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.
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.
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.
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.
T-Mobile added a net 2.1 million customers in the three months ended Dec. 31.
The company’s average revenue per postpaid user fell marginally to $48.05 in the fourth quarter from $48.26 a year earlier, mainly due to promotions.
T-Mobile said it expects to add a net 2.4 million to 3.4 million branded postpaid customers in 2016, compared with the 4.5 million it added in 2015.
T-Mobile has rolled out a series of initiatives in the past three years to attract customers from bigger rivals Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc, including free music and video streaming and lower-priced plans with phone leasing and data rollover offers.
T-Mobile said in November it would give customers a new option to stream video from services such as Netflix Inc , on their mobile devices without having it count against their data plans.
Net income nearly tripled to $297 million, or 34 cents per share, in the quarter from $101 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier.
Total revenue rose 1.1 percent to $8.25 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $8.20 billion.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 www.topsy.com 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 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.
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.
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 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 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.