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DNA Testing As Part Of Job Applicant Screening?

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

dna-testing-150x150Currently it is illegal to require DNA testing for employment, but as science advances its understanding of genes that correlate to certain desirable traits — such as leadership and intelligence — business may want this information.

People seeking leadership roles in business, or even those in search of funding for a start-up, may volunteer their DNA test results to demonstrate that they have the right aptitude, leadership capabilities and intelligence for the job.

This may sound far-fetched, but it’s possible based on the direction of the science, according to Gartner analysts David Furlonger and Stephen Smith, who presented their research at the firm’s Symposium IT/xpo here. This research is called “maverick” in Gartner parlance, meaning it has a somewhat low probability and is still years out, but its potential is nonetheless worrisome to the authors.

It isn’t as radical as it seems. Job selection on the basis of certain desirable genetic characteristics is already common in the military and sports. The average athlete in the National Football League, for instance, is 6’2″ in height and nearly 247 pounds, versus the average man at 5’9″ and 182 pounds.

Science has demonstrated a linkage between genes and IQ in twins, and new research has identified genes linked to leadership. One firm, BGI in China, is working to identify human intelligence.

Genetic testing to glean personal insights is also mainstream. People are interested in what genetic testing reveals about their health and ancestry. Science is certain to unlock more information from these genetic tests as time goes on.

If businesses come to believe that some employees are born predisposed to leadership, they may be interested in identifying people early in their careers who have the genes that may help them become the next great CEO, CIO or CFO. But one thing businesses can’t do is to ask for a blood test.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits employers from collecting this information. The law was motivated, in part, by concern that employers will use genetic test information to screen out job applicants who may be at risk for certain types of illnesses. A blood test may be unnecessary.

Businesses, using this understanding about how some characteristics are genetically determined, may develop new interview methodologies and testing to help identify candidates predisposed to the traits they desire, such as leadership.

Now that scientists know some characteristics are genetically driven, “we can move with a little more confidence and start modeling out what we think it might look like in ways that don’t break the law,” Smith said.

Singapore To Put Self-driving Buses On The Road

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

self-driving-buses-150x150Singapore has signed an agreement to begin testing self-driving buses, as the city-state pushes ahead with its vision of using autonomous technology to help deal with the challenges posed by its limited land and labor.

Countries around the world are encouraging the development of such technologies, and high-density Singapore is hoping driverless vehicles will prompt its residents to use more shared vehicles and public transport.

“They say big dreams start small, so we are collaborating with NTU (Nanyang Technological University) on an autonomous bus trial, starting with two electric hybrid buses,” Singapore’s transport regulator said in a Facebook post.

The Land Transport Authority hopes eventually to outfit existing buses with sensors and develop a self-driving system that can effectively navigate Singapore’s traffic and climate conditions.

It did not specify when the trial would start.

Earlier this week, Singapore said it would seek information from the industry and research institutes on the potential use of self-driving vehicles for street cleaning and refuse collection.

Self-driving vehicles are also being tested in another western Singapore district, where a driverless car collided with a truck on Tuesday when changing lanes. Developer nuTonomy, which started trials of the world’s first robo-taxis in August, said it was investigating the accident.

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.


Cybercriminals Unleash A New Banking Trojan Program

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

dyre-trojan-150x150Cybercriminals have pushed out a new banking Trojan program on the internet and it has striking similarities to Dyre, a malware threat believed to have been dead for almost a year.

The new Trojan is called TrickBot and first appeared in September, targeting users of banks in Australia. After a closer analysis, researchers from Fidelis Cybersecurity believe that it is a rewrite of the Dyre Trojan that plagued online banking users for more than a year until the gang behind it was dismantled by Russian authorities.

While TrickBot is still a work in progress and doesn’t have all of Dyre’s features, there are enough similarities in their components to suggest that at the very least, one served as inspiration for the other. At the same time, there are also significant differences in how some functions have been implemented in the new Trojan, which also has more C++ code than its predecessor.

This leads the Fidelis researchers to conclude that TrickBot is a reimplementation of Dyre rather than a continuation of the older project.

“It is our assessment with strong confidence that there is a clear link between Dyre and TrickBot but that there is considerable new development that has been invested into TrickBot,” the researchers said in a blog post. “With moderate confidence, we assess that one or more of the original developers of Dyre are involved with TrickBot.”

Dyre, which stole tens of millions of dollars from customers of more than 1,000 banks, financial institutions and other organizations worldwide, disappeared almost overnight in November last year.

It remains to be seen if this new Trojan will reach or even surpass the previous size of the Dyre operation. According to the Fidelis researchers, the TrickBot gang is also trying to rebuild the Cutwail spam botnet which was previously used to distribute Dyre.

Online banking Trojans are designed to inject malicious code into financial websites when displayed locally in browsers on infected computers. The rogue code can hijack transactions in the background or ask users for sensitive information, like payment card details which can then be used for fraud.

Users should run an up-to-date antivirus program and if able, should perform online banking transactions from a separate dedicated computer, an OS running from a live CD or from a virtual machine.

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.

Netflix Enjoying A Boom As Subscribers Grows

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

netflix-new-deal-150x150Netflix Inc added over 50 percent more subscribers than expected in the third quarter as original shows such as “Stranger Things” attracted new international viewers and kept U.S. customers despite a price hike.

The company’s performance represented a turnaround from the previous quarter of disappointing subscription growth. Netflix, which has spent heavily to expand outside its home market, also said that it was on track to start harvesting “material global profits” next year, even as it raised spending on original programming.

Netflix added about 3.20 million subscribers internationally in the third quarter, higher than the 2.01 million average analyst estimate.

In the United States, Netflix added 370,000 subscriptions, compared with analysts’ estimate of 309,000, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

“Investors appear laser focused on subscriber growth, and so long as Netflix delivers on that metric, investors will bid its shares up,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. However, Pachter said he thought the continuing cost of developing new shows would undermine plans to deliver material profits in 2017.

Netflix has expanded into more than 130 markets worldwide, including most major countries, except China. It said on Monday it was dropping plans to launch a service in China in the near term, opting instead to license its shows for “modest” revenue.

The company said it still hopes to launch service in China “eventually.”

In the meantime, Netflix plans to keep pouring money into building its stable of original and licensed TV shows and movies. Content spending will rise to $6 billion next year, a $1 billion increase from 2016, the company said.”We will keep investing in growing the content spend, even domestically, for quite a long time,” Chief Executive Reed Hastings said on webcast.

Netflix has been facing a slowdown in subscription growth in the United States as the market matures and a planned U.S. price hike raised concerns it would not hit its targets. It also faces competition from the likes of Hulu and Inc.

But the company, whose other popular original shows include “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards”, said it expects to add 1.45 million subscribers in the United States in the current quarter.

Analysts on average were expecting 1.27 million additions, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.


Facebook Plays Prominently In Voter Registration Surge

October 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net


fb-voter-registration-150x150Social media is more than banal tweets and political rants as Facebook showed by getting hundreds of thousands of people to register to vote this fall.

“Facebook has demonstrated the power of social media to engage more people to register to vote, helping thousands take a big step to casting a ballot this November,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla in a statement. “For many who may be new to the political process, an invitation to register can be a powerful nudge to get involved.”

Facebook dove into the voter registration process this fall. On Sept. 23, Facebook sent reminders to its U.S. users, who were at least 18 years old, about registering to vote. The effort, which ran through Sept. 26, provided a link to voter registration sites at the top of Facebook’s News Feed.

According to Padilla, it caused a “major surge” in online voter registrations in California.

The state reported that on Sept. 23 alone, 123,279 Californians completed registrations or updates of their registration information on the Secretary of State’s online voter registration site. The next day another 43,888 registrations were completed online, and on the 25th, there were 29,256 more registrations or updates.

Padilla said that before the Facebook reminder went up, there was an average of 9,307 completed registrations or registration updates per day in September, and many of those registering were younger voters.

California reported that 23.8% of these registrations and updates were from people between 17 and 25 years old. Another 29.7% were between ages 26 and 35.

Facebook, which has provided users with Election Day reminders for the past eight years, wanted to do more this year to encourage voter registrations.

“Going back to 2008, we’ve been reminding people on Facebook to vote on Election Day and directing them to information on where to vote,” Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement said in an email to Computerworld. “This is the natural next step. We want people to have a voice in the process, and getting registered means that there’s one less hurdle for them.”

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.


HP To Shed 3,000+ Jobs In Its Near Future

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

hp-logo-150x150HP Inc. will eliminate between 3,000 to 4,000 jobs over the next three years as part of a restructuring plan worked out by the company.

The PC and printer firm, which was created about a year ago after Hewlett-Packard was split into two companies, said in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday that it expects about “3,000 to 4,000 employees to exit between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2019.”

The company’s “printing business is challenged right now but the PC business is hitting on all cylinders,” said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy. “The PC Group is gaining market share, increasing profits and innovating more than I have seen in years,” he added.

The workforce changes will “vary by country, based on local legal requirements and consultations with employee works councils and other employee representatives, as appropriate,” HP said in the filing.

The company said earlier that it would be cutting 3,000 jobs during the company’s 2016 fiscal year ending Oct. 31. It had nearly 50,000 employees as of Nov. 1, according to its website.

The new job cuts are expected to cost HP $200 million in labor costs related to the workforce reduction, out of $350 million to $500 million in total restructuring and other charges. The entire restructuring plan, approved by the HP board earlier this week, has been forecast by the company to generate gross annual run rate savings of about $200 million to $300 million starting in fiscal 2020.

Although its core markets are challenged and the macroeconomic conditions are in flux, the company continues to “see long-term growth opportunities in commercial mobility and services, the disruption of the A3 copier market, and the digitization of graphics and manufacturing through our leading 3D printing solutions,” company president and CEO Dion Weisler said in a statement.

Is Mobile Virtual Reality A Novelty?

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Chief technology officer at Oculus, John Carmack, says mobile VR is currently “coasting on novelty” and developers need to be harder on themselves.

According to CNET, Carmack told the assorted throngs at the Oculus Connect event that developers need to pull their socks up and create experiences on par with non-VR applications and games.

“We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before But we need to start judging ourselves. Not on a curve, but in an absolute sense. Can you do something in VR that has the same value, or more value, than what these other [non-VR] things have done?”

Carmack moaned about the higher loading times in mobile VR games as a key area in need of improvement. Users should not have to sit through 30 seconds given the brevity of most currently available VR experiences. Although he has clearly never tried to play Total War II whose screens take ages to load.

Still Carmack said that 30 second loads are acceptable if you’re going to sit down and play for an hour “…but in VR initial startup time really is poisonous. If your phone took 30 seconds to unlock every time you wanted to use it. You’d use it a lot less.”

That is true, the daft screen saver/adware/alleged resource saving software makes turning on my wife’s phone an exercise in futility.

He added: “There are apps that I wanted to play, that I thought looked great, that I stopped playing because they had too long of a load time. I would say 20 seconds should be an absolute limit on load times, and even then I’m pushing people to get it much, much lower.”


HTC Releases New Virtual Reality Gadgets

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-vr-gadgetsHTC has been showing off the prototype of its VR controller and position-tracking modules for its virtual reality headsets.

The assorted throngs at Valve’s Steam Dev Days developer conference had a chance to play with the new gear although the press were banned from taking photos. Apparently some members of the great unwashed who were not showing their press cards managed to tweet pictures of them playing with the new controllers before HTC bouncers could stop them.

The controller is smaller than the current Vive controller and it strap to the player’s palm, so users can open their hands without dropping them. HTC said there are 21 sensors on the current prototype but was managing to keep all other technical details under wraps.

Personally we are not impressed with this line of technology. Strapping on armour to play a game, or do anything important is not really the way VR should work.  These remind us a little too much like handcuffs, and while that is great for watching sometime of VR porn, it will not be useful for the rest of the time.

It would be much better if they did everything with external cameras which track your every movement and limit the number of censors you have to wear. Making the user look like an idiot will always be a big handicap for VR and this sort of thing does not help.    


Is Gears Of War 4 Appease The Harsh Critics?

October 14, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-gears-4For game critics, loving Gears of War has been problematic since the very beginning. The rippling, testosterone drenched surface of Epic’s franchise served as a distraction from its abundant qualities. Looking back, it’s clear that the first game, released in 2006, provided the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era with the kind of moment that arguably still hasn’t arrived for the current generation. It was a new visual benchmark, its sense of weight and physical force was entirely distinct, and – a year before the launch of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – it introduced the most credible new multiplayer experience since Halo. For those who based their professional integrity on distinguishing good games from bad, to notice and appreciate any of this was to miss the square-jaws and lumpen dialogue that comprised its story.

Looking back now, it’s clear that Gears of War was one of the defining series of the last console generation, influencing the creative direction of a large proportion of action games, driving the development community towards the Unreal Engine in droves, and with Horde mode in Gears of War 2, introducing a multiplayer concept that would be adopted by everything from Uncharted to Mass Effect. Even its marketing was influential: Gears of War’s popular “Mad World” trailer might well be the origin of action games using pained, acoustic covers of popular songs to score their artfully spliced carnage.

Despite this estimable legacy, however, the reviews of Gears of War 4 are shot through with an almost apologetic tone; a need to address the (arguably misplaced) perception of Gears as nothing more than a dude-bro power fantasy. Polygon, which awards the game an impressive 9 out of 10, spends a full third of its review on story and characterisation, opening with a declaration that, “Gears of War 4 is about home and family.”

“Gears of War as a series has dealt with accusations of hyper-masculine excess and an emphasis on gore and violence since it was first announced more than ten years ago. And it’s not that those observations are wrong, exactly – the characters have always been larger than life, the men in particular wide and heavy, and the violence of the series has always been extreme and enthusiastic. But beneath or even in parallel to that aspect, there’s always been consistent themes of friendship, of relationships of support and camaraderie that would seem corny in most other games but, somehow, work in Gears of War for a passionate fanbase.”

This protagonist of this reboot – which was developed by Microsoft’s The Coalition – is J. D. Fenix, the son of the original series’ central character, Marcus Fenix. Both father and son play pivotal roles in the game’s story, which Polygon describes as, “more focused, less sprawling story than the last few entries… A lot of time is spent exploring the strained relationship between Marcus and his son, with a lot of perspective on both sides of the equation.” The game’s various other key characters all have their own emotional journeys, largely relating to those themes of family and friendship. Gears of War 4’s story and character time works as well as it does for several reasons,” Polygon says. “The writing is matter-of-fact, avoiding over-stoicism and also overwrought fluff for the most part.”

If this is an area of weakness that The Coalition sought to address, then the abiding sense from the game’s reviews is that it has made a significant improvement. Whether that’s what the vast majority of Gears of War’s players care about is another matter, of course, but The Coalition hasn’t dropped the ball with the series’ core strengths, either. Polygon praises Gears of War 4 as “simply a joy to play,” and that sentiment echoes throughout the critical discourse.

The Daily Telegraph, which awards four stars, applauds the “muscular and endlessly gratifying thrill” of the gunplay, which carries the game through a slow start that serves, “as an elongated (re)introduction to that well-oiled Gears combat, flashing between cover-to-cover, switching between shotgun and rifle and familiarising yourself with the rattle of an emptying clip and the satisfaction of a well-timed, power-boosting active reload.” There are two new enemy races to fight in place of the original series’ Locust, and “weaponry…as exotic as the bestiary” with which to fight them. The need to switch between distinct weapons to fight equally distinct weapon types has always been central to Gears of War’s appeal. Here, again, The Coalition has honoured its heritage.

The same is true of Gears of War 4 as a spectacle. You won’t find a single review that doesn’t proclaim it to be one of the very best looking games on either Xbox One or PlayStation 4, and the same is true is the PC version. Indeed, PCGamesN calls it “a visual and technical tour de force,” maintaining “searing frame-rates on ‘ultra’ settings during some of the most mind-blowing – if cheesy – set-pieces I’ve seen in games, while also inviting me to appreciate the vivid redness of sycamore leaves lazily billowing on a cracked yellow wall in a medieval town square on some parallel-to-Earth planet.”

That last observation is crucial, because the beauty of Gears 4 goes beyond polygons, framerates and animations, and extends to art direction. “This certainly ain’t the grey-brown Gears of old,” PCGamesN says, before adding, “the diversity of what it shows is stunning… This is a far cry from the game that single-handedly started the stereotype of the ‘murky brown war shooter’, taking us instead on a historical tour of the vestiges of a world parallel to ours, yet still different enough to be mysterious; I almost felt guilty as I stomped around a scenic town as a giant mech, casually calling in airstrikes to smash my way through buildings. Almost.”

Words like “jawdropping,” “stunning,” “incredible” and “breathtaking” are scattered throughout this and many other reviews, to the point where the handful of scores that fall below 8 out of 10 demand close attention. For Jimquisition, the website started by ex-Destructoid personality Jim Sterling, “there’s nothing quite like Gears on the market. The sense of weight, the meaty impact of combat, the gruesomely satisfying way heads pop and bodies burst, any given Gears game has a baseline quality even at its worst thanks to its undeniably unique style.” However, Gears of War 4 relies on that “baseline quality” a little too much, The Coalition happy to make the improvements necessary to maintain relative standards but, “doing very little to rock the boat and making minor improvements and evolving where needed.”

“Such a tactic provides a game that’s decent just because it’s Gears of War, relying on the groundwork established across four older games to maintain the baseline. And that’s most certainly what Gears 4 is. A maintenance of the series as opposed to an injection of fresh blood.”

In a sense, then, the game’s most ardent supporters and most vocal critics are in full agreement: Gears of War 4 absolutely meets the standard set by its forebears, which is either something to praise or lament depending on the individual. One suspects, though, that in the absence of new Gears, the public will be more than happy to settle for more Gears.

Amazon Launches $3.99/Monthly Music Streaming Service

October 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net Inc has officially launched a full-fledged music streaming service with subscriptions as low as $3.99 per month for owners of its Amazon Echo speaker, accelerating the industry trend toward more flexible pricing after years of sticking to $9.99 subscriptions.

The new streaming service, called “Amazon Music Unlimited,” lets users access a vast catalog of songs on demand, similar to Spotify and Apple Music. Subscriptions to play music on the Echo cost $3.99 per month; for access beyond that device, subscriptions cost $7.99 a month for members of Amazon’s Prime shipping and video service and $9.99 for non-members. Amazon will continue to offer Prime members a limited streaming service for free.

As it plunges deeper into the crowded streaming field, Amazon is counting on the Echo, a smart speaker that responds to voice commands, to set it apart. Released broadly last year, the Echo has become a surprise hit, prompting many to predict that voice will become a key way users interact with technology – and music is central to the device’s appeal.

Amazon has built an elaborate system of voice controls for listening on the Echo. The company believes such smart home devices will be a key source of growth for the music industry, said Steve Boom, vice president of Amazon Music.

“The first phase of growth (in music streaming) was driven almost entirely by smartphones,” he said in an interview. “We believe pretty strongly that the next phase of growth in streaming is going to come from the home.”

The low price for Amazon’s streaming service is consistent with the company’s reputation for undercutting the competition and signals the music industry is beginning to accommodate consumers who are unwilling to pay $9.99 per month. Having watched revenues plummet from the CD era, label executives have been reluctant to budge on price, but they have come under pressure as streaming accounts for more of the pie.

Boom said he is optimistic that the new prices will expand the market.

“We’re moving music away from a one-size-fits-all approach,” Boom said. “We are the ones who have been pushing this the hardest.”

Streaming services must pay a majority of their revenues to rights holders, a business model that has left Pandora and Spotify struggling to turn a profit. But Amazon can afford to take a loss on music streaming, and the boost to Prime is well worth it, analysts say.

The premium music service, following the release of a standalone video service, suggests Amazon will increasingly offer basic media options through Prime while selling additional subscriptions for consumers who want to go deeper, said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research.


Sony Joins The Virtual Reality Race With New VR Headset

October 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

sony-vr-headset-150x150Sony Corp jumped into the race for virtual reality (VR) dominance with the $399 PlayStation VR, a headset the Japanese electronics group hopes will beat pricier rivals and revive its reputation as a maker of must-have gadgets.

Emerging from years of restructuring, Sony is reshaping itself to focus on lucrative areas such as video games, entertainment and camera sensors – rather than televisions or smartphones where demand is flat, competition acute and margins thin. The games unit is now the single largest profit contributor for the group.

The PlayStation VR headset, Sony’s first major product launch since it declared its turnaround complete in June, will put the company back on the offensive and test its ability to compete in one of the most talked-about spaces in the industry.

Rival offerings in virtual reality headsets include Facebook Inc’s $599 Oculus Rift and HTC Corp’s $799 Vive.

Sony hopes to lure in customers with its more modest price tag and by tapping the 40 million existing users of its flagship consoles – the headset is designed to plug into PlayStation 4, rather than requiring new equipment.

“Sony is well-positioned to build an early lead in the high-end VR headset race,” market researcher IHS Technology said in a report, forecasting sales of 1.4 million units in 2016.

Sony, developer of the Walkman portable cassette player and maker of the first compact disc player, hopes the headset will be a springboard to pull ahead of rivals in VR, gelling with the content portion of its business, specifically music and film.

In an interview with Reuters in September, Andrew House, Sony’s gaming division chief, said he was already in talks with media production companies to explore possibilities for Sony’s VR headset.

“We are talking about years into the future, but these are interesting conversations to start having now,” House said.

Sony, however, will compete in a crowded market. Nomura analysts expect cumulative shipments of all VR headsets to expand more than 20 times to 40 million by 2020, which along with accessories and other non-game content could be worth $10 billion.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said last week the Oculus business will spend $500 million to fund VR content development and is working on an affordable standalone VR headset not tethered to personal computers or consoles.

Will Sound Push The Oculus VR To Faster Growth?

October 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Oculus VR has introduced new Oculus Earphones which it claims will give “next-level audio integration,”

The outfit added that they will be a  “new sound solution to satisfy even the most serious audiophiles.” We have grave doubts about that from the outset.

Any audiophile will dismiss earbuds in any shape simply on principle, particularly when they are priced at $49. Earbuds which lost lesst han $50 will be the audiophone equivalent of listening to sound between two bean tins attached with a piece of string. The fact that these are being touted as an improvement on the Company’s Rift VR headset there is now worries me –  it means that the sound is currently as a Justin Beiber concert but you can get an upgrade so that it sounds like a Céline Dion concert held in a rubbish skip.

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, who announced them at the third-annual Oculus Connect developers conference in San Jose, CA.

Oculus Earphones will be available to buy from 6 December, though you can pre-order them starting 10 October on There’s no word yet on pricing or availability outside of the US.


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