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Is Intel Worried About McAfee

May 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel is fuming that MGT Capital Investments went ahead with the announcement of the “John McAfee Privacy Phone” when it previously said that it did not plan to launch products and services under the McAfee mark.

For those who came in late MGT Capital Investments is owned by John McAfee who sold the trademark and which ended up in the claws of Intel. Intel, which once claimed to own the letter i, is now insisting that McAfee can’t use his name on products.

The federal court had earlier refused John McAfee and MGT Capital a preliminary injunction until the resolution of the dispute on Intel’s transfer of marks and related assets containing the word McAfee as part of the spin-out.

MGT announced last month a privacy phone that will be “as hack proof as humanly possible,” with features such as a bank of switches on the back cover that will allow the user to physically disconnect the battery, the antennas for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and geolocation, the camera and microphone, and would also not allow the phone to connect to a Stingray or any other IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) catcher device.

McAfee wants his phone in the shops by August and has referred to the phone largely as the Privacy Phone.

But in a sentence lower down in the statement on its website it refers to “the John McAfee privacy phone,” which appears to have raised Intel’s concerns about the naming of the phone. John McAfee also referred to “The John McAfee Privacy Phone, by MGT,” in a tweet last month.

Lawyers for Intel and McAfee have also objected to MGT asking for the depositions of McAfee’s CEO, Christopher Young, and Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, “even though Plaintiffs can point to no relevant, unique information that these chief executives possess.”

The companies have moaned that MGT and John McAfee have not produced required documents for discovery and asked for a conference in connection with a motion for a protective order to prevent the “harassing depositions” of the chief executives and another motion to compel MGT and John McAfee to “complete their document production and provide substantive responses to interrogatories about their name change and planned products and services.”

John McAfee has said he had entered in 1991 into an agreement with McAfee Associates, a predecessor to McAfee Inc., to transfer certain assets to it in exchange for stock and a promissory note.

But the security expert has told the court that at no point in the agreement had he assigned the rights to his personal name through an assignment of trademark or otherwise, or agreed to restrict his right to do business using his own name. Like most things involving John McAfee this will run and run and give great copy.

Courtesy-Fud

EU Slaps Big Fine On Facebook Over WhatsApp Purchase

May 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

European Union antitrust regulators levied a fine of 110 million euros ($122 million) against Facebook on Thursday for providing misleading information during a vetting of its deal to acquire messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.

Calling it a “proportionate and deterrent fine”, the European Commission, which acts as the EU’s competition watchdog, said Facebook had said it could not automatically match user accounts on its namesake platform and WhatsApp but two years later launched a service that did exactly that.

“The Commission has found that, contrary to Facebook’s statements in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook and WhatsApp users’ identities already existed in 2014, and that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility,” the Commission said.

Facebook said in a statement the errors made in its 2014 filings were not intentional and that the Commission had confirmed they had not affected the outcome of the merger review.

“Today’s announcement brings this matter to a close,” Facebook said.

The fine would not reverse the Commission’s decision to clear the purchase of WhatsApp and was unrelated to separate investigations into data protection issues, it added.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Facebook was set to be fined.

The Commission could have fined Facebook up to 1 percent of its turnover – which would have been $276 million based on 2016 results – but said that Facebook had cooperated with the proceedings and acknowledged its infringement.

The EU sanction comes after Facebook received a separate 150,000-euro fine on Tuesday by a French data watchdog for failing to prevent its users’ data being accessed by advertisers.

Last week the Italian antitrust authorities levied a 3 million-euro fine on WhatsApp for allegedly obliging users to agree to share their personal data with Facebook.

Qualcomm Give The 600 Series A Makerover

May 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm’s new upper-midrange and midrange Snapdragon 600 refreshes were announced today with significant improvements over their predecessors.

 Both the Snapdragon 630 and 660 are being upgraded with the X12 LTE modem that debuted with the Snapdragon 820 last year. The newer modem can manage 600Mbps downstream and 150Mbps upstream connectivity.

The new Snapdragon 660 SoC is also an eight-core chip, with four Kryo CPU cores clocked at 2.2GHz, and four clocked at 1.8GHz. Total memory bandwidth is 29.9GBps, nearly double what the Snapdragon 650, 652, and 653 offered. It also has tech like QuickCharge 4 and a Spectra 160 ISP round out the chip.

The Spectra 160 ISP isn’t quite as powerful as the Spectra 180 ISP in the Snapdragon 835, but it is still pretty good. All this makes the 660 an upper-midrange SoC with some capabilities and features from the high-end.

The Snapdragon 630 is intended as a midrange, workhorse part with strong battery life and reasonable overall performance. It has s four Cortex-A53 cores (clocked at 2.2GHz) with four high-efficiency Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.8GHz. GPU performance is provided by the Adreno 508 which is a sexed up Adreno 506 with an overall memory bandwidth of 10.66GBps.

The Snapdragon 630 won’t break speed records but chips have not been making much in the way of progress on that front for a while.

Courtesy-Fud

Businesses Warming Up To Smartwatches

May 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Smartwatches are gaining ground in more business settings.

In the latest example of a trial, Samsung Galaxy S3 smartwatches are helping janitors do timely cleanups of restrooms at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Another successful four-month Samsung smartwatch trial last fall gave restaurant servers alerts when customers arrived or needed service.

The smartwatches run an app called TaskWatch made by Samsung partner Hipaax. In the airport example, janitors are notified when and where a restroom needs to be cleaned and restocked. Bluetooth sensors at the restroom doorways count the number of users. When 150 customers have passed through a restroom, a notification is sent to the janitorial team.

An employee who is part of janitorial team can click the smartwatch to accept the cleaning task and will get reward points for being the first to do so. Six employees are testing the smartwatches in a trial that began last October.

The TaskWatch app has provided real-time insights about restroom visits, which can vary greatly based on flight arrivals and departures. As such, the app is an improvement over old-fashioned paper work schedules, said Brian Cobb, vice president of customer relations at the airport, in an email. “Housekeeping staff get a break from the routine and are prepared to be more nimble,” he said.

At first, the airport trial used Wi-Fi connections to the smartwatches, which provided only intermittent connections. The airport switched to cellular connectivity to the Gear S3 watches which led to greater maintenance team satisfaction, Cobb said. Assuming continued success with the trial, Cobb said the TaskWatch app and smartwatches will roll out in 2018. The airport could even use the smartwatches for concierge services and emergency communications.

In the restaurant trial, waiters, managers and other staff using smartwatches were able to turn over tables to new customers four minutes faster than before, leading to more tables served and a 7% increase in average daily revenue, said John Gerbus, multi-franchise owner for Buffalo Wings and Rings. The trial took place at one Cincinnati Buffalo Wings location over four months, ending last October.

The TaskWatch app at the restaurant notified servers when guests were seated, and if no waiter arrived after a certain time, a manager could be notified. Alerts were created for when a table was ready to be cleaned and other tasks, such as a digital notification when a manager had visited a table to greet guests.

Servers got higher tips during the course of trial, an indication of its success, said Julie Godfrey, Samsung manager of retail solutions for wearable technology.

In both examples, the use of a smartwatch is seen as advantageous over a smartphone or tablet, mainly because it kept workers hands free, said Godfrey and Bharat Saini, CTO and founder of Hipaax, the app developer. Saini said the app will be sold as a service to enterprises with a monthly fee per user, although the final cost has not been announced. Each Samsung smartwatch costs about $300.

Jitesh Ubrani, an analyst at IDC, said the Samsung restaurant trial is somewhat similar to what Apple has done with the Apple Watch and Resy, a reservation system, in a trial at a New York restaurant.

However, Ubrani said the airport restroom trial is taking smartwatches a little further by adding a kind of game experience for janitors to compete to clean a restroom first, providing them an incentive and promoting usage.

“More interesting to me is the use of sensors in the restrooms,” Ubrani added. “I’m glad to see Samsung is using the watch as part of a larger wireless ecosystem.”

“Samsung is also doing a great job at device manageability and security with the use of their Knox platform” in connection with the smartwatch trials, Ubrani added.

Samsung believes enterprises of all types will want to digitally record routine tasks like the time taken to serve a customer to improve overall performance. Having that data recorded automatically with an easy-to-use wearable will help smartwatch adoption in the enterprise.

Samsung also provides geo-fencing capabilities to the watches, meaning that if a worker walks off the job with the smartwatch it can be set to quit functioning entirely. Also, other smartwatch apps can be disabled so that workers focus on the Taskwatch app exclusively.

While smartwatches took a while to catch on, there is promise for enterprise usage. “In conversations with CIOs, I’ve seen interest in smartwatches accelerate a little bit,” Saini said. “People in business are getting excited about the potential with access to real-time analytics.”

Electronic Signature Service DocuSign Reports Hacking

May 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Electronic signature service DocuSign revealed that hackers had temporarily gained access to a database that houses customer emails, which the company linked to a surge in phishing emails sent to its users.

The company said the emails imitated the DocuSign brand to trick recipients into opening a Microsoft Word document containing malicious software.

DocuSign’s service is widely used by big bank and insurers for keeping track of financial transactions, with 12 of the top 15 U.S. financial services companies using the company’s software.

The privately held company, valued at about $3 billion, makes software to add legally compliant electronic signatures to documents.

DocuSign said only email addresses were accessed. Names, physical addresses, passwords, social security numbers or credit card data were not accessed, the company said on its website.

San Francisco-based DocuSign said earlier this month that it was tracking the malicious e-mail campaign.

DocuSign has about 200 million users and has been embraced as a quick and secure way to sign contracts and other official documents using a finger on a mobile device.

Will Google Dump Linux For Magenta

May 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Google’s new Fuchsia mobile OS is not based on Linux, unlike Android, but on a new microkernel called Magenta.

According to Ars Technica, Google will not not only be dumping the Linux kernel, but also the GPL.

The new OS will be licensed under a mix of BSD 3 clause, MIT, and Apache 2.0.

Part of the issue is that Google can’t be bothered keeping up with Linux releases. Google Pixel is still stuck on Linux Kernel 3.18, which was first released at the end of 2014.

Fuchsia’s interface and apps are written using Google’s Flutter SDK, a project that actually produces cross-platform code that runs on Android and iOS. Flutter apps are written in Dart, Google’s reboot of JavaScript which, on mobile, has a focus on high-performance, 120fps apps.

It also has a Vulkan-based graphics renderer called “Escher” that lists “Volumetric soft shadows” as one of its features, which seems custom-built to run Google’s shadow-heavy “Material Design” interface guidelines.

Ars put the Flutter SDK to test on an Android device look at the user interface. It found that the home screen is a giant vertically scrolling list. In the center is a profile picture, the date, a city name, and a battery icon.

Above there are ‘Story’ cards, which are basically Recent Apps, and below it is a scrolling list of suggestions, sort of like a Google Now placeholder.

If you leave the main screen and you’ll see a Fuchsia ‘home’ button pop up on the bottom of the screen, which is just a single white circle.

Courtesy-Fud

German Firm Developing Personal Database

May 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

German finance, auto and publishing firms about to form a European company to store personal data securely so customers can make purchases online from different outlets without punching in their details each time.

 The plan mirrors an initiative in the United States by Facebook, which created Facebook Connect to allow logging on to multiple sites with a single identity.

Allianz, Axel Springer, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, technology think-tank Core, and location services provider Here Technologies signed a declaration of intent to establish a platform for registration, e-identity and data services, the group of firms said on Monday.

“The idea behind the cooperation is to provide a competitive, European response to the platform economy’s main players,” the companies said.

The group of companies said the new venture “aims to guarantee the highest standards in data security and data protection.”

The European initiative was still several months away from being launched, but the group of companies is announcing their plans early in order to attract more partners.

When making purchases online, consumers using the new data store would provide a so-called master key to sellers of goods and services to unlock personal details needed for the transaction.

Christian Sewing, Deutsche Bank’s deputy CEO said that Europeans must at last fully play out our strengths in digitalisation 

“The time is ripe for a platform initiative of this kind. It will increase legal certainty for clients and boost the European digital economy’s growth,” he said.

Courtesy-Fud

Social Media Companies May Face New Fines, Regulations In Britain

May 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

British Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to create new powers giving her authority to punish social media and communications companies that fail to look after users’ data, and to demand cash from firms to pay for policing the internet.

The election pledge comes after firms like Facebook and Twitter have been criticized the government for not doing enough to stop the spread of extremist content online or help victims of abuse.

May, who is expected to win a majority at the June 8 election, pledged to pass laws giving users new rights to access data held about them, and granting the government the power to enforce them with sanctions.

“The internet has brought a wealth of opportunity but also significant new risks which have evolved faster than society’s response to them,” May said in a statement.

“We want social media companies to do more to help redress the balance and will take action to make sure they do.”

Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries across England were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments on Friday after a nationwide ‘ransomware’ cyber attack crippled some computer systems in the state-run health service.

The Conservative Party said it wanted to be able to tax the industry if it chooses to, citing similar plans already in force for the gambling industry.

“The Conservatives will also create a power in law for government to introduce an industry-wide levy from social media companies and communication service providers to support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms,” the party said in a statement.

Google Acquires Virtual Game Studio Owlchemy Labs

May 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Google has purchased Owlchemy Labs, the VR game studio that behind such game titles as Job Simulator and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality.

The Austin, Texas-based game studio revealed the acquisition in a blog post Wednesday, saying it will continue to build content for the HTC Vive, Oculus Touch, and PlayStation VR after joining Google.

“We are continuing to do all of this with even more support and focus on building awesome stuff,” Owlechemy wrote. “It’s incredibly exciting that Google and Owlchemy are so well aligned on our goals and vision for the future of VR.”

Google confirmed the acquisition in a blog post that praised the company for producing “really thoughtful interactive experiences that are responsive, intuitive, and feel natural.”

The acquisition underscores the tech community’s commitment to virtual reality, which promises to transport goggle-wearing users to a computer-generated 3D environment. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is said to be investing big money on content for the platform, much of it going toward development of video games and apps, licensing sports leagues and shooting 360-degree videos.

Google’s latest entry in the market is Daydream, a hardware and software platform unveiled late last year that runs off Google’s Android mobile operating system and helps any Android phone manufacturer create a VR headset themselves.

Terms of the acquisition of Owlchemy Labs weren’t revealed.

Snapchat Reports Slowing User Growth

May 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap Inc shares took a deep dive after the owner of Snapchat reported slowing user growth and revenue in its first earnings report as a public company, missing some Wall Street estimates as it competes with copycat messaging apps.

Shares tumbled 23 percent in after-hours trading to wipe some $6 billion from Snap’s market value, a reversal for the company after a red-hot March initial public offering that was the biggest for a U.S. tech company since Facebook Inc’s 2012 debut.

The stock fell to $17.66, just above its IPO price of $17.

Some investors were hoping Snap would surprise them with big numbers in its first quarterly report, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield said.

“The fact that they failed to live up to expectations, let alone exceed them, disappointed people,” he said.

The performance echoed slides in Facebook and Twitter after they posted debut scorecards following their IPOs. Twitter shares cratered 24 percent the next day, while Facebook’s tumbled 11 percent, still the biggest-ever one-day losses for both.

Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel sought to reassure investors during an earnings call, fielding a dozen questions that ranged from strategy to how it would deal with competitors.

He also did not shy away from one query that allowed him to take a feisty jab at Facebook.

“If you want to be a creative company, you’ve got to get comfortable with and enjoy the fact that people are going to copy your product if you make great stuff,” he said.

Making a comparison to the search industry, Spiegel added: “Just because Yahoo has a search box doesn’t mean they’re Google.”

Snap said its daily active users (DAUs) rose 36.1 percent to 166 million in the first quarter from a year earlier, marking a slowdown from the 47.7 percent rise for the fourth quarter and 62.8 percent jump for the third quarter that the company reported in its IPO filing.

The slowing rate of growth was in line with an estimate from JPMorgan, which accurately expected 166 million DAUs for the first quarter. Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co Inc had pegged them even higher at 173 million.

Snap’s March IPO priced above the company’s target range as investors put aside concerns about a lack of profits and voting rights to get a piece of the action. The IPO raised $3.4 billion and gave the company a market valuation of roughly $24 billion, and shares surged 44 percent in their first day of trading.

Amazon Unveils Echo Show, To Go On Sale In June

May 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc has unveiled Echo Show, a touchscreen device that will allow users to make video calls and watch clips from CNN, the latest in the company’s series of popular Echo voice-controlled speakers.

The device, which will go on sale in June for about $230, will feature Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled aide, that can be used to play music, order an Uber or turn on the house lights.

Echo Show will allow video conferencing between users having an Echo device or the Alexa app. It is the first to support the feature, which is absent in similar devices offered by rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s unit Google.

“Putting a semi-permanent ambient device in the home that can make and receive video calls is an interesting evolution which should prove compelling,” said Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson.

The launch of the Echo Show is Amazon’s latest effort to make Alexa a key part of its customers’ lives and dominate the nascent voice-powered computing market.

“What we’re seeing is Amazon using its smart original foray into and early dominance of this space as a beachhead to spread into lots of other areas,” Dawson said.

A study by research firm eMarketer showed that Amazon Echo and Echo Dot devices will claim a 70.6 percent share of the U.S. market this year, well ahead of Google Home’s 23.8 percent share.

Amazon unveiled a voice-controlled camera, the Echo Look, last month alongside an app that recommends outfits for users.

The launch comes a day after Microsoft Corp said it was developing a voice-activated speaker in collaboration with Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s unit Harman Kardon.

Microsoft Ending Support For First Version Of Windows 10

May 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has published the very last security update for the debut version of Windows 10.

Windows 10 1507 — Microsoft tags feature upgrades with a yymm label — will received its last security patches on May 9. The retirement date had been quietly announced last month when it appeared on several support documents.

“The time has now come to end servicing for version 1507,” one of those documents stated.

The company’s selection of May 9, as well as answers several officials gave last week during an online Q&A, signal that it will retire Windows 10’s versions on Patch Tuesdays, just as it has ended support for other OS editions on those 12 days throughout the year.

Stopping support for Windows 10 editions is as important to Microsoft’s “Windows-as-a-service” model as is its cadence of shipping two feature upgrades annually. The company has pledged to support an individual edition, such as 1507, for just 18 months, not the 10 years it provided for previous Windows editions.

The cut-off guaranteed Microsoft would not be burdened by a requirement to maintain an increasing number of versions, letting it instead focus on just two iterations of Windows 10 at a time.

In the end, Microsoft supported Windows 10 1507 for 21 months rather than the pledged 18.

Using the 18-month lifecycle, Windows 10’s second edition, version 1511 — released Nov. 12, 2015 — should also fall from support this month. But because of other arcane rules Microsoft follows, 1511 will be supported at least through October, according to Nathan Mercer, a senior product marketing manager, in a reply during last week’s Q&A.

That would provide 1511 with two years of support.

Microsoft hasn’t set end-of-support dates for Windows 10 1607 or 1703, the upgrades released in August 2016 and April 2017. Under the 18-month guideline, 1607 should head to retirement in January 2018 and 1703 shuffle off in September 2018. However, it’s likely that Microsoft will extend 1607’s date of demise, as it did to 1507 and 1511, to separate it from the latter.

Windows 10 1507 LTSB — the “Long-term Servicing Branch” version of the original release — will continue to receive security updates, Microsoft has said. The LTSB track is available only to customers running Windows 10 Enterprise.

Although Windows 10 1507 will continue to operate without restrictions after May 9th, without future bug fixes, the operating system “could become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses,” Microsoft warned. To continue to receive updates, users must upgrade to 1511 or later.

Amazon’s Alexa Dominates Voice-controlled Speaker Market

May 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is dominating the niche market for voice-controlled speakers, according to data from research firm eMarketer.

The e-commerce giant’s Amazon Echo and Echo Dot devices will claim a 70.6 percent share of the U.S. market this year, the study found. The speakers feature Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled aide, which users can tell to play music, order an Uber or turn on the house lights.

That puts it far ahead of Alphabet Inc’s Google Home, a similar gadget that has a 23.8 percent share, and less successful offerings from other tech companies.

The number of active U.S. users will more than double for the devices this year, to 35.6 million, eMarketer said.

The report underscores Amazon’s progress in making Alexa and its speech-recognition technology an integral part of customers’ lives. More users means more data that can improve Alexa’s understanding and could make it a top platform for voice, like Windows is for desktop.

Amazon does not disclose Echo sales figures but has said it had trouble keeping the product in stock. Device sales and extra revenue from shoppers placing orders via Alexa could generate $10 billion for Amazon by 2020, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney said in a recent note. And that does not include potential revenue from others using Alexa as a platform.

Google’s share is expected to grow, though. Tests by analysts have shown the technology underpinning the Google Home to match or be superior to competitors. A survey by Mahaney found the device’s brand awareness in the United States already equaled 80 percent of Alexa’s, despite being on the market for fewer months.

The statistics from eMarketer focused on speakers and left out other virtual assistants: notably, Apple Inc’s Siri and Microsoft Corp’s Cortana. More than 60 million in the United States will use virtual assistants at least once monthly in 2017, the report said. That’s over a quarter of U.S. smartphone users.

Edge Browser May Become More Nimble With Microsoft’s Latest Move

May 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft plans to de-couple the update ties between Windows 10 and its default browser, Edge, to give company developers a way to refresh the browser more often than twice a year, according to an online report.

“Users will finally be able to get updates to the Edge browser via the Windows Store, which will allow Microsoft to add new features more frequently,” wrote Rich Woods of Neowin, citing unnamed sources within Microsoft.

Since the mid-2015 launch of Windows 10, Edge feature updates have been limited to the times when the operating system itself was upgraded. There have been four iterations of Edge thus far: The original of July 2015, dubbed version 12; then November 2015’s version 13; August 2016’s version 14; and April 2017’s version 15.

Edge, like its predecessor Internet Explorer, receives monthly security updates that patch vulnerabilities.

Woods said that the change would take place in September, when Microsoft is scheduled to ship the next Windows 10 feature upgrade.

It’s unclear whether Windows Store — the only legitimate mart that offers “Universal Windows Platform” (UWP) apps — will be the sole source of Edge updates, or whether the browser will continue to be bundled with Windows 10 feature upgrades.

If Edge updates are available only from the Windows Store, some enterprises may balk at assigning the browser to workers; firms using Windows 10 Enterprise can lock users out of the Store, and do so to restrict what runs on the company’s PCs. And firms looking for a more stable environment, and willing to consider Edge for that reason, may object to frequent Edge feature updates.

While Edge updates distributed from the Windows Store may give Microsoft the same number of refresh opportunities as rival browsers, notably Google’s Chrome as well as Mozilla’s Firefox, and thus play to consumers who cherish change, Chrome’s and Firefox’s every-six-week update cadence could well be exactly what corporations hope to avoid. Microsoft could solve that by making Windows Store updates optional, and instead hew to its pledged twice-annual Windows 10 and Edge upgrades for businesses.

Such a move would be entirely within Microsoft’s pattern of promoting Edge as its primary browser — it’s effectively tossed Internet Explorer on the ash pile, promising only security updates but no new functionality — and touting Edge as a legitimate rival to long-established competitors.

But in the nearly two years of Edge’s existence, Microsoft has failed to convince customers to widely adopt the browser: At no point has Edge won over a majority of Windows 10 users. More telling, Edge’s share has declined since its debut peak, falling last month to a record low of 21%, or just over one in five Windows 10 users, according to analytics vendor Net Applications.

Facebook’s Oculus’ Story Studio Closing Down

May 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Facebook Inc’s virtual reality content production unit, Oculus’ Story Studio, is shutting down and will pivot towards supporting external content makers, two years after the in-house studio launched.

Oculus, which makes virtual reality headsets Rift and Gear VR, will allocate $50 million to directly fund creators of non-gaming VR content, Jason Rubin, the company’s vice president of content, said in a blog post.

Rubin added that Oculus is “still absolutely committed to growing the VR film and creative content ecosystem.”

Facebook paid $3 billion to acquire Oculus and retain its employees in 2014. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said he believed the medium that offers a 360-degree panoramic view using headsets “will become a part of daily life for billions of people.”

Oculus tapped talent from both Oscar-winning animation company Pixar and the video gaming world to head up Story Studio, which it launched in January 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival.

Facebook’s VR ambitions have been threatened somewhat by a lawsuit from video game publisher ZeniMax Media Inc accusing Facebook and Oculus of infringing ZeniMax’s copyrighted software code.

A jury found in ZeniMax’s favor in February, awarding it $500 million. Oculus has asked for a new trial.

Vive, a unit of HTC Corp, and Sony Corp are also racing to bring virtual reality products to a mass audience.

Oculus debuted its first short film called “Lost” at Sundance two years ago, a story of an animated mechanical creature in a forest.

Last year, Story Studio won an Emmy for original interactive program for its short VR film “Henry,” and at Sundance this year, it premiered “Dear Angelica,” an illustrated film of a mother and daughter.

But internally, Oculus has undergone some changes in its management in the past year.

Brendan Iribe stepped down as CEO in December, saying he was going to head up the PC division of the VR company. In March, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, who created the prototype Oculus headset, parted ways with Facebook.

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