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Will Toshiba Totally Focus On NAND?

January 27, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Toshiba is getting out the processor business so that it can concentrate on making memory as it tries to recover from its $1.3 billion accounting scandal.

The Japanese press has suggested that Toshiba has  interest in part of its chip making business from the Development Bank of Japan. The state-owned bank has already invested in Seiko’s semiconductor operations.

Toshiba is keeping its  NAND flash memory operations and will chuck some of the money it has not got into improving production.

What will be sold is its LSI and discrete chips, which are widely used in cars, home appliances and industrial machinery.  In fact it is one of the few companies trying to get out of the automotive industry.  Some of this is because Tosh has not made much money out of it. This division lost $2.78 billion in the year ended March 2015.

Following the accounting scandal, Toshiba has been focusing on nuclear and other energy operations, as well as its storage business, which centers on NAND flash memory chips.



Verizon Announces Sponsored Data Program

January 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon has announced a sponsored data service named FreeBee Data, which offers mobile users toll-free data either via gigabytes or on a per-click basis.

One of the models, called FreeBee Data 360, is available in beta starting Tuesday. Under the plan, content providers can give some or all their mobile content to consumers via an app or mobile website on a per gigabyte basis without using up a consumer’s data plan.

The other model of FreeBee Data, which goes into beta on Jan. 25, allows a content provider to sponsor specific consumer actions, such as watching a mobile video clip, listening to an audio stream or downloading an app. Content providers are charged on a per-click basis, but the data is free to users. The broad outline of the service is described for businesses on Verizon’s website.

Verizon said per-click participants so far include Hearst Magazines, AOL and Gameday. They will sponsor some free mobile content for 1,000 test subscribers. A commercial version is coming later in 2016.

Verizon described the advantages to content providers as offering the ability to build smarter mobile marketing campaigns. For consumers, access to content and other data, either per click or for an entire app or website, will be free.

AT&T announced a similar sponsored data program in October called Data Perks, which allows customers the ability to accumulate up to 1 GB of free data per billing period. Customers accumulate free data by clicking on special offers from companies like Fandango, Hotel Tonight, Rosetta Stone and others.

The concept of sponsored data has raised concerns from net neutrality supporters who question whether the services violate the spirit of an open Internet. However, supporters of sponsored data say it won’t cost anything to explore the marketing offers and claim the sponsored traffic is not prioritized over other Internet traffic.



Mark Zuckerberg Turns Focus To Building AI Assistant

January 5, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Mark Zuckerberg intends on building an artificially intelligent assistant in 2016 to help run his home and assist him at work, the Facebook Inc  founder and chief executive said on Sunday.

Zuckerberg, who commits to a new personal challenge every year, revealed his plan in a Facebook post.

“You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man,” Zuckerberg wrote, referring to an artificially intelligent butler who appears in the Marvel comic books and movies.

Zuckerberg will start the project by exploring existing technology, he wrote. He will then begin teaching the technology to understand his voice so that it will learn to control everything in his home, such as music, lights and temperature.

His plans also include teaching the assistant to let friends into his home by looking at their faces when they ring the doorbell, Zuckerberg wrote. The assistant will visualize data to support Zuckerberg at work, he wrote.

“This should be a fun intellectual challenge to code this for myself,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn over the course of the year.”

Other challenges Zuckerberg has taken on in recent years have included reading two books every month and learning Mandarin.



Will Samsung Make Chips For AMD?

December 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung will make chips for AMD, if rumors circulating in Seoul are anything to go by.

A report in South Korea’s Electronic Times, which cited unknown sources, said that Samsung Electronics will start making new chips for AMD sometime next year.

The paper’s contacts claimed that the deal will see Samsung’s foundry business and California semiconductor foundry GlobalFoundries join forces to start producing a central processing chip as well as a graphics processing chip using 14nm technology.

Samsung and AMD were not available for comment.

Samsung already makes chips for Apple and Nvidia, but extending its services to AMD would give its components businesses a boost in an attempt to offset the earnings decline in recent quarters for the firm’s smartphone division.

Samsung has been busy building up its chip business this year in an attempt to make it stronger in other areas rather than just consumer tech. The firm revealed earlier this year that it will soon begin production of a 10nm FinFET node, and that the chip will be in full production by the end of 2016.

The 10nm process targets a wide range of markets and will deliver “significant power, area and performance advantages” when it hits devices, according to Samsung.

This is expected to be at around the same time as rival TSMC. More detailed specs regarding the chips are unknown at this stage.

“This is one of the biggest positive steps for the industry in the last few years. It shows that Samsung sets these very aggressive goals, and may not hit them exactly but will be very close,” said Handel Jones, CEO at analyst firm International Business Strategies.

He added that it will be “hugely disruptive” if Samsung can achieve 10nm.



Apple Shutters Twitter Data Analzying Service Topsy

December 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc has decided to shutter its Topsy Labs unit, which specialized in analyzing Twitter data and providing insights into current sentiment on a variety of topics, and the move prompted an outcry from many of its users.

The website for the platform currently directs users to an Apple support page. On Tuesday night, Topsy sent out its last tweet from its ‏@Topsy account: “We’ve searched our last tweet.”

Apple acquired Topsy in December 2013 for more than $200 million, an unusual purchase for a hardware-focused company that has made few forays into social networking. An Apple spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

San Francisco-based Topsy was one of Twitter’s early partners, enjoying direct access to the messaging service’s billions of tweets over several years. It has indexed them all to make them readily and rapidly searchable.

“What the heck! Gone too soon,” wrote Twitter user Doyan Wilfred (@ThinkDoyan) on Wednesday.

Adrian Parker (@adrianparker), another Twitter user, wrote: “Heartbreak. Topsy was my secret Twitter weapon (Tweapon?)”

Former employees of Topsy also took to social media to express their sadness.

“RIP (rest in peace) Topsy” Rishab Aiyer Ghosh (@r2g2), one of the four founders of the company, tweeted on Tuesday night.

Topsy employee Paul Gerard Porter (@paul_g_porter) tweeted: “What an incredible run we had – I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Topsy team #endofanera.”

Before the Topsy acquisition, Apple’s main effort in social media had revolved around Ping, a music-centered social sharing network that was at one point integrated into the company’s iTunes app. The service, which lets users post music tracks they liked to a news feed, did not catch on and was shut down.


Soundbrenner Debuts Wearable Devices For Musicians

December 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Soundbrenner is a company born directly from the music scene. A company made up of musicians, Soundbrenner came together to explore what wearable technology would look like when applied to the music industry.

What they came up with was the Soundbrenner Pulse, a deceptively simple device that musicians wear on their body to replace the need for a metronome. At its simplest, the Soundbrenner Pulse is a wearable that enables musicians to feel the desired beat on their skin. Like the old-fashioned metronome, this allows musicians to play a steady, pre-defined tempo. But unlike a metronome, the Pulse isn’t an audible device, and neither is it constrained to a still and quiet environment. Because the Pulse works by transmitting a vibration to the wearer, it works within the context of a noisy rock concert just as well as it does in a practice room.

The Soundbrenner team went to China to design the device and managed to find some high-performance haptic vibration motors that they say delivers haptic feedback up to six times stronger than vibrational alerts commonly found in today’s smartphones and smartwatches. First launched as a crowdfunding campaign, Soundbrenner raised $500,000 in seed funding and plans to have commercial delivery of units by early next year.

But Soundbrenner is more than just a vibrating wearable — it is also a truly connected and connectable device. The Bluetooth-enabled wearable can be paired with smartphones, tablets and Macs to offer multi-player synchronization and to program advanced rhythms. In a concert setting, all band musicians can wear a device that has the exact same tempo, and they can ensure they all play perfectly in time.

The company is distributed with production and logistics in Hong Kong to tap into Chinese manufacturing resources. Software development continues in Berlin while a new Los Angeles office is designed to create an entry point into the all-important U.S. music scene.



Is Toshiba Going To Split?

December 1, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Troubled Japanese outfit Toshiba is considering splitting off part of its chip business in a bid to help it raise the cash it lost on its accounting scandal.

Toshiba needs a restructuring after revealing a number of unprofitable businesses which were hidden by some creative accounting. It agreed in October to sell its image sensor business to Sony. However it has been placed on a Tokyo Stock Exchange watch list and the outfit faces difficulty raising funds through the sale of shares or bonds.

Chief executive Masashi Muromachi told a news conference he was considering flogging every asset possible. NAND flash memory chips was a core business and would not be sold, which effectively leaves system LSI and discrete chips as options to split off.

The semiconductor business requires continuous investment to maintain its competitiveness against rivals such as Samsung Electronics and the thought is that when the bank manager is not returning your calls it is best to cut back on it. Some of Toshiba’s chips end up under the bonnet of the smartphones designed by the fruity cargo cult Apple.

Tosh already announced that it was flogging of its Malaysian chip assembly unit to US-based Amkor Technology as part of its strategy to consolidate chip operations. At the time it hinted of a big restructuring, but not an actual sell off its chipmaking empire.



Apple Pulling The Plug On Beats Music

November 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple is dropping the ax on Beats Music on Nov. 30, shortly after launching the beta of an Android app for its Apple Music streaming service.

The company is now encouraging both Android and iOS users of Beats Music to transition to the Apple Music streaming service, which was launched by the company in June.

After the launch of the Apple Music app for Android phones, it has become easier for Apple to do the inevitable – shut down Beats Music, transition Android users and focus on Apple Music.

“All the pros that curated music for you are still crafting more amazing experiences,” wrote executive Dale Bagwell on a Beats support page. “Plus, on Apple Music, you’ll get even better recommendations based on music you already listen to and love, 24/7 global radio with Beats 1, exciting material from your favorite artist, and more.”

Beats Music subscriptions will be cancelled on Nov. 30, but users have the option to move their picks and preferences over to Apple Music, he added.

The company also provided detailed instructions for users moving from Beat Music to Apple Music on the support page. Apple had said earlier it was no longer accepting new subscriptions for Beats Music and recommended to users to move their current Beats subscriptions over to Apple Music.

Apple unveiled in June the subscription music service, which is priced at US$10 a month with a family service also available for up to six family members for $15 per month. The subscription rates vary in some countries.

The service offers a three-month free trial. Unlike some of its rivals, Apple Music doesn’t offer free music supported by advertisements.



T-Mobile Threatens ‘Data Thieves’

September 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile USA is on a mission to stop data thieves, which it says are taking advantage of the company’s unlimited high-speed data plan through excessive tethering — the use of smartphone data service on other devices.

The carrier offers unlimited 4G LTE on smartphones, but limits data usage through tethering to 7GB a month under a Smartphone Mobile HotSpot feature, which reduces speed beyond that limit. If a customer needs more LTE tethering, he or she can add on more.

But CEO John Legere has accused some users of “hacking” the system to swipe high-speed tethered data, by strategies like downloading apps that hide their tether usage, rooting their phones or writing code to mask their activity.

“It’s a small group — 1/100 of a percent of our 59 million customers — but some of them are using as much as 2 terabytes (2,000GB!) of data in a month,” Legere wrote.

“I’m not sure what they are doing with it — stealing wireless access for their entire business, powering a small cloud service, providing broadband to a small city, mining for bitcoin — but I really don’t care!,” he added.

Legere said the company was going first after the 3,000 users who know exactly what they are doing, as they can compromise the network experience for other T-Mobile customers. The company claims to have developed technology that can detect the people who choose to break its terms and conditions.

Erring customers will be warned, and then lose access to the company’s unlimited 4G LTE smartphone data plan, and be moved to an entry-level limited 4G LTE data plan, according to a support page.



HP Moves To Lower The Price Of SSDs

August 31, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

HP has become the second major player to bring an “affordable all-flash array” to market with new additions to the HP 3PAR StoreServ range.

The new 8000 series consists of a Starter Kit (20800 AFA) and software updates for the full StoreServ range, and HP can now offer multi-petabyte systems offering 3.2 million IOPS with scale out from two to eight controllers and proven tier-1 resiliency.

“Regardless of your size, budget, growth rate, quality of service requirements or even your storage network environment, HP 3PAR StoreServ storage offers a best-in-class flash solution to power your public, private or hybrid cloud with uncompromising adaptability from a single architecture,” said Manish Goel, senior vice president and general manager of HP Storage.

HP has also announced additions to the existing 20000 range, including a 20800 All-Flash Starter Kit clocking in at $99,000, and the 20450, a 6PB all-flash array with 1.8 million IOPS.

Using these products together can create up to 60PB of aggregate usable capacity. Both ranges offer the same hardware acceleration from the HP 3PAR Gen5 Thin Express ASIC, which offers double the bandwidth of competing platforms and up to 20GBps of read bandwidth.

Both ranges are now also certified for use in SAP HANA Tailored Data Centre Integrations. Priority Optimisation can bring latencies as low as 0.5 milliseconds through a QoS engine that requires almost no interaction from system admins.

This is just part of an aggressive strategy in cheap, scalable enterprise storage. In April the company launched the Openstack based StoreVirtual range.

HP has also announced data protection enhancements to the 3PAR StoreServ powered by StoreOnce Recovery Manager Central, offering complete granular recovery of backups taken incrementally based only on changed data to minimise resources.

Finally, Fibre customers can use the new HP SmartSAN, which uses Express Provisioning Technology to orchestrate SAN fabric zoning, reducing the process of SAN configuration by 80 percent.

The products are designed to be a little more robust than SanDisk’s InfiniFlash, which is designed for no more than a few writes of archiving, and the price tag goes up accordingly starting at $19,000, but it’s still a significant drop in price for all-flash and hybrid flash arrays.

An eight-node enterprise flash family with density equivalent to a mechanical drive array starts at $1.50 per gigabyte, based on its predecessor line. That’s a big drop given the speed advantages that could pay for itself in certain sectors.

The products will be rolling out over the next few months starting with the StoreServ 8000 which will be available immediately. More products will be available next month, and RMC-V brings up the rear in October.


Samsung Going HBM 2 In 2016

August 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) will define the future of graphics and it looks like Samsung will be ready to release products using the technology soon.

Our friends at Computerbase have broken the story about Samsung making High Bandwidth Memory HBM 2 memory. HBM 2.0 will find its way to HPC and Graphics cards in 2016 and Samsung expects that by 2017 this super-fast type of memory will reach the network market.  The plan is to see HBM 2.0 mainstream by 2018.

Our well placed, camera shy sources within the computer graphics industry have confirmed that SK Hynix and Samsung will be providing the memory for graphics cards in 2016. Hynix has started shipping the first generation HBM to AMD for its Fury X products and has a head start over Samsung.

Usually Samsung doesn’t fall that far behind and is quick to learn. We hear that both companies are competing for graphics cards designs in the 2016.

AMD has the Greenland high end GPU lined up while Nvidia has pinned its hopes in its first ever High Bandwidth Memory 2.0 product codenamed Pascal.

The second generation HBM offers 8Gb per DRAM die, 2Gbps speed per pin, 256 GB/s bandwidth and Four Hi Stack of 4GB or 8 Hi Stacks of 8GB per chip.

HBM2 means that there can be cards with four HBM 2.0 chips, 4GB per chip, or four HBM 2.0 chips with 8GB per chip. This results in 16GB and 32GB cards. This sounds like an appropriate amount of memory for high end GPU in 2016.

It was naive to believe reports that AMD will have SK Hynix love since it had a head start with the Fiji codenamed Fury X branded cards. Nvidia has close to 80 percent of the market, memory manufacturers including SK Hynix or Samsung cannot ignore that. They are in the business of making money.



Memory Chips Appear To Be Dropping In Sales

August 21, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The production value of memory chips in Korea fell by a percent on the previous quarter, affected mainly by a low bit growth of DRAM and NAND flash chips from SK Hynix.

Beancounters at Digitimes Research said that sales totaled US$12 billion in the second quarter of 2015, increasing 1 per cent from the previous quarter,

Server-use DRAM products became the primary product line for SK Hynix for the first time in the second quarter as sales of its PC-use DRAM chips suffered a significant decline compared to a quarter earlier.

Price reductions of PC DRAM chips were greater than market expectations in the second quarter due to an oversupply in the market, affecting sales performance of SK Hynix.

Samsung was less affected by declining PC DRAM prices because mobile DRAM products accounted for 35 per cent of its total DRAM income.

Samsung memory and semiconductor revenues hit a record high in the second quarter.

For the third quarter, the bit growth rates of NAND flash shipments at Samsung will rise 10 per cent and SK Hynix will increase 13 per cent on quarter.

SK Hynix will manage a five to eight per cent growth while Samsung is expected to see shipments of its DRAM chips grow 12-14 per cent.

Digitimes Researcher flipped their iChing coins and came to the conclusion that Korea’s memory products are expected to increase 3 per cent on quarter and 12 per cent on year in the third quarter of 2015.


Verizon Gearing Up For Super-fast 10Gbps Broadband

August 14, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Verizon engineers recently completed lab and field tests of a new fiber optic network capable of 10Gbps, or 10 times the speed of Google Fiber and some other currently-available networks.

A popular Verizon FIOS service now offering 75Mbps speeds can transfer a two-hour HD movie in 17 minutes; the new 10Gbps network can transfer the same movie in just 8 seconds, according to Shweta Jain, a FIOS engineer at Verizon. She spoke in a Verizon video to announce the successful testing.

Verizon hasn’t said where the service will first be offered and at what cost. The company will seek proposals for equipment and software later this year to support commercial development.

Both residential and business customers will benefit. Businesses gain the advantage of greater reliability since data will move over multiple channels in a single fiber optic cable, Verizon said. The technology has the capability of growing to as much as 80Gbps by simply adding new colors of light onto the existing fiber, each color augmenting the capacity by 10Gbps.

Fiber optic transmissions are limited only by the equipment on either end of a connection. In the recent tests, Verizon used equipment from Cisco and PT Invacao.

The field test was recently completed from Verizon’s central office in Framingham, Mass. to a FIOS customer’s home three miles away, as well as to a nearby business location. Lab testing was done in Waltham, Mass.

Verizon officials said the new technology, known as NG-PON2 (next generation passive optical network) could become an industry standard.

While Verizon FIOS faces competition from Google, AT&T and others, a spokesman said Verizon’s research is designed to prepare for the adoption of 4K video content and the expansion of the Internet of Things, with 25 billion Internet-connected devices expected in five years. “Our mission is to future-proof the network,” said spokesman Philip Santoro in an interview.




Samsung Rolls Out 256Gb V-NAND

August 13, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung has started mass producing what it claims is “the industry’s first” 256Gb 3D Vertical NAND, or V-NAND, in a race with the likes of Intel, Micron, Toshiba and SanDisk to become the industry’s flash memory champion.

Based on 48 layers of three-bit multi-level cell (MLC) arrays for use in solid state drives (SSDs), Samsung’s 256Gb 3D V-NAND flash doubles the density of conventional 128Gb NAND flash chips.

The new V-NAND chip consists of cells that use the same 3D Charge Trap Flash structure in which the cell arrays are stacked vertically to form a 48-story mass that is connected electrically through some 1.8 billion channel holes, punching through the arrays thanks to a special etching technology.

Samsung said that each chip contains over 85.3 billion cells, which can store three bits of data each, resulting in 256 billion bits of data in total, “in other words, 256Gb on a chip no larger than the tip of a finger”.

A 48-layer three-bit MLC 256Gb V-NAND flash chip delivers more than a 30 percent reduction in power compared with a 32-layer, three-bit MLC, 128Gb V-NAND chip when storing the same amount of data.

The new chip also achieves approximately 40 percent more productivity over its 32-layer predecessor during production, bringing greatly enhanced cost competitiveness to the SSD market while mainly using existing equipment.

In addition to enabling 256Gb, or 32GB, of memory storage on a single die, the firm’s new chip is said to double the capacity of Samsung’s existing SSD line-ups, providing a better resolution for multi-terabyte SSDs.

“With the introduction of our third-generation V-NAND flash memory to the global market, we can now provide the best advanced memory solutions, with even higher efficiency based on improved performance, power use and manufacturing productivity, thereby accelerating growth of the high-performance and the high-density SSD markets,” said Young-Hyun Jun, president of Samsung’s memory business.

“By making full use of Samsung V-NAND’s excellent features, we will expand our premium-level business in the enterprise and data centre market segments, as well as in the consumer market, while continuing to strengthen our strategic SSD focus.”

Samsung introduced the second-generation V-NAND chips a year ago, which consisted of a 32-layer three-bit MLC, and has patted itself on the back for ushering in the next generation “in just one year”.

The Korean chip maker plans to produce third-generation V-NAND throughout the remainder of 2015 in a bid to accelerate the adoption of terabyte-level SSDs. Samsung also plans to increase its high-density SSD sales for the enterprise and data centre storage markets with PCIe NVMe and SAS interfaces.

The announcement comes just days after Toshiba and SanDisk started production of the first 48-layer Bit Cost Scalable (BiCS) flash memory chip.

The joint venture, announced in March, will begin pilot production of BiCS, a two bit per cell, 128Gb (16GB) device with a 3D-stacked cell structure flash, in the second half of this year as planned.

BiCS is said to improve density and significantly reduce the overall size of the chip, and uses a ‘charge trap’ that stops electrons leaking between layers, improving the reliability of the product.

Toshiba is already using 15nm dies so, despite the layering, the finished product will be competitively thin and is expected to find its way into the usual suspects, including consumer and enterprise SSD drives, smartphones, tablets and memory cards.

Intel and Micron also announced big plans in memory for the year ahead. The firms have promised to deliver 3D NAND flash memory that has three times the capacity of that currently on the market, which is sampling now and is said to allow for up to 10TB SSDs in a standard 2.5in format.


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. 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.