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Verizon Bringing 5G To 11 U.S. Cities

February 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications Inc has announced that it would begin offering its high-speed wireless 5G network to certain customers in 11 U.S. cities in the first half of 2017.

Verizon will begin pilot testing 5G “pre-commercial services” in cities, including Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

The company had said last July that it laid out plans to conduct trials for its 5G network this year.

New 5G networks are expected to provide speeds at least 10 times and up to maybe 100 times faster than today’s 4G networks, with the potential to connect at least 100 billion devices with download speeds that can reach 10 gigabits per second.

AT&T Inc said in January that it planned to test its high-speed wireless 5G network for customers of its online streaming television service, DirecTv Now, in Austin, Texas.

New Qualcomm, Intel Modems Boasts LTE Speeds Greater Than 1Gbps

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

With every new generation of smartphone, LTE connections gain more speed. That’s because the devices have faster modems that can transfer data at previously unheard of download speeds.

The top modem providers are Intel and Qualcomm, whose cellular chips are used in the iPhone. Both have announced modems that will push LTE connections to speeds well over those of regular home internet connections.

Qualcomm unveiled the X20 LTE chipset, which can transfer data at speeds of up to 1.2Gbps. Intel announced the XMM 7560 LTE modem, which can download data at speeds of up to 1Gbps.

However, cellular networks aren’t yet designed to handle such fast speeds. One exception is Telstra, an Australian telecommunications company, which has launched a gigabit LTE service for commercial use in that country.

Gigabit LTE will slowly start appearing in mobile devices and networks this year, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“This is making 4G what it was intended to be — a true wireless broadband solution,” McGregor said.

These performance bumps are important as users handle more data,  McGregor said.

“We’ve seen this with microprocessors for years,” McGregor said.

Qualcomm said its Snapdragon X20 modem will become available next year, and McGregor estimated it will be in devices soon after. Intel said its XMM 7560 is ready, but couldn’t say when handsets would come out.

Most users may not need LTE speeds of 1.2Gbps, especially when using apps like Uber, Snapchat and WhatsApp. But more PCs are getting LTE connectivity, and could use the speed for high-end applications.

Qualcomm, a modem pioneer, is trying to stay a step ahead of Intel in the rat race to rev up LTE modems. Intel is speeding up modem development as wireless connectivity becomes an essential part of computing, said Aicha Evans, senior vice president and general manager of the Communication and Devices Group at Intel.

he new modems are also a stepping stone to 5G, the next-generation cellular network technology that Evans estimated could deliver speeds of more than 45Gbps. Beyond mobile devices, 5G will be used for machine-to-machine communications and will be a standard feature in a wide range of devices including PCs, robots, drones and internet of things devices.

The Snapdragon X20 LTE chipset is a CAT 18 modem and supports a wide range of cellular technologies that could make it work in most countries worldwide. The chip supports carrier aggregation and data transfers over multiple streams. It works with 40 cellular frequency bands and supports technologies like Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and LTE broadcast.

Intel’s XMM 7560 is a CAT 16 modem and supports carrier aggregation across multiple spectrums. The chip maker has already readied its first 5G modem, and the company now says it has silicon ready for that chip.

Is The Independent Game Developers Future Bleak

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Never more than a stopgap that was hugely inadequate to the gap in question, Steam Greenlight is finally set to disappear entirely later this Spring. The service has been around for almost five years, and while it was largely greeted with enthusiasm, the reality has never justified that optimism. The amassing of community votes for game approval turned out to be no barrier to all manner of grafters who launched unfinished, amateurish games (even using stolen assets in some cases) on the service, but enough of a barrier to be frustrating and annoying for many genuine indie developers. As an attempt to figure out how to prevent a storefront from drowning in the torrent of rubbish that has flooded the likes of the App Store and Google Play, it was a worthy experiment, but not one that ought to have persisted for five years, really.

Moreover, Greenlight isn’t disappearing because Valve has solved this problem to its satisfaction. The replacement, Direct, is in some regards a step backwards; it’ll see developers being able to publish directly on the system simply by confirming their identity (company or personal) through submission of business documents and paying a fee for each game they submit. The fee in question hasn’t been decided yet, but Valve says it’s thinking about everything from $100 to $5000.

The impact of Direct is going to depend heavily on what that fee ends up being. It’s worth noting that developers for iOS, for example, already pay around $100 a year to be part of Apple’s developer programme, and trawling through the oceans of unloved and unwanted apps released on the App Store every day shows just how little that $100 price does to dissuade the worst kind of shovelware. At $5000, meanwhile, quite a lot of indie developers will find themselves priced out of Steam, especially those at the more arthouse end of the scene, or new creators getting started out. Ironically, though, the chances are that many of the cynical types behind borderline-scam games with ripped off assets and design will calculate that $5000 is a small price to pay for a shot at sales on Steam, especially if the high fees are thinning out the number of titles launching.

It’s worth noting that, for the majority of Steam’s consumers, the loss of arthouse indie games and fringe titles from new creators won’t be of huge concern. Steam, like all storefronts, sells huge numbers at the top end and that falls off rapidly as you come down the charts; the number of consumers who are actively engaging with smaller niche titles on the service is pretty small. However, that doesn’t mean that locking out those creators wouldn’t be damaging – both creatively and commercially.

Plenty of creators are actually making a living at the low end of the market; they’re not making fortunes or buying gigantic mansions to hang around being miserable in, but they’re making enough money from their games to sustain themselves and keep up their output. Often, they’re working in niches that have small audiences of devoted fans, and locking them out of Steam with high submission costs would both rob them of their income (there are quite a few creators out there for whom $5000 represents a large proportion of their average revenue from a game) and rob audiences of their output, or at least force them to look elsewhere.

Sometimes, a game from a creator like that becomes a break-out hit, the game the whole world is talking about for months on end – sometimes, but not very often. It’s tempting to argue that Steam should be careful about its “low-end” indies (a term I use in the commercial sense, not as any judgement of quality; there’s great, great stuff lurking around the bottom of the charts) because otherwise it risks missing the Next Big Thing, but that’s not really a good reason. Steam is just about too big to ignore, and the Next Big Thing will almost certainly end up on the platform anyway.

Rather, the question is over what Valve wants Steam to be. If it’s a platform for distributing big games to mainstream consumers, okay; it is what it is. If they’re serious about it being a broad church, though, an all-encompassing platform where you can flick seamlessly between AAA titles with budgets in the tens of millions and arthouse, niche games made as a labour of love by part-timers or indie dreamers, then Direct as described still doesn’t solve the essential conflict in that vision.

In replacing publishers with a storefront through which creators can directly launch products to consumers, Valve and other store operators have asserted the value of pure market forces over curation – the fine but flawed notion of greatness rising to the top while bad quality products sink to the bottom simply through the actions of consumers making buying choices. This, of course, doesn’t work in practice, partially because in the real world free markets are enormously constrained and distorted by factors like the paucity of information (a handful of screenshots and a trailer video doth not a perfectly informed and rational purchasing decision make), and more importantly because free markets can’t actually make effective assessments of something as subjective as the quality of a game.

Thus, even as their stores have become more and more inundated with tides of low quality titles – perhaps even to the extent of snuffing out genuinely good quality games – store operators have tried to apply algorithmic wizardry to shore up marketplaces they’ve created. Users can vote, and rate things; elements of old-fashioned curation have even been attempted, with rather limited success. Tweaks have been applied to the submission process at one end and the discovery process at the other. Nothing, as yet, presents a very satisfying solution.

One interesting possibility is that we’re going to see the pendulum start to swing back a little – from the extreme position of believing that Steam and its ilk would make publishers obsolete, to the as yet untested notion that digital storefronts will ultimately do a better job of democratising publishing than they have done of democratising development. We’ve already seen the rise of a handful of “boutique” publishers who specialise in working with indie developers to get their games onto digital platforms with the appropriate degree of PR and marketing support; if platforms like Steam start to put up barriers to entry, we can expect a lot more companies like that to spring up to act as middlemen.

Like the indie developers themselves, some will cater to specific niches, while others will be more mainstream, but ultimately they will all serve a kind of curation role; their value will lie not just in PR, marketing and finance, but also in the ability to say to platforms and consumers that somewhere along the line, a human being has looked at a game in depth and said “yes, this is a good game and we’re willing to take a risk on it.” There’s a value to that simple function that’s been all too readily dismissed in the excitement over Steam, the App Store and so on, and as issues of discovery and quality continue to plague those storefronts, that value is only becoming greater.

Whatever Valve ultimately decides to do with Direct – whether it sets a low price that essentially opens the floodgates, or a high one that leaves some developers unable to afford the cost of entry – it will not provide a panacea to Steam’s issues. It might, however, lay the ground for a fresh restructuring of the industry, one that returns emphasis to the publishing functions that were trampled underfoot in the initial indie gold-rush and, into the bargain, helps to provide consumers with clearer assurances of quality. A new breed of publisher may be the only answer to the problems created by storefronts we were once told were going to make publishers extinct.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Snapchat Wants In On Hardware Development Too

February 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap Inc hit the roads of London on Monday promoting its initial public offering with a daring proposition: that it can build hot-selling hardware gadgets and ad-friendly software features fast enough to stay one step ahead of Facebook.

No longer just a purveyor of a smartphone app for disappearing messages, Snap has hired hundreds of hardware engineers, built a secretive product development lab and scoured the landscape for acquisitions as it pursues its newly stated ambition to be “a camera company.”

These efforts, which are aimed at developing hardware and so-called augmented reality technologies, are central to the strategy of a company that is seeking a valuation of up to $22 billion in its early March IPO despite heavy losses and the specter of stiff competition for advertising dollars with a far-larger Facebook.

It is a big gamble and the odds against Snap are long.

There is little precedent for a company with its roots in software and social networking succeeding in the notoriously difficult consumer hardware business. Few U.S. firms aside from Apple have made big profits on hardware, and camera and wearable gadget makers have much lower valuations than Snap is seeking. Once-hot camera start-up GoPro  is a cautionary tale: its stock sits 61 percent below its 2014 IPO price.

More broadly, creating new products and features that have mass-market appeal and cannot be readily mimicked is a huge challenge, analysts say.

“It’s worrisome,” said Paul Meeks, chief investment officer at Sloy, Dahl & Holst, which manages more than $1 billion in assets. “Snapchat is going to have to continue to be really innovative and distinctive. It’s going to be very tough to trump Facebook.”

Snap declined to comment for this story.

Snap first signaled its new focus with the September reveal of Spectacles, funky sunglasses with an embedded video camera for posting to the Snapchat app. The company spent $184 million on research and development last year, nearly half its revenue.

 

Is The Intel C2000 Chip Flaw A Disaster In The Making?

February 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

It is starting to look like Intel’s Atom C2000 chip fiasco has spread to another networking manufacturer.

The fatal clock timing flaw that causes switches, routers and security appliances die after about 18 months of service is apparently a feature of some Juniper products.

Cisco was the first vendor to post a notice about the problem earlier this month saying the notice covers some of the company’s most widely deployed products, such as certain models of its Series 4000 Integrated Services Routers, Nexus 9000 Series switches, ASA security devices and Meraki Cloud Managed Switches.

Juniper is telling its customers something similar:

“Although we believe the Juniper products with this component are performing normally as of February 13, 2017, the [listed] Juniper products could after the product has been in operation for at least 18 months begin to exhibit symptoms such as the inability to boot, or cease to operate. Recovery in the field is not possible. Juniper product with this supplier’s component were first placed into service on January 2016. Jupiter is working with the component supplier to implement a remediation. In addition, Juniper’s spare parts depots will be purged and updated with remediated products.”

The products in the warning comprise 13 Juniper switches, routers and other products including the MPC7E 10G, MPC7E (multi rate), MX2K-MPC8E, EX 920 Ethernet switches and PTX3000 integrated photonic line card.

So far neither Cisco nor Juniper have blamed Intel for the fault. However, Chipzilla did describe a flaw on its Atom C2000 chip which is under the bonnet of shedloads of net gear.

Intel said that problems with its Atom chip will hurt Intel’s 2016 Q4 earnings. CFO Robert Swan said that Intel was seeing a product quality issue in the fourth quarter with slightly higher expected failure rates under certain use and time constraints.

Swan said that it will be fixed with a minor design fix that Intel was working with its clients to resolve.

Intel had hoped it would see the back of its short-lived low-power Atom chips for servers. They were used in micro servers but also networking equipment from companies.

HPE and Dell are keeping quiet about the clock technology, though both are rumoured to use it. They might be hoping that Intel will come up with a fix so they can pretend it never happened.

Courtesy-Fud

Verizon Reportedly Gets Discount On Yahoo Acquisition

February 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Verizon Communications Inc  is close to an updated deal to purchase Yahoo Inc’s core internet business for $250 million to $350 million less than the original agreed price of $4.83 billion, according to a source briefed on the matter.

Since last year, Verizon had been trying to persuade Yahoo to amend the terms of the acquisition agreement to reflect the economic damage from two cyber attacks. A source told Reuters that the deal, which could come as soon as this week, will entail Verizon and Yahoo sharing the liability from potential lawsuits related to the data breaches.

Another person familiar with the situation said the price cut was likely to be around $250 million, a figure that Bloomberg reported earlier on Wednesday.

A representative from Verizon declined to comment. Yahoo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Maybe this isn’t quite as much of a discount as initially thought, but it’s at least something,” said Dave Heger, senior equity analyst at Edward Jones.

Verizon hopes to combine Yahoo’s search, email and messenger assets, as well as advertising technology tools, with its AOL unit, which Verizon bought in 2015 for $4.4 billion. Verizon has been looking to mobile video and advertising for new sources of revenue outside an oversaturated wireless market.

But Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo has been under scrutiny by federal investigators and lawmakers since disclosing the largest known data breach in history in December, months after disclosing a separate hack.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a probe into whether Yahoo should have disclosed the breaches, which occurred in 2013 and 2014, sooner, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal last month.

On Wednesday, Yahoo sent a warning to users whose accounts may have been accessed by intruders between 2015 and 2016, as part of a data security issue related to the breach it disclosed in December. A person familiar with the matter said notifications have gone out to a mostly final list of users.

Facebook Launches App For Smart TVs

February 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Facebook Inc is launching an app for smart TVs that will aid the social network’s users in being able to view its videos on a larger screens.

The app will roll out soon from app stores for Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and Amazon Fire TV, the company said in a blogpost on Tuesday.

The blogpost also said users can scroll through their news feed and simultaneously watch videos on their timeline.

 Sound also fades in and out as one scrolls through videos in news feed now. Videos in news feed have previously played silently — one needed to tap on a video to hear its sound.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Facebook was creating an app for TV set-top boxes that would bring the company closer to live video and video advertisements.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg during a post-earnings call said this month that the company expected a major ramp-up in hiring and other spending during 2017 as it invests in video and other priorities.

The company last year expanded its live video product, Facebook Live – a potential threat to broadcast television.

FBI Used Malware To Hack Computers In 120 Countries

February 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Privacy advocates have alleged in court that an FBI hacking operation to bust up a child pornography site was unconstitutional and violated international law.

That’s because the operation involved the FBI hacking 8,700 computers in 120 countries, based on a single warrant, they said.

“How will other countries react to the FBI hacking in their jurisdictions without prior consent?” wrote Scarlet Kim, a legal officer with U.K.-based Privacy International.

On Friday, that group, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, filed briefs in a lawsuit involving the FBI’s hacking operation against Playpen. The child pornography site was accessible through Tor, a browser designed for anonymous web surfing. But in 2014, the FBI managed to take it over.

In a controversial move, the agency then decided to use the site to essentially infect visitors with malware as a way to track them down.

As a result, the FBI is prosecuting hundreds who were found visiting the site, but it also happened to hack into computers from 120 countries.

On Friday, the three privacy groups filed briefs in a case involving Alex Levin, a suspect in the FBI’s Playpen investigation who’s appealing the way the agency used malware to gather evidence against him.

Privacy International claims that the warrant the FBI used to conduct the hacking is invalid. This is because the U.S. was overstepping its bounds by conducting an investigation outside its borders without the consent of affected countries, the group said.

According to Privacy International, the case also raises important questions: What if a foreign country had carried out a similar hacking operation that affected U.S. citizens? Would the U.S. welcome this?

The EFF and ACLU also claim that the FBI’s warrant was invalid, but they cite the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches.

“Here, on the basis of a single warrant, the FBI searched 8,000 computers located all over the world,” EFF attorney Mark Rumold wrote in a blog post. “If the FBI tried to get a single warrant to search 8,000 houses, such a request would unquestionably be denied.”

A key concern is that a warrant to hack into so many computers will set a precedent. “Even serious crimes can’t justify throwing out our basic constitutional principles,” Rumold said.

Is The Nintendo Switch Finally Going Unreal?

February 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Nintendo, is finally getting around to embracing third party development tools including the Unreal Engine.

Nintendo has always had trouble getting third-party developers to make games for its consoles, but the Switch is supposed to show off a new image for the former playing card maker.

Game designer Shigeru Miyamoto has announced that Nintendo engineers have been learning how to use third-party apps and especially the Unreal Engine.

The Switch, like the Wii U, supports the Unreal Engine but has not been particularly enthusiastic about it.

Nintendo’s Shinya Takahashi said Nintendo now wants to develop an environment where “a variety of different third-party developers are able to easily develop compatible software”.

Miyamoto also suggested that Japanese developers no longer are behind their western counterparts when it comes to third-party engines. He added that his engineers’ skill set can “now be compared with those of Western developers”.

While Nintendo will stick to using its own development tools when building games for its new hardware, its engineers are apparently trying to understand one of the most commonly-used game development engines.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Wireless Charging Finally Making It To The Next iPhone?

February 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple’s next three models of the iPhone — the iPhone 8 and two updated versions of  iPhone 7 — will finally contain a long-awaited feature: wireless charging, according to an industry analyst with a track record of being right about the company’s plans.

The new iPhone models, which are expected to come in 4.7-in, 5.5-in and 5.8-in form factors when released later this year, will also sport a new 3D Touch feature and an OLED display, according to Ming-Chi Kuo, a financial analyst for KGI Securities.

3D Touch allows users to press harder on the screen to launch actions, such as replying to messages or animating live photos, instead of only selecting applications.

Kuo also expects the iPhone 8 — if that’s what Apple decides to call the new model (see artist rendering above) — to come in an all-glass case, with a flexible, “thinner form factor.”

Kuo, who reports on the Asia-Pacific region, is not just any analyst. The Apple-focused news website and community Cult of Mac, once called him “the most reliable voice on all things Apple…because his ability to accurately prophesy Apple’s future product plans is unparalleled.”

First reported by MacRumors, Kuo’s research note indicated that wireless charging increases the internal temperature of smartphones, which will require the iPhone 8  with an OLED display and glass casing to have a new 3D Touch module with “additional graphite sheet lamination” to keep it from overheating.

“While we don’t expect general users to notice any difference, lamination of an additional graphite sheet is needed for better thermal control and, thus, steady operation; this is because FPCB is replaced with film, which is more sensitive to temperature change of the 3D touch sensor in OLED iPhone,” Kuo wrote in his research note.

Previous MacRumors reports indicate the iPhone 8’s additional features could bump the cost of making the smartphone from 30% to 50% higher — pushing its sale to more than $1,000.

This is not the first time industry analysts have speculated that Apple is about to embrace wireless charging for the iPhone. Last year, market research firm IHS predicted that Apple would introduce some form of wireless charging on the iPhone 7.

 

Is Intel Going AMD’s Ryzen With Kay Lake-X?

February 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

There have been quite a few rumors floating around that Intel is hard at work in preparing a response to AMD’s upcoming Zen-based Ryzen CPUs and it appears that these will not be Kaby Lake-S CPUs but rather the new Kaby Lake-X CPUs, the Core i7-7740K and the Core i5-7640K.

The original rumor started by the Canard PC site described two new CPUs, the Core i7-7740K and the Core i5-7640K, both having a 100W+ TDP as well as support for Hyper-Threading but, according to fresh information coming from PCGameshardware.de, it now appears that these will not be the Kaby Lake-S chips but rather the new Kaby Lake-X.

Based on the new LGA2066 socket, both new Kaby Lake-X chips will be quad-core chips with 112W TDP, have up to 8MB of L3 cache and DDR4-2666 memory support.

The Core i7-7740K will have a base frequency of 4.3GHz, with 4.5GHz Turbo and 8MB of L3 cache. The Core i5-7640K will work at 4.0GHz base clock and have 6MB of L3 cache. It could also be the first Core i5 chip to end up with Hyper-Threading although this has not yet been confirmed.

As noted, these two chips will be based on Intel’s new LGA2066 socket and will be an update to Intel’s HEDT (High-End Desktop Platform), with new Intel X299 chipset motherboards.

Earlier rumors pointed out that both Kaby Lake-X and Skylake-X CPUs should be coming in the second half of this year, with a possible launch at Gamescom 2017 in late August.

Courtesy-Fud

Do Mobile Games Need To Be Free?

February 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming, Mobile

Ever since Nintendo’s shares rocketed after the launch of Pokémon Go –  and despite the worldwide phenomenon not being a Nintendo product – and the surprise announcement of Super Mario Run, all eyes have been on the platform holder’s mobile strategy need to be free.

Analysts and even the mainstream media have been quick to comment on the potential for traditional games brands in the mobile space, but in all the excitement some people seem to have forgotten several publishers have already made their mark on smart devices with their best-selling IP.

Square Enix, in particular, has a very healthy mobile business thanks to ports of Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider and Dragon Quest games, new IP such as Heavenstrike Rivals, and the acclaimed Go series that has so far offered new takes on the Hitman, Lara Croft and Deus Ex series. The Go games are developed by the mobile team at Square Enix Montreal, led by head of studio Patrick Naud, who tells GamesIndustry.biz that Nintendo’s determined push into mobile further validates what the Japanese publisher has already been doing for more than half a decade now.

Naud goes on to observe that Nintendo’s efforts also illustrate what Square Enix has long since been exploring with its biggest properties: that these brands can help encourage more core players to investigate the gaming possibilities afforded by smart devices.

“Games like Mario will open the road for other big console IPs and get more core players to give mobile a chance,” he says. “Sadly, mobile doesn’t have the best image for some gamers – and I understand why. I’m one of those guys who plays both console and mobile, but you need to find positives that bring you to mobile and ideally open up your mind to playing more mobile games.

“I hope that Mario did this. It’s sad to see so much negative press around it, particularly around the business model because I feel it’s a clever way to have people try the game first.”

“It’s sad to see so much negative press around Super Mario Run, particularly around the business model because I feel it’s a clever way to have people try the game first”

The backlash against Super Mario Run’s £7.99 price point, prompting scores of one-star reviews when the game launched, seemed baffling to many in the industry – myself included. While it’s undeniably more expensive than most premium games on the App Store, Square Enix had charged more than double that for mobile games. A casual glance through the firm’s catalogue shows ports of the early Final Fantasy games to range from £7.99 for FFII to a whopping £20.49 for FFIX. And its mobile business certainly doesn’t seem to have suffered. Why shouldn’t Nintendo charge that amount for its most valuable of IP?

Naud agrees, adding: “And I’d argue they’ve crafted a new epic Nintendo-like experience specifically for mobile. It’s Mario, and yes it’s inspired by the old Mario games, but there are new rules, new ways to play. In terms of level design and the way you play the game, it’s completely different to anything you’ve seen. You’ve got all the brains at Nintendo finding a way to play a Mario game on a phone, and it works, and it’s deep, it has the depth of all the Mario games. So yeah, it’s potentially worth more than what we usually pay.”

Now deep withing the rabbit hole of mobile pricing, the conversation turns to questioning why so many mobile users are less than keen on investing in quality games for their device. As Naud points out, people have been accustomed to paying £40 or more for new console game for decades, and yet they remain reluctant to spend far less on a mobile game? Why?

“When you go on your phone and you buy a game, you go to the app store, not the games store. They’re presented to people as an app. Apps are free”

“One key thing is mindset,” he suggests. “When you go on your phone and you buy a game, you go to the app store, not the games store. People who are willing to pay £15 for a game on Steam are struggling to pay a couple of quid for on mobile, sometimes for the same game. But what’s the difference? It’s because they’re presented to people as an app. Apps are free.

“We still need great games to push other great games. Whenever you have really good mobile titles, people go back to playing on their phones and realise there is some quality content on there. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’re going to keep making great games, hoping that it encourages other studios to celebrate doing the same. If people start demanding better experiences, or raising their standards of what they expect to play, the market can evolve and we’ll have more premium games.”

That’s no small challenge to overcome. In addition to difficulties convincing players to actually pay for their mobile games, there is then the increasingly common expectation that games will be updated and supported for months, if not years to come – and for free. British indie Ustwo Games faced backlash of its own when it dared to charge £1.49 for the expansion to Monument Valley – a high-quality add-on that essentially doubled the game’s content.

But is kowtowing to this attitude, lowering prices to what mobile users expect rather than what publishers would rather charge actually harmful? The Go games Naud and his team have produced are all critical smash hits, so does selling them for less than a fiver not undervalue the work that goes into them?

“The exercise of distilling a brand down to its core essence and making a minimalist game out of it – that’s our big challenge”

“Yeah,” Naud acknowledges. “We could sell it higher, but if the market’s not ready for it… we need to be clever about it, crafting the proper experience and the proper amount of content for the price.

“There’s room for high-quality mobile games and they don’t need to be free-to-play.”

It’s easy to argue that this is why Square Enix, or indeed any other company, turns to ports of earlier releases or scaled-back takes on gameplay such as the Go series when bringing their big console IPs to mobile. Developing more comprehensive titles in the face of such resistance to invest must seem daunting and highly impractical. Square has, of course, dabbled in this with the release of Deus Ex: The Fall – a four to five-hour title that offers almost an identical experience to Human Revolution – but Naud says it is more to do with discerning between what console players think they want on mobile, and what they would actually enjoy.

“I’d argue that people do want to play console games on the go, but they won’t play the same type of experience,” he says. “People that are playing console games or even PC games are seated in their living room, with their nice couch, 7.1 surround sound, 60-inch TV – they’re going to play in a different way than if they were just going to play a five-minute session. So they might not play exactly the same game. That’s why I love the Switch, because it might be the middle ground that finally solves that.

“I assume most of the console players right now are also playing on mobile, but they’re really not playing the same type of experience because they’re not playing it at the same time. If you were to go from playing a first-person shooter on your TV – with that perfect set-up and your super-reactive controllers – to playing a similar game with a thumbstick on a touch screen… it will never be the same experience. Hence why we’re trying to craft experiences that are very much dedicated for mobile audiences and mobile phones.”

Instead, Naud says the key is to “create an experience specifically crafted for mobile” taking into account how smartphone owners interact with their device, their play habits, their usage and so on. In addition to his earlier example of Super Mario Run – offering the depth of a core Mario platformer with a one-touch control system designed for smart devices – he offers Hitman as further proof of how console IP can be re-appropriated for mobile.

Deus Ex Go is the third example of Square Enix Montreal taking a console franchise and distilling its core elements to a mobile-appropriate experience

So far, Square Enix Montreal has taken two approaches with IO Interactive’s flagship IP. Hitman Go focuses on the slow, strategic aspect of planning your kills and utilising any opportunities that present themselves. Hitman Sniper, meanwhile, takes the sniping element along with the sense of puppeteering, manipulating events from afar to set up better kills.

While the latter was partly borne from the popularity of the Hitman: Sniper Challenge digital title that preceded Absolution, Naud reveals the concept also stemmed from the desire to create a new entry in the series “without the constraints of moving in the world”.

“Half the players on Hitman Go, Lara Croft Go and Deus Ex Go discovered the game through the App Store”

“The biggest challenge when playing on your phone is navigation,” he says. “For Hitman, this was by far the smartest way to do it. And we’re still working on Sniper, we’re still updating the game on a regular basis and it’s been a – maybe not as big a critical success as the Go series, but on the financial side it’s been very successful.”

But it’s the Go series that, for Naud, really demonstrates the benefit of bringing blockbuster console IP to mobile devices: introducing the brands to a new audience.

“Half the players on Hitman Go, Lara Croft Go and Deus Ex Go discovered the game through the App Store,” he said. “Regardless of whether they were already fans or not, that’s how they discovered them. They got to them because they were recommended by Apple, or their friends. We actually have way more mainstream players for the Go games than Hitman players.

“Any time we do a Go game, it needs to be a different take [on the series], it needs to feel like the original, big console IP but with its own personality. All the critical acclaim made it clear that we’ve succeeded for a third consecutive time.

“The art direction of all three games is completely different and yet the gameplay is somewhat similar. You understand the rules, you don’t need big tutorials, it’s not that complex. For us, the exercise of distilling a brand down to its core essence and making a minimalist game out of it – that’s our big challenge.”

To date, Square Enix Montreal has only been granted access to Western and former Eidos franchises: Hitman, Tomb Raider, Deus Ex. With Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and even Kingdom Hearts already establishing a foothold on mobile, could we see these Eastern IP receive the Go treatment?

“We’ll see,” says Naud. “Even if anything was in development, I couldn’t say anything – you know that. But we’re constantly thinking about what we could do next, what kind of projects we can work on, what we’ve learned from the Go games that can potentially take us in a new direction.”

Courtesy_GI.biz

Microsoft Allowing ‘Try-and-buy’ Trial Of Surface Hub

February 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft’s program that grants potential customers a chance to try out a Surface Hub for 30 days before purchasing it will start on Feb. 15.

The try-and-buy program is available only through Surface Hub resellers in North America, Asia, and Europe. A list of resellers can be found on Microsoft’s website.

The Surface Hub is a gigantic Windows 10 computer available with a 55-inch or 84-inch screen. The 55-inch model is priced at $8,999 and the 84-inch model is $21,999.

The computer is designed for collaboration, videoconferencing, and whiteboarding.  It runs a custom version of Windows 10.

It makes sense to try out a Surface Hub before plunking down a large sum to buy it. The Hub is different from a regular Surface tablet or PC, with a bit of a learning curve to get familiar with the large-screen computer.

But once mastered, Surface Hub could change the way people interact and collaborate in meetings.

Here’s how the try-and-buy program works: A reseller will install Surface Hub for a one-time fee, and you’ll be able to try it for 30 days. The fee may vary, and Microsoft couldn’t provide an estimate. You can then decide whether to buy it after 30 days.

So far, Microsoft has shipped the Surface Hub to 2,000 customers in about 24 countries. The try-and-buy program isn’t available through Microsoft’s retail stores.

The 55-inch model has a high-definition 1080p screen, while the 84-inch model has a 4K screen. One drawback is Intel’s old Core chips based on the Haswell architecture, which was introduced in 2013.

Other features include 128GB SSDs, 8GB RAM, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and two full HD front-facing cameras. The Surface Hub also has a gigabit ethernet port, one USB 3.0 port, and two USB 2.0 ports. The display slots include HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort.

 

Global Processor Sales Appear To Have Skyrocketed

February 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The global semiconductor industry had a record breaking 2016 according to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

While semiconductor sales for 2016 saw a slight increase of 1.1 per cent rise compared to the 2015 total, 2015 was good too.

The global semiconductor industry posted sales of $31 billion in December 2016, flat on month but 12.3 per cent higher than year-ago levels. Sales for the fourth quarter of 2016 came were $93 billion, rising 12.3 per cent on year and 5.4 per cent on quarter, the Association wrote.

Association president and CEO John Neuffer said that 2016 began poorly but the global semiconductor market picked up steam mid-year and never looked back reaching nearly $340 billion in sales.

“Market growth was driven by macroeconomic factors, industry trends, and the ever-increasing amount of semiconductor technology in devices the world depends on for working, communicating, manufacturing, treating illness, and countless other applications. We expect modest growth to continue in 2017 and beyond,” he said.

Logic was the largest semiconductor category by sales with $91.5 billion or 27 per cent of the total semiconductor market. Memory chips made $76.8 billion and micro-ICs $60.6 billion.

Sensors and actuators was the fastest growing segment, increasing by 22.7 per cent. Other product segments that posted increased sales in 2016 include NAND flash memory, which reached $32 billion in sales or a 11 per cent annual increase.

Digital signal processors sold 2.9 billion or a 12.5 per cent, diodes sold $2.5 billion or an 8.7 per cent increase. Small signal transistors sold $1.9 billion or a 7.3 per cent while analogue chips sold $47.8 billion or a 5.8 per cent increase.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Acer Jumping Into Artificial Intelligence?

February 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Acer is expected to break into new territory in the fields of artificial intelligence, deep learning in 2017 and has begun talking with several potential clients about shipping its first in-house robotics devices, according to company CEO Jason Chen.

Focus on AI and deep learning in the transportation sector

The Taiwan-based multinational computer company began its foray into AI and deep learning two years ago in 2015 and mostly focused its efforts on the transportation sector and related commercial uses. In 2016, the company managed to win a top award for forecasting traffic through a mountain tunnel in northern Taiwan, and now it plans to introduce some of the first fruits of its partnerships within the Taiwan transportation market in the first half of 2017.

Back in October, Acer shipped its first in-house robotics product called Jibo at a base price of $749. The project, originally led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, began as an effort to build a family robot with digital assistant features, allowing users to make phone calls, shop online, stream music and video using voice commands and manage connected household appliances.

Although the consumer robotics market is expected to remain relatively flat in 2017, the company is reportedly in talks with potential clients to land more orders of its in-house robots, though it has not specified whether it will begin developing separate models for business commercial-oriented purposes.

Digital signage shipments began in January

Acer is apparently making ground in the field of digital signage products, and landed orders for more than 1,000 digital signage devices from a European supermarket chain in late 2016. The company began its first shipments in January and is likely to expand negotiations with other clients in the next few months.

One of the first partners for Windows Holographic Platform

Last month during CES, the company unveiled a prototype headset for the Windows Holographic platform that will be compatible with the Windows 10 Creators Update later this April. Microsoft’s first three partners include Acer, HP and Dell and each include specialized cameras that can integrate VR alongside the Windows Holographic Mixed Reality platform. Each vendor has noted that users will not need a high-end PC to run these headsets, and pricing is expected to begin around $299. The Acer headset is expected to hit store shelves sometime in mid-2017.

Back in August, the company also began shipments of its first VR device for cinemas. Dubbed the StarVR, this panoramic virtual reality headset features two 5.5-inch displays each with 2560x1440p resolution, delivering the combined output of a 5K VR experience. With a 210-degree field of view, the displays deliver a more expansive panoramic environment using custom Fresnel-based optic technology. The 0.84-pound (380g) headset also features six degrees of freedom, 360-degree submillimeter optical tracking and a low-latency feedback mechanism that combines an IMU with an optical sensor.

The shipments were headed to IMAX Corporation, which started operating its first VR Experience Center in Los Angeles and is working on opening a second center in Manchester UK, says Chen.

Acer’s PC division will focus heavily on notebooks

Acer’s top executive also noted that its PC business in 2017 will focus primarily on its notebook products rather than its Aspire towers, all-in-one desktops and media center boxes. There is more market share and profitability to be gained with its 2-in-1 notebook offerings, Chromebooks, gaming notebooks and slim notebooks, and it currently ranks fourth in this market.

A slight reshuffling of the company’s board of directors and board of supervisors is also expected to occur in 2017, according to founder Stan Shih. The change includes electing CEO Jason Chen as the new chairman, while also remaining CEO for at least three years.

Courtesy-Fud

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