The AAA model in increasingly developing into a market in which only the biggest companies can survive – and even then the design of these titles will become more stagnant.
That’s according to Boss Key Productions founder and Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski. Speaking to attendees at Reboot Develop today, the veteran games developer discussed the “really, really weird spot” blockbuster games have found themselves in, and pondered potential solutions.
“AAA is starting to feel like the American restaurant scene,” he said, referring to how increasing globalisation means every major city usually has the exact same chains and franchises when you’re looking for a place to eat. “They’re not bad, they’re not great, they’re just there.”
It’s the same with AAA, which he says has become a “category of eight games that are getting repeated over and over again”. He brought up a slide depicting best-sellers such as Uncharted 4 and the Call of Duty games, stressing that these are “great games” but cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce and market.
He added that it doesn’t help most consumers view many blockbuster franchises as “the name you know” and are “too scared to take the risk on new IP”.
“$60 is still a lot of money to ask people for,” he said. “And to ask them to make that bet multiple times per year? Gamers are picky, they’re smart.
“This is a nearly unsustainable model, unless you’re an Activision, 2K or a Sony.”
His advice to developers still looking to make their mark is to aim for what he referred to as “Double A”, which he considers to be “games that look and play great but pick their battles in terms of budget and marketing”. Examples he offered included Warframe, Rocket League and Rust, with Bleszinski noting that most successful ‘Double A’ games are digital and/or free-to-play.
In terms of finding funding for such games, he pointed out that “there’s a lot of money in Asia” – his own studio, Boss Key Productions, has partnered with Nexon for its debut game, LawBreakers. This title is also designed to be ‘Double A’, and won’t have a full $60 price tag.
Bleszinski also warned that developers only have one shot to make a new IP, referring to the team at Raven Software: “They made a great game in Singularity, but it ultimately didn’t do well because of the marketing, even though the ratings were great. And now they’re one of the multi-headed hydras behind the Call of Duty series.”
He recognised that the collaborative model used to create titles like Call of Duty and many Ubisoft games, combining the efforts of teams from around the world, is effective but not one he’d ever want to be a part of.
His talk later branched into virtual reality, which he likened to lucid dreaming – something he has apparently spent years trying to master. In fact, VR has helped him hone this elusive skill: “I’m a better lucid dreamer when I wear a sleep mask because I think I’m wearing a headset.”
He stressed that high-quality graphics are the key to immersion in VR, adding that “the best VR looking experiences I’ve had are built in Unreal Engine 4”.
“I’ve not paid to say that by my former employers,” he laughed. “Unity is a good engine but when it comes down to it, you can’t beat Unreal for visual fidelity.”
The issue, as he puts it, is great graphics cost money. Bleszinski is currently pitching a VR project but struggling to get the investment required to make the finished product look as good as it needs to. He observed that shareholders are “only giving out a little money”, which is why the industry is seeing a lot of tech demos coming from the VR space.
He also likened the current trend of wave-based shooting games – such as Raw Data and Robo Recall – as the equivalent of ’80s arcade games such as Galaga and Robotron, adding that he’s confident VR will expand beyond this just as the arcades did.
Bleszinski acknowledged that there are plenty of barriers to overcome before virtual reality is adopted by the masses. Complicated setups, especially for room-scale VR, are particularly off-putting. He referred to his parents that didn’t even set the clock on their VCR – they just wired it into the TV and plugged it in – adding: “Why would they set up VR?”
He continued: “If I were Oculus, Facebook or Vive, I would have kiosks at every major retail location, and a tech team that comes round to set it all up properly”.
“But like all technologies, it’s get better, it’ll get faster. But give it a little bit of time.”
Qualcomm has dropped a huge hint that we will see ARM based PCs in the shops in the fourth quarter.
Qualcomm said the first cellular laptop with Windows 10 and its ARM-based Snapdragon 835 will come by the end of the year.
Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm, said that the Snapdragon 835 will expanding into mobile PC designs running Windows 10, and it’s scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter.
Apparently Qualcomm and Microsoft are flat out getting ARM-based Windows 10 PCs to work. If they pull it off, you should get a thin-and-light device that could be used as a tablet or laptop.
Most of the design cues will come from smartphones and it is being dubbed a cellular PC by Qualcomm and Microsoft.
The device will always be connected to a cellular network with a high-speed modem, much like a smartphone. It will have other wireless connectivity features like Bluetooth 5 and possibly Wi-Gig, which are integrated into the Snapdragon 835 chipset.
The cellular PC could also have a long battery life, considering Snapdragon 835 was designed for smartphones. It will be 4K video capable with a powerful Adreno 540 GPU in the Snapdragon 835.
So far no major PC maker has yet announced an ARM-based Windows PC and we are not expecting to see a flood of the beasts. Suppliers will be cautious because ARM based Windows PCs have not worked well. Windows RT tablets were somewhat mocked.
Dell and HP have expressed interest in cellular PCs but need time to test them. HP wants to see if there’s enough demand for such a device before making a decision.
Microsoft has demonstrated Photoshop running on Snapdragon 835 but it is not clear how much other software will be out there.
Oracle is looking for new employees for a “new startup organization” inside its North America operation that will focus on key technology trends, including cloud computing, internet of things, artificial Intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality.
The Solution Engineering organization the company is setting up will consist of Solution Engineering Centers in Reston, Virginia, and Denver, Colorado.
The database and enterprise software company has previously indicated its interest in investing in some of these technology areas like machine learning and analytics.
Oracle announced in September that it was investing in intelligent cloud applications, called Adaptive Intelligent Applications, “that automatically offer individualized recommended actions and streamline the tasks of business users such as human resource or finance professionals.”
At OpenWorld last year, Oracle also announced tools for creating intelligent chatbots that integrate with its software.
Among the jobs listed for the new organization are the positions of director of the Denver and Reston units, each of whom will be responsiblefor managing an entire Solution Engineering Center, described as a “physical hub of solution engineers.” The company is also hiring solution engineers for the centers.
Oracle did not immediately comment on the posts and on how the new organization would operate as a startup. The new unit appears to be closely linked to the company’s immediate business goals with the director, for example, “measured on key metrics around revenue, pipeline, new innovations, talent development and customer success.”
Oracle is asking for hands-on experience in third-party cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Salesforce from applicants for the position of solution engineers at the centers.
“The mission of the organization and these two centers is to build and engineer cutting-edge solutions for our customers around cloud computing, big data analytics, mobile computing, internet of things, cybersecurity,” according to the job listings, first spotted by Bloomberg.
“Additional trends we are considering to investing in are Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality and many other exciting technology trends that interest us all. Our mission is simple, we build new and innovative technology solutions for real world problems that our customers face,” according to the posts, which did not provide details of how AR and VR would be used by Oracle in its products and services.
Twitter Inc has announced that it has had its strongest growth in monthly active users in more than a year and a much better-than-expected quarterly profit, despite heavy competition from Facebook and Snapchat.
The microblogging service said average monthly active users increased 6 percent to 328 million in the first quarter from a year earlier.
Analysts on average had expected 321.3 million monthly active users, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.
Revenue fell 7.8 percent to $548.3 million, its first drop since its initial public offering.
Net loss narrowed to $61.6 million, or 9 cents per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $79.7 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier.
Twitter’s user growth has stalled in the past few quarters and the company has been trying to convince advertisers that it will strengthen its user base.
As part of its efforts, the company has updated its product offerings including live video broadcasts from its app and launched new features to attract users.
Twitter’s weak performance has raised questions about CEO Jack Dorsey’s leadership and whether the company would be bought by a bigger media firm. Financial markets speculated about a sale of Twitter last year, but no concrete bids were forthcoming.
Excluding items, the company earned 11 cents per share, beating the estimate of 1 cent per share.
Twitter’s advertising revenue fell 11 percent to $474 million in the quarter, above the average analyst estimate of $442.7 million, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.
Benchlife has come up with an Intel slide which appears to show he upcoming 300-series chipsets intended for use with the chip giant’s “Cannon Lake” processor family.
One of the most unusual things is that the chips will have support for USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
Other than that the 300-series chipsets are a bit of a yawn and look too close to the 200-series offerings. They have connectivity for up to 24 lanes of PCIe 3.0, up to 10 USB 3.0 ports, and six 6Gbps SATA ports.
Benchlife claims that there will be a range of chipsets in the 300-series with Z, Q, H, and B-series models with progressively-reduced capabilities. So don’t expect wi-fi as the chips get cheaper.
Intel’s next Core chips use 14-nm technology, but we already knew that.
The new slide is connected to the desktop chipsets (“-S” platform). Benchlife says the desktop Cannon Lake processors are scheduled for release in Q4 of this year.
Jimmy Wales, the founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, has launched a new website focused on stopping the spread of fake news by bringing together professional journalists and a community of volunteers and supporters to produce news articles.
The new platform, called Wikitribune, will be free to access and carry no advertising, instead relying on its readers to fund it, while the accuracy of news reports will be easily verifiable as source material will be published, Wales said.
“The news is broken, but we’ve figured out how to fix it,” he said in a promotional video posted on the website’s homepage.
The online proliferation of fake news, some of it generated for profit and some for political ends, became a major topic of angst and debate in many developed countries during last year’s U.S. presidential election.
Wales argued in his video that because people expected to get news for free on the Internet, news sites were reliant on advertising money, which created strong incentives to generate so-called “clickbait”, catchy headlines to attract viewers.
“This is a problem because ads are cheap, competition for clicks is fierce and low-quality news sources are everywhere,” said Wales.
He also argued that social media networks, where an ever-increasing number of people get their news, were designed to show users what they wanted to see, confirm their biases and keep them clicking at all costs.
Social media giant Facebook was widely criticized last year for not doing enough to prevent fake news reports from spreading on its platform, and has announced new tools to tackle the problem.
Wales said Wikitribune would combine professional, standards-based journalism with what he called “the radical idea from the world of wiki that a community of volunteers can and will reliably protect the integrity of information”.
He said articles would be authored, fact-checked and verified by journalists and volunteers working together, while anyone would be able to flag up issues and submit fixes for review.
“As the facts are updated, the news becomes a living, evolving artifact, which is what the Internet was made for,” he said.
The Wikitribune homepage said the platform would go live in 29 days. It also indicated that the intention was to hire 10 journalists, but none had been hired so far.
Toshiba Corp’s shares finally recovered this week after Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that Apple is considering a multi-billion-dollar investment into the company’s semiconductor chip business.
Back in February, Toshiba revealed that it had been considering a split of its memory chip business into a separate company to help make up for a $6.56 billion write-down of its US nuclear equipment operations. In late December, the company’s shares fell more than 45 percent after revealing that it was balancing a four-part effort to get back to a profitable state.
The following month, Foxconn and TSMC both partnered up to place bids on shares of Toshiba’s memory business in an attempt to challenge Samsung’s dominance of the flash memory market. The collaboration team has been serious about its talks with Toshiba, but is not trying to force anything to happen.
Apple wants 20 percent stake in Toshiba’s chip business
Now, the latest reports from NHK suggests the fruit-themed toymaker also wants more than 20 percent stake in Toshiba’s chip business, while somehow convincing Toshiba to maintain partial stake and keep the business under US and Japanese regulations, according to anonymous sources. Without subverting existing negotiations, the Cupertino company has considered a plan where Foxconn would own around a 30 percent stake of the NAND flash business so as not to interrupt global market competition over Japan’s semiconductor industry.
Prior to Apple’s announcement, Toshiba has so far narrowed down the field of memory unit bidders to four companies, according to sources. They include Broadcom, SK Hynix, Foxconn, and Western Digital.
Attention is now on company auditor, Tokyo Stock Exchange
On Thursday, Toshiba’s shares were down 4.8 percent after declining as much as 8.1 percent during morning trade. Experts have cautioned that the company is now in a warning zone of losing its listed status on the stock exchange, as it faces increased financial risk at its Westinghouse nuclear subsidiary. According to Financial Times, the Tokyo Stock Exchange is now attempting to decide whether the company’s internal controls comply with its listing criteria. Toshiba has proposed several improvements following its $1.3 billion accounting scandal in 2015, but if they are deemed insufficient by the exchange, then its shares could be delisted and the company would ultimately transition into a private entity.
Besides the foreign investor lawsuit that arrived on behalf of its accounting malpractices, Toshiba’s accounts were notable in part because its independent auditor, PwC Aarata, did not certify their accuracy. One analyst at Citigroup claims that Toshiba’s disagreement with its auditor was likely to “heighten concern” about its shares being delisted. Robert Rostan, a former Deloitte auditor, says “It is extremely rare for an independent auditor to not sign off on a client’s accounts, let alone a public industrial giant like Toshiba.”
Despite the financial risk posed by its flagship nuclear projects, Toshiba insists everything on the balance sheets is under control. Aside from a very tangible delisting risk, it will be left to the mercy of Toshiba’s many financial creditors to garner up enough support in solidarity for the weathered company.
According to Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri Apple company is struggling with low production yields on the revolutionary edge-to-edge display rumoured for the Apple iPhone 8.
He thinks that this will mean that the outfit will have to dump the embedded the Touch ID fingerprint scanner technology, which until now has been housed within the physical button, beneath the glass display.
Arcuri believes Apple is looking at dropping the ambitious new technology for another less-exciting design for the iPhone 8.
Samsung is believed to have faced similar issues with the Galaxy S8, leaving it no choice but to relocate the fingerprint scanner to the back of the phone.
Arcuri believes Apple could follow suit and maroon the Touch ID scanner on the rear of the iPhone. He also thinks it is possible that Jobs’ Mob could drop its fingerprint sensor altogether, and rely solely on the face recognition technology believed to debut on the next iPhone.
However, this would be stupid as the technology is half-baked and not reliable enough to be the sole biometric security option included with the handset.
Apple could push-back the launch of the iPhone 8 until it can remedy the production problems and there are rumours that the next-generation iPhone will miss the company’s traditional September launch window.
Although there are all sorts of rumours put about by the Tame Apple Press, it is clear that the iPhone’s design has not been worked out yet and the next handset has yet to enter full-scale production.
Google’s internal benchmarks of its own TPU, or tensor processing unit indicated that its purpose built AI board cleaned Nvidia’s clock when it came to number crunching and power consumption.
However this week Nvidia has blogged that Google’s numbers fail to take into account how wonderful its new boards are.
Google compaired its board to the older, Kepler-based, dual-GPU K80 rather than the Pascal based GPUs.
Nvidia moaned that Google’s team released technical information about the benefits of TPUs this past week but did not compare the TPU to the current generation Pascal-based P40.
While the TPU has 13x the performance of K80 is provisionally true, but there’s a snag. That 13x figure is the geometric mean of all the various workloads combined.
Nvidia’s argument is that Pascal has a much higher memory bandwidth and far more resources for inference performance than K80. As a result, the P40 offers 26x more inference performance than one die of a K80.
As Extreme Tech points out there are all sorts of things which are “unclear” about Nivida’s claims.
For example it is unclear if Nvidia’s claim takes Google’s tight latency caps into account. At the small batch sizes Google requires for its 8ms latency threshold, K80 utilization is just 37 percent of maximum theoretical performance. The vagueness of the claims make it difficult to evaluate them for accuracy.
Google’s enormous lead in incremental performance per watt will be difficult to overcome. Google said that its boffins modelled the expected performance improvement of a TPU with GDDR5 instead of DDR3, with more memory bandwidth.
Scaling memory bandwidth up by 4x would improve overall performance by 3x, at the cost of ~10% more die space. So, it is saying that it can boost the TPU side of the equation as well.
While no one is saying that the P40 is slower than the K80, but Google’s data shows a huge advantage for TPU performance-per-watt compared with GPUs, particularly once host server power is subtracted from the equation.
Basically GPU has lots of hardware that a chip like Google’s TPU simply doesn’t need.
Microsoft is touting operating system-wide power efficiencies in a recent preview of Windows 10, claiming that the technology will reduce notebook battery consumption by 11% on laptops equipped with the newest processors.
The technology, temporarily tagged as “Power Throttling,” was enabled on all copies of Windows 10 Insider build 16176, which Microsoft released Friday. Insider is the beta program Microsoft runs for both enthusiasts and businesses. The latter rely on Insider to learn how the OS will change for the next feature upgrade, as well as for testing the upgrade prior to deploying the final code when it is shipped several months later.
“With ‘Power Throttling,’ when background work is running, Windows places the CPU in its most energy efficient operating modes — work gets done, but the minimal possible battery is spent on that work,” Bill Karagounis, director of program management for Insider, said in a post to a company blog.
The CPU throttling is triggered on an app-specific basis by a detection system Microsoft integrated with the OS, said Karagounis. Like other such technologies, Microsoft’s is meant to recognize foreground tasks — such as active apps — as well as persistent applications, like music streaming applications, then give them full access to the processor. Other apps, or even individual processes within an app, that are classified as “background,” are restricted in how they impact the CPU’s power usage. For instance, they may not be allowed to kick the processor into its higher-frequency, higher-power, higher-consumption mode.
Power Throttling works only on Intel processors with that firm’s Speed Shift, a feature of sixth-generation and later CPUs, including “Skylake” and the newer “Kaby Lake.”
Recognizing that most personal computers are laptops and that battery longevity is a major factor in productivity, Microsoft has aggressively promoted Windows 10’s power savings, notably in the boosterism behind Edge, the OS’s default browser.
The Redmond, Wash. company isn’t working in a vacuum: Other operating systems also try to eke out more battery life by scaling back CPU use. Apple’s iOS, for instance, switches to a low-power mode when an iPhone or iPad battery reaches about 20% capacity. Among other things, the iOS mode halts background app refreshing and stops automatic email fetching.
Microsoft first added Power Throttling to Windows 10 in January, saying that it had turned it on for a subset of Insider-equipped devices as an experiment and promising to provide an update in mid-February. That update never appeared, hinting that Microsoft pulled it from inclusion in the then-upcoming Creators Update, the feature upgrade released April 11.
The first opportunity most users will have to apply Power Throttling will be with 2017’s second feature upgrade. Microsoft has not revealed a release timetable, but most experts expect it to appear this fall.
Bose Corp spies on its wireless headphone owners by using an app that tracks the music, podcasts and other audio they listen to, and violates their privacy rights by selling such data without permission, a lawsuit charged.
The complaint filed by Kyle Zak in federal court in Chicago seeks an injunction to stop Bose’s “wholesale disregard” for the privacy of customers who download its free Bose Connect app from Apple Inc or Google Play stores to their smartphones.
“People should be uncomfortable with it,” Christopher Dore, a lawyer representing Zak, said in an interview. “People put headphones on their head because they think it’s private, but they can be giving out information they don’t want to share.”
Bose did not respond on Wednesday to requests for comment on the proposed class action case. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company has said annual sales top $3.5 billion.
Zak’s lawsuit was the latest to accuse companies of trying to boost profit by quietly amassing customer information, and then selling it or using it to solicit more business.
After paying $350 for his QuietComfort 35 headphones, Zak said he took Bose’s suggestion to “get the most out of your headphones” by downloading its app, and providing his name, email address and headphone serial number in the process.
But the Illinois resident said he was surprised to learn that Bose sent “all available media information” from his smartphone to third parties such as Segment.io, whose website promises to collect customer data and “send it anywhere.”
Audio choices offer “an incredible amount of insight” into customers’ personalities, behavior, politics and religious views, citing as an example that a person who listens to Muslim prayers might “very likely” be a Muslim, the complaint said.
“Defendants’ conduct demonstrates a wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights,” the complaint said.
Zak is seeking millions of dollars of damages for buyers of headphones and speakers, including QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.
He also wants a halt to the data collection, which he said violates the federal Wiretap Act and Illinois laws against eavesdropping and consumer fraud.
Dore, a partner at Edelson PC, said customers do not see the Bose app’s user service and privacy agreements when signing up, and the privacy agreement says nothing about data collection.
Edelson specializes in suing technology companies over alleged privacy violations.
Originally scheduled to launch sometime in Q3 2017, with August as the most obvious target, it appears that Intel has pushed the launch for its new HEDT (High-end Desktop) X299 platform date forward to the 25th and 27th week of this year, which puts it somewhere in the end of June, beginning of July, timeframe.
As detailed earlier, Intel Skylake-X lineup will include six- and ten-core CPUs, have support for quad-channel DDR4-2667 memory and should be the core of Intel’s HEDT X299 LGA2066 platform.
The Kaby Lake-X lineup will only include quad-core SKUs, have a TDP of 112W and lack the integrated GPU, but also come dual-channel DDR4-2667 memory support and 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, down from up to 44 PCIe 3.0 lanes with the Skylake-X SKUs.
If the rumor, coming from Benchlife.info, proves out to be true, we should hear and see more about Intel’s new X299 HEDT platform at the Computex 2017 show, kicking off on May 30th in Taipei.
Facebook Inc is wants to capitalize off of the technology known as augmented reality, a mix of the real and digital worlds best known from the hit smartphone game Pokemon Go, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said.
Speaking at F8, the company’s annual conference for software developers, Zuckerberg said Facebook was an obvious hub for businesses to reach people and experiment with augmented reality, although he did not suggest the company was planning to make similar games itself.
Pokemon Go, jointly developed by Nintendo Co and Niantic Inc, has generated masses of followers around the world as players use their phones to capture animated characters that appear in real locations.
Other uses of augmented reality have included the ability to hang out with a hologram of “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm or assemble a virtual human brain, all on mobile devices.
A recent push by Facebook to add camera features to its suite of smartphone apps will help the company popularize similar features, Zuckerberg said.
“Even if we were a little slow to add cameras to all our apps, I’m confident that now we’re going to push this augmented reality platform forward,” he said.
For a company that began as a way for college students to see pictures of each other, Facebook’s move toward augmented reality represents another step in its long evolution. It also raises the stakes for its competition with rival Snap Inc, the maker of Snapchat that describes itself as a camera company.
Zuckerberg said people could use the technology to leave a virtual note for a friend at a bar, or to find virtual street art on a wall that in real life is blank.
“This isn’t just about finding a Pokemon in a one-block radius,” he said.
Eventually, he said, people would use augmented reality on eyewear, although he did not give any details about possible Facebook hardware.
In 2014, Facebook acquired its Oculus virtual reality goggles unit for $2 billion, although that division is a long way from making a mass-market product or contributing significantly to the company’s earnings.
As part of his conference address, Zuckerberg addressed shortcomings on another major project, Facebook’s push into video. He said the service needed to do more to prevent the spread of violent videos, such as one on Sunday of a fatal shooting in Cleveland that was visible on the site for two hours.
Despite promises that Intel made to Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump that it was building new factories in the Land of the Fee, it seems that Intel is still downsizing its US workforce.
The number of full-time workers directly employed by Intelnear Rio Rancho fell by 37 percent in 2016 – from 1,900 salaried workers in 2015 to 1,200 as of December – according to the company’s latest annual report to the Sandoval County Commission.
Intel spokeswoman Liz Shipley told the Albuquerque Journal in an email that its head count is down from what it reported last spring in its 2015 report.
This is the sharpest annual decrease to date in direct, full-time employment at the plant since the company began laying off workers and reducing its head count through attrition in 2013. In that year, the Sandoval County plant employed 3,300 people, meaning its salaried workforce has fallen by nearly two thirds over the last four years.
The company still employs about 1,000 contract workers, about half of whom are generally on site daily to work on specific projects, Shipley said. But it’s not clear how many of those are full or part-time workers.
Intel announced in April 2016 that it planned to lay off about 12,000 people worldwide, or about 11 percent of its global workforce. That restructuring affected the Sandoval County site, according to the Intel report.
Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block, who represents Corrales and Rio Rancho, said: “It’s hard for people here to find high-paying jobs like those at Intel. That’s why this plant is so critical to our community.”
The plant still makes 32-nanometer chips, while Intel’s newer plants are producing 22- and 14-nanometer chips. It was apparently creating newer plants that Intel promised Trump that it would create.So on one hand it is creating jobs in one part of the country and in the other gutting them.
The company is now preparing to produce next-generation 10-nanometer chips, putting the Sandoval County plant far behind the curve. Intel has not given the plant any major upgrades since 2009, when the plant went from 45- to 32-nanometer technology.
Companies running Firefox, and testing the browser using the “Aurora” track, will be automatically migrated to the “Beta” channel today.
“It became clear that Aurora was not meeting our expectations as a first stabilization channel,” wrote Dave Camp, director of engineering for Firefox; Sylvestre Ledru, the browser’s release manager; and Ali Spivak, head of developer marketing, in a post to a Mozilla blog.
Mozilla has offered multiple versions of each Firefox edition since 2011, when it began offering four builds — Nightly, Aurora, Beta and Release — each of which was supposed to be more stable than the previous.
“We have more modern processes underlying our [release] train model, and believe we can deliver feature-rich, stable products without the additional 6-8-week Aurora phase,” said Camp, Ledru and Spivak.
In that “train” approach, Mozilla added a new feature to the least stable version, Developer, then when the feature was ready, moved it to the next track, Aurora. As development progressed, the feature would shift to Beta and then finally to Release.
But Mozilla acknowledged that the system had sometimes failed. “The release cycle time has required that we subvert the model regularly over the years by uplifting new features to meet market requirements,” the company admitted in an accompanying FAQ, referring to times when it has had to skip one of the tracks or shorten the time a feature spent on one.
Firefox users on the Aurora channel were to be moved to Beta today, according to the FAQ. Aurora will not be updated after tomorrow, when Firefox 53 is to ship in final, or Release, form.
With Aurora’s disappearance, Mozilla will rely on Beta for the first widespread distribution of each edition of Firefox. To make up for Aurora’s absence, each beta will be rolled out in stages, just as Release has long been, with the idea that if major problems crop up, they do so early on and thus affect only a subset of customers before the spigot is turned off.
Aurora’s elimination will not increase the frequency of Release builds issued or decrease the time between each Release version; the latter will continue to range from six to nine weeks. Nor will the already-slated dates for future versions of Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) change. That edition, designed for enterprises and other large organizations, remains stable for approximately a year. Much like Windows 10’s LTSB (Long-term Servicing Branch), ESR receives only security updates.
Ditching Aurora, however, will let Mozilla move a new feature from inception to final about six to eight weeks faster than before.