Over the weekend, Intel pushed ahead with the release of its first consumer and enterprise SSD based on 3D XPoint technology, with latency rates roughly one hundred times lower than NAND flash alternatives that have dominated the market since 2007.
The first Optane-branded storage device is called the Optane SSD DC P4800X, which the company says is designed to be used either as high-performance storage or as a caching device in data centers. The card features a capacity of 375GB, with latency of under 10 microseconds (10µs), along with 550,000 random 4K reads, 500,000 random 4K writes, and an overall endurance rating of 12.3 petabytes written (PBW).
3D XPoint memory is about 100 times lower latency than NAND flash, sits right under DRAM (faster), but really puts some pressure on the data center market in terms of access times and endurance ratings. Intel claims that the low latency and high endurance can yield between eight and 40 times faster responses under large workloads, especially for database applications, while consistently outperforming NAND-based technologies.
Originally, the company’s plan was to release 16GB and 32GB Optane storage products under the Intel Optane Memory 8000p series. These units were capable of reaching up to 300,000 random 4K reads and 120,000 random 4K writes, and up to 1,600MB/s sequential reads and 500MB/s sequential writes. The release date for these smaller configurations is currently unknown but are still scheduled for release sometime later this year.
The first noticeable benefit to using Optane as a storage product for enterprise users is the option to significantly upgrade the overall capacity of onboard RAM. For instance, Intel’s dual-socket Xeon systems can support up to 3TB of DRAM but are able to accommodate an additional 24TB of Optane storage. Quad-socket systems, on the other hand, can accommodate 12TB of DRAM and an additional 48TB of Optane storage.
Not cheap – $1,520 at launch, compatible with Kaby Lake
The Intel Optane P4800X 375GB PCI-E add-in card will initially be a very application-specific product for “creative professionals” and enterprise users who need low-latency caching at every point in their systems – from onboard CPU cache, to storage, to DRAM. The other usage model will be for enterprise users who need substantially more memory available to their systems, even at a slightly higher latency cost. The company will initially release the 375GB PCI-E model at $1,520 with limited availability, followed by 375GB and 750GB U.2 models in Q2, and a 1.5TB PCI-E add-in card in the second half of the year.
We expect these modules to be compatible with current Z270 chipsets along with upcoming X299 chipsets due in fall.
Optane DIMMs come next year
This year, Intel is sticking to Optane products in the PCI-Express form factor, but next year plans to make the technology more flexible to performance and enterprise users in the form of individual Optane DIMMs. Pricing and spec options on such modules has yet to be discussed, though the technology available in both formats is expected to significantly boost applications that require large amounts of raw memory consumption.
China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has completed the purchase of online ticketing platform Damai.cn, the e-commerce giant announced on, marking a further push into entertainment by the firm as it expands beyond its core online retail business.
“Ali announces its acquisition of Damai, part of our big entertainment strategy,” the firm said on its Sina Weibo platform. Alibaba first invested in Damai in 2014. “This continues an earnest three-year romance.”
In a separate post Damai said it was happy to join the “Alibaba family”. It also reposted a statement from a senior Alibaba executive saying this meant Alibaba now owned 100 percent of the firm.
Alibaba said in a statement to Reuters that the full acquisition of Damai “fits nicely into our ‘health and happiness’ strategy and forms a strategic part of the value chain in our media and entertainment business.”
“Damai.cn will be a powerful platform to distribute our media content as well as expand our user reach and engagement,” Alibaba said, adding there would be synergies with its own entertainment units Alibaba Music, Alibaba Pictures and Youku.
Troubled Japanese chipmaker Toshiba has begun shipping samples of its third-generation 3D NAND memory product.
The new 512 gigabit, 64-layer device has three-bit-per-cell triple-level cell (TLC) technology and will be part of Tosh’s BiCS FLASH product line. This technology will enable a 1-terabyte chip solution later this year.
For those who came in late, BiCS FLASH is a 3D flash memory stacked cell structure.
Sample shipments of the new 512Gb devices have begun, with mass production scheduled for the second half of 2017.
The new flash memory product has 65 percent greater capacity than the previous generation technology, which used 48 layers of NAND flash cells.
In addition to the new 512Gb device, Toshiba’s BiCS FLASH lineup also includes a 64-layer 256Gb offering, which is currently in mass production.
According to Scott Nelson, senior vice president of TAEC’s memory business unit, “The introduction of our third generation BiCS FLASH coupled with the industry’s largest 1TB chip solution strongly reinforces Toshiba’s flash leadership position. These innovations underline our commitment to developing leading-edge memory solutions, and we will continue to advance our 3D technology to meet the ever-increasing storage market demand.”
The chip will be used in data centres but also consumer SSD products so it could be cheap enough to get into high-end gaming rigs.
This announcement comes as Toshiba talks about off-loading its lucrative SSD operations to pay for the accounting fiasco and the dodgy nuclear power plant deal it lost billions on.
A previous report about Western Digital, Foxxcon, SK Hynix and Micron Technology have now also thrown their hats in the ring to purchase a majority share in Toshiba’s memory spin-off.
Microsoft has just made the Xbox One console a bit more interesting by announcing a new subscription service called the Xbox Game Pass, which will give access to over 100 games for US $9.99 a month, when it launches later this spring.
The Microsoft Xbox Game Pass will include over 100 games, like Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16, and SoulCalibur 2. Unlike other similar subscription based services, Xbox Game Pass will allow users to download available games and buy them with a 20 percent discount if they decide to keep the game. This also means that users won’t have to worry about streaming, bandwidth or other connectivity problems.
Add-ons for those games will be available for purchase with the same exclusive discount for Xbox Game Pass members as well.
While it was initially announced as a service that will only be available on Xbox One and Windows 10 devices, the Windows 10 part was later removed from the official Xbox Game Pass site, but it is still possible that it will be coming to the PC later this spring.
Microsoft announced that some big game publishers have already signed on including 2K, 505 Games, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Capcom, Codemasters, Deep Silver, Focus Home Interactive, Sega, SNK Corporation, THQ Nordic GmbH, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Microsoft Studios.
Currently, the Xbox Game Pass is available in an alpha preview stage with a limited number of games so we are certainly looking forward to what it will look like when it launches this spring.
The $4.99 per-month offer will give subscribers access to 120 million music tracks without having to listen to ads. Its $9.99 premium subscription, rebranded as SoundCloud Go+, offers 150 million tracks, with new features to be announced this year.
“Users have even more freedom to choose the features and content they want, at the price that fits their budget,” said Alex Ljung, chief executive of Berlin-based SoundCloud.
The new service is immediately available in the United States, Britain, Ireland, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
SoundCloud, which was launched in 2008, has about 175 million listeners but has never said how many are paying subscribers. It raised $100 million last June from a group of investors including Twitter, valuing the company at roughly $700 million, according to Re/code.
Apple, which charges $9.99 a month for its music-streaming service, has about 20 million subscribers, and Spotify has over 40 million.
SoundCloud is popular among music artists but has been less successful than its rivals at striking licensing deals on favorable terms. It lost two senior executives this month and is seeking to raise new funding.
Acer is expected to break into new territory in the fields of artificial intelligence, deep learning in 2017 and has begun talking with several potential clients about shipping its first in-house robotics devices, according to company CEO Jason Chen.
Focus on AI and deep learning in the transportation sector
The Taiwan-based multinational computer company began its foray into AI and deep learning two years ago in 2015 and mostly focused its efforts on the transportation sector and related commercial uses. In 2016, the company managed to win a top award for forecasting traffic through a mountain tunnel in northern Taiwan, and now it plans to introduce some of the first fruits of its partnerships within the Taiwan transportation market in the first half of 2017.
Back in October, Acer shipped its first in-house robotics product called Jibo at a base price of $749. The project, originally led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, began as an effort to build a family robot with digital assistant features, allowing users to make phone calls, shop online, stream music and video using voice commands and manage connected household appliances.
Although the consumer robotics market is expected to remain relatively flat in 2017, the company is reportedly in talks with potential clients to land more orders of its in-house robots, though it has not specified whether it will begin developing separate models for business commercial-oriented purposes.
Digital signage shipments began in January
Acer is apparently making ground in the field of digital signage products, and landed orders for more than 1,000 digital signage devices from a European supermarket chain in late 2016. The company began its first shipments in January and is likely to expand negotiations with other clients in the next few months.
One of the first partners for Windows Holographic Platform
Last month during CES, the company unveiled a prototype headset for the Windows Holographic platform that will be compatible with the Windows 10 Creators Update later this April. Microsoft’s first three partners include Acer, HP and Dell and each include specialized cameras that can integrate VR alongside the Windows Holographic Mixed Reality platform. Each vendor has noted that users will not need a high-end PC to run these headsets, and pricing is expected to begin around $299. The Acer headset is expected to hit store shelves sometime in mid-2017.
Back in August, the company also began shipments of its first VR device for cinemas. Dubbed the StarVR, this panoramic virtual reality headset features two 5.5-inch displays each with 2560x1440p resolution, delivering the combined output of a 5K VR experience. With a 210-degree field of view, the displays deliver a more expansive panoramic environment using custom Fresnel-based optic technology. The 0.84-pound (380g) headset also features six degrees of freedom, 360-degree submillimeter optical tracking and a low-latency feedback mechanism that combines an IMU with an optical sensor.
The shipments were headed to IMAX Corporation, which started operating its first VR Experience Center in Los Angeles and is working on opening a second center in Manchester UK, says Chen.
Acer’s PC division will focus heavily on notebooks
Acer’s top executive also noted that its PC business in 2017 will focus primarily on its notebook products rather than its Aspire towers, all-in-one desktops and media center boxes. There is more market share and profitability to be gained with its 2-in-1 notebook offerings, Chromebooks, gaming notebooks and slim notebooks, and it currently ranks fourth in this market.
A slight reshuffling of the company’s board of directors and board of supervisors is also expected to occur in 2017, according to founder Stan Shih. The change includes electing CEO Jason Chen as the new chairman, while also remaining CEO for at least three years.
Apple is finding that its much delayed, expensive wireless headphones shipped with a fault.
iPhone owners of AirPods are finding that not only do the Airpods look like tiny earrings, they also have a habit of randomly disconnecting and reconnecting during calls. This of course makes the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus less useful as a phone and more like a broken iPod.
The Tame Apple Press say that the problem only effects a small number of users. However, Apple has acknowledged the problem which means that it is much wider than the Tame Apple Press is admitting. Apple only acknowledges a problem after many months of soul searching, denial and self-flagellation.
One of the difficulties for Apple is that it delayed the launch of the AirPods were so late that it was starting to get to be joke. Jobs’ Mob told us that it was because it needed more time to ensure the earpieces had reliable connectivity. Apparently that problem was because both earpieces were having difficult receiving audio at the same time, which is a bit of a bummer if you are trying to listen to stereo.
Now it looks like whatever Jobs’ Mob did the super cool headphones, whose design they nicked from Oral B drop connection phone calls.
The Tame Apple Press points out that they NEVER lose their connection when used to listen to music or anything else. It points out that the problem ONLY happens on iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus phones and every Apple fanboy should have upgraded to the iPhone 7 anyway.
MacRumors replicate the problem if the phone was connected to a Fitbit Blaze or an iWatch, suggesting a more general conflict with other Bluetooth devices.
Unpairing and then repairing the AirPods does not appear to solve the problem, neither does rebooting nor resetting the iPhone. Until Apple offers a solution, users are advised to use only one AirPod for conducting calls, as the dropouts only seem to occur when both earpieces are in use.
Otherwise they could be sensible and crush the tiny dildos, smash the iPhone and get a nice bit of natty Chinese technology which has the same functionality, more reliably for half the price.
The move to AI could be the one catalyst which could help AMD and Nvidia carve up Intel’s mighty kingdom.
Last year saw Microsoft, Apple, Google develop more software for ARM based chips. During the year AMD and Nvidia saw their stock prices rise as shareholders started to think that they might succeed in taking Intel’s crown.
On of the reasons for this is AI which is fast becoming a bigger buzz world than Interent of Things – which is the basket Intel is putting its eggs into.
AMD and Nvidia are both making perfect AI processors in their graphics cards and now that AMD has released Polaris it is properly in a game dominated by Nvidia. AMD’s Radeon Instinct is specifically designed for the market.
Intel is doing ok in the market but it is not growing as fast as AMD or Nvidia.
According to the Verge, investors are buying up AMD stock because they know the processing challenges of the future are practically tailored for the massively parallel architecture of a GPU.
Nvidia and IBM have revealed their own agreement to provide “the world’s fastest” deep learning enterprise solution.
AMD and Nvidia should do well in the growing consumer interest in virtual reality although that might be a bubble waiting to burst. On paper at least, the most popular HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, both require tons of GPU power. However it is a moot point if these machines are the ones that will make AR work or if it will be something much cheaper and require less spec.
But if AR does take off then it will be yet another thing that Intel missed out on.
Bad news for everyone who wanted to get an OLED TV soon; some industry experts have told Fudzilla that current generation OLED TVs suffer from a built in defect and that the companies are seeing a lot of TVs being returned after a year of use.
It looks like Quantum dot or Sony Backlight Master Drive LED technology might be your best bet at least for a little while because OLED TVs are still expensive, and the fact that they might get burn in after a while makes them less attractive. There is always good old LED TV, a technology that is predominantly available and manages panels larger than 55 inch at reasonable prices.
This burn in problem could cause some major recalls at some point in the near future but our industry source, who wants to remain unnamed, did mention that there might be a solution in 2018 for the problem. Unfortunately, the solution will happen with the next generation of OLED panels.
So, getting great color levels and black that doesn’t not looked washed up have their downsides too. The same problem didn’t affect the small panels such as the ones in phones and tablets – it occurs when on large panels only. Samsung and Sony are sticking with alternative technologies for the time being while LG has been pushing for OLEDs for a while.
Users have been complaining that the design of the earbuds – like two tiny devices hanging from your ear, do not appear to sit well in the human ear, which was what most Apple fanboys were equipped with. As a result, they tend to fall out, which means either finding them, or shelling out a lot of dosh to get a replacement.
The Tame Apple Press has been doing its best. The reviewer at the Verge blamed his ears for the problem. I guess it is easier to blame your parents, or God for your ears than it is to blame your favourite technology company for letting you down. At no point, did Sean O’Kane think “hang on, other headphone designs manage to stay in my ears, but something about Apple doesn’t.” Given the amount of cash you pay for the things you would think that having the ability to stay in your ear would be a key design feature, before the Apple fanboy’s wade in below and say “but Apple makes huge profits, so what do you know?” that statement does not nullify the argument, it just proves you think it is OK to be a victim and are proud of the company doing it to you.
We think we got where O’Kane was coming from when he wrote: “I’ve tested a lot of wireless earbuds so far and my biggest takeaway is that they’re only as good as the case they come with.” Yeah right, if you have a $55,000 Sennheiser Orpheus headphones you often find their sound quality is totally dictated by the box they arrived in.
Meanwhile iFixit has said that if you buy a pair of Airpads you are lowering the standards of the world and helping to kill off polar bears.
That is because Apple made sure that it was practically impossible to recycle the AirPods. Apple decided, in its wisdom to glue the tiny lithium batteries to the casing of the headphones. This means that if you recycle them in the traditional way by meshing them you will get a fire at your recycling factory.
Apple insists that the $159 AirPods can be returned to the company for recycling but what happens to them next is unclear. It is too expensive for them to be broken down by hand so it is pretty obvious they are going to end up in a landfill somewhere, probably China, where they will contribute to the generally running down of the environment and ultimately the extinction of fluffy baby polar bears.
The Cupertino, Calif. company warned customers that the product would be available in “limited quantities at launch.”
The $159 headphones — which resemble enlarged ear buds sans wires — debuted on Apple’s online store earlier Tuesday. Within minutes, the estimated ship date shifted from Dec. 21 to mid-January 2017.
Today’s launch came just four days after a report by the Wall Street Journal, which claimed that the AirPods would miss the holiday selling season.
The chipmaker is working with Microsoft to add “far-field speech recognition” technology, where the user can shout out Cortana commands to a Windows PC from longer distances.
“Soon, you’ll be able to speak to your PC from a distance and access all of your information on the device and in the cloud,” said Navin Shenoy, senior vice president and general manager for the Client Computing Group for Intel, in a blog entry this week.
The range isn’t available yet.
Users also will be able to use Cortana to start a PC from standby. Users will have to say, “Hey Cortana.”
For now, Cortana works best if the user is close to the PC. This development is more in the vein of Amazon Echo, which can recognize commands from a distance.
The ability to shout commands to Cortana from a longer distance also has Amazon Echo-like benefits. Users will be able to tell a PC to play music or ask about the weather. The feature will be even more useful when Microsoft completes a plan to make Windows 10 PCs hubs for smart homes, with users being able to use Cortana to operate electrical appliances.
That’s just one of many developments Intel is planning for PCs. Intel is working with Microsoft on its wire-free PC initiative, with a high-speed WiGig wireless connection being used to connect PCs to peripherals. Intel also said it would bring its Optane premium memory to PCs by the end of 2017.
Intel is also aggressively pushing for LTE receivers to be installed in laptops and hybrid tablet devices, with the ultimate goal to bring 5G to all devices. The new 5G deployments are expected by 2020 and could bring new forms of long and short-distance communications to devices. Intel is developing modems for 5G connectivity.
Troubled Japanese television manufacturer Sharp is expecting significant improvement in annual profit due to restructuring with its new owner Foxconn.
Shares in the outfit soared more than 10 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that Sharp forecasts operating profit of about $385 million for the business year through March which was much better than expected.
Meeting the forecast would mark the first operating profit in three years for Sharp, which is rebuilding under Taiwan’s Foxconn which bought two-thirds of the telly maker in August.
Sharp slashed about 6,000 jobs in the last financial year through early retirement and an operations overhaul including withdrawal from its money-losing North American TV set business.
Sharp said it expected profit to improve but revenue to fall. Its shares subsequently jumped nearly 11 percent to their highest price in about six months, far outperforming the benchmark Nikkei average share price index.
However the prospects of Sharp’s mainstay display panel business are not that hot. The global panel market is on the cusp of improvement as a production cutback resolved a supply glut.
But Sharp still has to find ways to compete with Chinese peers rapidly expanding capacity, and with South Korean makers far ahead in next-generation technology.
Sharp said it would provide a full-year earnings forecast on 1 November when it announces its second-quarter results.
Amazon.com Inc has officially launched a full-fledged music streaming service with subscriptions as low as $3.99 per month for owners of its Amazon Echo speaker, accelerating the industry trend toward more flexible pricing after years of sticking to $9.99 subscriptions.
The new streaming service, called “Amazon Music Unlimited,” lets users access a vast catalog of songs on demand, similar to Spotify and Apple Music. Subscriptions to play music on the Echo cost $3.99 per month; for access beyond that device, subscriptions cost $7.99 a month for members of Amazon’s Prime shipping and video service and $9.99 for non-members. Amazon will continue to offer Prime members a limited streaming service for free.
As it plunges deeper into the crowded streaming field, Amazon is counting on the Echo, a smart speaker that responds to voice commands, to set it apart. Released broadly last year, the Echo has become a surprise hit, prompting many to predict that voice will become a key way users interact with technology – and music is central to the device’s appeal.
Amazon has built an elaborate system of voice controls for listening on the Echo. The company believes such smart home devices will be a key source of growth for the music industry, said Steve Boom, vice president of Amazon Music.
“The first phase of growth (in music streaming) was driven almost entirely by smartphones,” he said in an interview. “We believe pretty strongly that the next phase of growth in streaming is going to come from the home.”
The low price for Amazon’s streaming service is consistent with the company’s reputation for undercutting the competition and signals the music industry is beginning to accommodate consumers who are unwilling to pay $9.99 per month. Having watched revenues plummet from the CD era, label executives have been reluctant to budge on price, but they have come under pressure as streaming accounts for more of the pie.
Boom said he is optimistic that the new prices will expand the market.
“We’re moving music away from a one-size-fits-all approach,” Boom said. “We are the ones who have been pushing this the hardest.”
Streaming services must pay a majority of their revenues to rights holders, a business model that has left Pandora and Spotify struggling to turn a profit. But Amazon can afford to take a loss on music streaming, and the boost to Prime is well worth it, analysts say.
The premium music service, following the release of a standalone video service, suggests Amazon will increasingly offer basic media options through Prime while selling additional subscriptions for consumers who want to go deeper, said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research.
Sony Corp jumped into the race for virtual reality (VR) dominance with the $399 PlayStation VR, a headset the Japanese electronics group hopes will beat pricier rivals and revive its reputation as a maker of must-have gadgets.
Emerging from years of restructuring, Sony is reshaping itself to focus on lucrative areas such as video games, entertainment and camera sensors – rather than televisions or smartphones where demand is flat, competition acute and margins thin. The games unit is now the single largest profit contributor for the group.
The PlayStation VR headset, Sony’s first major product launch since it declared its turnaround complete in June, will put the company back on the offensive and test its ability to compete in one of the most talked-about spaces in the industry.
Rival offerings in virtual reality headsets include Facebook Inc’s $599 Oculus Rift and HTC Corp’s $799 Vive.
Sony hopes to lure in customers with its more modest price tag and by tapping the 40 million existing users of its flagship consoles – the headset is designed to plug into PlayStation 4, rather than requiring new equipment.
“Sony is well-positioned to build an early lead in the high-end VR headset race,” market researcher IHS Technology said in a report, forecasting sales of 1.4 million units in 2016.
Sony, developer of the Walkman portable cassette player and maker of the first compact disc player, hopes the headset will be a springboard to pull ahead of rivals in VR, gelling with the content portion of its business, specifically music and film.
In an interview with Reuters in September, Andrew House, Sony’s gaming division chief, said he was already in talks with media production companies to explore possibilities for Sony’s VR headset.
“We are talking about years into the future, but these are interesting conversations to start having now,” House said.
Sony, however, will compete in a crowded market. Nomura analysts expect cumulative shipments of all VR headsets to expand more than 20 times to 40 million by 2020, which along with accessories and other non-game content could be worth $10 billion.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said last week the Oculus business will spend $500 million to fund VR content development and is working on an affordable standalone VR headset not tethered to personal computers or consoles.