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Apple Offering Free Beats Headphones For Back-to-school Promo

July 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple launched its annual back-to-school promotion in the U.S., switching the deal to a free pair of Beats headphones for customers who buy eligible Macs.

The promotion launched later this year than in the past: In 2014, for example, Apple started its back-to-school campaign July 1.

Buyers who purchase a qualifying Mac between now and Sept. 18 receive a $199.95 credit toward a a pair of Beats Solo2 On-Ear Headphones, which list for that amount. Alternately, the credit can be applied to a pair of Beats Solo2 Wireless On-Ear Headphones, which run $299.95, making the out-of-pocket expense $100.

The promotion launches today in Apple’s retail stores and participating authorized on-campus stores but won’t appear on the company’s e-store until Aug. 6.

9to5Mac.com first reported on the promotion earlier today.

This year’s back-to-school promotion gives parents of college students and incoming freshmen, and teachers and staff members of all grade levels — including K-12 — the credit when they buy a new iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. Unlike years past, iPads and iPhones do not qualify.

For the last four years, Apple has handed out gift cards and maxed the amount of the offer at $100. Before that, a more generous Apple gave rebates of up to $300 toward the purchase of an iPod Touch.

Educational discounts on the hardware also apply. MacBooks and MacBook Airs are reduced by $50 for parents of students and for faculty and staff. The discounts on other products are $100 on MacBook Pros, $100 to $200 on Retina 5K iMacs, $50 to $100 on iMacs, and $200 to $300 on Mac Pros.

 

 

 

SanDisk Debuts New Wireless Streaming Thumb Drive

July 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

SanDisk has released the newest addition to its wireless storage line – the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick.

The Connect Wireless Stick ranges in capacity from 16GB to 128GB and in price from $30 to $100.

SanDisk’s first Wireless Stick, the Connect Wireless Flash Drive, was released two years ago and it came in 16GB and 32GB capacities and was priced at $49.99 and $59.99, respectively.

As its predecessor did, the new wireless thumb drive also uses a USB 2.0 (480Mbps) connection to upload content before being able to stream it over Wi-Fi. SanDisk claims the Connect Wireless Stick has enough bandwidth to stream high-definition movies and music to up to three devices at the same time.

The drive is capable of supporting a single video stream for up to 4.5 hours on a single charge, SanDisk said.

The new flash drive is controlled via the SanDisk Connect app, which is free and downloadable from SanDisk’s or or Amazon.com’s website.

The Connect Wireless Stick is compatible with iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, Android devices, Windows PCs and Apple computers. It works with iOS version 8.0 or higher, Android 4.2 or higher, Windows Vista/7/8, Mac OS 10.6 or higher, and via web browser for other Wi-Fi enabled devices, according to SanDisk.

The thumb drive is 3.03-in x 0.75-in x 0.43 in. in size and comes with a one-year warranty.

 

 

MIT Develops Super Efficient Flash Memory

July 15, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have unveiled a new network design called BlueDBM that they claim could make servers using flash memory more efficient for big data applications.

Originally presented at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture in June the new flash memory is just as efficient as servers using conventional RAM, while preserving their power and cost savings.

Researchers at MIT were looking at ways to integrate flash memory for big data applications as an alternative to conventional RAM because it’s about a 10th as expensive and consumes about a 10th as much power.

“A processor can retrieve data from RAM tens of thousands of times more rapidly than it can from the computer’s disk drive,” explained MIT.

“But in the age of big data, data sets are often much too large to fit in a single computer’s RAM. The data describing a single human genome would take up the RAM of somewhere between 40 and 100 typical computers.”

The researchers presented experimental evidence showing that if the servers executing a distributed computation have to go to the disk for data even five percent of the time, the performance falls to a level that’s comparable with flash.

They were then able to make a network of flash-based servers competitive with a network of RAM-based servers by moving a little computational power off the servers and onto the chips that control the flash drives.

“By pre-processing some of the data on the flash drives before passing it back to the servers, those chips can then make distributed computation much more efficient,” explained the university.

“And since the pre-processing algorithms are wired into the chips, they dispense with the computational overhead associated with running an operating system, maintaining a file system, and the like.”

To show this, the researchers built a prototype network of 20 servers, each connected to a field-programmable gate array (FPGA), which is a kind of chip that can be reprogrammed to mimic different types of electrical circuits.

MIT said that each FPGA was then connected to two 500GB flash chips and to the two FPGAs nearest it in the server rack.

“Because the FPGAs were connected to each other, they created a very fast network that allowed any server to retrieve data from any flash drive,” MIT added.

“They also controlled the flash drives, which is no simple task. The controllers that come with modern commercial flash drives have as many as eight different processors and 1GB of working memory.”

The FPGAs also executed the algorithms that pre-processed the data stored on the flash drives, and to prove it worked the researchers tested three of the algorithms, geared to three popular big-data applications.

One was image search, or trying to find matches for a sample image in a huge database, another was an implementation of Google’s PageRank algorithm, which assesses the importance of different web pages that meet the same search criteria, and the last was an application called Memcached, which large database-driven websites use to store frequently accessed information.

MIT believes that there are quite a few applications which could benefit from accelerators like the three above and, since FPGAs are reprogrammable, they could be loaded with different accelerators, depending on the application.

“That could lead to distributed processing systems that lose little versatility while providing major savings in energy and cost,” added the university.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Car Companies Limiting Data They Share With Technology Partners

July 14, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Automobile manufacturers are limiting the data they share with technology partners Apple Inc and Google Inc through new systems that link smartphones to vehicle infotainment systems, defending access to information about what drivers do in their cars.

Auto companies hope that the vehicle data will one day generate billions of dollars in e-commerce, though they are just beginning to form strategies for monetizing the information. Apple and Google already make money from smartphone owners by providing a variety of products and services, from digital music to targeted advertising, and connecting phones to car systems will almost certainly extend their reach.

But as infotainment systems such as Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto become more widespread, auto companies hope to keep tech providers from gaining access to a wealth of potentially profitable information collected by computer systems in cars.

Some auto companies have specifically said they will not provide Apple and Google with data from the vehicle’s functional systems – steering, brakes and throttle, for instance – as well as information about range, a measure of how far the car can travel before it runs out of gas.

“We need to control access to that data,” said Don Butler, Ford Motor Co’s executive director of connected vehicle and services. “We need to protect our ability to create value” from new digital services built on vehicle data.

Consultant AlixPartners estimates global revenues from digitally connected cars will grow in value to $40 billion a year worldwide by 2018, from $16 billion in 2013, and auto companies would like to hold on to as much of that money as possible.

“The risk is, if you give up control and somebody else figures out that business model, then you lose the future revenue stream,” said Friedmar Rumpel, vice president in AlixPartners’ automotive practice.

 

 

 

Google Launches Free Streaming Music Service

June 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google Inc has unveiled a free version of its music streaming service, as it sought to upstage the debut of Apple Inc’s rival service next week.

Google Play Music has offered a $9.99 per month subscription service for two years but Tuesday’s launch is the first free version of the streaming service. It is available online and will be available on Android and iOS by the end of the week, Elias Roman, Google product manager, said.

Apple said earlier this month it would launch a music streaming service on June 30 for $9.99 per month along with a $14.99 per month family plan, with a free three-month trial.

As with other streaming services, such as Spotify and Rhapsody, Google Play Music curates playlists. Users can tailor playlists based on genre, artist or even activity, such as hosting a pool party or “having fun at work.”

“We believe this is a play that will expose a lot of people to the service,” Roman said in an interview.

Unlike Google’s subscription music service, the free service will carry ads, be unavailable offline and exclude certain songs.

Roman said millions of people look at Google Play Music each month but are not ready to pay for a subscription. By offering a free version of the service, he said, the search engine hopes more people will be compelled to pay for an upgraded version.

Ted Cohen, managing partner of TAG Strategic, a digital entertainment consultancy, said the timing of Google’s launch was strategic.

“It’s a smart time to do it with all the attention around Apple,” Cohen said. “If they did it absent the Apple service, it wouldn’t be the same story.”

Google declined to say how many subscribers it has but said they more than doubled in 2014 from the previous year. But rivals Pandora, Spotify and Beats Music had far more mobile downloads than Google Play Music in 2014, according to data from analytics firm App Annie

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Is An Asus Bid For HTC In The Works?

June 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Asustek Computer is possibly putting together a bid for HTC, but HTC said it wants nothing do with it.

Last week, Asus Chairman Jonney Shih said he wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of buying HTC.

Such a move could help both companies: Asus has been trying to move beyond its traditional PC business into sales of Android smartphones, and acquiring smartphone maker HTC would boost its market presence. It could also provide support for HTC, which has seen its market share dwindle in the face of tough competition from Apple, Samsung Electronics and Chinese smartphone vendors.

Such arguments hold no sway with HTC, though.

“We didn’t contact Asustek, and will not consider the acquisition,” the company said in a posting to the Taiwan stock exchange on Monday.

With a deal out of the question — at least as far as HTC is concerned — both companies will need other strategies.

Asus is counting on organic growth in its smartphone business. This year it aims to ship 17 million phones, double last year’s total, but still a tiny fraction of the global market. It has already started selling phones in the U.S. in a bid to reach its target.

HTC’s future financial performance remains in question. Earlier this month, it revised its financial outlook for the second quarter, and said revenue would be down further than expected on slower demand for high-end phones. In the past three months, the company’s stock price has also dropped by almost half.

In March, HTC founder Cher Wang took over as CEO, with the hope of engineering a turnaround. She has said the company will cut operating costs, and look for opportunities outside selling handsets.

 

 

Line Enters The Music Streaming

June 12, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Messaging app maker Line Corp rolled out its music streaming service in Japan on Thursday, getting a head start in the virtually untapped business for mobile music subscriptions in the world’s second-biggest music market.

Line’s move marks the most ambitious attempt yet to reverse the declining market for digital music in Japan, where compact discs still account for more than 80 percent of total music sales. Hobbled by rights issues, foreign companies have yet to break into Japan’s music streaming business.

Available for Android and iPhone users, the service, called Line Music, will offer unlimited access to a library of more than 1.5 million songs initially for a monthly fee of 1,000 yen ($8.13), or 20 hours of access for half that. Line, Japan’s largest social network with 58 million registered domestic users, said in a statement it would offer the service for free for the first two months.

Line Music is jointly held by Avex Digital, Sony Music Entertainment and Line Corp, which itself is owned by South Korea’s Naver Corp. Universal Music Group is also scheduled to take a stake in Line Music.

Line said it plans to expand its library, featuring domestic and overseas artists such as Taylor Swift and Sam Smith, to more than 5 million songs by the end of this year, and over 30 million next year.

The global market for streaming music has grown in recent years, offering record companies a much-needed boost amid a steady slump in digital downloads. Apple Inc this week unveiled the $9.99-a-month Apple Music service, aiming to muscle into an industry led by Spotify, Pandora and others.

Despite its size, the Japanese music industry saw revenues of just 5 million yen ($40,660) from subscription-based mobile music streaming in 2014, according to the Recording Industry of Japan. Overall sales of digital music in Japan fell for the fifth straight year, to about $350 million, against a peak of $1 billion in 2009.

 

Apple Music Being Reviewed For Potential Antitrust Violations

June 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The attorneys general of New York and Connecticut are investigating Apple Inc’s negotiations with record labels to find signs of potential antitrust violations.

The attorneys general want to know whether music labels colluded or were pressured into favoring Apple’s paid music subscription service, which was released on Monday.

Apple launched Apple Music on Monday, a $9.99-a-month streaming music service that will likely alter the dynamics of how consumers listen to music as the music industry grapples with declines in downloaded songs and tries to figure out new ways to get people to pay for music.

In a letter to the New York Attorney General, Universal Music Group said it had no agreements with Apple or music companies like Sony Music and Warner Music that would impede the availability of free or ad-supported services, or prevent it from licensing its recorded music to any music streaming service.

Universal Music also said it offers limited exclusive content to some music streaming services where such exclusivity is not part of an agreement to restrain competition.

“This letter is part of an investigation of the music streaming business, an industry in which competition has recently led to new and different ways for consumers to listen to music,” said Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for the New York attorney-general, Eric Schneiderman.

“To preserve these benefits, it’s important to ensure that the market continues to develop free from collusion and other anticompetitive practices.”

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the investigation. Reuters could not immediately reach Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

 

 

SanDisk Enters Portable Drive Market

June 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

SanDisk, best known for thumb drives, memory cards and internal SSD, has unveiled its first line-up of pocket-sized, high-capacity external drives.

The new line of drives includes four products of varying size, ranging in capacity from 120GB to 1.9TB. The new line includes the Extreme 900 Portable SSD, which uses the new, reversible USB Type-C connector with throughput up to 850MB/s.

All of the drives come native with SanDisk SecureAccess software, which uses 128-bit AES encryption to password protect data.

In March, SanDisk became the first company to ship a USB Type-C thumb drive.

The Extreme 900 Portable SSD comes in 480GB, 960GB and 1.92TB, with a suggested retail price of $399, $599 and $999, respectively. SanDisk said the drive, which also comes with an older USB 3.0 Type-A port for flexibility, has data transfer speeds well suited for users working with 4K video, detailed high-res photos or large graphics files. USB 3.0 has data transfer speeds of up to 625 MB/s.

Type-C connectors, which use the USB 3.1 specification, are reversible, meaning the orientation of the plug to the receptor doesn’t matter. The USB 3.1 specification supports data transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps, twice as fast as USB 3.0. Type-C can also deliver far greater power than USB 3.0 — up to 100 watts.

The USB 3.1 specification is backward compatible with USB 3.0. For its part, USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0.

“We designed this game-changing family of offerings to provide our customers with even greater speeds and capacities to keep up with rapidly increasing demands for high-quality content,” Dinesh Bahal, SanDisk’s vice president of product marketing, said in a statement.

SanDisk also announced the Extreme 500 Portable SSD, a USB 3.0-attached drive that can deliver throughput speeds of up to up to 415MB/s — still more than four times that of a portable hard disk drive.

The Extreme 500, which at 2.98-in x 2.98-in x .42-in is half the size of the Extreme 900, offers capacities of 120GB, 240GB and 480GB, with retail prices of $99, $149 and $239, respectively.

 

 

 

 

AT&T To Offer Exclusive Content For Connected Cars

May 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc is preparing to bring connected car users exclusive content such as videos and games that can be streamed onto personal mobile devices later this year, AT&T’s senior vice president of emerging devices Chris Penrose said.

“It’s no different than being able to hook onto a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere and get access to content you already subscribe to and get unique content that you could only get in the back of the vehicle,” Penrose said.

AT&T has signed up eight automaker partners, including General Motors Co, Audi AG and Ford Motor Co, to hook up cars with Internet access. The goal is to offer free or paid content exclusively for connected car users and sell more data, Penrose said in a recent interview.

AT&T is talking to its auto industry partners and content companies to bring new content like “special” shows or gaming levels on phones and tablets in connected cars, Penrose said. This would be in addition to subscription services such as Hulu and Netflix that users can already stream on mobile devices.

Most Americans already own a mobile phone, and the $1.7 trillion U.S. wireless industry is turning to connected cars and devices for growth. Besides being the essential pipes that deliver data, telecom players such as AT&T are looking to extract revenue from content.

GM has begun testing new content on its OnStar in-vehicle service best known for connecting drivers to live operators for directions or emergency help.

The subscription-based service, which also sells data to drivers, has special offers and some exclusive content on apps such as Famigo, an educational app for kids, and TumblebooksTV, a children’s digital books app. It also has retail partnerships with Dunkin’ Donuts and travel booking site Priceline.com for location-based deals.

AT&T is exploring business models that include revenue share for data, content and advertising with automakers, content and retail partners, Penrose said without sharing specific details.

AT&T is working with automakers to design a landing page or a portal for users to log in to access content, get vehicle service updates and buy data, he said.

 

 

Sharp Pinning Hopes On In-car Displays

May 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Struggling display manufacturer Sharp, reeling from cutthroat competition in mobile phones, will push car makers to incorporate vehicle dashboards that have gestural commands, thin bezels and other next-generation features.

It’s hoping cars will be controlled, in part, through high-resolution displays that can fit any two-dimensional surface area, such as dashboard panels with rounded contours.

The company has shown off the wavy screens for cars and consoles in recent months, and has tried to woo automakers to use them. Under the firm’s new medium-term strategy, the push has taken on greater urgency.

Thin-bezel dashboard LCDs, as well as screens that can provide multiple views to different passengers in a car depending on their perspective, could prove to be a lifeline for Sharp, which hasn’t been able to command a dominant market position despite cutting-edge technology.

Sharp is an Apple supplier and is said to be a maker of iPhone 6 screens, along with Japan Display, and LG Display of South Korea.

Apple sources some of its screens from Sharp’s Kameyama plants in central Japan, which produce the maker’s flagship IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) transparent crystalline semiconductor displays. IGZO displays, which Sharp began producing for smartphones in 2013, have smaller pixels than conventional LCD screens and feature low power consumption.

Last month, Sharp showed off a 5.5-inch display with 3860 x 2160 or 4K pixel resolution, which was part of a 12.5-inch IGZO panel. But there were no immediate plans for mass production.

Sharp’s ability to generate dazzling phone graphics hasn’t saved its bottom line. The firm announced a US$1.7 billion bailout from banks this week, its second lifeline in three years, and posted a dismal earnings performance for the year to March 31 with a net loss of ¥222.3 billion ($1.8 billion). It blamed declining prices in small and medium-sized LCDs.

In contrast, Sharp sees prices for automotive and industrial automation displays as more stable because the barriers to market entry are higher due to the technological know-how that’s required. Now it needs to play for time.

 

 

Can Intel Turn Your Modem Into A Server?

May 6, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has come up with technologies which it believes will give broadband a kick up the back-end.

According the Register cunning plan is to put more of its chips into modems and routers that homes and smallish businesses use to connect to the web.

Currently the gear is run by cheap and stupid technology. Embedded Linux is about the best you can expect and that cannot be customised even if you could get to it.

Intel thinks that building x86s into CPE devices will make them more interesting. It already uses Atom cores into its PUMA range of DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems, but apparently stage two involves putting it into DOCSIS 3.1 kit. This will mean that it can deliver gigabit cable Internet performance. Recently Chipzilla bought Lantiq, which makes DSL modem system-on-chips. Lantiq got some G.fast technology which is tipped to be the gigabit-speed successor to VDSL.

If Intel installs x86 cores into PUMA kit and Lantiq gear and tarts it up with a bit of visualization the home router becomes a server and the ISP can push services directly into the home. Firewalls could be run by the ISP along with some of the security defenses.

If Intel gets OpenStack running at carrier scale then chips on modems become an important part of its Internet of Stuff policy.

Courtesy-Fud

Applied Materials Calls Off Merger Plans

April 29, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

The largest manufacturers of the machinery used to make semiconductors, Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron of Japan, have dumped a merger plans.

The proposed $10 billion deal was announced in September 2013, but it had nearly been impossible to come up with a deal which the US antitrust authorities would approve.

Part of the problem was that it would have combined two of the three largest players in a sector crucial to the production of chips.

Chip foundries are becoming expensive to build, even as prices for chips are falling. Pressure on suppliers of chip-making machinery is intense.

By joining forces, Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron hoped to streamline research and development operations and benefit from greater manufacturing scale.

They had also planned to save tens of millions of dollars in taxes by incorporating the new company in the Netherlands.

It was the second big technology merger deal to collapse in a week over antitrust concerns. Comcast abandoned its planned $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable in the face of skepticism from the Department and the Federal Communications Commission.

If Applied Materials, the larger of the two chip-equipment companies, had been allowed to take over Tokyo Electron, it would have been the biggest acquisition of a Japanese corporation by an American company outside the financial industry.

“Since these vulnerabilities affect default installations of WordPress, they naturally have a much wider reach, both on the public internet and in internal, intranet installations.”

The vulnerability also has similarities with one reported by Cedric Van Bockhaven in 2014, patched this week after 14 months.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Samsung Beating Intel In The SSD Space?

April 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung ruled the global solid state drive (SSD) market last year with a market share double that of its main rival Intel.

According to beancounters at market research outfit HIS on April 20, Samsung Electronics had US$3.996 billion in sales last year in the global SSD market with a market share of 34 percent, while Intel posted US$1.99 billion in the same period with a market share of 17 percent.

So Intel’s figure was just half of that of Samsung.

Intel is not doing that badly. In 2014, Intel’s sales increased by almost 50 percent to beat Sandisk by a small margin and maintain the number two position. But at the same time Samsung’s growth rate was even higher with 53 percent as it started mass-producing SSDs based on its vertical NAND (V-NAND) technology.

IHS also expected that Samsung’s market share will reach 35 percent this year, while Intel will maintain its current market share to around 17 percent. Also, the figures of Samsung and Intel in 2016 are expected to be 35 percent and 16 percent.

This year Samsung Electronics introduced a new cutting-edge product line-up including Non-Volatile Memory express (NVMe)-based SSDs and the portable SSD T1.

It also started the mass production of TLC-applied 3-bit V-NAND which is expected to shake up the next-generation SSD market.

According to the IHS forecast by need of demand of NAND flash in the market in the next five years from 2014 to 2019, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of demand for PCs, including SSDs, will reach 51.9 percent, surpassing the figure of mobile devices with 49.7 percent during the same period.

IHS also expected that the USB and flash card market would show a minus growth with 0.2 percent, while the growth of chips for tablet PCs will stay at 39.4 percent.

It is expected that the global SSD market will grow at an annual average rate of 21 percent from 83 million units sold in 2014 to 220 million units projected to be sold in 2019.

Courtesy-Fud

Letv Plans To Bring Mobile Phones, Streaming TV To US

April 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Chinese company Letv plans to offer its smartphones and smart TVs to the United States later this year and to launch a video streaming service for Chinese-speaking Americans, according to statements made by the company on Tuesday.

Letv said it set up a U.S. headquarters in Redwood City, California, part of the Silicon Valley tech hub, and has opened an office in Los Angeles.

The company plans to hire hundreds of staff for the two locations in the coming months, JD Howard, vice president and general manager of Letv’s international mobile business, said in an interview. It is looking to partner with U.S. content providers and technology companies, he said.

“Our ambition is to make a serious disruption in the smartphone industry,” Howard said. “We need to take the key advantages we have built in China and translate them to other markets.”

For the new streaming service, Letv aims to create an offering similar to what consumers watch in China, the company said. Letv has an online library of Chinese content that includes more than 100,000 television episodes and 5,000 films.

The service will likely offer a mix of ad-supported, subscription and pay-per-view content as Letv does in China, Howard said.