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Google Acquiring Pixel Smartphone Making Unit of HTC

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Alphabet Inc’s Google confirmed that it would pay $1.1 billion for the division at Taiwan’s HTC Corp that develops the U.S. firm’s Pixel smartphones – its second major foray into phone hardware after an earlier costly failure.

The all-cash deal will see Google gain 2,000 HTC employees, roughly equivalent to one fifth of the Taiwanese firm’s total workforce. It will also acquire a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property and the two firms agreed to look at other areas of collaboration in the future.

While Google is not acquiring any manufacturing assets, the transaction underscores a ramping up of its ambitions for Android smartphones at a time when consumer and media attention is largely focused on rival Apple Inc.

“Google has found it necessary to have its own hardware team to help bring innovations to Android devices, making them competitive versus the iPhone series,” said Mia Huang, an analyst at research firm TrendForce.

The move is part of a broader and still nascent push into hardware that saw Google hire Rick Osterloh, a former Motorola executive, to run its hardware division last year. It also comes ahead of new product launches on Oct. 4 that are expected to include two Pixel phones and a Chromebook.

Pixel smartphones, only launched a year ago, have less than 1 percent market share globally with an estimated 2.8 million shipments, according to research firm IDC.

Google will be aiming not to repeat mistakes made when it purchased Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2012. It sold it off to China’s Lenovo Group Ltd for less than $3 billion two years later after Motorola failed to produce appealing products that could compete with iPhones.

This time around, however, the deal price tag is much smaller and the lack of manufacturing facilities also minimizes risk.

Is MediaTek Falling Behind

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

According to Digitimes, the outfit is not going be able to release anything using these technologies in 2018, as it has moved to focus on the mid-range smartphone market segment.

MediaTek has shifted its R&D resources to the Helio P series mobile chips designed for mid-range devices, and put the development of its high-end Helio X series on hold.  Alll this could be a warning that Taiwan’s IC design industry growth could be limited.

MediaTek has been a leading Taiwan-based IC designer and usually partners with TSMC to develop advanced-node mobile chips. MediaTek’s development of 7/10nm chips is slowing down, as the fabless chipmaker has decided to go back to basics to overcome its structural challenges, Digitimes claimed.

MediaTek has suffered declines in smartphone chip shipments and market share since 2016. The company’s gross margin for 2016 reached a record low of 35.6 percent, despite record revenues.

MediaTek co-CEO Rick Tsai was quoted in previous reports saying the company will be striving to improve its gross margin by 1-2pp every quarter over the next 2-3 quarters, and expects its gross margin to return to the 37-39 percent level as early as the second half of 2018.

Tsai also noted the Helio P-series smartphone SoCs will be a major product focus of the company, and 12nm will be the main process technology MediaTek’s mobile chips will be made using during the first half of 2018. Nevertheless, Tsai disclosed MediaTek will complete tape-out of 7nm products in the second half of 2018.

Courtesy-Fud

Is nVidia Planning A Geforce 1070 Ti

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

According to the newest leak, Nvidia may be working on a GTX 1070 Ti, which could put a lot of pressure on AMD’s RX Vega lineup.

The alleged GTX 1070 Ti was originally spotted as a part of a specifications list on My Drivers site, caught by PCPer.com, and is listed as the Asus GTX 1070 Ti Strix O8G. While there were no precise details regarding the card, the O8G in the name suggests it packs 8GB of memory.

Further rumors suggest that it could be based on the latest GP104 GPU and pack 2304 CUDA cores, which would put it smack between the GTX 1070, which comes with 1920 CUDA cores, and the GTX 1080 with 2560 CUDA cores. 

Since Nvidia has already launched GTX 1080 with 11Gbps GDDR5X memory, the gap between the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 has become significantly wider.

In any case, this will put a lot of pressure on AMD’s RX Vega lineup and could give NVidia a significant lead in the market. In the end, it will all come down to the price/performance factor, availability and the MSRP, which tends to suffer from a big demand from coin miners.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon Is Developing It’s Own ‘Smart Glasses’

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is busy developing its first wearable device – a pair of ‘smart glasses’, the Financial Times reported earlier this week.

The device, designed like a regular pair of spectacles, will allow Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa to be summoned anytime at all places, the report said, citing people familiar with the plans.

There would be a bone-conduction audio system in the device to allow the wearer to hear Alexa without inserting headphones into his or her ears, according to the report.

Amazon was not immediately available to comment on the report outside regular business hours.

Earlier this year, Alphabet Inc re-introduced its own wearable glass headset, Google Glass, after discontinuing its production last year.

FitBit May Have Been Used In Red Sox’s Signs Theft

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

An Apple Watch might not have been the device the Boston Red Sox used to allegedly steal signs from the New York Yankees after all.

The Yankees filed a complaint earlier this month with Major League Baseball saying the Red Sox were stealing pitch signs by using the smartwatch during a four-game series last month in Boston, according to The New York Times. The Yankees provided a video showing a Red Sox staffer looking at his wrist wearable and relaying a message to players, possibly tipping off what pitches were going to be thrown.

The report identified the device as an Apple Watch, but a Boston reporter says it was, in fact, a wearable by rival Fitbit.

“Turns out there was no Apple Watch involved in Red Sox sign stealing. It was a Fitbit product according to a major league source,” the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo said in a tweet Saturday. It wasn’t immediately clear which Fitbit product the Red Sox might have been using.

While there is no rule against stealing signs, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said using electronic means to do so is a violation and the allegations are under investigation. The Red Sox have admitted to having trainers relay information from their replay staff to players using electronic devices, a strategy that was in place for weeks.

The Red Sox organization didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Can The IoT Market Grow By 30 Percent YoY

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Internet of Things (IOT) platform market is expected to grow 35 percent annually to $1.16 billion by 2020, according to Verizon’s State of the Market: Internet of Things 2017 report.

The report finds that the biggest growth will be in business-to-business applications which can generate nearly 70 percent of potential value enabled by IoT.

More than 73 percent of executives either researching or currently deploying IoT. Manufacturing, transportation and utilities make up the largest percent of investments, while insurance and consumers represent the fastest areas of spending growth.

Currently there are 8.4 billion connected “things” in use in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and network technology, cost reductions and regulatory pressures driving adoption, business leaders are not only paying attention, they’re getting in the game the report said.

While the opportunity for revenue growth is the biggest factor driving IoT adoption, regulatory compliance remains a driving factor behind enterprise IoT implementation. Standards, security, interoperability and cost make up over 50 percent of executive concerns around IoT. These uncertainties are holding businesses back from full IoT deployment, with many still in proof-of-concept or pilot phase.

Early adopters seem focused on proving out simple use cases to track data and send status alerts, just starting to realize the full value IoT has to offer in driving growth and efficiencies across business, the report said.

The report’s author Mark Bartolomeo, VP of IoT Connected Solutions at Verizon said: “Over the past year, industry innovators in energy, healthcare, construction, government, agtech and beyond have not only piloted, but in many cases, deployed IoT technology to improve business inefficiencies, track and manage assets to drive value to the bottom line. In 2017, advancements in technology and standards, coupled with changing consumer behaviours and cost reductions, have made IoT enterprise-grade, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg in driving economic value across the board.”

Courtesy-Fud

Google Launching Mobile Payments In India

September 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Google is gearing up to launch a localized digital payment service in India as early as next week, technology website TechCrunch reported, citing a report from news site The Ken.

The payment service, called Google ‘Tez’, will offer payment options beyond the existing ones like Google Wallet or Android Pay, the report said.

Tez, meaning fast in Hindi, will include support for the government-backed Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and other consumer payment services including Paytm and MobiKwik, according to the report.

Google launched its payment app Android Pay in the United States two years ago.

A spokesman for Google in India did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google, Facebook Inc and WhatsApp Inc were in talks with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to provide UPI-enabled payment on their platforms, the Mint daily had reported in July.

Will 7nm SoCs Come To Market Next Year

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The current generation of SoC and the one that comes after will remain at 10nm, since it will take some time to move to 7nm. This is the conclusion we gathered after talking to a number of industry insiders.

Qualcomm is at 10nm with its Snapdragon 835, Samsung has shipped the Exynos 8895 since Q2 2017 while the rest of the competition is slowly working its way into the 10nm SoC universe.

The current iPhone 7 A10 SoC is manufactured in 16nm TSMC manufacturing process while the one that comes in the new iPhone next week is the 10nm. MediaTek has the 16nm X30 SoC out and Huawei already announced that it has the Kirin 970 in 10nm, ready to debut in the P10 phone some five weeks from now.

From what our sources have been telling us, the Galaxy S9 will be powered by a 10nm SoC and it is expected that the Galaxy S8 successor will launch in early Q2 2018.  2018 will be a big year for the 7nm process, as we expect that AMD might make some GPUs in a similar timeframe.

Getting from 10nm to 7nm will enable more transistors per square millimeter, and it will reduce the power consumption of the whole device. This has always been the pinnacle of progress in the mobile industry.  

Just a decade ago, the first-generation iPhone used a 65nm ARM 11 based ARM1176JZF SoC and now some 10 years later the new iPhone will get a 10nm SoC. This is huge progress that enabled a lot of innovation including Gigabit LTE performance, 4K playback, 360 video as well as AR/XR performing decently on the device that sits in your pocket.  

And, of course, the next generation iPhone and the Galaxy S9 and later S10 will get faster, thinner, and better, partially thanks to a second generation 10nm and later 7nm SoCs.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Virtual Reality Poised To Take Off

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Virtual reality may be growing at a slower pace than many would like, but its enthusiastic supporters remain staunch in their belief that VR is still going to take off. Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games and a Carnegie Mellon professor, is one such person. His studio’s VR puzzle title I Expect You To Die (IEYTD), which launched last December, just recently passed the $1 million revenue mark. GamesIndustry.biz caught up with Schell following the news to learn more about his VR development experiences and to gain some perspective on where he sees the VR/AR business headed.

“We’ve learned so much. The experience has confirmed our theories that making games specifically designed for the strengths of the medium is absolutely the right thing to do,” he says.

“IEYTD works because we focused on protecting player immersion as much as possible: making sure in-game and out of game player body poses are proprioceptively aligned, ensuring there is a depth of interactive sound effects, and playtesting much more than for a normal game, so that you can respond to everything that players try to do in the game. The best part is that our experience confirmed for us that VR is amazing, and that people want great experiences in it.”

IEYTD is one of a handful of VR success stories, but even “success” at this stage in VR’s infancy when installed bases are so low, doesn’t mean profitability is guaranteed. Schell is not deterred, however.

“We don’t generally share specifics of internal budgets, but it was more than a million — so, not quite profitable yet on a pure cash basis, but when it comes to lessons learned, and some of the other projects this has brought our way, this has been a very profitable project indeed,” he explains.

During GDC 2016, Schell gave a talk outlining his 40 predictions for VR/AR, and one of those was that by 2017 we’d see 8 million high-end VR headsets sold, with Oculus Rift at 3 million, PSVR at 4 million and Vive at 1 million. Clearly, the actual numbers are going to fall way short of these predictions, and a big part of that is a result of price. Even with the price cuts we’ve seen this year so far on the respective headsets, the devices are too expensive for many. It’s only a matter of time before that changes, though, and then Schell sees the market really picking up. He likens it to the early computer era.

“The numbers are slower than I anticipated, and this is partly because prices are higher than I anticipated. But the growth is absolutely happening,” he says. “What will create a tipping point will be a combination of price drops with a hit title, probably a social multiplayer title.

“We are in a time like when home computers first arrived in 1978. At that time, we had the Atari 800 and the Apple II, and they each cost over $1,000, and people said, ‘Yeah, pretty cool, but too expensive — these home computers will never take off.’ A few years later, and we had the Commodore 64 at $299, and it sold ten times the number of units as the Apple II. Price will really be the driving factor. There are already hundreds of great studios making interesting content. When the prices get low enough, we’ll see the growth curve take off.” While a number of Schell’s other predictions will undoubtedly not hold up, there are some that the designer is not afraid to double down on. The social ramifications of VR is one of those.

“My confidence in the power of social VR continues to grow,” he notes. “Games like Rec Room are proving that out, and social VR is now the prime focus for our next wave of VR titles. The sense of physical proximity to a real person while you hear their voice and see their body language is powerful in a way that no other medium can touch.”

Schell is also still a believer in Nintendo doing something in the space. Thus far, publicly at least, the house of Mario has avoided committing to VR/AR, but Schell thinks that Nintendo is working on a standalone device behind closed doors. And if a company with Nintendo’s weight gets behind VR, that can only help make the technology more mainstream and more accessible. That said, it’s not vital for Nintendo to get in the game for VR to succeed.

“With Nintendo’s passion for invention, they must be working on a VR device with a unique Nintendo spin,” Schell muses. “Certainly they can help make VR more mainstream, but they don’t need to. There are already dozens of headset manufacturers, and more on the way, and exciting tech and price breakthroughs are being announced every few weeks.”

While many people have predicted a far larger and more impactful market for augmented reality, especially as companies like Apple and Google get involved, the differences between the related technologies are beginning to blur. Additionally, when it comes to pure gaming use cases, Schell stresses that VR will remain the better tech for hardcore gamers.

“One prediction I am definitely rethinking is my prediction that VR and AR headsets would remain very separate entities. I am coming to believe that as VR headsets start to sport stereo cameras, that having video pass-thru AR experiences on VR headsets will actually become the dominant form of AR, because it will be cheaper and have a wider field of view,” he says.

“When it comes to games, I more and more think that VR is to AR as console is to mobile… That is to say, VR will be more for the hardcore gamers who want deep, immersive experiences, and AR will be more for casual gamers who want lighter, less immersive experiences. AR may have more users in the long run (provided it can find some killer apps), but VR will be where the best gaming experiences are.”

The unfortunate state of actual reality, when you consider global politics, terrorism, climate change and more, could also be a factor in virtual reality’s favor. As Schell says, “In troubled times, people are always looking for places to escape to. The Great Depression was the best thing that ever happened to Hollywood. When people are frustrated with how the news cycle makes them feel, their appetite for fantasy experiences vastly increases.”

As VR does become more popular in the mainstream, Schell thinks the media may start drumming up stories to point fingers at the tech in much the way that news outlets blamed video game violence for real-world crimes. “The media likes to scare us about anything that is new, because we always want to know about the dangers of new things, so it is good business to feed our fears. I can’t say I’m worried about it, but it is certainly inevitable. Horror movies about VR gone wrong will be a hot ticket in the summer of 2019,” he says.

One area of the VR industry that is hard to predict is the arcade or location-based segment. Vive has made a big push with its Viveport Arcade, particularly in China, but VR arcades may not necessarily be a more natural fit than VR in the home, as some have said.

“There is room for VR in arcades; I am sure of this because I helped developed the Aladdin’s Magic Carpet VR experience that ran continuously at DisneyQuest in Walt Disney World for nineteen years! However, VR in arcades has many challenges,” Schell says. “The systems are hard to keep clean, and are often too fragile for that environment. These are solvable problems, but not trival ones. Ultimately, people expect a VR arcade experience that is a radical step up from the home experience, and that is expensive to create, especially because there is an expectation of multiplayer gameplay at VR arcades, because people go to arcades to be in social groups. So, developing VR arcade content is very expensive. Arcades are a great intro to the experience while the tech is new, but as the tech matures, it will be much more at home, uh, at home.”

Getting into VR development is not for the faint of heart. Game makers may have to endure some hard times, but the pay off will ultimately be worth it, Schell believes.

“If you are looking for a short-term win, or to just port the same games you’ve been playing for 20 years to VR, go do something else. But if you are ready to invent the most important medium of this century, and you can afford to be a little patient as the rest of the world catches up with your futuristic visions, this is your time,” Schell says.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Microsoft Updates Teams Collaboration Software

September 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has added enhancements to its Teams collaboration software, including guest account access and beefing up security and management capabilities for IT admins.

The guest access means that Office 365 users can now add people from outside their company to a team, enabling third-party users to participate in chats, join meetings and collaborate on documents.

The new feature means that IT staff will now be able to centrally manage guest accounts, enabling them to add, view or, if necessary, revoke access.

“This is a very significant milestone for Teams, as up until now it was only available for internal use,” said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research. “Now customers will be able to collaborate with people outside of their firewall, opening up a much broader range of use-cases.”

Anyone with an Azure Active Directory account can be added as a guest in Teams.

Microsoft said that there are currently more than 870 million Azure Active Directory user accounts.

While guest users must have an Azure Active Directory account to use Teams, there are plans to allow anyone with a Microsoft Account to be added as a guest. If a guest doesn’t have an existing Microsoft Account, they would have to create a free account using their email address, whether they use Outlook or other email providers such as Google’s Gmail.

Guest user access will fall under the same compliance and auditing protection as the rest of Office 365, the company said.

Security is an important factor when enabling guest access for users. With this in mind, Microsoft said that guest accounts will be added and managed within Azure Active Directory via Azure AD B2B Collaboration. Azure Active Directory provides features such as conditional access policies for guest users as well as machine learning algorithms to detect anomalies and suspicious incidents, and it can automatically trigger security processes such as multi-factor authentication when required.

The addition of guest access brings Teams in line with competing messenger tools such as Slack and Cisco Spark, which also enable external access, as well as Microsoft’s own Yammer collaboration software.

“It is encouraging that Microsoft is rolling out the ability to allow external users to collaborate in Teams, but it is a feature most collaborative applications have had for a while,” said IDC research director Wayne Kurtzman.

“To be a serious contender in the collaboration applications market, has to catch up with the market on a lot of features and functions,” he said.

In addition to the new features, Microsoft offered insights into how Teams is faring six months after its launch. According to the company, 125,000 organizations have now used the Slack competitor, compared to 30,000 back in January. That leaves plenty of room for growth, of course; Microsoft claims there are currently around 100 million Office365 users globally.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 Pre-orders Sets Record

September 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd announced that pre-orders for its Galaxy Note 8 premium smartphone have hit the highest-ever for the Note series, surpassing its predecessor Note 7 over five days by about 2.5 times.

Samsung is banking on the device to protect its market dominance as it competes with Apple Inc’s  latest iPhones due to be unveiled later on Tuesday. Note 8 sales begin in the United States, South Korea and elsewhere on Friday.

Pre-orders reached about 650,000 Note 8 handsets over five days from about 40 countries, making the initial response “very encouraging,” DJ Koh, president of Samsung Electronics’ mobile communications business, said at a media event.

The device succeeds the short-lived Note 7, whose battery fires resulted in Samsung pulling the device from the market after just a couple of months at a cost of billions of dollars.

Its reputation tarnished, the world’s biggest smartphone maker by market share nevertheless decided to retain the Note brand after a survey showed 85 percent of 5,000 Galaxy Note users expressed brand loyalty, Koh said.

The Note 8’s U.S. price of $930 to $960, including dialing and data plans, begins an era of premium-priced handsets which analysts expect to be joined by $1,000-plus iPhones.

Apple is widely expected to unveil a special edition iPhone commemorating 10 years of the handset, equipped with edge-to-edge screen and augmented reality, that will compete with the Note 8 for pre-holiday season sales in Western markets.

In China, the Note 8 is tasked with reviving fortunes in the world’s biggest smartphone market where local handset makers such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi Inc reduced Samsung’s market share to 3 percent in April-June, showed data from Counterpoint Research.

Koh said it will take time to recover in China but expects changes this year such as appointing a new mobile chief, restructuring and focusing on key buyers to be effective.

Atlassian Launches New Enterprise Product Stride

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Collaboration software maker Atlassian has unveiled a new enterprise product that provides text, voice, video, file sharing and other workplace collaboration tools that allow portions of group text threads to be set aside as sidebar tasks to be completed later.

Atlassian, which already offers a collaboration platforms such as Confluence and HipChat, referred to its new Stride offering as a product built “from the ground up” exclusively for corporate use.

As with HipChat, which the company bought in 2012, Stride will be offered in a freemium model, with additional features that require companies to pay $3 per user per month.

The Stride software was built to scale from startups with 10 employees to enterprises of more than 10,000, and includes security features such as secure file sharing and two-factor authentication.

 The free version of Stride will provide messaging between unlimited users, chat rooms, group video and audio. The paid tier introduces dial-in features, screen sharing and remote desktop control.

Group text or voice chat meetings can also migrate to video chats, with team members able to be instantly notified of the change so they can get the full context of the conversation that was in progress.

Like HipChat, Stride will offer file sharing, video and voice calling, the ability to search previous messages and the ability to view images, which can also be annotated. Stride will also offer screen sharing, and remote-control access across multi-platform devices, including iOS, Android and Chrome.

While both HipChat and Stride are enterprise communication products, Stride brings together video/audio conferencing and collaboration tools “to offer the most complete communications tool on the market,” said Steve Goldsmith, general manager at Atlassian.

 

Is Mixed-Reality A Big Move For Microsoft

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

2017 is shaping up to be perhaps the most important year ever for Microsoft’s ambitions as a consumer technology company.

The firm, which in recent years has struggled to balance its commitment to business solutions and cloud services against the often conflicting demands of being a consumer tech firm, is set to launch two major product lines this year – an update to the Xbox One console that is, in essence, an entirely new home console device, and a range of “Mixed Reality” headsets, controllers and certified PCs, which are being manufactured to Microsoft’s specs by some of the industry’s leading hardware firms.

Both of these are big launches, and each of them deserving of attention. On the surface, you might expect that Xbox One X – the new console – would be a far more mainstream prospect than a range of VR headsets, especially given how niche VR remains in spite of the buzz that’s been built up around it. Yet all of the signs point to Mixed Reality being Microsoft’s really big launch for 2017, and the one that may have the most impact on the company – and the whole technology industry – down the line, while Xbox One X is being positioned both by commentators and by the company itself as something of a niche device for a specific and limited audience.

In a sense, the direction being taken with these two devices is entirely different. Xbox One X takes an established platform (albeit one running a distant second behind Sony’s dominant PS4) and essentially creates a high-end “premium” version, with price tag to match. It doesn’t so much represent a turning point in Xbox strategy (there’s no surge in first-party software or major service launch to accompany it) as an appeal to the slim but high-value slice of the market for whom constant talk of 4K HDR screens and Dolby Atmos sound systems says “this is the best you can get,” as distinct from “this isn’t for the likes of you.”

On the other hand, Mixed Reality is all about the democratisation of a technology that’s often seemed inaccessible to average consumers. Its hardware specification calls for headsets with inside-out tracking (so no external cameras or sensors) which mount cameras on the front of the headset to track motion controllers – again, removing external sensors from the setup – while its business model aims to create a range of low-cost headsets by leveraging competition between manufacturers like Dell and Asus. The PC specs being certified for use with the headsets also promise relatively low cost of entry to consumers interested in VR.

In essence, Mixed Reality (which is a bit of a misnomer, as these first-generation headsets are not the bridging of VR and AR promised by the “Hololens” concept; they are VR headsets, pure and simple) is an extremely well-designed and technologically impressive mixture of the best parts of many VR approaches we’ve seen so far. It’s about as affordable as Sony’s PSVR and just as easy to set up (in fact, slightly more so, since PSVR still requires a single camera); yet it offers a technological fidelity that’s surprisingly close to that of Oculus and HTC’s pioneering headsets.

Working with firms like Dell ensures ubiquity, while Microsoft’s control of the Windows ecosystem ensures compatibility and ease of use, and the firm’s highly open approach with the standards it’s promoting – including supporting content from Steam from day one – is an enormous bonus. As the only console VR platform out there, and with Sony’s content support behind it, PSVR will continue to have a market, but anyone picking winners in the VR space right now is likely favouring Microsoft’s play in the long run, especially given its potential for non-gaming applications (which may yet turn out to be VR’s “killer app”). It’s notable that Sony’s small PSVR price-drop came this week just as Mixed Reality gear was being lauded at IFA in Berlin, though also notable that the company’s promised restocking of PSVR hardware into retail channels has still not come to pass.

The elephant in the room here needs addressing; why, given two hardware launches that seem so complementary, isn’t Xbox One X supporting Mixed Reality headsets out the gate? The door seemingly remains open to that possibility down the line, but thus far Microsoft’s two big consumer tech efforts of 2017 remain frustratingly separate. On paper, you’d imagine that launching the most powerful console ever with the ability to drive high-quality VR experiences through a range of new headsets would be a far more exciting prospect than simply updating the Xbox One to take advantage of some very, very expensive televisions; even if VR is more niche than console gaming right now, the prospects for growth in VR are huge and the chance for a firm like Microsoft to establish and own the standards that define an entire sector for years to come is surely too important to pass up.

Microsoft’s own position seems to express that sentiment; while Xbox One X is rolling out with very few major software releases to support it (essentially copying the low-key rollout of PS4 Pro), the upcoming slate of software supporting Mixed Reality is being talked up significantly and includes a Halo title from 343 Industries. For an Xbox console to launch without a Halo title in support, or even officially on the slate (though one will inevitably be forthcoming), while a different Microsoft product has a Halo title being talked up, is actually rather eye-opening.

The reason for Xbox One X not supporting Mixed Reality at the outset may be quite prosaic; Microsoft’s strategy for its headsets involves cooperation with hardware manufacturers who want to use Mixed Reality as a way to sell PCs. Those partners might be far cooler on being involved with this initiative if they felt that their PCs were going to have to compete with a partially-subsidised console being sold by Microsoft itself, and the exclusion of Xbox from the Mixed Reality ecosystem may (this is all speculation) have been a condition of the likes of Asus throwing full-throated support behind the new headsets.

If so, it may be a timed exclusion, with headset support coming to Xbox One X down the line; or it may be that this helps to explain why so much of Microsoft’s software approach for Xbox One appears to have shifted to being about well-optimised One and One X versions of Windows 10 software rather than console exclusives. This would potentially allow people with high-end home theatre setups to enjoy the best possible version on Xbox One X, while VR fans can enjoy the same software as optimised for Mixed Reality, and those with Xbox Ones or gaming PCs would enjoy their own tailored version. That fits well with Microsoft’s vision both for a contiguous ecosystem and for how cross-platform development should work, the inability to plug a headset into an Xbox being only a small wrinkle in this cloth.

While in the long run not a big deal, in terms of this year alone, the separation of headsets from console creates an odd tension in Microsoft’s line-up; Xbox One X may even find itself competing for Christmas dollars from the same set of consumers who are considering a Mixed Reality setup. With Switch also riding high in customer’s mindshare and PS4 continuing to steamroller ahead of the competition – not to mention major consumer electronics launches outside the gaming space, like Apple’s iPhone Pro or whatever they’re going to call it – this winter is going to be one of the most competitive ever in consumer technology, and Microsoft is entering the game with a hell of a strong hand.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is Another Palm Smartphone On The Horizon

September 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Next year TCL says it is planning to release a Palm smartphone next year – sadly without the OS which made it famous.

It was not clear what was happening to the Palm brand which has been moved out of HP-connected devices then into a limbo. LG got its paws on the Palm operating system and continues to be used (in some form or another) in LG smart TVs.

TCL acquired the Palm brand in 2011.

According to Android Planet TCL Marketing Manager Stefan Streit confirmed that they’ve finally gotten to a place where they can make a Palm phone.

Streit suggested that new Palm devices would be announced in early 2018. While Streit did not specify which devices would be coming, AP suggested that a smartphone and a new PalmPilot would be obvious releases.

Palm would be made for adult users, presumably those who are old enough to remember that the Palm was a brand they trusted and will see Palm as a brand new high-quality smartphone brand. Of course they will have to forget that the new Palm is a totally different machine, but if people buy brands TCL might score a win.

Courtesy-Fud

Is AMD Losing Money On Vega

September 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Our industry sources have confirmed to Fudzilla that AMD loses at least $100 on every Vega 64 card it sells at its $499 Suggested Etail Price (SEP).

The pricing of the HBM 2.0 memory, the packaging and substrate cost are simply too high to have a sustainable price of $499. We have mentioned this before, but Vega for AMD is not about making money. Don’t get me wrong, every company would like to make money with every product that it makes, but for AMD it is more important to win market share. First you win the market share, then you go after better ASPs (Average Selling Prices) and potentially start running a positive business.  

The company made a statement that it still has the power to interest its loyal customers with a high-end part and win some higher end GPU market from Nvidia. AMD is waiting for the second HBM 2 supplier to try to get a bit more favorable HBM 2 price and Hynix is expected to start delivering its HBM 2 memory in October.

Vega sells well

Vega 64 and 56 will definitely put a dent in the Nvidia dominated higher end GPU market. There are people who are willing to buy AMD, no matter what. Frankly the performance of Vega is enough to get a lot of people excited. The only downside of the Vega architecture is that the TDP power is too high, compared to the Geforce GTX 1070/1080 competition. Despite that, the performance and price ratio are quite balanced and are gaining a lot of sales for AMD.

The real manufacturing price or BOM (Bill of Materials) price of Vega is a well kept secret. The Vega GPU is being manufactured by GlobalFoundries (GloFo) and AMD has a sweetheart deal with this chip fab. It even has a five year wafer supply agreement with GlobalFoundries.

Vega pricing far north from SEP

This is where AMD saves some cost, but it currently cannot really do much about the high HBM 2 memory prices. So when AMD lets its Etailers sell Vega at the higher prices than SEP, it is actually making some money.

The pricing leaves a bitter taste as traditionally companies are very strict in controlling that no one really goes over the board with Suggested Etail Prices. Withthe Vega 64 and now the Vega 56, the $499 and $399 prices that were served up as official and caused reviewers to draw some conclusions on them based on the pricing, were far less than what the etailers were charging for the cards.

AMD claims that all this will be over soon as they are manufacturing more cards, but one thing is certain, it is still hard to buy any Vega 64 and 56 card, and even if you get one, it will cost you an arm and a leg.

Courtesy-Fud

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