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T-Mobile Seen As Next Target Of A Merger

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

t-mobile-binge-on-150x150T-Mobile US Inc is the likeliest acquisition target as media giants partner up wireless carriers following AT&T Inc’s proposed $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc, analysts said.

AT&T announced the deal late on Saturday, stoking urgency in the telecoms and media sectors, where carriers facing a saturated wireless market are looking for content to attract mobile users and producers of shows and movies are seeking digital distribution.

T-Mobile took most of the wireless industry’s subscriber and revenue growth in the third quarter. Its strong balance sheet and fast-growing wireless business makes it an attractive target for a pay-TV or media company, analysts said.

T-Mobile shares jumped 9.5 percent on Monday after it announced third-quarter financial results. At least nine analysts raised their target price on the No. 3 wireless company, which said it added 851,000 postpaid subscribers in the quarter.

T-Mobile has taken market share from bigger rivals Verizon and AT&T, and that momentum is expected to continue, analysts said.

“The takeout target over the next twelve months has got to be T-Mobile,” New Street Research analyst Spencer Kurn said. Potential buyers include Comcast Corp, satellite-TV provider Dish Network Corp, and Mexican telecom company America Movil, analysts said.

Comcast and Dish declined to comment. America Movil could not be immediately reached for comment.

“Content of all kind is rapidly landing on the internet and the internet itself is rapidly transforming toward mobile,” T-mobile Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert told Reuters.

T-Mobile is “very interested” in exploring strategic opportunities, he said.

Sprint Corp, which is aggressively working towards reviving its wireless business, is another takeout candidate, analysts said.

Sprint received more calls than usual from bankers over the weekend after the AT&T-Time Warner deal was announced, Chief Executive Marcelo Claure said on an earnings call on Tuesday.

“Our strategic value to many has significantly grown,” he added.

Samsung’s 8GB mini-DRAM Going Mobile

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-sdramWe should start seeing 8GB appearing as standard in flagship mobile phones soon thanks to Samsung’s new silicon that packs 8GB of DRAM in a single tiny package.

The RAM uses LPDDR4 technology and the 10 nm process. The arrival of 64-bit processors has allowed phone RAM to increase beyond 4GB but few manufacturers could be bothered. Even Samsung passed on it. However, now it seems that with the new generation of RAM Samsung thinks it is worthwhile and will be jumping directly from 4 to 8GB by next year.

LPDDR4 is currently the fastest type of low power memory in the mobile market. Samsung says it is the same as PC-class DDR4 RAM and has twice the speed, operating at 4,266 Mbps, versus the PC’s 2,133 Mbps.

By using 10 nm processing, the DRAM only takes up 15 x 15 x 1 mm and can be stacked above or under other chips. While we can’t see the point of the technology in mobile phones, it does make a lot of sense in tablets.

While Samsung has hinted that it is going to release the technology on the mobile world, by the end of the year so we should see next year’s flagship models with 8Gb next year.


Is TSMC Going For Qualcomm?

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

TSMC thinks that it can win back Qualcomm’s chip business with its 7nm process technology, but has all but given up expecting it to return for 10nm.

Qualcomm was once TSMC’s biggest customer until 14nm came along and it placed orders with Samsung instead. Qualcomm reportedly reached a deal with Samsung under which Samsung would make the Snapdragon 820 chips in exchange for Samsung using Qualcomm’s chips in its flagship smartphone devices.

Apparently Samsung swung a similar deal with Qualcomm for its 10nm chips in exchange for Qualcomm supplying the chips for Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S8. TSMC worked out it would not get the deal when Qualcomm did not tape out Snapdragon 830 chips on TSMC’s 10nm FinFET process.

TSMC will remain the sole provider of A11 chips for Apple. Other TSMC 10nm customers include MediaTek, HiSilicon and Xilinx.

But according to Digitimes TSMC thinks its 7nm will woo Qualcomm back into the fold, although it is not clear why this would be the case. After all, Samsung only has to negotiate another deal for its next generation of smartphone and assuming it does not catch fire, Qualcomm will be quids in.


Will Virtual Reality Go The Way Of 3D?

October 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-virtual-re-reVR startup Survios proudly announced last month that its futuristic co-op shooter Raw Data became the first VR title to generate revenues of $1 million in the span of a month. Steam Spy data showed that more than 33,000 people had purchased the $40 game, which is still in Early Access. That $1 million in revenues, however, brings up the million-dollar question: When $1 million represents the peak of success, how can VR developers actually make a living in this VR ecosystem?

Survios is in the enviable position of having raised $4 million from Shasta Ventures a couple years ago, when the studio was working on Project Holodeck. Without that money, working towards AAA on VR platforms like HTC Vive would be infinitely harder. That said, with claims of an attach rate of more than 20% for Raw Data, Survios believes it’s in a prime position to thrive in a AAA VR market as the installed base grows.

“The attach rate that we’ve had to the installed base, if we look 12 months down the road, 18 months down the road, where we believe the installed base will be, if the attach rate is even a fraction of what we currently have then we have a very sustainable business,” Hewish says.

“Price and reviews puts everything on the consumers’ shoulders but if there was some sort of designation, some way for the stores to designate that this is a full game or an experience, it would help the industry avoid consumer frustration”

“For us, we’re really taking a bit of a longer view when it comes to the business. We’re very fortunate that we have great backers, that we’re funded well enough to take a longer view. Our goal, if you’re looking at the existing console business or PC business or mobile business, those are all mature businesses where the objective for any developer or studio is revenue because you can have a fairly predictable outcome. If you put X amount of funding in and you can have a certain quality bar, you’re going to recoup your costs. It becomes much more important about being on time, on budget – it’s much more of a mature business model. With VR my point of view is it’s a new market and we are not at a point yet where it can sustain AAA development but we will get there.”

With that in mind, Hewish believes that it’s critical for Survios to “stake its claim” as a AAA VR studio now. He says that a lot of studios have struggled with having to make what are essentially demos, or more casual experiential titles instead of full-game efforts, because of the economics of VR. “There definitely is a tug and pull between those two ends of the spectrum and initially a lot of the discussion and a lot of the awareness was around experiential and short demo experiences. So for me the question was could the market go in that [AAA] direction? [If not] personally I believe the market would peter out,” he continues. “While there are a lot of cool experiences, I don’t think that’s enough to sustain a market or an industry. Being able to see that, while the market’s super nascent, we’re beginning to see AAA games come out and people do want them [is encouraging].”

Survios is eager to see the VR market evolve and hopes it’s part of the developer community that pushes it in exciting and new directions. The studio has a core tenet that it calls “Active VR,” and I can tell while talking to Hewish that he’s quite passionate about it.

“That is certainly central to our thesis. We really want the user to have a very active experience. It’s a key differentiator between this platform and others and it also touches on another thing, which is a soapbox item for me… VR and Active VR, this is an opportunity for the user to really feel heroic and to do things that you could never do in real life. It just kills me that there are games out there just recreating what you can do in real life; to me that’s just a missed opportunity,” he comments.

“I’m not bagging on anybody, I don’t have a specific developer in mind, and this is just an example since I don’t know if anyone’s done this, but why would I want to play chess in VR? I can do that in real life. I want to be heroic, with bad ass abilities and go into environments I could never see in real life and be extremely active in those environments. To me that’s the holy grail of VR, that’s what it offers. Getting that into consumers’ hands is the win for the medium.”

Hewish definitely sees eye-to-eye with Oculus CTO John Carmack on that front. The former id executive recently commented during Oculus Connect that too many VR developers are simply “coasting on novelty,” putting games into VR that don’t necessarily bring any additional value to players for being in VR.

“What he said definitely resonates a lot with me. At the same time, I agree from a business perspective. I saw this when I was working at Dreamworks Animation, when we were working on 3D movies. We were making movies specifically made for 3D so the entire pipeline and production process was different than a traditional 2D animated film, yet a lot of studios across the industry would turn films into 3D in post-production, which really soured the audience because there was a premium price to go view those films. If it wasn’t really made from the get-go for 3D it was a little underwhelming. So from a market and business standpoint that really scares me because we all saw how that played out for film and there’s the potential in VR for that same problem where the consumer gets a little bit burned and walks away from the medium,” Hewish warns.

That being said, Hewish is fully aware of how tough it can be on VR developers at the moment. He doesn’t believe studios are taking shortcuts out of greed, but he would like to see better curation and discoverability on storefronts so that consumer fully understand what they’re downloading, whether a short demo-like experience or a full AAA game.

“I’m not ignorant of the reality that a lot of the developers are in. A lot of people are bootstrapping themselves; it’s a passion play to work with the technology and they just aren’t resourced to build larger games. It’s that tinkerer sort of approach – it’s not that these people hate VR and are trying to destroy the medium, but they are doing what they can with what they have. What I would love to see, which would be on the platform and store holder side, something that would allow the consumer to identify the difference not just solely based on price and reviews. Price and reviews puts everything on the consumers’ shoulders but if there was some sort of designation, some way for the stores to designate that this is a full game or an experience, it would help the industry avoid consumer frustration,” he notes.

Steam has already announced that it’s looking to improve its platform with more targeted surfacing of new releases. That’s a good first step, at least. “It’s just scary – having gone through the mobile days, the moniker the App Store got was the Crap Store and how do we avoid that [with VR]?” Hewish wonders.

Getting back to that million-dollar question, though, what Survios and other VR startups should be encouraged by is that it actually is possible to build compelling VR games without breaking the bank, compared to say the budgets needed for a Call of Duty or GTA.

“One thing that gives me real confidence in VR, which is different from what happened with 3D movies and even more so 3D television… neither one of those mediums had really good content to drive adoption. The content was expensive to create and the size of the market to recoup against that content creation was much, much larger than what we’re looking at with VR. With VR if you can confidently sell even a few hundred thousand units of a premium price point game, you’re going to be able to recoup your money because we’re not talking about productions on the scale of a movie or even a AAA console game like Call of Duty where they’re north of $100 million in development costs let alone marketing,” Hewish says.

That’s all well and good, but what advice does Hewish have for the VR startups that can’t get much if any funding currently? “First and foremost, just be very clear and upfront with the audience when you do release something. There’s nothing wrong [with AA content]… And of course you don’t want the industry to be in a situation where innovation is killed because people feel like if they don’t launch AAA they shouldn’t launch anything,” he says.

Hewish adds that one approach is to actually build your way up towards a full AAA release: “Say in your mind you have a AAA game you want to make and it’s got five core key features but you can’t fund it all at once, so maybe one approach is you release one mechanic at a time as an experience at a lower price point and along the way you’re getting enough income to sustain yourself and you’re building your core engine essentially. So you release five experiences, each one is a low price point, enough to keep you going and allow you to build the next experience and then when you’re done with all of those you’ve got your mechanics to build a bigger game. It’s sort of amortizing your costs across different SKUs. Then lastly, if you’ve got a really great idea and a great demo, there’s no harm in going to someone who might be able to help fund it further and help turn it into a AAA game. We’re going to start seeing the evolution and we already are seeing studios out there that are funding content and publishing.”

Indeed, Survios could become one of those publishers in addition to evolving into a multi-project VR studio. “Something that we’re looking at ourselves is looking at doing third-party publishing across all platforms,” Hewish tells me. “We definitely are working on additional games,” he adds. “The way that we’re built we have our core game studio and then we have our prototype team that’s part of the studio that works on rapid prototypes and iterations of different ideas and mechanics and we have a couple that have really hit and we are ramping up to get into full production on some of those to launch some additional games next year. We absolutely are looking at a portfolio approach to the business.”

Publishing deals and funding exclusives has been one way that Oculus has helped to grow the VR market, enabling some developers to build out more robust games than would have been possible otherwise. Oculus boasted during Oculus Connect that it’s invested $250 million into the ecosystem already and will invest another $250 million on top of that. And while there are many positives around this infusion of capital, Hewish cautions that developers have to think carefully about their studio approach.

“I think it’s one leg of the stool, and it’s important. It certainly doesn’t come without its risks, but I think it can be important in sustaining studios through the initial growth curve of the market. The risk is that as a studio if you’re given a big wad of cash to develop exclusively for one platform and you spend all of that on developing that game, then you don’t have an ongoing revenue stream to get you into the next game, and once the market matures those funds for exclusive content may be harder to get or may shift to go to developers that are proven in AAA, so it’s just a risk,” he advises.

“I would say any studio that does that should be planning, how do they survive after that? Where are they going to get funding next? Or have they put enough aside out of that investment to sustain into the next game when they aren’t getting funded for exclusives? Conversely, they could look to studios that are not doing platform exclusives,” he continues, hinting at Survios’ potential future in publishing. “With an Oculus or someone it might be more a straight work for hire model, fully funding an exclusive title, whereas for us it would be more a publisher model we’re looking at so there would be an ongoing revenue stream for the developer to help them grow.”

“The one thing we know looking back at history, within a couple years the hit genres and the hit content on VR may not be what we think it is currently or there’ll be something new that evolves”

Aside from the economics of development, one critical component that Survios has learned about from being in Early Access is optimization. “Being a startup, we are still trying to play catchup when it comes to having a robust compatibility lab and being able to test across multiple configurations. I hearken back to the day of making games for PCs and you really had to worry about the different configurations and drivers people had running on their machines and that’s really important in VR. We kind of developed on the hardware we had at the time so we’re playing catchup in that regard in terms of getting the performance and the optimization equal across all configurations. I would say going forward for any VR developer, really budgeting extra time for that and communicating to your audience that you’re working on it and engage them to give you feedback so you can optimize properly is pretty important. So we’re now budgeting extra time for optimization and performance into each of our spreads even if it means pushing content out a bit further,” Hewish notes.

Speaking of optimization, while Survios built Raw Data for Vive, the studio is platform agnostic and is working on bringing the game to other VR platforms, but they will have to be optimized against the strengths and weaknesses of each.

“I’ve been in the industry long enough where I’ve seen people just develop for a lead platform and port it across everything and it’s just a crap experience because they just simply get it to run and that kind of approach is not a AAA approach and could kill the market before it even gets going,” Hewish warns.

With that in mind, Raw Data will need special attention for something like PSVR, which doesn’t have the precise tracking of Vive. “We’ll take as long as we need to take to make sure that the experience is great on that platform,” Hewish stresses. “So what you’re saying about the Move and PS4, maybe we’ll do things like adjust the intensity of how quickly the enemies spawn or where they spawn from, or maybe we work on some of the haptics and some of the controls, or maybe we rewrite a little bit of stuff so the motion doesn’t need to be as precise… I’m just throwing stuff out there, not saying we’re actively doing these things. On the Vive we’re trying to get closer to 1:1 movement but maybe on Sony we go for a pattern movement that triggers an animation or something – so to the PSVR player it feels great.”

In the end, Hewish is just excited to be part of the VR revolution. “The one thing we know looking back at history, within a couple years the hit genres and the hit content on VR may not be what we think it is currently or there’ll be something new that evolves,” he says. “Like on mobile, it really brought back strategy games and iterated on those, and puzzle games, which had been around but they evolved to match the medium. VR has that same potential.”

Microsoft’s Cloud Business Continues To Be A Success Story

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

microsoft-building-150x150Microsoft’s continued investment in the cloud paid dividends once again over the past quarter, as strong growth from Azure and Office 365 offset declines in the PC market.

The company announced on Thursday that its quarterly revenue for the three-month period ending in September was flat overall at $20.5 billion. The company’s net profit was down 4 percent year-over-year from $4.9 billion to $4.7 billion.

Those results were driven by quarterly revenue from the company’s Intelligent Cloud segment, which includes Azure and Windows Server, and its Productivity and Business Processes segment, which includes Office 365 and Dynamics. Intelligent Cloud revenue grew 8 percent year-over-year to $6.4 billion, while Productivity and Business Processes segment revenue grew 6 percent to $6.7 billion.

It’s another positive sign for the cloud-focused strategy that the company adopted under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella.

Azure revenue grew by 116 percent year over year, and Microsoft revealed for the first time that its profit margin from its cloud platform is 49 percent. The company continues to keep the exact revenue and profit numbers from its public cloud platform under wraps, however.

Office 365 commercial revenue grew 51 percent year-over-year. Microsoft reported it now has more than 85 million commercial monthly active users of its cloud-based productivity suite as a service offering.

Surface sales were another bright spot for Microsoft. The company’s line of tablets and laptops brought in $926 million over the past quarter, compared to $672 million during the same period in 2015. Phone revenue continued to drag the company down for another quarter, however — revenue from that division dropped by 72 percent year-over-year.

Microsoft’s non-GAAP results of $22.3 billion in revenue and earnings of $0.76 a share blew past analyst expectations for the quarter. The consensus of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters was an expected $21.7 billion in revenue and earnings of $0.68 a share. Investors rejoiced at the news, sending the company’s stock to an all-time high above $60 per share, beating a previous high set in 1999.


Tesla To Get Into Ride-sharing Business

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

tesla-motors-logo-150x150Tesla Motors Inc has plans to introduce a ride share services program and will announce details next year, the luxury electric vehicle maker said on its website, a service first outlined by Chief Executive Elon Musk in his master plan in July.

News of the Tesla Network was in a disclaimer about the self-driving functionality on new Model S vehicles. Musk said last week Tesla is building new vehicles with the necessary hardware to eventually enable full autonomy, although the software is not yet ready.

“Please note that using a self-driving Tesla for car sharing and ride hailing for friends and family is fine, but doing so for revenue purposes will only be permissible on the Tesla Network, details of which will be released next year,” read the disclaimer.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for more detail.

Car makers have rushed to invest in so-called mobility services, hoping to capture the potential trillions of dollars in revenue from selling both vehicles and such on-demand services, while carving out a stake in the industry dominated by Uber.

Barclays analyst Brian Johnson wrote in a note to investors on Thursday that although a Tesla Network could “excite the market” over its potential earnings stream, it was a costly proposition.

“While we think ride-sharing/hailing is the future of mass-market mobility, we have some financial concerns with the idea of an OEM-owned fleet,” Johnson wrote.

Venture capitalists and corporate investors had poured nearly $28 billion into the ride services sector in the past decade as of June, according to a Reuters analysis.

General Motors has made the biggest bet, investing $500 million in Lyft in January. GM’s upcoming electric Chevrolet Bolt was designed expressly with car sharing in mind, executives have told Reuters.

Money-losing Tesla lacks the deep pockets of GM, and ride services companies like Uber and Lyft burn billions of dollars in price wars to secure regional dominance, as occurred with Uber in China before it ceded to local rival Didi Chuxing.

In his “Master Plan, Part Deux” in July, Musk outlined a system in which a Tesla owner could add a car to a shared Tesla fleet using a phone app, allowing it to “generate income for you” and lower the cost of ownership.

Musk said that in cities where car ownership is lower, Tesla would operate its own fleet.

Google Signs Deal With CBS For Web TV Service

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

google-web-tv-150x150Alphabet Inc unit Google has inked a deal with CBS Corp to carry the network on its planned web TV service and is in advanced negotiations with 21st Century Fox and Viacom Inc to distribute its channels, three sources told Reuters.

The service, which will be part of Google’s YouTube Platform, is expected to launch in the first quarter and will include all of CBS’ content, including live NFL games, one of the sources said.

Google’s so-called “skinny bundle,” with fewer channels than a typical cable subscription, will cost $30 to $40 a month, the source said. It was unclear which Fox and Viacom networks would be part of the Google service, two of the sources said.

The sources requested anonymity because the discussions are confidential. A spokesperson for YouTube declined to comment.

Google will be launching into an increasingly crowded market. Dish Network Corp and Sony Corp, which in the past year have launched skinny bundles to appeal to younger viewers who do not want to pay for cable.

And both AT&T Inc and Hulu, the online video service owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast Corp and Time Warner Inc, have streaming television offerings that are expected to go live in the next few months.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, said Google was also in advanced talks with Walt Disney Co.

A representative at Disney was not immediately available for comment. CBS, Viacom and Fox declined to comment.

Google has been talking to media companies about its web TV for years, but its plans have just ramped up over the past few months, one of the sources said. Apple Inc had looked at a similar service but has shelved that plan for the time being, sources had previously told Reuters.


Facebook Continues To Lose Younger Users To Snapchat, Instagram

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

facebook-teens-150x150Facebook has been having a hard time attracting  younger users for several years now and it looks like the problem is getting worse.

According to Piper Jaffray Companies, a recent survey of 10,000 U.S. teenagers showed that 52% used Facebook at least once a month this fall, compared to 60% who used it monthly in the spring.

“Factoring out shifts in the population surveyed, core Facebook usage likely declined by three basis points, which indicates Facebook is gradually becoming less relevant versus Instagram and Snapchat,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research note to investors.

The same survey, however, showed that teen use of Facebook-owned Instagram has gone from 70% to 74% in the same time frame — and rose from 75% to 80% for rival Snapchat.

When asked what their favorite social network was this fall, 35% said Snapchat; 24% said Instagram; and 13% said Twitter and Facebook (which tied for third place).

While older users – say anywhere from 35 to 65 years old – have shown to be loyal Facebook users, the site isn’t pulling in enough users 24 and younger to offset losses as older users die off.

“Well, think about it,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “If Facebook just lost 8% of all teens, that’s millions of users…. Over time, they need to keep the funnel of users coming in on the younger side. I think it creates a huge issue down the road. It’s not likely they can add users that are of older generations. They probably have all they will get from anyone 30 and older.”

Facebook certainly has been working to draw in younger users.

In August, Facebook unveiled its Lifestage stand-alone app. Designed for iOS devices, the app enables teen users to share videos with other people in their schools.

Lifestage was born as a rival to Snapchat and basically a video version of an early stage Facebook.

Also, in March, the company bought face-swapping app Masquerade or MSQRD. The app enables users to dress up their photos and selfies with an Iron Man helmet or a panda outfit.

Facebook hoped that by being able to add special effects to their pics, teens and young adults would be pulled onto Facebook — or at least one of the apps. But so far, at least, those efforts don’t appear to be panning out.

AMD’s Zen To Add More Secure Enterprise Features

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel had been working to bake in security into the chip, but it seems that effort has drawn to a close with the selloff of its security division into a revamped McAfee company. Now AMD appears to be taking up the idea.

AMD has a cunning plan to push its Zen chips into the Enterprise market on the back of its new Secure Memory Encryption (SME) and Secure Encrypted Virtualisation (SEV) security features.

These new functions will help enterprises protect their databases that run on Zen servers and this could be just the edge required to get AMD back onto the corporate buy list.

This sort of tech is really useful on virtualised servers which are used through cloud hosts. This makes them affordable and flexible compared to hosting on a physical server. The virtual servers adjust accordingly the load it receives and no bandwidth is wasted.

Normally virtual servers are insecure because the data can be hacked, but the SME and SEV features will help servers protect the data.

So far Intel has not come up with any of this sort of function for its processors, despite the fact that was predicted when it wrote a big cheque for McAfee. What we are still waiting for is the information as to how the Zen chips will help consumer gamers who are leaning on discrete GPUs.


Qualcomm Plans To Ship 5G Modems In 2018

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

qualcom-bldg-150x1505G networks will be five times as fast as the quickest LTE technology by taking advantage of the highest cellular frequencies ever, according to Qualcomm.

The X50 modem won’t ship until the first half of 2018, and 5G networks aren’t expected to go commercial until 2020. But Qualcomm will have a lot to say about the new technology at its 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong. At the same event, it’s announcing plans around its gigabit-speed X16 LTE modem.

The X50 will offer download speeds as high as 5Gbps (bits per second), where networks support them, using millimeter-wave frequencies and futuristic techniques for beaming signals to devices, according to slides prepared for the 4G/5G Summit. Qualcomm shared the materials in advance.

The X50 initially will use the 28GHz band, which is also the focus of 5G development work at the Verizon 5G Technology Forum and Korea Telecom 5G Special Interest Group. It’s one of several millimeter-wave bands that are widely expected to be used for 5G.

Cellular networks up to now have stayed below 6GHz, because higher frequencies don’t naturally travel as far or go through objects as easily. But a lot more bandwidth is expected to become available in millimeter-wave bands in the coming years. Qualcomm says the X50 will be able to use a combined 800MHz of spectrum, compared with up to 80MHz for the X16.

The future modem will use several emerging techniques to make this work. Key tools are beam-forming and beam-tracking, in which a cell can focus its signal to reach a specific mobile device and then follow that device as it moves around. The X50 will even be able to bounce its signal off hard surfaces in order to get around objects between the cell and the user.

Qualcomm expects the X50 modem to ship to system makers in sample quantities starting in the second half of next year. Combined with a gigabit-speed LTE modem, the X50 will form the basis of dual-mode 4G/5G devices. LTE and 5G are expected to coexist for many years.

Meanwhile, the X16 LTE modem will be coming out in a consumer device in the next few months. The NetGear Mobile Router MR1100, a mobile hotspot that provides a Wi-Fi connection on the go, will be sold by Australian carrier Telstra, Qualcomm announced Tuesday.

Is Qualcomm Moving Toward Iris And Retina World?

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm’s Sy Choundhury, Senior Director of Product Management, talked to the media audience in Hong Kong at the 4G and 5G summit about the security mechanisms and machine learning capabilities of Snapdragon processors. 

He came up with a nice reference when talking about security, saying it is comparable with talking about hygiene. You don’t know where it starts and where it stops and this topic doesn’t get a lot of traffic unless one gets hacked / compromised.

Sy talked about security beyond fingerprint and predicts that eye-based security will happen with a lot of OEM devices next year.

Fingerprint sounds secure and it is good enough for most customers, but it looks like eye-based technologies will take over in more devices over the next year.

Microsoft and HP launched rather low volume Windows-based phones, first with iris-based recognition last year. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was the high volume phone that got positive reviews on iris recognition and security performance.

Unfortunately, Samsung canned the Note 7 due the battery issues but there will be more phones with iris security in the near future. Some companies chose to use the retina recognition, which is interesting as it doesn’t require any additional hardware. While iris recognition needs additional hardware that adds a few dollars to the Bill of Materials (BOM), retina scanning uses the RGB camera that you already have on your phone.

The downside is that you need a lot of computation power on both the CPU and GPU side, but since the SoCs are getting better and faster this should be a matter of software optimization to really make good use of the mobile chipsets.

Iris scanning seems to be an industry leader, and it will coexist with retina scanning, but it can take up to 4 years for both iris and retina sensors to be as widely used as fingerprint sensors are used now. Not to mention, security experts will love the fact that with iris and fingerprint sensors, you can get a two-factor authentication.

Companies like AliPay are investing a lot of money and they acquired EyeVerify, the company that was working on a retina-based verification solution. AliPay naturally works on a secured payment and as many of you know Apple Pay, along with Android Pay and Samsung Pay do rely on a fingerprint and with that authentication they do quite a good job.

Face recognition is also something that might be used by some devices and there is a lot of research about it as apparently your face has enough distinctive features to make it work reliably.

The future will bring some additional ways of security, and should be viewed as a good thing. Despite the whole fuss, most computers still use passwords, and most homes still use a physical key to unlock.


Qualcomm’s First 5G Modem Coming In 2017

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Qualcomm has surprised the audience at the 4G/5G summit this week in Hong Kong by launching the world’s first 5G modem. The Snapdragon X50, as it is called, supports operations in the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum in the 28GHz band.

It will employ Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques. Before we get you any additional details, we want to let you know that with 800 MHz bandwidth support, you get to peak download speeds of 5Gbps. That translates to about  625MB/s maximum download speed.

Qualcomm’s X16 modem is the world’s first gigabit-class modem that can theoretically get you to 1000Mbps, or 125MB/s maximal speed.

One of the limitations of the mmWave spectrum is that it doesn’t really penetrate walls, but with the help of beam forming and beam tracking the signal can propagate off walls and get you the desired speeds.

Snapdragon X50, on the other hand, is a chip that works together with Snapdragon 4G modems. Since Snapdragon X50 is launching in the second part of 2017, it should launch in devices in 2018. Fudzilla wrote before that 2018 is the year when real life trials of 5G networks will start around the world. The real deployment is expected by 2020 by at least major telecoms, but you got to start somewhere.

“The Snapdragon X50 5G modem heralds the arrival of 5G as operators and OEMs reach the cellular network and device testing phase,” says Cristiano Amon, Executive Vice President, QTI and President, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies. “Utilizing our long history of LTE and Wi-Fi leadership, we are thrilled to deliver a product that will help play a critical role in bringing 5G devices and networks to reality. This shows that we’re not just talking about 5G, we’re truly committed to it.”

The 5G modem will need a 4G modem to use the standard LTE 1 Gbps class services. The Snapdragon X80 is designed to be used for multi-mode 4G/5G mobile broadband via dual connectivity.

The Snapdragon X50 will provide 5G services while Snapdragon X16 will provide traditional 4G LTE-A services. Naturally with times we can see that the 4G part will get integrated in the 5G modem, but this is a bit down the road from now.

If you have any doubts that 5Gbps peak speeds are too much, you think about 360 videos, 4K and 8K video, virtual reality streaming, and you will quickly realize that we will one again be able to eat up the data.

The data caps will largely increase, but just give it some time. T-Mobile in the US has a sort of unlimited data plan today, and things will only get better from this point.


Will Apple Benefit By Leaps And Bounds Off The Note 7 Disaster?

October 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0note7Samsung is going to lose a few customers over its Note 7 fiasco, but not as many as the Apple fanboys have speculated.

The Tame Apple Press has been claiming that almost all the Galaxy Note 7 customers would defect to Apple’s iPhone 7, but a new survey suggests that less than 12 percent  of them are thinking like this, and that number is shrinking by the day.

Branding Brand conducted a second survey of 1,000 Samsung smartphone owners from October 11-12 to compare consumer confidence to its earlier study, conducted on September 23.

It seems that only 40 percent of Note7 users have had enough of Samsung and want to go somewhere else. Given what has happened, this is a rather small figure and of that 40 percent, less than a third are moving to something Applish. This figure is down from an earlier survey which was conducted after the first recall.

As expected most Samsung users  will go with another Android phone (up to 62 percent from 57 percent) and eight percent thought they would buy a Google Pixel. Given that is not really out yet we are not even sure why this option was in the survey. The Pixel is another Android device that means that Apple is going to get only 12 percent of the total Samsung users. More than 88 per cent of Note 7 users will either stay wilt Samsung or Android.

Chris Mason, co-founder and CEO of Branding Brand said:

“As we’ve watched the Galaxy Note7 recall and discontinuation play out, even more people say they will switch their smartphone brand. Consumers want to be confident in their personal safety and will choose a new smartphone accordingly. Only a week after Google’s smartphone launch, many already have their sights set on the Pixel.”


Your Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Is Not Welcomed On Any U.S. Flight

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

galaxy-note-7-fires-150x150The U.S. government has issued an emergency ban of Samsung’s exploding Galaxy Note7 devices from all flights, strongly urging device owners to take advantage of the company’s exchange and refund offers.

Owners of Galaxy Note7s may not transport the devices on their person, in carry-on baggage, or in checked luggage, Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration said. The smartphones also cannot be shipped as air cargo under the ban, which goes into effect Saturday at noon Eastern Time.

Passengers who attempt to evade the ban by packing their phone in checked luggage are “increasing the risk of a catastrophic incident,” the agencies said in a press release. Anyone violating the ban could face criminal prosecution and fines.

Samsung said it is cooperating with the ban. The company is working with airlines to communicate the ban, a spokeswoman said by email. “Any Galaxy Note7 owner should visit their carrier and retail store to participate in the U.S. Note7 refund and exchange program now,” she added by email. “We realize this is an inconvenience but your safety has to remain our top priority.”

Samsung started selling the phone in the U.S. in August, and users almost immediately reported exploding devices. In early September, the FAA advised owners not to turn on or charge their devices on flights.

Samsung has twice recalled the devices, but some replaced phones have caught fire as well. The company stopped selling the phone earlier this week. Some owners have hung onto their devices, however.

“The fire hazard with the original Note7 and with the replacement Note7 is simply too great for anyone to risk it and not respond to this official recall,” Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said in a press release. “I would like to remind consumers once again to take advantage of the remedies offered, including a full refund.  It’s the right thing to do and the safest thing to do.”

IBM, Partners To Take On Intel With Introduction Of OpenCAPI

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

ibm-opencapi-150x150Technology heavyweights IBM Corp, Google and seven others have teamed up to launch an open specification that can boost data center server performance by up to ten times, to take on Intel Corp.

The new standard, called Open Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (OpenCAPI), is an open forum to provide a high bandwidth, low latency open interface design specification.

The open interface will help corporate and cloud data centers to speed up big data, machine learning, analytics and other emerging workloads.

The consortium plans to make the OpenCAPI specification available to the public before the end of the year and expects servers and related products based on the new standard in the second half of 2017, it said in a statement.

Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, is known to protect its server technologies and has chosen to sit out of the new consortium. In the past also, it had stayed away from prominent open standards technology groups such as CCIX and Gen-Z.

“As artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytics become the price of doing business in today’s digital era, huge volumes of data are now the norm,” Doug Balog, general manager for IBM Power, told Reuters.

“It’s clear that today’s data centers can no longer rely on one company alone to drive innovation,” Balog said.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co, Mellanox Technologies Ltd, Micron Technology Inc, NVIDIA Corp and Xilinx Inc are also members of the OpenCAPI consortium.


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