Sony 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.
Notebook vendors have largely moved to on-board memory designs and are killing off DIMMs so that they can make their Intel Apollo Lake-based notebooks as slim as possible.
According to Digitimes shipments of Intel’s 14nm Apollo Lake CPUs, which feature low-power consumption, high performance and reduced sizes is apparently on the increase and with that a move to on board memory designs. The reason is that the manufactures think an anorexic look is super fashionable.
Numbers of new notebooks using LPDDR4 has also increased as vendors have continued to make efforts to minimize power consumption, improve performance, while prolonging battery life.
Acer has two new ultra-thin notebooks, the Aspire S 15 and S 17, both featuring a thickness of less than 17mm. Other vendors, including Lenovo, Asustek Computer, HP and Dell are also expected to focus on ultra-thin notebooks and 2-in-1 models for the second half of 2016, Digitimes said.
PC manufacturers shipped 75.7 million machines in the fourth quarter compared with about 82.6 million a year earlier. Sales sank 3.1 per cent in the US to 16.9 million in the quarter.
Gartner forecasts a fall of a percent in 2016 with the potential of a soft recovery later in the year.
Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner said that the fourth quarter of 2015 marked the fifth consecutive quarter of worldwide PC shipment decline. Holiday sales did not boost the overall PC shipments, hinting at changes to consumers’ PC purchase behavior.
Lenovo retained its leadership of the PC market with 20 percent of the global market in the fourth quarter. Its shipments dropped 4.2 percent. HP was the No. 2 global PC maker, increased its market share slightly to almost 19 percent. The company maintained its top position in the U.S., with 27 percent of the market, despite a decline of 8.4 percent in fourth-quarter shipments. Del increased its global market share to 13.5 percent from 13.1 percent and ranked third.
IDC released similar figures saying that it was all the fault of the strong US dollar hampered overseas sales. It thinks that the decline in PC sales may slow in 2016, with IDC projecting a fall of 3.1 percent compared with 10 percent drop in 2015. Greater commercial adoption of Microsoft Windows 10 operating system may help stabilize sales.
Researchers at Stanford University have developed a lithium-ion battery that automatically shuts down once it begins to overheat, potentially meaning the types of catastrophic fires seen in hoverboards, laptops and airliners could become a thing of the past.
Lithium-ion batteries are used in just about all portable electronics. They’re light, can store a lot of energy and are easily recharged, but they are also susceptible to overheating if damaged. A short circuit in the battery often leads to fire.
In the new Stanford battery, researchers employed a polyethylene film that has embedded particles of nickel with nanoscale spikes. They coated the spikes with graphene, a conducting material, so that electricity can flow over the surface.
But when the temperature rises, the film expands, and at about 70 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit) the conducting spikes no longer touch each other, breaking the circuit and causing the battery to shut down.
Once the battery shuts down, a runaway thermal reaction is avoided and the battery cools, eventually bringing the nickel spikes back into contact and allowing the electricity flow to resume.
“We can even tune the temperature higher or lower depending on how many particles we put in or what type of polymer materials we choose,” said Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at the university and one of the research team.
The research was also carried out by Stanford engineer Yi Cui and postdoctoral scholar Zheng Chen. Details were published on Monday in the journal Nature Energy.
When the bottom dropped out of the PC market, people were far too quick to blame the increase in the use of mobile and tablets. In fact the fall began before Jobs waved his first tablet about and continued long after the tablet fad died. Initially it was thought that it was due to the recession, but it failed to pick up afterwards.
Several suggested that Microsoft producing operating systems which did not require an upgrade might be to blame. Why would anyone upgrade if you have a machine that does what you want and still runs the latest operating system. This statement is close to explaining what I think the real cause is, but not a complete answer.
This year the PC makers started to notice that gaming computers were doing rather well. This should not be the case as they are more expensive and not needed by business users. But, the reason is that the software that powers modern games demands more resources and are actually good.
This is, in my view the reason why the PC market is in trouble. There has been no software created in the last ten years that uses the available hardware.
Since the introduction of GUI driven PCs software has more or less stayed the same. If you buy a PC you will need it to run an OS, an Internet browser, an Office Package, perhaps a graphics package like photoshop, or a DTP package. None of this will tax a PC made in the last seven years. In fact you can run the lot on a low spec PC.
With Windows 10 you do not need to upgrade, unless it can’t find drivers for some of your more elderly components. The chip also does not have to be particularly fast either, particularly if you run your OS on an SSD. Most software will run fast enough on a sub-
The clock speed for a PC chip can be more than 4 GHz but most PCs would run at sub- 2GHz speeds and their owners would never know. The hard-drive speed is more obvious but an SSD upgrade sorts that out.
Software developments in the last decade have made upgrades even less necessary for corporates. Network based PCs and the cloud mean that the user facing computer can be safely dumber and no one would notice.
But look at the issue from a historical perspective. The PC that sits on most people’s desks is more or less the same as they would have bought ten years ago. It has a QWERTY keyboard and a mouse and an internet connection. It runs most of the software which is thrown at it. In other words, the technology behind the PC has hardly changed at all. It might have been tweaked, refined and improved but it is still essentially the same thing.
The software is pretty much the same too. Microsoft Word and Excel might have more bells and whistles, but it still is the same concept that it always has been. The program’s core is the same. At the user side of software there has been little new that takes advantages of chip changes.
In short, while PC makers have been worried about the death of the industry, no one is making killer apps which call for an upgrade – other than gaming. In fact Windows 8 made matters even worse by bringing low powered mobile apps into the PC environment. Browser based software did the same thing.
Hardware makers are forced to sell a product which costs a fortune in R&D that no-one needs.
So what is the way out of this mess? Well the gaming industry hints that the way to save the PC is to encourage the development of new software which requires an upgrade. This can’t be a new operating system, because Windows XPs long life shows how an operating system is not a compelling reason for an upgrade.
What sort of non-gaming software would tax a modern PC? At the moment there is nothing. But if I were Microsoft, Cisco, Lenovo and the rest I would be thinking about it really hard, because at the moment users are only going to upgrade PCs when they wear out.
Although third-quarter worldwide PC shipments showed some signs of life, the PC supply chain is still pretty depressed.
So far fourth quarter to the first half of 2016 as most PC demand in the fourth quarter comes from price-cut promotions. In fact it appears the only people making money out of PCs is Apple, and that is because its margins are too high to fail.
According to sources in the Far East, inexpensive Windows 7 PCs are the main selling force in emerging markets such as Southeast Asia. So far, Windows 10 has not yet been able to create a PC replacement trend in the market.
In fact it looks like the PC shipment growth in the third quarter was mainly because of brand vendors refilling their channel inventory rather than any real sales push.
While they are not exactly PCs, vendors have turned to push niche products such as Chromebooks, 2-in-1 devices, gaming PCs, mini PCs and ultrabooks to prevent having to sell their children for medical experiments. However Digitimes analysts think that even these are expected to fall by about four percent in the next quarter so doom is still with us
Demand for PCs is expected to stay weak, the industry is unlikely to see any major recovery in the first half of 2016, Digitimes thinks.
Notebook ODMs are seeing a surprise uptick in August revenues, but are cautious about their September shipment performance.
If things go well in September, it could be a significant indicator for whether they can enjoy strong growth in the fourth quarter. It will decide if there will be Turkey on the table at Christmas or just spam.
Digitimes said that several ODMs expect their September shipments to reach the same level as in June which was the shipment peak of 2015 for most ODMs. But if they can’t achieve this, their overall second half shipments will be pants.
It also means that customers are still really conservative about spending money on anything IT related.
But there is some reason to be optimistic. Notebook ODMs’ monthly shipments in the past two quarters enjoyed strong on-month growth, the ODMs expect their shipments in September to follow the same pattern.
Compal expects its third-quarter shipments to reach 9.9 million units, up 3.13 per cent from the nine million units it shipped in the second quarter. Wistron is expected to achieve a sequential shipment growth of 6.52 per cent in the third quarter and Inventec will achieve shipments of 4.75 million PCs, up from four million units in the second quarter.
The lightweight drives have capacities of up to 1TB and are small enough to fit in your pocket. They’re significantly more expensive than magnetic hard drives, though, which come in capacities of up to 6TB.
Samsung’s 250GB external SSD is priced at $179.99, a 500GB drive is $299.99, and a 1TB drive is $599.99. By comparison, a 1TB magnetic drive can be acquired for under $100.
External storage is mostly used for data backup. But demand for external drives is growing as users download and store more multimedia and programs. Storage is also limited in Chromebooks and lightweight Windows laptops and hybrids, so users have to revert to external storage to preserve files.
But Samsung’s portable SSDs will be faster and more power-efficient than external hard drives, said Richard Leonarz, senior marketing manager.
SSDs are faster at reading and writing data than hard drives. SSDs also don’t have spinning disks, which are prevalent in hard drives and can draw a lot of power when reading and writing data.
The Portable SSD T1 drives will connect to a PC’s USB 3.0 port. The SSDs have sequential read and write speeds of 450MBps, random read speeds of 8,000 IOPS (input/output per second) and random write speeds of 21,000 IOPS.
Samsung already makes internal SSDs, which are widely used in laptops and have up to 3.2GB in storage capacity. The external SSDs are based on the same advanced 3D V-NAND technology that gives its internal SSDs speed and durability. The 3D V-NAND SSDs have storage units stacked on top of each other, much like a skyscraper, which is a more power-efficient and speedy structure compared to the planar structure used in most SSDs today.
Samsung is now taking on the likes of Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba, which largely sell external hard drives and hybrid SSD-hard drive products.
First there was the iPad at around 10 inches and then there was the iPad Mini that is closer to 8 inches. Now Apple Inc is gearing up to roll out a larger, 12.9-inch version of its once dominant iPad for 2015, with production set to begin in the first quarter of next year, Bloomberg cited people with knowledge of the matter as saying on Tuesday.
The report comes as Apple struggles with declining sales of its tablets, which are faltering as people replace iPads less frequently than expected and larger smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and other rivals have taken a bite out of its sales.
Apple has been working with its suppliers for over a year on larger touch-screen devices, Bloomberg cited the sources as saying.
It is expected to introduce larger versions of its 4-inch iPhone next month, although the company has not publicized plans for its most important device.
Apple was not immediately available for comment.
Researchers that discovered the Heartbleed security vulnerability have warned that over half of the 50 most popular Android mobile apps have inherited security vulnerabilities through the irresponsible recycling of software libraries.
Codenomicon, which coined the term “Heartbleed” upon discovering the OpenSSL flaw, will name and shame app developers later this month when it publishes its findings on those that neglected robust security practices.
Preliminary results from a study by Codenomicon revealed that over half of the 50 most popular Android apps submit the user’s Android ID to third party advertising networks without permission.
The study found that one in 10 apps send either a device’s IMEI code or location data to a third party, one in 10 apps connected to more than two ad networks, and surprisingly, one even sends the user’s mobile phone number.
It also found that over 30 percent of the apps transmit private data in plain text and plenty more are not encrypting the transfer of this data.
Codenomicon chief security specialist Olli Jarva, told ITnews that 80 to 90 percent of mobile app software is made up of reused libraries, most of which are available under open source, and that was because developers “did not want to invest in reinventing the wheel” with every app that they release.
“We’re seeing the end products inherit vulnerabilities – sometimes it’s just poor software design or logic errors in implementations, and sometimes those bugs are identified and patched. Sometimes, like in the case of Heartbleed, they are not identified for two years.”
Jarva suggested that some developers “act intentionally”, which is even more worrying.
“Some people might have been providing a vulnerability on purpose in order to do something nasty once the code has been distributed,” he added. “Who are they working with? Do they have side-line jobs somewhere else? The developers might be getting their dollars from ad networks.”
Heartbleed is considered the worst thing to happen to the internet since selfies, and web servers are still suffering from the fallout of the Heartbleed vulnerability.
Shaking the industry like a bear might a salmon, Heartbleed caused most companies to come forward and issue alerts and patches. Some laggard servers remain though, and according to security researchers over 300,000 are still vulnerable to exploits.
In the wake of the Heartbleed bug, the Linux Foundation founded the Core Infrastructure Initative, financially supported by the industry, with a remit to ensure that SSL connections remain safe from another similar vulnerability.
Qualcomm reportedly is preparing to buy high-speed internet chip designer Wilocity in a deal that could see the firm bring 7GBps speeds to its smartphone chipsets.
According to a report out of Israel, Qualcomm is set to pay $300m for Wilocity, which shipped its first commercially available chips at the end of 2012. However, the two companies have yet to agree all terms and conditions of the sale, the report said.
Israeli firm Wilocity announced its first smartphone chip at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), the Sparrow Wil6300 chipset, also known as WiGig, which uses 802.11ad network technology in the 60GHz radio frequency band that is able to transfer data at speeds up to 7Gbps. However, this superfast transfer rate comes at the cost of range, which is limited to mere metres and doesn’t work through walls.
Nevertheless, Qualcomm’s acquisition of the firm would be an obvious attempt by the firm to take this technology onboard, and perhaps develop it further to extend its operating range.
According to the source, if the deal is reached, Qualcomm will retain Wilocity’s staff of approximately 60.
Last month, Qualcomm posted its smallest quarterly revenue increase since 2010, which saw its share price plummet five percent in afterhours trading.
Reporting its second fiscal quarter financial results for the three months to 30 March, Qualcomm said its revenues rose to $6.37bn during the period, up four percent from a year ago, with net profit up five percent to $1.97bn.
However, that was the smallest year over year percentage increase since the June quarter of 2010, when revenue declined by two percent, and was far lower than the quarterly growth rates of over 20 percent that Qualcomm investors have seen previously.
Following Qualcomm’s earnings report, analysts said that the dip in revenue was attributable to a decline in sales in China as the country’s biggest network, China Mobile, prepares to launch a faster network with 4G LTE technology, and customers are anticipating the launch before buying new smartphones.
Qualcomm reported its second quarter earnings on Wednesday for the three months to 30 March, and its revenue rose to $6.37bn during the period, up four percent from a year ago, with net profit up five percent to $1.97bn.
However, that was the smallest year over year percentage increase since the June quarter of 2010, when revenue declined by two percent, and was far lower than the quarterly growth rates of over 20 percent that Qualcomm investors have seen previously.
“We delivered another solid quarter, driven by demand for our leading multimode 3G/LTE chipset solutions and record licensing revenues,” said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf in the earnings report, not mentioning that earnings reflected a much lower increase than seen in recent quarters.
“Looking forward, we are pleased to be raising our earnings per share guidance for the fiscal year. We continue to see increasing demand for our industry-leading chipsets and strong growth in calendar year 2014 of 3G/4G smartphones around the world.”
Qualcomm also forecast sales of between $6.2bn and $6.8bn for the April to June quarter, with the low end of that estimate representing a decline of one percent from a year ago.
It’s probable that while growing smartphone penetration in emerging markets is helping to keep the firm’s unit sales high, it’s also having an negative effect on Qualcomm’s average selling price (ASP) levels of mobile chipsets and devices.
Following Qualcomm’s earnings report, analysts said that the dip in revenue was attributable to a decline in sales in China as the country’s biggest network, China Mobile, prepares to launch a faster network with 4G, or LTE, technology, and customers are anticipating the launch before buying new smartphones.
Qualcomm now expects to make a profit of between $5 and $5.25 per share, five cents above its earlier projection, the firm said.
Kingston Technologies is the latest to throw its hat into the ring with a range of mobile oriented flash drives.
The Datatraveler Microduo has both standard USB 2.0 and microUSB slots allowing for easier data transfer between mobile and desktop devices.
Built with Android devices in mind, the device uses the On The Go (OTG) function in most modern Android microUSB ports to provide extra storage.
The device comes in capacities ranging from 8GB to 64GB with a five year guarantee and full technical support for anyone struggling to use the device.
“[The Datatraveler] Microduo is a great companion device to mobile phones or tablets as it lets users back up files on the go thus freeing up space, or share files between devices with ease,” said Nadine Frost, Kingston Technologies EMEA Business Manager,
“Its steel design has a built in key loop and rotating cap, so it is small on size and big on storage. Travellers can take entire libraries of music or videos with them on trips without worrying about filling up the memory on their own device.”
Kingston is not the first company to bring out a twin input USB port. In December we reported on a similar product from Sony.
The OTG port is already compatible with flash drives through the use of an adapter, however as storage companies look for ways to stay one step ahead of the cloud, these products play on their added convenience and are already proving popular.
Qualcomm Executive Vice President Murthy Renduchintala has announced the first 20nm chip from Qualcomm. It is not a processor though – it’s the Gobi 9×35 4th generation LTE modem. It is sampling right now and there should be customers who will announce the designs on it shortly.
The SVP has also confirmed that SoC parts will soon to move to 20nm and when asked whether TSMC has capacity and is ready for mature production of 20nm his answer was positive. He actually said to expect a 20nm SoC real soon, but he didn’t get into any details.
The Cat 6 300 Mbps modem in 20nm obviously needs much less power and it will improve battery life on LTE devices. We can see this product as very interesting option for many high-end phones. Modems are easier and less complex to make compared to SoCs and this is why Qualcomm traditionally moves the LTE modem to a new processor node first. The company then follows up with a SoC that is much more complex to manufacture.
With every shrink of the processor node, power goes down significantly and this is what high-end application processors are all about. At 28nm chipmakers are already pushing the envelope with big A15-class parts and the move to 20nm can’t come soon enough.
BlackBerry has requested that a California court block U.S. sales of the Typo keyboard, an add-on keyboard for the iPhone that BlackBerry says is an “obvious knock-off” of the keyboards on its phones.
The move,intensifies a battle between the two companies that began in January this year when BlackBerry accused Typo of patent infringement. The lawsuit garnered considerable attention, in part because Typo was co-founded by popular U.S. radio and television personality Ryan Seacrest.
The keyboard is designed to slip onto an iPhone 5 or 5S to provide a physical keyboard. The $99 device is currently available for pre-order through the company’s website, which advertises it has already sold out of an unspecified number of keyboards for January and February delivery.
Such keyboards have been a main selling point of BlackBerry devices since the company was making radio pagers and despite the recent popularity of on-screen virtual keyboards, there remains many users who value a physical keyboard.
BlackBerry alleges infringement of two patents: U.S. Design Patent 685,775and U.S. Patent 7,629,964. The former covers the design elements of a “handheld electronic device” and the latter “an electronic device with keyboard optimized for use with the thumbs.”
BlackBerry is asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to prohibit Typo from “making, using, offering to sell, or selling within the United States, or importing into the United States, the Typo Keyboard.”
“Typo’s blatant copying of BlackBerry’s keyboard presents an imminent threat of irreparable harm to BlackBerry, and that threat is magnified in combination with the significant market power of the iPhone,” BlackBerry said in a proposed motion to the court.
Seacrest comes up in the BlackBerry motion. The company notes he was a well-known, long-time user of BlackBerry devices and cites interviews where he said that the inspiration for the keyboard was trying to bring together the best of the BlackBerry typing experience with everything else an iPhone had to offer.
The motion also cites several reviews that note the visual similarity between the Typo and BlackBerry keyboards.
In response to BlackBerry’s proposed motion, Typo said it believes BlackBerry’s claims “lack merit and we intend to defend the case vigorously.”
The comment repeats, almost word for word, a portion of a statement the company issued earlier in January when the lawsuit was first filed.
For BlackBerry, the issue is perhaps about more than just the visual similarities.
The company has been struggling to keep up with the fast pace of change being driven by Apple and Android phones and recently regrouped to focus more tightly on the government, military and enterprise customer.
That’s the company’s core business audience and the users that value a physical keyboard the most. If comparable keyboards become add-on accessories to Apple and Android phones, it would be more difficult for BlackBerry to compete.