 will work with a wider range of devices and appliances by integrating new Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) protocols, scheduled to be released in 2017. Additionally, Cortana will allow users to easily automate tasks using a Windows PC, mobile device, Xbox console or Raspberry Pi 3.

Users will be able to program ”actions” so Cortana can be used to switch on lights, air conditioning or even unlock cars. For example, users will be able to speak, “lights” to their smartphones, and the bulbs will turn on.

Or even better, users can tell Cortana to “unlock home door,” which will open the door and trigger a series of additional actions like switching on the lights and the air conditioning. A command like “party” could switch on the music and the disco lights.

Actions can also be based on the time of day or on information from connected sensors. The actions can be attached to specific profiles in Cortana like “activate smart home.” The connected devices will need to be discovered by Windows 10 and be on a list of approved devices, much like how the OS discovers and lists wireless printers and other hardware.

But Windows doesn’t support all devices right now, and the OS works with only those based on the AllJoyn protocol. Support for a wider range of devices will come with the integration of protocols established by the OCF, which will unite the disparate IoT standards under one umbrella.

Until the integration is complete, Microsoft released an “open-source” bridge to connect OIC tools, called IoTivity, with the AllJoyn APIs. It will help AllJoyn devices talk to OIC-compatible IoT devices.

 

 

NAND Pricing Rapidly Falling

March 15, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

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.

Courtesy-Fud