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Intel’s Updated USB Type-C Designed To Replace Headphone Jacks

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Intel this week unveiled plans to make an upgraded USB Type-C connector that would enable audio input and output, potentially replacing the long-standard 3.5 millimeter headphone jack used in today’s electronic devices.

Intel, which revealed its plans during a lecture at its Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in Shenzhen, China, also believes USB Type-C would simplify connections of multi-channel audio equipment to various devices.

Unlike the traditional 3.5mm analogue audio jack, a USB Type-C interface could charge a device in addition to transmitting sound and data. For example, it could transfer health and fitness data from a mobile device.

The USB Type-C connectors are reversible, so orientation isn’t an issue when plugging something into a device. The USB 3.1 Gen1 specification offers up to 5Gbps of data throughput; the Gen2 specification offers up to 10Gbps.

USB Type-C cables and connectors would replace the last analog receptacles on computers and mobile devices. Intel’s strategy was first reported by AnandTech.

In Intel’s presentation, it described USB C-Type connectors as being able to support both analog and digital musical content. But the upgraded connector would “promote” a changeover from analog to digital as users would see “improved digital headset features.”

A USB Type-C connector that supports audio feeds would also enable new form-factors, improve user experience and “provide a future path for USB technologies,” Intel said in the presentation.

 

 

 

Apple Optimistic About iPhone SE Sales

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

After experiencing its first-ever drop in iPhone sales, Apple Inc sought to reassure investors by saying its latest and cheapest model was in strong demand after being launched in late March. Some retailers and suppliers in Asia aren’t so sure.

In a Reuters survey of 10 retailers in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, seven – including four Apple Stores – reported solid early demand, but three third-party retailers said sales were weak. Two suppliers of components for Apple phones, including the new iPhone SE, said they were seeing lower orders.

“I’ve been dealing with iPhones for five to six years now. This current quarter for Apple feels weak,” said an executive at a Taiwan-based company whose components are used in iPhones including the SE model, which markets for $399. “Our current shipment situation for Apple is not like the last two years. There are more iPhone models, but the total volume of iPhones is falling.”

Such a mixed outlook from Greater China, its most important market after the United States and generator of a quarter of the company’s revenue, could be a major cause of concern for Apple.

The company’s revenue from the region, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, dropped 26 percent in the March quarter, making it the weakest region in the world.

“iPhone is still popular but sales have dropped because… there’s no new model and the SE is similar to 5C. So it doesn’t sell well,” said Zhu You Peng, a salesman at Apple product reseller Xiongyu in Shenzhen. The 5C was Apple’s last attempt to produce a cheaper phone, back in 2013.

Zhu said it sold around 300 iPhones per month last year but the number has dropped to around 100-200 this year.

That view contrasts with upbeat comments about the phone from Apple’s Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri on Tuesday.

“The situation right now around the world is that we are supply-constrained,” he told Reuters, referring to the iPhone SE. “The demand has been very, very strong.”

The iPhone SEs are sold out in Apple’s own stores in mainland China and customers have to wait about three weeks to get the product delivered by Apple, according to Apple’s websites. The size of the original supplies to the stores is unclear.

 

 

 

Chinese Electric Car Maker Looks To Challenge Musk’s Tesla

April 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Future automobiles will be all-electric, self-driving, connected to high-speed communications networks … and free.

That, at least, is the vision of Jia Yueting, a billionaire entrepreneur and one of a new breed of Chinese who see their technology expertise re-engineering the automobile industry, and usurping Tesla Motors, a U.S. pioneer in premium electric vehicle (EV) making.

“Tesla’s a great company and has taken the global car industry to the EV era,” Jia said in an interview at the Beijing headquarters of his Le Holdings Co, or LeEco. “But we’re not just building a car. We consider the car a smart mobile device on four wheels, essentially no different to a cellphone or tablet.

“We hope to surpass Tesla and lead the industry leapfrogging to a new age,” said Jia, wearing a black T-shirt and jeans.

A wave of EV start-ups has emerged in China after the government opened up the auto industry to deep-pocketed technology firms to drive a switch to cleaner electric as an eventual alternative to gasoline cars. Skeptics wonder just how start-ups like LeEco will deliver on their grand visions.

As a sign of intent, 43-year-old Jia last week unveiled the LeSEE electric concept supercar, a rival to Tesla’s Model S. The “smart, connected and self-driving” car will be displayed at this week’s Beijing autoshow.

“People questioned our idea, a small IT company building a car to compete with the BMWs  and Teslas of the world, and laughed at us. It wasn’t easy, but here we are,” Jia told Reuters.

LeEco hopes to start producing a version of the LeSEE in a few years at a plant being built near Las Vegas by U.S. strategic partner Faraday Future, in which Jia has invested. Those cars would be sold in the United States and China. Further ahead, the plan is to produce electric cars in China, too, probably through a partnership with BAIC Motor.

The web-connected electric cars will have a “disruptive” pricing model similar to phones and TV sets LeEco markets in China, Jia says. His company, often called China’s Netflix, will sell movies, TV shows, music and other content and services to drivers of its cars. That’s why he says “one day our cars will be free.” Nearer-term, the disruption is more likely to be “double the performance at half the price.”

 

 

 

Survey Reveals The Depth Of Digital Crime In Germany

April 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

More than two-thirds of German industrial companies have falling prey to digital crime in the past two years, according to a survey carried out by Bitkom, Germany’s IT, telecoms and new media industry association.

The most common offence was the simple theft of equipment such as computers, smartphones or tablets, but a fifth of companies surveyed reported that sensitive documents, components or designs had been stolen, while 18 percent said their production had been sabotaged with the aim of damaging or paralyzing it.

Such crimes cost German manufacturing industry more than 22 billion euros ($25 billion) a year, Bitkom estimated following its survey of 504 German manufacturing companies with at least 10 employees.

“With the digitization of production and the networking of machines over the Internet, new contact points arise that are vulnerable to attack,” Winfried Holz, a Bitkom executive committee member, said in a statement issued at the Hannover Messe industry trade fair.

“German industry, with its numerous hidden champions, is an attractive target for cybercriminals and foreign intelligence services,” he added. Germany has hundreds of small and medium-sized family-owned manufacturers that are world leaders in their niche.

Bitkom said the 69 percent of manufacturing companies affected by cybercrime was a far higher proportion than the 51 percent average for German companies in general.

About 70 percent of the machinery and equipment manufacturers surveyed said they had been victims, 68 percent of chemicals and pharmaceuticals producers, 65 percent of electronics makers and 61 percent of carmakers.

Cybercriminality was most often found in production or assembly, with 36 percent of reported cases, followed by 30 percent in warehousing and logistics, 29 percent in IT and 23 percent in research and development.

 

 

Corning Goes Vibrant With Gorilla Glass

April 26, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Corning Glass has announced that its already tough Gorilla Glass has evolved into something a bit more colorful.

Dubbed “Vibrant Gorilla Glass” it is a way for Corning to print permanent images onto the glass panels with “outstanding resolution and sharpness.”

Corning hasn’t stated when the Vibrant Gorilla Glass will actually be available to manufacturers. But it shouldn’t be too far out. Vibrant Gorilla Glass could be important. Basically it means that smartphone makers will be able to customize phones to a greater extent.

It means that we might start getting themed phones which are more than just a single colour, but could have images of your favorite TV show. Corning says that the Vibrant Gorilla Glass can be used on “smartphones, tablets or notebooks.” Which means we might soon see tablets and notebooks with their own images pre-stuck on.

Don’t expect to see this on Apple gear though; Corning is in pretty thick with Samsung which signed a deal to ensure its supply until 2023.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Did Researchers Create Batteries That A Lifetime?

April 26, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) have accidentally – yes, accidentally – discovered a nanowire-based technology that could lead to batteries that can be charged hundreds of thousands of times.

Mya Le Thai, a PhD candidate at the university, explained in a paper published this week that she and her colleagues used nanowires, a material that is several thousand times thinner than a human hair, extremely conductive and has a surface area large enough to support the storage and transfer of electrons.

Nanowires are extremely fragile and don’t usually hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging, or cycling. They expand and grow brittle in a typical lithium-ion battery, but Le Thai’s team fixed this by coating a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and then placing it in a Plexiglas-like gel to improve its reliability. All by accident.

The breakthrough could lead to laptop, smartphone and tablet batteries that last forever.

Reginald Penner, chairman of UCI’s chemistry department, said: “Mya was playing around and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it.

“She discovered that just by using this gel she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity. That was crazy, because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most.”

The battery-like structure was tested more than 200,000 times over a three-month span, and the researchers reported no loss of capacity or power.

“The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option,” Thai said. “This research proves that a nanowire-based battery electrode can have a long lifetime and that we can make these kinds of batteries a reality.”

The breakthrough also paves the way for commercial batteries that could last a lifetime in appliances, cars and spacecraft.

British fuel-cell maker Intelligent Energy Holdings announced earlier this year that it is working on a smartphone battery that will need to be charged only once a week.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Google Says A.I. Is The Next Big Thing In Computing

April 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Every decade or so, a new era of computing comes along that influences everything we do. Much of the 90s was about client-server and Windows PCs. By the aughts, the Web had taken over and every advertisement carried a URL. Then came the iPhone, and we’re in the midst of a decade defined by people tapping myopically into tiny screens.

So what comes next, when mobile gives way to something else? Mark Zuckerberg thinks it’s VR. There’s likely to be a lot of that, but there’s a more foundational technology that makes VR possible and permeates other areas besides.

“I do think in the long run we will evolve in computing from a mobile-first to an A.I.-first world,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, answering an analyst’s question during parent company Alphabet’s quarterly earnings call Thursday.

He’s not predicting that mobile will go away, of course, but that the breakthroughs of tomorrow will come via smarter uses of data rather than clever uses of mobile devices like those that brought us Uber and Instagram.

Forms of artificial intelligence are already being used to sort photographs, fight spam and steer self-driving cars. The latest trend is in bots, which use A.I. services on the back end to complete tasks automatically, like ordering flowers or booking a hotel.

Google believes it has a lead in A.I. and the related field of machine learning, which Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt has already pegged as key to Google’s future.

Machine learning is one of the ways Google hopes to distinguish its emerging cloud computing business from those of rivals like Amazon and Microsoft, Pichai said.

 

 

 

 

Apple To Pay Nearly $25M In Siri Patent Lawsuit Settlement

April 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has agreed to shell out $24.9 million to a patent holding firm to resolve a 5-year-old lawsuit accusing Siri of infringing one of its patents.

Apple will pay the money to Marathon Patent Group, the parent company of Texas firm Dynamic Advances, which held an exclusive license to a 2007 patent covering natural language user interfaces for enterprise databases. Marathon reported the settlement in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday.

In response to the settlement, Magistrate Judge David Peebles of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed a lawsuit against Apple filed by Dynamic Advances and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, where the natural language technology was created.

A trial had been scheduled to begin early next month in Syracuse, New York. Dynamic Advances first filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple in October 2012.

A “portion” of the settlement will go to RPI, Marathon said in its SEC filing. The company believes “other voice recognition services also infringe patents involved in the settled action,” it said in the filing.

The natural language technology covered in the patent was invented by Cheng Hsu, then a professor of decision sciences and engineering systems, and Veera Boonjing, then a doctoral student at RPI, according to an amended complaint filed in June 2013.

The patent covers “novel methods” for processing natural language, wrote lawyers for the plaintiffs. The technology gives computer and smartphone owners “the ability to input search queries or commands in language they would use in conversation with another person,” they wrote in the complaint.

Apple’s Siri voice-enabled digital assistance service encourages users to use technology that “processes natural language inputs” as claimed in the patent, the complaint said. Since the first lawsuit in 2012, “Apple has known that, or has been willfully blind to the fact that” its customers are infringing the patent, the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote.

 

 

Are Thunderbolt Based SSD’s The Next Big Thing?

April 22, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

As UHD tellies promise that huge amounts of data will need to be shifted the question of how to do it fast enough is being answered by a new generation of SSDs based around Thunderbolt.

This week two new drives were announded. One by Sonnet and the other by Akitio  and both combine Thunderbolt 3 and the latest PCIe SSD technology.

Sonnet’s CEO Robert Farnsworth said:

“The Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive can sustain the ultra-high file transfer speeds required for just about any 4K workflow – whether users need an ultra-fast shuttle drive or a take-anywhere scratch drive for editing high frame rate 4K video at offsite shoots.”

The 512 GB storage unit is compatible with Windows 7 and 10 machines, and features the latest PCIe Gen 3 flash memory technology and a 40 Gbps Thunderbolt 3 interface on the end of an included 0.5 m (1.6) cable. Sonnet claims it can manage data transfer speeds of up to 2,100 MB/s.

The drive is 2.8 in (70 mm) wide, 4.1 in (103.2 mm) deep and 1.25 in (31.5 mm) high, and placed in an aluminum enclosure. The Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive is available at the end of this month for a suggested retail price of $799.

Akitio’s Thunder3 PCIe SSD is not as portable. It is 9.17 x 5.96 x 2.99 in (233 x 152 x 76 mm) dimensions and will need to be powered via the an adapter. However it has 1.2 TB of storage capacity using a PCIe Gen 3 Intel 750 Series SSD. It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a DisplayPort video output for connection a 4K monitor. It claims to ahve a data transfer speeds of a 2,500 MB/s.

The Akitio drive is housed in an aluminum enclosure, comes with a 40 Gbps cable included and is compatible with Windows 7 or newer computers. It can also be daisy chained to up to six other units.

Courtesy-Fud

 

EU Charges Google With Antitrust Violations Over Android OS

April 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The European Union charged Google with abusing the dominant position of its Android mobile operating system, opening a second front against the U.S. technology giant that could lead to hefty fines.

European Union antitrust regulators said that by requiring mobile phone manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and the Google Chrome browser, the U.S. company was denying consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and stifling innovation.

Google is already facing EU charges over the promotion of its shopping service in Internet searches at the expense of rival services, in a case that has dragged on since late 2010 despite three attempts to resolve the issues.

The stakes are higher for Google in the Android case as it made about $11 billion last year from advertising sales on Android phones through its apps such as Maps, Search and Gmail, according to estimates by financial analyst Richard Windsor.

“A competitive mobile Internet sector is increasingly important for consumers and businesses in Europe,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“We believe that Google’s behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players,” she said.

Internet Explorer-browser maker Microsoft Corp declined to comment.

Suppliers of browsers including Mozilla, which is behind Firefox, as well as Apple, with its Safari browser, and Norway’s Opera Software were not immediately available to comment.

The European Commission said about 80 percent of smart mobile devices in Europe and the world run on Android, the operating system developed by Google.

Google, which has 12 weeks to respond to the charges, said in a statement that Android was a remarkable system based on open-source software and open innovation.

“We look forward to working with the European Commission to demonstrate that Android is good for competition and good for consumers,” Google’s general counsel Kent Walker said.

FairSearch, the lead complainant, said Google had launched Android as an open source project, but was now hindering the development of versions that might lead to new operating systems able to compete with Android.

The Commission alleges Google has breached EU antitrust rules by making phone manufacturers pre-install its search function and Chrome browser, and by preventing them from selling mobiles running competing operating systems based on the Android open source code.

 

Intel To Cut 12,000 Jobs As PC Market Slowdown Continues

April 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel Corp announced that it will eliminate up to 12,000 jobs globally, or 11 percent of its workforce, as it refocuses its business towards making microchips that power data centers and Internet connected devices and away from the declining personal computer industry it helped found.

Tech companies including the former Hewlett Packard Co and Microsoft Corp have reorganized in the face of the PC industry decline. Many new tech users around the world turn to mobile phones for their computing needs, and corporations increasingly rely on big machines rather than desktop models to run their businesses. Global personal computer shipments fell 11.5 percent in the first quarter, tech research company IDC said on Monday.

Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, lowered its revenue forecast for the year. It now expects revenue to rise in mid-single digits, down from its previous forecast of mid- to high-single digits.

Most of Intel’s factories are in the United States, although it did not identify where cuts would be focused geographically. It said it would record a pretax restructuring charge of $1.2 billion in the second quarter and expected annual savings of $1.4 billion per year starting mid-2017.

The company also said Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith will move to a new role leading sales, manufacturing and operations. Intel said it would begin a formal search process for a new CFO.

Smith said that Intel now expects the PC market to decline by a percentage in the high single digits in 2016 versus a prior forecast of a mid single-digit decline. Declines in China and other emerging markets are also leading to greater than anticipated reductions in worldwide PC supply chain inventory, Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said on a conference call.

 

 

Google Wins Approval To Test 3.5GHz Wireless Network

April 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has received approval to  begin testing innovative 3.5 GHz wireless capabilities by using antennas on light poles and other structures in eight areas of Kansas City, Mo.

It will be the first large-scale test of its kind in the nation, following a framework created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a year ago for the new Citizens Broadband Radio Service, which uses 3.5GHz spectrum and allows for dynamic spectrum sharing.

The test could last up to 18 months and result in fast, short-range wireless connections to serve areas not reached by Google Fiber. FCC officials have called the 3.5GHz band the “innovation band,” noting it could evolve into a new flavor of Wi-Fi or even an LTE Unlicensed band.

The commercial potential for the 3.5GHz band is large, both for Google and for its customers. “Yes, 3.5GHz is pretty innovative and could help Google create a city wide broadband network in KC,” said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics.

Google could use the service in many ways, although new smartphones and tablets would require 3.5GHz antennas for access to the band. However, a simple dongle inserted into a laptop’s USB port could provide a 3.5GHz antenna, Entner noted.

Theoretically, wireless speeds of up to 300Mbps could be supported, compared to many 4G LTE average speeds of just 10Mbps to 20Mbps, Entner said. The 3.5GHz spectrum could also be used by Internet of Things devices for wireless connections.

Google Fiber first installed 1Gbps Internet connections in homes in the Kansas City area in 2012 and now reaches businesses on both the Kansas and Missouri sides of the metro area. Google won’t divulge how many subscribers it has.

“If Google is successful in the 3.5GHz test and goes on to provide commercial services, KC will become the most wirelessly connected gigabit region to benefit from new advanced wireless services,” Assistant City Manager Rick Usher said in an interview.

 

 

Is the Apple SE A Hit?

April 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Remember when some analyst  told us that the world wanted to go back to small phones and that the iPhone SE would be a money spinner? It turns out that we were not the only ones who thought that idea was rubbish – Apple does not believe it either.

Apple has continued to have a limited production run of iPhones in the quarter ending June. According to the  Nikkei business daily this will be the second quarter that Apple will run reduced production of its main bread and butter – the iPhone. Practically it means that not is well behind Apple’s Walled Garden of Delights. It also suggests that the iPhone SE is as pants as we expected.

For those who came in late, Apple re-released its iPhone 5C with a slightly better chip and called it the SE. This old design was tiny in comparison to later models and clearly out-of-date.  This has been a bad time for Jobs’ Mob the Nikkei reported in January that the technology giant was expected to cut production of its iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models by about 30 percent in the quarter ended March, but production was expected to return to normal in the current quarter. Clearly it didn’t and the SE failed to interest anyone.

Apple’s shares fell 1.8 percent to $110.05 and some of its partners went the following way. The production cut could last longer than the one it implemented in 2013, when Apple cut production orders for its cheaper iPhone 5C a month after its launch.

Apple has told parts suppliers in Japan and elsewhere that it will maintain the reduced output level in the current quarter, the Nikkei report said.

In January, Apple said it expected a fall in revenue for the quarter ending March – its first forecast for a revenue drop in 13 years – as the critical Chinese market showed signs of weakening. It also reported the slowest-ever increase in iPhone shipments.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Will Intel’s Apollo SoC Help The Low End?

April 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has been showing off its new Apollo Lake chips, and if the outfit is correct it could shake up the lower-end PC market.

At the moment Intel’s Atoms have their work cut out for them supporting heavy lifting task like 4K video. However Apollo Lake, Intel’s a next-generation system-on-a-chip that promises to sort out a few of those problems.

It is compact and efficient enough for PC makers can afford to slim things down without as many compromises. The more inclusive design could mean that OEMs can spend more on more RAM and better displays, for example.

Apollo Lake uses Skylake’s graphics technology which enables full hardware-based 4K video playback and an overall boost to visual performance. It will also provide better support for newer technology like the USB-C.

Intel is saying nothing about clock speeds or pricing but its promising Celeron- and Pentium-branded processors in the second half of 2016.

Courtesy-Fud

 

EU’s Antitrust Head Sets Focus On Google’s Android OS

April 19, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The European Union antitrust chief, who has already charged Google with favoring its own shopping service in internet searches, announced that she was now examining its deals with mobile phone manufacturers and operators.

The comments by European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager follow a year-long investigation into Android, the world’s most popular operating system for smartphones, triggered by two complaints.

A decision on the shopping service could come this year. Like the Android case, it could lead to a fine of up to $7.4 billion or 10 percent of Google’s 2015 revenue, and force it to change its business practices.

Vestager said big companies should not try to protect themselves by holding back innovation.

“That’s why we’re looking closely at Google’s contracts with phone makers and operators which use the Android operating system,” she said at a conference organized by the Dutch competition authority.

“Our concern is that, by requiring phone makers and operators to pre-load a set of Google apps, rather than letting them decide for themselves which apps to load, Google might have cut off one of the main ways that new apps can reach customers.”

The Commission said last year that it was also investigating whether Google had prevented smartphone and tablet manufacturers from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android.

Another area of concern was whether Google had illegally hindered the development and market access of rival applications and services by bundling some of its applications and services distributed on Android devices with other Google products.