ARM’s collaboration with TSMC has finally born some fruit with the tapeout of a 10nm test chip to show off the company’s readiness for the new manufacturing process.
The new test chip contains ARM’s yet-to-be-announced “Artemis” CPU core which is named after a goddess who will turn you into deer and tear you apart with wild dogs if you ever see her. [The NDA must have been pretty tough on this chip.ed]
In fact things have been ticking along on this project for ages. ARM discloses that tapeout actually took place back in December last year and is expecting silicon to come back from the foundry in the following weeks.
ARM actually implemented a full four-core Artemis cluster on the test chip which should show vendors what is possible for their production designs. The test chip has a current generation Mali GPU implementation with 1 shader core to show vendors what they will get when they use ARM’s POP IP in conjunction with its GPU IP. There is also a range of other IP blocks and I/O interfaces that are used to validation of the new manufacturing process.
TSMC’s 10FF manufacturing process is supposed to increase density with scaling’s of up to 2.1x compared to the previous 16nm manufacturing node. It also brings about 11-12 per cent higher performance at each process’ respective nominal voltage, or a 30 per cent reduction in power.
ARM siad that comparing a current Cortex A72 design on 16FF+ and an Artemis core on 10FF on the new CPU and process can halve the dynamic power consumption. Currently clock frequencies on the new design are still behind the older more mature process and IP, but ARM expects this to improve as it optimizes its POP and the process stabilizes.
Intel’s restructuring axe seems to be falling on its PC client division and software areas with more than 12000 jobs to go.
Our well-placed sources are confident that the PC group will be the hardest hit. This is all because the PC market has stopped growing and Intel has to find its way to new markets to supplement loss of this business.
Latest research data from IDC indicates that in 2016 PC market will decline from 275.8 million units in 2015 to 260.8 million units in 2016 and the current projections for 2017 show the PC market slightly decreasing to 257.9 million units. At its peak PC market was at 364.0 million units, but this was in 2011 when things were rosier, kids were polite to their parents, and rock stars played decent music. These times are clearly behind us and Intel knows it.
The PC group downsize is being supervised by Dr. Venkata “Murthy” Renduchintala who is Intel’s number two. He is the bloke who was paid $25 million dollars to defect from Qualcomm. Murthy has already done a high level clean up at PC client group and is believed to be thinking about dusting the top of the corporate bookshelf next.
Another team which will be pummeled is Rene James’s old software outfit. People from software services and the security division formerly known as McAfee are expected to mostly go the same way as the artist formerly known as Prince.
Murthy’s also wants to get Intel to the right course with IoT market. Marketing for that area is expected to grow from $655.8 billion in 2014 to $1.7 trillion in 2020. Intel wants the piece of that cake, and perhaps a few tea and biscuits to go with it and it will be interesting to look the fight in this promising land market.
There is still no killer app to help the IoT market which defines it. IoT right now is nothing and everything.
“Chrome PCs overall, including Chrome desktop units like the Chromebox, out-shipped all Apple personal computers, desktop plus notebook, in the U.S. for Q1,” said Jay Chou, one of several IDC analysts who track device shipments, in an email reply to questions.
Chromebooks, the inexpensive notebooks that run Chrome OS, also out-shipped Apple’s MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebooks in the U.S. The first-quarter battle wasn’t even close, according to the notebook-only shipment numbers Chou provided.
Apple shipped an estimated 1.17 million Mac notebooks in the U.S. during the first three months of 2016; IDC said 1.6 million Chrome OS notebooks shipped in the same span.
In other words, 37% more Chromebooks shipped than Mac notebooks.
Last week, Tom Warren of The Verge reported that Chrome OS hardware had out-shipped OS X-equipped Macs after speaking with one of Chou’s colleagues. Subsequently, numerous other outlets, including blogs and mainstream media websites, picked up Warren’s report.
IDC’s shipment data for Chrome OS and OS X systems were estimates generated using information from vendors and Asian component suppliers. Google, which developed Chrome OS, does not reveal shipment numbers: Most Chromebooks originate from third-party OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), including Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo. And although Apple disclosed global Mac sales in its April 26 earnings call with Wall Street, it did not break down that figure by geographic region.
That IDC’s numbers were estimates only was clear when comparing the research firm’s forecast to Apple’s stated sales for the first quarter. Prior to April 26 — when Apple said it had sold 4.03 million Macs worldwide – IDC had projected global Mac shipments at 4.47 million, or about 10% too high.
The company was rumored to have been designing its own chip, based partly on job ads it posted in recent years. But until today it had kept the effort largely under wraps.
It calls the chip a Tensor Processing Unit, or TPU, named after the TensorFlow software it uses for its machine learning programs. In a blog post, Google engineer Norm Jouppi refers to it as an accelerator chip, which means it speeds up a specific task.
At its I/O conference Wednesday, CEO Sundar Pichai said the TPU provides an order of magnitude better performance per watt than existing chips for machine learning tasks. It’s not going to replace CPUs and GPUs but it can speed up machine learning processes without consuming a lot more more energy.
As machine learning becomes more widely used in all types of applications, from voice recognition to language translation and and data analytics, having a chip that speeds those workloads is essential to maintaining the pace of advancements.
The TPU is in production use across Google’s cloud, including powering the RankBrain search result sorting system and Google’s voice recognition services. When developers pay to use the Google Voice Recognition Service, they’re using its TPUs.
Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president for technical infrastructure, said during a press conference at I/O that the TPU can augment machine learning processes but that there are still functions that require CPUs and GPUs.
Google started developing the TPU about two years ago, he said.
Right now, Google has thousands of the chips in use. They’re able to fit in the same slots used for hard drives in Google’s data center racks, which means the company can easily deploy more of them if it needs to.
British chip maker ARM has acquired Apical which is an imaging and embedded computer Vision Company in a $350 million cash deal.
Apical’s products are used in more than 1.5 billion smartphones and 300 million other devices, all over the world, including IP cameras, digital stills cameras and tablets.
Its products will be used in ARM’s ‘next generation vehicles’, security systems, robotics, mobile and other consumer, smart building, industrial or retail application. These devices will be able to ‘understand and act intelligently on information from their environment,’ the press release claims.
It also said Apical’s technology will complement the ARM Mali graphics, display and video processor roadmap.
ARM CEO Simon Segars said that the computer vision is in the early stages of development:
“The world of devices powered by this exciting technology can only grow from here. Apical is at the forefront of embedded computer vision technology, building on its leadership in imaging products that already enable intelligent devices to deliver amazing new user experiences. The ARM partnership is solving the technical challenges of next generation products such as driverless cars and sophisticated security systems. These solutions rely on the creation of dedicated image computing solutions and Apical’s technologies will play a crucial role in their delivery.”
There are three products being looked at: Spirit (computer-vision technology), Assertive Display (screens which adapt to changes in light) and Assertive Camera (new performance advances, including dynamic range, noise reduction and colour management).
Alphabet’s Google Inc introduced us to its answer to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant along with new messaging and virtual reality products at its annual I/O developer conference on Wednesday, doubling down on artificial intelligence and machine learning as the keys to its future.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai introduced Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant, along with the tabletop speaker appliance Google Home.
He also unveiled Allo, a new messaging service that will compete with Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger products and feature a chatbot powered by the Google Assistant. Allo, like WhatsApp, will also have end-to-end encryption when it is rolled out this summer.
Amazon’s Echo, a surprise hit that has other tech giants racing to match it, uses a virtual assistant called Alexa, a cloud-based system that controls the Echo speaker and responds to voice-controlled commands by users.
Like Alexa, Google Assistant can search the internet and adjust your schedule. However, Pichai said Google Assistant can use images and other information to provide more intuitive results.
“You can be in front of this structure in Chicago and ask Google who designed this and it will understand in this context that the name of that designer is Anish Kapoor,” said Pichai, pointing toward a photo of Chicago’s Cloud Gate sculpture.
For Google Home, the Google Assistant merges with Chromecast and smart home devices to control televisions, thermostats and other products. Google did not offer a specific release date or pricing for Google Home, saying only that it will be available later this year.
Intel has scored a more significant chunk of the upcoming iPhone 7 which is due to be released this year.
Digitimes deep throats claim that Intel will supply half the modem chips for use in the new iPhones slated for launch in September 2016.
Intel will itself package the modem chips for the upcoming new iPhones, but have contracted Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and tester King Yuan Electronics (KYEC) to manufacture the chips, the sources said.
Qualcomm is currently the supplier of LTE modem chips for the iPhone, but Apple has been keep to avoid focusing on one supplier. Still, the figure of half the iPhone 7′s is much more than many expected. It is a pity for Intel that the iPhone 7 is not expected to be a big seller – mostly because there is little new under the bonnet and it looks the same as the iPhone 6S.
The move will open up new opportunities for designers of autonomous vehicles and security systems, among other connected things, according to ARM CEO Simon Segars. Computer vision is in its early stages, and Apical is at the forefront of embedding such technology, he said.
Apical’s technologies is already used in 1.5 billion smartphones, according to ARM, although many of those phones may be using nothing more sophisticated than a display brightness control Apical calls Assertive Display. That technology also turned up in Samsung Electronics’ new laptop, the ATIV Book 9.
Assertive Camera is another of Apical’s developments: It’s a range of software packages and silicon-based image signal processors for reducing image noise, managing color and shooting high dynamic range images.
ARM makes its money by designing chips that others manufacture, or licensing its chip modules for others to incorporate in their own designs.
In that context, Apical’s Spirit silicon building blocks are perhaps where ARM sees the most opportunity for growth. The Spirit silicon blocks process raw sensor data or video into a machine-readable representation of an image in an energy-efficient way, so ARM and its partners can use them to add computer vision capabilities to future low-power devices.
Putting image analysis and interpretation capabilities in hardware could accelerate and simplify the design of a whole host of products, including self-driving cars and security systems.
ARM paid US$350 million for Apical, closing the deal Tuesday, it said.
Nokia has demonstrated the feasibility of 10Gbps symmetrical data speeds over traditional hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) cable networks, such as those operated by Virgin Media in the UK.
Trumping BT’s 5Gbps XG.fast trials, Nokia’s prototype technology, called XG-Cable, is still at the proof-of-concept stage, but should easily integrate into the DOCSIS 3.1 suite of specifications focused on providing cable operators with technology innovations to transform the industry.
DOCSIS is the set of standards governing data access over cable TV networks, and DOCSIS 3.1 was designed to enable capacities of 10Gbps downstream, but only 1Gbps upstream. Nokia has taken this a step further by demonstrating that symmetrical speeds of 10Gbps are possible.
The technology is still at an early stage of development and no in-service date has been even floated by Nokia, but the test by Nokia Bell Labs has apparently demonstrated that the technology is viable using existing HFC cable networks, where fibre-optic cable is used to connect to cabinets on the street and coaxial copper cable lines are used for last-leg distribution to the customer premises.
XG-Cable means that cable operators will at some point in the future be able to use existing HFC cables in the last 200 meters to provide upstream speeds never before achievable owing to the limited spectrum available, according to Nokia.
This will enable the provision of ultra-fast broadband services to consumer locations that were not physically or economically viable unless fiber was brought all the way to the premises.
“The XG-Cable proof-of-concept is a great example of our ongoing effort and commitment to provide the cable industry with the latest innovations and technology needed to effectively address the growing demand for gigabit services,” said Federico Guillén, president of fixed networks at Nokia.
“The proof-of-concept demonstrates that providing 10Gbps symmetrical services over HFC networks is a real possibility for operators. It is an important achievement that will define the future capabilities and ultra-broadband services cable providers are able to deliver.”
Corvex Management LP disclosed that it owns 9.9 percent of Pandora Media Inc and urged the internet music streaming company to consider being sold instead of pursuing a “costly and uncertain business plan.”
Corvex, a hedge fund run by Keith Meister, a protégé of billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, said it had met with the company’s management and had withdrawn a plan to replace some of its board members. However, it now believes Pandora should hire an investment bank to help the company explore its strategic options including a sale.
“We believe there is likely to be significant strategic interest in the company at a substantial premium to the company’s recent stock price,” Corvex said, adding that large internet companies, handset makers and media companies could be potential buyers.
Pandora’s shares are down more than 25 percent in 2016 and more than 45 percent year-over-year. Corvex owns about 22.7 million shares in the company, making the hedge fund Pandora’s largest shareholder.
Pandora said in response that it is in constant dialogue with shareholders and committed to achieving long-term value for them.
“Pandora has a profitable core business, combined with a strong balance sheet. We are confidently investing to fully capture the massive opportunity ahead of us,” the company said in a statement.
Oakland, California-based Pandora has faced tough competition from music-streaming rivals such as Spotify, Apple Inc , Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com and has failed to turn an annual profit as a public company.
Analysts have said Pandora, which had a market capitalization of $2.29 billion on Monday, could be an acquisition target for larger media or internet companies looking to beef up their online music offerings.
Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren, a former musician who spearheaded Pandora’s music algorithm technology, returned to the company March 28 to become CEO, squashing some investors’ hopes the company could be sold.
Westergren told Reuters on April 15, “If you want to sell a company, you don’t do that by spending half a billion on acquisitions and hiring a new CEO.”
Twitter Inc users will soon have more flexibility in posting tweets because the company plans to discontinue including photos and links as part of its 140-character limit, according to a Bloomberg report.
The social media platform has faced stagnant user growth. Months earlier, Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said the company would simplify its product in an effort to attract new users.
“We think there’s a lot of opportunity in our product to fix some broken windows that we know are inhibiting growth,” Dorsey said during a February earnings call.
Links currently take up to 23 characters of a tweet, limiting the amount of commentary that users can offer when sharing articles or other content.
Twitter has faced stagnant user growth, and shares have fallen more than 70 percent over the past year.
Twitter declined to comment on the report.
On Thursday, sources within Microsoft’s upstream supply chain have reported that the second-generation refresh to the company’s Surface Book is expected to be delayed. The sources cited “design issues” for the launch setback, indicating that the company could be preparing to redesign some critical areas to the final consumer product before launch.
The sources report the device will launch sometime after 2016, but do not specify whether design-related issues are hardware or software related. They they also confirm that the second-generation Surface Book will be upgraded from a 3000x2000p display to a 4K UltraHD (3840x2160p) display, perhaps in an effort to adopt a more industry-standard resolution that scales well across connected displays.
The second-gen Surface Book, or “Surface Book 2,” will also feature at least one Thunderbolt 3 port based on Intel’s Alpine Ridge controller. This will provide up to 40Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth and the ability to daisy-chain up to six devices simultaneously – including up to dual 4K displays at 60Hz or a single 5K display (5120x2880p) at 60Hz.
Microsoft’s original Surface Book design
The current Surface Book’s design was influenced by the variety of 2-in-1 convertible tablets that have hit mainstream retail shops since they emerged as an industry trend at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Microsoft developed a special hinge on the keyboard that would maintain the device’s weight-to-balance ratio, a move that allows the device to be used similarly to a clipboard and as a traditional notebook.
The Surface Book and Surface Pro series are both constructed using a magnesium metal “glass” that is melted in an oxygen-free environment and rapidly cooled to prevent crystallization. Of course, general chemistry tells us that magnesium catches fire when exposed to air. With this design, however, some claim the devices would need to be heated to between 500 and 600C to see any real effects, and these temperatures are far outside the rated device operating specs.
Perhaps Microsoft’s reported sign issues with the second-generation Surface Book have more to do with cosmetics, hinges and weight ratios than the construction material, but this is only an educated guess.
Current Surface Book Specifications
The current Surface Book, released in October 2015, measures 12.3 x 9.14 x 0.9 inches (312.4 x 232.2 x 22.9mm) and weighs 3.34 pounds (1.51kg) as a laptop, or just 0.3 inches thick (7.62mm) and 0.76kg (1.6 pounds) as a detachable tablet.
The device features a 13.5-inch 3000x2000p display (267ppi) and includes either a 2.4GHz Core i5 6300U (Skylake) or 2.6GHz Core i7 6600U (Skylake) CPU, 8 or 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM, an optional Geforce 940M 1GB GPU, 128GB to 1TB of SSD storage, dual-band 802.11n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, two USB 3.0 ports, a Mini DisplayPort, an SDXC card reader, an 8-megapixel rear 1080p camera, a 5-megapixel front camera, dual microphones, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and is compatible with a variety of stylus pens.
Surface Book vs. Surface Pro sales still unknown
In January, Microsoft reported that it sold 2.5 million Surface-series devices in Q4 2015 (October through December), or $888 million dollars’ worth. However, we are unsure how many of these sales are specifically Surface Book units versus Surface Pro 3 and 4 units. In total, the company sold 6 million Surface series devices in 2015. This is compared with a previous 4 million sale estimate for the year, according to sources in the upstream supply chain.
That’s one finding from a report released by DeviceAtlas, which makes software to help companies detect the devices being used by visitors to their websites.
Non-human sources accounted for 48 percent of traffic to the sites analyzed for DeviceAtlas’s Q1 Mobile Web Intelligence Report, including legitimate search-engine crawlers as well as automated scrapers and bots generated by hackers, click fraudsters and spammers, the company said.
DeviceAtlas is owned by Afilias, which calls itself the world’s second-largest Internet domain name registry.
Bot technologies have long been known to account for a significant amount of traffic, but today they’re becoming more malevolent — and more expensive, said Ronan Cremin, CTO of DotMobi, a mobile content delivery company also owned by Afilias.
“We used to think of bots as passive ambient noise,” Cremin said. “That’s now changed to the point where they actually interact with the sites they visit and mimic human traffic exactly.”
Bots are commonly used to generate “clicks” and false ad revenue, but in some cases, they make purchases online with the goal of influencing prices, Cremin said.
“It’s a tricky problem,” he said. “Now that it’s so cheap and easy to deploy bots, the game has changed.”
Digital marketers have long known that much of the traffic to their websites is not legitimate human traffic, and nearly all Web analytics tools attempt to filter out that non-human traffic, said analyst Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics.
But it’s not an easy task.
“Fraudsters go to great lengths to make their traffic appear to be human-generated,” Scavo said. “Moreover, ad sellers and marketing agencies may not be particularly interested in seeing their Web traffic numbers reduced.”
So, what’s a company to do?
“If you’re advertising on a per-impression or per-click basis, you need to closely scrutinize your analytics,” Scavo said. “Trust me, you’re never underpaying.”
If possible, it’s best to link Web marketing expenses to concrete business results like conversions rather than impressions or clicks, he said.
Equipped with analytics tools that can identify non-human sources, companies can also send those bot visitors to slower servers, Cremin said.
“Your main website could be significantly slowed for human visitors by bots, and that’s not a good place to be,” he said. “You can achieve significant cost savings by restricting that traffic.”
The new brands with names like Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime and Mama Bear will include nuts, spices, tea, coffee, baby food and vitamins, as well as household items such as diapers and laundry detergents, the newspaper reported.
Amazon will only offer these labels to its Prime subscribers, the Journal reported, adding the first of the brands could begin appearing at the end of May or early June.
“We don’t comment on rumors or speculations,” a company spokeswoman said in an email.
Last week, Amazon launched Amazon Video Direct for users to post videos and earn royalties with them, setting it up directly against Alphabet Inc’s YouTube.
The Weather Channel is gearing up to roll out a mobile phone app for its recently launched online local news service Local Now in a bid to expand its viewership, Chief Executive Dave Shull told Reuters in an interview.
The independent TV network, which brings weather coverage from blizzards to tornadoes to millions of American homes, rolled out in January an online service “Local Now” that offers local news, weather, traffic and sports updates. The service is currently only available on Dish Network Corp’s online streaming service Sling TV.
“News should be personalized for you, hyper-local, and on-demand just like your favorite shows on Netflix or Hulu,” Shull said on Thursday. “You shouldn’t have to wait for the local news to come on at 11 p.m.”
The Local Now app, expected to launch in June, lets users access the service on iOS and Android phones by entering account information from their cable or satellite-TV subscription with some operators, such as Time Warner Cable Inc, Shull said. It offers a free trial for a week.
The launch comes as streaming services such as Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video gain popularity and viewers shun traditional pay-TV offerings.
Streaming or over-the-top services bring slim bundles of channels from sports to kids entertainment to viewers, but often lack rich local news content as streaming rights have to be painstakingly negotiated with hundreds of stations.
The challenge for local news stations is to satisfy mobile demand without undermining viewership for traditional broadcasts, which generate hefty fees from cable operators who pay to carry their content.
By identifying a viewer’s location, ad-free Local Now creates a real-time, short-form newscast using live data from Weather Channel traffic and weather cameras and news from a handful of content partners, such as the Associated Press. The newscasts, which do not feature a news anchor, use automated pre-recorded words strung together to deliver news.
By leveraging existing Weather Channel infrastructure and using cost-efficient technology, Local Now can offer local news coverage to distributors at a “fraction of the cost” charged by local news stations, Shull said.