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Uber To Offer Benefits Package To Drivers In Britain

April 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Workers driving for Uber in Britain will be able to access illness and injury cover under a new scheme from the San Francisco-based company, which has faced legal obstacles over the way it treats its staff.

Uber, which allows users to book and pay for a taxi via a smartphone app, said on Thursday it would help fund a program which provides benefits to those workers also willing to contribute.

“Drivers who make money through Uber tell us they love the freedom of being their own boss and choosing if, when and where they drive. But drivers have also told us they want more security if something unexpected happens,” Jo Bertram, regional general manager of Uber in the UK, said.

Like other firms in the so-called gig economy, Uber’s growth has come with controversy, drawing protests from traditional taxi drivers, lawsuits from its drivers and regulatory bans.

Uber is appealing a British tribunal ruling that it should treat drivers as employees and pay the minimum wage and holiday pay. It ruled in October that Uber was acting unlawfully by treating them as self-employed and not providing certain rights.

The company has also faced other rulings over issues such as the standard of English its drivers must meet and the license fees it must pay, as regulators seek to rein in a firm that has shaken up the traditional taxi industry.

Under the new plan, Uber will make a “significant contribution” to the cost of joining a scheme run by the Association of Independent Professionals & the Self-Employed.

Active drivers who have completed at least 500 trips will be able to join the system by paying 2 pounds ($2.60) a week to access benefits such as sickness, injury and jury service cover.

Nintendo Betting Record Profit On Switch Console

April 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo Co Ltd is predicting its new Switch console will more than double annual operating profit and end the eight-year sales decline that plagued its previous offering just as players were turning to smartphone gaming.

The Japanese firm entered the mobile gaming market last year to the relief of shareholders fretting about diving console sales. Now the early success of the Switch has fueled hope of a long-term earnings recovery and sent the firm’s share price about 20 percent higher since the console’s March debut.

“We are hoping to change the tide of our business with the Switch,” Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima said at a news briefing on Thursday.

Nintendo estimated profit to grow 2.2-fold to 65 billion yen ($584 million) in the year through March 2018, with sales jumping 53.3 percent. That was still far below the 104 billion yen average of 23 analyst estimates surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Asked if the outlook was too low, Kimishima said the firm was stepping up marketing costs for the Switch.

Nintendo aims to sell 10 million of the hybrid home console and handheld device this financial year, on top of a higher-than-expected 2.7 million sold in its debut month.

“If the 10 million target is achieved … that means the sales momentum would be close to the Wii,” Nintendo’s most successful console, Kimishima said.

The Wii, launched in November 2006, sold about 20 million units in its first year and exceeded 100 million over its life. The last time Nintendo’s sales grew was in the year ended March 2009, when Wii demand drove profit to a record 555 billion yen.

Profit from a new console typically peaks a couple of years after launch when there is a wide choice of game titles.

Kimishima also said Nintendo’s first own-brand smartphone game, Super Mario Run, has neared 150 million free downloads, but the number of users paying the one-off fee to unlock most of its content is below the target 10 percent.

One reason behind the Switch’s strong start is that unlike its predecessor Wii U, the console has a long list of game titles from independent studios because Nintendo made the Switch compatible with publicly available game development platforms from the start, said Hirokazu Hamamura, a director at Kadokawa Dwango Corp, which publishes games magazines.

BlackBerry’s KeyOne Android Phone To Launch In May

April 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The BlackBerry KeyOne, an Android-based smartphone with an integrated physical keyboard, will be available in the U.S. and Canada from May 31, the phone’s maker said Thursday.

TCL Communications, the Chinese company that acquired rights to produce BlackBerry-brand handsets, originally had said the phone would go on sale in April, so the delay may disappoint potential users. This could be a bad time to test the patience of potential buyers, as Samsung and LG are both heavily promoting their new flagship handsets, the S8 and G6.

But true BlackBerry fans — and yes, they do exist — probably won’t be put off. The phone includes elements from the heyday of BlackBerry that aren’t available on competing smartphones, including the keyboard.

There’s also the hub, which collects messages from numerous apps, and the keyboard can be used like the trackpad that was a prominent feature in BlackBerry phones. There are also some new features, such as a security dashboard and the ability to assign each key on the keyboard a shortcut.

The KeyOne will be available for pre-order in Canada starting May 18 through Bell, Bell MTS, Rogers, SaskTel and Telus Business. In the U.S., TCL will sell unlocked GSM and CDMA versions that can be used with U.S. carriers. It will be available from Sprint later in the year.

Will ARM On Windows Take Off This Year?

April 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has dropped a huge hint that we will see ARM based PCs in the shops in the fourth quarter.

Qualcomm said the first cellular laptop with Windows 10 and its ARM-based Snapdragon 835 will come by the end of the year.

Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm, said that the Snapdragon 835 will expanding into mobile PC designs running Windows 10, and it’s scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter.

Apparently Qualcomm and Microsoft are flat out getting ARM-based Windows 10 PCs to work. If they pull it off, you should get a thin-and-light device that could be used as a tablet or laptop.

Most of the design cues will come from smartphones and it is being dubbed a cellular PC by Qualcomm and Microsoft.

The device will always be connected to a cellular network with a high-speed modem, much like a smartphone. It will have other wireless connectivity features like Bluetooth 5 and possibly Wi-Gig, which are integrated into the Snapdragon 835 chipset.

The cellular PC could also have a long battery life, considering Snapdragon 835 was designed for smartphones. It will be 4K video capable with a powerful Adreno 540 GPU in the Snapdragon 835.

So far no major PC maker has yet announced an ARM-based Windows PC and we are not expecting to see a flood of the beasts. Suppliers will be cautious because ARM based Windows PCs have not worked well. Windows RT tablets were somewhat mocked.

Dell and HP have expressed interest in cellular PCs but need time to test them. HP wants to see if there’s enough demand for such a device before making a decision.

Microsoft has demonstrated Photoshop running on Snapdragon 835 but it is not clear how much other software will be out there.

Courtesy-Fud

Oracle Planning ‘Solution Centers’ To Focus On Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality

April 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Oracle is looking for new employees for a “new startup organization” inside its North America operation that will focus on key technology trends, including cloud computing, internet of things, artificial Intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality.

The Solution Engineering organization the company is setting up will consist of Solution Engineering Centers in Reston, Virginia, and Denver, Colorado.

The database and enterprise software company has previously indicated its interest in investing in some of these technology areas like machine learning and analytics.

Oracle announced in September that it was investing in intelligent cloud applications, called Adaptive Intelligent Applications, “that automatically offer individualized recommended actions and streamline the tasks of business users such as human resource or finance professionals.”

At OpenWorld last year, Oracle also announced tools for creating intelligent chatbots that integrate with its software.

Among the jobs listed for the new organization are the positions of director of the Denver and Reston units, each of whom will be responsiblefor managing an entire Solution Engineering Center, described as a “physical hub of solution engineers.” The company is also hiring solution engineers for the centers.

Oracle did not immediately comment on the posts and on how the new organization would operate as a startup. The new unit appears to be closely linked to the company’s immediate business goals with the director, for example, “measured on key metrics around revenue, pipeline, new innovations, talent development and customer success.”

Oracle is asking for hands-on experience in third-party cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Salesforce from applicants for the position of solution engineers at the centers.

“The mission of the organization and these two centers is to build and engineer cutting-edge solutions for our customers around cloud computing, big data analytics, mobile computing, internet of things, cybersecurity,” according to the job listings, first spotted by Bloomberg.

“Additional trends we are considering to investing in are Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality and many other exciting technology trends that interest us all. Our mission is simple, we build new and innovative technology solutions for real world problems that our customers face,” according to the posts, which did not provide details of how AR and VR would be used by Oracle in its products and services.

Twitter Finally Reports User Growth In More Than A Year

April 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc has announced that it has had its strongest growth in monthly active users in more than a year and a much better-than-expected quarterly profit, despite heavy competition from Facebook and Snapchat.

The microblogging service said average monthly active users increased 6 percent to 328 million in the first quarter from a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected 321.3 million monthly active users, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

Revenue fell 7.8 percent to $548.3 million, its first drop since its initial public offering.

Net loss narrowed to $61.6 million, or 9 cents per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $79.7 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier.

Twitter’s user growth has stalled in the past few quarters and the company has been trying to convince advertisers that it will strengthen its user base.

As part of its efforts, the company has updated its product offerings including live video broadcasts from its app and launched new features to attract users.

Twitter’s weak performance has raised questions about CEO Jack Dorsey’s leadership and whether the company would be bought by a bigger media firm. Financial markets speculated about a sale of Twitter last year, but no concrete bids were forthcoming.

Excluding items, the company earned 11 cents per share, beating the estimate of 1 cent per share.

Twitter’s advertising revenue fell 11 percent to $474 million in the quarter, above the average analyst estimate of $442.7 million, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

New Wikitribune Website Aims To Stop Fake News

April 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Jimmy Wales, the founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, has launched a new website focused on stopping the spread of fake news by bringing together professional journalists and a community of volunteers and supporters to produce news articles.

The new platform, called Wikitribune, will be free to access and carry no advertising, instead relying on its readers to fund it, while the accuracy of news reports will be easily verifiable as source material will be published, Wales said.

“The news is broken, but we’ve figured out how to fix it,” he said in a promotional video posted on the website’s homepage.

The online proliferation of fake news, some of it generated for profit and some for political ends, became a major topic of angst and debate in many developed countries during last year’s U.S. presidential election.

Wales argued in his video that because people expected to get news for free on the Internet, news sites were reliant on advertising money, which created strong incentives to generate so-called “clickbait”, catchy headlines to attract viewers.

“This is a problem because ads are cheap, competition for clicks is fierce and low-quality news sources are everywhere,” said Wales.

He also argued that social media networks, where an ever-increasing number of people get their news, were designed to show users what they wanted to see, confirm their biases and keep them clicking at all costs.

Social media giant Facebook was widely criticized last year for not doing enough to prevent fake news reports from spreading on its platform, and has announced new tools to tackle the problem.

Wales said Wikitribune would combine professional, standards-based journalism with what he called “the radical idea from the world of wiki that a community of volunteers can and will reliably protect the integrity of information”.

He said articles would be authored, fact-checked and verified by journalists and volunteers working together, while anyone would be able to flag up issues and submit fixes for review.

“As the facts are updated, the news becomes a living, evolving artifact, which is what the Internet was made for,” he said.

The Wikitribune homepage said the platform would go live in 29 days. It also indicated that the intention was to hire 10 journalists, but none had been hired so far.

IBM Teams With Swiss Engineering Firm ABB On Artificial Intelligence

April 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

ABB has inked a collaboration agreement with International Business Machines Corp, the Swiss engineering company said on Tuesday, the latest move to increase its presence in digital technology and the internet of things.

In a joint statement ABB said it would combine its digital offering, which gathers information from machinery, with IBM’s expertise in artificial intelligence featured in its Watson data analytics software. The two companies will jointly develop and sell new products.

“This powerful combination marks truly the next level of industrial technology, moving beyond current connected systems that simply gather data, to industrial operations and machines that use data to sense, analyze, optimize and take actions that drive greater uptime, speed and yield for industrial customers,” ABB Chief Executive Ulrich Spiesshofer said in a statement.

For example, instead of manual machinery inspections, ABB and IBM intend to use Watson’s artificial intelligence to help find defects via real-time images collected by an ABB system, and then analyzed using IBM Watson.

ABB has identified digital technology – where machinery communicates with control centers to increase productivity and reduce downtime – as a driver of growth. It now gets around 55 percent of sales from products that are digitally enabled.

As part of the drive, the company last year signed a strategic partnership with Microsoft Corp to roll out digital products for customers in the robotics, marine and ports, electric vehicles and renewable energy sectors.

To spearhead its strategy, it appointed former Cisco executive Guido Jouret as its first chief digital officer last year.

Netflix Gains Entry Into China With iQiyi.com Deal

April 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Netflix will finally be able to introduce original content in China in a licensing deal with local video streaming service iQiyi.com, the U.S. company said on Tuesday.

Netflix has struggled to break into the Chinese market, where streaming services are subject to strict data storage regulations and foreign films and television are routinely censored.

Content air times will parallel other regions, a spokeswoman said, who declined to say comment further on the tie-up.

Netflix has played down the possibility of its entry into China in the past year despite its otherwise rapid global expansion.

In October co-founder and Chief Executive Reed Hastings said that prospects for a direct streaming service in the country were slim, and the firm had made no progress in obtaining government approvals.

iQiyi.com is one of China’s largest streaming services and is backed by search giant Baidu Inc. In February it raised 1.53 billion to take on local rivals in a hotly contested market.

This month Netflix forecast a global increase of 3.2 million subscribers in the second quarter, far outpacing analysts’ estimates of nearly 2.4 million.

Is A Smaller Version Of The Nintendo Switch On The Horizon?

April 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The Nintendo Switch straddles a line between the Mario maker’s portable and home console businesses, but it remains to be seen if Nintendo intends to follow the upgrade cadence of the former or the latter. According to a Bloomberg report, analysts from Citigroup Inc. are expecting Switch hardware refreshes more in line with the DS and 3DS than the Wii and Wii U.

Among the first big changes expected by Citigroup is a smaller version of the Switch to arrive in stores during Nintendo’s next fiscal year, which runs April 2018 through March 2019. While the current Switch is portable, it is decidedly bulkier than Nintendo’s previous handheld systems.

“Although the Nintendo Switch can be used as a handheld device, we think smaller children could struggle to use it comfortably in that format due to its size and weight,” Citigroup analysts said last week. “Accordingly, we think Nintendo will launch a lighter, dedicated handheld version of the Switch, possibly to be called the Switch Mini.”

Losing accessories like the dock for hooking the Switch to a TV could facilitate a cheaper dedicated handheld version of the hardware, but Citigroup did not speculate on a price for any sort of Switch Mini. However, the analysts did say it could sell 6.7 million units by the end of its launch fiscal year. They added that the standard Switch is expected to have an installed base of 25.7 million within the same timeframe.

Courtesy-GI.biz

G.Skill Goes Superfast DDR4

April 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

RAM maker G.SKILL has released a new DDR4-4333MHz 16GB (2x 8GB).

The outfit said that it has managed to overclock it to 4500MHz using an Intel Core i5-7600K processor paired with an ASUS ROG Maximus IX Apex motherboard.

“The latest addition to the Trident Z series of extreme performance memory kit is the DDR4-4333MHz CL19-19-19-39 timing in 16GB (8GBx2) at 1.40V. This is the first DDR4-4333MHz memory kit on the market in the 8GBx2 configuration for a total of 16GB,” said G.SKILL.

The company said that continuing with the pursuit of extreme memory speeds on the latest hardware, G.SKILL has reached an extreme DDR4-4500MHz speed on the Intel Z270 platform, “achieving a stunning bandwidth write speed of 65GB per second in dual channel mode”.

No word on price or release date yet.

Courtesy-Fud

Nikon Files Patent Lawsuit Against Carl Zeiss And ASML

April 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Japan’s Nikon Corp announced that it has taken legal action against ASML Holding NV and Carl Zeiss AG, saying the Dutch and Germany companies used its lithography technology without its permission.

Nikon, the world’s eighth-largest chip equipment maker, said it had filed patent infringement cases in the Netherlands, Germany and Japan against ASML, which makes semiconductor lithography machines, and Carl Zeiss, ASML’s optical supplier.

“ASML and Zeiss employ Nikon’s patented technology in ASML’s lithography systems, which are used globally to manufacture semiconductors, without Nikon’s permission, thereby infringing Nikon’s patents,” Nikon said in a statement.

Nikon said it is seeking damages and to prevent ASML and Zeiss from selling the technology.

ASML dominates the market for semiconductor lithography machines, which map out electronic circuits on silicon wafers. The Netherlands-based firm has a 90 percent market share in such high-end machines, according to a January research report from Fitch Ratings.

“Nikon’s litigation is unfounded, unnecessary and creates uncertainty for the semiconductor industry,” said ASML President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Wennink. ASML has repeatedly attempted to negotiate an extension of a cross-license agreement with Nikon, he said.

The legal action comes after mediation carried out by a retired judge in the United States failed to reach a settlement late last year, Nikon said.

Carl Zeiss was not immediately available to comment.

The dispute is the latest involving the three, with ASML and Carl Zeiss paying Nikon $87 million and $58 million respectively in 2004, according to Nikon.

FCC Votes To End Pricing Caps On Business Data Services

April 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has approved plans to deregulate the providers of the business data lines connecting broadband service to many small businesses, schools, hospitals and ATM machines.

The deregulation of business data services, or BDS, could mean broadband price increases for those businesses as well as for mobile phone customers, critics said. BDS provides the backhaul that connects mobile towers to the wired internet.

The commission’s 2-1, party-line vote ends price caps on much of the BDS market across the U.S. while retaining price regulations in about a third of the country.

Republican commissioners argued that pricing regulations are largely outdated, with high-speed fiber and cable services beginning to compete with traditional copper-based BDS networks, sometimes called special access.

The FCC has long attempted to achieve “perfect” competition in the BDS market, but failed, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. It’s time for the agency to stop “micromanaging” the market, he said.

“For a time, the FCC drank deep of heavy-handed economic regulation of the BDS market,” he said. “Price regulation … is seductive, but in reality, price regulation threatens competition and investment. Regulators will always struggle to set the right price.”

BDS generates an estimated $45 billion-plus in revenue each year for AT&T, Verizon Communications, CenturyLink and other providers.

The FCC’s vote takes away price caps in a county when a competing BDS provider has a network within a half mile of 50 percent of the buildings served by existing providers, even if the building is now served by just one provider. The price cap would also go away if a cable broadband provider serves 75 percent of locations in the county.

Critics suggested that broadband prices for businesses that still depend on sub-50Mbps data lines could rise 25 percent or more.

Many politicians have talked in recent months “about protecting our nation’s small businesses — the backbone of the American economy,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat. “Yet it is these very businesses — the mom-and-pop hardware store, the family-owned wireless provider, and the small rural hospital, that just drew the short straw.”

Instead of looking out for “millions of little guys,” the Republican majority at the FCC has sided with the interests of huge telecom providers, she added. Clyburn predicted “immediate price hikes,” especially in rural areas.

The FCC action comes after some tech-related trade groups, lawmakers and consumer-oriented groups Public Knowledge and the Consumer Federation of America called for the FCC to delay the vote.

Elon Musk’s Neuralink Corp Wants Human Brain-Machine Link

April 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tesla Inc  founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk announced that his latest company Neuralink Corp is developing a way to link the human brain with a machine interface by creating micron-sized devices.

Neuralink is aiming to bring to the market a product that helps with certain severe brain injuries due to stroke, cancer lesion etc, in about four years, Musk said in an interview with website Wait But Why.

“If I were to communicate a concept to you, you would essentially engage in consensual telepathy,” Musk said in the interview.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will create computers so sophisticated and godlike that humans will need to implant “neural laces” in their brains to keep up, Musk said in a tech conference last year.

“There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing,” Musk said in the latest interview.

“If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person.”

The technology could take about eight to 10 years to become usable by people with no disability, which would depend heavily on regulatory approval timing and how well the devices work on people with disabilities, Musk was quoted as saying.

In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that Musk had launched a company through which computers could merge with human brains. Neuralink was registered in California as a “medical research” company last July, and he plans on funding the company mostly by himself.

Is Toshiba Out Of The Woods?

April 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Toshiba Corp’s shares finally recovered this week after Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that Apple is considering a multi-billion-dollar investment into the company’s semiconductor chip business.

Back in February, Toshiba revealed that it had been considering a split of its memory chip business into a separate company to help make up for a $6.56 billion write-down of its US nuclear equipment operations. In late December, the company’s shares fell more than 45 percent after revealing that it was balancing a four-part effort to get back to a profitable state.

The following month, Foxconn and TSMC both partnered up to place bids on shares of Toshiba’s memory business in an attempt to challenge Samsung’s dominance of the flash memory market. The collaboration team has been serious about its talks with Toshiba, but is not trying to force anything to happen.

Apple wants 20 percent stake in Toshiba’s chip business

Now, the latest reports from NHK suggests the fruit-themed toymaker also wants more than 20 percent stake in Toshiba’s chip business, while somehow convincing Toshiba to maintain partial stake and keep the business under US and Japanese regulations, according to anonymous sources. Without subverting existing negotiations, the Cupertino company has considered a plan where Foxconn would own around a 30 percent stake of the NAND flash business so as not to interrupt global market competition over Japan’s semiconductor industry.

Prior to Apple’s announcement, Toshiba has so far narrowed down the field of memory unit bidders to four companies, according to sources. They include Broadcom, SK Hynix, Foxconn, and Western Digital.

Attention is now on company auditor, Tokyo Stock Exchange

On Thursday, Toshiba’s shares were down 4.8 percent after declining as much as 8.1 percent during morning trade. Experts have cautioned that the company is now in a warning zone of losing its listed status on the stock exchange, as it faces increased financial risk at its Westinghouse nuclear subsidiary. According to Financial Times, the Tokyo Stock Exchange is now attempting to decide whether the company’s internal controls comply with its listing criteria. Toshiba has proposed several improvements following its $1.3 billion accounting scandal in 2015, but if they are deemed insufficient by the exchange, then its shares could be delisted and the company would ultimately transition into a private entity.

Besides the foreign investor lawsuit that arrived on behalf of its accounting malpractices, Toshiba’s accounts were notable in part because its independent auditor, PwC Aarata, did not certify their accuracy. One analyst at Citigroup claims that Toshiba’s disagreement with its auditor was likely to “heighten concern” about its shares being delisted. Robert Rostan, a former Deloitte auditor, says “It is extremely rare for an independent auditor to not sign off on a client’s accounts, let alone a public industrial giant like Toshiba.”

Despite the financial risk posed by its flagship nuclear projects, Toshiba insists everything on the balance sheets is under control. Aside from a very tangible delisting risk, it will be left to the mercy of Toshiba’s many financial creditors to garner up enough support in solidarity for the weathered company.

Courtesy-Fud

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