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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.

 

Apple Seeking Exclusive Streaming Deals With Musicians

April 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc has reached out to more than a dozen musicians, including British band Florence and the Machine, hoping to sign exclusive deals for some of their music to be streamed on Beats, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company is in talks with Florence and the Machine to give Apple limited streaming rights to a track from their album set to be released in June, Bloomberg said.

Apple has also approached Taylor Swift and others about partnerships, the report said.

Apple declined to comment.

Beats Music will be re-launched in coming months. There will be a $9.99-a-month subscription for individuals and a family plan for $14.99, according to sources, Bloomberg said.

Music streaming service Tidal, launched last month by rapper Jay Z, is also trying to convince artists to sign exclusive deals for their content, to fend off competition from services such as Spotify and Google Inc’s YouTube.

Apple bought audio equipment and music streaming company Beats for about $3 billion in May 2014, hoping to catch up in fast-growing music streaming industry.

 

 

Toshiba And SanDisk To Launch 48-Layer 3D Flash Chip

March 31, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Toshiba has announced the world’s first 48-layer Bit Cost Scalable (BiCS) flash memory chip.

The BiCS is a two-bit-per-cell, 128Gb (16GB) device with a 3D-stacked cell structure flash that improves density and significantly reduces the overall size of the chip.

Toshiba is already using 15nm dies so, despite the layering, the finished product will be competitively thin.

24 hours after the first announcement, SanDisk made one of its own regarding the announcement. The two companies share a fabrication plant and usually make such announcements in close succession.

“We are very pleased to announce our second-generation 3D NAND, which is a 48-layer architecture developed with our partner Toshiba,” said Dr Siva Sivaram, executive vice president of memory technology at SanDisk.

“We used our first generation 3D NAND technology as a learning vehicle, enabling us to develop our commercial second-generation 3D NAND, which we believe will deliver compelling storage solutions for our customers.”

Samsung has been working on its own 3D stacked memory for some time and has released a number of iterations. Production began last May, following a 10-year research cycle.

Moving away from the more traditional design process, the BiCS uses a ‘charge trap’ which stops electrons leaking between layers, improving the reliability of the product.

The chips are aimed primarily at the solid state drive market, as the 48-layer stacking process is said to enhance reliability, write speed and read/write endurance. However, the BiCS is said to be adaptable to a number of other uses.

All storage manufacturers are facing a move to 3D because, unless you want your flash drives very long and flat, real estate on chips is getting more expensive per square inch than a bedsit in Soho.

Micron has been talking in terms of 3D NAND since an interview with The INQUIRER in 2013 and, after signing a deal with Intel, has predicted 10TB in a 2mm chip by the end of this year.

Production of the chips will roll out initially from Fab 5 before moving in early 2016 to Fab 2 at the firm’s Yokkaichi Operations plant.

This is in stark contrast to Intel, which mothballed its Fab 42 chip fabrication plant in Chandler, Arizona before it even opened, as the semiconductors for computers it was due to produce have fallen in demand by such a degree.

The Toshiba and Sandisk BiCS chips are available for sampling from today.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Alibaba, BMG Sign Music Distribution Deal

March 31, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Germany’s BMG music rights company announced that it has signed a music digital distribution deal with China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, as the world’s largest e-commerce giant firms up its bid to become a digital media empire.

The deal, one of the first in China made by a major music publisher rather than a label, will bring more than 2.5 million copyrights to Alibaba, whose music platforms already had many of the songs from artists including Kylie Minogue, the Rolling Stones and Jean-Michael Jarre, an Alibaba spokeswoman said.

Alibaba has set its eyes on becoming an online-media powerhouse, with music, film and television. The $210-billion firm has touted the potential for selling digital products as well as physical products in China, despite the country’s track record of users not paying for media content.

In the process, it is vying with Tencent Holdings Ltd, China’s biggest social networking and online entertainment firm, and search leader Baidu Inc and its online video unit, iQiyi.

For BMG, the tie-up is both a chance to boost earnings by its artists in China and part of its attempt to “grow the legitimate music market in China”, the company said.

BMG last November linked up with Chinese independent company Giant Jump to manage publishing and recording rights both at home and overseas.

Alibaba’s Digital Entertainment arm will “promote BMG writers and artists through channels such as its streaming apps Xiami and TTPod” and “monitor and take action against digital and mobile services who may infringe the rights of BMG clients,” the subsidiary of Bertelsmann AG, Europe’s largest media company, said in a statement.

“Internet and particular mobile media are quickly providing an answer to the music industry’s long-time challenge of how to monetize the vast untapped potential of the Chinese market,” BMG Chief Executive Hartwig Masuch said in Monday’s statement.

 

Poll Reveals Most Americans Not Interested In Buying Apple Watch

March 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc’s new smartwatch may face headwinds wooing consumers, with 69 percent of Americans indicating they are not interested in buying the gadget, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

However, the survey also showed limited awareness of the watch. The poll was taken after Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook debuted the product last week, and only about half of respondents said they had heard news of the timepiece in the last few days.

Also, in an encouraging sign for Apple, roughly 13 percent of survey respondents who did not own an iPhone said that they would consider buying one in order to buy an Apple Watch, which needs an iPhone to work fully.

Apple overcame skepticism about the iPad and iPod when they first debuted, but the survey suggests that the world’s largest technology company has work to do to make the watch ubiquitous.

The new watch, a test of Cook’s leadership, is the company’s first new product in five years, and it hits stores on April 24.

It allows users to check email, listen to music and make phone calls from their wrist. Apple will sell various versions, from a $349 ‘sport’ edition to a $17,000 18-karat gold timepiece.

Ipsos surveyed 1,245 Americans online between March 9 and March 13. The data was weighted to reflect the U.S. population and has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the poll.

More than half of respondents, 52 percent, agreed with the statement that smartwatches are a “passing fad.”

One-quarter of respondents said they were interested in purchasing the Apple Watch, but 69 percent said they had no desire, and 6 percent said they were unsure.

Initial demand for the watch is expected to come primarily from existing iPhone users, but its wider success is seen depending on whether developers create enticing apps tailored to the device, so-called killer apps.