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Dubai Police Department Debuts Robocop

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Known for glitz and cutting edge technology, Dubai has deployed a first-of-it’s kind robotic cop. The Robocop has started its duties as part of a new police program.

The Robocop is a customized service robot from Pal Robotics that will be posted in malls and tourist attractions, and people can use the touchscreen embedded in its chest to report crime, pay fines and get information.

“Now most people visit police stations or customer service, but with this tool we can reach the public 24/7 and it won’t ask for any sick leave or maternity leave,” Brig Khalid Al Razooqi, Dubai Police director general of smart services, said in a statement.

The robot has built-in cameras that will stream video back to the police command center. The next batch will be used to tackle crimes, and the police force has plans for a 3-meter tall robot piloted by a police officer from the inside for travel up to 80 kilometers per hour and carrying heavy equipment.

Brig Al Razooqi said the Dubai police plan to add robots until they reach around 25 percent of the force by 2030, allowing the human members of the police to focus their attention on other areas.

Bitcoin Hits Yet Another Record In Value

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Digital currency bitcoin blew past yet another record high this week, surging above $2,400, as demand for crypto-assets soared with the creation of new tokens to raise funding for start-ups using blockchain technology.

Blockchain, the underlying technology behind bitcoin, is a financial ledger maintained by a network of computers that can track the movement of any asset without the need for a central regulator.

Bitcoin hit a record of $2,409 BTC=BTSP on the BitStamp platform and was last up 4.3 percent at $2,363. So far this year, the price of bitcoin has more than doubled.

A key reason for bitcoin’s dominance in the nefarious online underworld, say technologists and cybercrime experts, is its size – the total value of all bitcoins in circulation is more than twice that of the nearest of hundreds of rivals.

Also, a big part of bitcoin’s recent surge is the increase in demand for other digital currencies being sold in so-called “initial coin offerings”, or ICOs. Under ICOs, blockchain start-ups sell their tokens directly to the public to raise capital without any regulatory oversight.

“Bitcoin up 100 percent in under 2 months. Shanghai down almost 10 percent same timeframe, compared to most global stocks up. Probably not a coincidence!”, Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive at DoubleLine Capital tweeted on Tuesday.

Strong demand for bitcoins in Japan has also fueled the rise of the virtual currency that can be moved like money around the world quickly and anonymously without the need for a central authority.

Lenovo Return To Profit, Despite Losses In Mobile Business

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

China’s Lenovo Group Ltd, the world’s largest personal computer (PC) manufacturer, has returned to profitability, but said rising component prices may put pressure on its bottom line this year as supply shortages extend to batteries.

Profit reached $535 million in the year to March on revenue that fell 4 percent, just missing analyst estimates. The news sent Lenovo shares up as much as 6 percent in Hong Kong trade.

The result comes as Lenovo navigates a PC market that has shrunk markedly since the advent of tablet computers. According to researcher Gartner, global PC shipments fell for the 10th consecutive quarter in January-March, dipping below 63 million units for the first time since 2007.

Lenovo’s annual shipments fell 1 percent versus a market decline of 3 percent, with its share rising 0.4 percentage point to a record 21.4 percent. Revenue in its PC and smart devices unit – which makes up 70 percent of the total – fell 2 percent.

The company blamed the declines on transition in its smartphone and data center businesses, as well as on a difficult macro environment and component supply constraints.

Memory shortage is likely to continue this year, particularly solid-state drives (SSD), pushing up parts costs, said Corporate President and Chief Executive Officer Gianfranco Lanci at an earnings briefing.

“We are starting to see shortage in batteries,” Lanci added. “That is mainly because of cars consuming many more batteries than before.”

Lanci said it could take a year for battery suppliers to catch up with demand and for prices to normalize, having risen by a single digit percent so far this year.

Lenovo’s mobile business, which accounts for 18 percent of revenue, booked a loss which widened somewhat to $566 million, though the firm said it was enjoying strong growth in Latin America and Western Europe.

Is AMD Going To Rome

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD has presented a long-term 7nm roadmap and the new codenames for the server products have an Italian theme.

The Zen-based server core, the product that will give a birth to the  Epyc line of data center / server products should debut next month with Naples. Naples is the first 32 core with 64 threads to launch, and this is a 14nm FinFET product. It is named after a city of very rude Italians who are sitting on a super volcano which will eventually explode and take most of southern Europe out with it.

Now Forrest Norrod, a SVP and General Manager of AMD’s enterprise, embedded and semi custom business group, has shared what will come after Zen and it appears the product names are keepting to the Italian theme.

The next in line is based on 7nm and is what the company internally calls Zen 2. Making the transistors smaller will let it put more transistors per square meter and give it a much better efficiency. In servers, it is all about the efficiency per square millimeter, or performance per watt metric.

The Zen 2 data center is codenamed Rome which is named after a city which worshipped a fire goddess and nicked most of its technology from the rest of Europe. Rome also invented exploding public toilets and Catholicism. 

GlobalFoundries said that 7nm risk production can start early next year, so we can expect to see the Zen 2 core at the end of 2018 at the earliest.

The Zen 3 based core is likely based on a 7nm+  process, whatever that might become. AMD’s client and data center group is in sync with its roadmap, at least partially. Both groups are planning to have Zen 2 and Zen 3 based products after they finally manage to ship Zen this year. AMD is using “Milan” as the codename for its Zen 3 product. It is named after a city which thinks it rules the whole of Italy. People from Milan also believe in putting blue cheese on pizzas, which makes them seen as barbarians by the rest of the country.

According to a Powerpoint deck, Milan is coming in its Blue Vein glory sometime before 2020. These time frames are not set in stone.

Forrest said that  a Zen based Epyc processor should be expected in 30+ 1S and 2S servers during 2017. 5000 Epyc CPUs are seeded with OEMs, end customers and partners and AMD is hoping that they will get to see the beauty of its Epyc platform and make some more designs.

Multiple Hypersacele providers have programs and evaluation for the Epyc processor,  hoping to score a good deal in the latter part of the year and beyond. AMD has confirmed that its Risorgimento should be on schedule to launch in June 2017. 

Courtesy-Fud

T-Mobile Offers To Pay For Your Verzion iPhone, Google Pixel Device

May 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile has upped the ante regarding Verizon Wireless customers.

The company announced that it will cover the payments left on your Apple iPhone or Google Pixel if you bring it over from Verizon. Since they work equally well on both networks, the hope is that customers will just keep their phones when using T-Mobile service. The offer is a limited promotion that starts on May 31.

It’s the latest push by T-Mobile to extend its lead over rivals by getting you to make the jump. The competition has heated up with every carrier offering an unlimited plan, but T-Mobile has continually shaken things up with new offers. The carrier teased that this was the first of three announcements as it rolls into summer.

Initially, you will still have to pay off the balance of what you owe on the phone before you switch. After 15 days on T-Mobile’s service, the carrier will send you a digital prepaid MasterCard for that same value. If you have an early termination fee, T-Mobile said it will cover that as well. To ward off scammers, T-Mobile will only accept Verizon customers who have an established account for at least 60 days.

Families of up to five will be able to take advantage of this deal.

“We want all phones on all carriers to have complete freedom,” said Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert. “We think it’s the start of a trend.”

The offer only works with iPhones and Pixels. Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said he is working with other manufacturers to ensure their phones are easily switchable, “but we’re not there yet.”

AT&T and Sprint customers aren’t completely left out. T-Mobile will likewise cover the cost of your phone if you switch, but you’ll have to buy a new device on T-Mobile. Sievert said that it takes a longer time to port a phone from those two carriers over to T-Mobile, so there isn’t an instant switch like with Verizon devices. Those customers will be able to sell that phone or use it for another account once it’s paid off. T-Mobile had previously required that customers trade in that device.

Microsoft To Acquire Cyber Security Firm Hexadite

May 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has made a deal to purchase cyber security firm Hexadite for $100 million, according to Israeli financial news website Calcalist.

Hexadite, headquartered in Boston with its research and development center in Israel, provides technology to automate responses to cyber attacks that it says increases productivity and reduces costs for businesses.

Microsoft officials declined to comment. Officials at Hexadite could not immediately be reach for comment.

Investors in Hexadite include Hewlett Packard Ventures, and venture capital firms TenEleven and YL Ventures.

Microsoft said in January it plans to continue to invest more than $1 billion annually on cyber security research and development in the coming years. Israel has already benefited from that investment.

Can NBCUniversal Compete In The Mobile Games Space

May 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

As the mobile market continues to boom and the nascent virtual reality space becomes a larger sector within mobile thanks to devices like Samsung Gear and Google Daydream, NBCUniversal is aiming to leverage its bevy of popular IP such as Fast & Furious, Minions, Despicable Me, Jurassic World and more. According to GamesBeat, the company has hired former Disney mobile games leader Chris Heatherly to oversee a new mobile game and virtual reality publishing group.

The goal is to leverage properties from DreamWorks Animation, Illumination Entertainment, and Universal Pictures by directly getting involved in the creation, development, marketing and distribution of games as opposed to licensing out brands, which has been done previously. For example, Despicable Me had been licensed to Gameloft, and the publisher’s Minion Rush game went on to be downloaded more than 800 million times. While self-publishing is now a focus, the company said it will still complement its business by licensing some brands as well.

“Universal has decided to take a strategic position in games,” Heatherly said. “We are pushing heavily in the digital space. And they see there is no bigger digital space than games. It’s part of a larger plan to build evergreen franchises that support multiple products across multiple businesses.”

Heatherly will serve as executive vice president of games and digital platforms within Universal Brand Development, and he will be joined by James Molinets, senior vice president of production; Timothy FitzRandolph, vice president of creative; and Fabian Schonholz, senior vice president of technology and operations. The former two executives were key members of the Disney mobile team and also oversaw the kids-focused virtual world, Club Penguin.

While NBCUniversal said it’s going to be 80% focused on creating mobile games, interest in VR as an “emerging area” is building as well. “We are leveraging the best talent that is already out there… On the VR front, we are doing quite a few things. One of them we can announce soon,” he teased.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Can Companies Mine The Moon AT A Profit

May 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The first-ever private mining operation on the moon is scheduled to kick off in 2020, when a landing craft sent by Florida-based Moon Express will ferry a single scoop of lunar dirt and rocks back to Earth.

Unlike the three governments that have led lunar missions — the United States, the Soviet Union, and China — the owners of this private firm have something history-making in mind for that little ball of extraterrestrial soil: They plan to sell it.

“It will instantly become the most valuable and scarcest material on Earth,” says Bob Richards, the CEO of Moon Express. “We’ll make some of it available to scientific research. But we also plan to commoditize it ourselves.”

Moon Express is gearing up to become the first company to ever transport a commercial asset from space back to Earth. But it’s not alone.

Several ambitious startups are busily developing plans to launch mining operations on both the moon and asteroids, with initial proof-of-concept missions set to kick off over the next few years and more robust operations within a decade. China is a key player, too, along with a tiny, unlikely European upstart: the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Those seeking to conquer celestial commodity markets are beckoned by the glittering wealth that could await them in space.

“We believe that the first trillionaires will be made from space resources,” says Richards.

Exactly which minerals will drive those fortunes remains to be seen.

The moon holds significant amounts of a special type of a futuristic fuel source called helium-3 — enough, some say, to meet all of Earth’s power demand for thousands of years providing scientists can master the fusion power technology to utilize it.

A fortune could be made by anyone able to capture and exploit one of the mountain-sized asteroids made of platinum or other precious metals thought to be orbiting the sun, or deposits of rare earth elements on the moon.

Others point to the potential for zero-gravity construction of super-massive colonizing spacecraft and mammoth floating structures using raw materials sourced from asteroids.

Most, however, are focused on a resource that’s commonplace on Earth: water.

Water, space entrepreneurs say, will be the key space commodity for an economy expanding into the solar system — both because it can sustain life as drinking water and breathable air, and because it can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket fuel.

Sourcing water from space could, for example, turn the moon into a depot for more ambitious missions.

“Water is like the oil of the solar system,” said Richards. “The moon could become a gas station in the sky.”

In the near term, Moon Express is focused on providing relatively low-cost transport to the surface of the moon for commercial, private, academic, and government customers.

One client that’s already signed up is the moon-burial company Celestis, which offers to send cremated human remains to the surface of the moon for a starting price of $12,500.

In 2016 Moon Express became the first private company in history to receive permission from the US Federal Aviation Administration to travel beyond Earth’s orbit and land a craft on the moon.

The company is planning three lunar missions by the time it brings back the small scoop of lunar soil, between the size of a baseball and basketball, in 2020.

Selling part of that scoop to private interests — for example, as moon gems for jewelry for the ultra-rich — will set an important precedent. The international Outer Space Treaty of 1967 says no country can claim sovereignty over extraterrestrial territory. But in 2015 President Barack Obama signed a law granting private citizens the rights to resources recovered from space.

The company’s first mission, slated for this year, will be in part an attempt to win the Google Lunar XPrize. The competition offers $20 million to the first private company able to land a rover on the moon’s surface, travel 500 meters, and then broadcast hi-definition images back to Earth.

Another company fielding a team for the XPrize, which also plans to eventually tap moon water, is Japan’s ispace Inc.

In December, ispace signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan’s national space agency, JAXA, for the “mining, transport, and use of resources on the moon,” according to a company statement.

During an initial phase of operations, from 2018 through 2023, ispace will go prospecting on the moonscape, sending exploratory robots into lunar craters and caves to check for water. Production is planned to begin in 2024.

China is also eyeing moon resources — especially helium-3.

As an energy source, helium-3 is as alluring as it is elusive: a non-radioactive agent that wouldn’t produce dangerous waste. The isotope is released by the sun and carried through the cosmos on solar winds that are blocked by Earth’s atmosphere, but collect on the surface of the moon.

As a result, the moon is “so rich” in helium-3, it could “solve human beings’ energy demand for around 10,000 years at least,” a top Chinese scientific advisor to the country’s moon exploration program, Professor Ouyang Ziyuan, told the BBC.

 

One of the top proponents of lunar helium-3 is Harrison Schmitt, a geologist who walked on the moon during NASA’s Apollo 17 mission and wrote a 2006 book advocating lunar helium-3 mining called Return to the Moon.

Others, however, are deeply skeptical — even if the necessary fusion technology, which has long eluded researchers, is mastered.

“I do not see this as being an economic solution to Earth’s energy needs,” Ian Crawford of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Birkbeck College, University of London, said in an email. “The problem is that the abundance is very low, of the order 10 parts per billion by mass in even the most abundant regions.”

Another potentially attractive lunar resource is the platinum group of metals, including iridium, palladium and platinum, which have special qualities that make them highly useful in electronic devices. Such elements, rare on earth, are thought to be bountiful on the moon.

Richards of Moon Express said it’s too soon to specify the most valuable resource on the moon.

“It would be speculative and predictive to say which specific element is going to be the game-changer,” he said. “Pick your favorite spice.”

For now, he says, the key target is water — which, to be sure, can be found on frozen asteroids circling the sun as well.

Two US companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, are leading the charge into asteroid mining, largely with the aim of providing resources that other types of space missions will need.

Rick Tumlinson, chairman of Deep Space Industries, said his company plans to land its first prospector on an asteroid by 2020.

The company will use tiny scouts to explore and study prospective targets. When a prime asteroid has been located, a larger robot will land on it, bite out a chunk, and then use solar power to evaporate and capture water from the sample.

“Water, we believe, is relatively easy to harvest from asteroid materials,” said Tumlinson.

If all goes according to plan, “by the middle-20s, we’d be producing serious quantities of resources,” he said.

Planetary Resources is also focused on water.

“You can concentrate that solar energy and heat up the surface of the asteroid and literally bake off the water in the same way you’d bake a clay pot,” says CEO Chris Lewicki.

 

Both Lewicki and Tumlinson also point to the potential for supplying building materials in space, which could allow for the construction of super-massive floating structures that would be ungainly to launch from Earth.

In space, “you can build these huge structures we see in movies and science fiction,” said Lewicki. “The resource that will allow us to do that is the metal that’s on asteroids. We can use technology like 3D printing. We can print up a structure in space that never has to hold itself up on Earth, never has to take a violent rocket ride.”

As billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos explore ideas for colonizing space and Mars, someone, advocates of space mining say, will need to provide the raw materials, water and fuel the colonizers will need.

And while space mining might sound like science fiction, serious backers with deep pockets are taking notice.

A total of $1.8 billion was invested in space ventures in 2015 — more than in the prior 15 years combined, according to the Tauri Group consultancy. More than 50 venture capital firms invested in space deals in 2015, the most of any year, the group found.

The tiny European nation of Luxembourg has invested 25 million euros in Planetary Resources, and collaborated on the development of Prospector-X, the first spacecraft from Deep Space Industries.

The moon, said Richards, is like Earth’s 8th continent, and it’s largely unexplored.

“We’re like early pioneers,” he said, “looking at a whole new world.”

 

Courtesy-Fud

 

 

India Woos Apple Expansion, Offers Tax Concessions

May 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

India has proposed letting Apple Inc import mobile handset components intended for use in local manufacturing tax free, a top government official said.

The tax concessions will be subject to the condition of increasing local value addition over a period of time.

Apple Inc wants to expand its contract manufacturer’s facility in the southern Indian tech hub of Bengaluru, a federal minister said , as the iPhone maker seeks a bigger share in one of the world’s biggest smartphone markets.

Cupertino, California-based Apple last week started making iPhone SE at its Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron’s plant in Bengaluru..

Apple, which sold over 50 million iPhones in the March quarter, down 1 percent year-on-year, is looking for new markets as its sales in China have weakened.

Among a set of tax concessions, Apple had initially sought a 15-years tax holiday for all components that it would import for setting up a manufacturing facility in India.

A panel of ministries rejected that demand and has offered a phased program to increase the share of local production in the manufacturing, Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary at the Ministry of Electronics and IT said.

“We have offered them tax exemptions on those components which could not be manufactured in India,” Sundararajan told Reuters, adding that local manufacturing component would have to be increased gradually.

Apple has agreed to increase local share in production over a period of time, but there was a difference between the plans of the two sides, she said.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

India wants Apple to raise value addition share in phases of 3,5,7 and 10 years as the local capacity builds up, part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plans to boost manufacturing.

Industry estimates the phased manufacturing program could increase local value addition in mobile phones manufacturing to 40-50 percent in the next three years.

Earlier, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the federal minister for Electronics and IT said government officials were in touch with Apple and other mobile phone manufacturers about expanding facilities and setting up new plants.

“It will be a little early to say that India and Apple have agreed on the common ground,” said the official, adding India was ready to work out a roadmap to encourage manufacturing.

Industry estimates total value of mobile phones produced in India touched near 900 billion Indian rupees ($13.90 billion) compared with 540 billion rupees in the previous year.

“We are waiting for Apple to come back,” said Sundararajan.

Will SSDs Take The Place Of Hard Drives

May 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Flash memory based solid state storage devices (SSD) are pushing hard disk drives out of the market and will replace them, according to the president of NAND controller developer Silicon Motion.

Robert Fan told New Electronics  that SSDs were taking over the whole category now and we’re seeing with Seagate and Western Digital that their hard disk market is declining.

Fan said flash moves the data quicker and more reliably. Because it is not mechanically-based it has better durability to withstand shocks, high pressures and temperatures. He claims it consumes much less power.

Flash controllers will also organize the way data is stored to achieve ‘wear levelling’. The locations in a flash memory will gradually wear out with repeated write/erase cycles, so using the available memory cells equally is important to avoid premature failure.

Applying single- and multi-cell technologies in its products, Silicon Motion is also exploring 3D NAND. According to Fan. pictured left: “3D NAND is the latest generation of flash technology. It enables very high capacity and very low cost. All the NAND vendors – like Samsung, Toshiba – are moving towards supplying 3D NAND.”

While much has been written about the benefits of SSDs in enterprise applications, the technology is also finding uses in other areas. “One of our key growth areas in the past couple of years has been in the client SSDs,” Fan noted. Client SSDs are built for the consumer market, rather than for enterprise applications, and may provide fewer write cycles.

Courtesy-Fud

Intel Kittson Really A Successor To The Itanium Line

May 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has released the successors to the Itanium “Poulson” microprocessors and they are showing all the development and evolution of an Apple product.

The Itanium 9720, 9740, 9750 and 9760 CPUs are better known as “Kittson” and really are so similar to their predecessor you could not tell them apart.

In fact the only improvement in “Kittson” lineup is slightly increased operating frequency in two models.

The new range has four and eight CPU cores depending on SKU, up to 32 MB of last level cache, and 2 DDR3 memory controllers. They are clocked at up to 2.66 GHz, and support Hyper-Threading technology. Other supported features are Turbo Boost and Virtualization technologies.

They have shedloads of RAS features, such as machine check architecture with ECC and parity protection, Instruction Replay technology, hot add and removal.

Each on-chip memory controller supports two interconnects to Intel 7500 and 7510 Scalable Memory Buffers. The CPU works with DDR3-800 and DDR3-1066 memory. The Itanium 9720 is rated at 130 Watt TDP and the 9740, 9750 and 9760 SKUs have 170 Watt TDP.

Courtesy-Fud

Google Unveil Cloud IoT Core Services For Businesses

May 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Google has launched a cloud platform service to help organizations collect vital data from billions of Internet of Things devices.

The service, Google Cloud IoT Core, is designed to help enterprises, including utilities and transportation agencies, securely connect globally distributed devices to the Google Cloud Platform. There, the data can be centrally managed and integrated with Google’s data analytics services, said Indranil Chakraborty, cloud product manager at Google.

One customer who has been testing the new service for two months is Energyworx, a company of 40 workers that has used Google cloud services since 2014. Energyworx provides data analytics to utilities to help them plan better and improve performance.

The new Cloud IoT Core has been deployed by Energyworx to get real-time data readings from thousands of solar inverters and electric vehicle charging ports that have been deployed in California and other locales, said Edwin Poot, founder and visionary for Energyworx, in an interview. He said he expects to expand the test of Cloud IoT Core to include collection of data from millions of smart utility meters used to measure water and gas in coming years.

Cloud IoT Core provides a communications bridge between Google analytics and devices in the field, Poot said. Many of the devices, including solar invertors, rely on distinct or arcane data protocols that Google services can translate without manual intervention. (A solar inverter converts the variable direct current of a solar panel into a utility frequency alternating current that can be fed into the commercial electric grid.)

With the service, utilities can send control commands to meters, turning them on off, he said.

Energyworx only pays Google for the IoT devices it uses to receive data, Poot said, which should keep costs low. Overall, Poot said Google cloud services have cost a 10th what Energyworx was paying to Amazon Web Services, which it used prior to 2014.

“We’re seeing the power of cloud will grow fast and this [Google IoT] approach will be scalable,” Poot said. “We don’t install anything and don’t maintain anything. We just program it and use it and don’t worry about anything else.”

Samsung On The Hunt For Acquisitions

May 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd plans to continue their hunt for acquisition opportunities, a company executive said on Monday, as the firm seeks to build software and services to further differentiate its products.

“We are going to be bullish on finding companies that fit our strategy,” Peter Koo, a senior vice president for Samsung’s mobile division, said during an investor event in Hong Kong. He did not elaborate on specific targets or technologies that Samsung is looking to acquire.

The world’s top maker of memory chips, smartphones and televisions has grown more aggressive in acquiring companies in recent years, breaking from its past preference to rely on its own talent and use its cash for capital expenditures amid intensifying competition from the likes of Apple Inc and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

In addition to buying firms such as Viv Labs and LoopPay, deals that bolstered Samsung’s existing efforts for artificial intelligence and mobile payments services, Samsung is also spending money to break into new businesses.

The firm completed an $8 billion acquisition of Harman International Industries early this year, its biggest ever deal, in an attempt to speed up its entry into the automotive components industry and develop a new growth engine.

Koo said Samsung’s aim with software and services is to primarily make its products more attractive to consumers, and that the firm will look for partnerships as well as acquisitions to bolster its offerings.

Square Enix Is Giving IO Interactive The Boot

May 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Square Enix is dropping IO Interactive, the Danish studio behind the long-running Hitman franchise.

In a statement released today, the Japanese publisher said the decision was part of a strategy to “focus our resources and energies on key franchises and studios.”

The withdrawal was in effect as of the end of the last financial year, on March 31, 2017, and resulted in a ¥4.9 billion ($43 million) extraordinary loss on the company’s balance sheet.

Square Enix has already started discussion with potential new investors, the company said. “Whilst there can be no guarantees that the negotiations will be concluded successfully, they are being explored since this is in the best interests of our shareholders, the studio and the industry as a whole.”

IO Interactive was acquired by Eidos in 2003, just before it launched Hitman: Contracts, the third game in what was already its signature franchise. Eidos was acquired by Square Enix in 2009, and it has launched four games in the time since: Mini Ninjas, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, Hitman: Absolution, and Hitman, last year’s episodic take on its most celebrated IP.

The bold new structure implemented in Hitman saw the game’s missions being separately on digital platforms, with various live events and challenges taking place between the release of each one. Square Enix originally planned to give the entire series a boxed retail release, but that never materialised. It has never disclosed official numbers regarding the sales figures for Hitman, either as a series or for individual episodes.

However, the series’ ámbition was widely appreciated within the games press – it was named 11th best game of 2016 by Eurogamer, for example, and was Giant Bomb’s overall Game of the Year. When we talked to IO studio head Hannes Seifert last year, he described the pride his team felt at the “new feeling” the game created, and made it clear that plans for Hitman extended far beyond a single season of epsiodes.

“When we say an ever expanding world of assassination, it means we don’t have to take everything that’s out there, throw it away and make a new game,” he said. “We can actually build on that. Just imagine after two or three seasons, you enter at that point in time, the amount of content will just blow your mind. That’s where we want to be.”

Seifert stepped down as IO’s studio head in February this year. He was replaced by Hakan Abrak, IO’s former studio production director.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Will HTC Ever Return To Profitability

May 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

HTC, the original equipment manufacturer that designs its own mobile devices and Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, has announced net losses of $66.12 million for the first quarter of 2017. The company’s latest financials are the latest in a series – it’s had eight consecutive losses over the past two years.

Like many smartphone and VR headset manufacturing companies, HTC had hoped that 2017 would turn out to be a much better year than 2016. The Taiwanese company’s earnings report for Q1 2017 gives mixed results this quarter. Revenues were $NT14.5 billion ($480.2 million), which is down 33 percent from the NT$22.2 billion ($720.7 million) it posted in Q4 2016. However, losses of NT$2 billion ($66.2 million) aren’t as bad as the NT$3.09 billion ($102.4 million) it posted the previous quarter, or about 55 percent. These are also up from NT$2.61 billion ($86.5 million) in the previous year.

HTC plans to streamline operations, reduce operating losses

In Q1 2017, HTC says it continued to realign its organizational structure to help reduce overhead expenses by nearly 20 percent. This is similar to what Sprint has been doing since October 2015, when it announced a $2.5 billion cost cutting plan to streamline company operations. HTC’s gross margins climbed to 16.3 percent versus 10.45 percent in Q4 2016, and 9.36 percent year-over-year.

The company worked to lower its operating costs to $NT12.2 billion ($403 million) from NT$13.4 billion ($444.9 million) a year earlier. Given that the company has not turned a profit in over a year, the plan is to continue lowering operating costs to reduce its operating losses. HTC launched two smartphones in the first quarter – the HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play – but only the first device is available in the US. Then there was a report in February stating the company plans to exit the entry-level smartphone business in 2017 as it begins to focus on “high-margin” and “high-profit” devices. The company has been notorious for announcing products at its own events that aren’t necessarily in line with usual CES and MWC unveils from manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Huawei, Motorola and others. While this strategy can work well in some circumstances, it only works when people are made aware of the announcements.

Opinion: HTC U 11, Pixel shipments may return profitability for second half of 2017

The company now wants to introduce an additional four to five high margin smartphone devices over the course of the next year, starting with the long-awaited HTC U 11 that will be announced on May 16th. The device’s flagship feature, Sense Touch, is a new concept that allows using the side frame as an input method. However, it is unclear whether the HTC U 11 will be available in the second or third quarter, and whether it will be available internationally.

Within six weeks of the HTC U Ultra’s release in the US, the company slashed its price from $749 down to $599 after reviewing outlets had a hard time recommending the device over similar Android Nougat counterparts. This move did not speak well of the device’s sales, though it has been able to make some profit from Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL sales since their October debut from much higher consumer demand. Google managed to sell an estimated 552,000 units before the end of 2016, and FierceWireless reported those devices accounting for 9.5 percent of smartphone sales at Verizon in January.

Google is not expected to announce refreshed Pixel devices until later this fall, but those sales will certainly aide HTC’s path to becoming a premium-focused smartphone brand and hopefully reduce its operating losses.

Courtesy-Fud

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